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Combray and Oxofulleram

February 5, 2009 Reviewed by Marta 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

  • February 9, 2009

    by David Kronholm

    Hi Marta,

    I am one of the inventors of Combray. Thanks for taking the time to take a look at our product, and overall I think you did a worthy job of touching on some important topics.

    We agree on the need for a high degree of scrutiny and study of any new compound used in cosmetics. We have done this ourselves and with leading research organizations over the past several years. You can see the data supporting our EU safety dossier here:

    The safety dossier is necessary before marketing a cosmetics product in Europe, and it has to be approved by a registered EU-assessor toxicologist. In summary, we showed that no Oxofulleram at all passes through the dermis to the bloodstream (and so therefore no long-term systemic effects) and laboratory and human subject studies established that Oxofulleram doesn’t add to oxidative stress in the skin. On the contrary, the tests showed that Oxofulleram reduced UV-induced oxidative stress. This is the benefit that users experience. Likewise, irritation, allergy, and photoallergy tests on humans showed no adverse reactions of any kind on any subject.

    Though Oxofulleram is derived from a fullerene molecule, it is technically no longer a fullerene, it is a fullerene-derived ketolactam. It has been modified in this way to eliminate any sort of oxidative response caused by UV light (see the link above for data on the lack of singlet oxygen generation, which is the culprit in light induced oxidative stress – most antiobiotics and many essential oils for example generate this and cause light sensitivity.) This is done by adding oxygen (the Oxo), and opening up several carbon-carbon bonds (the Am, from ketolactam). This is a patent-pending invention by Solenne, and one of which we are very proud. We also joined the ketolactam with a lipid component to be compatible with skin lipids; this also ensures that it doesn’t pass the epidermis to the bloodstream.

    The Ene in fullerEne connotes the same thing as the Ene in beta-carotEne, carbon-carbon double bonds, and this is what leads to the radical scavenging, or antioxidant activity. The challenge was to tailor this in the most effective way in skin care. Other formulations of modified and unmodified fullerenes have also been shown to be safe and effective on the skin, notably those of Vitamin C60 Corporation (a Mitsubishi company in Japan). Their formulations have been sold widely in Japan for several years, which, like the EU, has a stricter safety standard than the US in cosmetics before market entry. You can see some of their data here: and here:

    There has been a vast amount of work of all kinds done on literally hundreds of different fullerene compounds made, so it is easy to get confused. The key is to remember that one can’t generalize too broadly, especially in terms of safety. Every chemical modification creates a new molecule, in exactly the same way that every new drug molecule is different and has to be tested individually.

    What has been so intriguing about fullerene-based compounds in science has been the very promising results found by Dugan, Choi, Chiang, Wilson, Weiner, our group, Vitamin C60, and others in applications such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Aging, Skin Care, and other application.. The evidence is very strong, and continually growing, that bears out the hypothesis that fullerene-based compounds represent an important new class of antioxidants. A few recent articles are,,, and

    The studies you mentioned above where oxidative stress was seen were on water-based colloidal solutions of solid particles of fullerenes, which are quite different than any fullerene formulations that I know of on the market or actively studied in biological applications. In the case of the bass fish study, this was shown by several groups to be an artifact of tetrahydrofuran contamination, see,, and

    We’ve worked for several years on the safe application of fullerenes in skin care, and we are very confident that the evidence shows that not only is Combray safe, it is a beneficial addition to anyone’s skin care regimen.

    Darrell – yes you are right, fullerenes are about the price of gold to begin with, and by the time we are done deriving Oxofulleram, it is more precious than platinum, but the antioxidant capacity justifies it - some have tested fullerenes as delivery agents, but in our case the Oxofulleram is the active ingredient, not a delivery agent.

    Anyone who is interested to ask any more questions or would like more information on the scientific literature on fullerenes, please feel free to email me at david(at) Marta, you have also inspired us to add a section on Oxofulleram to our website where we will provide more in depth information. Thanks for the opportunity to engage with your community here.

    David Kronholm, PhD
    Managing Director
    Solenne BV

  • February 5, 2009

    by Darrell

    Hi Julie,
    Think of fullerenes as the vehicle, spin trap as the passenger and your face as the destination.

    Just a side, I'm a fan of absorption enhancers in skincare...they're generally the best way to get the most bang for your buck from some of today's expensive actives.

    However, among many good options out there, fullerenes are an extremely costly delivery method. Using them in skincare may be comparable to using a hammer to put in a thumb tack.


  • February 5, 2009

    by JulieK

    ok, compare fullerenes to spin trap, please. Is there any comparison? ~jk

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