Botox injection is a cosmetic drug primarily noted for smoothing facial wrinkles and creases, especially on the areas between eyebrows, around the eyes, forehead, corners of the mouth, and chin. It works by temporarily paralyzing muscles after injection of onabotulinumtoxin A, a neurotoxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.
At high concentrations, the same bacteria are also known for causing botulism poisoning or a serious form of muscle paralysis commonly associated with contaminated canned food. However, for cosmetic applications, a diluted amount of the toxin is used and is considered safe and devoid of serious side effects. The toxin aids in preventing muscles from contracting, so wrinkles can soften and relax.
These effects typically last up to 4 months, and a patient should wait a few more months before getting Botox treatment again because frequent use of Botox injections lessens or stops the effects after some time.
Although popularly known as a cosmetic procedure, Botox is also an FDA-approved medical treatment for conditions like:
- Chronic migraine
- Eyelid spasms
- Crossed eyes
- Overactive bladders
- Extreme neck pain
- Heavy underarm sweating
The desired results for a Botox treatment may take up to a few days. Full effects of the treatment may be visible within 2 to 3 weeks after the procedure.
As a minimally invasive procedure, Botox treatment does not require a lengthy recovery period. But to prevent bruising and to ensure that you get the maximum desirable results, some Botox aftercare instructions must be followed.
- Stay sitting up straight
Experts recommend that a patient sit up straight for the next 4 to 6 hours after getting Botox treatment. Any form of bending or lying down increases the chances of the toxin migrating to different areas of the face. Although there is no proven long-term damage, lying down can promote bruising and reduce the treatment’s effectiveness. Thus, if you need to lie down, lie down straight from your back and avoid lying on your side or stomach.
- Avoid strenuous activities 24 hours after the treatment
If you are physically active, be patient to wait at least 24 hours before returning to your normal exercise routine. Strenuous activities like exercise or working out are not recommended for certain reasons, such as the addition of pressure on the injection site, increased blood flow, and too much movement.
Adding any pressure on the injection site could cause Botox to migrate to unintended areas. Even touching the face when wiping the sweat away from the face while working out could cause this. Activities like swimming and cycling, which require a head or facial gear, also add pressure to the face.
However, facial exercise that helps speed up the Botox’s effect is a different topic. A study in 2005 led by Dr. Murad Alam from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine gathered a result showing that facial exercises after botulinum toxin injections allowed wrinkle reduction to be observed one day sooner for their 22 women subjects. Additionally, the same group exhibited two to three days of healing following the treatment, compared to the control group that healed after three to four days.
To do the facial exercise, the experts recommend making raised motions of the forehead in sets of 40 repetitions every 10 minutes.
- Skip alcohol for 24 hours
Practitioners typically advise patients to avoid drinking excessive alcohol before and after botox injections because alcohol has an anti-inflammatory effect. It dilates blood vessels, leading to diffusion of the toxin and increased risk of bruising around the affected areas. This also applies to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin.
- Minimize physical pressure on the treated area
As previously stated in the second point, applying pressure on the treated area causes Botox to disperse the toxin around the face. Once the injection is dislodged, it results in unintended aesthetics such as drooping eyelids.
The pressure may come from applying makeup, massaging, and wearing tight clothing or headwear. If you need to clean your face or perform your skincare regimen, apply only light pressure also to minimize post-treatment swelling around the affected areas.
Wait one to three days after the treatment before doing these activities.
- Don’t expose the treated area to the sun
Although exposure to UV light does not directly affect the effectiveness of the Botox treatment, the sun is one of the primary causes of wrinkles. In addition, direct exposure to sunlight raises blood pressure, leading to bruising around the injected area.
Experts advise patients who have just undergone Botox procedure to shun the sunlight for up to two days after the procedure. The same goes for other forms of heat exposure, including tanning beds, saunas, hot tubs, and overly hot baths. A hot shower, for example, may reduce blood flow to the face, causing the Botox to shift. It is then advisable to only use cool or lukewarm water when washing the face or taking a shower.
- Avoid other skin treatments or cosmetic procedures
This one should be easy to follow, and your cosmetic surgeon might have already warned you. For the next 24 hours, avoid skin treatments like facials, facial massages, exfoliating scrubs, and dermal fillers. Botox takes some time to settle in the muscle, and these facial procedures require pressure and massage. These may be detrimental to the healing process.
- Listen to your doctor
Finally, take note of any other guidelines that your doctor might ask you to follow. For example, if you’re currently taking medicine for an unrelated medical condition, seek advice from the doctor if it could affect your Botox aftercare. This is important even if the medication you’re taking does not target the Botox-injected areas.
Watch out also for some common side effects, including swelling, bruising, mild pain, headache, numbness, and upset stomach. Although these are typically minimal, report to your clinician immediately if these side effects persist.
Since Botox treatment takes two to three weeks to take effect, you should also contact your doctor if the desired results are not achieved after this timeframe.
For more information about Botox treatment and aftercare tips, check out Buckeye Dermatology, a dermatological clinic led by Neil P. Superfon, practicing in the Phoenix area for 50 years.