What Is Botox?

We’ve all heard of Botox, and chances are we know people who’ve tried it. But what is Botox? Does it leave your face numb? Is it worth considering? Our blogger—who gave it a go to prevent migraines—answers your burning Botox questions.

what is botox

What is botox? It's a treatment used not only for cosmetic reasons, but to address such medical issues as migraine headaches.

© Monika3stepsahead | Dreamstime.com

First off, let’s try to keep this between us. I never thought I’d be the type of person to agree to Botox, much less someone who appreciates the lack of wrinkles on my now-smooth forehead. I’m a naturalist when it comes to self-care. I hate mirrors and rarely wear makeup. So, when my neurologist suggested I try Botox to relieve my chronic migraines, my initial reaction was: Heck no! In all my years of researching health topics, Botox is one I’d never queried, mainly because I thought I’d never try it. I was scientifically blind in this area. Questions like “What is Botox?” and “What will it do to me?” and “Do I really want poison in my face?” spun around my brain after his suggestion.

A month-long migraine later, I was back in his office staring up at a needle between my brows. Here’s what I learned.

What Is Botox?

We’ve all heard the rumors: Botox is rat poison, horse tranquilizer, a chemical that will give us food poisoning. But what is Botox, really?

Botox, which is the common name for onabotulinum toxin A, is made from a neurotoxin called botulinum. It’s produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Yes, it is a poison, and a powerful one at that. In fact, it’s the same toxin that causes botulism—a fatal type of food poisoning. Because it’s injected into muscles and doesn’t bypass the stomach, there’s no risk of contracting botulism from Botox. Phew!


The most common Botox injection spots:

  • The forehead
  • Around the eyes, for “crow’s feet” (those fine lines around your eyes)
  • Around the mouth, for frown lines

What Does Botox Do?

Botox essentially paralyzes muscles by blocking signals from the nerves. This means they can’t contract, which results in softened, relaxed wrinkles (yay!). Its success at temporarily ridding the face of wrinkles has made Botox the poster child for non-invasive anti-aging procedures. As a result, women and men are flocking to clinics to be willingly injected with this “poison.”

Insider tip: Botox won’t have an effect on lines and wrinkles caused by the sun, so make sure to apply sunblock when you’re outside.

What Is Botox Good For?

Now that we’ve answered the question “What is Botox?” it’s time to ask another: “What is Botox good for?”


Prone to bruising? Stop taking anti-inflammatories and aspirin for two weeks before your injection to try to minimize the negative effects. That said, always check with your doctor before stopping (or starting) any medication.

Numerous studies have proven Botox’s positive benefits on conditions such as chronic migraine, overactive bladder, blepharospasm (uncontrollable blinking), muscular disorders, and excessive sweating, especially under the arms. A review published in the journal Drugs, for instance, found Botox to be “an effective and generally well-tolerated option for the prevention of [chronic migraine],” especially in people who didn’t have success with commonly prescribed medications.

How Long Does Botox Take to Work?

The entire procedure takes mere minutes, but results will appear in anywhere from seven to 14 days.

How Long Does Botox Last?

Sadly, the results of Botox won’t last beyond three to six months. At this point, the lines and wrinkles will reappear, and the muscles will reengage. However, the more often an area is treated with Botox, the less severe the lines and wrinkles appear due to shrinking of the muscles.

what is botox

Botox injections themselves, our blogger reports from personal experience, do cause discomfort, as you may speculate.

What Does Botox Feel Like?

I’m going to be honest here: Having needles poked into your face is not the most enjoyable sensation. As my neurologist explained, the needles are “threaded” under the skin, not just poked in (as they are with acupuncture).

The process, for me, led to a short-lived discomfort that felt worse on the spots between my eyebrows and at the edge of my hairline than it did in my jaw, neck, temples, and shoulders. Some doctors apply a numbing cream before performing the injections to reduce tenderness.

About five hours post injection, my forehead began to feel a bit tight when I moved my eyebrows up and down (don’t judge—I was moving them rapidly to see if my wrinkles had disappeared). The other injected areas (temples, jaw, neck, and shoulders) felt normal. Over time, this forehead “tightness” eased, and now I notice it only if I bring my eyebrows up toward my hairline in an exaggerated surprised face (again, checking for wrinkles—I’m still amazed that they’ve totally disappeared).

This will depend on your insurance policy, but in general, Botox is not covered when used for cosmetic purposes. When used to treat medical conditions such as chronic migraines, however, it may likely be covered.

What Is Botox’s Downside?

As with all good things, Botox has drawbacks. The main side effect is bruising, although localized pain and swelling can also occur. Headaches can crop up after an injection, but usually let up after 24 to 48 hours.

Another downside: the potential for eyelid drooping. If you rub the injected area within 12 to 24 hours following your treatment, it can move the Botox around, resulting in this condition. Some may also notice that one eyebrow appears higher than the other. This could be due to having stronger muscles on one side of your face. If you return to your doctor, he can reinject the “higher” side to level things.

Warning: Do not have Botox if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding or if you suffer from a neurological condition.


The only person who should inject you with Botox is a trained professional. Check your doctor’s credentials before signing up for a treatment. Choose someone who is trained in facial plastic surgery to ensure the best results. You don’t want to end up with a face that doesn’t move, or with lopsided eyebrows.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shandley McMurray

Shandley McMurray has written several of Belvoir’s special health reports on topics including stress & anxiety, coronary artery disease, healthy eyes and pain management. Shandley also has authored numerous articles … Read More

View all posts by Shandley McMurray

Enter Your Login Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.