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Four years ago, the scientists at Swiss-based pharmaceutical brand Pentapharm—the keepers of a Brazilian snake farm used for medical testing—discovered a link between anti-aging and the paralysis-inducing properties of temple-viper venom. If the viper could send its victims into a permanent stupor with its venom, they reasoned, perhaps the same science could be used to tame crow’s feet and forehead furrows. So they developed SYN-AKE, a topical synthetic tripeptide that mimics the protein in venom responsible for inhibiting neuromuscular activity. When applied to the skin, SYN-AKE relaxes the “frowning and grimacing” muscles that lead to deep wrinkles.
Clinical tests with 45 women over 28 days showed that SYN-AKE reduced the depth of crow’s feet by at least eight percent and forehead lines by as much as 52 percent, reports Eric Lippay, senior skin-care marketing manager for DSM, which owns the Pentapharm brand. “Still, it’s synthetic,” he says. “Snake venom was only the inspiration.” Nonetheless, this faux poison is a hit with the Botox-shunning celebrity set. Clients of the Sonya Dakar clinic in Beverly Hills line up for snake-venom facials, while Hollywood gossip sites proclaim Gwyneth Paltrow’s and Fergie’s affection for Dakar’s UltraLuxe-9 Age Control Complex ($190), a SYN-AKE-infused skin cream. And it’s popping up in other skin-care products too. Canada’s own Euoko has already charmed 22 countries worldwide with its signature snake-venom cream— Y-30 Intense Lift Concentrate—which sells for $525 a jar. Meanwhile, Rodial’s Glamoxy Snake Serum ($195) launched waiting lists of more than 100,000 people hoping to get their hands on a bottle before it hit U.K. department stores in February.
Is snake venom the next Botox? Learn more on the next page ...
What are the biggest skin care myths? Find out here! Pentapharm’s temporary wrinkle fix has prompted some skepticism, however, within the medical community. Dr. Fred Weksberg, a Toronto-based cosmetic dermatologist, questions the comparisons to Botox. “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,” he says. Both Weksberg and Dr. Lisa Kellett, a Toronto-based cosmetic dermatologist, point to the lack of independent lab research or peer-reviewed journal reports to back the science behind the claims. “By contrast, more than 50 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials have established the safety and effectiveness of Botox,” says Kellett.
But Liliana Dutka, founder of the Natural Anti-Ageing Clinic in M i s s i s s a u g a , Ont., says that she is sufficiently sold on the SYN-AKE research, enough to offer it at her clinic in a skin serum called Synergy Lift ($192). Dutka, a pharmacist and medical aesthetician, has wooed many injection-phobic clients. “Some of our clients are Botoxwary; others have had bad experiences,” she says. “This is shorter-lasting but provides the look they desire.” Some might say that the snake-oil salesmen are making a killing. Clearly, no one’s complaining.
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