Best Botox alternatives: Skincare products to smooth wrinkles and give you younger-looking skin

Take a no-needle approach

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Ellie Davis16 August 2023
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Each year in the UK, an estimated 900,000 people go under the needle for a Botox injection.

If we can deduce anything from that near million number, it’s that us Brits are a nation of tweakment enthusiasts. What was once seen as a celebrity fad for the rich and famous has entered the mainstream, but do you need to put derm-to-needle to see the benefits, or can you get a crease-free look out of a bottle? If you, like me, are apprehensive about diving into injectables, this may be the solution.

While Botox is longer is no longer frowned upon - just as well, really - the pressure to defy the natural ageing process seems to be getting progressively extreme. Will showing emotion become a thing of the past? There has to be another way.

Botulinum toxin, or Botox as it is known, has been around since the 1980s. Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto explains the discovery for cosmetic purposes was a happy accident. “It was first used to treat muscular disorders of the eye but it was also noticed that wrinkles around the eye area were disappearing”. Despite the giant leaps in skin tech, not much has changed in the composition of the synthetically made protein since then.

“Botox works by temporarily paralysing or weakening specific muscles when injected and it is commonly used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines”, Aesthetic Doctor Dr. Sabina Hanoman-Singh reveals. “By targeting facial muscles responsible for repetitive movements, such as frowning, Botox temporarily relaxes those muscles, resulting in a smoother and more youthful appearance. It is frequently used to address areas like frown lines between the eyebrows, forehead lines, and crow’s feet around the eyes”.

While it’s incredibly effective and few alternatives can compare to its ability to make wrinkles disappear, it doesn’t come without its risks. “Common side effects include temporary pain, swelling, bruising, or redness at the injection site. In some cases, Botox can cause more severe side effects such as muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing or breathing, or drooping of the eyelids”, warns Dr Hanoman-Singh.

Choosing the right practitioner is of the utmost importance - this is your face we’re talking about, after all, “If you do paralyse one or two muscles in isolation, you can get something called reactive lines, which are new lines in the areas that you have never had” says Dr Shawana Vali, one of the world’s top cosmetic dermatologists.

The destigmatization of Botox has not just reached older consumers looking to counteract existing signs of ageing. The demographic is changing with an increase of patients diving into needles younger and younger, opting for prejuvenation preventative treatments like Baby Botox to stop fine lines from forming before they’ve even appeared. It’s hard not to see the appeal, but it comes at a cost - it’s an expensive process requiring regular top-ups every three or so months that can become obsessive and lead to irreversible effects.

Hail, then, the rise of ‘Notox’. The movement has 204.5M views and counting on TikTok and explores an alternative needle-free, non-invasive approach. Some of these include skin-tightening professional salon treatments but for the most part, the trend explores high-performance face creams and anti-ageing serums that not only limit the need for injectables and harmful chemicals, but are more purse-friendly, have no downtime and no severe worst-case scenarios.

These topical treatments encourage a healthier complexion using ingredients that hydrate the skin, stimulate collagen production and plump out fine lines. They are designed to be used in tandem with radiofrequency devices, LED face masks or independently to encourage skin turnover and will feature components like retinol and peptides that are renowned in the beauty community for their anti-ageing benefits, as well as those that mimic proteins and enzymes found naturally in the skin - namely NAD and collagen.

Retinol: One of the most well-known buzzwords in skincare, retinol lives up to its fine-line-fighting reputation. “The retinoid group is still the most proven effective formulation ingredient in skincare,” says Dr Vali. “It works on the building blocks of the skin, getting the architecture of your house correct before you do the paintwork (make-up)”.

She continues “We need things to go to the medical layer of the skin (dermis) because this is where the good cells are where your body can repair and heal itself and what we love about the retinoid family is that it works on the fibroblasts building blocks of the cells and causes them to reduce oil production. You don’t get pores as it fills you from the inside out so gets rid of fine lines and tightens the skin and it helps control pigmentation”. It is important to only apply at night and follow up with SPF the next morning. For those with sensitivities or to combat the potential redness, drying or peeling, try once a week, followed by moisturiser and build up your tolerance.

NAD: Amanda Azzopardi, aesthetic nurse breaks it down.“NAD is a coenzyme found in all living cells that plays a crucial role in various biological processes, including energy metabolism and cellular repair. In skincare, NAD is often promoted for its potential anti-ageing benefits. It is believed to support the repair of damaged DNA and promote cellular rejuvenation”. Dr Vali adds “As you age, you lose half the amount of NAD, which means your cells are not performing as well as they did when you were 20”, highlighting the importance in adding to your skincare routine.

Collagen: Collagen is also found naturally in the body and makes up approximately 80 per cent of the skin’s structure. It is considered the scaffolding for elasticity and firmness. But here’s the kicker, from our mid-twenties, our bodies produce less of the protein “leading to the formation of wrinkles and sagging skin” according to Azzopardi. Topical application is said to bring hydration and moisturisation but dietary treatments are usually popular too. We’re talking collagen supplements in every shape and size; be it in powder, tablet or drink form and derived from either marine, bovine or vegan sources.

Peptides: Dubbed a ‘miracle’ anti-ageing ingredient by some skin experts, peptides are a short string of amino acids that have many different roles in the body but can play a part in signalling the skin to produce more collagen and elastin. You may just find they have faster results than retinol and are more easily tolerated as they are found naturally in the body but can be used in tandem to optimise your nightly routine.

Line-filling skincare: This has become a hugely popular category with temporary but with good blurring results. Azzopardi explains, ”These products typically contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, or silicone-based compounds that create a smooth surface and reduce the appearance of lines”.

Enzymes: One of the lesser-talked-about ingredients in the skincare space, this is one for science enthusiasts. “Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts in biochemical reactions. In skin care, certain enzymes are used to promote exfoliation and improve skin texture”, says Azzopardi. Dr Vali agrees diving deeper to reveal that “they break down the keratin which allows your skin to sloth and get rid of the bad stuff on the epidermis, the beauty layer”.

While the experts agree that these ingredients will not completely mimic the wrinkle-free effects of Botox, they may just buy you time if you’re seriously considering tweakments or between top-ups. After years of trial and error on the Shopping desk, I’ve put the market’s best non-invasive topical products to the test - and here are the ones worthy of a place in your bathroom cabinet.

Shop the best skincare alternatives to Botox below

StriVectin Peptide Plump Line-Filling Bounce Serum


This velvety gel serum is packed with a unique Alpha-3 peptide, designed using AI to interact best with the cell receptors that uptick the production of our own collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. The peptide, a smaller fragment of larger growth proteins, can precisely target these three building blocks essential to the volume, shape and strength of the skin that help keep it smooth, supple and firm.

With added moisture-boosting red algae and protective, illuminating turmeric root extract, it’s particularly good at improving lines on the forehead and ramping up glow. Used day and night under moisturiser, it also has a subtle line and pore-blurring effect as well as a delicate, uplifting rose scent.

Buy now£69, StriVectin

Meder Beauty Myo-Fix Concentrate


This has been a stalwart in Meder’s offering for almost 15 years - a testament to its efficacity. The Swiss brand, helmed by dermatologist Dr Tiina Meder, harnesses the power of muscle-relaxing peptides that have been put through their paces in scientific research to provide fine-line-fighting properties.

The Myo-Fix Concentrate stars Argireline, a “botox-like” ingredient that relaxes the facial muscles. It is combined with Sky-Ake, formulated with the Temple viper snake in mind as its venom has been proven to inhibit neuromuscular junctions. Together, the patented formula will leave you with noticeable, visible wrinkle reduction. There’s also a calming peptide and Matrixyl, a component designed to stimulate collagen production.

Buy now£85, Meder Beauty



This is a multi-award-winning facial treatment that provides an instant and noticeable difference to fine lines. In lightweight serum form, it uses a clinically-proven biomimetic peptide that has the miraculous ability to encourage the facial muscles to contract and relax, promoting collagen to form where the results become more long-lasting the more consistently that you apply.

There are two additional peptides also included; Matrixyl containing three different types of collagen, hyaluronic acid and more as well as what is known as Perfection Peptide P3 to speed up cell renewal and counteract wrinkle depth.

Buy now£29.99, Amazon

Intuisse Active NAD+ Face Serum


The Intuisse range contains the brand’s patent-pending highly-absorbable Active NAD+, mimicking what is naturally found in the body to stimulate cellular renewal, collagen production and minimise the appearance of fine lines.

In this face serum, it’s set alongside a pomegranate enzyme that encourages exfoliation and leaves you with an even complexion. The results speak for themselves; increased homogeneity in tone, boost in radiance, stimulation of collagen and elastin and a reduction in dry skin by over 50 per cent. The ingredients are of natural origin and vegan.

Buy now£250, Intuisse

Goldfaden MD Needle-Less Line Smoothing Concentrate

Goldfaden MD

This is a potent alternative to needles and a non-invasive way to smooth fine lines using natural ingredients. The Needle-Less Line Smoothing Concentrate is made up of pure hyaluronic acid, chosen for its ultra-hydrating and plumping properties.

Alongside it is Acetyl-Hexapeptide 3, a powerful amino peptide that relaxes facial muscle contractions and thus over time should minimise creases as well as firming seaweed extract and antioxidant-rich red tea.

Buy now£80, Space NK

Murad Targeted Wrinkle Corrector


Whether it’s to buy time between top-ups or to delay injectables, Murad has created a targeted treatment to work in much of the same way as filler. Using the cooling applicator, trace the wrinkles that you’re attempting to disguise and the formula will get to work plumping, smoothing and minimising its appearance.

It does this through a highly bioavailable hyaluronic acid, elasticity-boosting hexapeptide and squalane to give a powerhouse combination of moisture. This is a quick-fix temporary solution.

Buy now£76, Murad