Topical Vitamins, Minerals and Botanical Ingredients As Modulators of Environmental and Chronological Skin Damage

A. Chiu, A.B. Kimball


The British Journal of Dermatology. 2003;149(4) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Ageing skin is characterized by fine lines, wrinkles, lentigines, dyspigmentation and increased coarseness. Topical preparations alleged to combat these changes abound in the over-the-counter market. Some of the most popular ingredients used in these products are vitamins, minerals and botanical extracts. Proposed mechanisms for antiageing effects on skin range from antioxidant properties to improved collagen synthesis or protection from collagen breakdown. Despite the media attention and consumer popularity that these ingredients have generated, there have been few scientific studies to support these claims. In this report, we review recent published studies on the most common of these ingredients for the topical photoprotection and the treatment of ageing skin.

Environmental or exogenous factors such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation, wind and smoke contribute to the extrinsic ageing of skin. This type of ageing, combined with intrinsic, or chronological ageing, results in the degeneration of the skin barrier, the development of rhytides, discoloration and possible malignant degeneration, among other changes.[1,2] Cosmetic changes associated with ageing, especially on the face, are particularly concerning to a patient population which wishes to remain looking youthful. As the demand for products that reduce the cosmetic effects of ageing continues to grow, healthcare professionals have a responsibility to educate themselves and to become informed about the scientific basis and established data, if any, behind these products. Clearly, topical, over-the-counter products alleged to benefit ageing skin are immensely popular among patients. These products account for annual sales of over 2 billion dollars in the U.S.A. alone.[3] Although topical medications such as tretinoin have been demonstrated in the scientific literature to reduce the signs of ageing,[4,5] patients often seek over-the-counter antiageing products due to the market availability, comparably cheaper prices, and the lack of the physician bottleneck.

Recently, consumer and media attention has focused specifically on products utilizing 'natural' ingredients such as vitamins, minerals and botanical extracts. These ingredients have the appeal of appearing wholesome and 'organic'. Although scientific evidence shows that some of these ingredients do have possible in vitro antiageing activity, the question remains whether it is possible to deliver adequate doses to the skin in vivo. and to produce either histological or clinical improvement of wrinkles, lentigines, coarseness, pigmentary changes, dryness and other characteristics of ageing skin. This article reviews recent published studies on the most common of these 'natural ingredients' and summarizes their proposed effects on ageing skin.