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Bad Sausages and Botox – Advent Calendar Day 18

Facial aesthetics can trace its history back to sausages!

When it comes to medical aesthetics, Botox injections (botulinum toxin) is the most common cosmetic procedure performed today with an estimated 900,000 facial injections of Botox carried out every year in Britain.

Botox is best known for its use in cosmetic treatments that smooth facial wrinkles and reduce crow’s feet, but it is in fact an extremely versatile product and has been used for many other conditions, including as an aid for migraines, to deactivate excessive sweating and salivation and alleviate painfully contracted limbs in people with cerebral palsy.

The substance we know today as Botox was actually discovered completely by mistake. A German doctor practicing in the 1820s, Justinus Kerner, was studying the origins of food poisoning. His work was focused specifically on people who were becoming unwell after eating blood sausage, or as we may more commonly call it, black pudding. Dr Kerner knew there must be something in the food that was making people ill. He even went as far as injecting himself with the substance to test its effects, which is true dedication to the job! His findings led to suggestions for treating and preventing food poisoning, later backed up by Belgian Professor Emile Pierre van Ermengem in 1895, who identified the bacterium.

While it would be many decades until the medical and cosmetic applications were first used, this initial experiment helped scientists understand the neurological symptoms of harmful bacteria in food.

In the 1980s, additional research showed that by injecting Botox, patients could experience relief from spasms in the face, neck, shoulders and even the vocal cords. From here, American drug firm Allergan bought the rights to distribute the brand and officially changed its name to Botox. Their first use of the product was in 1989, treating a muscle condition that caused crossed eyes. As the treatment began to be administered to patients, Canadian ophthalmologist Dr Jean Carruthers noticed that along with the successful results of treatment, patients’ facial lines were also disappearing.

In 2002, Botox was approved by the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) in America for cosmetic use and was later introduced to the UK aesthetics market.

From 1st October 2021, it has been illegal to administer botox or fillers to under-18s in the UK unless the treatment has been approved for use by a medical practitioner. This means that young people cannot have these non-medical procedures for aesthetic reasons.

So we have Dr Kerner’s dedicated research to thank for the foundations of our modern anti-wrinkle treatments. Or, perhaps we should be thanking 150-year-old German sausages!

For more information on Clinical Aesthetics, view our new Level 7 qualification here.