I would caution against shopping around for cheap Botox. There are practitioners than offer bargain prices that are not sustainable from a business standpoint. They may be diluting their Botox or injecting less units than advertised. Also, some practitioners charge less per unit of Botox but inject significantly more Botox than is required to achieve the optimal outcome. For instance, 60 units of Botox at $10/unit is more expensive than 45 well placed units at $12/unit.
Botulinum toxin exerts its effect by cleaving key proteins required for nerve activation. First, the toxin binds specifically to nerves which use the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Once bound to the nerve terminal, the neuron takes up the toxin into a vesicle. As the vesicle moves farther into the cell, it acidifies, activating a portion of the toxin which triggers it to push across the vesicle membrane and into the cell cytoplasm. Once inside the cytoplasm, the toxin cleaves SNARE proteins preventing the cell from releasing vesicles of neurotransmitter. This stops nerve signaling, leading to paralysis.
Botox should only be injected with sterile instruments in a doctor's office or a medical spa — not at Botox parties at your local nail salon or neighbor's living room. Botox injection is usually performed with some local anesthesia or a numbing cream. You may feel some minimal discomfort from the shot, but today's needles are so thin and fine that the procedure is often painless. Depending on the extent of treatment, the procedure can take anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes.
It may be the most well known, but Botox is just one type of neurotoxin on the market. Other, next-level neurotoxins are Dysport, FDA-approved in 2009, and Xeomin, FDA-approved in 2011. “They all originate from the same strain of bacteria, therefore they work essentially in the same way,” explains Z. Paul Lorenc, MD, a board certified aesthetic plastic surgeon in Manhattan. “There are some nuanced differences between the three,” he adds. Xeomin is a purified neurotoxin, also called a “naked molecule,” because it doesn’t contain any extra surface proteins, the way Botox and Dysport do. This “pure” neurotoxin migrates deeper into skin, works faster, and poses less risk of an allergic reaction. “Theoretically, decreasing the protein load also lessens the chance of becoming a non-responder, meaning it lessens the chance that the patient will become immune to the neuromodulator being injected,” Dr. Lorenc says. Dysport tends to spread a little more than Botox, so it’s good for areas that would otherwise need multiple injections. It also kicks in faster than the other two, typically showing effects after two to three days opposed to seven to ten days with Botox, and five to six days with Xeomin. Once you try the different neurotoxins, you might decide you like one brand better than the others.
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That Groupon offer might be tempting, but Dr. Tutela recommends doing a thorough vetting of your practitioner’s history and methods before signing up for treatment. “I think it is important to ask any provider if they perform that procedure frequently, to gauge their experience,” he says. He also suggests to ask if they’ve experienced any major complications and to check their online reviews. “You can get a sense of how you will be treated and what kind of experience other patients have had,” Dr. Tutela says. “Many of those low-cost, high-volume practices are loaded with horrible reviews from disappointed patients.”
Treatment with BOTOX and other botulinum toxin products can result in swallowing or breathing difficulties. Patients with preexisting swallowing or breathing difficulties may be more susceptible to these complications. In most cases, this is a conseq uence of weakening of muscles in the area of injection that are involved in breathing or oropharyngeal muscles that control swallowing or breathing [see Spread Of Toxin Effect].
It is not known whether BOTOX® is safe or effective to treat increased stiffness in upper limb muscles other than those in the elbow, wrist, fingers, and thumb, or in lower limb muscles other than those in the ankle and toes. BOTOX® has not been shown to help people perform task-specific functions with their upper limbs or increase movement in joints that are permanently fixed in position by stiff muscles. Treatment with BOTOX® is not meant to replace existing physical therapy or other rehabilitation that may have been prescribed.