Alright, I said I wasn't going to go for the low hanging fruit with this blog and I am trying to steer away from talking about anti-wrinkle products, I really am. But that doesn't stop me becoming infuriated, as I was this week when I saw an advert for L'Oreal Youth Code. Not only was the pseudoscientific tripe in front of me, it was in an ad break for Genius of Britain, a historical look at some of Britain's past scientific genius. The juxtaposition made it seem extra insulting. There really is no safe place!
The headline is "inspired by the science of genes". L'Oreal's website has an explanation of the science here. Gene expression is described as occurring when skin genes are activated following stress. In young skin this happens more quickly than in older skin, indicating that it takes longer to respond the stressor. Having "discovered" this wonderful science, L'Oreal developed the Youth Code Range, which is:
"Enriched with patented Pro-Gen (TM) Technology.
Applied daily, the moisturising formula helps improve the skin's ability to behave more youthfully" (ref)
Ah Pro-Gen Technology, where have you been all my life? And more importantly, what the heck are you? Further digging reveals that Pro-Gen Technology is supposed to speed up the rate of gene expression and contains biolysate. The "code" part of Youth Code refers to the claim that this cream will help your skin reset its genetic code.
Here comes the science bit.
Genes contain information. Gene expression is what happens when that information is used to make a product, usually a protein. Proteins then go away and do get things done in body cells. This whole process is fundamental to all life, it makes the body work. Gene expression happens almost everywhere in the body and so I'm OK with the idea that external stress can lead to gene expression occurring, because so many things can require proteins to be made. The genetic code refers to the sequence of animo acids that make the gene; the blueprint.
The link between this science and what L'Oreal have put into Youth Code is not explained anywhere, and yet that's the crucial part of how this cream should work. That in itself suggests something fishy. I couldn't figure out what Pro-Gen Technology is, but I did find this handy list of ingredients and what they're used for. It's interesting to see that ascorbyl glucoside is whitening, but that's another can of worms!
Taking a historical view of skincare products and science, it seems that products are always peddled to consumers based on the trendy science of the day, be it radioactivity, chemicals, hormones or genetics. Today's trend is of course genetics and it appears that L'Oreal have caught the public fascination and are cashing in. Simple as that. There is no evidence that a cream can tinker with gene expression to produce more youthful skin, and if a cream could affect my genetic code I'd be highly concerned because that would be tinkering with my very DNA and causing genetic mutations. No thanks.
But wait, there are proven results! Oops, it's a consumer test not real scientific evidence.
Proven and confirmed by women:
- Skin looks rejuvenated: 78% agree*
- Wrinkles appear reduced: 69% agree*
- Features appear rested: 71% agree*
*Consumer test, 229 women"
At least L'Oreal are careful never to claim that their products reduce wrinkles, just that they appear to. Skin isn't actually rejuvenated, it just looks like it. The "features appear rested" made me laugh because I have no idea what that even means.
Oh L'Oreal. Ever since I went to the Science Museum lates event you sponsored you've really been getting under my skin.