Cosmeceuticals represent a new category of products placed between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals that are intended for the enhancement of both the health and beauty of skin. Cosmeceutical products therapeutically affect the structure and function of the skin.
The scope of cosmeceuticals has been almost exponentially expanding, e.g., with the discovery of alpha-hydroxy acids for exfoliation and skin rejuvenation, different formulations of topical vitamin C, and an overflowing basket of antioxidants, amongst others.
Some cosmeceutical ingredients can increase the synthesis of collagen and elastin in the dermis, helping to reduce wrinkle depth, while others lighten pigmentation or exfoliate to reveal smoother looking skin. They may have different functions but something many cosmeceuticals have in common is antioxidant activity.
Compounds such as vitamins C and E, alpha hydroxyl acids, and kojic acid are excellent antioxidants, as well as having properties that help reverse skin ageing. Many are exclusively used for their antioxidant activity. Using antioxidant cosmeceutical products will help neutralise free radicals and ROS, so less skin damage occurs.
There are hundreds of ingredients that are used in the world of organic high performance cosmetics. They could be divided according to their benefits into 16 groups:
- Moisturising agents.
- Barrier repair agents.
- Antioxidants (Polyphenols).
- Hydroxy Acids.
- Skin Lightening agents.
- Anti-inflamatory ingredients.
- Anti-fungal ingredients.
- Anti-acne ingredients.
- Photo-protecting ingredients.
- Anti-ageing ingredients.
- Penetration enhancers.
- Anti-cellulite ingredients.
- Hair loss agents.
- Scar + Stretchmar treatment agents.
- Astringent ingredients.
Now, let’s have a look at some of them and how they can help us to retard or reverse ageing signs.
Many cosmeceutical agents are developed and advertised for prevention and treatment of ageing skin, particularly photo-ageing skin. While the most important protective measure against photo-aged skin is the daily application of UVA and UVB sunscreen, potential treatment options for already damaged skin involve the use of topical antioxidants and compounds that help repair DNA and stimulate collagen synthesis. Topical vitamins are substances that provide some of these benefits.
The efficacy of topical synthetic Vitamin A or retinoids is evidence-based and well supported by research. After sunscreens, many believe topical retinoids are the most important drug class to combat and reverse the signs of aging. With more than two decades of experimentation, there is a vast amount of evidence that regular retinoid use over several months, results in clinical improvement in skin texture, wrinkles, and pigmentation.
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic Acid, is one of the vitamins that humans must obtain from dietary sources. However, oral supplementation of Vitamin C only minimally increases its concentration in skin. Thus, topical Vitamin C application is a popular research area. In addition to its well-known and essential contribution to collagen biosynthesis, research data demonstrates that topical Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled, splitface 12-week study examining the effects of topical 3% ascorbic acid showed that Vitamin C is well-tolerated in topical application and causes a reduction in facial wrinkles. Higher doses of 5–17% ascorbic acid revealed improved skin texture and the appearance of photo-aging.
Vitamin E is another vitamin with some advantageous cosmetic effects on skin. Functioning as an epidermal antioxidant by absorbing the solar spectrum of UV light, endogenous Vitamin E becomes depleted after years of excessive exposure to free radicals, with resulting oxidative damage.
Many studies have looked at the benefit of applying topical Vitamin E, especially in its most active form alpha-tocopherol, as a means of protecting against sunburn and improving the wrinkling and hyperpigmentation caused by free radicals. Studies in human subjects have demonstrated its efficacy in preventing UV-induced skin erythema, with topical 2% Vitamin E reducing the redness value by approximately 20%.
One of the most recently recognized “cosmeceutical vitamins” is Vitamin B3, also called nicotinamide or niacinamide. Well-tolerated in topical form, niacinamide has been shown to improve skin barrier by increasing lipids and epidermal protein. This action leaves skin more resistant to irritation and blotchiness, most likely by decreasing water loss from skin.
Niacinamide also reduces facial dyspigmentation via a mechanism that inhibits melanosome transfer. This was supported by a study using 5% niacinamide moisturizer, which provided 35 to 68 percent inhibition of melanosome. Other beneficial effects with chronic topical niacinamide application include improvement and prevention of skin yellowing and a smoothing of skin texture.
2. HYDROXY ACIDS
The hydroxyacids—comprised of the α-hydroxyacids, β-hydroxyacids, polyhydroxyacids, and bionic acids—represent a class of compounds with unprecedented cosmetic benefits. The most well-known and commonly used is the α-hydroxyacid glycolic acid for its proven antiaging benefit and ability to improve hyperpigmentation and acne-prone skin. Both the α-hydroxyacids and β-hydroxyacids work by removing or decreasing hyperkeratinized skin and restoring the epidermis, making them useful for treatment of dry skin, verrucous growths, and ichthyosis. Furthermore, application of hydroxyacids causes dermal thickening by stimulating biosynthesis of glycosaminoglycans, collagen, and elastic fibers, improving wrinkles and fine lines.
The hydroxyacids, especially glycolic and lactic acid, are commonly used as peeling agents. Applied to the skin in high concentrations for short periods of time, hydroxyacid peels are increasingly used to accelerate exfoliation and to stimulate skin renewal to improve hyperpigmentation and texture of skin.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids. Through topical application, certain peptides have the ability to stimulate collagen synthesis and activate dermal metabolism.
There are four different types of cosmetic peptides:
- Signal peptides. These ingredients stimulate new production of collagen, elastin and other parts of the dermis’ connective tissue.
- Neurotransmitter – inhibitor peptides. Studies have shown these types of peptides to reduce wrinkles by as much as 30%
- Carrier peptides. They carry trace elements such as magnesium and copper into the skin which helps with collagen synthesis and improves skin elasticity.
- Enzyme-inhibitor peptides. They reduce the breakdown of collagen by inhibiting the activity of the enzymes that break down connective tissue.
Naturally derived peptides are: Lupin, Soy, Rice, Silk, Cotton, Wheat and Egg white peptides.
It comes in a range of molecula weights, from about 500,000 to around 8 million, and it can bind thousands of times its own weight in water. Hyaluronic Acid is found in the epidermis and dermis of our skin. It decreases significantly with age, almost disappearing in the epidermis, while dermal levels drop slowly. Hyaluronic Acid is found in other body tissues like our joints, but the skin contains the highest concentrations, around 50% of the total amount present in the body. In the dermis, hyaluronic acid exists as a soft gel important for maintaining water balance, lubricating collagen and elastin fibres, and helping to stabilise the dermal tissue.
Studies have shown a significant improvement in skin hydration and elasticity with all hyaluronic acid formulations, but the best reduction in wrinkle depth was observed with the lower molecular weight formulations (500,000 – 130,000). The researchers suggested this was due to the better penetration of the lower molecular weight hyaluronic acid. When applied topically to healthy skin, hyaluronic acid forms a film on the skin as it dries; this film, which has a smoothing and tightening effect on the skin, is referred to as viscoelastic, meaning it has properties somewhere between that of a solid and a liquid. Since hyaluronic acid attracts and binds water strongly, the film resists drying out, so when topically applied it helps the skin maintain an optimal level of moisturization, which will make you look younger.
CoQ10 is an important oil soluble antioxidant that protects the membranes of mitochondria – the energy production sites within cells- from oxidative damage. CoQ10 is present in foods and we also make it ourselves, but levels decline as we age.
In the body CoQ10 is converted into ubiquinol, which has been shown to inhibit protein, DNA and lipid oxidation. In the skin, ten times more ubiquinol is find in the epidermis compared with the dermis, and it is also present in sebum along with vitamin E, the major oil soluble vitamin protecting membranes.
Researchers found that 0.3% CoQ10 acted as an effective antioxidant when skin was irradiated with UVA radiation. Regarding wrinkles, CoQ10 was shown to reduce the expression of collagen degrading enzymes in human fibroblasts (cells that make collagen and elastin) following UVA radiation, and reduced wrinkle depth by 25% in a six-month trial.
The stratum corneum lipid bilayers consist of a mixture of ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids. Topically applied natural and synthetic ceramides have been shown to improve or restor the stratum corneum barrier function in damage skin. The effective concentration varies depending on the specific product and ranges from 1 – 25%.
5. BOTANICAL INGREDIENTS
Cosmeceuticals of herbal origin are becoming more popular than conventional cosmetics. It is now widely understood that what we eat directly influences our metabolism and health. Many anti-ageing agents in cosmeceuticals are consumed orally; however, these are also known to work topically for improving the skin health.
Botanical agents are getting wide-spread attention due to the fact that many antioxidant phytochemicals are evolved as a protective mechanism in plants to counter the oxidative stress. There is an upsurge in discovering novel and effective botanical antioxidants that can quench reactive oxygen species in order to protect the skin from oxidative damages.
Many of these botanical substances have exhibited capacity to promote skin health and appearance. Let’s have a look at some these botanicals.
It is a chemical derivative of urea that is added to many skin care products to reduce irritation caused by other ingredients, or to treat problems like psoriasis, burns or ulcers. As well as being anti-inflammatory, allantoin increases cell turnover, and it can bind with components that are known irritants, helping to reduce their impact on the skin. It is excellent for those with dry, itchy skin looking for better skin texture and smoothness, regardless of skin type, age, or conditions.
Alfa-Bisabolol is an extract of German Chamomile that has been reported to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial activity, and has a long history of use in cosmetics as anti-irritant.
It is one of the best know soothing and healing substances for the treatment of skin inflammation, and can even produce positive effects when taken internally. Published studies have demonstrated its efficacy for reducing skin irritation, and its ability to protect the skin against UV damage.
Calendula officinalis is a very well-known skincare herb, which is widely used in natural and organic cosmetics. In Germany it is prescribed for eczema and dermatitis.
There are two main different types of chamomile in skincare. Both Roman Chamomile and German Chamomile are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Chamomile contains a long list of chemical compounds which are individually known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola)
Centella Asiatica is the foremost herb with anti-aging effects in Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, a number of factors determine skin health and youthfulness. These include proper moisture balance, effective functioning of the metabolic mechanisms that coordinate all the various chemical and hormonal reactions of the skin and efficient circulation of blood and nutrients to the different layers of the skin. An effective Ayurvedic anti-ageing cosmeceutical should provide support to all these three areas. Centella asiatica (Gotu-Kola) is the foremost vayasthapana herb with anti-aging effects.
The active compounds include pentacyclic triterpenes, mainly asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic and madecassic acids. Studies have shown Centella asiatica is effective in improving treatment of small wounds, hypertrophic wounds as well as burns, psoriasis and scleroderma. The mechanism of action involves promoting fibroblast proliferation and increasing the synthesis of collagen and intracellular fibronectin content and also improvement of the tensile strength of newly formed skin as well as inhibiting the inflammatory phase of hypertrophic scars and keloids. It also has an anti-aging effect as it stimulates the cells of the dermis and controls their oxidation.
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