The Actives Arsenal

By Christine Esposito , Associate Editor | December 3, 2013

Key ingredients are driving efficacy in the skin care category.

Consumers and scientists alike are looking for the same thing these days: the hottest ingredients. Inside today’s leading skin care labs, R&D teams are assessing active ingredients to see which will drive their next cream, serum and lotion to new levels of performance. Meanwhile in stores and online, skin care shoppers are reading labels and ads to see which brands are touting the newest technologies that promise to lessen fine lines and wrinkles, lighten sun spots and restore their skin’s youthful appearance.

It has made for robust business during the past several years, with sales of anti-aging skin care products on the rise. And since beauty is an industry always on the prowl for the next big thing, the raw material category has been soaring to new heights as well.

According to the Global Markets for Chemicals for Cosmetics and Toiletries report from BCC Research, the global cosmetic and toiletry ingredients market was forecast to hit nearly $19.6 billion in 2013, with active ingredients expected to jump from an estimated $2.2 billion this year to nearly $2.7 in 2018, representing a CAGR of 4.3%.
Dermatologists covet actives too because they deliver the results their patients demand.

“Active ingredients are critical as they are the only agents in skin care products that have been tested to show clinical results,” said Dr. Susan Stuart, a board certified dermatologist based in La Jolla, CA. Stuart’s go-to list of active ingredients includes those with demonstrated efficacy over time and have been in use for many years—namely retinols, vitamin C serum, alpha hydroxy acids, antioxidants, growth factors and peptides.

Each of those active ingredients has been enlisted by skin care experts in the battle against all types of skin maladies, from general appearance quandaries (think lackluster tone) to more specific issues, like acne and frown lines. The chemist’s tool kit continues to grow as leading cosmetic companies are benefitting from the growing range of active ingredients now at their fingertips.

“Not only has the array of actives increased for the product formulator, they are now available from worldwide sources, which makes it much easier for today’s formulator to create safe and efficacious skin care products,” said John Scimeca, Artistry senior principal research scientist.

One of the newest rollouts from the Amway lab is the Youth Xtend Skincare Collection. Created for women (and men) who are just noticing the first signs of aging, the line’s hero product, Youth Xtend Concentrated Serum, rolled out over the summer, and the latest SKU—Youth Xtend Lifting Smoothing Foundation—debuted last month.

“To develop the Youth Xtend line, Artistry scientists searched for ingredient technologies that would help address the appearance of the early signs of aging,” said Scimeca.

One advanced technology that was identified: Sirtuin activation.

“Sirtuins act as a ‘youth switch’ by helping the skin repair the visible signs of aging. They help to enhance the natural production of important proteins to help the user maintain a youthful look,” he said.

According to Scimeca, the Youth Xtend collection features three “potent and precious ingredients to help protect, repair and most importantly, reprogram the future of skin.”

The trio includes LifeSirt, a rare botanical from the Mediterranean myrtle plant, and Micro-X6 Peptide, billed as mini peptide that promotes collagen activity.

“Micro-X6 Peptide is an exclusive ingredient consisting of six amino acids that is known for encouraging collagen activity,” Scimeca told Happi.

Artistry also tapped the Baobab—known as the “Tree of Life.” According to Scimeca, antioxidants found in Baobab fruit extract are combined with those found in Green Acerola Cherry (grown on Artistry’s organic farms) to help protect the skin’s surface from environmental stress.

Fight the ‘Hype’
Active ingredients like peptides are workhorse ingredients in the skin care market, and companies at the leading edge of dermatological care are looking to these materials to solve tough skin issues like hyperpigmentation.

At ZO Medical, for example, Dr. Zein Obagi has rolled out new Brightenex, which is bioengineered to target skin discoloration, uneven tone, freckles and melasma without hydroquinone’s side effects. Twenty-five years in the making, it is said to be the first commercial product to stabilize pure retinol (1.0%), melanin inhibitors and antioxidants with natural, patented oleosome technology, which decreases the risk of irritation and improves results.  

Dr. Obagi said the treatment has been “chemically engineered with a multi-modal action spectrum to both reverse existing pigmentation and prevent the onset of new pigment development.” By employing a multi-mechanism of action, Brightenex targets three key stages of pigmentation. Specifically, retinol and vitamin C begin working immediately on contact in the uppermost skin layers to even, clarify and brighten skin tone; triple-action glucosamine, glutathione and soy isoflavones minimize the appearance of future age spots and uneven skin color by inhibiting the melanin formation cascade; and natural Stachys officianalis mediates the appearance of skin redness caused by histamine release that causes future uneven skin tone and complexion.

Developed by Stanford University dermatological researchers to address mild to moderate hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, Lumixyl, a “non-irritating synthetic peptide technology,” is said to reduce tyrosinase—the enzyme responsible for initiating the overproduction of melanin—without affecting the skin’s natural pigmentation.

“Lumixyl fills a previously unmet demand for a product that is highly effective in fading hyperpigmentation, without the growing safety concerns associated with hydroquinone,” noted Curtis A. Cluff, CEO of Envy Medical, maker of Lumixyl. According to Cluff, Lumixyl peptide has been shown to be more potent at inhibiting tyrosinase compared to hydroquinone, “and yet as a chain of proteins that each naturally occur in skin, it is completely safe for use in all skin types.”

Also tackling dark spots is JF Aesthetic’s Advanced Koji Cream, a non-prescription skin brightening cream that is said to improve the appearance of sunspots, melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation via kojic acid and vitamin C. It brightens skin with hydroxyacids to penetrate and accelerate exfoliation of dark spots to create a clear and even complexion for more radiant and youthful-looking skin.

The Advanced Koji Cream combines botanical skin tone enhancement with antioxidant Silymarin, vitamin C and curcuminoids. The skin lightening component is bearberry and arbutin, noted Dr. Julius Few, founder of The Few Institute of New York and Chicago, which touts JF Aesthetic line.

Actives in Action
Taking peel performance to a new level via active ingredients is Dermalogica, which recently rolled out BioActive Peel. In addition to reducing skin roughness and the appearance of fine lines, the peel is said to fade hyperpigmentation, treat pseudofolliculitis and help to clear acneic inflammation. The process consists of layers of biphasic, enzyme and acid peel solutions that are neutralized by a foaming de-activator. Due to the intensity of the active ingredients, Dermalogica requires skin therapists get special training and certification.

Active ingredients including 20% salicylic acid, pumpkin, papaya and other enzymes, 30% lactic acid and 15% trichloracetic acid stimulate natural collagen production in the skin, for a more robust structure and appearance, deep hydration, and more consistent, integrated skin texture, according to the company. The final step uses sodium bicarbonate, yeast extract, green tea leaf extract, cucumber and other cooling, calming botanicals.

Four key ingredients—DNA CoFactor, merospheres (liposome encapsulated rosemary extract), lactomide and linoleic acid—are driving Neova DNA Barrier Accelerator, a new “hyper-active moisturizer” sold in dermatologist offices that rehabilitates and fortifies the skin’s protective barrier. In a clinical study occurring over three days, a decrease of 12.6% in Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) was found after DNA Barrier Accelerator was applied twice daily compared to those untreated with a 2% decrease in TEWL, according to its maker, PhotoMedex.

Barbara Hayes, vice president of sales and marketing at PhotoMedex, pointed to the role DNA CoFactor plays in the formulation. It features both DNA repair enzymes, which work to repair damage to the skin caused by UV exposure and help to speed the body’s own natural recovery system to repair the skin, and Copper Peptide Complex, which delivers copper peptides directly into the skin for a maximum restorative benefit.

“Copper as an ingredient has long been used to help restore the skin’s moisture and barrier, while promoting collagen and elastin growth in the skin, which reduces fine lines and wrinkles and defends against free radicals,” Hayes said.

Battling the signs of aging skin isn’t just women’s work these days. In fact, anti-aging is the newest addition at J. Paul Skincare for Men, a fast-growing men’s line sold in department stores. J. Paul’s three new SKUs—eye serum, a day cream and night cream—are amino acid-based, which company officials see as a point of differentiation.

“Not very many men’s lines use amino acids in their products,” Paul Looney, co-founder, told Happi.

To create the line, J. Paul teamed up with Houston-based Dr. Ian Reynolds, who during the past few years has worked with a group of scientists on a special delivery system.

“What is key is the way that the amino acids are delivered through the skin which is through our patented Liposomal delivery system,” said Looney. “This means that the product actually penetrates the epidermis and reaches all layers of the skin down to the vascular substrata. No other product in the men’s category uses such a system,” said Looney.

“A lot of serums and creams just sit on the surface of the skin,” noted Larry Pederson, founder of RenewAlliance Inc., which sells the LAC brand in the US and Canada. He contends the LAC Taut Collagen Masque, a high high-intensity facial mask, is specifically formulated to penetrate deeply into the skin to firm, hydrate and brighten complexion.

The secret behind the product’s efficacy is hydrolyzed collagen, according to Pederson.

The single-use Taut Collagen masque harnesses nano-sized molecules that can be easily absorbed and plump the outer layer of skin. The masque—designed for use 2-3 times a week along with an ingestible hydrolyzed collagen shot—also contains squalene and hyaluronic and citric acids. 

Sulwhasoo is also using pad technology to enhance the performance of actives. The company’s Microdeep Intensive Filling Cream & Patch, a 30-day treatment designed to combat smile lines. It is formulated with Red Ginseng Saponin, which revitalizes the skin, promoting collagen production and softening wrinkles, and Nelumbo nucifera, extracted from East Indian Lotus seed, which stimulates production of fibroblasts. Driving the treatment is the patch; it features patented melting hyaluronic acid cones on a moistened band.

“Inspired from acupuncture and acupressure treatments, Sulwhasoo Microdeep Intensive Filling Cream & Patch deeply stimulates blood and energy circulation, fastening the space between the dermis and muscles to improve resilience and reduce appearance of wrinkles,” noted Esther Dong, SVP, sales and marketing. “It’s used every three days to soften tense muscles around smile lines and help ingredients effectively penetrate into skin.”

Nature’s Bounty
Sulwhasoo’s sweet on other actives too, like Snowise Tri-White Complex, a state-of-the-art brightening compound that’s found in the brand’s Snowise Brightening collection. The complex includes White Ginseng Saponin, White Cloud Grass and White Ginseng Polysaccharides, which help eliminate dark spots, freckles, yellowness and redness for clearer and brighter skin.

When it comes to clearer skin, Dr. Debbi Palmer, leader of Dermatology Associates, New York, has reported success with antioxidant technology. In fact, she’s found that 80% of her acne patients get results from antioxidant therapy, and to that end, she’s created a line called Replere skin care. Repelere’s Deep Clean & Clarify Face Wash and Pore Minimize & Mattify Skin Tonic—as well as the ingestible “shooter”—all contain Coffea arabica as well as green tea, vitamins A and E, and glycolic, salicylic and azelaic acids.

“Coffea arabica caught my attention several years ago when I was reading an article about how the hands of workers on coffee farms remained young looking despite hours of sun exposure. Due to this observation, studies were performed on the ingredient and it was found to have a high percentage of antioxidants, higher than vitamin C, vitamin E or green tea,” she said.
When it comes to actives, science is helping to bringing out the best of what Mother Nature has to offer.

ZO Medical’s new Restoracalm harnesses buddleja plant stem cell technology to help reduce redness, calm irritation and stimulate skin’s natural barrier restoration.

According to Dr. Obagi, highly controlled-advanced processing techniques have helped deliver plant stem cell technology with much higher purity, “up to 1000 times the active molecule concentrations, compared to standard botanical extraction methods.”

The Big Picture
As skin care marketers forge ahead with products that promise greater results, sourcing the right active will remain essential.
“Choosing the right ingredients is extremely important in formulating effective, efficient skin care products,” noted Scimeca, who pointed to the role suppliers play in the process. “Today’s worldwide ingredient suppliers provide a vast mount of technical support information that demonstrate the ability of these materials to address specific skin needs.”

Yet even with the perfect active, experts know the sum is greater than the parts when it comes to the final formulation.

Noted Dr. Palmer, “No question, the right actives make a formula. Making a formula is much more complex than just the actives though. It is alchemy. You must have the right percentage of ingredients and delivery system also.”