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By Cathi DeThomas, CME


Can a moisturizer really change your skin, make it look younger, smoother, softer?  We are bombarded with so much advertising hype in regards to skin care products that it is amazing we can make any choices at all!  Let’s sort out the fact from the fiction on what CAN really change your skin for the better.


Can Skin Care lotions make the skin surface seem moist and plump?

Humectants are ingredients that attract water molecules to the skin, and in that way can make the skin surface seem moist and plump.  The most commonly used humectants are Glycerin, Hyalauronic acid, Propylene Glycerol, Urea or Sorbitol, to name a few.  The effects of these ingredients are temporary, since they are only coating the skin and cannot penetrate the epidermis (top or outer layer) of the skin because their molecules are too large.

Occlusives are ingredients that slow moisture loss from the skin.  Mineral oil, Squalane, Tocopherol, Paraffin, Beeswax, Lanolin, or Dimethicone are all occlusive ingredients.  Some feel greasy, like mineral oil, while others are potential irritants, such as lanolin.  All have very large molecules that cannot penetrate the skin, so again, their effects are temporary.

Emollients are the ingredients that help to fill in the “cracks”, so to speak.  Emollients can very slightly penetrated the “stratum corneum”, which is the top layer of dead skin cells.  It helps to fill up the areas between the cells, giving the skin a smoother feel.  Some of the occlusives are also emollients as well, such as Lanolin and Dimethecone.  Emollient molecules are still to large to penetrate anything below the stratum corneum layer, and are therefore temporary.

So if these skin care ingredients have only temporary effects, is there anything out there that can be applied topically to really penetrate and improve the skin?

Of course – “active ingredients”, which are not usually found in over-the-counter products.  These ingredients include the range of Peptides, Antioxidants and  Growth Factors, and are most often found in cosmeceutical products. Some of our favorite skin care products are from Skin Medica™ and Jan Marini.

While some over-the-counter skin care products claim to contain active ingredients, the amount of these ingredients are usually too small to really have an effect on the skin.  In cosmeceutical formulations, the active ingredients in these skin care products are very concentrated, and often applied as a separate serum rather than being mixed into a moisturizer. This type of formulation is much stronger, with smaller molecules that will penetrate the skin to create long-terms changes in the skin.

The most common active ingredients cosmeceuticals today are:  Vitamin C, Peptides, Growth Factors and Retinoids. All of these ingredients can promote collagen and elastin formation, which plumps the skin from the bottom up.  They can also protect the skin from free-radical damage, which is potentially aging and cancer-causing.  Active ingredients in skin care products can promote cell turnover, regulate oil production, even out pigmentation and ultimately make the skin look firmer, more even in tone and texture and more youthful looking.

Skin care products such as TNS Essential Serum from Skin Medica, or CRX C Serum from Obagi are formulations that can really penetrate, creating a more healthy and youthful looking skin. At Laser Skin Solutions we offer a free consultation to educate our patients as to what will give them the best anti-aging results.

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