Sun and age spots? How to treat them with natural cosmetics
Dr. Riccardo Matera
Sun and age skin spots are an unpleasant beauty problem featured by localized and uneven dark color distribution. The appear on face, hands and back, increases with the passing of years, and they are frequently correlated to wrong solar exposure. Such aesthetic conditions are often hidden by excessive and covering make-up, especially when spots appear on face.
How to act on skin spots?
The correct prevention of sun-spots with high protection sunscreens, remains a good habit to follow, but it does not fully prevent age spots’ appearance, which become much more evident as time goes by. Moreover, solar protection helps only prevent formation of new spots, but it is useless for treating the already formed spots.
The complex phenomenon characterized by uneven color distribution with localized or diffuse pigmentation is generally known as hyperpigmentation: the overexpressed melanin concentrates in tiny areas of our skin, which become much more noticeable after intense UV rays exposure at the seaside or in a sunbed.Some topical remedies – prescribed by dermatologists- have been used in the past for important hyperpigmentation disorders: were a dermatological formulation with hydroquinone and retinoids, although effective, they were endowed with relevant toxicity, limited tolerability and harmful effects.
Some topical remedies – prescribed by dermatologists- have been used in the past for important hyperpigmentation disorders: were a dermatological formulation with hydroquinone and retinoids, although effective, they were endowed with relevant toxicity, limited tolerability and harmful effects.
Lighten skin spots with natural cosmetics
With a natural cosmetics could treat skin spots with a variety of successful lightening actives.
Skin whitening cosmetics contain functional ingredients that inhibit melanin biosynthesis through different mechanisms, among which there are tyrosinase inhibitors (i.e. arbutin and kojic acid) and inhibitors of melanin transfer to keratinocytes.
Challenging research of new natural whitening phyto-ingredients allowed to evaluate several botanical extracts endowed with lightning activities for solar and age spots, in order to obtain active, effective and better tolerated formulations. The most used agents for depigmentation cosmetics are Inhibitors of tyrosinase, the key enzyme in melanin biosynthesis. Among the most interesting botanical sources for its lightening potential there is a Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and in particular a component named Glabridin, which showed to be is the most potent inhibitor of tyrosinase known so far.In designing Perla di Luna®, as our innovative multi-level whitening cream, we chose Glabridin as principal functional active with lightning action, combined to Melinjo extract (Gnetum gnemon): both ingredient inhibit tyrosinase directly. Moreover, the extract of Artocarpus heterophyllus (Jackfruit) and Vitamin B3 inhibit melanin transfer to keratinocytes, tackling skin hyperpigmentation. Retinol (Vitamin A), Willow and Cumin extracts with the synergic action of the essential oils favor the renewal of epidermis (cellular turnover) and natural skin exfoliation, helping remove dark spots. We combined different precious elements of Nature to counteract hyperpigmentation in a combined and synergic way, respecting physiology and skin health.
The age spots do not come alone, but normally go along with other “signs of aging”, formulation research of Perla di Luna® was focused on significant anti-age activity, taking advantage of the longstanding BeC experience and tradition in the field, with the overall activities was strengthened by key essential oils. The extract of Aloe juice, Hyaluronic acid, unsaponifiable fraction of Olive, Vitamins E and C, Magnolia and Ribose were added to afford deep moisturizing activity and anti-age, have anti free-radicals, increases skin tone and elasticity and reduce skin wrinkle in only 2 weeks.
Hydroquinone, that acts by means of a severe oxidative mechanism, it is not authorised in Europe since 15 years ago, for harmful effects following prolonged use. Other actives have been evaluated for their whitening activity, but resulted in harsh effects connected to inhibiting pigmentation, with the final result of melanocytes’ death (cellular apoptosis = cell suicide).
Cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase and the inflammatory process
Cyclooxygenase and lipooxygenase are the two families of enzymes that are commonly involved in the inflammatory process, through a complex of reactions which is called arachidonic acid cascade. This complex of reactions develops as follows: a first enzyme, a phospholipase cleaves the phospholipids of biological membranes, releasing arachidonic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid with 20 carbon atoms (eicosa-5Z,8Z,11Z,14Z-tetraenoic acid ; C20:4; ω-6). The arachidonic acid is then transformed by two parallel enzymatic pathways, that is, by two families of enzymes: the cyclooxygenase which transforms it into prostaglandins and thromboxanes and the lipooxygenase which transforms it into hydroperoxides which in turn transform into leukotrienes .
There are two cyclooxygenase isoforms indicated with type 1 and type 2, briefly COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 is the enzyme present in most cells (except red blood cells), and is constitutive, that is, it is always present. COX-2 is an inducible cyclooxygenase isoform: it is constitutively present in some organs such as brain, liver, kidney, stomach, heart and vascular system, while it can be induced (i.e. developed if necessary) following inflammatory stimuli on the skin, white blood cells and muscles.
There are various types of lipooxygenase that lead to different products, the most important in the inflammatory process is 5-lipooxygenase, 5-LOX.
Prostaglandins, Thromboxanes, and Leukotrienes
Prostaglandins, Thromboxanes, and Leukotrienes are chemical messengers or mediators, that is, molecules that bring a message to specific cells and activate or deactivate metabolic responses in these cells. They, therefore, have a function similar to hormones, only that, unlike what hormones do, the chemical message is carried only at a short distance, that is, only to the cells that are in the vicinity of the place where the mediators were produced. There are different prostaglandins, different thromboxanes and different leukotrienes that carry specific messages. In many cases these act as mediators of the inflammatory process , therefore they trigger all the events that are involved in inflammation:
– vasodilation with consequent blood supply (redness),
– increased capillary permeability with consequent fluid exudation (swelling or edema),
– stimulation of nociceptive nerve signals (pain),
– on-site recall of immune system cells that attack a possible invader (chemotactic action)
– activation of the biosynthesis of fibrous tissue to strengthen or repair the affected part (even if there is no need)
– generations of free radicals that can chemically destroy an invader (but also damage our tissues, i.e. they just “shoot in the middle”).
Prostaglandins and thromboxanes, however, also play important physiological roles in normal conditions, i.e. in the absence of inflammation. For example, they regulate the secretion of mucus that protects the walls of the stomach, they regulate the biosynthesis of cartilages and synovial fluid in the joints, they regulate vasodilation, hence the correct flow of blood in the various local districts, and more.
Triglycerides are the main components of most oils and fats. These are heavy, non-volatile and little polar molecules, insoluble in water, made up of glycerol (or glycerin) esterified with three molecules of fatty acids: therefore, it is a tri-ester of glycerin, from which the name derives. Each fatty acid contains 8 to 22 carbon atoms (commonly 16 to 18) and can be saturated, mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated. The size of the fatty acids and their saturation determines the physical and sensorial properties of the triglycerides, which can appear as oils (liquids at room temperature) or fats (solid or semi-solid) and can have greater or less greasiness and smoothness on the skin. Unsaturated triglycerides or with shorter fatty acids are more fluid and have greater flowability.
Fatty acids (saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated)
The name fatty acids is commonly used to indicate those organic acids that are found in the composition of lipids, that is, in animal and vegetable oils and fats, both in the free form and in the form of esters with glycerol (e.g. in triglycerides), or they are esterified with “fatty” alcohols, that is, long chain alcohols, to form waxes. Fatty acids are carboxylic acids (formula R-COOH) which have a long carbon chain (R), unlike common organic acids such as acetic acid and propionic acid, which have 2 or 3 carbon atoms in total, respectively. Fatty acids are defined as saturatedif they do not have double carbon-carbon bonds, (called “unsaturations”), they are defined mono-unsaturated if they have only one, they are defined mono-unsaturatedpoly-unsaturated if they have two or more double bonds (see figure). The term omega-3 (ω-3) or omega-6 (ω-3), refers to the position of the first double bond starting from the bottom of the chain of carbon atoms: if the first double bond is encountered after 3 carbon atoms the fatty acid is classified as omega-3 , if after six carbon atoms omega-6 , as shown in the figure. The most common saturated fatty acids are palmitic acid (16 carbon atoms and no double bond, C16: 0) and stearic acid (18 carbon atoms, 18: 0), the most common mono-unsaturated is the oleic acid, typical of olive oil (18 carbon atoms and 1 double bond in position 9, C18: 1; ω-9), while the most common poly-unsaturated are linoleic acid and linolenic acid, progenitors respectively omega-6 and omega-3 (see figure).
Terpenes and terpenoids
Terpenes or terpenoids are a large family of natural molecules, typically containing 10 to 30 carbon atoms, which are biosynthesized from a common “brick”, isopentenyl pyrophosphate (IPP), containing 5 carbon atoms (see figure). The discovery that the repetitive brick consists of 5 carbon atoms is relatively recent, while it was once assumed that the entire family was created by repeating a brick of 10 carbon atoms, which was called “terpene”. Therefore, the molecules with 10 carbon atoms (such as limonene, see figure) were called mono-terpenes, i.e. composed of a single brick, diterpenes those with 20 carbon atoms (e.g. the cafestol that gives the aroma to the coffee), triterpenes those with 30 carbon atoms (e.g. beta-carotene). Since molecules made from 15 carbon atoms were also found (such as bisabolol), it was thought they contained a terpene and a half, and were called sesquiterpenes (from the Latin semis = half + atque = and). Today it is known that the repetitive unit is composed of 5 carbon atoms, therefore it is easy to understand how mono-terpenes contain two (see figure), sesquiterpenes three, diterpenes four, triterpenes six.