Venoms are becoming increasingly common in skincare, because they help to increase blood flow to the area of application, which can temporarily plump and tighten the skin.
“Venom generally works by relaxing muscles and enhancing blood flow,” says Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai (New York City). “Using it in skincare can help promote delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. In addition, many types of venom have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties, helping to repair damaged and aging skin.”
Here’s a look at some of the most common types of venom found in skincare:
Bee Venom: When a bee stings, it releases a colorless, liquid poison from its stinger. This same venom is sometimes found in skincare, as it features anti-inflammatory properties and has shown effective results in the treatment of acne. “Bee venom is actually an anaphylactic, which means it can temporarily paralyze the muscles in your face, similar to what Botox does, but it’s a more natural remedy,” says Jayme Bashian, director and lead medical esthetician for the Simply Posh Aesthetic Spa, a division of Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (Albertson, NY). “Bee venom can also act as an anti-inflammatory to acne-prone skin, while firming and smoothing aging skin.”
Snake Venom: When a snake bites its prey, it injects a toxin from its fangs, which paralyzes the prey’s muscles. Similarly, when used in skincare, this toxin (and a synthetic tripeptide version called Syn-ake) temporarily inhibits muscle activity, which prevents and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and helps relax the skin. Syn-ake is gaining recognition because it mimics the benefits of the peptide found in the venom of a temple viper snake. “Many of these alternatives also provide long-term, lasting improvements to the skin, if used consistently, through the combination of potent peptides, enzymes, and amino acids,” says Scandic Beauty’s Deb Uhrberg.
Snail Essence: The secretions produced by snails have been used for centuries for their healing benefits. The peptides and growth factors found in the slime help increase collagen and elastin production in the skin, improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and help to fade acne scars. “Snails don’t truly make a venom, but the excretions they produce can be harvested for skincare, as well—both to heal skin wounds faster and as a natural anti-inflammatory,” says Rachel Nazarian, M.D., dermatologist with the Schweiger Dermatology Group (New York City).