Urban India is slowly but surely succumbing to the charms of Botox, a cosmetic treatment to keep looking young, even as doctors admit that too much of it can be harmful.
It is becoming increasingly popular in metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and it's not just film stars and socialites who are using it.
Anita Sharma, a 48-year-old Delhi housewife, said: "I have been getting this treatment for the last five years and I have never faced any problems.
"Earlier I used to go to London for the treatment as it was a little expensive here, but now it has become cheaper and is available at various clinics."
Derived from a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, the chemical is used to improve appearances as it prevents muscles from contracting and creating facial creases such as frown lines, crow's feet, worry lines and laugh lines.
Hospitals like Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and VLCC Health Clinics are just a few places that provide the Botox treatment.
"While until a year ago, we used to get about two cases a month, now the figure has risen to 10 to 15 cases," Sushant Shetty, vice president, beauty services, VLCC Health Care Limited, told IANS.
Doctors say it has obvious advantages over plastic surgery. The latter could entail bandages on the face for several days along with bruises, swellings and stitches. Also, it takes a couple of months to see the results, but with Botox the results are visible within 24 hours.
"This treatment is effective and quick, it can be done within 10 minutes and in 24 hours, the results can be seen. Moreover, it is affordable too," added Shetty.
An average case requires 12 to 15 units of Botox. The price per unit varies from Rs.350 to Rs.1,500 (exclusive of the doctor's fee) and the effects last for about five months.
But on the flip side, Botox is basically a nerve poison. Too much of it could result in raised eyebrows, swollen cheeks, over-ageing. In some cases it is even reported to have led to allergic reactions and muscle paralysis.
"Excess of anything is bad. You take excess of sugar, salt or anything else and you'll have problems. It's the same for excessive Botox dosage," said Kuldeep Singh, a senior consultant and plastic surgery specialist at Indrapratha Apollo Hospital, Delhi.
"It is like a gun. It will act only where you inject it. In the late 1990s, it was used in neurology to relax the muscles, so that people who faced difficulty in walking could walk properly, but now it is used for cosmetic surgery as well," Singh added.
Shetty admitted that a Botox overdose could make the face look weird.
"This treatment is to be done in specific areas and overdoing it makes one look weird. The doctor who is injecting this bacterium has to be properly guided, as it has to get injected in the muscle and not the nerve," said Shetty.