Cosmeceutical Critique

Synthetic snake venom to the rescue? Potential uses in skin health and rejuvenation


New drugs and emerging indications

An ingredient that is said to mimic waglerin-1, a snake venom–derived peptide, is the main active ingredient in the Hanskin Syn-Ake Peptide Renewal Mask, a Korean product, which reportedly promotes facial muscle relaxation and wrinkle reduction, as the waglerin-1 provokes neuromuscular blockade via reversible antagonism of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.2,4,5

Waheed et al. reported in 2017 that recent innovations in molecular research have led to scientific harnessing of the various proteins and peptides found in snake venoms to render them salutary, rather than toxic. Most of the drug development focuses on coagulopathy, hemostasis, and anticancer functions, but research continues in other areas.11 According to An et al., several studies have also been performed on the use of snake venom to treat atopic dermatitis.12


Snake venom is a substance known primarily for its extreme toxicity, but it seems to offer promise for having beneficial effects in medicine. Due to its size and instability, it is doubtful that snake venom will have utility as a topical application in the dermatologic arsenal. In spite of the lack of convincing evidence, a search on brings up dozens of various skin care products containing snake venom. Much more research is necessary, of course, to see if there are methods to facilitate entry of snake venom into the dermis and if this is even desirable.

Snake venom is, in fact, my favorite example of a skin care ingredient that is a waste of money in skin care products. Do you have any favorite “charlatan skincare ingredients”? If so, feel free to contact me, and I will write a column. As dermatologists, we have a responsibility to debunk skin care marketing claims not supported by scientific evidence. I am here to help.

Dr. Baumann is a private practice dermatologist, researcher, author, and entrepreneur who practices in Miami. She founded the Cosmetic Dermatology Center at the University of Miami in 1997. Dr. Baumann has written two textbooks and a New York Times Best Sellers book for consumers. Dr. Baumann has received funding for advisory boards and/or clinical research trials from Allergan, Galderma, Revance, Evolus, and Burt’s Bees. She is the CEO of Skin Type Solutions Inc., a company that independently tests skin care products and makes recommendations to physicians on which skin care technologies are best. Write to her at


1. Nguyen JK et al. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020 Jul;19(7):1555-69.

2. Munawar A et al. Snake venom peptides: tools of biodiscovery. Toxins (Basel). 2018 Nov 14;10(11):474.

3. Almeida JR et al. Curr Med Chem. 2017;24(30):3254-82.

4. Pennington MW et al. Bioorg Med Chem. 2018 Jun 1;26(10):2738-58.

5. Debono J et al. J Mol Evol. 2017 Jan;84(1):8-11.

6. Bos JD, Meinardi MM. Exp Dermatol. 2000 Jun;9(3):165-9.

7. Samy RP et al. Methods Mol Biol. 2011;716:245-65.

8. Samy RP et al. Curr Med Chem. 2011;18(33):5104-13.

9. Al-Asmari AK et al. Open Microbiol J. 2015 Jul;9:18-25.

10. Perumal Samy R et al. Biochem Pharmacol. 2017 Jun 15;134:127-38.

11. Waheed H et al. Curr Med Chem. 2017;24(17):1874-91.

12. An HJ et al. Br J Pharmacol. 2018 Dec;175(23):4310-24.


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