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Combray and Oxofulleram

Reviewed by Marta February 5, 2009 8 Comments
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.

One study 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.
  • August 29, 2010

    by Kelly

    I wanted to respond to Abigail. I got on my laptop to look into purchasing Combray. I received a free sample in the mail and LOVE it. I have been using it for about a week and see a significant improvement in my skin. I suffer from adult acne and this has worked better for me than any perscription I have used. I have no connection to Dr. Kronholm and have no investment in the product. If you check out the Combray page on facebook you will see many people with the same results.

  • April 15, 2009

    by Abigail

    What concerns me most of all is that the one and only testimonial about the product on its web site comes from a family member of Dr. Kronholm (wife? mother?). If the product works so well, why are there no testimonials from people who are not financially and personally invested in the product? Why are there no studies on its effectiveness (not of fullerenes, but of this product specifically) published in major dermatological journals?

    And because I read Dutch, the NRC article doesn't impress me.

  • March 28, 2009

    by Justine

    I really enjoyed reading the posts from Drs. Kronholm and Weinberger. I have been trying to do some research on induced oxidative stress myself, but it's totally out of my field and sometimes the literature proves too esoteric for me. However, the summary and references provided above were really informative.

    I also was interested to read Dr. Weinberger's comments about antioxidants needing to be delivered via 'envelopes' to be maximally beneficial. I would be interested to find out whether 'Yes to...' incorporate these envelopes in their products. I happen to really like this brand principally because they are apparently "pure, natural, and organic"; they are also very reasonably priced and I can buy them at Walgreens. I suspect I should ready to be disappointed though considering the comments about some ingredients being worth their weight in gold.

    Having said that, reading responses like Dr. Kronholm's gives me encouragement that not all cosmetics producers are in the business of angel dusting, and that some products really are worth the high price tag they carry.

    I decided recently that the only way to make an good choice about the products I buy is to arm myself with some knowledge. I am so glad that I found this site to help make sense of it all.

    And the next step is to learn about cars....

  • March 28, 2009

    by marta

    Just an FYI that lycopene is in products by Yes To Tomatoes, which we wrote about here:

  • March 28, 2009

    by Gary Weinberger,MD

    I enjoyed reading David Kronholm's response in regards to oxofulleram. I think it is important to understand that antioxidants do play a role in slowing down the aging effects related to ROS (free oxygen radicals) and other environmental polutants including UV radiation. Many newer scientific articles are showing that ingested antioxidants either from food sources or supplements distribute in most of the organs of the body and due to this fact insufficient quantities of these antioxidants deposit in the skin to afford any protective activity. Therefore, in order to protect the skin antioxidants should be applied topically and not all antioxidants are the same. If the antioxidants in these creams are not protected by some form of liposomal, or better yet a cerosomal envelope, they neutralize before they can be absorbed into the deeper dermal layers where they exert their beneficial activity. Lycopene, natures most powerful natural antioxidant, is available on the market in some face cream products. However, the consumer should see if this lycopene is pure, natural, organic and protected by an envelope to prevent oxidation before it has a chance to be absorbed. If there any questions regarding natural antioxidants I would be more than happy to answer any questions.

    Gary I Weinberger,MD,FACS

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