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How far the (no-collagen) collagen serum from Skin Actives has come in 20 years

The original name for this serum, 20 years ago, was “let’s make collagen.” It was soon shortened to “collagen serum” for convenience, but this serum never contained collagen, an insoluble protein that would settle at the bottom of the bottle and do nothing for your skin. From the get-go, the serum’s purpose was to push your skin to make its own collagen.  You can read all about skin collagen in my book, but in my blog post on collagen, you will find more than enough to understand why collagen has to be made inside your skin.

Skin Actives Scientific  Collagen serum, our #1 bestseller, started as a list of actives that DIYers (do it yourself aficionados)  could assemble to make a great serum. The objective was to stimulate the synthesis of macromolecules (proteins, carbohydrates, DNA, the whole shebang) in our skin and to protect the structure and function of skin’s proteins from aging and deterioration in general (newsletter February 2007, see below). Soon after, we started selling a serum with all those components, mixed in our lab and dispensed in small glass bottles with droppers.

From our June 2007 (16 years ago!) Newsletter

“Let’s Make Collagen” Serum

We will be adding a new prototype serum.
Our clients asked us to get everything that helps with synthesis and maintenance of collagen in a single serum. As you all know, I aim to please, so here it is. You will find nowhere else a serum like this one!

Distilled water, Seakelp (Lactobacillus/Kelp Ferment Filtrate) Bioferment, Sodium PCA, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), pomegranate extract, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Hyaluronic acid, L-Carnosine, Boswellia Serrata (Indian frankincense) Extract, Niacinamide, N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, Horse chestnut extract, Betulinic acid, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Epigallocatechin Gallate, sh-Oligopeptide-1 (Epidermal Growth Factor), Germaben II.

The tango “Volver” says, “20 years is nothing”. That’s not true. What did 20 years of development in Skin Actives do for our serum? The answer is in the ingredient list.

Age Defying collagen serum (2023)

Water, Seakelp (Lactobacillus/Kelp Ferment Filtrate) Bioferment, Glycerin, Sodium PCA, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Apocynin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Boswellia Serrata Extract, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, sr-Honey Bee Defensin-1, sh-Polypeptide-2 (thioredoxin), sh-Oligopeptide-1 (epidermal growth factor), sh-Polypeptide-77 (glutaredoxin), Superoxide Dismutase, Carnosine, N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine, Niacinamide, Betulinic Acid, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Epigallocatechin Gallate, Glutathione, Polysorbate 20, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid

What has changed? The serum “feels” much better and delivers actives more effectively to the skin. The botanical extracts (green tea, Boswellia, Centella) are now standardized to higher concentrations of the active chemicals. For example, epigallocatechin gallate is the active chemical in green tea and is now added in its practically pure form. Glycerin helps with water retention by the skin. Thioredoxin and glutathione help the other antioxidants in the serum to maintain the skin’s optimal redox state. We succumbed to internet-generated social pressure and replaced the old faithful Germaben II preservative, which contains parabens, to the more acceptable but still effective combination of Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid.

But we still have the “good ol’ actives in our collagen serum. In short (you can find out more in our glossary)

Betulinic acid stimulates collagen synthesis and inhibits the enzyme elastase to prevent the loss of elastic fibers responsible for skin suppleness.
Boswellia serrata extract promotes collagen synthesis and is also an elastase (protease) and hyaluronidase inhibitor, a life preserver for the dermal matrix.
L-carnosine: prevents cross-linking of collagen, one of the causes of wrinkles and loss of elasticity brought about by aging and exposure to UV (sunlight).
Centella asiatica extract stimulates scar maturation by increasing the synthesis of type I collagen.
Green tea EGCG is an antioxidant that has also been shown to prevent collagen glycation in the vascular system (not in the skin, but you never know….).
N-acetyl glucosamine, a component of hyaluronic acid, increases collagen synthesis. Hyaluronic acid: makes your skin collagen happy by preserving humidity. The components will be released, absorbed, and re-used to make hyaluronic acid and other polysaccharides within the skin.
Hydrolyzed collagen (collagen peptides) will supply your skin with amino acids that will be used to synthesize skin collagen.
Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate: an active, stable form of Vitamin C, essential for the finishing” of collagen synthesis (ascorbic acid is required by the enzyme that hydroxylates the amino acid proline after synthesizing the protein; scurvy is a syndrome of vitamin C deficiency and is related to defective collagen synthesis).

Sea kelp bioferment contains fucoidans, polysaccharides that have been shown to increase collagen synthesis, and all the nutrients the alga and fermentation contributes.

The changes: scientific advances put into action

The principle behind the serum design is unchanged: promote the synthesis of collagen by the skin and protect the structure and function of existing collagen (and other skin proteins). However, if you go through the ingredient list, you will find ingredients that were not available 20 (or 16) years ago. We had to make them available! But we didn’t “innovate” as such. We look into what nature makes available and resourced, made from scratch if necessary. It takes time to do that!

In the meantime, more scientific research has uncovered the benefits of some natural chemicals, like apocynin and honey bee defensin.  One of them, apocynin, had been known for very long, and it was a matter of purifying it. Another, like honey bee defensin, was made from scratch by our Skin Actives scientists. You can read about them in my blog posts.

In short, scientific and methodological advances have made it possible for Skin Actives scientists to bring to you sr-Honey Bee Defensin-1, sh-Polypeptide-2 (thioredoxin), sh-Oligopeptide-1 (epidermal growth factor), sh-Polypeptide-77 (glutaredoxin), Superoxide Dismutase. Not a small feat, considering that we bring these to you as bio-identical proteins that are practically pure and have the activities of the original, natural versions.

Then, we have our old friend, epidermal growth factor, which became a favorite ingredient almost from the start but (before Skin Actives even started) had decades of medical use and a Nobel Prize for its discoverer, Stanley Cohen.

I am very aware of the dangers of innovation, where novelty is an advertising objective without knowledge of the possible side effects of a chemical that didn’t exist in nature before the skincare industry dreamt of them. I prefer to use actives already in our bodies,  where that may not be at optimal concentrations anymore, so you can apply them to your skin in pleasant serums, creams or lotions to bring back health and beauty to your skin, scalp, hair, and nails.


Claims on this page have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.