Antioxidants for anti-aging

At Alchimie Forever, we believe phyto-antioxidants are the most powerful way to prevent and repair signs of skin aging. Indeed, antioxidants are not new to beauty and skin care industries and have been on everyone’s lips over the last few years, touted to be the latest “miracle in a jar.” But what exactly are antioxidants? What do they do? How do they work? And which ones should you use?

To understand antioxidants we must understand oxidants

Oxygen, essential to life, is metabolized in the body by successive reductions, leading to superoxide anion (O2.), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and hydroxyl radical (.OH) generation. These different molecules are named reactive oxygen species (ROS), or oxidants; some are free radicals (defined by the presence of an unpaired electron), whereas others are non radical (such as H2O2, singlet oxygen 1O2).

Oxidants, when present in significant quantities, lead to oxidative stress which in turns damages cellular structures.

Exposure of the skin to UV is the main cause of oxidative stress: UV exposure induces the production of high quantities of oxidants, which damage DNA, lipids, membranes, intracellular and extracellular proteins, and sugars. Oxidants have both immediate and long lasting deleterious effects to the skin, including the appearance of actinic keratoses,  a  citrin coloration of the skin (lipid peroxidation), a loss of collagen and elastin (protein alterations), and finally skin cancer (DNA alterations).

Antioxidants: a way to fight oxidants

Antioxidants, as their name indicates, are the opposite of oxidants. What oxidants break, antioxidants can repair.

Endogenous antioxidants

The first key distinction in the family of antioxidants is whether they are endogenous (those produced by the human body) of exogenous (those not produced by the human body). Indeed, human cells are equipped with a series of endogenous antioxidants to deal with the damages caused by oxidants. Such endogenous antioxidants include the following enzymes: superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and thioredoxine reductase. As we age, these endogenous antioxidants are gradually depleted over time; this consumption is accelerated by an increased production of oxidants. Hence the importance of exogenous antioxidants.

Exogenous antioxidants

          Synthetic antioxidants: the case of Idebenone

Idebenone is one of the better known synthetic antioxidants. It is an organic compound of the quinone family and promoted commercially as a synthetic analog of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Idebenone’s antioxidant role involves both the scavenging of oxidants as well as a preventative role in lipid peroxidation. It seems idebenone’s antioxidant properties function by virtue of the electron-donating properties of the hydroquinone form.

Idebenone is present in skin care products from brands such as Prevage (owned by Allergan) and True (which licenses idebenone from Allergan).

          Phytoantioxidants

The alternative to synthetic antioxidants are natural antioxidants, namely those derived from plants. Plants, like human beings, suffer from UV-generated oxidative stress – they live in the sun after all! Plants are, however, unable to protect themselves by moving into the shade or by using sunscreen. Consequently, plants have developed effective antioxidant strategies to protect themselves against the oxidizing stress induced by their environment, in particular UV exposure.

Phytoantioxidants fall into four main groups, namely enzymes, terpens, polyphenols, and vitamins. Some of the best known, and most studied phytoantioxidants are carotenoids (a terpen), and flavonoids and anthocyanins (polyphenols).

Green tea

Green tea contains four major flavonoids: epicatechin, epicatechin-gallate, epigallocatechin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate. These molecules have the ability to scavenge oxidants including O2.-, .OH, H2O2 and 1O2. It has been shown that epigallocatechin applied topically with exposure to UVB inhibits the production of H2O2 in the dermis and epidermis. Numerous skin care brands use green tea, including Elizabeth Arden and Replenix.

Rosemary

Rosemary contains various antioxidants, in particular phenolic diterpens: carnosol and carnosic acid represent over 90% of the antioxidant properties of rosemary extract. These lipophilic molecules scavenge lipid free radicals, thereby enabling the reduction of lipid peroxidation and inhibiting oxidative damages to skin surface lipids. Carnosic acid also has photoprotective potential. Alchimie Forever and Clarins are two brands that use rosemary in their skin care products.

Grape seeds

Grape seeds are major sources of resveratrol and quercetin. The stilben resveratrol inhibits lipid peroxidation induced by UVB and significantly decreases UVB-induced skin thickness and oedema. The iron chelator flavonoid quercetin maintains and protects the activities of glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase after exposure to UV radiation. Caudalie is an example of a skin care brand using grape seeds (and grapes) as its signature ingredient.

Tomato

Tomato is rich in lycopene, a widely studied powerful antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic carotenoid with strong reducing ability and the most effective carotenoid in the scavenging of the oxidant 1O2. Lycopene also scavenges lipid radicals, reduces lipid peroxidation and prevents erythema caused by UV radiation on the skin. Kiehl’s and Alchimie Forever both use tomato extract in their products.

Antioxidants represent a key therapeutic approach to preventing skin aging. More specifically, research indicates that the combination of multiple antioxidants at low concentrations represents the most effective approach. Indeed, different antioxidants (whether synthetic or natural) have difference mechanisms of action and target different parts of the cell, thus offering synergies when combined. In the world of antioxidants, 1 + 1 is not 2 but rather 5. As such, the more antioxidant products you use, the better off your skin will be!

On naturally-occurring parabens

At a recent industry conference, I gave a talk about one of my favorite topics, namely “controversial” ingredients. At that particular talk, I remembered why I love to speak at conferences, which is that I always learn something. During that presentation, I learned that there are such things as naturally-occurring parabens.  Indeed, these very controversial ingredients exist in nature, and specifically are found in blueberries, which is one of Alchimie Forever’s signature ingredients. Here is what I have since then learned on the topic:

–          Parabens do occur in nature

–          Naturally-occurring parabens have similar preservation properties as synthetic parabens; indeed, they are present in these plants to help them defend themselves against various micro-organisms

–          Not all plants have been tested for naturally-occurring parabens, so it is impossible to know if all plants contain these molecules or not

–          Most plants that have been tested for the presence of naturally-occurring parabens contain specifically methylpraraben and sometimes etyhlparaben (remember parabens are a family of various molecules)

–          Honeysuckle is one of the plants that is richest in naturally-occurring methylparaben

–          Other plants known to contain naturally-occurring parabens include: blueberries, carrots, olives, strawberries

–          In cosmetics, the labeling requirements for plants is to list the plant itself, the part of the plant that is used (leaf, flower, etc.), as well as the solvents and preservatives added to the plant extract; as such, naturally occurring parabens in plants would not be listed as parabens on the ingredient listing

–          The % of naturally occurring parabens in plants tends to be extremely low. For example, while in a cosmetic preparations parabens might make up to 0.3% of the formula, naturally-occurring methylparaben in blueberries is less than 0.003%

A final note about parabens: We at Alchimie Forever have decided to reformulate our products to remove parabens. Not for scientific reasons (we continue to believe that scientific data proves these are the safest and most efficacious preservatives), but for commercial reasons (in this case, perception has become reality, and the consumer has won). We will, of course, continue to use blueberries, and other powerful plant extracts. While they may extremely low concentrations of methylparaben to help defend themselves against various micro-organisms, they also contain quercetin, anthocyans, phenolic acids, and many more antioxidant molecules, which make them a powerful tool for both the repair and the prevention of free radical damage.

Highlights from HBA: The Changing Face of Beauty Distribution

HBA is possibly my favorite beauty industry conference. I remember attending four or five years ago, and listening to Sarah Kugelman, Founder and CEO of Skyn Iceland, present her story on a panel about indie beauty brands. I decided I had to somehow find a way to be a speaker – I wanted to be just like her (funnily enough, we had coffee at the Javits at this year’s show, as we now often do, and I told her that story). For the past three years, I have been invited to speak and moderate various panels, which is both a pleasure and an honor.

The panel I moderated on Wednesday was possibly my favorite to date. It was a “Part 2” of a panel I moderated in 2010 on shifting trends in beauty distribution. Last year, that panel was composed of  Shop NBC, Bloomingdale’s and  bluemercury – I was moderating and presenting the brand’s perspective on the various channels (home shopping, department stores, independent beauty boutiques).

In this year’s panel on “The Changing Face of Beauty Distribution,” only “virtual” channels were represented: QVC, Hautelook, and Dermstore.com. Karen Doskow, Industry Manager, Consumer Products Practice, Kline & CO., set the stage for us by presenting some data on the personal care industry. Three key data points:

–          The US personal care market reached $36.5 billion in 2010, surpassing pre-recession levels

–          Industry growth bounced back after a dip in 2009, and was up 2.4% in 2010

–          The direct sales channel (TV, internet, person-to-person sales) achieved a 5.2% CAGR and is the fastest growing channel over the past five years (in comparison, over the same persio, department store sales decreased 3.5%)

–          Within the direct sales channel, the internet posted the highest CAGR, 26%, followed by TV shopping, 19.7%.

No need to further explain why the panel was composed of Allen Burke, Senior Advisor for Beauty for QVC, Paula Scandone, Vice President of Beauty, Hautelook, and David Olsen, Vice President of Business Development, Dermstore. As Allen Burke said in his opening comments, “a significant shift in beauty distribution is the fact that only virtual channels are represented here today.” Indeed…

Here are some highlights from questions I posed to the panelists:

The most significant shifts in beauty distribution in the last three years were identified as:

–          Consolidation (including consolidation between bricks and mortar and internet businesses; think of Walgreens and Skinstore.com for example, or Nordstrom and Hautelook)

–          The advent of mobile shopping; as Allen said, “today it seems almost old-fashioned to be shopping on your computer.”

–          The rise of flash-sale sites such as Hautelook

New sampling business models have emerged, driven by Birchbox, which launched its curated and edited box of samples in September 2010.

–          Both Paula and Allen agreed that this offers an opportunity to expand the reach of certain brands, without the need to internally handle shipping and handling. Indeed, QVC has now partnered with New Beauty on two of its “TestTube,” and plans on continuing this successful association.

–          A slightly different model is Dermstore’s BeautyFix program, which provides consumers full-size products in a mystery box.

The next question centered on the integration of bricks and mortar channels and virtual channels. There was no true consensus, other than the agreement that the consumer is now shopping across all channels. Allen discussed QVC’s partnership with Sephora, and Paula presented the cross-marketing opportunities between Hautelook and its new parent, Nordstrom – in effect, leveraging different consumer bases, introducing Nordstrom consumers to Hautelook, and encouraging the Hautelook consumer to shop preferentially at Nordstrom.

From a brand perspective, I proposed that the two keys to a successful mixed distribution channel is strategy (for example, how do flash sales fit in to your mix, how many times per year, on which products, etc.) and honesty with your partners (let your spas know you are going to be on QVC ahead of time; let your retailers know when your products will be discounted on a flash sale site).

Most interestingly to me, we then discussed the key success factors for the various channels, which are so very different from the key success factors needed in the spa channel (think training, gratis for staff, professional-only products), or in retail (think GWPs, in-store support, ads).

For Dermstore, David identified the keys to success as a true strategic partnership with the brand, brand visibility, and sampling. For QVC, Allen suggested that innovation and the experience of the shopper are key: “It is not about a good demonstration, it is about the experience.” For Hautelook, Paula identified assortment, value, and brand recognition as the keys to success.

HBA is an international show, and TV and the internet are global. We thus had to touch on the three companies’ international plans and experiences. David mentioned that Dermstore used to own dermstore.ca, prior to selling the business to Rogers Communications. While the internet is indeed global, the rules and regulations affecting the sale of personal care products differ country by country, making internet sales abroad complicated. Paula spoke of foreign Hautelook-like companies, including VentePrivée, but suggested that given the young age of Hautelook (3 years old), her focus was still on the US. Allen spoke about QVC’s experience in Japan, Italy, Germany, and the UK. His conclusions were not far off from David’s. Indeed, while US brands tend to do fabulous on QVC UK, UK brands have not been successful on QVC US. Perhaps it is not just the regulatory framework that makes global beauty selling complicated, but also differences in beauty cultures and consumer preferences…

I left the most controversial question for last – how has discounting impacted the various channels? David explained that Dermstore, as a general policy, does not discount. However, the company finds other ways to compete, including free shipping and gift with purchases. Paula is all for discounting, after all, that is the founding principle of flash sale sites. She suggested however that her consumer, while enjoying the discounts, continues to shop at full price. From her perspective, discounting is here to stay, and is should be part of a brand’s marketing strategy (notice, again, the word strategy; think about when and how and why you discount, don’t just do it). Allen closed the discussion by stating that QVC does not offer free shipping because a consumer should understand and be ready to pay reasonable shipping fees for a quality product, and that QVC will not offer a brand at a price that is higher than it is commonly found in other channels.

As the session came to a close, we all agreed that we were all still friends, despite differing perspectives. We also all agreed that it is amazing how different the beauty distribution landscape looks today versus five or 10 years ago. And that is what makes our industry, and this panel, so interesting… I am already hoping for a shifting distribution, “Part 3,” at HBA 2012.

Stem cells: an overview

I spent this past Sunday at the Les Nouvelles Esthetiques tradeshow in Philadelphia. I walked the floor, met some great spa industry people, got to speak French with my girlfriend Christele de la Haye, the LNE marketing director, and, most fun of all, got to speak at the General Session. Thank you LNE for inviting me! For those of you who couldn’t be there, I thought I would give you a summary of my presentation, which was on “Stem Cells: An Overview.”

What are stem cells?  Stem cells are undifferentiated cells characterized by self-renewal (they can multiply to produce new stem cells) and by differentiation: upon exposure to tissue-specific biochemical signals, they turn into tissue-specific specialized cells. They play a key role in tissue development and regeneration.

There are two major categories of stem cells: embryonic and adult.

Embryonic stem cells have the extraordinary potential to form all tissues of the body. They can be found in the early embryos (human embryos between 0 and 3-5 days) and are also present in the umbilical cord blood collected at birth.

Adult stem cells have been found in most tissues and organs of fetuses, children, and adults, including the skin. They contribute to tissue quality and ensure tissue renewal. Adult stem cells are somewhat less powerful than embryonic stem cells, as they are already “pre-determined”, i.e., engaged in a certain direction for differentiation. Their potential is thus more limited: for example, adult stem cells cannot reproduce a whole organism.

In adults, stem cells are not randomly distributed, but are concentrated in tiny regions called “niches”. In the skin, “niches” are found in hair follicles which maintain skin stem cells in a non-differentiated state. The epidermis stem cells are essentially located in the erector muscle of hairs. Skin stem cells may migrate either towards the surface of the skin to replenish the epidermis or towards the basis of the hair follicle to give rise to its constituents. Skin stem cells also continuously renew the skin.

There is one third type of stem cell – plant stem cells, which have increasingly been of interest to the beauty industry. Like human skin, plants contain stem cells that are located at their apical and root meristem. The meristems are composed of stem cells capable of generating an entire organism. Plant stem cells are found in those regions of the plant where growth takes place. There are nearly inexhaustible reservoirs of undifferentiated cells capable of self-sustaining and of providing precursors for differentiated cells.

It is therefore possible, from only small fragments of a plant’s meristem, to create multiple copies of the same plant, as well as to produce plant stem cell extract. Why should we care about plant stem cells? Well, plant stem cell extracts have already an anti-wrinkle effect on human skin (in vitro and in vivo).

Plant stem cell extracts likely contain natural growth factors that will be of interest in future cosmetic developments, an interest that is being confirmed by preliminary clinical results from various sources, and by cosmetic companies integrating these ingredients into their products.

You can read more in the September issue of Les Nouvelles Esthetiques.

 

 

Why I love the beauty industry

When asked about what I love about the beauty industry, I usually point out three main factors: that I get to work with and surrounded by women, that the industry is populated by smaller, personal businesses, and that the industry works to make the world a better place by making people feel better about themselves. Now, I have some data to back up my claims, from the GCI May 2010 issue (yes, I was catching up on my reading Saturday on my way to our Geneva offices, where I am writing from):

Cosmoprof 2010

I just returned from 4 days in Las Vegas. My feet hurt, and my head is spinning with new ideas. Indeed, I just returned from Cosmoprof/PBA. I have been going to Cosmoprof for the last few years. While I don’t exhibit, I find walking the floor stimulating and the breakout sessions fascinating. I also find that some of the most important meetings in terms of moving Alchimie Forever forward happen at Cosmoprof. And of course, my favorite thing ever, I get to see celebrities. Not Hollywood actresses, but beauty CEOs and personalities. During these past four days, I saw Tabatha Coffey, Antoinette Beenders, Essie Weingarten, Jane Iredale, and more. Love, love, love it!