Does It Work As Well As Botox?


Did you know there’s snake venom in your skincare products?! Yes, snake venom. Rumour has it, it’s nature’s alternative to Botox. Or that’s what the manufacturer claims. In my mind, if I could talk to them, that’s what I imagine the dialogue to go like:

“How did you get the inspiration for Syn-ake, your new revolutionary anti-aging ingredient?,” the hopeful young reporter asked the Pentapharm representative.

“We at Pentapharm have always been fascinated with snakes. We are the largest snake breeders and keepers in the world. Their transfixing gaze, their slithering crawling… they’re so powerful. But snakes can also be dangerous. Take the deadly South Asian temple viper. It bites its victims, injecting them with a poison that paralyzes them. And so we  thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could paralyze muscles like that? Maybe we could use their venom for it!’ And that’s how Syn-ake was born”.

“Clever play on words, there, Syn-ake. I like it. But isn’t it dangerous to apply snake venom on your skin?”

“Oh, I’ll tell you a little secret, if you promise not to print it. Snake venom is just a marketing name. What we’re really using is a synthetic tri-peptide derivative that only mimics the activity of snake venom. It blocks some receptors so muscles can’t contract,” he finished off, before handing her the press release. He hoped she would use that for her article.

But our young reporter is smart. After finishing off this interview, she started to dig into the science of Syn-Ake. What she found isn’t as miraculous as the guy from Pentapharm told her (suprise, surprise):

What Is Syn-Ake?

Syn-Ake is the cute name for the impossible-to-pronounce Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate (DDBD), a synthetic tri-peptide (a three amino acid peptide) derivative made by Pentapharm Ltd, s Swiss chemical company.

This peptide belongs to the “Botox in a jar” alternatives, like Argireline, that behave like Botox. Specifically, Syn-Ake mimics Waglerin-1, a substance found in the venom of the Temple Viper. It basically keeps muscles relaxed so they can’t contract and form wrinkles (that’s how Botox works, too).

While most peptides are too big to penetrate skin, Syn-Ake has a molecular weight that’s less than 500 Da. That means it can penetrate skin. That’s good. If it weren’t able to do that, there’d be no chance of it working! But how well does it work?

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

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

How Does Syn-Ake Work?

The manufacturer believes that, if snake venom can paralyse the predator’s victims, it could easily paralyse fine lines and wrinkles too. Next thing you know, they create Syn-Ake. Here’s how it works.

Continuous movement, like frowning and smiling, contributes to the formation of wrinkles. It’s by no means the only cause, so don’t stop smiling! UV rays and the loss of collagen and elastin they cause is the #1 cause of premature aging and wrinkles, but receptive facial movements play a little part too.

By paralysing the muscle that make you smile or frown, Syn-Ake prevents them from moving. In other words, it freezes the muscles, so your skin looks smooth and flawless. No movement = no wrinkles. In theory. In practice, it takes more than a topical application of snake venom to permanently freeze wrinkles (but I’m sure you already knew that). Plus, muscle movement is only one cause of wrinkles. Syn-Ake doesn’t address other causes.

What Are The Benefits Of Snake Venom For Skin?

Here’s what the manufacturer says Syn-Ake can do for your skin:

  • It reduces fine lines and wrinkles: By freezing muscles, it prevents skin from moving, thus reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Improves firmness and elasticity: By tightening skin and boosting the skin-firming collagen, Syn-Ake gives it a firmer, plumper, younger-looking appearance.

Now, can Syn-Ake really do all this? Let’s investigate further:

Does Syn-Ake Really Work (What Science Says)?

Our young reporter started her research by taking a closer look at the study done by Pentapharm. They tested Syn-Ak on 45 people, which were divided into three groups. The first group was given a cream with 4% Syn-ake, the second one a cream with 10% Argireline (another “Botox in a jar” peptide), and the third one a placebo.

The results? The group who used Syn-Ake saw a 52% reduction in wrinkles. The other two creams didn’t show any significant results. Impressed but slightly biased, don’t you think?Let’s see what independent studies say now. Sadly, not much.

For this 2009 study, 37 women with “mild-to-moderate, fine and coarse periocular and perioral wrinkles” used a cream with “multiple growth factors, antioxidants, and a collagen-building peptide [Syn-Ake]” twice a day for 3 months. The results?

“The early onset of efficacy observed within minutes of application suggests that this unique combination of HA filling spheres and a muscle contraction-inhibiting peptide may work synergistically to promote rapid reductions in wrinkle appearance. The ability of HA to attract and retain moisture may contribute to the observed smoothing effect on lines and wrinkles. […]

The immediate improvement in wrinkle appearance may also be due to the muscle-relaxing effects of the Waglerin-1 mimicking peptide as wrinkles in the periocular and perioral areas are often associated with repeated muscle movement. In addition, the light-diffusing polymeric microspheres in the line treatment may also soften the appearance of fine lines in these facial areas.”

Translation: Syn-Ake may have contributed to a reduction in wrinkles but the creams contains so many other goodies, such as Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid, we don’t know who’s really to thank for the benefits here. 

Look, I’m not saying Syn-Ake doesn’t work. Maybe it did play its part in this study. But, until someone does a study on Syn-Ake alone, we don’t really know how well it works.

Related: Why You Need Hyaluronic Acid In Your Skincare Routine, No Matter Your Skin Type

Does Snake Venom Works As Well As Botox To Fight Wrinkles?

If you’re read this far, you’ve probably guessing no. You’d be right. Nothing you apply on your skin is as effective as something you inject into wrinkles. Dr. Fred Weksberg, a Toronto-based cosmetic dermatologist, agrees: “It is possible that the topical serum may, to some degree, penetrate the skin, but I am skeptical about its ability to be absorbed in sufficient quantities and in the correct muscles to have benefits similar to Botox.”

Here’s the thing: Syn-Ake is small enough to penetrate skin. But (and this is a big but), these muscles are so deep into the skin, only a tiny amount of the peptide will reach that far. It definitely doesn’t go as far enough as a needle that can deliver Botox in the right area. And that’s the other issue with Syn-Ake. Even when it reaches the muscles, it’s hard to deliver it exactly where it needs to be to work its magic. This means Syn-Ake has limited effects that don’t last very long.

If you’re averse to Botox because you don’t like the idea of injecting toxins into your skin, are a needle phone like me, or you simply can’t stomach the price, trying Syn-Ake may be the next best thing. Just as long as you know you’ll be 1/10 of the benefits.

Snake Venom Side Effects For Skin

Ok, Syn-Ake isn’t really snake venom. It’s a synthetic peptide. But is it safe for skin? Yes, Syn-Ake is generally considered to be safe. It’s not drying and doesn’t cause irritations either. Having said that, there are people who are even allergic to water, which is pretty much the safest thing on this planet. If your skin is very sensitive, I recommend you do a patch test to make sure you’re not one of the unlucky few who may get an irritation from it. Better safe than sorry.

Who Can Use Syn-Ake?

In theory, anyone can use Syn-Ake. In practice, it often doesn’t make sense. You’ll see best results if you’re older and have thin skin. Syn-Ake can penetrate skin more easily for you, so it’ll work better and faster. If you’re still young, barely have any wrinkles or have thick skin, you probably won’t see any benefits. Invest in a good sunscreen and retinol serum instead.

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Snake Venom (Syn-Ake)?

If you’re curios to try how well snake venom smooths out your skin, here are the best Syn-Ake products on the market at the moment:

  • NIOD Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate ($70.00): It contains every peptide under the sun, plus anti-inflammatory and hydrating ingredients to reduce the look of crow’s feet and plump them up. Available at Beauty Bay, Niod, SpaceNK.
  • StriVectin High-Potency Wrinkle Filler ($59.00): This wrinkle filler uses humectants to plump up wrinkles so they look smaller, film formers to tighten wrinkles, and Syn-Ake to “freeze” them. The effect is temporary, but it gets the job done quickly. Available at Dermstore.
  • The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides 1% (£29.80): This serum contains pretty much every peptide under the sun at the most affordable price you’ll ever get. Even if Syn-Ake doesn’t work, copper peptides will keep your skin in a constant state of repair and looking its best. Available at Cult Beauty, Stylevana, The Ordinary, and Ulta.

The Bottom Line

Don’t let the hype bite you! Syn-Ake looks promising, but there’s no scientific proof it works as well as claimed yet. The manufacturer claims it can freeze wrinkles, making skin look smoother. But unless you have very thin skin, it doesn’t penetrate deep enough to have a significant effect on your skin – and the results are only temporary. It definitely doesn’t work as well as Botox. If you want to try it, I recommend you go for a product with other goodies, like copper peptides, so you’ll at least get the benefits of those. And don’t forget to use sunscreen and retinoids. They’re still your best weapons in the fight against wrinkles.



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