As a millennial, TikTok has become my go-to for uncovering the latest skincare hacks, makeup dupes and trend-led hair and beauty looks. But when Gen Z beauty enthusiasts flag a product (often propelling it to viral status), I really sit up and listen.
Recently, the hashtag #botoxinabottle has amassed an enormous 16 million views and counting, with skin-Tokers mixing two buzzy skincare serums. They claim that together, the products serve up similar results to Botox: smooth, glowing skin and minimised fine lines and wrinkles. The beauty buys in question are none other than The Ordinary’s Argireline Solution 10%, £5.50, and Matrixyl 10% + HA, £9.50. At £15 combined, they’re a snip of the price of Botox injections, which can set you back £350 or more.
The star ingredients are argireline and matrixyl (both peptides, or proteins which smooth and repair skin) as well as hyaluronic acid, which hydrates deeply and plumps out fine lines — but I’ll bring you more on their promising effects later. Right now, TikTok’s beauty enthusiasts are praising the serum hack in their droves, especially @sarahpalmyra, who told her 811.4k followers that she is “blown away by the results” after using both products for four weeks. She mentioned that she is most impressed at the improvement in the frown lines between her brows. Sarah isn’t the only one who is sold on combining the two products. @sieraalexis explained she is currently debating whether to book in for Botox. In a video she said: “Before you go booking that appointment, I think I’ve found the product that can literally change all of our lives. When I tell you that I went to bed and had a little bit of a smile line, put this on and I woke up the next day with nothing…” Also on TikTok, @cosmetics_qween noticed a difference in her smile lines, frown lines and forehead wrinkles, exclaiming: “I’m using this on my wedding day!”
I had to put the skincare duo to the test myself. But before I did, I spoke to Daniel Ezra, award-winning ophthalmic and oculoplastic consultant surgeon and medical director of the NEO Clinic and 152 Harley Street, for his take on Botox.
What is Botox and how does it work?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, fine lines and wrinkles are an entirely natural part of ageing but they may be a point of insecurity for some. Call it ‘Instagram face’ or celebrity influence, cosmetic tweakments are on the rise. A recent Save Face and VICE UK Snapchat survey found that 59% of 51,000 respondents compare cosmetic tweakments to having a haircut or manicure. Botox is a popular one. “Botox is otherwise known as botulinum toxin,” says Dr Ezra. “When injected, it blocks certain nerve signals that make muscles contract, causing the muscles to relax. This then temporarily reduces or eliminates unwanted lines and wrinkles.” Dr Ezra explains that the results of Botox generally last for three to six months and are usually visible within 24 to 36 hours, with the full effects seen after one to two weeks. “Lifestyle factors can contribute to how long effects last,” adds Dr Ezra.
At 32, my skin is beginning to lose elasticity and while my forehead wrinkles are generally unseen when I have a neutral expression, after frowning or raising my brows, the lines stick around and my makeup frequently settles in them. I have started to wonder whether prevention is better than treatment. I asked Dr Ezra. “Typically, patients in their early 30s are at a good stage to begin preventative injections,” he told me, “as this tackles fine lines before they can set into deep wrinkles.”
While the injectable market is booming, there are a number of reasons why people may be interested in more natural alternatives. Personally, a needle phobia is part of the reason I would love to see results from skincare. The high cost of Botox is also a factor, as is the risk that comes with any procedure. “Injections are an expert procedure and should be administered by a qualified and trained practitioner,” explains Dr Ezra. “Do your research into a clinic to ensure staff are fully trained and have evidence to prove their qualifications. You can also check that the practitioner is registered with their relevant regulatory authority e.g. the General Medical Council.” Dr Ezra adds that many non-medical clinics have now started to offer Botox for a fraction of the price. He warns that staff can be ill-equipped to administer injectables, which can lead to ‘botched’ jobs. With that in mind, The Ordinary’s natural alternative swayed me.
Does TikTok’s ‘Botox in a bottle’ really work?
I am already a fan of The Ordinary’s skincare products and their bargain price points, and this duo is a steal. The product description detailed that both argireline and matrixyl can be applied in the morning and evening so I used both products twice daily, layering them onto cleansed skin. While The Ordinary says to apply a few drops of each product around the eyes and forehead area, TikTokers are obsessed with using the solution on smile lines, so I applied the concoction there, too. Exfoliating acids and vitamin C conflict with argireline, so I used the two serums alone, followed by a gentle moisturiser.
Both products are a clear, white liquid and have a watery consistency — argireline more so. Despite the runny texture, they absorbed quickly and without leaving behind any stickiness. Though I repeatedly frowned in the mirror after each application, I didn’t notice any results until after the first week of use. Rather than a particular area of my skin looking magically de-wrinkled, my skin appeared glowing as if I were having a good skin day. I noticed the frown line between my brows wasn’t deepening but that might have been the case without applying this duo. I don’t think the topical treatment froze my skin’s movement like TikTok suggests (I’m certainly still making expressive faces) but it did seem to have a positive effect on my fine lines.
After two weeks, I can safely say that my forehead looks less sad and the products made my skin look plumped up. Dr Ezra explains why TikTokers (and me) might be seeing results from the serums. “Argireline works to prevent muscle movement, which leads to wrinkle formation,” he told me. “It also promotes collagen production, making it a great ingredient. Matrixyl is also a type of synthetic peptide [basically a protein] that has the ability to stimulate collagen production, resulting in firmer and smoother skin.” When it comes to skincare, the general expert consensus is to use products consistently for six to 12 weeks in order to notice a real difference. While a fortnight may not have delivered the very best results, at just over £15 I’m going to continue to use both products long-term — even if they aren’t a magic bullet.
So how do topical treatments like these really compare to injectables? Dr Ezra explains: “The effects of topical treatments are modest at best but may be a good option for those who may not want to try injectables, those who don’t like needles or perhaps those who cannot afford wrinkle injections.” Besides these two viral products, Dr Ezra recommends looking for skincare that contains ingredients which stimulate collagen production, such as retinol and peptides. “They also may be of use to extend time between Botox appointments,” says Dr Ezra, “however, in terms of effectiveness, it’s difficult to compare them to the results of injectables.”
Will The Ordinary’s duo encourage me to swerve the Botox needle? Most likely not. But for the months and even year ahead, TikTok has come up trumps and this serum hack is well worth a go.
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