Pretty much every other week, a new “must-try” acne treatment starts getting buzz in the skincare community, whether that’s through charcoal spot treatments, or Aztec clay masks, or Gregorian chants to the skin gods during a full moon (anything to get rid of a cystic zit, am I right?). And recently, an injection has been getting some play in the acne world, but it’s nothing new, and it’s certainly not revolutionary—it’s just yer girl, Botox, bringin’ up the rear in acne treatments.
Botox, which has been the magical wand for tightening loose skin, smoothing fine lines, curbing excessive sweating, and even preventing migraines, has now been accepted into the acne community as a tiny saving grace—at least, to some dermatologists, like Anil Shah, MD, a plastic surgeon in Chicago, who has published the only study so far about Botox’s effect on acne. In the study, he found that 85-percent of the 20 patients (it was a super-small sample size, clearly) who were injected with a single dose of Botox saw a decrease in pore size and oil production in the area.
“When you sweat, you release more sebaceous oils that can lead to clogged pores and acne,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, a dermatologist and clinical professor at NYU and Mount Sinai in NYC who is not affiliated with Shah’s study. “When we inject Botox into the forehead and between the brow for cosmetic purposes, many patients found that they sweat less, also have a decrease in forehead acne.”
So, you know, a big ol’ positive side effect to an already long list of positive side effects, when administered properly. Still, not every dermatologist is sold on loading up your face with Botox for the sole reason of treating acne. “I personally do not use Botox to treat acne and caution my patient to use this primarily as an acne treatment,” says Dr. Levin, “especially when injections are over the entire face, which can result in paralysis of some facial muscles leading to uneven expression, the inability to smile on one side, and drooped eyebrows.”
Plus, she adds, Botox is just a temporary fix, and your sweating functions kick back in as soon as your nerves sprout new connections to your sweat glands, which can happen after a few months. “Simply put, there are better treatments for acne at this time,” says Dr. Levin. Still, if your dermatologist suggests Botox—don’t be freaked; it’s not only temporary (so no buyer’s remorse, thankfully), but also effective, making it a legitimate option for you to consider.