Botox is skin-smoothing neurotoxin that, when injected into the complexion, banishes fine lines for three to six months. "Botox is a protein that binds to the receptors on the muscle cells and prevents the signal from your nerve to contract," says Julie Russak, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Russak Dermatology Clinic. This prevents the muscle from being able to contract, which allows the skin at the surface to smooth out. And, much like every other protein, your body has the ability to break it down. "Our body breaks down our own natural proteins like collagen, which is why we look older as we age," she says. "And so, it also breaks down Botox."
How quickly your body breaks down proteins depends on a number of internal and external factors, including where the Botox was injected, the dosage, and your body's own individual processes. "The areas of your face that are thinner or areas where you utilize the muscles more often will wear off quicker," says Dr. Russak, pointing to the lines around the eyes and lips as examples. In addition, smaller dosages will disappear before larger ones (in a surprise to exactly no one).
Things outside of your control, such as environmental aggressors like UV radiation and pollution can also speed up how quickly you process Botox. Because of this, "everything you do to keep your skin healthy and minimize skin aging will help to prolong the effects," says Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. Keep scrolling for all of the best methods you can try to squeeze the most out of your Botox between appointments.
How to make Botox last longer
1. Protect your skin from the sun
The UVA and UVB rays from the sun are probably the most damaging environmental pollutant we come into contact with, so just as you protect your skin regularly from them, you should do the same when you're aiming to preserve your Botox. "UV light exposure causes inflammation at the cellular level, which damages the skin and will do nothing to help extend the lifespan of your neurotoxin," says New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. "Free radicals are like bombs that go off in the skin harming your collagen, elastin, and skin cells themselves."
Dr. Russak adds that protection from blue light (something everyone's getting from their screens) is also key, because blue light can cause low-level inflammation with the skin, as well. Look for sunscreens that say that they have a blue light filter. For the job, Dr. Zeichner recommends the Solara Clean Freak Nutrient Boosted Daily Sunscreen ($28).
2. Do intense workouts... in moderation
While no studies have specifically been done on the effects of exercise on breaking down Botox, many derms suspect that more physically active users metabolize the neurotoxin more quickly. "Anything that really speeds up the metabolic rate in your body can break down Botox faster," says Dr. Russak. She's not saying to skip your hard-core training completely, but find a "happy medium." According to her, a lot of sprinting, marathon training, or hot yoga will do this more than other more gentle and low-impact forms of training.
"Just try to maintain a balance between how much muscle you're building up and how much you're breaking down with muscle inflammation, as inflammation speeds up the breakdown of natural proteins," says Dr. Russak. Dr. Zeichner echoes this, noting that the Botox in his more active patients tends to last for less time than other people. "While exercise is a good thing, increasing your metabolism may also lead to early breakdown of the botulinum toxin," he says. So maybe use this excuse to take it a little easy.
3. Use collagen-stimulating skin-care ingredients
Dr. Zeichner points out that wrinkles in the skin develop because of muscles contracting and folding. "The stronger the skin, the less likely it is to fold," he says. To help strengthen skin, incorporate collagen-boosting ingredients in your skin-care regimen like retinol or peptides. "Retinol binds to cell receptors that rev up collagen production, and collagen-stimulating peptides act like green light signals for your cells to function optimally," says Dr. Zeichner, who recommends Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum ($18) for retinol and Schaf Age Repair Cream ($65) for peptides.
Dr. Russak notes that peptides help to relax the muscles in the skin, and she and Dr. King both swear by the Revision Skincare Revox 7 ($130) since it has seven different anti-aging peptides. Another superstar for strengthening your skin? Growth factors. David Shafer, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon, says that these "promote healing and building of the underlying skin matrix," pointing to SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum ($298) as his favorite.
4. Slather on the hydration
Hydration is always important, but it's also essential when you're maintaining your Botox injection. "Use humectants and emollients to hydrate and moisturize skin to keep it looking plump," says Dr. King. Hyaluronic acid, specifically, can keep inflammation down in your skin, adds Dr. Russak. "So bringing down inflammation in the skin decreases how fast your body breaks down proteins, and allows Botox to last longer," she says.
5. Layer on antioxidant serums
Because free radical damage sabotages your skin and the Botox within it, it's helpful to use an antioxidant serum every day to keep your skin protected. "Topical antioxidants, such as vitamin C, are helpful in protecting the skin from damage from free radicals, most notably from UV rays and pollution," says Dr. King, who adds that antioxidants plus sunscreen give your skin more effective protection than SPF alone. So keep your trusty antioxidant serum, such as Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($188) or Olay Brightening Stick ($20) on your top shelf and use it regularly.
6. Keep your stress levels low
Stress can lead to skin damage and breakouts, and it can also melt your Botox away quicker. This is why dermatologists actually recommend meditation as a tool that prolongs the life of your injections. "Stress can show itself right across your face, leading to scowling and frowning," says Dr. Zeichner. "This puts pressure on the very muscles you're trying to relax with your injections and may shorten their duration. Whether it's meditation or yoga, do whatever you need so that you can prevent negative thoughts." Namaste to smoother skin.
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