/ Beauty Spot: Label-hunting

Beauty Spot: Label-hunting

Aug 06, 2013

Understanding the small print of skin care products

There are a myriad of skin care products in the market today. Some promote anti-aging agents and others claim to improve the texture of your skin. What the marketers of skin care products don’t emphasize are the ingredients that have been used in them. It’s easy to dismiss the finely printed list of ingredients when you’re so enthralled with the package itself and its magical promises. But as consumers, it’s important to be aware of the ingredients used and be able to identify their function in order to make informed choices when purchasing products for the largest organ in your body—your skin.

Alpha-hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acids are great as a peel for aging skin. Creams and lotions with alpha-hydroxy acids may help with fine lines, irregular pigmentation and age spots, and may help decrease enlarged pores. Side effects of alpha-hydroxy acids may include mild irritation and sun sensitivity. For that reason, sunscreen also should be used every morning. To help avoid skin irritation with alphahydroxy acids, it is advisable to start with a product with low concentrations of AHAs. Also, make sure you ease into it. You want to get your skin used to alpha-hydroxy acids, so you should only initially apply the skin care product that contains it every other day, gradually working up to daily application.


This derivative of vitamin A is present in many skin care products. Retinol’s stronger counterpart is tretinoin, which is the active ingredient in Retin-A and Renova. If your skin is too sensitive to use Retin-A, retinol in an excellent alternative. Skin responds to skin care products with retinol because vitamin A has a molecular structure that’s tiny enough to get into the lower layers of skin where it finds collagen and elastin. Retinol is proven to improve mottled pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, skin tone and colour, and your skin’s hydration levels. You may also hear about retinyl palmitate. This falls into the same family as retinol, but if the skin care product you choose contains retinyl palmitate, you will need to use more of this product than one that contains retinol to get the same effect.

Vitamin C

Studies have shown that vitamin C helps to minimize fine lines, scars, and wrinkles. Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that is proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen, which is essential since your body’s natural collagen production decreases as you age. Sun exposure will also accelerate the decrease in collagen. This said, it is important to be choosy when selecting a vitamin C product as in its most commonly found forms, Vitamin C is highly unstable when exposed to oxygen, making it useless. Also, many topical vitamin preparations do not penetrate the skin enough to make a difference but you can opt for a chemical peel to gain the benefits of vitamin C.


Developed by Dr. Susan Taylor, a Harvard-trained dermatologist and clinical researcher in ethnic skin care, Rx for Brown Skin targets the issues that are specific to women of ethnic backgrounds, such as sensitive or reactive skin, blemishes, uneven skin tone and hyper-pigmentation, the most common concern for brown skin. Dr. Taylor’s signature line is scientifically formulated for women with darker skin tones. Available exclusively at Sephora.com

Dr. Deepa Takhar grew up in the U.K. and eventually moved to Canada where she now runs a family practice, cosmetic practice and weight clinic, while teaching medical students and young doctors. Her global travels have given her insight into cutting edge innovations in cosmetic and weight loss procedures. Dr. Takhar strongly believes that care needs to be tailored to one’s skin and body type for optimal results, and she is passionate about being part of the process.


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