The muscle relaxer Botox has now been shown to positively affect the skin as well.

"Botox definitely clears up acne," says Anil Shah M.D. The Chicago plastic surgeon is one of the only doctors worldwide using Botox in an entirely new way. He injects the muscle relaxer directly into the skin to eliminate large pores, oil production, and acne breakouts.

Acne is caused when the skin's sebaceous glands release too much oil, or sebum, into the skin's pores. Bacteria use the sebum as food, multiply, and cause the pore to became inflamed leading to formation of a pimple. "Botox," says Dr. Shah, "stops the production of sebum and deprives those bacteria of food."

The plastic surgeon has treated about 100 patients like Sanjay Nannapaneni. The 35-year-old Chicago resident has had oily skin and constant breakouts all his life. "It's discouraging." he says. "I tried everything: Accutane, light therapy, antibiotics, nothing worked. Then I came across Botox for acne on the Internet. It sounded crazy but I was willing to try anything."

Last August Dr. Shah injected tiny amounts of Botox throughout the dermis of Sanjay's face. The procedure is rare because it's technically difficult. The muscle paralyze has to be injected directly into a layer of skin just 1/25th of an inch thick. If it's injected too deeply it can alter the patient's facial expressions. "Experience here is really essential," says Dr. Shah. The plastic surgeon recently moved his practice from New York back home to Chicago

And the results of Sanjay's treatment? "I haven't had a large breakout since," he says. "I've had random small pimples here and there, but that's it. My skin's less oily and my pores look smaller."

Dr. Shah recently published the only study ever done showing that intradermal Botox lowers the skin's oil production[1]

The plastic surgeon believes Botox works by blocking the chemical acetylcholine in the skin's dermis. Acetylcholine is known to increase the skin's sebum production. In addition, the treatment literally paralyzes the tiny erector pili muscles that surround the skin's pores and cause them to expand.

While other treatments have been used for serious acne, none has been acceptable until now. The medication Accutane decreases oil production but side effects can include liver damage, bleeding in the mouth, birth defects, and even suicide. Laser treatments can't reach the skin's deep sebaceous glands

Still, Dr. Shah cautions the treatment isn't for everyone. He says most teen-agers won't need the procedure because their skin will clear up with time anyway. "I only treat patients over 20-years-old," he says. "Their hormonal changes are likely permanent. For them Botox is now the safest most effective treatment we have."

"I'd definitely recommend this to anyone else," says Sanjay "I've gone almost a year without breaking out. You have no idea how good that feels."

[1] Use of intradermal botulinum toxin to reduce sebum production and facial pore size. Shah, Anil R.,Journal of Drugs in Dermatology 9/1/08

Dr Michael Breen Associates