By Ingrie Williams
DON’T FREAK OUT: THERE are bugs on your skin – and that’s a good thing. Present in different areas of the body, including the gut and mouth, the microbiome is a naturally occurring ecosystem made up of trillions of microbes. “We know that the skin has an array of bacteria, fungi, viruses and mites, and they all play a role in skin health,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist and the owner of DLK on Avenue in Toronto. “They function to educate our immune system, and that’s what they do. We are colonized by micro-organisms, and these micro-organisms act as a barrier to prevent the invasion of bad bugs.”
Scientifically speaking, the complexities of the skin microbiome are still under investigation. In the hopes of reaching a better understanding of sensitive skin, the French dermocosmetic line Eau Thermale Avène is one of the companies that is taking a closer look. “I think the most important innovation of 2019 has been the study of microflora that reside on human skin,” says Núria Perez-Cullell, CEO of Pierre Fabre. “Today, we know we need these micro-organisms to have healthy skin and products that respect the microflora,” The result? A soothing cream made up of minimal ingredients, packaged in a unique delivery system.
“We use only seven ingredients,” says Perez-Cullell. “A common moisturizer on the market probably has between 35 and 50. It’s a big difference, thanks to the sterile cosmetics technology we’ve developed. We select the right ingredients, avoid using ingredients like harsh preservatives that aren’t good for sensitive skin and protect sterility during use of the product at home. There is no contact between the formula and the air outside.” The recipe, loaded with the brand’s famed healing thermal water, is also free of parabens, fragrance, soy and gluten.
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Choosing gentle products can help keep your skin’s microbiome happy. “The biggest concern is treatments that wipe out the biome,” says Dr. Kellett. “Sometimes when people use cosmetics, they get such an irritant reaction that they actually alter the stratum corneum and make the microbiome less effective as an immunological organ.” If you experience intense inflammation or a bad reaction, see a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
TOUTED AS HAVING THE power to attract up to 1,000 times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring molecule that contributes to skin’s moisture levels. Since your inherent reserve of HA depletes with every birthday you celebrate, using a moisturizer that contains the ingredient can be an effective way to reduce the aging effects of dehydration, which can exacerbate fine lines.
Following a wave of HA-heavy serums on the market, masks are the latest beauty product to take up with the potent hydrator. Formulas range from juicy gels to rich creams, and one novel delivery system doesn’t come in a tube or jar at all.
“Hyaluronic acid is a big molecule and, to absorb into the skin, you need to use either very small fragments or this patch approach,” says Barbara Green, head of research and development at NeoStrata. She is speaking of the brand’s latest offering: small patches that feature pure HA micro-cones. “The cones are actually designed to penetrate the surface of the skin and dissolve into it,” says Green. “It’s a unique way to deliver a larger molecule for that plumping effect.” Designed to be worn for several hours (ideally overnight) and a first on the Canadian market, they’re meant to target hard-to-treat expression lines. “You’ll see the most benefits if you have clearly defined lines, like crow’s feet or frown lines between the brows, rather than nasolabial folds,” says Green.
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Perfect before a big event or on days when sleep or stress is off-track, at-home HA treatments satisfy the need for a quick fix, flushing skin with hydration to temporarily diminish signs of aging. If you’re after longer-lasting or more dramatic results, consider a heftier investment. “There are some things you can use at home, but they never beat what you find in a clinic,” says Dr. Kellett, who lists a neuromodulator (wrinkle-relaxing injection) as the gold standard for treating expression lines. Injecting HA into the skin, which increases hydration and, in turn, improves the look of fine lines, is an option, too. “The ideal candidate is someone who doesn’t want volume or doesn’t want to make their cheeks look bigger,” says Dr. Kellett. “They just want to improve the quality of their skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines.” Whether you seek out a dermatologist or DIY, all routes should lead to using SPF daily. “The most important thing for skincare is sunscreen,” says Dr. Kellett.
WHO WOULDN’T WANT TO sip an elixir of youth? Collagen, a protein that is crucial for healthy, bouncy skin, has become the latest buzzword, appearing on edible products with the promise of working from the inside out to benefit skin, hair and nails. Options range from quick-hit chewables to booster-style shots to powder versions that can be used in a multitude of dietary ways.
“I recommend collagen to some of my clients,” says Frances Allen, a certified holistic nutritionist and skin therapist at Province Apothecary in Toronto. “It’s a great way to heal the gut lining and boost protein intake for those who aren’t getting enough. It’s a helpful supplement for people who suffer from more severe skin and digestive issues, and it can also be great for those who are looking to balance their blood sugar.”
When choosing a product, scan the label for “hydrolyzed collagen” or collagen “peptides,” which means that the amino acids have already been broken down into smaller pieces that your body can easily absorb, says Allen. With quality levels of the animal-based supplement varying, she looks for bovine collagen that’s pasture raised or grass-fed to avoid hormones, pesticides and heavy metals. When considering marine-based collagen, choose wild or organic sources, she says. An unflavoured powder version, free of additives and artificial colours, is Allen’s preference. “It’s easy to use and versatile,” she says. “You can add a scoop to coffee, smoothies or oatmeal. To improve absorption, include vitamin C with your supplement. Adding fresh fruits and veggies to your smoothie or breakfast helps.”
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If you’re considering ingestible collagen, approach it as a side dish, not an entrée. “It is intended as a supplement and should be included in a balanced diet, with lots of fresh whole foods,” says Allen.
Food is what yields the greatest reward, says Dr. Kellett. “I think there isn’t a lot of evidence-based medicine that shows that ingestible collagen is effective,” explains Dr. Kellett. “The way we are meant to regenerate tissue in terms of the skin’s building blocks, such as collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, is through food. Diet trumps everything.” Keep antioxidant-rich dark and leafy greens (such as spinach), brightly coloured vegetables (such as red and yellow peppers) and dark-coloured berries in mind and on your plate.
AS PART OF THE LEGALIZATION of recreational cannabis in Canada late last fall, there’s been a lot of talk about cannabidiol (CBD). As the non-psychoactive counterpoint to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD has gained attention for its soothing effects. Currently, oral CBD tinctures, sprays and oils are available from licensed retailers and sought after for easing pain and anxiety.
But there’s also plenty of beauty buzz around the ingredient as a star component in topical formulas. “Some research suggests that CBD can be beneficial in addressing skin moisture, acne and psoriasis and that it can be used as an anti-aging ingredient if dosed properly and managed under the right quality controls,” says Sabba Naserian, director of global business development for CBD at Canopy Growth Corporation in Toronto, “The trick is to find a brand that has done research to validate those benefits and use it in a topical format that actually penetrates the skin.”
Efficacy is also in question from the derm’s POV. “When you look at skincare products, you have to look at both the active ingredient [which, in this case, is CBD] and the vehicle, whether it’s a cream, lotion or gel,” says Dr. Kellett. “You also have to look at the preservatives. Any of these three things can have an effect on your skin in good and bad ways, so we need more work to be done. Some studies have shown that it’s helpful for acne, but other research suggests that it causes more inflammation. The jury is still out.”
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Ahead of the legal availability of cannabis topicals, such as creams and lotions, is the need to hone savvy consumer skills. CBD is extracted from the flowers and leaves of cannabis plants, but hemp is also a variety of the Cannabis sativa species. Different compounds, such as seed oil, can be extracted from hemp and are available for use in the beauty and food industries. This association can create confusion.
“Cannabis sativa seed oil and hemp seed oil refer to the same ingredient and have been used interchangeably for some time now,” says Naserian. “They are derived from the seed of the hemp plant and do not include any CBD. Hemp seed oil is in a lot of beauty products today and, though it’s a great source of antioxidants and healthy fatty acids, doesn’t contain CBD.” With the countdown to government-approved CBD beauty options on (the latest ETA is no later than October 17, 2019), it’s best to become an aware buyer now. “Packages can be misleading, so make sure to read the ingredients on the label,” says Naserian. “Hemp seed oil and CBD are not the same thing.”
THE UGLY TRUTH: PLASTIC IS the go-to for most beauty packaging and contributes to the material overwhelming our planet. Giving up your favourite fill-in-the-blank isn’t the only solution; having more people who think like Melodie Reynolds is. “I always say that we’re not a cosmetics company; we’re an environmental company that sells products that you can use every day,” says the Victoria-based CEO of Elate Cosmetics. On the way to creating her conscious beauty brand, Reynolds was struck by the excessive, unsustainable packaging left behind from a single lipstick purchase. “I realized that this is the other piece,” she says. “The ingredients need to be clean and not hurt people or animals, and the packaging has to be sustainable and not contribute to landfills.” Since launching in 2014, the brand has used bamboo, a self-generating natural source, for its packaging and housed its powders in recyclable aluminum trays, wrapped in seed-paper envelopes that, when planted, sprout Canadian wildflowers. While making thoughtful products that exist in a closed-loop system, Reynolds is committed to helping consumers make a successful contribution. “We’re currently working on education programs and making them easy to follow,” she says. “Reusability, recyclability and even composting are only relevant if the circle is complete once the customer has done their part.”
From Chanel to Weleda to L’Oréal Professionnel, a growing number of big companies are also supporting sustainability in a range of ways. Choosing to focus on a different angle – the human element – when it comes to the plastics problem, The Body Shop recently committed to transforming the lives of waste pickers in Bengaluru, India. These workers, who are often female and poverty stricken and work in distressing conditions, collect and sort 6,000 tonnes of plastic that’s otherwise destined for waterways each day. Through the development of its first Community Trade Recycled Plastic program and working with Plastics for Change, the company is dedicated to incorporating increasing amounts of the recycled material into packaging while providing waste pickers with fair wages, access to improved working conditions and education, financial and health care services.
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Progressing to a more sustainable beauty routine starts with making informed choices. Reynolds, who admits that she’s still working on it like everyone else, supports baby steps. “A million people choosing to remove one item from their consumer list, whether based on packaging or not, is much more prolific than one person who is totally zero waste,” she says. “It’s important that we all make those choices together. You don’t have to do it perfectly.
From Best Health.