I read with interest the eminent medical journalist, Lois Rogers’ piece in today’s Sunday Times about a new anti-ageing ingredient, purporting to be the first to be backed up by scientists. It appears in a new skin cream by Vichy, Lift-Activ. Gulp. I’m not sure this is altogether so.
Take vitamin A, which appears in a high proportion of anti-ageing moisturisers in its cosmetic form of retinol or retinyl palmitate. Its ability to help improve skin texture, over time, has been long established. It came into the public consciousness by way of Boots Protect & Perfect serum – which most of you will have heard of. A clinical study was published in the British Journal of Dermatology. Although its appearance in over the counter anti ageing creams preceded No7 – Roc was one of the first to use it.
Then there’s vitamin C. In a conversation with one leading cosmetic doctor from the United States last year, he commented that there are more scientific studies associated with vitamin C, than with both vitamin A and peptides, another group of ingredients which now feature strongly in anti-ageing preparations. Vitamin Cplays an important role in helping to boost collagen production; it is an effective antioxidant helping to negate the anti-ageing effects of free radicals (rogue molecules, triggered by sun, pollution, environment and going about your daily life). The caveat here though, is that it’s unstable. Its potency is short lived. So it’s a hard taskmaster, when trying to get it to stay active, or effective, in a skincare product.
What’s interesting about the Vichy product and its apparent scientific backup is that for one, it shows us that the big cosmetic companies (Vichy is part of L’Oréal) are embracing the fact that we, the consumer, want more assurance that what we’re using does something. It also touches on the general forward move in cosmetic science – that our cosmetic scientists are fine-tuning the anti-ageing unguents we’re slathering on our skin. This, thanks to increased research and understanding into the processes that make skin age, and the possible ingredients that just might help bring them into check.
For example, there’s Proteomics (which Rogers mentions), the study of proteins in the skin. What benefit to you and me? By working out what triggers the production of proteins found in young skin (but which dwindle in older skin), cosmetic scientists are in a stronger position to track down ingredients that can do this. Whereby helping the skin to act younger. It’s somewhat complicated – and is attached to Genomics, another big beauty buzzword, which I’m not going to go into here. Heck, it’s just before lunch on Sunday. My brain simply won’t do it. Suffice it to say that all this reinforces this process of fine-tuning, for supposedly more effective anti-ageing skincare.
And here’s a thing. We’ve come back to the debate: When does a cosmetic become a pharmaceutical? This Vichy sugar compound acts on fibroblasts (the skin cells that make collagen), so it’s apparently delving down into the dermis – in other words, not the skin’s surface. Does this mean its effect is physiological? And does this make it a pharmaceutical? Rogers suggests that this could be a potential stumbling block. And so, I would suggest, for a number of new, cutting-edge anti-ageing creams.
Could these exciting leaps forward in anti-ageing skincare end up having to be pushed back to their starting block? Maybe the market will need to reexamine how these new products can be sold. A new kind of counter at Boots perhaps? Neither prescription pharmacy, nor cosmetic counter, but a cosmeceutical selling, cosmecy?
Mmm, Boots the Cosmecy? Not quite the ring of Boots the Chemist.