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The Science Behind Today’s Anti-aging Ingredients

By: Ivana Veljkovic
Posted: December 30, 2011, from the January 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

The science behind the pursuit of youthful skin is ever-evolving. Americans have come to rely on the skin care industry having a new breakthrough around every corner.

Truth be told, new scientific discoveries that will ultimately change the way skin ages—or doesn’t—do not happen every day. Then, even when an exciting ingredient appears on the stage, it takes at least a few large-scale double-blind studies to prove the hypothesis of what benefit it might provide to human skin. There are ingredients, some long-standing and some new, that having proven their efficacy or have sparked interest in further study. Learning to rely on science and not marketing is the best way for skin care professionals and clients alike to identify truly effective skin care ingredients.

New isn’t always better

Sometimes the best new ingredients are actually long-standing proven ingredients that have benefited from new science. Many new ingredients have yet to have the scientific studies performed on them to substantiate their purported claims. For proven ingredients, even decades of positive study outcomes and visible results are not indicative of an inability to improve formulations. Two excellent examples of this are vitamins A and C. Certainly neither of these topical antioxidants is new to skin care, but both can provide even better outcomes on skin as a result of improved stabilization technology. Retinol (vitamin A) and L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) are inherently unstable when formulated into topical products. Utilizing new technology can allow these two integral ingredients to provide even more dramatic benefits to skin health.

Retinoids. Retinoids encompass the group of vitamin A ingredients that includes retinoic acid, retinaldehyde, retinol and retinyl esters. Vitamin A is highly susceptible to oxidation and instability in formulations. Due to this fact, it is critical to limit the raw material’s exposure to water, air and light during formulation, as well as for the duration of the finished product’s expected shelf life. Nitrogen blanket technology is often required during vitamin A product manufacture to minimize the retinoid’s contact with oxygen. Although effective, this is a highly specialized technology that is not frequently utilized in the cosmetic industry. Unfortunately, without its use, the active is often at least partially oxidized before packaging. Now, new polymer stabilization systems protect retinoid raw materials, making it possible to manufacture effective topicals without the use of nitrogen blanket technology. These new systems also make longer shelf lives possible for this critical anti-aging ingredient.

L-ascorbic acid. L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a water-soluble antioxidant that is also highly susceptible to oxidation. Although water-based vitamin C topical products can be effective, their shelf life is typically not more than one year. This important melanogenesis-inhibiting, collagen-building, anti-inflammatory vitamin is best delivered to the skin in an anhydrous (water-free) base—the ideal formulating technique for protecting and stabilizing vitamin C. This beneficial active’s efficacy can be further preserved by packaging the finished product in opaque materials and limiting oxygen contact with the finished product through an airless container or nasal-tipped orifice. Anhydrous L-ascorbic acid topicals typically have a substantially longer shelf life than those in a water base.

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