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Posts tagged 'fraudulent skin care products'

Plant Stem Cells in Skincare

By Arthur W. Perry, MD September 7, 2019 No comments

© 2019 Arthur W. Perry, MD, FACS

One of the newest trends in skincare is the use…or alleged use…of plant stem cells. There are many dozens of moisturizers, serums, perfumes, “firming” creams, masks, and other products that claim to use plant stem cells to improve appearance.

Plants produce a myriad of chemicals that allow exposure to ultraviolet light blasting sunshine for many hours without developing DNA damage.  Many of the chemicals are pigmented antioxidants – chemicals like: 

  • green sulforaphane, isocyanate, indoles, and chlorophyll in broccoli 
  • red lycopenes in raspberries
  • purple and blue anthocyanins in berries, 
  • orange and yellow beta cryptothanxin in carrots
  • brown flavonoids in mushrooms
  • white allicin in onions and garlic
  • orange carotenoids in tomatoes
  • and red phenolics in citrus, blue beta-cyan and red betalain in beets, and yellow beta-xanthin in Swiss chard.   

A healthy diet should include a wide variety of colored fruits and vegetables, giving us a wide variety of protective antioxidants.  The chemicals are made by cells in roots, stems and leaves and can be made in larger quantities by special stem cells, under the right conditions.  These cells allow plants adapt to stresses by producing extra protective chemicals.

There are many studies proving skin can look younger and more attractive after applying a variety of plant based antioxidants and substances like Vitamins A and C, niacinamide, and fruit acids.  But the million dollar question is whether plant stem cells be helpful to humans?  To function, they would first have to be alive. Think about how lettuce turns brown after just a few days.  So how could stem cells survive the process of being isolated from a plant and being squirt into bottles that sit on store shelves for months in the heat of summer? In fact, no product actually contains live plant stem cells.  Those that imply that on the label are exaggerating at best.  You might call this fraud, but I’ll try to keep the high road. Giving companies the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that they use “stem cell extract” - a mixture of all sorts of chemicals that plant stem cells might produce.  Like all of those pigmented antioxidants listed above and good things like vitamins A, C, and E.  

Products with genuine stem cell extracts use a wide variety of substances created by plants.  These chemicals might be useful and they might be useless – it depends on what they are, their concentration, a bunch of complicated chemical factors, and the time of the day that they are applied.  One thing is an absolute certainty:  they cannot be better than the individual chemical ingredients they contain.  And another thing is also certain: “stem cell extracts” have no known benefits that have been studied under rigorous scientific conditions.

So the bottom line? Stick to products with proven science or you will simply be throwing out your money.  

Fraud in Sunscreens

By Arthur W. Perry MD July 6, 2018 No comments
Did you know that so much of the sunscreen industry operates dishonestly? It's because of the prolific use of what are called SPF boosters. Never heard of them? Most people haven't. So here's a primer on why mineral sunscreens are the best sunscreen ingredients but you might not be getting pure minerals even if the label says so... Zinc oxide is the best sunscreen agent because it does not get absorbed into the body and it does not get “used up” by the sun. But there is a pretty strict relationship between the SPF achieved per % of zinc oxide in the cream: Every 1% increases the SPF by between 1.5 - 2.5, depending on the exact preparation. The elegant forms of zinc oxide (micronized = small particles, nano = very small particles) are much more expensive than the chemical sunscreens and most of them are patented. Elegant mineral sunscreens (ones that disappear on the skin and do not feel tacky) are 10 times costlier than chemical sunscreen ingredients. Most companies that advertise “mineral sunscreens” include a mix of cheaper chemical sunscreen agents. But, chemical sunscreens are almost all endocrine disruptors and, by definition, must be absorbed into the body to function (that is why they have to be applied 20 minutes before going into the sun). They hang around the body for 48 hours after application. No other drug, other than antacids, is consumed in such high amounts. And chemical sunscreens are topical drugs that are not processed by the liver before traveling to every organ in the body. The other game played by sunscreen companies is the use of “booster” chemicals. Boosters indeed block or absorb ultraviolet light, but they are not approved by the FDA for this purpose and therefore can not be listed on the label as a sunscreen agent. The FDA has a very short list of ingredients that can not be included in skincare preparations, and boosters are not on that list. That allows their use as simply “inactive ingredients”. Companies use this to their advantage, because they can achieve higher SPF values with just “mineral” sunscreens, and can legally claim to be “100% mineral” even though their SPF is largely achieved through the use of chemical boosters. Some commonly available mineral sunscreens advertise their SPF of 60 but list less than 10% mineral sunscreens on the label. This is physically impossible without the use of boosters, because the level of minerals in the sunscreens can only generate an SPF in the low 20s. Dr. Perry's DayThyme SPF 20 sunscreen and our soon to be released SPF 30 SunThymeTM suncreen will be honest as to the ingredients, effective, and aesthetically elegant.

The truth about "Organic" Skincare

By Arthur W. Perry, MD October 20, 2016 1 comments

“Organic” may be the most bastardized word in the English language.

The strict definition of “organic” chemicals are chemicals that are carbon based. Somewhere along the line, the term became associated with edible products that did not contain toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, or antibiotics. While the definition was not particularly good, the concept was a welcome one. And over the last two decades the “organic food” industry has been steadily growing.

In the last few years, the "organic" concept has become even more bastardized, with the introduction of “organic skincare”. Real chemists cringe when products containing substances like inorganic zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, talc, and iron oxide are described as “organic”.   We are entering a whole new world of obfuscation…. The FDA does not even have a legal definition for “organic” and so if a company calls their products “organic”, they must follow the US Dept. of Agriculture definition. This is particularly bizarre since inorganic minerals are not agricultural products.

But let’s go a step further and consider why a skincare product should even consider being “organic”. The concept comes from a desire for healthy, wholesome products, made with healthy ingredients. This is a reasonable goal, but consider a skincare product made from organically grown poison ivy. Legally it could be labeled “organic”, but you don’t need to be a physician to know that this is not something you would want on your body. It turns out that essential oils, which make up so many wonderful fragrances, may be organic but also may cause allergic reactions called “contact dermatitis”. In fact, 14% of the population are allergic to one essential oil or another. Synthetic fragrances, certainly not called “organic” but indeed may be created with organic chemicals (in the strictest sense of the word), are often less likely to cause allergies than the “natural” ones.

And that brings us to the definition and benefits of “natural” substances in skincare. Plutonium and cadmium are natural, but you sure would not want those chemicals near your body. On the other hand, phenoxyethanol is a synthetic preservative that is particularly nontoxic and helps keeps your products safe and fresh. But organic or natural? No. So we must all be skeptical of the cosmetics and skin care that describe themselves as “organic” or “natural”.

The truth is that a well formulated product that is carefully evaluated for toxicity and efficacy is what should be created... For my products, I try and keep as short an ingredient list as possible because I know that each and every ingredient, whether “natural”, “synthetic”, or “organic” has the potential to cause toxicity or allergy. I choose my ingredients for for their scientifically proven efficacy and I scour the toxicology database to eliminate anything that can potentially cause problems. That is not as easy as it may seem, because safe and effective ingredients, such as vitamin C, can cause a terrible corneal injury if splashed in the eye. And because of that concept, simple table salt or vitamins are often considered “mildly toxic”.

Skincare is not as simple as it seems, and that is the precise reason I, as a plastic surgeon and biologist, have enjoyed creating safe and effective products for you.

Plant stem cells in skin creams

By Arthur W. Perry, MD, FACS December 12, 2013 6 comments

As you are deluged with advertisements for various skin care products, you might come across those that advertise "plant stem cells".  What the heck are these, you might ask...and why are they in my skin care products?

The companies that say they use these ingredients make all sorts of claims that these provide miraculous changes to the skin.  Here's the truth...

It is impossible to put plant stem cells in skin care products.  Stem cells are living material and if they could be isolated and added to your product, they would certainly die during processing.  But no company is really trying to add live cells...or any cells at all.  

Here's the science behind this scam....

Plants are powerhouses that make all sorts of chemicals to protect themselves from the environment.  Since they can not walk out of the blistering sunshine and find the shade of a neighboring tree, they need to produce their own sunblock.  That's why plants have such deep and rich colors.  Those colors are the sunblocks and antioxidants that protect plants from UV damage.  Plants also have evolved protections against heavy metals that might be in the soil.  

Many of those chemicals are concentrated in the "stem cells" of those plants...(no stem cells are NOT the cells in plant stems, but some companies seem to have forgotten that one, too...).  So, if stem cells are isolated from the remainder of the plant cells and the chemicals they produce are concentrated and collected, this concoction is called the "stem cell extract".  That is what many of these companies allegedly put into their skin care products.

Now, when we look at these extracts, three questions come up...  First - what is the concentration of the extract in the product and second - what is the mix of chemicals in the extract, and third - do those chemicals actually do something for your skin...

Since stem cell extracts are a virtually nebulous concept and since no company will divulge how much of these they actually put into their products, you, the consumer, are left with many questions...and empty wallets if you purchase.

I prefer to use real ingredients with many scientific papers documenting that they actually do real clinical situations.  That means that when you squirt that stuff onto your hands and rub it into your face, you can expect real results.  

I'm all for the advancement of science, but consumers need to beware that fraud lurks on many shelves...even in the fanciest of stores...

(C) 2013 Arthur W. Perry, MD