Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Anti-Aging Skincare FAQ, ver. 3.0, July 2003


Posted to alt.skincare Author code 91587355 Top

This FAQ may be reproduced if it is referenced as the Anti-Aging Skincare FAQ, version 3.0, posted to Usenet.

--------------------------------------------------------------------- Anti-Aging Skincare Frequently Asked Questions, Version 3.0 Revised July 2003


1. Introduction 2. What is the anatomy of the skin? 3. What factors affect skin health and aging of the skin? 4. What are Retin-A (tretinoin) and retinoids? 5. What is retinol? 6. What is copper peptide? 7. What are alpha-hydroxy acids and skin exfoliation? 8. What other topical treatments are available? 9. What is skin resurfacing? 10. How can I treat oily skin? 11. How can I treat scars? 12. How can I treat visible capillaries?

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Most people start seeing aging effects in the skin by their late 30s.  Over the years you may also accumulate scars from cuts, scrapes, and burns.  This FAQ answers common questions about how to slow skin aging and improve the appearance of aged or scarred skin, short of plastic surgery.  It does not cover injected fillers, Botox (botulism toxin), cosmetics, cleansers, or moisturizers.  Rather, it deals with products and procedures that can improve overall skin structure.  It is based on a review of medical research, books on skincare, consumer reviews and personal experience.  This information applies to both men and women.  The pharmaceutical information is for customers in the U.S.A.

This FAQ does not constitute professional medical advice.  You should consult a medical professional for that advice.  Most internists and general practitioners have basic medical skincare knowledge, but ! for specialized advice and procedures you should consult with a derma tologist or a nurse or physician-assistant who specializes in dermatology.  Plastic surgeons also do certain skincare procedures such as resurfacing and scar revision.


The outer layer of the skin is the epidermis, and the next layer is the dermis. The epidermis, which is generally less than a millimeter thick on the face, is constantly being regenerated as surface cells are shed.  As epidermal cells are pushed to the skin surface, they become flattened, and a hard protein   called keratin is formed in them.  The thicker dermis under the epidermis contains collagen and elastin fibers that give skin its elasticity.  The pores contain fine hairs and secrete sebum (skin oil) to keep your skin moist. Sweat glands open onto the skin surface to cool the body in high temperatures. Both the pores and sweat glands are sources for new cells that spread out on top of the dermis to form the epidermis.  T! he appearance of your skin is governed by the condition of both the dermis and epidermis.

As we age, wrinkles and fine lines appear, caused mostly by damage to the collagen and elastin in the dermis.  The epidermis also becomes thinner. Because of these changes, the pores appear larger and the surface texture becomes more coarse.  Dynamic wrinkles,  which are caused by making various facial expressions over the years, become more prominent due to loss of elasticity in the dermis.  Some of this skin damage is caused by intrinsic cellular aging, but most is caused by extrinsic damage from sun exposure (called photoaging or photodamage).  Solar ultraviolet (UV) light also causes most skin discolorations and cancers.  The best-looking skin most people have is in areas without much sun exposure - under the arms, on the breasts, or the rear.  Dark-skinned people usually have much less photoaging because the melanin pigment in the! ir skin partially blocks sunlight from reaching the lower dermis. &nb sp;

The dermis can also be damaged by injuries.  If a wound penetrates deeply into the dermis, thick, uneven scar collagen can form as the wound heals.  This produces a raised scar.  If a wound causes significant tissue loss in the dermis, a pit or depressed scar may form.  Burn scars can have an irregular appearance with both raised and depressed areas.

While the condition of the dermis is reflected in wrinkles, lines and scars, the condition of the epidermis affects the surface texture of your skin.   Generally, the best appearance is produced by a thick epidermis.  A thicker epidermis also tends to minimize the appearance of pores and depressed scars. However, if the epidermis grows abnormally or is excessively dry, the skin can appear rough or scaly.  At the other extreme, stripping off the upper epidermal layers with excessive scrubbing or over-use of cosmetic acids can temporarily produce an uneven surface texture a! nd increase the size of the pore openings.  Scraped or burned areas sometimes have a thinner epidermis, even after complete healing.

You should not expect the texture of the epidermis to be porcelain-smooth. The openings of the pores and sweat glands cause small indentations, and there are small ridges covering the surface.  Many people have a false sense of how smooth adult skin should appear because they see models and celebrities who seem to have perfect skin in magazine photos, on TV and in movies.  Only children or people who have generally avoided sun exposure have this type of skin.  Most close-up magazine photos are touched-up to smooth skin texture, and both men and women wear a lot of makeup on TV and in the movies.  (There is a web site with candid photos showing that many celebrities have the same skin problems as everyone else.)  Even politicians and news-people wear a lot of makeup on TV.  Special camera lense! s, filters, lighting, and digital image processing help to hide wrink les and rough skin.   A recent magazine article and companion network news report had an interview with a famous actress who showed exactly how her skin was "cleaned up" for magazine photos with computer software.  Remember too, that after about age 50, many celebrities have facelifts, which stretch the skin and make the surface appear smoother than normal (often unnaturally smooth).

Based on skin anatomy, we can say that a true anti-aging skincare treatment   will produce one or more of the following effects:

1. Prevent or repair damaged collagen and elastin in the dermis; 2. Promote the growth of new collagen and elastin; 3. Repair other damaged cells in the dermis; 4. Promote epidermal growth to thicken the epidermis; or 5. Smooth the epidermal surface.

There are scientific methods to determine if a substance or procedure has any of these effects, and research in this field is ongoing.  However, despite advertising cla! ims, most skincare products sold today don't have any effect on collagen or elastin, and just temporarily change the appearance of the upper epidermis.  For example, most moisturizers work by adding oils to the epidermis to trap more water in the skin.  The oils also retain the upper epidermal layers so they don't flake off.  The effect is to temporarily smooth fine lines that appear more prominent in dry skin.  However, the "special" ingredients in many moisturizers like collagen or vitamins do not penetrate into the dermis, so they can't permanently improve lines or wrinkles.  Also, the type of cleanser you use to wash your skin will not affect it's structure; you've probably been washing your underarms and other sun-protected areas with plain soap all your life, and the skin there looks like a baby's.  Unfortunately, many people believe cosmetics advertising, and waste a lot of money on expensive products that don't wor! k any better than the inexpensive brands.


Scientific research has identified a variety of factors that affect extrinsic and intrinsic aging of the skin.  Many of these factors are controllable by simply modifying your behavior and diet.  This section covers ways to prevent skin aging, and the following sections cover ways to treat it.

Sunlight is the major cause of extrinsic skin aging and skin cancer.  It damages collagen and elastin and can cause changes in cells that trigger cancer.  Doctors call this type of skin aging photoaging, that is, aging produced by light.  Everyone is susceptible to it, even people with dark skin.  Though more skin pigment reduces sun damage, the intensity of sunlight and cumulative exposure will eventually cause photoaging in people of all skin colors.  Avoiding sun damage is the most effective thing you can do to prevent aging of your skin.  

The majority of visible skin aging occurs in th! e face, because it is regularly exposed to the sun.  If a person were able to avoid sun exposure their whole life, their face would have few wrinkles and discolorations, even in old age.  Some old people who have had little sun exposure look remarkably youthful.  The body of a 60 year-old person who exercises regularly and eats right can look as good as that of an average 40 year-old; the same could be true of our faces if we avoided sun exposure.  So if you want healthy skin, you need to stay out of the sun or cover up with clothes, a brimmed hat, and a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunblock.  This is very important for children too, because sun damage is cumulative.  Don' use tanning beds; they are little better than baking in the sun.  If you go swimming, use a beach umbrella when you are out of the water.  If you wear very light-weave clothing in the summer, you should apply sunblock underneath, because the fabric may only p! artially block the sunlight.  Wear good-quality UV-blocking sungl asses, since sunlight can damage your eyes and the delicate skin around them. Also ask your optician for UV-blocking lenses if you wear clear prescription glasses.  

Sunblock is a true anti-aging product because it prevents sunlight from damaging your skin.  However, older "suntan lotions" didn't do a very good job of blocking UV rays, so many middle-aged and older people have skin photodamage, even if they used these products in their youth.  Today there are all sorts of very effective sunblock products available from very light gels for daily use, to thick waterproof creams for swimming.  (Avoid daily use of sunblocks containing alcohol, which isn't good for your skin.)  Some makeup products now incorporate sunblock.  Look for a sunblock that is labeled for both UVA and UVB solar radiation protection.  (UVA and UVB refer to different wavelength ranges of ultraviolet light.)  It is best to buy brands that ha! ve an expiration date printed on the label or bottom of the bottle, since most sunblocks lose potency over time.  Read the directions on the bottle.  Most sunblocks require a number of minutes before they start working, and you need to reapply them after a certain period of time.  Some sunblocks may stain certain fabrics, so you should apply some to a similar scrap of cloth before wearing the sunblock with good clothes.  If you are going to be in the sun for an hour or more, you should use sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.  Higher values will allow you to stay in the sun longer, but they also expose your skin to higher concentrations of the various sunblock chemicals - some of which may irritate your skin.  SPF ratings are a measure of how long the sunblock lasts on your skin, not a measure of "blocking power."  So higher SPF values are appropriate if you are going to be in the sun for many h! ours and don't want to apply more sunblock later.   However, if you sweat a lot, you should apply more sunblock after an hour or two no matter what the SPF value.  If you wear makeup, try to find a product line that incorporates sunblock in its products or which has a chemically- compatible sunblock that you can apply under the other makeup products.

You should use sunblock on all exposed areas of skin when you are outside.   Some people forget to apply it to their hands, ears, and neck.  You should also use sunblock lip-balm for your lips, which are very susceptible to sun damage.  Be sure to cover your nose well with sunblock, because its angle causes it to receive more intense sunlight during mid-day.  (The worst photoaging many people have is on top of their nose.)  Sunblock should be used year-round and also on cloudy days, because even diffuse sunlight causes damage.  People who live at high altitude should always use sunblock and cover up as much as possible when outside because th! e intensity of UV radiation is higher there.  High-altitude areas have higher skin cancer rates.  Mountain climbers and skiers should shade or cover their faces as much as possible with brimmed hats, wrap-around sunglasses or goggles, nose shields (see

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