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Save your skin; We check the vital ingredients that claim to stop you ageing.

This is the age of the anti-ageing cream - you need a map and compass to navigate the ever-expanding cosmetic halls in stores.

But does all this progress and new active ingredients actually mean you can stop you skin from looking any older? And, once you've got a wrinkle, do you simply have to learn to love it?

You can't reverse the effects of age on the skin, but beauty experts claim creams can smooth fine lines.

The authors of the anti-ageing beauty bible, Feel Fabulous Forever, say there are two kinds of ageing - intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic ageing is natural, biological ageing that occurs in the skin without sun damage - and we have little control over it.

Extrinsic ageing, is a speeding- up of the ageing process. It's caused by exposure to UV light and pollution which produce free radicals on the surface of the skin, damaging the cells.

Their attack on collagen and elastin fibres -which keep the skin taut and plump - results in rough, dry skin, deep wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and broken veins.

Josephine Fairley and Sarah Stacey, who co-authored the health and beauty book, believe we can minimise extrinsic ageing by neutralising free radicals through antioxidant vitamins.

As well as getting plenty of rest and avoiding the sun and smoking, they advocate using skin creams which carry antioxidants, eating a diet rich in vitamins A, C, E and taking antioxidant supplements to prevent damage to face and body.

Dermatologists and beauty firms have developed hi-tech lotions to hold back time. The Max looks at these "miracle" creams.

Retin-A

A decade ago, news broke that a cream designed for treating acne could alleviate the fine lines and rough texture of sun-damaged skin.

Derived from vitamin A, Retin-A catapulted us into a new age of skincare, where creams are more than short-lived plumping of fine lines with mixtures of oil and water.

Retin-A still only has a licence as an anti-acne cream, but that doesn't stop dermatologists prescribing it for wrinkles. And there is a downside - skin irritation, especially during the first two weeks.

Because Retin-A causes a gradual thinning of the top layer of the skin, it allows greater penetration of UV light, so everyone who is given Retin-A should wear a sunscreen at all times - and you have to keep on using it.

Retinova & Renova

A younger cousin of Retin-A, Retinova has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to reverse effects of sun damage.

Renova contains the same active ingredient, a derivative of vitamin A, but in a more cosmetic like, moisturising base.

Studies into Renova have documented an improvement in the appearance of fine wrinkles, mottled pigmentation and roughness in 42-63 per cent of the test subjects who used the cream for six months.

After 12 months, two-thirds of the test subjects whose skin responded to Retinova were able to maintain their skin improvements when they switched from daily to weekly applications.

But that means weekly applications forever, unless you want you original lines, mottling and sallow skin back. Retinova also increases the skin's vulnerability to the sun

Non-prescription Vitamin A

Vitamin A derivatives, confusingly called retinol or retinyls, are thought to work like Retinova and Retin-A without the irritation.

Leading dermatologists specified these as the "most promising" skincare ingredients. They are supposed to reverse suns pots, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Vitamin C

As an antioxidant, vitamin C applied to the skin can help protect it, neutralising some of the damage done by free radicals caused by UV exposure and pollution.

But much higher concentrations of vitamin C - up to 10 per cent - are also being squeezed into skincare. Dermatologists now believe that these larger "therapeutic" doses of topical vitamin C can help repair skin and encourage collagen growth and repair - thereby increasing skin firmness and helping smooth out fine lines and wrinkles.

Vitamin C has also been reported to inhibit our bodies' production of melanin - the chemical in our skin which produces a tan, freckles and sun spots.

But don't expect overnight miracles. It can take six to nine months before you see results, and in high doses, vitamin C can irritate and even burn sensitive skin.

Vitamin E

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant, helping to fight sun and smog damage. Look for it on the label as d-alpha tocopherol. Scientists are looking at vitamin E to study its role in sun protection.

The authors say: "We are sufficiently convinced of the benefits of antioxidants to take them internally and slather them on our skins - religiously. Antioxidants are probably the best insurance policy we can invest in for our skins and, indeed, our health."

AHAs

In the early 1990s, AHAs - alpha-hydroxy acids - created a skincare stir. Today, you can find these ingredients - derived from sugar cane, wine, sour milk or fruit - in virtually every skincare product.

AHAs may reduce the visible signs of ageing and sun damage by dissolving the "intercellular glue" that binds dead, flaky skin cells to gently peel away the top layer of skin and reveal a smoother, newer complexion underneath.

However, some reports suggest that AHAs may trigger burning and irritation. Nobody knows their long-term effects, and there is a suspicion that they could slough off too much of the skin's outer layer, leaving it vulnerable to sun damage.

Some cosmetic firms now feature "gentler" AHAs or have added skin-calming ingredients such as green tea. Other manufacturers have begun to use BHAs - beta-hydroxy acids - instead, which they say are kinder to the skin.

One of the newest waves in anti-ageing skincare grew out of the drug industry: the dermal patch. Doctors now realise that the skin can absorb ingredients with the right size of molecule. Patches are used in HRT and to help smokers quit.

Today, patches are being infused with skincare ingredients and can be applied locally for anywhere from 10 minutes to overnight.

The makers claim their patches are a more efficient method of delivering skincare ingredients than traditional creams. They can be applied directly to problem areas such as the eyes or forehead.

"The skin patch takes a medically proven delivery method and applies it to skincare," says Steven Porter, co-founder of the pioneering cosmetic dermal patch company Osmotics.

The patches are packaged in air-tight envelopes so the ingredients don't come into contact with oxygen until they are applied to the skin.

According to manufacturers the side-effects are minor, including a risk of irritation for a minority who are allergic to topical vitamin C or the adhesive in patches.

Oxygen creams

The cosmetics industry is now peddling oxygen as the ultimate element for skin. In the US, the latest fad is for creams and facials that supposedly deliver more oxygen to the skin than it is possible to absorb through breathing.

A spokesman for Lancaster Cosmetics, who have a range of oxygen-based lotions, explained: "As we age the walls of the capillaries which deliver oxygen to the skin start to thicken."

This also slows down cellular regeneration, so that skin becomes thinner, and wrinkles and brown spots start to appear.

But not everyone is convinced. Dr Harold Swartz, a scientist based in Dartmouth, New Hampshire, said: "There is no data that suggest the skin starts looking old because the cells aren't getting enough oxygen - and that if you could somehow just return the oxygen to them, everything would be hunky dory."

Oxygen was first incorporated in a skin cream by Nobel Prize-winner Dr Paul Herzog. His wife, Karin Herzog, now markets the creams under her name.

Used in facials, oxygen is pumped on to the surface of the skin via a metal tube. An oxygen facial - a favourite of Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Uma Thurman - leaves a genuine, if short-lived glow.

What's lined up for you?

20s: Skin settles down after the hormonal chaos of the teens, though oil may still be a problem. Skin may gradually become drier. The very first fan of fine lines around the eyes and mouth may appear.

30s: More fine lines as collagen and elastin break down and the skin under the eyes thins. Broken veins may begin to surface - age spots and brown pigmentation marks, too. Pores may enlarge and skin may become rougher due to sun damage. Under-eye puffiness can be a problem.

40s: Lines at the mouth, eyes and forehead grow deeper as skin loses elasticity. Circles under the eyes may become pouches. The skin is often visibly drier - although at menopause some women experience teenage-style increased oiliness and spots. As the menopause sets in, skin may become more sensitive.

50s and up: Wrinkles and lines deepen into folds as, post-menopause, there is less oestrogen. Skin may sag and droop - and some women may develop a jowly look. Skin tone becomes more uneven, and there are more age spots.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Mallon, Margaret
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 7, 1998
Words:1469
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