Although it might seem as though Botox Cosmetic has been around forever, it was only 12 years ago this April that the injectable was approved by the FDA to treat the vertical lines between the eyebrows, also called the frown lines or “11s.” Over the past 12 years, a lot has changed about Botox, but the injectable itself has remained the same.
While Botox for cosmetic purposes is something relatively new, the toxin has played a role in medicine and science for over 100 years.
The Early Days
In the 19th century, botulinum toxin, the active ingredient in Botox and similar injectables, wasn’t so helpful. The toxin is produced by Clostridium botulinum, a type of anaerobic bacteria found in a variety of places, from the digestive systems of animals to plants. In the 1820s, a number of people in Germany died after eating blood sausage that was tainted with the toxin. A scientist named Dr. Justinus Kerner decided to study the sausage and figure out what it was that poisoned the people.
Dr. Kerner studied the toxin, although he didn’t know what it was at the time, by injecting it into himself. His research, though dangerous, allowed him to develop treatment options for food poisoning. Although he probably didn’t know it, he laid down the groundwork for the way the toxin is currently used in medicine and cosmetics.
Decades after Dr. Kerner’s work, another group of people were poisoned at a dinner and another scientist, Dr. Emile Pierre van Ermengem, was asked to research the cause of the poisoning. Dr. Van Ermengem went a step beyond Dr. Kerner. He was able to discover that the toxin came from bacteria, which he named Bacillus botulinus, before it was renamed Clostridium botulinum. His work also led to the discovery of seven different strains of the toxin, labeled A through G, and the discovery that four of those strains were harmful to people.
The Benefits of Botulinum Toxin
Although there was some research performed in the early 20th century regarding the use of botulinum toxin as a weapon, much of the research in the latter part of the century focused on how the toxin could be used for good.
Early medical research looked at the impact the toxin could have when used to treat conditions such as strabismus, or crossed eyes. Dr. Alan B. Scott, an ophthalmologist, injected the toxin into lab animals in the 1960s. His thinking was that the toxin would allow the muscles to relax, preventing the eyes from crossing.
In the late 1970s, Dr. Scott was able to begin testing the toxin on human patients. He started publishing the results of his work in the 1980s, including papers that concluded that botulinum toxin was an effective treatment for strabismus. It was soon found that the toxin could be used to treat more than just crossed eyes. In 1989, the FDA gave approval for botulinum toxin A to be used to treat muscle spasms of the eyelid and crossed eyes.
Over the next decade, medical researchers found that botulinum toxin A was able to treat more than just eyelid spasms and crossed eyes. The toxin was also used to treat bladder spasms, overactive sweat glands and cramping muscles.
The use of the toxin for cosmetic reasons was discovered almost by accident. A Canadian doctor, Dr. Jean Carruthers, noted that patients who received the injection to treat their eye problems also experienced an easing of the lines between the brows. She published a paper in the early 1990s arguing that the toxin would ease the appearance of frown lines, although for only a short amount of time.
Although at that point Botox wasn’t yet approved for cosmetic purposes, patients and doctors across the country began using it to smooth frown lines. In 1997, demand for Botox actually led to a drop in the supply.
Finally, in April of 2002, botulinum toxin A was approved by the FDA for the treatment of frown lines. By that point, sales of Botox for cosmetic purposes were already over $300 million a year. In 2013, the FDA also approved Botox for use in treating crow’s feet. Global sales of the injectable are expected to climb to nearly $3 billion by 2018, according to The Guardian.
Although Botox Cosmetic is the brand name that comes to mind when most people think of of botulinum toxin injections, it’s no longer the only option in the U.S. Other products, such as Dysport, are now also available. The two injections work similarly, but are produced by different companies.
12 years on, Botox Cosmetic has grown even more popular as an anti-aging treatment option. In Virginia and Maryland, Dr. Jessica Kulak specializes in anti-aging facial treatments, from injections to surgery. If you are interested in learning more about Botox, Dysport or your other options, contact her office by calling (301) 222-2020 in Maryland or (703) 481-0002 in Virginia for a consultation today.