Botox for Beginners

May 30, 2016 | 3 Comments

Got you with that headline, didn’t I? No I haven’t had Botox but it’s a word that I’m hearing A LOT of lately and it’s really got me thinking. I have many memories of my mother shouting at me as a sulky teenager, saying: “DON’T FROWN Belinda – you’ll get wrinkles!”. And she was right, now I see those lines forming before my eyes (and on the sides of my eyes obvs).

Also, isn’t it a bit weird that everyone keeps it all secretive? We wax our upper lips, we highlight our hair, we microblade our eyebrows and we bleach our teeth, so is something like Botox, simply the next step? Why are we not talking about Botox? Are we embarrassed to admit that we are (gulp) ageing or are we more embarrassed because we don’t want people to accuse us of vanity?

There’s another side to it I think, if you are a parent. A friend and I were talking about raising our daughters and how we’re constantly try to instil in them that it’s NOT all about beauty, even if the media tells you so. It’s about being smart and kind, and brave, and a whole lot of other stuff as well. So is Botox a signal to them that we don’t really believe any of what we say? That beauty is paramount? I don’t necessarily think so, but my mind is not made up yet, so I wanted to speak to a professional and get the basic medical info.

Luckily, Dr Mandy Sharrock agreed to answer my questions. I thought you may find her answers interesting (please note that she no longer offers Botox so please don’t contact her about an appointment):

  1. What is your job and your qualifications?

I’m a qualified doctor and GP and obtained my MBChB at UCT in 2005. I’ve worked in emergency medicine, ophthalmology and general practice (both locally and in Ireland/the UK), but my passion is in family practice.

I treat (and can relate to) a lot of women’s health related issues including contraception, skin problems, PAP smears, and hormone replacement, which led to my interest in aesthetics and anti-ageing. I got experience in this by working closely with Dr Mark Holliday in Johannesburg (considered one of South Africa’s top Botox experts) and I’ve also completed various Botox and Filler accredited courses and workshops.

  1. What is Botox and how does it change the skin?

Botox is a drug derived from the Botulinum Toxin type A, or onabotulinumtoxinA, a neurotoxin produced by Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium. It was known originally as a highly poisonous toxin causing life threatening neuromuscular paralysis or ‘Botulinism’. However, scientists later discovered that it can be used safely in humans when injected in extremely tiny concentrations into a muscle.

It works by blocking the junction between the muscle and the nerve,  so that it stops those muscle fibres from being able to contract. It takes approximately 2 days to start taking effect, and about a week to give full effect. It also wears off after a period of 3-4 months, depending on your metabolic rate and the dose given (you therefore have to repeat it every so often). It has now been used safely for about 25 years.

  1. Why does it work for wrinkles?

Certain wrinkles in our skin, particularly around the forehead and eye area, occur because the muscles underneath are hyperactive, and regularly force the skin into a crease which over time causes a deep wrinkle. By inactivating this contraction, the skin is no longer forced into this position, allowing it to heal and smooth out.

  1. What age are most women getting Botox these days?

Women who seek Botox treatments are usually over the age of 35, as this is when the majority of our wrinkles start to develop (yes thanks, I’m beginning to realise this Doc;). The majority of women I have treated are over 40, with the aim to age more gracefully into their 50s and 60s.

Generally speaking, the earlier one starts, the easier it is to treat the wrinkle, because the more entrenched wrinkles take longer to fade. More younger women nowadays are realising this, and choosing to start Botox in their early 30s. Men are also using Botox more frequently these days. You have to be careful to target only hyperactive muscle groups, and not to start too early on, as the muscle will eventually start to atrophy (waste away) if it doesn’t contract at all.

  1. Is it painful?

It’s not painful if administered correctly. The needle used is the finest available and feels a bit like a tiny rubber band sting might feel on your skin. You can also use a topical anaesthetic cream if you’re afraid of feeling the tiny prick.

  1. How much does it cost? 

It usually costs anywhere from R 60-70 per unit but the price depends on the doctor, the dose and the area treated. There are two kinds of toxin treatments available, the other is called Dysport, which is administered slightly differently and is cheaper. The cost price of Botox is quite expensive because it’s imported – an average Botox forehead treatment might cost you around R2000.

  1. What are the disadvantages? 

Short term, there are a few side effects: redness, swelling and slight bruising of the skin is possible from the injection itself, but these are temporary.

No serious adverse events have ever been reported from distant spread of the toxin effect, when Botox has been used correctly. Like any drug, there are always possibilities of allergic reactions. Localised spread of the toxin beyond the injected area can cause ptosis (an eyelid droop) when the incorrect area is injected, and the wrong muscle becomes weakened.  These examples are very rare, and shouldn’t occur if administered by a medical doctor who knows how to do it properly. Injection is contraindicated in certain medical cases, such as those with an underlying neuromuscular weakness disorder or those who are pregnant.

I’m not a Judgy McJudgypants – as long as you’ve done all the research and made the right decision for yourself, then go for it. Each to his (or her) own.

Have you ever had Botox? Will you ever? What are your thoughts on it?


  • Reply Kim Robinson May 30, 2016 at 10:51 am

    My 50th birthday is one month away and this is the only thing on mind. Have made an appointment with my dermatologist to discuss the Botox and fillers options which I really want to get before my birthday. I am petrified although I also believe it will make me feel better knowing I might look a little less haggard and tired.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain May 30, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      I’m all for things that give a person confidence – hope it goes well Kim!

  • Reply Laura June 19, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Nah its not for me hey! I don’t really mind aging to be honest. Also I am not keen to inject stuff into my body!

  • Let me know what you think!