One of the most common questions we get in the office is what kind of skin care regimen the patient should be on. Patients are always asking about the specific brands of skin care they use, if we have heard of it, if it is good, or if they should be using something else. They want to know if there really is a difference between the products you find in a drugstore vs. a department store vs. a doctors office. They are curious about the specific ingredients found in skin care and if there is one particular “magic cure all” ingredient out there.
The brand of skin care that you use is important. Skin care lines that you will find in a drugstore will have lesser quality ingredient than you will find in products in a department store. Which makes sense seeing as the products in a drugstore are much cheaper than the products in a department store. The more important difference though is between the products you find in a doctors office, or specifically a plastic surgeon or dermatologist’s office vs. pretty much everything else. Product lines sold to or created by doctors will have ingredients in them that actually work to change the cellular structure of your skin in order to enhance the overall tone and texture of it. These ingredients unfortunately cannot be found in products sold at drugstores or department places simply because they hold the potential to cause a reaction that lets face it, the CVS or Nordstrom clerk wouldn’t know how to deal with, but, a doctor would.
So, what exactly are these ingredients and are they magical cure alls? Of course they are not magic and of course there is not just one single ingredient that will give your skin everything that it needs. However, there are basically 3 main ingredients that are the most important to look for in your skin care products if you are looking to improve sun damaged skin and help the overall tone and texture of your skin.
1. Some form of Retinol or Retinoid. Retinols and Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives that work to increase the number of Fibroblasts in your skin. Fibroblasts are cells found in the skin that make collagen and elastin. It is obvious how this would be appealing as collagen and elastin are what helps to make the skin plump and resilient. As we get older we lose some collagen and elastin which leads to wrinkly, loose skin. Retinoids and Retinols also help increase cell turnover. When we are younger our cells in our skin turn over very fast which is why if you get a cut when you are younger you heal quite a bit faster than when you are older. As we get older the amount of time it takes for our skin cells to turn over double and even triples! Retinols and Retinoids help to make this number closer to what it was when we were younger. This helps to exfoliate the skin getting rid of that dull look and creating a fresher more glowing appearance to our skin! Retinol is the non-prescription strength of retinoid and can be found in many over the counter products as well as in product lines in doctor’s offices. It is a good place to start when you first begin using this type of product, as it is less irritating. For example we sell in our product line Retinol 50 and Retinol 100. We will very commonly start a patient on one of these strengths initially before bumping them up to the prescription strength retinoid. It is only necessary to use a retinoid every other day, or for example Monday, Wednesday and Friday as the product actually stays in your skin for 48 hours. Only about a pea-sized amount is needed to cover the entire face and it should always be applied at night after cleansing as the sun deactivates it.
2. The second ingredient to look for is Vitamin C. Vitamin C works synergistically with retinoids and can be used at night on the days that you do not use your retinoid, so, for example, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Vitamin C is a nutrient needed by Fibroblasts in order for them to work properly, so you see how this helps retinoids as they increase the number of Fibroblasts in the skin. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that can help to protect skin cells from UV-related damage, reduce inflammation and improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin. Some patients will ask us if taking a multivitamin or Vitamin C supplements will help their skin. Multivitamins are an excellent idea for your overall health and can help you get the nutrients you need if you are not finding them in your diet, but it is unlikely that the vitamin C you consume in a pill or a food will ever reach your skin. If you are looking for the benefits of vitamin C to be seen on your face, you must use it topically. The form of vitamin C is also important to consider. Most product labels do not say vitamin C on them but instead various long scientific names that most people would not realize is vitamin C. These names represent different forms of vitamin C. The most stable and effective forms of vitamin C that you should look for in the ingredient list are: ascorbic acid, retinyl ascorbate, L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate.
3. The last ingredient to complete the “trifecta” is some form of alpha hydroxy acid (AHAs). The most common forms of AHAs are glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid and mandelic acid. Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size and therefore is able to penetrate the outer layer of skin the easiest so that it can reach the layer of skin where living cells reside. This is why it is the most commonly known AHA and it is the one you will likely find in most products. That being said, products with other forms of AHAs are still beneficial and it is not necessary to only buy products containing glycolic acid. AHAs work to improve the appearance and texture of photo damaged skin by increasing collagen in the skin as well as by increasing the thickness of skin without causing inflammation. They also help with general exfoliation of the skin. These products are best used in cleansers and can be used every day. They can be somewhat irritating in high concentrations especially if you are just beginning a retinoid regimen.
So, there you have it, the 3 most important ingredients to help with photo damage! Of course, everyone’s skin is different and therefore it is wise to meet with a skin care expert to get the best advice on exactly what regimen you should be on! At Spa on the Green, located above Dr. Brooks’ practice, we offer Skin Care Consultations with either of our fabulous aestheticians, Jennifer or Heather! Call the spa if you are interested in learning more about what you should be doing for your skin or to learn more about Dr. Brooks’ personal skin care line, Brookskin MD!