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Creams cannot remove wrinkles, Bakuchiol and retinol will age and damage the skin, and a discussion on exfoliating body washes: Ask a Skin Care Biologist


Ask a Skin Care Biologist is a recurring Bioluminescence post where OUMERE's CEO and CSO, Wendy Ouriel, M.S., answers your skin care questions. Wendy is a cellular biologist with expertise in cellular aging, extracellular matrix biology and the biology of skin care.
Question: Whenever I see a cream or moisturizer advertised, the company always claims that it can remove wrinkles in addition to hydrating the skin. Is this claim true or false?
- Sarah L.
Answer: False. Creams and moisturizers are ineffective skin care products. They do not moisturize because their formula does not allow for the biological mechanisms in the body to occur that create skin hydration. And they do not remove wrinkles. It is a biological impossibility for a cream or moisturizer to remove a wrinkle because a cream cannot fix broken elastin, upregulate collagen and repair and renew skin cells. All of which are necessary for wrinkle removal.
All creams can do is sit atop the skin and temporarily fill in wrinkles, which gives the illusion of hydrated, firmer and smoother skin. But what creams actually do is dry the skin out, and create more wrinkles in the long term. Creams dry the skin out because the water within the cream sits on top of the skin , causing evaporation that pulls water from the cream and the skin which leads to more dryness which creates more wrinkles. Furthermore, the ingredients in the cream, whether its the fragrance, the solvents or the emulsifiers break down the skin which creates more wrinkles and saggy skin. 
The only way to remove wrinkles with skin care is with daily AHA/PHA exfoliation because this renews skin cells, rebuilds collagen and elastin and hydrates the skin. With that said, it is very rare to find an exfoliant that can do this because most exfoliants will also harm the skin due to their clumsy, unscientific, commercialized formula. But when it is formulated right, it will make the skin look years younger.
The right exfoliant has to have a very specific pH to be effective without doing harm, and the ingredients have to have the correct concentration of acids, extracts and water to have an age-reversing effect. This is why it took me years to develop the No. 9 exfoliant. Because I needed to find a way to exfoliate without affecting the skin cells, and the acidity of the No. 9 is how I did it. No. 9 exfoliates by dissolving the "glue" that adheres dead skin cells to the surface of your face, causing the cells to individually to fall off without affecting live skin. This type of exfoliation is the only way to stimulate stem cells to make new skin, which is the only way to exfoliate without aging, and is something retinols, scrubs, and other exfoliants cannot do. 
Question: I have heard that Bakuchiol is the "new retinol" and has the ability to remove wrinkles and acne. Is this true?
- Arman P.
I had not heard of Bakuchiol until I received a bunch of e-mails from Mask of Vanity readers asking me about it. During the last decade I have been studying skin care and skin care ingredients, and I never once came across this ingredient in my studies. What I did come across what the fact that no single ingredient can solve all of ones problems. So when a single ingredient, not a skin care method, pops up out of nowhere and every beauty blog all of a sudden starts calling it a "holy grail", a "miracle ingredient" and other terms representing skin care in a religious light I know it is probably a fad.
And after researching bakuchiol I have concluded that this ingredient is a fad and a potentially harmful one.
Chemical structure of bakuchiol
Stripping it down to the bare bones and forgetting all of the hype, bakuchiol is a chemical from the terpene class of chemicals. Specifically, it is a meroterpene, primarily derived from the plant  Psoralea corylifolia. Terpenes are cytotoxic agents that break the cell down by initiating cellular death. This is why essential oils, which are made of terpenes, are so destructive to the skin, cause lung irritation and disease when inhaled, and have caused people to die. 
Terpenes contain no nutrition, so they do no have any fatty acids, no carbohydrates, no proteins, no minerals, and no vitamins. They are just hydrocarbons, and for some reason, every fear mongering skin care blog on the planet is hysterical over hydrocarbons as a "toxin", yet gives essential oils, retinol, and bakuchiol a free pass.  Turpentine, the paint thinner, is a terpene, and hydrocarbon chemical for example. So is butane and propane. 
So why is bakuchiol the fad ingredient of the moment? Because no one knows how to read scientific papers and the skin care community is one big echo chamber.  Briefly, here is a rundown of what is going on:
1. Some scientific papers reported that bakuchiol increased bone density in rats, however this is when it was ingested, not topically applied to the skin, and the same conclusions were not found in human studies.
 2. Some papers found that bakuchiol has "anti-tumor" activity. Although this sounds good, pouring any dangerous chemical on a tumor will kill it, whether it is gasoline, kerosene, acetone, benzene, xylene or petroleum ether. Would you like to put any of those on your face? No? Why not? They kill tumors in lab studies, that must mean it is good, right? Because it kills the bad thing? No, it means that whatever kills the tumor must be worse than the tumor, it must be aggressively cytotoxic, and if it kills a tumor, it will kill your other cells too. 
Furthermore, these studies were found either by pouring bakuchiol onto a tumor in a petri dish, or injected into a rat. None of these studies were found in humans, and none of these studies were skincare-related, meaning nowhere was the product topically applied to human skin and resulted in any sort of anti-tumor activity. 
3. Retinol is a type of terpenoid, a cytotoxic agent, and so is bakuchiol. So what happened was the unscientific community found that these two both had a similar-sounding chemical structure, and  because bakuchiol comes from a plant, it was hailed as the "new and natural retinol." But if we are going to do that, why can't propane be the new retinol? Its natural and has a similar chemical makeup and action as retinol. Or what about butane, or how about paint thinner? They all work the same way, come from a similar class of chemicals, are natural and break the skin down to exfoliate. 
Its absurd to put butane on our face, but why don't we see other terpenes as being damaging? Whether it is retinol, butane, or bakuchiol, they all do the same thing: cause cell death because they are cytotoxic. And yes, killing a live skin cell will cause exfoliation, but it will cause aging. 
When skin cells die prematurely through exposure to a cytotoxic agent, they have to be replaced by existing skin cells through cellular division. Cell division can only be done a limited amount of times before aging sets in because every time cells divide, some DNA gets cut inside the nucleus of the cell. After so many cuts, the DNA frays and aging begins. 
Retinol-caused aging is why those who use retinol long term have skin so thin they can't even go and get their eyebrows waxed without their skin getting ripped off with the wax paper.
When a terpene such as bakuchiol is applied to the skin, it initiates cell death, which causes new skin cells to be made to replace the dead skin cells, which causes the DNA to get cut and you step closer and closer to aging. Breaking skin cells down also breaks down the collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid that surrounds that cell, further aging yourself. Every time you apply retinol, bakuchiol or any other agent of cell death you age yourself. 
Test subject shows deepening of forehead wrinkle after 12 weeks of retinol use 
The deleterious effects retinol has on a biological system is why retinol causes abortions in pregnant rats, craniofacial defects in monkeys and pigs born to mothers given retinol during pregancy, and birth defects and miscarriages in humans whose mothers used retinol during pregnancy. Defects and death occurs because retinol is destructive to the cells. And not just skin cells, it has an effect on the internal organs too. Retinol causes a reorganization of the cells lining the kidneys and other organs, which disrupt normal biological function. This is why retinol has a harmful effect on pregnant females and their offspring.
And if bakuchiol is just another retinol, it will have harmful effects too. Studies have identified bakuchiol as an allergen, an irritant, a skin sensitizer and a cause of contact dermatitis in users
The good news is, if you have used a skin care product with bakuchiol in it, it probably had no effect because the concentration of the ingredient in the product was about 0.1-0.5%. As discussed in a previous Mask of Vanity article, the reason why OUMERE products look different and work different is because we use our entire formula on oils and extracts, whereas other brands use 1-5%. So although that skin care product has a harmful ingredient in it, it is a drop in the ocean and is so diluted by their water and chemicals that make up the product it will likely have no effect. And at that point, why even bother buying it?
Question: I have been a long-time reader and I know now that physical scrubs on the face are a no-no. Would body scrubs still be ok since they are not used on the face?
-Karrie B. 
Answer: I used to say that physical scrubs on the body were ok because the live skin and dead skin layers are thicker on the arms, torso and legs. My understanding was that because the skin layers are thicker, you do not cause damage by light scrubbing that you would experience on your face and neck, such as microlacerations and cell death. 
But now I am not so sure. I had been using a scrub that I bought at the grocery store that is one of those body washes with exfoliating particles and it seemed to be working ok. And then a few weeks ago I noticed that I had what looked like mild acne on my back, which is something I never experienced before. The body wash ran out at this point and I just went back to the normal stuff I was using before and the back acne went away. 
It got me thinking that I may have been wrong about scrubs being ok to use on the body and perhaps the skin layers, although thicker than the face and neck, are not thick enough to protect against the damaging effects of scrubs on the skin. 
It could also mean that perhaps I was using the scrub too much? I was using this exfoliating body wash every day, but the scrubbing particles were so sparse within the product that it really didn't feel like I was doing anything other than a very light exfoliation. A loofah would be 100x more intense than this body wash. 
I thought it could have maybe been the formula of the body wash itself that would cause the acne, but I have used the version of this body wash without the exfoliating ingredients and had no issues.
So I am more on the side now that physical exfoliating, in general, should be avoided.
But how do you exfoliate areas below the face? It got me thinking of a new product, perhaps a No. 9 body wash that exfoliates by sitting on the skin. It would have to be something that is done every day, because full exfoliation takes 30 minutes, and I am sure most people (including myself) would only be willing to stand in the shower with the water off for 5 minutes max. So it would have to be a product that just does a little work each day, which I think is a good thing because you cannot over exfoliate this way, and it wont cause the skin breakouts, dryness and irritation caused by all of the other body washes on the market.
If this is a product you would be interested in seeing added to the OUMERE line, send us an email to let us know your thoughts.
Have a question for Ask a Skin Care Biologist? Send it to blog@oumere.com
References
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Chen, Zhe; Jin, Ke; Gao, Lingyan; et al. (2010). "Anti-tumor effects of bakuchiol, an analogue of resveratrol, on human lung adenocarcinoma A549 cell line". European Journal of Pharmacology. 643 (2–3): 170–9.
Christensson, J. B., Forsström, P., Wennberg, A. M., Karlberg, A. T., & Matura, M. (2009). Air oxidation increases skin irritation from fragrance terpenes. Contact Dermatitis60(1), 32-40.
Fantel, A. G., Shepard, T. H., Newell‐Morris, L. L., & Moffett, B. C. (1977). Teratogenic effects of retinoic acid in pigtail monkeys (Macaca nemestrina) I. General features. Teratology15(1), 65-71.
Imokawa, G., & Ishida, K. (2015). Biological mechanisms underlying the ultraviolet radiation-induced formation of skin wrinkling and sagging I: reduced skin elasticity, highly associated with enhanced dermal elastase activity, triggers wrinkling and sagging. International journal of molecular sciences16(4), 7753-7775.
Majeed, R., Reddy, M. V., Chinthakindi, P. K., Sangwan, P. L., Hamid, A., Chashoo, G., ... & Koul, S. (2012). Bakuchiol derivatives as novel and potent cytotoxic agents: A report. European journal of medicinal chemistry49, 55-67.
Malinauskiene, L., Linauskiene, K., Černiauskas, K., & Chomičiene, A. (2019). Bakuchiol—A new allergen in cosmetics. Contact dermatitis80(6), 398-399.
McCaffery, P. J., Adams, J., Maden, M., & Rosa‐Molinar, E. (2003). Too much of a good thing: retinoic acid as an endogenous regulator of neural differentiation and exogenous teratogen. European Journal of Neuroscience18(3), 457-472.
Prashar, A., Locke, I. C., & Evans, C. S. (2004). Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells. Cell proliferation37(3), 221-229.
Raison‐Peyron, N., & Dereure, O. (2020). A new case of contact dermatitis to bakuchiol in a cosmetic cream. Contact dermatitis82(1), 61-62.
Wolkoff, P., Larsen, S. T., Hammer, M., Kofoed-Sørensen, V., Clausen, P. A., & Nielsen, G. D. (2013). Human reference values for acute airway effects of five common ozone-initiated terpene reaction products in indoor air. Toxicology letters216(1), 54-64.