The information in this document will help you understand the latest ingredients in skin care products that may benefit your
Use this information to sort through various skin care
products on the market. If you’re still unsure which skin care products are
right for you, ask your dermatologist or consult with a skin esthetician at your
local salon or beauty counter.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)
Over-the-counter skin care products containing alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, tartaric and
citric acids) have become increasingly popular over the last five years. In the
U.S. alone, there are over 200 manufacturers of skin care products that contain
alpha-hydroxy acids. Creams and lotions with alpha-hydroxy acids may help with
fine lines, irregular pigmentation and age spots, and may help decrease enlarged
pores. Side effects of alpha-hydroxy acids include mild irritation and sun
sensitivity. For that reason, sunscreen also should be used every morning. To
help avoid skin irritation with alpha-hydroxy acids, it is advisable to start
with a product with concentrations of AHA of 10 to 15 percent. Also, make sure
you ease into it. You want to get your skin used to alpha-hydroxy acids, so you
should only initially apply the skin care product every other day, gradually
working up to daily application.
Beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid)
Salicylic acid also has been studied for its effect on skin that has aged prematurely due
to exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. It exfoliates skin and can improve
the texture and color of the skin. It penetrates oil-laden hair follicle
openings and, as a result, also helps with acne. There are many skin care
products available that contain salicylic acid. Some are available
over-the-counter and others require a doctor's prescription. Studies have shown
that salicylic acid is less irritating than skin care products containing alpha-hydroxy
acids, while providing similar improvement in skin texture and color.
Skin care products containing hydroquinone are popularly referred to as bleaching creams or lightening agents.
These skin care products are used to lighten hyperpigmentation, such as age
spots and dark spots related to pregnancy or hormone therapy (melasma or
chloasma). Some over-the-counter skin care products contain hydroquinone, but
your doctor can also prescribe a cream with a higher concentration of
hydroquinone if your skin doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments. If you
are allergic to hydroquinones, you may benefit from use of products containing
kojic acid instead.
Kojic acid is a more recent remedy for the treatment of pigment problems and age spots. Discovered in 1989,
kojic acid has a similar effect as hydroquinone. Kojic acid is derived from a
fungus, and studies have shown that it is effective as a lightening agent,
inhibiting production of melanin (brown pigment).
This is a derivative of vitamin A, and you will see that a lot of skin care products contain retinol. Retinol’s
stronger counterpart is tretinoin, which is the active ingredient in Retin-A and
Renova. If your skin is too sensitive to use Retin-A, retinol is an excellent
alternative. Here’s why skin responds to skin care products with retinol:
vitamin A has a molecular structure that’s tiny enough to get into the lower
layers of skin, where it finds collagen and elastin. Retinol is proven to
improve mottled pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, skin tone
and color, and your skin’s hydration levels. You may also hear about retinyl
palmitate. This falls into the same family as retinol, but if the skin care
product you choose contains retinyl palmitate, you will need to use more of this
product than one that contains retinol to get the same effect.
This is the only form of vitamin C that you should look for in your skin care products. There are many skin care
products on the market today that boast vitamin C derivatives as an ingredient (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or ascorbyl
palmitate, for example), but L-ascorbic acid is the only useful form of vitamin C in skin care products.
Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that is proven to stimulate the synthesis of
collagen as well, which is essential since your body’s natural collagen
production decreases as you age. Sun exposure will also accelerate the decrease
in collagen. Studies have shown that vitamin C helps to minimize fine lines, scars, and wrinkles.
Skin care products containing this substance are often used in conjunction with vitamin C products to assist
in effective penetration. Hyaluronic acid (also known as a glycosaminoglycan) is
often touted for its ability to "reverse" or stop aging. In news reports, you
might have heard of hyaluronic acid as the "key to the fountain of youth." This
is because the substance occurs naturally (and quite abundantly) in humans and
animals, and is found in young skin, other tissues, and joint fluid. Hyaluronic
acid is a component of the body’s connective tissues, and is known to cushion
and lubricate. As you age, however, the forces of nature destroy hyaluronic
acid. Diet and smoking can also affect your body’s level of hyaluronic acid over
time. Skin care products with hyaluronic acid are most frequently used to treat wrinkled skin.
Copper peptide is often referred to as the most effective skin regeneration product, even though it’s only been
on the market since 1997. Here’s why: Studies have shown that copper peptide
promotes collagen and elastin production, and also acts as an antioxidant. It
also promotes production of glycosaminoglycans (think hyaluronic acid, as an
example). Studies have also shown that copper-dependent enzymes increase the
benefits of the body’s natural tissue building processes.The substance helps to
firm, smooth, and soften skin, doing it in less time than most other anti-aging
skin care products. Clinical studies have found that copper peptides also remove
damaged collagen and elastin from the skin and scar tissue because they activate
the skin’s system responsible for those functions.
You may have heard of alpha-lipoic acid as "the miracle in a jar" for its anti-aging effects. It’s a newer,
ultra-potent antioxidant that helps fight future skin damage and helps repair
past damage. Alpha-lipoic acid has been referred to as a "universal antioxidant"
because it’s soluble in both water and oil, which permits its entrance to all
parts of the cell. Due to this quality, it is believed that alpha-lipoic acid
can provide the greatest protection against damaging free radicals when compared
with other antioxidants. Alpha-lipoic acid diminishes fine lines, gives skin a
healthy glow, and boosts levels of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C.
If you’ve heard of fish referred to as brain food, you can thank DMAE. This substance is naturally
produced in the brain, but DMAE is also present in anchovies, salmon and
sardines, boosting the production of acetylcholine, which is important for
proper mental functions. DMAE in skin care products shows remarkable effects
when applied topically to skin, resulting in the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles.
Draelos ZD. Cosmeceuticals. In: Alam M, Pongprutthipan
M, editors. Body Rejuvenation. 1st ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2010: Chap 8.
Reszko AE, Berson D, Lupo M. Cosmeceuticals: practical applications. Clinics in Dermatology
Grossman R. The role of dimethylaminoethanol in cosmetic dermatology. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology 2005; 6(1):39-47.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 3/24/2011...#10980