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Extremophiles - A New Trend in Anti-Wrinkle Products

September 9, 2010 Reviewed by Marta 11 Comments
One beauty trend that I won’t win prizes for predicting is that antiaging products will continue to plunder – or, I should say, harvest – botanicals for ingredients that will boost our collagen, protect us from the sun and eliminate our wrinkles. But a lesser known trend – remember, you read it here first – is going to be the increasing use of extremophiles.

By which, I do not mean going to ever extreme lengths to look younger. Extremophiles are plants, creatures, creepy crawlies and microorganisms that live – literally – at the ends of the earth. And they are coming to an anti-wrinkle cream near you.

An extremophile is an organism that thrives in and may even require physically or geochemically extreme conditions – think depths of the coldest ocean or a boiling hot spring - that are not merely inhospitable, but detrimental to the majority of life on the planet. Because of the extreme conditions that they are adapted to, extremophiles are more robust than your average microrganisim and are starting to be cultivated for fine chemicals, antibiotics and cosmetics.

My first encounter with an extremophile was in Osmotics’ body lotion (Osmotics tends to be at the cutting edge of anti-wrinkle ingredients, and co-produced Truth In Aging's iPhone app). Its extremophile of choice is thermus thermophilus ferment. I haven’t quite got my head around this one, but here goes. This is a marine microbacteria that is activated when the waters it resides in reach a certain temperature. The theory is that, being heat activated (eg when the skin is exposed to the warmth of the sun, it will activate the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes. This does sound a mite far-fetched to me, but it does seem that thermophilus emzymes are very interesting to scientists and that they have a “fundamental role in DNA replication and repair”.

An extremophile that is likely to pop up in a future skin cream is called ectoine. This is so micro that it isn’t even a bacteria, it is something that is found in some species of bacteria. Ectoines are kinds of osmolytes – things that affect osmosis and play a role in maintaining cell volume and fluid balance - and help organisms survive extreme osmotic stress. (eg salt or temperature).

Ectoine is emerging as an active ingredient in skin care and sun protection products. It is supposed to stabilize proteins and other cellular structures and protects the skin from stresses like UV irradiation and dryness.

Research is being conducted into the antiaging effects of ectoine. Because of its outstanding water-binding activity, ectoine might be especially useful in preventing water loss in dry atopic skin and in recovering skin viability and preventing skin aging. (source). One study’s results highlighted the ability of ectoine to protect cells from stress and prevent damage.

If you come across an ingredient called Ronacare, this is ectoine. I haven’t spotted it a beauty product yet, but it is being marketed by the German company Merk and trials have shown that it boosts the antioxidant power of grape extract.
  • September 29, 2010

    by jc

    ronacare actually is associated with more than ectoin, i'm not 100% sure if they're a manufacturer/subdivision of merck or a tradename, but ectoin/ectoine is the ingredient.

  • September 29, 2010

    by jc

    i'm glad jana mentioned it, i was going to say something...isomers desert youth 4x, a product they've been making for years, does contain ectoin(another spelling for ectoine). since discovering it myself several years ago, this has been one of my favorite staple isomers products, ectoin is a truly amazing molecule! the 4x means they use it at four times the manufacturer's suggested rate so your skin will benefit from the 'load' of product even if you use the tiniest bit. yep, i'm an isomers fanatic.

  • September 11, 2010

    by Jana

    Thank you for your help & emails, Marta. I'm now a fully registered TIA-geek. :)

  • September 11, 2010

    by marta

    Jana, I am sorry that you have been unable to register. The system is set up to help us avoid spammers and once you have entered your details, you are sent an email. You need to verify from that email and then you can log in. We have extended the time you have available to do this from 7 to 20 days. When we run tests, everything seems to work fine. Please email me at with any details and we'll try to replicate the problems you are having and get to the bottom of it.

  • September 10, 2010

    by Jana

    I've no clue if this is the same as the ectione mentioned, but Isomers has a product called "Desert Youth 4X with Ectoin" (they've left off the "e" but they identify their ectoin as a "micro-organism," too). I haven't tried it.

    Like Valerie, I've never been able to register - try as I might, the system doesn't seem to want to confirm my email address. Many thanks for any help.

  • September 10, 2010

    by marta

    Hi Valerie, you needed to be verified (that you weren't a spammer - sorry about that, but we get a lot of it). You are all set now.

  • September 10, 2010

    by marta

    Hi Jaysie, you are right and I'd forgotten about it. We wrote about it here:

  • September 10, 2010

    by Jaysie

    I think Antarcticine, a/k/a pseudoalteromonas ferment extract, is another microbe harvested from frigid waters, and it's already in many skin creams & serums. Haven't used any of them, though, so can't comment on effects.

  • September 9, 2010

    by Valerie

    Very interesting post!

    I have a question about Registering: How do I register? I already confirm my account but I still can't sign in? What should I do?


  • September 9, 2010

    by Junko

    Deb * YOU are absolutely correct. TIA is a ONE OF A KIND site! I hope everyone is plugging it for the Dr. Oz Show! Help everyone to educate themselves. Help others to be informed so that the Beauty Industry can't keep selling crap!

  • September 9, 2010

    by deb

    I love this website Marta. Thank you for helping us navigate the confusing array of anti aging products out there. I'm still I feel I can reach out with questions and get an honest, unbiased opinion. Thanks for all your research.

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