By  on September 12, 2008

A falling economy, environmental woes, a prolonged war and an upcoming presidential election: this fall, skin care's entering the age of anxiety, confronting everything from eternal dermatological concerns about wrinkles and large pores to increasingly relevant global issues like climate change and pollution. To take these on, beauty companies are marshaling increasingly high-tech resources and research, but combining them with some distinctly traditional botanical ingredients. From cleansers and serums to masks, concentrates and day creams, products are multitasking like never before, marrying synthetic and holistic approaches and promising help for weary, worried complexions.Welcome to beauty in the 21st century.

Cleansers

Clean skin, as any dermatologist will tell you, is the starting point for a healthy complexion. But cleansers today have to do much more than just clean, and, as ever, one size most certainly does not fit all. L’Oréal’s new antiaging line, for example, offers three cleansers, each aimed at fighting aging at different stages of a woman’s life. Skin Genesis Pore Minimizing Gel Cleanser and Skin Genesis Deep Purifying Foaming Cream Cleanser, targeted to women in their 30s, both use beta hydroxy acids to encourage cellular renewal. Moving up a decade, Revitalift Cream Cleanser, the company says, will make “40 the new 30” by using vitamin C to revitalize skin and glycerin to hydrate it, while Age Perfect Cream Cleanser, for women in their 50s and 60s, ups the hydration factor, using calcium derivatives and glycerine to soothe older skin. And a plus for travelers: L’Oréal’s new cleansers also come in towelette form, a clever way to cleanse on the go.

Ole Henriksen has another take on fighting aging, looking to Africa to source ingredients. Its new African Red Tea Foaming Cleanser combines the antioxidants in African red tea with the collagen-stimulating power of vitamin C, the fatty acids and astringent effects of borage seed oil and the brightening and antiseptic properties of grapefruit, orange and tangerine extracts.

Before they worry about aging, many women battle acne, and the newest product to fight it is actually an old favorite reimagined. Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash has just been reformulated to include MicroClear, a proprietary blend of 2 percent salicylic acid and botanical extracts to soothe redness and swelling. The cleanser also has a new scent—pink grapefruit—and microbeads to encourage exfoliation. Lancôme’s new cleanser, Crème Mousse Confort, updates its classic product for dry skin. This version has new packaging and a richer foam that’s now strong enough to remove waterproof makeup. Lancôme’s also joining the rush to add botanical ingredients, and the cleanser has rosehip oil and rose de France essence to soothe skin, anisic acid to exfoliate and brighten skin and white lotus blossom, a softening antioxidant containing glucose and fructose.

Chanel, too, has revamped the cleansers and toners in its Précision line with environmentally ambitious new formulas in three versions: Comfort for dry and sensitive skin, Balance for normal to combination skin and Purity for combination to oily skin. Each version, Chanel says, fights the nasty effects of pollution with the waxy extract of tulip trees, which acts as a natural protective barrier. The cleansers also contain hydrating arum lily extract, softening mallow extract and meadowsweet extract, which acts as an astringent.

Day Creams

This fall’s day creams are supercharged, hardworking moisturizers, dense with new and powerful ingredients and ready to tackle multiple problems. Awake’s Polyphection Concentrate Cream contains a trio of lavender— lavender polyphenol, lavender water and lavender oil—plus evening primrose extract, to nourish and protect skin. It also smells lovely, and acts as a dose of aromatherapy. The name of Patricia Wexler’s Intensive 3-in-1 Day Cream SPF 30, Lifting, Firming, Anti-Wrinkle Formula nearly says it all: This formula has an anti-glycation complex to fight sagging skin; Niacyl concentrate, a niacin derivative that is said to increase the skin’s cellular metabolism, and MMPi 20, a technology that purports to inhibit the production of matrix metalloproteases, enzymes that damage skin by increasing the breakdown of collagen. Wexler’s power-packed formula also has vitamin C, to protect skin from environmental aggressors, and SPF 30.

Darphin’s Prédermine Densifying Anti-Wrinkle Cream for Dry Skin adopts a more natural route, with peptides to increase hydration through various skin layers, rice oil and cucumber extract to revitalize and iris extract and soy proteins to stimulate and protect collagen. Fighting both dehydrated complexions and wrinkles, the cream can be used morning and night.

Flowers are key, too, to Körner’s Dazzle Super Moisturiser. The cream uses magnolia grandiflora, floral nectars and prickly pear to stimulate collagen and calm skin; algae extract to accelerate cell renewal, and hyaluronic filling spheres and cassia angustifolia seed extract to help skin keep hydrated. Malachite fights free radicals. In keeping with the company’s “deliciously lush” tag line, the cream also has a long list of lyrically named rain forest fruit extracts—Lilly Pilly, Davidson plum and lemon aspen among them.

M Cream from 3Lab may be this season’s most highly engineered day moisturizer. The cream targets stress lines with a bioengineered growth hormone, a kind of hormone replacement therapy for aging skin. It also contains an oat derivative to firm skin and relax muscle contractions and a plant-based beta endorphin with the poetic name Happybelle, extracted from monk’s pepper cactus and used to revitalize tired skin. Happy indeed.

Serums

In the treatment world, serums are the tough warriors, providing the extra dose of ingredients to make skin look smooth, bright and protected. Now some serums are even acting as a base for makeup and offering their heavily researched ingredients as a substitute for more invasive—and expensive—procedures like Botox.

DDF’s Wrinkle Resist Plus Pore Minimizer aims to fight two of the most common problems: stubborn wrinkles and large pores. The product uses a “dual phase swirl technology” to blend formulas that target both. A cocktail of vitamins B3, B5 and E, glycerin and amino peptide encourages skin renewal and hydration, while microparticles and pigments in the tinted inside swirl diffuse light, making skin look more eventoned and pores smaller.

From Skyn Iceland comes Arctic Brightening Serum, with a veritable shopping cart full of cool ingredients aimed to brighten and strengthen skin. Among them: Arctic root, maral root and Siberian ginseng, which the company says fortifies skin’s cellular defenses; kombucha, which helps brighten and firm by protecting collagen and elastin; a retinol derivative to stimulate collagen protection and reduce the visibility of age spots; reishi mushroom extract to help promote blood circulation; beta glucan, an anti-irritant, and a proprietary blend of Icelandic glacial water. Arctic berries, oxygenated liposomes, butterfly bush and thyme extracts round out the ingredient list. Phew.

SK-II’s new Signs Wrinkle Serum targets topically the same areas some women fight with Botox—laugh and worry lines. Intended to combat the facial creases that become deep wrinkles, the serum uses SK-II’s signature ingredient called pitera, derived from yeast fermentation and containing vitamins, amino acids, minerals and organic acids. In addition to pitera, the serum has high doses of vitamin B3, glucosamine, a tetrapeptide called microglycan and a yeast peptide, eternixine D. The combination of these ingredients, SK-II says, hydrates the skin, making it appear plumper and firm.

Taking a different—and refreshing—tack, holistic beauty brand Dr. Hauschka’s Regenerating Serum doesn’t claim that the serum will arrest aging, but rather says it helps rebalance older skin so that it can age gracefully. The oil-free serum includes kalanchoe plant and quince seed extracts to help moisturize and smooth skin, red clover for antioxidants and clover blossom honey to enhance cellular renewal and firm skin. Like Dr. Hauschka, Sisley uses botanical products but then adds a sophisticated twist. Its Radiant Immediate Lift serum brightens skin but also works as a primer for makeup. The serum’s prickly pear cactus flower, lemon, watercress and red vine leaf extracts stimulate the skin, while mother-of-pearl brightens, microspheres control shine and prime skin for foundation, and vegetable glycerine adds moisture. Wheat proteins and tannins add lift to sagging skin and help it look more taut.

Masks

It used to seem that masks’ primary function was to give us an excuse to relax and feel pampered. No more. This fall’s crop of masks may feel luxurious, but the focus is on being highly active and treatment-specific, providing everything from exfoliation to lift. Today’s masks, full of mushroom extracts and calcium derivatives, are geared toward brightening and reducing uneven skin tone and age spots by lessening melanin production.

Some of the newest masks are using natural food ingredients to soothe and improve skin. Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins’ Plantidote Mega- Mushroom Skin-Calming Face Mask uses three kinds of mushrooms, black bamboo leaf extract, bamboo charcoal and kaolin clay, plus ginger, holy basil and tumeric to reduce redness, detox pores and moisturize damaged skin. Caudalie’s Vinoperfect Radiance Revealing Mask features an extract of grapevine stalks to combat dark spots and a grape acid to help exfoliate skin, making it more toned. In an innovative spin on traditional masks, Caudalie’s comes in a brush format, an easy and convenient applicator inspired by the company’s spas. It smells good, too, fragranced with a mix of bergamot, green mandarin, orange flower, watermelon and crushed mint. Kiehl’s is looking to calcium to boost complexions, introducing the Brightening Botanical Hydrating Mask. Kiehl’s mask includes calcium pantetheine sulfonate, which lessens the production of melanin by reducing its precursor, the enzyme tyronsinase. It also has vitamin C glucoside to increase cell turnover, glycerin to hydrate, the antioxidant camellia flower and the anti-inflammatory blue cornflower.

Purity drives the Duchess Marden line, and its new Damascena Hydrating Masque uses polysaccharides from an Indian plant, cassia angustifolia, instead of hyaluronic acid to improve skin’s hydration. The mask also has oat kernel extracts to lift and tighten skin and red seaweed algae derivatives to help circulation and brighten complexions by reducing melanin production.

From brightening to lifting, nonsurgical facelifts inspired Elemis’ Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Mask. The product includes quartz, which Elemis says boosts cellular activity; the marine extract padina pavonica, to strengthen the effects of calcium to protect and lift skin; extract of noni berry, which relaxes skin; argan tree oil, which reduces the depth of wrinkles, and moringa oil, which fights against pollutants.

Concentrates

As the economy heads ever south and women cut back on spa visits, a new range of superconcentrated products is filling the gap between daily maintenance and the extra boost that comes from professional services. With long and technicalsounding names, these beauty buys suggest spa services at a lower price, and in the privacy of one’s own home.

In Avon’s case, the new concentrate formula amplifies the power of a technology the company is using in other products. Avon’s ANEW Rejuvenate Flash Facial Revitalizing Concentrate contains three times the concentration of RevitaFresh, Avon’s bioengineered cotton extract, found in Rejuvenate Night Revitalizing Cream. The extract reinforces skin cell bonds to help even out skin tone and make pores look smaller.

L’Oréal’s Advanced Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Clinical Action, a daily serum that provides 24 hours of hydration, includes the proven antiaging ingredient Pro-Retinol A, which accelerates skin cell renewal, and Pro-Lastyl, which stimulates the production of elastin. Prescriptives’ Super Line Xtreme Lifting Concentrate, which can be used under or over foundation, has a patented complex of nutrient-dense water. It also uses silymarin, a plant extract, to inhibit the breakdown of the natural hyaluronic acid in the skin and add antioxidant properties, and the plant extract siegesbackia and a series of peptides to increase collagen synthesis. The concentrate’s marine collagen and alginate claim to improve the penetration of ingredients into the skin and grape seed extract, rosemary extract and pomegranate protect and soothe.

Dermalogica’s C-12 Concentrate targets discoloration caused by melanin, and brightens skin. It fights melanin production with four ingredients: a proprietary peptide, zinc glycinate, algae extracts and phytic acid, and can be used twice a day. From Japan, Kanebo’s Sensai Cellular Performance Recovery Concentrate Ampoule Treatment provides a two-week treatment plan and an extremely clinical aesthetic. Based on the premise that the skin takes 14 days to renew itself, the concentrate is geared to improving the skin’s energy metabolism, and, Kanebo says, is best used during significant climate changes. Among its star ingredients: kinginka, or golden Japanese honeysuckle, which has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties; CPX Vital Extract, a proprietary blend of apricot essence to promote cell renewal and a collagen booster; extract of the Japanese fruit kakyoku, which suppresses irregular pigmentation; purple orchid extract to stimuate cell division, and renewal and moisturizing silk extracts.

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