L'Oréal Youth Code

L'Oréal has been rapped over the knuckles by the Federal Trade Commission for claiming that its potions can change our genes. Any ads making these claims have been banned.

"It would be nice if cosmetics could alter our genes and turn back time," said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "But L'Oréal couldn't support these claims."

The offending potions were Lancôme Génifique and L'Oréal Youth Code. Apparently, Génifique was "clinically proven" to "boost genes' activity and stimulate the production of youth proteins" that would cause "visibly younger skin in just seven days." Youth Code promised a "new generation of skincare: gene science."

Funnily enough, I had a similar reaction to the FTC when I saw Youth Code. Supposedly, 10 years were spent in the L'Oréal labs before perfecting something called Pro-Gen technology. I did a bit of digging and discovered that Pro-Gen technology is a probiotic bacteria. Probiotics are a bit of a trend these days, though in cosmetics they remain rare.

Probiotics are a bit tricky to get right as there are so many different strains of bacteria. And there isn’t much evidence of what good they do topically.  Researchers have postulated that Bifidobacterium Longum Lysate could be helpful for “reactive skin” that is sensitive to physical (heat, cold, wind) or chemical (topically applied products) stimuli. However, this is not the probiotic in L'Oréal’s Youth Code, which uses Bifida Ferment Lysate.

Pro-Gen is not very convincing so far. Although, I must admit that there are a few other useful ingredients in Youth Code, including Matrixyl 3000 (listed as palmitoyl oligopeptide, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7). Also impressive is salicyloyl phytosphingosine, which according to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science is based on natural lipids and when topically applied to the face, reduces the depth of wrinkles and improves the texture in photoaged skin.

Bifida Ferment Lysate is also in the much more expensive Lancôme Génifique line. In Génifique Youth Activating Cream Serum, it is a more dominant component of the formula, coming in at number three in the ingredients list. But this hardly justifies the price difference with drug store friendly Youth Code. In fact, Génifique doesn’t even boast Matrixyl 3000.

The only relevant ingredient (in the context of L'Oréal’s wild claims) in Génifique is adenosine, which is the main energy source for the majority of cellular (and muscular) functions. This includes the synthesis of DNA. To be fair, this is an interesting active and one that we should keep on our radar. Sadly though, the rest of the Génifique Youth Activating Cream Serum formula is depressing. It is a hit list of what not to put on your face, with silicones, alcohol, toxic preservatives (including a paraben) and, ironically, sodium hydroxide, which scientists claim actually kills off cells. If I bought this, the only gene that would be transformed would be the one that gave me common sense.

Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.