Have a big social event tomorrow night and need "emergency Botox"? A new study finds that if you get the wrinkle-relaxing shots today, you can speed up the effect by making faces.
Simple facial exercises can speed the wrinkle-smoothing effects of botulinum toxin (Botox), according to researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago.
"Patients often leave getting their Botox to the last minute," lead researcher and professor of dermatology Dr Murad Alam said in a university news release.
"If people get their botulinum toxin right before a social engagement or important work event, they may worry it won't start working in time," he added. "Speeding up the effects could be important to people."
The new study included 22 adult women with forehead wrinkles who were treated with Botox. Half of them exercised their facial muscles for four hours after the injections, and the other half did not.
It was quite a workout for the face: Exercises included raised motions of the forehead and scowls in three sets of 40 repetitions, separated by 10 minutes.
Six months later, the women received another treatment and the two groups reversed doing exercises or no exercises.
Forehead wrinkles were rated as looking better within just two to three days after the treatment if the injections were followed by the facial exercises, compared with three to four days without the exercises.
"Botox binds to receptors on nerve cells to relax muscles, and it is possible that exercise speeds this binding process," Alam explained. "For patients who need quick results, the exercise may be worth the effort. Patients appreciate having more control over their care."
After two weeks, there was no difference between those who did or did not do facial exercises, however. The exercises also made no difference in how long the effects of treatment lasted, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Alam said that dermatologists have often assumed that face exercises might speed up the effects of Botox treatment, but until now, "there had not been any well-designed randomised studies comparing exercise and no exercise side-by-side."
So, "there finally is an answer to the myth of whether or not facial exercises after Botox has any effect," said Dr Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"Since so many patients wait until the eleventh hour to do cosmetic procedures, this will be a great way to have the results that they want more quickly," said Green, who wasn't involved in the new study.
In fact, she said, "I am going to suggest this to all of my patients who are in this circumstance and need 'emergency Botox'."
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