With autumn upon us – just like packing away your summer dress and sandals and digging out the cashmere – your skincare needs an overhaul to up its game against the elements.
Exposure to the sun in summer months – even just day-to-day – will take its toll on your pigmentation, hydration and elasticity; causing premature ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles…but the Autumn/ Winter isn’t any kinder. Changes in climate and temperature, especially in the UK where the shift can be harsh, means your skin barrier can become damaged. Pollution and other free radicals can penetrate deeper into the layers causing sensitive, dry, red and lacklustre skin. Therefore, we need to curate our regime.
Skincare is evolving all the time, there are so many new launches and indie brands around, that even when emersed in beauty, it is very hard to keep up.
With this and the changing seasons in mind, I have written a simplistic run down on the ‘newest’ key ingredients trending – some you will have heard of but perhaps are not sure of the benefits, and others are genuinely new to the scene. Perhaps by demystifying the terms they could become part of your new regime.
Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs)
Chemical skin exfoliators (AHAs and BHAs) have been around for a few years and are now being updated with PHAs. Similar to AHAs and BHAs, PHAs are less irritable yet still remove the dead skin cells from the surface and promote even skin tone and radiance. Less potent than its competitors and therefore suitable for all skin types, PHAs can be used post-procedure (laser or similar) and for sensitive skin. PHA’s have more moisturising benefits and help skin barrier function.
Glycolic Acid (AHAs)
Known for its anti-ageing properties, effectiveness in treating acne and its ability to exfoliate the skin while maintaining a natural PH balance. Glycolic is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane, its simple structure and low molecular weight easily penetrate the deep layers of the skin and is therefore very effective. Normal Stratum corneum (top layers of skin) consist of tightly packed layers that are bonded together, Glycolic loosens these layers, meaning tough dead skin cells come away and because it is so small (molecularly), it is also able to stimulate fibroblasts in the dermis (deeper layers) to produce increased amounts of collagen. Collagen production equals firmer skin and minimises lines and wrinkles.
Retinol has been around for a while and whilst not exactly ground-breaking, it does have amazing anti-ageing benefits. Retinol, also known as Vitamin A is very effective at reducing the signs of ageing such as wrinkles, smoothing lines, brightening the skin and addressing acne.
But, without much guidance regarding usage and specifically how much to apply, consumers are un-surprisingly seeing adverse effects. Even when using the smallest amount, people report irritated, red, flaking and peeling skin which can go on for a week or more. Through the endorsement of celebs, bloggers and influencers alike, consumers are using a medical-grade ingredient that we don’t have a great deal of research about (when used in this way).
Retinol, once a prescription-only drug for acne, encourages the basal cells to divide and as a result, you produce new epidermal cells that migrate to the surface. The more you apply, the more these new cells appear which is when the peeling occurs. New cells are effectively new skin. However, due to the way the cells are rapidly produced they lack adhesion and lipid production to protect properly, which is why consumers report irritation and redness. Retinol also affects the skin barrier function; this means increased sensitivity to UV sunlight. So, if you are going to use retinol ensure you are using a strong (min of 30+) UVA/ UVB sunscreen. And if you are using one of the increasingly popular foundations that contain retinol, just be aware, that your sunscreen will not be working as well. One would assume that the more Retinol you use, the more sensitive your skin becomes. This is not to say Retinol is not a great product, but it needs to be used with caution.
A compound found in seeds and leaves of the Psoralea Corylifolia plant, Bakuchiol is a natural alternative to Retinol. A paper published in 2018 showed 44 participants using 0.5% of Bakuchiol and 0.5% of Retinol every day for 12 weeks. Using analytical and facial photographs of patients at 0, 4, 8 and 12 weeks, both ingredients significantly reduced wrinkle surface and hyperpigmentation, however, the Bakuchiol users reported less irritation and peeling.
High in Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, Grapeseed oil can be used on both skin and hair. Helping to protect your skin from damaging free radicals such as the UV sun rays, wind and pollution; it tackles dry skin and discolouration. Omega-3 & 6 are crucial to your skin function and appearance. Intense moisturisation qualities make Grapeseed Oil effective at preserving your skin, especially through the winter months.
Naturally occurring Hyaluronic Acid can hold up to 1000x its molecular weight in water. One of the best ingredients on the market, HA is a humectant, which means it draws moisture from its surroundings, which in turn gives the skin a ‘super shot’ of hydration. As we age our skin loses the ability to hold moisture, hence loss of firmness, suppleness, plumpness and wrinkles. By enhancing your moisture levels, HA revitalises the outer layer of the skin leaving it feeling and looking softer, smoother and radiant. Just one gram of Hyaluronic Acid can hold up to six litres of water – how impressive is that?!
Not only that, HA also has antioxidant properties too, meaning it will help fight against UV, wind and pollutants.
A form of vitamin B3 offering various benefits including supporting the skin barrier function, increasing resiliency and improving texture by making pores appear smaller. Helping to balance oil production Niacinamide can be particularly good in the winter months protecting against the harsh elements and the central heating. Niacinamide can be potent so use it with caution, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Petroleum Jelly has been around forever, literally since I was at school!
I remember my first foray was Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, the crème of the crop at the time, and everyone was obsessed. Petroleum Jelly is great for so many different ailments from dry chapped skin and soothing minor burns to preventing dry itchy, rough and scaly skin. And rumour has it, assists hair growth…only a rumour though.
Topically applied Vitamin C helps to neutralise free radical damage on the skin's surface. Free radicals are unstable molecules induced by the environment, these can cause premature signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. Vitamin C can also accelerate the production of collagen and elastin which maintain plumpness and firmness.
Known for its calming properties Aloe Vera has a wealth of benefits and is a bit of an unsung hero. With antibacterial and antioxidant properties, it calms sunburn, accelerates wound healing and can improve the appearance of wrinkles.
CBD Oil – Cannabidiol
A non-intoxicating component of hemp-extracted as a powder and mixed with oil to enhance its effectiveness. CBD has antioxidant properties and is, therefore, a great anti-inflammatory product. Benefits include reducing redness, dull skin, improving skin texture and soothing. CBD has also been reported to decrease sebum (oil) production. However, as a relatively new ingredient within skincare, there isn’t much research or evidence around to back up the claims.
Squalane (with an a)*
Squalene (with an e) is naturally produced in our bodies, “a lipid made by our oil glands to hydrate and maintain the barrier of our skin”**. Unfortunately, like many of our bodies natural processes of regeneration, our production of Squalene slows down after the age of 30. Squalane (with an a) is derived from plants (such as olives) and seeds. Squalane mimics your skins natural oils so works great to seal in moisture. An anti-inflammatory that reduces lines, redness and swelling, it acts as a barrier keeping skin supple and soft. As a ‘super hydrator’, used in conjunction with Hyaluronic Acid it works wonders to hydrate, reduce redness and swelling giving you refreshed looking skin. Squalane is a great ingredient if you suffer from eczema or psoriasis – conditions where the skin barrier is affected.
Of the twelve ingredients listed; PHA’s, Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide, Vitamin C, Squalene and Grapeseed Oil can all be found in CULT51 products.
*Squalene in its natural form is not very stable, so for use in skincare, the raw ingredient goes through a saturation process called hydro generation & becomes known as Squalane.
**Charlotte Birnbaum, New York Dermatologist