That latest "it" skin-care ingredient packs a poisonous punch. But what's the real deal with these venom-infused products?
When it comes to skin-care ingredients, there are your standard suspects: antioxidants, vitamins, peptides, retinoids, and different botanicals. Then there are the much stranger options which always make us take pause (bird poop and snail mucus are among some of the more bizarre celeb beauty trends we've seen). So when we noticed that more and more products were touting venom, we had to wonder which category this trendy ingredient fell into. Is this all just a gimmick, or could it be that these "poisonous" products will soon join the ranks of proven anti-agers?
First and foremost, it's important to know what kind of venom is being used. Bee venom (yes, from actual bees) is common, and has some science behind it, according to NYC-based celebrity dermatologist, Whitney Bowe, M.D. "The studies are small, but they're promising and intriguing. They indicate that honey bee venom can be helpful in treating acne because it's antibacterial; eczema because it's anti-inflammatory; and anti-aging because it may help with collagen production," she says. You can find it in any number of products, from masks (like Miss Spa Bee Venom Plumping Sheet Mask, $8; ulta.com) to oils (Manuka Doctor Drops of Crystal Beautifying Bi-Phase Oil $26; manukadoctor.com) to creams (Beenigma Cream, $53; fitboombah.com).
What about when you see snake "venom" listed in products like Rodial Snake Eye Cream ($95; bluemercury.com) and Simply Venom Day Cream ($59; simplyvenom.com)? It's typically a synthetic blend of proprietary peptides that promise to paralyze the muscle, the basic premise behind topical venom, says Dr. Bowe. In theory, this inhibits the muscle contractions that can, over time, lead to the formation of wrinkles and lines. But take that claim with a grain of salt: "There's not a lot of evidence showing that venom actually does inhibit muscle activity long enough to work as well as an injectable neurotoxin, like Botox," Bowe explains. "The effects of the venom are transient and weak, lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours, which won't permanently stop the muscle movement."
Still, if you're needle-phobic, are focused more on prevention than reversal, or don't have crazy high expectations, these venom-infused topicals can be a good alternative, says Dr. Bowe. And while they may not be a direct replacement for injectables, they can help prolong their effects when used as an adjunct treatment, she adds.
Regardless, any kind of venom stimulates circulation, bringing blood flow to the area. While that can be painful when it comes to a bee sting, it's a good thing when it comes to your complexion, as increased blood flow can plump the skin and leave it glowing. The bottom line? There's no need to be scared of these poisonous products, and it may be worth incorporating one or two into your skin-care stash—just be realistic about their promises and your expectations.