When it comes to combating fine lines, experts often extol the virtues of two skincare ingredients in particular: retinol – a vitamin A derivative, often touted as the 'gold standard' thanks to its ability to increase cell turnover, thus ironing away lines, and hyaluronic acid – a humectant, which reduces the loss of moisture in cells and hydrates and plumps skin from the inside out.
But it looks like there's a new fine line-erasing ingredient on the block, and it's totally natural. Enter: maple leaf extract. New research presented by scientists at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society earlier this week found that maple leaf extract – derived from the maple tree – could be used to treat wrinkles, which, as the report suggests, are a result of elastin breakdown in the skin.
"We wanted to see whether leaf extracts from red maple trees could block the activity of elastase," says Hang Ma, PhD, from the University of Rhode Island, who presented the findings at the meeting. How? According to the report, the researchers "zeroed in on phenolic (aka resinous) compounds in the leaves known as glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs)". They then "examined each compound’s ability to inhibit elastase activity in a test tube" and carried out "computational studies" to see how GCGs react with elastane in general.
What they found was interesting in terms of how this ingredient works its magic on wrinkles. "You could imagine that these extracts might tighten up human skin like a plant-based Botox," explained Navindra P. Seeram, PhD, the project’s principal investigator, who mentioned that maple leaf extract would be a topical application, "not an injected toxin". As maple leaf extract is plant-derived, it's completely natural – but there's more. The study found that the GCGs in maple leaves can also shield skin from inflammation (sometimes the result of things like pollution) and treat pigmentation – the darkening of areas of skin.
The researchers aren't just sitting on their findings, either; the report notes that they have been actively trying to get maple leaf extract into products, having patented their formulation as Maplifa.
While the researchers' face cream might not be ready for a while, there are a few clever beauty brands out there who are ahead of the game. Evolve's Beauty Miracle Mask, £12, employs sugar maple extract (from the sugar maple tree, another variation of maple), which is known as a natural AHA and has the ability to exfoliate the top layer of cells, uncovering brighter, healthier skin. Peter Thomas Roth's Cucumber De-Tox Foaming Cleanser, £28, also harnesses maple to combat dullness as it dislodges makeup and dirt.