What is Botox, and how does it work?

Carmen Kavali, MD, of Atlanta’s Kavali Plastic Surgery and Skin Renewal Center says, “It’s a purified protein derivative of a natural product that happens to block the communication channel between a nerve and a muscle.”

Botox is actually the trade name for Botulinum toxin, a protein compound that is used to treat wrinkles and certain medical conditions. It’s a neurotoxin, and it works by blocking the signal between a nerve and a corresponding muscle, causing that muscle to relax and cease furrowing.

Is Botox dangerous, and are there risks involved?

Botox is one of the safest cosmetic treatments for wrinkles. Both Dr. Kavali and Harvey “Chip” Cole, III, MD, of Oculus Plastic Surgery count safety among Botox’s most appealing features. “It has a better safety record than aspirin,” Dr. Cole says.

As with any medical or cosmetic treatment, there are risks and potential side effects, but with Botox, these are minimal. “Each site looks a little pink and swollen for about 15-20 minutes, then it looks ‘normal’ again,” says Kavali. Some bruising may occur, but Kavali says refraining from taking blood thinning medications, such as aspirin, before your treatment will reduce this risk.

It is highly recommended, however, that you consult with your physician before receiving Botox treatment for wrinkles. You may be at a higher risk to experience more serious side effects, such as temporary numbness, headache or nausea, and your physician should be aware of this. But again, these more serious side effects are rarely reported.

Is Botox painful?

The short answer is that it depends. If you have a low threshold for pain, the small Botox injections may cause you more pain than others. Some doctors use a numbing agent to lessen the pricks, but others, such as Kavali, choose not to.

“We do not use any type of numbing — even those patients who fear needles are pleasantly surprised regarding how little discomfort there is,” says Kavali. Cole says most of his patients report very little pain.

How much does Botox cost?

The cost of depends on the number of Botox injections you receive, your physician’s pricing structure, market prices in your region and several other factors. Cost is something typically discussed during your consultation.

Will my insurance cover Botox treatment?

Cole says it’s unlikely — most insurance plans don’t cover cosmetic procedures. However, if you were to “make something normal” like a certain facial feature, or restore normal functioning with the treatment, then Cole says it would likely be covered by your insurance. But taking something “normal” and enhancing it cosmetically is something not typically covered, according to Cole.

How long will my Botox results last?

About three or four months. Cole says, “It will stop the contraction of muscles for about three to four months, and some can move the muscle again for a month or two before the wrinkle fully reappears.”

Does it matter who I choose to perform my Botox injections?

Kavali and Cole both agree, finding a highly qualified, experienced injector is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your treatment for wrinkles is less painful and most successful.

Cole compares it to flying in a plane. “It’s like a pilot,” he says, and it’s extremely important to your safety that you “know how long the pilot’s been flying.”

During your consultation, let your physician know if you are pregnant; suffering from any neuromuscular disorders or diseases; are on prescribed medications; or have any other concerns about receiving Botox treatment for wrinkles.