Saving Face: Exclusive Web Update

The Jul/Aug 2010 issue of the Post includes a practical guide for healthier skin. Here, we off readers an online exclusive update.

Protection is the key to saving your skin. Fortunately, consumers have a wide array of choices of sunscreens, sunglasses, sunless tanning products, and clothing that offers coverage from the No. 1 cause of all skin cancers and the primary cause of aging—the sun.

To learn more about current measures to preserve the skin and reduce the appearance of sun-damaged, the Post interviewed dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, M.D., F.A.A.D., vice president of the American Academy of Dermatology. A consulting professor of dermatology at Duke University School of Medicine, Dr. Draelos is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology and has written eight dermatology textbooks, 32 book chapters, and more than 300 scientific articles. She has served as president of the North Carolina Dermatology Association and as a member of the board of directors of the American Society for Dermatology Surgery.

PP: Why do so many products use botanicals in their ingredients?

ZD: Botanicals are usually used as antioxidants, which are designed to prevent the damage that occurred from UV radiation striking the skin. But botanicals can be used for many purposes in anti-aging products—for their anti-aging properties, to color or scent the product, and many other purposes.

PP: What do you see as the major anti-aging breakthroughs in skin treatment today?

ZD: One of the big breakthroughs is understanding aquaporins, which are responsible for regulating the transport of water and other small solutes across plasma membranes, ultimately acting as pores within the walls of skin cells to keep skin moisturized and hydrated.

Old-fashioned ingredients, such as glycerin, actually affect the amount of water the skin holds. Many moisturizers now contain very high glycerin levels. Anti-aging moisturizers attempt to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by enhancing the skin’s water-holding capacity. Glycerin is a well-known emollient and lubricant that is great for dry skin. Glycerin—a basic ingredient for Corn Husker’s Lotion—has been rediscovered for its water-holding ability. When you increase the water-holding capacity in the skin, you can get rid of the fine lines of dehydration.

Many sophisticated fillers (see below) that doctors use to rid wrinkles contain a substance known as hyaluronic acid (HLA), which soaks up water. Holding water in the skin is a very powerful cosmetic tool to improve skin appearance. This water balance is like the spigot on the hose. When you turn the spigot down, not as much water comes out, so the skin is better hydrated. If you open it up and let a lot of water out, the skin becomes dehydrated. It may be that the aquaporin channels are defective and the reason why the skin dries out is because too much water is leaving the body. Understanding how aquaporins work would allow you to develop therapeutic moisturizers to increase the water-holding capacity of the skin and alleviate dry, itchy skin that is especially found in elderly people.

Rejuvenating Aging Skin

Innovations in anti-aging skin care are on the fast track to meet the growing demand of baby boomers (and their parents). Therapies are available that improve the skin’s surface texture, reduce irregular pigmentation, and help reverse the effects of sun damage.

Fillers: These reduce the appearance of facial lines and wrinkles by “plumping” furrows and hollows in the face, giving the skin a more youthful-looking appearance. Fillers (Juvaderm, Restylane, Gore-Tex) are very effective at contouring specific areas on the face, such as around the lips, including long, vertical “marionette” lines that start at the corners of the mouth and extend down the chin. Botulinum toxin type A (Botox, Dysport) injections also diminish lines and wrinkles associated with facial expression, including vertical lines between the eyebrows and on the bridge of the nose, forehead lines and furrows, and crow’s feet.