Acetyl hexapeptide-3 (Argireline)
An alternative to Botox or wishful thinking in a jar?
The quest for a Botox alternative is a popular pursuit among both skin care manufacturers and consumers. While Botox is highly effective in reducing motion wrinkles, it is expensive, requires physician-administered injections, and occasionally leads to side effects, such as droopy eyelids (see our article on Botox for details). Not surprisingly, products touted as Botox alternatives keep popping up. Acetyl hexapeptide-3 (trade name Argireline) is one of the seemingly promising new Botox alternatives.
Argireline is manufactured by a Spanish company Lipotec and is a hexapeptide (a chain of 6 amino acids) attached to the acetic acid residue. It is believed to work by inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters. When applied to the skin, Argireline supposedly relaxes facial tension leading to the reduction in facial lines and wrinkles with regular use. This remotely resembles the effect of Botox, which reduces facial tension and movement by paralyzing facial muscles. Note that Argireline is unrelated in its physiologic effect and mechanism of action to other bioactive skin peptides, such as palmitoyl pentapeptide.
So far, the evidence to support the benefits of Argireline is skimpy at best. In a clinical study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, acetyl hexapeptide-3 at a 10% concentration has been shown to reduce the depth of wrinkles up to 30% after 30 days of use. There are no other credible clinical studies to be found. The benefits and adverse effects of long-term use, if any, are unknown.
Is it worth a try? The rationale behind Argireline is plausible enough and eventually it may be validated by research as a safe and effective wrinkle fighter. However, at this point neither its effectiveness nor safety can be considered even tentatively proven. Besides, Argireline-based products are not particularly cheap, even compared to Botox. However, I am not sure if their prices reflect a large novelty-hype premium or high costs of the concentrated (10% or more is required) active ingredient. If it's the former, the prices may eventually decline.
There is one more concern worth mentioning. Botox injections target specific muscles, whereas Argireline (if it indeed works) is likely to relax most of your face. And while Argireline may reduce wrinkles, it may also, in theory, increase facial sag because the neurotransmitters whose release Argireline inhibits, help maintain facial firmness. Notably, a popular firming skin care ingredient DMAE firms by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters and increasing facial tension, i.e. by producing roughly the opposite effect to Argireline. Whether Argireline may indeed contribute to facial sag has not been studied. Until more is known, people prone to facial sag should approach Argireline with caution and monitor their facial firmness while on it.