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Before You Book Botox, Read This

The best over-the-counter products to try before you turn to needles

By Sherine Youssef

‘Botox in a bottle’ does not exist. Let’s just get that out of the way. There is nothing, nothing, that will truly replicate the skin-smoothing and plumping results of a professionally-administered shot of Botox or filler. If anyone or any brand tries to tell you otherwise, smile politely and walk away.

But there are some excellent ingredient innovations occurring in over-the-counter products that can produce marked results, especially when it comes to skin tone and brightness.

“Skincare advances are happening at a rapid rate, it’s an extremely exciting growth industry,” notes Associate Professor Greg Goodman, director at the Dermatology Institute of Victoria and Script Skincare.


Nothing can replicate the results of professionally-administered Botox

Clinically proven ingredients, including skincare staples vitamin A (retinoids and retinol) and vitamin C, plus newer ones like resveratrol (a compound found in grapes and some berries), bakuchiol, and DNA repair enzymes, can all help boost collagen production, diminishing the appearance of wrinkles.

But it’s peptides that Professor Goodman describes as “the closest thing we have to ‘Botox in a bottle’”. Studies have shown that these amino acids can be effective in reducing inflammation and facial lines.

These ingredient advances are not just good news for needle-phobes, explains Barbara Green, head of research and development at skincare brand NeoStrata. “While Botox and fillers are incredibly useful in treating lines and creases, they do not address other important signs of ageing, such as rough skin texture, uneven skin tone, or reduced brightness.”

This is where topical products can help, and “address the shortcomings of injectables while being needle-free, subtle, and relatively inexpensive.”

It’s no secret that Aussies love Botox; we spend $1 billion on cosmetic procedures annually, with around $350 million of that dedicated to the wrinkle-smoothing toxin.

But if you’re steering clear of Botox and fillers – maybe the pandemic has you rethinking your budget, or injectables just aren’t for you – there are a couple of specific ingredients that, while they might not give you the immediate impact of an injection, can work delicately and gradually over time to get your skin looking its healthiest. You might just be surprised with the results.

How to treat…

Frown and marionette lines (aka laughter lines)

Professionally: Anti-wrinkle injections (ie Botox) for frown lines and hyaluronic acid dermal fillers for marionette lines (the vertical lines that run from mouth to chin), says Katrina Keene, a registered nurse and beauty therapist in Melbourne.

At home: “Although hyaluronic acid (HA) definitely doesn’t have the same effect when used at home, it is a good support ingredient for injectable dermal fillers as it improves hydration, assists barrier function and has a plumping effect, which gives the skin a ‘glow’,” says Professor Goodman, who suggests pairing HA with collagen-building ingredients.

Try: NeoStrata Tri-Therapy Lifting Serum, $74.99

Forehead creases

Professionally: Botox.Tthis is the prescription for any wrinkle that forms as a result of facial expressions, like smiling, frowning or raising the brows.

At home: Professor Goodman prescribes a combination of peptides and collagen-building ingredients, while Green likes glycolic acid to exfoliate and refine texture, and improve the appearance of wrinkles.

Try: Medik8 Liquid Peptides, $98

Crow’s feet

Professionally: Botox, again (crow’s feet are an expression wrinkle, see above).

At home: HA can help plump the skin and smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, creating a firmer, more lifted look, and collagen-building ingredients are also ideal.

Try: meseoestetic Collagen 360 Eye Contour, $140

Sagging skin (jawline/neck)

Professionally: You have options! The experts suggest ultrasound therapy (Green); double chin injectable treatments, thread lifts or plasma therapy (Keene); or fractional radio frequency skin tightening (Professor Goodman), which is a less invasive treatment that uses heat and microneedles.

At home: As Professor Goodman points out, the purpose of most tightening treatments is to trigger the skin’s wound-healing response, in order to stimulate collagen and firm skin – so, again, look for those collagen-building ingredients, like vitamin A.

Try: Shani Darden Texture Reform Serum, $175.80


Skin Active Tri-Therapy Lifting Serum


Liquid Peptides


Collagen 360 eye contour


Texture Reform Serum

Dry, dull skin

Professionally: Chemical peel, microdermabrasion, Hydrafacial (it hits the trifecta of cleanse, extract and hydrate), skin needling, IPL.

At home: You want to buff and then moisturise. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) loosen the ‘glue’ holding the topmost layer of dead skin cells together, allowing them to shed and reveal the new skin underneath. Sloughing these cells also helps to keep the top layer of skin optimally thin and pliable; if skin maintains elasticity, it is less likely to wrinkle, explains Professor Goodman. Some AHAs can also draw water into the skin, which is why you might find them in a moisturiser, and HA is also a good option for thirsty skin.

Try: Wrinkles Schminkles Face Polishing Peel Pads, $24.95; Glow Recipe Plump Hyaluronic Serum, $67, available Sept 29 at Mecca

Redness, rosacea and broken capillaries

Professionally: Vascular laser combined with LED.

At home: “When treating rosacea at home, tread carefully to ensure you don’t flare your condition, and I would always recommend seeking professional advice,” cautions Professor Goodman, who namechecks anti-inflammatory ingredients like chamomile, tea tree oil and zinc. Keane’s picks: Centella asiatica, bilberry extract and hesperidin.

Try: Arcona Chamomile Balm, $45

Discolouration (pigmentation, melasma)

Professionally: Chemical peels, IPL, Nd:YAG laser (it can deeply penetrate skin and is often recommended for darker skin tones).

At home: Look for pigment blocking ingredients (aka tyrosinase inhibitors) like tranexamic acid, shiitake mushroom extract and liquorice. Professor Goodman recommends combining these with vitamin A or bakuchiol, which have been shown to reduce pigmentation, sunspots and freckles.

Adds Green: “Glycolic acid is considered a gold standard of exfoliation for a brighter, more radiant complexion, helping to fade discolouration and even tone.”

Try: SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight, $139


Face polishing peel pads


Chamomile balm


Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight

BY Sherine Youssef

Sherine Youssef is a beauty editor who lives in Sydney. She hasn’t yet given up hope on Botox in a bottle

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