Cosmeceuticals and your skin health

As consumers increasingly look toward cost-effective noninvasive methods to improve the appearance of their skin, ‘cosmeceuticals’ is one word we are hearing more and more.  But what are cosmeceuticals, what products are they in, and how do they benefit our skin?

Wrinkles, altered pigmentation, loss of skin tone... All these changes are associated with skin aging. Genetically-programmed skin changes as well as those caused by environmental wear and tear have us constantly on the search for skin care products that will reduce or eliminate these signs.

According to Dermalogica, cosmeceuticals are the potent active ingredients that change the structure and functions of the skin: 'a cosmeceutical product by definition is a cosmetic product in which the active ingAbout-Wild-Child-Cosmeceuticalsredient is meant to have a beneficial physiological effect due to an enhanced pharmacological action when compared with an inert cosmetic.' Cosmeceuticals are known to have special effect ingredients as they help to radically improve the appearance of the skin. The term refers to beauty and skincare products that combine cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Cosmeceuticals are applied topically in the form of creams, moisturizers and exfoliants and have become popular in the anti-aging, sunscreen and skincare industry

For example, recent studies have shown  cosmeceuticals that contain ingredients such as anti-oxidants, including vitamins such as Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and Tocopherol (Vitamin E) are critical for use with sunscreens to protect skin from oxidative stress which is a major cause of degenerative disorders including aging and disease.

Other ingredients care for and repair the skin with properties such as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), and retinol/vitamin A and it's derivatives are recommended for reversing the signs of photoaging.

In short, cosmeceuticals offer plenty of beneficial ingredients without intensely medicated formulations or a doctor’s prescription. Instead of focusing on treating the manifestations of aging (wrinkles hyper pigmentation, loss of elasticity etc) cosmeceuticals make an impact on the biochemical reactions that lead to these changes.

Everyone's talking about going green. From the house you live in, what you eat, to what you wear, and what you put on your body, it seems like every brand has a natural, organic or certified organic collection or product you need to know about. By choosing organic and natural skin care products and ingredients you can avoid numerous synthetic chemicals and neurotoxins entering the bloodstream which can lead to health problems. You can download the newly launched free, downloadable consumer guide to the Australian Certified Organic Standard here for more details on regulations.

As consumers become more educated about the environment, climate change and their health, it's only natural that there has been surge in buying natural and organic skin care products. In fact according to the Australian Organic Ltd (formerly Biological Farmers of Australia), organics is one of Australia’s top 5 growth industries as supermarkets and shoppers embrace the trend. But before you buy, it's important to know the rules and regulations around claiming to be natural, organic and certified organic. Here's an over view of the terms surrounding natural and organic skincare...

Our skin is the largest organ of our body. Research shows that within 20-30 minutes of putting something onto our skin, it can be picked up in the blood stream, and that up to 60% of what we put on our skin is absorbed into the bloodstream - so it makes sense to be careful about what is in skin care and beauty products. When looking at the ingredients, consumers should question the integrity of ingredients in skin care products. How do you know if a product is a truly natural or organic healthy alternative?

organic_wellbeingcomauFor a skin care product to be allowed to call itself organic, it should it be formulated using all natural ingredients.It must  be free from parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, genetic modification and petroleum derivatives and contain between 70-95 percent of organic ingredients. Organic is a label reserved for ingredients grown without the use of pesticides or other potentially harmful chemicals. The skin care product must be certified by a registered certifying body such as the ACO (Australian Certified Organic), NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia), ECOCERT (a French certifying body) or the OFC (Organic Food Chain). Then, and only then, should it carry a "Made with organic ingredients" statement.

A certified organic skin care product must meet strict guidelines from a national or international governing body to receive registration, and Australian Certified Organic is one of the highest organic certifications in the world. While these standards differ from country to country, in Australia the ACO states for a product to be able to call itself certified organic, it must contain at least 95 percent organic content. The formula should be free from parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, genetic modification and petroleum derivatives.

Natural refers to anything that grows naturally, or is not man-made in a laboratory. However in Australia there are no regulations surrounding the use of the word. However, it is generally agreed that natural beauty and skin care products should feature at least 90 percent of naturally-derived ingredients and be free from all synthetics. There is no policing on this though, so check ingredients and packaging carefully.

If in doubt check you packaging for a list of ingredients - if the ingredients list looks more like a chemistry class than a biology class, chances are the product may not be so natural after all. If there is no endorsement logo, be wary about the validity of the claims.

You can check out the Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep, to check out the toxicity profile of the ingredients in your skincare here. The core of 'Skin Deep' is an electronic product database that contains ingredients in 65,361 products. You can view detailed information on these products from online retailers, manufacturers through to product packaging.

You can download the newly launched free, downloadable consumer guide to the Australian Certified Organic Standard here. The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, is nation's leading organic certifier. You can find out more about them here

What is the difference between manual and chemical exfoliation?

Reversing the aging process and achieving luminous skin is priority number one for many of us when we think about skin care and the skin care products we purchase. Regular exfoliation is an important part of maintaining skin health. It also improves the benefits from skin care products such as moisturiser, which are able to better penetrate the skin after exfoliation clears away the dead skin cells.

Generally speaking, exfoliation refers to any technique that removes cells from the skin surface, not only immediately “refreshing” the skins appearance but also stimulating cell renewal. The benefits are dramatic, and, when used with professional guidance, exfoliation can treat a wide variety of skin problems. These include acne, hyper-pigmentation, premature aging and scarring to name a few. Exfoliation is also important for those with oily skin. In addition to smoothing, improving skin tone and enhancing skin’s receptiveness of oil-controlling ingredients, exfoliation helps rid oily skin of dulling skin cells to help keep skin clear. Learn more about the benefits of exfoliation from Dermalogica here.

There are two ways to exfoliate; manually and chemically.

Manual exfoliation involves using mildy abrasive tools like exfoliating wash gloves or sponges as well as exfoliating products like grainy scrubs.  Manual exfoliants loosens and reduces the outer skin cells. Scrubs and tools use mechanical frictions to help shed skin cells. One draw back of this method of exfoliation is the risk of irritation, and excessive abrasion of the skin can cause damage, especially if you have sensitive skin.

 Chemical exfoliation means using acid-rich or enzyme-based products to help gently exfoliate your skin. They work by dissolving the bonds between the skin cells to stimulate the shedding process. By making it easier for the cells to slough off, new skin is revealed, brighter and smoother than before.

Exfoliation delivers a tighter, firmer, smoother look and feel of skin. Because of this result, many fall into the trap of over-exfoliation: an over-zealous approach that can actually reduce skin’s vitality and make it more susceptible to damage from UV light. It is recommended that a skin specialist prescribe your exfoliation products and routine to best maximise the effects, and treat any skin problems.