Beauty Serums September 2009
Serum is a new word on the beauty scene but something that all the top cosmetic and skin care companies are chasing after.
My dictionary defines the word as the water part of a body fluid remaining after clotting or curdling, especially the protein rich fluid constituent of blood. Doesn’t sound great does it! But it seems this word has now been hijacked by the beauty industry into something offering a ground breaking and intriguing new treatment.
Without doubt modern beauty serums are new high tech products; they contain a range of deep medically sounding ingredients such as molecules of hyaluronic acid (these trap moisture and pump up skin); peptides (to relax and reduce wrinkles) and retinol (to increase skin cell activity). There are also more familiar ingredients such as vitamin C (to boost collagen and lighten pigmentation marks) and antioxidants (to prevent and repair the damage done by all those awful free radical molecules that roam around our body and our faces).
Before I splashed out a fortune on these wonder treatments, I thought I would look a bit further into what this all means.
Hyaluronic acid is a long, stringy, gel like disaccharide (a type of sugar) and is made up of alternating molecules of glucosamine and glucuronic. Yes, that doesn’t mean a lot to me either. Investigating further, it seems it is responsible for the viscoelastic behavior of synovial fluid – something to do with the hydration and elastic strength of cartilage.
Now hydration is mentioned, it all makes a little more sense. It seems hyaluronic acid replenishes the natural polysaccharide found in the body’s connective tissues and replenishes lost volume. It is used in dermal fillers and now in serums to improve facial contouring and to hydrate and soften lines.
Peptides and pentapeptides
This is all such a complex area that it is no wonder that few of us have a clue what some of the cosmetic brands are talking about when they mention some of the benefits of their new products. Even basic research on the meaning of peptides brings a huge variation in responses. Generally the word peptides comes from a Greek word for small digestible and today refers to short polymers formed from the linking of α-amino acids.
If there are two amino acids in the chain, they are called dipeptides; the word pentapeptides refers to a chain of five amino acids.
Peptides have many useful functions in our bodies, but there has been definite controversy over their benefits in beauty treatments. Generally peptides cannot usually penetrate the skin; if they do, then the skin enzymes can break them down inhibiting their effects.
However, they have also been hailed as an anti-ageing miracle because of an ability to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A Stamford university researcher and dermatologist (a Dr Alexa Kimball) says research on peptides that stimulate skin’s natural rebuilding processes has helped establish a new class of effective but gentler anti-aging options.
Retinol is a form of vitamin A. It increases cell production in the top layer of the skin so it helps to keep skin looking smoother and younger. It also has a good effect on the production of collagen because skin uses retinoic acid when it produces collagen. This helps to make the skin look plumper.
Rather than the word retinol, you are more likely to see the name retinoic acid or retinyl palmitate on products; these offer varying forms and strengths of retinol. Most over the counter products will only contain a very small amount.
Human Growth Hormone
When I was told a new beauty serum containing Human Growth Hormone (albeit a synthetic version) was coming on the market, it sounded pretty scary.
Panthenol is the alcohol form of pantothenic acid, otherwise known as vitamin B5 and is commonly found in cosmetic products.
Vitamin E is an invaluable antixodidant which helps to neutralise free radicals and protect against the damaging effects of the environment. It is included in a wide range of beauty products.
The new serums, and most beauty products today are the result of high level chemical and medical research. The best bet really is to seek advice from the manufacturers of the product you are interested in although some counter staff may be trained to give you a reasonable level of information.
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