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Anti-wrinkle Skin Care

Eric S. Abrutyn

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.

Key Components

Many ingredients claim to improve the appearance of or to treat and repair wrinkles. The current trend is to develop natural botanical ingredients and polypeptides that provide antiaging properties at low and effective levels. It would be difficult to list all the possible natural ingredients that claim some type of antiaging effect without missing some, so one may generalize by simply stating that crucial to an antiaging treatment is the delivery of a natural or synthetic ingredient that provides the following key properties: antioxidation to counteract free radical formation; anti-inflammation to calm the skin and reduce irritation; exfoliation through raw materials such as alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA); sun protection, specifically through sunscreen agents that absorb or block UVA; skin softening, to support the elasticity and/or firming of skin; and pore- and crease-filling capabilities, so that particles fit within skin crevices and appear as a part of the skin.

Featured Ingredient: Antioxidants

Antioxidants are a popular antiwrinkle treatment category. They can be derived from natural sources or synthetically manufactured. Their key performance criterion is to counteract free radicals that can mutate skin cells. Sources of these free radicals are environmental, such as smoke, sun exposure or diet. Use of antioxidants can mitigate skin damage to allow for healing, as well as stimulate new collagen production.

Antioxidants can be delivered as water-soluble or oil-soluble ingredients, although oil- or lipid-soluble derivatives can absorb more effectively into the stratum corneum. Antioxidants can assist in several capacities, including: reducing fine lines and wrinkles, supporting cell regeneration, evening out skin pigmentation, mitigating psoriasis effects, supporting a healthy immune system and stimulating collagen production.

Antioxidants can include vitamins such as retinol and esters, ascorbic acid and esters, tocopherol and esters and cholecalcipherol, amino acids/ peptides such as acetyl hexapeptide-22 and decapeptide-6, botanical extracts, and carboxylic acids among a multitude of others.

Finished Antiaging Products

There are many current anti-wrinkle products on the market. The following three are featured to demonstrate claim positioning as well as how specific ingredients are incorporated to support these claims. The information presented is taken from publicly available sources and is included for illustrative purposes only.

Bottega Verde Mielexpertise Intense Antiaging Eye Contour Cream: The cream is described as an intensive, fastabsorbing, antiaging eye contour cream featuring a re-densifying, anti-wrinkle formula enriched with the company’s patented ingredients Cuore di Miele (honey essence) and Pluridefence, which are claimed to have revitalizing, antioxidant and firming effects to leave skin soft and radiant and protect against pollution.

Garnier Nutritioniste Ultra-Lift Anti-Wrinkle Firming Eye Cream: This eye cream is formulated with a blend of natural linoleic acid from safflower with retinyl acetate to lift the look of wrinkles; rice protein to fortify skin’s structure; and argan extract to make skin look firmer. According to the manufacturer, the cream instantly smooths and softens the delicate eye area, firming fine lines and lifting wrinkles.

Reviva Labs Collagen-Fibre Eye Pads with Myoxinol: These eye pads are said to contain 100% pure, freeze- dried collagen, which is reported to impart quick, Botox-like benefits to skin; instantly hydrate to help diminish wrinkles, bags, puffiness or dark circles; and relax the under-eye tissue to aid anti-wrinkle action. Myoxinol extracted from the hibiscus flower is said to relax facial wrinkles while the collagen plumps and smoothes the skin.


Anti-wrinkle skin products are a complex group with strong claims to “turn back the clock” on skin damage and sagging skin. The key to their success lies in the daily moisturization and hydration of skin. It is therefore important to understand how to formulate an aesthetically pleasing product that conveys moisture or the feeling of moisture to skin, while tightening and hiding fine lines.

Regarding anti-wrinkle biological actives, it is difficult to say if they are incorporated in sufficient amounts to work on the cellular level and are bioavailable for transport to the critical sites within skin’s physiology. [Brand owners and product developers] must ask themselves: Is the plant part being used the right plant part? Are the critical functional ingredients in the plant being delivered in sufficient quantities to provide physiological effects? Also, is enough of the botanical incorporated into the finished formula to actually work, or is the botanical present merely for claim purposes—or for consumer “reason-to-believe” expectations?

Eric S. Abrutyn is an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, a C&T magazine advisory board member, and chairman of the Personal Care Products Council’s International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) Committee. Recently retired from Kao Brands, Abrutyn founded TPC2 Advisors Ltd., Inc., a personal care consultancy. He has more than 35 years of experience in the raw material supplier and skin and hair care manufacturer aspects of personal care.

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