Botox: The “Miracle Toxin” – What Is Botox?

About Nathan Mosher

Nathan Mosher is a 12th grade student at Culver City High School with an interest in orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering. He plays volleyball and basketball at the High School and is also the president of two clubs, the Student Intercultural Activities Committee and the Open Mic Club. His aspirations include medicine as well as attempting to be a comedian. He researched and wrote this article as part of the Student Mentorship Program through the Osborne Head and Neck Foundation.

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About Dr. Hootan Zandifar

Dr. Hootan Zandifar is board-certified in Otolaryngology and fellowship-trained in Facial Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery. Dr. Zandifar is the director of the Skin Center at the Osborne Head and Neck Institute based at Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers.

One can rarely look through a tabloid magazine without finding news of someone changing their appearance through cosmetic surgery. The list of procedures can be endless: from rhinoplasty (nose jobs) to facelifts to breast augmentation.

One procedure has become so common that the medical term itself is part of normal, everyday nomenclature: Botox. The “wrinkle away potion” has become a commonplace word synonymous with changing facial appearance, and yet it still seems that many do not know the history of the chemical or what it really is.

What exactly is Botox?
Botox is short for Botulinum Toxin Type A and is a proprietary trade name through Allergan.  It is a purified protein derivative (neurotoxin) secreted naturally by the bacterium Clostridium Botulinum. Botulinum toxin causes the illness botulism, a life-threatening condition in humans and animals.

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Why is Botox used for cosmetic purposes?
The most common use of Botox cosmetically is to decrease the appearance of unwanted wrinkles. Wrinkles begin as temporary creases but become permanent with age.

Botox weakens the muscle where it is injected. By weaking the muscle, the toxin prevents the skin from creasing and wrinkles from forming. Many wrinkles that are undesirable can disappear with the use of Botox.  This gives the skin a more youthful appearance.

Is Botox only utilized for cosmetic purposes?
Botox is used very commonly for non-cosmetic reasons.  It’s first indications where in the treatment of ophthalmic conditions. After its successfully use the indications expanded from there.

Some of these uses include:

  • Many types of dystonia (a neurological movement disorder in which involuntary sustained muscle contractions cause repetitive movements and abnormal postures)
  • Blepharospasm (involuntary eye twitching)
  • Chronic Migraine Headaches
  • Strabismus (Crossed eyes)
  • Severe Sweating including Frey’s syndrome (
  • Muscle conditions associated with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson’s
  • Swallowing and speaking problems associated with vocal cord disorders

botox beverly hillsWhere can it be used?
Botox is injected into the muscle whose activity needs to be inhibited. For example, if crow’s feet (wrinkles around the eyes) are too prominent, Botox can be injected into facial muscles surrounding the eyes to paralyze the contractions of these muscles.

The most common locations for facial Botox injections include:

  • The “11s” – the vertical lines between the eyebrows
  • Crow’s feet
  • Horizontal lines across the forehead
  • Lines around the mouth

How is it administered?
First, the correct injection points are marked by the doctor, although the most experienced doctors no longer need to do the markings in ink. Botox is then injected into the marked points beneath the skin.

Local anesthesia or numbing cream may be used prior to Botox injection. The procedure can last from a few minutes to 20 minutes.

How long do results last?
Unfortunately, the effect from Botox is temporary.

The effects usually last from four to six months. Wrinkles will appear once again, but in some cases the wrinkles may remain less apparent because the muscles become more accustomed to relaxation.

Because of its temporary nature, patients will need to be reinjected to reduce wrinkles once again. Also, the more consistent the use of Botox, the longer the effects usually last in an individual.

What are the risks, if any?
The most dreaded risk is overinjection, seen so often in the motionless foreheads of celebrities.  This may be more attributable to the patient rather than the drug itself.

When administered by an experienced doctor, the procedure is safe and carries little risk.

Because of its relatively recent application in cosmesis, the long-term effects of Botox use are not fully known, but minimal side effects have been observed.

To learn more about cosmetic surgery by Dr. Jason Hamilton, and other procedures offered at the internationally renowned Osborne Head and Neck Institute visit our website at: