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Notes from Gillian's Kitchen: Where's the wrinkle in this?

Checking out the productsIt's tough when you still feel twenty inside but the mirror reminds you that you are not. Those silver threads among the brown are not highlights from your hairdresser and the little creases round your eyes and on your forehead- well, frankly  they call those wrinkles. So if  you are wary of surgical scalpels and don't want neurotoxins injected into your forehead or hyaluronic acid into your lips, what's a girl to do?

Well most of us turn in droves to the cosmetics industry. We buy cleansers and defoliants, moisturisers and SPF foundations, day treatments, night treatments and all-day skin protection, and finish it all off with makeup to hide our flaws, make our skins glow, emphasize our eyes and plump our lips.

According to a 2007 report from researchandmarkets.com, there are 3700 companies in Canada who together manufacture more than 20,000 different cosmetics. A a briefing from a plastic surgery convention a couple of years ago stated that globally we spend more than $30 billion dollars a year on buying cosmetics.  

I wondered what my own contribution to this industry has been so I investigated my hoard of cosmetic products.  I faithfully  (well most of the time), cleanse, moisturise, protect and occasionally defoliate. Somehow (I guess I am susceptible to advertising after all) I seem to have accumulated several types of some of these products, though I tend to use one brand more than the others.  But how do I really know if this effort is doing any good? I still see creases - I refuse to call them wrinkles- and the circles round my eyes seem to vary more with lack of sleep than through external applications.  Perhaps if I hadn't followed a skin care regimen the creases would have been crevices. But the only way to tell would have been to treat one side of my face and let the other half go au naturel, so to speak. Not too practical.

So I wondered, how do companies prove that their products work? Can anti-aging peptides, anti-oxidants, humectants, and other topically applied substances really get to the inner layers of the skin and make a difference? Can cosmetics really repair DNA damage in skin cells? Are you not more what you eat than what you apply to your skin?

In search of answers to these questions  I took a brisk walk up to the Wedgewood  Hotel to meet with Kathie Eliot, Head of Research and Product Development at the Canadian skin care company, dermaglow®. As Kathie has been part of the development of more than 40 skin care products and coordinates dermaglow's clinical research studies on problems like aging, sensitive or blemished skin, I was optimistic that I would learn somehing new about skin care. And in the short time we had to chat, I learned enough to stimulate my scientific researcher's curiosity.

I heard how dermaglow® is making use of new information from the explosion in genetic data that has enhanced dermatological knowledge as in every other medical discipline. New delivery systems encapsulate target ingredents with cell communicating ingredients that can get product to skin cell and activate cell receptors.  We chatted about testing that uses skin cultures and about baseline and followup measurements that are used cliniically to assess the effect on human skin.  As a relative of mine had had a melanoma, I was interested to hear about the two part molecular test to assess susceptibility ot skin cancer and the identified risk alleles of the MCIR (melanocortin 1 receptor)  gene that can predict risk independent of skin and hair colour.

Too much science? Well that's what happens when you introduce a physician- turned- entertainment writer to a varied range of skin care products.  I took a look at the  lines of products that dermaglow® offers. I am a fast learner but I think  would need to have a lengthy consultation with an expert to figure out a treatment regimen. They have the Nuvectin and Nuvage lines of Anti-Aging products, the Correction line for mnging breakouts and blemishes, the Sensitive hypoallergenic line, the Radiance line to brighten and lighten your skin and the dermaDNA line to decrease skin cell DNA damage. 

I came away with some samples to try, appropriate to my  age and skin type. I plan to use these products meticulously for at least 6 weeks and see if there is a visible effect. I will report back sometime in April. To make my experiment more interpretable I seriously considered using the products on only one side of my face - but then I didn't have the courage. Would you?