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132: Botox is For More Than Wrinkles

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132: Botox is For More Than Wrinkles

Feb 21, 2023

Botox. It's a chemical that the Who Cares guys initially assumed was just for vanity sake and not something for them. That was until they talked to Dr. Sarah Akkina. Learn about the many medical uses of the toxin from teeth clenching to sweat control. And maybe, just maybe, learn about how guys can improve the appearance of wrinkles for those Zoom calls.

Episode Transcript

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

Scot: Troy, I've got a question for you. I'm going to say a word, and I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Botox.

Troy: Crow's feet.

Scot: Okay. Mitch, Botox.

Mitch: Wrinkles.

Scot: All right. That's the same for me, crow's feet and wrinkles. Today, on "Who Cares About Men's Health," we're going to talk about Botox, not only for a more youthful appearance, but also some other things that it can treat that men might find useful. And also, we're going to answer the question "Is it safe?"

This is "Who Cares About Men's Health," providing information, inspiration, and a different interpretation of men's health. I'm curious if you might have a different opinion about Botox by the end of this episode. We're going to find that out. My name is Scot Singpiel. I bring the BS. The MD to my BS is Dr. Troy Madsen.

Troy: Hey, Scot. I'm excited to learn about Botox for something besides my wrinkles.

Scot: All right. A guy who's working on his health and always has a unique perspective, Mitch Sears is on the show.

Mitch: I'm curious because TikTok keeps telling me in my 30s, I should start preventative Botox, and that worries me. Am I doing something wrong?

Scot: And Dr. Sarah Akkina, director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in the Department of Otolaryngology at University of Utah Health. Welcome to the show.

Dr. Akkina: Thanks so much for having me. I'm very excited to blow your minds about the other uses of Botox, botulinum toxin.

Troy: This is great.

Scot: I actually looked it up and it was really shocking some of the other things that Botox can do, because at the beginning of the show, as we all said, we tend to think about crow's feet or wrinkles, using it to get a more youthful appearance, right? And a lot of times, guys hear that word, too, and we have that misconception that maybe it's not for us, right?

Mitch, you had a similar experience. Tell us about how you reacted when you heard that you needed Botox for another reason.

Mitch: Oh, frustrating. So I had Bell's palsy, right? We've talked about it. It's another episode. We can direct you towards it. But one of the weird after effects was that I have a thing called crocodile tear syndrome, which means when I eat, my eye will sometimes tear up. Big tears sometimes, whatever, it depends on what I'm eating, etc. It just is a nerve that didn't quite match up right.

And so I went to the ophthalmologist and they looked at it, and the potential treatment was Botox in that area to see if we couldn't numb up the nerve that was misconnected.

And unfortunately, I immediately just said, "Nah, I don't do Botox." I don't even know where that comes from, this idea, "Yeah, I hear what you're saying, but no, that's not for me. I'm a man." How dumb is that?

But then afterwards, I thought about it and whatever, and there were some other things that I wasn't quite super excited about. But yeah, the second that word Botox came out, I shut down very quickly.

Troy: Oh, I think I would do the same thing, Mitch, if I had to tell people, "I'm going in for my Botox injections." Number one, I wouldn't tell people that, but if I had to admit it, I would be embarrassed.

Scot: Yeah. You would rather cry when you eat, huh?

Troy: I'd just rather tear up.

Mitch: Yeah, I would apparently.

Scot: Than tell somebody you were . . . Yeah. Dr. Akkina, is this how guys typically respond when they hear Botox, that word?

Dr. Akkina: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's funny because in the zeitgeist in our society, it's become so synonymous with cosmetics and appearance, and then people think, "Oh, it's mostly for women." But there are so many different ways that we can use it.

So stepping back, Botox is a brand, first of all. So it's a type of botulinum toxin. If we want to be more cool, if you want, we can say the toxin.

Scot: Yeah, you're getting the toxin.

Dr. Akkina: So you can say you're going in for your toxin treatment.

Troy: I'm getting my toxin.

Mitch: Rad. I love that.

Dr. Akkina: That's right. So, heretofore, we'll say toxin. So your toxin treatments, the best way to think about it is it's this really cool drug that we can use that basically shuts off muscles right at the junction that the nerve is giving them input.

So when you think about it like that, this toxin can be used to basically shut down any muscle that we feel like is not working well. In Mitch's case, one of the kind of muscles that I think you're talking about treating for the crocodile tears, it's basically things around the lacrimal gland. So we can use it to stop that gland from secreting things because you're affecting that muscle function.

And another way that we can do that in a similar case, which probably a lot of people don't know, is you can actually use toxin to treat over sweating. So actually there are especially a lot of men who use it. Actually, we can use it in your armpits or other areas that you feel like you're sweating a ton and it's embarrassing or you're just not into it. We can treat that with Botox, or toxin, as we're saying.

But that does require a little bit of higher doses than we're typically talking about versus things like wrinkles. So that's one option that we can do.

Another really great use of toxin is in your masseter muscles to stop teeth grinding. Do any of you guys teeth grind?

Scot: Yeah.

Dr. Akkina: Fancy word, bruxism So that masseter muscle is often the culprit in what's really causing that grinding.

And fun side note, my husband was very much like you guys and was very anti all sorts of toxin treatment. But when I told him about this and he had been having a lot of struggle with teeth grinding and stress, things like that, he actually let me attempt to treat his masseters and his teeth grinding stopped. It was amazing. And to this day, this is actually two years later, he's still not grinding his teeth. I think because his body just learned to adapt without it a little bit.

Troy: After one injection, one treatment?

Dr. Akkina: Yeah, after one series of treatment.

Important things to just remember for toxin treatment, it does take about a week to bring into effect. And then it only lasts three to four months. So you do have to know that. So typically that effect wears off. Some people are able to use that for teeth grinding, for instance, just to kind of rewire their body a little bit. Other people certainly need treatment still every three to four months.

But it's a great way to, like I said, selectively stop these muscles from over-activating and to help you in whatever that means for you for that muscle.

Troy: And what about things like facial twitches? If someone notices their face gets kind of twitchy when they get anxious or something like that, have you used it for that?

Dr. Akkina: Yeah. So blepharospasm, or that twitching around the eyes that can happen when people are stressed, tired, things like that, super common indication, and actually one of the first indications for using Botox, or toxin.

So toxin initially was actually developed and promoted in the '80s by ophthalmologists who were treating something called strabismus or basically crossed eyes where your eyes are misaligning. And that was one of the first uses in humans. And then quickly after that, they realized they could use it for blepharospasm or the spasms around the eyes. And then that led to saying, "Hey, we don't have crow feet anymore. How exciting."

Scot: That was the side effect, huh?

Dr. Akkina: That's right. So that was a side effect of all the initial use of toxin. So that's how we started to develop in the market.

And all jokes aside, there are some very serious other medical conditions that we can treat with toxin. One of the other things in my field of otolaryngology is for people who have spasms in their larynx. So you can have these spasms that really prevent you from having normal speech and normal talking patterns. And our laryngologists, or throat specialists, are able to basically direct toxin to those specific muscles and help shut that down so people can talk normally.

Another really common indication, probably more than that, is things like migraines, or anything that you can think of that's a muscle chronically or misfiring where we can kind of gently turn that off.

Now, it's a little tough because the dosages are obviously all different for different areas. So, depending on what you want to treat and what the indication is, insurance can cover some.

So, Mitch, if you'd gone forward with your crocodile tears, it's likely that insurance would cover that because that's a medical disease and illness that you're treating with it. Certainly, for cosmetic things like the crow's feet and forehead wrinkles, things like that, that is out of pocket.

Troy: And where would you do an injection for a migraine?

Dr. Akkina: Yeah. So you can inject things like the temporalis muscles and sometimes even behind. Our neurology colleagues do treatments for that typically. But yeah, there are different things that we can work.

For me, I used to get a lot of tension headaches, and when I started getting toxin for my forehead wrinkles, actually my tension headaches went away because I think I wasn't contracting or squeezing my brow angrily all the time.

Troy: Wow.

Dr. Akkina: I don't actually do that, for the record, but . . .

Scot: You don't sound like an angry person, so I can't imagine that.

Dr. Akkina: Well, I can't contract my brow right now.

Scot: Because the toxin shut that muscle down.

Dr. Akkina: Because of the toxin, yes. Very smooth and content all the time now.

Scot: So what is the actual name of it, not the brand name?

Dr. Akkina: So botulinum toxin, that's the actual name.

Scot: I don't know. That doesn't sound too good to me. On one hand, it sounds cool because, "Oh, I'm tough, I'm taking my toxin," but on the other hand, is that safe?

Dr. Akkina: Yeah, there are very little side effects. So a few important things is that whenever that toxin is injected, it can diffuse to other things in the area. And this is a little dependent, of course, on where it's injected, what the concentration it's injected at, things like that.

So you do have to be careful, and that's why I always recommend going to someone who knows what they're doing and is very familiar in the anatomy and structures in whatever area that they're injecting.

But it's relatively safe. The nice thing, again, is that while it takes often five to seven days to act, it goes away in three to four months. So if you don't like whatever the action is, it will wash out eventually.

Very few people do have allergies to toxin. If you have egg allergies, actually the botulinum toxin A in Botox, for instance, is formulated with egg proteins, albumin, so you have to be a little bit careful to just think about that.

And if you have other things like neuromuscular diseases or disorders, yes, you definitely have to be very careful about the effects of it.

Also, certain antibiotics, like aminoglycosides, botulinum toxin can potentiate some of the effects of that.

But outside of those pretty specific circumstances, it's got a really safe profile for use in a lot of different ways.

Scot: I've heard of something else called botulism. Is it related to that?

Dr. Akkina: Yeah, the toxin is the same, believe it or not. So that is how they initially learned about it. And yes, that's a serious disease. That is more if you have canned food, like cans that are crushed or look funny or things like that, those can harbor botulinum toxin. Honey can actually technically have some relation to that too, but not in the ways . . . mostly just serious for babies and infants, things like that.

Scot: Sure. But the way you're using, it's . . .

Dr. Akkina: Yeah, very different.

Scot: It's safe. I'm not getting any of that illness.

Dr. Akkina: Correct. Yes, you're not getting any of that illness from an injection of the toxin.

Troy: My one piece of advice, Scot, would be to avoid botulism. Don't drink pruno. It's a prison wine. We had a big case series we published. A bunch of prisoners who unfortunately drank that, and they had a potato in it, which was the source of the botulism. But it was a big CDC report that we published with multiple prisoners. So yeah, if you want to avoid botulism . . . But this is not botulism. I think that's the point here. You're not putting yourself at risk of botulism.

Dr. Akkina: Yes, correct.

Scot: So it has a lot of really, really cool uses. The sweating thing, I bet you, for some guys could really be a game changer. We talk about the Core Fore, and emotional and mental health is one of them, and if it makes you self-conscious or anything like that . . . Lazy eyes, I think you mentioned that as well. Any sort of spasm disorder. To remove that from your life, I would imagine, can be a great thing.

Do you have any guys that have ever used it for those purposes and how did it change their lives?

Dr. Akkina: Yeah. I think the sweating thing in particular, I remember a patient a few years ago who came in, it was a gift from his mom for his 19th or maybe his 18th birthday, because he was going to be taking prom pictures soon and he didn't want to sweat through his shirt during prom, which is actually a really sweet gift I thought from his mom. So small things like that, I mean, they can make a big difference in people's lives.

Troy: Sweaty palms, people use it for that?

Dr. Akkina: I've not personally done that, but I think in theory you could. When you're treating large areas like that, again, you do have to be a little bit careful because it's probably just going to be a high dose. So it might just be a little bit dose-limited in terms of having to inject all these little areas there. The other tough part there is you wouldn't want to turn off the muscles in your hand.

Troy: Right. That could get awkward.

Dr. Akkina: It's always a balance. You can inject it in glands and things like that, but yeah, if you're injecting around muscles, you have to be prepared that it might diffuse a little bit.

Scot: So it can do a lot of really cool things. And since you're here, let's talk about using it to remove wrinkles. I'm just gathering information. I'm not saying it's for me.

Troy: Asking for a friend.

Dr. Akkina: For a friend, yeah.

Scot: I'm just asking for Troy.

Troy: I was curious. Yeah.

Scot: So, actually, I want to throw that out. Mitch, you had mentioned that it had been recommended that maybe . . . well, on the internet . . . that you start doing some preemptive Botox.

Mitch: Oh, no. I have a friend in my life who has also said it's not that big of a deal and if you start now, you'll never have wrinkles. I don't know if that's true or not, but . . .

Scot: Have you considered ever using Botox for a more youthful appearance?

Mitch: See, I have a pretty youthful appearance anyway, and the rule I've always told me is as long as I could play a high schooler on a CW original, I am okay. But there is a part of me that does wonder . . . I don't know. I don't particularly love the idea of becoming super duper wrinkly. Maybe. I'm open to it, but I'm not super excited about it.

Scot: What would your dad have to say about all this?

Mitch: I don't know. He's probably listening right now. I'm sure I'll get an email.

Scot: Troy, is this anything you've ever considered?

Troy: Botox? I haven't seriously considered it. No. It's probably crossed my mind because I'm at a point in life where I do see more wrinkles appearing, but I can't say I've ever really looked into it beyond thinking, "Huh, maybe."

Dr. Akkina: Well, fair enough. I think a lot of patients, and especially men, are in that boat. But it is nice because from that . . . Mitch, you asked earlier I think about the preventative part. So Botox or toxin can't take away wrinkles that are already formed.

So when I think of wrinkles, there are both static wrinkles and dynamic wrinkles. So when we're young, if I raise my eyebrows, you can see typical areas where my muscle is causing contraction of the skin. That's causing temporary wrinkles. But when I relax, you can't see any of those wrinkles. Versus in another 20 years, unless I keep my toxin up, then those wrinkles are kind of permanently etched in the skin.

So important distinction. Toxin can't take the permanent wrinkles away because that's just part of your skin at that point. But it can always, as we said, inactivate the muscle under it.

So for forehead wrinkles, for instance, that's the frontalis muscle. We can make that muscle calm down, be much less active with the toxin, and then you're not actively working to keep forming those wrinkles. So that's why it can still help even if you have static wrinkles that are there.

Scot: What are other wrinkle locations it could help? So crow's feet, if I already have them, that's not going to help that, right?

Dr. Akkina: It still will make I think the appearance of the deep wrinkles less, right? If you have the crow's feet, yes, they're there, but if you're not activating the muscle all around it, it can still look a little bit softer, a little bit less aged overall.

For other areas . . . So we talked about the forehead. The between-the-eyes area, that brow, that's another super common one. And especially for men, right? It's that kind of furrowed, angry brow look. We call those the 11 lines because it leads to those two often horizontal lines in the very middle of your forehead. Those can respond really well to Botox.

And again, if you have permanent wrinkles there or static wrinkles, it's not going to take them away, but it does soften the overall appearance of your brow. It can help you look a little bit less angry or things like that.

Scot: How many men do you see in your office that actually come in and get treatment? And what are their reasons? Because I had read somewhere that Botox has just exploded among men. I think a 400% increase in treatment since 2000, so a lot more men are getting it nowadays. Why are they doing that?

Dr. Akkina: And most of it is for appearance. Yes, overall, for my patients coming in for toxin treatments, less than maybe . . . It's certainly a minority. I would say probably at this point, maybe 5% to 10%. But among those men, certainly things like the forehead wrinkles, but the masseters is also another really common indication for people who want to try to stop grinding their teeth.

That's another actually great thing that I'm getting more folks coming in for. I'm glad that it's getting out there that's something that we can use toxin for.

Scot: Yeah. I Googled a couple things because I was curious. I was like, "Gosh, is it vain that I want to get rid of my wrinkles?" For me, it's not actually wrinkles. I don't think Botox is the solution to my problem. I have these bags under my eyes. I look like I'm constantly fatigued. Botox isn't going to help that.

Dr. Akkina: No.

Scot: And I never thought I would think about getting any sort of cosmetic anything until we came into this world of Zoom. I'm looking at my face all the freaking time and I just look so run down and so tired, and I'm afraid people in the office are going to think, "Does he ever sleep? He looks sleepy."

So social media was one of the reasons why. And I thought, "Well, again, that's kind of vain." But then it said online dating. Well, okay. We're representing ourselves in a completely different way than we've ever had to, our dads or grandfathers have ever had to, in high resolution. So do you guys come in for those reasons and . . .

Dr. Akkina: Yes, absolutely. I had a patient the other day who was telling me that he's a little bit upper level in his company now, but he feels like some of the other people in the company are much younger than him and seem more youthful. And he gets embarrassed on these Zoom calls where he feels like he's the old person in the group, and he just wanted to feel more youthful.

So talked to him about things like facelifts, blepharoplasty. That's the under-eye or over-eye surgery where we try to help reduce that evidence of the extra skin and the bags, things like that. And he's really excited to get a little bit more of a youthful appearance just so he feels like he can stand up with the younger folks at his company.

Troy: I was going to say what about . . . The big thing I've heard with Botox is kind of the mask face where you get to where you always look like . . . Your expression doesn't change.

Mitch: You're a Barbie?

Troy: Yeah, exactly. Is that common, or are people just overdoing it when that sort of thing happens?

Dr. Akkina: Yeah, I call that a frozen face or freezing someone out. I don't like to do that. And when you have an injector that you're going to, I think talking about what your expectations and what your goals are is super important. And then having your injector listen to you and make sure they're not overdosing things to freeze things out is important.

So when folks come to see me, I talk through exactly what they're interested in getting. We talk through wrinkles often. And then I discuss my normal dosages.

And usually, I like to err on the lower side, right? I never want to free someone out. That's just my preference. So starting on lower ends of dosages, and then always coming to back for touchups, things like that. Super easy to do.

In general, when we go through the process of injecting Botox or Dysport or Xeomin, it's a very tiny needle. It's a couple little sticks. Yes, there is a risk of just a little pinpoint bleeding, things like that, or just a tiny bit of bruising. But overall, it's a pretty short and sweet procedure.

So we can start at low doses. I can have people come back and we can kind of keep augmenting until we find a regimen that they like in terms of its outcome.

Mitch: Now, I've heard about Botox parties. I've heard about going to a "spa." Is there a benefit? I mean, it sounds like this drug is pretty safe. Is there a reason that we should maybe err towards going to a medical person rather than some of these other things?

Dr. Akkina: Yes, absolutely. So we talked a little bit about some of the risks. I just mentioned injection risks certainly are something to always think about. But making sure that whoever is injecting your face is intimately familiar with those muscles and the other things in the area that could get affected by your injection is so important.

So one of the other common things that can happen if you're injecting around the eye, and especially if you're injecting in certain areas, is that toxin can diffuse and affect one of the upper muscles in your eyelid and basically give you a droopy eyelid. So that's something called ptosis.

And especially for cosmetic things, it's a little bit less common, but you want to make sure that your injector is injecting in places where that's a much lower risk. Certainly, we can treat that with eyedrops, and often it only acts for a few weeks even.

But yeah, that's a small example of you want to make sure you're going to someone who knows what they're doing and can provide the treatment in the places that you want it, giving you the effect that you want, and the dosage that you want.

So yeah, Botox injectors come in all sorts of varieties. I've even seen dentist office offering Botox. Have you guys seen that?

Mitch: What? No.

Scot: No.

Dr. Akkina: I mean, I think if you're well trained and have good results, okay, for sure. But yeah, you just never know and I think it's safer to make sure you're going to a place where the person knows the face, knows the muscles, knows what they're doing.

While it's safe in general, you can have unwanted consequences. You can freeze out a face. You can cause droopy eyelids. You can affect things like the smile overall. If you're doing masseter Botox, sometimes that can diffuse in different places. So you just want to make sure someone's really knowledgeable when they're doing it.

Scot: Those are some really good tips on how to look for a professional. And also, I love the fact that you said you should have a conversation and make sure that you feel comfortable with the person . . .

Dr. Akkina: Yes, absolutely.

Scot: . . . that's going to do it for you.

So I'm not going to pass judgment, I guess. I think the Scot of 10 years ago, and certainly the Scot that is the son of a South Dakota Rancher would. But we're in a different world, right? Botox is super useful for a lot of reasons beyond just appearance. If you want to get it for appearance too, and I've considered it, so I would completely understand.

So I want to find out where we are after our conversation. We started out with the association game. Troy, Botox.

Troy: Teeth grinding.

Scot: Okay. Wow. So we did change perception there.

Troy: That was my takeaway. And as we talked about it, I was grinding my teeth and I thought, "Maybe I need this."

Mitch: Oh, my. I've been struggling with this forever. I have a little mouth guard thing that I wear most nights, and I've still got sore muscles. It's like, "No duh, we have something out there that can turn those muscles off for a bit."

Scot: All right. Mitch, Botox.

Mitch: Toxin, my eyes. I don't know. What I'm thinking now is just, "Maybe I . . ." If it's for the most part relatively short term, maybe I could try it and see if it's worthwhile to have those muscles near my eye frozen. I didn't fully realize that it was kind of a temporary thing. So I don't know. I feel very different about it.

Scot: You're more open to it now?

Mitch: Oh, very much so.

Scot: All right. Very good.

Well, thank you very much, Dr. Akkina. We appreciate having you on the show.

And if you're listening, where are you about Botox after this episode? Have you ever used it for other procedures, for your appearance, or any of the conditions we talked about? And how did it work for you? Then finally, is it legit for a man to care about their appearance and want to use Botox?

If you have thoughts on any of those topics, you can email us at

Thank you for listening, and thank you for caring about men's health.

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