By Dr Vivian Oputa
Itâ€™s great to know that aging skin is not inevitable. Modern science has merged with beauty and there is so muchÂ available to improve the appearance of skin and give it a healthier, fresher look. Your skin is capable of glowingÂ for life! You donâ€™t have to go under the knife to look 10 years younger.
The Epidermis is the outermost layer of skin and aging concerns of this layer include dullness, dryness, blotchinessÂ and fine lines. By age thirty, the epidermis typically becomes drier because there is a reduction in sebum (oil)Â production. This aging characteristic escalates during the menopausal years and increased sensitivity may occur as aÂ result of this dryness. The basal layer of the epidermis contains the pigment producing cells responsible for skinÂ colour known as melanocytes. The cumulative effect of repeated sun exposure over the years makes the melanocytes moreÂ active leading to an overproduction of the pigment melanin causing blotchy discolouration and large freckles known asÂ lentigos which often appear with age. The superficial epidermal cells of the stratum corneum known as corneocytes areÂ not shed as efficiently with age leading to accumulation and thus epidermal thickening which results in a dull,Â lifeless and sallow complexion. Exfoliation helps to rid the skinâ€™s surface of this build up of dead cells.
The Dermis lies just below the epidermis and it contains a network of blood vessels known as capillaries, sweatÂ glands, hair bulbs, nerve endings and collagen and elastin fibres which provide support and strength to the skin.Â With age the dermis also undergoes major changes. After the age of forty, 1% of the skinâ€™s collagen is lost everyÂ year. The collagen and elastin fibres break down leading to sagging (also known as â€œcrepinessâ€) and the collagenÂ producing cells known as fibroblasts diminish in number and become less active. Exposure to sunlight also affects theÂ dermis by damaging cellular DNA. This damage may lead to an increased formation of blood vessels (showing up asÂ spider veins), increased fragility and hence bruising of the skin, thinning of the glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) whichÂ surround cells, and thinning of the extracellular cement which holds the cells together. Sometimes age relatedÂ pigmentation or freckles may be lodged in the dermis which makes it difficult to correct.
There are ingredients available that work in a complementary or synergistic manner on the epidermis and dermis thatÂ should be incorporated into a skincare regimen. Making a good decision to rejuvenate the skin does not mean youÂ should go overboard and try every available cosmetic product on the market. It is advisable to incorporate at leastÂ two ingredients appropriate for your skin type that work on the epidermis and dermis.
There are seven primary active ingredients that have given excellent results in skin rejuvenation. There are alsoÂ various antioxidants that play a supportive role in the rejuvenation process. The top seven ingredients that youÂ should check cosmetic labels for are Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), Retinoids, Glycolic acid, Idebenone, N-6Â furfuryladenine, amino acid peptides and GHK copper peptides. Multivitamin and mineral supplements essential forÂ healthy skin should also be added to a rejuvenation regimen.
Antioxidants are capable of neutralizing free radicals and some of them have the added property of stimulatingÂ fibroblasts to produce collagen in the dermis. Oxidants or free radicals are responsible for turning apples brownÂ after they are cut, bananas brown when peeled, and for iron rusting when exposed to the elements. They cause similarÂ harm to body cells. Potentially harmful free radicals which damage cellular DNA are generated in the body each timeÂ you breathe, digest food, exercise or sleep. Toxic substances in air pollution, cigarette smoke, ultraviolet lightÂ and emotional stress also generate free radicals that may be harmful to health. Antioxidants work to combat theseÂ free radicals.
A proper skin rejuvenation regimen should incorporate a potent antioxidant to help reduce the rate of dermalÂ degeneration and repair/prevent free-radical damage. Examples of some antioxidants include Alpha lipoic acid,Â Beta-carotene, Blueberry extract, Blackberry extract, Bioflavinoids, Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ10 or ubiquinone), GHK copperÂ peptides, Green tea extract, White tea extract, Grape seed extract, Idebenone (a CoQ10 variant), Lycopene,Â Pomegranate extract, Marine complexes or algae, Vitamins C and E and Superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that occursÂ naturally in the skin which helps protect against free radical damage so is technically not an antioxidant.
Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives which help improve the appearance of fine wrinkles and skin discolouration byÂ providing effective exfoliation. This restores a healthier, more vibrant and glowing complexion. Retinoids alsoÂ minimize the appearance of pores, treat acne, reduce oiliness and firm the skin be stimulating fibroblastic activity.Â Retinoids include prescription Retin-A (tretinoin), Renova and Avage (Tazarotene). Retinol and Retinyl palmitate areÂ over-the-counter Vitamin A derivatives seen in several cosmetic preparations. It is advisable to use Vitamin AÂ derivatives on alternate nights and always wear a sunscreen during the day as Vitamin A creams increase the skinâ€™sÂ sensitivity to the sun.
Glycolic Acid is the smallest molecularly of all the AHAâ€™s (alpha hydroxyl acids) and penetrates the skin betterÂ making it the most beneficial for facial and cosmetic use. It works by loosening the bonds that hold skin cellsÂ together, helping to shed the sheath of dead cells (exfoliation) and by dilating capillaries thus bringing more bloodÂ and hence oxygen and nutrients to nourish the skin. It is also capable of reducing surface oils, removing blackheadsÂ and other skin impurities, stimulating collagen production and moisturizing the skin. The result is a fresh, glowingÂ complexion with an improvement in the appearance of fine lines, blotchy discolouration and pore appearance.
N-6 Furfuryladenine is a naturally derived botanical growth hormone capable of increasing moisture retention andÂ reducing the appearance of fine lines and blotchy skin pigmentation. It helps keep plants green and healthy, is notÂ as irritating to the skin as AHAs and Retinoids, does not cause sun sensitivity and is good for delicate andÂ sensitive skin types.
GHK Copper Peptide helps firm the skin, reduce inflammation and promote healing. GHK (glycyl-L-histidyl-L-lysine) isÂ a peptide normally found in human skin and tissue that binds copper molecules to allow them to arrive at target sitesÂ in their active state. The chemically synthesized form known as prezatide copper acetate is added to cosmeticÂ preparations for use on the skin. This acts by stimulating collagen and elastin production, the formation ofÂ extracellular cement between cells improving strength and the formation of GAGs (glycosaminoglycans) which thickenÂ the dermis. It also increases blood vessel formation leading to increased oxygenation of the skin and acts as anÂ antioxidant by stimulating the enzyme superoxide dismutase.
Vitamin C in its active form (L-ascorbic acid) firms the skin, reduces under-eye bagginess and improves blotchy skinÂ pigmentation. It works as an antioxidant and also stimulates fibroblastic activity. Amino acid peptides used in skinÂ rejuvenation stimulate fibroblasts to produce collagen leading to firmer skin
Idebenone, a variant of coenzyme Q-10, is the newest antioxidant available for cosmetic use and it is capable ofÂ firming the skin and improving its texture, correcting skin discolouration and improving the appearance of fineÂ lines. It is promoted as the most potent and effective antioxidant ever used in the history of skin care. It reducesÂ mitochondrial DNA free radical damage and helps prevent cellular DNA damage caused by the harmful rays of the sun butÂ is not a sunscreen. Studies have shown idebenone to be more potent than Vitamin C, N-6 furfuryladenine and alphaÂ lipoic acid.