Iron in skin aging: less is more…

Last week was one of my favorite weeks in June, the week of HBA in New York City. As I have done for the past three years, I moderated a session on the theme of “The Changing Face of Beauty Distribution” (read about the highlights in the upcoming September issue of GCI Magazine). This year, my colleague Catherine presented for the first time – doing an amazing job on a social media panel (in case you pre-program your Tweets, she says “don’t do it – just don’t”). Also, this year, my Mom, Dr. Barbara Polla presented again.

Her presentation was about one of my favorite scientific topics, one that she has specialized in and published dozens of scientific papers about: iron chelation. At the core of our Alchimie Forever formulation technology, iron chelation is based on the premise that excess iron accelerates aging, in particular skin aging.

Riddle me this: why do women live longer than men? One of the leading theories is that we (women) on average have a lower quantity of iron in our bodies. Why? Because we lose iron regularly during our menstrual cycle and during delivery.

Indeed, while iron is essential for aerobic life, oxygen transport, energy production, and red blood cell function (if you suffer from anemia, please follow your doctor’s recommendations), iron is also involved in the oxidation processes, increasing the production of the hydroxyl radical (remember, oxygen radicals are involved in all signs of skin aging). Indeed, iron plays a major role in oxidative stress via Fenton chemistry, where iron(II) is stoichiometrically oxidized by H2O2  to iron(III), producing the highly damaging oxygen radical .OH (Gutteridge and Halliwell, 2000).

Translation: excess iron acts as a catalyst in the production of damaging free radicals, which are responsible for the creation of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of skin aging.

The most extreme clinical case that illustrates the damaging role of excess iron is a condition known as haemochromatosis. This disease involves a disorder in the gastrointestinal absorption of iron, which leads to iron accumulation in internal organs and in the skin. The skin, specifically, then presents highly accelerated signs of skin aging.

Studies have been conducted to show that treating the skin with synthetic iron chelators (molecules that neutralize iron, thus making it unavailable to act as a catalyst) will delay the onset of redness and wrinkles after UV exposure for up to 11 weeks (study on hairless mice, Bissett et al., 1994).

Translation: skin exposed to UV first treated with iron chelators does not get as sunburnt or as wrinkled as skin not treated with iron chelators.

So what does this mean for you? Two things.

  1. Look for skin care products that contain natural iron chelators, such as quercetin (present in blueberry, grape seed, and green tea extracts).
  2. Unless your doctor recommends you take iron, favor supplements (e.g. multi-vitamins) that do not contain iron. My favorite? Emergen-C Super Orange.
  3. Last but not least, donate blood – it can save others, and can be good for you too!

In the case of iron and skin aging, less is truly more. To learn more about the role of iron in skin aging, please watch this video.

Beauty industry trends for 2013

The holiday season is not only a time for holiday parties. It is also a time for goal-setting and strategizing, for thinking about the year ahead. It is the time to close one chapter, and open a new one. What will the beauty industry be remembered for in 2012? Top of mind might be the BB cream craze, a few significant M&A transactions—including Markwins’ recent purchase of Physicians Formula and the back and forth between potential acquisition participants Avon and Coty—and the industry’s continued focus on sustainable products and production.

But what does 2013—and the future—hold? Cathy Christensen of Skin Inc recently released her 2013 trend report. Susie Ellis of SpaFinder released a sneak peak of her top 10 spa and wellness trends.

To further help me think about next year, and plan strategically, I asked some of my most trusted industry experts to weigh in on the question. Here is what they had to say. (You can also read this and more on the GCI Magazine website).

“I see several significant trends for 2013. First, DIY. We are continuing to see DIY dermatology treatments at home (the continued growth of Clarisonic is a perfect example).  Whether it is glycolic peels, hyaluronic acid treatments, or tools, tools and more tools – sometimes clients are too busy to make it to the dermatologist and want the intense treatment at home. For example, we are testing an interesting electronic hyaluronic filler patch system. Second, I also expect a return to intensive, active body treatments. While this market fell apart somewhat with the recession, as consumers weren’t willing to invest in the category, I see this as a significant growth opportunity.” Marla Malcolm Beck, Founder Bluemercury and M-61 Skincare

“Although difficult to pin down only one trend, it is clear that the focus on nail care will continue into  2013.  With the gel business booming, nail products should continue to shine in 2013. Nail color is an easy and inexpensive pick-me-up in a difficult economy, which will help that sector stay strong.  We will continue to see new sassy colors and designs from the leading brands.” Jill Birkett, Brand Director, HBA Global

“The beauty  industry continues to introduce diverse and innovative concepts seasonally. Off the runways, we see bright colors, bold brows and the ever-growing nail category for 2013. For me, these trends are important as they continue to drive modernization and dictate growth. For our members that means they expect information and knowledge on where our industry is headed in order for their portion of success to continue to grow.  Continuing to raise the bar!  Pamela Jo Busiek, President and CEO, ICMAD

“Some of the most interesting developments I see happening in our industry for 2013 include: 1. Farm to Spa Table: While this is certainly something that is already happening at some spas (St. Regis Aspen has a very cool version), I think it’s a movement that has legs and is a unique take on the green spa movement. 2. With the continued development of UV gels and other technology (magnetic manicures, etc) in nailcare, the “nails-as-art” trend will continue to thrive. 3. Finally, the prenatal and teen/kid spa market also seems to be experiencing growth with targeted spas, treatment menus, and products that are specialized for these particular niches.” Julie Keller Callaghan, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher, American Spa

“Although each year in the new economy is full of its share of twists and turns, 2013 may go down in history as a turning-point year in the beauty industry. Challenges are still many as those who survived the economic crisis are navigating their way in this brave new world; however, things are generally looking up. Beauty brands should be taking this opportunity to look at the lessons of the past and apply them to the future of the industry, which will be focused on how beauty and wellness combine progressively; how to provide consumers with the results they are seeking through the use of quick, multifunctional methods and products; meeting the needs of the savvy consumer who wants products with active ingredients and low prices; and always staying on the cusp of consumer demand.” Cathy Christensen, Senior Editor, Skin Inc. Magazine


“For 2013, I believe that the therapeutic benefits of skin care and facial treatments will begin to be more understood. In the past 10 years, we have seen millions of Americans exploring massage and bodywork to help them manage chronic physical conditions, decrease pain and stress, and increase flexibility and quality of life. Spa modalities like massage and bodywork have moved out of the luxury category and into the “needed” category as more folks take control of their own health and overall wellness. In the coming years, the spa industry will see more consumers seeking out skin care services for therapeutic reasons, not just to pamper themselves.” CG Funk, Vice President of Industry Relations & Product Development, Massage Envy and Spa

“I’m expecting natural BB Creams (or CC Creams) and more products that multitask and combine aspects of skin care and makeup to be a significant trend in 2013.” Melisse Gelula, Co-founder, Well+Good

“In what has become a hyper visual and technological environment, there will be a trend toward tactility.  While consumers will continue to digitize their lives and engage with brands online and on social platforms, there is a heightened desire for sensory experiences that can really only be articulated in a retail environment.” Kelly Kovack, Partner, Brand Growth Management

“As the farm to fork movement continues to grow in popularity, the International SPA Association is seeing an increase in our members partnering with local farmers or growers to enhance the spa experience, either through ambiance and décor, food menu items, skin-care products or treatments.” Lynne McNees, President, International Spa Association

“The trends for 2013 I expect are: 1. A continued increase in male participation in the beauty and wellness market. 2. I expect spa prices to continue to decrease. We are seeing an increased resistance from consumers to prices higher than $100 for any one hour spa treatment. 3. In Mexico, most inclusive resorts and hotels are now including in their room rates a $100+ spa credit, illustrating that many spas are moving from a revenue concept to a service concept, in order to maintain hotel occupancy high.”  Diana F. Mestre, Owner & Director, Mestre & Mestre Spa Consulting (Mexico)

“In the salon industry, I expect to see a significant increase demand for and acceptance of hair extension. This year will see extensions cross the over from the 20-somethings to women in their thirties and above who want more, and thicker hair. We will start to see hair extensions aimed more towards volume than length.” Edwin Neill, CEO, Neill Corporation

“For 2013, slowing down to take care of our self and our loved ones will be a major trend. The values of the slow food movement will influence all aspects of our lives, especially how we approach our beauty, health and wellness. Specifically, I see meditation becoming a go to resource to help us mitigate stress. With recent studies being released on the benefits of meditation, more and more of us realize that a regular mediation practice is an excellent resource to slow down the aging process. In terms of color, people will gravitate towards calming shades. Although we will see more common shades of pinks and neutrals, there will be surprising pastel-like hues in blue and green that people will find soothing and relaxing for Spring.” Shel Pink, Founder & CEO, SpaRitual

“I expect to see further developments in medical devices for the shaping of the silhouette. Zeltiq pioneered the development of cryolipolysis, a concept that other manufacturers are now embracing. As always, this competition within the marketplace is leading to new developments and improvements in the devices offered, and thus in the results we can give our patients.” Dr. Luigi L. Polla, Founder, Forever Laser Institut and Alchimie Forever (Switzerland)

“I think, a significant trend in the beauty industry will be products that provide spa, salon & in-office results in-store at a mass retail level with comparable results. The average consumer is becoming much more educated in her knowledge of ingredients and what she are looking for, so the market will adapt to give them more efficacious products in store at a mass retail value.” Alexandra Gonzalez Repetto, Beauty Assistant, REAL SIMPLE

“Non-invasive anti-aging solutions are a major trend that will continue into the year 2013. Consumers seem to seek innovative products that provide multifunctional benefits. Therefore the extension of BB creams and CC creams are expected to continue with major brands addressing these consumer demands by developing all in one skin care solutions. The development of different at-home sonic and light devices are of growing interest to many. With many people living the fast paced lifestyle consumers are drawn to more simplicity and how they can enhance their at-home treatments. Leading peptides, retinol and skin brightening ingredients will remain a constant through the next year for reducing the signs of aging as well. The search for more natural and organic products continues due to increased consumer awareness about sustainability. The focus of skincare products has changed because the spotlight has been placed on what products do not contain rather than the exceptional ingredients they do contain.” Gogi Sangha, President and CEO, G.S Cosmeceutical USA, Inc.

A special thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to share their 2013 expectations with me for this post.

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):