Botox treatments are the most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedure in the world! How much do you know about this popular procedure, though? Maybe you’ve heard about the muscle-paralyzing effects of the procedure, or maybe you’ve just heard that the procedure helps to eliminate wrinkles. Today we’re looking at the treatment, the chemical in question, and whether Botox might be a good idea for you.
What is Botox?
The Botox treatment involves using a carefully controlled dose of a neurotoxin to paralyze some of the muscles in your face. That might sound pretty scary, but as long as a professional is applying the procedure it’s perfectly safe. The toxin itself, botulinum toxin, is created in laboratory settings by manipulating a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum.
The toxin itself is unbelievably dangerous, and is one of the most poisonous substances to humans that science has ever studied. It is estimated that a single gram of botulinum toxin could kill over a million humans, and only a few kilograms could wipe out the entire human race. That’s a pretty scary thought!
The toxin itself usually has to be lab-made to be deadly to humans. The bacteria that create it normally don’t do so in their natural environments, unless they transform into vegetative cells. In nature Clostridium botulinum is often found near lakes, in forests and in soil. It often lives in the intestinal tract of small mammals, and can often be found in the gills of fish.
In high concentrations, the toxin these bacteria create results in a medical condition called botulism. Botulism typically results in serious respiratory distress in affected people, and, if left untreated, results in death. While this all may sound rather scary, the botulinum toxin still has proven to be a successful therapeutic protein.
What it Does
Botulinum toxin, when used in small quantities and applied correctly, can paralyze muscles in a very localized fashion. It does this by blocking proteins before they can reach the nerve cells in the muscles. You’ve likely seen the jokes about people getting Botox and being unable to move their facial muscles: this protein-blocking action is the reason why.
In order for muscles to work correctly, a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine has to be released. It binds to receptors in the muscles and this, in turn, causes the muscles to contract. It’s pretty simple in theory, but in your body is occurs millions of times in a short span of time and across your entire bodily structure. Botulinum toxin is capable of simply cutting this neurotransmitter off at the source, resulting in paralysis. This is what gives it the title “neurotoxin.”
In Cosmetic Procedures
All of the scary, nerve-blocking functions would be terrifying in a large dose, of course. In a controlled dose, however, this toxin can have some interesting cosmetic effects. Namely, Botox procedures are normally aimed at reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles or fine lines. It does so through its normal function of blocking proteins and paralyzing muscles, but in a highly localized area.
By paralyzing these muscles, the intended effect is to cause the face to appear smoother and more youthful. Typically it takes a day or so for the toxin to take effect, though, when it does, it can result in facial stiffness for a few days while the body deals with the toxin. Following the procedure, many find their facial appearance to be much smoother, their wrinkles being reduced.
There are a few side effects that can occur with the procedure, however. The most common ones include nausea, headaches or migraines, double vision and a general feeling of fatigue. Rarer side effects could include redness or local edema at the injection site, trouble swallowing, neck stiffness or weakness, dry mouth and other side effects.