Extremophiles are plants, creatures, creepy crawlies and microorganisms that live — literally — at the ends of the earth. They have adapted to thrive in the most inhospitable places of extreme cold, heat or isolation. Because of the extreme conditions that they are adapted to, extremophiles are more robust than your average microorganism and now scientists are learning from their survival techniques and how they can be applied as actives for anti-aging cosmetics. The term extremophile covers a few subcategories as defined below.
Thermophiles: Heat-loving — but not in the way my cat is — these organisms reside in extreme temps like deep sea vents, volcanoes and geysers.
Halophiles: These creatures thrive in high-salt conditions, such as salt flats or lakes.
Acidophiles: Also known as acidophilic microorganisms, they are adapted to acidic conditions where the pH is well below seven, such as volcanic soil.
Polyextremophiles: These have the unique ability to thrive in multiple extreme conditions.
Psychrophiles (also known as cryophiles): Adapted to extreme cold, they live in icy, polar seas.
Some variations of these extremophiles are appearing in our potions and lotions. For some reason, they mostly seem to psycrohiles (or cold worshippers). Take pseudoalteromonas exopolysaccharides, an interesting ingredient that comes from a strain of bacteria found in Antarctica. It contains the following three amino acid residues: glycine, histidine and lysine. It’s used in a number of anti-aging products because of its ability to regenerate and protect the skin by retaining moisture and water, heal wounds, increase collagen and elastin production, and improve skin hydration.
A brand that I have liked for years is LiftLab and it has a proprietary extremophile that comes from a protein found in the plasma of fish that swim around in icy Artic seas. It works in the fish like a kind of antifreeze so that they don’t die from the cold. For us, the ingredient can boost collagen.
Find it in: LIFTLAB Lift + Firm Eye Cream
Plants that live in extreme high altitudes are also useful extremophiles for cosmetic formulations. Edelweiss grows at altitudes of 6,000-10,000 feet in limestone where UV exposure is high and temperatures are very cold. In skin care, it stimulates the genes and proteins responsible for epidermal protection and protects from UV light.
Saponaria pumila is a flower that survived the last Ice Age by growing on ice-free mountain peaks. The extract has been shown to help protect the skin from UV and light-induced stress.