Tuesday 10 December 2013

A Brand and A Cult Product: Kiehl’s and their Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Since we are all more than our blogs, Quinn from Desgettier and I decided to use our collective interests to investigate the hype around Kiehl's and one of their iconic products. 

Being not too unfamiliar with the odd science journal, I put my research skills to work in analyzing the ingredients from the Midnight Recovery Concentrate.

Quinn loves marketing psychology, so she chose to investigate how Kiehl’s creates hype around their brand and their products. Check out her awesome post here.

(Oh rusty science background…don’t fail me now.)

Kieh’s states that their lightweight product will restore skin’s smoothness and radiance overnight. The ingredients they use will instantly absorb and replenish the skin making your skin look less tired. Your skin will be hydrated, supple and soft. Kiehl’s showcases three key ingredients in their oil, evening primrose oil, lavender oil and squalene. 

The solution should be analyzed as a whole but for the purpose of making a workload more manageable, I will be providing a mini analysis on each of the three key ingredients and what Kiehl’s claim it brings to their product.

Evening Primose Oil 
Kiehl’s claims that the use of Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) will be effective on skin-barrier repair.
Fact 1. Essential fatty acids make up part of the skin’s lipid barrier.
Fact 2. EPO is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid, a fatty acid.

Many studies surrounding EPO have been on eczema or dermatitis patients. It’s been suggested that defects in fatty acids may have harmed the skin barrier for eczema patients. A review of more than a handful of studies surrounding topical EPO treatments suggest that they are no better than the placebo. Also, using more EPO doesn't seem to produce an equal decrease in eczema. There may be some small benefit to ingestion of EPO but the nine ingestion studies reviewed show conflicting  and inconsistent results.

In general I would say the jury is still out on EPO.  Granted, many of these studies are done on a case of severe skin barrier damage so take this analysis with a grain of salt. On a more positive note, a study done in 2005 showed that ingestion of EPO for 12 weeks resulted in significant difference in skin moisture, elasticity, firmness, fatigue resistance and roughness. But again other studies produce conflicting results. Since Kiehl's oil is applied topically, I'm not sure the same benefits will be seen. 

Lavender Oil
Kiehl’s claims that this helps soothe inflamed or irritated skin while helping reduce skin blotchiness for a more even look, creating a brighter and more radiant look.

I found three studies relating to LO and inflammation. 1. Rats paws were placed on hot plates and the number of resulting stomach contractions was used to determine pain and inflammation. Contractions were lowered when LO was applied.  2. Rats injected with acetic acid (basically vinegar) and with a component of LO, were shown to have lowered inflammatory responses. 3. Rats paws were also injected with a noxious substance and a component of LO which reduced swelling. From a quick pass of the LO lit, I'm not entirely convinced of Kiehl's claim. I'm not an expert on inflammatory response but I'm not sure that the inflammation caused by heat on a rat's paws or application of a noxious substance under a rat's skin will be the same that human facial skin faces from everyday wear and tear. The few reviews I read on dermatological use of Lavender Oil are really inconclusive and in general there are a lack of clinical trials to support that Lavender Oil significantly improves human skin functioning. I did not find anything related to ‘brightening’ with Lavender Oil use.

There’s been some generalizations floating around about LO being an irritant. A study of massage therapist found that some had allergic reactions to LO, in specific to the gerianoil compound which is also present in rose, geranium, ylangylan, lemongrass and neroil. It seems that the frequency of allergic reaction to LO is relatively low so I would hesitate to make blanket statements that LO is an irritant to everyone much like how all people are not allergic to peanuts or kiwis.
Kiehl's states that this is a healing botanical lipid with a high affinity for skin to instantly restore and replenish. Note they don’t really say what it replenishes.

I would say that the evidence I found surrounding Squalene is more promising than those of EPO or LO. Research supports that squalene is a promising moisturizer. It makes up a major part of skin lipids and a component of sebum and is great as a vehicle of other oils.  In addition, many studies have shown it plays an anti-oxidant role for damaged skin.

Interestingly skin damage and wrinkling in hairless mice were present when oxidized squalene was administered onto their skin. Solar UV can cause squalene to oxidize so I would suggest following Kiehl’s instructions and only use this oil during the night.

General Conclusion:
Jury still seems to be out about EPO. At best it helps protect the skin a little, and at worse, it does nothing. Also, applying research surrounding LO to a human skin care product seems a bit tentative to me. Of the three key ingredients, the star of the show is really Squalene. There’s more solid evidence that it actually does what Kiehl’s vaguely says it will and in general it seems like a good ingredient to have in a facial oil. I can’t say that the three key ingredients will do much for skin brightening or radiance. I haven’t come across a study that would support this claim but there is some support that the product will offer some hydration to the skin.

These posts are a product of our own casual interest and opinions; conclusions were drawn from research alone. If you’re interested you may research Kiehl’s on your own / try the product and find differently! We’re not affiliated with Kiehl’s and this collaborative post may not be a comprehensive review on Kiehl’s business strategies or the real efficacy of their product.

Full ingredient list:
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Squalane, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Jojoba Seed Oil, Coriander Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Lavender Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Linalool, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Citronellol, Geraniol, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Cucumber Fruit Extract, Turmeric Root Extract, Limonene, Citral, Sclareolide, Rose Flower Oil, Jasmine Extract, Sunflower Seed Oil
References:  (forgive me for using my own citation style)
Bleasel, N., Tate., B & Radenmaker, M. (2002) Allergic contact dermatitis following exposure to essential oils. Australasian Journal of Dermatology. 43, 2, 211-213

Cavanagh, H.M.A. & Wilkinson, J.M (2002) Biological Acitivites of Lavender Essential Oil. Phytotherapy research. 16, 301-308.

Hoare, C., Po., A.L.W., & Williams, H. (2000) Systamatic review of treatments for atopica eczema. Health Technology Assessment 4, 37

Huang, Z-R, Lin, Y-K, &Fang, J-Y (2009) Biological and pharmacological activities of squalene and related compounds: potential uses in cosmetic dermatology. Molecules 14 ,540-554

Matthieu L, Meuleman L, Van Hecke E, Blondeel A, Dezfoulian 8, Constandt L & Goossens A. (2004) Contact and photocontact allergy to ketoprofen: the Belgan experience. Contact Dermatitis 50:238- 241.

Mugglie, R. Systematic evening primrose oil improves the biophysical skin parameters of healthy adults . 27, 4, 243-249, Aug 2005, international journal of cosmetic science.

Peana, A.T., D’Aquila, S., Panin, F., Serra, G., Pippial, P., & Moretti, M.D.L. (2002) Anti-inflammatory activity of linalook and linalyl acetate constitutes of essential oils. Phytomedicine, 9, 721-726

Peana, A.T., D’Aquila, P.S., Chessa, M.L, Moretti, M.D.L., Serra, G., Pippia, P. (2003)  (-)-Linalool produces antinocicpetion in two experimental models of pain. European Journal of Pharmacology, 460, 2,36, 37-41

Prashar A., Locke I.C., & Evans C.S. (2004) Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells. Cell Proliferation. 37221-229.


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