Every story that has a villain also has to have a hero. Ours has many heroes. And just like heroes in literature and film, our heroes are here because they have special achievements. Of course, there are many, many other great ingredients, both established and emerging, however we have included those with the most science behind them and can benefit many skin types.
AHAs and BHAs
There are many acids used in skin care, and they each have their own particular benefits. Alpha Hydroxy Acids are used for their ability to exfoliate and promote greater moisturisation and collagen synthesis, while Beta Hydroxy Acids are better known for reducing sebum production, controlling breakouts and limiting hyperpigmentation.
Use microdermabrasion and peels with caution
Unfortunately, any good thing can be overdone, and acids, granular exfoliants and peels are no exception. It is concerning that too many people are taking this too far. Enzymatic peeling and mechanical peeling, when correctly done, are controlled and only take off the most upper layer of the skin. Chemical peels, however, can penetrate the skin more deeply and remove not only the dead skin cells but also some of the healthy skin cells that form part of the barrier function – something we all need to protect us from UV rays, High Energy Visible Light and environmental pollution. Again, have your peels done professionally and do not overdo the use of skin acids at home.
Enzymes are used in skin care products to exfoliate and reduce inflammation. They are naturally derived from fruit, with the most common ones for home use being Papain from papaya and Bromelain from pineapple. Enzymes work to clean pores and break down the keratin protein to remove the dead skin cells, helping to create a smoother skin and more radiant complexion. Like AHAs, they may improve rough texture and the appearance of fine lines, age spots and pigmentation.
Peptides have become the latest ingredients to be rising in cult status in the world of beauty, and we are seeing formulations with long lists of these. At this stage, evidence is more limited than for retinoids and Vitamin C, and dermatologists do not necessarily agree on whether they are delivering real, measurable benefits to skin. Yet there are perceived benefits and growing research underpinning their usefulness.
Growth factors are seen as the holy grail in skin care. They are the closest thing we have to the long-sought but still elusive miracle cream for skin ageing. In dermatology circles, growth factors have created both excitement and controversy. Growth factors are in hot demand in skin care products. However Human Growth Factors are derived from human stem cells and have come under medical regulatory scrutiny.
Even the very best of sunscreens do not provide complete UVB and UVA protection. For this reason, it is important to also use antioxidants to help protect your skin from UV damage during the day and to support your skin’s repair function at night.
Vitamin C is a well researched and proven ingredient in anti-ageing skin care, primarily as L-Ascorbic Acid. It has a strong pedigree and science backs up its role in delivering multiple skin benefits. Vitamin C can protect against and help repair UV-induced cell damage, stimulate collagen production, reduce wrinkle depth and lower melanin production. And that is why it is a skin care hero ingredient that deserves a place in most skin care routines.
Hyaluronic Acid is another hero skin ingredient, and we are now seeing it everywhere in skin care products. It occurs naturally in our skin, where it provides protection to cell structures and serves as a water reservoir. It acts as a major structural component of skin and plays an important role in the skin’s lipid layer. It is one of our skin’s natural moisturising factors. These natural moisturising factors are a collection of water-soluble compounds found in corneocytes, which are individual skin cells found in the outermost layer of the epidermis.
Niacinamide is naturally found in your skin and plays a variety of roles to keep your skin working properly. Importantly, it has been recognised as a cosmeceutical ingredient and found to deliver multiple benefits for the skin. Niacinamide is one of the few active ingredients used in skin care that can find a home in almost every skin care routine.
If there could be a holy grail ingredient in anti-ageing skin care, it would be Retinol. And that is why there is a proliferation of products available everywhere, from health shops to department stores to dermatologist offices, containing some form of Retinol.