Exclusive Interview
Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw


ver since Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw moved to Nevada, one of their primary concerns has been finding ways to keep their skin healthy despite the hostile desert climate. Out of their hardship has come two amazing new products that provide unprecedented protection, not just for desert dwellers, but for anyone concerned with healthy, attractive, and youthful skin. First they introduced their revolutionary new Designer Food skin-care formulation. Now comes its companion product, an antioxidant moisturizer. In this exclusive interview, Durk and Sandy tell John Morgenthaler and Will Block what it's all about.

John: What is the origin of your antioxidant moisturizer product?

Durk: When we moved to Nevada several years ago, we moved from a beach community in southern California. We were only a few blocks from the largest body of water on the planet. Literally, every night moist air would come in. It would condense on the vegetation and from the open windows and doors of my bedroom, I could hear it dripping off leaves. The humidity at night was 100%. So when we moved to Nevada, our hands really started to crack. In fact, the skin on Sandy's hands got cracked so badly you could actually see bloody flesh at the bottom of the cracks.

Sandy: In particular, the tips of my fingers, which interfered with working and writing and so forth.

Durk: In Nevada, it's not uncommon for the humidity to go below 10%, even during the winter, while the outside humidity might be 40%; indoors it's back down to 10%. Our skin was really looking bad. People around our town, too, had dried-out skin. It looked pretty horrible.

So we started developing a personal care product to deal with our problems. Even though I spent over 1,000 hours of my time developing it, it's worth it. It is remarkably effective, possessing very, very high levels of antioxidants. You may have read in the papers recently how vitamin C esters have been stabilized so that they can be used topically as a skin lotion at a cost of $50 for a 2-ounce bottle. Frankly, that's old news to us. We had done that by 1992.

John: Is your antioxidant moisturizer principally a treatment for dry skin?

Durk: No, it goes far beyond that. It not only has very potent moisturizing agents, it also has growth-controlling agents that alter cell-to-cell communication via gap junctions. One of the things you notice as your skin gets older is that it becomes more irregular with elevated areas and lowered areas. It sort of looks like an eroded landscape if you look at it under a magnifying glass. Your skin's cells lose track of where their neighbors are and what they're supposed to be doing. A young person's skin is very, very smooth. Each cell knows where it's supposed to be. If a young person gets a scratch and some of the cells are removed, the cells adjacent to the area where the cells have been removed divide and fill in the gap. And when they've filled it in, they stop.

As you get older, though, control over when cells divide and when they don't degrades. As a result, you get elevated areas of skin where the cells have been dividing too fast and lowered areas where they haven't been dividing fast enough. Knowing where your neighbor cell is has an awful lot to do with what are called "gap junctions." Made out of segments of protein, half a dozen of these segments go together and form a curved hole which mates up with a similar curved hole on the adjacent cell. Then as chemical messages get passed back and forth between them, they lock up together. These chemical messages enable cells to "know" where adjacent cells are, even as the pores allow passage of signaling molecules of significant molecular weight.

Our antioxidant moisturizer contains nutrients that actually regulate gap junctions, increasing production of messenger RNA for gap junction proteins in a matter of hours. These nutrients improve cell-to-cell communication. So after you've been using it for a year, your skin is going to look smoother. It will have retrained itself to know how to communicate vital information necessary for skin health.

Our revolutionary skin-care formulation is great, but if you're just using it, you're not getting the anitoxidant moisturizing treatment.

John: I know it has a lot of carotenoids in it. Is this similar to Retin-A?®

Durk: We don't have any retinoic acid in our antioxidant moisturizer. What we do have, however, is beta-apo-8'-carotenal, a derivative of beta carotene. It's an aldehyde, and it can be readily oxidized under control of your cells to retinoic acid. The problem with putting retinoic acid on your skin is that retinoic acid is a morphogen. It controls the cells that are growing. It's very easy to get physiologically excessive amounts of retinoic acid if you just paint the stuff on your skin. For example, people who use it to control acne can end up with skin that's irritated, dry, flaky and looks pretty bad. It looks like the skin's been burned, actually. Your cells contain enzymes that can turn a precursor, carotenoid aldehyde, into retinoic acid. However, these cells can regulate the amount of those enzymes and, as a result, control the amount of retinoic acid, so that you get a reasonable physiological amount.

Will: So these are rate-limiting factors that are built in to ensure that you don't get an overdose of it?

Durk: That's right. If you put 0.05% retinoic acid directly onto your skin, the amounts you get are vastly higher than anything that's physiologically normal. There's a real problem, too, when you apply anything topically to the outside of your skin. And that is that the strength of the skin barrier varies, not only from person to person, but from year to year, from day to day, from hour to hour and from place to place.

The barrier properties of the skin on your face right under your eyes are quite different from the barrier properties on the palms of your hands or your elbows. The barrier properties are different from the outside of your elbows to the inside of your forearms. If you have the right amount of retinoic acid for any one of those places, it's going to be the wrong amount for all the others. And also you have considerable variations from person to person. Some people have thicker skin, some people have thinner skin. Heat decreases the barrier function of the skin. If you've just taken a hot shower, gotten out of a hot spring or hot tub, barrier function is a lot less than if you've been walking around in cool air for a while.

As a result, when you put retinoic acid on the skin, your chances of getting the right amount aren't very good. The way you get rid of acne is, you just grossly overload the skin with retinoic acid. But you really don't want to do that. For one thing, it increases the risk of ultraviolet light-induced skin cancer. What we've done is put adequate amounts of the carotenoid into the skin, and then the cells themselves are able to control how much of that they convert to retinoic acid.

Will: So, summarizing; you started out trying to deal with the issue of moisturization.

Durk: That was just one of the things we wanted to deal with. We also wanted to have very, very, very large antioxidant reserves. Very little of the antioxidant carried from inside your body in the capillary blood vessels ever gets to the surface of the skin. You can apply far more antioxidants from the outside than you could ever tolerate on the inside. One of the things we have in antioxidant moisturizer is very, very large amounts of vitamin C in two different forms. We found a way to stabilize this vitamin C. Also, we utilized penetration aids in order to get it through that outer layer of the skin, the dead cells called the stratum corneum, which is a tough, leathery outer layer.

Will: Don't some of these items operate as anti-proliferative agents?

Durk: Yes, but you want to have controlled proliferation. You want to have both pro-proliferative and anti-proliferative agents. You want to have the action controlled by the program that is within the cells. You don't want to just slop on something that makes cells divide. Retinoic acid will do that. Look at the results; you get scaly, peeling skin that's excessively sensitive to sunlight.

You can also put things on that are anti-proliferative, vitamin D, for example. What you really want to do is have the proper balance of pro- and anti-proliferation and have that balance be regulated by enzymatic processes inside of the cells. So your homeostatic mechanisms are facilitated rather than frustrated.

Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw's antioxidant/moisturizer formulation not only has very potent
moisturizing agents, it also has growth-controlling
agents that alter cell-to-cell
communication via gap junctions.

John: How does NaPCA (the sodium salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid) contribute to moisturization?

Durk: We have put the arginine salt of PCA in this product to give you better control over the moisturizing. Arginine PCA salt has an excellent ability to provide moisturization in lower levels of relative humidity without providing overmoisturization at higher levels of relative humidity.

In addition, arginine serves as a growth factor. It's also a very powerful antioxidant, and, most important of all, it is a superb "sacrificial target" for Malliard type cross-linking reactions. This is one of the major aging mechanisms that take place in the skin and elsewhere. You have activated carbonyl groups, things like aldehydes such as glucose for example, that react with the amino groups in proteins to produce malleolar products, some of which, incidentally, are carcinogenic. The Malliard products then undergo further reaction, and this reaction is irreversible. You get what are called end-stage glycosylation products.

Will: What role does glycosylation play in skin?

Durk: The enzymes that have been glycosylated don't work properly, if they work at all.

Sandy: Not only that, but you end up with clumps of these glycosylated molecules, and they're colored brown so they show up on your skin.

John: Sort of like age spots?

Durk: Yes, that's one of the things that happens in age spots. Also, you lose elasticity, and you also lose the ability to transfer nutrients across membranes. The problem with glycosylation is that it takes place in the presence of normal levels of blood sugar; the higher your level of blood sugar, the faster this glycosylation reaction occurs. The most severe form of this occurs in people who are diabetic and have high levels of blood sugar. Some of the most serious diabetic complications such as kidney failure are caused, at least in part, by glycosylation. In fact, one of the most common ways of measuring how well your blood sugar is controlled over a period of weeks rather than hours (which, of course, is all that a blood sugar measurement can do), is to measure the amount of glycosylated hemoglobin (GHb). If you give mice an amount of arginine equivalent to about 3 gm a day for a human, you completely block this age-related glycosylation process and prevent the degradation of kidney function with age.

What we've done is put it on the surface of your skin along with penetration agents to help it get into the skin, so you get far higher levels than you could ever get by just swallowing arginine.

Will: And that's true, also, of a lot of the antioxidants. By taking high levels orally, you don't necessarily get them to the point where they do the good in your skin.

Durk: That's right. Also, you're not going to have an excessive amount of vitamin C by weight in your blood stream. If you somehow manage to get immense amounts of vitamin C in your blood to provide moderate C levels to the upper layers of your skin, I would be very concerned about the adverse affects of having all those ascorbyl radicals running around. Whereas, you can put stabilized fat- and water-soluble vitamin C into the skin topically if you have the proper penetration agents.

I might also add we also have very powerful chelating agents in our antioxidant moisturizer, including one that binds iron and copper about 100 times as effectively as EDTA.

After you've been using our antioxidant moisturizer
for a year, your skin is going to look smoother.

Will: What would a person expect to experience when using your antioxidant/moisturizer formulation?

Durk: The first thing that happens when you rub or massage it on your skin is that it feels very, very nice going in. Just before it gets completely dry - while it's still tacky - you just gently wipe your dry fingers over the surface. It's important that your fingers be completely dry when you do this. Just gently caress it; don't rub hard. What this does is produce a matte finish on your skin. It provides sort of an "optical stealth effect" to the small lines and wrinkles. This sort of an eggshell matte surface really helps conceal the irregularities on your skin. So you do get an immediate cosmetic affect, even though there's nothing opaque in this cosmetic. It's not a cover-up type cosmetic. It's essentially transparent. This refractive effect and reflective effect on the surface can help to immediately disguise the small wrinkles.

The next thing that happens occurs over a period of time. It takes, typically, about 6 to 8 weeks for a living cell that's down toward the bottom of your skin to work it's way up to the surface and become part of the outer stratum corneum. Over that period of time you notice that your skin becomes smoother and softer. You'll get rid of cracks in your skin caused by dry air far faster than that.

Will: I get little cracks in the soles of my feet, and it appears to be very seasonal. It occurs when the temperature drops, around late fall, early winter when it starts to get chilly. And it's even more so if I go into a cold climate. Since I've been using the antioxidant moisturizing formulation, it tends to dissipate that substantially, so that they never become large scale problems.

Durk: We've heard this from a lot of people. The one thing people need to be warned about is, if they're going to put it on the soles of their feet, it's extremely slippery until it dries out. But if you re-wet it, it gets extremely slippery again. So you have to be awfully careful about walking barefoot where you might step into a puddle or taking a shower or getting into the bath if you have that on the bottom of your feet. Because the stuff is about as slippery as greased Teflon® when it is wet or re-wet.

Sandy: Relating to the cracks in the fingertips; I don't recall how many days it took for them to heal up, but I do recall that the pain in the fingertips was gone within a few hours. That was what was really making it very difficult for me to use my hands.

Will: How could it have had this effect?

Durk: I'm not sure of the mechanism. But healing can take place very rapidly. And high levels of vitamin C and arginine are believed to accelerate healing. Arginine is believed to dramatically accelerate wound healing. And there are far higher levels of arginine in the antioxidant moisturizer formulation than you could ever achieve internally by taking it orally.

Sandy: Also healing with arginine seems to be independent of any effect on release of growth hormone.

Very little of the antioxidant carried from
inside your body in the capillary blood vessels
ever gets to the surface of the skin.

John: Could you just summarize the differences between your other skin-care formulation and your antioxidant moisturizer?

Durk: Our original skin-care formulation contains a mixture of alpha hydroxy compounds, whereas the antioxidant moisturizer doesn't. The alpha hydroxy compounds have to work at a lower pH than the antioxidant moisturizer. Vitamin C esters would be unstable at this lower pH. As a result, you have the choice of having the lower pH formulation, which helps the alpha hydroxy acids work with maximal effectiveness, or a higher pH formulation where the vitamin C esters will survive for months in a bottle on a shelf. You can't do both in the same formulation.

John: And the differing benefits of each?

Durk: There are a lot more antioxidants in the antioxidant moisturizer, especially vitamin C. You have a lot of antioxidants in both of them, but you don't have the massive amounts in the original skin-care formulation that you have in the antioxidant moisturizer.

The alpha hydroxy acids in our original skin-care fromulation aren't just moisturizers, and they aren't just exfoliators. One of the things they do which is very interesting is, even though they're only weak antioxidants, they protect proteins in the skin from denaturation. Albumin, for example, is a very important protein in your body that has pronounced antioxidant effects. It's been found that the alpha hydroxy acids are able to protect albumin and other proteins in the skin from this denaturation and to keep them functioning longer.

Will: Would it be correct to refer to your antioxidant/moisturizer formulation as a "booster" for your original skin-care formulation?

Durk: Actually "partner" would be more appropriate. The antioxidant/moisturizer really provides things that our original skin-care formulation doesn't provide and vice versa. I do recommend the use of both of them. But, don't mix them together in a bottle.

Will: Because the pH levels are incompatible?

Durk: It's not just the pH incompatibility. There are certain other incompatibilities with regard to storage. There's no problem using them together on the skin, though.

Will: How often do you have to apply the antioxidant moisturizer for it to be effective? Is there an optimal level?

Durk: I suggest putting it on once a day.

Our antioxidant/moisturizer produces a matte surface on your
skin when it is first applied, creating a sort of
"optical stealth effect" that immediately helps
hide small lines, wrinkles,
and other irregularities on your skin.

Will: Can you use it with other items, such as a sun block?

Durk: Put both our original skin-care formulation and our antioxidant moisturizer on at the same time. If you are going to be using sun screen, especially a waterproof sun screen, you have to put the sun screen on first. The polymeric base in both of our formulations is water soluble, and as a result, if you put the sun screen on over it, it will wash off with the water soluble lower layer.

Will: But if you're going in a hot tub or swimming, then you should put them on again after you get out.

Durk: Right, because they will wash off. Incidentally, you will get better penetration after your skin has been exposed to hot water for a while.

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