Skin care products that claim to improve skin appearance and health are called cosmeceuticals. These skin care products are a marriage between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Many of these products contain natural ingredients such as teas, vitamins and moisturizers that penetrate the surface layer of the skin to influence the skin's biological functioning, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The FDA does not regulate cosmeceuticals, so your best bet is to purchase products with active ingredients that have proven results from scientific studies.
Retinol products are derived from vitamin A. Natural retinol products are available over the counter and are used to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Synthetic retinol products such as topical tretinoin are available only by prescription. They are used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, but doctors also prescribe them to treat acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Retinoids work by sloughing off the surface layer of the skin, unclogging pores and revealing new skin. They also work under the skin to generate collagen, according to the National Institutes of Health. Retinol creams have been widely documented and studied.
The National Institutes of Health notes, however, that retinol products cause sun sensitivity; apply a UVA/UVB sunblock of SPF 30 or higher while using these products. Pregnant women and women who may become pregnant should not use synthetic retinol products.
Vitamin C Products
Vitamin C products are antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals that cause skin damage. A 1998 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science concluded that topical applications of vitamin C increase collagen biosynthesis. Vitamin C-phosphate (VitC-P) and vitamin C-glucoside (VitC-Glu) are provitamin compounds for skin that make stable, easy-to-use formulations.
Sunblock creams come in a variety of forms: spray-on, liquid, gel, creams, tinted moisturizers and hydrating creams containing sun protection. Sunblock is one of the more important skin care products. It protects the skin from the damaging rays of the sun and helps prevent skin cancer, wrinkles and other signs of photoaging, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
To protect your skin, you should try to block all UV rays. Look for a broad-spectrum, UVA/ UVB, sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher. Water-resistant sunblocks stay on longer, even with mild sweating.
Alpha Hydroxy Acid Products
Products containing alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) are popular for a variety of reasons. AHAs exfoliate the surface layer of skin, promoting a brighter complexion, but they also are used to treat acne. A study by the Department of Dermatology at Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Pennsylvania determined that AHAs improved elastic fibers and the density of collagen and benefited aging skin.
AHAs increase sun sensitivity, so you should apply a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher while using these products and for up to 2 weeks after stopping use of the product, recommends the Food and Drug Administration.
- American Academy of Dermatology: Cosemeceuticals
- National Institutes of Health: Topical Tretinoin
- American Academy of Dermatology: A Closer Look at Aging Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology
- National Institutes of Health: Effect of Vitamin C and its Derivatives on Collagen Synthesis and Cross-Linking by Normal Human Fibroblasts