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Botox – Is it right for me?

April 25, 2010

I wrote this piece for Islam Online earlier this year but thought it would be useful to share with you here as it is relevant for all people thinking about the needle!


There is no denying that botox is popular, indeed statistics published by the American Society for Aethetic Plastic Surgery state that in 2008 in North America, 2,464,123 botox procedures were performed. Not only that but the recipients are getting younger as botox is seen as a reasonable way to ‘prevent’ wrinkles from occurring.   So is the promise of a baby-smooth complexion too hard to resist? Is the product safe and should it even be considered in the first place? To answer these questions we need to do some digging around at the medi-spa.

Botox must be administered by a trained medical professional

What is Botox?
First of all ‘Botox’ is actually a trade name of Allergen Inc, USA and is used to market a muscle-relaxing toxin called “Botulinum Toxin”. An alternatives to Allergen’s ‘Botox’ is ‘Dysport’ manufactured by the Ipsen Group.  While both of these products have medical approval and contain the same active it would not be fair to say that they can be used interchangeably (information would be available to the practitioner in the Product Information Document produced by each company).

Many people will have heard of Botulism,  the deadly sickness caused by the above bacteria and will be worried by the prospect of introducing this into their bodies.  However, botulism and botulinum toxin are clinically different.  The  “botulinum toxin” used to relax muscles is produced by extracting the deadly toxin from the bacteria before purifying and modifying it to render it only mildly toxic.

Botulinum Toxin has been used clinically to relieve tension headaches, to treat excessive sweating and to help manage Cerebral Palsy among other things.  Under medical supervision it has even been approved for treatment of children suffering from various medical conditions so while we can’t conclude that botulinum toxin is without risk, if used correctly it can be both an effective medicine and cosmaceutical active.

What does it feel like?

Sonia, a registered nurse from a Sydney medi-spa has treated many patients over the last five years and has also had the procedure herself. She explained that while first-time patients sometimes get worked-up about the thought of needles going into the face most people get through it with just a bit of ice!

“Of course, we will bring out the gas and air if they need it” she reassured me.

 Tiny insulin needles are used to inject the substance straight into the muscle and with the  whole procedure over in only 5 minutes for a brow smooth it’s  easy to fit into a lunch-break!

“The most painful bit is usually the muscle between the eyes – our frown lines as the needle has to come up from underneath, close to the eye area”

Sonia did explain to me that like with any medicine, there are a range of therapeutic doses that can be used and so the  dose, frequency of treatment and outcome of the procedure varies from person to person.

Are there any side effects?

Being such a quick and easy procedure you may be fooled into thinking that this is no different to getting your hair done!  Of course, that isn’t true as every time you inject something into the skin there is the possibility of bruising and leakage. Leakage is a term that describes the movement of the toxin away from the injection site. It is not normal  for the liquid to spread a few millimetres either side of the puncture mark but  in some cases it can affect the surrounding tissue and eyes or cheeks can droop until the effects of the ‘leakage’ wear off.  In addition to that headaches, pain, swelling, infection and nausea have been reported (a full list of side-effects are made available by the toxin manufacturers and are printed on their literature).

The likelihood of these adverse events happening can be greatly reduced by choosing a fully trained practitioner who is able to operate in clean conditions – after all, this is a medical intervention!

How long to the results last?

The botulinum Toxin that is used for ‘cosmetic’ procedures is designed to paralyse the injected muscle for a short time – between 3-6 months depending on your metabolism.  It’s aim is to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in adults younger than 65 years of age (clinical trials were carried out on healthy adults aged between 18-75).  The results of this localised muscle relaxing can be seen almost immediately with optimal results seen around two weeks following the injection.

There is little doubt that these injections will improve the appearance of wrinkles if given in the appropriate way to suitable patients. Further to that, with ten years experience under their belts the practitioners using  Botox and Dysport have seen enough happy faces in their time to back up the products claims.

However,  every good story has it’s note of caution and there have been many famous faces ‘caught out’ by their over zealous use of this ‘miracle wrinkle cure’:

Anything Hollywood reported that Nicole Kidman had been turned down for roles due to her Botox use.

Australia’s “Woman’s Day” magazine reported that Angelina Jolie is ‘addicted’ to botox in their 5th January 2010 edition.

It would seem that with botulinum toxin, moderation is the key!

Is Botox right for me?

On a practical level it may be useful to talk to other people who have had the treatment, talk to your preferred healthcare professional and read up on all of the technical literature provided.  The question as to whether ‘botulinum toxin’ is Halal is not for me to answer. However, you may find the information that follows useful in this regard.

It is important to note that while the bacteria clostridium botulinum commonly occurs in soil and can be harvested and cultured (grown) in a laboratory ‘cleanly’ (without the introduction of animal material)   the process of transforming this bacteria into the muscle relaxant that we all know involves the use of  procedures and equipment that may have come into contact with animal material.   US Patent 7189541, 13th March 2007 states that:

“The growth media can contain significantly reduced levels of meat or dary by-products using non-animal based products to replace the animal-derived products. Preferably, the media used are substantially free of animal derived products”

The reason that animal material is present at all is as a source of protein (food for the bacteria) and while the patent goes on to say that vegetable sources of protein such as Soy can be used to produce ‘botulinum toxin’ that is “animal product free” or “substantially animal product free”  it seems to fall short of offering consumers a 100% guarantee of being ‘animal free’.

To put this research into context, the  motivation behind the above patent was to reduce the risk of recipients being exposed to  prions (that can be found in animal proteins) linked to ‘mad cow’ disease (or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) rather than looking at this from the perspective of a consumer wanting vegan, vegetarian or Halal products.  In an article on from January 15th 2008  The Muslim Judicial Council banned the use of Botox due to similar concerns about the contamination of the product with animal-based ingredients. This ruling was also in line with the National Fatwa Council in Malaysia , 2006.

Take care and stay beautiful remembering that once upon a time we used to say that wrinkles gave a face character. 


Patent reference. US Patent 7189541

Halal.Com Botox Banned.

Botox Ban for Malaysian Muslims. BBC 28th July 2006



Jenny McCarthey is addicted to Botox.


 Botulinum Toxin

And with thanks to Sonia from the Medi Spa in Sydney.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2010 11:53 am

    Interesting, I have to say that a very satisfying part of these procedures is the confidence and glow people get after they start feeling better about themselves.

  2. April 29, 2010 2:07 pm

    A very satisfying part of these procedures is the confidence and glow people get after they start feeling better about themselves.

  3. April 29, 2010 4:25 pm

    Thank you for great post.
    IT’s useful for me very much.


  4. May 10, 2010 5:24 pm

    Great articles & Nice a site!!

  5. FFXIV Gil permalink
    May 19, 2010 5:46 pm

    Your blog is so informative ?keep up the good work!!!!


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