Every other day there seems to be a new face cream launched containing a magic ingredient which promises to reverse or prevent the signs of ageing. It is difficult for the average woman to find her way through the scientific sounding formulas to know what the right product is for her.
The following is a list of some of the ingredients which go into skin creams with an explanation of what they claim to do.
If you have questions about skin creams most beauticians in Cayman are more than happy to discuss what products are best for you and your skin.
Preservatives prevent the growth of bacteria in cosmetics to extend the shelf-life of your cream. Examples are essential oils or synthetic parabens, including ethyls, propyls and butyls. Parabens are non-toxic and approved by the regulatory authorities.
Emulsifiers ensure a smooth mixture and consistency. An example is linoelic acid.
Humectants are commonly used derivatives of mineral oil. They act as a moisturiser by drawing water from the air to the skin’s surface. They also prevent the product from losing water and drying out. Examples are glycerin and glycol.
Silicone gives the cream a pleasing texture and makes application easier.
As well as these general ingredients specific substances are added in small quantities for a specific purpose for example AHA for anti-ageing.
Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)
AHAs, or fruit acids, include citric acid from citrus fruits, malic acid from apples and lactic acid from milk. Glycolic acid derived from sugar cane is by far the most frequently used AHA.
What They Do
In low concentrations, AHAs act as exfoliators and cause little skin irritation.
In higher concentration, AHAs claim to reduce the visible signs of ageing
treat increased pigmentation.
Higher strength AHAs should be used under professional guidance and with a sunscreen.
Amino acids (peptides are the body’s building blocks, and make up proteins that are present in our skin and hair.
Claims that they can be absorbed by the skin to rehydrate and provide nutrients are not well-supported by evidence.
‘Free radicals’ damage healthy cells. In the skin this leads to lines, wrinkles and loss of skin tone.
Antioxidants can reduce the activity of these free radicals, so in theory antioxidants can help the body to repair itself.
Plenty of products contain antioxidants. In the ingredients list look out for pycnogenol (the active part of grapeseed extract) and vitamins A, C and E.
This is the chemical name for the basic molecule of vitamin C, also known as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.
Derivatives are used in skin-care products because the pure vitamin is unstable and very irritating to the skin.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can lighten pigment, and is one of the most popular ingredients in products today. But in cream form, it may not be effective.
Beta hydroxy acid (BHA)
The most common BHA is salicylic acid.
These acids are anti-inflammatory and exfoliating agents, so are useful in the treatment of spots and acne.
BHAs can cause sensitivity reactions if overused.
Ceramides are normally found in the skin and help it to retain moisture. Synthetic ceramides are one of the ‘buzz’ ingredients that claim to reverse the signs of ageing.
Co-enzyme 10 (Q10)
Also an ‘in’ ingredient, Q10 occurs naturally in the skin and is an antioxidant and antibacterial agent.
As we age, levels of Q10 decrease and this may play a part in skin ageing.
So far, the claims made for Q10’s anti-ageing properties are unsubstantiated.
Idebenone (Prevage MD) is a more potent form of co-enzyme Q10. It is the most powerful antioxidant to date, and there is clinical data to support its benefit in ageing skin. It is produced by Allergan, the makers of botox.
Collagen is a very large molecule and evidence does not support the suggestion that it can penetrate the skin. It can only sit on the skin’s surface where it gives very little benefit.
An essential protein found in the skin. It has very powerful moisturising properties, able to attract over 100 times its weight in water. But it needs to be at the correct concentration to work.
Retinoic acid, retinol or retinyl palmitate
These are all derivatives of vitamin A.
Retinoic acid (tretinoin) has convinced the medical profession that a topically applied cream can reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
Under the trademark name of Retinova, it is the first drug to be given a licence for treating sun-damaged skin.
Retinova can be irritating and make your skin more sensitive to sun, so must be used with a sunscreen.
Cosmetic companies have produced various vitamin derivatives such as retinol, a weaker version of tretinoin.
While none are as effective as Retinova, two recent studies have shown that creams with retinol can reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Often this vitamin is put into sunscreens to fight free radicals made by sunlight.