Not a month goes by without proclamations about the latest and greatest, age-busting active skin care ingredient. If it’s an over-the-counter product being marketed, chances are a dewy-skinned, pillow-lipped Hollywood beauty is making them in exchange for a handsome back-hander. Never mind that a couple of months ago she was making the same claims about a different ingredient, and in three months time will be lending her looks to yet another ‘groundbreaking innovation’.
It’s no wonder our clients are confused. Can you honestly say that you’re not, even just a tiny bit, overwhelmed by the sheer number of active ingredients you’re supposed to know about? You’re not alone.
Even if by some genius of photographic memory you know every ingredient inside and out, there’s another hurdle to overcome. Your clients are likely underwhelmed by the results they got despite shelling out a hundred dollars on that new age-busting designer lotion at the local department store, so when you recommend a product with professional strength actives, it is met with skepticism. “I already tried that and it didn’t work,” she says. This barrier can be frustrating, but gently breaking it down is one of your jobs as a skin care professional, and once you do you will gain your clients’ trust.
In the battle between over-the-counter and professional skin care, high potency active ingredients are your most valuable weapons for two reasons:
1. Professional skin care – with professional strength actives – is only available through a beauty salon or spa, where a skin care professional has the opportunity to analyse the skin and make an educated recommendation. Therefore, professional skin care has the immediate advantage of putting your client’s money into the right active ingredients for them, rather than wasting money on the wrong or ineffectual ingredients just because they worked on someone else.
2. Most consumers ‘self-diagnose’ when buying over-the-counter from a chemist or department store, which leads to a higher risk of problems or reactions due to using the incorrect product or misusing the product itself. Because of this, cosmetic companies have to minimise the risk of reactions, and do so by manufacturing products with a lower percentage of active ingredients. In some cases, the percentage of actives is so low that it has little or no effect at all, but they are still able to make claims based on the ingredient itself rather than the formulation.
So, if actives are where we should focus our attention, how on earth do we remember them all, you ask? You don’t have to. This article highlights the star performers, and their functions, which you should memorise, plus at the end of the article is a summary of those key actives in client-friendly language, for your clients to read.
But before we get into the details, what is an active ingredient? And if actives are so important, why do we need inactive ingredients too?
Active vs. inactive
The two main ingredient groups in cosmetic product formulation are active and inactive.
Active ingredients are in the product because they carry out an action on the skin, such as alpha hydroxy acids, which help speed cell turnover.
Inactive ingredients are in the product for three main reasons: to help deliver active ingredients to the skin, to preserve the product, and to make it look, smell and feel nice.
For an ingredient to be considered ’active’ it must have an action on the skin and there are three common ways for the inactive ‘vehicles’ to carry actives through the protective barrier of the stratum corneum.
The intercellular route
Best for lipid-soluble actives, the most effective way through the stratum corneum carries active ingredients through the lipid matrix between cells.
The transcellular route
Best for lipophilic and hydrophilic ingredients with a small molecular size, this route delivers products directly through the epidermal cells. Lipsosomes or nanotechnology may encase the active ingredients for maximum penetration.
The transfollicular route
Because less than 0.1 percent of the skin’s surface has sebaceous openings, this route is less common but can be used to carry larger molecules through follicular openings.
New technologies can assist with the delivery of actives into the skin. Electrical devices such as such as iontophoresis, galvanic current and ultrasound drive ingredients into the skin using energy. Micro needling disrupts the skin barrier using microscopic needles to allow ingredients to penetrate.
Not every active ingredient is created, or treated equally. Many actives, such as vitamin A or C come in many different forms, each with varying results. Just because an over-the-counter product contains an active doesn’t mean it will be in the percentage or form needed for optimal results.
An example you could use with your clients is to compare commercially prepared supermarket cheesecake with one handmade by the chef in an award-winning restaurant. Both can legitimately be called cheesecake, and both have their place in the market, but for wow-factor there’s no competition.
Must-know active ingredients
What are the key active ingredients to study up on?
ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS
Also known as AHAs.
Alpha hydroxy acids increase the exfoliation of dead skin cells to reveal a more youthful complexion.
What are they?
With age, cell turnover slows from every 28-30 days to as many as 60 days. Skin becomes drier, which limits the skin’s ability to absorb moisture and active ingredients, and results in a rough, dull skin texture.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids are a group of natural and synthetic acids that increase the rate at which the skin sheds dead cells, stimulate the production of collagen and diminish the appearance of hyper pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. The result is a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes, an improvement in skin tone and a smoother skin texture.
There are a number of types of AHA used in skin care treatments, of which four are the most common:
Glycolic acid has small molecules that are able to penetrate deep into the epidermis, which makes it a popular AHA for skin treatments.
Lactic acid is derived from milk (though most cosmetic forms are synthetic) and is also a humectant, which improves moisture levels in the skin.
Salicylic acid (also called beta hydroxy acid) helps weaken the bond between the outer skin cells and the newer, lower layers, so that they can be washed away. Salicylic acid also helps break down comedones, which makes it an effective treatment for acne.
Mandelic (amygdalic) acid is derived from bitter almond skins, and is naturally anti-bacterial. Because it has larger molecules than other AHAs it can be effective on sensitive skin types.
The correct percentage and pH level is essential to the safety and effectiveness of AHAs, and anything above 10 percent AHA concentration is limited to use by a professional beauty therapist or doctor. Professional strength peels contain higher AHA concentrations, but therapists may only perform ‘superficial’ peels whereas a doctor may perform deeper peels of up to 70 percent AHA.
Based on industry-sponsored studies, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel concluded that products containing the AHAs glycolic and lactic acid are safe for at-home use by consumers if the AHA concentration is 10 percent or less, the final product has a pH of 3.5 or greater, and the final product is formulated in such a way that it protects the skin from increased sun sensitivity or its package directions tell consumers to use daily protection from the sun.
What do AHAs do?
• Increase the rate at which the skin sheds dead cells;
• Stimulate the production of collagen;
• Dissolve comedones;
• Improve moisture content in the skin.
Aged wine, lemon, sour milk and other acidic foods have been applied to the skin for centuries to reduce the signs of ageing and improve skin texture. Cleopatra’s milk baths were an early use of AHAs to beautify the skin, though they weren’t called that yet.
Guerlain marketed ‘cosmetic vinegars’ based on fruit acids in 1830 but the first mass marketed AHA product was launched by Avon in 1992. Within five years, annual sales of AHA products exceeded $500 million, but in 1995 the safety of AHAs came under the spotlight with the FDA due to studies showing a link with increased sun sensitivity. Regulations controlling labeling and formulation followed in the early 2000s.
Studies done by the FDA confirmed previous industry studies indicating that applying AHAs to the skin results in increased UV sensitivity. After four weeks of AHA application, volunteers’ sensitivity to skin reddening produced by UV increased by 18 percent. Similarly, the volunteers’ sensitivity to UV-induced cellular damage doubled, on average. However, the studies also indicated that this increase in sensitivity is reversible and does not last long after discontinuing use of the AHA cream. One week after the treatments were halted, researchers found no significant differences in UV sensitivity among the various skin sites.
The studies did not identify exactly how AHAs bring about the increased UV sensitivity, although the effects did not appear to involve dramatic increases in UV-induced damage to DNA in the skin.
Also known as vitamin C, Co-enzyme q10, Resveratrol, and a long list of other antioxidant ingredients.
Antioxidants reduce free radical damage, which is one of the most destructive internal processes to cause skin ageing.
What are they?
Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds capable of preventing damage to cells due to exposure to oxygen.
All molecules are made up of protons, neurons and electrons, and electrons must be paired up in order to properly function. Free radical damage occurs when an electron is lost from an oxygen molecule, which is now called a free radical. Free radicals cause mutation and damage to cell DNA through oxidation – in essence the free radical burns and destroys the other cell. This process prevents the production of collagen, slows the skin’s ability to heal and creates malformed cells.
Antioxidants limit free-radical damage by donating their electrons to unstable oxygen molecules, so that they are once again stable. Because antioxidants lose their effectiveness with exposure to light and oxygen, proper packaging is essential to limit both.
Examples of antioxidants used in skin care include:
• Vitamin A (see below).
• Vitamin C (see below).
• Vitamin E. A powerful free radical scavenger.
• Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Derived from green tea, this is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory often used to treat acne.
• Emblica. A skin-lightening agent, commonly used to even skin tone.
• Resveratrol. A potent polyphenol antioxidant found in grape skin, which works to inhibit matrix metalloproteinase and preserve the structure and function of the skin.
• Alpha lipoic acid. Known as a ‘master’ for its ability to regenerate other antioxidants.
• Co-enzyme Q10 (see below).
• Zinc (see below).
• Melatonin as well as controlling the body clock, melatonin is a powerful free-radical scavenger.
What do antioxidants do?
• Neutralise free radicals by donating their electrons.
• Prevent skin damage due to oxidative stress.
• Preserve the structure and function of the skin.
The term antioxidant was originally given to describe a chemical that prevented the consumption of oxygen. Antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and polyphenols date back more than 50 million years but it was the discovery of vitamins A, C and E as antioxidants that led to the realisation of their biological importance in the early twentieth century.
Antioxidant nutritional supplements have long been hyped for their role in cancer prevention as well as skin ageing, however a hypothesis published in January 2013 by Nobel laureate James Watson, PhD proposes that antioxidative nutritional supplements “more likely cause than prevent cancer”.
Dr Watson, who shared the Nobel prize for unraveling the structure of DNA, suggests that antioxidants as nutritional supplements, including beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, and E, and selenium, could be harmful in cancer.
“Many nutritional intervention trials have shown no obvious effectiveness in preventing gastrointestinal cancer or in lengthening mortality,” he writes. “In fact, they seem to slightly shorten the lives of those who take them.”
Hence, he concludes, “blueberries best be eaten because they taste good, not because their consumption will lead to less cancer.”
There is no evidence to suggest that antioxidants in topical skin care cause cancer.
Human growth factors
Also known as Epidermal Growth Factor (egf), Transforming Growth Factor (tgf).
Human growth factors reduce inflammation, stimulate collagen production and enhance cell renewal to help repair skin damage.
What are they?
Human growth factors are peptides made in the epidermis and dermis that regulate cellular growth, proliferation and differentiation therefore they are essential to healthy skin structure and function. Synthetic versions have been formulated for skin care to support the natural processes of skin renewal that slow down with age. Epidermal Growth Factors (EGF) and Transforming Growth Factors (TGF) are key skin care actives.
EGF are released during inflammation and work by attracting cells to damaged skin to kick start the repair process. When EGF is applied to the skin, tissue regeneration begins through increased circulation, increased number of fibroblasts and collagen production. UV light significantly reduces the skin’s natural production of EGF.
EGF is especially effective when used to enhance the effects of skin peels and microdermabrasion, by nourishing the skin’s natural process of renewal.
TGF stimulates collagen production.
What do growth factors do?
• Stimulate skin tissue repair and regeneration.
• Promote the formation of collagen and elastin.
• Nourish the natural process of skin renewal.
Epidermal growth factor was discovered in 1986 by scientists Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Motalcini, who received a Nobel Prize in Medicine for it. Skin care products containing growth factors reached the market in the early 1990s.
According to DermNetNZ, current concerns about using human growth factors for cosmetic purposes include:
In skin care products human growth factors would be used repeatedly and possibly over long periods of time.
If they cause cells to over-proliferate, they might cause cancer or other health problems.
In the case of TGF, which stimulates collagen production, it can encourage scarring, because scars are the result of excessive collagen production.
It is not known whether human growth factors contained in cosmeceuticals are stable, can be absorbed adequately, or exert a functionally significant outcome to induce dermal remodelling and reverse photo ageing (wrinkles).
Research into the use of human growth factors for skin is ongoing, but due to a lack of clinical studies it still remains unknown what risks may arise from long-term use.
Also known as hyaluronan, hyaluronate or HA.
Hyaluronic acid is a moisture magnet, capable of holding and delivering 1,000 times its weight in water to dehydrated skin.
What is it?
Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule produced naturally by the body, to create cartilage and boost the elasticity of skin cells by attaching to elastin and collagen. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, which makes it an ideal moisturising ingredient. Because natural levels of hyaluronic acid deteriorate with age, topical application helps provide a healthy environment for youthful skin. Hyaluronic acid can also be used to improve the appearance of scarring or skin damage by drawing moisture to the affected area.
What does hyaluronic acid do?
• Draws moisture into the skin.
• Boosts the elasticity of skin cells.
In 1934, Karl Meyer
isolated a formerly unknown glycosaminoglycan (GSG) from the vitreous humor of the bovine eye. It differed from any of the other previously discovered GSG in that it did not contain sulfur, and with its distinctive structure, its function within the body was unique. the time of its discovery, the new compound took on two names: hyaluronan (in vivo) and hyaluronic acid when discussing research conducted outside of the body (in vitro). Today hyaluronan is commonly referred to as hyaluronic acid, regardless of context.
Oily skin types should avoid hyaluronic acid.
Oily skin is caused by excess sebum production, and this can be exacerbated by a lack of moisture, when the skin tries to compensate by producing even more sebum. Hyaluronic acid boosts the moisture content in the skin, not the oil content, therefore is especially beneficial for oily skin types.
Also known as CoEnzyme Q10.
Idebenone is the synthetic version of essential antioxidant CoEnzyme Q10, which destroys free radicals and protects skin cells.
What is it?
A member of the quinone family, Idebenone is the synthetic version of naturally occurring antioxidant CoEnzyme Q10, which protects skin cells from damage due to oxidative stress.
Like other antioxidants, Idebenone protects skin against free radicals and encourages damaged cells to repair themselves.
What does idebenone do?
• Targets cellular membranes to protect skin cells from oxidative stress.
• Fights free radicals.
• Encourages damaged cells to repair themselves.
Idebenone was initially developed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, with mixed results.
There are no known concerns or myths about the safety of idebenone.
Also known as Polypeptides, Pentapeptides, Neuropeptides, Oligopeptides.
Peptides are chains of amino acids that, when used in skin care, maximise the cellular conditions needed for youthful skin.
What are they?
Peptides are communicators that send signals to the dermal layers of the skin to perform specific functions. A peptide is a naturally occurring short chain of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Longer chains of amino acids are known as polypeptides or oligopeptides, and long chains of polypeptides (of more than fifty amino acids) are referred to as proteins.
Within the skin, collagen is made of protein (which is made of peptides). In fact, collagen comprises up to a third of the protein content of the whole body. Although peptides occur naturally in the body, they are also ingested via proteins such as meat or legumes. This provides essential amino acids that turn into peptides, of which one function is the production of collagen. Topical application of peptides to the skin supports this natural process, resulting in skin that looks and acts more youthful.
There are four categories of peptides with anti-ageing functions:
• Carrier peptides: enhance delivery of active ingredients to the live layers of the skin.
• Signaling peptides: direct cells to carry out specific functions, such as collagen production.
• Neurotransmitter peptides: help relax wrinkles by inhibiting the action of acetylcholine, which controls muscle contraction.
• Enzyme-inhibitor peptides: help reduce the effects of enzymes, such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which destroy proteins such as collagen.
Some peptides of particular interest to the cosmetic industry include:
• Cellcon: a new peptide that has been proven to stimulate the production of proteins responsible for intercellular communication in the skin, enhance the metabolic activity of epidermal cells, and improve skin barrier function and skin hydration.
• Argireline: A neuropeptide, also known as acetyl hexapeptide, which blocks messages to the muscles cells and slows down muscle contraction over time, which has lead to comparisons with Botox.
• pal-KTTKS, or Matrixyl: In vitro studies have shown that these peptides seem to stimulate collagen production and reduce excess dermal GAGs; qualities also attributed to retinoids.
• Palmitoyl Oligopeptide and Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 combination: mimics the appearance of broken-down collagen, causing skin to produce more collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid.
• Cathelicidin: one of many peptides that have an antimicrobial action, forming an invisible shield on the skin that has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Research indicates that excessive amounts of cathelicidin may play a role in triggering rosacea.
• Copper peptides: a copper molecule combined with a certain peptide it is chemically attracted to, said to have regenerative properties as well as an anti-inflammatory effect.
What do peptides do
• Direct and alter the activity of cells, including skin cells.
• Enhance delivery of active ingredients into skin cells.
• Maximise the cellular conditions needed for youthful skin.
• Support collagen production.
The first synthetic peptide glycyl-glycine was discovered by Emil Fischer and Ernest Fourneau in 1901. Insulin was the first therapeutic protein to be introduced to treat insulin-dependent diabetes in the 1920s. The first polypeptide (oxytocin) was synthesised by Vincent du Vigneaud in 1953.
Topical peptides were launched onto the skin care radar with copper peptide, a carrier peptide that delivers the wound-healing benefits of copper deeper within the skin, and palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, a signal peptide that was first offered as a retinol alternative.
Later generation peptides are being developed to influence collagen production, improve the dermal epidermal junction (which holds the skin together) and address a broad range of other ageing skin concerns. There are currently some 500 peptides in development, and over 140 in clinical trials.
Peptides are the one-stop solution for all the signs of ageing.
In the same way we need a varied diet for optimal health, skin cannot function at its best on just a single peptide or peptide combination. The best skin care will combine the benefits of peptides with other key active ingredients.
PLANT Stem Cells
Also known as meristematic, or undifferentiated cells.
Plant stem cells are unprogrammed cells that can morph into, and replenish, any other cell type, which makes them excellent repairers of skin damage.
What are they?
Stem cells in plants carry the entire DNA gene expression of the plant and are ‘undifferentiated’ cells which means they can morph into other cell types to help the plant regenerate. Plant stem cells replenish themselves, self-renew and are able to continue to divide almost limitlessly. This makes them invaluable for skin care, as they offer numerous benefits such as protection from photo damage and oxidative stress, an energising effect on tired skin and a firming action on mature skin.
Common plants used for stem cells include the Swiss Uttwiler Spätlauber apple, the original subject of plant stem cell study; Edelweiss, which has antioxidant properties, as well as stopping the enzymes that break collagen bonds and degrade hyaluronic acid in the skin; Gardenia, which contains the antioxidant ferulic acid, supports the skin’s infrastructure and enhances moisture retention; and Sea fennel which has a brightening action.
Plant stem cells are harvested by slightly cutting the plant, which reacts by ‘deprogramming’ its cells so that they are neutral in function. These differentiated cells are then collected and cultured to concentrate the presence of phenylpropanoids, which are actives created in response to injury or trauma, by 1,000 times or more. When applied to the skin, the finished product stimulates and supports cell renewal.
What do plant stem cells do?
• Stimulate healthy cell renewal.
• Protect skin stem cells against UV damage.
• Accelerate the skin’s natural repair process.
• Support healthy skin structure.
In the mid 1800s it was discovered that cells were basically the building blocks of life and that some cells had the ability to produce other cells. The earliest recorded plant stem cell research was done in Switzerland in the 18th century, using apples that lasted for months and healed themselves when punctured or bruised while still on the tree. This suggested phenomenal cell longevity and soon led to research into how these resilient plant stem cells could be harnessed for topical skin care.
Stem cell research in reference to human stem cells has been a controversial subject, but there is no relationship between human stem cells and plant stem cells. Plant stem cells come from plants, not human tissue of any kind, and plant stem cell research does not kill host plants or damage the environment.
Also known as Retinoids, Retinol, Retinoic Acid, Retinyaldehyde, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinyl Propionate, Retinyl Acetate.
Vitamin A is the anti-wrinkle vitamin. It increases cellular turnover, collagen production and circulation within the skin.
What is it?
Retinoid is the general term covering the vast range of ingredients derived from vitamin A. The retinoid family comprises vitamin A (retinol is the technical term for vitamin A) and its natural derivatives such as retinaldehyde, retinoic acid, and retinyl esters, as well as a large number of synthetic derivatives.
Vitamin A is responsible for the normal texture and functioning of tissues and skin. It activates the natural regeneration of dermal tissue and improves its elasticity, and is widely revered as the ultimate anti-ageing ingredient. Because vitamin A cannot be synthesised by the body, it needs to be supplied. Topically applied, retinoids can positively affect the way cells are formed deep in the dermis.
What does vitamin A do?
• Positively affects the way cells are formed deep in the dermis.
• Stimulates the production of collagen.
• Increases the production of epidermal hyaluronic acid.
• Decreases the production of dermal GAGs, known to destroy collagen production.
Retinoid history dates back to ancient Egypt where liver was used to treat night blindness, but vitamin A wasn’t identified until 1913. The importance of retinol (vitamin A) was discovered during World War I and subsequent research showed that its deficiency gives rise to abnormally dry skin and follicular hyperkeratosis. In the early 1930s, the chemical structure of retinol was determined and as early as 1938, researchers documented both the need for vitamin A in skin care, and its role in constructively ameliorating photo-damaged skin. The first study using vitamin A to treat acne was published in 1943.
Dr Albert Kligman, MD is credited as being the first dermatologist to show a link between sun exposure and wrinkles. He coined the term photo-ageing to describe skin ageing caused by the sun. In 1967, he patented Retin-A, a vitamin A derivative known generically as tretinoin, as an acne treatment. 1983 saw the first application of tretinoin in the management of skin ageing, and Kligman received a new patent in 1986 after discovering the drug’s wrinkle-fighting ability.
All retinoids do the same thing.
Prescription formulas contain retinoic acid. Ove-the-counter products use another form of vitamin A: retinol, which needs to be converted into retinoic acid by the skin at the cellular level. While it eventually does the same thing, retinol is gentler than retinoic acid, and takes longer to see results.
Retinoids exfoliate the skin.
Though a little bit of redness and peeling may occur, retinoids are not exfoliants. They work by increasing cellular turnover, collagen production and circulation within the skin.
Retinoids increase the risk of sunburn.
While it’s true that retinoids break down in sunlight, which means they are more effective at night and should be protected from sunlight, they do not make the skin more prone to sunburn.
“Clinical studies have shown pretty definitively that retinoids do not lower the MED – or minimal erythemal dos – of human skin, which is the amount of UV light you can take before the skin burns,” says Dana Sachs, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School.
You should stop using a retinoid if it irritates your skin.
The redness and irritation when a client first starts using vitamin A is part of the process. As the skin cells adapt to the retinoic acid and learn to tolerate it, the irritation tends to cease. If the irritation is very uncomfortable or prolonged, a weaker formula should be used instead, until the skin becomes used to it.
Also known as L-ascorbic acid, ascorbic acid or L-ascorbate
Vitamin C protects the skin against free radicals that would otherwise destroy skin cells, and stimulates collagen synthesis.
What is it?
The skin relies on antioxidants for protection against free radicals that result from exposure to UV rays, cigarette smoke and other pollutants, and cause photo ageing. L-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C, is one of the most prolific and powerful antioxidants in the body.
Free radicals interfere with the production and maintenance of collagen in the skin. When collagen fibers are inadequate in number or misaligned, the skin structure breaks down and loss of elasticity and wrinkling result.
Vitamin C protects the collagen in the skin and is necessary for new collagen production and wound healing. The body lacks the enzyme required to synthesise vitamin C, so we rely on topical and dietary supplementation. While vitamin C is readily available from foods such as citrus fruits and green, leafy vegetables, these types of ingested vitamin C don’t deliver high enough concentrations of L-ascorbic acid to skin. The correct topical application of vitamin C is known to increase skin cell repair, collagen synthesis and photo protection and improve skin texture and tone.
What does vitamin C do?
• Stimulates collagen synthesis.
• Provides sun protection.
• Protects against free radicals.
• Improves skin texture and tone.
In 1536, French explorer Jacques Cartier used a local native tea made from boiling the needles of the arbor vitae tree to save his men from scurvy, a disease that was responsible for the death of many long-voyage sailors. The tea was later shown to contain high levels of vitamin C. In 1747, Scottish naval surgeon James Lind discovered that sailors who ate a diet rich in citrus foods were protected against scurvy, which causes bleeding under the skin, ulcers and joint weakness (now known to be the result of a deficiency in vitamin C).
Vitamin C was rediscovered by Norwegian physicians in 1912, and was the first vitamin to be artificially synthesised, around 1933, which allowed it to be mass-produced.
Any old vitamin C will do.
There are four key factors to the proper topical application of L-ascorbic acid; molecular structure of the vitamin C; concentration of the L-ascorbic acid; the pH of the L-ascorbic acid serum; and proper packaging of the L-ascorbic acid.
A study published by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery demonstrated that free L-ascorbic acid is the only molecular structure proven to penetrate into the skin and neutralise those damaging free radicals. Therefore, simply because a vitamin C derivative is in a product does not mean it is effective – unless it is L-ascorbic acid. In addition, many preparations lack a sufficient concentration of free L-ascorbic acid for biologic activity and penetration.
Many vitamin C preparations also are not pH-adjusted for optimal biologic activity and penetration. Preparations with a pH higher than 4.0 will oxidise the L-ascorbic acid in the product, but a pH lower than 2.5 increases the chance of skin irritation. An ideal pH is between 2.6–2.8.
Equally important is proper packaging that protects against oxidation of the L-ascorbic acid due to exposure to UV and oxygen. Not only does oxidation render L-ascorbic acid ineffective, it may increase the formation of free radicals – the very thing it is designed to protect against. Clients must replace the lids on vitamin C products as soon as possible, and choose packaging that protects against light.
Eating an orange will give the same results.
Research has shown that dietary or oral supplementation with L-ascorbic acid cannot generate adequate levels in the epidermis for beneficial antioxidant effect.
Also Known As Philosopher’s Wool, Zinc White, ZnO
Zinc oxide is a physical sun blocker that protects the skin by blocking the absorption of UVA and UVB rays.
What is it?
Zinc oxide is a mineral powder often used as an active ingredient in sun protective products. Unlike chemical sunscreens that absorb UVB rays, zinc oxide is a physical blocker that remains on the surface of the skin and prevents the absorption of both UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide doesn’t break down in the presence of ultraviolet light like some chemical sun screens, and as long as the particles are of a certain size, zinc oxide is not absorbed into the blood stream. Zinc oxide-based sunscreens are also less irritating to skin.
Zinc oxide has antifungal and antimicrobial properties and is suitable for sensitive skin, so it is used in antiseptic ointments that treat minor skin irritations such as burns and nappy rash. Calamine lotion is predominantly made up of zinc oxide.
What does zinc oxide do?
• Prevents the absorption of UVA and UVB rays into the skin.
• Antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
Pushpanjan, likely zinc oxide, was used to treat open wounds as far back as 500 BC.
One of the oldest uses of zinc oxide was in alchemy, which predates ‘science’ and was considered a branch of philosophy. Burning zinc in air produces zinc oxide that clumps together like white wool, hence its other name as Philosopher’s Wool.
Clients may not like the white colour that zinc oxide can leave on the skin, so many physical sun screens now use micronised zinc oxide, which consists of invisible, nano-sized particles.
There have been concerns raised about the use of nanoparticles in skin care due to the possibility of absorption into the bloodstream. There have been studies both proving and disproving this theory, but as a result, zinc oxide particles may be coated to render them inactive.
A study carried out at the Missouri University of Science and Technology showing that when zinc oxide is exposed to ultraviolet light it releases free radicals, which is also a problem with chemical sunscreens. Despite this, the benefits of wearing sun protection outweigh the negatives.