Like millions of patients, Cathy Sable turns to Botox injections for wrinkles.
"My eyes certainly, and the fact that lines disappear. All of us, that's what we all like about Botox," Sable said.
But what if you could deliver the same effect without a needle? A Bay Area company is now testing a system that allows botulinum toxin, the active ingredient in Botox, to travel through the skin, something like cold-cream.
San Francisco dermatologist Richard Glogau, M.D., says the topical treatment would still have to be administered by a doctor, but could deliver significant advantages.
"The topical obviously has a lot of benefit for patients cause there's no needles involved, no pain, no bruising," Glogau said.
Like Botox, the topical gel freezes the skin area where wrinkles and crow's feet form. Needle free Botox would be a breakthrough in itself, there's another potential benefit to this new technology. Early tests suggest that it could make the smoothing effect last longer.
Jacob Waugh, M.D., is co-founder of Revance based in Newark. He says a molecule the company developed to carry the toxin to its target also holds it in place longer. In tests with an injectable version, the effect lasted nearly twice as long as traditional botulinum.
"So a longer duration for the same injection would be a very desirable thing," Waugh said.
Both the injectable and topical versions of the Revance drug are currently in a clinical trial, but not yet FDA approved. Some observers urge caution until the final results are in.
"The proof will be in phase three, what happens in the phase three trials, will it be as good as it was in phase two?" says San Francisco dermatologist Vic Narurkar, M.D.
Still, if successful, a needle-free wrinkle treatment, or one that lasts longer, could mean a major make-over, for one of the most popular cosmetic treatments on the market.
If the new drugs are approved, the company says they could benefit patients using Botox for treatments beyond cosmetic, including migraine headaches and excessive perspiration.
Written and produced by Tim Didion
Needle-free wrinkle treatment tested in Bay Area