There was a time when the pomegranate was as pervasive as a Katy Perry song on the airwaves, nearly as ubiquitous as the word “ubiquitous” has become. 2007 witnessed the launch of more than 400 pomegranate products, from cocktails to gumdrops. Thanks to $20 million in research by the Pom Wonderful company, the pomegranate’s particular health benefits - on evils like heart disease, staph infection, and erectile dysfunction - were widely published in medical journals and promulgated by the media. However, it seemed that the pomegranate’s golden years were over and that this superfruit was starting to feel rather passé. Not so, according to The Body Shop, which recently launched the Natrulift skincare line starring - you guessed it - pomegranate extract.

The Natrulift range is formulated to firm and plump mature skin that has graduated from the “early signs of aging” stage. The six-piece line - including two cleansers, a toner, a serum, a day cream, and a night cream - is intended to smooth wrinkles while providing a temporary lifting effect. Interestingly, The Body Shop markets its pomegranate extract as “our natural alternative to retinol,” a loaded claim if I ever heard one. Retinol is pure vitamin A in its whole molecule form; it is proven effective at exfoliating skin, treating acne, and stimulating new collagen. However, retinol carries the risks of sun sensitivity, irritation, and thinning of the skin. Could pomegranate really possess the same benefits as retinol without the dangers?

At my local mall last week, I was treated to a consultation with celebrity esthetician Molly Walsh, who owns a skin care boutique on the West Coast and serves as spokeswoman for The Body Shop. On the tray before her was a full array of The Body Shop’s pomegranate-based Natrulift line and Tea Tree line, both new additions to the skin care franchise. Molly started the consultation by examining my face and noting that it was in recovery from a sick spell. To start with a clean slate, she massaged the Natrulift Softening Cream Cleanser onto my damp face, which felt immediately nourished. After wiping off the remainder of the creamy cleanser, she drew out the Natrulift Softening Toner. I’m very familiar with the cleanser-toner-serum-cream sequence since those are the steps that I typically use in my own morning regime, but Molly threw in a few twists.

Instead of applying the toner directly to my skin or even dabbing it on with a cotton ball, as had been my habit for years, Molly moistened a cotton square with water and then added the toner. I noticed that remnants of my makeup showed up on the toner-soaked cotton square, which means that the cleanser did not do a sufficient job on its own. While my face was still damp, Molly rubbed in the Natrulift Firming Serum. The reason for incorporating water in the application process, Molly told me, was that the molecules within the pomegranate are water-binding and draw moisture to the skin. I couldn’t find any evidence of a water-binding property amid pomegranate’s various powers, but I won’t split hairs since other humectants (such as glycerin) work this way. Following the serum, the final step was the Natrulift Firming Day Cream.

As my consultation came to a close, I inspected my face in the mirror. When I initially sat down with Molly, scaly dry skin was coated under layers of moisturizer and a minefield of blemishes was buried under concealer. I was shocked to find that - after the Natrulift progression of products - my skin actually looked better without a hint of makeup. The cleanser and toner had balanced my stressed out skin and softened without stripping it dry. The subsequent serum and day cream left my skin looking dewey and decidedly plump. Though the day cream has a thick consistency, it didn’t feel heavy nor did it make my skin oily, greasy, or tacky after it had fully absorbed.

For some reason, there is no product in the Natrulift range for treating the delicate under-eye skin. Molly had to supplement with the Nutriganics line’s Smoothing Eye Cream, which I found to be lightweight and agreeable, though inexpert on my dark circles and impending crow’s feet. There is also no sun protection in the Natrulift day cream, on top of which Molly recommended using mineral makeup with SPF during the winter and a more potent sunscreen for prolonged exposure in the summer. I was impressed with the performance of the Natrulift products, but that it to be expected at the hands of a skilled professional. Do the formulas bear out The Body Shop’s attention to natural goodness and let the supposed powers of the pomegranate shine?

Natrulift’s formulas are a far cry from all-natural. I appreciate that The Body Shop adds a qualifier after each ingredient to indicate its purpose, but alas this transparency draws attention to just how many needless fillers there are. The Natrulift line is packed with all manners of solvents, silicones, stabilizers, and fragrance additives. Every product except the toner sports the controversial preservative phenoxyethanol, which appears especially high on the serum’s ingredient list. Inexplicably, five parabens join phenoxyethanol in the serum’s formula, but at least they steer clear of the other products. Aside from the serum, the ingredient balance in the other items is tipped in favor of beneficial emollients, humectants, and botanical extracts.

Glycerin, shea butter, and fair-trade Brazil nut oil repeatedly take center stage as the Natrulift line’s main emollients. Though they don’t receive top billing, other skin-moisturizing and soothing additions include squalane, bisabolol, soybean oil, jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, olive oil, and organic honey. Each product showcases its own unique combination of antioxidant heavy-hitters, including aloe leaf juice, apple extract, caffeine, vitis vinifera extract, and vitamin E. Another noteworthy addition is creatine; a recent German study found that topical application of a formulation containing creatine and folic acid significantly improved collagen fiber density and overall firmness of mature skin.

What’s interesting is that the Natrulift products appear to draw their real anti-aging powers more from these components than from the star of the show - the diva pomegranate - which falls squarely in the center or towards the bottom of each ingredients list. Pomegranate is so sacred in skin care not just because of its high antioxidant activity, but also because of a compound that may help reduce the breakdown of collagen, thus preventing wrinkling and sagging. This compound, ellagic acid, was applied to the skin of hairless mice in a Korean research experiment and found to protect them from the type of sun damage that would lead to premature aging. The same results were borne out in studies with human skin. Similar to pomegranate extract, the oil from the seeds of the pomegranate promotes regeneration of the epidermis, according to a 2006 study from the University of Michigan Medical School. Both pomegranate extract and seed oil crop up in the Natrulift formulas, but whether they are in high enough concentrations to make much of a difference is debatable.

Bottom line: I think that The Body Shop’s new Natrulift range is ideally suited for super dry skin within the 20 to 30-something bracket, which coincidentally, describes me in a nutshell. I was pleasantly surprised with the way my skin transformed under the sequence of Natrulift products. They won’t erase deeply etched lines, reverse sagging, or scrub out sun spots. But, overall, they do seem to give skin that pick-me-up it needs to look young and refreshed. I would recommend these products with the exception of the Firming Serum. Whatever benefits the serum might offer, they are offset by its ridiculously high dose of chemical preservatives. With the cleansers priced at $14 and the moisturizers around $30-36, the Natrulift line is a good buy for moderate anti-aging and consummate moisturizing, with or without the help of pomegranate.
 
Spa Week reviews The Body Shop Tea Tree Cool & Creamy Wash

Natrulift Softening Cream Cleanser Ingredients:
Water (Solvent/Diluent), Isododecane (Solvent), Glycerin (Humectant), Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Oil (Emollient), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil (Emollient/Skin Conditioner), Sucrose Cocoate (Emollient), Betaine (Hair Conditioning Agent), Caprylyl Glycol (Skin Conditioning Agent), Phenoxyethanol (Preservative), Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer (Emulsion Stabiliser), Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (Stabiliser/Viscosity Modifier), Fragrance (Fragrance), Squalane (Hair & Skin Conditioning Agent), Bisabolol (Skin Soothing Agent), Creatine (Skin-Conditioning Agent), Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent - Emollient), Butylene Glycol (Humectant), p-Anisic Acid (pH Modifier), Sodium Hydroxide (pH Adjuster), Carbomer (Stabiliser/Viscosity Modifier), Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract (Natural Additive), Polysorbate 60 (Surfactant), Disodium EDTA (Chelating Agent), Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract (Natural Additive), Hydroxycitronellal (Fragrance Ingredient), Pentylene Glycol (Solvent), Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Extract (Natural Extract), Ursolic Acid (Fragrance Ingredient).

Natrulift Softening Toner Ingredients:
Water (Solvent/Diluent), Alcohol Denat. (Solvent/Diluent), Glycerin (Humectant), Pentylene Glycol (Solvent), Butylene Glycol (Humectant), PPG-26-Buteth-26 (Emulsifier), Caprylyl Glycol (Skin Conditioning Agent), PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (Emulsifier), Creatine (Skin-Conditioning Agent), Sodium Citrate (pH Adjuster), Fragrance (Fragrance), Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Oil (Emollient), Bisabolol (Skin Soothing Agent), Citric Acid (pH Adjuster), Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract (Natural Additive), PPG-2 Hydroxyethyl Cocamide (Surfactant - Emulsifying Agent), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Skin Conditioning Agent), Disodium EDTA (Chelating Agent), Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract (Natural Additive), Hydroxycitronellal (Fragrance Ingredient), Citronellol (Fragrance Ingredient), Limonene (Fragrance Ingredient), Geraniol (Fragrance Ingredient), Linalool (Fragrance Ingredient), Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone (Fragrance Ingredient), Ursolic Acid (Fragrance Ingredient).

Natrulift Firming Serum Ingredients:
Water, Glycerin, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Creatine, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Caffeine, Dimethicone, Honey, Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Pentylene Glycol, Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Xanthan Gum, Methylparaben, Fragrance, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Sodium Hydroxide, Wheat Germ Oil/Palm Oil Aminopropanediol Esters, Avena Strigosa Seed Extract, Lecithin, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Disodium EDTA, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Adenosine, Isobutylparaben, Propylparaben, Hydroxycitronellal, Citronellol, Limonene, Potassium Sorbate, Geraniol, Linalool, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Ursolic Acid.

Natrulift Firming Day Cream Ingredients:
Water (Solvent/Diluent), Dimethicone (Skin Conditioning Agent), Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Water (Solvent/Diluent), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene (Emollient), Glycerin (Humectant), Cyclohexasiloxane (Conditioning Agent), Propylene Glycol (Humectant), Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate (Absorbent/Anticaking Agent), Cetyl Alcohol (Emulsifier), Stearyl Alcohol (Emollient), Dimethicone (Skin Conditioning Agent), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) (Skin-Conditioning Agent/Emollient), Butylene Glycol (Humectant), PEG-40 Stearate (Emulsifier), Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Oil (Emollient), Creatine (Skin-Conditioning Agent), Polymethylsilsesquioxane/Benzimidazole Diamond Copolymer (Opacifying Agent), Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (Emollient), Phenoxyethanol (Preservative), Caffeine (Skin Conditioning Agent), Hydrogenated Olive Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent), Caprylyl Glycol (Skin Conditioning Agent), Pentylene Glycol (Solvent), Sorbitan Tristearate (Emulsifier), Squalane (Hair & Skin Conditioning Agent), Polyacrylamide (Film Former), Fragrance (Fragrance), Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent - Emollient), Secale Cereale (Rye) Seed Extract (Natural Extract), Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil (Skin-Conditioning Agent), C13-14 Isoparaffin (Solvent), Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract (Natural Additive), Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract (Natural Additive), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Water (Skin Conditioning Agent), Wheat Germ Oil/Palm Oil Aminopropanediol Esters (Natural Extract), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil (Emollient/Skin Conditioner), Zinc PCA (Skin-Conditioning Agent), Laureth-7 (Emulsifier), Adenosine (Skin-Conditioning Agent), Sodium PCA (Humectant), Hydroxycitronellal (Fragrance Ingredient), Citronellol (Fragrance Ingredient), Limonene (Fragrance Ingredient), Geraniol (Fragrance Ingredient), Tocopheryl Acetate (Antioxidant), Linalool (Fragrance Ingredient), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterol (Skin-Conditioning Agent - Emollient), Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone (Fragrance Ingredient), Ursolic Acid (Fragrance Ingredient), Eugenol (Fragrance Ingredient), Citric Acid (pH Adjuster).