I recently got an email which chided me for being too negative about too many cosmetic ingredients. ” If you don’t like vitamin E, peptides, and seaweed, what do you think is worthwhile” she challenged me.
Fair enough. Truth is there are ten ingredients that I love because they truely deliver as promised. Some are for acne, others for anti-aging and a few for sun proection. Best of al,l only one needs a perscription. I also relish the fact that in many of them, the FDA requires that their concentration by percentage must be listed on the label– so you can see at a glance if it has what your skin needs.
1. Glycolic Acid
Derived from sugarcane, glycolic acid is considered the most effective form of alpha hydroxy acid. In a cleanser, toner,moisturizer or mask, glycolic acid takes off dead dry skin cells, increases cell renewal and stimulates collagen production. Its useful for oily skin, acne prone skin and as an anti-aging tool. But to be effective most glycolic acid products need to have at least 8% glycolic acid in the formulation.
The cells of the top layer of the skin are held together by ceramides, a kind of fatty substance that acts like glue to keep cells in a healthy ordered pattern. Even better, ceramides are equally important at holding water molecules in the skin. Ceramides like so many factors, decline in the body as we get older. A ceramide moisturizer definately levels the playing field.
3. Vitamin C
Anti-aging properties have been attached to many vitamins, but vitamin C is the one that has the science to back up the claims. Vitamin C ( AKA ascorbic acid) is essential for the growth of healthy collagen. In fact the National Health and Nutrition study of 17,000 Americans found that those with diets highest in vitamin C had the youngest looking skin and fewest wrinkles. Even better, vitamin C is one of the few ingredients that is truely helpful inside and out. But and its a big but, vitamin C is extremely fragile and not effective in many formulations. Exposure to light, heat, and moisture quickly degrade vitamin C and steal its anti-aging properties. When you buy vitamin C serum, make sure its packaged in a dark brown or green glass vial with at least 5% concentration.
4. Benzoyl Peroxide
This skin care work horse is a tried and true acne buster that packs a one-two punch. It can take off the top layer of dead dry skin cells that are clogging pores and stale oil that is blocking the pores and kills the bacterria in the skin that trigger breakouts. Until recently the FDA alllowed a maximum of 2.5% in over the counter acne preparations. Now this limit has been lifted and its possible to purchase formulations the have up to 10% benzoyl peroxide.
But benzoyl peroxide can be very irritating and its best to start with lower concentrations, and if well tolorated work up to stronger formulas. Like Retin A, you should wait 10-30 minutes after washing your face before applying benzoyl peroxide. Limit use of alcohol based toners and glycolic acid products when starting with benzoyl peroxide. Because it can increase sun sensitivity, always top benzoyl peroxide treated skin with at least a 30SPF sunscreen.
5. Zinc Oxide
Zince oxide is a white mineral that has been used for skin care since the time of the Greeks. Over the centuries, it has been useful for ointments, baby powder, dandruff shampoos and is the primary ingredient in calamine lotion. Currently, zinc oxide ( and its cousin titanium dioxide) are the dermatologists favorite sunscreen ingredient. They are called physical sunscreens because they literally physically block the rays of the sun. Zinc oxide sits on the skin surface and shields the skin from both UV A and UVB says. Because they are not absorbed by the skin, physical sunscreens are less irritating and less likely to provoke breakouts. This means that zinc oxide sunscreens are the best option for sensitive and acne prone skin. Look for products that contain at least 5% zinc oxide ot titanium oxide.
Next week– The final five ingredients and a list of the affordable products that feature them.