Skincare Science

Skincare is a multi-billion dollar industry, as such a lot of research is sponsored by profiteers of the market. This a problem because science shows that corporate sponsorship diverts research and distorts public policy [1][2][3] – Those who have the gold make the evidence.

So here’s skincare science explained by someone who makes no money from it:

1 . Sunscreen

Sunscreen is the the closest thing to an anti-aging cream that exists. As reported in the The New England Journal of Medicine [4]: The left side of the man’s face appears severely wrinkled because, as a truck driver of 28 years, it was constantly exposed to sunlight through the truck window, whereas the right side was covered – and relatively unharmed. Sunscreen would’ve mitigated wrinkling by reducing UV damage to the skin.

2. Retinol

Retinol is considered a gold-standard ingredient for skincare by dermatologists.

  • Retinoic acid/tretinoin is the most scientifically backed and potent form, but is prescription only.
  • Retinol products can be purchased over-the-counter, and are still effective in improving skin.

Retinol increases susceptibility to UV-damage, and easily degrades to biologically inactive forms on exposure to light and air, so use before bedtime, not in the morning! This is also why a lot of retinol products are marketed as night creams/moisturizers.

Some products are marketed as retinol products but actually use retinol-variations, like retinyl propionate, which doesn’t actually improve acne [5]. So read the ingredients list and make sure it contains retinol, and don’t fall for meaningless marketing buzzwords. Interestingly, the term “microencapsulated” actually does refer to scientifically backed method of preparing retinol. Products are more effective when using a combination of retinol and the following ingredients which are proven to work:

  • hydroquinone, glycolic acid, dimethylenolamine, vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), retinaldehyde, copper [6][7][8][9].
Other products
  • 5% tea tree oil has a lot of scientific backing [10][11][12].
  • Adapalene 0.3%/benzoyl peroxide 2.5% is also an alternative to retinol [13].

3. Supplements

Before and after Omega-3 supplementation

Supplements proven to work:

  • Omega-3 fatty acid reduces acne. Dosage: two capsules daily containing 500mg EPA (eicosapentaenoic  acid) + 500mg DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) [14][15]
  • Y-linoleic acid supplements reduce acne. Dosage: two capsules daily, containing 200mg of GLA (gamma-Linolenic acid) [16].
  • Selenium + tocopheryl succinate. Dosage: twice daily 0.2mg selenium and 10mg of tocopheryl succinate [17].
  • Collagen promotes skin rejuvenation [18][19][20]
  • Astaxanthin stimulates collagen production [21][22][23][24]
  • Beta-carotene reduces premature skin-aging [25][26][27][28][29]

Here’s a great scientific paper if you’re interested in supplements for skincare.

4. Exfoliation

Amongst the skincare community, exfoliating once a week is considered normal. Science shows commonly used chemical peels appear to be similarly effective for mild-to-moderate acne and well tolerated. Here are ingredients proven to work:

  • Trichloroacetic acid, Salicylic acid, Glycolic acid, Amino fruit acid, Pyruvic acid, Lipohydroxy acid, Mandelic acid, Jessner’s solution [30].

5. Moisturizing

Moisturizing is another key part of skincare, and is usually done daily. There isn’t significant differences in moisturizers, so long as it matches your skin type. Experiment for yourself. Taking it a step further, you could look for moisturizers with SPF. This way, you get the benefits of sunscreen and moisturizing in one product. However, according to the British Association of Dermatologists, SPF moisturizers are unlikely to offer the same level of protection as sunscreen [31], so you should still use sunscreen when you know you’re going to get a lot of sun exposure.

Skincare Explained

Watch in video form.

The basics

Of course, you should always take care of the basics when considering skincare.

  • Eat healthy
  • Sleep enough
  • Manage stress
  • Proper hygiene
  • Drink lots of water
  • Change bedsheets often
  • Limit smoking, drinking and drugs

A routine recommendation

  • Daily: Morning moisturizer with UV-protection. In the evening before bed: retinol-based moisturizer (often marketed as night creams). 2 x Omega-3 capsules.
  • Weekly: Chemical peel exfoliation.

Notice how the routine works perfectly together: retinol is the gold-standard skin rejuvenating ingredient, but increases the skin’s susceptibility to UV-damage, which is why the next morning SPF moisturizer is so important. Also, under this protocol, you moisturize twice daily which keeps your skin hydrated.

Good Luck!

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