A doctor specializing in dermatology explains which of the ingredients in cosmetics have a real effect on the repair and protection of the dermis.

Barley Koji / Dra.  Andrea Combalia.

Taking care of the skin is especially important in the spring and summer months, when it is more exposed to the long hours of solar radiation. The doctor Andrea Combalia, specialist in Dermatology and disseminator on his Instagram account Piel sana in corpore sano, explains in the book of the same name and edited by Grijalbo which of the ‘star ingredients’ of cosmetics have a real effect on the repair and protection of the dermis.

“Choosing one product or another depends on the type and condition of each person’s skin, the area of ​​the skin where it is applied and the effect to be achieved”, explains the doctor in the work. An example: “Glycolic acid in a low concentration in cream format moisturizes dry skin, but at a higher concentration in gel format it is ideal for skin with acne. Correctly selecting ingredients and product presentations avoids many mistakes ”.

Alpha and Beta hydroxy acids: these are acidic molecules that accelerate the skin’s “cell renewal cycle speed”, and in this way, perform a “surface exfoliation without the need for friction”. There are three main families, starting with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid from sugarcane, mandelic from almonds, malic from apples, tartaric from grapes, and lactic acid from Lactobacillus. They are soluble in water and exfoliating.

Betahydroxy acids (BHA) are oil soluble, so they are good to apply on oily skin, against blackheads and acne, and the most famous is salicylic acid. Finally, polyhydroxy acids (PHA) are recommended for sensitive skin, through lesser known compounds such as gluconolactone and lactobionic acid.

– Topical retinoids: these are two forms of Vitamin A with “similar but not identical effects.” The first is retinoic acid or tretinoin, which is a prescription drug that repairs the firmness of the skin by stimulating the generation of collagen and elastin. It also reduces fat secretion and has an antioxidant effect. “It has everything!”, Assesses the dermatologist.

The problem is that it can cause irritation and end up being “worse the remedy than the disease”, which is why it is reserved for intensive medical treatments. For common use, retinol is prescribed, with more attenuated effects but equally useful against spots, acne and skin aging. In both cases they are photosensitive, so they must be applied at night, and are contraindicated during pregnancy and lactation.

– C vitamin: as an antioxidant, it helps to repair the damage caused by free radicals, and intervenes in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, preventing and smoothing small wrinkles. It also causes the inhibition of the tyrosinase enzyme, which helps to unify the tone and avoid staining.

The effectiveness of Vitamin C in a cosmetic will depend “on the purity, the concentration and the pH in which it is formulated”. The recommendation of the specialist is to acquire it in pure form of L-ascorbic acid and in opaque containers that guarantee the stability of the formula, since it deteriorates with light and oxygen.

– Hyaluronic acid: it is one of the most famous cosmetic ingredients and our dermis produces it naturally to keep the skin hydrated and without cracks, since it is a viscous polysaccharide with a great capacity to retain water. Depending on its molecular weight in the formula, it will have effects at a greater or lesser depth, the effectiveness of which will depend on the type of skin.

It can also be injected directly, in a procedure that is often confused with botox, the doctor warns. “Synthesizing a lot, hyaluronic acid plumps and hydrates the skin, while botulinum toxin relaxes the muscles eliminating expression lines”. It is the compound that is usually used to fill cheekbones and lips: “The use of liquid silicone is prohibited!”.

– Azelaic and kojic acids– Azelaic acid comes from grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, and has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-seborrheic properties, all of which contribute to the treatment of acne and rosacea. It can serve as an alternative exfoliator to retinoids.

Kojic acid comes from the koji mushroom, traditionally used for the production of sake, miso, or soy sauce in Japan. Its cosmetic effects were discovered by observing that the hands of the workers who used it were unusually white. Now, it is applied as a depigmenting and antioxidant.

-Vegetable oils: They are obtained by cold pressing and are rich in unsaturated fatty acids such as omega 3, 6 and 9. They should not be confused with essential oils, which are obtained by distillation and are highly concentrated, so it is not advisable to apply them on skin without medical supervision.

This is how oils such as rosehip, borage, jojoba, evening primrose or argan are obtained, as well as almond, avocado, sesame or macadamia. All these formulas provide bioactive ingredients, but the dermatologist recommends paying attention, for example, to coconut oil, which is comedogenic and “favors the appearance of acne and blackheads if we apply it to the face.”

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