According to a report released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 7 million Botox procedures were performed in 2019. In case that number doesn’t quite blow your mind, here’s one that will: that’s a more-than 748 percent increase from the number of people who got Botox injections in 2000. Clearly, we’re willing to roll with the punches and go beyond our standard at-home skincare routine in the quest for wrinkle-less skin—but what if we didn’t have to? What if there was an ingredient that mimicked the effects of Botox that you could use at home, while you’re catching up on those Game of Thrones episodes you somehow missed?
Enter: cone snail venom, the secret Botox alternative you haven’t heard of (yet). Also called snail venom conopeptide or MU-conotoxin, this synthetic ingredient mimics the effects of cone snail venom and relaxes facial muscles for an instant line-smoothing effect. Intrigued? We spoke with Jules Zecchino, former head of research & development at Estée Lauder and founder of skincare brand Erasa, to find out all the details.
Keep scrolling to learn about this game-changing wrinkle-fighter!
What Is Cone Snail Venom?
First, it should be noted that this ingredient doesn’t actually come from a cone snail—it’s created synthetically in a lab to mimic the effects. “Cone snails from the southwest shores of Australia have been known to secrete a venom that paralyzes their enemies and food sources,” Zecchino tells us. “We do not use cone snail venom—we make a biomimetic peptide that is patented and has specific activity without harming or depleting the natural flora of cone snails and their environment.” He explains that his team worked with a vendor called Activen to help develop an ingredient called XEP-30, which is “more active and potent than any other neuropeptide on the market.” The result? Erasa XEP-30 ($160), a wrinkle-fighting serum that Zecchino says is “the best performing product I have ever developed.” A strong claim, considering this is the man responsible for much-loved products like Elizabeth Arden’s Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum ($83) and Estée Lauder’s Perfectionist Wrinkle Lifting Serum ($108). In other words—tell us more.
How Does It Work?
Zecchino says that the special neuropeptide found in cone snail venom acts to block NAV 1 receptors on your nerve endings that inhibit muscle contraction, and therefore relaxes wrinkles and expression lines. Dr. Peter Thomas Roth, celebrity dermatologist, explains further: “Conotoxins stop nerve cells from communicating with each other, helping to relax underlying structures for natural feature rejuvenation,” he says. “It helps relax underlying muscles without an anesthetic effect via a neuromuscular interaction at a controlled, targeted dose.” He notes that clinical studies have shown a significant reduction of visible wrinkles after just two hours.
The Benefits of Cone Snail Venom
So—what can you expect from a product with this ingredient? Instant, visible reduction of deep wrinkles, crow’s feet, and forehead wrinkles, according to Roth. In more encouraging news, a two-week-long clinical trial conducted at AMA Laboratories found that women who used Zecchino’s Erasa XEP-30 twice daily found a 64 percent reduction in wrinkles, and the top quartile had the appearance of wrinkle reduction of 90 percent or better. “We were all amazed when our two-week results showed efficacy that most products do not have even after two or three months,” Zecchino says. “In fact, I have seen six months of treatment with retinol or retinoid acids that don’t compare to our clinical tests.”
As for long-term effects, the jury is still out—but the promise it shows is certainly not disappointing. “There aren’t yet any proven long-term benefits of this ingredient on its own,” Roth says. “However, some believe that we can ‘train’ our muscles to relax over time. The balance of [Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Turbo Serum, $100] is made with 45.5 percent active neuropeptides that do have long-term benefits, so there are cumulative benefits as an overall product.” Zecchino is optimistic as well, saying, “Our philosophy is that just a little relaxation via our gentle topical approach allows the skin to start healing and repairing the damage accumulated over the years.”