I have had the honor to work with leading dermatologists, post doctorates and researchers at many of our best investigative centers including University of Pennsylvania’s Skin Study Center, University of Michigan, Duke University, Morehouse College, University of Cincinnati, University of California, University of San Francisco, Tufts University, Boston University, Wellman Center for Photobiological Research, Columbia University, New York University, Mass General Hospital, Rutgers University and New York Medical College, where I am an adjunct professor. I also have worked with major universities and researchers in Israel, Wales, France, Japan and China.
When the quest began, circa 1974, it was clear that we all knew very little about how the skin really functioned. The prevailing theory was that the top layer, the stratum corneum, was dead and prevented penetration of practically all substances. All cosmetic products, made the surface feel better, mostly greasier, but could not help or repair damage, or prevent aging. It was just “hope in a jar.” In fact, it had been quoted that even in the 1980s that “we knew more about the surface of the moon than we did about the surface and upper layers of the skin.”
Fortunately, this did not sit well with a handful of trailblazers in dermatology. They started getting grants, hiring post docs, performing fundamental research, elucidating how the skin is formed and turns itself over, detailing the composition of each layer and how it reacts with the environment as it progresses from teen to elderly ages. A handful of these pioneers started zeroing in on specific areas. For example, Peter Elias, MD detailed the composition of skin surface and its function and provided major insights into how to test and topically treat it, so it may perform better.
During the early 1980s, a major shift in the status quo occurred when the University of Pennsylvania began to study and develop technology to treat acne. Working with funding from a major New Jersey pharmaceutical company, UPenn researchers created the first oral retinoids that actually changed the progression of a disease that has social and emotional impact beyond the actual, seemingly superficial blemishes. The recognition that retinoids, specifically all trans-retinoic acid, could bind to genetic receptors and change the etiology of the disease, was profound. This is not an endorsement of Accutane, the drug that has with the knowledge of 30 years of hindsight may have long-term issues that may prevent its future use, but an acknowledgement that at the time it was a game changer regarding how dermatology research and treatment products were developed.
It was during the development of this technology that the most important discovery of cosmetic science occurred. The lab animals that were given vitamin A compounds seemed to have younger-looking skin. The researchers did not discard this finding, but went on to create models to study new models, pathways and molecules. They convinced their pharmacy partner, and created a new program to study and beat photoaging. After a decade, the first Retin A for photoaging was born, Renova, and a new term, “cosmeceutical,” was coined. Renova was a prescription product, but almost simultaneously, savvy cosmetic companies, developed analogs with other materials:
- Vitamin A—Retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, etc. and;
- Vitamin C—L-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl glucoside, etc.
Dr. Sheldon Pinnell at Duke University was a vitamin C pioneer. He later used his insights to form Skinceuticals. In 1980, Takeda, a pharmaceutical company, created a vitamin C derivative, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and licensed it to Pola and Avon Products. Pola led the Asian market with the registration and revitalization of the quasi-drug market in Japan and eventually all of Asia. The claims to lighten, whiten and even skin tone created the market that became the No. 1 category in Asia, and has held the spot for the past 40 years. Why? Because people appreciated promises that delivered results.
Avon was a fast follower and recorded stellar sales results of its own. In the US, Avon introduced Bio Advance (retinol) and Collagen Booster (ascorbic acid). Both became Oprah Winfrey favorites and put performance skin care on the map. I received my first patent for a stable retinol delivery system at Avon, which was used launch Mission A, one of the first retinol products introduced by Avon in Asia during the mid-1980s.
Both of these vitamins were studied for their ability to affect photoaging and give the consumer real efficacy for repairing and providing treatments for yielding less lined, more even skin tone, and fuller lifted-looking skin. They are also called cosmeceuticals, because they bridge the gap between drugs for treating diseases and cosmetics that make skin look better.
Both of these materials have a similar problem. They are inherently unstable to light, air and water. Keeping these items stable has been a major problem and reason why all products do not or cannot provide great efficacy. Vitamin A has the additional issue of being irritating at certain levels and systems. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is an anti-inflammatory, helping to calm and soothe skin as it helps it look and perform better. Vitamin A claims include improves collagen synthesis, improves cellular differentiation, reduces hyperpigmentation, repairs epidermal-dermal junction formation, makes skin firmer, provides antioxidant activity and reduces sebum output. Vitamin C claims include improves collagen synthesis, speeds cellular renewal, reduces hyperpigmentation, makes skin firmer, and provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.
The creation of products that delivered anti-aging claims that worked whetted consumers’ thirst for more of them. The cosmetic giants obliged, pouring money into research projects. The next breakthrough was alpha hydroxy acids, promising smooth even skin. Avon again led the way with the introduction of Anew, using glycolic acid licensed from Dr. Eugene Van Scott’s company. Estée Lauder was next on the market with Fruition, developed by my team, which delivered immediate and long-term skin smoothness. Other products at the time were sticky on application. We incorporated Seppigel 305, new to the market, which created gelling effects at the required low pH.
Lost along the way, but not forgotten, was ascorbic acid. It too is an AHA, but it was too hard to stabilize in low concentrations, never mind the higher levels needed to compete with the other acids, glycolic and lactic acids, at the time. But in Asia, particularly Japan, it was a different story. The quasi drug market for even skin tone was exploding. Market leader Shiseido worked with Hayashibara, to create ascorbyl glucoside. Our team at Estée Lauder also worked with Hayashibara and created our own quasi-drug with ascorbyl glucoside. The limit for quasi-drug is 3%. It was a real breakthrough to create stable vitamin C products that are still widely-used.
Retinol and ascorbic acid took a back seat to peptides in the late 1990s. The specificity and results from peptides for building collagen and blocking receptors has fed consumers’ needs and desires for products that work better and faster. Yet, here at the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, we are seeing more products promoting retinol and vitamin C.
How It Works
Why? Sometimes the answers to our greatest needs are right in front of us. We added pure l-ascorbyl acid to a combination of silicone elastomer gels, under intense mixing, adding plasticizer as the viscosity increased with more vitamin C. Simply put, it is wrapped in an elegant system of elastomers that has no gritty feel, but an elegant cloud-like, lightweight feel. Encasing the vitamin C in this anhydrous structure stabilizes and delivers a desirable texture—so desirable that consumers swear it’s water-based. The US Patent Office agreed with the novelty of our compositions and granting a broad utility patent:
- 9,132,080. Delivery system having stabilized ascorbic acid and other actives.
Another patent focused on anti-aging:
- 9,901,532 Anti-aging formulation with stabilized ascorbic acid and other actives.
How stable is it? Six months at 50°C shows no sign of yellowing or degradation. Three years at room temperature and counting shows no signs of degradation. There is no special packaging, just a jar with a screw-on cap that was opened and closed many times throughout the testing.
Does It Work?
My quest has ended with the recent introduction of Beautystat’s Universal Vitamin C Skin Refiner, which delivers stable, 20% pure vitamin C in a beautiful, silky smooth delivery. It is another game changer. Does it deliver? A clinical test proves it. Tests by a third-party, industry-leading testing center proves it. After only four weeks of use, test subjects reported a 91% reduction of lines and wrinkles, a 97% improvement in skin firmness and a 97% improvement in skin smoothness. Instrumental measurements also recorded significant improvements, including evening of skin tone.
Clearly, the formula delivers all of the promises of potent vitamin C in an aesthetically beautiful skin care system.
I feel like Indiana Jones after the final crusade. It is particularly gratifying delivering the product we all wanted for the past 40 years. We can’t wait to see how the market responds. We at Beautystat promise that we will not rest on our laurels; this breakthrough inspires us to conquer new categories and meet new consumer needs.
I want to acknowledge my son Alex, my co-inventor, who spent endless days making countless batches until we found the ideal mixtures. I also want to thank Grant Industries for making available its vast library of specialized elastomer gels and Tom Hrubec whose guidance was priceless.
Jules Zecchino is co-founder and chief technical officer at Skyler Brand Ventures LLC. He has been developing cosmetic products for decades and worked at Miles Laboratories, Chesebrough-Ponds, Bristol-Myers, Elizabeth Arden, Avon Products and Estée Lauder. More info: www.skylerbv.com