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What are peptides and how do they help the skin?

Peptides are chains of amino acids. Peptides are thought to send signals or stimulate the skin to behave in a different way. It is believed that certain sequences of amino acids produce different effects when exposed to the skin.  Probably the most well known in skin care products is a peptide called palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, commercially know as Matrixyl. This peptide helps to improve the firmness of the skin. Based on documented research, this peptide stimulates collagen production in the skin and also increases the amount of water-binding substances in the dermis. Regular use of this product can improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, firmness, and elasticity.

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Another well known peptide is acetyl hexapeptide-3, commercially known as Argireline. This product has anti-wrinkle properties  and is often promoted and used to treat expression lines, but it can be used on any type of wrinkles. The peptide works by inhibiting certain binding proteins that create the tension that causes wrinkling. There are other types of peptides now available in skin care products that can help with elasticity, puffiness, fluid retention, and other esthetic problems. Peptides are being used in serums, moisturizers, eye creams, and other types of products. To have a real lasting effect on the skin, peptide products must be used consistently, solid results can not be expected from periodic use. Peptides can be used in conjunction with other products to minimize the appearance of aging, including sunscreens, AHA products, antioxidants, lipid-based products, and moisturizers. A combination of all these ingredient types in a planned program for daily application can produce substantial improvement in appearance of age or sun damage related wrinkling, elastosis, puffiness, and other visible signs of aging.

Exfoliation and Aging Skin

What effect does daily chemical exfoliation have on Aging Skin ?

Chemical exfoliation is the use of a product that dissolves or loosens dead skin cell build up. Mechanical exfoliation removes surface cells by physically bumping them off the skin. A scrub is an example of a mechanical exfoliator. Using a daily chemical exfoliant such as alpha hydroxy acid can make a huge difference in skin that already has aging symptoms, and it can actually help maintain younger looking skin. Mechanical exfoliators are good for helping make the skin look smoother and clearer but, does not have the same long range effects as daily use chemical exfoliants. Alpha Hydroxy Acids include glycolic, lactic, mandelic, malic, and tartaric acids. Beta Hydroxy Acids include salicylic acid and citric acid.

By loosening and removing dead surface cells chemical exfoliants accomplish the following :

  • Removal of dead cell build up on the skin’s surface immediately causing a smoothing effect on the skin, reflecting light more evenly and making wrinkles look less deep.
  • Fine lines are significantly lessened, often to the point where they are no longer visible.
  • Daily use of AHAs speeds up the epidermal cell renewal, significantly improving hydration, helping to plump the skin surface cells, and improving smoothness and texture.
  • With daily use of AHAs the barrier function is improved due to the acceleration of the cell renewal cycle.
  • Routine use of daily AHAs stimulates the production of new collagen in the skin.
  • It also removes stained or hyper-pigmented dead cells, improving the appearance of dark spots, sun related freckles, and splothchiness.

How do I know which type of Alpha Hydroxy home care product is right for my skin?

Alpha Hydroxy acid products are available in cream, lotion, serum, and gel forms. They are worn on the skin usually under a moisturizer or sunscreen. Creams are most often intended for dry skin and gels are best for oily or combination skin. Serums can often be used on several skin types. The percentage of alpha hydroxy acid content is important. Make sure the product contains 8-10% alpha hydroxy acid. Products with more than 10% AHA can cause inflammation and visible peeling of the skin, which is not necessary to see results with an AHA product. An AHA product should have a PH of about 3.5 and an AHA concentration of 8-10%. Products with a PH lower than 3.5 , when used daily can cause inflammation and irritation. Also, rinse off products do not have the same improvement effects on the skin as a product that is worn. Sunscreen use is imperative when using alpha hydroxy acid products. Because the skin is being routinely exfoliated, the skin must be protected from UV exposure.

Antioxidants and Free Radicals

What are the benefits of using topical antioxidants ?

Antioxidants work by eliminating free radicals and interrupting skin inflammation. Antioxidants bind electrons to electron starved free radials. Therefore, stopping free radicals from causing damage to the cells. Long term use is the key to beneficial results. Green tea, licorice extract, and grapeseed extract are examples of redness- quenching antioxidants. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Grapeseed extract, green tea extract, and coenzyme Q-10 are all examples of popular antioxidants. Because of the many types of free radicals that can be formed in the cascade of reactions, more than one type of antioxidant is needed to to squelch these reactions. Different antioxidants work in different ways on different free radials. Therefore, a mix of antioxidants is the best bet in helping aging skin.

Antioxidants are reactive and must be carefully formulated so that they do not oxidize. Once an antioxidant oxidizes it is no longer effective.  One sign of an oxidizing product is that it begins to turn dark and eventually turns brown in the bottle. Antioxidants should be stored in a cool place and not be exposed to constant light. Serums are a popular of antioxidants as they can be layered under another product.

Improving Barrier Functions of Aging Skin

What is a barrier function?

The barrier function refers to the outermost layer of the skin. The lipid matrix in the outer most layer of the skin is crucial in preventing water loss in the skin from the inside out and it also prevent irritant penetration from the outside in. As skin gets older the epidermal cell cycle slows down significantly. This slowing reduces the production of intercellular lipids, likely impairing the barrier function. This may result in dehydration causing wrinkles, inflammation and  possible damage, as irritants are more easily able to penetrate the skin. Impaired barrier function can result in dry, flaky, dehydrated skin, as well as redness and inflammation.

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How can barrier function be repaired or improved?

Barrier functions can be repaired with the use of lipid infused moisturizers and serums. It is also important to protect the skin by not using striping cleansers and using proper protectants that can guard against barrier damage.  Restored barrier function can make a significant difference in the smoothness, suppleness, and hydration of the skin.

Using gentle cleansers prevents the over stripping of the skin. Also, it is important to not over cleanse or cleanse to frequently. Choose cleansers that lightly foam, which means a low level of detergent content. A cleanser designed for sensitive skin and tested for irritancy would be a good choice for most dry aging skin types. Toners should also be free of drying alcohols.

It is also beneficial to use products that are infused with lipids. It is possible to patch the barrier function by using products that contain complexes that mimic or substitute for natural barrier lipids. These products will contain a complex of sphingolipids, phospholipids, fatty acids, and cholesterol, which together comprise the natural barrier function lipid matrix. The complexes can be used in moisturizers, sunscreen, eye cream, masks, or intensive serums. Lipid infused products are a good choice for dry skin in general.

Lastly, use alpha hydroxy acids to help restore a normal cell renewal cycle. Alpha hydroxy acids work to remove dead, dry surface cells, stimulating their replacement and the production of barrier lipids. Studies have shown significant barrier repair resulting from the use of alpha hydroxy acids.

Dry Skin During Winter

Why does dry skin get worse in the winter months? 

Dry air and exposure to cold and wind can make dry skin much worse in the winter. The low humidity in the air creates an osmotic condition in which the water levels on the surface of the skin easily evaporate into the air. The dry and cold air can also irritate the skin and cause it to become chapped. This occurs mainly on the face and hands. Indoor heat further dries the air , creating a condition that robs the skin of moisture as well. Dry skin can be flaky and itchy , this is commonly known as winter itch. Due to these factors the skin is exposed to to dry air 24 hours a day in the winter.


Is there anything I can do avoid winter dryness?

The best treatments are the following:

  • Make sure you apply moisturizer everyday. It is bet to apply immediately after you shower, before the skin is completely dry.
  • Take short shower or baths, longer showers and baths can deplete surface oils.
  • Take cooler showers. Hot showers strip the skin from its natural protective oils and can inflame skin that is already dry.
  • Avoid traditional soaps and high foaming cleanser that can also strip the skin of protective lipids.
  • The skin must be cared for everyday.
  • Use humidifiers indoors to put the moisture back into the air. Room humidifiers create moisture-laden air that does not dry the skin.
  • Also, if you visit a skin therapist there are a number of dry skin treatments that can give the dry skin a moisture boost. However, daily home care is still imperative.