Want to be beautiful? Get a Botox… But is it safe?

Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest
Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest

It was not long ago that I reached news that cosmetics were one of the major economic markets in South Korea. Apparently, there are increasing numbers of people who wants to get a surgery in South Korea. Then, some days later I’ve gotten the news, a Chinese travel agency advertisement caught my eyes. The advertisement showed a “Cosmetics Travel to Korea” and I thought that cosmetics are one of the most important elements of human life. Therefore, I thought of investigating the role of chemistry behind the cosmetics.

People want to become pretty, but the genetics always hinders their wants. As the human civilization entered the 21-century, cosmetics became more important. The cosmetics have developed throughout, and now humans can change their appearance without any physical surgeries. It is the invention of Botox.

Well then why Botox out of all of the cosmetic goods? That is because, Botox is the most common and has some history, and it has been commonly used and popular.

According to http://navercast.naver.com Botox is mainly consisting of botulinum toxin, and this botulinum toxin is a form of a protein that is connected with disulfide. During this process, every 50 kilodaltons of protein mixes with every 100 kilodaltons of disulfide and create botulinum toxin. However, most of the times, bacteria produce this substance. A bacteria called Clostridium botulinum when entered into human body, stays into the intestines of humans and produces this toxin and most of the time causes botulism. The function of the botulinum toxin is basically hinders the neurotransmission of muscle contraction, so that muscle contraction does not occur and eventually the muscle gets paralyzed.

Now there is a chemistry part in this substance called botulinum toxin. “The toxin, a zinc proteinase, acts by preventing the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from vesicles at the neuromuscular junction. As a proteinase, the toxin cleaves one or more of the fusion proteins by which the vesicles release acetylcholine. In the absence of acetylcholine, contraction of the muscle–or in some cases, the activity of a gland–is temporarily inhibited.” (Ember, 2005). This is an actual chemical process that creates the effect. To sum up, botulinum toxins prevent acetylcholine, CH3COOCH2CH2N+(CH3)3).

Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest, Botulinum toxin molecule
Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest, Botulinum toxin molecule

Now the fearful part of botox and botulium toxin is that 12 to 16 nano grams of botulium toxin can kill a man of 60 kilograms. Therefore, if you think about it, you can kill basically all the human beings on earth with only 130 grams of botulinum toxin. Because of this trait of Botox, it was once tried to develop as a bio-chemical weapon during World War II.

However, today its uses are beneficial. It is used to cure crossed-eyes, excessive sweating, muscle convulsion (widely known as muscle cramp), some Parkinson’s disease, and etc… And most importantly, in cosmetic Botox is widely used. Moreover, as I know its danger of killing humans, I researched how much does every dose of Botox does it usually contain. In a bottle of Botox, it contains 100U and in every each one shot of Botox on human’s face does not exceed 100U. Moreover, for it to kill a human being, it needs 2800 to 3500 U of Botox. Therefore, in this 100U, contains about 0.4 to 0.6 of botulium toxin. However, it is not still 100% safe to use Botox. Benefits of using Botox overwhelms the risk of using Botox, so it is right to be used, but it still needs careful supervision that if someone uses more than 100U.


Yeo In Hyung (2012.03.19). Botox. General format. Retrieved from http://navercast.naver.com/contents.nhn?rid=44&contents_id=7614&leafId=44

Lois Ember (2005.06.20). Botox. Retrieved from http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/83/8325/8325botox.html

Botulinum Toxin A, Molecular Model. [Photograph]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. http://quest.eb.com/images/132_1189041

Medical Equipment. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. http://quest.eb.com/images/132_1259640

One thought on “Want to be beautiful? Get a Botox… But is it safe?

  1. One day when I was out with my mom eating with some of her friends, my mom decided that she would tell me what kind job I would get when I got older, she said: “Nathan, no matter what day and age it is, people will always want to look young and beautiful. The stem cell research is a fascinating new field and you will use stem cells to make your mother look young and beautiful forever!” It went something like that, but as I passed over WonYong’s post about Botox and plastic surgery in Korea. I realized that stem cells had a place in the world of cosmetics, so I wondered how stem cells would compare against Botox in terms of effectiveness and safety.

    Quite simply, stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can differentiate into any type of cell you want it too through asymmetric division, meaning that it will have two different daughter cells. One an exact DNA copy of the original stem cell and another differentiated cell with a new DNA sequence [News-Medical. 2006]. The implications of this are simply massive, for lack of a better term as this property gives it an immense advantage over Botox in terms of application. Where Botox is usually associated with face-lifts, and correcting abnormal muscle spasms, stem cells have been successfully used for, but not limited to, complete facial reconstruction corrective surgeries, bone marrow transplants, tissue grafts and blood transfusions. Stem cells are usually harvested from bone-marrow and embryonic stem cells, however, for cosmetic purposes, especially in face lifts, stem cells are harvested from adult stem cells in the fat around the abdominal and waist.

    Figure 1: Diagram to show stem cell asymmetric division.

    Back to the cosmetics. Compared to Botox face-lifts, stem cell face-lifts are more complex. According to Doctor Samuel Bernal, the common misconception of stem cell therapy is that it is a “longevity-anti-aging program”. The actual goal of stem cell therapy is to allow for the body to heal itself using its newfound undifferentiated stem cells. [Inquirer Business. 2013] This means that instead of simply tightening the skin on the face through muscle contraction. Stem cell therapy heals tissue by replacing some of the cells that have been lost due to injury, age or other detrimental factors to a person’s health. It is hard to compare the effectiveness of a Botox face lift to a stem cell face lift as the stem cell method is relatively new, however one customer’s testimonial says that she found the stem cell face lift to be much better than the Botox face lift [HuffingtonPost. 2013]

    For stem cell face lifts, the relatively new method is to take fat from a persons body usually around the abdomen or thighs using a liposuction, isolate the stem cells within the fat and then re-inject them into the area of the face that the patient wants, usually around the cheeks or eyes. The reason why this simple process works is because of an elastic material found in our skin called fibroblasts that creates collagen, a polymer that gives our skin structural integrity. As we age, our body produces fibroblasts at a much slower pace, and our skin loses its elasticity and becomes wrinkled. The re-introduction of stem cells allows for our body to create more fibroblasts and thus more collagen, which gives the face a revitalized look. On the surface, this method would seem very simple and harmless, however this simplicity is also a weakness with stem cell therapy that not many people care to recognize.

    Figure 2: Method of injecting stem cells facial (scroll down to FIG.1.)

    Figure 3: Chemical structure of collagen

    Figure 4: Skin structure

    Stem cell therapy is a relatively new field of science, so scientists and doctors haven’t quite worked out the problems yet. The first example that struck me was a woman who had a $20,000 facial surgery to lift and tighten her face; much like the example described above, but ended up having bones growing into her eye sockets. This resulted from the doctors injecting the woman’s face with a dermal filler that contained the mineral calcium hydroxylapatite or hydroxyapatite (Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2), which encouraged the stem cells to grow into bone instead of skin [Scientific-American. 2013]. Another problem with stem cells is uncontrolled cell division (much like the previous example) and mutations due to errors in the base pairing that occurs during cell division and DNA replication which can result in cancers and mutations in the persons genetic code [News-Medical. 2006]. Another factor that has been a hot topic for critics is the ethics of taking stem cells from embryos. There has been a lot of controversy revolving around the point that doctors meddling with offspring still in their embryonic stage.

    Figure 5: Atomic structure of Calcium Hydroxylapatite

    In conclusion, in terms of cosmetics, stem cells definitely have the upper hand against Botox, as the whole idea of having a “natural solution” to “beauty” is appealing to society. The implication is that the application techniques are new and are not completely risk free. People in the near future wanting to get a stem cell face lift will definitely have to consider that the technology is new and there are possible long term risks that have not yet been identified by scientists and doctors alike, and that no matter how “high-end” the treatment is, there can be potential negative outcomes. In my opinion however, cosmetics do not come close to fully realizing the potential that stem cell therapy exhibits. Currently scientists are working on using stem cells to cure various diseases such as Alzheimers, diabetes and cancer, which I believe is more important than thinking about whether to get a Botox or a stem cell facelift.

    Reference list:

    1. EmCell. (2013). Stem Cells from Blood may Banish Wrinkles. Retrieved from: http://www.emcell.com/en/list_of_diseases/anti-aging-treatment/1514/2035.htm
    2. Wilkes-Edrington, L. Stem Cell Facelifts: The New Botox. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/stem-cell-facelifts-the-n_n_2412316.html
    3. McIntyre, M. Adventures of the 1%: Woman gets 20K facial, Grows bone in her eye socket. Retrieved from: http://www.refinery29.com/2012/12/40928/stem-cell-facial-bones
    4. Stem Cell. (n.d.). The Free Medical Dictionary By Farlex. Retrieved from: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/stem+cell
    5. National Institutes of Health. (2002). What are Stem Cells and why are they important?. Retrieved from: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics1.aspx
    6. Mao et al. (2010). Facial Reconstruction by Biosurgery: Cell Transplantation Versus Cell Homing. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2867556/
    7. Jesus, T.V, (2013). What we should know about stem cell treatment in the PH. Retrieved from: http://business.inquirer.net/105075/what-we-should-know-about-stem-cell-treatment-in-the-ph
    8. National Institutes of Health. (2002). What are the unique properties of all stem cells?. Retrieved from: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics2.aspx
    9. National Institutes of Health. (2002). Use of Genetically Modified Stem Cells in Experimental Gene Therapies. Retrieved from: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/Regenerative_Medicine/pages/2006chapter4.aspx
    10. News Medical. (2006). Stem Cells contain Immortal DNA. Retrieved from: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2006/06/26/18558.aspx
    11. Jabr, F. (2012). In the Flesh: The Embedded dangers in Untested Stem Cell Cosmetics. Retrieved from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=stem-cell-cosmetics
    12. Sanders, C. (2012). What is a Stem Cell Facelift?. Retrieved from: http://www.healthyskinportal.com/articles/stem-cell-facelift/286/
    13. Munoz, E.M.R. (2011). Hydroxypatite-Based Materials: Synthesis and Characterization. Retrieved from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/biomedical-engineering-frontiers-and-challenges/hydroxyapatite-based-materials-synthesis-and-characterization
    14. Reichers, M. (2013). Material Screening method allows more precise control over stem cells. Retrieved from: http://www.news.wisc.edu/21667
    15. Gonsalves, R. Morris, A. (2013). Collagen-B-rgram. Retrieved from: http://chempolymerproject.wikispaces.com/Collagen+-+B-+rgam
    16. Soley Biotechnology Institute. (2013). Hydroxylapatite. Retrieved from: http://www.algaeinstitute.com/hydroxyapatite.html
    17. Lee. R, (2010). Collagen-The Real Fountain of Youth. Retrieved from: http://ur4beauty.blogspot.com/2010/10/collagen-real-fountain-of-youth.html
    18. Helin, K. Christophersen, N.S. (2010). Epigenetic control of embryonic stem cell fate. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2964577/
    19. Oracle ThinkQuest. (n.d.). Stem Cell Research. Retrieved from: http://library.thinkquest.org/08aug/01387/Future%20Reality%20Stem%20Cells.html

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