Lately I’ve noticed that simply using a skin-hydrating, collagen-boosting, discoloration-erasing, light-diffusing moisturizer is so 2016. The newest crop of anti-aging creams are going where no topical has gone before, claiming to give injectable-like results, from advanced mechanisms that deliver hyaluronic acid deeper into the skin for a filled look to peptides that subtly “freeze” away your fine lines and wrinkles like a gentler Botox.
Just living up to these claims on their own seem like a pretty tall order, but factor in a price tag that can sometimes hit north of $1,000, and it feels criminal to recommend any of these products without giving them a whirl and seeing for myself if they worked as well as they claim to.
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The latest injectable-replacing (possibly?) product to come across my desk is the biggest launch from luxury skin care brand Natura Bissé in four years, and is the latest innovation from their Inhibit line. Formed in 2003 (partly as a response to the then newly-approved injectable, Botox), the Inhibit line of products always aimed to give the injectable user another option. The new Inhibit High Definition treatment pairs a daily intensive serum with weekly patches and uses a blend of 71 percent active ingredients and a precise delivery mechanism to correct expression lines, fill wrinkles, hydrate, tighten and reform the appearance of the skin.
“Two ingredients, Octomioxyl (an ingredient proprietary to Natura Bissé) and conotoxin, inhibit expression lines, and when combined in this formula, work together creating a synergy that increases the action of both.” Natural Bissé’s senior VP of research and innovation, Patricia Fisas, tells me when I ask her exactly how the serum works. “Octamioxyl consists of an exclusive sequence of eight amino acids that intervenes in the mechanism of muscle cell contractions. Conotoxin, a neuropeptide, limits the sodium flow to the muscle cell. Sodium is an essential mineral needed to initiate muscle contraction, so the lack of the ingredient prevents muscle movement and reduces express line formation.” The serum, however, doesn’t stop at simply freezing away lines—it further softens them using a triple weight hyaluronic acid complex, specially formulated both for deeper penetration into the skin and optimal binding to plump and add volume. In addition, six different growth factors work to revitalize skin and increase suppleness and elasticity.
Like any beauty consumer researching an ingredient, I typed the word “conotoxin” into Google. A 2006 study from the NIH shed some interesting light on how the ingredient worked. The peptide is derived from marine cone snails, which uses the powerful toxin to numb and paralyze their prey. For medical researchers, the ingredient is in high demand, as it can quickly target neuroreceptors and shut off, among other things, transmitters that control pain and movement. This class of ingredients have plenty of medical uses, including paralyzing muscles during surgery. In cosmetics, conotoxin and synthetic versions of the ingredient are commonly used in the new wave of creams that are marketed as a Botox-alternatives.
After carefully washing my face (at $750 a bottle, I was not about to have the Inhibit serum mix or sit on top of 10-hour old foundation), I smoothed a pump of product all over, taking care to work it into my forming crow’s-feet and nasolabial folds. Like most Natura Bissé products, the serum had a light scent best described as “luxurious” and a silky-smooth texture that absorbed quickly without leaving behind greasy residue. In addition to the neuro-blocking technology, the serum contains nurturing ingredients such as different weights of hyaluronic acid, vitamins, growth factors and cholesterol that work to plump, hydrate, rejuvenate and give skin a visible filled look. Although the “freezing away” of wrinkles is neither immediate nor as dramatic as a shot of Botox to the area would yield, the serum left skin looking plumper, healthier and more radiant after just a few uses—a surface-retexturing and skin-improving effect that goes above and beyond what an injectable could achieve.
“Many people have reservations about injecting fillers or paralyzing agents into their face. To many, it is a very important decision that they do not take lightly, either due to their aversion to needles or to their own personal fear of side effects, as well as personal beliefs about aging,” Fisas says. “These products offer an alternative for people who want noticeable results but in a more natural way that is noninvasive. But it is also the perfect complement to medical aesthetic procedures, as it prolongs the results and also extends the time between sessions. When used as a supplement with injectable like Botox, this action assists in making the injectable results last longer.”
Ten minutes after applying the serum, I took out two patches and stuck them on my nasolabial folds. Although I have lines in this area that I consider pretty deep, I’ve been hesitant about diving into fillers out of fear of ending up with an overdone, puffy look. The patches contain some of the same ingredients as the serum, but are formulated into dissolvable, crystallized micro-cones that are able to physically penetrate the stratum corneum and are absorbed into the epidermis layer of the skin. The patches use a strong adhesive that kept them locked into the area for the full 120-minute application period, the time it takes for ingredients to dissolve and release into skin. One patch on each side of my mouth made it difficult to speak or eat, and while the sensation didn’t hurt, there was a feeling of pressure on the area. As a fidgety person, two hours of not moving wasn’t the easiest or most comfortable feeling, but with $22 worth of treatment on each line, I wasn’t about to quit before the optimal time was up.
When I removed the patches, I immediately noticed two things: The cones of product on the patch had flattened and there was no residue on the surface of my skin, which meant all the ingredients had absorbed and dissolved. Second, at rest, my nasolabial folds had completely disappeared, leaving behind a nice plumpness that looked like a blurring filter and been applied to the area. Even after moving my mouth, the plump effect remained.
The long-term effects of the treatment duo, of course, can’t be seen after just one application. A 31-day period before-and-after photo the brand took while developing the product (above), however, shows what a dramatic effect using the duo treatment can have on all areas of the face. In the photo, there is an obvious lifting and tightening effect of the skin (in fact, the jaw shape is completely changed) and a noticeable improvement in the depth of the nasolabial folds. While a total smoothing of forehead lines and crow’s-feet aren’t achieved, the results are dramatic and visible.
I posed one final question to Fisas. With a combined price of more than $1,000, the system costs about what a Botox and filler treatment would. “Why would someone opt for this over an in-office treatment?” I asked.
After examining the before-and-after photos and looking at my own skin, however, I realized I had my answer. Expecting an over-the-counter topical to do the job of an injectable is neither realistic nor achievable, but applying a “weaker” form of those medical-grade products does have one huge benefit. Along with the total smoothing and plumping effects of injectables, comes a downside—it’s all too easy to slip into the frozen, puffy unnatural look that is the telltale sign of having had work done. A topical will never get you to that point, but it can get you some of the same improvements and still let you look like yourself. For many people, that is what really makes these products worth the purchase.
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