Botox: Explainer


Botox is a brand name used to describe botulinum toxin type A produced by Allergan. Several forms of the toxin are produced by other manufacturers, with different brand names (Dysport; Xeomin).


This product is derived from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxin and in its pure form is one of the most potent biological poisons known. Rest assured however, when used for cosmetic purposes the doses administered are tiny and systemic effects are virtually impossible.


Muscles contract when they receive impulses from motor nerves. Botox blocks motor nerves from delivering impulses and causes temporary weakness of the muscle.


Facial wrinkles are partially caused by the repetitive contraction of muscles under the skin. Paralysis of these facial muscles reduces the depth and visibility of overlying facial wrinkles.


Botox is administered by dissolving the toxin in saline and injecting tiny quantities into the facial muscles. This is a relatively painless process which takes a few minutes.


Onset of action is usually within 2–5 days. The effect is temporary, usually wearing off within 3–4 months.


Botox is safe in most patients. Some patients should not have Botox injections: pre-existing neurological disorders; history of reaction to albumin; pregnancy; breast-feeding.

Side Effects

Rare and few. Temporary when they occur. Botox is VERY safe. Local bruising, redness and headache are most common. Flu-like symptoms and nausea are less common. The most feared adverse effect is inadvertent weakness of the muscles of the upper eyelid. This lasts 2–6 weeks and can be reduced with prescribed eyedrops.