Professional skin care, in the context of aesthetic medicine, can be best divided into either in-office based procedures or the home care ‘prescription ingredients' that may be used to enhance the effects achieved in the office. For the purpose of this page, we will focus our discussion on home care products and their positioning.
The typical questions asked of cosmetic doctors, dermatologists or plastic surgeons regarding skin care, is what is the best skin care product or range to be using and whether there is s better regime than another. There is no one clear answer to a loaded question like this! There are several factors that play a role in the appearance of skin and its apparent health. Starting from the surface and working downwards, skin exfoliation (and related textural change), skin hydration, excess pigment deposit in the skin (appearing as dark marks or spots in the skin), fine lines and wrinkles and eventually skin thinning and sagging all have different implications on how they need to treated.
Younger skin, that is, skin yet to show obvious signs of photoageing, presents an excellent opportunity to PRESERVE. Almost 80% of an individual's lifetime exposure to excess ultraviolet radiation is experience before the age of 18, so stringent use of sunscreen products and copious quantities of topical antioxidants is the order of the day. Used along with sound sun exposure habits will go along way to keeping skin looking healthier and more youthful longer. This of course also implies a potential reduction in the risk of acquiring sun induced skin cancers! There are dozens of different sunscreen ingredients available from which to choose and the debate still rages on regarding the ideal concentration of ingredients (and hence SPF rating) but at the end of the day, the reduction in skin damage should remain our primary goal. Topical antioxidants play an important role in that they assist the skin in its defence against the damaging effects of the sun as well as replace vital antioxidants which are depleted from the skin during sun exposure. Vitamin A, C, E, co-enzyme Q-10 , Glutathione and uric acid are the most common types of anti-oxidant normally found in the superficial layers of the skin.
Older skin, or skin showing the signs of photoageing, requires a different approach and mindset. The treatment goal of this skin condition is to CORRECT. Home care products will still include the prevention strategy mentioned above and further include active ingredients to possibly offer one or more of the following effects; exfoliation (to remove excess dead cells that are stuck to the surface of the skin), pigment reduction (ingredients that suppress the amount of new excess pigment production to help lighten sun spots), hydration (older skin becomes much drier and flaky) and the all important collagen stimulation. The first three treatment objectives can be achieved reasonably quickly with the use of appropriate ingredients recommended by your doctor or skin care provider. They may be associated with a temporary period of additional redness, dryness and perhaps flaking of the skin until such time as the skin becomes ‘acclimatised' and then takes on its healthier more youthful appearance. The matter of collagen production takes a much longer time and often much patience is required.
Collagen (a protein that provides skin with strength) and elastin (gives skin its stretch) are produced much deeper in the skin and can take several months to show visible improvement. Many people are lead to believe that miracle skin creams can provide these benefits in days or even weeks. These early changes are usually due to the improvements mentioned above. Real definitive changes such as those seen with prescription strength vitamin A have shown that up to 10 months of continual treatment may be need to bring about real collagen increases. New biotechnology ingredients (peptide based products) as well as the good old faithful Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) are still very much at the forefront of the anti-wrinkle approaches to modern day cosmetic medicine.
Given that there are quite literally thousands of different ingredients and as many different product houses, it makes the most sense to have a detailed discussion with your aesthetic practitioner or skin professional regarding your skin concerns, expectations and timelines to make the most appropriate decisions before embarking on what may be a very confusing, and in many cases, a rather disappointing skin care path.