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All About Aging Skin

By: Diana L. Howard, PhD, Annet King and Jane Wurwand
Posted: January 29, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
woman looking at her skin in mirror

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Ask any person what comes to mind when they think of aging skin and undoubtedly they will say “wrinkles.” This overwhelming consensus explains the multitude of products all promising to eliminate wrinkles and reverse the telltale signs of aging. But is it possible that a topically applied product can really eliminate wrinkles? Bottom line: Only a limited number of ingredients address the signs of aging, and, unfortunately, nothing short of cosmetic surgery can really eliminate a wrinkle. Studies on retinol (vitamin A), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and various peptides such as palmitoyl pentapeptide, palmitoyl tripeptide and oligopeptides, all show positive effects in stimulating collagen to help smooth and retexture aging skin. But as far as eliminating wrinkles, that’s more wishful thinking than hard-core science.

A more realistic approach to the treatment of aging skin would be to optimize the skin’s health and condition by ensuring ample hydration of tissues while stimulating collagen formation in the dermis and eliminating the triggers that lead to aging skin. These include the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals, and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), as well as the stimulation of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes (MMPs) that break down collagen and elastin. When MMPs are activated, collagen production automatically shuts down. So if MMPs are turned off and a means of stimulating collagen formation is provided, one of the key triggers to aging skin can be countered. Likewise, providing antioxidants to the skin helps control ROS formation. Products with hyaluronic acid for hydration, specific collagen-stimulating actives, such as vitamins A and C, and specific peptides that stimulate collagen or control AGEs, such as ARG-LYS polypeptide, can all be recommended to help combat aging skin.

Treatment and education

Every client is a candidate for an intelligent healthy skin aging strategy because no one is getting any younger. The signs of age know no limits, and even clients with acne-prone, oily skin may have concerns about the lines around the eyes and feathering around the lips.

Therefore, both inside and outside of the treatment room, there is some serious work to do. Your professional role is to coach the client through the myriad of myths, product hype, confusing medical procedures and the “miracle lift” treatments that promise the impossible.

Although the fragile economy may mean that clients are booking fewer treatments, remember that they still need your skin analysis skills and no-nonsense advice about what products to use and how to use them. Be sure that you are current in terms of the latest education, and know your peptides from your panthenol and micro-amps from your masseter muscles. This might be a good time to take a class about aging skin.