Skincare Myth: Flax Seed is Natural Botox

Written by: Dr. Leslie Baumann



Time to read 5 min

Is Flax Seed Natural Botox?

Lately, there's been a lot of buzz on social media about using flax seed masks as a "natural alternative" to Botox injections. As someone who values evidence-based skincare advice, I was a bit skeptical of these claims. Just because something is trending on Instagram or TikTok doesn't automatically make it right for your unique skin type and concerns. Before jumping on the flax seed mask bandwagon, let's take a closer look at the science behind Botox and flax seed oil to determine if they are truly comparable treatments.

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What is Botox?

What is botox?

Botox is the brand name for a neurotoxin called botulinum toxin type A. When injected into specific facial muscles, it temporarily paralyzes them and prevents them from contracting. This relaxation of the muscles smooths out existing wrinkles and prevents new ones from forming.

But how exactly does Botox achieve this effect? It all comes down to a protein called SNAP-25 that is involved in the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for making muscles contract. Botox blocks SNAP-25, which in turn blocks acetylcholine release and causes the injected muscles to become temporarily paralyzed and unable to scrunch up the skin into wrinkles.

This mechanism makes Botox extremely effective at treating "dynamic wrinkles" caused by repeated muscle movements like frowning, squinting or raising the eyebrows. The injections directly target and relax the muscles underlying wrinkles in areas like the forehead, between the brows, and around the eyes for a smoother, more youthful appearance.

The effects of Botox typically last 3-6 months, after which touch-up treatments are needed to maintain the results. While safe when administered properly, Botox does carry a small risk of potential side effects like bruising, headaches, or temporary muscle weakness in the treated areas. 

What is flax oil?

What is Flax Seed Oil?

Now let's look at how flax seed oil and masks made from it actually work on the skin. Flax seeds are a good source of beneficial nutrients like:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Other fatty acids like linoleic acid and oleic acid
  • Antioxidants like lignans and vitamin E

When applied topically as part of a face mask or moisturizer, flax seed oil provides some notable benefits to skin health:

However, none of flax seed oil's mechanisms of action directly target the facial muscles and SNAP-25 protein the way Botox does. Its benefits are limited to the outer layers of skin, providing nourishment, hydration, and protection. It is important to understand that I am not saying flax seed oil is a bad ingredient; on the contrary, I think it can be beneficial for many skin types to include in their daily regimen. You can find my complete thoughts on flax seed oil in this blog. The purpose of this blog is simply to dispel the myth that flax seed is natural Botox. It simply is not natural botox. If flax seed oil is right for your skin type, I recommend some of these products:

Key Differences Between Botox and Flax Seed

While both aim to improve skin's appearance, Botox and flaxseed masks work in fundamentally different ways:

  • Botox relaxes facial muscles from the inside out to smooth wrinkles, while flax seed oil only acts on the outer skin layers, and doesn't impact muscles.
  • Botox prevents dynamic wrinkles from forming in the first place, something flax seed masks cannot do.
  • Botox reduces existing wrinkles more dramatically and immediately through muscle paralysis. Flax seed masks may eliminate some free radicals on the skin over time, but not to the same effect.
  • The effects of Botox are temporary so require ongoing treatments to maintain. Flax seed can be included in one of your daily skin care products.
  • Botox carries some minor safety risks from injections that flax seed masks applied topically do not have.

Conclusion - Flax seed is not Natural Botox

While flax seed masks can impart some respectable skin benefits from their nutritional makeup, the simple fact is flax does not work on the same biological mechanisms that make Botox so effective for dynamic wrinkles.

Claims that flax seed masks are a true "natural alternative" to Botox are misleading. The two have fundamentally different mechanisms of action and cannot be considered substitutes or equally effective treatments.

This isn't to say flax seed products are bad - they still provide benefits like hydration, anti-inflammatory effects, and potential improvements in elasticity over time with regular use. But they work on the surface of skin, not the underlying muscles that crunch it into wrinkles.

When it comes to social media skincare advice, it's important to take viral trends with a grain of salt. Something that seems to work wonders for one person's Baumann skin type might not produce the same results for you. Always do your research from reputable science-based sources to make informed choices about what's right for your individual skin.

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Best References and Scientific Publications on Flax seeds and Botox

  1. Baumann L. Antiaging Ingredients in Ch. 37 of Baumann's Cosmetic Dermatology Ed 3. (McGraw Hill 2022)
  2. Baumann L. Botulinum Toxins in Ch. 23 of Baumann's Cosmetic Dermatology Ed 3. (McGraw Hill 2022)
  3. Baumann, L. Ch. Cosmeceuticals and cosmetic Ingredients (McGraw Hill 2015)
  4. Draganescu D, Ibanescu C, Tamba BI, Andritoiu CV, Dodi G, Popa MI. Flaxseed lignan wound healing formulation: characterization and in vivo therapeutic evaluation. Int J Biol Macromol. 2015 Jan;72:614-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2014.09.012. Epub 2014 Sep 17. PMID: 25239193.
  5. https://online.personalcarecouncil.org/ctfa-static/online/lists/cir-pdfs/PRS577.pdf
  6. Savardekar P. Botulinum toxin. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2008;74(1):77-9.
  7. Finkelstein A. Channels formed in phospholipid bilayer membranes by diphtheria, tetanus, botulinum and anthrax toxin. J Physiol (Paris). 1990;84(2):188-90.
  8. Setler P. The biochemistry of botulinum toxin type B. Neurology. 2000;55(12 Suppl 5):S22-8.
  9. Scott A. Clostridial toxins as therapeutic agents. In Botulinum Neurotoxin and Tetanus Toxin. Simpson LL, ed. New York, NY: Academic Press, 1989, pp. 399-412.
  10. Blitzer A, Binder WJ, Aviv JE, Keen MS, Brin MF. The management of hyperfunctional facial lines with botulinum toxin. A collaborative study of 210 injection sites in 162 patients. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1997;123(4):389-92.
  11. Carruthers JD, Carruthers JA. Treatment of glabellar frown lines with C. botulinum-A exotoxin. J Dermatol Surg Oncol. 1992;18(1):17-21.
  12. Carruthers A, Carruthers J. History of the cosmetic use of Botulinum A exotoxin. Dermatol Surg. 1998;24(11):1168-70.