It might be difficult to see the original use for Botox in today’s medical marketing. To modern cosmetic surgeons, Botox is a kind of wonder child. This single injectable is capable of diminishing lines and wrinkles, sure—but it’s also capable of helping with depression and migraines. Botox can help those who suffer from TMJ. There is, in fact, a wide litany of things that Botox can accomplish.
The Original Use For Botox
That’s why it might be difficult to pin down its original use. It turns out that Botox wasn’t developed for cosmetic purposes. That doesn’t necessarily make Botox unique. It’s not uncommon, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, for a drug developed to do one thing finds wide use doing another. These are complex substances, and it’s difficult to anticipate all of their effects.
So let’s look a little bit more deeply into the origins of Botox—figure out what it is, where it came from, and how far removed that is from what it’s doing today.
Where Does Botox Come From?
If Botox really is the super hero of cosmetic surgery clinics and medical spas the world over, then it (like all good super heroes) it probably has a pretty good origin story. It turns out that Botox was first developed as a way strabismus—a problem that affects eye muscles. Botox was first used for this purpose in 1977.
This actually makes sense if you know something about how Botox works. Strabismus is a muscle related problem with the eye. Essentially, the eyes won’t look in exactly the same direction because the muscles are weaker in one eye than the other. Today, this is treated with surgery or special glasses, but it’s no mistake that Botox affects the muscles.
The Turn to Cosmetic
Botox is developed from clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that can cause a wide range of serious illness. But in its tamed form as botulinum toxin a, Botox is able to affect muscles in an incredibly narrow, targeted way. And when it does that, Botox is able to selectively paralyze certain muscle groups.
When it was discovered that this could have cosmetic applications, the FDA approved Botox for this purpose. Since that approval in 2002, Botox has been one of the most popular cosmetic treatments on the planet.
How Does Botox Work
Much of this origin story has something to do with how Botox works. While something like Juvederm or Voluma works by filling up volume in the face (and thus, eliminating wrinkles), Botox is quite different. Botox will actually interfere with the signals sent to the muscles in your face.
That’s important because several types of wrinkles are actually caused by muscles. Here’s the idea:
- Muscles help with your facial expressions by contracting—thus, you smile or frown or make your eyebrows arch
- Sometimes, those muscles get “stuck” in a contracted position
- When those muscles get stuck, the facial expression remains in the contracted position, meaning you develop wrinkles
- When Botox is injected, the treatment interferes with the muscle’s ability to stay contracted, so the muscle is then released
- When the muscle releases, the skin relaxes and patients are left with smoother skin
Your cosmetic or plastic surgeon will be able to tell you precisely what molecules in Botox are doing precisely where in your muscles. But the point is this: Botox is able to effectively eliminate a specific type of wrinkle group.
Problems With Botox
Since its approval for cosmetic use in 2002, there have been plenty issues raised about the results of Botox procedures. In particular, patients have often been fearful of being unable to emote after a treatment. This fear hasn’t always been without justification (there are plenty of celebrities who have been unable to move their brows on television after a Botox treatment).
However, it turns out that most of that loss of expression was due to the injection of too much Botox (sometimes at the request of patients, who tend to think that you can’t have too much of a good thing). Modern Botox injections are quite potent, which means you’re able to get great results with less of the actual injectable.
This means that “numb face” look is almost always avoided when you get Botox from a skilled cosmetic surgeon.
Increasing Uses for Botox
As mentioned above, the origins of Botox are somewhat stunning if only because Botox is now used for a far wider variety of purposes—some of them quite surprising. Once a treatment for a muscle syndrome in the eye, Botox is now employed to do many different things. Some of the modern uses of Botox include the following:
- Obviously, eliminating lines and wrinkles (and making you look more youthful) is going to be the number one use for Botox
- Botox is also able to help treat migraines in some patients. Studies have shown that Botox can help minimize the frequency and the duration of migraine headaches.
- Other studies have shown that Botox may be able to help patients who are suffering from severe cases of Depression. Patients who have had Botox report feeling significant improvements in mood, especially over time.
- Botox can help with a wide variety of muscle issues, especially when the muscles are overly contracted. For example, Botox is often used to help patients who suffer from TMJ, a condition in which the jaw muscles are overly tensed (causing all kinds of other issues).
Discovered by Accident
The remarkable thing about these treatments is that many of them were discovered at least somewhat by accident. For example:
- It was discovered that Botox might help those with Depression because patients who received Botox for cosmetic reasons reported an increase in overall happiness and an improvement in overall mood.
- It was discovered that Botox might help with migraines for a similar reason; patients who had Botox for cosmetic improvements noticed that they happened to get less severe migraines (and get them less often).
Once the “effect” was discovered and articulated, researchers began to develop studies that were designed to study those effects. The idea was to either confirm or deny that the effect was real. In many ways, it’s fitting that the use of Botox has veered so widely from its own origins.
Check With Your Surgeon
The origins of Botox are somewhat murky, if only because this injectable has found so many other uses. The original use of Botox was one that treated a very real issue with the eyes. Today, Botox is used for a wide variety of reasons, but you should certainly check with your cosmetic surgeon before committing to any Botox injections.
Despite the wide use of Botox, it is still primarily utilized as a means of eliminating lines and wrinkles. If you only knew of the origin of Botox and not what it can do today, you might be missing out on the opportunity to look a little bit younger—and that might be a shame!