Dissecting skincare, Part II – the strangest of the rest

Following my previous post about  one of the winners of Stylist’s best skincare products awards.

Best body lotion

Dove purely Pampering Nourishing Lotion

..this is packed with nourishing shea butter and collagen amino acids to improve skin elasticity.



A model of a collagen molecule. Good looking but too big to get into your skin cells.  Image  By Nevit Dilmen CC-BY_SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

As I’ve written my previous post, collagen is the protein that provides skin elasticity. The previous generation of potions contained collagen with exactly the same claim as applied now to its amino acids.

So why the shift from the collagen to its amino acids? Maybe the common/scientific sense that collagen’s molecule is too big to filter down through the skin and – even if it gets inside the skin cells – they’ll break protein  down to its building blocks, amino acids, won.

But more likely,  a never ending cycle of producing, whipping up the interest and selling new (= better) products required  new entities. Amino acids from collagen sounded like a valid idea. Amino acids are small molecules and can be taken up by skin cells. Except that there no guarantee that they will be used to make specifically collagen and not randomly incorporated into whatever proteins cells synthesizing right now.

Slathering skin with amino acids from collagen is like giving an average adult some money and expecting that he’ll spend it on fruits and vegetables and not on burgers and alcohol.

Best exfoliator

Origins Modern Friction™ Instant brightening pads

Exfoliating – stripping the outer skin layer using acids – always struck me as bordering on self-mutilation. The product description mentions glycolic acid, a standard reagent for inducing a chemical burn of your skin, sorry, hardcore exfoliating.

Under the skilful pen of a health and beauty journalist exposing your skin to acid-containing pads becomes “soaked in enzyme-rich fruit acids”. While  glycolic acid can be isolated from plant sources   – sugarcane, sugar beets, pineapple, cantaloupe – and selling a box of pads for £32 Elemis can certainly afford using the acid from fruits and vegetables instead of chemically synthesized acid, this does not make it all “natural” and cuddly. Fruits and vegetables are good for you when you eat then, not when you use random compounds from them.

I am unsure what enzymes glycolic acid is “soaked” with, probably  ones that facilitate your skin destruction.

Best blemish treatment

La Roche-Rosay Effacial Duo [+]

“Contains hydrating agent glycerin and anti-spot zinc“.  While there are less expensive potions, which contain these very cheap ingredients (500 ml of glycerin for £7, anybody?), £15.50 for 15 ml sounds positively cheap if you consider

Best cleanser

Dr Frances Prenna Jones Superclean at £65


Salicylic acid. Mmm, tasty. Not. Image by Adam001d, CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

It contains another skin care staple, antibacterial salicylic acid. Also found in any high street cleanser for 1/20 of the price.

The Stylist claims that the cleanser also contains “essential oils” (as in  for example Superdrug Tea Tree range). The product page doesn’t mention the oils, but enzymes which boost cell turnover for brighter, younger looking skin. As a biologist, I don’t know about such enzymes. Do you?



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