Clarins recently launched its Super Restorative range, aimed squarely at 'maturing' women who are in the thick of the battle against wrinkles, saying that the key ingredient, isoflavones, is the new super anti-aging weapon. So what are isoflavones and is Clarins really on to something with Super Restorative?

The biggest source of isoflavones is soy. Isoflavones are good for you in all sorts of ways and there is a particular reason why they might be attractive for maturing women. Isoflavones have a chemical structure that is similar to estrogen (the hormone we women start to produce less of as we reach menopause). If the body's natural estrogen level drops, isoflavones can compensate by binding to the same receptors. The cosmetics industry is excited about extending use to topical products, although there are no chemical trials that show that a topical application reduces wrinkles.

Still it looks promising enough to take a closer look at Clarins Super Restorative. Clarins gets its isoflavones from a plant called pueraria lobata, more commonly called kudzu. A native of Japan, this plant is now rampant in North America (if you see trees covered with some invasive vine, it may well be kudzu). So if nothing else, Clarins is probably doing the Environmental Protection Agency a favor by finding a use for it. If only enough was being used.

The problem with Clarins' vaunted active ingredient is that it is the 23rd one on the list after shea butter, dimethicone (a silicone that sits on the surface of the skin to feel silky, but not actually do much good), various stabilizers and emulsifiers and perfume. It is hard to believe that there is enough kudzu to have more than a placebo effect.

Incidentally, if the sight of rampant kudzu gets you to start thinking about ways to commercialize it, the Japanese villagers from whence it originates valued it as a fantastic hangover cure.

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