If you’re interested in improving the appearance of your periocular region with an at-home treatment, you’re not alone! Argireline is an over-the-counter product that some call “Botox in a Bottle” But does it pass the eye test for use around those precious peepers?
Acetyl-hexapeptide 3, a peptide that is a fragment of SNAP-25, a substrate of botulinum toxin, is a common anti aging additive to luxury products that is often enthusiastically promoted at the cosmetics counter as “Botox in a Jar.”
Our blog is about Dry Eye, Cosmetics, and Aesthetics around the eye because in my 12 years of clinical practice as an optometrist and dry eye specialist, I’ve seen these 3 things collide on a daily basis.
The usage of over the counter aesthetic and cosmetics has exploded - lash serums, extensions, and anti-aging. My goal is to analyze these products and give you good information about their safety around the eye so you can make your own educated decision on whether to use a particular product.
Is Argireline Safe For The Eyes?
Let’s take a look at today’s topic: Botox in a Bottle, or as it is commonly known, Argireline! You may have seen products containing Argireline here on youtube or even on Amazon. The Ordinary makes a version that is popular among youtubers and there are many videos about it. I was able to quickly find a version on Amazon that is specifically advertised for use around the eyes as an eye gel, and touts the ability to reduce wrinkles, puffiness and dark circles.
First, What is Argireline?
So Argireline is actually just the brand name for a synthetic polypeptide called Acetyl hexapeptide-3 or acetyl hexapeptide-8. As a quick reminder, peptides are short chains of amino acids, the foundation for proteins including collagen and elastin, making them essential for healthy, youthful skin. It is a peptide which is a fragment of SNAP-25, a substrate of botulinum toxin. If that sounds familiar it is because botulinum toxin is Botox. This particular peptide does prevent muscle movement and also promotes collagen production, so it seems like a really great idea on the surface!
Here’s what Argirilene actually does: It acts as a competitive SNAP-25 inhibitor, inhibiting the release of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction and temporarily paralyzing superficial facial muscles. Compared to Botox, its potency is lower but so is its toxicity.
A Deeper Dive into Argireline Effects
There are two types of wrinkles (by the way, did you know the scientific term for wrinkles? Rhytids!) that occur from “dynamic movement” or repeated muscle movement around the eyes - the “11’s” and crows feet. We know that Botox is incredibly effective for both types, so wouldn’t it be nice if there was a needle-less option that was also safe for the eyes?
In the recent pre-publication titled “Complications and Adverse Effects of Periocular Aesthetic Treatments” the authors discuss a study by Wang and coworkers which compared the effect of 10% Argireline in an oil versus placebo. They demonstrated a 30% reduction in depth of wrinkles in the Argireline group with no adverse effects.
Evidence is limited but it's possible that Argireline could be a safer treatment option for periorbital wrinkles. However, other studies did not demonstrate the same effectivity and also suggest that argireline has reduced efficacy on younger thicker skin, working much better on older and thinner skin.
We must also consider the Effect on your Ocular Muscles! The problem is that this neurotoxic chemical may weaken the orbicularis muscle, creating the promised wrinkle-smoothing effect but also thereby potentially working counter to our blink exercises that we tell you to do in many of our dry eye videos on our youtube channel, EYe School with Dr. D!
So blinking is extremely important in the production of your tears in the wetting of your ocular surface and if you're using a neurotoxin on your muscles that help you blink that can adversely affect your ocular surface and your tear composition and contribute to dry eye.
It's important to do blink exercises as they promote tear wetting and spreading, lid-to-lid contact, and mechanical expression of meibum into the lipid reservoir and precorneal tear film.
A Deeper Dive into Argireline Side Effects
So should I use Argireline? Argireline may be well marketed, and you may come across versions that say they are hydrating or safe. Many do contain hyaluronic acid, and I typically like that in a moisturizer for use around the eye.
But unfortunately, I CANNOT AND DO NOT recommend using Argireline. Dermatologists don’t tend to either, as I found in one article, as they have found it does not deliver the wrinkle reducing results that are promised.
On the other hand, Truth in Aging, a website with a mission to provide unbiased guidance on beauty and personal care products, contends that even a 10% concentration of Argireline would be ineffective. They claim this is because the peptide isn’t potent enough to penetrate beyond the first few layers of skin and thus cannot provide the desired freezing effect in the muscles.
A 2013 Chinese randomized, placebo-controlled Argireline study – one of the only studies featuring human patients (60 subjects) – also notes contradictions and concludes that despite being safe and somewhat effective, the ability of Argireline to permeate skin is inadequate, resulting in significant waste.
The study speculates that perhaps younger, thicker skin may be too substantial a barrier for Argireline to reach pivotal connections of nerves and muscles. The authors conclude that Argireline might have a more of an impact on older, thinner skin.
So what is the verdict on using Argireline? Well as I said I cannot recommend using it, as the studies do show that while it may have some impact, it may not be not enough impact to make a real difference and while it may be safe for the skin there are concerns about what it does to your blink, what it does to the muscles around the eyes, and how that would impact the blink. This is another beauty ingredient that I would put on the “let’s not try it” list, especially if you have dry eye disease!
That’s it for today’s lesson! I hope you enjoyed it and learned something. Remember, learning is lifelong!