Glycobiology is hardly a new kid on the block. It’s been studied for more than a century, with researchers winning seven Nobel Prizes off the back of it, and was recently named as one of the 10 sciences that will change the future of medicine. Having led to the development of a host of medications – from Tamiflu to the anticoagulant heparin – it’s now being applied to skincare.
Glycobiology is the study of glycans, the chains of sugars that operate in and around our cells. They’re crucial to cellular metabolism and communication both within and between cells, says Caroline Negre, scientific director for YSL, which uses glycobiology as the basis for its new Forever Youth Liberator Cream, $145 [A]. They also act as receptors for hyaluronic acid in your skin, which helps to keep it plumped up and hydrated.
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As you age, your own supply of glycans decreases in quality and quantity, meaning your cells don’t process information as efficiently as they once did. Result? “The first signs of ageing start to appear: wrinkles, loss of tone and a dull complexion,” says Negre.
It’s thought that applying glycans topically can help to supplement the skin’s own supply, says Charlotte Turner, head of education at Clarins. “When they integrate in the skin, they absorb moisture to themselves and plump up the skin tissue,” she explains about the oat-derived glycans found in Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch, $42 [B]. “This creates an integral change within the skin so it’s not just superficial tightening, it has a long-term effect.”
If you thought all sugars were bad, glycobiology might change your mind.
“Genetics” has been a common beauty buzzword for some time – a no-brainer, really, given your genes play a huge part in determining how your body’s cells behave. And with more than 4000 genes relating to the skin, continual advances are being made. The latest take builds on research by National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner started in 2005. He wrote a bestselling book about the world’s “Blue Zones”, regions home to people who tend to outlive those residing elsewhere.
Around the same time, scientists at the University of Calabria, Italy, focused on one group of Blue Zoners living in Sardinia, determining that they showed enhanced activity in one particular gene. Avon – who partnered with the research – dubbed it the “youth gene”. It works on the mitochondria of the cells, ensuring the efficient production of energy. While it maintains its efforts for longer in those Sardinians, it can become sluggish over time for some of us, and in skin, it can lead to the familiar signs of ageing, such as lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.“We tested 20-year-old skin versus 50-year-old skin and found that the expression of the gene goes down,” says Anthony Gonzalez, senior manager for Avon global research and development. “So we’ve taken the technology and identified the ingredients that will bring the expression back up.”
The ingredients include a native Australian vine called melicope hayesii, related to the tea-tree, and incorporated it in the company’s new Anew Genics Treatment Concentrate, $79.99 [C]. Applying it topically can stimulate the gene’s expression, taking it to optimum levels for longer. One thing is for sure: rubbing it on is cheaper and easier than moving to Sardinia.
We dedicated an entire feature to the beauty benefits of water in our February issue, but since then even more research about the ocean’s depths has, well, surfaced.
In its new White D-Tox Essence, $99 [D], Biotherm uses bacteria called thermus thermophilus that’s native to a particularly toxic part of the ocean, off the coast of California, US. Thanks to its polluted homeland, the bacteria has developed a mechanism to filter the toxins. According to Biotherm’s scientific communication director Dr Elisa Simonpietri it’s “one of the most powerful ingredients I’ve seen”. When applied topically, she says, it provides high levels of antioxidants
as well as protecting the skin from pollution. “The greater the stress is, the more these ingredients act.”
Meanwhile, Estée Lauder has turned its attention to the water beneath an Antarctic glacier to cultivate a rare glacial extract that’s used in the super-pricey duo Re-Nutriv Re-Creation Face Creme and Night Serum, $1350 [E]. It helps boost skin’s production of elastin and optimises hydration levels.
While much modern skincare science has focused on thinning the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis (think peels, AHAs, retinols), corneotherapy is all about building it up again. The field, championed by the late German professor Albert Kligman, works to restore balance and strength to the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis. When this layer is disrupted for long periods of time, it becomes “disorganised and weak”, says Turner.“A telltale sign for an impaired skin barrier is any kind of redness, meaning the stratum corneum
is fragile and permeable,” says Dr Hans Lautenschläger, product developer at Dermaviduals.
Turner agrees, noting that pigmentation and uneven skin tone can also be a sign of a weakened epidermis, as melanocytes (cells that produce melanin) go haywire, depositing melanin in uneven patches across the skin. Corneotherapy is about nursing the stratum corneum back to optimal health, while also encouraging natural cellular turnover. Or, as Dr Lautenschläger says, “it aims at the recovery of the skin barrier without influencing the self-regeneration of the skin”. Although it’s more a skincare philosophy than a hot new ingredient, many products that fall into this category contain lipids, such as the nourishing soybean oil found in Clarins Skin Beauty Repair Concentrate, $86 [F], and Dermaviduals Hyaluronic Acid Liposomes Plus, $180 [G], says Turner. “This comforts the skin into thinking, ‘Oh yeah, it’s all alright out there and I can go back to behaving normally again’.”