Happy 10th birthday, Botox Cosmetic

Mark your calendars, South Florida. Botox Cosmetic, the hottest anti-aging product on the market, reaches its milestone 10th birthday on April 15.

Not only has it survived the wallet-busting years of the recession, Botox Cosmetic has thrived, especially in South Florida, known for sun worshipers and the beauty obsessed. When the down economy sent more expensive surgical procedures like breast augmentations and facelifts plummeting, more Americans turned to the less-costly magic found in a vial of Botox.

"South Florida is one of the Botox capitals of the world because it is an area where people are image-conscious, educated and have disposable income," said Dr. Kenneth Beer, a West Palm Beach dermatologist. "We've seen our Botox numbers go up pretty much every year. Maybe people are coming a little less frequently, but more people are coming and they're doing more areas."

Since gaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval on April 15, 2002, to smooth frown lines between the brows, the number of Botox injections used for all sorts of cosmetic purposes has soared to cosmic heights, ranking by far as the nation's most common cosmetic procedure year after year. About 5.7 million people nationwide had their skin pricked with the puffing agent last year — 518 percent more than the 1.1 million who had the injections in 2002, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Miami-based dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt called the drug "the biggest revolution in cosmetology and dermatology in the last 30 years" and likened it to the advent of aspirin because of its many versatile uses.

Though it's more widely known as an aesthetic pleaser in reducing wrinkles, Botox was first approved by the FDA in 1989 to treat eye spasms and later for conditions such as abnormal head position from cervical dystonia, back pain, severe underarm sweating, muscle stiffness, migraine headaches and urinary incontinence.

Botox is a purified form of Botulinum Toxin Type A, a potentially fatal natural poison. In low doses, though, doctors say the toxin temporarily paralyzes small muscles that cause lines and wrinkles. The injections last about four months, and cost anywhere from "a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars" per treatment, depending on how much of an area is injected, Brandt said.

Before 2002, he said, the only approved product for the treatment of wrinkles was collagen, which had limited results.

Critics have looked down on repetitive Botox users as not only disguising the body's natural aging process, but doing it in a way that many consider plastic, stiff and, well, fake. But Beer and Brandt both credit the drug with giving patients new ways to look, or at least feel, younger.

"Botox really opened the door and unleashed a new era of cosmetic dermatology," Beer said. "So it was really that approval that unlocked the door to doctors to provide safe and effective cosmetic treatments."

nbrochu@tribune.com


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