Syn- ake wrinkle reducing anti aging ingredient

Anti-aging creams with synthetic snake venom

Skin-care companies such as Sonya Dakar, Syence, Borba and Planet Skincare are making lotions that contain a synthetic venom called Syn-ake. They say the products smooth wrinkles by relaxing facial muscles.

Maybe we can blame snakes for our wrinkles. After all, as the story goes, it was a snake that tempted Eve, getting her expelled from Eden and doomed to a mortal life filled with fine lines and wrinkles. So isn’t it about time that the slithering serpent made amends? More than a half-dozen skin-care companies think so, incorporating a synthetic venom into their formulations to help diminish signs of aging.

The products sprang from an “aha!” connection: When poisonous snakes strike, they paralyze their prey by injecting them with a toxin through hollow fangs. And if snake venom can paralyze muscles, couldn’t a targeted version work like a topical Botox?

Enter SYN®-AKE Active Pure Peptide, a compound developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Pentapharm, to mimic a protein found in the venom of the temple viper.

“I wanted to develop a Botox alternative for my clients who complained of side effects or wanted to avoid the injections all together,” says Sonya Dakar, co-founder of Sonya Dakar Skincare, who incorporated Syn-ake into her UltraLuxe-9 cream. According to Phentapharm, the ingredient works as a neuromuscular block, preventing sodium ion uptake in the muscle and keeping it in a relaxed state. Relaxing the facial muscles can help prevent deeper expression lines, while smoothing skin in the process, says Sean Campbell, director of Syence Skin Care, which produces Syence Servital Active Anti-Aging Tissue Defense.

Pentapharm measured the smoothing effect of a Syn-ake-infused cream compared with a placebo in a 28-day trial. According to the company, 67% of the participants using the cream reported a decrease in muscle contraction, and wrinkle size was reduced by 52%. Borba, which incorporates Syn-ake into its Advanced Aging Reverse & Tone Serum, did its own blind consumer testing study. “Seventy-nine percent of women reported they could feel the product working, tightening and firming the skin,” says the company’s founder, Scott-Vincent Borba.

But experts wonder whether the topical formulations penetrate deeply enough to effectively inhibit muscle contraction. After all, Botox is injected for a reason — to deliver the compound directly into muscle tissue.

“Is the active ingredient really absorbed into the skin like Botox?” asks dermatologist Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell. “The action may just be as a good moisturizer, which does soften wrinkles.”

“Skin is programmed to keep proteins out,” adds Dr. Leslie Baumann, author of “The Skin Type Solution.” And the chemical must travel through several layers of skin and subcutaneous fat to reach and penetrate the muscle.

“The smaller the molecule and the more fat-soluble, the deeper that chemical can get into the skin,” says Dr. Corey Maas, fellow of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. After evaluating Syn-ake, Maas says the molecule appears to be small enough theoretically to penetrate; however, without more studies, he says, it’s difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the ingredient.

He also points out another dilemma for skin-care companies incorporating the synthetic venom formulation. Once a compound “goes through the skin and becomes pharmacologically active working as a drug to relax muscle, it could in theory be absorbed through the body and affect other” areas, Maas says. “It’s a Catch-22. It goes from the cosmaceutical-you-don’t-need-FDA-approval range to a range where it needs to be studied for its safety and its efficacy.”

Skin Venom’s Campbell, for his part, compares Syn-ake to retinol, the less active version of Retin-A found in many beauty products, and not regulated by the FDA.

With so many skin-care companies using Syn-ake, what sets one cream apart from another? “You can make two cakes and have the same ingredients, but it’s the way in which these ingredients are put together that makes the difference,” says Caroline Clapperton, founder of Planet Skincare. Planet Skincare’s daily moisturizer incorporates argireline and GABA to help relax muscles, antioxidants such as vitamin A and C, and retinoic acid, which speeds up cell renewal. The creamy formulation spreads easily, comes packaged with a plastic scoop and smells like roses.

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Anti Aging Master Gene Discovered

Researchers at Oregon State University have found one gene in the human body that appears to be a master regulator for skin development, in research that could help address everything from skin diseases such as eczema or psoriasis to the wrinkling of skin as people age.

Inadequate or loss of expression of this gene, called CTIP2, may play a role in some skin disorders, scientists believe, and understanding the mechanisms of gene action could provide a solution to them.

“We found that CTIP2 is a transcriptional factor that helps control different levels of skin development, including the final phase of a protective barrier formation,” said Arup Indra, an OSU assistant professor of pharmacy. “It also seems particularly important in lipid biosynthesis, which is relevant not only to certain skin diseases but also wrinkling and premature skin aging.”

The findings of this research, done in collaboration with Mark Leid, OSU professor of pharmacy, were recently published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. This work is supported by the National Institutes of Health, which has provided $1.5 million for its continuation.

Skin is actually the largest organ in the human body, and has important functions in protecting people from infection, toxins, microbes and solar radiation. But it’s not static – skin cells are constantly dying and being replaced by new cells, to the extent that human skin actually renews its surface layers every three to four weeks. Wrinkles, in fact, are a reflection of slower skin regeneration that occurs naturally with aging.

Major advances have been made in recent years in understanding how skin develops in space and time, and in recent breakthroughs scientists learned how to re-program adult skin cells into embryonic stem cells.

“When you think about therapies for skin disease or to address the effects of skin aging, basically you’re trying to find ways to modulate the genetic network within cells and make sure they are doing their job,” Indra said. “We now believe that CTIP2 might be the regulator that can do that. The next step will be to find ways to affect its expression.”

One of the ways that some ancient botanical extracts or other compounds may accomplish their job in helping to rejuvenate skin, Indra said, is by stimulating gene expression. A more complete understanding of skin genetics might allow that process to be done more scientifically, effectively and permanently.

Facials a prescription for your face – pampering


Facials a prescription for your face and it is true. For years, Michelle Palmer, a lawyer in Manhattan, bounced from aesthetician to aesthetician having her skin cleaned, assessed and exfoliated, simply because she had always heard that facials were the best way to get glowing skin. “I never did a ton of research to figure out what those products were doing, or whether or not I could get results at home, or whether I was better off going to see a dermatologist — this is what single women in the city did,” said Ms. Palmer, 36, who paid anywhere from $100 to $250 per session. Aestheticians and spas have long promoted such routine facials as required maintenance for radiant skin. But dermatologists don’t necessarily agree.

Today’s bloated and breathless spa menus promise more than a mere facial can deliver, dermatologists say, and have people thinking that monthly facials can be their first line of defense against wrinkles. “People will say, ‘I’ve had facial after facial and I still have wrinkles,’ ” said Dr. Amy Derick, a board-certified dermatologist from Barrington, Ill. “They have unrealistic expectations of what facials can do.” Meanwhile, aestheticians say that some doctors downplay how effective their treatments are because they don’t want their patients consulting the facialist down the street.

“They’re bad-mouthing us because they want our business to go to them,” said Wendei Spale, an aesthetician of 14 years and the owner of Peace of Mind Skin & Body Care in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles. “If my clients go to them, they’re going to talk them into fillers, Botox or a super strong peel they don’t need.” Facials, a pillar of the $10.9-billion spa industry, are the third most popular service at spas nationwide, after massages and nail care, according to the International Spa Association. Some facials are marketed as massages for the face, relaxation pure and simple. But most spas and aestheticians also offer a dizzying array of results-oriented facials that claim to do far more.

Aestheticians say that so-called oxygen facials can plump skin, produce collagen and regenerate new cells. A company called Intraceuticals has its technology in 300 spas, resorts and doctors’ offices nationwide. It uses pressurized oxygen to deliver modified hyaluronic acid to the face, but doesn’t have any research to back its machine, said Deirdre Burke, the director of sales and education. Still, the company believes in its efficacy, she said, adding, “If you have had a treatment, you’re a believer.” But without scientific evidence, many dermatologists remain unconvinced. “Show me the data that oxygen facials make the skin better,” said Dr. Jeffrey Dover, a director of SkinCare Physicians, a comprehensive dermatology practice in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Exhale spa, with outposts in Dallas and in Santa Monica, Calif., promotes a $195 “non-surgical face lift” on their Web site that entails using “sub-sensory microcurrent waves to tone and lift facial muscles.” And the Manhattan flagship store of Dr. Nicholas Perricone, a board-certified dermatologist, offers an electro-stim lifting facial, which his site says is a “non-invasive ‘face lift’ ” that will “stimulate facial muscles to perform more youthfully….” Dr. Derick, who isn’t familiar with these two particular facials, suggests that massaging of the skin alone can cause temporary swelling, which may be responsible for that lifting effect after a facial. What then can consumers expect from deep cleansing, microdermabrasion and other staples of today’s facials?

To rid oneself of some of the outermost dead-cell layers, old-fashioned exfoliation, microdermabrasion or a glycolic peel will do the trick, many dermatologists say. A salicylic peel may help diminish sun spots, they say, and acne sufferers may benefit from a meticulous extraction of clogged pores. More and more dermatologists are hiring aestheticians to perform such services. Ms. Palmer, now married, found her facialist of three years, Rowena Woo, at her dermatologist’s office, Tribeca Skin Center in Manhattan. “If client wants an ‘anti-aging’ facial, we don’t have that,” said Ms. Woo, who sticks to basics like cleaning, extraction and exfoliation. Dr. Arielle Kauvar, the director of New York Laser & Skin Care in Manhattan, doesn’t offer facials per se, but she does offer microdermabrasion as well as glycolic and salicylic peels. “From a pure budgetary standpoint, facials can add up,” she said. She’ll advise patients who dislike their frown lines or crow’s-feet and spend hundreds of dollars on anti-aging facials to consider Botox. “The same amount of money would at least erase those wrinkles,” she said. (Temporarily, of course.) Dr. Leslie Baumann, a dermatology professor at University of Miami, ignited a firestorm recently when she wrote on her Skin Guru blog for Yahoo that facials are a waste of money. Outraged aestheticians and their followers made up a lot of the 1,453 commenters. Two criticisms were particularly sharp: that aestheticians “often don’t know which products are right for the skin of each client” and that facials cause breakouts most of the time. Dr. Baumann has since said that aestheticians play a vital role advising clientele about home care and the wearing of sunscreen.

However, she is astonished that some of her new patients “throw facials in at the level of sunscreen.” Dr. Baumann said: “Getting a facial is a great cost to cut,” because, unlike sunscreen, “it’s not doing anything preventative or anything long term for your skin.” Some aestheticians and their satisfied clients wouldn’t agree. Nancy Girten, a 50-year-old geologist from Los Angeles, used to have sun spots on her face, but since she started getting lactic acid peels 12 years ago from Ms. Spale, she is convinced that her skin tone has evened out significantly. Dermatologists are also wary of facials that aren’t customized. “If you drop into a hotel, they do a similar thing to everybody,” said Dr. Dover, who has had aestheticians on staff since 2000, and is the co-author of “The Youth Equation.” “It’s a recipe.” Such one-fits-all recipes where the aesthetician may not even do an initial skin assessment can backfire. Take the case of Dr. Dover’s wife, who is also a dermatologist. “She’s gone for spa facials where they put things on her skin that should never be put on,” he said. “Then they do a massage, and she breaks out in deep tender pimples.” Now she gives to others any gift certificate she receives for a facial. “The standard in the industry has to include a complete analysis of the skin,” said An G. Hinds, the president of Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics in Woburn, Mass. “Every aesthetician should know this.” But often the consumer is the one to guess which facial might work. Dermatology Partners, a practice with three aestheticians in Wellesley, Mass., circumvents this by only booking the hour, not the service, said Milena Turok, the director of aesthetics. “We analyze,” she said. “It’s dangerous for a patient to pick a treatment.” Demand customization, advised Celeste Hilling, the founder of Skin Authority, a product line used at 62 resorts and 37 doctors’ offices nationwide. “At the end of the day whether you’re spending $40 or $400,” she said, “if that facial doesn’t have active ingredients for what you want, it’s not worth it.” 

Reverse the Signs of Aging

Botox Injection example

For years, Sue Hazen watched as the effects of time and a long-term smoking habit took their toll on her 53-year-old face.

At the end of January, the Port Jefferson Station resident decided to investigate some alternatives for turning back the clock. She and her husband, Peter, attended a seminar given by renowned Manhattan cosmetic plastic surgeon Stephen T. Greenberg held earlier this month.

Dr. Greenberg, who was speaking at the Spa at East Wind in Wading River, is frequently interviewed and asked to discuss his knowledge of the latest cosmetic surgery techniques. 

At the end of Dr. Greenberg’s 60-minute informal lecture, Ms. Hazen, who quit a year ago after smoking for a decade, decided to take the first step in recapturing her youth. She underwent a serious of injections, which were administered by Dr. Greenberg, to hide lines and wrinkles on her face.

“I guess I’m just not doing well with getting older,” said Ms. Hazen, who received Botox injections to temporarily paralyze muscles in her forehead, and Restylane to hide the wrinkles around her mouth and cheeks.

“The injections pinched a little bit,” Ms. Hazen admitted, while holding an ice pack on her slightly swollen face immediately following the procedure. “As for how it comes out, I’ll have to let you know.”

During his lecture, Dr. Greenberg explained various options, from facial creams to invasive surgery, to help turn back the clock. The surgeon, who has also appeared in national magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, More, and Elle, gave a “head to toe” analysis of the latest alternatives now available.

Starting with the face, Dr. Greenberg explained that wrinkles and sagging—commonly known as jowls—and/or loose or thin skin near the neck are some of the most detested effects of aging. He explained that as we grow older, our skin becomes thinner and less radiant with loss of elastic tissue and fat cells known as collagen.

“The effect of gravity causes skin and tissue to sag downwards from the face, toward the chin, lower face and surrounding neck,” Dr. Greenberg said. “People come to me and say ‘I can’t believe I have jowls,’ but we all age the same way … The fat that once was in our cheeks has drifted down your face into your jawline.”

Other contributing factors that can contribute to wrinkles include reduction of muscle mass, sun exposure, smoking, genetics and even diet, he explained. Dr. Greenberg noted that until recently, invasive plastic surgery was the only effective method to hide jowls and facial wrinkles.

But new injection gels, known as Restylane and Perlane, are providing some non-surgical relief, too. Restylane and Perlane are trade names for a specific formulation of non-animal sourced fat replacement gel, known as hyaluronic acid, which is most commonly used for lip augmentation.

At Dr. Greenberg’s lecture, Lisa Paveglio of Centereach asked about the differences between Restylane and Juvaderm, the latter being a new product touted in television and magazine advertisements. Dr. Greenberg held up both a box of Restylane and Juvaderm to the audience and explained, “Juvaderm has a prettier box,” he said, pointing to the multi-color Juvaderm box in contrast to the plain white-and-black box holding the Restylane.

“The Juvaderm box is a little bigger, but that’s about the only difference,” he added.

In the United States, Restylane has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for cosmetic injection into subdermal facial tissues. Restylane is injected under wrinkles and aging lines of the face, including the nasolabial folds on either side of the nose and the melomental folds around the eyes.

Restylane can also be used for filling aging-related facial hollows and orbital troughs located under and around the eyes. The process has a recovery time of two to three days.

Costs for the treatment can range between $300 and $500 per visit. However, the treatment is not permanent and lasts only about six months, Dr. Greenberg noted. He recommend getting reapplications every four to five months so that the visual effect is not as noticeable.

“You don’t want to keep going from looking great, to looking tired, to looking great, to looking tired,” he said. “Everyone’s body absorbs the gel differently, so it might be six months for some, but four or five months for others.”

Dr. Greenberg stressed that Restylane injections are only for people with moderate wrinkling, namely those between 40 and 60 years old. He noted that those with advanced aging would require plastic surgery.

A face-lift is the only option for eliminating extreme sagging beneath the jawline—often referred to as turkey neck—according to Dr. Greenberg. One such surgical technique uses a wire with small barbs that is inserted along the jaw line. The barbs catch on tissue and the wire is pulled up toward the skull, thus lifting sagging skin.

Aside from the painful-sounding description of the procedure, there is another drawback to this technique, the doctor noted. “The problem is, it doesn’t last,” Dr. Greenberg said.

Also in attendance at the talk were Jean Giroux of Holtsville and Jeane Zinser of Stony Brook. The two friends, both of whom are 75 years old, said they wanted to learn more about a new procedure known as the Lifestyle Lift.

Dr. Greenberg said the $6,000 procedure is a form of “mini-lift” and focuses on specific areas of the face, such as the neck and the folds of the nose. Using smaller incisions, the surgeon lifts, repositions and removes facial tissue. The surgeon then repositions the skin with sutures.

“The Lifestyle Lift is very scary,” Dr. Greenberg said emphatically. “The problem with the procedure is that it’s being mostly performed by doctors who have little or no plastic surgery experience, and you’re taking big chances when you don’t go to a board-certified plastic surgeon.”

Though the most common form of plastic surgery sought across America is breast augmentation, Dr. Greenberg noted that women are not the only ones seeking plastic surgery these days. He added that between 20 to 30 percent of plastic surgery patients nationwide are men.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, roughly 350,000 women had breast augmentations in 2008, making it the number one cosmetic plastic surgery procedure performed that year. Dr. Greenberg noted that breast implants could last up to 10 years or more. He recommends a new silicon gel implant, noting that it does not leak as did past silicon implants.

Tabitha Silva, a Manorville resident who is currently studying esthetics at Long Island Nail and Skin Care Institute in Levittown, asked how long it takes to switch breast implants. Dr. Greenberg reported that it was quick procedure, because the pocket for the implant was already in place under the chest muscles.

“It takes about 10 minutes,” Dr. Greenberg said, smiling. “I can change breast implants faster than I can change a tire.”

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A is for Apple and Anti Aging


Apples may have anti-ageing effect


The adage ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ may no longer apply to apples having the ability to keep just the flu bug away.

The discovery of phloretin, an antioxidant derived from apples, means that the fruit may also help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

‘Phloretin is a powerful antioxidant found to be effective in protecting human skin from the effects of the sun when applied topically,’ said Dr Sheldon Pinnell, founder of SkinCeuticals. He was the leader of the scientific team that made the discovery after five years of research.

The United States-based skincare brand is the first to combine phloretin with other well-known antioxidants like vitamin C into a single anti-ageing serum called Phloretin CF.

Early clinical studies showed that phloretin – found both in the flesh and skin of apples, as well as in the root bark of apple, pear and grapefruit trees – effectively fights the effects of photo-ageing.

Photo-ageing refers to the ageing of skin by ultraviolet (UV) radiation as a result of repeated exposure to the sun over many years.

A 2006 study published in the Biological And Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that phloretin reduces DNA damage caused by UV radiation by 80 per cent.

In addition, the compound also inhibits the enzyme elastase, which causes wrinkles and sagging skin.

Excessive exposure to UV rays causes skin cells to weaken.

The worst outcome of this damage is skin cancer, where skin cells start to multiply abnormally.

Resisting this process are chemical compounds called antioxidants.

Antioxidants guard against photo-ageing by transforming unstable molecules, called free radicals, into unreactive compounds.

The tricky part, when using antioxidants in skincare products, is combining them with other chemicals such that their efficacy will not be lowered. Vitamin C, for instance, is unstable and disintegrates after some time.

The development of the patent-pending technology in the formula Phloretin CF, now sold as a skincare product containing a cocktail of three antioxidants – vitamin C, ferulic acid and phloretin – is the cumulation of over 20 years of work, said Dr Pinnell.

However, this breakthrough does not mean that antioxidants can replace sunscreen entirely, he said.

‘At this point, I wouldn’t say that you can eliminate sunscreen,’ he said. ‘Maybe in the future, as antioxidant technology gets better.’

However, Dr Pinnell recommends the use of antioxidants in addition to the application of sunscreen in a daily skincare regimen.

‘Sunscreen contains a lot of synthetic chemicals,’ he said. ‘It works only on the outside, absorbing UV rays.

‘Antioxidants, on the other hand, work inside the skin and provide long-term protection.’

Having said that, it is important not to overdo things, added Dr Pinnell. This is because UV rays help our skin produce vitamin D that is vital for calcium absorption.

‘You can be relatively vitamin D-deficient if you use sunscreen and antioxidants very religiously,’ he said.

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