Can Botox Make Your Skin Less Oily?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not your average neurotoxin treatment.
Written by Leah Prinzivalli
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Can Botox Make Your Skin Less Oily?Haley Lawrence/Unsplash

In the words of Hollywood, Botox is a multi-hyphenate. Botulinum toxin type A injections, including Botox®, Dysport®, Jeuveau®, and Xeomin®, can reduce migraines when injected into the scalp, curb underarm sweat when sent to the pits, or beat incontinence via the bladder – not to mention one of their earliest credits, smoothing wrinkles. Some providers and small studies have also found that neuromodulators can help reduce sebum (read: oil) production, putting a temporary end to the oily skin and breakouts that may have sent patients to the dermatologist in the first place. Here’s what you need to know about how Botox and the like affect the oiliness of the skin.

Does Botox Affect Oil Production?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not as simple as going in for your regular wrinkle-reducing touch up. “Microinjections of Botox can be used to control oily skin, reducing sebum production and improving acne,” says Michele Green, MD, a board certified dermatologist in New York City. In this case, the emphasis is on the term ‘micro.’ “This treatment involves superficial injections into the skin barrier – not past the skin barrier or into the muscle, where neuromodulators are injected to treat fine lines and wrinkles – in areas where oil, sebum, and sweat production occur,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, a board certified dermatologist in NYC. “This process ultimately helps reduce oil, redness, pore visibility, and acne.”

In a 2012 study, 25 patients with oily skin received Botox injections in the forehead, and 21 of them (that’s an impressive 91 percent) were satisfied with the way their skin stayed mattified for up to three months after being injected. In 2015, researchers tested 42 volunteers with oily skin by administering Botox in five injection sites across the forehead, then measured the change in oil production around the treatment areas using a device aptly named the Sebumeter. The study found the lowest amounts of sebum closest to the injection points, with more oil occurring farthest away from where Botox was administered. Bruce Katz, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of JUVA Skin and Laser Center in NYC, says he has seen Botox help some of his patients with oily skin – but not all. When it does work, it’s because “Botox reduces the muscle movements surrounding the oil glands,” he notes.

If you have oily skin, we’re preaching to the choir. But, if you’re curious, people with ‘oily skin’ have sebaceous glands in the dermis that produce too much oil, Dr. Green shares. While oily skin and acne-prone skin are not synonymous, increased oil can lead to pore congestion and breakouts. “The T-zone, which includes the forehead, nose, and chin, has a higher density of sebaceous follicles that contribute to higher sebum production,” Dr. Green says. With that in mind, it’s time to get more specific about how neurotoxin injections can treat oiliness.

Can Botox Be a Treatment for Oily Skin?

Like we said, the Botox® you are getting to soften your forehead lines isn’t the same as the injections you would get to mattify your complexion. “Neuromodulator treatments for forehead lines and other wrinkles are injected directly into the muscle, whereas microinjections do not penetrate past the skin layer,” Dr. Engelman explains. “Therefore, someone who was receiving treatment for forehead lines would not experience a decrease in oil production as they would from microinjections.”

That’s not to say microinjections can’t offer a smoothing effect – it’s just not akin to traditional, full-dose treatment. “Depending on what you are being treated for, some injectors go a little deeper when administering microinjections so as to slightly soften the muscle for wrinkle reduction, but not paralyze,” she shares. While microinjections can be injected all over the face to improve skin texture, the T-zone is the most problematic area for most patients with oily skin. “Oil production is most common in the T-Zone, which includes the skin across the forehead and down the nose,” Dr. Engelman notes.

How Long Do the Mattifying Results Last?

Like any neurotoxin injection, the results of microinjections are not immediate. They usually kick in over the course of five to 10 days. And, “similar to traditional Botox injections, the benefits of microinjections last up to three to four months,” Dr. Engelman shares. While you may be used to judging when you’re due for a touch up based on how much your forehead or brows start to move again, the wearing off of microinjections for oily skin usually involves oiliness returning. “When Botox wears off, sebum production may return to the normal baseline,” Dr. Green says.

If you are looking for a way to minimize oil production, micro-Botox can be a singular solution. “For those with oily skin, microinjections serve as a standalone treatment option, separate from neuromodulator injections for fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Engelman says. “Neuromodulator treatments for oil production are injected into the skin barrier – because oil production occurs in the skin – rather than into the muscle and, therefore, offer different benefits.” To put a finer point on it, you are not necessarily killing two birds with one stone. “A traditional Botox treatment should not affect your sebum production,” she adds.

With the average cost of neurotoxin injections priced at $408 per visit, a quarterly trip to the dermatologist or plastic surgeon’s office is certainly more expensive than a prescription topical or a bottle of Clean & Clear. For that reason, it’s best to talk to your doctor about all of your skin-mattifying options first. In Dr. Katz’s opinion, “there are many more cost effective methods to control oil production.” But, if you’ve already budgeted for Botox, it can be a shine-reducing solution. “Neuromodulator injections, like Botox, can be used to reduce oiliness with just a few injections per year,” Dr. Engelman says.

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LEAH PRINZIVALLIis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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