Victoria Beckham wearing a foil mask

Victoria Beckham (age 42) has revealed her favorite face masks and they include Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair PowerFoil Mask ($22 per sheet). As well as giving you the appearance of the tin-man, this foil-backed sheet mask is based on something called catabolysis — just about the last thing I would associate with beauty sleep.

Unless you have been severely malnourished at some point, you might not have heard of catabolysis. When the body is deprived of nourishment it breaks down muscle and fat tissue to stay alive. If the idea of “eating” your own body grosses you out, you would not be alone and I was hard-pressed to imagine why Estee Lauder would take this nightmarish process as the starting point for Advanced Night Repair.

Estee Lauder euphemistically describes catabolysis as the skin’s nighttime repair process and the inspiration for a technology that the company calls ChronoluxCB. I was tempted to dismiss this as yet another attempt to rescue Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Serum. First, though, I wanted to dig a little deeper into this so-called nighttime repair process. Specifically, I was very puzzled as to why they would latch on to catabolysis.

I then came upon a patent filed by Estee Lauder that provides some clues. According the testimony in the patent, healthy cells clean out debris and any damaged cellular matter. Damaged cells are more slovenly and leave around toxins that cause even more damage and conditions associated with aging. So the idea is to find ingredients that do what Estee Lauder calls “selective cellular catabolysis.” This is the process of breaking waste products into molecules that can then be recycled and reused by the cell.

Various activators are needed to trigger this selective catabolysis and Estee Lauder identified some strains of yeast and algin. This seems to be the basis for the ChronoluxCB technology along with tetrapeptide-26. I don’t see the peptide in Advanced Night Repair Mask (perhaps that is reserved for the serum), but there is a different one, acetyl dipeptide-1, which acts on the muscles that create expression lines. Going back to the catabolysis stuff, I do see that algin and yeast extract are there.

Estee Lauder boasts that the mask has a double dose of sodium hyaluronate to promote skin hydration. Buried as it is towards the end of the ingredient list, that is a hard to fathom. Yet for all that the catabolysis selective cell cleaning theory seems kind of convoluted — even fanciful, Estee Lauder’s night mask has some good things going for it.

To be sure, this department store brand does not formulate for purists. There are no less than three PEGs and propanediol. It has to be said, though, that the good outweighs the bad, by far. There are around a dozen plant extracts, including one of my favorites, milk thistle, and an antioxidant seaweed from Japan.

I doubt whether Victoria Beckham would sleep quite so peacefully if she thought too hard about catabolysis, but her choice of mask is not a bad one at all.