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Face Off: Natural Ingredients for Healthy Aging

by Sandy Almendarez Comments

Natural personal care products are in more demand than ever. Consumers are interested in hybrids between cosmetics and nutraceuticals that can thwart off wrinkles, free radical damage, collagen loss and other depletions and battles the skin fights against aging. 

From the bottom up, plant-based and natural ingredients are popping up in many anti-aging products—and they are safe and efficacious. Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in wine, grapes and peanuts, takes a three-pronged approach to anti-aging: by acting as a sirtuin activator, which may extend lifespan,1 offer antioxidant protection,2 and reduce inflammation.3 Rude noted NeoCell’s new Resveratrol Antioxidant helps the body fight the aging processes at the cellular level by proving 100 mg of trans-resveratrol from French grapes.

Resveratrol isn’t the only age-defying antioxidant highlighted in natural products. Pycnogenol®, a plant extract derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, has been heavily studied for its antioxidant powers, including its effects on skin. Application of a gel formulation containing 1-percent Pycnogenol significantly shortened wound healing time by 1.6 days compared to a placebo gel in a Hungarian study.4 Topical Pycnogenol offered significant and dose-dependent protection from ultraviolet (UV)-induced acute inflammation, immunosuppression and carcinogenesis, showing it has potential in providing photoprotection for humans in a complementary role with sunscreens, (sunscreen to be applied before and Pycnogenol to be applied after UV exposure).5 Oral consumption of Pycnogenol also aids the skin, as demonstrated by a supplement of vitamins C and E, carotenoids, selenium, zinc, amino acids and glycosaminoglycans, blueberry extract and Pycnogenol that increased skin elasticity by 9 percent in six weeks and reduced skin roughness by 6 percent in nine weeks compared to placebo.6 Oral supplementation of Pycnogenol also reduced erythema (redness) in the skin after UV exposure.7

From antioxidants to proteins, collagen is another popular ingredient in anti-aging products, because it’s less present in aged skin.8 “Collagen continues to be a very popular ingredient for anti-aging products, as evidenced by the variety of products available—everything from serums to cleansers to marshmallows," Rude said, adding, “Collagen continues to be hot because it works."

Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) is a naturally occurring chemical produced by the human brain that has shown hydration effects on skin when applied topically.9 And, as Miles noted, “Recent studies have demonstrated DMAE produces astounding results. In one study, a group of patients applied a DMAE-enriched gel on one cheek and a control gel lacking DMAE on the other cheek. Both formulations improved hydration of the skin, but only DMAE improved skin tone. The DMAE solution significantly increased tensile strength of the skin suggesting topical application of DMAE firms skin and reduces facial sag."

Like many other youthful compounds, hyaluronic acid (HA) production in the skin reduces with age. “HA provides structural framework and traps in 1,000 times its weight in water," Morasch said. “As we age, HA declines; the molecules move into the deeper layers of the skin and are more tightly bound to proteins. It’s entirely lost in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, usually by the time you hit 30." However, Miles said HA is one of the most effective moisturizing agents found in anti-aging products. “Its unmatched hydrating properties plump and smooth, resulting in firmer, more youthful-looking skin," she said.

HA is the basis for Hyalogic’s entire line, which includes anti-aging as well and joint health products. “HA is a unique molecule; it has several unique complications in the body, among them are the skin, joint and inflammation responses, heart health, brain health and eye health," Morasch said, adding taking HA orally and applying topically is the best way to achieve results.

Many skin care ingredients are good enough to eat, but can also be applied topically to achieve anti-aging results. Mushrooms of all kinds have been consumed for their immune, anti-tumor, antiviral and antibacterial benefits, but once such exotic variety, tremella (Tremella fuciformis) has garnered attention for its hydrating properties. The attention in Western medicine has been recent, but it has been a popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries. According to Mushroom Wisdom, tremella was found to hold more water than sodium hyaluronate, a stable form of HA.10 That study also showed its moisturizing effect in a human use test, with the authors concluding, “Tremella fuciformis polysaccharide also has good properties for cosmetics such as good touch (not ‘coated feeling’, moist and smooth feeling), good viscosity stability (against acid, alkali, salts and heat) and good safety profile. Tremella fuciformis polysaccharide is expected to be useful for cosmetic products, especially for skin-care products." Tremella also contains vitamin D, which has been shown to be protective against DNA photodamage in vivo.11

Mushroom Wisdom offers tremella  (Mushroom Wisdom™ Super Tremella) and uses it as a key ingredient in Aquamella™ skin cream. Aquamella combines the mushroom with pearl powder, which is said to help purify the skin and prevent blemishes and age spots. The hard, luster compound contains aragonite or calcite (crystalline forms of calcium carbonate) and an organic matrix called conchiolin. According to Mushroom Wisdom, when the powder is applied topically it may accelerate the skin cell metabolism to rejuvenate complexion, heal blemishes, minimize large pores, reduce redness, soothe inflammation and help heal minor wounds. While the preliminary research has been promising, Sensuke Konno, Ph.D., associate professor and director of Molecular Urology Research at the Department of Urology, New York Medical College, noted, “Despite a large volume of anecdotal documents and the long history behind them, scientific studies of pearl powder on the skin, to define and elucidate its bioactivity and biological significance, have not been fully performed."12

Superfruits, which can also be ingested orally and topically, are also showing up more in anti-aging ingredient lists, making the products sound more like smoothies than face creams. “Natural antioxidants and edible ingredients, including superfruits, have become very popular," Miles said. “Superfruits contain high levels of nutrients and antioxidants and include pomegranate, cranberry and grape."

Mychelle uses the superfruits goji and acai in some of its anti-aging products, as well as apples, pumpkin and cactus (which are arguably super) in others. Fruits don’t feature in all of its products, but MyChelle uses plant stem cells in two new formulas: Fabulous Eye Cream and Apple Brightening Serum. According to Carey, plant stem cells assist in treating skin problems, such as wrinkles, visible capillaries and sun damage. “Stem cells are the most important cells in the skin, and play a vital role in the aging and overall health of your skin," Carey said. “Finding natural sources of stem cells from plants and fruits changes the whole landscape of health and beauty. Plant stem cell technology is derived from different sources and provides different bioactive attributes. Protecting the longevity of the skin stem cells, plant stem cells are a revolutionary breakthrough in skin-care therapy and are completely safe to use."

While not a superfruit, Sun Chlorella markets in chlorella supplement as a superfood that is full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Originally targeted at stress and general green food supplement, the anti-aging benefits encouraged the company to offer the fresh-water algae in Sun Chlorella Cream, a moisturizer that contains chlorella growth factor (CGF), a complex rich in nucleic acids critical for cellular growth, renewal and repair. The paraben-free skin cream contains skin-enhancing nutrients such as antioxidants and detoxifying chlorophyll and is formulated with a purified water base and several botanical extracts.

All these anti-aging ingredients can help consumers look a little more youthful, but before they get into a cream or moisturizing mask, they need to be formulated with precision. Morasch, for instance noted certain ingredients just don’t cooperate with HA. “Citric acid and potassium sorbate are common preservative systems, but they actually break down HA and make it ineffective. So, we’ve had to get creative with our preservative system." Getting creative meant using a natural enzyme-based preservative system in its skin-care products.

A manufacturer can find effective ingredients, make sure they all work well together and launch a perfect skin-care product, only to have it left sitting on the shelf due to the carbon-footprint of the packaging. “‘Green initiatives,’ including recycled or recyclable packaging, are a very big trend," Reuer said. “I think we are all trying to ask the question: is there a better, cleaner way to do this, or a way to have a smaller footprint? Being more conscious of our effect on the planet as individuals and companies is a trend I see and wholeheartedly embrace and support. A clear conscience takes years off your soul, and does wonders for your complexion."

From the greens to the goods, cosmetic and personal care manufacturers need to take into consideration not just quality and substantiations, but their green initiatives as well, including packaging, manufacturing processes and more.

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