BOTOX BREAKDOWN: What it is, how it works, what it costs and exactly how much you'll need.


Once upon a time, Botox was almost solely the domain of WAGs and celebrities of a certain age that got a little too overzealous at the plastic surgery clinic.

The frozen faces and shiny foreheads were a dead giveaway, and as a result it became a big bad secret – a dirty word that was only uttered behind closed doors and amongst the closest of friends.

But then something magical happened: people starting talking about it out loud. Celebrities, like Linda Evangelista, starting admitting to it (much to her mother’s horror), and all this happened to coincide with a “less is more” approach to the procedure, making it all-round less terrifying for Botox virgins.

And now it’s time for us to talk about it too. We spoke to Dr Jeremy Cumpston from Sydney’s Ageless Clinics, who is known for his minimal, natural approach, to answer all your burning questions about Botox. You’re welcome.

So, what actually is Botox?

The first thing you need to know is that Botox itself is actually a brand name of Botulinum Toxin – just like how Panadol is a brand name of paracetamol.

So, what is Botulinum Toxin then? Dr Cumpston explains, “it’s a protein created by a bacterial species called Clostridium Botulnium and there are over 150 known strains of this protein.”

With the word “toxin” and “bacteria” in there it sounds kind of scary, but actually that’s precisely the thing that makes it work.

“The protein has a super capacity to block the junction between the nerve and muscle,” says Dr. Cumpston, “or in other words it has the capacity to paralyse muscles.”


If Botox is a brand name, how many other “brands” are there?

Dr Cumpston says that there are at least six different medical Botulinum Toxin formulations registered in the marketplace, but the most well known is still Botox.

This is followed by Dysport, which comes in a bigger unit size and is much cheaper per unit ($3.50-$5 as opposed to Botox’s $12-15 per unit).

They both achieve similar results, but according the Dr Cumpston the catch is that you need to use more Dysport to get a similar effect to that of Botox. On top of “each unit of Dysport spreads wider than Botox – 2.5cm from the injection point as opposed to 1cm – so you can achieve more control with Botox,” he says.


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How much Botox do you need?

When it comes to quantity, Botox is measured in unit size and you purchase it by the unit.

“To treat a full face, on average I would use 32-40 units of Botox, and with Dysport I would usually use anywhere up to 100-120 units for a full face,” says Dr Cumpston, “but that said, I am known for muscle movement and wanting to achieve a natural look.”

And what about that stubborn crease between your brows that just won’t quit? “You would normally use 11-12 units of Botox or 40 units of Dysport,” he says.

How long does Botox last?

Like most beauty procedures, the effectiveness of Botox really comes down to the person, your lifestyle, and how vigilant you are about after care.

But, contrary to pretty much everything else we know about beauty, this is also one instance where a super healthy lifestyle can actually have a negative effect on the results. “Increasing your metabolic rates break down the Botulinum proteins quicker,” says Dr Cumpston.

So, if you’re partial to the gym or daily hot yoga sessions, generally you’ll get eight weeks out of a treatment instead of the regular 12 for someone who prefers the couch to a run.

Dr Cumpston adds, “One of the most important points to remember with effectiveness is the period of rest between putting it in and exercising.

“It takes a minimum of 24 hours for the Botulinum protein to make a lock on the specific neuro-muscular junction you are trying to treat, so if you exercise too heavily you will literally sweat out the Botox.”


Are there any side effects?

Naturally, as Botox is a medical procedure there can be some downsides. If injected incorrectly it can cause muscular drooping, and chronic overuse – especially around the eyes – can lead to a loss of muscle tissue. “The key is not over treating, particularly around the eye area,” says Dr. Cumpston, “too much Botox makes a person look unnatural.”

What about the case for preventative Botox? 

“I’m not sure about the preventative Botox argument. I think Botox should be used minimally on anyone who has significant wrinkling of the face that causes them to feel self conscious or has the potential to lower their self esteem,” says Dr. Cumpston.

“If it is being used to prevent wrinkles forming it needs to be used in very low doses (baby botox doses, e.g. a total of 16 units over the entire face).” If this is something you’re considering, it’s really a conversation you should have with your cosmetic practitioner, and that should be someone experienced, who you trust enough to give you an honest opinion of whether you need it or not.

What else should a first-timer know?

Just like a dramatic haircut, or a game-changing facial, the results are in large part to do with the person you’re entrusting your face to. Which is why Dr Cumpston’s advice is to always see a qualified, experienced practitioner and opt for a small initial dosage, with a review (and potential top up) a week later if needed.

“Literally ask the practitioner how many years experience they’ve had in cosmetic injecting and ask for least amount possible, because you can always add more,” he says.

In addition don’t massage or press on the injected area for at least 24 hours post-procedure, and keep up your skin routine as “people who have a good skin regime and use anti-oxidant serums such as Vitamin C tend to find that the result of their Botox usually lasts longer,” Dr. Cumpston says.


And finally, the other important point to note is that during pregnancy and while you’re breastfeeding Botox is a no-go zone, so if it’s something you’re considering you need to wait until your child is fully weaned before you can try.

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