When you’re young, it is so easy to take your skin for granted. The elasticity and suppleness of young skin can take a great deal of abuse. The stresses of late nights and sun-filled days only looks better with the next days tan. As you age, the abuse of your younger years and a lack of routine skincare can catch up to you and it shows. Fine lines and wrinkles creep up on you quietly, brown spots and dark circles appear one day out of nowhere – but hope is not lost. To slow the aging process and perhaps bring new life to your skin, establish a skincare routine. In my office, we talk about Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Yearly.
You Daily Skincare Routine
Eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise, keep stress to a minimum and take care of your skin. Taking care of your skin on a daily basis includes four key processes:
1) Skin Preparation
2) Rejuvenation and renewal
Skin preparation involves ridding your skin of caked-on make-up, dirt, debris, dead skin cells and oil-plugs in the pores. This may sound easy, but the goal is to gently remove these impurities without damaging the vital, skin barrier of the skin.
Cleansing the skin has become a science. First, we use a gentle cleanser that is either non-foaming or modestly foaming to avoid stripping the skin of the essential oil barrier. Cleansers are calibrated to handle skin type. Gentle cleansers for red, dry and sensitive skin, more aggressive cleansing for normal to oily skin. It is important to avoid cleansing too aggressively, which can lead to breaking down the critical protective skin boundary layer.
Exfoliation is the process of removing the dead layers of skin that build up at the skin surface layer. Removing this layer improves the appearance of the skin and stimulates the deeper layers (the dermis) to make more collagen to appear more youthful. This process can be performed mechanically with an exfoliating cleanser (daily) or my favorite, an exfoliating scrub/polish (2-3 times per week). Chemical exfoliation is a milder version of this process and can be done with Retinols, Alpha-Hydroxy Acids and Vitamin C – these compounds are in many of the skincare products we sell. Of note – Be wary of exfoliating scrubs with large, irregularly shaped exfoliating beads, like St. Ives Apricot Scrubs – these irregular pieces of apricot pits can cause small tears in the skin boundary causing harm.
Skin Rejuvenation and Renewal Ingredients
This is the most confusing and most important part of the skin maintenance process. The goal of this step is to maintain a thick and elastic dermal (deep) skin layer, to even out the pigmentation and lighten brown spots and to slow the aging process. We achieve these goals with five classes of compounds;
Each cell in our body makes waste products called free radicals. These products have the ability to cause damage to the cell, its DNA and mitochondria (engine of the cell). Our cells have the ability to neutralize free radicals, but as we age this ability diminishes. As free radicals accumulate, we age at an increasing rate. Topical antioxidants are a great way to minimize the harm that free radicals create. Also, the ultraviolet rays of the sun are another external factor that increases free radical production as well as damage to the cell’s DNA. Antioxidants used in cosmeceuticals include Vitamin C (l-Ascorbic Acid), Vitamin E, Selenium, Ferrulic Acid, Resveratrol and Selenium. Additionally, one of our products comes from olive leaf extract and demonstrates a high level of antioxidant capacity.
2. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids
The deep layer of the skin is called the DERMIS. The dermis provides integrity and elasticity to the skin. The integrity is formed by a thick layers of collagen protein mixed with Glycosaminoglycans (Hyaluronic Acid). The elasticity or stretchiness of the skin is provided by a protein called Elastin. All of these essential compounds are made by the cells of the Dermis called fibroblasts. The alpha-hydroxy acids exfoliate the superficial dead layers of the skin and also stimulate the fibroblasts to make more of all the essential compounds discussed.
These are a form of Vitamin A that has been hailed as the fountain of youth for skin rejuvenation. This treatment,1) exfoliates, 2) promotes Dermal collagen and elastin production, 3) brightens the skin and evens out the complexion by evening out the Melanin within the skin, 4) reduces the risk of a particular type of skin cancer and 5) reduces the outbreak of Acne. Retinols are the perhaps the best single component for skin rejuvenation.
4. Skin Brighteners
Skin brighteners or bleaches lighten the dark spots, hyperpigmentation and melasma that form with pregnancy, sun-exposure or old age. Hydroquinone is the most effective form of skin brighten but can be irritating to some people. Most physicians suggest limiting its use to 5-6 months at a time. Other brighteners include Vitamin C and Botanicals like Arbutin, Kojic acid and Licorice.
5. Peptides and Growth Factor Serum
Peptides and growth factors are combinations of amino acids that help to smooth and tighten fine lines and wrinkles. Some Amino acids are also good at hydration. The complexity of this group makes picking the right ones a bit difficult.
While each product has its benefits, not all skin types will tolerate each compound. It is for this reason that there are so many products with some combination of the 5 products described above. My advice is to be patient and understand that if the first products don’t work out, don’t lose faith.
Hydration is an important part of the daily skin routine. Hydration is the last step to sealing the skin, repairing and reinforcing the skin barrier damaged by previous steps. While cleansing step removes essential oils, the rejuvenation therapies (antioxidants, alpha-hydroxy acids, retinols, skin bleaches and peptides) can irritate the exposed skin. Look for hydrating ingredients like Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin B5 and glycerin in their moisturizers to protect and soothe the essential barriers of the skin.
Regardless of your interest in the renewal process, protection from the sun is essential for all of us, starting at a young age. The ultraviolet rays of the sun damage the DNA of the skin increasing the risk of skin cancer. Sometimes the effects of sun damage are not evident until twenty years after the sun damage event. That means that a sunburn to the skin of a 10 year-old child can cause skin cancer when they are 30. When you ‘re at the beach with your kids, make sure that they get waterproof sunscreen applied liberally at least every two hours.
This damage also increases the number of free radicals within the cell, accelerating the aging process and the fine lines and wrinkles that come afterwards Additionally, the tanning (increase in melanin) leads to blotchiness and pigmentation issues that are the bane of anyone looking for a smooth and even complexion.
When choosing a sunscreen, the key ingredients must block all of the harmful ultraviolet rays. The ultraviolet B rays cause burning and is covered by the majority of available sunscreens. Conversely, the ultraviolet A rays that accelerate aging is only blocked by a few ingredients. The best ingredient for covering all of the harmful rays is zinc oxide. If you think of Zinc Oxide as the thick, white paste that lifeguards put on their noses you are right and wrong. Older formulations of Zinc Oxide left you looking like a pale ghost, but the newer formulations with micronized (small) particles goes on clear.
You Weekly Skincare Routine
Now that you have a daily routine, there are ways to enhance the rejuvenative process on weekly and monthly basis. Of course, things that are done to your skin less frequently and more vigorously may have some downtime. Two to three times per week, consider treating your skin with an exfoliating scrub, a home chemical peel or an exfoliating masks. Using any of these modalities, will remove the superficial, dead layers of skin while stimulating the deeper layers to rejuvenate the skin with the production of added collagen, elastin and tighter skin.
Your Monthly Skincare Routine
If you have the time and money, find a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to advise you on stronger daily therapies that are only available from a physician’s office. They can also provide you with options for routine skin therapies on a 1-3 month basis that include chemical peels and radiofrequency skin treatments.
Your Annual Skincare Routine
Routine skin checks by your dermatologist are an essential part of good skin health. Skin cancer can be easily treated when discovered at an early stage. Do not stick your head in the sand. Get checked for skin cancer and while you are at the office pick their brains about the latest and newest skin rejuvenative therapies. Something new is always coming out – the latest, newest miracle cure may be real or just hype. Your dermatologist or plastic surgeon will be able to help!
So what are you waiting for? Get off your behind and start your routine maintenance right now!
For more help, make an appointment to see Dr Freund in his NYC office – call 212-583-1200 to schedule an appointment. Alternatively, check Dr Freund’s curated collection of skincare products on his website www.DrFreundskincare.com