What's inside the Creme de la Mer?

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To pay more than £100 for a facial cream is extortionate.  I'm hesitant to cash out double figures on any product with limited longevity.  Therefore, at £120-£1,520 (yes you read that right) I couldn't help but try and launch an investigation on this product.   It is advertised to firm skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles by smoothing out fine lines, and renew the skin with an ultra-rich and dewy finish.   Here are the prices and all products can be bought here:


£120 for 30mL 
£220 for 60mL
£340 for 100mL
£790 for 250mL
£1,520 for 500mL

Yikes.  I'll stick to my £2.20 Nivea cream thanks.  Obviously, I do not own this product so I am looking at it through an objective and science lens.  I do not know how much of this product should be used, and thus I am unaware of it's longevity, but I assume a little more than a pea-sized amount like standard moisturisers.  As many other reports suggest, the company, Creme de la Mer, are very successful in keeping their ingredients on the down low. There are a couple breakdowns of the chemicals listed in this cream online but I wanted to dig a little bit deeper.  In this product, there are 41 active ingredients so I decided to tackle this in four parts as I want to provide as much information as possible on each active ingredient (though in different doses for which information is not provided).  Let's begin! 

**DISCLAIMER: I am not a dermatologist.  If you have any specific questions or issues, do consult a GP or qualified dermatologist first before introducing any new product into your skincare regime.  My information is based on the sources listed below and my own knowledge and understanding obtained from my undergraduate degree in Molecular Medicine.  I simply wanted to share my findings and verdict.  Take whatever is said with a pinch of salt.



Seaweed (Algae) Extract

I couldn't find the exact seaweed extract or algae species but what I did find are studies conducted that looked at the health impacts of topical/dermal use of seaweed extract on the skin. A study suggested that, at moderate doses, the use of a specific seaweed, Laminaria japonica, has effective moisturising properties. This was done by measuring transepidermal water loss (moisture lost through the skin) which decreased by 20% compared to the control. (1)  In turn, this will soften the skin and aid in anti-ageing and anti-inflammation.  Recent studies also suggest that seaweed extract has many beneficial properties when consumed such as protection of the ageing process. (2) All in all, I couldn't find any negative dermatological side-effects associated with seaweed extract but my findings appeared to support the use of seaweed in skincare, making it a staple in many beauty products. 

Mineral Oil Glycerin 

Glycerin has been proven useful as its molecular structure allows for easy penetration into the skin.  It acts as a humectant which is a product that retains moisture; justifying its use in the Creme de la Mer.  It has been suggested that it attracts moisture to the top visible layer of the skin (epidermis) by drawing in aquaporins (water channels and integral membrane proteins) that increase the flow of water to the epidermis. I couldn't find studies which correlate topical use of glycerin with aquaporins so I am not sure how credible this information is.  Overall, it is said to pull in moisture to the skin surface though the mechanism is not confirmed. This aids in hydration, tackling dullness, and facilitating that youthful glow.  The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) did an in dept analysis of the use of glycerin in skincare. (3)  In terms of acute toxicity, it was found that, if ingested, participants in the study suffered from headaches, vomiting, nausea, thirst, and diarrhoea. Thus, be sure not to eat your Creme de la Mer. I did read somewhere online about it being taken 'by the spoonful' which I do not recommend.  Do not eat any makeup/skincare products. Glycerin is used in over 75% of moisturising leave-on products, however, some individuals in a study found it to be irritating on the skin so patch tests are vital

Isohexadecane

This is an isoparrafin, emollient, and a hydrocarbon.  It is used to limit the greasy appearance on skin that usually results from creams.  It also acts as a thickener to thicken creams or products.  Not many studies have been conducted correlating the use of isohexadecane with skincare but I did eventually find a study that conducted a safety assessment for the use of isoparrafins in cosmetics. It concluded that there was little to no irritation due to isohexadecane in the eyes of rabbits and when used in tanning sprays (a leave-on product) on humans.  However, isoparrafins have been associated with irritation in some cases.  Furthermore, it has been found to be noncomedogenic so it does not cause blackheads or increase the number/visibility of pores on the skin. Therefore, it is said to be suitable for acne prone skin and will not cause blemishes.  This does not mean it will treat blemishes, rather it just won't exacerbate any existing ones or cause blemishes.  Please note, many of the experiments conducted was tested in animals such as rabbits.  Human skin has a different physiological and molecular makeup.  (4)

Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Extract

Lime is commonly used in many skincare products, especially home remedies.  A study stated that Citrus aurantifolia has anti-oxidant properties which protects your skin from free-radicals that can damage skin cells and act preventatively against ageing due to environmental exposures.  Furthermore, it acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.  Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter and neuro-modulator.  Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine to terminate synaptic transmission (nerve impulse).  Inhibiting this enzyme means that the neurotransmitter levels remains high.  Do not be alarmed, however, as caffeine does the same exact thing. (5) (6)  On the other hand, there have been studies that found that lime extract or oil can increase photosensitivity which results in uneven skin tones and increased skin sensitisation.  Thus, the use of sunscreen is a must after using Creme de la Mer because it's always better to be safe than sorry. 

Microcrystalline Wax

This ingredient is said to soften the skin by acting as an emollient.  Due to it's structure, it enables binding of solvents and oil together to increase viscosity which makes it a common component of many cosmetic products.  It has been recommended for use by the National Eczema Society for treating eczema. (7) It contains many isoparrafinic hydrocarbons so the risks listed above for isohexadecane apply which is mainly irritating/allergic reactions.  

Lanolin Alcohol

Lanolin Alcohol acts as an emulsifier and emollient.  As a result, it can help smooth and soften the skin.  Although there has been a CIR report on this product, the references seem awfully outdated (1980's and earlier) that it didn't seem appropriate to use that as a prime source.  (8) More recent studies, such as the one published in 2015 by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results of 2011-2012 demonstrated a risk ratio of 1.83 with use of lanolin alcohol. Thus, individuals using lanolin alcohol were at an 83% increased risk of an allergic contact dermatitis.  This further emphasis the importance of patch tests and also dosage because Creme de la Mer may use very minuscule doses that are not enough to cause an allergic reaction.  Therefore, concentration is very important to take into account when comparing scientific papers of the component to its use in the cream.  (9)

Sesame Seed oil/Sesame Seed

Sesame seed oil and sesame seeds have a good reputation in the beauty industry for the use in skincare.  A very recent study published January 2018 discussed the topical use of Sesame oil. (10) Not only has it been used topically as a massage oil for relieving inflammatory stress of joints, but it has proven to reduce oxidative stress by inhibiting xanthine oxidase and nitric oxide in rats.  (11)  Xanthine oxidase acts to generate reactive oxygen species which has the ability to cause significant cell damage. Prevention of this could be a result of having high levels of Vitamin E which is an antioxidant that protects humans and animals from light induced damage. This will slow down the ageing process and formation of wrinkles and fine lines. Furthermore, it is beneficial in ultraviolet radiation protection. (12) Nevertheless, I still advise to always wear sunscreen of an appropriate SPF. An amended safety assessment found that sesame oil at the concentrations regularly found in cosmetics is neither carcinogenic, skin irritants, or sensitisers.  (13) Overall, it seems that sesame seed oil provides many therapeutic benefits.  

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil has been commonly used for its antimicrobacterial properties.  Therefore, it seems to be an essential oil that works as a natural disinfectant, especially against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.  However, this oil did not express activity against gram negative bacteria.  Before substituting any natural remedies for medication, always consult a GP or specialist physician. (14)  Another study demonstrated that eucalyptus oil is beneficial for the skin for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties with a focus on wounds, cuts, and burns.  It has been commonly used in aromatherapy for relieving stress, anxiety, and headaches. (15) No studies have found evident side-effects against topical use of the oil.

Magnesium sulfate

You may be more familiar with this chemical as 'epsom salt'.  It is commonly used in baths to soothe sore muscles, treat dry patches of skin, brighten, and soften the skin to prevent and tackle dullness. It can be used as a deep-pore cleanser.  As a result, though there are not many medical studies available to discuss the topical impact of epsom salt, doctors appear to be vouching for the product for its sunburn treatment and anti-dullness properties.  I couldn't find any truly credible sources as not many studies have taken place for the dermal use of magnesium sulfate. (16)  However, this 2017 study was of particular interest as is suggests that topical (Transdermal) application of magnesium sulfate does not seem effective in increasing magnesium levels in the body. Suggested reasons include that magnesium sulfate is not easily absorbed into the skin.  Thus, although there are no noted side-effects of topical use of magnesium sulfate, there is debate around its effectiveness.  (19)

Medicago Satvia (Alfalfa) seed Powder

One study published in 2017 directly correlated alfalfa seed powder with medicinal properties.  It stated that alfalfa has shown anti-oxidant properties.  (17) Another study looked at Medicago satvia and it's use in topical creams.  The study concluded that it was safe to use, with no adverse side effects during the period of testing.  There was a 90% satisfaction rate amongst the participants and improvement in skin hydration after 30 days. (18) 

Overall Thoughts

That's all for today!  That seems pretty heavy for a first post but those would be the most highly concentrated chemicals in the product, assuming that the ingredients were listed from highest to lowest concentration.

Currently, I do believe that the Creme de la Mer is proving to have more positive skin impacts than negative.  Nevertheless, I am not convinced that it is worth that hefty price tag considering many products do contain these chemicals at a fraction of the price.  The Body Shop Seaweed range is a strong example as the Creme de la Mer is said to be primarily seaweed based.  Even if I had a lot of money, I doubt I would invest in this cream for financial reasons.  Furthermore, the skincare industry, especially the drugstore, is increasing in quality day-by-day.   

Lastly, I cannot stress enough the importance of concentration.  As we do not know the exact doses of the substances in the Creme de la Mer, it is very difficult to determine its effects (both positive and negative).   Hence, always a patch test before introducing or changing up your skincare routine as these components because all skin care products are subject to irritation and allergic reactions.

References

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23752034
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28460935
3 https://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/glycerin.pdf
4 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1091581812463087
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22589172
6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22260108
7 http://www.eczema.org/emollients
8 https://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/115_buff3g_suppl.pdf
9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25581671
10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/
11 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16320859
12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3263051/
13 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21772026
14 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/13880209.2011.553625
15 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221169115001033
16 https://www.allure.com/story/epsom-salt-uses
17 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Medicago+Satvia+cosmetics
18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26393899
19 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579607/

Bibliography

Glycerin
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2016, ePublication
Journal of Allergy and Therapy, volume 4, Issue 4, 2013, pages 1–6
European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, December 2013, pages 638–645
Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, volume 190, 2009, pages 205–217
British Journal of Dermatology, July 2008, pages 23–34
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2007, pages 75–82

Lime extract
Toxicology In Vitro, 2010, issue 8, pages 2084-2089
Acta Derm-Venereologica, 2007, issue 4, pages 312-316
Food and Chemical Toxicology, 1993, issue 5, pagesa 331-335
Archives of Dermatological Research, 1985, issue 1, pages 31-36

Lanolin Alcohol
http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/lanolin-alcohol
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