Botox® Cosmetic hit the mainstream long ago, with the inevitable results. It’s readily available now from the offices of board-certified plastic surgeons to the local mall, with injectors ranging from those with medical degrees to people with few credentials. Not to mention that the usual alternative, counterfeit and other potentially suspect products are lurking around to tempt you.
So, how do you safeguard your health and your looks while shielding your wallet from an unnecessarily large hit? As always, the key is to know what you’re signing up for.
UNDERSTAND THE PRODUCT AND PRICING
It’s helpful to know that physicians purchase Botox as a powdered substance in 100 unit vials. The doctor adds sterile saline solution to the dry powder so it can be injected. Most physicians will add between 1 to 4 cc’s of saline, meaning that you’ll get 25 to 100 units of Botox if you purchase by the cc. Dr. David Verebelyi, a Colorado skincare specialist, suggests that a high potency solution, or 1-2 cc’s of saline per unit of Botox, tends to yield the best results. Ask about the potency of the solution and about how much solution will be injected, and you’ll know more about what you’re actually paying for.
Many providers, including Dr. Verebelyi, price by the unit of Botox—arguably the most straightforward way to know what you’re getting for your money. Generally speaking, Botox costs the consumer about $10 - $18 per unit, and most people need 25-60 units for one area of the face.
Other doctors price by the area treated, meaning you pay for “crow’s feet” or “forehead.” Some say this is the method patients find easiest to digest, but it’s understandable to wonder whether there are other motives behind this pricing scheme.
BYPASS SALONS AND MALLS
These days you can find Botox available at fitness centers, salons and even shopping malls. While it’s certainly possible to get a good result outside a medical setting, you’d be taking a chance. First, these facilities are not likely to be as clean and sanitary as doctors’ offices and licensed medical spas. Second, the injectors you’ll find outside the medical profession have less knowledge about facial anatomy and other important topics such as infection. Many are not diligent about taking medical histories. They are certainly less knowledgeable about other cosmetic procedures and products than a physician skin specialist. And, since the options they offer may be quite limited, you may get Botox when the right choice for you might be a filler like Restylane®.
Finally, treatments like Botox, other injectables, lasers and so on are considered medical procedures. As such, they must be performed by a physician or in a physician-supervised setting. Salons and other businesses that don’t conform to this requirement may very well be breaking the law.
BE WARY OF ALTERNATIVES
With the economy still in the tank, it’s natural to want to look around for the most cost effective treatment for wrinkles. Just be very careful as you do this. Horror stories abound—from women receiving watered down Botox to serious cases of paralysis. Dr. Verebelyi asserts that if your Botox costs less than $10 per unit, it may not be full strength or may not even be the real thing.
It’s not surprising, given the popularity of Botox, that alternatives are starting to appear. Dysport and Myobloc are two examples. These two products, also based on the botulinum neurotoxin, contain different formulations and must be used for the appropriate patient and dosed accordingly. Don’t fall victim to someone telling you an injectable is “just like Botox.” Even one of these FDA-approved alternatives is slightly different than Botox; a credible provider will tell you so.
As you no doubt know, the effects of Botox don’t last forever. If you have a good result, you will likely want to continue receiving treatment from time to time. A little fact-finding up front will pay off.