Greek to me: Pomegranate extracts popular in mythology, nutricosmetics

November 1, 2009

The science behind pomegranate extract in topicals and genomics in developing cosmeceuticals

Key Points

Q What accounts for the current popularity of pomegranate extracts touted as antioxidants for both oral consumption and topical application?

The pomegranate became famous in Greek mythology when Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld to be his wife. Persephone had consumed four pomegranate seeds while in the underworld and, thus, had to spend four months every year in Hades, during which time nothing would grow. This gave rise to the season of winter.

Pomegranate juice has also been purported to reduce oxidative stress, as well as affect LDL and platelet aggregation in humans and apolipoprotein e-deficient mice.2,3 It has also been studied for improving hyperlipidemia in diabetic patients.4 For this reason, pomegranate juice and oral supplements are recommended as lipid-lowering agents.

Pomegranate is one of the currently popular nutricosmetics that provides antioxidants when placed on the skin and in the body. It imparts a characteristic red color to moisturizers and drinks. The fleshy part of the pomegranate is relatively small compared to its tough outer rind and numerous small pits, accounting for its high cost.

Q How are genomics being used to develop new cosmeceuticals?

A A newer, more directed approach to the development of cosmeceuticals utilizes genomics. Genomics, as it pertains to skincare, analyzes which genes are up-regulated or down-regulated under certain conditions. A genomic analysis of young and old sun-exposed and sun-protected skin undertaken by Procter & Gamble revealed age-related changes in gene expression. Their research generated the following findings:

A. Intrinsic aging and photoaging were associated with down-regulation of epidermal differentiation.

B. Intrinsic aging and photoaging were associated with down-regulation of inflammation and wound healing.

C. Photoaging was associated with up-regulation of immune responses.

The next step in the use of genomics to develop cosmeceuticals is to test individual ingredients or combinations of ingredients and note their effect on the altered gene expression. The goal is to make old skin mimic young skin in terms of gene expression.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a Dermatology Times editorial adviser and investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C. Questions may be submitted via e-mail to


1 Pacheco-Palencia LA, Noratto G, Hingorani L, Talcott ST, Mertens-Talcott SU. Protective effects of standardized pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) polyphenolic extract in ultraviolet-irradiated human skin fibroblasts. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Sep 24; 56(18):8434-8441. Epub Aug 22

2 Pomegranate juice consumption for 3 years by patients with carotid artery stenosis reduces common carotid intima-media thickness, blood pressure and LDL oxidation. Clin Nutr. 2004 Jun; 23(3):423-433

3 Aviram M, Dornfeld L, Rosenblat M, et al. Pomegranate juice consumption reduces oxidative stress, atherogenic modifications to LDL, and platelet aggregation: studies in humans and in atherosclerotic apolipoprotein e-deficient mice. Am Journ Clin Nut. 2000;71:1062-1076

4 Concentrated pomegranate juice improves profiles in diabetic patients with hyperlipidemia. J Med Food. 2004 Fall;7(3):305-308