Lab test 'revolution' predicted for anti-ageing skin creams

A revolution in the marketing of anti-ageing skin creams based on scientific evaluation of their effects was predicted yesterday by leading dermatologists.

Results of the first double blind randomised controlled trial of a skin-care product are awaited and could trigger a flood of similar trials as companies compete for domination of the multimillion-pound market, the experts said.

The race to develop a scientifically proven over-the-counter product with comparable anti-ageing effects to retinoic acid, the remedy for sun-damaged skin developed as a treatment for acne more than 30 years ago, heralded a new era in the approach to skin-care products, they said.

Retinoic acid causes side effects of redness, dryness and irritation in about 1 per cent of users and is only available on prescription. Over-the-counter versions contain very small amounts of the agent and are of limited effectiveness.

The clinical trial of the Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect beauty serum, which is claimed to have significant anti-ageing properties, was launched after initial laboratory tests showed it worked better than more expensive creams in repairing skin damaged by the effects of the sun and ageing.

After the laboratory tests were shown last year on the BBC TV Horizon programme, they triggered a run on the Boots cream and near-riots when stocks ran out, proving the marketing power of hard science. Boots sold almost six million 30ml tubes of the beauty serum at £16.75 each in the nine months after the programme. Yesterday, Chris Griffiths, professor of dermatology at the University of Manchester, who tested the cream for Horizon and is leading the clinical trial, was astonished by the response. "It showed how science is something the public latch on to," he said, at a briefing organised by the Science Media Centre.

The cream contains white lupin and retinyl parmitate, a derivative of retinol (Vitamin A) which was shown 30 years ago to reduce brown spots and wrinkling associated with ageing. Professor Griffiths said there had been a "lot of conjecture" about which of the two ingredients accounted for the effects in the laboratory tests, which showed the cream stimulated production of fibrillin.

Fibrillin is essential to the structure of the skin, in the same way tent-pegs hold a groundsheet smooth, but it is destroyed by the effects of the sun and ageing, he said. Although the laboratory tests suggested the Boots cream had a positive effect on fibrillin, there was no way of knowing if it improved appearance until the results of the clinical trial were revealed. "It may do absolutely nothing," he said.

Whatever the outcome, the pressure for more scientific evaluation of skin cream manufacturer's claims was irresistible, said Richard Weller, consultant dermatologist at the University of Edinburgh.

The market for "cosmaceuticals" – cosmetics sold on the basis of their supposed scientific effects – has doubled in the past five years to £100m. But there was little trial evidence to prove their effects, Dr Weller said.

"There are half a dozen major companies operating in the same market with essentially similar products. If one took the risk [of running trials] and it paid off, you would have the killer company. It would dominate the market. It's a high-risk strategy but I think one of them will do it."

What restrained the companies was the fear that, if their products proved too effective in scientific trials they could be classed as medicines, restricting their sale over the counter and making them available only on prescription, like retinoic acid. The battle then would be with the regulators over the definition of the product. Dr Weller said: "If I ran a cosmetics company I would say, let's do it."

Best seller

6,000,000: Number of 30ml tubes of Boots No 7 Protect and Perfect sold in nine months after favourable lab test

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

    £120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore