Buried in the midst of La Prairie’s new Anti-Aging Hydra Tint is a most intriguing ingredient that I haven’t come across before: ilomastat. It turns out to be is a potent inhibitor of collagenases, destructive enzymes that break the peptide bonds in collagen. I got really quite excited and thought that I might be on the brink of anti-aging breakthrough. But instead I found that ilomastat might make matters worse and I discovered the perils of putting two and two together and making four – when life (certainly our bodies) is so much more complex than that.

Collagenases are matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and are generally undesirable things that lurk about waiting for the skin matrix to get worn out or damaged then they start chopping it up. Some 23 different MMPs have been found in humans, about four of which are collagenases.

It has been known for about 20 years (Murphy and Reynolds, 1993) that as we age, the metabolic activity of our fibroblasts get disturbed. This can affect the equilibrium between MMPs and inhibitors of MMPs so that, all too often the enzymatic activity of MMPs predominates and they do bad things to one’s once radiant skin.

So it seems logical then to not just think about using matrix synethesis boosters (our typical anti-agers such as vitamin C or peptides) but try to utilize things that will inhibit the MMPs. And this is where, I assumed, ilomastat comes into play. But not so fast.

On the face of it, Ilomastat looks like a good candidate. It is a synthentic , broad spectrum MMP inhibitor and is especially good at stopping collagenases in their tracks. Ilomastat seems to prevent scarring, at least according to tests on the eyes of rabbits.  And would come in pretty handy should you have the misfortune to get caught in the crossfire of chemical warfare – it has been successfully tested with anthrax and preventing disintegration in human skin exposed to mustard gas.

I was just about to find ways of loading Ilomastat into my anti-aging arsenal when I discovered a weird paradox. MMPs, even though they are destructive on the one hand, are also necessary. There are several tests on humans that show that MMPs are needed to help wounded skin regenerate, AND topical application of ilomasat delayed regeneration and specifically the reappearance of laminin-5. AND, what’s more, in one test “ilomastat also significantly inhibited production of collagen in a dose-dependent manner”.

So ilomastat is looking like the last thing you’d want in your La Prairie tinted moisturizer or anything else for that matter.

Even if you believe MMP destruction is a good anti-aging strategy (and now I am no longer sure that it is), there don’t seem to be reliable MMP inhibitors. Anti-inflammatories might help, specifically COX inhibitors and 5-LOX inhibitors. They mostly researched, though, in the context of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism. Several botanical ingredients – boswellia, blackberry leaf and argan leaf – are touted as MMP inhibitors, but there is no research (that I have found) that is independent of manufacturers.

Anyway, for the time being, from what little I understand of this complex area, I think its best not to mess with my MMPs.