Ingredients that are suppose to do things... but do they?
Today let’s touch on a topic that might cross your mind when you are shopping for cosmeceuticals, ‘Do these products actually do what they say’
While we can’t make a generalized statement about all the active ingredients available out there, because there are simply too many, I do want to highlight 2 of the most commonly used agents in cosmeceuticals and discuss what they are supposed to do and whether there is any evidence that they actually do it.
Let’s start with a bit of basics. Your skin is made of numerous types of molecules, one of which is lipids, or fats. The primary components of the fats in your skin are ceramide, cholesterol, and free fatty acids, and they exist in roughly the same ratio and they all play important role in the skin barrier. While cholesterol and free fatty acids are not usually seen in many consumer products, ceramides, on the other hand, has been added left and right. So let’s start with that.
Ceramides are a special type of fat that exists in the skin (see the diagram for its chemical structure). Its primary role is to fill in the gaps between your skin cells so that you can form an effective barrier to protect your skin from external toxins and water loss. When your skin barrier is disrupted, such as in certain skin diseases (like eczema and dry skin from acne treatment) or injuries, replacing the barrier with topical ceramides can actually be beneficial. But here’s the issue, most consumers don’t have disrupted skin barriers. So is something like ceramide going to be helpful for people without a skin condition? Let’s break it down together.
None of us have PERFECT skin and most of us don’t even have homogenous skin, meaning skin that is equal in quality in all areas across the body. Depending on location, a person’s skin can vary in oiliness, dryness, degree of sun-damage, or how prone it is to rashes; it’s all a spectrum. The same principle can apply to the quality of your skin barrier in different body parts. While some parts are totally fine and may not benefit from moisturizers, others may be a bit drier, but not necessarily to the point of being called a skin disease. It’s totally arguable that those parts can benefit from a bit of external ceramide. When you apply ceramide based products, the fatty nature of the ceramide molecules will allow them to permeate through your skin barrier into the areas with deficits and essentially fill in some of the gaps and help restore the barrier function.
Hyalornic acid (HA) is a chain of sugar-like acids that attracts and holds water. Most of the body’s HA is found in the skin as an important component of the extra-cellular matrix, the stuff that holds your skin cells together (kind of like the cement in a brick wall where the bricks are your skin cells)
When most people think of HA, they think of anti-aging and younger looking skin. This because hyaluronic acid is best known for its effect as an injectable cosmetic product, or fillers, and its reputation of collagen regeneration. Yes, there are numerous studies looking at HA’s effect when it is injected.
However, does it mean it can have the same ‘anti-aging’ effect when used in cream form? The simple answer is no.
The reason is quite straightforward: HA molecules are simply too big to pass through your skin barrier to get to where they need to be.
So are HA based creams completely useless? Not really. HA molecules are great at holding water, meaning that HA in cream form may actually be effective in moisturization and may temporarily generate a sense of more youthful skin. Just be sure to keep in mind that these effects are likely only temporary.
If you have read through this article, you have probably noticed a recurrent trend of us saying ‘not enough scientific evidence’, and this doesn’t only apply to the 2 ingredients that we talked about. However, I want to clarify that no evidence does not imply evidence against. I wanted to use these ingredients as examples to highlight my opinion on what I believe to be common misconceptions in over-the-counter product consumption. Like with everything else,it’s prudent to always do some basic research before buying products of any kind.
That's all we have to say today folks! See you next time!