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Avoiding the Unavoidable

Sara Mason
  • Exposure to the sun tops the list as the most common cause of premature aging.
  • While science tries to catch up with consumer expectations, a realistic approach to the treatment of aging skin is to optimize the skin’s health and condition by ensuring ample hydration of tissues.
  • There is a trend for products that have an immediately perceptible difference from their very first application and also support long-term results.
  • Topical antioxidants represent the next sunscreen frontier.

Nothing is more certain than death and taxes. But for the beauty industry, nothing is more unavoidable—or profitable—than aging. Skin ages. And the innate aging process is made worse via UV radiation. The sun is a key culprit, and when it comes to its effects on the skin, the sun is always shining. Although there’s very little about genetic aging that can be slowed, stopped or reversed, symptoms of environmental aging—fine lines and wrinkles, redness, brown spots, laxity of the skin, changes in the skin’s texture—can be managed, prevented and repaired with the appropriate products and ingredients.

Euromonitor International data shows antiaging products were one of the biggest drivers of global skin care during the past five years, accounting for a 23% value share of total sales in 2009 [read Euromonitor’s skin care market report, “Skin Care Remains Star of Global Beauty Market,” on Page 40]. The antiaging category was also the largest contributor to growth of any facial skin care category. Despite the fact that the antiaging segment is beginning to show signs of maturity, brand owners are tackling the issue from all sides. Consistent consumer demand has also become apparent as consumers prioritize antiaging. Unfortunately, even if the sun’s impact on skin is well managed, a lot of the damage is already done.


Exposure to the sun tops the list as the most common cause of premature aging. Photoaging, as it is called, is thought to be the result of cumulative exposure to ultraviolet rays, starting in childhood. Sunlight speeds up the breakdown of many of the skin’s components—including collagen (a key structural component of connective tissue that keeps it smooth and wrinkle-free) and elastin (which contributes to skin’s elasticity and resilience). “The sun causes the production of an enzyme known as collagenase that breaks down collagen and thins the skin,” explains Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, a clinical and research dermatologist.

The damage done by UV radiation is manifested in a number of ways including oxidative damage to the DNA, proteins and lipids of the skin. Much of this damage is repaired by internal enzymes; however, some damage escapes repair and accumulates in time, resulting in accelerated skin aging.

Sunlight also contributes to the formation of free radicals, which leads to cell deterioration. This eventually results in skin that is recognized as being aged: loose, sagging tissue, lines and wrinkles, veins that are visible on the surface of the skin, dry leathery texture and the development of age spots.

In addition, one of the issues with exposure to solar radiation is the way it suppresses the immune system aspects of the skin. According to Rebecca James Gadberry, chairman/CEO YG Laboratories, research shows that even passive exposure, without so much as a slight burn, to solar radiation is compromising the immune system, which is also part of the process that leads to the development of skin cancer.

The Solution

Only a limited number of ingredients address the signs of aging. According to GCI magazine’s sister publication Skin Inc. magazine, studies on retinol (vitamin A), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and various peptides (such as palmitoyl pentapeptide, palmitoyl tripeptide and oligopeptides) show positive effects in stimulating collagen to help smooth and re-texture aging skin.

Wrinkles, however, are the benchmark of declining collagen levels and can impact all age groups when UV radiation assaults cells, breaking down DNA via the sun’s proton energy. There are substances that help prevent DNA damage and support the skin’s natural ability to repair itself, and biotechnology is inspiring the development of some of the most revolutionary skin care in the history of the industry.

With this in mind, CosMedix launched Cell ID, featuring growth factors, enzymes, amino acids and antioxidants—as well as a mitochondria extract to give energy to the cells. It is formulated to help reduce wrinkle depth, minimize fine lines, enhance skin’s texture and diminish age spots.

But while science tries to catch up with consumer expectations, a realistic approach to the treatment of aging skin is to optimize the skin’s health and condition by ensuring ample hydration of tissues, stimulating collagen formation in the dermis and eliminating the triggers that lead to aging skin.

These include the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals, and advanced glycation end products (AGE)—as well as the stimulation of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes (MMPs) that break down collagen and elastin. When MMPs are activated, collagen production automatically shuts down. So if MMPs are turned off and a means of stimulating collagen formation is provided, one of the key triggers to aging skin can be countered. Likewise, providing antioxidants to the skin helps control ROS formation.

In the process of glycation, sugar that is naturally present in the skin adheres to collagen and elastin fibers, causing them to stiffen. With time, these sugar molecules create AGE—rigid bridges between fibers—causing the skin to lose its elasticity and wrinkles to set in.

“Skin that has started to show more advanced signs of aging needs more intensive treatment and protection,” says Patricia Wexler, MD, dermatologist who partnered with Bath & Body Works to create a skin care line. “Glycation is a natural aging process that gradually damages collagen-related proteins and causes skin to lose volume and contour, which leads to sagging and deep wrinkles.” Wexler’s Intensive 3-in-1 Day Cream SPF 30 is formulated with an anti-glycation complex specifically to target the effects of glycation and restore skin’s natural density and bounce. The advanced daytime moisturizer fights damage by visibly lifting, firming and smoothing the skin. Wexler’s products also claim to inhibit the production of all known 20 MMPs found in the skin. “MMPi20 technology wards off the natural breakdown of collagen and protecting the skin from environmental stressors and UV exposure in the most effective possible way,” she explains.

Antioxidant Repair The process of oxidation begins when free radicals, which are caused by external aggressors such as sun exposure, trigger the rapid production of ROS, which in turns leads to cell damage.

Antioxidants, whether plant-based or synthetic, therefore, play a key role in the prevention of sun damage, as well as in its repair. “Research shows that the skin can actually repair itself with the aid of antioxidants and other naturally occurring substances,” said Sharon Gnatt Epel, CEO/founder, La Ishá, Inc. “These nutrients are found in food and can prevent or slow down the oxidative damage to our body, which in turn may help prevent and reverse the signs of photoaging.”

Different antioxidants have different mechanisms of action, and target various sun damage symptoms, so these are ideally used in combination.

La Ishá imports organic essential oils, herbs and vitamin-rich natural substances known for their restorative and healing properties. Organic pomegranate seed oil—which is rich in antioxidants, conjugated fatty acids, gentle phytoestrogens and various nutrients—is a key ingredient in many of the company’s formulations because it strengthens and promotes the regeneration of the epidermis, which may help minimize fine lines and wrinkles; is exceptionally helpful in fading age spots and skin discolorations; and because it is an adaptogen, helping cells adapt to and resist physical, environmental and chemical stressors. It is also highly emollient and contains both ellagitannin and punicic acids—substances that lab studies have shown to be helpful in preventing the growth of certain cancerous cells.

“Knowing that selected antioxidants can actually protect skin’s stem cells is a breakthrough in the cosmetic industry,” says Amelie Fortier-Cyr, marketing director, Vichy Laboratoires. “Sun-induced free radicals may lead to oxidative stress in the skin’s cells, which include skin’s stem cells.” The structural damage causes these cells to diminish their protection performance. Active ingredients can protect the skin’s stem cell’s environment and, therefore, regenerate fresh, rejuvenated skin. In the brand’s Aqualia Antiox Serum, Fluid and Eye Stick, launched in spring 2010, Vichy features the active ingredient citrus polyphenol, or Di-hydrochalcone Neohesperidin (DHC), a polyphenol with a very broad-spectrum anti-free radical potential. It acts at the heart of the cell to protect against free radical damage and assist in boosting the regenerative power of skin’s stem cells to improve skin radiance, complexion and texture. “Contrary to the majority of anti-free radicals for which action is more targeted, it acts on three cellular targets: the membrane, the nucleus and the cytoplasm,” explained Fortier-Cyr. Vichy also uses vitamins C + E for its broad-spectrum anti-free radical properties, which have proven efficacy on skin’s stem cells, to protect them from UVA rays.

Natura Bissé International, Inc. also incorporates ingredients designed to prevent and repair oxidative damage on the cell level, thereby increasing the longevity and life of the skin cell. For example, its SPF 50 Luminous Shield utilizes beta glucans to reinforce the skin’s natural defense system to effectively protect the skin against damage caused by UV radiation. And, in the brand’s Cure Collection, a peptide was used called SIRT-AP that activates the sirtuin production to enhance the skin’s natural ability to repair, hydrate and detoxify itself. Cure Sheer Cream was the most recent addition to this line, and it provides UVA/UVB protection in combination with self-adapting pigments that help to neutralize skin imperfections. The brand is following the trend for products that have an immediately perceptible difference from their very first application, but also support long-term results.

For immediate benefit, the cream contains a complex that provides a “soft focus” effect that produces multiple light micro-reflections, creating a luminous halo that softens dark circles and shadows. For long-term benefits, the formula contains hyaluronic acid and fermentus glaciarum extract, an anti-wrinkle element that helps increase the formation of elastin and two types of collagen—type I and type II. Sulphorane—a highly purifying and detoxifying component obtained from Lepidium sativum sprouts, better known as watercress—activates the skin’s detoxification system. And an exclusive blend, featuring hyaluronic acid and natural collagen amino acid, maintains water balance and prevents dehydration. Combining repair with prevention, the product also uses titanium dioxide and iron oxides for an SPF 20. The product’s exclusive combination of natural physical filters combined with melaninlike pigments, which mimic the skins natural protection barrier, act together to reflect solar radiation.


Darphin’s Vitalprotection SPF50 is a lotion combining protective systems of antioxidants and photoaging defenses. The nourishing cream provides visible corrective antiaging defenses with its triple biological shield—botanical, enzymatic and cellular—to help prevent premature fine lines and wrinkles from forming. The product is formulated with a potent blend of ingredients—including the antioxidant edelweiss, venuceane (a deep-sea microorganism that helps detoxify, protect and moisturize the skin), and oxybenzone to fight the aging process by neutralizing free radials, repairing skin, preventing the detioration and aging of skin cells and providing protection to ensure cellular function.

Moisturizers provide hydration externally, but, more importantly, should strengthen the skin barrier to reduce water and nutrient loss from the inside out. “Proper skin hydration is necessary to allow the normal shedding process of dry dead skin to occur,” says Garth Fisher, CellCeuticals co-founder. “Fatty bonds (lipids) glue our skin cells together, and must be replenished to repair our skin barrier.” Using moisturizers replenishes these lipids and helps repair that barrier. Important ingredients such as ceramides, essential fatty acids (linolenic and linoleic acid) and humectants—glycerin and hyaluronic acid—reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL).

CellCeuticals PhotoDefense SPF 55+, utilizing a biomedical technology, has a three-fold functions to protect skin daily against UVA and UVB sun exposure, combat premature skin aging and moisturize simultaneously. Made with patent-pending Photoplex with Cellular Excited Energy Quenchers Technology, which makes it both photostable and able to quench ROS and AGE products. “Many other sun protection products that contain avobenzone as a UV filter are unstable and therefore degrade in sunlight,” claims Fisher. “But with PhotoDefense, we were able to develop a proprietary combination of screening agents that give the product photostability.” PhotoDefense also is fortified with a powerful auto-defense system and vitamin D to help strengthen the skin’s natural defenses.

Lightening and Brightening

The booming Chinese and Indian markets are helping to keep sales of facial skin care buoyant, thanks primarily to the Asian obsession with facial-whitening products [a topic also covered in Euromonitor’s skin care market report, “Skin Care Remains Star of Global Beauty Market,” Page 40, and in the India Quarterly column, Page 24]. But skin whiteners have even made the transition to Western markets, where they are marketed as antiaging brighteners. For more mature consumers, brightening products are a more realistic option to traditional wrinkle-erasing antiaging products.

La Ishá Natural Age Spot Eraser uses a proprietary blend of medical-grade essential oils—Roman and German chamomile—and organic pomegranate seed oil to gently fade age spots, discolorations and dark splotches without the use of the controversial hydroquinone, which is being avoided particularly by sensitive and sensitized skin types.

Priori CoffeeBerry Natureceuticals Natural Daily Protection SPF 25 provides protection against UVA and UVB rays while serving as a daily brightening skin regimen, using Coffeeberry extract to promote radiance and hydrate the skin. Fortified with an antioxidant to fight free radicals, the lightweight cream is a natural, sheer shield against the causes of skin aging.

YG Labs is currently working on new technology, scheduled to launch in summer 2011, specifically aimed at brightening age spots. The company has identified a little recognized pigment caused by toxic waste that builds up in the cell, indirectly caused by sun damage, as a major component in age spots. Research indicates melanin-specific ingredients do not affect this pigment, which the company’s Gadberry believes explains why so many skin lighteners don’t work well on this condition. “We have found that the majority of age spots are caused by this waste, not by melanin,” explains Gadberry. YG Labs is currently in trials with the product, which features a new delivery vehicle and new system of ingredients that address the toxic waste issue.


Experts agree: The solution lies as much in sun protection as repair. Without regular sunscreen use, consumers aren’t going to make a lot of progress in maintaining or obtaining youthful skin. “But some new breakthrough is needed,” says Draelos. “The perfect sunscreen is yet to be developed.” Current sunscreens only reflect or absorb some of the UV radiation from the sun. “We now need substances that get the UV radiation that is not eliminated by sunscreens,” she continues. “This is where the new reflective spheres and other topical particles come into play. Also, topical antioxidants represent the next sunscreen frontier.”

Natura Bissé recently launched a line in its attempt to provide comprehensive and advanced photo-protection from UVA/UVB rays. NB Ceutical incorporates the Bio-Defense Complex, offering physical filters such as titanium dioxide to reflect UV rays, organic filters to absorb and transform rays into energy that can be better assimilated by the skin, and biological filters to improve and strengthen the skin’s natural defense system. More products will be added to the line in October 2010. “Our natural defense system is not sufficient enough to protect us,” explains Tathiana Cornejo, director of education, Natura Bissé. “This new collection provides effective sun protection from every angle.”

R&D and innovation in this market is at the forefront of many brands and ingredient suppliers, as they continue to research and provide solutions. But just like most sun damage does not happen overnight and will take a reasonable amount of time to repair, brands and consumers alike have to be patient as promising products meeting immediate needs act as a placeholder for bigger and better solutions.

Sara Mason is a freelance writer based in the Chicagoland area. She was previously managing editor of GCI magazine.

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