Elixir 10- Phytoestrogen Booster

Our Anti-Aging Cream contains soy isoflavones and resveratrol, but if you are a woman over 50 you may need even more help. Our Elixir10 booster is a mix of beneficial botanical extracts that can supply your skin (and scalp) with beneficial chemicals that will bind to the estrogen receptors left vacant by menopause.  

Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals that can interact with two of the most important receptors of steroid hormones: the sex hormone-binding globulin and the cytosolic estrogen receptor. The chemical structure of phytoestrogens differs greatly and may seem very different from estradiol, but a part of the molecule is similar enough to human estrogen to fool the receptor.

For those who think that Mother Nature made these chemicals for our benefit, think again: they are part of the defense system against fungi. Also, in the 1940s, it was noticed that pastures of red clover, a phytoestrogen-rich plant, had effects on the fecundity of grazing sheep. It is likely that these plants evolved the biochemical pathways required to make these secondary metabolites to disrupt the hormonal balance in their predators, decreasing birth rates in sheep or whatever animal was having them for breakfast.

For our Elixir10, we are using botanical extracts standardized for chemicals with estrogenic properties.  As a bonus, many of these chemicals have other beneficial properties, including antioxidant and anticancer activities, and protection from UV damage.  Please note that the beneficial properties enumerated below are on top of the estrogenic properties.

Ingredients: Soybean (Glycine max) Genistein, Flax (Linum usitatissimum) Lignans, Wild Yam Diosgenin, Soybean (Glycine max) Daidzein, Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract, Luteolin, Resveratrol, Apigenin, Phloretin, Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) Puerarin.

  • Kudzu Puerarin– Pueraria is a rejuvenating folk remedy in Thailand, a tradition passed on from generation to generation. The Thai name is White Kwao Krua or Kwao Keur. Besides puerarin, the 8-C-glucoside of daidzein, kudzu contains other phytoestrogens, like miroestrol, deoxymiroestrol, daidzin, genistein, and coumestrol.
  • Genistein and Daidzein- Stimulate the synthesis of hyaluronic acid. Genistein induces collagenation in soft tissue wound healing and inhibits tyrosine kinase.
  • Flax Lignans- A class of phytoestrogens with antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties, and their skin strengthening properties will help preven scarring and stretch marks.
  • Daidzein- Activates all three peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPAR) isoforms, a group of nuclear receptor proteins that function as transcription factors regulating the expression of genes, cellular differentiation, development, and metabolism.
  • Luteolin – A flavonoid with great properties: protection against lipid peroxidation  and protease activation  by UV radiation, anti-age, anti-itch, anti-inflammatory. We will soon start selling this active individually.
  • Resveratrol (3,5,4′-trihydroxystilbene)- A polyphenolic antioxidant found in grapes and red wine, blocks UVB-mediated activation of the factor NFkappa-B, and this is the mechanism of protection against photocarcinogenesis.  Plant polyphenols like resveratrol  may benefit the skin with anti-inflammatory and wound healing activity through their interaction with growth factor receptors (and the cytoplasmic and nuclear pathways these receptors control) besides direct antioxidant activity.

Easily add Elixir 10 to your ready made or base creams. This video shows you more about formulating with this active.


-Dr. Hannah Sivak

Special – Free with orders of $50 or $150

Our October Bonus features a festive Caramel Apple Soft Lip Balm! 
Orders over $150 – 5mL tube of Caramel Apple Soft Lip Balm and
10mL tube of Lip Collagen Serum

Orders over $50 – 5mL Squeeze tube Caramel Apple Soft Lip Balm
The fall season is upon us, so it’s time for those wonderful sweet treat flavors and scents. Caramel Apple seemed like the perfect flavor for our ultra-moisturizing soft lip balm. Chapped lips disappear with this softening formula. The large bonus also features our Lip Collagen Serum which provides EGF and Hydrolyzed Collagen for the perfect anti-aging lip treatment. 

Soft Lip Balm (Caramel Apple Flavor):
C10-30 Cholesterol/Lanosterol Esters, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Polyglycerol – 3 Beeswax,  Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Cholesteryl Oleyl Carbonate, Cholesteryl Nonanoate, Cholesteryl Chloride, BHT, Lecithin, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Ceramide – 3, Petrolatum, Flavor.

Lip Collagen Serum:
Distilled Water, Prunus Cerasus (Cherry) Fruit Extract, Seakelp (Lactobacillus/Kelp Ferment Filtrate) Bioferment, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Juice Extract, Sodium PCA, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Juice, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Fucoidan, Carnosine, N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Extract, Resveratrol, Lycopene, sh-Oligopeptide-1, sh-Polypeptide-3, Stevia Rebaudiana (Stevia) Extract, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

Please note: Bonus products are added automatically. No code is required, and they will not show in the shopping cart.

FDA rules “not enough science” to show antibacterial soaps have a benefit. Soap and water “more effective”.

From the FDA’s Consumer Updates page:

“Because the manufacturers haven’t proven that the antibacterial ingredients are safe for daily use over a long period of time. Also, manufacturers haven’t shown that these ingredients are any more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illnesses and the spread of certain infections. Some manufacturers have already started removing these ingredients from their products, ahead of the FDA’s final rule.”

“Following simple handwashing practices is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness at home, at school and elsewhere,” says Theresa M. Michele, MD, of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products. “We can’t advise this enough. It’s simple, and it works.”


So, what exactly is the FDA saying to consumers? Triclosan and 18 other ingredients have failed to show a true benefit in fighting germs and COULD HELP make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. These soap companies have one year to remove the 19 active ingredients from their formulas or they will no longer be available to consumers.

washing_hands-02Here are the top reasons to NOT use antibacterial products (including soaps) on the skin regularly:

1) It may promote the development of bacterial strains resistant to antibiotics.

2) Killing some bacterial populations will push the microbiome off-equilibrium, allowing other bacteria to colonize the skin.

3) Some antibacterials (natural or synthetic) are also irritating and/or allergenic to the skin.



Skin bacteria:

It used to be that we only discussed bacteria when speaking about infections. In skin care, it was all about acne and how to kill Propionibacterium acnes. Now, you can see bacteria and the “microbiome” everywhere in magazines to advertise skin care products.

Human skin functions as a physical barricade to stop the entry of pathogens, but also hosts innumerable commensal organisms (commensal means living in a relationship in which one organism derives food or other benefits from another organism without hurting or helping it). The skin cells and the immune system constantly interact with microbes maintaining an equilibrium, despite a continuous change in the environment.

Bacteria are essential to the function of the human body, and many species live in us, and on us. We are familiar with the negative effect of taking oral antibiotics on our gastrointestinal track and the flora that resides there. The probiotic supplement market is booming and even major yogurt brands now carry probiotic formulas.

The type of bacteria depends on the part of the body and on the person, but there will be many in each part, living in peace with each other and with us. So many factors influence the composition of the microbiome, like diet, gender, the environment including ultraviolet radiation, family and other factors that will impact the species composition.

In the skin, many bacterial species will not grow well in culture, so a complete identification of bacteria requires the use of DNA technology. The dry skin surface is dominated by Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteriodetes, and Firmicutes. Moist areas are rich in Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium spp. A lower bacterial diversity is seen in oilier sites, suggesting that only few bacterial communities, like Propionibacterium, can flourish under those conditions; in acne the problem is the abnormal proliferation of this bacterium.

Scientists are getting to know more about the skin microbiome but it will be a lot of research and a long time before we know enough to effect a positive change.

Also, just in case you are not doing it already, stop using antibacterial soaps. Frequent use of some antibacterials will promote the development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, promoting the proliferation of drug resistant infections, a scourge of medicine.


-Dr. Hannah Sivak


What are ceramides?

Ceramides consist of a long-chain or sphingoid base linked to a fatty acid via an amide bond.

Figure: Sphingosine.

Figure: ceramide, with sphingosine bound to a fatty acid via an amide.

Ceramides are present at low concentration in plants and animals, so there isn’t a good source of natural ceramides for use in the industry. Extraction of a rare chemical from a plant requires laborious processes and the resulting ingredient are terribly expensive. Another source of ceramides, the central nervous system, is not suitable for epidemiological reasons. For this reason, the ceramides used in skin care are synthetic.

Confusing Terminology

The chemical nomenclature for ceramides is simple enough: it combines the names for fatty acids and long-chain bases to denote the molecular species of ceramides, e.g. N-palmitoyl-sphingosine is d18:1-16:0.
For ceramides, the INCI (International nomenclature for cosmetic ingredients) nomenclature is not helpful. For the synthetic ceramide caproyl sphingosine  (about $25,000 per gram, for comparison, the price of pure gold is around $55 per gram), with CAS# 100403-19-8, several INCI names are used: Ceramide 5, ceramide 4, ceramide 3, ceramide 2, ceramide 1, ceramide 1A, ceramide 6, ceramide 6II, etc.
A typical ingredient list of a ceramide mix used in the industry will read as follows: Ceramide 3 (and) Ceramide 6 (and) Ceramide I (and) Phytosphingosine (and) Cholesterol (and) Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate (and) Carbomer (and) Xanthan Gum. Even with additives, this ingredient still cost several thousand dollars per Kg.
The forum question that started this article was “which ceramide does Skin Actives use?” The INCI name for “our” ceramide is “ceramide E”, and CAS No is 153967-07-8
Synonyms: Cetyl-PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide and Hexadecanamide, N- (2- hydroxyethyl)- N- (3- hexadecyloxy- 2- hydroxypropyl)-
If you look at the chemical formula below, you will see that this is not strictly a ceramide, thus its name “pseudoceramide”. Pseudoceramides were created to solve the problem created by topical steroids, a medication used for serious inflammatory illnesses; when used long term corticosteroids affect the skin in negative ways. Pseudoceramides are capable of forming lamellar structures like those ceramides form; they will restore the skin barrier, decreasing water loss in skin damaged by corticosteroid use.

Figure: Ceramide E (chemical name Cetyl-PG Hydroxyethyl Palmitamide).

What do ceramides do for our skin?

Ceramides are important to our skin, an important part of what makes the epidermis a good barrier against water loss. They form part of the “cement” that together with flattened, a-nucleated cells (corneocytes) make the cornified layer (stratum corneum, SC) of the epidermis. The SC is central to the role of skin as a barrier against water loss, bacterial and fungal attacks and penetration of anything foreign to the skin.








Figure: Skin layers (from Wikipedia).

The most external layer is the stratum corneum, preventing water loss and entry of noxious substances. How is the stratum corneum formed? In the layer below, keratinocytes are losing their nuclei and releasing polar lipids that will be transformed into ceramides and free fatty acids.

The SC consists of corneocytes, flattened cells that have lost their nuclei, imbedded in a lipid mixture consisting mainly of a lamellar structure of ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids.  Insufficient lipids or lipids in the “wrong” ratio (because some were lost or there were not enough in the first place) can result in an increased water loss and/or increased penetration of harmful substances from the environment causing skin dryness and skin sensitivity

Now, we can make a big thing of this and say that we need to plaster the skin with topically applied ceramides in order to improve the barrier, but by the time ceramides are deposited in the epidermis it is a bit too late to change much. In my opinion, the time to work on a good stratum corneum is long before it has been formed: provide your live skin cells with the polar lipids they will use later on to make ceramides.  As for the fundamental role of the SC, the corner stone of the skin barrier, at this late stage other actives may do just as well.

How do you get ceramides in your daily skin care?

Try our ready made Every Lipid Serum which provides all of the lipids your skin needs, it is 100% active ingredients and no fillers.

We also offer 1g of Ceramides which can be added to your creams or oils.


-Dr. Hannah Sivak

Vitamin A in Skin Care

How vitamin A was found to be a Vitamin
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential to human metabolism, but that humans are unable to synthesize so they must be acquired through food. During evolution, we “simply” lost some enzymes required for their synthesis. Observations made before 1900: Nutritional deprivation caused corneal ulcers, blindness, and high mortality. Also, an unknown substance present in milk and egg yolk is essential for nutrition.

In the early 20th century it was found that this unknown substance was fat soluble. The growth-supporting “accessory factor” in milk and egg yolk became known as ‘fat-soluble A’ in 1918 and then ‘vitamin A’ in 1920. Further research, and huge advances in chemistry and biochemistry in the 20th century, elucidated the chemical structure of the molecule and eventually lead to its chemical synthesis in the laboratory.

One of the very important roles of vitamin A is maintaining epidermal integrity. Vitamin A appears to maintain normal skin health by switching on genes and differentiating keratinocytes (immature skin cells) into mature epidermal cells.

Vitamin A activity step by step (it is complicated)
After retinoic acid enters the cell, it binds to specific nuclear receptors. These “activated” nuclear receptors in turn bind to specific regulatory sequences (called retinoic acid response elements) in the DNA inside the nucleus and directly change gene expression of specific genes. Such changes in gene expression translate into changes in the production of proteins, and are responsible for the biological and therapeutic effects of retinoids.
Acne and retinoids

In the 1970s, retinoic acid was used topically to control acne, and the effect was thought to be through reduction of sebum secretion. In 1979 a synthetic derivative of vitamin A, 13-cis-retinoic acid (isotretinoin), was found to help with severe nodulocystic acne by reducing the size and secretion of the sebaceous glands. Although it is known that a certain fraction of isotretinoin breaks down to retinoic acid, the mechanism of action of the drug (original brand name Accutane) remains unknown and is a matter of some controversy. Isotretinoin also reduces bacteria in both the ducts and skin surface. This is thought to be a result of the reduction in sebum, a nutrient source for the bacteria.

The chemistry of vitamin A
The vitamin A found in animal sources, retinyl ester, is fat soluble. This is also the form of vitamin A we use in our Skin Actives products, and what is used in commercial vitamins. Retinol (the alcohol) and retinal (the aldehyde) are very unstable.

Plants can be a source of pro-vitamin A because, if they contain alpha carotene, beta carotene, and other carotenes (as long as they contain the beta-ionone ring), the animals (including humans) that possess the enzymes required can transform these carotenoids into retinal.

Why the use of some retinoids must be medically supervised
Retinoids have significant effects on normal embryonic development. Retinoic acid has recently been characterized as a vertebrate morphogen, i.e. a signaling molecule that controls the spatial pattern of differentiation and the shape of the developing embryo. The potent teratogenic effects (malformations of the embryo) of retinoids are well established and are a consequence of their central role in morphogenesis. Isotretinoin is also a teratogen with a number of potential side-effects, so its use requires medical supervision and it is strictly controlled by law.

Retinoids are not interchangeable
Retinol and its esters (retinyl acetate and retinyl palmitate) are converted into retinoic acid and bind to receptors on the nuclear membrane, and through these receptors they exert their effects.

Some effects of vitamin A deficiency are reversed by retinoic acid, but some organs (i.e. the retina and testes) require retinal or retinol, depending on the metabolism of the organ. Skin requires retinoic acid. In short, not all of the effects of vitamin A in every organ require the same chemical form of vitamin A.

Hundreds of different chemicals share some of the activities of vitamin A, but their different structures also mean that side effects will be different. When it comes to synthetic derivatives, like isotretinoin, part of the effects may be due to its partial conversion in the body into retinoic acid. However, there is more to the mechanism of action, and this part of the story is still a matter of investigation (in other words, caveat emptor, because we have no idea how it works).

Too much can be too much
In general, retinoids tend to normalize cellular proliferation and differentiation. In human epidermis, low concentrations of retinoids generally increase keratinocyte proliferation, but high concentrations can be inhibitory. This effect is used in the treatment of psoriasis.

How vitamin A was found to have effect on aging skin
The benefits of topical tretinoin on human photodamaged skin were first observed in middle-aged women treated for persistent acne. These women described smoother, less wrinkled skin in addition to the clearing of acne. Improvements were noted in skin texture, wrinkling, pigmentation, and sallowness. Although these effects were first studied using tretinoin, retinyl acetate (vitamin A) has similar effects BUT without the irritation caused by tretinoin (and without the need for medical supervision required for the synthetic retinoid).

Many people can’t use topical tretinoin because of its side effects, which include skin irritation. We know that this is not a problem with retinyl esters, like retinyl acetate, because they work just as well or better, because they don’t have serious side effects and don’t require medical supervision. The take home lesson is that it is simply not worthwhile to suffer the side effects of tretinoin and other synthetic forms of vitamin A. We have two ready made products, Vitamin A Cream and Vitamin A Serum to deliver the benefits of retinyl acetate safely.

-Dr. Hannah Sivak


Reference: J.J.J. Fu, G.G. Hillebrand, P. Raleigh, J. Li, M.J. Marmor, V. Bertucci,_P.E. Grimes, S.H. Mandy, M.I. Perez, S.H. Weinkle and J.R. Kaczvinsky (2010). A randomized, controlled comparative study of the wrinkle reduction benefits of a cosmetic niacinamide⁄peptide⁄retinyl propionate product regimen vs. a prescription 0.02% tretinoin product regimen. British J. Dermatology, 162: 647–654

UV exposure, aging and our remedy: UV Repair Cream

Radiation: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

How to Get “the glow” – If you are a professional photographer you know that the skin does not glow, but that the clever use of light can make it look so, like in the magnificent photographs of Greta Garbo. Women in the 1930s wanted the same glow that we want in our skin now. My son, Jonatan brought me a lovely gift from France, a poster advertising an original way to get “the glow.”

Promising beautifying and curative activity, the Tho-Radia cream and powder were sold in France during the early 1930’s. The products were advertised as the creation of “Docteur Alfred Curie” although he may not have even existed (Pierre Curie had died in 1906, and the rest of his family were active physicists too busy to sell beauty treatments). Never mind that just two years after the discovery of Radium, it was found that it could damage the skin. Physicist Antoine Becquerel (who discovered radioactivity with Pierre and Marie Curie) found out when he carried a small ampoule of radium around in his pocket for 6 hours and reported that his skin ulcerated.



Take home lesson? Very bad people taking advantage of a women’s desire for beauty have been around for centuries. You can’t afford to be naive and ignore science (as opposed to quackery). Radioactivity is a form of radiation, and we can keep it as an example of “the ugly,” we only encounter rarely.

Sunlight is More than What We See

Ultraviolet light is classified into three categories: UVA (long wave, black light, 315 to 400 nm) which causes tanning, UVB (medium wave, 280 to 315 nm) which causes sunburn, and UVC (short wave, germicidal, 100 to 280 nm) which is filtered out by the atmosphere and does not reach us. Incidentally, the ozone layer absorbs 97–99% of the UV from about 200 nm to 315 nm wavelength, which potentially damages exposed life forms on Earth.


Not everything UV light does to you is bad, ultraviolet light (between 270 nm and 300 nm) reaching our skin breaks down 7-dehydrocholesterol flowing in the bloodstream, converting it into vitamin D. Experts believe that our efforts to curtail skin damage are pushing us into the area of vitamin D deficiency. Sunscreen and dark skin interfere with your capacity to make vitamin D, but unless you work outdoors, you may not get enough sun even if you don’t wear sunscreen. Talk to your MD, and she/he may measure vitamin D or simply tell you to get a supplement. You will probably need 2,000-4,000 IU, so the 400 or 500 IU in your multivitamins may not be enough. But don’t skimp on sunscreen, because this is unlikely to solve your vitamin D problem (especially if you are dark skinned) and because skin cancer and skin aging are not nice.

It is known that lying in the sun can make you feel good.  I am sure this is why I see people lying in the sun for hours, even though they look red and puffy. It can’t possibly be just to show their friends that they have money for a vacation in the sun, right? This “sunbathing addiction” may be related to the release of endorphins as UV reaches our skin. That fleeting sense of well being is not worth the “elephant skin” and, worse, melanoma, which years of sunbathing may bring.

If you are over 50 and had beach vacations, look at the sun-exposed side of your arm: patches of hyperpigmentation, whitish areas where there is little melanin and wrinkles, plus a little scar made by your dermatologist when she excised a dark, menacing looking mole. Now look at the “shaded” side of your arm and you will find mostly youthful, elastic, and smooth skin.

Ultraviolet light stimulates melanin production and the melanin formed absorbs the UV radiation in sunlight, so it protects the cells from further UV damage. However, significant melanin production takes about a week, so during the first day on the beach your skin is fully exposed to the fiery sun, and unprotected by melanin.

Sunburn is a delayed erythema (red skin) caused by ultraviolet B, which induces an increase in blood flow beginning about 4 hours following exposure. The underlying cause of this vascular reaction is damage to the cell from photochemical reactions and the generation of reactive oxygen species. There is damage to DNA, and several inflammatory pathways are activated, particularly involving prostaglandins that ultimately lead to vasodilatation and edema. Sunburn is not only painful, it is also a marker for severe UV damage and a predictor of worse things to come (like skin cancer) within years or decades. Why? There is a correlation between erythema and DNA damage; the UV wavelengths more efficient at producing erythema are also the most effective at forming pyrimidine dimers. There is a link between a history of repeated, severe sunburn and increased risk for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

Our answer: UV Repair Cream

UV Repair Cream is a cream for anyone who wants to prevent and repair damage caused by the sun, in addition to providing many other benefits for their skin. This cream contains ingredients for skin lightening, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antioxidant, and much more!
This will sound repetitive, but if you keep away from the sun and use sunscreen, your skin will stay younger and healthier. Protecting your skin from further damage and by providing the skin with tools to help reverse the damage inflicted on cellular DNA by age and the environment.
What can you do? You can protect your skin and the skin stem cells that will allow your skin, this most important human organ, to heal and regenerate. The objective of a “rejuvenating” cream should be to promote the skin’s own healing powers by protecting its stem cells and supplying actives known to help repair DNA mutations. This is why we created UV Repair Cream.


Ingredient Functions:
Function Active
Skin lightening Betulinic acid, Niacinamide, Tetrahydrocurcuminoids
Free radical scavenger
Caffeine, Tetrahydrocurcuminoids, Glutathione, Astaxanthin, Lycopene, Alpha-D-tocopherol,  Tocotrienols, Lutein, Slpha lipoic acid, Quercetin, Silymarin, Green tea EGCG, Resveratrol, Porphyridium, Myricetin, Ferulic Acid
Anti-aging Resveratrol, Lutein, Astragalus, Porphyridium extract, Myricetin, Silymarin,
Anti-inflammatory Niacinamide, Boswellia serrata,  Galangal, Quercetin, Centella asiatica, Ursolic acid, Porphyridium Extract,  Mangosteen, Tetrahydrocurcuminoids, Beta glucan from yeast,
Emollients Shea butter, Rosehip oil, Olive Squalane
Skin elasticity Melatonin, Quercetin, Betulinic Acid
Anticancer Astragalus, Betulinic acid, Niacinamide, Galangal, Lycopene, Silymarin, Mangosteen, Green tea EGCG, Caffeine, Pomegranate seed oil, Sandalwood essential oil,  Ceramides, Ursolic acid, Caffeine, Ferulic acid,  Black cumin oil
Immune function promoter and/or Anti-viral/antibacterial Beta glucan (yeast), Boswellia serrata, Sea kelp bioferment, Porphyridium extract, Ursolic acid, Galangal, Quercetin, Green Tea EGCG, Astragalus
Protease inhibitor Boswellia serrata, Betulinic acid, quercetin, Ursolic Acid
Skin barrier repair Ceramides, Squalane, Rosehip seed oil, Centella asiatica, Soy isoflavones


-Dr. Hannah Sivak





ROS* Terminator

ROS* Terminator Has a TEAC rating of over 200 mmol Trolox/kg FW

ROS* Terminator contains Skin Actives’ exclusive proteins in our Sea Kelp Coral base.


laminariaSea Kelp Coral supplies a complete nutrient medium and moisturizes skin and scalp. The substrate for fermentation is kelp, a sea macroalga (Phaeophyta). Fermentation makes the cell contents of this alga readily available to our skin and scalp. This maximizes its moisturizing properties, as well as making nutrients available that are required by the skin. The ferment also has calming, anti-itch activity.

The bioferment is rich in fucoidan (see below), caragenaan, algin, minerals, and many active chemicals. It also provides minerals like iodine, copper, molybdate, magnesium, and others required as cofactors in enzymatic reactions of lipid metabolism and energy conversion. Fucoxanthin is a pigment present in Phaeophyta (brown algae) that may protect skin from photo-aging caused by UV (Urikura et al., 2011). Fucoidans are sulfated polysaccharides with structures that depend on the plant source and growing conditions. Applied to the skin, fucoidan will increase the density of collagen bundles, decrease activity of proteases (enzymes that break down dermal proteins), increase scavenging of free radicals, and increase cell proliferation. These effects would be mediated through increased expression of ß1-integrin and may also help with wound healing. In addition to assisting in collagen synthesis, fucoidan inhibits the replication of many viruses, including herpes, human cytomegalovirus, HIV-1, and others.

Astaxanthin gives our sea kelp coral its color. Astaxanthin is similar to some pigments that give coral exoskeletons their color. This is not just a similarity in color but also in chemistry. Most corals obtain the majority of their energy and nutrients from photosynthetic unicellular algae, called zooxanthellae, that live within the coral’s tissue, and these algae also produce pigments that protect the coral from the sun.  Because of its particular molecular structure, astaxanthin serves as an extremely powerful antioxidant. It has a very effective quenching effect against singlet oxygen, a powerful scavenging ability for lipid and free radicals, and effectively breaks peroxide chain reactions. Carotenoids are effective at low oxygen concentrations, complementing the activity of vitamin E which is effective at higher oxygen concentrations. Astaxanthin has also been shown to enhance and modulate the immune system. The antioxidant and immunomodulating activities, in combination or separately, may reduce the acute inflammation reaction in the skin, and tissue just beneath the skin, that follows excessive exposure to UV radiation.

Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) with Catalase – In our cells, we have our own SODs, but we can protect our skin by supplementing them with topically applied SOD. The size of the SOD used in skin care varies between 10,000 and 30,000 molecular weight, which is relatively small for an enzyme but large enough to be excluded from live cells. The fact that SOD is unlikely to enter live cells is not a problem. Lipid peroxidation occurs everywhere in the skin, not just in the live cells. The role of SOD is to eliminate the free radicals resulting from lipid peroxidation and to prevent the chain reactions that would eventually reach deeply into the skin, and topical application of SOD will certainly help to achieve this aim. Technical data sheet for Superoxide Dismutase.

Thioredoxin – Thioredoxins are proteins that act as antioxidants by facilitating the reduction of other proteins by cysteine thiol-disulfide exchange. Thioredoxins are found in nearly all known organisms and are essential for life in mammals.This is an enzyme I became familiar with in my days as a plant biochemist, long before Wikipedia (or the internet, for that matter) was invented. Thioredoxin is “everywhere,” including the regulation of the most abundant protein on earth, Rubisco (the enzyme that “fixes” carbon dioxide making life possible for every plant and animal, including us). Thioredoxin will make sure that the chain of events keeping proteins in their “right” reduction state is kept well oiled. Or, in other words, thioredoxin will facilitate the reduction of your skin proteins by cysteine (in a disulfide bond|thiol-disulfide exchange). The Trx (thioredoxin) and Grx (glutaredoxin) systems control cellular redox potential, keeping a reducing thiol-rich intracellular state, which no generation of reactive oxygen species signals through thiol redox control mechanisms. Technical data sheet for Thioredoxin.

Glutathione and Glutaredoxin – Glutaredoxins (GRX) are small redox enzymes of approximately one hundred amino-acid residues which use glutathione as a cofactor. Glutaredoxins are oxidized by substrates and reduced non-enzymatically by glutathione. In contrast to Thioredoxins, which are reduced by Thioredoxin reductase, no oxidoreductase exists that specifically reduces Glutaredoxins. Instead, Glutaredoxins are reduced by the oxidation of glutathione and reduced glutathione is then regenerated by glutathione reductase. Together these components form the glutathione system. Glutaredoxins function as electron carriers in the glutathione-dependent synthesis of deoxyribonucleotides by the enzyme ribonucleotide reductase. Moreover, Glutaredoxins act in antioxidant defense by reducing dehydroascorbate, peroxiredoxins, and Methione Sulfoxide Reductase (also supplied by Skin Actives). Beside their function in antioxidant defense, bacterial and plant GRX were shown to bind iron-sulfur clusters and to deliver the cluster to enzymes on demand. Technical data sheet for Glutaredoxin.

L-Glutathione (gamma-L-Glutamyl-L-cysteinyl-glycine) is a tripeptide composed of the amino acids L-glutamine, L-cysteine, and glycine. Glutathione is part of the antioxidant defense system of the cell, together with superoxide dismutase, catalase, alpha-D-tocopherol (vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and others. Glutathione is crucial to cell life, and impairment of the glutathione system results in damage to the cell membrane and cell death.
-Dr. Hannah Sivak

The Science of Skin Care: Energy Production in the Cell


Mitochondria (sing. mitochondrion, from the Greek mitos,
warp thread + Greek khondrion, diminutive of khondros, grain, granule).


In my opinion, mitochondria, antioxidants, and protection from UV are the keys to keeping skin healthy for the many years our skin has to do its job. In other words, the need to protect skin from UV and strong oxidants, and to protect the integrity of mitochondria is NOT age specific. It is not practical to have several mitochondria creams to target different ages. It is easier to formulate the best possible mitochondria cream (Revitalizing Night Cream) and “layer” products to complement its action. For example, a woman of 50 may wish to layer Anti-Aging Cream on top of Revitalizing Night Cream and/or Collagen Serum.

Let me explain why mitochondria are so important and so worth the best possible care we can afford. You may have read this information before, because cell structure and energy production are so important to our lives and to Skin Actives.

Mitochondria provide energy as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the form of energy our cells can use to do “housekeeping,” grow, and divide. This is true. Not just for us humans, but for all eukaryotes (organisms with nuclei). Mitochondria use molecular oxygen to extract a lot of energy that would otherwise be lost, and foodstuff is eventually converted to low energy water and carbon dioxide.

The science behind these statements is so complex and so awesome, that you would have to study carefully several textbooks or read the Nobel lectures of many awardees to comprehend it. I am not trying to make it easy (that’s impossible) but just to convey its importance.

This great energy-converting efficiency comes at a cost: mitochondria produce strong oxidants like hydrogen peroxide, superoxide, and hydroxyl radicals as by-products. All of the cell’s sophisticated antioxidant mechanisms (including vitamin C, glutathione, vitamin E, and various antioxidant enzymes) can’t completely protect mitochondria from slow but persistent damage. This oxidative stress makes mitochondria age at a faster pace than the rest of the cell, because oxidation of lipids, proteins, RNA, and DNA is faster. Indeed, oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA (the only organelle with its own DNA outside the nucleus) is 8 to 10-fold higher than the damage found in nuclear DNA. Oxidative damage also adversely affects the inner mitochondrial membrane, where the crucial enzyme ATPase is located and where ATP is produced. The phospholipids of the inner mitochondrial membrane change and become even more sensitive to oxidative damage. These changes are bound to affect membrane fluidity and permeability, and will certainly impair the ability of mitochondria to meet cellular energy demands.

Oxidant-induced acceleration of senescence has major consequences for mitochondria. Aged mitochondria lose efficiency in their job of extracting the last bit of energy from foodstuff, and enzyme activity and substrate binding affinity decrease. It has been found that this decay in function can be partially reversed in aged animals by feeding them the mitochondrial metabolites, acetyl carnitine and lipoic acid. Information of this sort provides circumstantial evidence for the mitochondrial theory of aging (a.k.a. free radical theory of aging), which states that the slow accumulation of impaired mitochondria is the driving force of the aging process.

Even if we don’t accept the theory that mitochondrial aging is the cause of overall aging, there is no doubt that deterioration of mitochondria is at least partially responsible for the aging of the whole organism. Up to now, this information has been translated into the topical application of alpha lipoic acid, acetyl carnitine, and various antioxidants in anti-age skin care products. We take the effect of oxidants on the cell very seriously, so we have been offering acetyl carnitine and alpha lipoic acid both, as pure chemicals and in ready-to-use skin care products. We also broadened the spectrum of antioxidants (see for example our Antioxidant Booster) and lipids (ELS) for the prevention and reversal of skin damage. Addition of mitochondrial concentrate to our actives and ready mixed products is a natural step in the efforts of Skin Actives Scientific to bring the benefits of scientific knowledge and technology to our clients.

-Dr. Hannah Sivak

What is Collagen and why is it important?



Collagen fibers give the skin resistance to strain and traction. Collagen constitutes about 70% of skin mass, but total collagen decreases about 1% per year. It may look like a small decline, but as such a major component of the skin it will affect skin volume and its physical properties. Also, aging changes collagen structure. What was an organized pattern in young skin, becomes an assembly of disorganized bundles of thick fibrils in older skin. It is not only quantity, it is also quality.

We know that aging decreases skin thickness and elasticity, and it is likely that collagen is a good part of the solution. If we care about slowing down and reversing skin aging, we should care about collagen too. Because collagen is such a major constituent of the skin, the objective should be to stimulate its synthesis, and preserve the collagen protein in an active, organized structure.

Chemically, we want to prevent glycation, the attachment of sugar moieties to the protein amino acids, a modification that affects protein function. The fibroblasts are the main cells in the dermis. They specialize in producing two types of proteins, collagen and elastin, which are a major part of the extra-cellular matrix.

Collagen is synthesized by fibroblasts, initially as procollagen alpha chains on membrane-bound ribosomes. The alpha chains then interact to form a triple-helical molecule after hydroxylation of proline and lysine amino acids. Stability is further enhanced by disulfide cross-linking. The procollagen is then packaged into secretory vesicles that move to the cell surface. At the cell membrane, procollagen peptidases cleave the procollagen into collagen.

Collagen is a structural, long-lived protein. Even if synthesis decreases, the total content may not decrease, it will depend on how much collagen was hydrolyzed by protease action. Proteolysis is not bad in itself, it is good for the skin to eliminate proteins whose structure and properties have been modified beyond usefulness.

Skin aging means, mostly, photoaging. To see the net effect of UV on skin aging, compare the outside of your arm with the underside, a skin area you don’t usually expose to the sun. UV radiation increases the synthesis of proteases, including collagenase, and this is likely to be a reason why collagen decreases after UV irradiation. Natural aging decreases collagen synthesis and increases the expression of matrix metalloproteinases, whereas photoaging results in an increase of collagen synthesis and greater matrix metalloproteinase expression in human skin in vivo. Thus, the balance between collagen synthesis and degradation leading to collagen deficiency is different in photoaged and naturally aged skin. A good part of the changes in collagen related to aging seem to be associated with decreased levels of estrogen.

-Dr. Hannah Sivak

Natural Deodorants vs. Anti-Perspirants. Is Aluminum as bad as THEY say it is?

If you don’t like aluminum, you may have to move to another planet!

Aluminum is so abundant on the earth’s crust (third after oxygen and silicon) that the only way to avoid it is to leave Earth altogether. It is present in our water and food along with most common items, like your shoes…it’s everywhere. And yet, some people will continue eating and drinking and living on earth, but avoid antiperspirants because they are scared of aluminum.

Don’t be. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where the quality of your water and food is monitored, there will be little aluminum found in them. Your body is already excellent at dealing with aluminum. Because we grew up in an environment that is so rich in this metal, our body very easily excretes aluminum and our skin is bad at absorbing it in the first place.

Should you worry about the aluminum in your antiperspirant? No, unless you have a serious health problem that interferes with the elimination of this very abundant metal.  Even then, skin absorption is the least of your problems because most of the aluminum in your body comes from ingestion or breathing our air.

The next logical question is: Why so many “natural” deodorants in the market? Fear, however silly, is heavily used in advertising. I will not expand here on this advertising but just wanted to stress that sellers of “natural” products take advantage of fears that THEY create to sell you stuff that is really not safe.

What is my interest in this subject? A Skin Actives team member (Jess) informed me about a friend that had acquired a chronic skin irritation/infection after one month of using a new natural deodorant. For decades I have been using the same “classic” aluminum-containing antiperspirant without a hint of irritation. Naturally, I wanted to look further into this issue. We even bought a couple natural deodorant brands and Jess volunteered to be the product tester for this experiment.

Sweat is not naturally smelly, it becomes smelly because of the bacteria that flourish naturally in the armpit. Aluminium chlorohydrate may work by decreasing sweat production at the pore level.

What about the “natural” approach? I looked into several brands. As usual, nothing natural about them, because most of the ingredients are obtained using laboratory chemistry. We even found one brand who had a suspicious looking ingredient- Zeolite. When you look up the definition for Zeolite: Zeolites are microporous, aluminosilicate minerals commonly used as commercial adsorbents and catalysts. Aluminosilicate minerals are minerals composed of aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. NATURAL aluminum?

These natural deodorants claim to combat smell, but many claim to contain no aluminum. So, how do they do their job? Some work by increasing the pH of the armpit so that it becomes inhospitable for the usual bacterial flora. If the “smelly” bacteria are not there, the sweat is not transformed into a smelly mess. This is an ingenious approach, but there is a fundamental flaw: bacteria that do like the higher pH may not be safe for your skin. One of these bacteria is Propionibacterium, involved in acne, and a slightly increased pH leads to its rapid growth.

Another strategy is the use of fragrances to hide the smell of perspiration, what would be called a true deodorant. No problem with this approach unless the user is allergic to the fragrances used.

So, where are we left? If the reason why you were looking for ‘natural” was the avoidance of aluminum, just forget about it. Your skin is great at excluding aluminum, so the only effect will be the prevention of smelly armpits. If the reason was that “natural” sounds good, please remember that natural is a word devoid of any meaning thanks to marketing professionals and that natural may not be good for you.

Jess turned out to be even more sensitive than her friend. After only 6 days of using a natural deodorant (with arrowroot powder and baking soda base) her armpit broke out in a painful red rash. She happily returned to using her antiperspirant after several days of using Restoration Cream to repair the damage done by the natural deodorant.


-Dr. Hannah Sivak


Rash after 6 days of usage. Deoderant had a pH of 10.