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What is Botox?

Many people have heard of this miraculous treatment for wrinkles and expression lines, but what is Botox? It is actually the trade name for a substance injected into the skin which is known to inhibit muscle movement and prevent wrinkles developing or worsening.

The name Botox or Botulinum toxin actually comes from the word “botulous” meaning sausage. This is because the substance is actually related to a naturally occurring poison, occasionally found at dangerous levels in bad meat products which can paralyze and kill. It has been described as “the most poisonous substance known” but certain varieties in minute purified doses have been discovered to actually perform a safe and useful function.

Botox injections are now one of the most popular cosmetic treatments in the world and celebrities including Madonna and Kylie Minogue are rumoured to use this procedure for aesthetic purposes.

How does Botox work?

Botox treatment works by blocking the nerve signals to the affected muscles around the injection site. The muscles become more relaxed and their activity is reduced, in turn reducing the effects on the skin such as lines.


In the early 1970s botulinum toxin type A was first used in experiments on monkeys, but it wasn’t until 1980 that the toxin was used on humans to help treat eye disorders. In 1989 the Botox A substance was approved by the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) as a treatment for eye problems caused by malfunctioning muscles such as squinting, strabismus (wandering eye), amblyopia (lazy eye) and blepharospasm (twitching eye). Eye specialists then noticed that when using the drug for this purpose the area around the eye appeared much more relaxed and wrinkles were significantly less prominent.

Approval for the toxin was granted to be used for cosmetic purposes in 2002 and it has since become a popular anti-wrinkle treatment around the world. In 2006 it was declared the most popular cosmetic treatment in the United States. Other uses include the prevention of underarm sweating and the treatment of migraines, although treatments in these areas are still awaiting approval by the FDA.

The procedure

When injected into the problem area, it freezes muscle movement by blocking neuro-transmitters for a period of 4-6 months, so the treatment needs to be administered a few times a year to maintain the curative affects. Botox treatment should be undertaken by a qualified medical professional (preferably a cosmetic surgeon) as it is very important to get the right amount in the right area to avoid asymmetrical results, muscle drooping, frozen expressions and potentially dangerous consequences. Administered properly there are not many known problems associated with the treatment. If the Botox treatment is stopped the muscles will begin to function normally and the ageing process will resume.

It has become popular in the US to host Botox parties where friends can share the cost of the treatment by sharing the serum that they have paid for and having injections done at the same time, however the FDA has administered warning against such parties and patients should be wary of such packages being offered by under qualified practitioners.

Just a wrinkle treatment? What is Botox used for?

It can be used on humans for many reasons and is very helpful in the treatment of many medical conditions such as lazy eye, and cervical dystonia. It is also now being used to treat excessive sweating from the hands and underarms. However, for beauty and cosmetic purposes, it has become well known as a safe and effective wrinkle treatment aiming to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines in our faces.

Whilst it has a wide range of uses and new uses are being researched and discovered all the time, the most well known popular cosmetic use is as a safe and effective wrinkle treatment. Over time, the muscles we use on our face to create facial expressions, sun damage and the human ageing process can carve out grooves, lines and wrinkles in the skin which do not disappear when the muscles are relaxed. Botox relaxes the muscles and skin appears more youthful and less wrinkled.

Botox side effects and cost

The treatment is usually purchased by the vial or patients might be charged per area injected. Costs vary greatly but in the UK an average session might cost around £200. As far as Botox side effects go, if the wrinkle treatment is used correctly then it is considered a safe and effective procedure and side effects are generally only minor and may not occur at all. Occasionally some light bruising or redness might occur in the area of the injection but this should subside quickly. Sometimes patients may have difficulty in swallowing, speaking and breathing because of the muscles used in performing these things may become too relaxed, this requires immediate medical attention, but is rare if your practitioner has used the correct dosage. In rare cases an allergic reaction is possible and patients should seek immediate medical attention if symptoms of and allergic reaction occur. These may include difficulty breathing, swelling and a rash. As with any drug, there are side effects that can occur and this list is not exhaustive. To find out more about Botox side effects, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

However, these side effects are rare and are associated risks of any treatment or procedure, many patients have it in their lunch hour and return to work immediately afterwards! The effects of Botox on the muscles become apparent within a few hours, however the main effects will appear after about a week.

The regulation of Botox

What training and qualifications do practitioners need?

Despite Botox being a prescription only medicine, the practice is not subject to statutory regulation which means virtually anyone could set up shop and begin offering dermal fillers or Botox parties, even if they have zero experience and no qualifications.

Legally, because Botox is prescription only a doctor must prescribe it. However, once the prescription has been handed over, there is very little in the way of rules with regards to who can then administer the injection.

Whilst there is no statutory regulation for practitioners, the General Medical Council (GMC) have developed guidance for doctors on Good Medical Practice when it comes to prescribing Botox to patients.

The GMC stipulate that a doctor must carry out an assessment of a patients full medical history before issuing a prescription – a move which has been welcomed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) who have stated that nurses who issue Botox without a written and signed prescription form would be in violation of standards and could face disciplinary action.

Whilst individuals who administer Botox are not legally obliged to do so, there are various professional organisations with whom they can choose to register. Whilst entry requirements for membership will differ between organisations, generally a high level of training and experience will be required, as will a pledge to abide by their guidelines, code of ethics and complaints procedure.

Here at Beauty Resource, we believe that Botox can be extremely dangerous when it is not administered by a trained and experienced professional, which is why we only allow members of the following organisations to advertise themselves as Botox providers on our website:

Treatments You Can Trust (TYCT)

Treatments You Can Trust (TYCT) is a register of regulated cosmetic injectable providers that is backed by the Department of Health and run by the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service (IHAS). 

The register provides consumers with information about treatments, and only lists treatment providers who have been checked and registered by TYCT.

All registered providers are fully qualified and insured and are obligated to deliver treatments that are fully compliant with the TYCT standards.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS)

All members of The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) are fully trained Plastic Surgeons who have undergone rigorous training and are experienced within the industry.

The BAAPS is based at The Royal College of Surgeons, and its primary aim has always been, and remains to this day to be ensuring high standards of practice within the aesthetic/cosmetic surgery industry.

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Whilst we endeavor to ensure all information is accurate, Beauty Resource make no representations or warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information included within the website. Any dependence you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

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