Fighting signs of aging like wrinkles, crow’s feet, sagging skin, and dark spots is an ongoing and frequently frustrating battle. It often involves choosing between ineffective, yet harmless, products and those with harsh chemicals that work, but at the price of constantly applying toxins to your skin.
This could all be changing with the discovery of specific plant extracts that are both effective and completely natural & non-toxic.
Maple leaf extract is one of the latest plant-based ingredients to come of the forefront and could be revolutionary when it comes to combating wrinkles and other signs of skin aging.
Researchers are so excited about it that some have already dubbed it a potential “plant-based cosmetic injection,” which should give you a clue about how powerful this new anti-aging ingredient may prove to be.
Here’s the story and science behind why maple leaf extract is so potent for skincare and how you can best use it for youthful-looking skin.
Most of us associate maple trees with beautiful fall color and maple syrup, but they also have a largely unknown history of use in traditional medicine, particularly by Native Americans and in certain Asian countries.
The bark of maple trees, for example, was once made into a preparation for eye soreness and infection. The leaves (which are edible, by the way) were used as a tonic and mild sedative for nervous conditions. They were also made into a tea that helped to detoxify the body, particularly the liver and spleen.
With such a rich history of use, it’s no surprise that even more benefits of maples leaves are being discovered today.
In 2018, new research was presented on extracts from red maple leaves in relation to skincare- and the findings were very impressive. The short version is that researchers discovered compounds in the maple leaf extracts that can inhibit the breakdown of elastin in your skin.
This is extremely big news, although it may not sound very exciting until you realize just how critical elastin is to keeping your skin looking wrinkle-free, firm, and youthful.
There are many factors involved in how quickly your skin ages. Free radical damage, too much UV exposure, and the toll of chemical treatments all play a role.
However, when it comes to maintaining (or rediscovering) healthy- and youthful-looking skin, two of the most important components are the proteins known as collagen and elastin.
You’ve most likely heard of collagen before. It’s become a buzzword in the skincare industry and is known as the most abundant protein found in skin.
Collagen plays a huge role in keeping your skin plump, thick, and firm, which makes it harder for wrinkles and fine lines to form. It can be thought of as the “anti-deflation” protein for its hard work keeping your skin from losing its shape and wrinkling.
(Unfortunately, collagen production usually begins declining in your body around your early 20s, leading to visible signs of aging in your 30s or 40s and sometimes sooner.)
Now, after reading how important collagen is for fighting wrinkles and other signs of aging, you might think that boosting collagen production is the ticket to younger-looking skin, and this is mainly what the skincare industry focuses on.
But while it is important to address collagen levels, it won’t do you much good unless you also address the equally important protein called elastin.
Elastin is not found as abundantly in your skin as collagen, but it works just as hard at maintaining healthy-looking skin. The key to elastin is in the name — it keeps your skin elastic, able to rebound from damage and the force of gravity.
If you think of collagen as giving structure and support to skin, elastin is what allows it to stretch and “bounce back.”
As elastin degrades and production of it drops, your skin is more likely to sag, develop wrinkles, and look loose instead of smooth and firm.
Just like with collagen, elastin production declines as you age and the elastin present in your skin starts degrading.
This happens for several reasons, but two of the biggest that have been discovered are photodamage and oxidative stress.
Photodamage refers to signs of aging- wrinkles, dark spots, uneven skin tone, etc.- caused by overexposure to UV radiation from sunlight. Not only can it make your skin look prematurely old, too much UV exposure also causes changes in elastin production and degrades existing elastin.
Oxidative stress (also called free radical damage) is another big degrader of both collagen and elastin. It occurs when free radicals accumulate in your skin without the presence of enough antioxidants to neutralize them.
Too much UV radiation is one cause of oxidative stress, but it can also come from other sources like environmental pollution, toxin overload, and chemical-filled skincare products.
In both cases, the actual degrader of elastin is an enzyme called elastase.
Elastase is not an abnormal enzyme by any means. In fact, it’s needed to help break down fats, proteins, and carbs for a healthy digestion. However, when UV damage and/or oxidative stress induce the production of elastase, it can accelerate the breakdown of elastin in your skin, which is not at all what you want to happen.
Inhibiting the action of elastase in your skin is critical for protecting elastin and improving your skin’s ability to look younger for longer.
All of this brings us back to red maple leaf extract and its newly discovered ability to protect the elastin in your skin.
As mentioned, researchers found compounds in red maple leaves that can inhibit elastase, the enzyme that breaks down elastin. These compounds are known as glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs) and may be able to actually block the activity of elastase in your skin.
This could be huge for preventing the development of wrinkles and other signs of aging associated with
elastin, like sagging skin. And all this comes from a completely natural plant extract rather than a toxic chemical treatment.
In fact, one of the researchers commented that “these [maple leaf] extracts might tighten up human skin like plant-based cosmetic injections, though they would be a topical application, not an injected toxin.”
That’s certainly some incredible potential for “everyday” maple leaves!
A special reason maple leaf extract could prove extremely useful in anti-aging skincare is because there are few known ingredients that are supportive of elastin. There are some known and effective ways to boost collagen synthesis, but elastin protection has remained elusive- until now.
It’s also important to note that so far research has only focused on red maple leaves. Extracts from other maple leaves- like sugar, silver, or striped maples- could prove to be equally or even more effective, and hopefully they will soon be studied.
The ability of red maple leaf extract to block elastase and protect elastin is enough cause for your skin to celebrate, but research shows that it has even more benefits for supporting youthful-looking skin.
One study that focused on the elastase-blocking glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs) of red maple leaves found that they also possess powerful antioxidant activity.
This is good news for both the collagen and elastin in your skin because antioxidants are critical for limiting damage from oxidative stress, which can degrade both. Specifically, GCGs were able to protect human keratinocytes (the skin cells that make up 90% of your epidermis) from oxidative stress, which could majorly protect the integrity of your skin.
In addition to this, gallotannins (the class of polyphenols GCGs belong to) have shown an ability to prevent UV-induced skin damage and have an anti-proliferative effect on skin cancer cells.
Protecting your skin from UV damage (aka photodamage) is one of the best things you can do to prevent premature signs of aging, and reducing your risk of skin cancer is a wonderful bonus.
One of the most under-discussed aspects of skincare is whether the beneficial ingredients in a certain product can actually permeate into the deeper layers of your skin.
There’s much more awareness today that anything applied to the skin has the potential to be absorbed and affect the health of the rest of your body. However, this doesn’t mean that everything you put on your skin is automatically absorbed.
As a case in point, we know that boosting collagen levels is essential to maintain young-looking skin, but applying collagen products to your skin is virtually useless because the molecules are too large to be absorbed.
Thankfully, the same is not true for maple leaf extracts.
The same study that evaluated the antioxidant power of GCGs also found that they are indeed skin permeable. This means they will be absorbed deeper into your skin to benefit it from the inside out, instead of just sitting on top and doing nothing.
In research prior to the study on maple leaf extract and elastin, GCGs were found to have potential for lightening dark spots and hyperpigmentation, two more unwanted signs of aging. They also may be able to protect skin from inflammation, which could help to even out and brighten skin tone.
Clearly, maple leaves have more than just one action for promoting healthy-looking skin. They seem to work on several levels to combat the aging process and protect your skin.
The major benefit of protecting elastin and blocking elastase is wrinkle prevention. Even though this is a huge deal, keeping your skin’s current elasticity intact won’t necessarily take care of existing wrinkles and lines.
However, researchers theorize that maple leaf extract will be able to do more than just prevent wrinkles. In fact, studies are currently underway evaluating the effects of a maple leaf extract formula on the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and skin tone.
The results are sure to be exciting!
This last benefit of maple leaf extract can be thought of as an anti-aging boost for the earth.
One of the downsides of discovering new, exotic skincare ingredients is that they can quickly become overharvested due to their newfound popularity. Native habitats get destroyed and the expense (monetary and ecological) can be considerable for botanicals that need to be shipped long distances.
Red maple trees, on the other hand, are native to regions of eastern North America with other maple species being widely grown around the world. They are easy to cultivate and not in danger of being overharvested.
The leaves are also a very sustainable and renewable resource for skincare. Harvesting the leaf extract could even become an additional source of income for farmers who currently only collect the tree sap for syrup. Truly a win for your skin and the environment.
As you can see, maple leaf extract has some serious age-defying benefits for your skin, particularly by protecting elastin and skin integrity.
However, to get its full potential anti-aging effect, you can combine maple leaf extract with other powerful skincare ingredients to get a full spectrum of care for your skin.
Using it with collagen-boosting ingredients is one of the best ways to do this. As mentioned, just applying collagen to your skin won’t do the job, but thankfully there’s a completely natural substance known to boost collagen synthesis: Vitamin C.
Applying vitamin C topically is a great way to support boosting collagen levels, opening the door for collagen and elastin to work together to fight and prevent signs of aging.
Because of the damage oxidative stress can do to your skin, adding powerful antioxidant ingredients (like another rising superstar, bakuchiol) is an excellent complement to the elastin-boosting power of maple leaves.
And, of course, moisturizing ingredients are also essential because dry skin is much quicker to show wrinkles and other signs of aging than well-hydrated skin.
If you want to harness the power of maple leaves for your skin, Purity Woods has a line of anti-aging skincare products that do just that.
To quickly, naturally, and effectively fight signs of aging, the Age-Defying Dream Cream makes use of three powerful maple leaf extracts (including the most researched red maple extract) as well as collagen-boosting vitamin C ingredients like camu camu, Indian gooseberry, and mango seed butter.
It also has premier skin hydrators and the incredible antioxidant ingredient astaxanthin to keep skin moisturized and protect it from more photoaging.
For more targeted skincare, the Age-Defying Eye Cream also features the highly effective maple leaf extracts as well as the “natural retinol alternative” bakuchiol, the antioxidant powerhouse of turkey tail mushroom, and nourishing moisturizers.
All products are USDA Certified Organic, which means no chemicals, toxins, or anything artificial.
Your skin will get all the benefits of maple leaf extract plus a tested combination of other pure botanicals that work together to decrease the look of wrinkles, dark spots, under-bags, sagging skin, etc. and restore a youthful complexion.