Most people think of Botox as a way to treat set-in wrinkles, but the cosmetic injectable is increasingly being used by younger patients as a means to prevent lines appearing in the first place.
The question is, what age should you start having Botox? Do you wait until you need it or start when you’re young and line-free? And does it actually have the ability to slow the aging process?
Botox has been around for long enough that there are many long-term users we can observe but what we are not able to know is how they would have aged without the treatment.
However, an illuminating study carried out on identical twins over the course of 13-years gives us a much better idea of the difference Botox makes (see above photo).
One of the twin sisters had Botox injections in the forehead and glabellar region (the skin between the eyebrows and above the nose) two to three times every year. She also had Botox administered to her crow’s feet twice over the last two years. The other sister received Botox only twice over the 13 years.
The results were compelling because the twin who had regular Botox had no visible lines in the treatment areas, whereas the untreated twin did. It’s clear to see from the photographs which sister is which.
The sisters were aged 25 when they started the experiment (aged 38 at the end) and lived similar lifestyles, except the sister treated with Botox lived in sun-damaging Malibu and the untreated sister lived in the much-cooler climate of Germany.
The researchers concluded that long-term treatment with Botox can prevent the development of imprinted facial lines that are visible at rest.
Not just paralyzing the face
The botulinum toxin was first recognised for its ability to paralyze the facial muscles. This prevents frowning and, as such, immediately improving the appearance of wrinkles. But in addition to this superficial improvement it also stops further wear and tear on the skin. Constantly moving muscles result in the breakdown of collagen and that’s when lines get imprinted.
Another recent study shows Botox does even more than simply giving the skin a break - Canadian dermatologists found it increases skin elasticity for the three to four months.
The researchers tracked 43 women who were using Botox for the first time and found that when the effects of the drug were at their most powerful, it could increase elasticity by 30%. This means that when Botox is ‘active’ it is actually improving the quality of the skin, which further helps prevent the formation of wrinkles.
So, when is the right time to start Botox?
Although you might think the younger the better, most doctors don’t recommend treatment for teenagers. This is because everyone’s skin ages differently, with some people not seeing the first appearance of lines until their late 20s. This could mean a young person enduring years of unnecessary treatment. What’s more, because the treatment limits the animated facial expressions we associate with youth it could have the opposite effect of making them appear older than they are.
Instead, it is better to wait to see how your skin is ageing and start Botox when the first fine lines become visible. How your skin ages will depend on the thickness and colour of your complexion, how much you move your face, the amount of sun exposure you experience and other lifestyle factors like smoking and diet.
And because you can’t predict where lines will form, it’s impossible to know where to inject the Botox. Once fine lines are showing on your face when it is at rest, your plastic surgeon or dermatologist will be able to effectively target those areas and prevent further deepening.
In conclusion, starting Botox between the age of 25-30 will be sufficient for most people seeking to significantly delay skin ageing. Although it may still seem very young to commit to a regular injectables treatment plan, it will reduce the frequency and dose required if you begin later.
However, older patients can still benefit from the preventative powers of Botox. Whatever your age, starting treatment now can help stop the clock.