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Four Things to Try Before Botox

botox injection
Is a Solution for:
Fine Lines, Wrinkles
June 5, 2014 Reviewed by Marta 11 Comments

I suspect that many of us have thought about Botox and felt the lure of a quick fix for those pesky forehead lines. But there is a little wrinkle for Botox. Research from Harvard Medical School shows that Botox attacks neurons (the nerve cells that are the basic building block of the nervous system), but stops short of killing them off.

I’ve been put off by the potential health risks for some years. Back in 2008, alarm signals were sounded by a study claiming that injected botulinum toxin can travel to the brain, degrading proteins. My poor old brain does not need its protein degraded. So, what’s a girl to do?

I don’t know of anything that can replicate becalmed lake quite the way that Botox does. And I’m not at all impressed by the so-called Botox mimicking peptides that act on the proteins that cause muscles to move, such as argireline. These peptides never seem to really work, and I’m not sure that I’d want them to, since an immobilized muscle becomes an atrophied muscle and that leads to sagging (one of the other issues that I have with Botox). But there are some other solutions that I’ll keep working with — until I find better (or succumb to the big B).

1. Ultrasound or Microcurrent

Regular monthly microcurrent sessions with my esthetician and my at-home arsenal of ultrasound and microcurrent devices are what’s kept me from running and screaming to the nearest doctor with a needle. Non-invasive and utterly painless, regular use does result in firmer, lifted skin. Note that I said regular — unlike with Botox, results are not instant but cumulative over time and dependent on a regimen of at least three times a week.

Microcurrent works by delivering a tiny charge that stimulates facial muscles. Face and neck muscles feel toned — the equivalent of having done bicep curls. For an at-home microcurrent device, I recommend the Myotone Facial Toning System ($279).

With ultrasound, the waves pass from the treatment head into the skin, where they cause a vibration of the surrounding tissues, particularly those that contain collagen. For at-home ultrasound devices, Truth Renew and Ultra Renew Plus are two top choices.

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2. Peptides (But Not Just Any Old Peptide)

Forget those peptides that inhibit muscle movement and hit the ones that improve elasticity and firmness. Look for serums that contain ChroNOline, Relistase and TT2.

ChroNOline, the name given to caprooyl tetrapeptide-3, is derived from a growth factor, namely TGF-ß, and stimulates production of laminin 5 (as well as collagen VII). By stimulating laminin 5 synthesis, the formation of the basement membrane is given a significant boost. And the basement membrane is like the skin’s scaffolding. This baby is anti-sag. You can find ChroNOline in the new (and very good) eye serum, Prana Precious Fluids ($135).

Relistase is actually a tripeptide and inhibits elastase activity and boosts collagen 1 synthesis. It has also been designed to treat sagginess and restore firmness to the skin. You can find Relistase in the facial serum Your Best Face Control ($160 in the shop), which also has Syn-Hycan.

TT2, or trifluoroacetyl tripeptide-2, works by inhibiting elastase (an enzyme that attacks structural proteins). You can find TT2 in E'shee Clinical Esthetic Alpha and Omega Gene Therapy Eye Cream ($284 in the shop).

3. Growth Factors

Human fibroblast conditioned media, or human adipose stem cells, or epidermal growth proteins are comprised of different proteins, and although they all send signals to cells, their roles differ. TGF-b stimulates collagen production, among other things. FGF-1 is a family of growth factors involved in angiogenesis and wound healing. The thing to appreciate is that growth factors are wrinkle repairers — in fact, they're the best that I know of.

You can find growth factors in the aptly named Medik8 Growth Factor ($160), AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum ($149 in the shop), and Stemulation Facial Serum ($135).

4. LED

LED or low level light therapy (LLL) is a wrinkle reducer and collagen booster — if you are willing to put the time in for three to five at-home sessions per week. Plenty of research attests to LED’s efficacy, such as a study in Denmark. Researchers in Germany concluded that LED works "by targeting water layers on elastin” and that, as a result, “facial wrinkle levels could be significantly reduced”.

You can find LED for use at home with the Baby Quasar PLUS ($399), which has red LED light and Ultra Renew Plus ($159), which in addition to ultrasound (see above) and ionic modes, has red, blue and green LED lights.

Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.

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  • July 3, 2014

    by Annette

    Angela: I'm really interested in trying the Medik8 Growth Factor Marta highlights in this review, but first, I need to use up some of the products I have.

  • July 2, 2014

    by Angela

    Thanks so much for sharing, Annette. Innarah sounds like a line that I need to explore.

  • July 2, 2014

    by Annette

    Angela-- To answer your question, I'm a bit of a product junkie. I love to try new things, but a few stand out. Arcona Vitamin A Complex, which contains retinol, works wonders on my skin, leaving it firmer, fresher and smoother. If I could chose only one anti-aging product, it would be this one, but it would be a tight race with AQ Skin Solutions Eye Serum. Used faithfully every day, AQ Eye Serum has made a noticeable difference around my eyes. I like to gently massage a little in around my crows feet which to me, seems to really soften them.

    Concerning cleansers and toners, I've been trying a few new ones from brands like Arcona and INNARAH, and I tried one my aesthetician recommended because I was stuck in a rut with Obagi Nu Derm for years. To be completely honest, I'm back to Obagi. It took me several years of trial and error to find a cleanser/toner combo that gives me a clean, fresh-faced feel and appearance without resulting in flakes of dry skin on my nose or congested pores.

    The two areas I'm obsessed with are the light furrows between my brows (which I know with certainty that BOTOX or Dysport would erase) and fine lines above my upper lip. I use TIA's Ultra Renew Plus device which definitely helps when used regularly, but it does require a commitment of time. Lately I've been trying INNARAH's Line Smoothing Treatment Serum, I also like INNARAH Treatment Solution, which brightens the skin and preps it for an anti-aging serum. Last but not least, and surprisingly, I really like Osmosis' Polish/Enzyme-Firming Mask. Use it once a week on my face, neck, and upper chest. My skin is soft and baby-smooth afterward. I have purchased a couple of other masks to try, but haven't done so yet.

  • June 30, 2014

    by Angela

    Hi Annette,

    Would you mind sharing your regimen? Are you experimenting with different products or have you found your holy grail anti-aging potions and lotions and sticking with them? Are you using any at-home devices?


  • June 26, 2014

    by Annette

    I used BOTOX (also tried Dysport) for about two years. Went to a talented, experienced, board-certified facial plastic surgeon on Park Ave. who has a remarkably light touch. He really eased the lines without "freezing" my face/forehead. Everything moved so I didn't have that odd mask-like look. I loved the results. A real miracle in a syringe when administered by an expert. But, after spending well over $2,500 in a year, I decided to give up BOTOX/Dysport and try a DYI approach with great products. I've been at this for about 2 years now. Bottom line, products do and can work well, but you just aren't going to get the dramatic results as you do with BOTOX or Dysport. Still, I'm happy using well-reviewed products I purchase through TIA. My lines are soft and few. I can deal with this. And really, a totally smooth, line-free face at my age (57), looks unnatural. I like to surprise people with my age, but I want to look 100% natural. I don't mind a few soft lines. Someday I'll try BOTOX/Dysport again, but for now, I'll let the products do their own magic.

  • June 9, 2014

    by dennis

    I recently gave in and had a botox browlift. The results, to put it mildly, are startlingly good. I've used LED, ultrasonic, dermarolling, argiriline, synake, growth factors none if which approach the results i got from botox. I hardly recognize myself somedays. Its as if i am looking back in time. Now, i still use all of the above, because maintenance is important, but botox is more like a renovation.

  • June 5, 2014

    by Donna

    I am having great results with Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide). My forehead feels tighter than before use. Give it a try.

  • June 5, 2014

    by Angela

    @Chris -- since lotions/potions don't work instantaneously (they can take weeks/months before producing a visible change), a sample just wouldn't be able to provide any kind of useful information.

  • June 5, 2014

    by Susan


  • June 5, 2014

    by chris barbera

    I agree with the above comment. Botox does work, although the cost is expensive you also know it works before paying the cost. If the above lotions work why would the manufacturer not offer samples? Also, perhaps the Microcurrents work for some, however having invested in $200 in a micro current device, it did not do a thing for me. I sent it back. Again, if these topical creams and lotions truly work, why wouldn't the manufacturer produce samples to prove it?? Certainly, if they truly accomplish what is stated then samples alone would increase their business.

  • June 5, 2014

    by Sogol

    I have the Ultra Renew and use it.
    But the prices of those creams!! I would need cold hard facts and proof beyond a doubt, just like botox, that they work.
    We all want to look good but $1000 skin regimen by the time you have all your lotions and potions is not plausible for most.

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