Clients of beauty and skin treatment therapists will forever purchase home care products from outside of their therapists prescription due to the promises of domestic retail (Department store brand) products. Slick advertising and impressive names of patented ingredients all lead to the promise of something truly anti-ageing that is going to keep us looking young longer.
Therapists need to be aware of the major players in this market and what they have to offer so they can offer objective advice and an unbiased view on suitability and/or alternatives.
This article deals with the much-hyped Pro-Xylane that is found in products across a number of skin care brands, and discusses exactly what it is, the mechanism of how it works, and what to really expect from it.
What does it actually do?
Pro-Xylane is a compound that is believed to work directly on the extracellular matrix (ECM), more specifically the Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) within the matrix.
We know that the GAGs form an important component of connective tissues and are long chains of sugar carbohydrate macromolecules produced by the cells. Among their many properties, such as defending against water loss, GAGs are also fillers.
What this means is they occupy the intracellular portion of the ECM. When the spaces between the cells are appropriately filled, the GAGS provide the dermis its compression resilience (by linking cells and elastic fibres) and a degree of turgescence, (plumping) as they are capable of retaining large volumes of water. (Up to 1000 times their volume)
Where there is poor production of GAGs, the skin will be much more prone to decreased elasticity, decreased turgidity, wrinkle formation and other architectural or texture related skin conditions. It is well understood that as we age, (or during fasting) there is a decrease in the biosynthesis of several extracellular matrix components in the skin, including GAGs.
Pro-Xylane is said to work at the epidermal-dermal junction by stimulating GAGs production, and consequently boosting the moisture level of the extracellular matrix. The net result should be a more adequately filled ECM, with less susceptibility to wrinklet formation, and firmer layers of the lower dermis.
How does it work?
Pro-Xylane is a derivative of Xylose, monosaccharide pentose (sugar) derived from plants. Before we debate how topically applying a plant sugar to the skin can boost GAGs production, we need to understand the relationship between sugars and GAGs.
As the Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) within the extracellular matrix (ECM) are largely sugar polymers consisting of uronic acids and amino sugars, researchers looking for ways to stimulate GAG biosynthesis began studying the Oligosaccharides (component sugars) that appear to be the initiators/regulators of the production of the GAGs.
This regulation is thought to be via a form of intercellular communication that Oligosaccharides promote via harmonious metabolism. The belief is that if the production of GAGs can be artificially stimulated, the ECM will always be in a full and healthy condition.
Further study of the relationship between Oligosaccharides and compatible monosaccharides (simple sugars) revealed that Xylose is present in natural chemical cycles in the body (Xylose is one of the eight essential sugars needed to optimal health and functioning in humans) and that the Xylose that is found in Xylans, the very abundant carbohydrate components in the cell walls of plants may be a suitable alternative as a sugar initiator of GAG biosynthesis in the skin. The result of the research was Pro-Xylane.
Evidence of effectiveness
The claimed effectiveness of Pro-Xylane was initially demonstrated in vitro (test tube environment) by cultured cell studies showing GAG synthesis stimulation and on reconstructed skin models showing a net improvement in the structure of the dermal-epidermal junction, ensuring cohesion between the dermis and epidermis.
A double blind clinical biological study was then conducted in vivo (on real people) on two volunteer groups of menopausal women, one group treated for three months with a cream containing the Pro-Xylane compound and the other group with an inert formulation.
The treated zone on the group using the Pro-Xylane compound was reported to have demonstrated a marked overall ageing improvement in terms of ageing spots, dryness, skin elasticity and wrinkles. (Although no hard data is available for review)
An histological study of the biopsies of skin samples from both study groups was also reported to have shown the group treated with the active ingredient demonstrated an increase in the expression of GAGs in the treated zone, particularly the GAG lacking at the wrinkle level (Chondrotine-6-Sulfate).
Further effectiveness results were confirmed in vivo through imaging instruments such as an electronic transmission microscope and a dermal torquemeter. (To test the skins mechanical properties such as pliability etc)
The source of the Xylose used to manufacture Pro-Xylane is the endogenous sugar produced by natural beech wood. (Fagus species) It was one of the first new active ingredients stemming from the green chemistry concept proposed in 1998 that lists 12 precise criteria, recognized worldwide, for evaluating the environmental impact of newly perfected processes and molecules.
Things to consider
While the science behind the concept appears reasonably sound, the question of whether there are more effective (cost and time) ways of stimulating GAGs production in the skin must be asked.
It is not uncommon for cosmetic product marketers to use diversional therapy to entice consumers to spend money on products that will only give marginal results compared to other methods that may at times be less glamorous or convenient, but far more effective. (Such as balanced internal hydration, diet and lifestyle)
Because the purpose of Pro-Xylane is to stimulate the production of GAGs and this happens at the lower levels of the epidermal-dermal junction, there may be more efficient ways of achieving this other than topical application.
We know that unless a formulation is largely lipid soluble or utilises liposomes the likelihood of the active reaching the target area in many skins is poor.
Another alternative may be increasing GAGs production by fulfilling the fibrobalst's nutritional requirements. This could be as simple as the use of a Glucosamine supplement. (Glucosamine is an amino sugar and a prominent precursor in the biochemical synthesis of glycosylated proteins and lipids)
If topical application of GAGs stimulants is claimed to work, then surely should internal delivery via the bloodstream will be more efficient?
Consider also what other ingredients are commonly used in concert with the Pro-Xylane active ingredient. Hyaluronic acid features in a number of the formulations, as does Arginine and Serine amino acids, along with Sodium hyaluronate, all water-binding agents.
These combinations of ingredients will boost the skins natural moisture levels, and provide the plumped appearance even without the GAGs stimulation. At around an average retail price of around $2.00 per ml, there may be more cost effective ways of achieving the effect.
In 2007 the international jury of the "Prix dExcellence de la Beaut Marie Claire 2007", (which is composed of 17 journalists from the worlds leading womens magazines) awarded for the first time, a prize for research. The prize rewarded the developer of Pro-Xylane, LOreal for their work on the new anti-ageing molecule.
It must be noted that this award was not of any groundbreaking scientific achievement, but for recognition that of the work that went in to the development and patenting of the molecule, and the fact it will be used across several of the parent companies sub-brands. A fact not missed by the advertising departments of these worlds leading womens magazines.
In 1999, a US patent was issued for the use of eriobotrya japonica extract (loquat fruit tree), in a cosmetic formulation for stimulating glycosaminoglycan synthesis in fibroblasts and keratinocytes.
It would appear Pro-Xylane is not alone in its GAGs stimulation properties.
2008 Virtual Beauty Corporation
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