There are an array of problems relating to ageing skin that don’t fall under the headings, ‘wrinkles’, ‘hollow cheeks’ or even ‘age spots’, but make a big difference to skin’s appearance. They usually get lumped together under ‘skin texture problems’.
We all know what we’d like our skin texture to be — smooth, firm, pliable not dry, with nearly invisible pores — but most of us have a few concerns about how it is really.
The surface of your skin has a tendency to become drier, rougher and more crepey with the passing years.
The first factor is dehydration, which occurs when the skin barrier isn’t holding moisture as well as it used to. This is because it isn’t making enough of the natural moisturising factors needed to do this.
That leaves little gaps through which moisture can escape and the skin cells, being less plumped up, deflate slightly. Skin looks less bright and creases more easily into fine lines.
Alice Hart-Davis pictured getting PRP Platelet-Rich Plasma – an anti-ageing treatment that uses your own growth factors to rejuvenate the skin from the inside out
Collagen production in women declines gently from the age of 25 until the menopause, when it plummets to almost nothing as oestrogen levels tail off. Men see no sudden collagen loss.
Much the same thing happens with elastin, the protein that gives skin its bounce. You know you’re losing this when you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and it remains for a while in that pinched shape.
Roughness is partly due to dehydration and over-exposure to ultraviolet light. It’s also because the skin is not producing enough natural moisturising factors from beneath and not being cossetted from above with soothing, moisturising products.
On Monday, I explained that hyaluronic acid (HA) is good for hydration, which helps to make skin smoother; and why skin texture can improve with retinol. Today, I am going to tell you about another key ingredient to help make skin fresher and smoother: glycolic acid.
It is not as gentle as hyaluronic acid, but it’s an excellent addition to your skincare routine, because it both exfoliates skin and makes it better at hydrating itself.
If you’ve heard of the trend for ‘acid toners’, these are usually based on alpha-hydroxy acids.
Because glycolic acid has the smallest molecules, it is the most direct and effective of this type of ingredient.
The next factor is the loss of collagen, the supportive protein that gives skin its structure. Stock image
When glycolic acid is wiped over the skin, it gradually dissolves the bonds — the inter-cellular glue, if you like — that are keeping the outermost layer of dead cells stuck to the surface of your skin.
It is a much gentler means of exfoliation than physically buffing off those cells with an abrasive face scrub.
So using a product containing glycolic acid, or a toner containing AHAs can help keep skin glowing without damaging it.
All it is doing is encouraging the shedding of skin cells that die as they reach the surface of the skin.
At the same time, the glycolic acid helps to trigger skin regeneration and boosts collagen production.
The easiest way to start is to use it in the evening, twice a week at first. After cleansing, give your skin a wipe-down with your chosen AHA lotion or tonic and leave it on.
If it feels too tingly, smooth a moisturiser on top, as that will soften the effect of the AHA. This is what I do — using a glycolic toner lotion twice a week on nights I don’t use retinol.
You could use a glycolic tonic in the morning or even in the evening before using retinol, if your skin is used to both ingredients. But don’t over-use.
An increasingly popular way of improving the texture of your skin is with injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) — plasma taken from your own blood.
WHAT IS IT? First, you have a small amount of blood — about 15ml — taken from your arm. Vials containing this blood are put in a centrifuge, which looks like a small medical version of a spin-dryer, and spun for five minutes, until the red blood cells separate away from the clear plasma. This plasma is full of platelets, which can repair any damage in the skin.
PRP is good for improving the texture of skin because, along with that regeneration comes a fresher, smoother top layer.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: Disconcerting. Olivier Amar, who’s doing my treatment in London, prefers to put the PRP back in the face with a cannula, rather than a needle. A cannula is like a blunt needle, so this seems a bad idea but, once under the skin, it can be steered gently without stabbing through fibrous bands or blood vessels.
One thing to remember: glycolic acid and other AHAs make your skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light, another reason to always use sunscreen.
Every clinic I know that has started to offer Profhilo is hugely enthusiastic about it, finding it gives impressive results.
It has been shown in clinical tests not just to improve hydration, but also to boost the skin’s elasticity and collagen levels. It is now classed as a ‘biostimulator’, something that kickstarts significant renewal within the skin.
WHAT IS IT? Profhilo is a very runny form of hyaluronic acid gel — the substance from which dermal fillers are made — injected at five key points on each side of the face. From these sites, it will spread, finding its way underneath the surface of the skin, to treat the whole face.
Once in place, the Profhilo solution boosts hydration by enabling the skin to hold more moisture. It also stimulates production of elastin and collagen, which is what, in two months’ time, will make the skin firmer and bouncier.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: Quick and easy. I visit Dr Saira Vasdev at the Waterhouse Young Clinic just off Harley Street in London to try it out, and the injections take less than five minutes on each side.
Dr Vasdev injects the Profhilo on the outer point of my cheekbones, in the corner of my jaw and in three places across my cheek (on each side of my face).
The injection sites look a little like alien wasp stings, all swollen with liquid, but she assures me these will vanish over the next 12 hours — and they do. There’s no downtime but, as I have swellings on my face, it wouldn’t be a good look to take, say, to a meeting or dinner with friends.
VERDICT: One of the quickest and most effective cosmetic fixes I have tried. You are told not to expect results for two months, but I could see a change after a month when I went back for the second round of injections.
COST AND LOCATION: Profhilo, £975 for two sessions, a month apart, waterhouse young.com. To find a local practitioner, visit thetweakmentsguide.com
Radiofrequency treatments are usually used to tighten skin, but this treatment uses radiofrequency to resurface the skin.
WHAT IS IT? The EndyMed machine delivers microblasts of radiofrequency energy, which create small channels of damage within the skin. As these heal, fresh skin is created, with new collagen released as part of the process, tightening the skin and leaving it smoother.
The machine is used with two different heads: the Fractional Skin Resurfacing (FSR) head works on the skin surface, tightening and brightening; while the Intensif head sends the radiofrequency deeper into the skin through fine microneedles. This is apparently better for skin texture and reduces the appearance of pores.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: First, my face is covered with anaesthetic cream for 20 minutes. I’m glad of it, as those blasts of radiofrequency energy are powerful.
The treatment is not intolerable, though, and, within 45 minutes, my face and neck have been done. I look as if I’ve been sunburned, and it takes a day or two for this to calm down. It feels normal after a week, but looks a little speckled.
VERDICT: After four rounds of treatment, each a month apart, my skin is markedly smoother. A very good result. Benefits last at least a year.
COST AND LOCATION: EndyMed FSR starts at £300 for one session and EndyMed Intensif from £400 a session. The EndyMed Workout of two sessions of each, for both face and neck, costs £2,150, including skincare (waterhouseyoung.com).
Injecting a cocktail of vitamins and moisturising ingredients into the middle layer of the skin — the mesoderm — is popular in France.
The treatment is used in the face to smooth and rejuvenate the skin and on the body to improve the appearance of cellulite. Not much scientific research has been conducted into how well it works.
Despite that, many aesthetic clinics offer mesotherapy as an entry- level treatment that will give the skin a bit of a boost.
WHAT IS IT? At Medicetics (which has clinics in London and in Cirencester, Gloucestershire), mesotherapy is hugely popular.
The ‘meso cocktail’, a mix of vitamins and hyaluronic acid, is injected using a large, automated gun with a 3mm needle. Once in the skin, the liquid provides the nutrients to encourage the regeneration of collagen and elastin.
Each of the little wounds created by the needle should also help stimulate collagen and elastin production as the wound heals.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE: I brace for a painful impact as the nurse hefts the meso gun towards me but, to my great surprise, I can feel only minute pinpricks. Phew.
She works steadily around my face, injecting the serum then turns up the speed of the needles to create more miniature wounds. Yet even that doesn’t hurt.
For the past 20 minutes, I lie peacefully under a canopy of soothing red LED lights which will calm the redness and inflammation in my traumatised skin.
Verdict: I was told I would look as though I had been stung all over but, post-treatment, I only look a bit freckly and sunburned and, by the end of the day, even the redness has subsided.
What I do notice the next day, is my skin is amazingly plumped — which isn’t surprising, as there is a whole 5ml teaspoonful of the magic meso cocktail trapped between the upper and lower layers of my skin.
By day three, it looks particularly good. I can see why this glowy smoothness is addictive and why it is so popular before big events.
The glow and the plumpness of my skin dwindle over the following week — but, if you opt for more sessions, the results are meant to last longer.
Stepping back from skincare and ‘tweakments’ for a minute, there’s a good case to be made for the ‘beauty from the inside out’ argument.
What you eat certainly affects the way your skin looks: consuming more vegetables, colourful berries, lean protein and healthy fats, while cutting back on sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol, really will benefit your skin no end.
Lots of us scoff vitamin C supplements to ward off coughs and colds, but new studies show it has no special powers in this area and that, because our bodies can’t store it, if we ingest large amounts, we’ll simply excrete it.
I had all but given up on vitamin C as a supplement until recently, when I heard that a special sort, called Altrient C, had just completed medical-grade clinical trials. These showed that taking three 1,000mg doses a day for three months could achieve impressive improvements in skin elasticity and hydration, as well as boosting collagen levels in the skin.
Would I like to be the first writer to try it out, the company asked? You bet. So I relinquished all the ‘active’ skincare I usually use (the retinoids, glycolic acid and vitamin C serums), stopped having any treatments and gave up taking collagen supplements, which I also use for the same reason (and yes, they work, too, but more on those later).
What’s different about Altrient C is that the active part, sodium ascorbate, is encapsulated in tiny fatty particles called liposomes, which make a great delivery system.
The liposomes enable the vitamin C to get through the stomach without being broken up by acids and into the gut, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
The advantage of this is that your body gets the benefit of around 98 per cent of each dose of vitamin C, whereas with typical High Street supplements of the stuff, you can absorb as little as 10 to 15 per cent. Each individual dose comes in a sachet that you squeeze into water and gulp down.
I didn’t think Altrient C would make a difference. But it worked. My hydration levels were picking up before the end of the first month and, after three months, I had notched up 22.8 per cent more collagen, a 30 per cent rise in hydration and a 64.3 per cent improvement in skin elasticity.
Altrient C isn’t cheap (£35.99 for 30 sachets, abundanceand health.co.uk), but I’ve started buying it in bulk. I’m now on two sachets a day.
One thing that will contribute to better skin texture is to cram your diet with omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Omega-3s are vital for skin health, as they’re a crucial part of the lipid (fatty) membrane that surrounds every cell in the body. When skin cell membranes are in good shape, they hold on to moisture more effectively and keep skin softer.
The quickest way to pack in omega-3s is by eating oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna). As this fish tends to contain low levels of pollutants such as mercury, which can build up in the body, two portions a week is usually the maximum recommended.
No, I hadn’t heard of this stuff either until recently but, taken as a liquid supplement, it offers 65-plus essential macro and trace minerals to the body to encourage optimum health.
As a knock-on effect, says Shabir Daya, a pharmacist at Victoria Health, this supplement acts as a ‘super-conductor’, allowing the body’s cells to become more receptive to the nutrients we eat. The result is the cells have more energy, can produce up to 30 per cent more collagen and can neutralise the damaging free radical molecules that accelerate ageing.
Collagen drinks and powders are a relatively new arrival on the beauty scene, so it’s difficult to know whether or not they will work.
The brands that contain enough of the right sort of collagen include Absolute Collagen, Pure Gold Collagen, Pink Cloud Beauty, Rejuvenated Collagen Shots, Skinade and Totally Derma. These can make a measurable difference to your skin and several brands have conducted clinical trials that demonstrate the improvements their products can make.
I will happily consume any of the above. But they’re not cheap and, depending on which you choose, can add up to £100 a month to your skincare bill.
If that’s within your budget, they are worth considering in order to firm up your beauty-from-the-inside-out strategy.
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Post time: Jul-25-2019