In recent years, people’s perception of the Life Extension Foundation has changed in an interesting way. As word has spread about our commitment to products backed by solid research, the quality of the proposals we get from inventors has improved. This self-selection process has weeded out many dubious products since the promoters realize they will not get past our rigorous evaluation process.
Yet even now, dozens of companies offering so-called “revolutionary” health products knock on our door each month. The majority of these products fail our initial peer review, and the few that look promising usually do not pass the in-house clinical testing we perform. As a result, only a select number of inventions ever demonstrate the efficacy needed to meet our exacting standards. This month, Life Extension introduces a patent-pending product that addresses an important issue for all of us who are getting on in years: the declining condition of our skin.
Skin aging is a complex process determined by individual genetic endowment as well as by environmental factors.1 We have all seen people whose skin looks younger than their chronological age and others whose skin appears older than their years. Of course, you cannot go back and order new parents, but you can take the initiative and minimize the impact of the environmental factors under your control. You can also utilize effective therapies to counteract changes in the skin that occur over time.
Collagen is an integral part of the skin’s fabric. It forms a mesh-like structure that helps to support new cells as they grow while providing needed flexibility. There is more collagen in the skin than any other protein, but it is not inert. There is continual collagen synthesis and degradation, and the balance between them determines whether you have a collagen deficiency.2
Collagen’s significance in maintaining healthy skin has been known for decades. Women have long gone to dermatologists to have collagen injected under their skin. This treatment, first performed in 1982, augments the skin’s natural network of collagen in areas where it has become depleted, immediately removing fine lines and wrinkles, and temporarily restoring a smoother, softer, and more youthful appearance to their skin.
There is no question that these injections are effective. As with natural collagen, however, the injected supply diminishes, so continued treatments are required. This entails substantial financial expenditures that over time can easily add up to thousands of dollars. There is also the pain associated with the injections after the anesthetic wears off. And, of course, most people do not want to be pricked with needles, especially around their eyes, or be inconvenienced by a dermatologist’s waiting room.
As news about the success of collagen injections spread, many cosmetics companies rushed to take advantage of the commercial opportunity. They introduced collagen creams and advertised that their creams could produce anti-aging effects similar to those of injections. Regrettably, collagen molecules are too large to pass through the upper layer of the skin on their own, so the only benefit of the creams was to moisturize the surface of the skin, leaving unchanged the fundamental issue of declining collagen levels in the underlying layers. The regular use of vitamin C-fortified creams facilitates collagen synthesis beneath the skin,3-5 but the age-related degradation of collagen can overwhelm the ability of vitamin C to generate new collagen.
Until recently, little else could be done. Botox® injections are able to improve the worry lines that occur on the upper face when frowning and squinting. The injections are also effective for diminishing crow’s feet and forehead lines. Once again, however, the issue of pain and needle pricks presents itself. Also, Botox® is a toxin that works by paralyzing the small muscles involved in facial expressions. As a result, the lines may disappear, but there can be a diminished expressiveness of the face. And, of course, the injections only last a few months, requiring continued hassle and expense to maintain the improvement.
First Transdermal Collagen Delivery System
A few months ago, the inventors of a new transdermal collagen-delivery system approached the Life Extension Buyers Club and suggested that the product be offered to Foundation members. This patent-pending delivery system enables very large molecules such as collagen to pass through the upper layer of the skin. This allows the collagen to be delivered directly to the third layer of the epidermis—a feat achieved previously only by injection. The inventors presented several scientific studies to the Life Extension staff and showed stunning before-and-after photographs demonstrating this liquid’s efficacy. Finally, it seemed, there was a topical liquid that produced many of the effects of injections without the pain and huge expense.
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While the specific structure of this delivery system is a closely guarded secret until the patent is issued, Life Extension has learned that it involves a supersaturated formulation with a unique releasing component that incorporates dissolving polymers. Researchers have recently developed models for controlling drug delivery that have enabled them to understand the physics of drug release from polymers.6 This has permitted scientists to deliver beneath the skin substances such as collagen that could not be effectively transported there before.
In addition, these scientists have produced a way to supersaturate the liquid formulation in a way that further enhances skin permeation.7 They have found a way to maintain the concentration of a substance at supersaturated levels, which enhances the driving force for future transdermal drug delivery by increasing penetration through the skin layer. While collagen is not a drug, getting it to where it is needed most could easily produce drug-like effects.
Studies Confirm the System’s Efficacy
The new transdermal collagen liquid is called Hydroderm®. It consists mainly of type I marine collagen, though it contains small amounts of 29 other nutrients that contribute to its effectiveness, including vitamins, minerals, and hydrating proteins.
In the first study to demonstrate the product’s efficacy, scientists tested the ability of their new delivery system to penetrate the third layer of the epidermis. They applied Hydroderm® to human cadaver skin and a cellulose acetate skin model following the instructions on the product insert. Penetration studies were performed in a diffusion chamber and the results were recorded at 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and an hour later. The researchers found that 40% of the Hydroderm® dose penetrated the upper three layers of the epidermis within 10 minutes. Penetration rates increased to 60% after 20 minutes, 75% after 30 minutes, and 95% after an hour. Therefore, virtually all of the Hydroderm® made it to the desired location. Electro-phoresis and immuno-precipitation analyses confirmed that the product molecule was intact after skin penetration.
Scientists then performed a study to determine the benefits of Hydroderm® on live human subjects. Five volunteers ranging in age from 25 to 88 had their wrinkle status determined based on micrometer readings and digital photography. They then applied the liquid to half of their faces for 21 days. The results were impressive. As expected, the two volunteers in their twenties showed the least benefit due to the still-substantial amounts of natural collagen in their skin. Even including those two subjects, however, the total average reduction in wrinkle measurement was 17.4% around the eyes and 15.2% on the temporal cheek. Although there was less improvement in the chin and mouth areas (9.8% and 9.1%, respectively), the overall effectiveness of the product on the entire facial region was a dramatic 10.3%. The only side effect was a slight burning sensation for three to five minutes after the product was applied. This sensation was temporary, however, and no longer occurred by the end of the second week. According to the researchers, the product “softened the facial skin” of the volunteers and “induced a clearer facial appearance.” Considering how many years it took to develop those wrinkles, a 10% reduction in three weeks is great news indeed.
While the results of these two studies are impressive, we at Life Extension have learned to be skeptical of what can turn out to be hyped claims. Therefore, we asked for samples to try on people that we know personally. The initial results have been encouraging. One woman who regularly used Botox® injections stated that Hydroderm® worked just as well. We then requested more samples so we could conduct our own clinical study and ascertain whether the product was really effective. We gave 10 people of various ages a jar of this transdermal collagen liquid and instructed them to use it on only one side of the face for 30 days. The results in some of the study participants were significant. There were visible age-reversing effects, including a reduction in fine lines, diminished bags under the eye, and removal of irregular pigmentation.
One older study participant could not wait for the clinical trial to finish, as she looked somewhat disfigured because one side of her fact looked younger than the other. Younger volunteers, on the other hand, did not notice a significant improvement. Most of the participants, however, were extremely satisfied with the product and eagerly awaited the completion of the study so they could use Hydroderm® on the other side of their faces as well.
In line with its commitment to vigorous research, Life Extension will conduct another clinical study on Hydroderm® in the near future. This time, however, it will be restricted to older women with visible signs of skin aging. The conclusions of this research will, of course, be included in a future issue of this magazine. In the meantime, we are offering this product so that Life Extension members can take advantage of its benefits at the earliest possible time.