is argireline an effective alternative to botox?

Is Argireline Botox in a bottle? This popular peptides hooks you in with the promise of freezing your wrinkles, just like Botox does – but without the needle and the high price tag.

Raise your hand if you’d love that to be true – I mean, who wouldn’t want to use a serum and watch their wrinkles disappear? Count me, I want me some of that.

And yet, there’s something about Botox in a bottle claims that totally puts me off. I mean, if Argireline were really botox in a bottle, then why the heck is Kris Jenner still going under the knife and having facelifts, you know what I mean? That doesn’t seem a fun way to spend an afternoon when a bottle on your vanity could give you the same results…

Is Argirelene just another peptides that promises you wonders it can’t deliver? Or does it work the same way as Botox, it just doesn’t work as well as it? I’ve delved deep into the science of Argireline and this is what I’ve found out:

What Is Argireline?

Argireline (full brand name Acetyl Hexapeptide-3, a.k.a. acetyl hexapeptide-8) is a synthetic six amino acid peptide made by Spanish firm Lipotec. Peptides are the building blocks for proteins, like collagen and elastin, that keep your skin firm and elastic.

Argireline is a fragment of SNAP-25, a substrate of botulin toxic. This isn’t accidental. The brand has designed Argireline to prevents wrinkles by inhibiting muscle movement – just like Botox does. After all, if it truly works as claim, a Botox alternative would make them millions.

How Does Argireline Work?

Now you know what it is, let’s take a closer look at how Argireline works. For a muscle to move, it must receive a message from a neurotransmitter. This is a more complicated process than it sounds, so I won’t bore you with all the little details.

You just need to know this: for this message to get through to the muscle, you need to activate something called SNARE complex. This complex is made up of three proteins, VAMP, Sintaxina and SNAP-25.

Argireline is sneaky. It knows how to mimic the protein SNAP-25, taking the place of the real thing in the SNARE Complex. This destabilizes its formation, without breaking any of its components.

If the SNARE complex is destabilized, the muscle can’t move. No movement = no wrinkles (well, no wrinkles caused by facial movement; UV rays, pollution, and co can still cause them).

So, in theory, Argireline is Botox in a bottle. In practice, does it give you the same results? Mmmm…

Related: The Truth About Peptides In Skincare: Do They Really Work?

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Argireline Benefits: What Does It Do For Skin?

Argireline is design to improve the appearance of dynamic wrinkles, i.e. the wrinkles formed by repeated muscle movement, like crow’s feet around your eyes and the “11s” in between your brows. By freezing the muscles, those pesky wrinkles are gone. That’s the theory. How well does it work in practice?

A study published by the International Journal of Cosmetic Science in 2002 shows that a cream with 10% Argireline (way more than the amount usually used in skincare products) applied “on healthy women volunteers reduced wrinkle depth up to 30% upon 30 days treatment”.

The key word here is “up to”. It doesn’t say everyone gets a 30% wrinkle reduction. It says that’s the maximum it can do at that high concentration. A good start but I need more than one study to convince my inner sceptic.

A more recent study tested a combo of argireline and tripeptide-10 citrulline and found two things: it helps keep skin moisturised and has some anti-wrinkle activity. But the problem with studies like this is that you can’t be sure if the duo shares the antiaging and moisturising jobs equally or one of them does the heavy lifting.

A 2012 study also found that Argireline can increase the production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm. According to the study, ” the amount of type I collagen fibers increased” after 6 weeks of daily application, making Argireline could “rejuvenate the aging skin.” The catch? This study was done on mice, so we don’t know if Argireline does the same when topically applied on human skin.

Finally, a Spanish University found that Argireline increased the level of skin moisturization. Hydrating skin is something that almost every peptide does, so I’m not surprised. Argireline as a hydrator does work.

But, there is NO proof that Argireline works as well as Botox. Any claims that promise that are vastly exaggerated.

Related: Treatment VS Prevention: What Really Works Against Wrinkles?

Can Argireline Penetrate Skin?

You know what they say, “What works for one person may not work for another.” That’s true ESPECIALLY with Argireline. Some women may experience the 30% reduction in wrinkles depth as shown in the study above, but others have NO results at all. They may just as well splash water on their skin.

What’s going on here?

Argireline is very bad at penetrating skin. Even after several hours, it can’t penetrate beyond the uppermost, dead layers of skin. It never reaches deep enough to affect muscle movement.

The thinner your skin is, the higher the chance Argireline can penetrate a little deeper and work a little better. If you’re young and your skin is still fairly thick, you won’t see any difference at all.

A 2018 study has also found that adding the peptide tripeptide-10-cirtrulline to the formula enhances the penetration of Argireline in the muscle, which could increase its benefits. Another trick is to choose a water-in-oil product. Argireline penetrates skin better when there’s plenty of water around (makes sense: the more hydrated skin is, the more permeable it gets).

Either way, it’s never going to work as well as Botox. Botox is injected in the muscle while Argireline must fight its way there – and it’s a weak fighter.

Related: Does Your Skin Really Absorb 60% Of What You Put On It?

argireline botox in a jar

Argireline And Retinol: Which One Works Better At Treating Wrinkles?

Retinol all the way. Let me explain why. Retinol is a gentle form of Vitamin A, the only thing that’s been proven (so far) to reduce wrinkles, not just their appearance. Retinol works in three ways:

  • It boosts collagen production: Collagen is the protein that keeps your skin firm. After you turn 21, your skin loses 1% of collagen a year – and that % skyrockets once you hit menopause. Collagen replenishes lost collagen, so your skin stays firmer and younger-looking for longer.
  • It fights free radicals: Free radicals are nasty little molecules that destroy collagen, elastin, cellular DNA… all that good stuff that keeps your skin young and healthy. Retinol has antioxidant properties that neutralise free radicals before they can start their chain of destruction, helping to prevent wrinkles in the first place.
  • It speeds up cellular turnover: Cellular turnover is your skin’s natural exfoliating process. As old, damaged, dead skin cells leave their place to the newer, brighter, smoother cells underneath, your skin looks younger and more even-toned. As you get older, your skin does this more and more slowly. Retinol speeds up the process, helping you retain a youthful appearance.

There’s A TON of research that retinol works. In OTC concentrations, it works slowly, BUT with regular use, you’ll see those pesky wrinkles get a little smaller. Argireline can’t penetrate skin that well and doesn’t give you the same results. Period.

The catch? Retinol causes dryness and irritation, especially when you first start using it. My recommendation is to pick a low % and use it only two nights a week at the beginning. As your skin builds up tolerance to it, you can increase both dose and frequency.

Argireline, on the other hand, doesn’t cause side effects. But then, it doesn’t really provide the same benefits. With retinol, the trade-off is worth it. If you must use only one of the two, definitely choose retinol. Or you can use them together: retinol for anti-aging and Argireline for extra hydration.

Argireline And Matrixyl: Which One Is Better For Anti-Aging?

Matrixyl is a peptide touted to be a gentler alternative to retinol, so it’s no wonder it’s Argireline’s biggest rival in the world of peptides. A subfragment of type I collagen, science says that Matrixyl reduces signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles, even at 0.0003%!

The catch? Most of these studies come from the manufacturer. Not the most unbiased of sources… Plus, like Argireline, Matrixyl is a big molecules so it doesn’t penetrate skin as well. Scientists believe it works even when it stays on the surface of your skin, by signalling to skin cells to produce more collagen.

Even so, I’m still waiting for more independent research confirming its effectiveness. Plus, if it really worked, wouldn’t retinol have disappeared from the shelves? Let’s be honest, Matrixyl is gentler, so if it provided the same benefits, we’d all have switched over by now. Just saying…

Can You Mix Argireline With Other Actives?

You know now you can use Argireline with retinol and Matrixyl. What about other actives? Argireline is a team player. It works well when you mix it with other peptides, hyaluronic acid (a humectant that hydrates skin by binding up to 1000 times its weight in water!) and pretty much any other ingredient you can think. It doesn’t need an optimal pH to work, like Vitamin C and other sensitive actives, so you can mix and match it freely with what’s in your skincare cabinet.

Argireline Side Effects: Can It Damage Skin?

You know how Botox targets one particular muscle? Argireline doesn’t. You put it all over your face. Some people are worrying that putting too much argireline on your face over a long period of time may freeze it. Sag, even (muscles atrophy when they’re not used). I personally don’t think this is a big concern because argireline can’t really reach your muscles. But who knows, maybe in the future, we’ll have the technology for that, too!

Apart from that, Argireline is safe to use. It’s not toxic, non-irritating, and well-tolerated by most people. Of course, if your skin is very sensitive, do a patch test before using it. Just to be on the safe side.

How Do You Use Argireline?

As Argireline has no side effects, you can use it up to twice a day, morning and night. As it doesn’t penetrate skin well, I recommend you apply it straight after cleansing. The closer to clean skin is, the higher the chance of penetrating deeper – don’t make it fight through layers of skincare products!

How Long Do The Effects Of Argireline Last?

Let’s say you’re among the older women with paper-thin skin that’s seeing a reduction in wrinkles when using Argireline. How long do these effect last? It is long term or short term? We know Botox lasts 3 or 4 months. Can Argireline compare to that?

Here’s the hard truth: we don’t know how long the effects of Argireline last. My guess is, not very long. Argireline is not injected in the muscle. It must make its way there through your skin, so not much will get through in the first place. The sooner you stop using it, the sooner its effects will disappear.

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Argireline?

I don’t recommend you splurge on a product just because it has argireline yet. But if you really want to give it a try, go with The Ordinary Argireline Solution 10%. It has enough argireline to work (it uses the same concentration as the studies), it’s water-based, and is affordable. Just saying.

Related: The Complete Guide To The Ordinary Peptide Serums: Which One Is Right For You?

The Bottom Line

Research on argireline is promising but limited. I wouldn’t buy a product just because it has argireline yet but if you’re curious, go with the cheapest option.

Do you use products with Argireline? Share your faves in the comments below.