Anti-wrinkle injections are a non-surgical treatment for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the face.

The material used in anti-wrinkle injections is made of a neurotoxin derived from a bacteria. When injected into selected muscles, chemical messages from the nerve to the muscle are blocked, thereby limiting the movement of the muscle. When muscle movement is limited, the ability for lines and wrinkles to appear is reduced. It can also prevent the formation of new wrinkles. This treatment is a prescription medication and may only be prescribed by a doctor.

Before it became popular in the cosmetic industry, anti-wrinkle injections were used as a treatment for neurological disorders and a range of other medical problems, such as relaxing the sweat glands to minimise sweating. These other uses continue to evolve.

There are currently two brands that are approved and available in the Australian marketplace for cosmetic use. The TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) prevents anyone in Australia from discussing both brand names and their ingredients in any open forum. Therefore, you will need to seek your doctor’s advice on which is best for you depending on your needs.

Anti-wrinkle injections are the world’s most popular non-surgical cosmetic treatment. In 2009 this treatment accounted for almost one third of all non-surgical cosmetic procedures. Nearly 22,000 anti-wrinkle injections were performed on Australians that year, making it the most popular in the country. In the US, the world’s largest market for cosmetic enhancement, they have been the most popular non-surgical procedure since 2000.

Reasons for choosing to have anti-wrinkle injections

Many people want to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles without having surgery. Non-surgical treatments allow patients to return to work and to normal activities immediately. They are also much less expensive than surgery. All of these reasons contribute to the increasingly wide acceptance of non-surgical treatments like anti-wrinkle injections.

Anti-wrinkle injections can remove both static and dynamic wrinkles. Static wrinkles are present even when the muscles are relaxed. Dynamic wrinkles or expression lines appear each time muscles contract with facial expressions, such as when a person frowns, smiles or squints. Dynamic wrinkles can turn static and become deeper over time, as is the case with frown lines and crow’s feet.

Anti-wrinkle injections are mostly popular amongst women between the ages of 35 and 50.

Things to consider once you’ve decided to have anti-wrinkle injections

  • Choosing a qualified practitioner  These products are a prescription medication that must be prescribed by a doctor. Ideally, a doctor should also administer it. A trained nurse injector can also perform the treatments. Regardless, ensure that your practitioner or nurse is fully trained and experienced in the treatment. You should ask your practitioner to show you before and after photographs prior to the treatment.
  • Using approved materials  Make sure your practitioner is using material that has been approved for the purpose. You may ask to see the box and packaging to ensure it is authentic material. You should only ever be treated with licensed products.
  • Consent form  All certified practitioners of aesthetic treatments should provide you with a consent form before the procedure which you will need to sign. It should advise you of the risks involved in the treatment.
  • Avoid bargains and coupon deal websites  The Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA) recently released a warning to consumers about special deals offering “Anti-wrinkle injection Bargains”, and other cosmetic procedures through group-buy and coupon deal websites. These require you to make an advance payment on treatment even before the first consultation. Without a consultation, a practitioner cannot be sure that the procedure is right for you.

What to expect

Injectable treatments can be performed immediately following an initial consultation. The needles used to inject anti-wrinkle material are very small and only a tiny amount of the toxin is injected into any one area. As a result, the treatment is relatively painless. If a patient is concerned about pain, however, the practitioner can numb the area to be treated with a special cream.

Depending upon the number of areas being treated, the treatment usually takes about 10 minutes. Over the next 2 – 3 days the muscles will begin to relax. Full results can take up to a week. After a number of treatments, you may notice that the effects of each treatment lasts longer, so you need fewer injections each year. Because the material used in anti-wrinkle injections is eventually eliminated from the body, however, anticipate a need for ongoing treatment, usually every 3 – 4 months.

Before and after anti-wrinkle injections

There are a few things you need to do, to avoid and inform your practitioner of before you have the injections.

  • Tell your practitioner about all your medical conditions, including any future surgery you plan to have.
  • Tell your practitioner about any medication you currently take, including herbal supplements.
  • Do not have the injections if you know you are allergic to any of the ingredients in your chosen brand.. This also applies if you are allergic to any of other anti-wrinkle products.
  • Avoid injections if you have a skin infection around the injection area.
  • Avoid taking medications that are platelet inhibitors, such as aspirin or any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for at least a week before the procedure.
  • It is very important that you inform your practitioner about any nerve or muscle conditions you have. These may include ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease or Lambert-Eaton syndrome.
  • Advise your practitioner if you have noticed any abnormal changes in your face recently.
  • Your practitioner will need to know if you have had any other anti-wrinkle injections within the last 4 months and what the brand name was.
  • Inform your practitioner if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and if you are breast-feeding or planning to breast-feed. Although little research has been completed on the impact anti-wrinkle injections have on pregnancy outcomes, most doctors and toxin producers advise patients to refrain from non-surgical injections while pregnant.

Possible risks and complications

As with other surgical or non-surgical procedures, anti-wrinkle injections involve some level of risk. While they are relatively free of complications and have been in use medically for over 20 years and cosmetically  for over a decade, material used in the injections may cause side effects.

  • Effects of material spread  In some cases, the material can affect areas away from the injection location. This can result in symptoms including double vision, droopy eyelids, loss of strength and muscle weakness. If these symptoms occur, avoid driving and engaging in any activity that may put you or others in danger. These symptoms should diminish after a maximum of 3 months.
  • Therapeutic failure  Some patients may have immunity to the material, making the injections ineffective. There is no way to find out beforehand if you are immune to this material.
  • Post treatment  Some patients experience headaches and nausea following the injections.

This list covers most of the known side effects but it should not be considered exhaustive. Generally, people who undergo this treatment have no complications but may experience mild side effects, such as slight bruising to the injected area.

Additional information

There are two types of anti-wrinkle injection materials available right now. The TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) has approved two for aesthetic use in Australia.  Once you have decided to have anti-wrinkle injections, you will have to make a choice about your brand of choice.

All these brands differ in how quickly they produce results, how much is needed and how long the results last.

Each brand works differently and requires individual preparation and dosing. To achieve the best results, you need to pick a brand and then stick with it throughout your treatments. It is however possible to be treated with different brands over time. Discuss this choice with your practitioner.

Rough costs involved

The cost of anti-wrinkle injections depends on a number of factors, including where the injections are needed, the amount of units required and who performs the treatment. As exact units needed may vary from person to person it is best that you consult with your practitioner regarding costs.

This information is correct as of 2019.

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