Botox injections have gained popularity in recent years. (Pic: Ken Hively/Newscom)
An unnaturally expressionless face with skin that looks like it has been pulled back way too tight is often the image that comes to mind when we hear the word “Botox”. Yet when done correctly, the aesthetic procedure promises to soften wrinkles and brighten skin, hence it’s popularity among celebrities looking to maintain a youthful appearance.

Over the past few years the treatment has become more affordable and as accessible as any cosmetic dental procedure, which means it’s no longer reserved for the rich and famous.

I spoke to Dr Zak Schabort, the founder of The Cosmetic and Dental Emporium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, to find out more.

Dr Zak Schabort is the founder of The Cosmetic and Dental Emporium. (Supplied)

He answered a few questions on what the procedure was all about and discussed misconceptions about the treatment.

But before getting into the finer details Zak explained what aesthetic treatments meant to him.

“Aesthetics lies in enhancing people, not creating them. I empower our practitioners with knowledge, and I teach natural outcomes so people can look their best.”

What exactly is Botox and is it toxic to the human body?

Botox is a purified protein derived from botulinum toxin and a finished medical prescription product that has been proved to be safe through extensive research and testing. The precise and pinpoint administration of Botox into a specific muscle or group of muscles, at very low concentrations, reduces the spread to unwanted areas. Any medication or drug that is administered improperly can be potentially dangerous.

Your facial muscles will learn not to frown naturally. (Pic: Damian Dovarganes ,AP)

What does Botox do and what are the long-term effects of the treatment?

Botox paralyses the communication between the nerves in the skin and the brain. A long-term effect will be:

1. Your facial muscles will learn not to frown naturally. Your muscles will become trained not to make wrinkle-forming expressions as aggressively as you once did.

2. The muscles will weaken or atrophy from lack of use if it is used regularly over a prolonged period and without interruption. This will affect only the muscle where Botox was injected and not your whole face.

3. Your skin will look brighter and less wrinkled.

What’s the difference between fillers and Botox?

The primary difference between the two is that Botox reduces the activity of muscles in the face that cause wrinkles. Facial fillers, however, fill the trouble areas with collagen, which helps to stimulate collagen growth in the face as well as plump and lift the skin to replace collagen loss. This helps your skin achieve a youthful look, as well as eliminate signs of ageing that occur as a result of collagen depletion.

How painful is the procedure?

A Botox injection is quick and simple. It has been described as feeling like a mosquito bite. The side-effects are minor and temporary with little or no recovery time needed. The most common side-effects include tenderness, swelling, redness and bruising. No anaesthetic is required for the treatment and one can resume normal activities immediately.

How often would you need to have to have the treatment done?

Every three months.

Which areas of the face can benefit the most from it?

Botox is most often injected into the upper part of the face. Most commonly, it is used to perform a modest “chemical brow lift” or to treat unwanted wrinkles caused by repetitive movement, including frown lines, forehead lines, bunny lines and crow’s feet. In the lower face, Botox is used to treat certain dimples and depressions on the chin.

From what age can you start getting Botox injections?

Botox injections can be administered to people over the age of 18, providing there is a real need for the treatment. Botox injections are an excellent option during a person’s younger years and has been seen more as a preventative treatment for the development of deep lines and wrinkles. 

Will Botox give me that expressionless look?

The expressionless look is usually a result of the overdosage of Botox. An experienced injector would know how many Botox units to inject so that you will look natural and not “frozen”. The desired result is for Botox injections to leave you looking natural and not overdone, avoiding the unwanted “frozen” appearance. When administered in the correct amounts, normal facial expressions can be made. Botox reduces muscle activity but does not radically change it.

What happens if you decide to stop getting Botox?

If you decide to stop having Botox injections your muscles will lose the muscle-relaxing effect and simply go back to the way they functioned before treatment. Once the muscles are fully active, wrinkles and lines will gradually return. The treatment effectively improves your appearance for three to four months. No damage to muscles takes place.