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Beauty Inc issue 03/14/2008

All of us—even product junkies and those lucky enough to have won the complexion genetic lottery—can use a little help when it comes to designing a skin care regimen. What do you actually need? Ideally, a little assistance in slowing down the effects of environmentally triggered and natural aging, reliable ways to fight sun exposure and moisture loss and high-intensity methods of erasing past damage. Spring’s new treatment items contain the latest ingredients, as well as some tried-and-true techniques, to help skin get healthy—and stay that way.

This story first appeared in the March 14, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The sad truth is that even if we remained inside during daylight hours or covered ourselves from head to toe, we’d still see the signs of aging. Assaults from the environment and just plain living can lead to tired-looking, slack-textured skin. Enter antioxidants, which help prevent collagen loss, sun spots, epidermal thinning and inflammation by seeking out and disarming free radicals. Lancaster’s new 365 Cellular Elixir is made with a mix of antioxidants such as green tea and green coffee, plus photosomes and ultrasomes to slow down and repair DNA damage. Dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, a clinical associate professor at New York University and director of NY Laser & Skin Care, recommends a one-two punch of sunscreen boosted with antioxidants, like Mark For Goodness Face Antioxidant Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30, made with extracts of dark chocolate and blueberries. “Sun protection alone will block UVA and UVB rays, but nothing is 100 percent effective,” she says. “Antioxidants help zap free radical damage caused by any rays that get through.”

Vitamin C, a powerful free radical fighter, is notoriously unstable, a problem 3 Lab’s Perfect Repair—which contains 12 percent of the active ingredient— addresses with an innovative airtight package. Meanwhile, Estée Lauder is launching the next generation of resveratrol in its new Re-Nutriv Ultimate Youth Creme; the company claims the extract can help slow down skin cell death by activating the SIRT-1 gene, also known as the “longevity gene.” Cosmetics chemist Ni’Kita Wilson agrees, saying that resveratrol can indeed trigger SIRT-1, which helps cells live longer.

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Elasticity and moisture, of course, are also key elements to healthy, youthful skin. Chanel HydraMax + Active Moisture Cream claims to boost both, thanks to a Moroccan carob tree extract that can stimulate the skin’s own defense mechanisms. It also contains matriptase enzyme, which helps defend the skin’s barrier and maintain hydration levels. All skin types, even oily, can benefit from such measures, says Kauvar. “This type of protection is ideal for use in dry environments,” she says. “It would also be helpful after peels or retinoids, to reduce irritation.”

Sun exposure and irritation are notorious skin saboteurs, but giving them the boot is a bit easier thanks to novel ingredient combinations. The single most important step is sun protection, says Kauvar, who recommends choosing the highest SPF available. “The FDA just came out with guidelines for rating UVA protection, since SPF currently only measures for UVB,” she says. “We should have a ruling sometime this spring, which will outline the labeling rules; each product will have to clearly state its level of UVB as well as UVA defense. Companies will have to comply within 18 months.” In the meantime, myriad options provide protection against both kinds of harmful rays and contain added skin-loving ingredients. SkinMedica Environmental Defense Sunscreen SPF 30+ is made with hyaluronic acid to moisturize and antioxidant green tea to protect, while MD Skincare Powerful Sun Protection SPF 45 Sunscreen Cream contains chelators to remove iron from tap water and perspiration that can clog pores. Priori Daily Defense SPF 30 is enhanced with lactic acid to help hydrate; Skinceuticals Active UV Defense Sunscreen  is fortified with dermatologist darling mexoryl, an ingredient lauded for its UVA-absorbing action.

Nixing moisture loss and irritation are also important steps in preventing damage. The lightweight gel formula of Guerlain Super Aqua-Day Refreshing Cream provides SPF 10 and leaves behind a matte finish while boosting water retention; its key ingredient is an extract of the desert rose, a plant that maintains its hydration levels and cellular function even in the driest of environments. To address irritation and inflammation caused by weather, peels or laser treatments, Skyn Iceland Pure Cloud Cream is packed with a cocktail of calming components, including bisabolol (extracted from chamomile) and oat. Peptides are also included to increase endorphins, which can mitigate feelings of heat and pain. Deborah Scott, M.D., director of the department of dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, claims that these ingredients can also be beneficial for mild rosacea sufferers, thanks to their gentle soothing abilities.  

What can be done once those signs of time start making their presence known? Not too long ago, peptides became the buzzword among beauty insiders, and their reputation remains formidable when it comes to promoting youthful skin texture. “The goal is to increase collagen production and decrease its breakdown,” says Kauvar. “Peptides are amino acid chains that slow down MMP enzymes, which break down collagen and elastin.” Isomers Sirtuin Telomere Supporting Concentrate contains  telomerase and sirtuin enzymes, which are both thought to prolong cells’ lives, plus a peptide complex to increase elasticity and plump up skin. Likewise, Avon Anew Ultimate Age Repair Cream contains sirtuins to help aging skin function in a more youthful manner, and has the added advantage of UVA/UVB protection. S Solutions Wrinkle Arrest HP 15 serum boasts a 15 percent concentration of argireline, recognized for its ability to “freeze” expression lines, along with a potent, tongue-twisting blend of peptides. “Argireline acts almost like topical Botox—it helps prevent muscles from contracting, and all the peptides will increase collagen production,” says Wilson. “It should take a few days to kick in, and its effects will cease when you stop using it.” Dior, too, is embracing new technology. Its Capture R 60/80 XP Ultimate Wrinkle Restoring Crème claims to trigger the production of new collagen by preserving and maximizing the life of adult stem cells in the basal layer of the skin.

Some companies have opted to use trusty, recognizable ingredients in new combinations to yield desired results. Lancôme Absolue BX Serum launches a multifaceted attack to mend slack texture, dryness and uneven tone: It features a sugar by-product called xylose, which is notorious for attracting and retaining water; hydroxyapatite, which breaks down into calcium to repair and strengthen skin, and kojic acid to reduce the appearance of sun spots. To address lines and elasticity loss in vulnerable areas, VMV Hypoallergenics Glykeros Eye and Lip Lift Contour Serum is fortified with dermatology mainstays glycolic acid and kinetin; according to Scott, the gentle exfoliation process from the glycolic acid helps reduce the look of fine lines by sweeping away dead cells and assists the penetration of other ingredients as well.