"The emphasis [in skincare research] has been on two different parts of the spectrum," says Diana Howard, Ph.D., at Dermalogica. On one side is new research on vitamin-like plant compounds called bioflavonoids. They have a "high-tech response on the skin," says Howard, who notes that these compounds may help protect skin and could even repair broken capillaries. "You don't see bioflavonoids in ingredients though. You have to know which are good sources, such as extracts of gingko biloba, raspberry, grapeseed as well as green tea." On the other side are molecules created in the lab. Dermalogica has created a pentapeptide believed to go beyond moisturizing that helps re-create a more youthful skin structure. In the company's Power Rich skin cream, for instance, it's thought to help stimulate collagen synthesis and improve the texture and appearance of the skin.
"Glycolic acid was the biggest breakthrough ever after moisturizer," says facial plastic surgeon Nicholas Daniello, M.D., founder of Daniello Skin Care. Yet when glycolic acid was buffered to prevent irritation, Daniello noted that it lost its effectiveness. So he restored its power but removed the harsh side effects by esterifying it to create a low pH, non-buffered glycolic acid. While pH isn't usually listed on labels, Daniello says that low pH products should have the words "non-neutralized glycolic acid" in the ingredients list. In addition to improved glycolic acid, Daniello also favors emulsified vitamin K because research stands by its usefulness in helping people with rosacea and in repairing broken capillaries.
Rebecca Gadberry, president of YG Laboratories, finds promise in anti-glycation ingredients. "Glycation happens to the human body when sugars start to build up on tissue. I call it a cr% brulee effect-when sugar builds up on the protein fibers, they become brittle and cause wrinkling. We think this is even more of a contributor to aging than free radicals," she says. "There are about five to seven anti-glycation ingredients, including alpha-lipoic acid," and some of these will be introduced in the Visibly Firmer Skin System in the second quarter of 2003. Also in the future, Gadberry sees more layering of technologies, as the company does in its Retinol Resurfacing Complex. In addition to retinol, light-diffusing technology immediately softens the look of wrinkles, glucosamine technology kicks in two to four weeks after use, and peptide technology has an effect after that. "After using it for four to six months, you see tremendous results," she says.
Catherine Atzen, founder and CEO of Atzen, is excited about fucogel, a hydrating compound that leaves skin feeling silky and firm and has antiallergenic properties. Its light emulsion allows it to be used even on dry skin. According to Atzen, research has shown that fucogel becomes more hydrating in the hours immediately after application, just as hyaluronic acid becomes less hydrating. So in the Atzen line, these hydrators are often combined, as in the Biologic Night Cream and Biologic Advanced Bioactive Complex.
Dennis Gross, M.D., of M.D. Skincare, favors a mixture of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. "There's a synergy between the two, and it allows you not to use such a high concentration of either one." Gross says that the combination decreases photosensitivity, irritation, and the post-treatment hyperpigmentation that can accompany other acid treatments. "And it works just as well in terms of diminishing the appearance of fine lines and imperfections, treating acne and rosacea, and improving the skin's firmness, radiance, and clarity," he says. In addition to the alpha and beta compounds, M.D. Skincare's Alpha-Beta Skin Perfecting System also includes antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, plus green tea extract.
Capitalizing on the properties that make copper a star in wound healing, Annette Hanson, president of Simple Solutions Advanced Skin Care Technology and Aquasante Spa Products, is excited about its benefits in anti-aging compounds. Studies suggest copper peptide stimulates both collagen and elastin production. Hanson says that the GHK Copper Peptide Complex (found in numerous Simple Solutions products including Ultra Copper Firming Serum and Pure Copper Morning Dew) helps firm the skin, enhance elasticity, replenish moisture, reduce lines and wrinkles, and diminish under-eye puffiness and dark circles.
Epidermal growth factor is capturing the attention of Lyn Ross, president of Institut' DERMed. "It has a protein in it that has the same ability to accelerate skin cell growth as a protein in your own body." Ross says that exfoliation treatments can leave skin vulnerable to environmental damage and dehydration but that epidermal growth factor allows the skin to stay very hydrated. It offers anti-aging effects without thinning the stratum corneum. By encouraging new cells to grow and travel to the surface of the skin, it looks lifted and softened. "The skin is more balanced in appearance," says Ross. "It is healthier, and it looks healthier." The company uses this epidermal growth factor, derived from fermented yeast, in its EGF Complex and EGF Gel.
Dermatologist Howard Sobel, M.D., also takes stock in growth factor. "You see skincare going toward different forms of growth factor," says Sobel. He notes that the body's natural growth factor is depleted by age 40, so the goal with products that contain it is to send growth factors to act as messengers to reenergize cells and tell the skin how to act young again. "Growth factor increases the metabolism of skin cells and helps in the repair process of damaged skin from the sun or other environmental damage," says Sobel. Growth factors are derived from a variety of sources, and in Sobel's DDF (Doctor's Dermatologic Formula) Cellular Revitalization Age Renewal cream, they come from sheep's milk and are known as Milk Peptide Complex.
"The latest and greatest is not any one chemical," says Robert Keller, M.D., medical director of the Keller Institute for Advanced Anti-Aging Medicine. It's in the way scientists have learned to combine strategies for preventing cell damage (such as antioxidants) and repairing it (Retin-A). Keller is the type of physician for whom "proven" holds greater interest than "new," which is why he favors alpha-lipoic acid on the prevention side. ("It's a wonderful antioxidant, it's well absorbed, its chemical composition isn't changed during the absorption process, and it has no bad end products," he says.) In the SIA Keller Institute Sun System, the acid is part of a super-defense. "In even the best sunscreen, fifteen percent of the sunlight penetrates and forms free radicals," he says. By using a layer of alpha-lipoic acid under the sunscreen, free-radical scavengers penetrate the skin and are ready for action.
"We've done a lot of research on the polyphenols in pomegranate extract," says Howard Murad, M.D., of Murad Skincare. In addition to hav-ing a powerful antioxidant effect, pomegranate extract improves the SPF of sunscreen, he says, and may be an anti-inflammatory as well. Murad includes the extract in sunscreens, supplements, cleansers, moisturizers, and more including Energizing Pomegranate Treatment, which invigorates the skin. Murad also likes enzymes as exfoliants, which may act more quickly than AHAs. While enzymes like those from papaya and pineapple are well known, new technology is just now making them stable enough for spa and salon use.
Capturing the attention of Dieter Kuster, Ph.D., of CA Botana International is a plant called sea buckthorn, which grows in Europe, Northern Asia, and Canada-not in the sea. It's rich in antioxidants including vitamin C, which are good free radical scavengers. It also has a fatty acid component-it's rich in oleic and linolenic acids. "Both are effective for cell regeneration and communication. They enhance the rebuilding of the collagen structure of the skin," says Kuster. Sea buckthorn is far on the horizon, however, and has yet to be included in any compounds. As for more immediate breakthroughs, Kuster says what impresses him isn't so much individual ingredients but the way that his company and some others are now able to bring down the molecular structure of products so treatments can be targeted to areas of the skin where they will be most effective. "I'm a bit of a futurist," he says. "Eventually, we may be able to get away from injectable compounds," [and get important compounds into the body through the skin].