Kinetin: Is It Worth the Hype?


Maybe it’s the fancy double name of kinetin (N6-furfuryladenine), or maybe it’s the Kinerase promotion by former Friends star Courtney Cox. Whatever it is, something’s got everybody talking about kinetin. But are products containing kinetin — like Kinerase 0.1% N6-furfuryladenine Lotion ($109.00, or Almay Hypo-Allergenic Kinetin Skincare Advanced Anti-Aging Series, Age Decelerating Daily Lotion ($14.50, worth the hype?

Not quite a Retin-A alternative…

Kinetin has often been touted as a “sensitive skin alternative to retinoids.” In a 2004 review by HA Epstein, a summary of similar studies comparing patients’ opinions about Renova to Kinerase found that a patient self-assessment of “good to excellent” improvement in signs of photoaging (skin roughness, mottling, and fine wrinkling) was more than doubled for Kinerase in each category when compared with a cream containing Renova, a prescription 0.02% tretinoin (retinoid) cream. However, according to Paula Begoun, the Cosmetics Cop, these results may be biased somewhat: “On a closer look, according to (a now-defunct Internet source that evaluated the legitimacy of medical research), the data are far less convincing than Senetek [the company that makes Kinerase] would want you to know. These studies, paid for by Senetek, were both done by [the same individual].” Note: Senetek sold the rights to Kinerase to Valeant Pharmaceuticals in 2007; more here.

Adding to Begoun‘s skepticism is the fact that no independent published studies of kinetin could be found in comparison to more potent retinoid treatments like Retin-A (0.04 or 0.1% tretinoin). According to experts like PE Bermann in a 2007 review, “[Non-retinoid treatments] cannot produce the dramatic results obtained with [potent] tretinoin.” Therefore, based on current published research, 0.1% kinetin (as in Kinerase) may be more effective than 0.02% tretinoin (Renova), but should not be considered more effective than 0.04% or 0.1% tretinoin (Retin-A).

An effective antioxidant

Kinetin was been found in a 2000 study to be a strong inhibitor of oxidative and glycoxidative protein damage in cultured human fibroblasts (skin cells). In the study, kinetin proves to be a potent antioxidant by mimicking superoxide dismutase activity, activating superoxide dismutase and catalase, and by quenching reactive oxygen species (i.e., free radicals). Unfortunately, no published independent studies compare the antioxidant capacity of kinetin to potent antioxidants such as coffee berry, green tea, vitamin C or vitamin E. A 1999 study by Olsen et. al. found that a concentration of 100 µM provides a maximum of 50% protection against oxidative DNA damage in the calf thymus. Unfortunately, this is not too promising, considering that products like Neutrogena Anti-Oxidant Age Reverse Day Lotion ($15.99, has been reported by Johnson and Johnson (the makers of the product) to neutralize 99% of free radicals in the skin. Of course, these studies are clearly not parallel (a calf thymus is not human skin, the Neutrogena study is by the company, etc.!), and so results cannot directly be compared. However, the implication that superior antioxidant protection is available for less money than Kinerase certainly is there. Further independent studies certainly must be done to determine the antioxidant capacity of kinetin relative to other ingredients.

Activates repair enzymes

Kinetin has been found to stimulate transcription in plant cells and increase the rate of cell cycle. In addition, kinetin can induce the synthesis of repair enzymes, which either remove modified bases from DNA and/or protect against oxidative stress (Cosmetic Dermatology). In fact, in a 1995 study by Sharma et. al., kinetin-fed fruit flies had a 55%–60% increase in the activity of the antioxidant enzyme catalase, which breaks down hydrogen peroxide (a free-radical creator) in the cells. According to the review by HA Epstein, collective kinetin studies on human skin cells and fruit flies have shown that it can delay onset of several cellular and biochemical characteristics associated with cellular aging in long-term cultures of human skin fibroblasts via antioxidant and DNA repair enzyme activity.

Extends the life of fruit flies

In a 1995 study by Sharma et. al., kinetin-fed fruit flies demonstrated a 65% increase in prolonged lifespan and a 25% slowing of aging. It is unknown at what dose humans can safely ingest kinetin (found in some plants and herring), or if the fruit-fly data even apply to humans at all.

In summary…

Kinetin has proven to be able to repair DNA and serve as an antioxidant, with overall results most likely somewhere between Renova (0.02% tretinoin), like Retin-A (0.04% or 0.1% tretinoin). With the limited independent research studies conducted on topically applied kinetin, it is hard at this time to know its true efficacy. However, if you do not wish to use retinoids (you have very sensitive skin, are pregnant or nursing, etc.) a moisturizer with niacinamide or kinetin may be a fair anti-aging alternative for you.

The Almay product seems like a better buy…

For the difference in money, I would personally buy Almay Hypo-Allergenic Kinetin Skincare Advanced Anti-Aging Series, Age Decelerating Daily Lotion ($14.50, long before Kinerase 0.1% N6-furfuryladenine Lotion ($109.00,   In fact, they are rather equivalent by the ingredients list: although Kinerase contains the anti-aging ingredient soy, Almay Kinetin Daily Lotion contains the potent antioxidant green tea, and both contain vitamins C and E, and a rather low concentration of retinyl palmitate.  Overall rating for both: 8/10 (beneficial anti-aging treatments, but under-researched at this time).

Ingredients in Kinerase 0.1% Furfuryladenine Lotion

Purified Water, Glycerin, Stearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Dimethicone, Panthenol, Glycine Soja (Soy Bean) Sterols, Sodium Hydroxide, Kinetin, Aloe Baradensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbic Acid, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Cholecalciferol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Citric Acid, Triethanoamine, Methylparaben, Propylparaben

Ingredients in Almay Hypo-Allergic Kinetin Skincare Advanced Anti-Aging Series Age Decelerating Daily Lotion

Water, Cyclomethicone, Propylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Boron Nitride, Polyglyceryl-4, Isostearate, Cetyl Dimethicone Copolyol, Nylon-12, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Magnesium Sulfate, Dimethicone Copolyol, Kinetin, Methicone, Laureth-7, Tribehenin, Gingko Biloba, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Green Tea Extract, Centaurea Cyanus Flower Extract, Grapeseed Extract, Silica, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Polyglyceryl-6, Polyricinoleate, Aluminum Stearate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Licorice Root Extract, Chamomile Roman Extract, Clary Extract, Geranium Bourbon Extract, Rosa Damascena Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, SD Alcohol 40-B, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben. May contain: Iron Oxides, Mica.

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