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Cosmetics Ingredients
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Cosmetics Ingredients

Better Aging vs. Anti-Aging

Karl Lintner – Aug 19, 2019

TAGS:  Skin Care     Anti-aging Agents    
Better-Aging vs. Anti-Aging
Aging… when we are young, up to the age of ≈25, we are rather eager to grow up quicker, and anti-aging does not enter our mind. Past the 30-year birthday celebrations, suddenly aging becomes undesirable, and we want to stay as we are. Alas, nature won’t allow this. But, cosmetic industry and its products are here to help. Let’s understand how?

It has been recognized for some time that the term “anti-aging” claimed for cosmetic products is problematic. For example, the Canadian regulation for cosmetics has banned the use of claims such as:

  • Prevents aging
  • Eliminates aging
  • Stops aging
  • Reduces aging
  • Slows aging
  • Reverses aging…

Furthermore, the meaning is way too broad to be useful. E.g. we need to distinguish well between prevention vs. treatment.

  • Preventative measures are used to reduce or (utopically) stop the appearance of some of the symptoms of aging, and
  • Treatment is referred to those actions which are destined to repair age symptoms that have already occurred

Consequently, “anti-age” claims are “out”, and specific indications such as reduces wrinkles, firms and lifts, etc. are regulatorily risky. So, where do we go from here?

We cannot openly promise wrinkle reduction, face lifting, cellulite treatment other than in “safely carefully worded” boring language that has not changed in 30 years. So, what can we propose to our consumers to make our products attractive & desirable in various markets - from toiletries to make-up to skin and haircare? Can we focus on “Better” aging? 

Let's see better-aging trend in detail...

What do we mean by “better” aging?

We cannot stop the aging process but can only try to slightly slow down its consequences with our products and active ingredients. But we can try to adopt a lifestyle that lets us age in a better condition, as Dr. Borras (University of Valencia, Spain) shows in her paper on frailty1.

The concept of “better aging” has been around for some time, particularly in the food and nutritional supplement industry. Any Google search on “better aging” displays many websites promoting food supplements, superfoods and recipes.

Subsequently, health care webpages shower us with do’s and don’ts: from “stop smoking, drink less (or no) alcohol, increase physical exercise”, to “stay alert with mental activity and social engagement”, and more of the same vein. Such changes in lifestyle may be called “healthier living” (which includes aging).
Better Aging Promoted by Supplements, Superfoods and Exercise 
The problem with this approach is two-fold:

  • The various restrictions and suggestions of discipline are not everyone’s idea of “better” (i.e. more pleasant) living!
  • All of these prescriptions are essentially of preventative nature. Therefore the effects of any effort (such as regimen and product use) which will not be quickly perceivable by the consumer, will lead to reduced compliance and further reduced efficacy.

Nevertheless, the cosmetic industry follows in the footsteps of the nutritional one. The industry proposes antioxidants of all sorts, MMP enzyme inhibitors, DNA protection, anti-hair loss molecules… A good example is given by the launch of an entire “better aging” product line by Strand Cosmetics Europe2. The seven SKUs called GOLDENAGE comprise creams, serums and a mask, all enriched with:

  • Vitamins A, C and E, and
  • Extracts of safran, passion fruit and bluebell

Goldenage Skincare

The claim of “better aging vs. anti-aging” is based on reputed cellular protective properties of these ingredients.

Dr. Hauk, R&D GmbH in Germany promotes a “Better Aging” product range with claims such as “Only the best and most sustainable active ingredients from nature are used.[…]. This makes our Better Aging cosmetics suitable for women with very sensitive skin. The result: highest compatibility and better aging.Dr. Burgener propounds very similar arguments for her Swiss skin care products4.

On the ingredient side we find the Mindful Beauty line of Active Concepts5.

The preventative message has indeed made much progress in two areas:

Beyond that, marketing managers know that a curative promise has much higher consumer appeal (e.g. with before and after pictures) than the open or implied message: “use this or else!”. And thus, they try to combine both promises in their formulations. But while a “treatment” effect is relatively easy to demonstrate, the long-term consequences of efficacious prevention are difficult to guarantee and document. Hence the tendency to downplay them.

Is there another angle to approach “better aging” than via superfoods and antipollution “shields”?

Hedonism: The Study of Pleasure and its Benefits

We have known for a long time that buying and using cosmetics (from shampoos to skin care creams to make-up) are all strongly tied to emotional aspects, to pleasure. What has changed in the last ≈10 years is the fact that neuroscience has developed methods and instruments to analyze, record and quantify emotional and psychological reactions to the products we develop. With these new data (“to measure is to know”), formulators have a better understanding of consumer preferences, of the “unconscious” purchase criteria, the hedonic aspects of this business.

Study of Hedonism

In my “book”, the Essence of cosmetics is found here:

Lady Blessington (English poetess of the 18th century) has the answer in one of her writings6: “There is no cosmetic for beauty like happiness”, thus confirming the hedonist pleasure of choosing, buying and using our skin care, body care and hair care offerings. Stendhal, the French poet of the same period, wrote the corollary to Lady Blessington’s statement7, saying “Beauty is but the promise of happiness”.

Similarly, in a more recent article titled “Mental Health, Feeling Good and Happiness in Beauty”, Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe8 quotes a Euromonitor study that finds: “for consumers, happiness is considered the ultimate expression of health”.

We the industry and our products can offer:

  • Pleasure
  • Sensorial excitement
  • Measurable well-being

…in addition to all the skin science, to bring about this desirable state.

It all boils down then to three concepts: Beauty, Happiness, Health; and like other triads, they can be ex- and com-pressed in one term: Emotions. We buy our cosmetic products (and many other items, from cars to clothes) based on emotional experiences, unconsciously made decisions. It may be difficult to accept, but neuroscientists in their great majority agree with ideas and statements such as found in Carruthers’ paper9: “there is no such thing as a conscious thought”.

Many books and articles have investigated the irrationality of human behavior, the unconscious criteria for various actions. We don’t buy “lifting efficacy” or “wrinkle reduction percentages” in a skin care cream or “optimal cleaning efficiency” in a body wash. Rather, we really buy the pleasure of:
Granier Fructis Shampoo

  • A great skin-feel of a night cream,
  • The happiness we feel applying an eye serum with its ephemeral tightening effect and
  • The feeling-good experience from the shampoo’s fragrance (remember Garnier’s Fructis®?).

The discoveries in neuroscience of these last decades go further. The two-way brain-skin connections confirm that Lady Blessington and Stendhal were right: well-being in our brain, positive emotions arising when using a cosmetic, the small but crucial scoop of happiness will lead (downstream) to measurably increased efficacy of the product. This is what the Kao company has demonstrated last fall at the Munich IFSCC congress10. And of course, a cream or gel that feels good on application to the skin will induce a feel-good effect (upstream) in the brain, closing a virtuous cycle.

These hedonistic aspects translate into improvement of measurable Quality of Life (QoL) indices, as an increasing number of such in vivo studies demonstrate11. The first such ingredient to quantify this “better aging” benefit, was a cornflower extract called Clotholine®12. The clinical data of the ingredient showed both skin texture improvement and increased well-being scores13. The French charity CEW Beauty centres14 (see also the US and UK CEW associations15) constitutes a case in point by connecting the (free) beauty treatment afforded to long-stay hospital patients with clear, often remarkable, QoL benefits and health aspects.


What does it all mean? Of course, the industry needs to continue research and development of:

  • Active ingredients
  • Biomimetic mechanisms
  • Innovation in texture and
  • Improved efficacy

Among them, efficacy which will, at least in the best cases, not only be measurable but also visible. This is an important part of the entire cosmetic “universe” with all its galaxies, stars, and peripheral actors.

But the “better aging” idea needs to integrate the notion that the benefits, whether real or perceived by imagining them, are at least equally if not almost totally due to the well-being, the pleasure, the hedonic contributions our cosmetic formulations afford the users.

This does not only concern the skin feel of the ingredients and the products texture, but also involves:

  • the packaging
  • the trade name
  • the product’s and company’s reputation and image,
  • and, increasingly, societal parameters such as sustainability, fairness, and environmental protection.

These will be the challenges of the present century, such as:

  • finding truly non-tacky, biodegradable alternatives to the silky-feeling silicones,
  • developing efficacious sun protection solutions that are pleasurable to use,
  • inventing nail varnish based on the principles of green chemistry16 that are fun to apply (rather than being a tedious task) etc.

… thus, better responding to the unconscious desires of our consumer clients.


  1. Viña J, Borras C, Gomez-Cabrera MC. A free radical theory of frailty. Free Radic Biol Med. 2018 124:358-363
  2. https://www.premiumbeautynews.com/fr/strand-takes-inspiration-from-the,14020
  3. https://www.biofach.de/en/ausstellerprodukte/viva19/product-9996112/dr-hauck-better-aging-face-care
  4. https://www.savoirflair.com/beauty/443253/dr-pauline-burgener-anti-aging-skin-beauty-tips
  5. http://activeconceptsllc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Mindful-Beauty-Brochure-v1.pdf
  6. https://www.wonderfulquote.com/a/lady-blessington-quotes
  7. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/9215-beauty-is-nothing-other-than-the-promise-of-happiness
  8. https://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Article/2019/07/22/Mental-Health-Feeling-Good-and-Happiness-in-Beauty
  9. Carruthers, P. The Illusion of Conscious Thought. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 24, 2017, pp. 228-252(25)
  10. https://www.kosmet.com/abstracts/details/87724/
  11. https://www.kosmet.com/abstracts/details/87950/
  12. A trademark owned by SYNTIVIA S.A.S., France
  13. https://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/testing/efficacyclaims/Quantifying-Wellness-Anti-aging-Benefits-Beyond-Wrinkle-Reduction-395426081.html
  14. http://www.cew.asso.fr/page/centres-beaute
  15. https://www.cewuk.co.uk/philanthropy
  16. Paul Anastas and John Warner. Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice. 2000. Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780198506980

2 Comments on "Better Aging vs. Anti-Aging"
Pragna C Aug 24, 2019
Great article! A realistic and credible approach along the lines of Pro-Aging vs Anti-Aging
Kevin G Aug 23, 2019
Excellent article from a well known expert on bio-active ingredeints. I'm sure we'll all be hearing more about this subject in the coming years.

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