The results of clinical tests are exceptionally good: wrinkles are smoothed (79% of women), and imperfections reduced (79%), in the case of Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector by Lancôme. But to attain this sort of success, a lot of cutting-edge research is needed. This is an exciting area, and scientists are beginning to understand the dynamics of ageing. As a result, a long-cherished objective is gradually becoming attainable: helping the body to put the clock back.
Lancôme's research reads like a detective story, in which the detectives are the maison’s scientists. They have discovered that skin has its own stem cells, and that they play an important role in keeping skin youthful. There are two basic types of stem cells, those found in the embryo, which have the potential to become any cell in the body, and adult stem cells, which can give rise to a smaller range of cells, according to their location. So, skin stem cells can become various types of skin cells, but not, for example, blood cells, nerve cells or bone cells.
Lancôme's researchers became convinced that stem cells are highly influential in skin ageing. They discovered that while the number of skin stem cells does not seem to change with age, their function does, and therefore the way in which they regenerate tissue. One route towards the goal of slowing the skin’s ageing is to find a way of encouraging stem cells to regenerate young skin tissue, rather than aged skin. To do this, it is important to create the right sort of environment, or niche, for these cells.
Plant stem cells
The solution came from the world of plants. Plants have stem cells too, and these could well be biologically significant because of a fundamental difference between plants and animals. Humans have about 20,000 genes, while plants have 50,000 or more. Why? Probably because of the fundamental difference between plants and animals: mobility. We are mobile, and this helps us to solve problems. For example, if we are thirsty, we go and find some water, while plants can't go anywhere and have to make other arrangements – such as switching on some of their genes to alter their metabolism. In short, plants can make a vast armament of molecules when the going gets tough.
In Lancôme's Absolue L'Extrait, dedifferentiated cells are extracted from a very special rose – because in addition to making products that are effective, it is important that they are in a format that will appeal to women, therefore with a silky texture and an unforgettable fragrance. The Lancôme rose has long been a symbol for the maison, representing life and beauty. It has an unusual fuchsia colour, and has exceptional qualities of resistance and strength. So the reasons for the choice of this particular plant are in part symbolic, in part scientific.
At the L’Oreal facility in Tours, France, pieces of leaf are taken from a Lancôme rose, purified and placed in a culture medium. Soon, clumps of cells – dedifferentiated cells – are seen at the edges of the leaf fragments. They are then allowed to multiply indefinitely in a bioreactor within a liquid medium, so that production can reach an industrial scale. The cells generate a range of molecules which, when applied to the skin, have a dramatic effect. They seem to prompt the skin to produce growth factors which in turn stimulate tissue regeneration. The two million Lancôme Rose stem cells in each jar of Absolue L'Extrait are combined with other active ingredients and a bewitching rose fragrance. Application is performed with a massage petal, and the result is an immediate effect of relaxation and toning.
Genome mapping and Advanced Génifique
Another area of research is linked to the human genome mapping project, completed in the year 2000. The purpose of genes is to provide a blueprint for proteins, some of which are involved in cell repair. Lancôme scientists are gradually discovering exactly which proteins are most important, and so it has become possible to target the skin with specific anti-ageing ingredients. The resulting product is Advanced Génifique, a liquid which is applied to the skin and produces a brighter, smoother and more radiant complexion.
Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector
One of the molecules discovered by Lancôme researchers is in the jasmonate family, and it acts on all levels of the skin, epidermis, basement membrane and dermis. This substance forms the principal ingredient of Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector, another Lancôme product that attains the exceptional results in clinical tests as mentioned in the first paragraph.
Of course, research is an ongoing process, but there is no doubt that products such as these by Lancôme offer unprecedented help in helping the skin stay young and attractive.
Lancôme Absolue L’Extrait Ultimate Elixir Concentrate, recommended retail price £255
Lancôme Advanced Génifique, recommended retail price £59
Lancôme Visionnaire LR 2412 4% Cx Advanced Skin Corrector, recommended retail price £60
Further reading: The revelation of stem cells