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 In Ask an Expert, Ear Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology), Pulse Blog

Q: How early is too early for Botox?

True story: I started using Botox® when I was 27 years old and still a resident. Granted, we residents had access to extra product. We were also motivated to test different injection approaches as we wanted to offer the best results to our future patients. It made sense to practice on each other.

Yet we knew something else: Skin acts like paper. The more times it’s folded, the deeper the creases become. Preventing or slowing down crease formation using Botox keeps wrinkles from appearing or makes them less pronounced. To achieve the greatest cosmetic benefit, it’s best for patients to start using Botox as soon as they notice a spot they consider to be a problem—and that may be in their 20s.

Temporarily paralyzing muscles can also help reduce long-term wrinkle risk by encouraging patients to form new habits. For example, when muscles don’t respond, patients may be less likely to scowl (which creates 11’s above the nose) or raise their eyebrows (which creates forehead lines). In other patients, muscles may atrophy from lack of use, which can prevent the spot from being a continued area of concern.

Some patients who use Botox early may find that they need less Botox over time because they simply aren’t using the muscles as much. However, it’s important to note that it’s possible for someone to have an immune system reaction to the medicine and, over time, need more of it to achieve the same result.

Most patients using Botox, whether preventively or to smooth existing lines, need injections every three to four months. Botox used for cosmetic purposes is an out-of-pocket expense for the patient and is not covered by insurance. Costs vary based on the area of the face being treated and how many units are needed. In general, it costs about $375 for the area between the eyebrows, $200 for squint lines or “crows feet” around the eyes, and $275 for the forehead area.

One of the benefits of Botox is that it’s temporary. Patients can adjust which muscles are affected to achieve a natural look. It’s also an FDA-approved product that has gone through strict quality control and testing and is highly regulated, unlike supplements.

That said, Botox is not a cure-all. It can help smooth out existing lines, but it won’t erase them. And it’s still not the best defense against wrinkles. That award goes to sunscreen, which also claims the not insignificant benefit of preventing skin cancer. Sunglasses and hats are likewise helpful as they protect the delicate tissues around the eyes and keep people from squinting.

If, after forming good sun protection habits, you are still concerned about preventing the signs of aging, talk to a physician who specializes in cosmetic concerns. At Vancouver Clinic, Dr. Matthew Hauck and I both offer Botox injections. Using Botox preventively can be a good option to limit the appearance of lines and wrinkles now and in the future.

Dr. Kate McCarn is an otolaryngologist at Vancouver Clinic’s Columbia Tech Center and Salmon Creek locations. She specializes in the ear, nose, and throat. She is experienced in functional and cosmetic surgery for the removal of cancers of the face, head, and neck.

Kate McCarn, MD.