This case is about a new skincare brand created in Spain by a plastic surgeon who is telling Spaniards that it’s not necessary to go under the (his) knife to have a young face. All they need is his new line of skincare products.
What’s this all about? His theory is that skin ages because of the accumulation of a toxic protein, called “progerin” that causes all the symptoms of aging skin, including thin skin, wrinkles, non-uniform pigmentation, enlarged pores, etc. He then asserts that his new skincare products, containing an alga extract, plus two other plant extracts, can destroy this toxic protein and restore skin to its younger appearance and physiology.
The components of this story and the new skincare line are as follows:
1) a pinch of science (a protein)
2) forget about causation vs. correlation
3) a new 3-item “natural” complex that stretches the skin (three plant extracts with the magical power to destroy the toxic protein)
And voila! He will probably laugh all the way to the bank, for three months, when people will realize that they have fallen into the same old trap, again! The new brand will die, slowly. And faith in doctors and science will have decreased a bit more.
Let’s look at the elements of this story (or fairy tale).
1) The pinch of science
The protein, progerin, exists. This is the pinch of science that makes the whole thing credible to the public.
What is “progerin”? It does exist. This is a mutant protein, the faulty version of a very important protein. lamin A. Lamin A is present in the membrane that surrounds the nucleus of human cells. Lamin filaments are organized in three-dimensional nuclear lamin, which provides mechanical support for the nuclear envelope and protection for the genetic material in the nucleus. Lamin A must be an important protein because, when replaced by the mutant protein progerin, the result is progeria, a devastating disease.
2) Causation vs. correlation
Mutant proteins are a fact of life. When we live long enough, many of our proteins will be present as mutants. The older we are, the more mutations we accumulate. For example, when a protein important for the control of cell division mutates, cancer may ensue. Progerin may appear as we age, but this doesn’t mean that progerin is causing skin aging. The way things are, we can say that skin aging is causing the appearance of progerin. UV radiation, redox stress, mitochondrial deterioration, life, are causing skin aging. The appearance of progerin is just one more manifestation.
3) The magic plant extracts complex
In this particular case, the “magic” complex has three main components
a) Alaria. Alaria is a brown alga and I love brown algae because they have some fantastic polysaccharides and pigments. This doesn’t make them into a magic elixir that will “cure” old skin. But, many polysaccharide or protein solutions applied to the skin will dry as a film, stretching the skin as they dry. And, there you are, your wrinkles will be iron as the film dries. No effect on progerin, but nobody would expect that.
b) Acacia. You can extract gum arabic from Acacia. Another polysaccharide that will dry as a film and stretch your skin.
c) Leontopodium. Porobably because it’s pretty and evokes long life, one of the species is the Edelweiss, used by the mountain people as a durable flower in dry bouquets.
And there you are! The trifecta used to create a new skincare line.
Let’s be clever here and make this Spanish doctor feel stupid: we at Skin Actives have ingredients that work. We do use brown algae and even Acacia, but we also have epidermal growth factor, nutrients, vitamins, antioxidant proteins, and a lot of other good stuff that works. We understand that skin aging is a complex process, and don’t try to “stupidify” it by blaming a toxic protein. For a complex process, we don’t look for magic, we search science for a complex solution.
Skoczyńska, A., Budzisz, E., Dana, A., & Rotsztejn, H. (2015). New look at the role of progerin in skin aging. Menopausal Review, 1, 53–58. doi:10.5114/pm.2015.49532
DISCLAIMER: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.