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The 10-minute wrinkle-fix

December 16, 2005

The elixir of youth is not a distant dream anymore. More and more young men and women are taking a 'beauty lunch break' to polish their skin and maintain a youthful appearance.

According to a January 2005 report in The Hindu, around 250 BOTOX procedures were performed every month in Mumbai and Delhi alone. This number rose to 500 in the past few months, claims Style Speak, a beauty periodical.

"We get at least 50 to 60 clients coming in for anti-aging skin treatments per month," says the representative of a leading high-end skin clinic in Mumbai.

Dr Mukta Sachdev, a consultant dermatologist with her own clinic in Bangalore, says she has eight to nine clients opting for BOTOX therapy per week; a year ago, only one or two patients opted or it per week.

Is BOTOX  for you? Let's find out.

What is BOTOX?

BOTOX is a natural protein extracted from the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. Extremely tiny doses of BOTOX are administered via a few tiny injections to the overactive muscles that cause wrinkles to develop. This blocks the transmission of nerve impulses to the injected muscles.

The effects are usually limited to the area of injection; BOTOX does not travel throughout the body. This treatment can remove all kinds of facial wrinkles.

The treatment

A BOTOX cosmetic treatment is a straightforward, non-surgical procedure that can get rid of deep, persistent wrinkles that develop over time. A single 10-minute treatment -- via a few tiny injections -- can relax the muscles that cause wrinkles to form in the first place. The effect lasts for up to four months. It is usually injected into frown lines, horizontal forehead lines and crow's feet. There is no specific preparation needed before the procedure.

Typically, one to three injections are given per muscle. Your doctor might choose to use local anesthesia or a cold pack to minimise the pain.

The needle prick marks might be visible for some time, but all signs of the injection generally disappear in 24 hours. Overall, the procedure takes around 10-15 minutes.

BOTOX culture

BOTOX treatments were once restricted to Hollywood stars and socialites. Today, many beauty conscious men and women have joined the bandwagon. Even people in their 20s and early 30s are opting for BOTOX to preserve their youthful appearance.

Deepa Wadhwa*, a 28-year-old call centre executive from Mumbai, says, "I was apprehensive in the beginning, but it is virtually painless and the effects are dramatic. BOTOX just erased the wrinkles I was slowly beginning to develop."

Neha Bhatt*, a 26-year-old software engineer from Bangalore, underwent the procedure twice. She was a little scared the first time, when she noticed her eyelids drooping a bit after the procedure. In a few days, however, she appeared natural and relaxed. She returned to work the day of the procedure.

"People told me I looked very different. But they did not know why," she says.

"In fact, people in the age group of 18-25 years also come to get their brows lifted and remove their nasal creases with BOTOX," Dr Mukta Sachdev says. Another trend that has been observed is that men no longer shy away from beauty clinics or BOTOX treatments.

A doctor from the Kaya Skin Clinic observes, "Men are realising that skincare need not be equated to vanity."

Is BOTOX right for me?

Your healthcare provider will decide this. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 65 can choose to use BOTOX. But, if you are pregnant, have certain neurological conditions or are taking drugs that affect your nerves and muscles, BOTOX is not for you.

Any doctor authorised by Allergan can administer BOTOX in India. Before they can be authorised, doctors usually undergo a training conducted by highly experienced professionals at Allergan. Ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons, dermatologists, ENT specialists or other cosmetic physicians all over India are on Allergan's list.

To find an authorised doctor/ clinic in your area, visit http://www.botox.co.in/administering.htm.

Stay clear of 'BOTOX parties'

The existence of Indian 'Botox parties,'  where you can get the drug injected cheaply, could be a myth. Even if these parties do exist, they are definitely not recommended. 

According to Allergan, the treatment must be administered under clinical conditions by a trained expert.

Vasudha Rao*, a 30-year-old stay-at-home mom from Delhi, says that one sitting where her crow's feet were erased by BOTOX® injections cost her around Rs 8,000. "The cost ranges anywhere from Rs 6000-15,000 per treatment, but I do not mind spending to look good."

The average cost per unit of BOTOX is Rs 300-400; the cost of your treatement will be determined by the number of units you need. 

The flip side

Like all other wonder drugs, BOTOX has its own drawbacks.

For one, there can be side effects such as headache, respiratory infection, flu syndrome, temporary eyelid droop (especially if too much BOTOX is injected) and nausea.

Some subjects report pain, redness and muscle weakness at the injection site.

Really serious side effects, such as nerve involvement, are a result of poor injection skills. So, if you choose to undergo treatment, make sure the doctor you choose is authorised and experienced.

BOTOX is not as invasive as a surgical facelift, but you need to take the injection every four months to keep those compliments rolling.

If you stop the treatments, your wrinkles will reappear and your skin will go back to being what it was before you started the treatments.

Prevent wrinkles naturally

~ Avoiding exposure to the sun and not smoking are other simple and non-invasive long-term ways to prevent wrinkles.

~ Anti-aging creams with alpha-hydroxy acids can help too.

~ According to some claims, regular facials can prevent wrinkle formation too, though this has not been scientifically documented.

~ Alternatives to BOTOX that can be used for fine wrinkles include pulsed-dye laser treatments, erbium laser treatments, carbon dioxide laser treatments, and other less invasive procedures such as microdermabrasion or chemical skin peels.

Not many people know BOTOX has multiple therapeutic uses too. For example, it has been used to cure migraine headaches, hyperhydrosis, or excessive sweating and blepharospasm, a painful twitching of the eyelid muscles. Ongoing research constantly reveals new uses for BOTOX. Unfortunately, BOTOX is better known for its cosmetic uses than its curative ones.

* Names changed to protect identities.

Dr Roopa Nishi Viswanathan has an MBBS from KEM Hospital, Mumbai, with a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Texas at Austin. 



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