Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vitamin C

Few people are aware of the anti-aging benefits of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid).  When used correctly, it can be a true ally in your fight against aging skin.  Vitamin C must be obtained solely from food since it is not manufactured by the body. Citric fruits are a good source of Vitamin C and are essential in the prevention of scurvy.  Topically, Vitamin C is a major line of defense for aging skin since;  like the rest of the body, the skin is vulnerable to deficiency.  It is a potent antioxidant and is essential in the formation of collagen.  Sun exposure and smoking are the most common causes of damaged skin.  Using topical Vitamin C enhances the skin's ability to neutralize free radical damage created by the sun's ultraviolet rays.  Topical preparations are more effective than oral preparations because a higher dose is available to penetrate the needed area.  Vitamin C is a photoprotectant and has the ability to reduce sunburn cells and decrease redness when the skin is exposed to UVA and UVB rays. 

Vitamin C is very unstable and can be easily oxidized upon exposure to light and oxygen.  Therefore, a container that prevents exposure to the sun and air is crucial in maintaining Vitamin C potency.  Once it is oxidized Vitamin C is rendered ineffective. A change in color is indicative of expired Vitamin C.  The strengths range from 5% to 15%.  Concentrations greater than 15% tend to be irritating to the skin.  A skincare regimen including a Vitamin C product is very beneficial in aiding the fight against aging skin.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Power of Hyaluronic Acid

Dry skin and wrinkles go hand-in-hand.  Hyaluronic Acid which is naturally produced in the body is a wonderful ingredient for replenishing moisture in the skin.  It is found in high concentration in the soft connective tissue and in the fluid surrounding the eye. It is also present in cartilage, joint fluids, and in skin tissue.  Hyaluronic Acid forms a film on the skin which holds moisture keeping the surface of the skin supple and moist.  Hydrated skin is more plump leading to fewer noticeable wrinkles.  Hyaluronic Acid has a high molecular weight; therefore, it cannot be absorbed into the skin but traps moisture on the surface of the skin.  It can hold 1000 times its weight in water.   

Hyaluronic Acid can also be injected by a trained professional and will plump and smooth wrinkles in just one treatment.  Some commercial names for these fillers are Juvederm, Perlane, and Resylane.  The injectable treatment works very well, but maintenance is required about every 6 to 12 months.  Side effects include swelling, bruising, discoloration, and pain at the injection site but these side effects subside after a few days. Since Hyaluronic Acid  occurs naturally in the body, there is little chance that it would cause an allergic reaction or a rejection to the filler.  ABC News reported a village in Japan whose residents consumed a diet rich in hyaluronic acid indicating a possible link to hyaluronic acid and longevity.

Hyaluronic Acid may not be the "fountain of youth" but it is a wonderful ingredient in the fight against wrinkles and aging skin.  Moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid certainly merit their place as a main stay in anti-aging skincare products.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Vitamin E - Potent Antioxidant

Vitamin E is a well-known cosmetic ingredient that has time proven scientific research to substantiate its claims as one of the best antioxidants on the market.  In the scientific world Vitamin E is called tocopherol which is derived from the Greek words tokos, meaning "childbirth," and pherein meaning "to carry."  The "ol" on the end of the word designates it as an alcohol.  Vitamin E can be divided into two basic forms-tocopherols and tocotrienols.  These two forms can be further subdivided into eight different forms depending on their chemical composition. 

When applied topically Vitamin E has two major functions: to protect the skin from UV light damage and maintain the skin's barrier function.  Even a little UV exposure is able to deplete Vitamin E content thereby reducing the antioxidant protection.  This occurs even without reddening of the skin.  The damaged skin has the ability to return the levels of Vitamin E to almost baseline within 24 hours, but a lot of epidermal damage can occur within that time period.  Vitamin E should be used in sunscreens because of its ability to reduce free radical damage in the skin thus reducing the severity of sunburn.  It can be used both before and after the skin's exposure to the sun.  Vitamin E is best used in combination with other antioxidants such as Vitamin C, green tea, and coenzyme Q10.

Vitamin E is the major lipid-soluble antioxidant in the cell antioxidant defense system.  Biologically Vitamin E protects fatty acids and other components of cell membranes and LDL from oxidation by free radicals.  When taken orally or used topically Vitamin E can help the body in its fight against free radicals.  Vitamin E can help slow down the aging process and is a great preventive against vascular damage. 

Vitamin E should be incorporated into your skin care treatment plan to provide a powerful antioxidant that is crucial in fighting skin aging.  Free radical damage leads to a compromised barrier function leading to water loss and bacterial invasion hindering the skin's ability to function normally. Vitamin E has a role in preventing these problems.  It is highly recommended that you add a product containing Vitamin E to your skin care arsenal.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

pH And Skincare Products How Do They Relate

What does the term pH mean and why is it pertinent to skincare products? The exact definition means "the logarithmic of the reciprocal of the hydrogen ion concentration" which simplistically is used as a measuring system for comparing strengths of acids and bases.  The scale is measured from 1 to 14 with water, being neutral, at the midway point of 7.  Anything below 7 is categorized as an acid and anything above 7 is categorized as a base.   The stronger the solution the further it is from neutral (7) in either direction.  The more acidic compounds are at the lower end of the scale and the more basic compounds are at the higher end of the scale.  The stronger the compound either acid or base the more potentially irritating it is.

The pH of healthy skin is slightly acidic in the range of 4.5-6.  This area of the skin is referred to as the acid mantle.  The acid mantle is an imperceptible thin viscous fluid that is important for the maintenance of the overall health of skin and hair.  This slightly acidic pH allows the acid mantle to fight off bacteria, fungus, and pollutants.  Stress and hormonal changes can cause the acid mantle to break down creating an alkaline environment.  If the skin becomes too basic, it can become dry and irritated decreasing its ability to fight off bacteria leading to blemishes and breakouts.  Most commercial cleansers have a pH of 8 or more and most soaps have a pH of 9.0-11.  These basic products strip away the protective acid mantle layer creating a potentially toxic environment. 

Optimally skincare products should have a pH close to that of your own skin.  Alpha hydroxy acid products must have a lower pH in order to be effective in exfoliating the skin.  As a consumer you should be aware of the pH of the skincare products that you use so that you will know what effect the products have on your skin. Choose products with the appropriate pH for the skincare result that you desire the product to produce.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Hyperpigmentation is the most common and distressing condition afflicting people in Western countries.  Hyperpigmentation is defined as the darkening of skin or nails caused by an increase in melanin production, the substance in the body that is responsible for color or pigment.  The major cause of hyperpigmentation is exposure to the sun, but other conditions may cause an increase in melanin production such as pregnancy and Addison's disease (decreased function of the adrenal gland).  Certain drugs may cause an increase in melanin production such as antibiotics, antiarrythmics, and antimalarial medications, and others. 

One example of hyperpigmentation is called melasma, also known as chloasma, which is characterized by brown patches usually occuring on the forehead, temples, and cheeks.  Melasma can occur in pregnant women and in women who are taking oral contraceptives and is sometimes called the "mask of pregnancy", but it can occur in men as well.  Melasma is more common and lasts longer in people with dark skin.  Another example of hyperpigmentation is lentigines which are also called "liver spots" and they typically occur on the face and back of the hands.   Lentigines are flat brown spots that are oval in shape.  Chronic sun exposure is the major cause of solar lentigines.  Middle age is typically the first time lentigines are noticed and they increase in number with age.  Lentigines are an independent risk factor for melanoma even though a progression from lentigines to melanoma has not been established. 

The topical treatments for hyperpigmentation consist mostly of chemicals that inhibit the enzyme tyrosinase, which forms pigment.  Some of these chemicals used to treat hyperpigmentation are hydroquinone, kojic acid, vitamin C, azelaic acid, and arbutin.  Hydroquinone has been under scrutiny for its mutagenic effect and its ability to darken the skin after prolonged use.  It is banned in Japan and the European Union.  Kojic acid was discovered by accident when scientists in Japan were fermenting malted rice to make sake and kojic acid was a by-product.  Azelaic acid which is found in wheat and barley is a weak inhibitor of tyrosinase so a high concentration, such as 15%, is needed to produce lightening.  Arbutin is purified from mulberry or bearberry extract and is almost chemically identical to hydroquinone with the addition of a sugar molecule. Once it comes in contact with the skin the sugar is cleaved and hydroquinone is slowly released.  Arbutin takes a few weeks longer to work than hydroquinone, but it causes less irritation.  Vitamin A derivatives such as retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, and beta hydroxy acids are often used in conjunction with lighteners because they increase skin cell turnover which in turn speeds the removal of pigment granules. Niacinamide is also an effective skin lightener.  Its mechanism of action is unrelated to the enzyme tyrosinase.  Niacinamide prohibits the transfer of melanosomes (the pigment containing organelle) to skin cells inhibiting the production of discolored cells.

All of these treatments require two to three months before results can be seen so patience is needed.  Your expectations should be reasonable since these products will lighten but not erase the spots.  They are most effective in light skinned people.  Lighteners can make the skin more sensitive to the sun so a sunscreen is required while using skin lightening products.   Sunscreens are the first defense against skin aging in general, but particularly to prevent hyperpigmentation so start using sunscreens today to protect your skin for tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Science of Aging Skin

Aging begins at the moment of birth, but that fact is far removed from our conscience during our younger years. Biologically the skin changes as we age beginning as early as our twenties. The average skin cell takes about 28 days to reach the surface of the skin to be sloughed off, but as we age this process begins to slow down which in turn decreases collagen and elastin production producing skin that is loose and saggy. This decline in cell turnover also creates rough skin with an uneven appearance and dry texture. The true struggle for aging skin typically begins in the 40's with the onset of menopause for women. The lack of estrogen within the skin causes both a decrease in suppleness and thickness of the skin, but perhaps the most profound effect of decreased estrogen is the increase in unopposed action of testosterone. This increased action of testosterone creates an increase in facial hair and larger pores. The sebaceous gland secretion is controlled by estrogen so without it secretion is increased resulting in the return of acne. Hormone replacement therapy has a positive effect on the skin even for women whose loss of collagen is only slight.  A physician skilled in hormone replacement therapy can best determine whether hormone replacement therapy is correct for you.

Lifestyle choices are an area that we can control and these choices have a major impact on how we age. Sun tanning hastens the breakdown of collagen and elastin leading to thinner skin and the formation of wrinkles. Smoking is another lifestyle choice that accelerates the aging of skin. Smoking restricts blood flow so vitamins and oxygen are not delivered to the skin. Our skin is protected by the supply of vitamin A and the absorption of vitamin C, but smoking reduces these processes. Smoking increases the production of enzymes that breakdown collagen thus decreasing skin's firmness. Smoking is a leading cause of skin aging as evidenced by the wrinkles surrounding a smoker's mouth. Lack of sleep slows down the repair process that naturally occurs as we sleep leaving our skin dry and wrinkled. Improper skin care using soaps that leave the skin feeling tight and dry ages the skin as well. The proper cleanser should be at a pH around 5.5 to closely mimic the skin's natural balance. Proper skin care treatments include moisturizing products that contain proper nutrition for the skin. Finally, eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants protects the skin and enables it to repair and maintain itself.

Using products that contain the most effective ingredients such as glycolic acid, retinol, peptides, and vitamin c among others is the best tool in fighting the aging process. Combining effective products with professional facial care will generate the best benefits for your skin as you age. It is never too late to start a skin care program, but the earlier you start the better your skin will age. Start today making favorable lifestyle choices combined with high quality products and your skin will benefit.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Cellulite ... known as orange peel skin, cottage cheese, or dimples, cellulite does not single out any one body type, skin tone or texture. Cellulite is seen in 80-90% of women where as men rarely have cellulite. Researching the 10-20% of women who are cellulite free will no doubt elicit tremendous understanding for the prevention and cure of cellulite. Surprisingly to many weight is not a factor in the development of cellulite. Cellulite is an extremely misunderstood condition with many myths surrounding its prevention and treatment. Females are plagued with cellulite much more than men due to higher estrogen levels. A basic biological function of cellulite is to breakdown collagen or the component of the skin that provides strength. Fat distribution in women is seen in the thighs, buttocks, and hips where cellulite is commonly seen. Although, cellulite is not considered a medical condition, many women are uncomfortable with its appearance.

The skin is connected to the underlying muscle by fibrous cords. These cords connect the skin to deeper structures with the fat cells lying in between . The cords pull the skin down, but as the fat cells accumulate they push up against the skin creating the dimpling effect seen as cellulite. It is commonly seen in families so a strong genetic component is definitely a contributing factor for developing cellulite. Even though weight is not necessarily a factor in cellulite development, maintaining a normal weight will decrease the appearance of cellulite. Also, increasing muscle tone will lessen the appearance of cellulite as well. Liposuction is not an alternative for cellulite treatment and may actually increase its appearance. According to a study recently published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal, cellulite may be improved with a combination of laser treatment and fat transplantation. Laser treatment on the affected area proved to tighten the skin by stimulating collagen production and on a deeper level the laser proved to reduce fatty tissue. The fat from the patient was transplanted by injection into the dimpled areas to plump the skin. This was a small study, but had promising results. More research will be performed to obtain final conclusions. Unfortunately, there are not really any effective topical treatments for reducing cellulite. The best treatments contain collagen building ingredients such as Retinol and Vitamin C, but it takes several weeks to see any benefit from these products. Much research is being done in the cellulite fight so keep informed for the latest innovations. Since the public is clamoring for an effective cellulite treatment, researchers are bound to find something to alleviate this unsightly condition.