How to Build an Anti-Aging Skin Care Regimen That Works
How to Build an Anti-Aging Skin Care Regimen That Works
by Dr. Mary Peirson, M.D., C.C.F.P.
ArtMed, The Art of Cosmetic Medicine
With so many skin care products and companies, and so many anti-aging claims being made, how does one cut through all the hype and determine what actually works?
When putting together an optimally effective, scientifically proven anti-aging skin care plan there are 4 essential skin care products. No matter your age or skin type, these four products form the foundation of a genuinely effective anti-aging skin care program.
We all know (and have know for many decades) that preventing the sun’s ionizing radiation from reaching our skin is a no-brainer. Everyday use of sunblock shouldn’t be optional. Nonetheless, a lot of people skip the sunblock because they find it heavy, oily, or they believe they don’t need it in the winter, or if they spend most their time indoors. Not true!
The cumulative effect of indirect, year-round sun exposure is still a primary cause of photo-aging. Driving is particularly problematic because the sun’s rays are focused and concentrated (like a magnifying glass) onto the left side of the face or onto the right side if you are a frequent passenger.
There are sunscreens and sunblocks. What is the difference? Sunscreens are chemicals that are absorbed into the skin and chemically changed into molecules that partially block UVA and UVB rays. Sunblocks are minerals that sit on the surface of the skin effectively blocking 100% of the UVA and UVB light. Think of the shield an x-ray technician wears when they take x-rays. Sunblocks are that effective. Usually sunblocks are made from zinc oxide or titanium oxide or a combination of both. They are the safest to use as well. This is why we recommend sunblocks and advise against sunscreens in infants and small children. As a bonus zinc is anti-inflammatory as well – this is why you find it in baby rash creams and for the treatment of burns.
High quality sunblocks have titanium and /or zinc that has been very finely milled to create an extremely fine texture so that they can be mixed into lighter bases and applied thinly and evenly thus avoiding that heavy, oily feeling. Try some different sunblocks from pharmaceutical grade skin care companies. Each is a bit different and it’s important to find one that you like. At ArtMed we always say the best sunblock is the one you’re willing to wear everyday.
- Vivier Sheer SPF 30 or SPF 45
- AlumierMD Clear Shield Oil Free sunblock SPF 42
- AlumierMD Clear Shield Moisturizing Sunblock SPF 40 (untinted, versatile tint and adjustable tint available)
Antioxidants are serums that are usually packaged in small dark glass bottles. But what is an antioxidant? Why does it cost so much? Why is it essential to my anti-aging regimen?
When your skin is exposed to ionizing radiation from the sun or certain types of pollutants in the environment or to cigarette smoke it causes chemical reactions in your skin that lead to the release of electrons. Free electrons are also known as free radicals and these electrons bounce around in your skin causing damage. If free electrons bounce around in the base epidermal layer of your skin where skin cells are dividing and reproducing (and thus DNA is being copied) these electrons can damage the DNA. Damaged DNA leads to premature aging of the skin and the possibility of abnormal cells which can lead to skin cancer down the road.
Photoaging and skin cancer are to be avoided at all cost. When ionizing radiation or pollutants get past your sunblock your next level of defense against them is your antioxidant.
Antioxidants are molecules that need free electrons in order to be stable. They are inherently unstable compounds that grab free electrons from their surrounding environment and bind them up. The most common and best antioxidant is Vitamin C.
But not all Vitamin C is created equal. Oral Vitamin C is 20 times less effective as an antioxidant for your skin than topical Vitamin C. However, for topical vitamin C to be optimally effective it must be absorbed by the skin and penetrate to the level of the basal epidermis where skin cells are being reproduced. The best quality Vitamin C antioxidant serums have excellent carrier vehicles that can provide deep penetration and reach the basal epidermis. As it happens, two Canadian companies are world leaders in this type of carrier vehicle technology – AlumierMD in Ontario and Vivier in Quebec.
Because Vitamin C is so unstable and grabs electrons from wherever it can it is important that the antioxidant serum you use is stabilized and extremely fresh. Sitting on a shelf for an extended period can render your serum ineffective. If a Vitamin C serum is yellow or orange, it has oxidized and will not be effective.
So, what should you look for in a Vitamin C serum? ($ indicate qualities than increase the price of an antioxidant but increase also its effectiveness):
- Product freshness – ideally produced in country, not from overseas ($$)
- Small quantity in a dark bottle (dark bottle helps prevent oxidation)
- Has a scientifically proven carrier vehicle capable of delivering the Vit C to the basal epidermal layer of the skin ($$$)
- Contains L-ascorbic acid (USP grade) – the only form of Vitamin C that is pharmaceutically active as an antioxidant in the skin ($$$)
- contains 10-15% L-ascorbic acid USP ($$)
- should be clear to straw-coloured
Vitamin C serum should be applied in the morning immediately after cleansing.
- Alumier MD Everactive C & E antioxidant
- Vivier CE Peptides antioxidant
Retinoic acid has been a stalwart ingredient in the anti-aging playbook for decades. Scientists have long recognized the anti-aging benefits of this pharmaceutical agent.
So, what exactly do retinols do for the skin?
As we age the rate at which we replace our skin cells starts to slow down. Many people notice that their skin is duller, dryer, thinner and that fine lines are beginning to appear. Retinols increase the rate of skin cell turnover so that skin behaves like a younger version of itself. Younger, healthier cells produce more collagen and thus the use of retinols leads to increased collagen production. This leads to an improvement in fine lines, tightening of pore size and minimizes risk of scarring for those with inflammatory skin problems such as acne or rosacea. With retinol use the skin appears brighter, smoother, even in tone and more radiant.
However, retinoic acid can be fairly harsh to the skin. When skin cells are replacing themselves too quickly, they may not be mature enough to be at the skin surface. This can lead to side effects such as redness, irritation or flakiness.
Retinols are gentler versions of Retinoic acid and while being equally effective can reduce potential side effects. Best quality modern formulations are micro-encapsulated to allow slow release of the retinol overnight. Soothing and hydrating ingredients are often blended into good quality retinol to improve tolerance further. Starting at a low percentage of retinol is also important. Most individuals develop tolerance to retinols and such that they can increase their percentage concentration over time. Ideally, the aim is to be able to use a 1% retinol once every night as this will maximize the anti-aging benefits.
What to look for in a retinol:
- Micro-encapsulated to reduce risk of side effects
- blended with moisturizing and calming ingredients to improve tolerance
- Paraben free (parabens have estrogen like side effects in the skin and body)
- Available in multiple dosage strengths
If a patient absolutely cannot tolerate a retinol (some individuals are extremely sensitive) then a milder acid can be used to encourage skin cell turnover. Milder acids act to break down the bonds between skin cells and reduce the thick keratin layer at the surface of the epidermis. This allows moisturizers, and antioxidants to better penetrate the skin. The skin feels smoother, softer and looks brighter and more radiant. Examples of these types of acid include glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid.
- AlumierMD Retinol Resurfacing Serum (available in 0.25%, 0.5% and 1.0%)
- Vivier 1% Retinol Night Complex
- Vivier AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cream (non-retinol acid)
- AlumierMD Bright & Clear Solution (non-retinol acid)
Chances are that you’ve never heard of glycation. Nonetheless it’s a significant cause of skin aging. Glycation is a slow and naturally-occurring process that involves the cross-linking of sugars with proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. When sugars link to molecules in this way it leads to the formation of glycation end products (A.G.E.’s). A.G.E.’s in the skin cause stiffening of collagen and elastin fibres (which are proteins) and loss of elasticity and premature aging of the skin. Oxidative stress (presence of free radicals) accelerates glycation. Anti-glycation products are now available in the market which inhibit the cross-linking of sugars with proteins thus protecting collagen and elastin fibres. Many are blended with antioxidants to prevent free radical oxidative stress which accelerate glycation.
Recommended product: AlumierMD A.G.E. serum
- Morning: Wash, antioxidant, anti – A.G.E., sunscreen
- Before Bedtime: Wash, retinol, anti – A.G.E., moisturize
- Build every other skin care item around this core anti-aging plan.
- If you use prescription creams additionally, consult with your physician as to the placement of your cream within this plan.
Which brand would you recommend to be “best” or more effective, Vivier or alumier?
With respect to which line is ‘best’ Vivier or Alumier they are more or less equivalent. Both Vivier and alumier are pharmaceutical grade skin care companies. This means that they have higher levels of active ingredients in their skin care which is why you cannot buy them over the counter.
That said technically Vivier is a genuine pharmaceutical company meaning that it must report to Health Canada and any claims they make must be substantiated by research trials that Health Canada will review. This is a requirement for them because they are a pharmaceutical company. Alumier, by contrast, is a cosmetic company who competes with Vivier and they voluntarily submit their research to health Canada to achieve the same kinds of approvals for higher level ingredients. This is an optional step for them but it does make their skin care equivalent in terms of effectiveness and oversight.
Alumier more tightly controls the access to their products than Vivier does and this is because they feel very strongly that their skin care should be prescribed by a healthcare professional to optimize results and minimize side effects. Vivier does not tightly control access to their products and in fact they sell directly to the consumer on their website. Consequently given the high level of active ingredients in their skin care sometimes people may find Vivier less effective because they’ve chosen the wrong product for their skin condition.
In the end it comes down to having the correct products prescribed for you based on your skin issues. Vivier and Alumier have excellent results and a wide range of product options. We carry both lines because they each have certain products not found in the other. Alumier is a clean science company – so there are no perfumes, dyes, parabens etc. in their skin care. This is particularly important if you have sensitive or inflammatory skin. Ultimately – both are great but it’s best to have a consult before purchasing products from these companies.
– Mary C Peirson MD, CCFP