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In earlier days, skin care products were selected by features and benefits that were blasted from ads and labels, using words such as “softens,” “moisturizes,” “smells wonderful” or “provides instant anti-aging remedies.” Individuals were more concerned about how products felt and smelled than what they could actually do for their skin. Now the ingredients in home care and professional products can determine whether an item is appropriate for use in targeted professional treatments and in home skin care protocols. Serious, results-oriented estheticians needs to know each ingredient in the lines they offer, as well as what they do, when each is appropriate or inappropriate for a client, and how to use and recommend them. The following ingredients are critical to any anti-aging treatment plan and home care recommendation.
Antioxidants are molecules that can safely terminate the oxidation chain reaction before cells are badly damaged. They neutralize free radicals turned loose by the sun’s UVA rays by donating one of their electrons to each, transforming them into nondamaging molecules. This activity is usually known as free radical scavenging by skin care professionals. Antioxidants help prevent tissue damage that could potentially lead to aging and disease. They are important for repairing photodamage and providing protection, but do not block UVB rays and, in and of themselves, don’t repair wrinkles. Ample amounts of antioxidants must be formulated into anti-aging products or the aging process will always outpace the corrective treatments. They are prevention-oriented, as well as treatment-oriented ingredients.
Current literature is replete with news about the “best” antioxidants. It seems that every month a new hot, important, best, most effective antioxidant is discovered. However, the best is actually not one single antioxidant, but rather products that contain a group of them, such as pomegranate, coffee berry, lycopene, grape extracts, idebenone and others. These have withstood both the test of time, as well as scrutiny by reputable medical journals and independent university research studies. Currently, the most important vitamin antioxidants in treatments are vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene.
Vitamin A. Otherwise known as retinoids, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is not present in the body. It is important not only to general health systems, but also for the skin, due to its role in the normal differentiation and proliferation of cells. Therefore, it must be added to the human diet for systemic health through the ingestion of fish liver oils, egg yolk, milk, liver and various vegetables. Also, vitamin A should be applied topically in order to perform its essential purposes. The sun depletes the skin of vitamin A, and this is one of the reasons those who expose their skin often to the sun age faster than those who do not. Every good skin care system has a vitamin A product due to its significance in preventing and healing sun damage. Vitamin A is the single most important ingredient to prevent, restore, normalize and help repair damaged skin. This should not be news to any in the skin care profession, because the efficacious effects of vitamin A are well known.
The formulation of vitamin A in a line, as well as the form of the base ingredient, is very important to the stability of the product. New technology has allowed vitamin A to meet its potential for performance in topical products in the forms of retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate and retinol, along with the more traditional prescription form, retinoic acid.
Recommending vitamin A. Because the body does not manufacture vitamin A, skin becomes deficient through time. For that reason, it is a very important and necessary ingredient in all quality anti-aging product lines. However, it may cause redness and irritation if applied in doses higher than cell receptors can tolerate. If you recommend a higher dose than the client can tolerate initially, a mild irritation may occur for a few days. To counter this, start low and go slow, fully informing your client of the risks and rewards. Arming your client with information helps allay concerns.
The dosage is initially low, and it should be applied three or four times a week. This may be the only dosage suited to the client’s needs. If the skin indicates the need for a higher dosage, the applications per week should be increased as cellular receptors are developed in the skin until it is applied twice daily. If a higher strength is still indicated, the next product strength should be recommended. Some clients will respond with minor irritation and redness at the beginning of each step up. Generally, the “start low and go slow” method allows skin to adjust and enjoy the new infusion of vitamin A in its cells with little irritation and absent negative response. It supports obvious positive changes.
Vitamin E. Although vitamin E is a highly effective oil-soluble antioxidant that protects collagen from destruction by UV rays, it is extremely sensitive to damage and inactivation when exposed to free radicals. One of the important roles of its sister, vitamin C, is to reactivate it to its original form, enabling it to work against free radicals. Vitamins C and E are intertwined in their activity and are important teammates in protecting and treating the skin from sun damage.
Vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin antioxidant, aside from its role in reactivating vitamin E, is important for protecting the lipid structures of cells, preventing the oxidation of vitamin A, and is an effective tyrosinase inhibitor, preventing hyperpigmentation by slowing down the production of melanin. Vitamin C is a normal component in the skin, but is utilized first for other bodily functions and is not produced by the body, so the skin is vulnerable to deficiency. It must be included in diet, in supplement, and in topical products for the skin. There are several forms of vitamin C, including L-ascorbic acid, which has the appearance of water. To be its best, it should be mixed just before it is used because it loses some of its effectiveness as it oxidizes, and turns amber or orange. A newer, effective form of vitamin C is ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, a fat-soluble, stable and more penetrating form.
Recommending vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the most valuable ingredients in professional prevention and rejuvenation care, but its successful delivery into the skin has spurred on constant research. The problem: The long-proven most effective form—ascorbic acid—quickly degenerates with exposure to air and light. Research has come far in defining the formulation of stable vitamin C delivery. In professional care, however, the use of ascorbic acid often is recommended for maximum delivery of fresh, highly potent vitamin C. To do so, a mix-before-use product is preferred. A series of vitamin C treatments provides the best results when coupled with at-home product use of a fat-soluble form, such as ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate.
Other important antioxidants. Other important antioxidants in formulations are beta-carotene—a precursor to vitamin A—selenium, superoxide dysmutase and alpha lipoic acid (thiotic acid), all proven soldiers in the fight against aging. These ingredients are important to anti-aging, and their roles and benefits warrant study by skin care providers.
Exfoliants are believed by many to be a necessary component to maintain skin’s health. However, it is important to remember that the horny layer of the skin must be thick and compact because it provides important protection against the environment and best exfoliates naturally. On the other hand, belated exfoliation creates hyperkeratotic conditions, prevents ingredient penetration and results in dull skin with poor texture and an aged appearance. The best policy is a compromise by using mild resurfacing to create a natural, healthy exfoliation that removes only excess cells while balancing the health of the skin with topical and professional regimens.