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Happiness Is…A New Skin Cream

Forget fighting wrinkles. The latest trend in the treatment category is products that make you feel as good as you look.

With unemployment rates rising to new heights and the recession continuing to bite, skin care brands are starting to address the effects of emotional stress in their claims. “Claims are evolving this year, from external factors such as pollution to claims of protection from ourselves—the effect of hormonal changes and stress,” says Nica Lewis, head consultant of beauty innovation at Mintel.


Dubbed “mood beauty” by insiders, the trend encompasses active ingredients that claim to act on the neurobiology of our systems. Earlier this year, PsyDerma launched Enlightenment Day Moisturising Treatment, for example, which contains nootropics—often called “smart drugs” because they are said to enhance mental function. The product claims to help destress and simultaneously give skin the nutrients it needs. It also contains the antioxidant idebenone, which the brand claims has the ability to stimulate information transfer across the membrane separating the right and left brain hemispheres. This activity is supposed to boost production of serotonin and dopamine, the two major neurotransmitters known to create stress reduction and a feeling of well-being.

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In many ways, the mind and skin are intimately intertwined.“The mind certainly affects the skin. Skin is called a target organ because all kinds of things can negatively affect it, including stress,” says Bruce Katz, director of the Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Clinic at Mount Sinai Medial Center and director of the Juva Skin & Laser Center in New York. In his Manhattan practice, Katz says he receives more patients coming to tackle stress symptoms on their skin since the beginning of the recession. “We treat the rashes and we suggest relaxation, exercise or therapy.”


Suppliers are starting to respond. The French beauty supplier Silab recently started marketing Zenicyl, whose active ingredient is derived from millet seeds and purports to correct the impact of emotional stress on skin. The mood beauty trend is linked to the greater awareness by consumers of the mood-enhancing benefits of a healthy diet, and is based on women’s desire to adopt a more holistic view of beauty, says Mintel’s Lewis. Such ingredients as mashed potatoes or protein-rich foods are known as a quick fix for a foul mood because of the release of serotonin in one’s brain.


Still, it may be awhile before putting a smiley face on our skin cells hits the mainstream. “It is a very interesting area, the connection between the brain and the skin,” says Daniel Yarosh, senior vice president of research and development, basic science research, at Estée Lauder. However—don’t throw away the Valium just yet, he warns. “I don’t think we have products that directly affect the brain. In fact, we don’t want to trick the brain into thinking everything is all right when it is not. The goal of beauty products is to keep the stress level of the skin low.”