While Botox is a toxin, when used properly the side effects are usually minimal and temporary.
Botox is an injectable drug made from botulinum toxin type A. This toxin is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. There are many types of botulinum toxins like Xeomin, Dysport, etc. but Botox is a trademarked brand name that specifically represents onabotulinum toxin A.
Although this is the same toxin that causes botulism (a life threatening form of food poisoning), its effects vary according to the amount and type of exposure. For example, Botox is only injected in small, targeted doses.
When injected, Botox blocks signals from your nerves to your muscles. This prevents the targeted muscles from contracting, which can ease certain muscular conditions and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Keep reading to learn more about the safety of Botox, common uses, side effects to look for, and more.
Although botulinum toxin is life threatening, small doses — like those used in the application of Botox — are considered safe.
With that in mind, some researchers speculate that cosmetic applications may carry less risk than therapeutic Botox injections because the doses are usually much smaller.
Less serious, non-life-threatening adverse effects were more common in cosmetic use, possibly due to the larger volume of patients who receive Botox for cosmetic reasons, vs. patients who undergo medical treatment with Botox.
- superficial reddening of the skin
- drooping eyelid or brow
- pain in the injected area
- other skin discolorations
The majority of these side effects were mild and temporary. Botox is considered safe overall.
You should always go to a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon for Botox injections. You’re more likely to experience adverse side effects if your injections aren’t prepared according to FDA standards or injected by an inexperienced healthcare professional.
Wait to receive Botox if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Botox is typically known for its ability to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. For example, Botox injections can relax the muscles that cause:
- crow’s feet, or wrinkles that appear at the outer corner of the eyes
- frown lines between the eyebrows
- forehead creases
Botox is also used to treat underlying muscular conditions, such as:
- amblyopia (“lazy eye”)
- strabismus (“crossed eyes“)
- eye twitching
- chronic migraine
- cervical dystonia (neck spasms)
- overactive bladder
- hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
- certain neurological conditions like cerebral palsy
Although Botox injections are relatively safe, minor side effects are possible. These include:
Some side effects are tied to the area of injection. For example, if you get injections in the eye area, you may experience:
- drooping eyelids
- uneven eyebrows
- dry eyes
- excessive tearing
Injections around the mouth may result in a “crooked” smile or drooling.
Most side effects are usually temporary and should fade within a few days.
But drooping eyelids, drooling, and asymmetry are all caused by the unintentional effects of the toxin on muscles surrounding the target areas of the drug. These side effects may take several weeks to improve as the toxin wears off.
In rare cases, you may develop botulism-like symptoms. Seek immediate medical attention if you begin experiencing:
- difficulty speaking
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty breathing
- vision problems
- loss of bladder control
- general weakness
Since the effects of Botox injections are temporary, most people get repeated injections over time. But research on long-term effectiveness and safety is limited.
They ultimately concluded that the risk of adverse effects didn’t increase over time. People who received repeated injections also had better treatment success in the long term.
But the results of a 2015 research review suggest that adverse effects may appear after the 10th or 11th injection.
For example, researchers in the
- difficulty swallowing
- drooping eyelid
- neck weakness
- blurred vision
- general or marked weakness
- difficulty chewing
- difficulty speaking
- heart palpitations
More research is needed to understand the potential long-term effects of Botox.
If you’re considering Botox treatments, it’s important to work with a licensed and experienced healthcare professional.
Working with someone who is not licensed may be more affordable or convenient, but doing so can increase your risk of complications. Remember, the toxin lasts 3 to 6 months, and you’ll likely need to return for multiple treatments.
As with any procedure, side effects are possible. Talk with your doctor about what you can expect during the injection process and in the subsequent recovery period. They can answer any questions you may have and discuss your individual benefits and risks.