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The Use of Botulinum Toxin for Cosmetic Purposes

Botulinum toxin is a poisonous chemical produced by gram-positive bacteria that also happens to be anaerobic called Clostridium botulinum. This bacterium is also an obligate spore-forming bacillus that is mostly found in the soil. This toxin is labeled as BTX, and it is known to be lethal to the normal cellular functions of the body. The toxin shows a number of clinical signs on ingestion via food or through a wound on the body when infected. Botulinum toxin is usually produced in seven different forms, usually designated as A, B, C, D, E, and F (Benedeto, 1999). These forms of the poison are structurally similar but differentiated by the serology and antigenic characteristics. Botulinum poison causes a condition called botulism. This condition has been observed for a long time especially in Europe, where it was first thought to be caused by eating spoilt sausages, hence, it name ( “butulus” means black sausage in latin).

Although the chemicals from the bacteria are labeled as lethal, some forms of the toxin are useful in the cosmetic industry. The toxin type A has been discovered to have a positive effect in reducing aging signs of skin. Interest in the use of botulinum as a cosmetic begun after the toxin was effective in treatment of a condition called Blepharospasm and treatment of Glabella, front lines that appear on the face. After the discoveries, researchers started focusing more on other possible applications of the use of the toxin for cosmetic purposes. This led to other discoveries such as treatment of skin conditions such as strabismus and other dystonias (Beer, 2007). Today, botulinum toxin is among the most common chemicals used in the cosmetic industry all over the world. Therefore, the toxin can be said to occupy a highly influential position in the world of cosmetics given its esteemed applications in a number of procedures. However, the use of the toxin has a number of merits and demerits, as far as cosmetic application is concerned. This paper seeks to highlight a number of issues, as far as the use of botulinum is used as a cosmetic, from a perspective of microbiology.

As at the year 2006, studies showed that Botox injection is a renowned cosmetic procedure in the United States of America. This comes after the use of the toxin in cosmetology was approved for commercial use in 2002 (Vinay, 2009). The modern cosmetic effects of the poison were described by the Carruthers couple of ophthalmologists/dermatologists who were working from Vancouver, Canada. Their efforts lead to the discovery of other cosmetic potentials of the compound in relation to the effects it had on the frown lines on the face, perhaps an indication assumed by many as a sign of aging.

Botulinum toxin can affect the hyperactive kinetics or the dynamic properties of the facial lines, commonly known as the glabellas or the frown/squint lines (Vinay, 2009). In addition, the toxin has similar effects on muscle bands, eyebrows lines, or even platysma muscles. The latter effect is used to correct a condition that is commonly known as the ‘turkey neck’, which is depicted by the presence of sagging neck skin or platysma banding, another sign of aging. Since most people are not happy with their skin having aging characteristics, this promotes the use of the toxin as a counter agent.

One merit of this application is that the toxin has a wide safety profile in the sense that no fatalities have been associated with its use as a cosmetic. According to the United States Food and Drugs Administration Board, the application of the toxin is undoubtedly safe for people aged 18-65 years. This is the reason why Botox is widely used around the United States as either injections or even creams. Despite the fact that repeated use could have potential harm to the users, this is exceedingly limited. Therefore, the muscle relaxing property of the toxin can be repeated after sometimes, normally 3-4 months. This is the time when the relaxation effects diminish.

Botulinum toxin A can also be used as an alternative to surgical eyebrow elevation. The toxin does not have any negative effects when applied in 7-10 units and directed bilaterally to the brow depressor muscles. In a study carried out on twenty-two patients, it was established that the chemical had not any adverse effects on the patients. In fact, the brow elevation was observed to be 1.02 mm after injection into selected brow depressors (Vinay, 2009). In addition, such injection procedures are believed to cause paralysis of the targeted depressor muscles, hence causing an increase in elevation of the brow. The use of Botox is similarly used in number of procedures that depend on this activity of the toxin. They include treatment of fine under-eye wrinkles, muscle reactivity frontalis, lip wrinkles among many other skin aging indicators.

Recent studies have revealed that Botox is capable of causing paralysis in muscle. This, in turn, leads to reduced or declined muscle activity due to a weakening effect. Cosmetic Botox has also been associated with prevention signals from different nerves. This is possible because the toxin is capable of inhibiting the release of a biochemical compound called acetylcholine. This compound is normally secreted in the neuromasculine junction (Klein & Glogau, 2000). This means that the toxin interferes with the normal muscle activity. In addition, the fact that the efficacy of a Botox injection weakens after 3-4 month poses a bigger risk because it demands frequent injection. However, the effects have not been observed to pronounce muscle paralysis but basing on how it works, there is a large possibility of having a negative impact.

Prevention of excessive sweating is also considered as an occurrence that jeopardizes beauty. Botulinum toxin has been discovered to have a significant effect on excessive underarm, feet, and palm sweating. This condition is known as hyoperhidrosis, which is typically over activity of the sweat glands. Botox is used to stop this condition by inhibiting or stopping the nerve impulse to the sweat glands. This cuts the sweat gland output by sizeable margins, hence arresting the situation. This treatment can last for up to 10 months when injected in 15 to 45 sites in the affected areas using a 30-gauge needle (Jordan, 2006). Therefore, the toxin can be used to stop such excessive sweating incident, thus keep odors way. Thus, beauty is maintained in this way, since smell is one of the most essential components of beauty. The major concerns about such procedures come from the excessive piercing of the skin using needles, which is likely to damage the skin. However, there are no serious physiological implications that have been observed from this use.

The use of botulinum toxin A has elicited a lot of debates concerning over generalization of its safety. As much as many people would want to go for the positive effects of the toxin, it is wise to consider its negative effects. The use of botulinum toxin A has a number of negative effects that should be considered before recommending it for use to anybody. In the treatment of Glabella, botulinum toxin A causes headache, flu syndromes, nausea, respiratory infections, and temporary eyelid drop (Beer, 2007). These effects are a clear indication that the toxin should be a source of alarm to users. For instance, if the toxin can lead to infection, it means that some immunological factors of the body are destabilized or compromised by the toxin. This implies that the same effects could be spread to other organs of the body, thus weakening the entire immune system.

Most if not all drug kinetics associated with the toxin are related to disruption of some natural structures of the muscles, especially those of the skin. For example, the toxin disrupts the flexing characteristics of the muscle by causing unnatural contractions of the muscles, common in plastic procedures done on the skin. According to Beer (2007, p. 338), repeated injections on the orbital area of the eye affect the levator palpebrae superosis by modifying its natural structure. Similar effects can be observed with the mouth lips.

Another missing aspect of the use of botulinum toxin A as a cosmetic is its failures. Most medical descriptions are mainly focused on the positive effects the toxin has on the skin. Therefore, these assumptions have made many users continue using the therapy oblivious of effects that the toxin could cause. The use of botulinum toxin A is associated with massive failures especially when administered in to patients that are naïve to the BoNT mixture (Vinay, 2009). This means that the therapy may have no effects on the users, leading to wasting of time and resources. In addition, the toxin has been associated with undesirable changes in the immune system, where the body produces antibodies, which make the toxin ineffective.

In conclusion, the use of botulinum toxin for cosmetic purposes has huge benefits. However, the use of botulinum toxin A as a cosmetic is widely accepted around the world, more researches should be done especially on the negative effects it causes on the body system. Otherwise, the therapy is not a reason to worry currently, since its commercialization is a fertile ground for generating income.

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