What Are Neurocosmetics? | Allure

Selfmade aims to stimulate beta-endorphins to counteract cortisol, which showed a marked ability to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier and reduce inflammation in a small group of volunteers (32 females between ages 18-69) in an independent clinical study as well.

What about neuropeptides?

Peptides, the short-chain amino acids that tip off collagen synthesis, are known and loved skin-care ingredients. But it’s neuropeptides that we’re seeing more and more on ingredient labels from brands that may or may not categorize themselves as neurocosmetics, like Murad, Perricone, and Revision. The basic idea is that these peptides can trigger our nervous system; they exist naturally in our body, where they help brain cells communicate with each other.

So, what are they doing in skin care? The goal is for synthetic neuropeptides to reduce the skin’s production of inflammatory proteins (cytokins). Some neuropeptides, like CGRP, can “have a strong effect on the immune response and inflammation in the skin” when used topically, says Francesco Tausk, MD, a dermatologist in New York, who notes that CGRP is also a vasodilator, which means it can help increase blood flow for more radiant skin.

The neuropeptide hexapeptide-8 is sometimes said to temper muscle contractions, like squinting around the eyes, by inhibiting the release of certain neurotransmitters that help enable muscle movements in your body. “[Hexapeptide-8] inhibits the release of neurotransmitters involved in muscle contraction by stimulating messengers that induce muscle relaxation,” says Jennifer Gubitosa, a researcher of physical chemistry at Italy’s University of Bari, who co-authored a study on skin-brain connection with Dr. Rizzi and says that the ingredient is illustrated extensively in their review.

This is why some brands compare neuropeptides to Botox, but drawing that kind of comparison can be problematic. Much of the research around “Botox-like” ingredients has come from ingredient-supplier data, not published, peer-reviewed literature, says cosmetic scientist Jen Novacovich. “Ingredient-supplier data may be in vitro [in a petri dish], not in vivo [in skin] data, and that doesn’t always translate to the finished product,” she explains.

Also, says Dr. Zeichner, mentioning Botox in the context of skin care creates unrealistic expectations: “Over-the-counter cosmetics are not designed to change the structure or function of the skin.” If they did, they would have to be marketed, and regulated, as drugs are.

The scent connection

Even for the scientists who are most skeptical about the neurocosmetic category, the ability of scent to have a marked neurological impact is widely upheld. “Scents send signals to our limbic system, which is the sector of the brain that controls memory and emotion,” says Dobos. “Research has shown that scents may help reduce anxiety, increase productivity, and promote better sleep.” One study found that certain scents like valerian oil, from the root of the plant by the same name, were able to decrease hypersensitivity, says Dr. Tausk, actually reducing inflammation in the skin.

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