Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about glycation and antiglycation products, and how they impact the skin. Having a working knowledge about glycation will shed some light on the subject; however, it begins with proper diagnosis, understanding the root cause, and knowing which treatments and ingredients to turn to.
Diagnosing the challenge
There are numerous disorders that affect the skin. The most common include acne, eczema, hyperpigmentation, psoriasis, rosacea and skin cancer. Although each of these stem from a similar base of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, they all manifest in different forms—and effective treatment starts with proper diagnosis.
The following information will help professionals learn how to identify the most common challenges encountered.
Acne. Acne is defined as a skin disease that occurs as result of inflamed or infected sebaceous glands in the skin. There are different types of acne including:
- Acne vulgaris—comedones, papules, pustules, nodules, cysts and sequelae;
- Acne cosmetic—small, slightly raised, red lesions and whiteheads;
- Acne mechanica—caused by repetitive friction or pressure;
- Acne rosacea—papules and pustules formed in the center of the face, cheeks and chin; and
- Pseudofolliculitis barbae—ingrown hairs.
Eczema. Eczema describes several forms of noncontagious conditions in which skin may be inflamed, red, dry and itchy. Common forms include atopic dermatitis, which appears as a red, inflamed rash; contact dermatitis, often caused by external sources—an irritant or allergen—and appears as a rash or can look like a burn; and nummular dermatitis, which appears as red, flaky, coin-shaped patches.
Hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation, in a nutshell, is excessive stimulation of melanin in the skin that results in an uneven, darkened skin tone. It may be observed in three types:
- Epidermal or surface—light brown and not quite as dense;
- Dermal—deeper brown or ashen gray, and appears more solid; and
- Combination—a mixture of both levels and typically dark brown.
Psoriasis. Psoriasis is a noncontagious, chronic genetic disease. It is a build up of excess skin tissue that appears as thick, red plaques covered with white or silvery scales. Although it can spread to other parts of the skin, it most commonly appears on the elbows, knees and lower back.
Rosacea. Rosacea is a chronic and progressive disorder that may first be noticed as redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead, and may present, then subsequently disappear. The cause is unknown, but some research has attributed it to poor circulation, sluggish lymph, genetic predisposition, digestive disorders, bacteria and mites attached
Skin cancer. Skin cancer can present itself in many different forms. Common forms include basal cell carcinoma—nonhealing open sores, reddish patches, pink or tan nodules, elevated growths or scar-like tissue; squamous cell carcinoma—persistent, rough, thick, scaly patches; and melanoma—moles with irregular edges, with more than one hue, an uneven surface or that appear larger than 1/4 inch. If skin cancer is suspected, always refer a client to a physician.
What about glycation?
Glycation is the result of a sugar molecule—fructose or glucose—bonding to a protein or lipid molecule, a haphazard process that impairs the function of biomolecules. In other words, when sugar molecules are present, they grasp onto fats and proteins in a process known as glycation, forming advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which cause protein fibers, or collagen, to become stiff and malformed.
What’s most interesting about glycation, however, is its correlation with the aforementioned skin disorders. AGEs often make the skin and body more vulnerable to the assailants that contribute to skin diseases and disorders.
Although there is much evidence out there to validate the theory, no studies have yet been conducted to determine if there is glycation within the dermis. There is simply too much that remains unknown at this point to make any hard-and-fast claims. However, through the use of ingredients that promote skin health, and prevent degradation and inflammation, the skin will be supported against any potential glycation damage and other skin disorders.
The root of the problem
With any skin condition, there are intrinsic and extrinsic causes. Intrinsic causes are internal and may include genetic factors, medications, illness, stress and the natural aging process. Extrinsic causes are external and may include sun exposure, air pollution, smoking, cosmetics and allergens, among others.
When analyzing clients’ skin, the goal is to find out as much about their lifestyle as possible. This may feel a bit probing initially, but it is the only way to truly understand what the source of the problem may be. Explain to clients the purpose of these questions so that they understand that honesty will result in a better treatment outcome. Look for:
- Possible hormonal imbalances;
- High stress levels;
- Poor nutrition—including excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption;
- Medication use;
- Skin irritants—ask about skin care products, detergents, hair care products or fragrances used;
- UV exposure and SPF use; and
- Current skin care routine.
If it’s possible to remove the root cause, the rebounding process will be much quicker, especially when combined with a healthy skin care program. If it’s not possible to remove the triggers, certain ingredients and treatments may be used to support bringing the skin back to a healthy state.
Correcting and balancing the skin
There are a number of cutting-edge ingredients that may be used in the treatment room and at home to lend support to skin that is weakened or challenged by a skin condition. In the treatment room, however, skin disorders must always be approached with caution.
- Always conduct a skin analysis or patch test.
- Use trusted formulas.
- Know every step of the treatment protocol before beginning.
- With skin reactions, less is more.
- Never perform a treatment if doubt is present.
After proper diagnosis and testing, treatments teamed with the right home care will begin the process of bringing a client’s skin back to health. For instance, with hyperpigmentation, most skin can be treated with melanin suppressants, such as hydroquinone, natural botanical brighteners, such as Bellis perennis, and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). Microdermabrasion and other peeling methods can also be utilized.
For acne, treatments vary greatly, but may include enzymes, such as papaya, citrus, vegetables or milk; AHAs, such as glycolic or lactic acid; retinol and retinaldehyde; salicylic acid and other acid compounds, such as low-strength trichloroacetic (TCA), azelaic or mandelic acid. Microdermabrasion may also work well.
With rosacea, the client should eliminate products containing dyes, preservatives and fragrances. These are common triggers that, if eliminated, will often calm the skin. Peel treatments also work to bring new, healthy skin to the surface, helping skin become less irritated and reactive.
For eczema and psoriasis, lactic acid or flower acids may work to bring new cells to the surface and provide hydration. Other low-strength acids combined with hydrogen peroxide will also increase circulation and control bacteria.
For home care, ingredients that inhibit matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and reactive oxygen species (ROS), and promote all around healthy skin will also protect against glycation. See Anti-AGEs Ingredients for Home Care. These ingredients work to prevent degradation and inflammation, and support the skin’s antioxidant content, while detoxifying the skin of glycotoxins and combating cellular fatigue. Chirally correct, dye- and fragrance-free intelligent ingredients that are sophisticated in their delivery and have balanced actives are also important factors in the antiglycation and skin-healing process.
When treating skin challenges, it’s often a matter of whole-body wellness. Be sure to talk with clients about healthy habits, daily care and the importance of prevention—from eliminating potential triggers to wearing sunscreen. Prevention and whole-body health is essential.