Botox injections have been used as a cosmetic procedure for more than a decade, with millions of people trying to reduce the number of wrinkles on their faces.

Botox is actually a form of botulinum toxin A (hence the name) that has been approved by the FDA for use in injection form for the reduction of wrinkles. In the past, it has been used to treat people with crossed eyes, twitches, sweating issues and cerebral palsy. If done properly, the Botox injection procedure can provide the desired results, but there are a few key things to be aware of if you're considering going down that road:

1. Know the Risks

Botox is a less invasive cosmetic procedure than actually having surgery, but it does carry risks. Before you consider having injections done, you need to know what the risks are. Generally, if the procedure is done by a well-trained, experienced doctor or medical professional, Botox is safe. If the injections are done poorly, though, it can spread to other areas of the face, possibly causing eyelid droop, cockeyed eyebrows, a crooked smile, dry eyes or excessive tearing. There is also the very slight possibility that the toxin could reach other parts of your body and cause muscle weakness, vision problems, trouble speaking or swallowing, breathing problems or loss of bladder control.

2. Know a Good Doctor

When considering Botox injections, find the best possible practitioner. In some states only doctors can inject Botox, while in others, trained medical assistants may perform the procedure. What you really want to find out is how long the person has been giving injections and to how many patients. You also want to research the clinic or spa and find out what results other people have gotten, any complaints that have been filed, or any issues a medical professional has had with his or her certification. Get as many referrals and recommendations as you can. Remember, just because a person is a doctor, it doesn’t mean they’ve had a lot of experience with Botox injections. And if the cosmetic isn’t injected just right, it can really screw up your face.

3. Know the Possible Results

Once you’ve found the best doctor you can find, you need to have a very frank discussion about what results you can expect from Botox. The injections won’t help with every wrinkle on every person. The chemical relaxes the muscles that cause forehead wrinkles and crow's-feet, but it can’t fix everything. It also doesn’t last forever. To keep your smooth look, you have to continue getting injections every three or four months. Otherwise, the muscles contract again and the wrinkles return. Some experts say Botox injections can eventually reduce the appearance of those wrinkles and prevent new ones, but your doctor will have to advise you on the possibilities. You have to be realistic about what the procedure can do for you before you spend the money and end up disappointed.

4. Know What You’re Getting

In most instances, when you read about someone having a severe reaction to Botox injections, it’s because they weren’t actually receiving Botox injections. This is why your choice of medical professional is so important. You need to know what you’re getting. One indication of what you’re getting is the price. According to most experts, the injections should cost between $9 and $15 per unit (the clinic is being charged at least $5 per unit by the manufacturer), and you will likely receive anywhere from 20 to 80 units. This means that if you are buying a product that costs less than $200, you probably aren’t getting Botox and you'll probably end up with a messed-up face. Another thing to consider is that the Botox has to be mixed with sterile saline, and if the mix isn’t right, the results won’t be right either. This is why you want to make sure your chosen doctor has enough of the right experience.

5. Know How to Prepare

If you’ve found your clinic and you’re ready to have the procedure done, you need to know how to prepare so you get the best results, with minimal bruising. Your doctor should be clear with you about preparation, but here are some things to keep in mind. First, don’t take any blood-thinning medications for at least a week before the procedure. These include aspirin, Excedrin, ibuprofen, St. John’s wort, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, Ginko Biloba and Ginseng. Tell your doctor what medications you are taking so she can tell if you will have a reaction. Stop drinking alcohol one or two days before. And finally, don’t schedule the procedure right before an important event. Especially if it’s your first time, you want to have a few weeks between the Botox and the event to make sure any reactions you might have to it have died down.

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