A Guide To Cosmeceuticals & Skin Care Products

cosmeceuticals and skincare products - skintherapy.uk

a) What is understood by skin priming?

Skin priming refers to the prepping of the treatment area before aesthetic treatments commence. The purpose is to ensure skin ‘readiness’ and in doing so, garners the safest and most effective result. Typically skin priming will occur 2-4 weeks before treatment. Skin priming is important and in many cases essential. Lack of can renders expensive treatment useless or worse, causes adverse skin reactions.

Long term product selection will need commitment in order to manage long term skin issues. As a general rule, we all should use a cleanser, hydrators, retinoids, antioxidants and growth factors. For hyperpigmentation, anti-pigment serums. For acne issues, control actives. Anti-redness for sensitive skin and vitamin K for easily bruised skin.

Chemical peels are a fantastic way to prep skin. Polyhydroxy acid peels work particularly well as they are milder in nature.

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b) What are cosmeceuticals?

Topical products range from a prescription and over the counter medicine that contains active ingredients that affect the structure of the skin, to cosmetic products that alter the appearance of the skin.

Cosmeceuticals lie within this spectrum and may be defined as either OTC products or cosmetics that deliver perceptible skin benefits. Cosmeceuticals contain potent actives that are absorbable by the skin.

Are skincare products absorbable by the skin?

Let’s think about the skin and its purpose. One of the many benefits is protection. Day to day products we buy from mainstream drug stores do little more than sit atop our skin.

Cosmeceuticals are manufactured in a way that allows the potent actives to be absorbed by the skin aiding in profound changes. A potent active could be anti-pigment good for pigmentation issues or anti-redness for excessive erythema or sensitivity.

Cosmeceuticals will aid in the regeneration of collagen and elastin for lines and wrinkles.

Does this then render basic skincare products useless?

Absolutely not. What it means is, basic skincare products are mostly superficial in nature. A short-lived but remedial benefit is possible. To decide whether we should invest in a £50 serum vs a £5 we should first think about our reason for using a serum in the first place.

Is our skin oily or dry with no other complaint or are we fighting premature ageing or acne scars? If our skin is ‘good’ we probably don’t need £100s worth of expensive cosmetics.

If our skin isn’t so good or we are committed to professional skin care treatments such as micro-needling, cosmeceuticals are worthy and arguably an essential investment. They work more effectively and therefore command a much higher price tag.

Think of the £5 serum as an alpha hydroxy face wash. A great choice for removing dead skin cells and combating oily skin. Now think of that £50 investment as a chemical skin peeling treatment. The latter will be stronger and work deeper on our skin condition. In saying that, both approaches offer remedial benefit.

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c) Making sense of cosmeceutical ranges

Skincare products are available in both basic ranges and cosmeceuticals. Depending on where we are on our skincare journey, will determine our product choices. There are 5 main products that are beneficial to all of us.

Substitute a gentle cleanser for oily skin occasionally. Excessive cleansing with oil control products can unbalance the skin, producing more oil.

1) Cleansers – Pretty self-explanatory, the first step of our skincare routine. An effective cleanser thoroughly removes dirt, makeup and other debris from the skin.

Soap is highly alkaline and causes skin irritation and dryness. It is generally not recommended for daily skin cleansing as it can unbalance the skin.

Toners consist of ingredients such as alcohol and witch hazel that removes the skin’s natural oils. Specific toners can be hydrating and used following a cleanse to restore the skin’s pH if not using a pH-balanced cleanser.

2) Hydrators – Dehydration causes many skin issues and comprises the skins natural ability to heal itself. Hyaluronic acid is one of the most popular humectant agents and is widely available. Toners are particularly great for oily skin. They can be a useful hydrator in the summer when product usage is kept to a minimum. See toner, an oily girl’s best friend.

3) Retinoids – aka vitamin A. Retinoids promote healthy skin turnover and proper skin functioning. They enhance skin shedding, inhibit melanin formation, stimulate collagen production, reduce clogged pores within hair follicles and have antioxidant functions.

Retinoid is what we call a super product, with many benefits. They’re effective for lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, keratosis pilaris and more. Retinoids are available in prescription and cosmeceutical strengths.

4) Antioxidants – Free radicals interfere with normal functioning and damage to the skin. Sun exposure, alcohol, smoking, stress, lack of sleep and illness all increase free radical activity in the skin.

An antioxidant has the power to stabilise free radical activity so reducing their damaging effects in the skin. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that protects the skin and is highly effective in the L-ascorbic acid form. Vitamin E is a lipid-soluble antioxidant that protects the skin from oxidative stress.

5) Growth factors – Growth factors are cosmeceuticals. They are potent formulations that act to regenerate skin tissue.


Exfoliants

Hydroxy acids have revolutionised treatments and skincare products. They come from many sources both natural and synthetic and used in low %’s in may products from cleansers to exfoliating scrubs and in greater % in products used for chemical skin peeling.

AHA’s are generally easy to tolerate and providing they form part of a holistic skincare routine they will not affect the skin negatively. It is important to use sun protection and hydrating products whilst using any form of chemical exfoliation.

Anti-pigmentation actives

Anti-pigmentation agents can be incorporated into a daily routine for the active treatment of pigmentation issues and as part of the skin priming and post-treatment aftercare. There are a variety of anti-pigmentation active ingredients currently used in aesthetic practice.

Hydroquinone is often considered as the gold standard by many cosmetic doctors. However, hydroquinone is no longer used in EU as it has been known to cause skin irritations and possible carcinogenic activity. There are many stories surrounding this on the net if you wish to learn more.

Hydroquinone is available OTC in the USA in strengths of up to 2%. The general consensus is to recycle product usage, avoiding prolonged use. Alternatives to hydroquinone include:

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d) How to create an effective skincare plan

The cosmetic industry can seem like a minefield. It can be difficult to devise a skincare plan and select the right skincare products. One of the best things we can do is go for a detailed skin analysis. These are routinely carried out by aesthetic practitioners during or following a consultation. Gaining a professional opinion can often help to confirm our original thoughts or identify conditions we never knew we had.

If this option isn’t accessible, using our skin type is the next best thing. We all have ideas about our skin type. Oily, dry, combination.. maybe blemished, maybe a little sensitive. If we factor in those concerns, we can often bring endless skincare products down to specific types.

Cleanse – Treat – Protect

  • We always start with a cleanse, the basic first step. Choose the right cleanser to suit our skin type. Sensitive skin will want something gentle, dry will want moisturising, oily may want something deeper cleansing/normal and so on.
  • The second step is to treat. This will incorporate growth factors, retinoid, hydrators, moisturisers, anti-inflammatories, actives and exfoliants. In this step, we think more in terms of our skin complaint. What is it we are trying to fix or reduce?
  • The third and final step is to protect. This will almost universally consist of a specific antioxidant product and finally a sunscreen. And because we typically apply sunscreen last, it’s ideal to follow this 3 step pattern when applying skincare products.

Below you will find samples of skincare routine for 4 common skin complaints.

A plan for photoaged skin that addresses signs of premature ageing, lines & wrinkles.

A plan for rosacea and sensitivity. It is true fairer skin will present greater signs of erythema but some deeper skins have been known to show signs of rosacea. All skin types can suffer sensitivities.

A plan for hyperpigmentation, from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation to hormone-induced melasma.

And finally a skincare routine for acne which should include antibacterials and anti-inflammatories.

Products listed below are not exhaustive and the aim is to guide only. You will find many such skincare routines throughout this blog. To learn more about my review process, please see the about page.

Product selection is key.

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e) Topical product routine for acne

StepsPurposeProduct TypeEXAMPLE PRODUCT WITH KEY INGREDIENTS
CleanseRemove surface debris and sebumMedicated cleanserAHA blend containing glycolic and lactic acid with Chamomile and aloe vera - Simply Clean by SkinCeuticals
TreatRegulate cellular turnoverSalicylic acid 1.5% with LHA 0.3%, glycolic acid 3.5%, citric acid 0.5% and dioic acid 2% - Blemish and Age Defense by SkinCeuticals
Antibacterial agentSpot treatmentSalicylic 2% with Azelaic acid - Skin Acne Gel by PCA Skin
Maintain hydration levelsGel, serum or lotion moisturisersHyaluronic acid-based gel with thyme and cucumber extracts - Photo Corrective Gel by SkinCeuticals or panthenol with borage seed and evening primrose oils and aloe vera - ReBalance by PCA Skin
ProtectPrevent cellular oxidationAntioxidantL-ascorbic acid 10% with ferulic acid 0.5% and phloretin 2% serum - Phloretin CF by SkinCeuticals
Prevent damage from UV radiationSunscreenTitanium dioxide 6% with zinc oxide 5% - SPF 50 Sheer Physical Mineral UV Defense by SkinCeuticals

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f) Topical product routine for hyperpigmentation

StepsPurposeProduct TypeEXAMPLE PRODUCT WITH KEY INGREDIENTS
CleanseRemove surface debris and sebumGentle facial cleanserGentle Cleanser by SkinCeuticals
TreatInhibit melanogenesisBeaching/lightening agentAdvanced Pigment Corrector by SkinCeuticals
Regulate cellular turnoverRetinoidRetinol 0.3% by SkinCeuticals
Maintain hydration levelsGel, serum or lotion moisturisersPanthenol and mango butter-based cream with oils of grape see, rose hip and macademia - Emollience by SkinCeuticals or Fragrance free moisturising lotion by Cetaphil
ProtectPrevent cellular oxidationAntioxidantL-ascorbic acid 15% with alpha tocopherol 1% and ferulic acid - CE Ferulic by SkinCeuticals
Prevent damage from UV radiationSunscreenHyperBright Complex, Titanium Dioxide - Brightening UV Defense SPF 30 by SkinCeuticals

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g) Topical product routine for rosacea and sensitive skin

StepsPurposeProduct TypeEXAMPLE PRODUCT WITH KEY INGREDIENTS
CleanseRemove surface debris and sebumGentle facial cleanserGentle Cleanser by SkinCeuticals
TreatReduce erythemaAnti-inflammatory and soothingDimethicone with algae and caperbud extracts - Anti Redness Serum by PCA Skin or Hyaluronic acid-based gel with thyme and cucumber extracts - Photo Corrective Gel by SkinCeuticals
Maintain hydration levelsMoisturiserPanthenol-based thin cream with borage seed and aloe vera - ReBalance by PCA Skin or Fragrance free moisturising lotion by Cetaphil
ProtectPrevent cellular oxidationAntioxidantL-ascorbic acid 10% with ferulic acid 0.5% and phloretin 2% serum - Phloretin CF by SkinCeuticals
Prevent damage from UV radiationSunscreenTitanium dioxide 6% with zinc oxide 5% - SPF 50 Sheer Physical Mineral UV Defense by SkinCeuticals

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h) Topical product routine for photo aged skin

StepsPurposeProduct TypeEXAMPLE PRODUCT WITH KEY INGREDIENTS
CleanseRemove surface debris and sebumGentle facial cleanserCreamy Cleanser by PCA Skin or Gentle Cleanser by SkinCeuticals
TreatAccelerate epidermal regenerationGrowth factorNouriCel-MD - TNS Recovery Complex by SkinMedica
Regulate cellular turnoverRetinoidRetinol 1% by Reform Skincare
Maintain hydration levelsMoisturiserPanthenol and mango butter-based cream with oils of grape see, rose hip and macademia - Emollience by SkinCeuticals or Fragrance free moisturising lotion by Cetaphil
ProtectPrevent cellular oxidationAntioxidantL-ascorbic acid 15% with alpha tocopherol 1% and ferulic acid - CE Ferulic by SkinCeuticals
Prevent damage from UV radiationSunscreenHyperBright Complex, Titanium Dioxide - Brightening UV Defense SPF 30 by SkinCeuticals

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