Skin care… First and foremost, I think its important to understand the role our skin plays in our overall health. Our skin, also the largest organ of our bodies, is designed to keep the good things in and the bad things out! Keeping this barrier strong helps us stay hydrated, protects us against infection and environmental toxins, as well as keeps all the internal organs and processes safe. Maintaining this biological shield is critical! Harsh cleansers, strong exfoliants, toxic chemicals, and excessive environmental damage can not only inhibit skin function, but also causes premature aging, pigmentation, and unwanted textural changes or wrinkles! So how do we keep our barrier strong, functioning well, and looking as youthful as possible?
Well, a healthy lifestyle is step one. Drinking plenty of water, choosing foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and protecting yourself from UV rays and external toxins such as smoking or pollution are just the basics. Step two is external care, aka your skin care routine! Here is a crazy fact; many topical products that are applied to the outside of the skin not only get through the barrier, but can even be detected in the blood stream! A 2005 study published by Environmental Working Group found that 287 of 400 tested toxins could be detected in the umbilical cord blood of newborns! So, what we put on our skin not only effects the skin itself, but goes so much deeper than we thought! The task of scrutinizing every single ingredient in our routines is a bit daunting, but when your skin care professional makes recommendations, this is what they are thinking about!
That said, the quality and components of your routine can also be extremely beneficial. Vitamin C is just one good example. Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a potent antioxidant that prevents oxidative stress and damage from free radicals. The real secret about Vitamin C is in the stability; it must be stabilized by another compound. Generally, the L-ascorbic acid molecule is extremely unstable and even just exposure to the air will cause it to change form and lose its effectiveness. When we think about adding Vitamin C to our skin care routines, its an excellent addition, but if you buy a product that is not stabilized, by the time it reaches the surface of your skin it is no longer in a useful form. This is one of the biggest differences between “medical-grade” Vitamin C and the products purchased at the drug store and why we as skin health professionals work with brands that are proven to be functional.
Along similar lines, adding a form of Vitamin A, aka a retinoid, is generally an outstanding idea, BUT there are important differences between over-the-counter retinols, medical-grade skin care with retinoids, and prescription tretinoins. First, “retinoid” describes the entire family of ingredients that are derivatives of Vitamin A. Think of it like a giant umbrella over all things made of apples. This could include apple pie, apple sauce, apple juice, apple butter, and just plain old apple slices. “Retinoids” is a very broad term over all things Vitamin A. The most known product is likely “Retin-A,” the prescription-only form called tretinoin often used to treat acne in teenagers. Tretinoin is another name for retinoic acid, a derivative that does not need to be broken down by enzymes in the skin. By avoiding the breakdown step, these products can be 100 times more effective than an OTC retinol cream. Several side effects can accompany that kind of potency. Some of the most common are peeling or scaling, redness, or sensitivity. Good news, these side effects can be significantly reduced if we introduce a tretinoin slowly and accompany it with other products. Your skin health professional can help you do this.
Vitamin C and Tretinoin are just two of the many precious gems in our fine jewelry box of skin care products, and as you can see, the details definitely matter! Growth factors, hyaluronic acid, hydroquione, glycolic acid, and many other ingredients have similar nuances that are not common knowledge. The quality of the products and the potency of the ingredients has a more significant effect than most people expect. Now, I completely understand this kind of news can often be overwhelming, but trust me when I say as skin health professionals, we dig into the details so you don’t have to. We want to make sure we are only recommending or selling safe, effective, and studied ingredients for your skin. If you plan to invest in a skin care routine, I highly recommend speaking with a true professional and focusing your efforts on products that are safest and most effective. Along with a healthy lifestyle, your skin care routine can make the difference between healthy and pre-mature aging, a battle worth preventing if you ask me.
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Lauren & Team