There’s more than one use for injectables.
In my former life as a beauty editor, I was a willing Guinea Pig for every kind of treatment under the sun.
If it promised to improve my appearance, I didn’t care if it involved putridly scented lotions, abrasive skin-sloughing or gruesome devices that looked like they belonged in a horror flick. I was at the ready to sacrifice my body in the name of beauty on all occasions.
And though my beauty editing days are well behind me now, my willingness to give something a go in the name of a good story (and let’s face it; the potential to improve my appearance) is still as strong as ever. So when I heard about an unusual use for Botox, I knew I had to give it a go.
Though Botox’s naysayers will be quick to tell you the popular injectable is poison, it’s actually a type of protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Yes, it’s technically a neurotoxic protein, however it’s also one that’s been used in both medical and cosmetic treatments safely since the mid 1900s.
Today, we know it as the thing most eerily ageless celebs swear they don’t use to stay wrinkle-free and a staple cosmetic anti-ageing treatment. But while Botox is effective at smoothing out frown lines and crow’s feet, it also has another useful, less well-known use; treating TMJ disorder.
Typically associated with stress, TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint disorder is a condition involving pain and dysfunction of the muscles of mastication (read: the ones responsible for moving your jaw so you can eat and talk), resulting in often intense pain and restricted movement.
Like many TMJ sufferers, I clench my jaw when I’m asleep at night, and often while I’m working, without realizing I’m actually doing it. The result is incredibly sharp pain radiating throughout my jaw, and, over time – because I clench most severely on my left side – enlarged muscles on one half of my jaw, which besides causing me grief, has the added bonus of giving me a lopsided face (life just keeps getting better).
Because Botox causes muscles to weaken, and eventually atrophy over time (hence its ability to un-tighten wrinkles), it’s been used in medical settings to treat muscle-related ailments ranging from tension migraines to muscle spasm disorders, and more recently TMJ. The alleged result? A more relaxed, pain-free jaw and a slimmer face.
“Relaxing the masseter [jaw] muscles can reduce the bulk of the muscle, narrowing the lower face and changing the facial aesthetic from a ‘square’ face to a ‘love heart’ shape,” explains Face Plus Medispa cosmetic nurse injector, Jean-Charles Neveu-Collins.
Because the jaw muscles are significantly stronger than the ones around our eyes and foreheads, this type of treatment typically requires much higher doses of Botox – but rest assured, the pain is comparable to a couple of tiny ant bites.
To find out if it could really help me break my jaw-clenching stress habit and achieve a more covetable facial shape in the process, I headed to Face Plus Medispa to see for myself. As my left side was visibly larger than my right, Neveu-Collins suggested I have 25 units of Botox in that side and just 10 in the other.
After an assessment of my face and some marking up of my jaw region, it was just a few barely noticeable stings and I was all done. Unfortunately, unlike typical anti-ageing uses for Botox which produce noticeable results almost instantly, Neveu-Collins warned me I’d need to be patient.
“This muscle reduction can start to be visible after six weeks post treatment and be at its full reduction potential after three months. The cosmetic outcome is not permanent though, as the effects of Botox start to wear off after four months.”
“That means that without repeat treatment, the muscle will gradually rebuild its strength and size. The trick to increase the longevity of this treatment is to have a series of treatments spaced four months apart.”
I was straight back at work after my treatment with none of my colleagues any the wiser I’d had anything done, then began the waiting game. After four weeks, I noticed I’d stopped clenching at my desk when I was on deadline and been relatively pain free, and after six, my face was taking on a noticeable slimmer look, provoking a few friends to ask if I’d lost weight. (If only. I’d actually gained.)
So the million pound question: would I do it again?
Considering I’ve now been pretty much pain free for two months and the facial asymmetry caused by my nasty stress habit is finally gone, this is one crazy beauty endeavour I’ll definitely be making a part of my regular routine; unlike the torture devices from my beauty editing days still collecting dust in the back of my bathroom cabinet.
Comment: Do you suffer from TMJ disorder? Would you ever consider Botox for therapeutic use?
Nadia is a journalist, media commentator and editor with a penchant for hoarding makeup and an opinion on just about everything. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Cosmopolitan, and many more. She's a passionate advocate for destroying mental health stigma and sexually empowering women, and has absolutely no concept of TMI. Follow Nadia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.