September 9, 2015

A new trend is taking hold in American cities: More and more women are getting Botox injections in their scalp in order to reduce sweating after a workout and preserve their hairdo.

By Katja Ridderbusch, Atlanta

For many years, Kristen Daley (name changed) felt like she faced a serious dilemma: workout or blowout? “I love hot yoga,” she says. “I love spinning, step, kickboxing, or cross fit, anything that makes me sweat.” The problem: “My hair. After an hour in the gym, it was wet, stringy, and totally messed up.”

Daley, 35, tall, wiry, with long, hazelnut-colored hair, works as a senior account executive for a public relations agency in Atlanta, Ga. “In my job, looks do matter,” she says, adding it’s imperative that she always appears put-together and professional when meeting clients. But for someone like Daley, with a packed work and social calendar, there’s simply no time to wash, blow dry and style her hair after every single workout – be it in the morning, during lunch break, or in the evening before heading off to a night out with her husband, or a networking reception with colleagues. Hence, the dilemma. 

The rescue came in the form of a tiny syringe. More and more women (and a few men) in the United States now get Botox shots in their scalps, to stop their heads from sweating and to save the hairstyle. The trend started in New York and Los Angeles and is slowly taking hold in other cities around the country. “Even after the toughest workout, my hair is dry and the blowout unharmed,” Daley says, while glancing briefly at her iPhone and taking a sip from her Skinny Latte. Of course, there’s already a catchy name for the procedure: "Blowtox" – from blowout and Botox.

The agent Botulinum toxin was first used in the early 1980s to treat eye muscle disorders and crossed eyes. It was approved by the FDA in 2002 for certain cosmetic procedures, and has since been injected to reduce the appearance of frown lines, forehead lines and crow’s feet. Under the trade name, Botox, it quickly conquered the offices of plastic surgeons, dermatologists, ophthalmologists and even dentists, and found its way into beauty parlors and wellness temples. Today, Botox injections are the most requested cosmetic procedure in the world. In the U.S. alone, the demand has risen by 111 percent since 2004. In Germany minimally invasive procedures are on the rise, with Botox injections being on top of the list, according to a recent survey by the German Society of Aesthetic-Plastic Surgery (DGÄPC).

Botox is also used to treat a wide range of medical conditions, including hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, as well as chronic migraines, muscle stiffness and overactive bladders.

Doctors are not surprised by the new trend. Whether Botox is injected in the armpits or in the scalp to decrease sweating, “the mechanism of action is the same,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, who practices at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York, in an interview with “Fast Company”. Botox simply “blocks the communication between the nerves and the sweat glands,” explains the physician.

Engelman was one of the first to treat patients with Botox scalp injections, so they can protect their hair against the collateral damage of a cross fit, or kickboxing, routine. The injections last up to 12 months, about twice as long as Botox shots for wrinkles. According to Engelman, 150 to 200 injections are needed to cover the scalp. Costs per treatment are about $1,500. For wrinkle smoothening, patients usually pay between $300 and $600, depending on the amount of the neurotoxin being injected, and the physician’s skill and experience.

Kristen Daley thinks it’s a good investment, especially since she usually gets her hair done in one of the stylish blow-dry salons that in the past few years have sprung up in cities around the U.S. and Europe. At The Drybar, for example, a California based chain, a basic blowout costs $40, and customers can choose from a menu where hairstyles have tempting names, like Manhattan, Cosmo, Mai Tai, Southern Comfort, or Dry Martini.

With Botox shots in her scalp, says Daley, she saves about two additional visits to the blow-dry salon per week, about $4,000 a year. “Most importantly, I save time,” she adds, throws back her Southern Comfort curls and impatiently wags her feet. “Now I can be in and out of the gym real fast. And that’s totally worth it for me.”

Asked whether she understands why some people might consider her logic twisted, and her supposed dilemma a luxury problem, Daley shrugs her shoulders. “I do, kinda,” she says. “But if I want to be successful in my career, and successful in my life, I need to play by the rules.” Rules, she points out, that she didn’t make.

Studies have indeed and repeatedly shown that attractive people have advantages in life, they get hired faster, make more money and get promoted sooner. A survey conducted by Marie Claire Magazine among 4,000 executives found that “a polished appearance” is key to professional success, in addition to competence and communication skills. The same survey comes to the conclusion that “unkempt hair” is one of the biggest mistakes that woman in the workplace can make. It’s no surprise then that women in the U.S. spend $42 billion a year in hair care salons.

While American women may be the world’s biggest spenders on hairdos, appearance matters just as much in the German, and the European, professional world. However, the latest “Blowtox” trend has yet to arrive in Germany, says Dr. Torsten Kantelhardt, a plastic and cosmetic surgeon in private practice in Rottach-Egern, Bavaria, and a board member of the German Society of Aesthetic-Plastic Surgery. “I can imagine there will be requests, though,” he says, adding, “technically, it no doubt works, and the potential risks for patients are very low.” Possible side effects, like swelling and bruising at the injection site, as well as droopy eyelids and limited facial movement, which in rare cases occur with wrinkle treatment, don’t play a role with scalp injections, the surgeon says.

Kantelhardt points to another potential problem: “Especially during intense athletic activity, sweating from the head has an important physiological function,” he says. “With a high dose of Botox injected in the scalp, the sweat production is reduced, as is evaporation for cooling. In an extreme case, this could lead to a heat stroke.” 

Despite those concerns, the German physician finds “Blowtox” to be less bizarre than some other beauty trends that originated in the United States. He remembers when a few years ago, some of his patients requested Botox shots in the feet muscles – to make wearing high heels less painful. Kantelhardt smiles. “I was able to convince those patients that this was pure nonsense,” he says.

Kristen Daley doesn’t think it’s such a bad idea. However, aching feet are not her problem, not today.  She’s wearing bright orange flats, and with those, she easily hops across the street.  She wants to get a quick hot yoga class in, before meeting a new client – with, no doubt, impeccable hair.     


This is the translation of an article published in the German daily national “Die Welt" on 09/09/2015

© Die Welt / Katja Ridderbusch