Who knows how these things start, but there has been a small outbreak of panic that Argireline (Botox in a jar) isn't a face firmer, but a skin sagger. Messages are piling up on internet boards and Truth In Aging's mail box has got beyond the point of individual responses. So what's the truth behind Argireline? Is it an effective wrinkle treatment, or might it make matters worse?

My own prejudice has been that its mostly pointless and a waste of money. But over the last few days, it struck me that I should revisit Argireline and try to get under its skin, so to speak. First of all, what is it exactly?

Argireline is the trade name for a synthetic peptide called acetyl hexapeptide-3. Peptides are made up of a chain (in a defined order) of amino acids. Peptides are short chains, proteins are long chains. There are peptides for a whole range of things. Acetyl hexapeptide-3 is a peptide that acts on the neurons. The idea is that it inhibits the nerves from sending a signal to the muscle. If muscles don't move then expression lines are prevented (that's whole principle of Botox).

Argireline is made by a Spanish company called Lipotec, which has done a fair amount of research that shows that Argireline reduces wrinkles. The problem is that there isn't much research that hasn't been sponsored by Lipotec. There is one study that I found conducted by a Spanish university and published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science that says that a 10% concentration of Argireline reduced wrinkles by 30% over 30 days.

What about the likelihood of sag? Well, if a muscle doesn't move it will atrophy and stop supporting anything around it. The skin will indeed sag. That's the problem with Botox (well that and the fact that its a poison that can migrate through muscle walls). Applying the same logic to Argireline is, however, theoretical. There has been no research on sagging. If you've ever tried an Argireline cream, you'll have noticed that it doesn't seem to have much effect on your ability to move your face.

So does that mean its pointless? I used an Argireline cream for ages (eg about 18 months). I think it probably did some good and certainly no harm. I must admit I am getting far better results with the antioxidant creams I have been using like Oraia and the potions with another kind of peptide called matrixyl.

There seems to be a couple dos and don'ts to get the best out of Argireline. Although Lipotec's studies were done with a concentration of 10% or less, some potion makers say you need a good dose of it - more like 25%. It needs to be combined with a good absorption enhancer. Thirdly, it should really be combined with good antioxidants such as a spin trap (see the Your Best Face line).

Bottom line: if you are prone to sag, I wouldn't use it if I were you. If you are firm of face, but want to combat wrinkles, by all means give it a go but make sure its in a good potion combined with antioxidants.