Botox is one of the most recognizable injectable aesthetic treatments available in med spas today. This incredibly popular treatment softens wrinkles by relaxing the muscles, and it also has a variety of medical applications. 

Botox also raises the most questions, especially when it comes to how it works and its safety. Most people aren’t familiar with Botox’s fascinating history, but once you learn how it came to be we think you’ll come to appreciate it. From the not-so-pleasant origins to the remarkable medical advances of the 20th century, here is the incredible history of Botox injections. 

The Origins of Botulinum Toxin

In the late 18th century, a series of food poisoning outbreaks wreaked havoc on the German state of Württemberg, leaving its citizens incapacitated and in some cases leading to death. The culprit? The region’s famous blood sausage (and lacking food safety practices). 

This led local physician and poet Justinus Kerner to publish the first comprehensive description of “sausage poisoning.” He identified and isolated the toxin that caused the illness, and even experimented with it. He discovered that this toxin was able to inhibit certain aspects of the nervous system without impacting sensation or the central nervous system.

Even back then, Kerner theorized that this toxin could have major therapeutic potential. Almost exactly 150 years later, he’d be proven right. 

In 1870, another German physician named the disease botulism, and the toxin botulinum, after the Latin word for sausage. After a similar outbreak in 1895 in Belgium, the bacteriologist Dr. Emile Pierre van Ermengem discovered the bacteria that produced the “sausage poison.” He named the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

While these discoveries happened in the 18th and 19th centuries, botulism and the botulinum toxin were nothing new, and have likely accompanied humankind for its entire existence. 

The spores of the Clostridium botulinum bacteria occur naturally in soil and water, and they’re not inherently harmful. It’s once the spores find themselves in their ideal environment, with minimal oxygen and a cozy temperature, that they start to produce the botulinum toxin. 


When Was Botox First Used? 

The next series of discoveries happened more recently, in the 1940s and 1950s, as researchers in the United States worked harder to isolate the botulinum toxin to better understand how it works. They discovered that botulinum blocks acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter responsible for muscle activation. 

Then, in the early 1970s, Botox as we know it today came into existence thanks to ophthalmologist Dr. Alan B Scott. Dr. Scott was researching treatments for “lazy eye,” which at the time usually required surgery. When he learned about the paralyzing effect of the isolated botulinum toxin, he immediately saw its potential. 

Scott conducted a series of animal testing, through which he identified safe dosing levels and established a protocol for injecting botulinum into the eye muscles, to correct their position. 

Over the coming years, Scott and his fellow researchers had to overcome many regulatory and manufacturing challenges to continue to test botulinum. A major part of the challenge came from the toxin’s association with botulism. 

Eventually, Dr. Scott and his colleagues named the version of the toxin that they had isolated and refined Oculinum. They partnered with the drug company Allergan to help with manufacturing and marketing the drug. 

Finally, they were able to prove botulinum’s safety and efficacy in treating eye conditions like lazy eye (strabismus) and eye spasms (blepharospasm). In 1989, Oculinum finally received its FDA approval. 

Evolution of Botox: From Medical to Cosmetic

In 1991, Allergan bought Oculinum from Dr. Scott, and renamed it Botox to signal that it could help with more than just eye disorders.

Over the next decade, Allergan pursued further clinical research. Botox received FDA approval for treating many other medical conditions, including limb spasticity, involuntary neck spasms, excessive sweating, chronic migraines, and more.The next major development in the Botox world came thanks to two Canadian doctors: Dr. Jean Carruthers, a Canadian ophthalmologist, and her husband, dermatologist Dr. Alastair Carruthers. 

After working with Dr. Scott in the 80s, Dr. Jean Carruthers would regularly inject her blepharospasm patients with Botox. One day, a frequent patient complained when Dr. Carruthers neglected to inject between her eyebrows: “When you treat me there I get this beautiful, untroubled expression.” 

Soon enough, Dr. Carruthers recruited her husband into the project, and the two began working together to test Botox’s potential for paralyzing the muscles responsible for expression wrinkles. By 2002, after the couple released numerous research papers, Botox finally received approval from the FDA as a treatment for frown lines. A few years later, it also received approval for treating forehead wrinkles and crow’s feet. 

Advanced Botox Today 

The history of Botox injections reveals that despite the scary origins, the botulinum toxin is a remarkable medical and cosmetic treatment. Its safety and efficacy are well-established thanks to more than 50 years of clinical research. Cosmetic Botox is considered particularly safe since it requires very minimal dosing compared to medical Botox.  

Beyond treating expression wrinkles, we’ve found many other ways that Botox can boost patient self-esteem. For example, Botox lip flips enhance the upper lip while masseter Botox refines the face shape by relaxing overactive jaw muscles. 

And while Botox was the only neurotoxin in town for a long time, there are now other products made from the botulinum toxin. Dysport, which received FDA approval in 2009, offers a slightly faster onset, while Xeomin, approved in 2010, is a more purified version that’s associated with a lower risk of developing resistance. 

At SEV, we’re proud to offer cosmetic injections with all three neurotoxins. Our nurse injectors are well-versed in the safety procedures, and they have the understanding of facial anatomy needed to ensure each patient leaves thrilled with their results. If you’d like to experience the magic of Botox for yourself, go ahead and book an appointment at your nearest SEV.

One of the most common questions clients ask us is how many sessions of laser hair removal they’ll need. It makes perfect sense to wonder! The sooner you can reach your hair-free day, the better. 

Our go-to answer is that you’ll probably need between 6 to 12 sessions of laser hair removal before you achieve your desired results. We know that’s a pretty broad range, so in this post, we’ll explain what’s behind it and other factors that impact how many laser treatments you’ll need.