Topical Botox Anyone?

Botox remains a popular and effective method of reducing unwanted facial expressions and wrinkles. While it is a highly desired anti-aging facial treatment, it must be introduced by a needle and preferably in a doctor’s office or a medical facility. While the injections are not terribly uncomfortable, if there was a way to avoid having needles put into one’s face these anti-wrinkle treatments would likely become even more popular.

The quest to find a ‘topical Botox’ or cream that would penetrate through the skin to reduce the source of facial wrinkles has been much like the search for the Holy Grail. There is a strong belief that such a cream exists but it has remained elusive. Many topical creams and serums claiming to have a Botox-like effect have been touted, but the real beneficiary of those products has always been the manufacturer .

At this year’s annual American Society of Plastic Surgeons meeting in Denver, a new botulinum toxin-based gel was presented that showed promise. Reporting results from a recent prospective double-blind clinical trial of nearly 100 patients, near 90% of those that had the active gel had observable reduction in crow’s feet wrinkles. This compared, interestingly, to just under 30% in those patients that have been treated by a non-active or placebo gel. In a second study that involved nearly 200 patients about 40% of those treated with the botulinum toxin gel had good results. In either study, the effects of the gel lasted around four months which was comparable to that of injectable Botox.

These study results are the first to show that dynamic facial wrinkle reduction is possible through topical application or a cream. It is no surprise that the studies have been done for wrinkles in the crow’s feet region to the side of the eye. This skin is very thin and the most easily penetrated down to the orbicularis muscle underneath. This is unlikely in the substantially thicker forehead tissues where an effective topical cream would be much more challenged to penetrate deep enough.

 While it is encouraging that a botulinum toxin gel has been shown to noticeably soften crow’s feet wrinkles without needles, it remains to be seen how practical it will be. Does the gel work better than injectable Botox? Would it’s cost be similar, less or even more? This information awaits further clinical study which undoubtably is ongoing. Getting rid of some wrinkles may truly be just a dab away in the near future.  

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana