#1 How It Works
Botulinum toxin – commonly used in aesthetic treatments under the trade name Botox – is a neurotoxin produced by a bacterium. It can be injected into muscles in minute doses.

What it does is weaken signals from the nerves to the muscles at the injection site so that a wrinkle formed by muscle contractions (like frowning) will relax and soften, explains Dr Sylvia Ramirez, medical and scientific director of Cutis Medical Laser Clinics.

Three brands of botulinum toxin products are used in beauty treatments: Botox, Dysport and Xeomin, which essentially do the same job.

About 15 minutes before the injection, numbing cream is applied to the treatment area. The botulinum toxin is then injected using a very fine needle, explains Dr Shiau Ee Leng, medical director of CSK Laser Aesthetic Clinic.

You can have different areas of your face treated in one visit, says Dr Benjamin Yim, medical director of Dr. Benjamin Yim Clinical Aesthetics and Laser Centre.

For instance, in one session, you can treat the frown lines between your eyebrows, crow’s feet and the horizontal lines across your forehead.

How much botulinum toxin is used will depend on your muscle structure and how severe your wrinkles are.


#2 You Can Start at Any Age
There is no ideal age to start botulinum toxin treatments – you can do it once you have visible expression lines and wrinkles, says Dr Shiau.

Apart from smoothing the lines on your face and neck, it can also be used to create a dimple on the chin, and lift the eyebrows.


#3 It Tames More Than Wrinkles
Botulinum toxin can even be injected into the muscles we use for chewing, along the jawline, to make the face appear slimmer, and can be used to reduce excessive sweating at the palms and underarms too, says Dr Dylan Chau, medical director of Celevenus Wellness and Aesthetic Clinic.

It can also be used to manage muscle spasms, muscle stiffness and chronic migraine.


#4 You’ll Feel Minimal Pain
“The discomfort is very minimal and tolerable as the needle used is very fine,” says dermatologist Dr Eileen Tan of Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

#5 Results Are Not Instant
It should take around five to seven days to see effects, says Dr Lee. In most patients, results last three to four months. After the effect wears off, your wrinkles will reappear.


#6 Safe for Sensitive Skin
Botulinum toxin is safe for those with sensitive skin, as it will not trigger a skin reaction, says Dr Tan. But you should avoid this treatment if you have pimples or any skin inflammation around the target area, says Dr Ramirez.


#7 Possible Side Effects
“As with any injection, you will experience some skin redness and mild bruising,” says Dr Yim. He adds that if too much botulinum toxin is injected, you may experience some tightness around the treated area.

This is because the untreated muscles may need to compensate for the loss of muscle action in the treated area. It is considered safe in the dosages commonly injected, says Dr Yim.

But it is best to avoid this treatment if you are pregnant, or have neuromuscular diseases or allergies, adds Dr Chau.

While allergic reactions to the botulinum toxin solution are rare, you can develop hives and rashes if you are allergic to the ingredients in the formula.


#8 Post-treatment Care
To prevent the botulinum toxin from spreading and affecting other muscles, avoid lying down for four hours; it’s also best to skip heavy makeup, advises Dr Tan.


#9 How Much Does the Treatment Cost?
Some clinics charge by the area of the face treated while others charge according to the number of botulinum toxin units used. One bottle of botulinum toxin contains 100 units and one syringe can contain varying units, depending on what the treatment area needs.

“You would usually need around 10 units for the forehead area, 20 units for frown lines between your brows and 20 units for crow’s feet – it usually costs around $400 to treat the area where you have crow’s feet,” says Dr Yim.


This article was adapted from Simply Her May and August 2014.