Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Basics of Beauty

As featured on the Oprah show and Dr. Mehmet Oz’s Beauty Book, it can be very difficult to navigate through the numerous beauty products, all purporting claims of miraculous results. So what really works? Research has found there are several ingredients that everyone should be using in their skincare regimen as part of preventative skincare. The following is a breakdown:

•Vitamin A (retinol, retinoic acid) – This is the single most important ingredient to use in daily skincare. It helps to stimulate collagen and elastin production and general skin recovery. In turns back the clock on aging by thickening the skin, increasing skin tone, and minimizing wrinkles. It also necessary in the treatment of hyperpigmentation, acne and scarring. Be aware that Vit. A can cause irritation and many popular forms such as Retin A can cause redness, flaking, and itching. Finding the correct formulation is crucial.

•Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide, Niacin) – A crucial ingredient whenever there are signs of inflammation as in the treatment of acne or rosacea.

•Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) – A vital anti-oxidant, Vit. C protects the skin from sun damage and daily stress and should be used every morning. It is particularly useful in the treatment of hyperpigmentation as it has a brightening effect on the skin. A word of caution: Vit. C is notoriously unstable. In order to keep it active, many skincare companies sell Vit. C alone in the form of acorbic acid powder that can be mixed in with serums or creams immediately before applying. Keeping Vit. C stable within a product requires an expensive process, leading to the higher cost of these products.

•Vitamin E (tocopherol) – A powerful anti-oxidant that protects against the sun and speeds healing of the skin and helps prevent scarring. It also helps Vit. A work more effectively.

•Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) – These work as a gentle exfoliator to stimulate cell turnover and alleviate dull, tired-looking skin.
It is not enough to find products with these ingredients listed on a label. The quality of the ingredients, the presence of fillers and other additives that can negate the effectiveness of the ingredients, the amount actually present, and the form present are all factors to consider. Many of these ingredients are difficult to stabilize and maintain in a form that will be active when applied to the skin. For example adding green tea (a soothing ingredient) to a product laden with parabens or sodium laurel sulfate (known irritants) will produce an end product with none of the benefits of the green tea.

What is not in the product is just as important as what is in the product. There is a great deal of controversy over whether or not parabens cause cancer and just how dangerous sodium laurel sulfates are. What no one disputes is that they are both known irritants that will aggravate existing conditions and cause new ones.

Price is often a major determining factor in choosing skincare. Products that are cheap often do not have the research for product development, use cheap ingredients that are often irritating and at best inactive. It is not really economical to buy products at a great deal if they are doing anything for your skin. Quality usually has a higher cost, the same as it does for food and other commodities. However, many department store brands spend so much on marketing that the increased cost does not reflect quality of ingredients as much as it does marketing costs.

Having a licensed esthetician perform a thorough skin analysis to properly assess your needs and suggest the appropriate products is invaluable. An esthetician must be a therpist, who's intent is to correct skin conditions, not a salesperson. For more information please call 858.312.5600 or email us at to schedule a consultation.