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.