L'Oreal's Youth Code: A Pre-Sale to be Excited About?

L'Oreal, Loreal, Youth Code, Science, Pre-Sale, how it works
If you've done any web surfing recently, you've likely noticed the L'Oreal Youth Code Pre-Sale ads everywhere. I mean, everywhere. They are on almost every site I visit. (Actually, not every site. Sometimes I run into the Youth Code Facebook Contest ad instead.)

What exactly is this stuff and should you consider buying it through the pre-sale? Personally, I wanted to know more about the science behind it and why it does (or does not) work.

(Incidentally, I think it does, read on for more info about why.)

I think this is pretty obviously the L'Oreal version of Lancome's Génifique, which was released not too long ago to much fan fare, and a bit of confusion on my part. Why? Because they talked a lot about modulating gene expression, which to me sounded like something that should be FDA regulated and not just available over the counter. Regardless, the product came out, I have some friends that use (and love) it. So, little sister L'Oreal is getting it's own version. I did not find any evidence to support gene modulation. There is no evidence of up or down regulation of genes. But, the way the skin behaves is altered.

It was taking forever to find a list of ingredients for Youth Code on-line, so I asked their PR rep what was in the products.

The anti-aging technology in Youth Code is called GenActiv. It’s a powerful combination proprietary formula that includes 3 key ingredients:
1) Biolysat, a good bacteria, regenerates the repair gene
2) Adenosine, a molecule that naturally exists in skin’s DNA and is essential to proper cell functioning; acts as an anti-wrinkle ingredient and stimulates protein synthesis
3) Proprietary blend of peptides

And, of course as soon as she emailed that to me, I finally succeeded in finding a list of ingredients on-line. C'est la vie. Regardless, this is what is in the serum (tip: Serums generally contain the highest concentration of active ingredients in a line) per the CVS pharmacy website (Note, you can get this same list from the L'Oreal website, it just chose not to work for me several days in a row on multiple computers on several browsers, grrr....).

Serum Ingredients:
Aqua/Water, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Dimenthicone, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Peg-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquisterate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Salicyloyl Phytosphingosine, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Adenosine, Ammonium. Polyacryldimethyltauramide, Disodium Edta, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, N-Hydroxysuccinimide, Chrysin, Octyldodecanol, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Limonene, and Parfum.

So, what is what and does it work? Warning- if you read on I've gone more medical than I usually do in the interest of you understanding what it is that you're ordering.

Biolysat = Bifida Ferment Lysate
I have done a bit of reading about Bifida, and what I have discovered is that what we're really talking about here is Bifidobacterium, also known as Lactobacillus and if you watch a lot of yogurt commercials, Bifidus Regularis (a completely made up name by the way, and it drives me crazy). Basically, the pro-biotics that those in the Gastrointestinal world have been so excited about.

The scientists over at Lancome/L'Oreal have basically taken the bacteria and made a little mixture of it for you to apply to your skin. What evidence do we have that this helps? Well, there is quite a bit in the literature that taken in the correct person and in a fairly large amount that it can help with the microflora of the GI tract and with inflammation there. So... you can eat pro-biotics and they can help. (Note, you usually need to eat a lot more than come in those supplements at the store or in a single yogurt.)

But what about in the skin? Until pretty recently there were only a few studies looking at Bifidobacteriums and the skin, and most of these were related to patients ingesting the pro-biotics and then examining whether there was an effect on eczema/atopic dermatitis (1, 2, 3). As far as I can tell there was evidence in the positive and negative direction regarding ezcema severity and use of pro-biotics, so there are still on-going studies.

Until recently there was nothing available that discussed use of a Bifidobacterium topically, or as an anti-aging agent. At least, nothing that I could find with a large number of Pubmed searches. Luckily, in the August 2010 issue of Experimental Dermatology there was an article that addressed just these topics. However, the research was conducted by Lancome. Generally this is not good thing in medicine, we'd like our research to be completely unrelated (in funding, researchers, et cetera) to the company that creates a product. Why? Because there are fewer conflicts of interest. Does that mean we get what we want? No, after all who is going to suddenly decide on their own to study a specific product with an expensive study? So, while it is less desirable that the research was done by Lancome, it doesn't discount the research and the fact that it was published in a peer reviewed medical journal (unlike most anti-aging product "results") is encouraging.

Having said all of that, what did Lancome find? They did a series of involved experiments looking at how a suspension of Bifidobacterium longum reuter (in water basically) altered the skin. The experiments were completed on actual human skin in a petri dish (they got the skin from plastic surgery patients, nothing too gruesome), a second experiment looking at sensory neuron cells in a petri dish, and then finally a clinical study in which 63 human volunteers used a cream with or without the bacterial extract.

The Experiments & Results
1. The pieces of skin obtained from surgery patients were cultured and exposed to a solution of 10% Bifidobacterium longum reuter for 24 hours. They then made a lot of slides and stained them looking for different markers of inflammation.
• They looked at blood vessel dilation after triggering a skin inflammatory response. The Bacterial concentrate decreased vasodilation (good), decreased edema (swelling), and decreased mast cell degranulation (inflammatory cells releasing inflammatory chemicals in your skin), and there was less release of an inflammatory mediator, TNF-alpha. All of this was what you would want to see and the results were significant (p<0.05) for all results.

2. They took sensory neuron cells and cultured them in petri dishes and then exposed to a 3%, 1% or 0.3% solution for 6 hours. The cells were then tested for certain parameters afterwards.
• They found that the neuron cells exposed to the bacterial isolate release less CGRP in response to a stimulus. Also good.

3. 63 female volunteers were recruited to participate. The volunteers had to have sensitive skin, leg dryness and facial skin roughness. They had a 1 week "washout" period before starting use (good) and the participants were randomized and then randomly selected to use either a control cream or a cream with 10% bacterial extract (the test cream). Even better, the experimenters themselves did not know who was using which cream. This is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial which makes us doctor types happy. These are the gold standard and have less bias and are therefore considered to be more "real." The subjects used the assigned creams for a 2 month period.

They then tested different parameters via verified tests that were as unbiased as possible. They used the lactic acid stinging test developed by Frosch and Kligman to look at sensitivity, used an evaporimeter to look at trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) after tape stripping to assess recovery of skin barrier function and they took epidermis samples to look at markers of skin hydration.
• The volunteers using the bacterial extract cream showed less skin sensitivity, improved skin barrier function (the patients required more tape stripping of their skin to achieve the same amount of barrier disruption), though note that recovery time after such an insult was not altered. The clinical and self assessment for facial skin roughness and leg dryness were significantly better for those using the bacterial cream. However, the epidermal samples looking at hydration were not different between the control cream and the bacterial cream.

My Analysis
I'm not a dermatologist (hence, I do not know what other methods have been created to look at these functions), but it does seem to me that they looked at important questions and used the most objective means to do so. Eliminating bias by any means = good. However, keep in mind that the experiments done on samples in petri dishes are not quite the same as looking at the same results in vivo, which means in an actual person. No matter how hard we try, the samples will never respond exactly as the skin would in an entire person. There could be hormonal changes from far away in the body that can alter the interaction for example. But, using a chunk of human skin (as in these experiments) is often close enough.

Overall, it does look like the Bifidobacterium longum reuter showed less inflammatory reactions, less skin sensitivity and improved skin barrier function, all of which are good in anti-aging care. There was a difference seen in skin roughness and dryness when rated by a doctor and the volunteers (remember, these were double blinded, so even better), but no differences in hydration on histological examination. While I'm not sure that I'd buy a product because it has this ingredient in it, it certain doesn't hurt and may be a great choice if you have sensitive skin.

Adenosine = ummm... Adenosine
Adenosine isn't exactly known to be a big player in anti-aging, though it does play into many chemical reactions throughout the body, has some anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to help in wound healing (1, 2, 3). There are a few studies that look at how Adenosine products work on aging skin (1 and 2, note that #2 was from L'Oreal so similar stipulations to everything discussed above. They did find an improvement in crow's feet and wrinkles around the mouth with use of Adenosine). So, some improvement in wrinkles perhaps, anti-inflammatory properties... Both helpful for anti-aging.

Proprietary blend of peptides = Palmitoyl Oligopeptide & Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7
I'm not going to do another big explanation of peptides and why they are cool. They appear in my anti-aging checklist for a reason, they work. I like them. I look to include them in my daily anti-aging routine. Read more about peptides.

The Big Picture
There are a couple of ingredients that show some promise with anti-aging. While the number of articles is not overwhelming for Adenosine and Biolysat helping with anti-aging (in addition to the articles coming out of L'Oreal's laboratories), the data looks good and has been published in peer reviewed journal articles. The improvement in inflammation related processes and improved skin sensitivity with exposure to Biolysat could make Youth Code a good anti-aging option for you if you have sensitive skin.

I also love that the products contain Hyaluronic Acid (great for super moisturizing and hence an immediate, temporary plumping effect through hydration). The eye cream contains caffeine, which provides immediate, temporary tightening. The Day Lotion is SPF 30, and while not quite broad spectrum UV coverage (see my chart below) it does include UVA and UVB coverage.

Youth Code was released in January 2010 in the UK, and is just now making its way across the pond. There are a few reviews of the product on-line from bloggers (and the Daily Mail seemed to especially love it). I haven't tried the products myself, but I really wanted to review the science for you so you would know if it is worthwhile even trying out before a lot of readers spent the money. I leave it up to you! Personally, I'm adding this product line to my list of things to review in the future. I like to use each product for 6-8 weeks before writing about it, and I think I'm booked until about March right now. Hopefully sometime after that I'll pick up an intro kit at the store and publish a full review for you!

Anti-Aging Checklist for each product in the line:

Biolysat: Yes
Adenosine: Yes

Day/Night Cream:
Biolysat: Yes
Adenosine: Yes
Also: Ascorbyl Glucoside (a stable form of Vitamin C=anti-oxidant), Tocopheryl (Vitamin E=anti-oxidant), Caffeine
Peptides: Note that while peptides are listed as part of the 3 key ingredients, I don't see any listed in the ingredient list of this product.

Day Lotion, SPF 30:
Biolysat: Yes
Adenosine: Yes
Other: See above for the UV Spectrum chart of this product
Peptides: Note that while peptides are listed as part of the 3 key ingredients, I don't see any listed in the ingredient list of this product.

Eye Cream:
Biolysat: Yes
Adenosine: Yes
Also: Caffeine, Algae Extract (generally a good source of anti-oxidants), Tocopheryl (Vitamin E=anti-oxidant)
Peptides: Note that while peptides are listed as part of the 3 key ingredients, I don't see any listed in the ingredient list of this product.

L'Oreal Youth Code Pre-Sale
Youth Code Facebook Contest


  1. Thanks for posting this, it's really interesting. I'm curious, at what age should you think about using these kinds of products? Thanks!!

  2. I think everyone should be using sunscreen, at least SPF 15 with broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage. That's the most important thing to do, and to do it every day regardless of the time of year or the weather outside.

    After that, I think it depends a little bit on how much you want to get into anti-aging and how "good" you've been up until that point. That means if you're interested, then go for it. Not so much? That's fine too. But, if you've been a bad girl with the sunscreen and have been partying a lot for many years... you should probably be thinking of anti-aging sooner and probably more in depth than someone else your age.

    Personally, I've been a good girl with my sunscreen, though obviously my life has been stressful (being a PICU doctor does that). I started thinking about and using anti-aging skin care products about 3 years ago, when I turned 30. I had already been using daily sunscreen though for about 5 or 6 years. I really couldn't have thought about it too much earlier than that, at the time there were no acne/anti-aging products on the market, and I was still fighting blemishes. Luckily there are products like that now. Regardless, I do still look pretty young in person, I'm generally told I look about 23-26, but I'm 33.

    Looking back, if the same products were on the market as there are today, I would start in my mid-20s with anti-aging. I'd go light, starting with anti-oxidants and peptides, sunscreen daily. As I got closer to 30 I'd add in a concentrated retinoid product every other night.

    Hope that helps!

  3. Wow, have you ever posted a photo?

  4. This is a fantastic analysis--I've been anxiously awaiting the products to come out, too and had been impressed by the study design. It's always in testing where the rubber meets the road! :)

    Thanks for an excellent & thorough preview!

  5. Amy- It's more obvious in person, but I do try to keep my pictures limited. Especially since I have no pregnancy glow. :(

    Nancy (Beauty411): Thanks so much! I was impressed with how much they included in the paper too.

  6. I've been using a cream called Easeamine for the past year that has adenosine as its active ingredient and it has been working really well for me, though it is in a higher price range than the YouthCode line. Its worth it personally.

  7. Where do they get the adenosine from? What extract or source?

  8. Anon-
    I really don't know. I haven't received an official press release from them or anything, I asked the PR rep what the active ingredients were and then did some research on my own.

  9. I graduated High School in 1977. I have tried so many different serums, creams, thermage, nuface, baby quasar red, etc. NO botox or surgery. Many people think I look about 10 years younger but at 52 thats not that great!! So do you think that this stuff might help me look 15 years younger? Sure would love it if it did.

  10. Love your medical take on beauty products! I'm a medical student and I sure did appreciate your medical explanation!

  11. Thank you for doing such a great review from the medical way and that is exactly what i am seeking for. I'm 28 and used this product for only 9 days and it worked immediately the second day. I notice my skin was so smooth and bright,exactly like what they say on the commercials. I was so surprised and I also doubt if there are any ingredients they didn't public, for instance, in a hormonal way. It just too amazing to use, i want to find out if it is safe for a long term use and i think you showed some suggestions in this review.

  12. Thank you for an Excellent review. having said that what do you think of Youthcode products in pregnancy?


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