Botox for Slimmer Calves?


Women are using Botox injections to help fit into skinny jeans, tights and boots. Should you run toward this trend, or back away slowly? (Retrofuturs/Tumblr)

Millions of people get Botox injections for cosmetic purposes, the most popular of which is banishing fine lines and wrinkles on the face. However, another use for these injectables is beginning to take off — and that may not be good news.

Botox is being used to slim calves.

Due to genetics or athletics, some women are prone to larger lower-leg muscles. When you use those muscles to walk, stand in heels, or workout, for instance, they also bulge and thicken. Injecting Botox paralyzes the muscle so it can’t fully contract, which may lead to a potential two-inch decrease in calf circumference and the appearance of a slimmer leg for up to six months.

Why the push to pare down the lower leg? Those with larger calves have more complaints than you think. Women may have more trouble finding clothes and boots that fit correctly. Such is the case with Zara Marchant, who has always felt her calves were disproportionate. “I’m not a large person, but I can’t fit into them or any other boots,” she tells The Daily Mail. “My calves are just too big and I’ve always been self-conscious of them.”

Marchant is certainly not alone: One of the top fashion search terms on the Internet this time of year is “wide-calf boots”. 

Marchant’s calves before (left) and after (right) the Botox injections. (Photos: Courtesy of Daily Mail | Rhian Ap Gruffydd/Daily Mail/Solo Syndication)

An annoyance or not, shooting Botox into the lower leg could present major health issues. This procedure is especially worrisome since the standard injection of Botox in calf muscles is reportedly 250 units between both legs versus the 20 units you’d get in a facial injection.

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Among the scariest concerns? Such a large dose over Botox may cause muscles to diminish, changing the way you walk, or putting pressure on knees, hips and back where it shouldn’t be. In addition, paralyzing the muscle may hinder blood flow from the leg to the heart, which may increase risk of blood clots that can be dangerous or deadly if they break off, travel to the lungs and form a pulmonary embolism.

This treatment is reportedly most popular in Asia, where slender limbs are prized, so you may not have heard of calf injections yet. Stafford Broumand, MD, a plastic surgeon and an associate clinical professor of plastic surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says he hasn’t seen the cosmetic procedure take off among the American set — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t. “With more exposure, we may begin to see more of this here,” he tells Yahoo Health. “There are many off-label uses for Botox. This obviously is one.”

Marchant successfully dons black boots after Botox injections to her calves. (Photo: Rhian Ap Gruffydd/Daily Mail/Solo Syndication)

Broumand says that he’d want to screen a patient for the underlying conditions that cause their larger calves before administering this sort of Botox treatment, as well as evaluate any other medical conditions, and the patient’s tendency toward bleeding or clotting.

However, until the FDA approves Botox for this particular use and more lab tests are done to ensure its safety, he would hold off. “I wouldn’t recommend this until we have more solid data on the treatment, and less anecdotal hearsay about its benefits,” Broumand says.

Despite the potential issues an untested treatment presents, Marchant has no plans to stop the calf injections, though. “My calves look better and more defined. While it’s only a small change, it makes a big difference,” she explains. “I can fit the boots on now… If you look good, you are treated differently, so I’ll always be interested in strange cosmetic treatments.”

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This is dangerous thinking, according to Jeffrey Feiner, MD, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at UF Health Cancer Center. He says that, with the increased popularity of plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures, he worries people will hop on the wrong bandwagons. Injecting calves with Botox is just one.

No matter the cosmetic procedure — off-use of Botox, a nose job, breast reduction, cosmetic, medical or otherwise — Feiner says you can’t be lax in weighing the expected benefits against the inherent risks. “It’s never a good idea to jump into any surgical procedure without doing your homework,” he tells Yahoo Health. “And we now see more surgeons doing more types of treatments, so consumers need to be especially vigilant.”

Feiner says finding a surgeon you can trust is a lot like shopping for a car to keep you safe: you have to read up, compare models, and pepper the salesman with questions.

That means checking out a surgeon’s history and inquiring about the procedure until you feel comfortable and confident with your choice of doc. “It’s important to pick a surgeon who is board-certified in his or her specialty, and has a large experience with a particular procedure,” says Feiner. “Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, compare doctors to determine who is best qualified to achieve exactly what you’re looking for, and find one who can be honest about what procedure is best for you.”

At least until further testing proves its safety, steer clear of Botox injections for thinner calves. Make sure you do your research if you meet a doc who tells you otherwise — especially if this trend starts to attract more popularity in the U.S.

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