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Rhamnose: Anti-Aging Miracle or Marketing Ploy?

ElenaMilano asks…Vichy has created a much publicized rhamnose based anti aging line, called Liftactiv. They claim rhamnose is a very important patented discovery and that it stimulates the papillary dermis, causing it to produce new skin cells, collagen etc. Is it true or is it the usual marketing ruse?

The Left Brain responds:

Vichy, for those who may not be familiar with the brand, is the self-proclaimed ”number 1 skincare brand in European pharmacies.” Vichy is also owned by L’Oreal so they have access to deep pockets for R&D spending.

Liftactiv day cream

According to Vichy’s website, there are 13 Liftactiv products, 3 of which contain 5% Rhamnose. Here are ingredients for the day cream:

BUTYROSPERMUM PARKII BUTTER / SHEA BUTTER • RHAMNOSE • PRUNUS ARMENIACA KERNEL OIL / APRICOT KERNEL OIL • PENTAERYTHRITYL TETRAETHYLHEXANOATE • DIMETHICONE • ISOHEXADECANE • PENTYLENE GLYCOL • STEARIC ACID • STEARYL ALCOHOL • CERA ALBA / BEESWAX • PALMITIC ACID • PEG-100 STEARATE • GLYCERYL STEARATE • PEG-20 STEARATE • BIS-PEG-18 METHYL ETHER DIMETHYL SILANE • NYLON-12 • CI 77891 / TITANIUM DIOXIDE • MICA • TRIETHANOLAMINE • DIMETHICONOL • PHENOXYETHANOL • ADENOSINE • MAGNESIUM ASCORBYL PHOSPHATE • ASCORBYL GLUCOSIDE • POLOXAMER 338 • DISODIUM EDTA • CAPRYLYL GLYCOL • XANTHAN GUM • PENTAERYTHRITYL TETRA-DI-T-BUTYL HYDROXYHYDROCINNAMATE • A C R Y L A M I D E / S O D I U M ACRYLOYLDIMETHYLTAURATE COPOLYMER • POLYSORBATE 80 • PARFUM / FRAGRANCE

So what’s the big deal about this product? Aside from the standard “reduces the appearance of wrinkles” claims, here’s what Vichy’s says about Liftactiv:

“Our breakthrough formula features Rhamnose, a naturally derived plant sugar extracted in its purest form. Rhamnose in a 5% concentration, has been clinically proven to improve skin rejuvenation at the source; improving collagen production, elastin production and cellular turnover.”

These are pretty bold claims to make and would require significant research. Is there anything to back this up?

What does Rhamnose do?

According to a study from PubMed, in vitro lab tests on cell cultures (i.e., testing done in a “glass dish”) show that cell cultures treated with rhamnose and other similar compounds produced fewer aging byproducts (known as Advanced Glycation Endproducts or AGE). (1) These results suggest that rhamnose could be an effective anti-aging agent. Of course laboratory testing alone does not demonstrate that the benefit will be seen when used on real people, but surprisingly (at least to me) there is an in vivo study that backs up the laboratory testing.

Clinical testing

According to a paper presented by L’Oreal (2), the effectiveness of Rhamnose has been confirmed in by in vivo testing. A rhamnose containing lotion and a placebo lotion were applied twice a day for 8 weeks to the internal side of forearms of female volunteers between the ages of 50 and 7. Clinical and histological measurements were taken before and after treatment and the results showed “a significant increase of pro-collagen I expression at papillary dermis level and considerable epidermis thickening…” This looks to be a properly designed test but since I was unable to review the entire study protocol, I’m concerned that measured effects may be statistically “significant” but may not be large enough to be observable to the user. I’m still skeptical but it’s refreshing to have at least some basis for believing this technology works.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

We’re quick to call “Bull Sh*t” if there’s no evidence of a product providing a differentiated benefit. However in the case of Vichy’s Liftactiv, based on the limited information I’ve been able to find, it appears that rhamnose MAY provide a measureable anti-aging benefit that other products don’t. Whether or not you want to gamble $50 to find out whether or not you can tell a difference on your skin is up to you. (You may also want to keep an eye on other, less expensive, L’Oreal brands in case they decide to leverage this technology beyond Vichy.)

References:

1. Age- and passage-dependent upregulation of fibroblast elastase-type endopeptidase activity. Role of advanced glycation endproducts, inhibition by fucose- and rhamnose-rich oligosaccharides.

2. A STRATEGY FOR LONG-LASTING YOUTHFULNESS L’OREAL – Research Communication & Innovation – January 2011

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