An Inside Look at “Skin Botox,” the Most Popular Injectable Treatment in South Korea
Article Published by: allure.com
While visiting dermatologists in the country’s capital, I stumbled upon a treatment that’s little-known in the U.S., but it’s the biggest injectable trend in Seoul.
BY DEVON ABELMAN
About 18 minutes into my interview with South Korea-based dermatologist Shin Hae Won, she brought up “Skin Botox.” I had just asked if people in Seoul are using Botox for more than just wrinkles, thinking she’d point out migraines or TMJ. Her response: “Yeah, for the pores, as well. We call it Skin Botox or mesobotox.”
Imagine me in her office at Oracle, a major dermatology and skin-care clinic in Seoul, reacting as literally every mind-blown gif that exists on the Internet. Shin was extremely nonchalant about her reference to this injectable procedure, though. Although she guestimates Skin Botox been around for 10 years, I’d never heard of it.
“It’s one of the procedures we do the most.”
Later that day, my friend took me to JY Plastic Surgery & Dermatology, also in Seoul’s Gangnam neighborhood, to meet with dermatologist Kang Jong Bum. He was similarly unfazed when I asked him about Skin Botox. “It’s one of the procedures we do the most,” Kang shared.
The next morning, I sat down with Lim Ee Seok, the head dermatologist at Thema Dermatologic Clinic. (Rumor has it, K-pop group BTS visit it.) Lim was extremely casual about the popularity of Skin Botox, too. He went on to reveal his clinic administers it 50 to 60 times a day.
If you’re just as unaware yet intrigued about Skin Botox as I was, here’s all the information I gathered on the procedure while I was in Seoul.
What is Skin Botox?
Skin Botox is, more or less, instant glass skin — no magical serums or multistep routines needed. To achieve it in this injectable form, the same neurotoxic protein (aka Botulinum toxin) is utilized as in classic Botox procedures. However, Korean dermatologists change up their needlework, if you will, for Skin Botox to target different parts of the face.
Skin Botox is, more or less, instant glass skin — no magical serums or multistep routines needed.
“In the past, when we used Botox it would be for wrinkles, and we would inject it into the muscles,” Lim explains. “These days, we will inject it into the outer layer and it lifts the skin.”
In other terms, traditional Botox irons out and prevents deep creases in the skin by weakening muscles in specific areas of the face, like your forehead, laugh lines, or crow’s-feet. Skin Botox, on the other hand, targets pores to create an all-over smoothing effect.
What does the procedure usually entail?
At Oracle, patients are brought to a room specifically for filler treatments, aptly labeled the Filler Room. Here, Botox is injected just below the skin’s surface — or “edge,” as Kang calls it.
The needle is inserted about 40 to 50 times along the jawline, forehead, and undereye area. For comparison, standard Botox is injected about three to five times. Again, the standard injection is going deeper to reach the muscle.
You can also expect to shell out 350,000 KRW (about $296) for the Skin Botox procedure if the dermatologist uses a Korean brand of neurotoxin at a clinic like Oracle. An imported one, on the other hand, costs 500,000 KRW (about $422).
What are some immediate results from Skin Botox?
Just as Shin mentioned, pores benefit most from Skin Botox. The injectable tightens them to reduce their appearance and make skin look brighter in the process, she says.
Creases may also fade, too. “It’s not as effective on really deep wrinkle lines,” Kang says, as it doesn’t go down to the muscle. “But on really, really fine lines, it’s actually effective.”
Skin Botox has purposes beyond aesthetics, Kang states. It can also banish breakouts because sweat and oil glands are affected by the procedure, too. As pores essentially become smaller from the procedure, sebum stops forming, he explains. (We know excess oil can block pores and hair follicles, leading to breakouts.)
New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner backed up this finding with a caveat: There hasn’t been any great data published in the U.S. on Skin Botox, as it’s an off-label usage. “Anecdotally, some doctors feel that giving micro Botox injections superficially into the skin can help decrease oil production,” he adds. Excess forehead sweating can also be addressed with Skin Botox, according to Zeichner.
Another advantage of Skin Botox is it doesn’t give eyes that dreaded heavy feeling often associated with Botox, Kang notes. Additionally, “Because the injections are very superficial, they should not affect the muscles involved in facial expression,” adds Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.
How long does Skin Botox last?
Because of its immediate, incredible results, “A lot of celebrities get [Skin Botox] before they go on air,” Shin adds. The effects don’t last long, though. Shin estimates the range is three to six months. This is about the same amount of time as typical Botox.
For longer-lasting results, Chang recommends a resurfacing laser treatment like Fraxel, and microneedling to “stimulate long-lasting collagen and smooth wrinkles.”
Where can I get Skin Botox?
The obvious answer is at a clinic in Seoul. If you can’t make your way to Korea, you’ll have to do some research to find a dermatologist who provides Skin Botox in the U.S., as it’s an off-label usage that Allergan cannot comment on, and it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
For those in New York City, Chang regularly performs it at her office using small microdroplets of botulinum toxins, like Botox, Dysport, Xeomin, and Jeuveau. Prices start at $950 and go up to $1,200, depending on how much product is used. Skin Botox “has not replaced any other treatments in my practice, but it can be a good adjunctive one,” she adds. “I would like to see more randomized, blinded clinical trials before instituting it as a first-line treatment for pores and skin-tightening in my practice.”
Other dermatologists may offer a similar treatment called AquaGold or Bella MicroGold. Anna Guanche, a board-certified dermatologist, offers the latter at the Bella Skin Institute in her Calabasas, California office. “It is a sterile vial in which we add hyaluronic acid-based filler and diluent, as well as a neurotoxin, and deliver to the skin via microneedles,” she explains. Botox and Dysport are the most commonly used. Like Skin Botox, it delivers the neurotoxin into the superficial layers to give the skin an airbrushed look.
After this Skin Botox deep dive, I’m now convinced I need to try out all three options. The treatment is on the top of my to-do list for my next trip to Seoul — and Calabasas.
ABOUT IFFIE OKORONKWO, M.D.
Iffie Okoronkwo, M.D. is a Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management physician at Manhattan Spine and Sports Medicine (http://www.manhattanmd.com/), a private practice based in New York City with 40 years of experience providing the finest expert medical care and services to patients around the world.
Dr. Iffie is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and, as a physiatrist, utilizes ultrasound guided injections, fluoroscopy guided injections, PRP, regenerative medicine, and more to evaluate and treat a variety of conditions affecting muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves.