Sunday, December 23, 2012

Skin Care: Anti-Aging Products

Wrinkles and aging skin are a fact of life. There are many things that contribute to aging skin:

  1. Sun Damage: Like it or not, repeated exposure to UVA & UVB rays whether from the sun or a tanning bed dramatically speeds up the aging process of the skin. UVA rays penetrate more deeply than UVB rays. UVA is responsible for destruction of collagen and elastin and when they are destroyed, your skin gets saggy and wrinkled. UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburns. Unless your sunscreen product say "Broad Spectrum coverage, it will only block UVB rays not UVA. Make sure you are blocking both.
  2. Genetics: People with darker skin tones are less susceptible to wrinkles caused by sun damage.
  3. Hormones: Women who have gone through menopause frequently begin to notice thinning and more saggy skin due to the hormonal changes. 
  4. Getting Old: Gravity is a bitch. Every year you are on this earth gravity pulls down on your skin and stretches it more.
  5. Muscle Movement: The muscles you use the most, be it smiling, frowning or squinting into the sun, wrinkle the fastest and the deepest. 
This is certainly not an exhaustive list but these are some of the major causes of aging. Now I'm going to tell you the bad news

There isn't a miracle vitamin, plant extract, or any other ingredient anywhere in the world that can change one wrinkle on your face. Stop looking for one ingredient that does it all, because that just leads to disappointment. There are thousands of anti-wrinkle products available around the world with claims that are either misleading or just plain false about what they can do for your skin.

So now that we have that out of the way- what can we do to care for aging skin?

  1. Wear broad spectrum sunscreen every day before going in the daylight. EVERY day, not just in the summer, or on days you're at the amusement park, 365 days a year. Sun has been proved to be a huge contributing factor to aging and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  2. Exfoliate! Removing the thickened outer layer of skin can increase collagen production and help your skin form a better structure. You don't have to exfoliate with a scrub (indeed many commercially available products have particles that are too large or too hard to do anything other that tear at your skin). You can also exfoliate with AHA (alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid or lactic acid) and BHA (beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid). As I discussed in my post about acne, any product using AHAs or BHAs to exfoliate your skin must have a pH between 3 and 4. Anything outside this range is either too irritating or simply won't work. 
  3. Retin-A, Renova, Avita and Tazorac are prescription topical products to improve sun damaged or wrinkled skin. These products are cell-communicating ingredients. They can "talk" to your skin and tell it what to do. Niacinamide (Vitamin B3 or nicotinioic acid) is a great non prescription cell communicating ingredient. It increases the level of cerimide in the skin which helps regulate water loss and stimulates microcirculation in the dermis. Some other cell communicating ingredients to look for include: milk thistle, Filipendula glaberrima (Nakai root extract), retinyl palmitate, retinol, peptides, and phospholipids. Using cell communicating ingredients in skin care is in it's infancy. This area of research is sure to expand in the coming years. 
  4. Maintain your skin's barrier. Think of the barrier as the mortar in between the bricks. Technically known as the extracellular matrix, the skin's barrier helps to keep your skin soft, smooth, moist and of course keep the bad stuff out. When the barrier is damaged, you get rough, dry and dehydrated looking skin. Maintaining the barrier can be done in several ways. Don't use water that is too hot or cold. Don't using products that contain irritating ingredients. Your skin should NEVER burn or tingle when using a skin care product. It doesn't mean it's working- it means it's irritating your skin. Avoid unprotected sun exposure (I know, I'm beating a dead horse here but it really is important). Some important skin-repairing ingredients to look for include ceramides, lecithin, glycerin, polysaccharides, hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, sodium PCA, amino acids, cholesterol, glycerol, phospholipids, glycosphingolipids, glycosaminoglycans, glycerides, and fatty acids.
  5. Use antioxidants. This is a broad statement that covers a vast amount of ingredients. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, repair DNA damage, restore the skin's surface barrier, help defend against environmental stress, allow skin to build more collagen, and improve skin's ability to heal.
The price of the product means nothing. Good and bad skin care products come in all price ranges. Look at the ingredients. Compare it to the things that are needed to maintain healthy skin. Maintaining healthy skin is the only way to prevent and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. 

There is no one BEST ingredient. There are a lot of great ones but don't buy a product because of it's claims, buy it because it's a well formulated product that will make you look and feel great.