Choosing Skin Care Products: Know Your Ingredients

These days you can’t open a magazine or turn on the TV without seeing a smooth-faced middle-aged actress or model touting skin care products that can “reverse the clock” on aging skin.  “Free radicals”  and antioxidants have become buzzwords in the quest for eternally radiant skin.

What are these “miracle” ingredients and how do they work? Can they actually erase wrinkles, repair sun damage, or diminish age spots?

The  following  is a guide to some of the best ingredients being used in skin care products that may benefit your skin.  Use this information to sort through the various lotions, creams and gels on the market.  Note  the  difference in products  purchased at the drug store verses your local skin care professional.  A higher percentage of  active ingredients are often  found  in products sold in a Medical Office or  Skin Care Business,  for the best results a short consultation is recommended before purchase.

Here are a few of the antioxidant ingredients you should know about.

Alpha- Lipoic Acid  has been called a “universal antioxidant” because it’s both water- and fat soluble. That makes it able to penetrate skin-cell membranes at all levels to protect them from free radicals, keeping the body and its skin strong.  As a primary ingredient in many skin-care products, alpha-lipoic acid can erase fine lines and wrinkles, diminish pores, and give the skin a healthy glow.

Retinol Vitamin A and its derivatives are powerful and proven anti- aging antioxidants. Retinol is a topical ingredient proven to promote collagen production and plump out skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles.  It  also improves skin tone and color, and reduces mottled patches(hyperpigmentation) on the skin.

Many dermatologists prescribe retinol’s stronger counterpart, tretinoin, or similar products to slow skin aging, improve pigmentation, and clear up acne.  Over-the-counter products containing retinols may be weaker, but are still effective in improving appearance.

Although retinol hydrates the lower layers of the skin (the dermis and hypodermis), it sometimes causes the top layer (epidermis) to become dry and flaky.  Be sure to wear moisturizer when using it or speak to a skin care professional about alternatives.

Looking for more affordable options?  More and more skin-care and cosmetics companies are incorporating natural components such as  botanicals and minerals into their  product lines,  the benefits are still there and they often cost less to produce.   Here are a few of my favorites,  these  ingredients  give  excellent results and will not “break your pocket book.”

Alpha-hydroxy Acids (AHAs)  are a group of natural-based acids found in a vast number of skin-care products include glycolic, lactic, citric and tartaric acids.  Glycolic acid was the original AHA and remains popular for its ability to remove dead skin cells and leave skin smoother, softer and more radiant.

AHA’s are used to exfoliate the skin, reducing fine lines, age spots, acne scars, and irregular pigmentation.  Peels with higher concentrations of AHAs are usually administered by an esthetician or dermatologist, but you can use lower concentrations- between 5% and 10% – in cleansers,  creams and lotions on a daily basis.  To help avoid irritated skin, start with a low concentration and apply every other day, gradually increasing to every day.   Even at lower doses, however, the acids may irritate and dry the skin, as well as increase sensitivity to the sun. Moisturizer and sunscreen are a daily must when using  AHAs.

Which brings me to my favorite sun protection ingredient,  Micronized Zinc Oxide.  I can not say enough about Zinc Oxide, it  calms irritated skin, heals acne and physically blocks out the sun without leaving your skin white in color.  Probably the most effective and least  irritating UVA sunscreen  available today that is safe  for daily use.