In a July 17 post, I reviewed Tata Harper’s products. Esteemed by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Tata Harper is a fresh-scrubbed farm girl with amazing marketing capabilities. She sources all of the botanicals and natural ingredients in her products herself, many of them growing right on the farm where her lab is based. It’s an interesting – simultaneously trendy and sentimental – stance, but I was skeptical of the claims of her products. Particularly because her tagline is “non-toxic” beauty, which feeds the assertion that non-natural products are somehow “toxic” or contain “toxic” ingredients, which is largely not the case. Most ingredients, including parabens and petrolatum, are not dangerous in the concentrations that they are used in skin care products. While I agree that some can be drying, like sulfates, so can natural ingredients like limonene, citral, and menthol. But I digress.
After the post was published, I received a kind e-mail from a member of Tata Harper’s team, and they sent me a booklet with the laboratory studies conducted on their products, the Tata Harper Skin Care Knowledge Manual. So here they are, as well as our analysis:
Study Subject #1: Date Palm Extract
What Tata Harper Skin Care Says: The company conducted 3 studies on date palm extract. In the first and second studies, 1% date palm extract was applied to human fibroblasts. It was shown to increase antioxidant activity by 42% and catalase activity by 58% over the course of 24 hours. When exposed to UVA light, catalase activity increased by 85%.
In the third study, 1% date palm was applied to 10 volunteers aged 46-58. After pictures, silicon replicas, and statistical analysis was done, the results were shown to have a “60% reduction” in skin wrinkles on the side treated with date palm extract after 5 weeks.
FutureDerm Analysis: These results indicate that date palm extract may have similar activity to 10% vitamin C. However, as any responsible dermatologist or scientist would tell you, there needs to be three things before this is confirmed. First, there needs to be a much larger study in human subjects. Ten subjects does not an impressive study make. Second, there needs to be a comparative study of 10-20% vitamin C and 1% date palm extract. A split-face study would be ideal, but splitting the subjects into three groups (i.e., placebo, vitamin C, and date palm) would work as well. Third, I’d love to see this research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
However, there is promise in using date palm extract, more than just about any all-natural extract I’ve reviewed thus far.
Study Subject #2: Narcissus Bulb Extract
What Tata Harper Skin Care Says: The company conducted a study that showed Narcissus bulb extract increases elasticity by 10.1% after 14 days, 9.3% after 28 days (not sure why that decreased), and 14.3% after 42 days.
An increase of 2.9% in skin firmness was shown after 14 days, 11.3% after 28 days, and 16.1% after the 42nd day.
Wrinkles were decreased 5.1% after 14 days, 10.5% after 28 days, and 17.5% after the 42nd day. The company also asserts that “slowing down cell proliferation is the answer for anti-aging.”
FutureDerm Analysis: These results remind me of the weaker retinyl palmitate or kinetin, not ingredients like peptides or higher-strength retinol or tretinoin. For instance, use of palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 has been shown to decrease wrinkles by 27-36% – nearly double that of Narcissus bulb extract – over the course of 30 days (Pgdermatology.com). Retinoids have also been associated with higher percentages wrinkle reduction in about one month (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1998). This is not to say that Narcissus bulb extract isn’t doing something – it clearly is. But compared to other ingredients out there, I’m not impressed enough to buy, at least not without direct comparative studies proving me wrong.
My real problem with the company’s information on Narcissus bulb extract is the assertion that “slowing down cell proliferation is the answer for anti-aging.” Between the ages of 30 and 70, the skin naturally slows down cell turnover rates by as much as 60% (British Journal of Dermatology, 2006). Without cell turnover, the skin does not renew collagen as quickly, leaving it less firm and more prone to wrinkling. Treatments like retinoids and glycolic acid, renowned by many dermatologists, are documented to reverse the aging process in part by increasing cellular turnover (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1992; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 1999). Thankfully, Narcissus bulb extract has not been shown to decrease cell turnover, so perhaps the company can just remove this statement from their publication.
Study #3: Spanish Lavender Extract
What Tata Harper Skin Care Says: Spanish lavender improves wrinkles by 11% after 24 hours and 13% after 7 days, based on 20 women from ages 46-59. It also inhibits muscle contractions by 95% after 2 hours, based on testing of human cell cultures.
FutureDerm Analysis: I’m not impressed by these results very much; again, 11-13% is not that significant compared to other ingredients out there. I’m also curious about the muscle contraction inhibition. Agents that inhibit muscle contraction, like injected argireline or Botox, inhibit neurotransmitter release and SNARE complex formation, which are both necessary for muscle contraction. So I’m curious which they are asserting that Spanish lavender does. Also remember: Botulism toxin, or Botox, is also derived from an all-natural source, but most natural product proponents are firmly against it.
Overall, I’m most impressed with Tata Harper’s Date Palm Extract, which is in nearly all of her products.
However, as likeable as she and her story are, there are three things I need to see from Tata Harper Skin Care before I can say I am a fan:
- Comparative studies with non-natural products. I like the idea that this all-natural brand conducts studies. Many all-natural brands get out there, assert, “Hey, we’re all-natural! Buy us!’ and that’s it. So while I respect the fact that there are studies here, I want to see where these products and their ingredients fit in with the science that is already out there. Don’t tell me your product is better than vitamin C – please show me a split-face, multi-centered, placebo-controlled study with a large number of subjects proving it. That’s the only way natural products are going to get respect from unbiased experts in the long run. So once the natural companies start to show how their ingredients work compared to other established ingredients out there, like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, peptides, or niacinamide, I’ll consider using them.
- Stop saying they’re “non-toxic.” Any brand that gets out there and says, “We use all non-toxic ingredients!” immediately loses a tiny bit of respect from me. First of all, every ingredient is toxic in high enough concentrations. Vitamin C is toxic at 20,000 times the average dose (National Academy of the Sciences, 1996) – the very same concentration parabens are found to be toxic in some published studies (International Journal of Pharmacology, 1998). For the record, whether you like them or not, parabens (preservatives), propylene glycol (delivery system), petrolatum (occlusive agent), and many other ingredients rumored to be “toxic” are fine and actually beneficial in the concentrations used in beauty products. The use of the term “non-toxic” as a marketing tool implies that other companies are selling products that are toxic, which is not only a malignant implication, but also a largely inaccurate one.
- Proof that their ingredients are superior to other all-natural brands. One advantage to synthetic ingredients is that you know what you are getting. 10% glycolic acid, for instance, is the same compound whether it is made in the U.S. or China. However, all-natural products are different based upon where they are grown, the nutrients they are given, the way they are harvested, etc. For instance, shea butter derived from different regions of the world has significantly altered fatty acid and vitamin E content, depending largely on climate (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004). So in order for me to pay $100+ for Tata Harper products, I’d like comparisons of their ingredients with other all-natural brands. This might be unreasonable – I get that. But it would be nice. :-)
Founder and CEO Nicki Zevola started FutureDerm as a medical (M.D.) student studying to be a dermatologist. She is an award-winning scientific researcher and writer. She currently is concentrating on FutureDerm and developing FutureDerm's one-of-a-kind products. She can be found on Google+ and Twitter.View all Nicki Zevola posts.
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