Botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox, is a substance secreted by a bacteria responsible for botulism. It blocks neuromuscular transmission and can be fatal if ingested in high doses.
Long, high-cost research conducted in the 1960’s made it possible to produce botulinum toxin in laboratories and control its mode of action. Its first medical use was in the treatment of diplopia in ophthalmology in the 1970’s. Its use for wrinkle reduction originated when ophthalmologists noticed a significant reduction of crow’s feet wrinkles in their patients.
Plastic surgeons, who had been looking for wrinkle treatments for decades, started adapting the use of botulinum toxin to yield the best results possible in the treatment of wrinkles.
(Ref: LE LOUARN C. : Toxine Botulique et rides faciales : une nouvelle procédure d’injection . Botulinum toxin and facial wrinkles: a new injection procedure. Ann Chir. Plast. Esthet.1998 Oct ; 43(5):526-33 et CARRUTHERS J.D., CARRUTHERS J.A. : Treatment of glabellar frown lines with C. botulinum A exotoxin. J Dermatol Surg Oncol. 1992 Jan;18(1):17-21)
The treatment is based on the fact that certain wrinkles appear due to the repeated contraction of facial muscles. By reducing these contractions, botulinum toxin automatically reduces the formation of wrinkles, and can even erase them completely when used on healthy skin.
The success of a treatment relies on the muscular balance of the face, making dosing a particularly meticulous process. The quantity has to be sufficient to erase wrinkles while still allowing for the movement necessary to avoid looking rigid.
Botox is the name of the botulinum toxin that has been commercialized since 1993 by Allergan Labs; it is a commercial name used in common language. In 2002, SwissMedic authorized the use of ToxBox in the Swiss cosmetic industry under the name of Vistabel, and the Afssaps did the same in France in 2003. Since then, other laboratories have obtained the same authorization and have introduced their products to the market. There is also a market for non-regulated products, which is why it is important to be wary of products that seem especially cheap and treatments practiced outside of authorized medical offices.