By Wendy Helfenbaum
WALK THROUGH any drugstore and you’ll see an array of products promising to make your skin look younger, firmer and brighter. Canadians are buying into those promises: A 2015 report from statistics company Statista revealed that Canadians spent $2.89 billion on cosmetics and skin care products. Faced with so many choices, consumers should educate themselves about which ingredients will best treat the skin condition they have, says Costco member Dr. Julia Carroll, dermatologist, director and co-founder of Compass Dermatology in Toronto.
“Chat with your dermatologist about ingredients to look for so you’re armed with information,” Carroll tells The Connection. She also advises her patients to skip the front of the bottle and check out the back for ingredient percentages.
Here’s a look at some common skin conditions and the ingredients often used to treat them.
To: Prevent fine lines or wrinkles
Choose: Broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), antioxidants
The October 2016 issue of Dermatologic Surgery shows that sunscreen—applied daily to the face, neck, chest and hands – decreases both fine lines and brown spots.
“Be sure it’s approved by Health Canada: It will either have a DIN [drug identification number] on it or an NPN [natural product number] on it,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist at the DLK on Avenue clinic in Toronto.
Products containing vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) and vitamin B3 (niacin) can help prevent and repair skin damage.
To: Treat fine lines or wrinkles
Look for: Retinol, vitamin C
“You want topical vitamin A in a serum or a cream, and 1 per cent retinol or higher,” says Kellett. “Also look for vitamin C, with 20 per cent concentration or higher.” Women who are pregant should avoid products that contain retinol.
To: Fade dark spots
Look for: Hydroquinone
Dark spots, which are caused by damage from the sun’s UV rays, can worsen with age. Products containing 2 per cent hydroquinone are effective, says Carroll, who adds, “If somebody wants to go a less aggressive route, there’s arbutin, a derivative of the bearberry plant, which is also an antioxidant.”
Make sure a brown spot is not cancerous or pre-cancerous. “See a dermatologist first to diagnose it as an age spot, and then look for products with kojic acid, azelaic acid and arbutin,” Kellett says.
For: Bags under your eyes
Try: Moisturizer, for a quick fix
The loss of elasticity and collagen causes skin to sag. While nothing on the market increases elasticity, says Kellett, hydrating your skin will temporarily make it appear tighter.
“If somebody has significant bags under the eyes, see a dermatologist or plastic surgeon,”adds Carroll.
To: Lift and firm the skin
Look for: Retinol
While long-term use of retinol boosts your skin’s collagen production, no product will actually lift and firm your skin, says Carroll.
“You can use things like egg whites that will temporarily make it look better, but it’s not permanent,” adds Kellett.
For: Dry skin
Try: Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides
Carroll advises using an exfoliator like glycolic acid to remove dead skin layers, so that moisturizing ingredients can penetrate better. “Ceramides are wonderful at repairing the skin barrier. Hyaluronic acid holds a thousand times its weight in water, and shea butter is great, too,” she says.
To: Treat adult acne
Look for: Benzoyl peroxide (4 to 5 per cent), salicylic acid, glycolic acid
For small red bumps on your face, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be helpful, but deep acne distributed along your lower jaw, chin and neck requires a dermatologist’s care, says Carroll. “That tends to be hormonal acne that won’t be solved by over-the-counter products,” she says.