Get the Facts About Common Cosmetic Procedures: Botulinum Toxins

Top Five Nonsurgical Cosmetic Procedures:

What is it? Injectable botulinum toxin type A treatments and other injectables are called "liquid facelifts" because they can provide noticeable results with nary a scalpel. Injectable neurotoxins (think Botox Cosmetic) temporarily reduce activity of muscles that cause wrinkles by blocking nerve signals required for muscle movement. These treatments are approved to reduce the appearance of frown lines between your eyebrows that sometimes look like an "11" and may be used elsewhere at your physician's discretion. Botox Cosmetic, the most well-known injectable, and Dysport, are the two brands available in the United States.


Who is it appropriate for? People who want to look younger or have a refreshed appearance without surgery.

How is it done? The product is injected into the muscles under your skin in a series of injections. The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes.

What is the pain factor? Some discomfort with injection. This can usually be relieved by using ice packs or anesthetic ointments.

How long does it last? Treatment can last up to four months.

Who does it? Numerous medical specialists offer botulinum toxin treatments, including plastic surgeons, dermatologists and even ophthalmologists. Make sure the doctor you choose has significant experience giving the injections and that the doctor, not a nurse or other health care professional, gives the injection. Also make sure they use the real thing; you can ask to see the vial of medicine. For instance, the Botox Cosmetic vial has a hologram with the name of its maker, Allergan.

Risks and warnings: Potential side effects include swelling, pain from the injection, bruising and redness where the needle was inserted. There is a slight risk of an allergic reaction, which can cause itching, rash, wheezing, dizziness or faintness. More serious but rare side effects can occur if toxin spreads from the injection site, including loss of strength and all-over muscle weakness, double vision, blurred vision and drooping eyelids. However, there have been no serious, confirmed cases of toxin spread when Botox Cosmetic is used as recommended to treat frown lines.

Oh, and skip the "Botox party." You want your doctor focused on you and your face—not the other 20 faces in the room. It is important to receive treatment in a medical setting.

Cost:* $400 average cost per session

Recovery time and considerations: No downtime.

What to know before you go:

  • You will need to remove your makeup.
  • There may be tiny, visible pin pricks at first, but these will go away in several hours.
  • You'll need to remain upright for about three hours after the procedure, so no shoe shopping, gardening or other activities that require leaning over.
  • If you bruise easily, consider taking arnica for a few days before your appointment. All decisions should be discussed with your doctor in advance.
  • If pain is a concern, a topical analgesic may be used to numb the injection site or sites. If you opt for this, add another 30 minutes for the treatment time.

*All costs average; courtesy of American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

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