Why You May Want to Reconsider Your Next Botox Appointment

by Keri Berardinelli

For more than twenty years the cosmetic and beauty industry have dominated with the use of Botox and fillers, known as “injectables”.  Although the history of injectables goes back hundreds of years and with many scary complications and disfigurements, what’s on the market today we deem as “safe and effective”.  But even with the FDA stamp of approval, does it come without risks? The answer unfortunately is no.  

The trade name, Botox, stands for “botulism toxin”.  In Latin this translates to “sausage poison”, which historically hints at its origins - from food poisoning to magical therapy. Many people don’t know that the botulism toxin is one of the deadliest toxins, one hundred times stronger than cyanide. Yikes, this fact alone should raise some eyebrows!

How Does it Work?

The botulism toxin is a neurotoxin and once injected blocks the neuromuscular synapses where the nerves connect to the muscle. It basically inhibits the secretion of acetylcholine, an excitatory neurotransmitter responsible for muscle contraction.

In simpler terms, facial expression muscles can no longer receive communication from the brain and respond to the messages through facial expression. And, although the brain continues to send out messages they don’t reach the muscles.

Once that bridge between the brain and the muscle is broken, it is irreversible. However, overtime, somewhere between three and six months, the nerve endings begin to sprout, creating axon branching which leads to the recovery in the function of the paralyzed muscle. New data demonstrates that in the late recovery phases the original terminal nerve becomes functional once again, but the question lies, does it remain functional after repeated injections? [1] This is a fair question to ask.

This is why it takes three to six months for Botox to wear off as this is the length of time it takes for the nerve branch to sprout and reconnect to the muscle. Aren't our bodies truly miraculous? 

Is it Worth it?

There’s a saying that’s commonly used, “use it or lose it”, which demonstrates another problem with repeated Botox injections - it affects muscle strength.  Muscle fibers eventually become weaker due to facial expression inactivity. Muscles begin to atrophy causing shrinkage and consequently the skin begins to sag.  This is when your practitioner may step in to recommend fillers as a remedy to this situation in order to restore fullness in the face. It is an identical model for many ailments and illnesses of the body. People are often prescribed to not one, but two or three medications to offset side effects. You can think of skin sagging as a side effect of continual Botox injections and fillers are the next medication.

Furthermore, there are no guarantees that the botulism toxin will stay locally at the site of injection. There is a chance it will diffuse, migrate or spread to other areas, possibly making its journey to your central nervous system [1]. There was a new study done by University College London claiming that 80% of patients getting Botox suffered side effects such as headaches, brain fog and panic attacks [3]. This risk is enough to question whether vanity is worth the replacement of good neurological and mental health.

What’s the Deal with Fillers?

The use of fillers has a long and, frankly, grotesque history. The first filler evidently was paraffin, which is basically Vaseline [2]. People were seriously injured and disfigured from injecting these materials. Today, it is much safer to receive injectable fillers, but they can still be risky, nonetheless.

The FDA approved hyaluronic acid fillers in 2006. The good news is that hyaluronic acid is naturally occurring in the body so the body will metabolize it making it far less toxic than paraffin, or silicone; however, the problem with hyaluronic acid is it’s a humectant. Humectants attract and absorb water, so it will greedily grab moisture from its environment. This means it grabs onto moisture from nearby tissues deep in the skin leading to dehydration at the skin’s surface. What promises to be a solution for hydration problems creates more problems. Many people who receive fillers regularly suffer from surface dehydration.

Another problem with fillers is they can migrate to other areas of the face lasting six to eighteen months! Have you ever seen someone with strange bumps of various shapes under their skin? This is could likely be from filler material migrating to areas not intended for it to be.

As mentioned, the good news is the body will eventually break it down. The quickness of metabolizing filler materials depends on the individual, but one thing to consider is there will always be a residue that stays in the tissue indefinitely. These residues are correlated with permanent facial changes over time with repeated injections. This is why people who end up addicted to the effects of fillers will begin to look radically different. Think of Madonna and how she looks today! Pretty scary!

No Level of Vanity is Worth the Risks

In my personal and professional opinion, it’s just not worth it. What are the pros you ask? The pros are in the instant gratification that people are accustomed to, an instant result and an instant boost in confidence. In a society where everything is fast it is no wonder that people want instant, as well as easy results. If there’s too much work involved, many people won’t do it. But, if you're willing to put some effort into your own self-care, there are many rewards awaiting, including better health.

 Eleven Cosmetic Injection Alternatives

There are so many choices when it comes to holistic skin rejuvenation! The key takeaway here is to be consistent. Choose one or several of these modalities and create a structure and regimen for doing or receiving them.  

  1. Baikal Micro-Crystals*

Baikal Micro-Crystals are derived from aquatic sponges found only in Lake Baikal. Although there are other varieties of sponge crystals on the market, Baikal is my preference. Crystals are essentially the exoskeleton of the sponge broken down into very small particles that penetrate the skin. These crystals create a “wound healing response” within the deeper layers of the skin which results in the regeneration of tissues including collagen, elastin and healthy new skin cells. This is all done without puncturing the skin, which makes this treatment one hundred percent non-invasive. It is also great for all skin complexions, even the darkest of skin.

  1. Microneedling*

Microneedling is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure. It entails pricking the skin with tiny, sterilized needles which creates a “wounding healing response” within the deeper layers of the skin. The results are the same – more collagen, elastin and healthy new skin cells. There are only a couple of downsides to this treatment. One, is that it can be potentially risky for darker skin types and two, the treatment entails numbing the face and numbing creams can potentially, although rare, cause allergic reactions. 

  1. Bio-Adaptive Microcurrent

A bio-adaptive microcurrent sends low-level electrical currents to targeted areas and the cells respond as a form of biofeedback. The benefits show improved muscle tone, tightening of pores, and it activates cellular turnover and lymphatic drainage. It also significantly reduces inflammation.

  1. NeoLift Face Contouring Massage (NLT)*

NeoLift Face Contouring Massage, or NeoLifting Technique (NLT) is an intricate, deep tissue facial massage, combining lymphatic drainage and intraoral massage, also known as, buccal massage. The results are a lifting and toning of the facial muscles, improved facial posture, a deep release of tension within the muscles, and the stimulation of blood flow and nutrients, as well as the out flow of metabolic waste and toxins. Combined with the touch and nurturing care from your therapist, years can be erased from your face!

  1. Face Yoga

Face Yoga combines proven facial exercises, routines, breath, and facial massage techniques to exercise your facial muscles, skin, and lymphatics. Face Yoga improves muscle tone, eases tension, and improves the blood and oxygen supply to your skin for a vitalized and uplifted complexion.

  1. Facial Gua Sha Massage

Gua Sha is part of East Asian Medicine. Gua means “to scrape” and Sha is relative to the wind element signifying toxicity and/or stagnation. It is a deep tissue massage using a flat crystal or stone that stimulates acupressure points to lift, tone and rejuvenate the face and skin. It deeply relaxes facial muscles, easing tension and anxiety. It is a simple and powerful therapy that you can do at home as a part of your own self-care!

  1. Facial Cupping

Facial cupping also goes back to East Asian Medicine. It entails suctioning the skin to stimulate muscle and release stagnation within the tissues. It supports lymphatic drainage and initiates cellular repair and regeneration of skin tissues.

  1. Cosmetic Acupuncture*

Cosmetic acupuncture is a non-invasive procedure designed for aesthetic purposes. It is performed by an acupuncturist by using fine needles to stimulate the skin and underlying muscles of the face. This stimulation helps to increase collagen production and improve blood circulation. As a result, you can see improved skin appearance – reduced wrinkles, better elasticity, and a general brightening of the complexion.  

  1. Red Light Therapy*

Red Light Therapy is also known as LED light therapy, phototherapy, and low-level light therapy (LLLT). It’s the application of specific wavelengths of light energy to tissue to obtain therapeutic results for a variety of conditions. It is a non-invasive procedure and research has shown that LED can increase circulation, accelerate tissue repair, kill acne bacteria, decrease inflammation, increase collagen and elastin, reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin’s firmness and resilience.

  1. Retinoids or Retinoid Alternatives

Retinoids have been considered the gold standard for anti-aging skin care for many years. They are a class of compounds derived from vitamin A and have been used in cosmetics to help reduce wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. Additional benefits include fading skin discolorations, activating cellular turnover, and softening rough patches and uneven texture. Yet, there are some problems with the use of retinoids as they can cause skin dryness, irritation, and sun sensitivities that may increase your risk of burning and/or increase oxidative damage which could lead to skin cancers.

The solution to these problems is retinoid alternatives. Good examples of retinoid alternatives are the following: rose hip seed oil, sea buckthorn oil, or Bakuchiol.

Bakuchiol is an active constituent derived from the seeds of the Psoralea corylifolia plant, commonly known as the “babchi plant”.  It has been used extensively in traditional Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Similar to retinoids, bakuchiol boosts collagen in the skin, but without the dryness, irritation and sun sensitivity that comes from the use of retinoids. In fact, bakuchiol is ultra soothing and reduces inflammation in the skin. It works amazingly on sensitive skin complexions!

  1. Supplements

One of the main causes of aging includes oxidative stress which results in accumulated cellular damage caused by free radicals. We know that the use of antioxidants counteracts this process, so a diet that’s rich in antioxidants is essential for slowing down the process of aging.

And since the skin is comprised mostly of water, proteins and fats, adding these vital components will give us the most support.

Here are my top 9 best anti-aging foods and/or supplements:

  • Purified Water
  • Collagen Peptides
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin D
  • CoQ10
  • Curcumin
  • Phytonutrients - i.e. carotenoids or resveratrol 
  • NRF2

*Recommended in a series of treatments

It's Your Decision

Deciding to get injectables is a personal choice, but it’s important to have full disclosure and informed consent before opting for it.

There’s so much we can do less invasively and without risk, but many people are either not aware, or not willing to be consistent enough to see results. It does take consistency and essentially making certain practices a lifestyle.

For the best results, I recommend finding a holistic aesthetician or practitioner who can lead you in the right direction designing an anti-aging program just for you.

To learn more about Baikal Micro-Crystals click here.

Seeking an alternative to retinoids? Check this out here.

Sources:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7968983/

[2] https://westsideaesthetics.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/history-injectable-fillers-2009.pdf

[3] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/headlines/2023/jul/new-study-claims-80-patients-getting-anti-wrinkle-jabs-suffer-side-effects#:~:text=UCL%20researchers%2C%20writing%20in%20the,suffered%20it%20after%20Botox%20injections.