Fibroblasts under a microscope. They produce collagen, a protein that makes your skin plump. Image by SubtleGuest via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Skincare products remain the only area where you can advertise snake oil, an eye of the newt, and toe of frog not only as legitimate ingredients but as something desirable. Anything goes if it’s either “natural” (wisdom of ages) or highly technological (science rules).
But before we start let’s define some terminology. You can skip it and come back later:
* amino acid – a building block of peptides and proteins;
* peptide – a short chain of joined amino acids, consists of 50 or fewer individual amino acids;
* protein – a long peptide, above 50 amino acids;
* collagen – protein, which maintains skin elasticity. Young people have more of it; old people use various potions trying to get more of it.
The Stylist named “No 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum” the best serum second year in a row, describing it
Rich in plumping matrixyl, there’s a raft of advanced science in play
Science! The Express wrote about Matrixyl that it’s
…a peptide found in some high street anti-wrinkle creams. Research from the University of Reading proves this powerful ingredient does help fight wrinkles.
I found the original scientific article about Matryxyl written by Roanne Jones et al. It shows that at the highest tested concentration, 0.008% of Matryxyl cell culture of producing collagen fibroblasts increases collagen production three times. Hooray? Yes, but with two caveats:
*we don’t know if the Matrixyl works on the intact skin, which contains lots of cell types, not just isolated fibroblasts;
*nobody but the manufacturer knows the concentration of the Matrixyl in the cream, which can be less than 0.008% even before it has to filter through the skin.
To be fair, “No7 Protect and Perfect Cream” is famous as the product that works, so there is a good chance that Boots didn’t scrimp on the acting ingredient in a case of serum as well.
Aside: The Express article by Lesley Reynolds is confusing in the industry tradition where the scientific terms invoked as magic spells, for their magic sound rather than meaning. After calling Matrixyl “a peptide”, the author writes (emphasis by me)
Matrixyl is part of the pentapeptide family. It is an amino acid
“Penta” in “pentapeptide” means five amino acids linked togther. In any case, a peptide cannot be an amino acid, it’s like calling one person a Conga line. Ms. Reynold continues:
Many other pentapeptides work, including myristoyl, a protein in the same family as matryxyl.
Human skin cross-section. There is much more to it than just fibroblasts located in the pink layer. Image by Kibald, via Wikimedia Commons
I thought that Matrixyl was a part of a peptide, not protein family as proteins are longer than 50 amino acids and Matrixyl consists from only five of them? But that’s a minor quibble.
Despite the similarly sounding name, “myristoyl” is not a protein at all. It’s a long-chain fatty acid composed 17 carbon atoms (C17). As far as I can see from the Matrixyl formula, the Reading researchers used Matrixyl pentapeptide connected to a different compound, palmitoyl (C16) to get their encouraging results on the collagen production. The naked pentapeptide works even worse.
Now, this is a confusion around a product that works. In my next post, I’ll look at other skin products, their confusing descriptions and allegedly miraculous properties.