The ABC’s of Skincare

Many of you want to get down to basics when it comes to skin care. What are the primary ingredients you need to achieve optimal results? For a beautiful complexion you might want to focus on true action ingredients that have the most scientific testing and offer proven results.

Before we start with specific actives I remind you that sunscreen is essential for protecting your skin from free radical DNA damage. Any time you get a suntan or sunburn it is an indicator that damage has happened. The result is skin aging. Diligent use of sunscreen every day will minimize wrinkles, loss of firmness, sunspots, irregular skin texture and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Beyond sunscreen there are many ingredients that help protect your skin from aging. These also offer repair from damage that has already occurred. There are many possibilities out there; from antioxidants, to stem cell therapy, to super hydrators, so what do you really need? What if this all confuses you? The best option is to have your esthetician or skin care professional take a look at your skin and give you an accurate assessment of what your skin type and skin condition requires. However, the following are the most tried and true A B Cs of skincare, the perfect place to start when you want to minimize your routine yet achieve visible, long term results.

Retinoids are the family of chemicals which make up Vitamin A. ie: Retinol, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinaldehyde and Retinoic Acid. What makes Vitamin A so special is that there are specific receptors found in your skin that directly accept retinoids so they are readily available to do their magic. Well, maybe not directly. The receptors are specific for retinoic acid (Retin-A) but other forms go through transformations where they become retinoic acid. Retinaldehyde is one step away, from converting to retinoic acid. Retinol takes two conversions. Retinyl Palmitate takes a while longer to convert into retinoic acid.

So what the heck does Vitamin A do? Vitamin A or retinol is what I call a bottom up exfoliant. It’s an exfoliant in that it causes shedding of surface skin cells which reveal the smoother, clearer, brighter skin beneath. The reason it is a bottom up exfoliant is because retinol filters through the skin transdermally to the basement membrane and tells stem cells there to speed up the production of new keratinocytes. As these cells rise up to the surface of the skin they push off older, worn out, often pigmented, dead cells – leaving you with skin that has a younger, fresher look. You may be using an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) like Glycolic Acid (Glycolic Serum 15%), Lactic Acid (Boost) or a cocktail of AHAs (Getting Even). These exfoliate but they are top down exfoliants, which means they dissolve the glue between surface skin cells to cause exfoliation. They’re great at exfoliation but not quite as good at stimulating the production of newer, healthier cells when compared to Retinol. In a perfect world you would use both, on alternate nights.

The new cells stimulated by Retinol are more organized and act more like younger skin. Imagine your epidermis is like a brick wall. When the wall is new, all the bricks line up perfectly and the mortar is intact. As we age some of the bricks (skin cells) become damaged and disorganized and the mortar (extracellular matrix) falls apart. This changes the texture and barrier function of the skin. Leaving it more vulnerable to damage.

The other important thing about Retinol is that it stimulates stem cells in the dermis (the lower layer of the skin). These stem cells, called fibroblasts, are responsible for laying down new collagen, elastin, and other proteins that give skin strength, firmness, elasticity and resists wrinkles. The activity of these cells is crucial for the repair of skin damage. As we age, the dermis loses its capacity to produce collagen, and consequently its capacity to repair wounds and damage. Retinol is one of our most studied protective and repairative ingredients for anti-aging and collagen boosting.

The reason I’ve chosen to recommend Retinol over Retinoic Acid is because of its gentleness factor. You get the same results as Retinoic Acid, albeit it takes a bit longer. When skin gets inflamed, irritated and peely from retinoic acid I believe that at the same time it’s doing all that good stuff, it’s causing inflammation. We now know chronic inflammation is a driver of inflammaging – premature aging of the skin. It’s not the Retinoic Acid that’s the problem, the problem lies with the inflammation. To avoid that overly peely, inflamed stage you should work your way up to using retinoic acid if you’re so inclined. Start with a low percentage retinol (2.5% in Retinol Resurfacing Treatment) that is encapsulated for slow release. Use that for a while before graduating to 4% (in Level Up). As you gradually move through these stages, make sure there are no signs of irritation, redness, tightness or other sensitivity.

Retinol should be applied at night before other anti-aging serums or moisturizers. If you apply it to damp skin it increases Retinol’s activity. This could be good or bad depending on your skin’s sensitivity level. Do not use Retinol and AHAs on the same night. Most clients use Retinol 3 nights a week and AHAs 2-3 nights. Give either product a minute to dry so you don’t upset the desired pH of the product.

The B Vitamin, most effective for skin anti-aging is a form of B3 called Niacinamide. Niacinamide is an incredible multi-tasker for the skin. Niacinamide is a precursor of NADH and NADPH enzymes. These enzymes are essential for cell-energy production needed for all metabolic cell activity. Unfortunately, levels decline with age, which means it’s so much harder for skin to repair itself. Niacinamide has been proven to reverse this decline. A 2003 study on 50 women ages 40 to 60 added niacinamide at 5% to a moisturizer and found “significant improvements” to fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation spots, texture, and red blotchiness. This is partly due to the fact that Niacinamide calms inflammation, and that inflammaging I mentioned before. It also increases skin’s protective barrier by increasing ceramide production. As if all that’s not great enough, niacinamide is a tyrosinase inhibitor. In a study on the treatment of melasma, niacinamide at 4% did almost as well as hydroquinone with fewer people experiencing side effects.  It is very helpful at dismantling melanin (pigment) as it rises to the skin’s surface, lessening hyperpigmentation. Look for it in our AGELESS Longevity Serum (for drier or mature skins) or First Light Lotion (for sensitive or oilier skin types).

Niacinamide can be applied day or night. during the day it is especially good for keeping skin calm and decreasing inflammation. Many wear niacinamide formulas over Vitamin C and under sunscreen. At night it can be used after your exfoliating serum (Retinol or AHAs).

L-Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C has been a heroic antoxident, collagen booster and skin brightener for years. Vitamin C can reverse the signs of aging if used in the correct formulation. L-Ascorbic Acid is the form that has been used in most studies and found to be very efficacious. The problem with L-Ascorbic Acid is that it is very unstable. It degridates easily which can actually increase oxidative damage.

I prefer the more stable ester versions of Vitamin C. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate is non-irritating and very stable, especially in time released formulas. It helps stop damaging free radicals found in pollutants, sunlight, and fluorescent lightning from aging your skin. It will noticeably smooth lines and improves skin tone. 

When skin is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun, a sequence of events occurs that leads to free radical production. These free radicals damage skin cell membranes and activate enzymes that break down collagen and elastin. Vitamin C has the ability to donate electrons to free radicals so they aren’t as damaging to cellular structures. Vitamin C isn’t a substitute for sunscreen, but it does provide extra protection against oxidative damage that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a form of Vitamin C which been modified to be more lipid soluble. This modification allows it to better penetrate the skin. The problem with many topical forms of Vitamin C is they’re water soluble and can’t make it through the lipid-rich skin barrier to reach the dermis of skin where they have maximal benefits. Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is able to successfully penetrate the epidermis and move to the layer underneath, the dermis.

Choose a formula that contains both these Vitamin C Esters as well Vitamin E. The C & E in our C & E Antioxidant Serum works to recycle each other to increase their antioxidant capabilities. Vitamin C is most effective when applied daily under sunscreen. Daytime application means Vitamin C is there ready to protect your skin when you are most likely to be exposed to these skin aggressors.

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