Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Cosmetics Contemplations: Are The Days of Botox Over?

What do monkeys, sausages, and improperly aligned eyes have in common?

It sounds like one of those questions faced by contestants on popular British TV programme QI. The answer? They all relate to the genesis of the now world-famous Botox treatment. The German physician and poet Justinus Kerner in the early 1800s described the botulinum toxin as a 'sausage poison', since the bacterium often caused poisoning by growing in improperly handled or prepared meat products. Purified just over 100 years later for medical use, it took many years (and many monkey experiments) before the toxin could be used as a medical treatment for strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other. In 1989 (when the commercial name 'Botox' began to be used), the bacterium was also approved as treatment for facial spasms and tics. Cosmetic use commenced officially only in 2002, and while such a short time has passed since then, you will barely find a person in the developed world who won't know what Botox is. The bacterium, while purified and so on, is still the most toxic protein known, and yet people continue to choose to inject it into their faces and necks to get rid of almost imperceptible and perfectly natural lines. Slightly frightening, that.

However, as quickly as Botox has become famous in the past seven years, more natural (and at times less invasive) alternatives have sprung up to challenge the procedure. One of these is Evolence. While it does the same job as Botox, in the same way (you have to go to a clinic and be injected with needles), you may be able to sleep more easily afterwards, for the dermal filler used is not Botox but is, instead, pig collagen, which is the closest natural alternative to human collagen that you can get. Evolence stays where it is injected, and adds strength and support to the existing network of skin cells, giving skin a fresh and radiant look with fewer lines and more volume. Perhaps best of all, it's also more cost-effective, lasting double the time of Botox treatments (Botox will only last for 4-6 months before it needs to be done again).

However, should the prospect of being injected not be particularly appealing, there are still plenty of other solutions on the market to compete with Botox. One, famously used by Victoria Beckham, is Natralox cream, which contains amino acids, vitamins A and C, hyaluronic acid (the same stuff as is used in injectable fillers), and argireline, which claims to relax muscles. There's also the Athena 7 Minute Lift (£50), and Protox 10 (sometimes known as Pretox 10), which is a gel that can either be used alone or as a sort of 'Botox enhancer', meaning that patients allegedly have to undergo fewer procedures. Still, at nearly $100 for a 50ml tube, it's not exactly affordable.

Finally, there's Frownies - a system that combines face creams and stick-on face patches to bring similar effects to Botox. But you have to use the whole system for it to work (apparently), and that takes time and patience, which I'm guessing is not always what the pressed-for-time woman is looking for. And, equally, at $140 a pop, it's something that needs to be considered carefully before your credit card is shown the light of day.

Leaving these at-home alternatives to Botox aside for a moment, perhaps even more horrifying than this is the fact that you can even buy DIY Botox kits on the internet, complete with needles and with facial maps showing where to inject. While it's pretty clear that if you're stupid enough to try this, you probably deserve to be rushed to Casualty, demand feeds supply, meaning that there probably are some bozos out there injecting their own foreheads. So at least the above mentioned home kits don't resort to this. But if you must go for the route involving needles (I can appreciate that it involves less time and patience and may be safer if nothing else), it's perhaps worth bearing in mind that nobody knows yet the long-term effects of sending the chemicals involved in Botox coursing around your body (because, let's face it, it has to go somewhere), and that like it or not, there have been deaths caused by Botox. At least brands like Evolence offer a halfway house, allowing the convenience and safety of a trip to a salon while still using a natural dermal filler (which should help to appease those who want to know what's going into their bodies). Methinks Botox had better watch out.

-UK buyers can purchase Natralox from www.nutritioncentre.co.uk, the Athena 7 Minute Lift from www.athena7.co.uk, Protox 10 from www.upforlife.co.uk, and Frownies from www.frownies.co.uk
-For a list of doctors qualified to carry out the Evolence procedure, visit www.evolence.com
-Don't even try to buy a DIY Botox kit. Just don't. Unless you want to end up dead or in hospital.

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