Argireline, a so-called neuropeptide, was relatively new when I started Truth In Aging. It quickly caught on and was joined by a host of others that promised not only Botox-like effects, but also to mimic snake venom. I was skeptical for a long time, dismissing that these actually worked. And if they did, wouldn’t such effects ultimately result in muscle atrophy, as Botox does?
Thanks to compelling new research and formulations, I have since become more convinced of neuropeptides and have come to understand some of the nuanced ways in which they work. As they say, the proof is in the putting, and I have found some products with neuropeptides that are nothing short of impressive. Read on to learn how this new class of peptides is being used in topical creams and serums to freeze time.
What are neuropeptides?
Neuropeptides are a family of peptides (signaling proteins) that work on our neurotransmitters to limit muscle movement and inhibit expression lines in a process known as exocytosis. Although they are said to mimic the effects of Botox, this is misleading as they do not freeze the face and you won’t see your muscles actually immobilized. However, they do seem to reduce the number of muscle movements.
The neuropeptide family is a burgeoning one. There are now many different peptides that work on expression lines in different ways. I apologize in advance for blinding you with science by going into these differences, but if nothing else, you will be wowed by all the complex activity going on every time you squint.
So what exactly is happening when you squint? A super lipid, called a vesicle, releases a neurotransmitter to the synapses, sending a signal for the muscle to move. Three proteins, called the SNARE complex, are essential for the final stages of this process, which is known as exocytosis. Got that? Well, neuropeptides basically intervene in this process.
How do the different neuropeptides inhibit expression lines?
Argireline (acetyle hexapeptide 3)
Having been around the longest, this is the best known of the neuropeptides. Argireline works by blocking the release of acetylcholine, a chemical that functions as one of our neurotransmitters — and the first to be discovered — into the nerve cells that are responsible for muscle contraction
Syn-Ake (dipeptide diaminobutyroyl benzylamide diacetate)
Syn-ake doesn’t block acetylcholine from its release, but prevents its uptake by the receptors. This ingredient’s credibility has suffered, in my view, from the gimmicky association with snake venom. The origination myth is that it was developed to mimic Waglerin-1, a peptide found in temple viper snake venom. Nevertheless, Syn-ake is deemed to be much more effective than Argireline at reducing the frequency of muscle contractions.
This is a new peptide and is said to work synergistically with Argirline. It works by mimicking enkephalins, the peptides associated with pain relief. Pentapeptide-18 couples to the enkephalin receptor on the outside of the nerve cells, resulting in a decrease of its “excitability.” In other words, the nerve cell’s activity is turned down and the release of acetylcholine (see Argireline above) is modulated.
SNAP-8 (acetyl glutamyl heptapeptide-1)
This is an octapeptide and elongation of the Argireline peptide. However, it works in its own mysterious ways. Remember SNARE? Well, SNAP-8 works by jockeying for position with natural peptides to get into the SNARE process. In doing so, it disrupts it and renders it useless. No muscle movement, no frown (ergo no wrinkle).
Myoxinol is an oligopeptide taken from okra seeds. I haven’t been able to find much information on exactly how it works, but studies conducted by the manufacturer showed positive results on crow’s feet.
Traditionally used as an herbal Orajel of sorts, Acmella Oleracea was used to numb toothaches thanks to the presence of analgesic alkylamides called spilanthol. This spilanthol also prevents the contraction of subcutaneous muscles.