You will probably have seen ads for a new product called Combray. In fact, they have been popping up on Truth In Aging. Made by a Dutch company, Combray must be the most streamlined potion on the market: it boasts just two ingredients. That's putting a lot of stock into their effectiveness, so what are they?
Well, one is grape seed oil and the other is called Oxofulleram. Grape seed is pretty straightforward. It is a good antioxidant with a substantial body of research to back up claims of its prowess as an anti-aging weapon. Oxofulleram is altogether more controversial.
It is, in fact, fullerenes. Fullerenes are molecules made of carbon and they have an extraordinary ability to soak up free radicals. So much so, they were dubbed the "radical sponge". Numerous studies, patents and papers have demonstrated the effectiveness of fullerenes, also known as C60, as the enemy of free radicals.
The problem is that some people have questioned its safety and appropriateness in a face cream. In the UK, there was such a rumpus that fullerenes was taken out of a cream made by Zelens. Hard research is all across the spectrum from safe to dangerous. It seems that there is environmental toxicity and unhappy fish when fullerenes gets in water. On the other, tests on rats susggest that inhaling fullerenes does not result in lung damage. The only research cited on the Combray site was conducted by the company that makes it.
that gives pause for thought showed that, if exposed to sunlight, fullerenes can actually cause oxidative stress. Friends of the Earth says "even low levels of exposure to fullerenes have been shown to damage human liver cells".
Fullerenes are called 'buckyballs' because of their molecular shape. There have been recent concerns that they can accumulate in the fatty acids of animals and humans and, due to their shape, they sort of clump together. Meanwhile, research at Purdue University suggests that, although they can accumulate in live tissue, they are also dissipated by sunlight.
A Canadian study released last year concluded that buckyball particles are able to dissolve in the cell membranes, pass into cells and reform particles on the other side where they can cause damage.
All in all, the research is really confusing and inconclusive. Personally, I think I would wait for more research to emerge and/or for the manufacturers of cosmetics with fullerenes to come up with some safety data before I give it a try.