Glossary of Skincare

Vitamins


Vitamins are antioxidants. Antioxidants put simply work to neutralise free radicals to encourage repair of DNA of cells. They inhibit inflammation, which leads to collagen depletion, and they offer protection against photodamage and skin cancer. Topically applied, in sufficient formulation or conditions, vitamins include:

  • Vitamin A - the derivatives of vitamin A are called retinoids. Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid) is one of the most prescribed "anti-wrinkle" prescription creams. Originally formulated to help with cell turnover to reduce acne, other cosmetic effects have made it the all-in-one. Tretinoin's much weaker subsidiaries, such as Retinol, are sold over the counter with less regulation over the quality and quantity of retinol in the product.
  • Vitamin B - Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) is a potent antioxidant that is generally well tolerated. It repairs the DNA in the skin barrier (living epidermis), thus reducing water loss and hyperpigmentation. Studies have revealed significant reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, red blotchiness, and skin sallowness, as well as improved skin elasticity.
  • Vitamin C - There is clinical data to support the use of topical vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid) to improve fine lines and reduce both pigmentation and inflammation. However, many of these formulations are not effective on the skin because the concentration of L-ascorbic acid is too low or exposure of the product to air and light compromises the stability of the product. In high enough concentrations (at least 10%) this antioxidant can inhibit sun damage.Vitamin C can make skin more sensitive to sunlight so be sure to pair with either a good sunscreen or use at night-time.

    It’s worth noting that many people assume citric acid is directly linked to vitamin C, however, it is not considered to be a direct source of L-ascorbic acid and should be considered an AHA exfoliant rather then an antioxidant.
  • Vitamin D - The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that an adequate amount of vitamin D should be obtained from a healthy diet or suppliments. There is no scientifically validated, safe threshold level of UV exposure from the sun or indoor tanning devices that allows for vitamin D synthesis without increasing skin cancer risk. So don't go out into the sun "to top up your Vitamin D" it's not scientifically safe, and here at Skin Lab we are all about practising safe sun.
For more information head to The Skincare Chemist. Should we be eating foods with antioxidants too? Simple answer ; YES. Whether you apply your antioxidants topically or ingest them in your diet or supplement form you will receive the range of benefits of these powerful free radical destroyers. Primary Source: J. K. Rivers, MD, FRCPC




Retinoids (Vitamin A)


Vitamin A and its derivatives (retinoids) are possibly the most prevalent anti-aging ingredients on the market today. These derivatives include vitamin alcohol (retinol), vitamin A esters (retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate), and vitamin A aldehyde (retinal). Retinoic acid ( tretinoin), is only available by prescription and is not found in over-the-counter skincare products. Tretinoin, due to the substantial amount of clinical research, is considered the gold standard for cosmetic rejuvenation. However, it is a dermal irritant - causing increased sensitivity, redness and flaking. The indication for use as described by the US FDA for one of the most prescribed "anti-wrinkle" prescription creams is as follows: "an adjunctive agent for use in the mitigation of fine facial wrinkles in patients who use comprehensive skin care and sunlight avoidance programs." Retinol - the weaker derivatives of Tretinoin - are commonly found in the products you buy from beauty companies. Evidence for retinol products is largely based on it's association with Tretinoin. The effectiveness of Retinol products by most skin experts is regarded as marginal at best. For very sensitive skin, starting on a retinol can help prepare the skin's tolerance for moving later onto tretinoin. Exposure to sunlight should be avoided when using vitamin A derivatives as their use may increase sun sensitivity and sunburn potential. In addition, Vitamin A derivatives must be avoided during pregnancy as they may increase the risk of birth defects. Primary Source: Dr Feyne Frey




Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)


Chemical exfoliation - sit on the surface of the skin helping break down and stimulate turnover of epidermis (upper layer) dead skin cells. AHA's are a class of chemical compounds that can be either naturally occurring or synthetic. Many are derived from organic sugars, with glycolic acid (from sugar cane) and lactic acid (from milk) the best-known and best-researched of the bunch. These are 'actives' usually best as a serum left on the skin overnight. Also referred to as fruit acids, they are a common ingredient found in cosmeceutical products.
Examples include:

  • Citric acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Malic acid
  • Pyruvic acid
  • Tartaric acid




Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)


Chemical exfoliation - these acids penetrate deeper into the skin with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Not to be used during pregnancy or if you have an allergy to aspirin. The most common BHA is salicylic acid. Acids are 'actives' which suit oily and acne-prone skin types. These are 'actives' usually best as a serum left on the skin overnight. Often, salicylic acid is used in cleansers, this reduces the activity of the acid on skin but makes it more suitable for use on combination, dry and sensitive skin types.




Antioxidants


All living things utilize oxygen to harvest the energy our cells need for survival. In doing so, oxygen produces an unstable form know as a free radical. While this is necassary and healthy for our bodies, a very popular theory within the scientific community alleges that free radical formation results in cell damage. Antioxidants reduce free-radical damage, thereby preventing impairment at the cellular level. When it comes to skincare, antioxidants in your topical routine form a protective barrier preventing and repairing cell damage created by factors such as exposure to UV, Infrared and the environment. Common antioxidants include:

  • alpha-lipoic acid (ALA),
  • L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) (and it's less potent subsidiary sodium ascorbyl phosphate)
  • niacinamide (vitamin B3),
  • N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG)
  • á-tocopherol (Vitamin E)
  • ubiquinone (CoQ10).




Chemical Exfoliants


Chemical exfoliation is the use of acids (alpha-hydroxy acid and beta-hydroxy acids) to either sit on the surface of the skin helping break down and stimulate turnover of epidermis (upper layer) dead skin cells or deeper




Physical and Chemical Sunscreen


Let's say it together: Practise Safe Sun. The effects of sunlight are attributed to 80 to 90% of skin damage that is the cause of aesthetic aging. Prevention is much more effective then trying to reverse the damage once done. A good routine is one in which you wear an 'adequate amount' of SPF 25+ sunscreen every-single-day. Ultraviolet light (UV) is the cause of skin damage, and thus the bad boy driving the aesthetic signs of aging. There are two types; UVA and UVB.

  • UVA is the main cause of aging. It has the ability to penetrate clouds and windows and penetrates the skin the deepest. Broad sprectrum sunscreen includes UVA protection.
  • UVB is the main cause of reddness and burning. SPF is only a measure of UVB protection.
Some cosmetics that include SPF are not providing essential UVA protection.
  • Physical sunscreen uses Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide to form a shield against UV. Good for everyone but especially skin types that are dry and sensitive.
  • Chemical sunscreen uses active ingredients to absorb the UV like a sponge. They tend to absorb easier without leaving a white residue and are the best for oily skin types.
Dark skin types are vulnerable to sun damage too. There is just a slightly higher natural SPF (SPF 12 compared to a pale caucasians natural SPF of 3). It's important that skin of colour also practise safe sun. SPF 15+ is generally sufficient for skin of colour while pale skin types should start at a SPF 30+. Sunscreen also reduces your risk of skin cancer. So remember to put it on as much skin as you can, not just the face (although you may like use a thicker sunscreen lotion for the rest of your body) Read more about sunscreen in our Skincare Wiki Primary source: Dr Anjali Mahto




Acids


When you see a key ingredient that is an acid, you are fogiven for thinking it's going to shed the cells to encourage new cell growth, many acids do have exfoliation properties like the family of acids belonging to AHAs or BHAs. Some acids are antioxidants (like L-Acorbic Acid), some are exfoliants (like Salicilic Acid Key acids in skincare (excluding AHAs and BHAs):

  • Azelaic acid - possessing antibacterial and and antioxidant properties. Scientific evidence shows that azelaic acid is an effective anti-acne alternative to Benzole Peroxide for sensitive skin type. Azelaic acid was also shown to be a mild pigment lightening agent when stronger other pigmentation agents such as hydroquinone and retinoids can not be used due to skin sensitivity.
    • Anti-Acne
    • Fading pigmentation and sun damage
  • Feluric Acid - an antioxidant fighting free radical and repairing cell damage (like Vitamins). A study of Chinese women applying a serum containing vitamins, C and E and ferulic acid demonstrated the potential photoprotective effects against UV skin damage. (note - Skinceuticals has patented this solution).
    • Fading pigmentation and sun damage
  • Hyaluronic Acid - Produced naturally by our bodies it is a major component of our skin. It is a gel-like, water-holding molecule that is a powerful moisture-binding ingredient. Hyaluronic Acid is a key ingredient in dermal fillers (which should be administered by a dermatologist or dentist) It's gets complicated with some Dermatologists (e.g. Dr Alice Rudd) say that any topical application of hyaluronic acid is completely supercifician as the skin dermis can not absorb it. So it sits on the skin, feels nice, but it not aiding in skin hydration - unless it's injected in as a dermal filler.
For further information on Acids head to The Skincare Chemist.




Skin Structure


Skin is a sensory organ and the first line of defense. There are two parts to skin: Epidermis The outtermost layer that is made up of dead skin cells forming the key function as the 'skin barrier'. This layer is responsible for physical protection, waterproofing, pigmentation and skin colour, microbiome (immunity) and the deepest part of the epidermis holds the living Merkel 'sensory' cells that give us the feeling of touch. This outter layer of skin naturally turns over every 28 days or so, so if you want to compare your before and after's - make sure you're giving a routine a solid 4, 8 or 12 weeks. Dermis The dermis is where nerve endings and structural support is produced. Key components include; the protein collogen (which gram for gram is stronger then steel), hyaluronic acid (a sugar molecule which has the capacity to bind over 1000x it's own weight in water) and elastin (works just like an elastic band).