Important things to know about Botox

Even though Botox is one of the most popular cosmetic treatments in the United States, it continues to inspire fear and confusion in many people. Is Botox right for everyone? It really depends on personal preference, budget, and one's tolerance for needles.

What is Botox?

The first thing one should know when considering Botox is what the substance actually is. Botox is actually a trade name for the neurotoxic protein botulinum toxin, which is a product of the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. In large amounts, this protein can cause botulism, a serious illness that could cause death and is usually linked to food poisoning. The protein used in Botox beauty treatments is a highly diluted form of the toxin and will enable controlled weakening of muscles in order to treat facial creases, wrinkles, uncontrolled blinking, and lazy eye.

When Botox is used to smooth wrinkles, it is purified and injected directly into facial muscles. The toxin causes temporary paralysis of the muscles because nerve impulses are blocked, which creates a smoother skin surface. The effect usually lasts about three to six months; however, the younger the individual, the longer the effect will last.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Botox?

As with every drug or beauty treatment, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using Botox. Many individuals find that Botox is a good alternative to plastic surgery since it is non-invasive, virtually painless, and only takes a few minutes to administer since it involves just a series of injections to the affected area. When compared to surgery, there is no recovery time as patients may resume normal activity immediately following a session. Additionally, it is more affordable for many people than surgery, with treatments required only once or twice a year.

Though they may be less expensive than surgery, Botox treatments do not come cheap - usually ranging from about $300 to several thousand dollars at a time. Also, if one is not a fan of needles, Botox may be a stressful experience, so surgery, though more costly, may be a better option. Surgery also lasts longer than Botox, which often only lasts a few months in most cases. Patients must also understand the risks involved, which include the possibility of muscle paralysis, falling eyelids, and numbness. In extreme cases, allergic reaction and death may even occur.

Why would anyone want Botox?

Botox is a popular treatment for both men and women that want to look younger and feel better about themselves, but its appeal actually goes beyond younger, smoother looking skin. Aside from cosmetic use, Botox has also been used in the medical community to treat neck and back pain, neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy and Parkinson's, and to treat migraines. It has also been used to treat cervical dystonia, severe cramp and excessive sweating. Studies have shown that Botox may even be able to help men and women with overactive bladders, while men with enlarged prostates may also benefit.

Because it is such a potent protein, it is important that individuals not buy Botox from just anyone. It is important to obtain treatment from a responsible doctor - perhaps one that has even written about the protein and has a good reputation. So, just like any other beauty or medical treatment or drug, Botox can be a good or bad thing - it just depends on the individual.