Beyond Wrinkle Reduction: Exploring the Surprising Alternative Uses of Botox
Botox has long been a solution for treating fine lines and wrinkles on the face. It's easy to see why: the injectable is effective, requires little to no downtime and is so quick to administer that it can be done on your lunch break. But aside from targeting things like smile lines, frown lines and crow's feet, Botox has been growing in popularity for alternative uses that may come as a surprise. "I always joke that Botox is the aspirin of the 21st century because of its plethora of uses — some of which include cross-eyedness, facial spasms, neck spasms, cerebral palsy spasms, spasms of the vocal cords, hyperactive salivary glands and TMJ therapy," says Los Angeles-based board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Leslie Stevens. The good news: typically, the results of Botox last longer for non-cosmetic uses, especially when used on areas not involving any muscles (such as sweat glands — more on that later).
Expert Tip: If you are concerned with post-Botox bruising or irritation, Zensa Healing Cream is formulated with medical-grade ingredients to speed up wound healing such as calendula oil, a natural oil derived from marigold flowers that boasts anti-inflammatory properties. The cream also features grapefruit oil (to calm inflammation) and shea butter (to condition the skin) as well as cucumber extract that can help calm the injection site.
Below, we are exploring a few of the most common uses of Botox beyond wrinkle reduction.
Botox For Wrinkles
Before deep diving into the impressive alternative uses of Botox, it's important to learn how it works. "Botox is one of several brand names for botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin that prevents the release of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine at the interface of the nerve and the muscle," explains Dr. Stevens. "Acetylcholine is the chemical that signals a muscle to contract, thus, without it there will be a weakening of the muscle."
When it comes to things like fine lines and wrinkles, they develop over time and with constant use of facial muscles. "Botulinum toxins work by relaxing the muscles of facial expression, and Botox weakens the muscles enough to help smooth the overlying skin," says Dr. Stevens. "Additionally, in some areas like between the eyebrows, Botox can help to elevate the forehead by relaxing the brow depressor muscles."
Botox For Excessive Sweating
For those experiencing hyperhidrosis (that is, heavy sweating), Botox can be an effective solution. In fact, studies have shown that neurotoxins like Botox can significantly reduce the amount of sweating in the treated area by up to 85%. Common areas where excess sweating can occur are the armpit, feet, palms or groin area. Botox in these areas works as the same mechanism as facial wrinkles — that is, by blocking the neurotransmitter that signals the sweat gland to activate, says Dr. Stevens.
Like fine lines and wrinkles on the face, treating hyperhidrosis with Botox is a non-invasive, straight-forward in-office procedure. "I like to draw a grid on the area to be treated — this helps to do a thorough job of injecting and prevents under- or over-treating one specific portion of an area," says Dr. Stevens. "I then inject small amounts of neurotoxin superficially in each box of the grid." You will notice the effects of the treatment within three to four days. What's more, Dr. Stevens says that the effects of Botox for controlling excessive sweating usually last longer than for weakening facial muscles, as the muscles on the face are used more often.
Botox For Migraines
Struggling with painful migraines? Botox can help ward them off. Interestingly, the case for using Botox to treat migraines came about by accident. "Using Botox to treat migraines was serendipitously discovered when patients who had been treated for facial wrinkling and lines relayed to their treating physician that their migraines went away or became less intense along with the wrinkle treatment," Dr. Stevens explains. "This is due to the fact that with some migraines, the source of the headache is pressure on a sensory nerve from a hyperactive overlying muscle." Botox was FDA-approved as a treatment for migraines in 2010, with results typically lasting about four to six months.
In terms of where the Botox gets applied, Dr. Stevens says that it is injected in a similar manner as treating wrinkles since the source of the migraines is muscle related. "Sometimes injections are given in the temples or at the back of the head near the neck and into the muscles that are causing the headaches."
Botox For Eye Twitching
Historically speaking, eye twitching (or eye spasms) was the first medical use of botulinum toxin, with the FDA approving it for this use in 1989. While testing the neurotoxin to treat eye spasms, scientists noticed the smoothening out of the skin between the eyebrows, an effect that paved the way for it to be revered for cosmetic uses. Botox for blepharospasm is typically administered by an ophthalmologist and involves injecting the surrounding eye area. Like other areas, treatment for eye twitching using Botox requires re-injection, as results last roughly three to four months.
Botox For Overactive Bladders
Whether you are experiencing frequent leakage or you are prone to feeling an uncontrollable urge to urinate, you may be dealing with an overactive bladder (OAB), to which Botox may help. When used to treat an OAB, Dr. Stevens says that the Botox gets injected into the muscular wall of the bladder through a scope that is inserted through the urethra. "It works by the same principle as wrinkles and migraines by rendering the hyperactive bladder muscles flaccid," he says. You can expect results to last for up to six months, which can offer major relief if you are used to struggling with an unpredictable bladder.
While Botox is a notable injection that has revolutionized the anti-aging skincare industry, it has a slew of other uses unrelated to wrinkles. If you are interested in learning more about the alternative uses of Botox and seeing if it is right for you, discuss with your physician.