From the legend of Cleopatra bathing in milk to Renaissance women putting a mixture of lead and vinegar on their faces, the battle for beauty has been fought since the beginning of time.
Chances are you’ve heard of Botox before, the modern day answer to the above. Be it from an advert or whether you’ve considered having the treatment done yourself., most people are aware of the substance.
In this article we are going to explain exactly what Botox is, why it’s beneficial and will trace its history from humble beginnings in a German laboratory to becoming one of the most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedures of all time.
What is Botox?
Botulinum toxin (the substance we know as Botox) is a natural purified protein produced by a bacterium, but don’t let that put you off. It’s power lies in its ability to temporarily relax muscles that cause frown lines and wrinkles when injected into the skin.
What many people don’t know is that it can also treat medical conditions such as muscle spasms and excessive sweating. It’s the best-known brand available, and has been one of the most extensively tested substances ever – being internationally certified in both the cosmetic and medical fields.
Early beginnings (1820 – 1960)
The substance we know as Botox today was discovered entirely by mistake. The first strains came about after a German scientist trying to understand the roots of food poisoning stumbled across them. Botox is indeed a toxin, but one with many benefits. While we would have to wait more than 100 years until the medical and cosmetic marvels were discovered, this initial experiment helped scientists understand the neurological symptoms of harmful bacteria in food.
In the following century, Botulinum toxin was investigated as everything from a cause of food poisoning to a World War II weapon. According to the book ‘Therapeutic Uses of Botox’ by Grant Cooper MD, the plan was for Chinese prostitutes to take Botox in pill form and slip it into the drinks of high-ranking Japanese officers.
But in the modern day, Botox was never destined to cause harm. It wasn’t until the 1950s that we started harnessing the full power of the safe and beneficial Botox we know today.
In one of the first medical experiments on the substance, a scientist named Dr. Edward J.Schantz found Botox to be a magic relief for certain neuromuscular
conditions, such as “being cross eyed” – technically known as strabismus. But that was only the start.
The beginning of Botox as we know it
A few decades later in the early 1980s, additional research showed injecting Botox could provide relief from spasms in the face, neck, shoulders and even on the vocal cords. It was medically approved as a treatment for both strabismus and blepharaspasm (a condition which affects the eyelid muscles). Further studies found it could temporarily cure excessive sweating and writer’s cramp, but the most astounding discovery was its ability to ease the effects of cerebral palsy in children.
From here, American drugmaker Allergan bought the rights to distribute the brand and officially changed its name to Botox – which is a lot catchier than Botulinum. But the history doesn’t end there, and Botox was destined to be much more than a medical marvel.
Not long after, an ophthalmologist in Canada Dr Jean Carruthers found that by using a purified version of the substance, she could make the complexions of her patients magically smoother. Frown lines were literally disappearing before people’s eyes.
Understandably, everyone wanted to get their hands on their clear liquid gold and try it out for themselves. This even led to a temporary drought, leading to that famous New York Times headline “Drought Over, Botox is Back”
With safer regulations (and a lot more stock), Botox use in the UK and beyond has gone from strength to strength.
In 2012, Botox was declared the most popular plastic surgery treatment worldwide, and is only getting bigger in Britain. A record number of more than 51,000 Brits had surgery last year, according to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, meaning it’s more popular than ever before. It’s grown by a massive 13% since 2014, with all procedures becoming more popular.
British women’s surgery rose by 12.5%, but more surprising is the steep rise in men having work done and wanting to look better Men may only account for 9% of the total number of operations in the UK, but this figure has nearly doubled over the last decade.
Botox is not only getting more widespread, but there has never been a safer time to get it done. Earlier this year Health Education England unveiled new qualifications to standardise the training for practitioners who perform non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
Botox is the substance that was discovered by mistake and has taken the world by storm.