Antioxidants: Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Foods such as strawberries, blueberries, and dark chocolate contain antioxidants. They can also be found in skin care items via grape seed oil extracts, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C, etc.
Alpha Lipoic Acid: 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.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): 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 low concentrations of AHA 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.
Copper Peptide: 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.
DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol): 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, boasting 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.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): If your skin is dry, prone to inflammation, and frequently dotted with white heads and black heads, you may be lacking essential fatty acids, nutrients that are crucial to the production of skin’s natural oil barrier. Without an adequate supply of EFAs, the skin produces a more irritating form of sebum, or oil, which can result in problems.
The solution, says Sullivan, may be to balance two of the key EFAs, omega-3 and omega-6. While most folks get plenty of omega-6s (in baked goods, cooking oils, poultry, grains, and many other foods), omega-3s are often lacking. They’re found mostly in cold-water fish, including salmon, sardines, and mackerel, flaxseed, and flax and safflower oils. Taking supplements, such as fish oil capsules or evening primrose oil, may also help keep your skin smoother and younger-looking.
Hyaluronic Acid: 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.
Hyrdoquinone: 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 solution with a higher concentration of hydroquinone if your skin doesn’t respond to over- the-counter treatments. If you are allergic to hydroquinones, you can use products containing kojic acid instead.
Kojic Acid: 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).
Retinol: 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.
Selenium: A number of scientists believe this mineral plays a key role in skin cancer prevention. Taken in supplement form or used in a cream, this mineral helps protect skin from sun damage. If you do spend any time in the sun, selenium could help reduce your chance of burning.
Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is an extract from a plant native to Australia. Tea tree oil was used as a topical treatment by the Aboriginal people for centuries. Tea tree oil has been used traditionally as a topical antiseptic and antifungal treatment. So far, the scientific evidence for tea tree oil is uncertain. Human studies of tea tree oil in treating acne, fungal infections, vaginal infections, dandruff, gum disease and other conditions have been inconclusive. Given the lack of evidence about its safety, tea tree oil is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
UVA/UVB rays: Many people do not realize that there are two different kinds of protection against sun damage to the skin. Chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin and absorb the sunlight. They are invisible on the skin, but they can cause irritation. The second type of protection, physical block (made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide), lies on top of the skin to create a light-reflecting shield. Because blocks are not absorbed by the skin, they can be less irritating. Using a sunscreen with a level of SPF 15 or higher is the key.
Sun damage relates to the kind of rays reaching your skin. Ultraviolet B rays (UVB) are the longest ultraviolet rays. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn and cause most skin cancers. UVB rays are much stronger than UVA rays, even though UVA rays are longer rays that penetrate the dermis and the precious collagen and elastin fibers. UVA rays only burn in large doses, and this is therefore the type of UV ray used in most tanning beds and booths.
Vitamin A: If your vitamin A levels are up to snuff from the foods you eat, adding more probably won’t do much more for your skin. That said, if those levels drop even a little below normal, you’re likely to see some skin-related symptoms, including a dry, flaky complexion. That’s because vitamin A is necessary for the maintenance and repair of skin tissue. Without it, you’ll notice the difference. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamin A.
Topical vitamin A is the form that makes a real difference in your skin. Medical studies show a reduction in lines and wrinkles, good acne control, and some psoriasis relief, all from using creams containing this nutrient.
Vitamin B Complex: When it comes to skin, the single most important B vitamin is biotin, a nutrient that forms the basis of skin, nail, and hair cells. Without adequate amounts, you may end up with dermatitis (an itchy, scaly skin reaction) or sometimes even hair loss. Even a mild deficiency causes symptoms.
Most people get enough biotin without even trying. It’s found in many foods including bananas, eggs, oatmeal, and rice, plus your body also makes some biotin on its own.
But recently, greater attention is being paid to topical preparations containing B vitamins. These creams can help give skin an almost instant healthy glow while hydrating cells and increasing overall tone. Niacin, a specific B vitamin, helps skin retain moisture, so creams containing this nutrient can help your complexion look plumper and younger in as little as six days. Niacin also has anti-inflammatory properties to soothe dry, irritated skin. In higher concentrations it can also work as a lightening agent to even out blotchy skin tone.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that is proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen, 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. It is important to be choosy when selecting a vitamin C product. Vitamin C in its most commonly found forms is highly unstable when exposed to oxygen, making it useless. Also, many topical vitamin C preparations do not penetrate the skin enough to make a difference. If you are considering using a topical vitamin C preparation, ask your dermatologist which product will be the most effective for you.
Vitamin K: As the nutrient responsible for helping blood clot, Vitamin K won’t do much for your skin from the inside. But studies presented to the American Academy of Dermatology in 2003 showed that topical vitamin K works well to reduce circles under the eye as well as bruises. In research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2002, doctors from the University of Miami School of Medicine found that skin treatments with vitamin K cream after laser surgery significantly reduced bruising. When combined with vitamin A in a cream, vitamin K can be even more effective for those dark circles. In a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, doctors from the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo found that the topical application of a gel containing a derivative of vitamin K, as well as vitamins A, C, and E, was effective in reducing dark under-eye circles while also decreasing wrinkles.
Zinc: The third skin-friendly mineral is zinc, important if you have acne. In fact, sometimes acne itself is a symptom of a zinc deficiency. Taken internally or used topically, zinc works to clear skin by taming oil production and may be effective in controlling the formation of acne lesions or help those already on your skin to clear sooner. Food sources of zinc include oysters, lean meat, and poultry.