Facing the facts about skin care products

provided by American Academy of Dermatology


kin care products have become a billion dollar industry, with more than $344 million being spent on anti-aging creams and lotions alone. A walk down any cosmetics aisle will reveal a confusing array of products, most of which claim to provide the same benefits to the skin. So, how do consumers know which products are the most effective? Dermatologists can help consumers wade through the hype and select the correct products for their skin type.

    Speaking at the American Academy of Dermatology's summer scientific meeting, dermatologist Marianne O'Donoghue, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center, spoke about new anti-aging ingredients as well as the ingredients that should be avoided to prevent adverse reactions in the skin.

    “Skin care products, if used correctly, can have tremendous benefits for the skin,” said Dr. O'Donoghue. “It's important that consumers choose wisely and purchase the best product for their money, as well as for their skin.”

    There are several “truths” that dermatologists suggest every consumer follow when purchasing skin care products, including cleansers, moisturizers or masks. Individuals with dry skin should avoid astringents and any product with alcohol because they easily strip away moisture from the skin. Individuals with oily skin do not need the heavy oils found in some moisturizers and should use moisturizers specially designed for oily skin. Those with sensitive skin should purchase products designed for this skin type because they tend to be less abrasive and contain gentler, yet still effective, ingredients.

    “It's important to have a complete examination by a dermatologist to determine your skin type, especially if you have problem areas or are allergic to certain ingredients,” recommended Dr. O'Donoghue. “Spending money every week on a new product with a 'miracle' ingredient will only irritate your skin and your skin will never reap the benefits of a consistent skin care regime.”

The best skin care product ingredients


    Anti-aging products, which promise to diminish wrinkles and fine lines, are found on many store shelves. However, dermatologists recommend that consumers purchase products with ingredients that have proven, over time, to be most effective at reversing the aging process.

    The No. 1 product that prevents wrinkles and sun damage is sunscreen. A broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, can prevent skin from looking older than it is. “Sunscreen is simply the best product for protecting the skin against aging,” said Dr. O'Donoghue. “Using sunscreen on a daily basis, both on your face and your body, can make the difference in how your body reflects your age. Sunscreen can help prevent the deep wrinkles and dark spots that make a person look older than they actually are.”

    Products containing tretinoin ingredients are also effective in treating fine wrinkles, dark spots, or rough skin on the face caused by the damaging rays of the sun. It works by lightening the skin, replacing older skin with newer skin, and by slowing down the way the body removes skin cells that may have been harmed by the sun. Retinoid creams are one of the most effective delivery systems of tretinoin.

    Alpha-hydroxy acids are naturally occurring acids in certain plants and fruits including sugar cane, apples, grapes and citrus fruit. Alpha hydroxy acids work by stimulating dead cells on the surface of the skin and inside the pores so they can slough off more easily. “By decreasing the thickness of dead cells on the surface, a new layer of skin with a smoother texture and more uniform color can be revealed,” said Dr. O'Donoghue. “These compounds also encourage the production of better connective tissue under the epidermis, and retard water loss, lessening fine lines and wrinkles.”

    Furfuryladenine, a plant derived compound that acts to retain water in the skin, is a promising new agent which has been promoted in reversing the aging process. This ingredient is a nonirritating alternative for the 10 percent to 15 percent of patients who are unable to tolerate tretinoin products.

Ingredients to avoid

    While there are many beneficial ingredients to look for when choosing a skin care product, there are several ingredients to avoid.

    Propylene glycol or sorbital, which are commonly used in moisturizers as humectants to hold moisture in the skin - keeping it soft and young, should be avoided, especially for those with sensitive skin. Although propylene glycol binds moisture to the skin, it also repels it. Therefore, the skin ends up not receiving any benefit at all from the moisturizer.

    Another ingredient that can irritate the skin is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) which are known as surfactants. Surfactants lather well and are found in shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream, laundry detergent, dish soap and many industrial cleaning products. “Because of the way these are designed to work, surfactant molecules stay on hair and skin long after you think you've rinsed them off,” stated Dr. O'Donoghue. “As they sit there, they literally strip away fatty acids, moisture and amino acids from your hair and skin. They increase dryness, increase roughness, and disturb the healthy growth process of new hair and skin.”

    “Research continues on developing new skin care products, as well as new delivery systems so the skin receives a more effective amount of product,” said Dr. O'Donoghue. “Dermatologists hope that these advances will provide consumers with more skin care product options to meet their individual needs.”

    The American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of over 13,000 dermatologists worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM or www.aad.org.