Neurocosmetics : the Fascinating World of Skin–Brain Connection

Article published at: Agora London Feb 11, 2024
Neurocosmetics : the Fascinating World of Skin–Brain Connection
All Hormone Health

The concept of neurocosmetics gained significant attention in 2007 during the annual meeting of the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists. Researchers at the event focused on the relationship between the brain and the skin. Over recent years, there has been a shift away from conventional cosmetics, with a growing emphasis on skincare products that can impact the connections between the skin and the brain. These products are referred to as neurocosmetics.

Skin and Brain: A Psychobiological Concept

The skin, a remarkable and intricate organ, serves as a mediator between us and the external environment. It furnishes information that enables us to scrutinise, assess, and monitor our surroundings. This dynamic structure undergoes continuous transformation, maintaining a direct connection with the central nervous system and functioning as a living sensory receptor organ.

A novel psychobiological concept, known as the "skin identity", has emerged, emphasising the profound link between the skin and the brain. Psychoanalysts, such as the French theorist Didier Anzieu, broaden this association to the unconscious ego by asserting that the skin plays a crucial role in shaping mental structures and functions.

In simpler terms, if the skin is considered an extension of the central nervous system, certain skin issues may stem from psychological distress. Many researchers now acknowledge that since the nervous system is implicated in various dry skin problems, it's plausible that common skin diseases may also have psychosomatic origins.

Bridging Minds and Bodies

A  medical-scientific discipline known as psycho-neuro-endocrine-immunology is emerging. This field explores the connections between the psyche and the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, perceiving organs as an extensive network of hormones, cytokines (essential proteins in controlling cell growth and activity), and neuropeptides (short chains of amino acids functioning as signalling molecules or neurotransmitters). These components form a closely interconnected system bridging the gap between the mind and body. This interesting relationship between the skin and the nervous system was for a long time neglected, but today represents one of the most important fields investigated in skin biology.

Understanding Emotions at the Skin Level

It's important to highlight that various emotions, including fear, stress, and happiness, are experienced at the skin level. Scientific evidence indicates that psychological stress can potentially trigger certain skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, or rosacea.

Our moods, emotions, and sensations originate in the brain. Subsequently, the brain sends biochemical signals to the body, including the skin, resulting in physiological effects. However, skin cells are also able to induce cortisol production if stimulated by external stress factors.

The Science Behind Neurocosmetic Ingredients

Interestingly recent research aimed at combating skin aging have led to the creation of groundbreaking products known as neurocosmetics. These products possess captivating properties that have the potential to revolutionise the cosmetic industry.

As explained by medical researchers, neurocosmetics are topical products that are both non-toxic and bioactive. They incorporate ingredients specifically formulated to function at a neurological level.

In the formulation of neurocosmetics, it's essential to consider that skin cells have receptors that bind neurotransmitters to regulate their functions. Understanding the connection mechanisms between the skin and the brain can be valuable in selecting functional ingredients capable of interacting with both systems, thereby achieving specific results. For example, neurocosmetic products can influence the brain's reactions to topical treatments by specifically targeting nerve clusters that are sensitive to heat, cold, pain, itching, and/or pressure.

However, are neurocosmetic manufacturers creating a misleading impression by suggesting that the use of certain products, particularly makeup items, can "trigger" feelings of pleasure and well-being? Products containing active ingredients are frequently marketed as euphoric or antidepressant. Additionally, there is a common trend where cosmetic products are labelled as "happiness cosmetics." These products are often associated, albeit uncritically, with neurocosmetics due to the inclusion of specific active ingredients in their formulation.

Separating Fact from Fiction

Consider the use of Omega-3 in skincare products as a prime example. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for countering skin hypersensitivity, alleviating dryness and inflammation, and enhancing overall skin appearance. Additionally, Omega-3 has antioxidant properties that contribute to the health and glow of women's skin.

Scientific studies have shown that incorporating Omega-3 into skincare routines leads to improved skin hydration, freshness, and overall comfort, noticeable to consumers. However, the claims associated with products utilising this ingredient may be misconstrued by consumers, inaccurately attributing neurocosmetic properties to them.

For years, cosmetic companies have been intrigued by the intricate and complex interconnection between the skin and the brain. However, this topic is often seen as confusing and fragmented, emphasising the necessity for more information to provide clarity for consumers.

Neurocosmetics vs. Psychocosmetics: Decoding the Terminology

It's important to clarify that many neurotransmitters (body’s chemical messengers) and neurohormones (chemical messenger molecules released by neurons), typically generated and released by the nervous system (such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, etc.), can also be locally produced and released by specific skin cells, serving various local functions. In specific instances, it has been extensively demonstrated that the application of Schinus terebinthifolia (flowering plant in the cashew family) and Sacha inchi (a perennial plant that produces a fruit with edible seeds) extracts on the skin can increase dopamine release by skin neurons. This leads to two effects: improvement in skin blood supply and skin barrier performance, along with an overall enhancement of complexion. However, it's crucial to note that these neurocosmetics should not be regarded as "products" capable of influencing mood and happiness. Terms like "antidepressant," "happiness," "euphoric," and "exhilarating" have been erroneously associated with products containing these extracts, veering into the realms of pharmacology and psychiatry, which is distinct from neurocosmetics. In summary, it's crucial not to mix up neurocosmetics with psychocosmetics.

Empowering Consumers in Neurocosmetics.

In conclusion, the future of this evolving trend lies in the exploration of innovative methodologies, strategies, and techniques to formulate new cosmetic products. This approach opens the door to a new world of potential benefits and claims within the cosmetic industry. However, it is crucial for consumers to be well-informed to avoid expecting erroneous benefits from neurocosmetic products.

 

Sources:

Didier Anzieu: The Skin Ego

Husein el Hadmed, H.; Castillo, R.F.: Cosmeceuticals: Peptides, proteins, and growth factors. J. Cosmet. Dermatol. 2016.

Morganti, P.; Coltelli, M.-B.: A New Carrier for Advanced Cosmeceuticals. Cosmetics 2019.

Juliano, C.; Magrini, G.A.; Cosmetic Functional Ingredients from Botanical Sources for Anti-Pollution Skincare Products,2018.



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