Life Extension Magazine January 2014
Carmen Fusco: The Research Scientist Behind Rejuvenex®
By Jon Finkel
Behind mainstream topical creams is a faceless corporation that mixes together ingredients with varying degrees of efficacy and potency. While most consumers pay exorbitant fees for anti-aging face creams, Life Extension readers have been kept abreast of the newest formulations by one of the most respected names in the nutrition and skin-care business, Carmen Fusco.
Fusco is a research scientist with a Master of Science from New York Medical College. Along with that, she has an extensive list of credits in the academic world, including having spent time as a faculty member at both Syracuse University and Cornell University as an instructor in pharmacology. She is also a member of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit sponsored by the Strang Cancer Prevention Center, Weil Medical College of Cornell, Rockefeller University, and New York Medical College. As an Associate Professor of Nutrition at New York Medical College, she also taught third-year medical students how to read blood tests for health, not just disease. But if you’ve been reading Life Extension magazine, you know her best as the scientist behind the highly-acclaimed Rejuvenex® line of skin products, the first of which was created over 30 years ago.
Revolutionizing Skin Care
“I began working in nutritional medicine with Dr. Benjamin Frank, who was a pioneer of RNA and RNA cream,” Fusco says. “When we first put RNA on the skin, it was very drying. I wanted to add the natural moisturizing factor. I was the first person to include an alpha hydroxy lactic acid in a skin cream, which has now become standard in countless skin care products. At the time, I was motivated by many of the patients in my nutritional practice who were always telling me that if they looked good, they felt good. When I see patients, I give them a program for life. In particular, Rejuvenex® Factor serum improves the health of our most visible organ, the skin. I have seen thousands of patients since the first cream came out and it is true, part of feeling good is looking good!”
In the beginning, Rejuvenex® was an RNA-based cream with a few additional ingredients and natural moisturizers like Sodium PCA. And this is where Fusco separates herself from the pack of most commercial companies that develop a product and then pump out the same formula forever. Despite the success of Fusco’s first iteration of Rejuvenex®, which was a tremendous hit with Life Extension members, she immediately began thinking about ways to upgrade it.
But this isn’t the story of a formulator simply pouring over medical journals and then ordering ingredients from a factory to mix into her creams without knowing how it would come out. That’s not how she does things. Fusco, who prides herself on going the distance for her clients and her products, took a completely hands-on approach, even going so far as picking Ginkgo leaves in Central Park, near her home, and then experimenting with them herself to see how much she could stimulate cell renewal.
“I work directly with my chemists and have tested every single batch of Rejuvenex®,” she explains. “That’s my philosophy. I like my products to deliver and also have side benefits, rather than side effects.”
From that first formula to today, Fusco has experimented with a plethora of ingredients, many of which, even though she was the first to use them, have been widely copied by international skin-care corporations. For instance, while much of the anti-aging skin care world was promoting a vitamin A analog called Retin-A that showed an ability to reverse photoaging, Fusco had already been using a natural version of the vitamin, called retinyl palmitate in Rejuvenex®, which has similar cell renewal properties. She was also on the forefront of blocking harmful UV rays long before cosmetic companies had recognized their danger, which led her to include vitamins C and E in her formulations to quench skin-damaging free radicals.
Today’s Rejuvenex® Factor serum contains over two dozen ingredients, with some of the most recent additions being taurine, which helps neutralize free radicals and inhibit premature aging of the skin, and modified hyaluronic acid, which holds more moisture in skin cells and helps target free radicals.
“As the product has evolved, I have continued to incorporate every item and test them myself,” Fusco says. “One of my proudest moments was when Rejuvenex® was exhibited at the Johns Hopkins Medicine event called ‘A Woman’s Journey.’ The exhibit was named ‘Feeding the Skin from Within…and Without’.”
Fusco’s products have also garnered vast media acclaim, as she has been featured in Town and Country and The New York Post. She has also caught the eye of several celebrities who swear by her products. Television star Sela Ward told Rosie magazine that Rejuvenex® Face Cream is one of Sela’s Secrets.
Celebrity praise is nothing new for Fusco, who has seen film icon Tom Cruise, legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield, and baseball Hall of Famer Whitey Ford as clients. But whether you’re a household name or simply someone looking to improve their health, in her practice, Fusco suggests nutrition and supplement strategies that she herself lives by.
“When I see clients I request full blood tests for health, not just for disease,” she says. “I have spent a lot of time studying the circadian rhythm and I recommend that all of my clients eat according to the body clock in order to produce the optimum amount of serotonin from tryptophan for sleeping and to provide the adequate amount of sleep to recover from the stresses of the day.”
Every morning Fusco starts her day with some fresh fruit (no juices) to restore the glycogen used up during sleep, followed by protein, either plant protein or organic eggs for energy and alertness. She then follows that up with a lunch of two cups of vegetables and fish, like sardines, salmon, cod, or scrod. Occasionally, she’ll substitute turkey for the fish.
At night she likes to have a meal including some carbohydrates, because carbohydrates stimulate insulin to quickly remove amino acids from the bloodstream except tryptophan. Since tryptophan competes with other amino acids for absorption into the brain, by clearing the bloodstream other amino acids, tryptophan gets a free pass through the blood-brain barrier where it is converted to soothing serotonin. Serotonin provides the recovery period from daily stress, and as we age and our pineal gland atrophies, serotonin can be converted to melatonin for recovery sleep.
“I started seeing patients in 1976 and so many people who saw me were surprised at the foods that I’d recommend they eat,” Fusco says. “I’d say that you can have one cup of coffee in the morning, one glass of wine at night and one piece of dark chocolate, all of which are filled with antioxidants.”
In addition, she exercises on a regular basis for overall health to complement her diet.
“I play an hour of singles tennis against a pro two mornings a week so I can challenge myself and improve my strokes,” she says. “I don’t like chopping the ball or hammering it. I play on Tuesdays and Fridays and there is an indoor tennis court that I can use in the winter. You have got to exercise to decrease triglycerides and reduce stress hormones. For me, living and working in New York City along with the kind of stress I have, it takes more than recovery sleep, exercise, and supplements to combat stress. Listening to music helps promote the joy and beauty of relaxation so necessary to a healthy life.”
On the supplement front, she takes magnesium every night in addition to Life Extension’s melatonin. She takes a multivitamin, CoQ10, acetyl l-carnitine, and R-lipoic acid. Just like the side benefits she refers to in her face cream, the side benefits of the lifestyle Fusco recommends have given her boundless energy, which also proves the inverse of what she said early on, “when you feel good, you look good.”
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.