Skin care - a golden opportunity

Published: 13-Nov-2008

John Woodruff continues his series on skin ageing, looking at cosmetics to improve skin condition in the more mature consumer with a slight emphasis towards the very elderly

John Woodruff continues his series on skin ageing, looking at cosmetics to improve skin condition in the more mature consumer with a slight emphasis towards the very elderly

The Age Concern website(1) has a special section on skin and I quote: “As people get older, the structure of their skin changes. It becomes thinner and loses its plumpness and elasticity, so that lines and wrinkles will form. Nothing hastens this process more, and increases the risk of skin cancer, than exposure to the sun. The sun also encourages the formation of moles and brown age spots on the hands. Oil-producing glands that moisten skin are less active and so dry skin is more common.”

Changes in skin are both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic changes are those that appear irrevocably with ageing. As skin ages the epidermis begins to thin and the melanocytes decrease in number but increase in size. This imparts a pale look to the skin with areas of hyperpigmentation on areas exposed to the sun. Extrinsic changes are those that occur because of external factors and it is apparent that at 60 a person’s skin can appear 15 years older than another, especially if they smoke, drink too much alcohol and spend too much time exposed to strong sunlight.

Blood vessels in the dermis begin to lose strength and are easily bruised and may bleed under the skin. The subcutaneous layer that gives padding to skin is reduced, which increases the risk of skin injury and healing is slow. In younger skin, cells are replaced every 21 to 40 days but with age cells regenerate more slowly, and the rate of replacement falls by about half. As more cells accumulate on the surface, the skin can feel dense and rough. Sweat glands and sebaceous glands become less active and the skin becomes dry and more sensitive to irritation. Wrinkles become more pronounced and as the underlying fat in the subcutaneous layer is lost, hollowness appears on the cheeks and eye sockets. Hair colour is lost and men may go bald, while women grow hair at unwanted places. The nails also become thin and half moons on the nails disappear.

Overall, as far as appearance is concerned, there is not a lot to look forward to and in the past cosmetics have been aimed more at camouflage rather than mitigation. However, there are cosmetic treatments that may improve matters. Although the skin of the elderly has probably been exposed to an excess of solar radiation during the person’s lifetime it is still worth applying protection to prevent further UV induced damage. Cosmetic treatment of age spots was covered in SPC August 2008(2) and improving skin moisture levels in older skin in SPC June 2008.(3)


Slow cell regeneration is a particular problem for the ageing. The use of scrubs is too harsh for aged skin and only very mild cosmetic peels are suitable. One such is Multifruit BSC from Arch Personal Care Products. It is a concentrated blend of five botanical extracts: Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) extract; Saccharum officinarum (sugar cane) extract; Acer saccharum (sugar maple) extract; Citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) fruit extract; and Citrus medica limonum (lemon) extract. These extracts contain several naturally occurring alpha hydroxy acids and a wide variety of residual natural substances, such as cellulose, carbohydrates, proteins and water-soluble vitamins and minerals. In-vivo trials of 4% Multifruit BSC in a commercial cream showed an increase of 20% in cell turnover relative to the control formulation, resulting in a smoother, younger looking skin.

Another exfoliating material from Arch is Brookosome Willowbark, which is Salix nigra extract in liposome form. The black willow (Salix nigra) tree, found in the eastern part of the North American continent has a dark brown, ridged bark rich in tannins and salicylic acid-like materials. The extract is reported to have analgesic, antiseptic, astringent, anti-pyretic and anti-inflammatory properties and to enhance skin cell turnover. This results in a general improvement in the appearance of the skin including a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. In Repeat Insult Patch tests, Brookosome Willowbark wasnon-irritating to the skin and its liposome form increases the product’s antimicrobial and exfoliating properties.

Increasing cell metabolism is one suggested approach to improving cell regeneration. According to Lucas Meyer the cytoskeleton is a protein network inside the cell that plays a key role during cell division and is essential for intracellular communication. Ageing can disrupt the cytoskeleton network, impairing cell division and slowing down its vital functions. An extract of mamaku is said to stimulate cell multiplication by as much as 48% and these cells migrate to the stratum corneum to renew the epidermis. Mamaku Vital Essence, [INCI: Cyathea medullaris leaf extract] is a solvent-free extract from the foliage of the mamaku tree fern, which is native to New Zealand and used by the Maori people to promote wound healing.

Also plant-based is Skinergium from Expanscience [INCI: Hydrolyzed lepidium meyenii root]. This plant grows on the high plateaux of Peru and the extract is said to stimulate fibroblast growth when topically applied at 2% active over a four to eight week period. Skin radiance and luminosity was increased and wrinkle depth significantly reduced in clinical trials. Gatuline RC from Gattefossé is a beech bud extract said to improve oxygen usage by skin cells, resulting in improved protein synthesis by the keratinocytes. This leads to the formation of various regulating peptides and a strengthening of the epidermal structure, which contributes to a smoother superficial cutaneous micro-relief. Also, fillagrin and other proteins that accumulate in the stratum corneum help to retain water in the corneal layer through an osmotic effect, leading to improved moisturising.


Ingredients recommended for this application also appear to stimulate collagen synthesis and improve the appearance of wrinkles. One such material is Signaline S from ISP Europe, an active ingredient rich in 1,2-diacylglycerol obtained from Olea europaea (olive) oil and fatty alcohols obtained from Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) wax. Signaline S is said to activate signalling enzymes, increase cellular energy and promote epidermal and dermal regeneration. Documentation from ISP shows it increasing ATP synthesis in keratinocytes and fibroblasts by increasing the energy status in all cutaneous cells and boosting dermal synthesis of collagen, thereby improving skin firmness.

Fiflow BTX from Créations Couleurs is a perflourocarbon or PFC for anti-ageing products that is claimed to increase cellular metabolism and skin renewal by supplying the skin with extra oxygen. The physical structure of Fiflow BTX is such that there are always gases trapped inside the molecular structure. Carbon dioxide is more soluble in Fiflow BTX than oxygen so by loading the FiFlow BTX with oxygen and applying it to skin, carbon dioxide will displace the oxygen, which is released into the skin.

The dielectric properties of Fiflow BTX hinder the nerve impulses which induce muscle contractions and thus has a muscle relaxing effect. Because of its hydrophobic and lipophobic properties the material tends to agglomerate in such a way that it decreases its contact with skin lipids and liquids. Where a wrinkle has formed due to the demise of structural proteins in the dermis, this space allows the PFCs to agglomerate and therefore lift the skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. This temporary effect will be visible after about 90 seconds but Créations Couleurs claims that with a daily application of a product containing Fiflow BTX, the effect can be sustained.

Active Concepts suggests the use of AC Dermal Respiratory Factor to increase cell respiration, cell proliferation and cell metabolism. It is an aqueous solution of Saccharomyces lysate extract. It is postulated that the extract helps cells utilise oxygen more efficiently and because oxygen uptake is enhanced there is less likelihood of reactive oxygen species being produced. Further claims for the extract are that it improves the translucency of skin thereby improving skin tone and that it improves the cosmetic activity of other ingredients such as retinol. A number of patents covering its use have already been granted so the formulator is warned to do a careful search before incorporating this material into a formulation.

Relievene SK from Chemyunion is an extract of the plant species Rhodiola rosea, recommended to reduce skin dryness and discomfort of the skin. Relievene is able to improve skin appearance through maintaining the extracellular matrix of the skin. It promotes synthesis of collagen and elastin thereby increasing epidermal thickness. Rhodiola rosea is also an important constituent of EyePro 3x from Arch. It is an aqueous/glycolic solution of Saccharomyces cerevisiae extract, betaine and Rhodiola rosea root extract. With age the skin under the eye becomes thinner, which causes the veins under the eye to become more prominent. By strengthening the dermal matrix under the eye, this condition can be improved dramatically along with addressing the fine lines and wrinkles present. EyePro 3x is said to do this by improving cell regeneration, enhancing moisturisation and promoting skin firmness.


Also aimed at improving the appearance of the eye area Gatuline In-tense from Gattefossé is a concentrated oily extract of the Spilanthes acmella plant, which is a flower originating from South Africa. Studies have shown that Gatuline In-tense is able to tighten and reorganise the skin architecture through stimulating the dynamic properties of fibroblasts, leading to increased skin density and firmness. It has an instant tightening effect, which is enhanced by continual application. Gattefossé also markets Cytobiol Lumin-Eye, a mixture of Fraxinus excelsior (ash) tree bark extract, organic silicon and vitamin B3. It is claimed that these three components act in synergy in the area under the eyes to strengthen blood capillaries and improve blood flow while reducing blood leakage and protecting supporting tissues. The overall effect is to improve skin firmness and reduce the bags and brighten dark shadows under the eye.

Eyeliss from Sederma contains three active ingredients, namely hesperidin methyl chalcone, dipeptide-2 and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 and is claimed to improve drainage, reduce capillary fragility and irritation while increasing skin firmness and elasticity. Also from Sederma, Haloxyl is an association of polypeptides with N-hydroxysuccinimide and the flavonoid, chrysin. The polypeptides reinforce firmness and tone of the eye area. Chrysin and N-hydroxysuccinimide activate the elimination of blood originated pigments responsible for dark circle colour and local inflammation. Infra-orbital shadows are due to the accumulation of haemoglobin and its coloured degradation products - biliverdin, bilirubin and iron - in the dermis and epidermis. Chrysin stimulates the enzyme (UGT1A1) leading to the clearance of bilirubin. N-hydroxysuccinimide renders the iron soluble for natural elimination.

Peptides find particular use in anti-ageing products and are frequently claimed to improve collagen and elastin synthesis and stimulate fibroblast activity. Collagenol from Vevy is Oligopeptide-4 and a precursor to collagen. Studies show this product is actually incorporated into the collagen in the skin. Dermonectin, also from Vevy, is oligopepetide-5 and is described as a precursor to fibronectin, which is the network that holds elastin and collagen fibres in a firm matrix. It is claimed to improve skin elasticity and to reduce wrinkles and fine lines.

The active ingredient in ChroNOline from Atrium Innovations is Caproyl tetrapeptide-3 and this is said to boost the production of key components at the dermal-epidermal junction such as collagen VII, laminin-5 and fibronectin for optimal skin structural support and to provide outstanding reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles after only 28 days. Carnasine from Symrise, [INCI: Carnasine] is a polypeptide claimed to confer benefits to the skin across the age spectrum. For the older person it improves cell regeneration, skin elasticity and skin tone.

Recent studies have demonstrated the role of the dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ) in skin ageing and distinguishing the papillary dermis from the reticular dermis and their respective roles in the biomechanical and functional properties of the skin. The papillary dermis, in close contact with the DEJ, is a favourable target in skin ageing because its deterioration is responsible for the appearance of wrinkles as the Oxytalan fibres, responsible for the elasticity of the papillary dermis, start to deteriorate. Silab suggests the use of Papilactyl D, an extract from the African tiger nut or Cyperus esculentus. It is claimed that this protects and restores the oxytalan fibres and reinforces the structure of the papillary dermis by increasing synthesis of fibrillin-1.


A different approach to improving skin in the elderly is to compensate for the natural loss of thymus activity. The thymus plays an important role in the development of the immune system in early life but its activity decreases with age, resulting in a decrease of immune defences and the appearance of the signs of ageing. Thymulen 4 from Atrium is acetyl tetrapeptide-2 and it is said to increase the immuno-vigilance of the skin and help regenerate the epidermal profile by reinforcing the cutaneous immune defences and boosting epidermal regeneration.

Hexapeptide-9 is the active in Collaxyl IS from ISP that is claimed to rapidly decrease the appearance of skin wrinkles and to enhance epidermal repair by encouraging dermal protein synthesis and improving the DEJ. The active in ECM Moduline-peptide from Infinitec is palmitoyl tripeptide-28, which is said to inhibit metalloproteases expression, to enhance collagen synthesis and to mimic the natural mechanism of the regeneration of the extracellular matrix. Acetyl tetrapeptide-9 is the active ingredient in Dermican LS 9745 from Laboratoires Sérobiologiques that is claimed to improve the skin support structure by stimulating the synthesis of collagen and lumican. Lumican is a small molecule responsible for binding collagen fibres into organised bundles and the overall effect is to improve skin density, firmness and thickness.

Silanols are organic derivatives of silicon with many hydroxyl functions and are synthesized in the presence of many different radicals, which confer stability and specificity to the compound. Silanols possess unique biological properties dependent on the presence of the different radicals. Silanols are produced by Exsymol and have in common the property of stimulating human fibroblasts to improve cell renewal. This cytostimulating effect also leads to increased collagen production with a consequent reduction in wrinkles and improved skin firmness. Silanols are also said to strengthen the extracellular matrix and to provide moisturising properties because of their hydroxyl radicals. There are several materials from Exsymol based on this technology; DSH SN [INCI: Dimethylsilanol hyaluronate] is said to stimulate cell regeneration and greatly improve skin moisture levels.

Although not obvious from its [INCI: Panicum miliaceum (millet) seed extract] Liftonin from Rahn also has a silanol backbone. Millet seed is rich in botanical silicone and this is mixed with tannic acid from oak to provide an aqueous/glycolic extract with good antioxidant and chelating properties. Clinical trials show that it reduces wrinkle depth and improves skin firmness and texture. Cactus is the source for IBR-Dragon from IBR Ltd. of Israel. It is an aqueous extract of Hylocereus undatus fruit, which in addition to its ability to slow down agEing via dormancy, the extract contains a high level of polysaccharides and therefore contributes to a tightening and firming of the skin.

KiOsmetine-CG from Kitozyme. [INCI: Chitin, Beta-glucan] is a naturally derived biopolymer that is claimed to restore skin to a more youthful state by stimulating the metabolism of the keratinocytes and Langerhans cells. This results in a measureable reduction in wrinkles and a smoothing and hydrating of the skin. Because it is a polysaccharide it leaves a protective barrier on the skin and enhances the feel of emulsions during application. Clinical in-vivo studies were conducted on a panel whose average age was 59 years and after a 12-week period their skin was said to be firmer, more radiant and significantly less wrinkled.

Instant effects

The majority of materials discussed so far are targeted at improving skin tone and radiance by increasing cell turnover and strengthening the underlying subcutaneous tissue. However these are long-term treatments designed to reverse the visual effects of age and people naturally want a more instant response. While wrinkles may be blamed on loss of subcutaneous tissue and damage by solar radiation expression lines result from the accumulated effect on the skin of movements constantly imposed by the subcutaneous muscles, thus freezing facial muscle contractions is a popular approach to providing instant short-term improvements.

Argireline [INCI: Acetyl hexapeptide-8] from Lipotec SA is described as a safe alternative to Botulinum neurotoxins for inhibiting facial muscle activity. Botulinum toxins paralyse by selectively blocking acetylcholine release at the neuromuscular junction. This is achieved by cleaving a protein called SNAP-25. Argireline inhibits neurotransmitter release by forming a protein complex with the calcium ions and, as well as the instant effect, regular topical applications of 3% of Argireline solution in a suitable carrier is said to reduce wrinkle depth by 27% within 30 days.

Gatulaine Expression [INCI: Acmella oleracea extract] from Gattefossé contains the molecule spilanthol, which attenuates muscle contractions giving instant improvement. Regular application delays further wrinkle formation and deepening of existing wrinkles. Other instant tightening ingredients include Liftessence [INCI: Cyathea cumingii leaf extract] from Lucas Meyer. Based on a New Zealand tree fern its polysaccharide content forms a molecular network to give instant lift. The active in Argatensyl from Laboratoires Sérobiologiques is Argania spinosa kernel extract. This high molecular weight protein derived from argan oil has an immediate tightening and smoothing effect on skin surface wrinkles and continual application confers long-term improvements. Arganyl is also a product from the argan tree aimed at inhibiting free radicals and stimulating MMP production by fibroblasts.

Hydrolysed proteins and other film-forming materials may also be used for instant tightening. Pepha-Tight from Pentapharm AG is derived from micro-algae and when used at 3% in a suitable base the tightening effect is virtually immediate. In-vitro tests show a protective effect on human skin fibroblasts against oxidative stress, and that collagen synthesis from normal human skin fibroblasts can be increased. Skin Tightener ST from Sederma blends plant and marine extracts to provide an immediate skin firming response. The effective extracts are derived from sea algae and wheat proteins, presenting instant radiance, lifting and skin smoothing results.

For instant skin radiance and wrinkle filling Lipolight OAP/PVA from Lipo Chemicals Inc is suggested. This product is based on optically activated fluorescent particles that fill in lines and wrinkles and emit fluorescent light to boost the radiant appearance of the skin and reduce the shadows in the wrinkles. The 5-6 micron particles are undetectable by the naked eye and comprise a fluorescent compound, polydodecanamideaminium triazadiphenylethenesulfonate, fixed to a microporous nylon matrix and encapsulated in cross-linked polyvinyl alcohol. The fluorescent compound absorbs UV light and re-emits that energy as diffuse visible light. The emitted light illuminates the shadowed areas of wrinkles, enlarged pores and other skin imperfections, thus significantly reducing their appearance. The structure of the particle combined within its encapsulation coating diffuses the light reflected from the skin’s surface giving a soft-focus effect, thus further reducing the appearance of the skin’s imperfections.

There are many materials claimed to reduce wrinkle formation and improve skin thickness and hydration in the elderly. They and the suppliers of the materials mentioned in this feature supply the results of efficacy studies, both in-vitro and in-vivo. When making cosmetic claims it is necessary to provide clinical evidence that the final product will meet the claims made on its label and in any advertisements for that product.

The INCI names given against trade names are restricted to the active ingredient content and the material may be in solution and contain other items, including preservatives.

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