You're probably familiar with anti-wrinkle injections as a cosmetic treatment option for treating fine lines and wrinkles. But, have you heard of 'baby Botox'? (Don't worry, it has nothing to do with infants.)
This Botox treatment is aimed at prevention rather than treatment of existing wrinkles and is steadily growing in popularity. We've compiled everything you need to know about this trend and how it works.
What is Botox and how does it work?
Let's start with the 101 because let's face it (no pun intended), even folks who get regular Botox injections might not know exactly how it all works.
Botox (botulinum toxin injections) is a substance made from a toxin produced by the bacterium clostridium botulinum. It actually consists of seven neurotoxins, but only two of them are used clinically and are referred to as toxin A and B.
You might be surprised to learn that while it's been popular in dermatology in the last 20 years, it has actually been used since the 1970s in the field of ophthalmology. Along with cosmetic outcomes it's also used for a range of health conditions such as excess sweating, migraines or TMJ (clenching of the jaw).
In 1994, a large-scale study reported on the effectiveness of Botox treatments for reducing the appearance of facial lines and wrinkles and since then it has been a common treatment for areas such as the forehead, lip lines ('smoker's lines'), creases near the eye ('crow's feet') and frown lines between the eyebrows.
Essentially, Botox works by injecting toxins into the skin, which bind to specific receptors on the surface of cells.
Once it is injected, the toxin diffuses into the tissue until it binds selectively in the presynaptic terminal of the neuromuscular junction, attaching to the specific protein-membrane responsible for acetylcholine excretion.
To put the above in plain English: the toxin temporarily inhibits movement in the injected tissue, meaning existing wrinkles can't deepen, and new lines can't form while the toxin is still in the body.
In terms of how long the effect lasts, this can vary between individuals, but in general, the effects are seen within one to four days and last around three to four months.
What's the difference between Botox and baby Botox?
Baby botox is essentially smaller doses of the toxin, used mainly by younger patients, with the aim of prevention rather than treatment of wrinkles.
The idea is that injecting smaller amounts of Botox around the eyes, forehead and eyebrows helps to prevent the formation of fine lines or wrinkles, or at the very least, slows down the development of them.
The changes are much more subtle than the dramatic outcomes of a regular Botox treatment. But, what do we mean when we refer to 'young people'? Generally, the trend is people in their 20s and 30s.
As The New York Times reported, this age has historically not been a time when people stressed about the physical signs of ageing. But recently with advances in treatment and skincare, younger people are turning to options like baby Botox to prevent wrinkles from forming.
As opposed to traditional Botox, baby Botox generally involves 'micro doses' injected into facial muscles that patients have identified as future areas of concern. Maybe they're noticing very faint lines around their eyes, or they want to avoid ending up with the thick frown lines that run in their family.
The goal with baby Botox is subtle results, not a frozen face that looks like a Halloween mask.
As dermatologist Dr Panta Rouhani Schaffer told NYT, "When Botox first came out, people were using it to really isolate and freeze the muscles, so that frozen look is what people associated it with."
Millennials, on the other hand, appreciate that less is more.
"People are starting to appreciate that by doing less, you still get a very nice softening that gives them enough of what they want to see in terms of tightening and retexturising... many millennials prioritise taking care of themselves early on and really believe in prevention."
What are the benefits of baby Botox?
The desired outcome of baby Botox is natural results. People are wanting muscle movement and the ability to make facial expressions versus a 'frozen' look that people associate with frequent users of Botox.
Benefits of baby Botox include:
- A more natural appearance
- The chance of fewer side effects than regular Botox injections
- The ability to retain facial movement
- Prevent wrinkles forming
- Releasing tension in the jaw
This 'micro Botox' treatment means the toxin is spread out across the face in small doses, targeting fine lines to prevent them from growing deeper, and essentially preventing wrinkles in all areas where the Botox injected spreads (whether the lines have started forming or not). The bottom line is a more natural-looking result.
What are the risks associated with baby Botox?
Like all cosmetic procedures, there is the possibility of risks. The potential risks of baby Botox and traditional Botox are similar. Possible complications include:
- Bruising around the injection site
- Potential asymmetrical results
- Drooping brow
- Eyelid ptosis
- Unwanted relaxing of muscles (i.e. if the injection spreads to other sites not intended to be targeted)
- Allergic reaction
Importantly, experts worldwide agree that a lot of these side effects ‚Äî aside from allergic reactions ‚Äî are due to the injector. An inexperienced clinician may target the wrong area or inject too much Botox.
As an example, using Botox for a temporary 'brow lift' is common among young people, but if injected in the wrong place of the forehead, may actually cause droopiness (the literal opposite of what you'd want!).
This highlights the importance of doing your research before booking an appointment for baby Botox and ensuring you go to a qualified, reputable clinic and injector. You can even research aesthetic plastic surgeons.
A large-scale review examined the effects of Botox to assess the risks associated with use as well as explore long-term effects and emphasised that as well as being qualified, a good injector should be fully informed and well-aware of the anatomy of facial muscles and how they connect and interact with each other.
The study notes that people with diseases such as myasthenia gravis and Lambert-Eaton syndrome are particularly susceptible to adverse effects.
Before embarking on baby Botox, or any cosmetic treatment, it pays to do your research and ask questions of your injector.
Are there any effective alternatives to Botox?
While Botox serves a particular purpose, there are other ways to target ageing without injections. In fact, there are effective options that provide long-term anti-ageing results that are far more affordable than Botox. Say hello to Software and it's personalised prescription anti-ageing treatment.
Software harnesses the power of prescription retinoids and ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to tackle ageing at the very source. Prescription retinoids are a derivative of vitamin A and when applied topically, help to increase the rate of skin cell turnover.
This means that your skin starts to shed old skin cells far quicker, with new skin cells taking their place. This increase in cell production helps to improve fine lines and wrinkles as well as skin texture and brightness.
These results continue for as long as you continue to use prescription retinoids topically ‚Äî unlike Botox, which wears off after three to four months ‚Äî and you can use this powerhouse ingredient long-term. The only caveat is those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid prescription retinoids.
Not only are prescription retinoids effective at keeping fine lines and wrinkles at bay over the long term but they are also far more cost effective. A single unit of Botox can cost between AUD $9 and AUD $15. For context, a single treatment to the forehead might require 10 to 20 units of Botox, which could cost up to $300.
Software's anti-ageing treatment, on the other hand, costs $44 per month and the treatment is completely customised to your skin needs and goals.
Simply complete our text-based quiz and upload a few selfies of your skin and our local Software doctors will create a customised prescription formula for you. This is compounded and delivered straight to your door and you can access ongoing follow-up support from your doctor as you use your treatment.
Unlike Botox, you can be in contact with your Software doctor when needed and update your formula when needed.
What you need to know about Botox aftercare
The aftercare for baby Botox is similar to traditional Botox, and ideally, you would be provided with a brochure of information for aftercare once you've received the treatment. Generally speaking, here's what you need to know about the dos and don'ts after getting baby Botox:
- Avoid strenuous activity for at least 24 hours. This means no HIIT workouts as you don't want your movement and sweat to make the Botox migrate elsewhere!
- Avoid putting pressure on the area for one to three days. Don't rush out to get a massage or smush your face into a pillow for a nap, and take care washing your face
- Skip alcohol for 24 hours as it can thin the blood
- Avoid other cosmetic procedures for 24 hours
- Don't expose the treated area to the sun for 48 hours (this is a good reminder that SPF is your friend every day)
- Ask your injector or doctor if you should follow any other additional guidelines.
What are the possible side effects?
Other than the unwanted risks highlighted above, some common short-term side effects are bruising around the site of injection, slight drooling, and headaches. But if you notice any of the following, don't hesitate to seek medical help:
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty swallowing
- Trouble breathing
- Inability to hold your bladder
- Weak muscles
- Blurred vision
How to prepare for baby Botox?
The first step to preparing for treatment is making sure you have chosen a reputable injector and clinic to ensure the person you're seeing is experienced, knowledgeable, and won't rush the procedure. Costs can vary so you may wish to enquire about this before booking an appointment.
You can prepare for baby Botox by skipping alcohol and blood-thinning medications like aspirin or ibuprofen for a few days leading up to the procedure. This reduces the chances of bruising or swelling.
On the day of treatment, bring a list of questions (if you have them) as it can be normal to forget these on the day, especially if you're nervous or excited. And don't forget to skip the makeup. Baby Botox works best on clean skin and your injector will just wipe it off with harsh wipes anyway.
What should be expected during a baby Botox treatment?
During the appointment, your injector will explain what they are going to do. Some use a small white pencil to mark where they will be placing the injections. You may be asked to make facial expressions like raising your eyebrows or squinting so they have an idea of where exactly to pinpoint.
Baby Botox usually involves using 20 to 30 units spread out across multiple muscles in the face, most commonly in the forehead, glabella and brow area, and around the eyes.
The beauty of baby Botox is that it can be used sparingly in other areas as well, such as 'marionette lines' around the mouth, or even in the gums to address a 'gummy smile'.
At the end of the day, anti-wrinkle injections are still a serious cosmetic procedure and should be treated as such. Take your time to research before making any decisions ‚Äî despite what anti-ageing messages say, you do have time.
Image credit: Getty Images
- Satriyasa, Bagus Komang. Botulinum toxin (Botox) A for reducing the appearance of facial wrinkles: a literature review of clinical use and pharmacological aspect, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2019.
- Schiffer, Jessica. How Barely-There Botox Became the Norm, The New York Times, 2021.
- Lawrenson, Amy. I Tried "Baby Botox"‚ÄîHere's What Dermatologists Want You to Know, Byrdie, 2022.
- Yiannakopoulou, E. Serious and long-term adverse events associated with the therapeutic and cosmetic use of botulinum toxin, Karger, 2015.