By Becca Newell
There are a myriad of treatments and products formulated to attack aging by generating firmer, hydrated skin, producing an even skin tone, and eliminating fine lines. Part of the anti-aging effort lies in the steps one can take to better their skin. Turns out, it can be as simple as A-B-C.
There are two types of inflammation: acute—producing a tangible or visible response, like redness, swelling, and pain—and cellular—repairing injured tissue below the epidermis. In most cases, once the cells have recovered, the hormones, nutrients, and other agents fighting the inflammation retreat. When recovery doesn’t occur and the properties don’t retire, it’s referred to as chronic inflammation and it’s a major culprit of skin aging. Stress is a major contributing factor to chronic inflammation, along with environmental pollutants, like air pollution, and unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates, most abundant in processed foods. Some anti-aging procedures, like dermarolling and microneedling—which cause micro-injuries to the skin, triggering collagen and elastin production—can lead to chronic inflammation if not performed by a professional or, in some instances, if the practice occurs too frequently.
Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition, affecting about five percent of the U.S. population. There are four subsets and it’s possible to have more than one. Symptoms include facial redness, acne-like breakouts, thickening skin, and watery, itchy eyes with cysts on the eyelid. Though there isn’t a cure, there are treatments—from topical medications to laser resurfacing techniques—that help to minimize symptoms.
A dull, uneven skin tone is an indisputable sign of aging. Skin inflammation, sun exposure, and certain medications contribute to hyperpigmentation—a skin condition in which melanin is overproduced, causing dark patches to form. While chemical peels and laser resurfacing are beneficial solutions to stubborn hyperpigmentation, there are creams and serums formulated with brightening agents that help to minimize dark spots and patches.
Hydroquinone: A skin-bleaching agent used to lighten uneven skin tone, hydroquinone works by limiting the creation of an excessive amount of melanin. Over-the-counter formulations contain no more than a two percent concentrate of hydroquinone; prescription creams have a 4 percent (or higher) concentration. Daily application is typically required with results visible within two to three months.
Ascorbic acid: Also known as vitamin C, this antioxidant helps to maintain healthy skin. In topical applications, vitamin C has been shown to treat photoaging (premature skin aging from sun exposure) and hyperpigmentation.
Kojic Acid: Developed as a replacement to hydroquinone, kojic acid was reported by the Mayo Clinic in 2009, as an effective skin lightening treatment if applied for a long period of time (several weeks to a few months).
It’s not surprising that the controlled, targeted delivery of topical solutions can increase a treatment’s effectiveness, but it’s easier than you think to overlook this simple step. Some products are formulated with ingredients that undergo chemical or biological degradation as the active agents reach their cellular targets. Similarly, layering on multiple creams and serums with anti-aging properties (and varying chemical classes) can diminish each product’s effectiveness. Discuss any treatments, even over-the-counter solutions, with your doctor to ensure maximum efficacy. Though research is limited, there are reports that applying topical treatments after dermarolling—the at-home version of microneedling, consisting of a manual roller with miniature needles protruding from its barrel-like head—increases skin’s absorption of products. Additionally, there are several studies regarding the targeted delivery of skin treatments via synergistic relationships, in which certain compounds are incorporated with ingredients to better skin while reducing irritation. One report successfully paired a mild, nonionic surfactant with salicylic acid to treat acne while cleansing skin and minimizing any inflammation.
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