Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Science of Skincare: Why Chirality Matters

We've all been there.  We've all bought some expensive, miracle skincare product or another, only to realize that it just doesn't work.  Even after several months of use!  I just experienced this with an eye cream I had such high expectations for, only to be let down when, four months later, my undereye circles are still as dark as they ever were!  Frustrating, isn't it?  Even if 96% of people in clinical trials saw an improvement, there's still a chance you're part of the other 4%, right?  It's possible. Science offers up another explanation, too: chiral isomers.

The word chiral (ky-rahl, rhymes with spiral) instantly brings to mind the miserable summer I spent studying organic chemistry.  If I'd realized back then how it was relevant to skincare, I probably would have paid more attention!  Anyway, the gist of chirality is this: molecules exist in two forms, a D-isomer and an L-isomer.  It's a similar concept to having left and right hands.  Our bodies are naturally more receptive to L-isomer forms of molecules.  When we encounter incompatible D-isomers, our bodies interpret it as waste or a toxin.
What does this mean in regards to skincare?  Ascorbic acid (AKA Vitamin C, a popular antioxidant) makes a great example.  A skincare product that contains an isolated L-ascorbic acid isomer is going to be more effective than a product containing isolated D-ascorbic acid.  The sad truth is, a lot of skincare companies aren't particularly concerned with which isomers they isolate in their products.  This isn't to say that all products from such companies are completely worthless (a moisturizer or cleanser is pretty straightforward), but if you have a skin issue you're extremely concerned about and nothing else is working, you might want to check out companies that are committed to making chirally correct products (i.e., products with the more effective L-isomers).  The downside is that they're probably going to be a little more expensive in most cases, since the isolation process is more complicated.   

Some of these skincare companies include CosMedix, Sircuit Skin, PCA Skin, and Arcona.  I've been hearing a lot about Arcona lately, I'm really intrigued by this company in particular.  They use all-natural ingredients and their products sound absolutely lovely.  They suggest five basic products based on your skin type and have a hydrating gel called Magic White Ice!  I'm also interested in the Wine Hydrating Mask.
Have you ever tried skincare products from any of these companies?  I'd love to hear about it, especially Arcona!  Also, if you've got a great eye cream recommendation to fade dark undereye circles, send it my way!


  1. no to the first question... I've been using stricvectin and I think it is at least slightly effective. at least nothing looks worse...
    have you seen breaking bad? I think Walt covers this subject in one episode (he's a chem teacher)

  2. I've heard different things about Strivectin but I've never really known anyone who's used it. Keep me updated on how you like it!

    I haven't seen Breaking Bad. But if stuff like chirality comes up, it must be pretty awesome.