Extreme Alternatives: 
High-End, Natural Cosmeceuticals that Really Work

By Kat James

Applied Science: A Natural Solution for Varicose Veins

Reading The Face:
Sluggish Thyroid

Two Things You Should Get You Dermatologist to Do for You Now

One can take two approaches with anti-aging cosmetics. 1) The “sanding and peeling” approach, which may stimulate collagen production through the its response to irritation, but thins the skin, destroys its lipid barrier, makes skin vulnerable to sun damage and may even tire out its collagen-producing fibroblasts over time, or 2) The approach which rebuilds the skin’s integrity and defenses, while stimulating collagen synthesis and skin cell regeneration without irritation. My personal recommendation is the latter, so you won’t find information on the new self-microdermabrasion, alpha hydroxy acid or retinol products here, natural or otherwise. What you will find here are powerfully effective, more skin-friendly takes on the hottest cosmeceutical trends in skincare. — without the soup of synthetic emollients and perfumes or the plumped-up price.

The Super-Antioxidants

“We’ve known for a long time that topically applied antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin E and C were able to significantly reduce skin aging. But those are weak antioxidants,” says Linda Miles, L. Ac. and V. P. of Derma-E Natural Bodycare, “’Super-antioxidants,’ like pycnogenol and astaxanthin, are 50 to 500 times more potent than vitamin E. They are also anti-inflammatory. Pycnogenol stabilizes the capillary system to encourage it to pick up fluid and retain it, and thus benefits under-eye puffiness as well as rosacea. Astaxanthin, perhaps the most powerful of all antioxidant-anti-inflammatories, stimulates defensive skin cells to seek out and eliminate problems.” Dr. Phillip Cohen, MD, ND, a holistic dermatologist, co-formulated Ecco Bella’s new Health by Chocolate line of edible, drinkable, and externally applied skincare, as well as their MD Formulated line. “Dark chocolate has four times the polyphenol antioxidant content of green tea, and the same as red wine,” says Cohen, “It is also rich in magnesium, which increases energy production in the cells, increases relaxation, and contributes to your glow.” The MD Formulated line as well as the Health by Chocolate line (which I have diligently taste-tested) are enhanced with the super-antioxidants astaxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and blueberry extracts.

Dr. Nicolas Perricone’s research on the trio of vitamin C-ester, alpha lipoic acid and DMAE has continued to have phenomenal impact on skincare formulations. His own line of products containing that famous ingredient trio (I call it “the Perricone trio) has been emulated or built-upon in several more natural formulas, with unique features of their own, including Derma E, Reviva Labs, Nutri-Lift and Source Naturals. Youthful Essentials’ Wrinkle serum, for example, offers the Perricone trio along with green tea, MSM, and the exciting anti-aging peptide carnosine, with zero synthetics. Carnosine is not only a powerful antioxidant, but also known as a powerful skin healer. Most notably, it inhibits a destructive protein–sugar reaction in the body called glycation, which contributes to a number of aging factors, including collagen breakdown.

Collagen, Botox® and Strivectin SD® alternatives

Injections of Restylane, a stabilized, synthetic form of hyaluronic acid (HA) have now surpassed collagen injections in popularity for filling in wrinkles and facial folds. HA is the skin’s natural internal moisture sponge that keeps skin hydrated and plumped from within. But for those who furrow their brow at the price or pain of Restylane inections, Reviva Labs, who first introduced hyaluronic acid into skincare products in 1986, may have an alternative. Their new, Hyaluronic Serum —unlike topical humectants, which depend on moisture in the air to work— actually locks moisture into the “intercellular spaces” within the skin, from liquids consumed internally. Another internal skin plumper that boosts both hyaluronic acid and collagen throughout the entire body, is Toki, a drinkable form of collagen from Lane Labs. Toki was clinically shown to increase serum collagen by more than 100%, while significantly reducing wrinkles around the eyes.

Speaking of furrowed brows, a handful of cutting edge products, including Age Reversal Face Serum by Desert Essence, feature Acetyl Hexapeptide-3, a combination of linked amino acids referred to by extreme makeover enthusiasts as the non-invasive Botox alternative. It won’t immediately deaden muscle function as Botox does, but can relax wrinkles due to muscle tension over time. The Age Reversal serum also contains another ingredient, palmitoyl pentapeptide, arguably the hottest skincare product ingredient of the last five years, featured in the wildly popular anti-stretch mark-turned-anti-wrinkle sensation, StriVectin SD®. The synthetically produced peptide— based on the animal source precursor to human collagen—was shown in double-blind studies to significantly reduce wrinkles, while thickening the skin one and one half times faster than retinol and vitamin C —without irritation. Reviva’s Peptides and More Cream features high-potency palmitoyl pentapeptide, while Nutri-Lift’s Rejuvenating " A " Therapy features it along with an impressive all-star ingredient list that boasts vitamin C ester, sea algae, liposomes, Co-Q10, DMAE, alpha lipoic acid, astaxanthin, hyaluronic acid, green tea, copper peptide, squalene, and dozens of other herbs.

Crème de la Kelp

It was that astronomically-priced, luxury skin cream “from the sea” that first made seaweed skin creams famous in the late nineties. Luckily, seekers of seaweed’s proven benefits no longer have to mortgage the house or suffer synthetic emollients to experience them. “Right now companies that make raw materials for skin products are isolating the elements from seaweed and combining them with peptides (in case you haven’t notice, it’s all about the peptides) like magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese — all vital in collagen synthesis,” says Dan Fryda, author of The Ocean Within, and formulator of several lines of sea algae-based skincare. “Micronized seaweed products naturally contain and deliver all of those active constituents deep into to the skin, stimulating collagen, hyaluronic and connective tissue regeneration without the skin-thinning and burning of acids and retinol products,” says Fryda. “Seaweed represents the anti-inflammatory approach to anti-aging skincare.”

Why Choose, When You Can Layer?

I know. So many skin miracles, so skin to try them all on! But you needn’t choose only one. Layering products that work in different ways gives you added benefit, if you remember to layer more emollient moisturizers and serums over non-oily ones that penetrate or evaporate quickly. And remember, it’s not about the brands, it’s about the ingredients. Look for seaweed extracts, the super-antioxidants mentioned above, and, as always a lack of red flag ingredients such as synthetic emollients (mineral oil, dimethicone), propylene glycol and fragrance. I also prefer products free of synthetic preservatives.


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