Botox, or the botulinum toxin, is defined as a neurotoxic protein resulting from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and similar species. Its use dates back to the 1820s, with Botox originally for medical use only. The neurotoxin’s cosmetic applications are a much more recent discovery.
The birth of Botox began with Dr. Justinus Kerner, a German scientist studying the cause of several dozen people’s deaths following consumption of blood sausage. He theorized that something within the sausage resulted in the illness and death, which he called “wurstgift,” which is German for sausage poison.
Dr. Kerner injected himself with some of the poison, which beget a much deeper understanding of food-borne botulism and its symptoms, such as drooping eyelids, muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing, and eventual paralysis and respiratory failure if left unchecked. The scientist’s suggestions regarding food poisoning treatment and prevention provided the foundation for today’s medical and cosmetic use of the neurotoxin.
The botulinum toxin was considered as a potential biological weapon during the Second World War, with the idea to have Chinese prostitutes place capsules of the stuff in the drinks of high-ranking Japanese military men. The idea never came to fruition, however.
1950s & 60s
In 1953, physiologist Dr. Vernon Brooks found injecting small amounts of the toxin into a hyperactive muscle “blocked release of acetylcholine from motor nerve endings.” This resulted in a temporary “relaxation.” By the 1960s ophthalmologist Dr. Alan B. Scott was injecting botulinum toxin type A into monkeys in order to treat crossed eyes. The botulinum toxin soon became a popular experiment possibility in research facilities around the globe.
1970s & 80s
The toxin was increasingly used as a treatment for crossed eyes, neck and shoulder spasms, vocal cord spasms, and facial spasms in the 1970s, and was approved as a treatment by the FDA in 1988. That same year drugmaker Allergan acquired the rights to distribute the toxin, which was subsequently renamed “Botox.”
It wasn’t until 1992 that Botox was determined an effective procedure for brow wrinkles, something that happened quite by accident. It has since become one of the most popular anti-aging procedures available, as it requires no painful surgery or downtime, and offers near-instant results.