SYN-AKE Peptide – Mizon S-venom Wrinkle Tox Cream

Syn-ake is supposed to be the “botox in a bottle” solution.  It’s an anti-wrinkle chemical, a synthetic protein fragment that is meant to replicate part of the venom of the Malaysian Temple Viper.  It’s been found to work similar to botox – like how botox paralyzes the muscles that cause expression lines.

Technical details:

Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl:  Active compound is based on a synthetic tripeptide that mimics the effect of Waglerin 1, found in the venom of the Temple Viper. The activity of snake peptide reduces the contraction frequency of muscle cells on the face, thereby decreasing the appearance of expression lines. In vivo testing showed an impressive reduction of over 50% in wrinkle size after 28 days. Does not contain preservatives. Clear liquid, no odor. pH value 4.5 – 5.5. Easily water-soluble. CAS# 794590-34-4, 883558-32-5, 56-81-5.

Has been found in clinical studies to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and expression lines due to reduction of contraction frequency. Best added to skin serums and creams to target wrinkles around eyes, mouth and forehead.

The Purchase:

This was what I bought:

 IMG_2896 IMG_2901-001

I have some fine lines, and I guess I’m pretty obviously obsessed with getting rid of them.

Mizon products are pretty high quality, have good reviews, and my skin seems to like them.  This one is about $30 on Amazon (shipped from Korea) which at 50ml isn’t cheap, but it’s not as high priced as some others I found.


I used this daily, applying pretty liberally (I have dry skin so I can put on a pretty thick layer of moisturizer) over my C-Serum, and under my sunscreen.  The instructions say to give it some time before putting anything over top, so I waited about 10 mins before adding the sunscreen.


This is a pretty greasy feeling moisturizer, but it layers well under sunscreen without pilling.  In the 10 min wait time it didn’t absorb all the way in.

Once applied, it doesn’t seem to relax or paralyze anything…

My fine lines before:


This photo is 6 months old.  From when I started with the sny-ake.

Yep.  Definitely there.  This is with the syn-ake on it, that’s why I look SO SHINY.  I cover all this with makeup.

Right after application, I wasn’t able to see any real difference.  It’s supposed to be able to relax the lines that come from expression…. but my expressions weren’t hindered in the least, so I don’t think it’s doing what it’s supposed to.

My Fine Lines Now:

photo 2 (7)-001

Harsh Lighting

I can still see them, the 11s are alive and well.


I think this product is an interesting gimmick, but I don’t see enough of a difference to continue its use.  If I like the product as a moisturizer more, I’d probably keep using it, just in case it’s doing some kind of work behind the scenes, but as it is, I’m not going to keep using this one.

Just spring for botox, for actual botox effect.


Seeking the Fountain of Youth: Adventures in Tretinoin (Stieva-A) Week 6, Tretinoin and Flaking Skin

Flaking skin is a pretty widely accepted part of tretinoin usage, and I’ve found a few ways to combat this unpleasant side effect.


Do what you can to prevent the flakes:

1. Let your skin dry completely before application. Moisture left on the skin can, and in my experience does, increase skin irritation. Since the tretinoin is the first product applied (to bare skin) that means starting the skin care routine early.

2. Use it consistently.  There is no fun in constantly being in the beginning stages of retinoid use (the peeling, purging, dry, no results yet part.)  Consistent use means getting through the adjustment.  For me it was a little over 6 weeks (I still flake if I get impatient and apply it to semi wet skin though, and keep in mind I’m on a 0.01% product) but up to 3 months adjustment time is considered normal.  (More, and I’d ask my dermatologist.  You may need a lower concentration.)

3. Products might start to sting, may need to be replaced.  “If it burns it’s working.”  No, no, no.  There is no reason to be in excessive pain from skin care products!  Again, the adjustment time may vary, but some products may just not be right any more.  From the directions I was given, a bit of stinging is considered normal and OK (that will subside with the adjustment period) but anything that causes further irritation and “burns” should be dropped for the time being.

4. Products with chemical exfoliants should be dropped.  For now.  Once a few months have past, they can be spot tested and possibly re-introduced, but while adjusting to the tretinoin, BHAs and AHAs should be left off the menu.  Anecdote time!  I got so sick of the flaking that I said “fuck it” and applied some Weekly Resurfacing Treatment AHA by (who else?) Paul’s Choice.  It just made the flaking worse and made me red and angry at myself.  Patience is key.

5.  Sunscreen.  Don’t get burned on top of dealing with flakes and irritation.  That will only compound the irritation, cause or worsen PIH (Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation) and sun damage, and if you burn in the way I do, it could cause more peeling and flakes.  Sunscreen is super super important to use with tretinoin.

6. Ease into the usage by mixing or layering it immediately (under or over) with moisturizer.  This can be a good way to get used to the tretinoin and is called buffering it.  It reduces the products effectiveness by decreasing it’s penetration into the skin, but it can really help with the symptoms that come with the adjustment.  Including the flaking.


Dealing with the flakes

1.  Leave them alone as much as possible.  It’s soooo tempting to scrub them away, but that can just cause more irritation, which can cause more flakes.  My sugar scrub is banned from my bathroom for the time being because it’s too tempting.

2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.  And then moisturize again.  I’m having some luck with CeraVe in the tub topped with Vaseline.  It’s a thick, somewhat unpleasant feeling pile of products on my face, but it’s better than flaking.  I try to spare my husband the shiny very very transferable layer of vaseline by applying it right before I got to sleep.

3. Cheat and very lightly exfoliate.  I’m not going to pretend I don’t buff the flakes away with a very soft wash cloth.  Do this with caution, your milage may vary, and it you starting making things worse STOP IT and let the flakes be.  This doesn’t work long term, but it can help a bit for a few hours.


Covering the flakes.

I’m by no means a makeup guru, but I have found a way that I can cover the flakes and keep them pretty well managed throughout the day.

First, skip serums unless you already know they play nice with sunscreen, makeup, and moisturizer.  I find that most of them cause the sunscreen especially to ball up and create what looks like even worse flakyness.

The order I’ve found works well is

1. Oil.  A really light layer of oil, like miniscule, but focused on the dryest areas.  I use a combo of jojoba, argon, and almond.  

2. Moisturize like crazy.  My next layer is CeraVe in the tub.  This helps more than anything because if your skin is too dry the makeup itself will be the “moisturizer” and the moisture in the makeup will become absorbed into the skin.  This leaves the “caky” look that some foundation can give.  Not a good look.  My theory is that since no one is going to be touching my face during the day, it doesn’t need to be touchable. Moisturizer can go on over the oil, or under.  I put a generous amount on and let it sink in for about 10 mins before the next step, but if you aren’t into the “dewy” look you can probably ease up on how thick this is applied.

3. Sunscreen.  I like asian ones, and I’m using one from biore at the moment.  It’s chemical only though, I’m kind of still in the market to find my perfect physical sunscreen.  (Sunscreen needs about 20 mins to sink in before applying anything else on top of it.)

4. Vaseline.  Dabbed on, pretty light, but not rubbed in.  Dab dab dab dab dab onto the flaky spots.  This is where things get a bit heavy and greasy feeling.  I don’t mind because during the day no one is going to touch my face, and I just want it to look good.  

5. BB cream mixed with my Paula’s Choice foundation.  These are other products I’m still not totally in love with, but they work for now.  Eventually I’ll find my perfect foundation.  This step needs to be applied by dabbing and dabbing and dabbing, like the vaseline.  The dabbing both helps keep the vaseline in place, and helps to not bring out new flakes or cause any of the previous products to ball up.  I put it onto my finger tips and just pat it on everywhere.  It takes a while to get it to look smooth, but eventually it will.

6. Powder if required.  Ideally I don’t use powder, since the brush can actually bring out the flakes like rubbing can, but if I overdid it with the vaseline and look super shiny I might pat on a bit.  

7. Rest of the makeup. Eyes, ect.  I flake on my chin and around my mouth more than anywhere else, so adding blush has been OK.  Again your mileage may vary.


This keeps the flakes away for several hours, at least in my fairly mild case.  The key I think is to keep the layer of vaseline over the flakes, it seems to keep my skin kind of moist so flakes can’t form.  


For mid-day touch ups, I keep samples of BB cream around to mix with a bit more vaseline and dab it onto the flaky patches. If things get really bad, and I’m going somewhere after work (out for dinner or something) I’ll re-do the really bad spots by using Vaseline as a crude oil cleanse, and reapply my foundation using as many of the above steps as I have available.


I hope this helps someone, I know the flaking is really unpleasant.  Take solace in the fact that it will be over soon!



Seeking the Fountain of Youth: Adventures in Tretinoin Week 4 of Tretinoin, and Getting Past the Purge

Ughhhhhh.  I can’t wait for this part to be over.

IMG_2804 IMG_2905

My prescription is dated May 15, which means I’ve been using the tretinoin for a full month now, about 4.5 weeks.

What is purging:

Purging is something that might happen (not to everyone, not every time, but apparently I’m just that lucky) if you are using products with active exfoliants, such as AHAs, BHAs, and yes, retinoids. It’s essentially because the increased exfoliation causes your skin to push the blockages inside of it out to the surface.

What does purging look like:

Acne. It looks like skin getting worse before it gets better.  Sometimes for weeks.  In fact, it can take up to 12 weeks for things to actually turn around.  Skinacea has a big pile of information on purging.  It’s worth a read.

My experience:

I’m still peeling a bit, especially the morning after those nights that I get lazy about the wait time between cleansing and application (the recommended wait time is at least 15 mins, longer if you can, since water seems to increase irritation and peeling.)  My forehead is, of course, purging and covered in red bumps.  That’s my worst trouble zone, and always where I break out if I’m going to.  This time I’m also getting breakouts down the left side of my face, along my temples and toward my cheeks.  I love foundation these days.  The pictures above are me, no makeup, no photoshop, no cover.

I’m not on tretinoin to reduce acne, and it looks like so far I don’t have any decrease in my fine lines.  It’s supposed to take up to a year before that happens, but I’m hoping I will see SOMETHING before then.

Patience, patience, patience.  This is the hard part.


This is becoming something I think about a lot.  I’m having to alter my products a little, and add a few more hydrating products.

I’m still using CeraVe  as my final moisturizing step.  It stings.  But it seems to keep my skin quite well hydrated, and absorbs really quickly.  A coating of Vaseline over my chin and around my mouth (where the peeling shows up) seems to really help as well.

I’m in the market now for a new hyaluronic acid product.  My Garden of Wisdom ones are almost out, and I didn’t see enough of a difference while using them to re-order.  I’m eyeing up the Hada Labo one I keep seeing good reviews of.  For now I’m using these My Beauty Diary Caviar Masks I got atT&T Market.  I was a bit worried about the scent but they don’t irritate and leave my skin smooth and soft.  Caviar also just sounds so luxurious, I couldn’t resist.  These masks do contain hyaluronic acid and feel really hydrating and nice.  I also feel like I’m spoiling myself when I use them. They all seem to have pretty similar ingredients, here is a list of the MBD items that have been run through COSDNA.  I really like COSDNA, it checks for possible irritants and acne triggers, and lists each of the ingredients and what their usual purpose is in skin care products.  It’s a good way to get past the unknowns on a product list, and avoid things you know your skin can’t take.  MBD isn’t by any means a perfect product (the fragrance could irritate some people,) but it works for a lot of people and seems to have a pretty solid list of ingredients.

Seeking the Fountain of Youth: Adventures in Tretinoin Week 1 of Tretinoin, and Using it in the Eye Area

I’m on the lowest dose, 0.01% Stieva A cream to try and minimize and prevent wrinkles.  Monday makes the end of week one using this.

The Purge:  It’s begun.  My forehead takes the worst of it every time I start on something that causes a purge, but this time it actually more around my mouth.  Hopefully once this heals up that will be the end of it.  I just need to wait it out, I guess.  I’m super red and irritated looking, but my skin is always on the pinkish side so this isn’t that bad for me.  This is what I’m looking like makeup free (I’m never makeup free outside the house) these days:


The redness on my chest is sun damage and I’m hoping to get rid of.  My chest gets really really really red with exfoliants, C serums, the sun, anything.

Meanwhile, I have been researching tretinoin and eyes, since my fine lines are all around my eyes, and between my eyebrows.  

The last thing I want to do is damage my eyes, but I do want to reduce wrinkles.  I also wanted to find out if this is even effective, since some of the usage instructions I’ve found online say to keep it away from the eye area.  

The internet, like with all topics, is 99% anecdote and hysteria, and 1% real actual information on the topic.  I was able to find some information, none of it is very good sources, unfortunately.

Tretinoin and the Eye Area

The Good:

Paula’s Choice, a very well respected and often quoted resource actually states that Retin-A (tretinoin) is perfect for under the eyes but that since the skin is thin and sensitive, it’s important to start out a slowly by only using it a few days a week at first (if required, mix ith moisturizer to buffer the tretinoin,) and increasing as the skin adapts.  (Very common advice for those starting out on tretinoin in general, as is the moisturizer as a buffer concept.) says that even though the eye area tends to be more sensative than the rest of the face, itt is okay to use retinoids in ther eye area to work on reducing the fine wrinkles there (taking care to avoid the eyelids).They go on to say that  it is common for any fine lines to look crepey and be even more pronounced, in the eye area.

The Bad:

There are a lot of anecdotes about how using tretinoin under the eyes actually caused more wrinkles and crepeness.  I’ve seen this complaint repeated in forums and message boards, but I haven’t seen anything that actually backs up this claim and concerns me.  Most of these posters did not continue with its use, so there isn’t a lot of follow up for these anecdotes, or any kind of longer term effects records of people who had this complaint.   

The Explanation:

The eye area (I guess like the rest of the face) can look worse better it gets better, and this stage can last months. (Am I selling you on tretinoin yet?)  According to Paula’s Choice, the increased skin cell turnover will tend to make the epidermis accumulate and the skin will look “dry” (actually dry dead skin cells) and fine lines may look worse at first (including symptoms like dry skin cracks – yikes.)  This may explain those complaints.  I would add that it’s also possible that they may not have properly applied sunscreen and  experienced additional sun damage due to the increased photosensitivity, or that they didn’t increase their moisturizing products.  On another site, where apparently doctors answer skincare questions (take that with as big a grain of salt as possible, I don’t know that any actual doctors would do this,) a response to a post that someone made about said that the wrinkling, irritation, and skin sensitivity is a description of the irritation by tretinoin itself, and to decrease dose/frequency of application, and moisturize like crazy.   

From my own perspective, I’ve already noticed that my skin is feeling dehydrated, and it’s only been a few days.  Without addressing that problem, I can see how the symptoms of dehydration (tightness, stinging, overproduction of oil plus a dull, sallow or tired look) can be a dealbreaker for those on tretinoin.


For the overall safety of tretinoin use in the eye area, the main precaution is irritation if it actually gets into the eye.  I saw a few anecdotes of people who ended up being diagnosed with conjunctivitis after getting it in their eyes -all of these stories were combined with contacts, which I wear, so that’s good to be careful of.  Another response to the question of safety I found said that tretinoin around the eye area is safe, as long as you do not get it into the eyelid margin.


Everything I’ve found seems to indicate that putting tretinoin in the eye area (except the eyelids) is safe and will work for reducing fine lines.

I’m going to go for it, all my fine lines are around my eye area, so I think this will be worth a try.  I guess I won’t know for sure until about 6 months from now.

Seeking the Fountain of Youth: Adventures in Tretinoin (Stieva-A) Week 1, Tretinoin and the Changes to My Routine



Before: AM Routine

I’m a Paula’s Choice Junkie, so you may notice a trend.  I like deals, but even better than deals I like products that actually do what the label promises.  Paula’s Choice consistently delivers.

5AM: Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Lotion + Sunscreen

Then I head to the gym to work out, post gym I shower there and get ready for work


Spectro Gel Cleanser (Just a gentle cleanser, it was recommended by my derm when I was a teenager and it’s worked for me for years now.  It’s cheap, gentle, and awesome)

Super Serum by Silk Naturals which I’ve been phasing out (it’s almost empty) and replacing with Paula’s Choice RESIST Pure Radiance Skin Brightening Treatment – both of these have Niacinamide, I don’t really think they are equal products, and I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do once I’m out of the Paula’s Choice.  I may try something else entirely.

Snail Bee High Content Essence is awesome.  I love it.  I’ll probably write about it soon.   I never thought I’d put literal snail slime on my face, but I’m a convert.  More raving about it to follow.

Dr Jart V7 Eye Serum I actually got this in a Memebox, it was a spoiler and pretty much the reason that I ordered the box.  I like it a lot, even though a lot that I’ve read says don’t bother with eye cream.  This one is light and gentle, and doesn’t run into my eyes.

CeraVE AM sunscreen.  I know I need to add an actual sunscreen + moisturizer as separate steps, but I really like CeraVE AM.  More Niacinamide, moisture, and a decent SPF.  I put a ton on and just let it sink in while I do my hair, so i know I’m getting the requisite 1/4 teaspoon on my face.  Actually I think I put about double that, these days.

Makeup is various things.  I bought both the BB cream and the Paula’s Choice foundation in the wrong color, but mixing them together seems to make the color right.  Next time I’m just going to Sephora to get a proper color match and some good foundation to try.


Before: PM Routine

OCM:  I’m an OCM junkie, I started with just unscented baby oil, but then I went on a Garden of Wisdom buying spree to the tune of $200 or so, and got a ton of oils to try.  Right now I’m using Argon, Avocado, Almond, Jojoba and baby oil all mixed together.

Spectro Gel to double cleanse

The sometimes treatments section of masks, and AHA.  I love this Weekly Resurfacing Treatment AHA by (who else?) Paul’s Choice.  I can’t wait to bring it back into rotation once my skin is used to the tretinoin.  I fit in My Beauty Diary sheets masks a few days a week.  Right now I’m on Snail and Caviar.  They just sell these at the T&T Market by my house, they are more than online but it’s very convenient.  I also like this Skin Food Black Sugar Scrub.  I don’t use physical exfoliants often, but I do like it throw it every once in a while.

Resist C 15 Super Serum by Paula’s Choice.  This one is expensive as far as C Serums go, and it seems to do the same thing as the Silk Naturals one.  I love C Serum though, so I will always use one from some brand or other.

Garden of Wisdom Hydraulic Acid serum.  This one is blueberry, the one I tried before was Grapefruit, and next I may try Honey.

CeraVE in the tub works well as a moisturizer for me, it’s thick and creamy and great.

Laniege Water Sleeping Pack to top it all off.  This is pretty scented, but it works well for me.


This is my current routine.  I won’t go into all the products again, especially since the only new addition is the trentinoin at night.  I’ve removed all my chemical exfoliants, which i can not wait to add back in once my skin adjusts in a couple of months.


Current AM Routine


Current PM Routine

Seeing this all laid out like this I feel like such a product junkie.

Anyway, what do you think?  What did you change in your routine when you started something more extreme?