We all want to fight the signs of aging and so we go to the malls, our Estheticians and Dermatologists, hoping they will have the answer, maybe even the cure for our wrinkles. From fighting free radicals to stimulating skin’s natural collagen production, anti-aging products make enticing promises.
Do they work? That’s what we want to know, right? Below I have listed 4 commonly listed ingredients and some evidence on whether they actually play an effect on your skin.
As we age our skin gets thinner, loses fat and starts to sag and develop fine lines and wrinkles. We produce less collagen and elastin to keep our skin firm and plump. Oh my gosh!
Peptides are small proteins that help stimulate new cells to grow and to help skin cells to heal.
Scientists are still not sure how beneficial these actually are because of the size of the molecule. They are rather large and that makes it more difficult to deeply penetrate the skin. They can, however, do some good in a moisturizer and serum. This way they can hydrate the skin and make lines less noticeable. Whether they reduce wrinkles, the jury is still out.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s)
Examples are glycolic, lactic and citric acids which are natural ingredients that come from fruits and milk sugars. They are great for exfoliation because they get rid of dead skin cells, allowing new cells to grow.
Each acid does something different for the skin. Lactic Acid (comes from sour milk) removes the dead skin cells so this will have a brightening effect. Glycolic Acid (comes from sugar cane) helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles which can make skin look smoother and tighter.
A natural form of Vitamin A, this boosts the thickness and elasticity of the skin therefore reducing the signs of wrinkles.
There is an abundant amount of evidence to support that retinol works! Finding it in the right products is the tricky part because you need to have enough to get results. Most over-the-counter products cannot put enough retinol in them to give you the benefits you need. This Retinol Serum is amazing and when used correctly, can do great things for the skin.
Help fight cell damage from free radicals, which are molecules that could injure cells and increase inflammation.
There are many antioxidants that are effective, however, the formulation is the most critical. Vitamins C and E are the most commonly used and time-tested.
Hyperpigmentation. It’s something we all struggle with, unfortunately. There are a lot of products out there making huge promises to get rid of it for. I’m going to break it down and explain to you the best options for the skin, without damaging the skin. As you know, that is always my goal. Let’s fix the problem without causing another one.
Some people are more prone to it than others, based on genetics, but everyone is susceptible. From the fairest skin to the darkest. This is why wearing sunscreen is so important for everyone (I’ll get more into that later).
Remember, no one is born with it. Every baby is free of hyperpigmentation, including freckles, which is also a type of hyperpigmentation.
Freckles are caused by melanin. Melanin is a pigment in the skin and is what gives skin its color. When the sun hits the skin, it causes a production on melanin so that it can protect the skin layers underneath. Once melanin builds up in one place, a freckle is the result.
Here are some ways our skin develops the pigmentation.
Sun Exposure– The sun triggers the production of melanin. The skin is usually worse in the summer months. Using good skin care and regular facial treatments, you can minimize damage. It is completely normal to have your skin get darker in some spots in the summer and lighter in those same spots in the winter. I want to also say, and this is important to remember, sun damage can take up to 10 years to show. That means you can think that your skin is fine after a summer in the sun but later your skin will show the damage. I haven’t tanned my face in 10 years and I am still surprised at the damage that shows up. I had a good time in my teen years and my 20’s!
Heat– This one usually surprises people. Most think that as long as they avoid the actual sun, they will not have any pigmentation. It definitely helps but heat triggers inflammation and inflammation triggers the increase of melanin activity. So even if you go to the beach and wear sunscreen, big sunglasses, a big hat and sit under a big umbrella you can still get the damage. Sorry, folks!
Over-Exfoliation– I am super careful with my clients on how often they exfoliate. When I create a home care plan for them, I consider both the physical and chemical exfoliations. Too much can cause pigmentation. As I said above, inflammation triggers the increase of melanin activity. Even if you can’t see the inflammation, it can still be happening.
Picking at Blemishes/Acne– This is bad for many reasons but one of the biggest ones is that it can create what is called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). And like sun damage, you don’t always see it until a few years later.
Hormones– Due to the increase of hormones during pregnancy, melasma is often caused. Just another form of pigmentation but harder to lighten. A lot of women will experience what is called a “pregnancy mask.” The upper lip will darken. This can also happen with birth control and even some medications. Always ask your doctor. I have seen many clients with melasma all over their face so it’s not exclusive to the upper lip. Everyone is different in how they will react but there are some worse than others. I once took a birth control pill and immediately started getting that mask above my lip and I switched that pill real fast! Luckily, no long-term damage was done.
Now I will discuss ways to help the pigmented areas.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, shown to reduce the number of sunburned cells as well as reverse age-related damage to the skin. Antioxidants help fight cell damage from free radicals, which are molecules that could injure cells and increase inflammation.
It does not replace sunscreen, but Vitamin C protects against and may repair UV damage, like discoloration. It also helps brighten the skin, which can make the overall appearance of the skin healthier. This is safe for those pregnant or lactating.
Retinol- A natural form of Vitamin A, this boosts the thickness and elasticity of the skin therefore reducing the signs of wrinkles.
There is an abundant amount of evidence to support that retinol works! Finding it in the right products is the tricky part because you need to have enough to get results. Most over-the-counter products cannot put enough retinol in them to give you the benefits you need. Retinol works by promoting cellular renewal and collagen production to improve skin texture and to diminish brown spots. Not safe for those pregnant and lactating.
Exfoliation- It’s important not to exfoliate the skin to break up the pigmented areas. As I said before, be careful not to over-exfoliate. I have a great scrub that also acts as a mask. It has glycolic acid and retinol in it with gentle jojoba beads. I love it because over time it helps to lighten and lift hyperpigmentation. I also have these amazing glycolic/retinol pads that act as a toner so it’s a leave-on. Perfect for hyperpigmentation. Book a product consultation with me if you are interested in having me look over your routine using your products.
Sunscreen- Wear it everyday. SPF 30 is the perfect number. Most damage is done incidentally (about 78%), which means when you are not at the beach but just running errands around town or sitting in your car or next to a window at work. And just as a reminder, sunscreen in your makeup will not help. You have to wear about 7x the amount to actually get that number on the bottle. Sunscreen is skin care and skin care is separate from makeup. Skin care first, makeup second.
Facials- Always important but getting a facial (book with me if you’re local!) when dealing with a specific skin issue will definitely help. Make sure you address your concerns with your esthetician. What you see and what she (or he) sees may be different.
Chemical Peels- Oh my gosh! Anyone who knows me know these are my favorite especially when done in a series. I will only perform the chemical peel series between November and May because of the sun exposure. I am strict on this rule. No point in fixing the skin while damaging it. My series are done weekly over 8 weeks. Slow and steady. I recommend a home care plan so my clients can get the most benefits. They basically have no downtime and can resume normal activities. They might experience some flaking but nothing embarrassing or that will make you want to hide out in your house. You don’t have to peel with a peel because all the change is happening under the top layer.
As the seasons change so do the needs of our skin. Our skin can get drier, more oily, we can have more breakouts or maybe just more sensitivity. Don’t panic! It’s most likely not your products that have suddenly stopped working for you, it’s the weather that has changed your skin. All it means is that you need to change how you use your products. So much easier, right? And a money saver! Here are some ingredients with their side effects that may affect your skin differently in the winter. Change accordingly if you needed.
Retinol– A derivative of Vitamin A, this can be drying to the skin. You may not notice it as much during the summer but in the winter when our skin gets drier, this can wreak havoc on our moisture level. You don’t have to stop using this, just use less. The Retinol Serum below is the one I recommend to my clients. Most only use about twice a week anyway because I want them to avoid drying out their skin and dealing with all the other side effects. This seems to work best while still giving them great results.
Salicylic Acid– Great for acne and breakouts but extremely drying for the skin. When I recommend any product using this ingredient, I do not suggest using it everyday because I do not want to dry out the skin as the acne goes away. If you find your skin seems flaky or dry, cut it back a bit, maybe just once and go from there. You still want to use the product and get the effectiveness but with using it less. Sometimes even one less use can make a difference.
Vaseline– This seems like an odd choice to be on this list, right? Well, in the winter this seems to be the go-to product. A lot of people use it on their chapped lips, hands, feet, etc. Here’s the thing…it’s occlusive. That means it can’t penetrate the skin and will only sit on the surface. It will not moisturize the skin but it will protect it. Great to put over lotion on the hands and feet for extra hydration (it will lock in that moisture) and also for the nose area when you have a cold. It has no healing benefits though. It can clog pores on the face since it can’t penetrate so use with caution.
Benzoyl Peroxide– Same as salicylic acid but even more drying. Below is the only product I recommend with benzoyl peroxide and I always say, proceed with caution. Benzoyl Peroxide is an ingredient you only want to use temporarily (there are many side effects that aren’t good long-term). The severe drying side effect can actually age your skin. Whatever the season, use with caution. In the winter, think twice.
Hand Sanitizer– Although this is not for the face, I thought I would throw it in here anyway. 🙂 The alcohol and lack of water can really dry out your hands. Try washing your hands like we used to…with soap and water and then moisturize.
These are guidelines and suggestions. What works for one person may not work for another. Some may not be able to change their routine so that means you will need to add to your regimen so you can get more moisture. You need to compensate for the water being pulled out of your skin because if you don’t, your skin will start to produce more oil. This grapeseed oil is great for hydrating the ski without clogging the pores. Click on picture to learn more about it.
Oxybenzone– There has been a lot of controversy about this chemical (as well as others) but the concern isn’t valid. Only a small percentage is even allowed in sunscreen and it is non-toxic, non-phototoxic (which means that it doesn’t cause skin reactions to the skin when exposed to sunlight) and it does not have hormone-disrupting effects.
It is great for blocking out UVB rays and some UVA rays.
Avobenzone– Some have said that this is unstable and cross-reacts with other sunscreen ingredients but the truth is, when any sunscreen ingredient is exposed to sunlight, the chemicals start breaking down. It has been around since 1981 and is the most used sunscreen ingredient in the world. It is safe for topical use and does not have a negative effect on skin cells.
Retinyl Palmitate– A powerful antioxidant that is actually found naturally in the skin. A combination of vitamin A and palmitic acid, this does not pose a problem to the skin when properly formulated in sunscreens (meaning stabilizing ingredients are included, which is typical). It has also been shown to offer sun protection all by itself.
Titanium Dioxide– A natural ingredient found in nature but is usually polluted with potentially harmful contaminants such as lead and iron so therefore it is purified through a synthetic process. It protects skin from UVA and UVB radiation and is considered to have no risk of skin irritation. And since titanium dioxide is so gentle, it is an excellent sunscreen active for use on sensitive or rosacea-affected skin. It is also great for use around the eyes, as it is highly unlikely to cause stinging in this area.
Zinc Oxide– This is considered to have no risk of skin irritation. It can also be an anti-irritant and potentially an antioxidant. My favorite sunscreen has this ingredient.