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If you keep tabs on the latest anti aging products, then you're probably aware of the massive amounts of money that many cosmetics companies spend on marketing the 'latest best new fountain of youth'. The ploy is to get you to believe that last year's solution is passé and to get you to buy the newer, improved and invariably more expensive version.
Are these products just a waste of time; designed to put a dent in your pocketbook without diminishing the appearance of even one fine line? It's easy to see why so many of us become cynical. Yet if you pass over all skin care products just because of some less than honest marketers, then you may be missing out the latest research and technology that has resulted in skin care ingredients and products that do deliver.
Effective skin care ingredients do exist. They can make a difference to your skin and are worth seeking out. Continuing research will unveil more, but for now here are 10 that are worth spending your money on because they live up to their promises.
1. Vitamin C – Vitamin C is one of the workhorse ingredients in skin care. It is backed up by a considerable amount of clinical research that demonstrate its benefits, which include:
•An increase in collagen synthesis, which helps to thicken the skin and may help to diminish fine lines and wrinkles
•Antioxidant activity, which reduces skin damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules). It also helps us to withstand exposure to sunlight and boosts the effectiveness of sunscreen.
•Boosts the effectiveness of Vitamin E, which is important in protecting our cell's membranes.
•An effective depigmenting agent at concentrations 5% or higher
•An improvement in the appearance of sun damaged skin
If not formulated correctly, Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) will oxidize (break down) and become ineffective as well as potentially harmful.
2. Vitamin E – Like Vitamin C, Vitamin E is a highly effective antioxidant. It works to protect the membranes of cells, lipoproteins, and many other bodily structures considered to be "oily." Vitamin E is effective when taken both orally or applied topically. It seems to help protect the skin, particularly from age spots and scarring and also boosts the skin's natural moisture-retaining mechanisms.
Vitamin E is composed of tocopherols and tocotrienols, with the tocopherol components possessing more antioxidant activity.
3. Retinoids – Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A. There are several currently used in skin care preparations – retinol, retinyl palmitate, tretinoin, tazarotene. While retinol and retinyl palmitate may be found in over the counter preparations, the latter two require a doctor's prescription.
Retinol's benefits include:
•An increase in cell turnover leading to smoother, brighter looking skin
•Repair of cellular structure damage gradually in the epidermal cells as well as in the dermal collagen and small blood vessels resulting in tighter skin; fewer wrinkles.
•Shrinkage of oil glands, which helps to reduce pore size and diminish scars.
•Stimulates production of new collagen leading to a thicker, plumper epidermis.
The important thing in a retinol preparation is to look for a concentration high enough to be effective. As well, the packaging should be air tight as retinoids are highly unstable when exposed to light.
Prescription retinoids while very effective, can also be highly irritating and cannot be tolerated by many individuals. Retinol, which can also be irritating, tends to be better tolerated by most individuals.
Retinol should be introduced into a skin care regimen gradually and cautiously. Caution should be exercised when exposed to sunlight as retinols increase the sensitivity to sunlight. Lastly, all topical retinoids should be avoided by pregnant women as Vitamin A has been shown to be harmful to the fetus.
4. Hydroquinone – Discovered in the 1930s, hydroquinone is often referred to as a bleaching cream. In fact, it doesn't bleach the skin, it works by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, responsible for the production of melanin, a skin pigment.
Though other skin lighteners are available, most dermatologists still regard hydroquinone as the gold standard in treating conditions of hyperpigmentation.
Hydroquinone has received some bad press due to reports of carcinogenicity, which is still being disputed. However, if it is used at low, recommended doses for short periods of time – up to 6 months – hydroquinone has been shown to be safe and effective.
5. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) – The use of agents including malic, mandelic, lactic or glycolic acid have increased in popularity in recent years due to findings regarding their positive effects on sun-damaged skin.
AHAs tend to be naturally derived from milk and fruit sugars. They work by exfoliation, or encouraging the shedding of old, damaged surface skin cells. This process invigorates skin and allows a newer, fresh layer to grow in its place. Studies have shown that wrinkles, blotchy pigmentation, rough skin and other symptoms of overexposure to harmful sun rays improve with daily AHA treatments that run for at least a few months.
The main side effect of AHAs is that they may cause irritation of the skin. And, darker skinned individuals may be prone to scarring, especially with glycolic acid. For that reason, individuals with darker skin may want to consider alpha hydroxy acids such as mandelic or malic acid, which tend to be much safer for use with darker skin.
AHAs also increase sensitivity to sunlight so a broad spectrum UVA/UVB blocking sunscreen during AHA treatment is a must.
For an effective AHA product, look for those with an AHA concentration of at least 4% and a pH between 3 and 4. AHAs may also be administered at much higher concentrations as a chemical peels by experienced skin care professionals.
Like AHAs, salicylic acid is an exfoliating agent for the outermost skin layer, the epidermis. Often referred to as a beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid is different to AHAs in that it is lipid (oil) soluble as compared to AHAs which are water soluble. This characteristic allows salicylic acid to penetrate the oil in pores, helping to unclog and cleanse them of debris. It also possesses antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. These actions make it an ideal choice for individuals with oily skin battling with blackheads and acne.
Like AHAs, salicylic acid increasse the skin's sun sensitivity making the use of a sunscreen just as important as with AHAs.
La Roche Posay Effaclar K
7. Sunscreen Filters
We can rave about the latest anti-aging skin care ingredients, but most skin care specialists would agree that without protection from UV rays they'd all be a big waste of time.
There is no other facet of skin care that comes close to the importance of UV protection since sun exposure is responsible for approximately 90% of adverse skin conditions commonly associated with aging.
When choosing a sunscreen, it's important to select one that will deliver protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Though UVB rays lead to burning and tanning, it's the UVA rays that will cause wrinkles, age spots, damaged skin and some types of skin cancers. Just as important as a sunscreen being broad spectrum is its photostability or ability to remain stable when exposed to sunlight.
Filters including Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL, Zinc Oxide, stabilized avobenzone, Tinosorb M and Tinosorb S are ones to look for in terms of UVA protection. Since in North America there isn't yet a rating system to help us gauge a sunscreen's UVA protecting ability, look for a product that contains these ingredients in addition to other filters.
Anthelios sunscreens which offer broad spectrum UVA and UVB blocking ability in a wider range of formulations.
8. Green Tea – The benefits of green tea may be attributed to their constituent polyphenols, a subclass of flavonoids, found in many plants. Green tea possesses powerful antioxidant activity, reduces inflammation, and can reduce the harmful effects of sun exposure.
Given their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, it's likely that topically applied green tea polyphenols will have some effect on wrinkles or skin sag.
Peptides are protein fragments that have been shown to have some beneficial effect on skin.
Though a number of peptides have been shown to have skin beneficial effects, two in particular deserve further attention – copper peptides and palmitoyl pentapeptide 3 (also called Matrixyl).
Copper peptides were discovered to help heal tissue when applied to lesions and wounds. In addition, they've been shown to reduce the formation of scar tissue while also stimulating the production of more normal skin.
Studies have shown that peptides can be used to regulate the exchange and growth rates of skin layer cells, limit potentially harmful oxidation, and even create an anti-inflammatory environment that ensures optimal healing conditions.
Neostrata Wrinkle Repair
10. Soy – The benefits of soy may be attributed to their component isoflavones.
Isoflavones are phytoestrogens (plant estrogens that mimic some of the effects of estrogen) that deliver many beneficial effects for the skin. Soy isoflavones have antioxidant properties which help to prevent free-radical damage to DNA. In addition, isoflavones have been shown to protect against sunburn. They also help to decrease effects associated with skin aging such as a decrease in thickness, dryness and loss of skin elasticity.
Reversa Skin Firming Gel
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