When it comes to combating fine lines, experts often extol the virtues of two skin-care ingredients in particular: retinol, a vitamin A derivative often touted as the "gold standard" thanks to its ability to increase cell turnover, 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 found in nature, exactly as is. New research presented by scientists at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society earlier this week found that maple leaf extract — yes, derived from the very same tree as the stuff you drizzle over your pancakes — could be used to treat wrinkles, which, as the report suggests, are a direct 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. 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," explains 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 and treat dark spots and pigmentation, too. 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, after patenting their formulation as Maplifa.
While their scientifically-backed face cream might not be ready for a while, there are other formulas on the market that are already making the most of maple extract: Dr. Brandt Skincare's brand-new Radiance Resurfacing Foam uses alpha-hydroxy acids derived from sugar maple, and Tata Harper's beloved Crème Riche uses an extract derived from the bark of the red maple tree as a key source of antioxidants. Sure, they're a little more expensive than a value-size jug of Aunt Jemima — but a lot less sticky, too.