Rigorous scientific testing proves that natural skincare works – and more than stands up against cosmeceutical brands. Beatrice Aidin scrutinises the evidence.
In 2002 Gwyneth Paltrow appeared in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof – it was about facts, truth in maths and the methodology of proof. How does this play relate to skincare?
Proof of efficacy has always won over hope in a jar when choosing skincare. And around the time of that play, proof, in the form of clinical trials, meant anything with a synthetic ingredient that came backed with statistics. The doctor brands had just launched – Dr Perricone MD is 21 this year, for example – and these same doctors were putting their names to their own skincare and carrying out independent, third-party clinical trials on real people. A new category called cosmeceuticals was created full of fantastic synthetic ingredients with real scientific and visual proof. Heck, they worked – and they sold. How could the market for natural beauty possibly compete?
Yet a couple of decades later, in no small part thanks to Paltrow herself, natural beauty is more popular than ever before. According to research by NPD Group, 70 per cent of prestige skincare sales in the US for the first half of 2019 were attributed to natural brands.
But how do you go about proving that natural skincare can be as effective as synthetic cosmeceutical brands? The new guard of natural beauty brands, such as Seed to Skin, Balance Me, Elequra and Wildsmith Skin, believe in establishing thorough credentials before making any product claims. For Wildsmith Skin, now in its second year of launches, this consideration is front and centre. “Traditionally natural brands have traded on their ingredients, provenance and experience rather than scientific efficacy,” says Katherine Pye, general manager of Wildsmith Skin. “The field has evolved now and there are natural products that can easily stand up against cosmeceutical brands.”
Nausheen Qureshi, a biochemist who creates skincare for several brands, along with her own skincare line Elequra, says natural is not just about putting papaya on your face. “I’ve long been trying to prove that engineered natural skincare outperforms current skincare heroes. All these natural brands contain ingredients that are molecularly manipulated to make them actually do something.”
Wildsmith Skin’s trials were conducted by a completely independent laboratory. “All the tests were performed ‘in vivo’, meaning that volunteers used the product in the same way as any consumer would to ensure the results were truly representative of our customers,” says Pye. “Throughout the 28-day trial period, testers periodically returned to the lab so that objective data could be recorded using a variety of tools, such as 3D scans to record changes in the size of wrinkles and skin protein analysis to monitor skin cells’ renewal rates. The testers were also asked to complete survey questions so that we could assess their personal experience alongside the scientific data. Our customer feedback is just as important as the clinical data.”
The results were exceptional. Wildsmith Skin’s Active Repair Copper Peptide Cream presented a significant contouring effect on 70 per cent of those who tested it, with a 5 per cent reduction in skin ptosis (the technical term for sagging in the cheek area). 100 per cent of testers trialling the Super Eye Serum reported significantly reduced dark circles under the eyes, as well as a reduction in bags.
Confident they now had incontrovertible proof that they were on to something, the formulators pushed on with additional experiential trials with The Beauty Bible, which for 20 years has tested hundreds of beauty products with thousands of women. Testing the products without labels, and with no indication of how much the products would cost, testers reported they’d buy the Active Repair Copper Peptide Cream at any price – it’s £100. The cream scored an average of 8.2 out of 10, beating every other day cream (over 40 were trialled) and earning it a Gold Award at the prestigious Beauty Bible Awards the year it launched in 2018. Here was a brand that could compete, and often win, on all fronts.
Wildsmith Skin’s newest launch, Platinum Booster, has been tested by 22 women between the ages of 40 and 66 who have dry or very dry skin. The claim? That it has a significant anti-aging effect from the very first use. “One of the tests involved specialist projection technology called PRIMOS 3D Lite which measures the depth and height of wrinkles,” explains Pye. “The wrinkles are scientifically mapped using colour coding to identify peaks and relief. Baseline readings were taken before application, and then repeated throughout the 28-day trial in order to measure any improvements to the smoothness of the skin, which would prove the anti-wrinkle efficacy of the product.”
The results were just what the formulators were hoping for. “A PRIMOS scan conducted immediately after the first application showed significantly less (11 per cent) pronounced wrinkles in 77 per cent of participants.” As far as proof goes, it doesn’t get much clearer than that.