The next big thing in smoother, younger, healthier skin: a bumper crop of creams that beautifully blend high-tech with their plant-based pedigrees.
He was a bold man who first ate an oyster, but so, too, was the woman who thought to rub the slimy pulp of an aloe plant on her face. From that intrepid beauty experiment came one of skin care's most healing ingredients. And it turns out nature still has plenty of tricks up its leaves.
"Botanical sources make up over one-third of all cosmetic-related patents," says Jessica Wu, M.D., Los Angeles dermatologist and author of "Feed Your Face." "More labs than ever are studying naturally derived ingredients and incorporating them into skin care products and cosmetics."
You'll find them in everything, including shampoos and acne treatments, but naturals are making their biggest impression in the antiaging sphere. "Many natural antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory properties," Wu says, a crucial component, since antiagers can irritate the skin.
Plant-based products are fast shedding their reputation as runners-up to synthetics for consumers seeking antiagers free of fragrance, dyes, or chemical preservatives. Now large cosmetics companies are putting naturals at the heart of their innovation, upping availability and affordability. In the past year, three core breakthroughs have gained prominence, showing that going back to nature could very well be the most innovative step forward.
REPAIR WITH ... Gene Science
Dermatologists love to preach about prevention, but there's new hope that we could get a free pass for our past transgressions. (Fingers crossed!) Driven by a group of plant- and bacteria-derived DNA repair enzymes like Micrococcus luteus, gene science promises to mend age- and free-radical-related DNA damage like sagging skin, fine lines, and plain old dullness. These compounds are thought to help cells recover fast, making skin look younger. Still, skin care companies haven't been able to fully harness their powers. Right now, gene science creams and serums can only temporarily smooth skin and improve DNA functioning. They can't actually change gene composition. "First we need to identify the specific genes, and that's about five years away," says Miami-based dermatologist, author, and researcher Leslie Baumann, M.D. "Once we do, gene science will be huge," she predicts.
PREVENT WITH ... Cell Performance Boosters
Ever feel like you spend more time at work putting out fires than doing what you were hired to do? That's kind of how your skin feels. It's so busy fighting the elements that it has little time to rebuild and repair. Layering on a cell performance booster is like giving your skin a tireless assistant. "When cells aren't expending as much energy fighting UV rays, stress, and pollution, they're better able to protect collagen and elastin in tissue," Wu explains. The key ingredients in many natural cell performance boosters are the antioxidant glutathione, oak-derived quercetin, Bulgarian resurrection flower, and Anogeissus, from the bark of the African Anogeissus tree. Some of these ingredients potentially rival our current gold standard of anti-aging, retinoids. That's a pretty big deal, Wu says: "Many patients are sensitive to retinoids, so it's wonderful to have [these products] as alternatives. The [clinical] studies behind the Origins Plantscription serum show that it offers nearly the same results as a prescription retinoid product does, but without the irritation."
PROTECT WITH ... Sirtuin Technology
The scientific community cheered the discovery of sirtuins, natural proteins thought to dramatically extend the life span of the cell. Beauty specialists believe they can do the same for skin. New products boast the wonder ingredient in two forms: natural sirtuin-stimulating actives like resveratrol (found in grapes) and sirtuin proteins themselves, derived from rice. Four independent studies show that grapevine resveratrol stimulates sirtuin proteins, which smooth wrinkles from the inside by creating firmer, denser skin. Baumann favors resveratrol-based formulas because of the grape extract's research track record. "While I'm excited about discoveries that show sirtuins can slow the pace of aging in the lab, it remains to be seen what role they may play in skin care," she says. Until more studies emerge, Baumann recommends applying sirtuin-stimulating products in the morning (along with your SPF) and continuing to use retinoids at night for the most complete antiaging regimen.
Text by Jolene Hart
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