There are nutraceuticals — a combo of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceuticals” — in skin care products that have been proven to improve the appearance of our skin from the outside. On your next trip to the health-food store or natural pharmacy, you might want to look for products with these anti-aging ingredients:
Alpha lipoic acid: Lipoic acid is an antioxidant compound involved in healthy blood sugar balance and insulin action. This dual action provides highly protective, anti-aging benefits for our skin by reducing the risk of glycation — the abnormal attachment of sugar to our skin cells causing wrinkling and aging. Alpha lipoic acid is both water and fat soluble, making it protective for most tissues in the body. One study reported a 50-percent reduction in fine lines and wrinkles with the topical use of a high-potency lipoic acid cream. Many of the Dr. Perricone skin products are rich in alpha lipoic. Although pricey, his line does include ingredients with research to support their use.
Tea extracts: A 2003 study from the University Hospitals of Cleveland and Case Western Reserve University found that certain antioxidant compounds in white tea extract are effective in improving skin cell immunity and offering protection from the damaging effects of the sun. Evidently, a skin cream containing these tea extracts may offer potent anti-aging and anti-cancer benefits.
Dr. Stephen Hsu from the Medical College of Georgia Department of Oral Biology found the polyphenols in green tea help to eliminate free radicals, which can cause cancer by altering cell DNA. As our outer epidermal cells naturally slough off, skin cells from deep within the epidermis make their way to the surface about every four weeks. By about day 20, cells are basically hanging out on the upper layer waiting to die. The most abundant polyphenol in green tea, EGCG (also used for its benefits in weight loss), however, appears to bring dying skin cells back to life when it is applied to the surface of the skin. Look for John Masters’ Green Tea Facial Serum, it’s one of my favourites.
DMAE: Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) boosts the production of acetylcholine, as well as a component of cell membranes, phosphatidylcholine. DMAE may be the first clinically proven agent to effectively combat facial sagging.
Vitamin C: Topical use of a product containing stabilized vitamin C can increase the production of collagen in the skin. It can also promote skin cell growth and aid in cell regeneration, which translates to younger-looking skin and improved firmness. The form of vitamin C used in your skin care products is important because it has the potential to become unstabilized, which leads to a potentially harmful source of free-radical stress. Ascorbyl–palmitate, the fat soluble form of vitamin C, appears to be the most beneficial and stable type for use in skin care products. It should be present in significant concentrations to boost collagen production in the skin. John Masters and Skinceuticals both make a nice vitamin C serum. Choose a product that is white or, even better, a colorless serum. This way you can easily toss your topical vitamin C product if it turns yellow, orange or brown — a sign it has become oxidized.
While you are looking for products that include these ingredients that truly work, you should also be shopping for those that are free of the following harmful ingredients: methyl parabens, propyl parabens, formaldehyde, imidazolidinyl urea, methylisothiazolinone, propylene glycol, paraffin, isopropyl alcohol, sodium lauryl sulphate and other difficult-to-pronounce chemicals. I dare you to go into your bathroom right this second and read all the labels you find. No doubt you will realize almost everything should go directly into the recycle bin. Parabens, in particular, have been identified as estrogenic substances that disrupt normal hormone function and may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Instead, choose products containing pure oils, protective vitamins and natural scents. Burt’s Bees, available in most health food stores and natural pharmacies, makes an excellent line of natural skin care products for both babies and adults. Two of my personal favourites are Apricot Baby Oil (fabulous on damp skin after bathing) and Milk and Honey Body Lotion. Both of these products smell delicious and include vitamin E and other antioxidants to protect skin cells.
I have also discovered Korres, a wonderful natural skin care line from Greece with divine body lotions and butters. Plus, their lip balm is fantastic.
Here is a handy chart on what to avoid in your cosmetics and personal care products:
- Body wash, shampoos, facial cleansers, toothpaste: Sodium lauryl sulphate, a harsh chemical cleanser
- Lipstick: Certain brands may contain lead, which can accumulate and cause lead toxicity
- Body wash, shampoo, conditioner, makeup, eye creams, deodorants, body and facial moisturizers: Parabens (methylparabens, proplyparabens, etc. may be linked to breast cancer)
- Nail Polish: Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen
- Toothpaste: Fluoride, which is potentially harmful to our thyroid function when present in excess
And here are some of my favourite skincare brands, and where to find them.
Available at health-food stores:
- Burt’s Bees
- Alba Organics
- Dr. Haushka
Available at specialty locations or through doctors:
- Juice Beauty
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.