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Anti-pollution protection enhances skin appearance and sensation
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Facing up to pollution: The need for relevant skin care

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By 2050, 70% of the world’s 6.4bn people will be living in cities and potentially exposed to greater levels of environmental pollution than ever before. As our biggest organ and the most important barrier between our internal selves and the world, skin is in the first line of defense when it comes to anti-pollution protection. But are consumers aware of this?


The gap between knowledge and action

Currently, Australia and Sweden are at the forefront when it comes to anti-pollution skin care, despite their relatively low pollution levels.

Yet in China, which has felt the strongest impact to date from air pollution, just 17% of consumers think anti-pollution skin care is “very useful” and only 28% have bought anti-pollution skin care, according to Mintel Report Anti-Pollution Beauty 2016. These statistics come as something of a surprise considering 61% of consumers report feeling “very concerned” about particulate matter in the atmosphere, and many Chinese consumers believe pollution has a significant effect on their skin, making it dull and dehydrated.

Again, in India, with the second highest rate of pollution-related deaths, anti-pollution personal care products account for only 2% of the market. This may be partly because most local consumers can only access affordable products, despite a growing middle class. 

Spread the word, share the solutions

It’s clear the beauty industry needs to reach out to people in regions most affected by environmental pollution – including those underrepresented in the global beauty market, like the African countries – with information and solutions. The internet makes this easier than ever before, and offers novel approaches. Air quality apps already offer consumers a way to monitor pollution levels. So why not have wearable monitors that remind people to top up their protection?

The message that skin needs protection against the harmful effects of pollution also has the potential to reach people more interested in the condition of their skin than its appearance. Hence anti-pollution products with skin health claims may appeal to the 36% of men and 28% of women who are dissatisfied with their skin’s condition. Young men in particular are likely to be receptive to such a message.

However, if improved skin protection is to reach people who would not normally prioritize skin care, it has to make a persuasive argument for its benefits – and this is where we need strong scientific evidence for claim substantiation.

Substantiating anti-pollution claims

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

DSM was already analyzing the effects on the skin of one of these pollutants, ozone, nearly 20 years ago. Following up on this early success, DSM now has in place a program of testing for the protective effects of its skin actives against several specific pollutants, including particulate matter, benz(a)pyrene (BaP) and ozone.

  • A suspension of particulate matter prepared from Standard Reference Material® 1649b (“Urban Dust”) from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology was used to test four DSM actives (ALPAFLOR®​ EDELWEISS, PEPHA®​-TIGHT, REGU®​-FADE, and PREREGEN®​ PF) for their protective effects. Human epidermal keratinocytes exposed to the urban dust showed reduced cell viability and dust-induced inflammation. Treatment with the DSM actives was shown to protect against this loss of viability and also reduced inflammation markers IL-8 and PGE2.
  • BaP is a pollutant found in combustion processes, e.g. industrial processes, car exhausts and cigarette smoke. At DSM, 8-oxo-dG antibodies were used to detect damage to DNA resulting from exposure to BaP in a 3D skin model. An extract of watermelon fruit Citrullus lanatus​ (PEPHA®​-PROTECT from DSM) was applied to the surface of the model before it was exposed to BaP. A significant decrease of 8-oxo-dG was found after treatment with PEPHA®​-PROTECT in varying concentrations, indicating that the active has a strong protective effect with regard to DNA.
  • In-vitro​ testing revealed that an aqueous complex of soya peptides, yeast-derived superoxide dismutase and a polysaccharide (PREREGEN®​ PF) had a protective effect on human epidermal keratinocytes. Testing for cell viability after exposure to a high dose of ozone revealed that at 2% the active provided 41% protection.

Epigenetic markers enable detection of pollution-induced skin stress

In another study with BaP, DSM scientists investigated the protective effects of resveratrol (REGU®​-FADE) in-vitro​ using a specific microRNA, miR-450b-5p, as an epigenetic marker. miR-450b-5p is associated with cellular senescence in skin aging and has been linked to environmentally stressed changes. The test material demonstrated epigenetic modulation (miRNA) of BaP-induced stress on keratinocytes.

So what is epigenetic modulation?

As an organism goes through life, sensitive chemical reactions activate and deactivate parts of the genome without altering DNA. Epigenetics is the study of these chemical reactions, the subsequent gene regulation and the factors that influence them.

Stress, diet and toxins can all influence gene expression, and in-vitro​ investigations have now identified several classes of environmental chemicals that modify epigenetic marks, including air pollutants (particulate matter, black carbon and benzene).

At DSM scientists are harnessing their expertise in epigenetics to research the effects of pollutants on skin parameters and identify products with the greatest potential to improve skin barrier resilience and offer targeted protection.

Wanted – a holistic approach to anti-pollution protection

Any solution aimed at alleviating the effects of pollution must address skin sensation as well as appearance. Moreover, faced with an environment experienced as harsh and unnatural, consumers derive solace and support from beauty products that re-connect them with nature. At the same time, tech-savvy consumers know how to check claims for skin ingredients, whether natural or not, and expect them to be substantiated by clear scientific evidence.

Five Actives – Five Actions, a concept recently revealed by DSM’s Personal Care business unit, ticks all the boxes. The concept comprises five actives selected from the company’s portfolio of clinically tested skin care ingredients with a known mode of action. These have now been re-examined for their ability to improve skin comfort, protection, color, quality and perfection in the context of growing concerns about pollution.

Five Actives – Five Actions:

  • ALPAFLOR®​ EDELWEISS​, as its name suggests, is an extract of Edelweiss, from a specially developed strain, Leontopodium alpinum​ ‘Helvetia’, optimized for cosmetic performance. ALPAFLOR®​ EDELWEISS strengthens the epidermal barrier and reduces skin sensitivity in vivo​. The bioactive has organic certification.
  • PEPHA®​-TIGHT​ supports repair and maintenance of the extra-cellular membrane for superior skin firming effect in vivo​. This extract of the microalgae Nannochloropsis occulata​ combined with a polysaccharide actively tightens and firms skin instantly and in the long term.
  • PEPHA®​-PROTECT​ is a highly purified extract of the watermelon fruit Citrullus lanatus​. It has been shown in-vitro​ to protect DNA and reinforce the skin’s defense system in vivo​. 
  • REGU®​-FADE​ consists of nature-identical, pure resveratrol. This high-performing and fast-acting antioxidant targets melanosomes for a brighter, more even skin tone.
  • PREREGEN®​ PF​ is a combination of soybean peptides and superoxide dismutase with free radical neutralizing, elastase-inhibiting properties and anti-ozone activity. It visibly reduces facial lines and wrinkles.

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