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A couple of days ago, a British dermatologist at the University of Manchester, published the results of a year-long study on a potion made by Boots (the Brit equivalent of Walgreens) saying it works. The scientist in question had already become a household name a couple of years ago when the BBC made a documentary about the science of skincare in which he said that Boots No 7 outperformed some more expensive brands and was as good as a prescription retinoid. Sales of Boots Protect & Perfect went through the roof and they doubtless will again with the publication of this week's study. Hitching a canny ride on this bandwagon is a new anti-aging serum called Medik8 Firewall ($145 in the shop).
Firewall has been tested, apparently, by the same University of Manchester team. The team tested Firewall, according to Medik8, against nine other "premium" (but unnamed) cosmetic brands and it soared way above them in terms of antioxidant activity against four major free-radicals.
I have a bottle of Firewall on my desk as I write this and a batch of marketing materials. It certainly looks very intriguing. For starters, the bottle is a double cylindered affair that has been designed to "ensure the formulation is only activated on use...to produce the correct dose".
Medik8 makes a big deal out of a patent pending anti-aging complex called Cusodase-P, claiming that this is a blend of actives (they won't disclose which ones whilst waiting for the patent, but it seems likely to be a combination of copper and peptides) that is 40 times stronger than vitamin C. What I can deduce from the list of ingredients is that there is an array of antioxidants from well-known peptides to the somewhat rarer superoxide dismutase and ergothioneine.
The latter is found in mushrooms amongst other foods and has been given a big thumbs up by Dr Daniel Yarosh and is in his Remergent skincare line. It also recently showed by in Revlon's Age Defying Spa Foundation. However, the research as to how effective it is as an antioxidant is contradictory. Superoxide dismutase is certainly an antioxidant, but I haven't yet found much about topical applications of it except in a Japanese study, showing that it was effective at healing lesions and that it is stable.
There are several forms of copper in Firewall. Copper is the key mineral in lysyl oxidase, an enzyme which weaves together collagen and elastin, and there is a mountain of research on how topical applications of copper heal wounds. However, I am a little skeptical about colloidal copper, which seems to have snake oil abilities to cure everything from arthritis to graying hair.
An especially interesting ingredient is N-acetyl cysteine. This is produced in the human body and plays a role in the sulfation cycle, acting as a sulfur donor in phase II detoxification. Cysteine also helps synthesize glutathione, one of the body's most important natural antioxidants and detoxifiers. Also on the of-high-interest list is liprochroman-6, listed here as dimethylmethoxy chromanol. I wager that this is going to be an antioxidant to watch and that it will start showing up more and more in high-end, anti-aging potions. Lipochroman-6 is an able scavenger of two free radicals: RNS and ROS. According to Lipotec, who makes lipochronan-6, it does a significantly better job of fending off oxidative stress than resveratrol, the antioxidant component of grapes.
There is a little too much silicone in Firewall for my taste and I am dubious about the inclusion of the preservative sodium benzoate, which in a British study on yeast cells appeared to attack cells’ mitochondria, damaging their ability to prevent oxygen leaks that create free radicals. Methylisothiazolinone is another controversial preservative that is a skin irritant, as is methylchloroisothiazoline. These few misgivings aside, I'll be taking Firewall out for a test drive and will report back in a few weeks.