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Retin-A's Rival? : Fruit Acids May Offer a Gentler, Better Way to Minimize Lines

April 24, 1988|PADDY CALISTRO

THE INTRODUCTION of Retin-A as a wrinkle reducer will certainly be among the year's biggest beauty news. But there's already another treatment that is possibly less irritating to most patients and at least as effective against wrinkles. Alpha hydroxy acids--or "fruit acids"--are found in apples, citrus fruits, grapes, sugar cane and sour milk. Though not yet approved for use against wrinkles, these acids cause fine lines to "disappear," according to Dr. Eugene Van Scott, clinical professor of dermatology at Temple University School of Medicine.

Unlike Retin-A, high-concentration fruit acids are not available for home use. They have been administered in doctors' offices to treat acne, dry skin and age spots. Local doctors have recently begun studying their effect on wrinkles. Every three to four weeks, the acids are applied, neutralized and quickly washed off. Some doctors expect the acids will eventually become a prescription product.

"I've seen fine to moderate wrinkles eliminated in two to six months," Van Scott says. (Retin-A results appear in about the same time.) He attributes fruit acid's effect to changes in the stratum corneum, the skin's outermost layer. Dead cells build up, causing dry, cracking skin. "Fruit acids soften the glue substance between the cells, so built-up cells loosen and the stratum corneum becomes thinner," he says.

Studies have shown a reduction in deeper wrinkles also, Van Scott says. "The acids may be affecting the dermis, the layer of skin where deep wrinkles begin." Further, Van Scott says, fruit acid is less irritating than Retin-A. "In very high concentration, there may be some redness (from fruit acid), but it is not the norm."

Perhaps more important is that his studies show "no indication of sun sensitivity," which can be a problem with Retin-A.

Doctors are watching Van Scott's work carefully. Dr. J. Graham Smith, editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, calls him "one of the most respected investigators in the nation." Dr. Ronald M. Reisner, chief of dermatology at UCLA School of Medicine, says Van Scott's research looks promising, but he adds: "Until someone else verifies Van Scott's results, you can't say he's right or wrong."

Will fruit acids be the Retin-A of the '90s? Perhaps, but at this point even Van Scott, the fruit-acid pioneer, is waiting for more data.

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