The Payson woman was shocked and not a little afraid when she looked in the mirror.
Her left eyebrow was frozen, paralyzed by poison, high above her eye.
"I thought, 'Oh, my God, am I going to look like this forever?," she recalled.
As it turned out, the answer was no. Within about four minutes, the eyebrow returned to its normal position ... and the woman could not wait to get her next injection of the poisonous Botox, the hot new cosmetology product hyped as a temporary cure for some facial wrinkles.
"I was so unhappy with the frown creases between my eyebrows, and Botox has removed them completely," said the woman, who does not want to be identified. "Getting rid of them has made me feel so much better about myself, and I'm all for anything that makes you feel better about yourself."
That enthusiasm is echoed by Julie Wantland, another Paysonite formerly plagued by between-the-eyes wrinkles.
"I heard about it on TV and thought, 'What the heck?' and went for it," Wantland said. "My wrinkles were bad, bad, bad ... and now they're gone. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
Exclaimed another local, wrinkle-free female: "I think it's a wonder drug!"
Even before April, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the toxin's use for certain cosmetic procedures, Botox was a smash hit. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates 1.6 million Botox procedures were done last year, making it the No. 1 non-surgical cosmetic procedure performed in the U.S.
But Botox or Botulinum Toxin Type A is no mere anti-wrinkle cream. Derived from the bacterium that causes botulism, it was first used for medical purposes in the 1970s, when researchers discovered its many healing properties. Since then, Botox has been used in the treatment of facial asymmetry due to nerve paralysis, muscle spasms of the face in quadriplegics, stuttering, and even cerebral palsy. It has also proved to be effective in decreasing excessive perspiration.
The potential of Botox as a cosmetic agent, however, was discovered only recently. It works by temporarily paralyzing the muscles that control common facial expressions such as frowning or squinting which, over time, can encourage the formation of lines and wrinkles. As a result, existing lines are smoothed out and future lines are prevented from forming.
Botox has been most effective in the treatment of frown lines, furrows in the forehead, crow's feet, neck bands and lines along the upper lip area. Wrinkles caused by aging or sun damage, as opposed to repeated muscle contraction, will not be improved by Botox.
The effects are usually visible 24 to 48 hours after the injection and last for four to six months. Treatments may be repeated as often as needed to maintain the desired effect. Some surgeons believe that the results of Botox injections are cumulative and last longer with each repeated injection.
Treatments cost from $175 to $500 per area although some doctors have been reported to offer group rates for women at "Botox parties" that resemble Tupperware gatherings of old.
Only a physician can legally buy Botox, but some doctors permit their nurse practitioners and even medical assistants to do the injections. The problem? Improperly done, Botox injections can cause a variety of side effects, including partial facial paralysis, drooping eyelids and drooling.
And despite the fact that the effects of Botox itself wears off after a few months, these complications may be permanent, according to Payson dermatologist Dr. Donald Steele.
"It takes skill, practice and experience" to administer Botox for maximum positive results, Steele said. "There are people doing the injections, however, who are just jabbing the needle into the area ... which can create problems, like droopy eyes, that may not reverse themselves." A mishandled needle, Steele explained, can actually sever the facial nerve. "Since nerves don't regrow, you've got a problem."
But those experienced in Botox injections, he emphasized, "know where all of the facial nerves are, and know not to penetrate too deeply or too close to the nerve."