Spotlight On: Starfish Extract

Ingredients, Skin Care

In case you haven’t been able to keep up with all of the beauty trends coming out of Asian markets lately, here’s another one to add to the already long list – Mizon Returning Starfish Cream ($25.97,, which promises to rejuvenate, revitalize, firm, and plump your skin while giving it long-lasting hydration.

What’s interesting about the Mizon Returning Starfish Cream is its star ingredient, 70% starfish extract. The beauty industry in Asia is particularly innovative, and usually ahead of its time (BB creams, anyone?), so the inclusion of a starfish extract caught my attention. Looks like it’s time to find out what’s behind this mysterious ingredient.

Starfish: The Basics

One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of starfish is Patrick Star, the best friend of Spongebob Squarepants. This might be a little weird for someone my age, but then again you probably didn’t spend much of your freshman and sophomore years of college mindlessly watching Spongebob Squarepants marathons to procrastinate like I did with my then-roommate, Emily. 

If you’re of sound mind and body, you’re probably thinking more along the lines of real starfish (rather than cartoons), which are primarily found in salt water, but sometimes in brackish water. The skin of the starfish is made of calcium, which helps protect them from predators. The coolest thing about starfish is their ability to regenerate limbs; their vital organs are primarily located in their arms, which enables them to regrow one (or five) should they misplace it (National Geographic).

Starfish Extract: Can It Help Regenerate Your Skin?

It’s this very cool ability that inspired the Mizon company to incorporate starfish extract into the product; it’s supposed to renew your skin, in a way, making it look plumper, firmer, and hydrated, but let’s hear what the research says on the subject. 

Let me first begin by saying that, what research does exist is minimal, at best, especially regarding topical application. Also, I’m not entirely sure what species of starfish this involves (there are more than 2000!), so it’s hard to come to any confident conclusion regarding the extract.

I could find research on two different species: Asterina pectinifera and Pentaceraster regulus. Of the first, researchers found that an extract of a China Sea starfish (A. pectinifera) contained seven steroids, some of which exhibited antiviral activities against herpes simplex virus type 1 (Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin).

A more relevant study concerning A. pectinfera is promising for skin care enthusiasts, which suggests that its extract might have the ability to treat hyperpigmentation. Researchers found that the extracts inhibited the production of melanin, which causes age spots and the like, by reducing the activity of the enzyme that causes melanin production, tyrosinase (International Journal of Molecular Medicine). 

As far as P. regulus is concerned, there’s really only one relevant study concerned skin care, which involves its ability to aid in wound healing. Researchers applied a P. regulus extract to cutaneous wounds on guinea pigs; they measured wound area; wound tensile strength; and DNA, protein, and hydroxyproline levels. Wounds treated with the extract saw a 42% reduction in wound area; an increase in cellular proliferation and collagen synthesis (as indicated by increased DNA, protein, and hydroxyproline levels); and a 34% increase in tensile strength, which corresponds to the increase in cellular proliferation and collagen synthesis (Journal of Wound Care). 

Bottom Line: The Verdict is Still Out

The above-mentioned studies are promising as skin care is concerned, but as the Mizon Returning Starfish Cream ($25.97, doesn’t mention what species its extract comes from, it’s hard to know what exactly it’s supposed to do and why. Until we have access to further research and, more specifically, where the ingredient comes from, I’m going to save my bandwagon jumping for later. 

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