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Product Review: The Solution Advanced Anti-Aging Complex

Posted May 12 2009 3:15pm


As we approach the decade after the new millenia, most skin care products still choose to advocate either the “all-natural” or “traditional” skin care approach, focusing on one set of interests largely to the exclusion of the other.  Fortunately, there is a solution:  aptly called The Solution ($74.00, ), Envision Beauty’s major anti-aging product includes four all-natural antioxidants (goji, grapeseed extract, acai, and centella asiatica) plus ten more traditional anti-aging ingredients (DMAE, alpha lipoic acid, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid, lecithin, L-carnosine, retinyl palmitate, vitamin B5, vitamin C, and vitamin E).  Despite its natural-meets-traditional ingredient balance, Envision Beauty claims The Solution still manages to be completely free of “parabens, ethyl alcohol, and harsh synthetic ingredients”, all of which is enabled in part by the product’s specialized “airtight” bottle.  And despite all the benefits for the consumer, The Solution helps the less fortunate as well, donating 10% of all proceeds to  Project Concern International, an organization which is dedicated to building healthy communities and saving the lives of children and families.

Antioxidant Goji Berry and Açai Berry

So what’s the catch?  Other than the fact this product doesn’t contain sunscreen, there honestly doesn’t seem to be one, provided of course that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients.  Goji berry and açai, for instance, have been marked as the “hot new antioxidants” on the market by the 2009 book Feed Your Skin, Starve Your Wrinkles.  According to Sara Horowitz, Ph.D., goji berry, also known as Tibetian goji berry, Sir Argell’s Tea Tree, Lyceum fruit, and Western snowberry, is derived from the L. barbarium plant.  For the skin, goji berry’s proposed activity is to prevent oxidation, though studies verifying this are limited:  one in Phytomedicine (Zhao et. al., 2005) affirms that goji berry extracts have antioxidant and anti-apoptotic properties; another, in Medicinal Chemistry Research clarifies that the antioxidant activity is attributable to polysaccharides in goji berry.

Açai Berry (AH-sa-ee), an antioxidant-packed berry, comes from the Açai palms of Central and South America. Once harvested, açai has been called the “superfruit,” as it contains 15-22% vitamin C. Açai berry has been demonstrated in a 2006 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry to have significant antioxidant effects. In fact, according to the study, açai had “by far the highest oxygen radical scavenging activity of any food measured to date.” In fact, it has been suggested in the book Natural Products: Essential Resources for Human Survival that açai berry is the highest natural source of vitamin C found to date. Keep in mind, however, that CoffeeBerry, found in RevaléSkin products, is not edible and has been reported to have the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score to date.  With this in mind, you may just want to eat goji and açai berries, and apply RevaléSkin products to your face.  As always, check with your dermatologist for the best option for you.


According to “Dimethylaminoethanol: A New Ingredient for Aging Skin” in the Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology (Baran and Maibach), DMAE is a simple amino base and a synthetic analog of the B vitamin choline. In skin care products, DMAE is commonly used partially as a pH buffer, with a basic pH of approximately 10 in the unneutralized state.  In skin care, DMAE has been found to increase firmness in undereye, cheekbone and jaw areas ( Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology, Skin Research and Technology ); increase the fullness of lips ( Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology ); slightly reduce wrinkle appearance ( American Journal of Clinical Dermatology ); and slightly reduce inflammation of the skin ( American Journal of Clinical Dermatology ).

However, some concerns have been raised over the safety of DMAE, as  it has been suggested in theBritish Journal of Dermatology that human skin cells cultured with 3% DMAE exhibit a moderate cytotoxicity.  Despite this, these findings are limited to only in vitro studies thus far; in actual human subjects, DMAE seems to have a good safety profile, as stated most notably in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology.  In these journals, application of DMAE has been found to be well-tolerated amongst patients, with no differences in the incidence of erythema, peeling, dryness, itching, burning, or stinging between the DMAE and placebo groups. An open-label extension of a related trial further demonstrated that the long-term application of DMAE gel for up to 1 year was associated with a “good safety profile.”  As always, talk to your dermatologist about any concerns.

Retinyl palmitate

According to research by Fisher et. al cited by Dr. Leslie Baumann in her textbook Cosmetic Dermatology, retinoids are effective in preventing and treating the collagen loss caused by photodamage. UV exposure decreases collagen types I and III with 24 hours, but treatment of the skin with all- trans retinoic acid prevents the loss of these types of collagen synthesis. In addition, Fisher et. al demonstrated that application of tretinoin inhibits the induction of matrix metalloproteinase genes ( more here ), which are in part responsible for collagen degradation. According to Dr. Ranella Hirsch, president-elect of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgeons interviewed in the December 2007 issue of Allure magazine:  “We have beautiful, profound data that shows if you use it for 20 years, you’re going to look a lot better than someone who doesn’t.”

So why retinyl palmitate and not retinol?  Retinyl palmitate is a combination of pure retinol and palmitic acid (a substance typically used in cosmetics as a cleansing agent) that must be converted to retinaldehyde and then all-trans retinoic acid within the skin in order to be effective.  However, retinyl palmitate is tolerated better by sensitive skin than other forms of vitamin A.  It should also be noted that retinyl palmitate in high concentration displays results similar to that of retinol, but it is impossible to tell the concentration of retinyl palmitate in The Solution.

Vitamins C and E

Vitamins C and E “break the chain” of potentially damaging oxidation pathways, stopping free radicals from ripping electrons off of other molecules.  This is in contrast to other antioxidants, like superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase, which “slow” the free radical chain reaction by stabilizing the reactive free radicals. As the body does not produce or ingest enough antioxidants to neutralize all of the free radicals, which come from processes that are both endogenous (within the body, such as human metabolism) and exogenous (outside the body, from pollution, smoking, alcohol, and UV radiation, amongst other sources), free radicals accumulate a great deal of damage within the body over time.  As a result, many experts recommend use of antioxidants and sunscreen to prevent UV-induced free radical damage.

According to Sheldon Pinnell, a dermatology professor at Duke University of School of Medicine who created Cellex-C about twenty years ago and later assisted in the creation of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic (which also contains vitamins C and E): “I was interested in how it [topical vitamin C, an antioxidant] could stimulate collagen synthesis. But we found that it was really good for protecting against sunlight.”

As such, vitamins C and E, as network antioxidants that reinforce each other’s activity and boost the activity of sunscreen, are excellent additions to The Solution. In addition, vitamin C has documented skin-brightening and collagen-boosting activity (for more, see here ), whereas vitamin E may protect the skin barrier and protect against collagen loss by matrix metalloproteinases (for more, see here ).

Overall Opinions

Overall, The Solution contains a highly unique combination of some of the most documented antioxidant (goji berry, acai berry, vitamin C, vitamin E), wrinkle-diminishing (retinyl palmitate, DMAE), firming (retinyl palmitate, DMAE) over-the-counter ingredients available on the market.  While it is impressive, there are two caveats:  First, the product lacks sunscreen, which is arguably the #1 anti-aging ingredient in skin care.  As such, make sure you use it under sunscreen during the daytime hours.  Second, always talk to your dermatologist before beginning use of this or any other skin-care product.  Overall, though, I love The Solution!  For another comprehensive blogger’s review, please check out my friend Nancy’s Beauty 411 Blog on The Solution.

Product Rating:  9/10 (High concentration of effective ingredients: 3/3.  Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3.  Value for the money: 2.5/3.  Sunscreen: 0/1).

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