In certain circles on social media, it’s impossible to avoid. The talk about using Botox when you’re young to help stall the signs of aging – before they even start.
The basic idea of what’s being called “prejuvenation” is that by using Botox, which freezes wrinkles, in your 20s or 30s, you won’t form the grooves people try to erase later in life. By “people,” I mean many, many people. Injections of botulinum toxin, the neurotoxic protein known by its brand name Botox, were the most popular cosmetic procedure in 2020 by a wide margin. And that’s been the case for many years.
The majority of people getting those injections are women over 40. Though, in 2020, about 811,000 Botox procedures were performed on people in their 30s, which was about 18% of the national total.
So, is there any merit to the concept, or is prejuvenation being propped up by social media hype?
Does it work?
Botox blocks acetylcholine, the chief neurotransmitter. Theoretically, a repeat user of Botox will, over time, weaken their facial muscles, slowing the process in which dynamic lines (the ones that form when they make an expression) settle into static lines (the ones that remain visible when their face is at rest).
Basically, they’re inhibiting muscle contractions and, in turn, decreasing their facial movement. Which should prevent the formation of wrinkles over time. Even though Botox wears off in three to four months, some speculate that it is delaying the aging process. But, at this point, it’s difficult to say with certainty.
Botox has been around long enough now for us to know that it’s a safe and reliable treatment. Millions of procedures are done each year, and reports of serious side effects are almost nonexistent. But very few studies have explored its long-term use.
A 2006 study looked at identical twins over 13 years. One regularly received Botox injections. The other did not. The researchers reported that lines were “not evident in the regularly treated twin,” but they did appear in her sister. In a follow-up, when the twins were 44, the treated twin didn’t have static lines at rest; her sister did.
In a 2011 study, a group of 45 women, aged 30 to 50, received small amounts of botulinum toxin in their foreheads every four months. Two years after they began treatment, once the last treatment would have worn off, researchers found the neurotoxin significantly reduced their wrinkles.
Encouraging as these results sound, we’re talking about less than 50 people between the two studies, which isn’t enough to say definitively.
Is there a downside?
Is there any harm in trying? No. Even if you try Botox and decide it’s not right for you, you can stop at any point. You’re not going to reverse your progress. You’ll just get your full mobility back, slowly creating wrinkles.
Another consideration: The cost of repeated procedures can add up. Before starting a regimen you might not be able to sustain, talk with your dermatologist. They may be able to suggest less costly alternatives, like sunscreen or retinols, which can increase collagen in the skin and help counteract the visible effects of aging.