that affect penetration include temperature, oil, ingredient size and how well the ingredients mix with fats. Not too long
ago physicians generally believed that topical skin products were a waste because the skin is uniquely designed to prevent
outside substances from penetrating. The evolution of our understanding began with our attempt to improve
penetration of ingredients by making products more acidic (lower pH). At high levels (chemical peels),
this method is effective although the resulting damage is not desirable. Unfortunately, at lower levels
of acidity, the skin protects itself by tightening which limits the penetration of active ingredients. The
ideal pH is around 4-4.5, slightly acidic to the skin’s pH of 5.0 but not enough to stimulate the defensive tightening
effect. Great ingredients for the skin come in all sizes but
usually only the smaller molecules will penetrate effectively. To enhance penetration of these larger ingredients,
they need to be engulfed in fat loving substances like liposomes. Many companies tout their “penetration
enhancers”, but if those ingredients are not attached to the active ingredient, they will penetrate without carrying
anything good with them. The unique advantage of liposomes is their ability to wrap themselves around key
ingredients and carry them through the top layers of skin with ease. Their lipo-phillic (fat-loving) nature
makes the issue of oily skin less of a problem. With products designed to penetrate via low pH methods,
oil will neutralize the pH and make that pathway ineffective.
This has everything to do with your skin’s health and it is substantially
overlooked by the skincare community. All the skin’s food, immune support, antioxidant and remodeling
efforts all come from the blood supply. Every time you are stressed, you drink coffee or go outside in
cold weather, your skin suffers a little because all of these things restrict blood-flow to the dermis. Vitamin
K, horse chestnut and caffeine in skincare products are all designed to reduce blood-flow. There is no
skin condition (Rosacea, Dark Circles, etc) that is better off with less bloodflow. That is why the utilization
of Retinaldehyde, Niacinamide, Camphor, and other circulation enhancing ingredients makes such a big difference in the quality
and health of the skin. Bags under the eyes are the result of vasoconstriction (reduced blood-flow) and the correlation between
loss of blood supply and the thinning of the dermis with age are more than a coincidence. Remember, it
is a thinning dermis that is the primary cause of visible capillaries. The reason capillaries return after
treatment is because the skin wants adequate blood supply in the area. The best way to reduce this is to
build back the collagen/elastin (in the dermis) that covers these vessels.
This is an important term because
it needs to be differentiated from the typical remodeling strategies employed by most skincare companies. To
highlight my point, we can discuss glycolic acid. This ingredient is in most products and is touted as
a rejuvenating ingredient. The skin doesn’t have glycolic acid receptors so its method of action
is simply to destroy whatever it can. The reason there is any effect is only because the skin, in response
to the devastation, replaces itself with new layers. The epidermis swells a little from the inflammation
(temporarily reducing the appearance of lines), the new skin is less pigmented (helping hyperpigmentation superficially) but
the net effect of the skin’s resources were used to repair the recent damage rather than repairing the substantial damage
that was the initial treatment goal. So how do you stimulate the skin without damaging it?
There a few ingredients for this task but one stands out as a clear leader, Retinaldehyde. The key
remodeling components in the skin are the Fibroblasts. They make collagen, elastin and GAG’s, all
of which are critical to a youthful, wrinkle-free appearance. Trauma does activate them but for little
net gain. Activating their receptors is the true target and Retinaldehyde does a wonderful job at stimulating
Fibroblasts without trauma. Retinaldehyde is what the skin uses to make collagen by converting it to Retinoic
Most people think protection is a sunscreen. Sunscreens create damage in the
skin and have been shown to increase skin cancer rates. Sunblocks like Titanium and Zinc, however, do protect
by reflecting UV rays before they penetrate. But the best method of protection actually comes at the cellular
level. Antioxidants used in the skin include catalase, l-glutathione, L-superoxide dismutase, Vitamin C
and E amongst other ones. We believe that the utilization of ingredients the skin recognizes vastly improves
the protection ability. Antioxidants are constantly being used, restored and used again because we are
literally in a constant state of inflammation. High dose antioxidants have proved to not only significantly
reduce damage in the skin, they actually allow the skin to rebuild itself by shrinking the repair requirements, thus resulting
in a thicker, healthier dermis. To make the process most effective, high percentages of these healing actives
should be used and adjunctive ingredients like liposomal technology, ensures that they reach their target.
Let us be very clear, there is no more important skin ingredient
than Vitamin A. The body stores Beta Carotene and Vitamin A (aka Retinol) in the skin for activation whenever
it needs to repair itself (which ends up being 24hrs/day). It converts Retinol to Retinaldehyde, which
has some activity, and then it converts Retinaldehyde to Retinoic Acid (aka Retin A).
Looking at this process, you would naturally think that Retin A is the answer since that is the most active
of the group and has the majority of receptors in the skin. The reason that is not true is because retinoic
acid requires very careful regulation. The skin has no ability to store retinoic acid so whatever is produced
(or applied topically) is utilized.
Unfortunately, like many processes
in the body, when receptors are over-stimulated, they do not work as well. In the case of Retin A (tm),
the irritation resulting from over-stimulation reduces its effectiveness and the down-regulation of receptors makes it less
active over time. Retinol, on the contrary, can be stored in the skin. It is 1/100thas
active as Retin A (tm) and has little independent activity outside of what is converted to Retin A (tm) by the skin (which
is a very small amount). To achieve an adequate response, approximately 5% is needed topically every day.
Retinaldehyde is the immediate precursor to Retin A (tm) and has proved
to have similar activity in the skin to Retin A (tm). The big advantage is that the skin can store whatever
is not converted, thus reducing irritation and maximizing effectiveness with long-term use. Maximum stimulation
of collagen/elastin with minimal irritation, which is why Retinaldehyde is the best form of Vitamin A available.
Another important misconception about Retinols is
their ability to penetrate the skin. They are a large molecule and often have difficulty penetrating to
the dermis where they are needed. To combat this problem, some companies use doses around 5% knowing that
at least some of the Retinol will make it into the dermis. The downside of this is that a large part of
the retinol sits superficially resulting in over-exfoliation which compromises the skin’s defenses.
To effectively penetrate ingredients like Retinaldehyde, the use of liposomal technology can be extremely
important. The net result is that there is less exfoliation (irritation) because the ingredient isn’t
being activated in the superficial epidermis and there is more collagen/elastin produced because of the now higher levels
in the dermis.