Botox, the wrinkle-smoothing injection that was long the preserve of Hollywood, is more popular and widely accepted than ever. But for most people, the thought of injections, and their cost, means it will never be an option.

This created a gap in the market, readily filled by a sea of skincare products claiming to replicate Botox’s ability to ‘freeze’ facial muscles or inhibit facial expression. But can they?

There seemed one obvious way to put them to the test: volunteer my own forehead for a half-and-half trial, by using so-called ‘Botox gels’ on one side, and having the injections on the other.

Clear result: Alice Hart-Davis with a Botox-treated right side of her forehead and still-wrinkled left side

My Botox trial took place at the Phi Clinic in Harley Street with medical director Dr Tapan Patel.

After marking up the wrinkle pattern on my forehead and around my eyes, he injected Botox just to the right side of my brow, and around the crow’s-feet wrinkles at the side of my right eye.

He said: ‘We use Botox to treat lines caused by muscle contraction such as frown lines between the eyebrows. Botox has a specific action whereby it stops nerves passing messages to muscles and prevents them from contracting. When we treat a patient with Botox, we inject it into very specific places to get the overall aesthetic result.’

While the Botox was settling in (it can take two weeks to be effective), I tested the contenders, which are UK market leaders. 

First was Biotulin Supreme, a gel that allegedly counts the Duchess of Cambridge, Michelle Obama, Madonna and Kim Kardashian in its fan base. 

I put it on, and watched and waited; no result. No feeling of tightening or numbness. I’m left wondering how it could have reduced wrinkles in the clinical tests the product’s packaging says took place.

Michelle Obama, Madonna and Kim Kardashian are all fans of anti-ageing creams that recreate the effects of botox 

After a few days with no discernible results, I moved on to Rodial’s Snake Serum O2. It’s lighter than a cream or gel, in glamorous packaging, and my skin drinks it in.

Having been told by a Rodial spokesman that results are instant, I watched my face keenly each time I applied it – but again, there was absolutely no result. A week later, with my forehead and crow’s-feet muscles as active as ever, I moved on to my last hope, Argireline Solution 10% from The Ordinary.

This is a watery liquid in basic packaging but I know the main ingredient – the peptide Argireline. An independent study published in the International Journal Of Cosmetic Science in 2002 reckoned that Argireline at a ten per cent concentration reduced wrinkles around the eyes by 30 per cent over the course of a month.

I souse the left side of my face in Argireline Solution for ten days but as yet, there’s no change.

What it says on the bottle… 

Supreme Skin Gel, by Biotulin

CLAIM: Biotulin gel is clinically proven to reduce wrinkle depth by up to 25 per cent within an hour due to the anaesthetic spilanthol, which freezes facial muscles.


Argireline Solution 10%, by The Ordinary

CLAIM: Independent study in International Journal Of Cosmetic Science in 2002 said Argireline at a ten per cent concentration reduced wrinkles around eyes by 30 per cent in a month. 


Snake Serum O2, by Rodial

CLAIM: The key ingredient is Syn-Ake dipeptide, a ‘wrinkle-freezing’ ingredient that smooths the skin by mimicking the effects of Temple Viper venom.


When I return to Dr Patel two weeks later, the Botox has started to work, damping down all the muscles on the right side of my face and around my right eye, while the left side is behaving as normal.

‘I’m not at all surprised to see the cosmetic application had no effect,’ says Dr Patel. ‘There are numerous products with similar claims.

‘Even if by some stroke of luck they did work, how would we be able to dose them or apply them to unique areas?’

A young woman having a Botox injection (file image)

Because I live in hope, I will continue using the Argirelene for the rest of the month. Just in case.

I have put myself through many bizarre experiments in the name of beauty journalism, and this has to be one of the oddest. But if it helps to make the point that these much-hyped ‘Botox-without-the-needles’ potions produce no discernible effect, it will have been worth it. And the products? They will simply remain hope in a jar.

Rodial said: ‘We always recommend that our customers choose the correct product to cater to their own age and skin concern, and use the product for up to 28 days to see maximum results.’

Brandon Truaxe, spokesman for The Ordinary, said: ‘Argireline peptides cannot reach deeper muscles than a needle can reach readily and the peptide itself is simply not anywhere as toxic (effective) as botulinum toxin. Botox is not skincare and skincare is not Botox. One shouldn’t try to compare them.’

A spokesman for Biotulin said: ‘We do not understand why Biotulin is not working for you. We think it’s a miracle – all other customers have said it works wonderfully.’