If Botox® Is a Toxin — How Is It Safe?

If Botox® Is a Toxin — How Is It Safe?

You’d never eat rancid meat or slather on a cosmetic made from lethal chemicals, so why would you ever agree to receive an injection of Botox® — a known toxin?

While the concept seems counterintuitive, we think you’ll find the explanation fascinating and enlightening. Here, Dr. Rick J. Smith in East Lansing, Michigan, discusses the history of Botox and how it came to be the safest and most widely used cosmetic treatment for dynamic lines and wrinkles.

Where does Botox come from?

When a group of Belgian diners became critically ill after eating contaminated ham in 1895, a well-respected bacteriologist examined the meat, the survivors, and the deceased, and he discovered a bacterium that produced the deadly botulinum toxin. 

Scientists knew the toxin could cause paralysis, but it took years of research before that information became controllable and useful. In the 1970s, researchers used very small doses of the botulinum toxin to correct crossed eyes and serendipitously found that it also smoothed deep creases created by facial expressions.

Allergan licensed the treatment in 1989 and gave it the now-familiar name of Botox. Over the years, the Food and Drug Administration has given its approval for botulinum toxin in the treatment of various conditions, including:

Botox comes from the same bacterium the Belgian scientist discovered in the late 19th century. Today, eight known strains of that bacterium, but only two are used in the medical and cosmetic fields. Botox is derived from Clostridium botulinum type A. 

What makes Botox safe?

Botox begins in a lab where the Clostridium botulinum type A grows in a culture of yeast extract, glucose, and casein hydrolysate. Using a dialysis procedure, technicians purify the solution, creating a neurotoxin, then dissolve it in a sterile sodium chloride solution. Finally, they filter the solution and vacuum-dry it. 

The final product — known as Botox — has been tested extensively. Between 1989 and 2003, only 36 cases of adverse effects were reported, and 13 of them were likely related to other underlying conditions. Considering more than 5 million people receive Botox injections every year, it is an extremely safe treatment.

The safest way to use Botox

Botox is considered safe and effective for all its approved uses, but in the wrong hands, side effects are a possibility. If you get your Botox from a boutique spa or an inexperienced administrator, you may end up with redness, swelling, pain, drooping eyelids or brows, or skin discoloration.

That’s why it pays to select your Botox provider carefully. Dr. Smith has more than 25 years of experience administering Botox safely and successfully. That is largely due to his expertise as a plastic surgeon with a deep understanding of facial anatomy. That enables him to inject Botox at precise depths and locations, targeting only the exact muscles necessary to achieve your desired effect.

If you have more questions about the safety of Botox, schedule a consultation with Dr. Smith by calling our friendly staff or requesting an appointment online today. 

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