• Antioxidants: Past, Present & Future

    In this recent Q&A, Dr. Claudia Aguirre met with American Spa Magazine to discuss the latest in antioxidants and skin care. Get the scoop on these famed ingredients and find out what trends in antioxidant research we can expect to see next!

    Q. “Antioxidant” is an overused buzzword in the beauty industry. What should people look out for when choosing skincare products? Are there any common marketing claims that are particularly misleading?
    A. Antioxidants are so widely varied, with a multitude of functions, that they can appear to be as ubiquitous as moisturizers themselves. In fact, there are over 600 known carotenoids and over 8,000 sources of polyphenols found in nature. And those are just the ones we know. The activity and effectiveness behind a product’s antioxidant power comes from its unique formulation. It all depends on the formula when it comes to antioxidants, and since the formulas are not always disclosed, the best thing for a spa owner or consumer to do is to look for products coming from reputable brands which spend heavily on research and development.

    Much of the marketing claims that are in fact misleading are typically confined to the food industry. For example, the word ‘superfood’ is not recognized as a true category of food in the scientific community although many people believe the antioxidant power behind goji berry is better than blueberry (or other food not currently in the spotlight). These trendy foods of course then get translated into skin care formulations that highlight the ‘superfoods.’

    Q. What are some common misconceptions about antioxidants?
    A. Probably that they’re quick acting. We are always looking for a quick fix, and compared to sunscreens and retinoids, antioxidants are more preventative and protective rather than corrective. However, over time these can correct some signs of photodamage, as vitamin C has been shown to lighten up sun-induced pigmentation.

    Another is that a vitamin is a single compound. A ‘vitamin’ is typically a family of compounds. For example, Vitamin A can be sourced from animals (retinoids) or plants (carotenoids) in our diet. So they’re not as simple as we think.

    Q. What are some of the most promising emerging antioxidant ingredients on the market and why?
    A. Vitamins are tried and true and many people may not realize that these also have a number of derivatives which can produce the same effects on the skin as the original vitamin compound. For instance, vitamin C has an active form of L-Ascorbic Acid but has a long list of derivative compounds (MAP, Ascorbyl Glucoside, etc) that can also provide benefits to the skin such as lightening up photodamage and promoting collagen production.

    The plant based antioxidants – polyphenols – are also great at scavenging free radicals in the skin. However, these likely have benefits that extend beyond preventing oxidative damage. Recent studies suggest these compounds can also promote oxidation (prooxidant) and trigger cell death, which may prevent tumor cells from growing and proliferating. Some may even mimic our own chemical messengers like hormones, as in the case of soy isoflavones1. Others like the catechins found in green tea can also impart anti-inflammatory benefits to sensitized or irritated skin.

    Q. What is your company doing to increase the antioxidant power in your skin care products?
    A. The biggest issue when it comes to antioxidants in skin care is how to deliver it efficaciously to the skin. We at Dermalogica not only use a wide variety of antioxidant compounds from botanical, marine and synthetic sources, but we also employ the latest technology to ensure delivery and penetration of the product. Since these are highly sensitive compounds, they easily ‘rust’ or oxidize, turning the product brown and rendering it useless. We encapsulate derivatives of stabilized vitamins in an advanced liposomal delivery system to optimize results on the skin. This ensures we don’t get adverse effects like irritation, and allows the ingredient to penetrate without being oxidized by the environment. Some packaging options such as airless tubes can also help with the delivery.

    Q. Are there any other trends that you’re seeing in antioxidant research?
    A. Combinations of antioxidants have been shown to work better than when used individually. So you’re likely to see products with a cocktail of vitamins and antioxidants rather than a product based on a single ingredient.

    Some of the current research is focused on marine algae, a large and diverse group of species that include kelp and seaweed. These have shown to include a large variety of antioxidant compounds such as carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamins and polysaccharides2. It won’t be surprising to see products crop up with marine antioxidants as the next trend in anti-aging cosmetics.

    Other carotenoids besides β-carotene are also being closely investigated. Powerful antioxidants found in tomatoes, peppers and even microalgae include lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, among many other compounds.

    And just as combinations of antioxidants are proving to be better than using them separately, combination treatments are also becoming more popular. A recent study concluded that ‘the addition of polyphenolic antioxidants to an IPL regimen improved the clinical, biochemical, and histological changes seen following IPL treatment alone3,’ suggesting that topical antioxidants are not only great protective elements in skin care, but they can even impact the efficacy and results of other treatments.


    1. Scalbert, et al. Polyphenols: antioxidants and beyond Am J Clin Nutr January 2005 vol. 81 no. 1 215S-217S
    2. Cornish, M.L. and Garbary, D.J. Algae 2010, 25(4): 155-171
    3. Freedman, B. M. (2009), Topical antioxidant application augments the effects of intense pulsed light therapy. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 8: 254–259

  • Client Watch: Inspecting for Suspicious Lesions

    Sadly, in Australia we have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. This is not surprising considering our climate. However we are not alone – more than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year and on average, one American dies from melanoma every hour. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) expects 1 in 5 Americans will contract skin cancer in his or her lifetime. These are certainly scary stats!

    As professional skin therapists, we not only have the skill set to understand skin, we also have a tremendous responsibility to care for the health and wellness of our clients. This includes sharing any observations we make with regard to manifestations and irregularities on their skin. It is of course not for us to diagnose, but we can advise them to seek medical attention. We can therefore be of great assistance with the early detection of any cancerous lesions or other skin disorders.

    The three main types of cancer we need to be on the lookout for during skin analysis are:

    Basal Cell Carcinoma: Pearly nodule or flat red lesion that may or may not have telangiectasia. It increases in size slowly and may form an ulceration in its center. It may also pigment. Keep an eye out for these on sun exposed skin, remembering your client may not notice this lesion as it does not itch or hurt.

    Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Small wart-like growth or a smooth waxy lump with poorly defined edges. They often appear on areas that have been burned such as the tip of the nose, forehead, lower lip, and hands. A tell tail sign is that the lesion persists and does not heal. It may also bleed.

    Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer and requires early diagnosis for successful treatment. Keep your eyes peeled for any suspicious, irregularly-shaped, raised, colored, mole-like lesions.

    Question your clients about the history of their lesions. Have they noticed them? If so, for how long has the lesion been present? Upon any indication of irregularity, recommend your clients visit a dermatologist as soon as possible.

    Make a note on your consultation card to re-check this lesion on your clients’ return. If it’s still present and the client has not had it checked, remember to encourage her or him to do so, you may just be saving their life!

    The latest research seems promising for the early detection. A new discovery by scientists at the Department of Dermatology at the University of Cincinnati has identified a pigmentation gene called the melanocortin 1 receptor, or MC1R. When this gene doesn’t function properly, skin cells don’t respond to the hormone α-MSH, which causes cells to produce melanin. This discovery may lead to new tests that can assess personal skin cancer risk and open the doors to a new generation of sunscreens.

    And if your clients are worried about the “scaremongering” with relation to the use of sunscreens, The Science Daily (May 15,2012) reports that A.A.D. has recently reiterated the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens to protect against the damaging effects from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. “Scientific evidence supports the benefits of sunscreen usage to minimize short- and long-term damage to the skin from UV radiation and outweighs any unproven claims of toxicity or human health hazard,” said Daniel M. Siegel, MD, FAAD, president of the Academy.

    For extra peace of mind, the FDA announced this month that new sunscreen regulations that clearly define the testing required to make a broad-spectrum protection claim can reduce skin cancer risk.