Myth, Busted: Injectable Wrinkle Reducers Can Paralyze Your Entire Face

In the world of cosmetic dermatology, the rumor mills are fraught with incorrect information spread by unqualified voices who claim to be authorities. But once these untruths are shared often and loudly enough, they eventually are taken as gospel. This article’s sole purpose is to clear up false rumors and replace them with facts, explained by knowledgeable and reliable medical sources. Once armed, you’ll be able to make your own decisions more clearly.

Injectable wrinkle reducers are a particularly rampant topic for the myth machine. To address this first myth, the answer is simply no. Wrinkle reducers, when properly used, cannot paralyze someone’s entire face — they’re actually a treatment for a specific area to temporarily smooth the appearance of moderate to severe lines — but we’re going to play a bit of an armchair psychologist and take a gander at why you might believe this myth.

You know how we tend to remember the worst or most extreme looks, mistakes or mishaps that befall people? Especially famous people? Think about it: Everyone remembers when Justin Timberlake mistakenly tore off too much of Janet Jackson’s top in that Super Bowl halftime show, even though it happened 14 years ago. Can you even name the person or band who performed at the big game last year?

Extreme looks created by injectable wrinkle reducers tend to live on in our minds. Once we’ve seen the face of a celebrity who might have had too much injected into her forehead, that’s the face we remember, and it’s what perpetuates this myth.

“People like to sensationalize everything, says New York dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. “If you think someone’s using something that’s meant to make them look better, but they end up looking worse, that’s what gets a lot of coverage.”

Conversely, we often see celebrities with natural looking smoothed-out faces, but do we ever think, “Wow, her face looks so lovely and natural with just the right amount of injectable wrinkle reducers”? No. We think, “Wow, she looks great! How does she keep her skin looking so smooth?”

Let’s go back in history again, even earlier than that Timberlake-Jackson debacle. Back in the 1980s, before the active ingredient in injectable wrinkle reducers (botulinum toxin) was used for cosmetic purposes, it was relied on to treat medical conditions, such as torticollis. Torticollis is the chronic contraction of the neck muscles, resulting in the inability to straighten one’s neck, says New York dermatologist Dendy Engelman. When injected into the area, neurotoxin decreases muscle contractions, enabling sufferers to regain the ability to straighten back up. In situations like those, a lot of the product was used. Hundreds and hundreds of units.

At the beginning, like with any new method, figuring out how to use injectable wrinkle reducers in small-dose measurements required a bit of a learning curve. But today, the correct dosage has been confirmed through clinical trials and the FDA to give people more subtle results. It’s beloved by many celebrities (sometimes openly, often secretly) to smooth facial lines and wrinkles. And yet that myth of overdone faces — those tabloid-selling photos — lives on in people’s minds.

“Botulinum toxin is a well-studied molecule, explains New York dermatologist Dr. Amy Wechsler. “We now know many of the things it does and how it works on the body.” That said, each person is different, so talk to your doctor about potential side effects and the correct dosage to decide what’s right for you.

Medically speaking, what injectable wrinkle reducers do is limit motion. “They’re blocking the communication between the nerve and the receptor so that we have limited motion, but those of us who know how to use them properly use them to our benefit, not detriment,” says Engelman. “No one wants to look frozen.”

And these days, that frozen look has, well, thawed. Case in point: Cindy Crawford, who has spoken openly about using wrinkle reducers. Does that face look frozen to you?

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Originally published on 2/21/19 in SPOTLYTE by Allergan, BY JANE LARKWORTHY