Your face on ice
Winter is not good to our skin. The wind chaps. The dry air wicks. The combination blows us into the arms of the billion-dollar cosmeceutical industry, which awaits with pricey over-the-counter potions and serums promising to undo the season’s damage.
But these companies often promise much more than simple moisturizing. Their products can, according to their advertising, “help to boost oxygen microcirculation.” They can reset “the skin’s aging clock by converting resting stem cells.” They contain ingredients that can “turn on digestive enzymes that will only go after scars and wrinkles” or “help to promote collagen production.” In short, they can utterly transform your old, dry, thinning, wrinkled skin.
The FDA maintains a list of more than 80 companies _ including such beauty giants as L’Oreal, Avon and Revlon _ that the agency believes may be importing, manufacturing or shipping creams with drug claims.
“It is a good example of how people can use science-y-ness to try and sell a product,” said Dr. Ben Goldacre, who wrote about moisturizers in his book “Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks and Big Pharma Flacks.” “It is used decoratively as marketing in a way that is meaningless.”
The press materials for ReVive Peau Magnifique Youth Recruit, which costs $1,500 for four ampuls of serum at Neiman Marcus, say it “resets the skin’s aging clock by converting resting adult stem cells to newly minted skin cells.”
Telomerase, another ingredient in Peau Magnifique Youth Recruit, is “an enzyme that activates and differentiates dormant adult stem cells into brand new skin cells” and “repairs DNA fragmentation,” according to the product’s press materials.
But what effect does the telomerase in this product have on a customer’s skin? “We don’t know exactly,” Brown said. “We know stem cells line the hair follicle and sweat glands. They are on the surface. We don’t know if it has an effect on those cells.”
Brown added that ReVive tests the safety of each product it puts on the market.
Dermatologists interviewed for this story said most skin creams are harmless. If you like a product, enjoy it, they said, but realize your skin likely won’t be miraculously transformed.
“Go ahead, but it won’t do much more than a moisturizer that is a lot less expensive,” Yoo said. “It won’t be any better than Neutrogena or Cetaphil for less than a 10th of the price or a 100th of the price.”
Is DMAE safe for your skin?
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) is a skin care ingredient enthusiastically touted by many skin care vendors. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is one of the very few agents (perhaps even the only one) shown to produce some skin tightening and modestly reduce facial sag.
The researchers found that adding DMAE to the cultures of fibroblasts (key type of skin cells) produced the effect known as vacuolization. Vacuolization is often observed in cells after various types of damage as cells try to encapsulate and excrete foreign agents and/or their own damaged components. Hence the researches concluded that the vacuolization induced by DMAE was suggestive of cell damage. They also observed that DMAE impaired the ability of fibroblasts to divide. Notably, the above adverse effects reversed after DMAE had been washed out of the culture following a short-term exposure. (Long-term exposure has not been studied.)
What to do until such data is available? To be on the safe side, you could just wait and refrain from using topical DMAE. If you do not want to wait, it may be prudent not to exceed the strength of 1% of DMAE and watch out for any adverse effects, such as skin irritation.