StriVectin-SD ($135 for 6 ounces). Still one of the most-asked-about products, quite a few of you want to know the truth behind the rather prominent newspaper and magazine ads for this product. With a headline that reads "Better than Botox?" and the ever-increasing number of topical products hitting the market claiming they can mimic the effects of Botox without "painful injections," I certainly understand the curiosity.

I first wrote about StriVectin-SD when a reader asked about its ability to repair stretch marks. That was StriVectin's original marketing claim to fame, though the fame was all self-promoted, as there is not a single independent, peer-reviewed study to prove that StriVectin is an effective option for repairing stretch marks. The studies that do exist about StriVectin's benefits for stretch marks were paid for by Klein-Becker, the company that distributes StriVectin (and is associated with Bremenn Research Labs, the company that markets Hylexin).

According to the company's ads, they were surprised to find that not only was StriVectin-SD getting rid of women's stretch marks, but also that somehow their facial wrinkles were going away, too. For that reason, we now have the astounding "anti-wrinkle breakthrough of the decade." Regrettably, no supportive research needs to be available to sell this kind of hyperbole. All it takes is to promise women that a product will get rid of their wrinkles and they will buy it in droves, no matter how many other product lines, infomercials, advertisements, or cosmetics salespeople pledge the exact same thing. According to results from the marketing firm NPD Group, StriVectin-SD has been the top-selling product in department stores since November 2003 (Source: The Rose Sheet, June 7, 2004, page 3) and continues to do well because of constant promotion. That explains why my readers keep asking me about this product; they must have missed my previous review.

StriVectin's ad continues with, "The active formula in StriVectin-SD has recently been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce that category of fine lines and facial wrinkles that can add 10–15 years to your appearance…and even reduce the dark circles under your eyes ...without irritation, painful injections, or surgery." One more flourish is the statement that, "in fact, [StriVectin-SD] is the only topical formulation clinically proven to effectively confront every aspect of wrinkle reduction." It is easy to debunk all of this overblown nonsense by pointing out the product's lack of sunscreen; perhaps StriVectin overlooked the research about sun exposure's deleterious, wrinkling, and discoloring effects on skin.

Klein-Becker has parlayed these claims into what appears to be little more than an effort to spin off the popularity of Botox to its own benefit. StriVectin-SD is supposedly preferred because its long-term results versus the short-term results (and repeated treatments) of Botox are better. A Dr. Nathalie Chevreau is quoted in the ad, saying "the cumulative effects of using a product like StriVectin become more noticeable every day, and ultimately last longer than Botox." Chevreau is hardly an impartial source, as she works for Klein-Becker. Further, Dr. Chevreau is a licensed dietician in Utah, a fact that is conveniently left out of StriVectin's ad because it would conflict with her credibility as a medical doctor speaking about the legitimate benefits of an antiwrinkle cream. The final Botox comparison comes from the ad's statement that StriVectin not only addresses the expression lines Botox treats, but also the lines Botox doesn't affect. However, the only lines Botox wouldn't affect are the ones not injected.

So is StriVectin better than Botox? The short answer is no—and that means no way, and no how. It isn't even better than the daily use of an effective sunscreen! StriVectin is merely a moisturizer with some good emollients and antioxidants, though the addition of peppermint oil is extremely suspect—the tingle is probably meant to lead women to believe that the product is doing something to their skin. It is doing something: causing irritation without a benefit. Botox prevents the use of facial muscles, and that instantaneously smoothes out the skin. StriVectin-SD won't alter the wrinkling on any part of your face, not in the long term, and not in the short term. A recent study supports this conclusion: researchers recruited 77 women and they were divided into five groups. One group received Botox injections, one used a placebo product, and the other groups applied either StriVectin-SD, Hydroderm, or DDF Wrinkle Relax. Only the group that received Botox injections reported satisfaction with the results; wrinkle depth measurement parameters established for this study proved Botox produced the best results. And StriVectin-SD? It was deemed NOT better than Botox. Actually, three test subjects using StriVectin-SD had to drop out due to "adverse reactions," likely from the peppermint oil in the product (Source: Dermatologic Surgery, February 2006, pages 184-197).

Incidentally, the two studies quoted in StriVectin's ads for "Better than Botox" were supposedly from information presented at the 20th World Congress of Dermatology, held in July 2002. These examined the effects of palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 (trade name: Matrixyl, but also known as Pal-KTTKS, which is the term used in StriVectin's ads) and compared it to vitamin C and retinol. However, there is no published research substantiating the results, and StriVectin declined (and continues to decline) to send us any documentation. The FDA issued a warning letter to Basic Research LLC, the umbrella company of Klein-Becker, challenging the validity and drug-like claims made for several products, including StriVectin-SD (Sources: http://www.casewatch.org/fdawarning/...esearch.shtml; and www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-skin.html). The final word on the matter is that StriVectin-SD has a great story, but this time the fairy tale doesn't come true. Your wrinkles have a much better chance of living happily ever after with Botox than any of the works-like imitators.

Source: Paula Begoun