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Botox is the brand name for the popular botulinum toxin type A drug that is often used as a dermal filler to improve the appearance of dynamic wrinkles in the face. Though this is what Botox is most commonly known for, this injectable medical device is actually used in the treatment of a number of medical conditions. In fact, its effectiveness in treating fine lines and wrinkles was only noticed as an incidental effect of patients receiving treatment for blepharospasm, which is an abnormal twitch in the eyelid.
Botulinum toxin type A is a neurotoxin that blocks the release of acetylcholine, which is responsible for transmitting signals to the brain that tell muscles to contract. When injected into muscles, it causes temporary muscle paralysis, which can be very helpful in treating conditions that are associated with excessive muscle contractions, like cervical dystonia, refractory overactive bladder, or other forms of muscle spasticity throughout the body. It can also be used to treat chronic migraines and excessive sweating, in additional to its popular use in aesthetic cosmetics. Though Botox is the most well-known brand of botulinum toxin type A, botulinum toxin is also marketed under the names Dysport and Xeomin.
There are a number of reasons why an individual may begin to lose their hair or experience hair thinning. Bad nutritional practices, thyroid disease, anemia, protein deficiency, low levels of vitamins, and chemotherapy are all things that can contribute to hair loss. Hair loss, which is also known as alopecia, also becomes much more likely as we age, and by far the most common form of hair loss is androgenic alopecia. Androgenic alopecia affects both men and women, with 80% of women experience some form of hair loss by the time they turn 60, and 40 percent of all androgenic alopecia patients are actually female. By 50 years of age, 50 percent of men experience some degree of androgenic alopecia.
Commonly, androgenic alopecia is referred to as male-pattern baldness, despite its high incidence of female sufferers. In men, it presents itself first as a receding hairline that continues to recede over time, often resulting in total baldness. In women, it presents itself as a thinning of the hair all over the head, with no receding hairline and rarely ends in total baldness. The suspected cause of androgenic alopecia in men is a combination of genetics and the male hormone dihydrotestosterone. The cause of this issue in women is less well-known, though it is commonly associated with an increased risk of polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that is caused by a hormonal imbalance.
In a similar manner as to how botulinum toxin type A was found to be helpful in treating the appearance of lines and wrinkles, Botox may help some patients to grow and strengthen hair as a side effect of other treatment. Dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman started using Botox injections to help treat excessive scalp sweating in her patients. This treatment alone may help hair, as the reduction of sweat prevents hair from appearing stringy and becoming unclean more quickly. However, in performing treatment for scalp sweating, Engelman noticed that some patients started to grow new hair.
Preliminary clinical studies have shown that 50% of patients grew new hair due to Botox injections, while another study using a combination of botulinum toxin and polyrevitalizing solutions for mesotherapy treatment has also shown promising results. Patients were asked to measure the effect of treatment on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 0 being no effect and 10 being beyond expectation) on 5 different criteria: hydration, thickness, strength, flexibility, and shine. During the first week, patients rated hydration at 6, thickness at 0, strength at 0, flexibility at 0, and shine at 6. By the end of the fourth and final week, patients rated hydration at 10, thickness at 5, strength at 8, flexibility at 7, and shine at 10.
Researchers believe that Botox is able to help improve the growth, strength, and overall appearance of hair because the muscle relaxing effect decompresses vessels, thereby increasing oxygen and blood flow to the frontal and coronal scalp. This increased flow helps deliver increased nutrients to the hair, helping it becoming stronger and healthier, and helping new hair grow in the follicles. It has been suggested that effects may last from 3 to 4 months.
While Botox has been used for decades and has been proven to be safe and effective in the treatment of a number of medical and cosmetic issues, there are still some risks associated with its use. As with any injection, there is a risk of infection, and other mild side effects of Botox include: rash, itching, headache, nausea, flu-like symptoms, muscle weakness, bleeding or bruising at the injection site, dry mouth, and drowsiness. These reactions are temporary and typically resolve themselves within a few days. On rare occasions, more serious side effects may occur, such as difficulty swallowing, speaking, or breathing. If these occur, patients should seek medical attention.
Aside from anecdotal evidence proving the effectiveness of Botox for hair, clinical studies are still in the preliminary stages. As such, the safety of treatment in patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding has not been tested. Additionally, some have suggested that Botox injections will not be effective if the hair follicle is already destroyed, meaning it may not be effective in patients experiencing the later effects of baldness.
Though the effectiveness of Botox injections as a form of treatment for growing, strengthening, and improving the overall appearance of the hair has not yet been entirely proven or disproven, many of the early studies into this treatment option have been promising. However, until there are more published studies on the matter, treatment success cannot be guaranteed. In the meantime, doctors may use Botox as an off-label treatment for patients willing to see the results for themselves.
If you’re interested in receiving Botox injections for hair, speak to a medical professional today to see what your options are.
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Disclaimer: These articles, and any views and opinions expressed, are not endorsed by Raskel Medical. The articles are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice. Raskel Medical does not check or edit the content of these articles for medical accuracy. Contact your medical practitioner for any medical advice needed.