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Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s a lack of sleep, or a poor diet or simply just genetics, but my face seems to look less vibrant than it should. Whether its bags underneath my eyes or a collagen-poor diet that makes my skin appear more hollowed, my face could use a bit of a pick-me-up. Clarin’s new product, The Shaping Facial Lift ($74.95, amazon.com), promises to deliver an “impeccable facial silhouette” that will smooth the skin using oat sugars, caffeine and escin to dry the face of excess fats and fluids, and use a Lady’s Mantle to give your face a certain radiance.
Caffeine Helps Reverse Sun Damage
Caffeine may be something you thought of only in terms of coffee, tea, and soda, but it actually has some really great effects on the skin. Topically applying caffeine will minimize the number of fat cells (adipocytes) that are in the bottom-most layers of skin (hypodermis). Plus, the size of the caffeine molecules ensures that they will almost always enter the pores; as some other molecules, such as collagen, are too large to fit through the pores and sit on the skin’s surface (International Journal of Cosmetic Science).
Koo, Hirakawa, Fijii, Kawasumi and Nghiem found that topical caffeine treatments partially reversed UV skin damage in mice, particularly skin texture. Caffeine triggers something called apoptosis, which basically is a way for damaged skin cells (from the sun, injury, dryness) to die off so that new ones can form and skin will heal.
Sunflower Seed Oil (Helianthus annus) Makes the Skin Bright
Aside from being a bright and cheery plant in its own right, oil from the sunflower’s seed will help to brighten your skin — literally. Sunflower seeds contain the carotenoid beta-carotene, a mineral that gives many colorful vegetables (carrots, spinach, red and yellow peppers) their vibrant color. When applied topically, these carotenoids will deposit themselves in the layers of the skin and give you a golden glow for a few days.
Additionally, beta-carotene fights against free radicals, which will damage the skin, and in some cases can lead to disease if not treated properly. Sunflower seed supplements have also been shown to reduce sun sensitivity, meaning that your skin will likely be less prone to sunburn and sun-damage if taking a supplement (University of Maryland Medical Center – Beta-Carotene).
Beta-carotene is often converted in Vitamin A (also called retinol) by the body. When used as a topical cream, Vitamin A will clear up severe acne, psoriasis, sun damage, warts, and even signs of aging (wrinkles). Plus it keeps your skin cells generally healthy and encourages regular reproduction. However, always make sure to check with your health provider when taking beta-carotene/Vitamin A-containing supplements, as they are not suitable in high doses or for individuals who are pregnant or may become pregnant or for newborns (University of Maryland Medical Center – Vitamin A)
Lady’s Mantle Extract (Alchemilla vulgaris) Does a Lot for Healing
With its delicate yellow flowers and unassuming demeanor, the Lady’s Mantle plant doesn’t give the impression of being much of a cosmetic miracle-worker, but researchers have discovered a new use for Lady’s Mantle — as a fast-acting healing agent. When studying wounds in rats, the researchers found that after two days of treatment, the wounds showed a 10% improvement rate (Shrivastava, Cucuat, John). This plant extract is thought to be effective because it encourages myofibroblast production (a cell prevalent in wound-healing) and epithelial cell, which are useful for protecting the skin and many internal organs from germs, and also help us sense things (Arizona State University – Ask a Biologist). Here the myofibroblasts grow in the wound’s cavity, while the epitherlial cells help to seal it all back together (Shrivastava, Cucuat, John).
Lady’s mantle also contains polyphenol, which is an antioxidant founds in many plants and vegetables. A study found that when applied topically, a polyphenol-containing cream reduced the chances for skin tumor development, while they have also been shown to act as anti-inflammatory agents, especially for conditions like erythema. Some polyphenols come in the form of pigments (which give plants color) that can absorb UV radiation, so that it will not penetrate and damage the skin. Additionally, a recent study found that polyphenols can block against the collagen-lose that comes from excessive UV exposure (Nichols and Katiyar).
Oat Extract (Avena sativa) Does a Ton for Your Skin
Kurtz and Wall report that oatmeal can be used to treat a variety of ailments, a jack-of-all-trades for the cosmetic industry, it would seem. Since Oatmeal contains Vitamin E, it is a good anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and cleansing agent. It also contains flavonoids that will absorb small UV rays, protecting you from damaging photodamage (sun and other external stresses). When combined with water, it creates a small protective layer across the skin that blocks out bacterias and retains moisture. Plus, it contains ferulic and caffeic acids, popular antioxidants that will fight against incoming bacteria, cell damage/decomposition, and any other duress your skin may encounter.
Personal Use and Opinion
The first thing I noticed about Clarin’s Shaping Facelift is that it has a very pungent odor that was reminiscent of men’s cologne. The cream is very thin, so you will need a large amount to give your face a thorough application. On the plus side, it dries after just a few minutes so you shouldn’t have any of that annoying oily-residue feeling for the rest of the day.
I used it for four days, and didn’t notice much of a difference. My face looked tighter and had some slight color to it, though not enough that anyone else noticed. Additionally, my skin texture didn’t seem to have been visibly improved — it still felt winter-dry and I could still feel the small imperfections on it. After wearing it for a few hours the cream had dried to such an extent that it kind of felt like a small mask on my face, which was so awkward and uncomfortable that I had to wash it off my face. The day after I stopped using the lotion, my face went back to its original appearance.
Clarin’s Shaping Facial Lift Serum claims to streamline the face by smoothing it, enhancing the natural vibrancy, and remove excess fats. The product didn’t seem to follow through on these claims. It didn’t moisturize very well and made only minor, barely perceptible changes in my skin’s texture. My face maintained its normal consistency throughout the test trial. It also has a really pungent men’s cologne scent that refuses to dissipate as the day goes on. Overall, I think there are better products for firming and smoothing the texture of the skin.