Youth in Full Bloom: Red Poppy Extract for Under-eye Circles and Sagging


Click through to the September 2019 digital magazine to read the complete article.

Papaver rhoeas, better known as corn poppy, field poppy or red poppy, is abundant in nature, with 50-120 different species known worldwide. The common variety is large and showy, with four vivid red petals and a black, central base. While it often is grown as an ornamental plant, it also serves functional purposes. For example, the petals of Papaver rhoeas can be used to sooth coughs, whereas the seeds can be used as a food ingredient or for oil production.1, 2

Recently, Papaver rhoeas extract has been investigated in more detail for cosmetic applications. In vitro and ex vivo tests show its lipolytic activity via a dual influence on lipogenesis and lipolysis.3 Here, the underlying mechanism of action was connected to a reduction in glycero-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (G3PDH) activity—an enzyme involved in the neo-synthesis of intracellular lipids. G3PDH enzyme is a rate-limiting step for triglyceride synthesis in adipose tissue, so this indicated Papaver rhoeas extract could potentially prevent lipogenesis. Furthermore, ex vivo, the extract increased the release of free fatty acids and changed the morphology of adipocytes, i.e., increasing the number of smaller adipocytes and simultaneous decreasing the number of bigger adipocytes, indicating the extract’s ability to activate lipolysis.

Following these promising findings, the skin-firming and anti-cellulite efficacies of Papaver rhoeas extract were investigated in vivo in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.4 Here, an emulsion containing 0.1% Papaver rhoeas extract was applied to the thighs of 22 volunteers and induced statistically significant improvements in all viscoelasticity and skin smoothness parameters, blood microcirculation, and linearization of the dermo-hypodermal junction.

Moreover, a comparison of the test product versus a placebo revealed statistically significant improvements after eight weeks of treatment in favor of the test product for the two parameters specifically linked to cellulite: skin blood microflow and the length of the dermo-hypodermal junction. These improvements were also clinically visible on digital images of the treated areas.

Besides these visible effects, the significant increase in microflow achieved by the topical application of Papaver rhoeas extract warranted further investigation. Thus, the present authors aimed to assess whether their previous findings could translate to facial areas to address common cosmetic problems often associated with an impaired skin microcirculation; e.g., dark under-eye circles, puffiness and age-related sagging skin.

To understand these effects, it is necessary to understand what microcirculation means for the skin and how modifications to it may impact the skin’s biochemical parameters and appearance. Microcirculation only represents about 5% of the body’s total blood volume but it is vital for functions such as metabolic exchanges, homeostasis of interstitials fluids, regulation of blood pressure and thermoregulation for skin microcirculation. It ensures tissue nutrition and viability and enables optimized oxygenation within skin.5 Thus, an impaired skin microcirculation may affect both the function of lymphatic vessels, leading to oedema, as well as skin color due to the dilatation of dermal blood vessels.6-8

From this foundation and based on previous work, the current authors explored the properties of Papaver rhoeas extract for potential facial care benefits. A new clinical study was initiated, described herein, to evaluate face-firming and face-sculpting effects as well as the ability of the extract to reduce under-eye bags and dark circles. The study was randomized and double-blinded, with a placebo control.

Materials and Methods

Test extract: The Papaver rhoeas flowers, and ultimately the seedsa, from which the text extract was derived were predominantly cultivated in France according to sustainable principles. The extract is obtained via ethanol/CO2 co-extraction, known as supercritical CO2 extraction (74 bar, 31°C), which is a well-established green process that is generally preferred over processes that use conventional solvents.9



  1. Klatschmohn (Poppy). Retrieved from
  2. Papaver rhoeas. Retrieved from
  3. Heider, L., Lefort, M., Carola, C., Hanau, H., Pflücker, F., Bernard, P., and Himbert, F. (2014). New cosmetic aspects of Papaver rhoeas. H&PC Today, 9(2), 59-63.
  4. Baldecchi, T., Heider, L., Lefort, M., Carola, C, Cartigliani, C., Bonfigli, A., and Pflücker, F. (2014). The skin firming 'red-volution': Anti-cellulite efficacy of a Papaver rhoeas extract. IFSCC, 4, 19-22.
  5. Bongard, O., and Bounameaux, H. (1993). Clinical investigation of skin microcirculation. Dermatology, 186(1), 6-11.
  6. Freitag, F. M., and Cestari, T. F. (2007). What causes dark circles under the eyes? J Cosmet Dermatol. 6(3), 211-5.
  7. Graziosi, A. C., Quaresma, M. R., Michalany, N. S., and Ferreira, L. M. (2013). Cutaneous idiopathic hyperchromia of the orbital region (CIHOR): A histopathological study. Aesthetic Plast Surg, 37(2), 434-8.
  8. Chajra, H., Auriol, D., Schweikert, K., and Lefevre, F. (2014). Targeting inflammatory pathways to reduce dark circles and puffiness. SÖFW J, 140(4), 16-31.
  9. Abbas, K. A., Mohamed, A., Abdulamir, A. S., and Abas, H. A. (2008). A review on supercritical fluid extraction as a new analytical method. Am J Biochem Biotech, 4, 345-353.

Click through to the September 2019 digital magazine to read the complete article.

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