Today I would like to discuss good chemicals. What? Good chemicals? Yes, I know chemicals are all supposed to be bad right? Chemical are negatively highlighted in the media almost everyday so it’s hard to not be scared, really. What we seem to forget is that they are not all bad and that some are essential to healthy skin!
The thing is, the skin is a chemical. In fact, there is tons of chemical reactions happening in your skin as you are reading this. Aging of the skin and of the body in general is also a chemical reaction as well and if you want to reverse it, you need chemicals. Yes, one needs to be aware of the bad chemicals in products, but how about we focus a bit on what “good” chemicals are actually supposed to be in our cosmetics? A cosmetic can be free of bad chemicals but it still could be totally empty of the good ones too! Here’s a list of 6 common good chemicals found in skincare, but the list could go on and on.
Zinc Oxide is an inorganic compound (yes, non-organic, and it’s still safe). It occurs naturally as the mineral Zincite, but in skincare products the synthetic form is used as it would be almost impossible to spread using the natural form. It is used as an anti-inflammatory agent in calamine, diaper rash creams and dandruff shampoo and is also used in sunscreen as the broadest spectrum UVA and UVB rays reflector. In an attempt the reduce the white appearance zinc oxide leaves on the skin, manufacturer’s started using the nanoparticle size in sunscreen, but since there has been some concern that it might be absorbed into the body, my advice is to stay away from the nanoparticles and tolerate the white tint.
Retinol is the chemical term that stands for the whole vitamin A molecule. It is mostly produced synthetically as the natural extract can quickly lose its properties. It can be broken down to more effective compounds but this will be discussed in a future blog. Retinol has multiple key benefits on the skin, such as repairing and stimulating and is also a powerful anti-oxidant. It helps stimulate collagen and elastin and is therefore a very popular anti-aging ingredient.
Peptides are mini proteins made up of amino acids and in skincare products are almost all created synthetically. A ton of combinations are available on the market with different efficacies. Manufacturer’s will create their own blend of amino acids and trademark it, like Matrixyl3000. In the skin, they act as a moisture binding agent and help repair and rebuild tissues, such as the collagen and elastin fibers, which makes them a key ingredient to fight aging. Most peptides in skincare products are synthesized and the process is tedious and expensive. The good news is; you do not need a lot in your product to produce a result.
Ascorbic acid is the synthetic version of vitamin C. It was created because natural vitamin C is destroyed by heat and quickly becomes useless. It is a potent antioxidant and the most researched in the industry so far. To be effective, ascorbic acid needs to be either combined with other antioxidants or used at a high concentration (15% or more).
Squalene is a fatty acid (oil) derived from a shark’s liver. Yes, you heard right, they kill sharks to collect that precious oil. Thankfully, squalane can also be synthesized artificially or derived from certain plants so if it does not say anything about it on the label make sure you check with the manufacturer. Squalene is also a naturally occurring oil in our own bodies, making up to 10% of the oil produced in our skin. It acts as a barrier, preventing water loss and protecting from the environment. The thing is, the amount produced by our bodies starts to decline in our 20s, so everybody can benefit from a little squalene.
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring moisture-binding agent in our bodies. It is capable of holding very large amount of water, making it a popular ingredient in anti-aging products as it creates a temporary plumping effect. It is used in dermal fillers as well. Hyaluronic Acid is a by-product of genetically modified bacterial fermentation that manufacturers filter to obtain a purified, finished ingredient.
I hope this post made you a little less scared of chemicals. The key with ingredients is to research valuable, un-biased and trusted sources to make enlightened choices. We owe it to our “chemically-designed” skin. Feel free to leave a comment or a question, or to share it with a friend!
Not sure what’s in your products? I use my decade of experience working with more than a dozen lines in medical, spa and retail settings during my skin assessments/product consultations, to give you the best options for your skin. You can learn more here.