Trends in cosmeceutical ingredients

Vivian Bucay, M.D. reviewed the latest findings around common ingredients in today’s cosmeceutical formulations.

What’s trending in cosmeceuticals? Niacinamide, heparan sulfate, defensins, novel retinoids and sodium copper chlorophyllin complex, according to Vivian W. Bucay, M.D., a dermatologist in San Antonio, Texas, who presented on the topic this week at the 2017 Vegas Cosmetic Surgery and Aesthetic Dermatology meeting, in Las Vegas.


Cosmeceuticals contain three primary forms of vitamin B3, including niacinamide, nicotinic acid and nicotinate esters, according to Dr. Bucay.

“[The] most studied and efficacious form is niacinamide. Nicotinic acid [is] not generally used because it causes vasodilation, redness and irritation,” according to Dr. Bucay’s presentation. “Niacinamide readily penetrates the stratum corneum, [with] little potential for irritation.”

Niacinamide’s effects on the skin include improving the skin barrier function, pigmentation and appearance of lines and wrinkles associated with photoaging. The water-soluble vitamin has been shown in studies to have immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects, and more. Niacinamide has also been shown to improve acne, by, among other things, decreasing facial sebum production. It also has been shown to reduce pigmentation and decrease UV-induced immunosuppression.

Heparan Sulfate

Heparan sulfate is a key glycosaminoglycan, which surrounds cells and is required for cell growth, according to Dr. Bucay.

Heparan sulfate is well documented in dermatology, with studies in wound repair, skin infections, atopic dermatitis, rosacea and psoriasis. As a facilitator of growth factor function, heparan sulfate is essential for collagen synthesis, she writes.

And topically applied heparan sulfate penetrates the epidermis and dermis in humans, according to Dr. Bucay.

Low molecular weight heparan sulfate is found exclusively in the Senté skincare product line (Senté), she writes.


According to a study by Lough et al published November 2013, the immune system releases defensins that activate LGR6+ stem cells. Activated LGR6+ stem cells create new basal stem cells. And the newly-created basal stem cells produce fresh keratinocytes that last a lifetime.

Defensins, which are antimicrobial peptides, are released by neutrophils in wounds. These dermatologic stem cells generate cell lineages of the skin, according to Dr. Bucay.

Defensins have been shown to enhance wound healing and hair growth. Early studies suggest defensins reduce skin aging. Dr. Bucay is among the researchers conducting an ongoing vehicle-controlled study on the use of synthetic defensins in a cosmetic base.

While retinol stimulates old basal stem cells to make old keratinocytes, defensins activate preserved LGR6+ stem cells to make new basal stem cells. And while growth factors switch on good and bad cells, defensins activate specific cells types to do specific jobs, according to Dr. Bucay.

Defensins are found in DefenAge (DefenAge) skincare products.

A novel retinoid

Scientists have developed a bioengineered double conjugate retinoid with lactic acid, which is designed to optimize delivery of beneficial properties of both an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and a retinoid, with less skin irritation. The proprietary “AlphaRet technology” increases stability, reduces irritation and improves passage through the skin, according to Dr. Bucay’s presentation.

The product AlphaRet Overnight Cream (SkinBetter Science), includes the AlphaRet molecule, 0.1%, glycolic acid and a potent antioxidant blend.

Sodium copper chlorophyllin complex

“Liposomal sodium copper chlorophyllin complex technology is based on chlorophyll, [a] fat soluble green pigment in plants necessary for photosynthesis,” according to Dr. Bucay.

Sodium copper chlorophyllin has a long history of use in medicine, including in topical wound healing. Recently, sodium chlorophyllin has been used topically for cosmetic purposes, in the MDRejuvena Rejuvaphyl Rejuvenating complex (MDRejuvena). The product, she writes, has been shown to reduce redness and oiliness and improve signs of photodamage.

Results from a human biopsy study published July 2016 suggest retinoids and sodium copper chlorophyllin complex have beneficial effects on biomarkers of photoaged skin. Together, sodium copper chlorophyllin complex and retinols may provide a dual approach to reversing age-related changes, according to the authors.

Disclosure: Dr. Bucay reports ties to Allergan, Merz Aesthetics, Galderma, Johnson & Johnson/Neutrogena, L’Oreal/SkinCeuticals, NuGene, Senté Labs, Medicell Technologies, Alastin Skincare, Viviscal, BTL, Sienna Biopharmaceuticals, Syneron Candela and Miramar Labs.

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