The Science Behind Origins ‘Youthtopia’ Serum

This time of year sends beauty counter tills into overdrive. Big promotions, aggressive advertising and plethoras of sales staff enforce the message that beauty products are at the top of the Christmas list for women AND men. This weekend I braved the shopping masses and ventured into town and came accross a brand with appealing packaging, promises and values that was new to me. ‘Origins’.

Origins ‘Mission’ is to:  ‘Create high performance, natural skin care that is powered by nature and proven by science. We use potent plants, organic ingredients and 100% natural essential oils. And our long standing commitment to protect the planet, its resources and all those who populate it is reaffirmed by our earth and animal friendly practices’  

Listed as one of their bestsellers is, ‘Youthtopia’ an anti-aging serum.

This might be a relevant time to delve into the legalities of a trade marked name. A trade mark like ‘Youthtopia’ is a brand name and says nothing about the efficacy of a product or what it does. The beauty and cosmetic industries often use nonsense sciency sounding trade marks (Like ‘DNAge’) to imply that products have some scientific proven efficacy without actually implying anything.. you do not need to prove anything to create a trade mark. Here is a website that helps to explain the legalities of trademarks and ones that are unacceptable.

So, ‘Youthtopia’ is meaningless. It is not the serum of eternal youth. 

So what  in it Youthtopia? What do Origins clam it does and what can it achieve?

This is the description on the website:

Age-correcting serum with Rhodiola


Origins phyto-technology helps skin look firmer in the face of aging.

First, Rhodiola the legendary adaptogenic herb linked to longevity, kick starts skin to help correct the appearance of lines and renew skin’s vibrancy.

You’ll see and feel tighter, tauter skin texture, fewer lines and wrinkles and a complexion that appears significantly younger.

Rhodiola – is a plant, nothing new there. People have been using plants to poison each other, eat, get high, treat diseases and other skin conditions for thousands upon thousands of years. There is nothing significant about using a plant in a product.

There is some research about the  efficacy of Rhodiola on Guinea Pig skin (collagen, see my intro to skin here) here – the study concludes that a combination of Rhodiola and Deer serum (yes Deer serum) ‘can defer the aging on skin’. This is based on a study of 6 shaved guinea pigs treated for 60 days.  The ‘aging’ was deemed as being deferred by measuring various factors in the skin (volume density of collagen fibres) and number of fibroblasts. I am not sure how these relate directly to ‘aging’. I couldn’t find any information about Rhodiola on human skin.

Rhodiola is linked to ‘longevity’ as a Rhodiola extract makes fruit flies live for longer . Interesting research but I am 120% sure that applying some extract to your skin is not going to extend your lifespan. Also, the paper did not conclude that a mechanism from the extract made the flies live for longer. Rhodiola supplements are a whole different ball game.

I cannot get an ingredient list for this product, so we have no idea what levels or what form the extract of Rhodiola is. There is no information from Origins about the efficacy of this product.

‘Phyto-technology’ means there is a plant extract in the product… this is meaningless and included in the discription to suggest an additional benefit to the product.

I expect that this product contains some kind of moisturiser. This makes the skin feel plump, moisturised and smooth. You can achieve these effects with any moisturiser.

I imagine this also contains some 100% natural essential oils to make the product smell nice.

The fact that Origins do not produce a list of ingredients or any data to support the efficacy of their products is a little disconcerting. They appear, from their brand image and website to come across as a friendly, ‘about the earth and environment’ company. The lack of information about their products could suggest that behind their branding, they are extremely similar to every other beauty and cosmetic company.


About skeptical beauty

The Skeptical Beauty blog is written by an anonymous beauty product addict. A scientist who loves data and has experience of working for the biggest cosmetics products producer in the world. Knows all the insider secrets.
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8 Responses to The Science Behind Origins ‘Youthtopia’ Serum

  1. Alan Henness says:

    The entry for the trade mark ‘youthtopia’ can be found here.

    The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority have guidance on claims in product names that is worth highlighting. About trade-marked product names, they say:

    If the product name is a registered trademark, marketers should include a prominent statement to disclaim the implied claim.

    It doesn’t look to me as if Origins are complying with this.

    Overall, if Origins are advertising to the UK, I’d like to see the ASA adjudicate on the claims they are making – if they make claims, they have to hold robust scientific evidence that substantiates the claims. Would you like to submit a complaint?

    • Oh thanks very much for this. I am not sure that ‘Youthtopia’ really is a claim though? It is a nonsense statement designed to attract people. However, the claims about the product should be substantiated, if you complain are they required to share the information? That might be worth taking forward.

  2. Alan Henness says:

    There is a possibility that the ASA will see ‘Youthtopia’ as an implied claim that the product can bring a ‘youthful utopia’ and that may well be why the name was chosen (I am not impugning any motives here), so I don’t think it’s a nonsense name.

    The ASA do not make public the details of the complainer unless they are a competitor or an organisation like the Nightingale Collaboration.

    If you make a complaint about the claims they are making, it’s well worth adding the point about the product name, although the ASA do frequently add any things the complainer has missed.

  3. OK so do I need to make a complaint as an individual on the ASA form?

  4. Alan Henness says:

    Yes. I’ve written some guidance here that might help if you’ve not done it before..

  5. Left Brain says:

    In the United States, it would not be a problem for them to use the term Youthtopia as it is a brand name and doesn’t count as an implied claim. The FDA and FTC would be fine with it.

    It’s pretty easy to get the ingredient list of products. I would suggest going to or If you can’t find it there, will sometimes have them.

    Anyway, I found the LOI (list of ingredients) here.

    There is nothing much special about this product. It’s a standard moisturizer which uses Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Shea butter and other standard ingredients. Rhodiola is certainly not doing anything and it’s probably in the formula at 0.1% or less. And you’re right, Phyto-technology is puffery to describe ingredients that are put in to sell the product but they know they don’t really have any functional effect. In the business, we call these “claims ingredients.”

    • Thank you very much for that. I did think that for a claim ‘contains Rhodiola’ they would have to include 0.1% in the formula?

      • Left Brain says:

        No. The rules in the cosmetic industry are pretty flexible. The only requirement is that if you claim a product contains an ingredient, you have to put some of the ingredient in the product. 0.1% or 0.0001% is perfectly fine. And the labeling rules are such that above 1% you have to put them in order of concentration. Below 1% you can put them in any order you like.

        This company isn’t following proper labeling rules however, since the second most abundant ingredient is probably Dimethicone and should be listed second. What they probably did was list ingredients by concentration of the ingredient added rather than by %active as they are supposed to do.

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