By Canadian Press
TORONTO – It’s not enough to simply eat healthy. Now cosmetic companies want people to slather health tonics on their faces, feeding dreams of younger-looking skin.
No longer just in health food stores, vitamin C, copper, green tea, grapeseed oil and soy, have found their way into beauty products. “In a lot of ways it sounds better than chemical ingredients,” said Carrie Bonner, project manager of consumer products at Kline & Co., a U.S. market research and consulting firm that deals with the cosmetics industry. “It seems like it would be healthy.
“We’re seeing products that have ingredients such as milk or vitamin C and they know those products are good for them, so they may as well be good for their skin,” said Bonner, adding that she has noticed a huge increase in cosmetics with natural products.
But do vitamins really help the skin or are cosmetic companies simply promoting the latest in snake-oil?
“The only thing that’s really, conclusively been proven over long-term studies is vitamin A,” said Dr. Lisa Kellett, a Toronto dermatologist. “It has been proven to change the structure of collagen under the skin.” Collagen, a component of skin, is what keeps it firm and wrinkle free. As people age free radicals are formed on the skin as a result of sunlight exposure and trauma. These free radicals break down the collagen, causing wrinkles. If the free radicals are removed they can’t break down the collagen.
Kellett said vitamin A promotes collagen growth, while vitamins C and E are antioxidants which can prevent free radicals from doing too much damage. And research does suggest that antioxidants are good for the skin.
But she also warns that expectations shouldn’t be too high. “Everyone wants to look 20 years younger and get those effects in a week,” said Kellett. “If it sounds too good to be true – it is.”
Almost 90 per cent of women said skin-care products exaggerate what they can do, according to a Canadian survey of 1,300 women and 700 men done by Dove Face Care.
“I wouldn’t buy, and I would never recommend any longer, for anybody to buy any type of moisturizer or skin-care product in general (without antioxidants),” said cosmetic consumer advocate Paula Begoun. “If they don’t contain antioxidants they are really a waste of time.”
But there are several unknown factors in the natural products, such as what is the best concentration of vitamins. “All these natural products, in theory, may be helpful to the skin,” said Kellett. “But if you can’t deliver it to the skin, it’s not doing anything.”
Calvin Davies, president of Woodbridge, Ont.-based VitalScience Corp., makers of Dermaglow brand, knows many ingredients are fragile. “When we know an ingredient is sensitive to light or heat, we incorporate these in the last phase of the manufacturing,” said Davies. Dermaglow products contain ingredients ranging from vitamin A to grapeseed oil.
Exposure to light and oxygen is one of the biggest problems with natural products, which is why vitamins are encapsulated and packaged in opaque or dark coloured jars often with silica packages to keep them dry.Once a jar of vitamin-rich cream is opened, its effectiveness is diminished. “That $20 product that might be loaded with antioxidants would be garbage packaged in a jar,” said Begoun, the Ralph Nader of Rouge.
“When you’re buying a product specifically because of what you know about the antioxidant content, and then it comes packaged in a jar – Geez Louise – What a burn.” But she said companies are making more natural products available in air- and light-limiting pumps or tubes, she said. Still, Kellett warns consumers to be careful. “As a woman and a dermatologist I have to read through things… you have to be very skeptical,” she said adding that some products plump up the skin, but only as long as the product is used.
For good-looking skin, Kellett suggests applying a sunblock with titanium or zinc oxide to clean skin, followed by a moisturizer with vitamin C or E. Then at night apply a topical vitamin A. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money . . . often the most expensive products are not always the best.”
Some natural ingredients used in cosmetics:
Algae extract: From seaweed. Considered a protective skin moisturizer. Claims to heal skin or get rid of wrinkles unsubstantiated. Aloe vera: Soothes skin. Amniotic fluid: From animal embryo. Claims that it can rejuvenate skin unsubstantiated. Ascorbic acid: Vitamin C. Considered a good antioxidant (it helps keep air off the skin which helps prevent dehydration and possible free-radical damage). Avocado oil:Emollient and water-binding agent. Castor oil: Emollient and water-binding agent. Lavender: Can be a skin irritant and a photosensitizer. Peppermint: Found in many products, can cause contact dermatitis and be a potent skin sensitizer. Retinol: From vitamin A, a good antioxidant. Tretinoin, an acid from of vitamin A, shown to be effective in treatment skin damaged by too much sun. Seaweed extract:Antioxidant and water-binding agent, wrinkle prevention claims substantiated. Soybean oil: Emollient and water-binding agent. Tocopherol: The chemical name for vitamin E, a superstar antioxidant. Water:Water is water, whether it’s from the lips or extracted from plants.