Botox: A Complete Guide

Botox: The What, Why, and How

Botox is a household name, but most people don’t know exactly what it is or how it works. Botox is actually a brand name for a specific type of botulinum toxin, called onobotulinumtoxinA. It’s produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and works by preventing the release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is involved in muscle contraction, so blocking its release relaxes muscles. That’s why Botox is used both for cosmetic wrinkle reduction and to treat medical conditions involving involuntary muscle contractions.

Cosmetic Uses

The cosmetic use of Botox was pioneered in the 1980s by a Canadian husband and wife team consisting of an ophthalmologist and a dermatologist. It’s approved for reducing wrinkles all over the face, including:

  • Frown lines between the eyebrows
  • Crow’s feet around the eyes
  • Horizontal forehead lines
  • Smile lines around the mouth
  • An uneven chin

There’s no specific age people should start using Botox. Many begin when they first see wrinkles forming as a preventative measure. It’s safe to use long-term.

Medical Uses

In addition to cosmetic procedures, Botox can help treat:

  • Lazy eye caused by muscle imbalance
  • Excessive blinking or twitching eyelids
  • Excessive sweating of the underarms or hands
  • Bladder control issues
  • Chronic migraines

For migraines, it’s given through 31 injections in the face, neck, and upper back every 3 months. Botox is preferable to oral migraine medications because it doesn’t cause side effects like nausea or weight gain.

What to Expect

Before getting Botox, inform your doctor about any medications you take, especially blood thinners. Skip alcohol for a week beforehand to reduce bruising.

The Botox powder is diluted in saline, then injected with a thin needle into the target muscles. No anesthesia is required, although numbing cream or ice may make it more comfortable. Results show in 4-5 days and last 3-6 months.

Choosing the Right Provider

When looking for a qualified Botox provider, you’ll want to do your research. Check reviews online and ask people in your area for recommendations. Here are some things to look for:

  • Provider is trained in giving Botox
  • Significant experience administering Botox injections
  • Operating out of a reputable, sterile working environment
  • Consistently produces natural looking results
  • Professional manner and takes time to listen to your goals
  • Reasonable pricing – be wary of prices that seem too good to be true

Avoid providers offering Botox injections out of shopping centres or unclean homes. This increases the risk of unsterile conditions. Only see experienced practitioners.

Preparing for Your Appointment

Before your Botox appointment, avoid blood thinning medications like aspirin for 1-2 weeks to minimise bruising. On the day of treatment, come with a clean face – no makeup or lotions which can interfere.

Be ready to communicate your goals for treatment clearly. If you have spots you don’t want injected, mark them ahead of time with a pen.

Photos can help your provider understand the look you’re hoping to achieve. Come with reference photos if you have a particular celebrity or influencer’s face in mind.

Aftercare Tips

Following your Botox treatment, avoid manipulating or massaging the treated areas for at least 4 hours. This prevents the Botox from migrating away from the injection sites.

Use a cool compress or ice packs as needed to reduce swelling and tenderness. Tylenol can also help with discomfort.

Wait about 4 hours before lying down to prevent fluid accumulation under the injection sites. Sleep on your back with your head elevated for 1-2 nights.

Avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours post-treatment. You can resume wearing makeup and sunscreen after 24 hours. See maximum results in 7-10 days.

Risks and Side Effects

Serious risks are very rare, occurring in only 1-5% of patients. Mild side effects like drooping eyelids, bruising, or headaches usually resolve within 1-2 weeks. See a doctor if you experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Breathing issues

These could indicate the toxin has spread. People with cow’s milk allergies shouldn’t get Botox. It’s also not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding.


Botox costs £11-18 per unit, with most areas requiring 40-60 units per treatment. Some doctors charge per area treated, ranging £291-365. It’s rarely covered by the NHS for cosmetic use, but may be covered for medical treatment.

See a board-certified dermatologist or ophthalmologist for Botox. Verify your provider orders supplies from a reputable medical supplier.

Botox Licensing Requirements in England

The UK government is considering requiring licenses for anyone providing Botox or filler injections in England. This would be a major change, as currently only healthcare professionals like doctors and nurses require training and insurance for these cosmetic procedures.

The proposals aim to protect patients from unqualified practitioners. Botox procedures have become much more common, often offered in beauty shops and advertised on social media. But poorly done injections can cause complications like drooping eyelids, swelling, and bruising.

According to celebrity Faye Winter, bad Botox paralyzed her eyebrows and made her afraid to leave the house. She said unethical providers just took her money without assessing if the treatment was right for her.

If the licensing rules are passed, giving Botox, dermal fillers, or procedures like butt lifts without a license would be a criminal offence. Qualifications, training, insurance, and clean premises would be mandatory. The regulations would be enforced by local councils.

Industry experts mostly welcome the potential standards. They believe consistent requirements and oversight will vastly improve public safety. However, some worry about the challenges of monitoring illegal online sellers who offer discounted injections.

Patients also need to do their part by researching a provider’s credentials. Many wrongly assume anyone offering Botox must be a trained professional. In reality, asking to see qualifications is crucial.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

  • Verify your provider is a licensed doctor or nurse practitioner
  • Ask to see before and after photos of their work
  • Ensure the setting is a professional medical office
  • Don’t let cost be the deciding factor – safety is most important
  • Consult with a professional about whether treatments are right for you
  • Follow all aftercare directions carefully to avoid complications

Responsible licensing and consumer awareness together can help reduce risks. Many patients are satisfied with their injectable results when performed correctly by skilled practitioners.

Photo “Botox Face” by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Health

Zoom Health is a leading UK supplier of Home Health Tests and Earplugs

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