Cosmeceutical skin care is based on active ingredients that are researched and formulated to keep your skin at its optimum health by performing such actions as renewing skin cells, retaining moisture and increasing circulation. This translates to glowing healthy skin that has a fresh appearance, even after a big night. Use this guide to get to know some of those ingredients that can be the secret to a beautiful complexion.
Think of a banana. When it over ripens it turns brown, which is due to a process called oxidisation. Within our surrounding environment such things as pollution, chemicals, smoking and even the oxygen we breathe are slowly causing this ‘browning’ process in our bodies and skin. Luckily for us, we have many naturally occurring anti-oxidants, but by adding a booster through our skincare and diet we can shield ourselves with armour that slows the process and replenishes our internal and external health.
2. Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)
As you would expect from the word acid, these products have a dissolving effect. In skincare, the strength of that effect is based on the percentage of the acid. The smaller concentrations for everyday use will dissolve the dry top layer of skin resulting in a fresh and smooth complexion. Higher percentages, which are able to absorb more deeply, are the AHA’s used in salons for chemical peeling. Common AHA’s are all derived from naturally occurring ingredients; glycolic acid from sugar, citric acid from fruit, mandelic acid from almonds and lactic acid from milk.
3. Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)
The main BHA is salicylic acid. The main difference between an AHA and a BHA is that BHA’s dissolve in oil and AHA’s dissolve in water. This makes salicylic acid the go-to choice to provide a deep clean in oily and acne prone skin types.
Think of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When you pour the vinegar into the oil they remain separated, however when you vigorously mix them they become one; otherwise known as emulsifying. In terms of skincare, an emulsion allows oil-based ingredients to be delivered to the skin in a water-based preparation or vice versa. Don’t think about it too much. Essentially it’s the word to describe the format of skincare just like gel, lotion and cream.
Enzymes are like the movie producer; they speed up the process of things happening. If we go back to the fruit example, the natural ripening of fruit is due to the enzymes within. In saying that, papain from papaya and bromelain from pineapple are common enzymatic ingredients contained in skincare. One of their main uses is to gently exfoliate away the top layer of flaky skin, so they are a great alternative to those who find hydroxy acids too harsh.
Hyaluronan,also known as hyaluronic acid is like a sponge. It is naturally present in the skin and body and can hold as much as 1000 times its own weight in H20. This water-loving quality and its ability help repair damaged cells makes it the superstar of some dermal fillers, quality moisturisers and serums. You know when you have been sunbaking and after the initial thrill of having a little colour your skin just looks thirsty? This is because your naturally occurring hyaluronan degrades when it’s exposed to UV rays. Eek!
In Greek speak, iso means equal and tropos means direction. Put them together and apply them to skincare, formulas that are isotropic are harmonious with every cell of the human skin. The ingredients of isotropic skincare replicate the cells contained in the skin when it is at ideal health. This also means active ingredients will be delivered with less irritation and less reactions of sensitivity.
8. L-Ascorbic Acid
Vitamin C is what we call this anti-oxidant around the block. Think of Vitamin C as Pac Man, munching all the nasty pests off of your skin. It will help boost the immunity of your skin cells, even out skin tone and preserve collagen.
Lipids are oils or fats. They are a common base ingredient in skincare and have the advantage of being able to easily integrate into the skin structure. Common lipids are beeswax and wool grease. They can be used to deliver active ingredients into the deeper layer of the skin, soften the outer layer and help keep hydration within the skin.
Otherwise known as Vitamin B3, Niacinamide is another anti-oxidant and is essential in the body for healthy, active function. One of B3’s main benefits in skincare is its anti-inflammatory qualities, which make it popular in the treatment of acne.
Peptides play an important linking role in the structure of the skin’s natural collagen, collagen being the protein in the skin that keeps it plump (its depletion with ageing contributing to sagging and wrinkles). By adding peptides through skincare, we can trick the skin into signalling the body to link and repair damaged collagen. The most hyped of the bunch is copper peptide as it has proven wound healing effects and helps in the preservation of collagen and elastin in the skin.
This ingredient is Vitamin A and happens to also be the most researched and publicised ingredient in the skincare world. Not only is it a powerful anti-oxidant that helps skin to fight off free radicals, it has a proven ability to renew and repair collagen. Many people can have a sensitivity issue with retinol, which is why it’s important to be weaned onto its use and to ensure that an SPF is being used vigilantly during the day. Retinol should only ever be a part of your night-time routine as it quickly oxidises in sunlight. Also because of this, only buy retinol sold in opaque packaging.