Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw's®
New, Improved Skincare Formulation
t's been more than a decade since Life Extension pioneers Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw came out with their revolutionary skin care product, Look & Feel.TM Always seeking ways to improve their products, they have been working ever since to improve the original Look & Feel formulation. The result is finally available. In this exclusive interview, Durk and Sandy talk about how their new formulation can make you look AND FEEL better in a matter of minutes, actually smoothing out fine lines, wrinkles, and scars. The improved product also has a long-term protective effect and a rejuvenating effect.
WILL: You've been working on your skincare formulation since the late 1980s, haven't you?
DURK PEARSON: Yes, January 30, 1989 was when I started doing experiments to improve the original Look & Feel formula. The reason we originally started working on the formula that ended up being called Look & Feel was the result of our appearing as extras in the Clint Eastwood movie The Dead Pool. Clint asked us to be in the movie because we were coauthors of the story. In the film, we were at a rock star's funeral with our pet pythons around our necks. We attended the cast and crew showing at the Academy Awards Theater, where they have the finest optics and projection system for film in the world. They had a good close-up shot of us - which appeared about 40 feet high on the screen. I didn't like the way my face looked. It had gotten pretty wrinkled.
I grew up on a small farm in northern Illinois, and nobody ever told me the sun was bad for my skin, and I never used sunscreen, so I got burned a lot.
SANDY SHAW: Unfortunately, about 80% of the damage done by ultraviolet radiation to the skin occurs during your younger years. It is possible to prevent further damage with sunscreen, but we wanted something that would be able to help repair some of the damage that had already been done.
DURK: So we started working on a skin preparation that would do something to heal that long-term age damage and make skin look and feel younger and softer and also do something about the wrinkles - at least the small ones - to make them less obvious, or even to make them go away.
Our original experiments worked out far better than we thought. Within a matter of weeks we were looking better. And then Clint Eastwood found out about it. He was doing a shoot on location, and it was really quite amazing. Every few weeks he would send a courier down to our house and laboratory to pick up the latest experimental batch, which would be put on a jet plane along with a bunch of fresh film stock and be flown to where he was doing the shoot.
Since then we've learned a considerable amount about how skin works and what's in the skin. The skin is not only the biggest and heaviest organ in your body, it's also one of the most complex, second only to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) in terms of complexity. And one of the interesting things is that it derives embryonically from the same cells as the central nervous system
In addition to alpha hydroxy acids, the improved lotion
contains at least half a dozen very powerful
antioxidants, several different specific growth
factors, as well as sacrificial targets for
cross-linking reactions and chelating agents to remove
metal ions that promote free-radical oxidization.
It also has a tremendous number of similarities to the nervous system biochemically. For example, certain neuromodulators actually affect skin cells in a manner analogous to the way they affect brain cells. So not only have we brought in some of the technology that we developed for our other existing skincare product, an antioxidant/moisturizer to make our new skincare formulation, we've also brought in some of the science and technology that we developed to affect the surface of the skin and to improve the way it functions, the way it looks, and the way it feels.
[NOTE: A predecessor and companion to their new product, their antioxidant/moisturizer is a personal care product designed to maintain, protect and nourish skin.
SANDY: The skin is a functional organ; it doesn't just passively sit there as a sort of fence between you and the outside world. It's actively reacting to what is going on in the outside world and impinging on your body. For example, it's a very active immunological organ. Since there are huge amounts of bacteria all over your skin that would just love to get inside and take over, your skin has to be constantly on the alert, so it can "decide" what it's going to do at any one moment.
DURK: What it's going to let in and what it's going to keep out. We have included some of the antioxidant/moisturizer technology and science in the new, improved skincare formulation formulation. It's not a replacement for the antioxidant/moisturizer, however. On the other hand, they work very well together when you mix them in your hand and put them on your skin.
We had to do hundreds and hundreds of experiments to go from Look & Feel to our new product. I'd say there's probably another 1000 hours or more maybe even 2000 hours in it, so that's a pretty big investment of our time.
JOHN: Can you talk a little about how your new skincare formulation works?
"The skin is not only the biggest and heaviest organ in your body, it's also one of the most complex, second only to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) in terms of complexity."
DURK: We started with alpha hydroxy acids, sometimes called fruit acids - things like lactic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid. These have actually been used for at least a couple of thousand years and probably longer to improve the appearance of people's skin. They were used back in Roman times. They were used in ancient Egyptian skin care products. They were used in the time of the French Revolution. Of course people have been using these particular chemical entities, which are natural food constituents, without understanding how they worked.
Ten years ago it was known that these substances were able to initiate exfoliation - that is, make the outer dead layers of skin shed some of their ugly, beat-up, dead cells that make your skin look scaly, old, and dry. In fact, this was known back at the turn of the century. I have a book from that time called the Scientific American Cyclopedia of Receipts, Quotes and Queries, and it has a couple of dozen formulations for skin care products containing alpha hydroxy acids derived from food products.
Of course, removing the ugly, beat-up, dead skin from the top of the stratum corneum (the outer layer of the skin) doesn't explain everything they do. For example, it doesn't explain why over a period of months the skin just keeps getting better and better.
Recently, some scientists decided to check into the possibility that free radicals were involved. Although these alpha hydroxy acids are not strong free-radical scavengers themselves, what the researchers found is that these fruit acids prevent denaturation of proteins, like albumin, in your skin that actually are powerful free-radical scavengers. Albumin is not only an antioxidant, but it also acts as a carrier to deliver bound nutrients and hormones and to remove metabolic byproducts from your system. As albumin gets nearer and nearer the upper levels of your skin, it becomes denatured and functions less and less well.
One of the things that people notice is that
our new product contains 9.5% alpha hydroxy acids.
Now normally, if you were to put a 9.5%
alpha hydroxy acid solution on your skin,
it'd be pretty irritating. That doesn't happen with
this product, because of another constituent, a very
large electrically charged polymer, which acts as a
time-release agent, preventing the alpha hydroxy
acids from being too aggressive on the skin.
It slowly metes them out so you get
a much longer lasting effect.
The protective effect of important proteins like albumin is a genuine anti-aging effect of alpha hydroxy acids. It's not just a mechanical effect of removing old dead upper layers, which wouldn't really be an anti-aging effect because it doesn't do anything to slow the aging process in the skin.
DURK: In addition we put at least half a dozen very powerful antioxidants in our new formulation, and we have a system that allows these antioxidants to penetrate through the stratum corneum into the living layer in the epidermis. I might add that we've put in several different specific growth factors that are involved in fibroblast growth and in the production of connective tissue. We've also provided sacrificial targets for cross-linking reactions. These are important, because they "take the heat" from free radicals, allowing protein molecules to continue to function.
WILL: You're crossing over into the antioxidant/moisturizer technology here.
DURK: Right. We're including a considerable amount of antioxidant/moisturizer technology in here.
SANDY: Now, one nice thing about a skin product is that, as a consumer, you can quickly see whether the effect that is being promised to you or described to you is actually taking place. And that's really the bottom line.
DURK: We also have very powerful chelating agents to soak up transition metals that would otherwise act as powerful free-radical catalysts. It's a very complex system. It took an awful lot of work to put it together, but the results are quite remarkable.
One of the things that people notice is that our new, improved product contains 9.5% alpha hydroxy acids. Now normally, if you were to put a 9.5% alpha hydroxy acid solution on your skin, it'd be pretty irritating. A lot of people would get redness and burns. That doesn't happen with this product, because of another constituent, a very large electrically charged polymer, which is also what gives our new lotion the wonderful feel when you rub it into your skin. This polymer acts as a time-release agent. It prevents the alpha hydroxy acids from being too aggressive on the skin. It slowly metes them out so you get a much longer lasting effect than if you were to simply put that much plain alpha hydroxy acid on your skin.
We also have a time course alteration in the pH. This means that when it goes on your skin, the pH changes over a period of time in such a way that it continues to provide the benefits as it metes out these active ingredients. In fact, with this formulation, I could put it on after coming out of 110s hot spring or hot tub water with no trouble at all - no irritation, no redness, no pain. You could even put this on immediately after shaving. You may get a very slight stinging, though considerably less than you get from most after-shave lotions.
JOHN: How long does it take to notice an effect?
DURK: There's an immediate effect right after you put it on. You put the material on your skin, rub it in, and wait until it's almost dry, just very slightly tacky. And then with your dry fingers, you very gently stroke the skin. What this does is produce a matte finish, sort of an eggshell matte finish. It's lustrous, but not shiny. And this immediately hides fine lines and wrinkles. It's an optical stealth effect.
And one of the things you have to be aware of is that the skin in different places on the body can react quite differently. The skin on the inside of your forearm is quite different from the skin on the top of your thigh. The polymer modulates the effect of potentially irritating ingredients so that a formula that is gentle enough for your face is still strong enough for your elbows and knees.
WILL: What impact do you think this product might have on longevity?
DURK: Well, I don't think it's going to make you live any longer, but it can make you look a whole lot younger. And if you're 90 years old and you look 90 years old, even if you feel real good and you're mentally active, that's not nearly as much fun as being 90 years old and looking like you're 60.
SANDY: I think people notice how the skin, particularly on the face, shows the effects of aging so much earlier than do other parts of the body. This difference is particularly annoying for those who keep themselves in good condition and who generally look good. That's why formulations that work directly on the skin can be so important in giving you an overall youthful appearance.
WILL: You mentioned that skin tissue reacted similarly to nerve tissue. Could you elaborate on that a little?
DURK: One of the things that's been found recently is that skin cells can be damaged by the same sort of processes that cause excitatory neurotoxic damage. For example, someone takes a dose of strychnine and goes into convulsions. It's not just their muscles that are damaged; their nerve cells are being damaged also. The mechanisms by which this occurs are now well-understood and the process can be prevented.
We put in maltol, which smells like fresh-baked
bread because it is actually produced by baking
bread. It's a chelating agent. It is also a potent
antioxidant, and it has a delightful aroma. So you
smell fresh. There's also a very slight smell of
roses, from something we put in there for its functional
capacity. None of these things are put in as perfumes.
Next to preservatives, the most common cause
of skin irritation and allergic reactions in
cosmetics are the perfumes they put in.
We haven't put any perfumes in there at all.
Surprisingly enough, many skin irritants actually have a lot of biochemical commonality with these excitotoxins in terms of the way they damage skin cells. In addition to just providing a polymer layer, a high polymer layer that's electrically charged and that sticks to your skin and provides protection, the new, improved skincare formulation also contains materials that are known to protect brain cells from excessive excitatory activity and excitotoxin damage. That polymer, I might add, at about four times the concentration we're using here, will actually provide very good protection from things like poison ivy.
If you put the product on your hands and let it dry before you go out and work on your car, for example, you'll find that the grease washes right off. It's not ground in like it was before. Anybody who gardens knows just how badly beat-up your skin gets when you handle things like dirt and fertilizer. Again, you put this on before you go out, let it dry, and do your thing in the garden. When you come back in and wash it off, you find your hands aren't beat-up the way they normally get, especially if you put some more on your hands after washing.
WILL: It really feels wonderful going on, I know. It has an unusual freshness too.
DURK: There are various things in there that make it smell good. I think, perhaps, the one that would interest you most is a compound called maltol, which smells like fresh-baked bread because it is actually produced by baking bread. It's a chelating agent. It is also a potent antioxidant, and it has a delightful aroma. So you smell fresh. There's also a very slight smell of roses, and that's from something that's put in there for its functional capacity. None of these things are put in there as perfumes. In fact, next to preservatives, the most common cause of skin irritation and allergic reactions in cosmetics are the perfumes they put in. We haven't put any perfumes in there at all.
JOHN: Okay, so this is also a hypoallergenic formula?
DURK: I don't know if we can say that legally, because we haven't done the testing the FDA requires to call it hypoallergenic. But I will say this. I have a notoriously large number of allergies, and my skin gets itchy at the drop of a hat from being exposed to things. And our new lotion does a wonderful job of preventing that. I've got really sensitive skin, in terms of getting the itchies. I might also add that the skin care product is a wonderful moisturizer.
JOHN: Does this polymer actually form a moisture barrier, so it holds moisture in the skin?
DURK: Yes it does. And some of the alpha hydroxy acids bind moisture as well.
JOHN: So it's sort of like putting on a layer of artificial skin over your skin?
DURK: That's correct. In fact, there are very few things in your body that have a higher molecular weight, so it forms an invisible protective shield over you.
JOHN: Can you put a sunscreen over your new skincare product?
DURK: Yes, you can. However, if you are using a waterproof sunscreen, you'll want to put that on first, because our new product is water soluble. If you put a sunscreen on over it, it'll prevent the waterproof sunscreen from bonding to your skin, and the sunscreen will come off in the water. You can put our new lotion on over the sunscreen if you want, however.
JOHN: Could you briefly summarize how people can think about this product and what it does?
DURK: The nutrient supplements that you take in a capsule do a good job of protecting the inside of your body, but as you get closer and closer to the surface they do less and less.
SANDY: They don't concentrate in the skin. They're distributed throughout your body.
DURK: So if you apply something directly to the skin, you can have far higher concentrations than you could tolerate if you took it orally.
JOHN: So this product has 1) an immediate cosmetic effect, making you look better, often in a matter of minutes; and 2) over a few months will actually remove fine lines and wrinkles.
DURK: ... and even smooth out scars. If the scar's sticking way up there, it's not going to make it go away, but it will make it smoother and less noticeable over a period of time.
JOHN: Do you put it on once a day?
DURK: I put it on once a day. It doesn't take very much. Just rub it in. It feels nice and slippery when it goes on.
SANDY: And it dries quickly.
DURK: And just before it becomes completely dry, take your fingers - and your fingers have got to be dry to do this - and just gently wipe them over the surface. Instead of having a shiny surface, which can actually make wrinkles more apparent, this will give you sort of an eggshell matte finish, and that will make the wrinkles less apparent.