The Science of Skincare

A look at the industry's most innovative ingredients

Have you ever read the ingredients list on a bottle of face cream? Four-syllable words in tiny print can be difficult to decipher. Right now, there's a plethora of buzz words floating around. Peptides. Stem cells. What do they mean? What do they do? "You don't necessarily need to be an ingredient expert, but you really need to research and get the necessary training to be able to look at a label and to understand whether or not something has the appropriate active ingredients," says Jan Marini, president and CEO of Jan Marini Skin Research.

In the beauty lab: peptides
When introduced in cosmetic applications about 20 years ago, peptides presented challenges. Researchers have since overcome these difficulties through research and experimentation. Peptides are strings of amino acids that have multiple functions. In Cosmetic Dermatology: Products and Procedures, Dr. Karl Lintner, a cosmetic peptides expert, describes them as "biologically active communication tools that direct skin functioning." There are different types of peptides such as neuropeptides and pentapeptides. Matrixyl, a pentapeptide in RVB Oro Nero, stimulates collagen and improves elasticity.

In a 2011 interview, Lintner explained that peptides interact with the cells in the skin and are able to stimulate activities such as synthesis of new molecules, collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. By doing this, peptides are able to repair the skin, the connective tissue, and reduce wrinkles.

In the beauty lab: stem cells
With the aging process comes the decrease in stem cell function. Lori P. Knowles, an independent consultant specializing in biotechnology law and ethics, describes stem cells as regenerative and malleable cells that have the ability to replicate themselves and to repair and replace other tissues in the human body.

Adding plant-based stem cells to cosmetics such as creams and serums allows the product to protect the existing stem cells in the skin. Skin stem cells are responsible for the creation of the new skin cells. In the RVB Oro Nero product line, the stem cell from the Mekabu Plant protects the stem cells in the skin's basal layer, the deepest layer in the epidermis. This safeguards the cells' regenerative and re-plumping action "By preserving and protecting our skin's mother cells we allow the continuation of new healthier cells being formed, equaling younger, healthier skin," says Brenda Belo, technical educator, RVB Oro Nero.

PCA Skin chose to incorporate lilac and grape stem cells into some of their products based on scientific evidence from various sources. Dr. Ivana Veljkovic, PCA Skin, says lilac showed superb antioxidant activity in multiple studies dealing with antioxidant activity of extract or its main component, verbascoside. Grape stem cells demonstrated a protective effect on epidermal stem cells when exposed to UV stress, based on Colony Forming Efficiency tests of protected and unprotected cell tissue. "Stem cells are showing the significant potential as ingredients that can delay and slow down the aging process," says Veljkovic.

Not just for your thighs: caffeine
PCA Skin recently introduced caffeine into its sunscreens. While a popular ingredient in anti-cellulite creams, caffeine targets skin cells that have mutated due to UV exposure forcing them into cell-death. Skin cancer can be the result if skin cells mutate and multiply. Caffeine adds an additional protective layer, so even if some cells are damaged and mutate, caffeine will prevent the cells from multiplying. "Caffeine has been found to be an effective ingredient for this purpose and I think you will see more and more companies adding it to daytime products," says Veljkovic.

Specific science
For products to be effective, they must be created properly. Different ingredients have different requirements. For example, with peptides, Lintner says one has to know how to formulate them so they do not become inactivated in the formula and that they remain stable.

Marini says that in order for glycolic acid to really be effective, it must be at a pH for daily use at about 3.25. She also points out that retinol needs to be formulated under a yellow light in a dark room. "Most retinol's not made that way. Retinol can be very unstable in terms of its exposure to light and oxygen and variables that can affect efficacy and stability," says Marini.

Once you better understand how these ingredients perform, there is the issue of product efficacy to consider. Many factors can reduce product efficacy such as formula pH, exposure to air, light, and heat, and shelf life. While you may not have a PhD or chemistry background, doing further research in reputable sources such as medical journals will allow you to bring the best products into your spa and make the best recommendations for your clients.

How to pick products

Choosing the right product for your spa takes careful consideration. Here is some advice from Leslie Harris, vice president of global marketing and Holly Baker, director of global marketing, at SkinCeuticals.

When bringing on a new product, the most important thing to look for is the clinical research behind the formulation:
  • Do the products show significant biological activity in living skin?
  • Are the results based on clinical observations rather than consumer perception?
  • Is the product versatile enough to be incorporated into professional treatments, as well as recommended home care?
This optimizes the spa owner's investments and helps to ensure the client or patient sees the most benefit from their treatments, and can continue to maintain and protect the skin benefits they've gained from their spa visit.



by Julia Teeluck | Fall 2012