Is Botox® Poison?
Every day I have patients come to me with questions about how we can help reduce the signs of aging in their skin.
Together, we come up with a personalized plan using multiple treatment types, which can include skincare products, laser treatments, PRP, dermal fillers, and prescriptions when indicated. Almost without exception, the plan also involves Botox®. I have yet to meet a patient who can’t benefit from the treatment in some way, be it cosmetic, therapeutic, or preventative, and I have yet to find another treatment that can out-perform it, while being as cost-effective and convenient for patients.
Every so often, as I bring up Botox® in the treatment plan, I am met the same response. “Botox®? Isn’t that poison?” Before I answer that question for you today, I’d like to tell an unfortunate story.
In 2007 in Sacramento, a 28-year-old woman competed in a water-drinking contest for a radio station. She drank 6L of water in under 3 hours and didn’t go to the washroom to “Hold your Wee for a Nintendo Wii” as the contest was titled. She returned home and began developing headaches, malaise, and dizziness. A few hours later, she was tragically found dead, and the assessment by the coroner was “water poisoning” which causes hyponatremia (substantially too low of a concentration of salt in the body, in this case, caused by taking in too much water and diluting it). In her case, water had been the “poison” that ended her life.
Keeping that in mind, when you ask me, “Isn’t Botox® poison?” I have to answer “yes”. (Apologies to our Allergan representative if she’s reading this and already starting to send me an angry text message). That “yes” however, comes with a very large “but”. Yes, it can be poisonous, but so can water. So can anything. It all comes down to dose.
I remember first reading about botulinum toxin in undergrad and the textbook had a statistic to the effect of “5 grams of botulinum toxin can kill 400,000 guinea pigs” (don’t quote me on the exact numbers, but it was to that effect). I studied this sitting next to my pet guinea pig, Bowie (also known as “Bowseph” on formal occasions), and I believe we both wondered, in terror, how they determined that specific of a number.
Yes, Botox® is made from the toxin that causes botulism. Yes, being exposed to strong concentrations of this toxin is very hazardous to people (and guinea pigs). However, cosmetic and therapeutic Botox® is so safe that I inject my mother with hundreds of units and have no concern, whatsoever. (Knowing full well that if anything happened to her, the recipe for the best carrot cake on earth might be lost to us all). The safety of Botox® has been established in injections over decades now, even with injections into children of doses far beyond cosmetic doses for medical reasons. In the right doses, the ones we use medically, it is as safe as the right amount of water.
I understand the concerns when people ask me this question. It is reasonable to wonder if a product that has “tox” in its name is safe. That being said, the thing always to remember is everything can be toxic in the wrong amount. Botox® is highly processed and diluted to be an extremely safe product despite its ability when unmodified to cause the guinea pig apocalypse.
If you have other questions about safety data, I would love to go more in-depth into it with you in person. Please come by Rejuvenation for a consultation, where we can go over all of your questions and come up with a plan that fits your needs!