Cosmetics: One Ingredient, Two Ways: Topical and Ingestible

October 8, 2010



Pycnogenol is the branded name for an extract sourced from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. It is supplied exclusively by Natural Health Science (Hoboken, NJ) in North America, and by Horphag Research (Geneva), the exclusive worldwide supplier of the ingredient. Pine bark extract is regarded as a powerful antioxidant, containing highly concentrated amounts of bioflavonoids and active compounds.

Pycnogenol has been subject to extensive clinical and pharmacologic studies over the past 40 years, according to Horphag Research. It has been used in a variety of nutritional products and is widely used in beauty drinks in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Now, Pycnogenol is being seen more often in topical beauty products such as Derma-e (a natural personal care brand) and Perricone MD’s Pigment Correct line, which contains both a supplement and a cream.

When taken orally, Pycnogenol affects the body’s vascular system, improving the skin’s natural detox process by enabling the faster exchange of toxins with oxygen and nutrients. Pycnogenol also binds to collagen and elastin proteins in the body, inhibiting their degradation by fighting free radicals. (Free radicals can destroy healthy skin cells and increase the rate of cell aging.)

“Unlike most other organs, the skin’s dermis layer is constantly regenerating as old cells in the epidermis are shed and replaced by new ones,” explains Frank Schonlau, PhD, Horphag’s director of scientific communications.

“This continuous cell division requires nutritional components for generating new skin cells. A lack of these nutrients will immediately result in a noticeable roughness on the skin’s surface. Active ingredients such as those in Pycnogenol that improve the performance of the vascular system and blood microcirculation bring visible benefits to the dermis,” he says.

When used in a topical formulation, Pycnogenol provides substantial anti-inflammatory and photoaging effects. It also supports renewal of collagen fibers, promoting firmness and elasticity, according to Schonlau.

“The topical supply cannot compensate, however, for a suboptimal ‘supply chain’ of nutrients from within,” says Schonlau. “Only a healthy level of microcirculation will improve the look of your skin, so it is important for a topical product to be used with an ingestible.”

Testing has shown Pycnogenol’s measurable effect on the body. Within half an hour after consumption of a single dose, improved vasodilation was evident in test subjects, says the firm. Microvessels at the root of the fingernails were dilated, and sensors registered increased levels of oxygen in the blood.


BioCell Collagen II

In 2007, BioCell Technology created a cosmetic-grade, water-soluble version of its BioCell Collagen II ingredient. BioCell Collagen II CG-WS is a water-based solution that can be incorporated in creams, lotions, and serums.

As a dietary ingredient, BioCell Collagen II has been sold by BioCell Technology since 1997 as a powder that can be incorporated in capsules, tablets, and soft-gel formulations. A taste-free version can also be used in liquid products. The proprietary ingredient is featured in the functional beverage supplement Jusuru Life Blend, which launched in 2009 and claims to promote healthy aging, active joints, and younger-looking skin.

The ingestible and topical BioCell Collagen II formulations are supposed to work synergistically when taken as a two-part regimen. Benefits include delaying or minimizing the effects of both natural and UV-mediated skin aging by preventing dehydration, dermal shrinkage, and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

BioCell Collagen II CG-WS contains hydrolyzed collagen peptides, depolymerized chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid in a naturally occurring matrix, created by a patented process.

“This natural matrix of functionally essential components replenishes age-related loss of the skin dermal matrix, helping regain volume, turgidity, and suppleness,” says Joosang Park, PhD, BioCell’s vice president of scientific affairs. “Many independent studies have shown that hydrolyzed collagen peptides help maintain the integrity of the skin’s dermal collagen network, which is critical in maintaining the tensile strength of the skin.”

The supplier’s own studies have shown that BioCell Collagen II inhibits hyaluronidase—the enzyme that breaks down hyaluronic acid from the skin as well as from the joints. Hyaluronic acid is important because it helps the skin maintain moisture levels; however, it breaks down as we age, causing the skin to lose firmness and elasticity, which leads to wrinkles.

According to the supplier, studies have shown that when ingested, the body effectively absorbs the hyaluronic acid in BioCell Collagen II. “The concentration of hyaluronic acid in the body increases its concentration in the blood by about sixtyfold,” says Park.


Sanguisorba officinalis

Sanguisorba officinalisextract is a popular ingredient widely used in beauty products in Japan. In the United States, brands such as Dermafina and SkinCeuticals have used it in skin care products.

The source of the extract is the Sanguisorba officinalisplant, which is widely used throughout Asia. Its dried roots have been used to treat burns, internal hemorrhages, and inflammation. Studies done in Korea have shown that it also helps many types of allergic skin diseases, including urticaria, eczema, and allergic dermatitis.

Draco Natural Products (San Jose, CA) introduced Sanguisorba officinalisextract this year for use in topical formulations, to provide moisturizing and antiwrinkle benefits. “It’s very likely that this extract would have ingestible beauty benefits as well, since it is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that could reduce irritation and inflammation that causes wrinkles and damage, says Brien Quirk, Draco’s director of research and development.

There are no clinical studies that prove sanguisorba’s benefits to the skin when ingested, but herbal practitioners agree that its astringent qualities may tonify internal tissues, says Draco.

Studies do verify the extract’s effectiveness when used topically, says the company. When ziyuglycoside I is isolated from Sanguisorba officinalisroot extract, testing showed it could be used as an active ingredient in cosmetic products. Sanguisorba reduces the enzyme elastase, which breaks down elastin and collagen elasticity to help reduce or prevent wrinkle formation.

“After testing, there was a noticeable benefit with the use of the botanical versus the control in the Korean study,” says Quirk. The extract’s antiwrinkle effect on the skin was visually evaluated during studies on volunteers that had been using it for 12 weeks. Testing showed very high levels of free radical scavenging and elastase inhibition activity, showing that the extract had a significant inhibitory effect against aging.