So… What is Botox?

Botox is a trade name for Clostridium Botulinum

So, I’m going to keep this simple. There are loads of journals out there which go into detail about this treatment but let’s just stick to the basics.

When I searched on google ‘Give me a definition for Botox’ this is what I got from the google dictionary….

“a drug prepared from botulin, used medically to treat certain muscular conditions and cosmetically to remove wrinkles by temporarily paralysing facial muscles”

As you can see from the above, Botulinum is used “medically to treat certain muscular conditions” and is absolutely a wonder drug for certain illnesses. This drug has been researched a thousand times and has been through lots of clinical trials which makes it one of the most tested drugs on the market. So yes, it’s used for medical conditions but I’m going to concentrate on “Botox’ we know and love (if you know, you know) for the treatment of fine lines and wrinkles… and treating asymmetry… and ‘gummy smiles’… and ‘pebble chin’ … and ‘underarm sweating’… and ‘bunny lines’… and improving our confidence …. and helping us feel better about ourselves. Yes, it can be used for all sorts of worries we face.

Firstly, to clear this up, ‘Botox’ is a brand name and not its proper name but for the purpose of this blog I will use the name ‘Botox”. Its proper name is Botulinum and this is its “medical name’. People use the term ’Botox’ because most of us have heard of this and will kind of know what we are talking about. It’s like talking about ‘HP sauce’ instead of brown sauce or ‘Neurofen’ instead of ibuprofen. There are so many brands of botulinum and depending on who your practitioner is, will depend on what brand they use. There isn’t much difference in the brands and your aesthetic practitioner should be familiar with these and will select the most appropriate one for you.

botox treatment

I know you will see lots of adverts and special offers for ‘Botox’ but legally it cannot be advertised as it is a prescription only medication which means a prescription must be written specifically for you once your full medical history has been taken, a little like going to your doctor and being prescribed an antibiotic for your chest infection or given some pain relief for a bad back. Its prescribed for you and for the concerns you have discussed. It has been given to you because the doctor has concluded that there is no reason (in your medical history) for the medication not to be given and it is safe for you. Botulinum is the same. It should only be prescribed for you if the practitioner has taken a thorough medical history, discussed side effects and has talked to you about alternative treatments available other than botulinum such as fillers, skincare, micro needling and actually no treatment at all. You many think botulinum is for you when in actual fact there is another treatment or option which may be more appropriate.

I get asked the question on a daily basis about what ‘Botox’ is and lots of people have their own thoughts and ideas on the subject. With the influence of Instagram and other social media platforms, ‘Botox’ sometimes gets itself mixed up with fillers so when a patient comes in to my clinic thinking they want ‘Botox’ actually what they want is fillers and vice versa. Without going into too much detail and being too scientific (I like to keep things simple), fillers or its official name – Hyaluronic acid, are injected into an area of the face to increase volume and will stay within the area it is needed until the body naturally breaks it down, which can be anything from 3 months to 18 months in some people. Botulinum (Botox) on the other hand, is administered into the muscle which temporarily reduces the movement causing a relaxed and smooth effect which reduces the lines and wrinkles. Once the medication has done its job it then leaves the body. The effects of the botulinum can usually last anything from 3 to 5 months, we are all different.

you can always add more but you cannot take it away

If you choose to have anti-wrinkle injections (which in the industry is the preferred term) it’s not a one size fits all procedure. Some people (and most people in my experience) do not want an obvious result. They do not want other people to know they have ‘Botox’ and want the results to be natural and fresh. Those of you who know me will know I definitely do not just inject the maximum dose available and that I use a conservative dose as we can always add more at your review. You should always be given the opportunity to have a review by your chosen practitioner to allow for any tweaks and for them to see how gorgeous and fresh you look (you think I’m kidding- I love my reviews!!) As I always explain to my patients – “you can always add more but you cannot take it away”, and hopefully other practitioners go by the same rule.

Sam is an experienced Nurse practitioner

One thing your chosen aesthetic practitioner should always go through are the side effects of the treatment. We can’t pretend they don’t exist and this is why a face to face appointment is essential prior to having the treatment to enable you to make sure the treatment is right for you and you are comfortable once you know the possible side effects. So, although the list is endless, I will just highlight some of the common side effects which can happen following botulinum treatment. (I will add a link to the extensive side effects at the bottom if you would like to know more about the side effects)

  • Headaches
  • Muscle activity disorders (raised eyebrows)
  • Feeling of heaviness in the upper part of the face
  • Drooping eyelids (eyelid ptosis)
  • Bruising at the injection site
  • Swelling at the injection site
  • And a very common one- addiction to the results!

Most people are nervous when they start having this treatment and it’s because of the unknown. Will you look fake, will people be able to tell, what would people think, what will they look like? My answer is always the same, in my opinion, if aesthetics is done properly then people will not know you have had ‘Botox’ but will comment on how well you look and will not be able to pinpoint what’s different. Also, in my experience once someone has had anti- wrinkle injections and they are shouting it from the rooftops telling all their friends, and I usually end up seeing their friends in my clinic!

If you are considering having anti-wrinkle treatments then it is always advisable to have a look at leaflets produced by Ace who are a group who have been created to help improve patient safety. Their leaflets are great and go in to loads of detail and cover topics such as dermal fillers, chemical peels, anti-wrinkle injections, sclerotherapy, platelet rich plasma and fat freezing procedures. This one is for anti-wrinkle treatments

It is also essential to know who is providing your treatment and to know who it is that you are giving responsibility of your face to! There are a few things you need to think about when looking for the right person for your treatments. Here are just a few things I think are important

  • What is their background? Are they medical?
  • Have they had training in complications in-case something doesn’t go to plan?
  • Have they completed a basic life support course?
  • Do they hold an emergency kit in their clinic and if so do they know how to use it?
  • What experience do they have in aesthetics?

There are no set criteria to be able to offer aesthetic treatments- anyone can do it (Yes, I know, I can’t believe it either) and it is something we are trying the change. There are also no regulators of the industry, so no one checking that things are done properly!

Responsible practitioners do try to uphold the highest of standards and many of them are affiliated with the British Association of Cosmetic Nurses (BACN), Save Face and the Aesthetic Complications Group to name but a few.

Save Face is a national register of Accredited practitioners who provide non-surgical cosmetic treatments such as anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers. Practitioners who choose to be a Save Face accredited clinic, have an annual inspection to check that they are working in a safe and hygienic environment. They are interviewed by the inspector and have all their protocols checked to confirm that they are up to date and are evidence based to ensure the patient (you) are in safe hands. If you want to check whether your practitioner is Save Face registered, you can check the register here.

So, if you are thinking about future treatments check the links in the blog above, do your research from reputable sources and seek out medical professionals.

If you requir any further information don’t be afraid to ask for a free consultation from a medical professional (this should be offered as standard), this will allow you to gain confidence, get to know your practitioner and allow you to understand what treatment is best for you.

If you want any further information please don’t hesitate to contact me and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.