Miracle skin cream suffers loss of face

An expensive skin cream, hailed as a breakthrough in anti-ageing treatments and apparently backed by medical research, may be no more effective than cheap moisturisers, it was claimed yesterday.

The cream Servital, which costs pounds 75 for 50ml, was launched earlier this month with much publicity and, it was claimed, the apparent endorsement of Guy's Hospital in south-east London.

But the doctor at Guy's who carried out research on the cream has now distanced himself from the claims and accused the manufacturers, Syence, of misleading use of his data as a marketing tool.

Dr Stephen Young, a research scientist from the tissue viability unit at Guy's Hospital Medical School, said: "I feel embarrassed about the whole thing and this sort of publicity is not what the hospital and in particular the medical school would welcome. We would not endorse this or any other product."

The apparent support of Guy's for Syence's claims led to reports of "miracle breakthroughs" in some newspapers which would normally be wary of them. The Independent did not run the story after checking it out with dermatologists not involved in the research or the launch.

Dr Young told the BBC television consumer programme Watchdog: Face Value, that he had been conducting a trial on an new ultrasound machine which was able to measure minute changes in skin thickness. Sixty women took part in the trial, 40 used Servital and 20 just massaged their faces. The women using Servital showed an increase in skin thickness.

However, the trial did not compare the cream with any others. Face Value asked Dr Young to test three other creams which cost less than pounds 5; Glycerine and Rose Water, Oil of Ulay, and a Boots No7 Moisturiser. All thickened the skin measurably.

Guy's said yesterday that its involvement with Syence came when the hospital was seeking funding for its research programme, and that they had hoped to draw attention to the machine by carrying out the tests for a cosmetic company.

Dr Young said: "We were just a research team and we were totally focused on getting funds to carry on the research and to be able to get this prototype technology to the patientwhere it is needed."

Sean Campbell, managing director of Syence, told the BBC: "We wanted to have our product tested at an institution that was of repute to be able to do the right sort of tests.

"The machine that they have at Guy's is the only machine that is able to test without a biopsy, which is the cutting away of the skin. That's why we engaged the test. I don't feel we've tried to damage Guy's."