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The skinny on skin care: chirality, chiral purity, and chirally correct should be the new bywords in this multi-billion dollar industry.

NO LONGER content with "hope in a jar lotions and potions that may contain potentially toxic ingredients, more and more consumers are demanding skin care products that are effective and safe. While people are becoming much more ingredient savvy, they are more disillusioned by the elaborate claims companies make about their products. They know that it is a common practice for manufacturers to spend 10 times or more on marketing a skin care product than they ever will spend on the research and development of the newest product they are advertising.

Only a few years ago, most women would not dream of reading the ingredients listed on a jar of moisturizer. Today, though, numerous women not only will read the label, but ask tough questions concerning what the product contains and what the result of its use should be. If left unsatisfied, these women will refuse to purchase the product.

Very often, salons, spas, and even medical establishments are encountering clients who will not purchase a product containing what they perceive to be a suspect ingredient. Fueled by reports of unsafe ingredients from watchdog organizations, consumers are demanding more stringent regulations of cosmetics and skin care formulations. To satisfy those demands, a few manufacturers have taken a pledge to remove controversial chemicals and replace them with what are believed to be safer alternatives.

Others have gone a step further by choosing to formulate with only chirally purified ingredients in order to ensure the effectiveness and safety of their products. These products are advertised as being "chirally correct" and are identified on the label with either an L or a D (denoting which molecule is being used) before the ingredient's name.

You probably are wondering about this strange sounding word chirality, pronounced ki-rul-it-tee. We are dealing with stereochemistry here. To put it simply, all ingredients are composed of molecules that are mirror images of each other, like twins. One of those molecules, the "good twin," produces the results we desire, while the other, the "bad twin." produces results that we want to avoid. When an ingredient is purified chirally, the bad twin is removed. Pharmaceutical research has shown. and continues to prove, that the use of the correct chiral molecule can make all the difference in how effective an ingredient will be and, just as important, what reactions it will create.

The significance of this technology is well known in the scientific community. In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration mandated that chirality must be considered in the development of new drugs. In 2001, The Royal Swedish Academy acknowledged the importance of chirality and awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to William S. Knowles. Ryojo Noyori. and K. Barry Sharpless for their discoveries of how certain chiral molecules are used to speed up and control important chemical and biological reactions.

Chirality is a fact of life. Actually, life as we know it would not exist without chirality. So. why then isn't every skin care company offering chirally correct products? For one, chirally pure ingredients generally are more expensive. Remember. many manufacturers traditionally allocate the majority of their budget for advertising and marketing, and. let's face it--clever marketing and advertising, along with attractive packaging, is what really sells products.

Chirally pure ingredients either are naturally chirally pure (and natural ingredients always cost more), or they must go through a separation process in which the bad twin is removed. This adds to the cost. Also, chirally pure ingredients may not be as readily available--and supply and demand most always determines price, Reason number two has to do with numbers, the number of consumers that is. Few consumers even have heard of chirality and fewer yet understand it. Some of them may recall learning about chirality in chemistry class. but they do not have a clue as to how chiral purity can affect their skin's health or why they only should be using chirally correct products on their skin.

Reason number three concerns how many manufacturers ignore chirality simply because they do not believe that the skin requires the same care as do the internal organs of the body. They think that compounds applied topically cannot have the same impact as something taken internally. Of course, topical skin care products are not drugs and claims that they have the ability to enter the skin or to affect a change in the skin are not supposed to be made. However, everyone knows, and empirical evidence shows, that many ingredients can and do enter the body through the skin.

The skin care professionals and product manufacturers who believe chirally correct products will be the industry standard in the not-too-distant future point to the pharmaceutical industry and the extensive research already done as their reason.

Scientists have known about chirality since 1848 when Louis Pasteur discovered it while he was conducting experiments for the French wine industry. Ignoring chirality has led to many tragedies. Back in the early 1960s. Thalidamide was a popular drug prescribed as a sedative. However, it also was taken by pregnant women to alleviate morning sickness. The chirally pure version of Thalidamide was safe and did not cause birth defects but, when it came time to bring the drug to market, the company produced a version that was not chirally pure and the women who took it later gave birth to deformed children. Once it was determined that Thalidamide was responsible, it was pulled off the market.

A less tragic example of how chirality can impact the way a drug performs is Propanalol. It was introduced as a beta-blocker for the treatment of heart disease, but it soon was discovered that only one of the molecules in the ingredient had the ability to function as the beta-blocker while the other twin acted as a contraceptive.

After many incidents proving that chiral purity plays a major role in safety and effectiveness, the FDA finally had no choice but to require that chirality be taken into consideration in the development of all new drugs. Chirality certainly has changed the way drugs are developed. Will it change the way skin care products, cosmetics, and personal care items are developed as well?

Manufactures that offer this technology generally put their focus on providing a more effective product, so they have much less to spend on marketing and advertising. Still, they have managed to tap in and capture the loyalty of a group of savvy, socially conscious consumers, (many of them celebrities) that are interested in using natural, safe, and effective skin care alternatives. If their success can be replicated by other companies, then the 'future of skin care" may arrive sooner than we previously had anticipated.

Shan Albert is director of Education and Product Development for Zed Laboratories. Miami, Fla.]
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Title Annotation:Medicine & Health
Author:Albert, Shan
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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