The holidays coincided with a blitzkrieg of advertising for L’Oreal’s Youth Code (trial set $29.95). Supposedly 10 years in the L’Oreal labs before perfecting something called Pro-Gen technology. So what’s that all about? Let’s see if we can crack the code on Youth Code.

Pro-Gen technology is an ingredient called bifida ferment lysate. And this is a probiotic bacteria. Probiotics are very fashionable right now – in food (get the low down on Truth In Slimming)  as well as cosmetics. The problem is (as I mentioned in my post on Clinique’s Redness Solutions) that there isn’t much research to back up probiotic use. A key difficulty is that the human body is home to some 400-500 types of microbes. In such a diverse environment, it is tricky finding the right bacteria for the right job.  And some probiotic strains don’t do anything at all. Some might do harm, according a trial on a mixture of six probiotic bacteria that increased the death rate of some patients.

Nontheless, in 2005, a study showed that probiotics could prevent and manage atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children. But at the same time, it was cautioned that any beneficial effect was usually low, a strong placebo effect often occurs; and more research was needed. More positively and recently, researchers concluded that Bifidobacterium longum lysate could be helpful for “reactive skin” that is sensitive to physical (heat, cold, wind) or chemical (topically applied products) stimuli.

It is just as well then that L’Oreal has rounded out its Youth Code Serum ($24.99) some other ingredients with a better pedigree. Most notable is the power peptide combo Matrixyl 3000 (listed as palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7). Also impressive is salicyloyl phytosphingosine, which according to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, is based on natural lipids and when topically applied to the face, reduces the depth of wrinkles and improves skin texture in photoaged skin. Other helpful ingredients are anti-inflammatory adenosine and hydrating glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.

At this point Youth Code Serum is looking very good for a budget serum. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t stop there. One of the unwelcome stalwarts of the L’Oreal laboratory is Hepes (or hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid). You can also find it in Jane Fonda fronted L’Oreal’s Age Perfect and it carries all sorts of warnings against contact with the skin. Peg-20 should not be used on broken/damaged skin and other irritants include N-hydroxysuccinimide, sodium benzoate and phenoxyethanol.

You would need to be a big believer in bifida ferment to buy The Youth Code Moisturizer ($24.99) as that (apart from a smattering of aldenine and caffeine) is all there is to it. Well, apart from the silicones, wax and assorted irritants.

Ingredients in L’Oreal Youth Code Serum

Aqua/Water, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Dimenthicone, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Peg-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquisterate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Salicyloyl Phytosphingosine, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Adenosine, Ammonium Polyacryldimethyltauramide, Disodium Edta, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, N-Hydroxysuccinimide, Chrysin, Octyldodecanol, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Limonene, and Parfum.

Ingredients in L’Oreal Youth Code moisturizer

Aqua/Water, Glycerin, Isohexaclecane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Dimethicone, Alcohol Denat, Dipropylene Glycol, Synthetic Wax, PEG-10 Dimethicone / PEG–10/15 Crosspolymer, Dimethcione / Polyglycerin–3 Crosspolymer, Caffeine, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Sodium Hydroxide, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Adenosine, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Nylon–12, Limonene, Disodium Edta, Propylene Carbonate, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Caprylic / Capric Triglyceride, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polysilicone–8, Tocopheryl Acetate, Methylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum / Fragrance, Sodium Benzoate (FL B39292/1).