The antioxidants in anti-aging creams are not new. But now they are being used to the max for super charged skincare.
Earlier this year, in an unprecedented move, the US beauty company Elizabeth Arden entered into a joint venture with Allergan. Allergan (the maker of Botox) owns the liencence for Prevage MD, a skincare cream containing the super-antioxidant idebenone (pronounced "ee-dee-ben-own") which is currently only available in the US via a doctor. The deal was to produce a beauty-counter version called Prevage.
At the same time, in London, a team was working to introduce another super-strength antioxidant skin cream onto the market. Dr Marko Lens, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, designer Anouska Hempel and businessman Sir Mark Weinberg had s-cured the license for the use of the antioxidant Fullerene C60, which they are planning to use in their brand-new skincare line, Zelens Fullerene C60.
In themselves, antioxidants are hardly news. Present in the body and in certain foods, vitamin supplements and skin creams, their role is to de-activate rogue molecules called free-radicals, which oxidise (and therefore damage) skin cells and DNA, which, in turn, leads to ageing, in contrast of . Other factors such as cigarette smoke, pollution, radiation, excessive sunlight, certain drugs, exercise, stress and eating all increase the body's production of free-radicals, thus accelerating the natural ageing process. Aware of all this, cosmetics companies are, understandably, keen to get their hands on the latest, most powerful antioxidants available.
Arden/Allergan's idebenone was originally developed by Japanese scientists as a treatment for Alzheimer's, a disease that rapidly increases oxidation of the brain cells. The idebenone molecule (similar to an antioxidant called Coenzyme Q10, which is made naturally in the body) is small enough to reach the Alzheimer's-affected cells in the brain. Chemist Joe Lewis, who originally sourced it for Allergan, was impressed by its credentials. "It was the first antioxidant ingredient with valid scientific data behind it," he says, citing a study from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology which pitted it against five widely used antioxidant ingredients - lipoic acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherol (vitamin E), kinetin and ubiquinone - and found that it came out on top.
The statistics on Fullerene C60 are equally impressive. The team that discovered the molecule won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996. It is claimed that Fullerene C60, so named as it contains 60 carbon atoms, has a greater capacity to attract and neutralize free-radicals than any other antioxidant. In tests, it proved more efficient in preventing lipid oxidation than vitamin E and demonstrated a protective effect on keratinocytes (a type of skin cell) exposed to UVB radiation.
Zelens Fullerene C60 was developed by Dr Lens as a result of his research into skin cancers and premature ageing. He mixed Fullerene C60 with a cocktail of 14 other antioxidants, including green tea, vitamin C, vitamin E, superoxide dismutase (the skin's own antioxidant enzyme) and "spin traps", special molecules that trap and disarm free-radicals. The result is a mega-dose antioxidant for the skin.
With their products, Arden/Allergan and Zelens are certainly on cue. The global market for cosmeceuticals - cosmetics with active pharmaceutical ingredients - is thought to be worth $3.5 billion a year and it is predicted that next year this figure will increase by about 70 per cent. (In the first eight months that Prevage MD was available from doctors in the US, it racked up sales of $15 million.) With skin-care heading in this direction, the controlling bodies in the UK and US, the Department of Health and the Food & Drug Administration respectively, may have to revise current rules that strongly differentiate between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and do not recognise such hybrid formulations.
In the meantime, the Zelens and Prevage MD creams not only offer us even more potential for great skin, but also a glimpse into the future of the beauty world.