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Botox Without Borders

August 4, 2008 |

Storefronts that provide medical procedures—like Botox—are not necessarily unsafe. However, the best results might come to those who ask the right questions and do their homework.

Easy and convenient food? OK. Easy and convenient Botox? Maybe not. The trend of the “medical spa” has taken shape and can be found at a mall near you. In a spa-like setting, patrons can often receive chemical peels, laser hair removal, or even Botox Cosmetic, the temporary wrinkle-fighting injection. Topping out at about 4.6 million procedures, Botox was the number one minimally invasive cosmetic procedure in 2007, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The phenomenon of walk-in or storefront centers may go hand-in-hand with the popularity of the wrinkle-fighting procedure. While these new settings are not necessarily unsafe, you need to be aware and do your homework.

Things to Know

Although “minimally invasive” and “cosmetic” sound benign, Santa Monica-based plastic surgeon Susan Downey says getting Botox is not like getting a haircut. “You’re having an injection,” she emphasizes. Botox Cosmetic is Food and Drug Administration-approved for the area between the eyebrows and accepted by some physicians for use elsewhere on the face. However, it is still made from a toxin that temporarily minimizes muscle movement to smooth wrinkles. As with any medical procedure, there are potential complications and side effects, ranging from tenderness or bruising to rare cases of serious heart problems, allergic reactions, or other possible problems currently being reviewed by the FDA.

Questions to Ask

There are about 2500 medical spas, up from around 45 in 2002, estimates Hannelore Leavy, founder and executive director of the International Medical Spa Association. And storefront centers that provide medical services are popping up. However, not all are run by properly trained professionals. Here are some questions to ask: Who is performing the injection? What are his or her qualifications? Who do I call with questions or if problems arise later? For instance, you wouldn’t want to call after hours and get the mall security guard, says Downey. Also, what are the potential risks? How long might possible side effects last? Is the office properly equipped and sterile? “If you can’t get a satisfactory answer to any of these questions,” says Downey, “I think I would walk out.” You also need to make sure that the person takes a complete medical history, including your medications and even how you move your face.

Homework to Do

Only a physician can prescribe Botox treatments, but depending on where you live, anyone from nurses to plastic surgeons can administer treatments. To find a trained professional as well as information, see the websites of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons or the Physicians Coalition for Injectable Safety. To determine if a doctor is board-certified—the medical buzz word for being properly trained and evaluated—in a specialty, you can check websites of The American Board of Dermatology or The American Board of Plastic Surgery.

But before you make an impulse buy, ask yourself whether Botox or any other procedure is right for you. Kate Parsons, an ethicist at Webster University in St. Louis says, “While the number of places where we can gain access to these treatments is expanding, our notion of what beauty is isn’t really expanding.”

Psychology Today Online, 16 Jul 2008
Last Reviewed 29 Jul 2008
Article ID: 4619

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