Skincare Secrets (Part II: In Modern Times)


Our skin is the body’s shield against the outside world; it is coated with what is known as the acid mantle, which is a thin acidic film that acts as our buffer against external elements, keeping bacteria and pollutants that may otherwise penetrate our skin at bay. The pH of facial skin usually rests around 5.5, keeping it on the acidic side; when choosing skincare products, one must keep in mind that it should not be too acidic or too alkaline.

What makes our own skincare is the special attention that is given to ingredients and their beneficial properties, which are studied in depth in a scientific manner. Each year brings on new trends and innovations; if you peruse what is available in the market, certain ingredients will keep coming up. These include, but are not limited to antioxidants, Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA).

Antioxidants counteract the effects of free radicals, which are molecules or atoms that are missing an electron. Free radicals set in motion a domino effect; they keep destabilizing neighbouring healthy atoms in their quest to become stable, causing cell membranes to break, disrupting and damaging healthy cells. Free radicals can be found everywhere, from the environment to the food we consume, and they have been linked to skin diseases and premature ageing. They can turn the oils naturally found in our facial skin rancid, causing damage to collagen, which is key for the well-being of our skin, as it is the main protein in our tissues that gives our skin its strength and elasticity. With depleted collagen, sagging of the skin occurs and fine lines and wrinkles become more pronounced.

Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize the effect of free radicals and calm down their disruptive nature; products do that in two ways. On the one hand, they can break the chain reaction through donating electrons to free radicals; hence, rebalancing the skin tissue. On the other hand, they can prevent oxidation from occurring in the first place. Many topical antioxidant products can be found in stores; their ingredients include vitamins A, C, or E. However, since antioxidants block the process of oxidation, they themselves become oxidized, making the fight against free radical damage ongoing. To that end, one needs to reapply antioxidants on a regular basis.

AHAs are chemicals that can occur naturally or be synthesized in the lab; they are water soluble and tend to work on the skin’s surface. A popular AHA is glycolic acid, which can be found in moisturizers, peels, and serums. AHAs help exfoliate dead skin cells by dissolving the bonds that hold skin cells together. As a result, pores become unblocked and fewer bacteria would build up on the skin, preventing spots and other skin issues; the process also helps reveal newer and smoother skin.

Unlike AHAs, BHAs are oil soluble; they have higher penetrative powers and work on the skin’s surface, as well as inside pores. In skincare, this chemical is used to fight against acne prone skin, and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help the skin fight off irritants. It is usually better suited for those with oilier skin, as it can be drying.

Taking care of one’s skin is a delicate affair, because different skin types react differently to different skincare products. If misused, some skincare products can damage the skin’s natural protective abilities instead of fortifying it. Accordingly, paying a visit to a dermatologist is always a good idea; they can help you navigate the modern skincare labyrinth and set you off on the right path for a healthier and more glowing skin.


*This article was published in SCIplanet Printed Magazine, Winter 2018 Issue.

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