The segment of cosmetic surgery that has shown explosive growth is not really surgery at all. It is the field of Non-invasive Procedures; that is, techniques that do not require the use of a scalpel. The most popular procedures in this category are Botox Injections and Injectable Fillers.
Let's begin with Botox Injections, a technique that everyone has at least heard about. Botox is made by the company Allergan and is the trade name for botulinim toxin, a purified, medical grade chemical that inhibits nerve endings at the point where they stimulate the muscle.
Botox was initially used to treat a condition of uncontrolled blinking, known as blepharospasm, by injecting it into the muscles responsible for blinking. As an unexpected side effect, the wrinkles around the eyes (the dreaded "crow's feet") softened and in some cases went away completely. It didn't take long for someone to realize that certain wrinkles were the result of repetitive muscle contraction and blocking the contraction would improve the wrinkles. And it took even less time for the same people to realize that there was a cosmetic application for Botox and a lot of money to be made.
The wrinkles on our faces that are primarily the result of repetitive muscle activity are the horizontal forehead lines, the "squint or frown" line between the eyebrows, the "crow's feet" around the eyes, and the vertical lip lines. By injecting low doses of Botox, a portion of the muscle is blocked and the lines will improve and in some cases disappear without affecting function. The earlier treatment is begun, the better the results. Wrinkles that have been present for many years will not disappear but will still improve. This improvement can be enhanced by also injecting filler material to fill out the creases, which will be covered in depth in the next blog.
Botox lasts about three months and so must be considered as a maintenance tool, albeit a very effective one. The reason Botox has become popular is an obvious one: it works! If used carefully and selectively it will not wipe out your facial expressions and make you look like one of the "Stepford Wives". Side effects, other than the occasional minor bruise, have been reported but are extremely rare, .
In a world that is increasingly demanding results with low risk and no down-time, Botox is a treatment that has delivered on its' expectations. In the next installment, I will review the available options under Injectable Fillers.