When shopping for anti-aging products the mistake that many people make is that they listen to the sales person’s claims for what miraculous things this or that cream will do for their skin. While your esthetician may or may not have the science background to adequately explain how a product is going to work, most gals behind the counter in department stores do not. It’s easy to get sucked in by product claims, but it’s more important you understand how individual performance ingredients… well, perform. Remember, a product is only as good as the ingredients inside the bottle.
There are certain tried and true ingredients that have a lot of science behind them. Gold standard anti-agers are often vitamins – which have, among other attributes, the ability to act as powerful antioxidants. (IE. ingredients which help stop unstable molecules from playing havoc with your skin cells and disrupting the normal functions of things like DNA, lipids, mitochondria and cell membranes, all of which are vital for healthy skin. When these cell components get damaged the cell structures change. They no longer reproduce the way younger or intact cells do. Irregular cells either die (apoptosis), create older, irregular looking mutation skin cells or they might even become cancerous. So antioxidants are a very important part of anti-aging and skin health.
Tried and True Anti-Aging Antioxidants:
- Vitamin AVitamin A is known as retinoids. Retinoic acid (Retin-A) the prescription version, is potent and fast acting but also can cause intense dryness, sensitivity and irritation which then leads to inflammation. Chronic levels of inflammation (even low, undetected levels) can cause inflammaging. This is accelerated aging due to the breakdown of molecules which results in a domino effect of free radical damage. I prefer the non-prescription version of Vitamin A called Retinol because even though it has the same rejuvenating properties (albeit slower to achieve) it is gentler on the skin. If you choose to use Retinol you should us it in a serum form. A good serum formula has excipients or ingredients that carry Retinol deeper into the skin, where you need it to be to do its work. Liposomal retinol slowly gets released into the skin to minimize sensitivity. Even so, you should start slowly and work up to three times a week if your skin can tolerate it. Never apply retinol during the day because it reacts poorly with sun exposure. Also never apply it at the same sitting as your AHA (glycolic, lactic or mandelic acids) because their pH is incompatible and you won’t get the beneficial effects of either product. Vitamin A is effective because it’s a skin normalizer. It works by traveling percutaneously through the skin. That means it filters through the skin down to the dermal/epidermal junction where skin cell proliferation occurs.The epidermis or outer layer of the skin is arranged in a brick and mortar fashion. Imagine a brick wall. The cells are shaped like building blocks that get compressed over time as they travel upwards towards the skin’s surface. As we age some of these bricks fall out of alignment and some of the mortar (the lipid bi-layers that protect and hold in water) falls away. This happens the same way an old brick wall starts to crumble and collapse over time. When retinoids travel down to the basement (basil) layer they boost cell production which helps to refurbish the wall. As new cells travel quickly to the skin’s surface older cells are pushed upwards and flake off. The epidermis becomes more organized as the wall begins to look and act more like younger skin. Likewise, at the dermal/epidermal junction retinol stimulates cells in the dermis called fibroblasts to produce more collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans. These are the supporting structures of the dermis which gives your skin that youthful firmness, plumpness and resilience.At the same time you apply Vitamin A on your skin you should be getting Vitamin A from your diet. Beta Carotene from veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach and broccoli contain this precursor to Vitamin A. These foods are important in a diet for healthy skin. The only caveat is that only about 4% of beta carotene actually turns into vitamin A. That means, for really healthy skin you might want to turn to animal sources. Liver, grass fed butter, free range eggs, high quality cod liver oil and salmon are all good sources of Vitamin A.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin; meaning we have to replace it daily because our bodies can’t make or store it. Vitamin C has the antioxidant capacity to not only protects us from ultraviolet free radical damage (from the sun) but also from pollutants and toxins in the environment that contribute to aging. This is why we recommend applying Vitamin C in the morning, before exposure to these skin disruptors.Vitamin C is important for the production of new collagen and blood vessels. So daily application of Vitamin C assists in keeping skin firmer. It is also an important tool to minimize pigmentation because of its skin brightening qualities.The best known form of Vitamin C is L-Ascorbic Acid. The problem with L-Ascorbic Acid is that it is very unstable. Often breaking down in the bottle before it is even applied. L-Ascorbic Acid is also very acidic and can cause inflammation and sensitivity in some people. I prefer the ester version of Vitamin C known as Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate is much more stable so it stays fresher longer. It does convert to fresh L-ascorbic Acid and gets slowly released after its been applied to the skin. Again I really like it in a serum for for better efficacy.You can get up to 60% of your Vitamin C needs topically. Still it’s important to include Vitamin C in your daily diet. The first food you probably think of for Vitamin C is oranges. Oranges are actually kind of so so when it comes to Vitamin C content. However, citrus is still important because the rind and pulp contains bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids are the part of Vitamin C that contributes to building healthy capillary walls. This is important because good circulation is vital for bringing the proper nutrients to your skin. Also Vitamin C deficiencies may mean leaky capillaries… think rosacea or visible blood vessels (telangiectasias).
- Vitamin ECell membranes have both a water and a lipid (fat) component. In-between the corneocyte cells at the surface of the skin are lipid bilayers. At the very surface of the skin is a lipid barrier layer. These are all very important components to keep skin well hydrated and protected it from irritants and infection. Vitamin E’s job is to protect these layer from lipid peroxidation from a very damaging form of oxygen called reactive oxygen species (ROS).Vitamin E is somewhat fragile and can use some help with it’s very important job of stopping free radicals from damaging fats in the skin. Since it can only neutralize one free radical at a time, once its done Vitamin E becomes neutralized. When formulated in conjunction with Vitamin C, Vitamin E can hand off the free radical electron to Vitamin C and then becomes reactivated again. You can see why you might want to choose a serum formula that combines these two skin protecting ingredients.Almonds (and other nuts and seeds), spinach, avocados and wheat germ are excellent sources of Vitamin E. Since Vitamin E is subject to peroxidation itself these foods need to be stored correctly to maintain their Vitamin E potency.
Coming Soon! Learn about other, more avant garde antioxidants that protect your skin.