Fact and fiction

Now that people have found a way to stop the aging process dead in its tracks, Botox has become the next big thing. It has become an absolute craze in Hollywood, as stars from Sylvester Stallone to Madonna have been injected with the deadly botulism poison to erase time. A substance once used for health reasons such as muscle spasms and uncontrollable blinking has now become cosmetic.

Even though it's one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances in the world, the small amounts used in the procedure could never harm a patient. Botox is used to treat wrinkles that are caused by muscle contraction, such as frown lines, crow's feet, forehead creases and neckbands; it works by paralyzing these areas. The Botox is injected directly into the muscle as you contract it by frowning or smiling.

After receiving Botox injections, there will be short-term paralysis of the muscle group in which it was injected, which sometimes causes unusual facial expressions such as a drooping eyelid, uneven smile or loss of ability to close the eye. There may also be bruising. These side effects may take up to 6 weeks to wear off, and the effects of the procedure only last about 3 to 8 months.

The amount of time in between procedures simply depends on the amount of time your wrinkles stay paralyzed. People love the outcome, and many either do not care about the side effects or simply don't know the long-term effects. After continued Botox treatments, you may begin to need more of the Botox for it to work effectively, until eventually you become immune to the treatments.

After discontinuation, the slight wrinkles you were trying to cover up in the first place are deeper than when you started. So, yes the procedure does work and you do look younger, but you should always consider if it's worth the risks.

Botox Alternatives

There are many other ways to stop the effects of aging without going under the needle. There is the Botox wrinkle cream, which produces collagen. Both Botox and Retin-A creams have proven very effective in the treatment of the skin. There are also many facial rejuvenation options for individuals looking to reduce wrinkles or acne scars, or improve overall skin appearance.

A chemical peel is a great alternative that works by removing the skin's top layers, taking away any sun damage, uneven skin tones and wrinkles. Depending on the depth of the peel, it is administered either by a physician or trained clinician.

Other alternatives include laser skin resurfacing, which removes the outer layers of skin and stimulates the production of collagen and new skin cells. Laser skin tightening is an advanced wrinkle removal treatment using infrared light to tighten the skin without therapy.

Microdermabrasion uses tiny crystals to exfoliate in order to remove undesired pigmentation and wrinkles. Thermage is used to tighten and improve the contours of the face and neck using a radio frequency device that heats the deep layers of the skin. These procedures can be done in a dermatologist's office, and some can even be performed by a facial technician.

If you're feeling like you want to look a bit younger, these are just some of the ways to do so - but it's very important to choose the right course of treatment. Make sure you research the types of treatments you are considering, as well as where you are going to have them done, so that you are comfortable when you make your choice.

By Gina Leclair