It has never been a secret that the first step to healthier skin is a good cleansing routine to get rid of all the pore-clogging nasties and strip away the daily dirt. There are a whole bunch of products out there who can do this so we are looking for that little added extra – the elixir of all cleansers. There have been a lot of rave reviews about London-based Oskia skin care and their vitamin packed Renaissance Cleansing Gel so we thought it was about time The Geeks had a peek. Elixir vitae or just ok?

The Claims
As we would expect from a good cleanser, the Renaissance Cleansing Gel removes make-up and daily dirt but it also claims to improve elasticity and firmness, enhance the lipid barrier, protect against free radical and environmental damage to improve appearance of sun damaged, dry and mature skin. A lot of sciencey-sounding promises to live up to. Our spotlight has first been placed on the brand-favourite ingredient ‘MSM’ and the quirky addition of pumpkin extract. Let’s see if the science holds up.

MSM – methyl sulphonyl methane
Georgie Cleeve built the brand Oskia on her beliefs of the power of one ingredient, methyl sulphonyl methane (MSM). She was convinced when MSM supplements her father gave her for cartilage damage appeared to treat her eczema and this sparked the idea for a new skincare range introducing MSM into all of the brands products. There are a lot of big claims around this molecule but it is important to remember that taking something orally can have different effects to when it is applied directly to the skin.

While there is a lot of evidence for benefits of ingesting MSM, we could not find much publicly accessible research supporting improvements when applied straight onto the skin. We found one study that looked at using a combination of this molecule and one other to try and control the development of redness and rosacea on the face, where this combination was found to be useful. It’s thought that this is because MSM may help protect the skin against aggravation by light, but it seems to be a rather under-researched area. Not a great start!

Pumpkin extract
In 2014 there was a big hype around pumpkin extract as the next best thing. Whilst pumpkin seed oil is under-appreciated for its high fatty acid content, the fruit ferment extract included in this product seems under-researched, rather than undervalued! Unfortunately we found no luck at the pumpkin patch or in any studies either. We don’t know if Oskia was following the hype or if they have uncovered something we don’t know when they fermented their pumpkins We would like to see some more science before we are swayed.

Vitamins – Vitamin A and Sun Damaged Skin
The MSM and pumpkin extract don’t quite meet the products promises but there is still hope yet! The Renaissance Cleansing gel also boasts a load of vitamins, so starting from the top, Vitamin A. Retinyl palmitate is one of the most common forms of vitamin A in skincare and for good reason. Applied topically, it’s suggested to be an effective SPF by absorbing harmful UVB rays from the sun (that doesn’t mean you can scrimp on the sunscreen though). UV is a contributor in ageing skin (although traditionally it’s UVA radiation that is associated with phootoageing), so hopefully this will fend off some skin damage for us!

Prevention is better than cure, but there are actually studies to suggest that retinyl palmitate can improve sun damaged skin. UV rays can trigger the breakdown of collagen which usually gives the skin its plump, firm structure. Breakdown in collagen means the skin becomes thinner and more vulnerable to all kinds of damage. Vitamin A blocks the pathway that usually leads to this breakdown whilst stimulating cells to make more collagen. Increased collagen production suggests increased skin firmness and elasticity so in this case, vitamin A kills two claims with one stone.

Vitamin B2
Starflower seed oil is the source of vitamin B2 in the Renaissance Cleansing Gel. Just like MSM, it’s great when taken orally but there is little or no evidence of any benefits for topical application. Starflower seed oil has been investigated as a treatment for atopic dermatitis or eczema, and does improve the condition in the short term, but this isn’t the same as applying it to the skin.

Vitamin E
Tocopherol is a lipid-soluble form of vitamin E, which can be absorbed by the skin. This product claims to remove free radicals to prevent ageing skin and tocopherol can do just that. It is an antioxidant which means that it can mop up free radicals in your skin caused by sun or chemical damage to keep skin looking young and fresh (check out our Free Radical and Antioxidants article for details on this process).

Vitamin C
Ascorbic acid is the most common form of vitamin C but is rarely used in cosmetics because it is relatively unstable. Oskia have opted for ascorbyl palmitate which is a fat soluble form of Vitamin C which is more stable than ascorbic acid but studies are still underway to try to increase the stability further.

Topically applied vitamin C is a bit of a favourite for The Geeks – studies have shown that it not only acts as an antioxidant to neutralise potentially-damaging free, but also stimulates collagen production and lightens the skin. It’s hoped that the overall effect of increasing collagen production is to promote healthy skin structure and fend off early signs of ageing. Vitamin C is also thought to interfere with processes that promote inflammation, and beauty boffins recommend it for helping inflammatory conditions like acne and rosacea.

Dry skin is a sure way to add years to your face. For a quick fix, regular use of moisturisers is a must and this cleanser contains cetearyl olivate and sorbitan olivate to keep skin as subtle as possible by retaining water. There is a lot of research backing glycerin, very popular in cosmetics and anti-ageing products, and very efficient at drawing water from the environment and lower layers of the skin to the surface making skin look and feel healthier.

The Verdict
The story we’re finding here is that some of these ingredients are magic when ingested, but not when applied to the skin. There simply isn’t enough research to persuade us that it is reaching its full potential. This aside, the Renaissance Cleansing Gel is still a nifty cleanser. We might not be convinced about MSM but there is definitely some solid science behind vitamin A, E and C, as well as the moisturisers. As a cleanser, it does have a little added extra, with backed claims of supporting the skin structure and working against photodamage. If you’re willing to overlook the MSM let-down, this is certainly an improvement on your run-of-the-mill basic cleanser.

If you would like to try this out for yourself, then click HERE (to get yours at the best price!)

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Combined effects of silymarin and methylsulfonylmethane in the management of rosacea: clinical and instrumental evaluation
Vitamin A and its derivatives in experimental photocarcinogenesis: preventive effects and relevance to humans.
Vitamin A exerts a photoprotective action in skin by absorbing ultraviolet B radiation
Role of vitamins in Skincare
Riboflavin: Vitamin B2 and health
Borage oil in the treatment of atopic dermatitis
Placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized, prospective study of a glycerol-based emollient on eczematous skin in atopic dermatitis: biophysical and clinical evaluation.
Vitamin C in dermatology
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