Is injecting botulinum toxin aka Botox the solution to fewer headaches and a slimmer face? We find out
There has been a huge increase in internet searches and on platforms such as TikTok for ‘masseter Botox’ – injections of botulinum toxin administered in the masseter muscles to slim down the face and reduce a wide or square jawline.
So what exactly is 'masseter Botox'? It’s the popular off-label (meaning it’s not been approved by the FDA) use of neurotoxin injections in the large masseter muscle–the jaw muscle. Just like having botulinum toxin
anywhere else, this inhibits the activity of the muscle.
The therapeutic benefit of the treatment is that it can help those suffering from headaches and migraines caused by jaw clenching, jaw tension or teeth grinding
when asleep, as well as lessening symptoms of TMJ (temporomandibular disorder).
An added bonus is that it slims and reshapes the lower face
by weakening the muscle, which in turn helps to narrow an overdeveloped masseter, giving a more tapered jawline and a more oval face shape.
"In my clinical experience, botulinum toxin type A injections to the masseter can be a very effective treatment, not only for jaw swimming but even more importantly for patients who suffer from nighttime jaw clenching and, as a result, suffer from headaches or jaw pain," says the Founder of Skin Medical, Dr Sabika Karim.
"Nighttime jaw clenching can be habitual but is often a stress response," she continues. "Botulinum toxin
blocks the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine at the junction between the nerve and the muscle (the neurovascular junction), thereby relaxing the muscle. This in turn can help the muscle to shrink (slimming the jaw), protect the teeth and relieve jaw pain, as well as the frequency and intensity of headaches that originate from clenching the jaw."
Dr Karim emphasises that it's important to rule out other more serious causes of headaches before considering treatment of the masseters with botulinum toxin, "and it goes without saying that you should find a specialist
who you can trust."
You may have heard that masseter Botox can cause jowling. While it's possible that someone who already has some jowling could start to look looser or saggier around the jawline
if the masseter is slimmed down, the jury is out on whether it can cause or lead to jowls.
Some practitioners believe that injecting into the masseters of someone who doesn’t necessarily need it could create an illusion of jowling. But as it tends to be younger patients lining up for the treatment there should not be a concern–in fact, most people’s skin will have enough elasticity
to be able to conform to the changes.
Masseter Botox does tend to last a bit longer than anywhere else on the face–up to six months depending on how strong the muscle is–but it is not permanent and any undesirable changes will resolve as the toxin wears off.
Having been diagnosed with TMJ in the past and suffering from occasional headaches upon awakening, I thought I might be a candidate for the treatment so booked an appointment with Dr Karim, who is highly specialised in facial rejuvenation.
Having only ever had a light sprinkle of toxin
once before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But after a thorough consultation it was decided I was suitable due to my admission of occasional morning headaches pointing to nighttime jaw clenching or teeth grinding; my masseter muscles are also overdeveloped, causing a squarer jawline
I didn't really have time to be nervous as the treatment was over in a few minutes. Dr Karim injected 50 units of botulinum toxin into each side of my jaw, and I hardly felt a thing despite not having any numbing cream applied. It was over in a flash.
As an occasional bruiser, I was also happy there was no bruising
afterwards–it really was one of the most quick and painless procedures I've ever had, although Dr Karim’s skill and friendly manner probably helped somewhat.
There’s no downtime
with the treatment, although some people may get some light bruising. I was warned that I may need to wait up to four weeks for it to kick in; I saw results after the two and a half-week mark and have not had one morning headache since.
From an aesthetic standpoint, I love the results and would consider having the treatment again, it’s a shame it doesn’t last longer though.