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The following is an abridged version of a February 2011 Cosmetics & Toiletries column.
For consumers, antiaging has many definitions and is a marketing position for a variety of topical personal care products. Within the antiaging category are a number of consumer products claiming to prevent or treat facial wrinkling. As is generally known, wrinkles occur as skin ages and are associated with causes that are genetic and environmental. For example, changes such as a decrease in both the number of fibroblasts and biosynthetic changes of biomolecules, based on large extracellular matrix molecular weight, as well as dermis atrophy are accentuated in the dermis.
In addition, external assault especially from sun exposure accelerates facial wrinkling. Therefore, skin aging can be attributed to both physiological skin changes and photodegradation. Moisture and collagen content and the immune responsiveness of skin are the main factors causing wrinkle formation. This is based on a decrease in the diameter or decomposition of collagen and elastin, along with the expansion of blood vessels. In the end, the mechanical strength and viscoelastic properties of the dermis are compromised, allowing skin to stretch under the influence of its own weight.
To address to this change, consumers seek products that make them look younger by toning the skin or visually hiding negative attributes. To such an end, active cosmetic ingredients have been developed to fight the loss of skin tone by simultaneously lifting and smoothing the skin and improving its viscoelastic properties. However, anti-wrinkle products that inspire such physiological changes and tout such benefits raise questions as to whether they are truly cosmetics or are more pharmaceutical in nature.
It is unfortunately difficult to turn back the clock on the age-related deterioration of skin physiology but three topical approaches can impart antiaging effects via other means: by covering or filling in wrinkles for smoother looking and feeling skin; by tightening the skin via astringent effects; and by physiologically improving the skin’s own repair mechanisms. Current studies in the area of genomics and DNA and cellular repair support this latter approach, although it acts on drugrelated mechanisms; such products are therefore labeled cosmeceuticals.