The skin is the largest organ in the body. Its main function is to operate as a barrier and protect our internal structures and other organs.
It’s easy to take the skin for granted — after all, we look at it every day and we sometimes forget how incredibly complex it is. The beauty industry is flooded with products that promise to give us a glowing dewy skin.
There are now a multitude of ingredients that are used for the skin. Not to mention designed combinations of products to address specific skin concerns. Technology and science have come a long way.
This post is to give you an idea of the main active ingredients which work and make visible changes to the average person with no acute skin condition such as severe rosacea, stage 3 or 4 acne, severe melasma or unspecified dermatitis. If you have mild pigmentation, sun damage, fine lines, enlarged pores, dry or oily skin, hopefully, you will get some useful tips into how to enhance, correct and maintain your skin to keep it as healthy as possible, and, should start to show results within days.
A healthy skin performs much better as an organ, it regulates hydration, fights oxidative stress, regulates Vitamin D absorption and protects us from harmful microorganisms. An impaired skin barrier performs poorly, and it shows; redness, irritation, dryness. But it has also an incredible capacity to heal and become healthy again.
The epidermis has five layers from deep to surface: stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, and stratum corneum. The stratum basale is a single layer of cells primarily made of basal cells. New skin cells grow from the basal layer and mature all the way to the corneum layer then sheds in a cycle of roughly 4 weeks. Active ingredients facilitate this process but response from the skin will mostly show after 4 weeks of regular applications.
There is so much to choose from in the cosmeceuticals market!
Which combination is best? How many products should I have?
**COSMETIC v's COSMECEUTICAL PRODUCTS**
A cosmeceutical is different from a cosmetic product in a way that they have active ingredients which are therapeutic for the skin a bit like a medication. A cosmetic may have active ingredients but in such a tiny concentration that it acts more like a cosmetic, “a feel-good” product, making the skin ‘feel’ softer.
A standard cosmetic moisturiser is generally made of dimethicone which is a type of silicone, also often found in supermarket shampoos and conditioners. The molecules are large and therefore act as a protection for the skin surface but also in preventing transepidermal water loss. However, it will not create any biochemical changes within the skin.
One may be very motivated to address their skin and purchase a plethora of products but when it comes to their use, there are only so many layers one can apply! And if the process becomes too tedious and time consuming, majority of us likely won’t bother.
**5 Must have Basic Active ingredients for your skin **
1. Alphahydroxy acids (AHA)
1. Vitamin A
1. Vitamin B
1. Vitamin C
Glycolic acid and lactic acid are widely used in skin care and is nothing new. Whether it is in your cleanser or your moisturiser, at the right concentration for your skin, the benefits are clear and well proven. An effective exfoliant for the upper layer of the epidermis which in return render it more permeable to the other active ingredients making them more effective.
Glycolic and lactic acid are commonly used as peel solution and promotes that renewal skin cell cycle.
**Vitamin A, also known as Retinol **
The gold standard for topical skin active ingredient. Not to be underestimated. It can come in strong form. Less is more with retinol and the skin needs a slow introduction. Overuse of retinol results in dryness, redness and flakiness. Skin barrier must remain intact to perform well.
**Vitamin B **
Niacinamide (B3) and pro-vitamin B5 panthenol often come in a hyaluronic acid, based serum. One of the main actions of VitB is to normalise the skins natural ability to maintain its natural hydration. It assists to regulate natural oils. So, if you have dry skin, it should improve and same if you do have an oily type of skin. It is also an anti-inflammatory and a powerful antioxidant.
**Vitamin C **
Vitamin C is a magic wand to put it simply. Results visible within days. The epidermis benefits from vitamin C when applied topically. Taken internally, the bioavailability of vitamin C remains inadequate in the skin, it must be applied topically in a concentration of at least 10%. It assists with collagen, helps to reduce pigmentation, helps to fight oxidative stress from the environment and promotes healing. Some studies have found that vitamin C may be good to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. Vitamin C topical often comes as a serum.
In the last 2 decades, much focus has been placed on peptides and has generated much excitement and enthusiasm. Peptides are simply a segment of a protein; an amino-acid. Their mechanism of action within the skin is still unclear as they are too big to penetrate the skin. The theory is they generate signals to other cells to deliver a specific function.
Peptides are mostly known to activate collagen synthesis within the skin by way of signalling. But another function is to promote healing and reduce inflammation, especially Copper Peptide. A whole science subject is dedicated to Peptides technology and there is so much research involved, but the future of peptides looks promising.
To conclude, a professional skin assessment always helps, and a particular skin concern may require a customised treatment or prescription. And don’t forget, daily sunscreen is an absolute MUST to prevent overexposure to the sun, which will result in premature ageing and potentially lead to skin cancer!