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Caviar is one of those things that always has an air of luxury. Given its high price-per-ounce, the mention of it hearkens to wealth and grandeur. We’ve been seeing caviar popping up in products for a while now, giving these goods a sense of the elitism instilled by the mention of this oceanic delicacy.
Recently, it seems there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of companies and products boasting about the ingredient’s inclusion (Cosmetics Design Europe). And they claim everything from emollients to wrinkle reducers.
But is this big-ticket treat as worthwhile in cosmetics as it is with your mouth?
What Exactly IS “Caviar Extract”?
Typically, the word “caviar” refers to the salt-preserved, non-fertilized eggs — or roe — of sturgeon; but the salt-preserved eggs of other fish, such as salmon, is sold under the same name (Encyclopedia Britannica).
I couldn’t find data on whether caviar extract comes from fresh roe eggs or actual caviar, but I’d imagine it’s the unsalted former. After all, “fish egg extract” doesn’t quite evoke the same sense of lavishness as “caviar extract,” does it? And some worry that an increase in marine-derived ingredients could be unsustainable if companies aren’t careful (GCI).
But it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re getting under the name “caviar extract,” particularly because it seems to be a catch-all for ingredients that come from fish eggs in general. For example, Aqua Bio Tech ASA’s Aquabeautine XL®, often mentioned as a “caviar extract,” is actually fluid extracted from fertilized salmon eggs after the fish have hatched (In Cosmetics). And, this article suggests that La Prairie might use a similar harvesting technique with Baerii sturgeon eggs for its caviar extract in La Prairie Caviar Luxe Cream ($375, amazon.com) (Forbes).
With all the possible things “caviar extract” could mean, it’s difficult to give a solid answer about where it comes from or whether the caviar extract in one product is equally as good as that in another.
Is There Research Behind Caviar Extract?
Companies claim that the proteins, amino and fatty acids, lipids, vitamins and minerals, and more are the components that make caviar extract beneficial (CellBone® Technology). But the studies are mostly by the companies producing caviar-based ingredients.
In a double-blind study done by Aqua Bio Tech ASA on its Aquabeautine XL®, 32 women between the ages of 40 and 65 saw improvement in wrinkles, fine lines, roughness, dullness, hyperpigmentation, and sagging compared to baseline after 12 weeks (Aqua Bio Technologies ASA).
Other companies have done studies, but few are solely measuring the effects of the pure caviar extract. So far, I haven’t found any independent research specifically about the effects of caviar extract, roe extract, or hatching fluid on skin. That might be because “caviar extract” in the cosmetics industry seems to be a very broad term for different ingredients derived from fish eggs.
Certain constituents, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, have been shown to reduce inflammation from UVB-irradiation when topically applied. But the data suggests that the best benefits come from eating them, rather than applying them topically.
For maximum benefits, it might be better to have caviar as a luxurious snack than to spread it all over your face. The term “caviar extract” seems to encompass any ingredient that comes from any part of fish eggs, which makes it especially difficult to figure out if, let alone which, caviar extract is an effective ingredient. While there are benefits like fatty acids and lipids that make caviar a good emollient, it might not be worth it to pay big bucks just to get this taste of grandeur in your cosmetics.