As we age, our skin goes through continual transformation. We all experience changes to our skin as we get older, although the signs and symptoms of aging vary by individual.
Our skin changes are due to both intrinsic and extrinsic aging. Intrinsic aging is DNA-related and is unavoidable and inevitable – beyond our control.
Extrinsic aging, which is environmentally related, accounts for 80 percent of the way our skin ages. Factors that cause extrinsic aging include sun exposure, smoking, exposure to harsh chemicals, pollution, stress and poor diet. They lead to the visible signs of aging we all worry about: wrinkles, visible capillaries, sagging, fine lines, spots, redness and thinning of the skin.
While the signs of aging may seem daunting, the truth is that we can control or prevent the majority of the way our skin visibly ages. The first step is to reduce the amount of potential damage to the skin by diligently using sun protection. This will eliminate up to 85 percent of future signs of aging.
The next step is to reduce and improve the visible aging signs already present in the skin. This can be accomplished through the use of corrective skin care products, the gold standard of which is vitamin A. Topical vitamin A, often referred to as retinoids, reaches the cellular level of the skin where it is converted into retinoic acid.
Retinoic acid activates cellular growth to stimulate collagen-building activity and encourage cell turnover. This process has a smoothing effect on wrinkles, produces a more even skin tone, and can improve acne, Rosacea, wrinkles, fine lines, thin skin, enlarged pores, skin texture and sun spots.
Thirty years ago, retinoids were available only through a topical prescription called Retin-A (retinoic acid). Today you will find that retinoids have exploded on the market and are available in several forms, from natural to synthetic and pharmaceutical to nonpharmaceutical. They can even be found in products sold at your local supermarket.
The strength of retinoids varies on a spectrum ranging from least potent to potent. The least potent is Retinyl Palmitate (a gentler form of vitamin A). Other common forms of vitamin A include retinol and retinaldehyde, which lie in the middle of the potency spectrum. Retinoic Acid (Retin A) is the most potent and often most irritating form of vitamin A.
What is the best form of vitamin A to use? There are benefits to using any kind of retinoid. The key is to look for products that can deliver the retinoid at the cellular level.
Cosmeceutical, pharmaceutical or medical-grade retinoids, which are common in professional products sold at skin care salons or medical offices, usually contain either retinaldyhyde or retinol. These forms of vitamin A are stronger than Retinyl Palmitate, are easily converted into retinoic acid and are less irritating to the skin than prescription strength Retin-A. In fact, studies have shown that retinaldehyde is as strong as prescription-strength Retin-A, has enough collagen-stimulating activity to significantly improve the skin and is antibacterial and noninflammatory on the skin.
The countless ways to improve aging skin can seem overwhelming for the consumer. Sometimes the best approach is to ask a skin care professional for help. They can assess your skin type and recommend products to improve and benefit your skin. A consultation can prevent you from spending money on products you don’t need or that don’t work for your skin.
Stefanie Gioia is an esthetician with the Center for Women’s Health, a NorthBay affiliate.