Posted on October 28 2018
As I sit here running my increasingly wrinkled hands over my increasingly wrinkled face, I am wondering if anything can make my skin look more attractive and healthy. As the owner of Objects of Desire Artful Living I spent three years looking for a skin care product line that I thought was worthy of my brand of high quality and well-designed products. I finally chose to carry Bee By The Sea skin care products because they contain Sea Buckthorn oil, which is often used by chemotherapy patients to help repair their damaged skin from the treatments. And, it smells great because of the unpasteurized honey and almond oil that is also incorporated into this all-natural product.
However, an authoritative article in the latest Nutrition Action Health Letter (November, 2018) has challenged my beliefs with respect to how to delay the signs of aging skin. The good news, according to the article “Ironing Out The Wrinkles” is that aging is not the primary cause of wrinkled skin. It is caused by exposure to the sun. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun damages our skin. I guess we all know that at some level. Our skin responds to the ultraviolet radiation damage by becoming inflamed (like sun burn in bad cases) which causes the primary structural protein of the skin, collagen, to break down. The more radiation, the more inflammation, the more collagen breakdown. Eventually, with repeated assaults by the sun on the skin’s collagen, the skin begins to change in appearance. Aging contributes to this change because as we get older our body’s ability to create more collagen and repair the skin is diminished.
Well, great! Getting older is not going to necessarily make my skin more wrinkled. But, on the other hand, there is little I can do now to protect my skin from the damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays that have been assaulting my skin over the past 70 years. (Author’s note: I was born in Miami, Florida, and when I was an infant my mother’s pediatrician advised her to “bake” me in the sun daily, starting with one minute on each side and working up to 20 minutes on each side, to help “build up protection” for my skin from the sun’s damaging rays. Hmmm…now look at me! Interesting how “science” changes with new insights and research findings).
According to the article, the only thing I can do now to try to prevent further damage is to use a “broad spectrum” sun screen with an SPF of 30 or more. Broad spectrum sun screens protect from both UVA and UVB rays, both of which are damaging. An SPF of 30 means that the sun screen will block 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Unfortunately, there is no SPF rating system for UVA, therefore you don’t really know how much UVA protection you are getting, so the best you can do is to use a “broad spectrum” sun screen and keep your fingers crossed.
The article does suggest that we should be using sun screen all year round, because UVA intensity does not vary much by season, weather, or location. And UVA rays are not blocked by glass, either, so if sun is striking your skin, UVA rays are doing damage, even in winter. Seems crazy, huh? Putting on sun screen before you put on your ski hat and walk out the door into a snow storm.
What about all the products that are advertised and sold as “anti-aging” formulas? There is very little science to back up these claims, because as cosmeceuticals, they are unregulated by the FDA and lightly regulated otherwise as cosmetics. There is virtually no rigorous research to back up claims of skin rejuvenation and most of the research that has been done is industry and company sponsored rather than independent research, and therefore not independently verifiable.
So, what most of these products are selling is “hope”. However, retinoids like tretinoin have been found to stimulate collagen production, adding volume to the skin and thereby making it smoother and reducing wrinkles. Retinoids also lighten dark spots on the skin, but they also can cause skin dryness and irritation and make skin more sensitive to the sun. So it is best to be cautious in their use.
Tretinoin is sold by prescription, in 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1% strengths. However, adapalene (which is approved by the FDA for the treatment of acne) is similar to tretinoin and is sold over the counter as Differin. Differin is less potent than tretinoin, but it also is less irritating to the skin, which is a good thing if you are using it on your face. Just keep in mind that this is no magic potion. The benefits from using tretinoin are subtle and take time, perhaps three to six months to begin to have even a barely noticeable effect. So, you do need to weigh the cost of your treatments against the marginal benefits that you may enjoy after a pretty substantial wait.
Retinol, which is an ingredient in many wrinkle creams and lotions, is also related to tretinoin, but much less effective (tretinoin is about ten times more potent than retinol). The other problem with using products with retinol is that since they are over-the-counter creams, and not a drug, manufacturers are not required to disclose how much retinol they put into their products, so some products may have too little to be effective, and some may have so much as to be irritating to the skin, and it is difficult to distinguish among them.
Some people believe that since vitamin A is retinol, that they can take vitamin A supplements to help their skin, but there is no evidence that taking vitamin A orally will help your skin, and taking too much vitamin A can cause liver damage. Similarly, some people believe that if they consume collagen (sometimes sold as a powder) that it will help their skin. Unfortunately, when consumed, the body breaks collagen down into amino acids, just like any protein. The consumed collagen does not end up strengthening the collagen in our skin.
Well, that’s the story as told by this well researched and documented article. Obviously, the science of skin repair is not settled, but I am going to rely on it to give Differin a try. And, I am going to continue to use my Bee By The Sea Body Cream because I like the way it smells and the way it makes my skin feel. And, it gives me hope. Sea buckthorn oil was not discussed in this article. But, if you look up research findings on it you will discover that there are some indications that sea buckthorn oil is protective of the skin and helps the skin recover from wounds. That sounds promising, huh?