Free radicals generated during UV exposure are known to induce skin damage and aging, and decades of research has shown that excess iron can produce large amounts of free radicals. In relation, iron storage in skin has been shown to increase during menopause.
Taken together, an iron-reduction strategy could improve signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, brightness and firmness, in menopausal skin. A recent white paper by Xi Huang, Ph.D., former New York University researcher and founder of FE:I Beauty Tech, demonstrates just that. These clinical results are published in a white paper and the related i-On Skincare, based on this strategy, is launching in March 2021, the company reports.
Iron Storage in Skin
As Huang explained, iron is crucial to many aspects of human health and disease-prevention. And a critical part of the body’s system to regulate iron is ferritin. This protein can store up to 4,500 atoms of iron per molecule, releasing it when the body needs it.
But with menopause, menstruation ceases, which is one means to remove excess iron. In fact, one study showed iron levels in the form of ferritin to be 42% higher in postmenopausal skin (i.e., 58.8 ± 1.3 years old). Adding insult to injury, the total antioxidant capacity was also 34% lower in postmenopausal skin than in premenopausal skin (41.6 ± 1.7 years old).
Huang therefore sought to intervene in the early prevention of free radicals, and subsequent damage, by developing a technology to safely isolate and clear excess iron from the skin: the De-Ironizing Inducer (D.I.I.).
According to company, the first component is a reducing agent that induces ferritin to release the stored iron. Vitamin C can selectively release iron from ferritin because ferritin has a strong binding affinity for trivalent (ferric) iron but no affinity for divalent (ferrous) iron. The pre-emptive release of iron from ferritin is said to be the most effective and safest way to protect the skin.
The second component is the clearing agent. Once the iron is released from ferritin, it can still exert harmful effects. To prevent this, a natural calcium carbonate with high buffering capacity clears the released iron. This calcium carbonate-buffered system is water-insoluble and will reportedly resist absorption into the skin as long as it is not washed away.
The dissolution of calcium carbonate releases calcium ions in the skin and carbon dioxide, leaving no trace of unneeded compounds. According to the company, the D.I.I. technology can carry as much calcium carbonate in the formulation as needed.
Bigger than Retinol?
The company has promoted this technology as "bigger than retinol" in that it prevents free radicals from forming in the first place. In contrast, antioxidants including retinol, vitamin E, resveratrol and niacinamide are retroactive, fighting free radicals that have already formed.