Skincare That ACTUALLY Works
The skincare industry is big business. In fact, we spent 140 billion dollars last year in the pursuit of more glowing, youthful and healthy skin. Despite this, many people think that skincare is a scam or that "creams never work", and I have to say that they are correct. At least partly correct - MOST creams don't work.
Let me explain. Our skin consists of two layers: a superficial epidermis and a deeper dermis. The epidermis is responsible for protecting us from the environment, locking in moisture and fighting infection. This layer consists mostly of DEAD cells, stuck together and full of a protein called keratin. The dermis sits under the epidermis, and is where our blood vessels, nerves, sweat glands, hair follicles and oil glands are. This is the LIVING layer, and the cells here are responsible for making collagen (strength), elastin (elasticity) and hyaluronic acid (support). For skincare to have a noticeable effect, it must penetrate the epidermis and affect the living cells in the dermis. Many of the chemicals used in skincare, have large molecular structures and are too big to penetrate the epidermis.
The majority of skincare is also sold over-the-counter. It comes without a prescription but also without MEDICAL GUIDANCE. As a result, skincare companies are limited by EU law as to the concentrations and formulations that can be present in their products. Plainly speaking, these products have to be safe to use in an unsupervised manner, and the only way to guarantee this is with low concentrations. Low concentrations = mild impact. Skincare that is retailed in medical clinics is often 10x stronger than that found in Boots. Prescription-strength skincare can be up to 100x more potent.
How many of us have fallen into the trap of buying an expensive facial serum, but feeling cheated after a couple of weeks because you haven't seen any changes? Patience is crucial when it comes to skin health. On average it takes four weeks for a new skin cell to be born at the base of the epidermis and then move its way up to the top. As we age this "skin cycle" lengthens. Old skin cells stay on the surface longer, causing our skin to look dull or dry. Bacteria get trapped and feed on these old cells, leading to inflammation and acne. Discoloured cells give rise to pigmentation issues. To reap the benefits of high quality skincare, you need to use it for a minimum of three skin cycles, or 12-16 weeks. This allows the products to penetrate to the deeper layers, taking effect on the new skin cells. This can help them to move to the surface quicker. Over-the-counter skincare may make your skin feel soft in the short-term, but its effects are limited to the surface. Consequently, you may see little real results in the long run.
Now that you know why your current skincare ISN'T working, let me tell you what DOES.
Alpha-Hydroxy-Acids. These are a class of naturally-occurring acids found in plants. Glycolic acid is the smallest AHA and is found in sugarcane. When applied to the skin, glycolic acid breaks the bonds between old skin cells, causing them to be sloughed off. Because of the small size of its molecules, glycolic acid also penetrates to the dermis, where it stimulates the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid. Skin becomes thicker, fine lines are diminished, uneven pigmentation is improved and acne is lessened.
Citric acid is an AHA found in citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. In addition to its exfoliating properties, citric acid is an antioxidant and a skin brightening agent. This makes it ideal for treating skin with uneven pigmentation. Mandelic acid is an AHA found naturally in almonds and has an affinity for oil. As a result it is readily absorbed by oily skin, making its anti-ageing properties particularly effective in this skin type.
Poly-Hydroxy Acids: These are second generation AHAs. Whilst they also exfoliate the skin, revealing the healthier layers beneath, they are less irritating and are more suitable for sensitive skin. The most beneficial PHAs are gluconolactone, lactobionic acid and maltobionic acid.
Gluconolacctone is a PHA that is already present in our skin. When added to skincare it strengthens the skin's protective barrier, reducing sensitivity to irritants and redness over time. It also protects collagen from damage induced by glycation (sugar-associated inflammation).
Lactobionic acid and Maltobionic acid are both derived from sugar and are powerful mosturisers because of their ability to attract water. They also protect collagen from damage and so reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Neoglucosamine: This amino sugar is a building block of Hyaluronic acid, nature's filler. Hyaluronic acid is very popular in skincare, but has a very large molecular size and so cannot penetrate the epidermis. Neoglucosamine is small enough to do this and is able to stimulate the production of Hyaluronic acid from within. Skin appears plumper, more firm and fine lines are wrinkles are improved. It also is a mild exfoliatant and melanin regulator, making it ideal for treating skin that is prone to pigmentation and acne.
Retinols: These are a family of chemicals derived from Vitamin A. Retinol works in four ways. Firstly, it speeds up the skin cycle. This is especially important as we mature, because skin cycles lengthen as we age. In our early 20's it takes around four weeks to make a new skin cell, but by the time we are in our 40's this can take more than eight weeks. By the time we're in our 60's it can take as long as three months to make a new skin cell. Retinol works on a cellular level to increase collagen production, making it one of the most powerful weapons we have against wrinkles. Retinol regulates melanin production and is key in treating deep-seated pigmentation concerns. Lastly Retinol is miracle agent in the fight against acne, because of its other properties but also because it regulates sebum production.
Many over-the-counter products claim to contain Retinol in them, but not all retinols are created equal. Retinol is a broad term for a group of chemicals derived from Vitamin A. The mildest is called Retinyl Palmitate, in the middle is Retinol and the most potent is Retinoic Acid. Both Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol must be absorbed by the skin and then converted to retinoic acid before they can have any beneficial effects. Unfortunately absorption of Retinol Palmitate is limited and the conversion process to retinoic acid can take weeks. This means any benefits are minimal. Many skincare products claim to have Retinol, but actually contain Retinyl Palmitate. Retinoic acid, the strongest and most potent Retinol, is only available on prescription.
Skincare can be a minefield and so many of us get discouraged after spending loads of money on the latest fad that promises miracles. I've personally learnt the hard way: to improve our skin we need to take advice from medically-trained experts, be perisistent and mostly patient. I really want all of my clients to feel happy and confident in their skin and so this month I'm offering free skincare consultations. There we can devise a plan together to address all your skincare goals. So get in touch and let's kick start your journey to beautiful, youthful and glowing skin.
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