Unique Actives

A closer look at the science behind some of the latest and best-known proprietary skincare ingredients.
Unique Actives

The more we learn about the science behind skin health, the better able we are to develop topical ingredients and devices that can return skin to a healthy state. In the past decades, formulators have sought to address skin aging at the cellular level with cosmeceutical formulations that address common concerns and help to maintain the appearance of youthful skin. Some of the ingredients are well known and widely used, such as retinols and vitamins C and E; but each year new actives appear, promising better outcomes and innovative mechanisms of action. We spoke with five top skincare companies to learn more about the science behind their most popular proprietary actives developed to combat the signs of aging and promote skin health.

NeoGlucosamine, NeoStrata

All products in NeoStrata’s Skin Active and Refine lines feature the company’s n-acetyl glucosamine, an amino sugar the brand has trademarked NeoGlucosamine.

“We use n-acetyl glucosamine because it is one of the components of skin’s own natural hyaluronic acid (HA). Studies have shown that adding it to skin cells increases the production of HA in vitro,” says Barbara Green, VP of clinical research at NeoStrata. “Our goal is to help the skin produce its own components to help keep it looking youthful. When we formulate with NeoGlucosamine, the increase in the amount of HA hydrates and volumizes the skin’s natural matrix.”

In addition to plumping skin, other key benefits include gentle exfoliation and the evening out of skin tone. “NeoGlucosamine has been shown to help reduce the production of melanin by inhibiting glycosylation of tyrosinase,” says Green. “We consider it to be a non-acid exfoliant as well, so exfoliating those darker spots also diminishes the appearance of uneven pigmentation.”

Peter Konish, senior director of product innovation at NeoStrata, points out that because it is an amino sugar, the company’s formulators have more freedom than they would if they were formulating an acid-based product. “NeoGlucosamine gives us more flexibility to formulate products at a higher pH—closer to the natural pH of the skin—while still maintaining all of the antiaging benefits that you would traditionally see with our alpha hydroxy acids,” he says. “Because of this, we are able to develop more diverse products for multiple concerns as well as strategic targeted-treatment products.”

Most recently, the company has discovered that NeoGlucosamine and retinol complement each other in formulation. “We have found them to be very synergistic—NeoGlucosamine helps stabilize the retinol,” says Konish.

Cell Protection Protein, LIFTLAB

Cell Protection Protein (CPP) was originally investigated as an additive to preserve human organs for transplantation by freezing them. In nature, CPP is an “antifreeze protein that depresses the freezing point of water, so that fish and other animals and insects can survive cold conditions without their blood freezing,” says Elliot Entis, founder and CEO of LIFTLAB, which uses CPP in its skincare formulations.

CPP works by attaching itself to the cell membrane and “acting as a blanket” to attract moisture. “These proteins also act as regulators—they prevent chemical imbalances from occurring as temperatures fluctuate higher and lower,” Entis explains. “That’s really critical because things in the body cool at different rates, which can cause osmotic shock and disrupt the delicate balance of a cell.”

Translated to skin cells, the company found that CPP reduces the amount of erythema by 95% when skin is exposed to UVA/UVB rays in high, sunburn-causing doses, and on a larger scale, it enhances the skin’s ability to repair itself. DNA analysis revealed that CPP also increases the expression of 41 different skin-related proteins associated with skin regeneration and antioxidant protection—all of which are approximately doubled in output, notes Entis.

Photo copyright Getty Images.