Television commercials, beauty magazines and cosmetics counters lure customers with a variety of skin care products from exfoliation creams to alpha hydroxy that promise radiant, ageless skin. But do any of them really work?
Some do, and some don't, according to Dr. Marianne O'Donoghue, a dermatologist from the Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, who weighed in on skin care products in a presentation at the summer scientific meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Anaheim, Calif.
Skin care products have become a billion-dollar industry, with consumers spending more than $344 million on anti-aging creams and lotions alone.
Skin care products, if used correctly, can have tremendous benefits for the skin, O'Donoghue said. Consumers should choose wisely, based on skin type, she advises. She studied different companies, including Proctor & Gamble, Medicis (maker of Prescription), Neutrogena, Galderma (maker of Cetaphil), Lever (maker of Dove), Beirsdorf (maker of Nivea), Estee Lauder (maker of Clinique, Origins and Estee Lauder) and Lancome.
Oily Skin Avoidance
Those with oily skin should avoid any product with the words "heavy moisturizer," or that contain the ingredients lanolin, petrolatum or isopropyl myristate.
"They are in a lot of products and some women who use them get a condition where they're dry and scaly in the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin areas) and can end up with regular or acne rosacea," O'Donoghue said. A product that is good for oily skin is Cetaphil, which is free of lanolins and non-comedogenic, meaning it does not clog pores or cause blemishes.
Use either no moisturizer or a type that is labeled non-comedogenic or oil-free, meaning it won't give you blackheads, O'Donoghue said. Oily skin sufferers should use makeup that has SPF 15, and is also non-comedogenic and oil-free. And they should wash their skin with care.
"If you're scrubbing your face five or six times a day, the face will counter and overproduce oil," O'Donoghue said. She recommends using a gentle soap like Dove twice a day. Even though it has moisturizing cream, it rinses right off.
Those with oily skin should not use astringents at home, but can use them at lunch break or midway through working out to get rid of extra oil on the face.
Balancing Out Combination Skin
If you have combination skin that is dry in some places and oily in the T-zone, only moisturize cheeks, not the forehead and the nose. O'Donoghue also recommends using an antidandruff shampoo, such as Head and Shoulders, which contains either zinc pyrthione or ketoconizole.
Those with dry skin should avoid astringents, or any products with alcohol, because they easily strip away moisture from the skin. Avoid products that contain propylene sodium lauryl sulfate, and do not use buff puffs or grainy exfoliators on dry skin.
"People with dry skin are the same as sensitive skin," O'Donoghue said. "They need to be sure they cleanse with something non-irritating: Cetaphil, Dove, Aveeno, or a very gentle liquid cleanser."
She also recommends Oil of Olay Total Effects moisturizer.
For Younger-Looking Skin
Anti-aging products which promise to diminish wrinkles and fine lines are all over the stores, but consumers should look for specific ingredients. The No. 1 product for preventing wrinkles and sun damage is sunscreen, O'Donoghue said. A broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher can prevent skin from looking older than it is.
Sunscreen should be used on the face and the body on a daily basis, to prevent the deep wrinkles and dark spots that can make a person look older than they are.
Products containing tretinoin ingredients are also effective in treating fine wrinkles, dark spots or rough skin on the face that are caused by the sun's damaging rays. Retinoid creams are the best way to deliver tretinoin to the skin.
Alpha hydroxy acids — naturally occurring acids found in certain plants and fruits such as apples, grapes and citrus fruits — are the second choice after tretinoin, O'Donoghue said. They work by stimulating dead cells on the surface of the skin and inside the pores so they can slough off more easily.
The alpha hydroxy compounds can also encourage the production of better connective tissue under the skin, slowing water loss, and lessening fine lines and wrinkles.
Furfuryladenine, a plant-derived compound that retains water in the skin, is a promising product that is promoted as reversing the aging product. It is a nonirritating alternative for those who are unable to tolerate tretinoin products, O'Donoghue said.
Ingredients to Avoid
When buying moisturizers, there are specific ingredients to stay away from, O'Donoghue said. Avoid propylene glycol or sorbital, which are commonly used in moisturizers as humectants to hold moisture in the skin. The propylene glycol binds moisture to the skin, but also repels it, leaving the user no better off.
Another skin irritant is sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, which are known as surfactants and are found in products such as shampoo, toothpaste and dish soap. They stay on hair and skin long after you think you have rinsed them off, stripping away the fatty acids, moisture and amino acids from your hair and skin, O'Donoghue said.