Why do so many anti-aging creams disappoint?
Do you remember last time you were tricked by a smooth-talking salesperson and splurged a considerable sum of money on a novel "anti-aging" cream that did absolutely nothing for your skin? How often do you buy a product that looked great in a glossy magazine ad, only to experience yet another disappointment? The package looked seductive and was promoted by a glamorous model with flawlessly youthful skin. However, when you tried it yourself, it fell short of its promises.
When it comes to skin care, especially anti-aging skin care, accurate and unbiased information is invaluable. Not only will it save you money, but it also can protect your skin. Too many cosmetic products sold in stores or over the internet are not only useless, but they can harm your skin and speed up the aging process. Many products that have alluring names, elegant packaging and pleasant textures, contain a toxic mix of foreign chemicals that disrupt the fine balance of physiological processes in your skin.
Even plastic surgery and cosmetic injections (which ensure the everlasting beauty of Hollywood stars) can leave scars, skin bumps and discoloration when they are performed without adequate examination and preparation. Knowledge is power, and knowledge about your skin gives you power to preserve its youth and beauty.
Types of wrinkles
Not all wrinkles are created equal. Some wrinkles appear from the lack of adequate moisture in our skin, just like wrinkles that develop on the surface of a dried up apple. There are other wrinkles that result from underlying collagen damage. Then there are mimic wrinkles that are caused by facial expressions such as smiling, frowning and crying. And finally the skin can sag under the pull of gravity.
- Fine lines
You may notice them first appearing in the corners of your eyes. Then they may spread to your cheeks, chin, neck and décolletage. The good news is that those wrinkles are very easy to remove, at least temporarily – all you have to do is to moisturize your skin. And this is exactly what the majority of so-called "anti-aging" creams do. Some creams produce such "rejuvenating" effects in seconds; however, this is not a good sign. Even though the result may be fast and amazing, such fast swelling of the skin is never a good sign. It means that your skin barrier has been compromised and water is being pushed through it. This is not anti-aging - this is aging acceleration. To truly moisturize your skin, you need to take care of your skin's water holding barrier and restore its ability to keep plump and supple naturally.
- Mimic wrinkles
Mimic wrinkles appear on our forehead, around the eyes and on the sides of the mouth (often called "smile and frown" lines). Over time, muscle tension in the face becomes stronger than the skin's elasticity, and muscle contractions begin to create wrinkles. That is why when dermatologists inject nerve toxins such as botulinum toxin, the muscles paralyze, relaxing muscle tension and giving the appearance of much improved, smooth skin. As a result, muscle relaxers reduce or remove wrinkles. However, these toxins may actually age our faces in the long run by causing the muscles to atrophy.
Fortunately, there is a way to reduce mimic wrinkles, and this is by restoring the skin's natural elasticity with the help of ingredients that have been scientifically proven. The wonderful thing about this method is that you can reduce the visual appearance of your mimic wrinkles and still retain your ability to smile, laugh and even make faces if you wish.
- Sagging and loose skin
There is one law that everyone has to obey - the law of gravity. That is why it is much easier to lie down than it is to stand up. Our skin feels this pull too. When we are young, strong facial muscles and elastic resilient dermal proteins manage to defy gravity, keeping our skin from sagging. But as we age, muscle tension as well as collagen elasticity decrease, and this is where our skin's ability to stretch plays a bad trick on us, because we develop folds and flaps under our cheeks, eyes and chin.
Surgeons solve this problem by cutting off some excessive skin and tightening up the remaining part. This is called a surgical facelift, and it is a very efficient method of removing flaps and folds. With a facelift, you can achieve tight skin that looks great from a sufficient distance. However, if you take a closer look or if you touch this tightened up skin, there is a big disappointment – it is still the same old, floppy skin with the only difference being that it is now pulled tight. Unfortunately, the facelift does not change the structure of the skin. It does not remove old skin proteins, and it does not facilitate the production of the new ones.
The most difficult to deal with wrinkles are those that develop due to an accumulation of damage of skin's collagen and elastin. This should be a very slow process, but it is greatly accelerated by excessive UV-radiation. When skin's collagen and elastin are damaged, the skin's surface becomes uneven with dimpled, bumpy areas. A combination of collagen damage with mimic wrinkles and a pull of gravity produces deep creases such as nasolabial folds.
The most efficient approach to this type of wrinkle is the activation of the skin rejuvenating process that tightens skin by replacing damaged proteins with new elastin and collagen. In the process, the skin is first damaged using a controlled method such as chemical peels, lasers or mechanical abrasion. Follow these actions with calming copper peptides.
What are we aiming at?
The primary purpose of our skin is to serve as a strong barrier that protects our tender inner organs from the harsh environment. It is not just more or less an attractive façade, nor is it just a pretty covering for our bodies. It is the first frontier that keeps away harmful microorganisms and toxins, shields us from UV-rays, and reduces our body from drying out when exposed to air as well as from swelling from water like a sponge. It allows us to experience the world around us through the many senses, as well as to interact with it. And finally, it allows us to interact with each other. It may even make other people fall in love with you.
Biologically, human skin can be divided into three distinctive layers – epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous fat. Each layer contains important targets for anti-aging skin remedies. It also contains delicate structures that can be destroyed by toxic and alien ingredients.
What is the epidermis?
The outermost layer of skin is called the epidermis. Its thickness is only 0.03 mm in the eyelids and 1.3 mm in palms and soles. Since this layer has to withstand a significant amount of wear and tear, one may wonder how it manages to not wear out within a few months. In order to achieve this, Mother Nature devised a unique multilayered structure that continuously repairs and renovates itself.
The lower layer of the epidermis contains a basement membrane – something like a tightly woven mat that provides cell nourishment. The cells that reside on this mat are called the stem cells. They possess almost unlimited renovating power.
Approximately once every 24 hours, a stem cell divides, producing two new cells - another stem cell and a so-called committed cell.
All stem cells remain attached to the basement membrane, while every committed cell forms tight contacts with their neighbors and starts moving up towards the skin's surface, hand in hand in a unified layer. As the cells move up, they slowly die out and become flat and hard scales, filled with a special protein called keratin. These scales form a protective covering on the skin's surface called the stratum corneum.
The stratum corneum is often compared to a "brick and mortar" wall, because of hard, protein-rich scales (bricks) that are glued together with sticky, water-proof lipids (mortar). This structure is called the epidermal barrier, and its main function is to reduce water loss. If the epidermal barrier is damaged, the skin starts to lose water through excessive evaporation, which may cause it to become dry and wrinkled. A damaged barrier also opens a gate to swarms of invaders including viruses, bacteria and harmful chemicals. Since so many cosmetic products damage the skin barrier, it is no surprise that dry skin, skin allergies and irritation are on the rise.
Eventually keratinous scales exfoliate off the skin's surface and are replaced by new ones. When this process goes well, the skin looks radiant and fresh. As natural exfoliation slows down, the skin becomes dull, rough and may even develop some tiny wrinkles or "fine lines".
To rejuvenate the appearance of an aging epidermis:
- Use biological oils to water-proof the skin and to speed up skin barrier recovery in case of disruption. Avoid harsh detergents, solvents, alkaline soaps, and hot water. Use mild cleansers with neutral pH.
- Use natural antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress from toxins and excessive UV-radiation.
- Avoid chemicals that can diminish your stem cells. Keep in mind that frequent use of aggressive peels and skin resurfacing may deplete the stem cell reserve over time. Use copper-peptides to promote a youthful appearance.
- Stimulate skin renewal. As we age, the rate of skin turnover goes down. At the age of 50, it usually takes 6-7 weeks to renew the epidermis. Retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids and copper-peptides speed up skin renewal and delay an aging skin appearance.
The biology and aging of the dermis
The dermis is a layer that cushions the epidermis, supplies it with water and nutrients, as well as gives our skin its nice plump appearance and wonderful resilience. The dermis is only slightly thicker than the epidermis – 0.3 mm on the eyelids and up to 3 mm on the back.
You can imagine the dermis as a mattress – it has "springs" or fibrous proteins that give it resilience and elasticity (they are called collagen and elastin) and a "filling" or water-binding gel made of large sugar based molecules (proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans). The components of the dermis are produced by a special kind of cells – fibroblasts. These cells also play a key role in skin repair and renewal. The predominant protein of the dermis is collagen – it constitutes up to 75% of dry weight.
Glycosaminoglycan gel in the dermis attracts and binds water, creating the skin's turgor, while collagen and elastin give it the ability to stretch and to keep its shape.
Although the dermis does not have layers and does not seem to go through such a distinctive renovation process as the epidermis, it does have its own renewal cycle. All through life, the dermal fibroblasts break down worn and aged skin proteins and sugars, replacing them with new ones. Unfortunately, this process slows down with aging as well, which leads to the accumulation of damaged, non-functioning proteins, sagging, loose skin, wrinkles and other imperfections.
To rejuvenate the appearance of an aging dermis:
- Ensure prompt skin rejuvenating with timely destruction of old collagen and elastin fibers as well as synthesis of new ones. Retinoids, as well as copper-peptides and alpha hydroxy acids speed up skin renewal and encourage a youthful appearance. In addition, vitamin C and copper help tighten the skin by improving collagen. Copper is required for the main collagen building enzyme lysyl-oxidase. Therefore, low skin copper may slow down collagen synthesis.
- Maintain good circulation with regular exercise and massage. Good blood flow helps keep the dermis well moisturized, supple and firm.
- Often the dermis starts losing firmness because of the excessive action of destructive enzymes, metalloproteases. Such enzymes may be over-activated by too much UV-radiation or by toxins. Copper peptides and some plant compounds are known to balance metalloproteases, improving the appearance of aging skin.
Don't forget about the "good fat"
The subcutaneous fat insulates the body and gives it an additional cushion, making it less painful for us to bump into a sharp corner. It also gives our faces and bodies their pleasant and alluring shape. When during aging fat cells start to deplete, it has a devastating effect on our appearance. If you love your body, you should love your subcutaneous fat too – it is the foundation on which your beauty is built.
Today, it is known that fat cells can produce female hormones (estrogens), supporting the hormonal health of pre-menopause skin. Subcutaneous fat also contains stem cells that produce cytokines and growth factors, activating wound healing and fibroblasts function. Therefore, skin fat is much more than just a soft cushion underneath our skin.
How to rejuvenate your subcutaneous fat?
- Physical exercise and vigorous massage will ensure good blood flow to your skin and will reduce the appearance of cellulite.
- Avoid extreme dieting, which often results in losing too much weight too fast and then gaining it all back
- Cosmetic products have little effect on cutaneous fat, since very few cosmetic ingredients are able to reach it. However, copper peptides may help increase "baby fat" and make your skin to appear more plump and smooth.
Why you should beware of "quick fixes" in anti-aging skin care?
Sales in the cosmetic business are driven by the first impression, by an emotional rather than rational response. Today, cosmetic chemists work tirelessly to find chemical compounds capable of producing fast and impressive results. Some cosmetic products contain synthetic polymers that form a film that visually tightens the skin. Others disrupt the epidermal barrier with detergents and puff up skin's proteins with water, creating temporal swelling of the surface. Many anti-cellulite creams contain topical irritants that produce dermal swelling, temporarily masking the appearance of "orange peel skin" on the thighs. Many chemicals are added to these cosmetic products simply because they make the products seem to absorb faster or give it a smooth and velvety feel, or preserve it from spoiling for years.
In this ocean of deception, it is very difficult to tell truth from fiction.
Some hints to help you choose and evaluate your cosmetics
- Skin is a living tissue, and it can't change too fast. Use a cosmetic product at least 2 weeks to see what it is doing to your skin. With good product, you may see not much change after the first few days, but in a few weeks your skin will obviously appear to change for the better.
- If a product is truly beneficial, the skin will continue to improve for some time even after you've discontinued use of the product. If after you stop using a product, your skin immediately starts getting worse, you can throw the cosmetic away without any regrets.
- All ingredients that can do some good for your skin will be backed by independent dermatological studies. Gather the information before buying.
- If the list of ingredients contains too many difficult to pronounce chemical names, do some online research on them before using.
As you've already had the chance to see, beautiful healthy skin has a beautiful healthy structure. The only means to truly beautify and rejuvenate your skin is to restore its proper structure.
The ideal anti-aging product should:
- Strengthen the skin's own protective and reparative systems.
- Restore its natural renewal circle
- Increase its antioxidant defense
- Stimulate the skin's rejuvenating signals
- Restore the skin's moisture level
- Contain no harmful or alien chemicals
- Produce a result that becomes visible in two-three weeks.