The good old bar soap has been a much-loved staple in skin care routines for years. They’re cheap easy, and effective at removing dirt and oil, right? Well, while squeaky clean skin sounds good in theory, lathering it up on the regular however, might be doing more harm than good. Traditional bar soaps contain a mixture of fats, lye colouring and fragrance. Which are commonly too harsh and irritating to be used on the face and can wreak havoc on our skin by over drying it, causing irritation and disrupting its PH levels.
So, what exactly are soaps? Now get ready everyone because it’s about to get a little ‘sciency’ in here. Technically speaking soaps are the chemical result of combining some kind of vegetable or animal fats with lye, otherwise known as sodium or potassium hydroxide or another strong alkaline solution which is what gives soap its cleansing power. This chemical process is called saponification, and the resulting molecules have a hydrophilic (water-loving) head and a hydrophobic (water-phobic) tail. Normally water and oil don’t mix which makes it hard to clean things properly with just water. However, when these molecules or soap comes into contact with the dirt or debris the head of the molecule attracts itself to these oily particles and the tail of the molecule helps them to be effectively removed by water.
Nevertheless, soaps aren’t the only molecules that have this talent. They’re actually rather a small group within a larger chemical class known as surfactants. Surfactants or otherwise known as ‘surface active agents’ are materials which have both a polar and non-polar unit that acts on the surface of two mediums. Normally this refers to water and some type of oil but it could also include water and air or any other liquid/liquid or liquid/gas interface. When talking about soaps this refers to the molecule’s hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail, and their ability to emulsify water and oil. Soaps are part of the strongest group of surfactants known as Anionic surfactants. This is the largest group, within the surfactant chemical class and are considered the high-foaming powerhouse surfactants that really pack a punch in terms of cleansing power. They’re the most widely used and versatile surfactants found in all sorts of cleaning products such as detergents, handwashes, kitchen cleaners ect and are the most effective at removing oily residue. Due to their potent power however, these surfactants are also the most prone to causing skin irritation. Anionic surfactants include soaps, sulfates (e.g. sodium lauryl sulfate), as well as gentler alternatives like sodium lauroyl sarcosinate. If you see a surfactant beginning with ‘sodium’ and ending with the ‘-ate’ suffix, it’s safe to say it’s anionic.
Regular soaps like anionic surfactants are made for cleaning regular things like our kitchen counter top, and our skin is certainly not regular. It’s actually a rather complex organ with its own microbiome we need to make sure we look after. Think of it like your gut. Both our gut and our skin rely on millions of good bacteria to maintain at optimal health. If this microbiome is upset or disrupted it can seriously damage our skin health just like how it would similarly cause problems in our gut such as Indigestion.
Our skins health and condition are directly linked to its PH levels. The PH of something is measured on a scale from 0 – 14 with 0 – 6.9 being classified as acidic, 7 being neutral, and 7.1 – 14 being alkaline. The skin sits at a scale between 4.5 and 6.5 making it slightly acidic. This acidic environment is otherwise known as the acid mantle and is comprised of sebum from our sebaceous glands, lipids from the breakdown of skin cells and amino acids from our sweat. This acid mantle is one of the most important parts of our skin and its slightly acidic environment helps to protect us from harmful bacteria, infections and all sorts of nasties. Not only this, but it also helps to form a shielding barrier over the skin in order to stop dehydration and irritation. Most bar soaps are alkaline and have a PH of around 10. This high alkaline PH makes it super easy to dissolve fats, grease, oils, and protein-based substances which is what makes anionic surfactants like soap the most effective cleaning agents. Unfortunately, while our skin may feel super clean afterwards, continual use of these soaps disrupts our skins natural PH levels and leads to a whole host of other problems.
Not only do soaps disrupt our PH levels, but they also over strip the skin of its natural oils and moisture which leads to dryness, flakiness, inflammation and irritation. Without the skins protective oils, water can also easily evaporate through the skin known as trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) which leads to dehydration and again, inflammation and irritation. Dehydration is a big no-no when we’re concerned with healthy skin. It can make fine lines and wrinkles more apparent, create redness, blotchiness or uneven skin tone, and makes us look overall dull. Dehydrated skin cells also are unable to intercellularly correctly communicate with each other which can lead to a whole bunch of other problems such as pigmentation issues, or increased premature aging.
Using soaps on our skin can not only dry it out, but can also cause breakouts and aggravate acne. When our skin is stripped of its natural oils it can put the cells into panic mode as they rush to re-protect the skin and reproduce the sebum it’s lacking. This oil production can lead oilier skin and pore clogging, which can turn on the acne cascade," warns Dr. Seemal Desai, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. When our skins PH balance is disrupted it also allows other bad microorganisms such as the bacteria that causes acne to breed and multiply on our skin which can significantly increase breakouts.
So, what can we do? Well the easiest thing to keep in mind when shopping for a new skin cleanser is to look for one that is specifically designed for cleansing the face rather than just going for an all over soap. It’s also best to make sure your products are PH balanced and preferably soap free or Anionic surfactant free. So how do know if a cleanser is soap free if it’s not written on the packaging? Well Initially, soaps have very meagre solubility and so they’re almost always found in solid bar form. However, if you’re up for the challenge the easiest way to pick out a soap free product is to look at the back in the ingredients list and look for ingredients with the prefix (sodium or potassium) and the suffix (-ate). Soaps are named based on the oil or fat they’re made from, so olive oil, once it’s treated with sodium hydroxide, becomes sodium olivate. Tallow becomes sodium tallowate, and coconut oil becomes sodium cocoate. Emulsifying agents in soap free products work similarly to soaps in the way that they can breakup fats and oils to cleanse the skin but without the harsh alkaline PH and the over drying effects. One popular gentler surfactant used in many soap free products is cocamidopropyl betaine. Using milder, soap free surfactants will ensure you get the best product that is able to effectively cleanse your skin while maintaining your skins health and not over strip it of its precious oils.
Ageing. Unfortunately, it happens to all of us. Wrinkles, fine lines, sagging skin and age spots are some of the most common skin concerns that effect most of the clients we treat here at Skin. But what if there was a way to reduce premature ageing by over 85%? Well luckily for us, this “magical” solution is actually a lot simpler and underrated than a lot of people think, and you probably already have it sitting at home in your bathroom cabinet. That’s right, sunscreen!
Now I know what you’re thinking, that’s about as crazy as the humbling, bumbling reporter being an undercover superhero in his spare time, but it’s true. Sun exposure is one of the most significant factors that increases premature ageing and sunscreen is one of the easiest and simplest, undercover superheros in our skincare routine that can help us look and feel younger for many years to come.
UV radiation or the sun’s rays can be broken up into 2 categories when we’re concerned about skin ageing, UVB rays and UVA rays. UVB rays, otherwise known as the “burning rays” are the ones that give us that nasty sunburn. Due to their shorter wave length they only penetrate into the upper layers of the skin. This isn’t good news though, as the burning from these rays is what damages the DNA of our skin cells. This cell damage stimulates the melanocyte cells, the cells in our skin that produce pigment, to rush to create a protective umbrella over the nucleus of our burning skin cells. This is what gives us our much-loved tan, but unfortunately excess sun exposure can also cause an excess production in melanin, which results in blotchy, uneven skin tone and age spots. Constant sunburn also creates inflammation within the skin which again contributes to an increase in skin ageing. This ray also causes melanoma or skin cancer which is one of the most preventable forms of cancer that exists.
UVB rays are certainly not one to mess with, but it’s their lesser known sister UVA rays that we really need to watch out for when it comes to skin ageing. UVA rays or the ‘ageing rays’ penetrate deeper into the skins dermis where they break down all the important structural components of our skin, such as collagen, elastin and other glycosaminoglycans (GAG’s). This reaction causes an increase in fine lines and wrinkles, sagging, drooping and overall, less toned skin which can make us look and feel years older than we actually are.
Now, this all sounds intense, but it brings us back again to the simplest solution to it all, sunscreen. A recent study conducted by the Annals of Internal Medicine examined how effective sunscreen is to reducing skin ageing. The study compared 903 adults who were separated into various groups and instructed to either apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to their body daily or to apply the sunscreen at their own discretion. The researchers then studied latex impressions of the back of the participants hands over 4 years later and found that those who used the sunscreen daily showed no “detectible increase” in skin aging and overall showed 24 percent less skin aging than those in the discretionary group by study's end. "This study effectively communicates that daily sunscreen application can reduce the signs of photoaging and photodamage," says Dr. Brundha Balaraman, a dermatology researcher from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. However, she adds "The key to prevention, is to develop these healthy sun-protective habits at a young age."
Prevention is easier than a cure, and this statement is never truer when it comes to skin aging. Nevertheless, its never too late to start slapping on the sunscreen! Even if you feel like your skin is already aged and past the point of no return, sunscreen is an essential step in your skincare routine to help minimise future skin damage and help protect your skin when you are undergoing other skin treatments in clinic or using active skincare ingredients at home such as vitamins A and C which can increase your skins sun sensitivity.
We’ve come along way from the old thick, greasy and breakout inducing sunscreens of the past and nowadays, sunscreen formulas are sophisticated, smooth and non-pore clogging making them perfect for every skin type. The best time to apply sunscreen is in the last step to your skincare routine or as a part of a moisturiser-sunscreen combo. Make sure to also apply it rain or shine, as UV rays still penetrate through the clouds and even through windows which makes it just as important to apply your sunscreen even if you are spending a day indoors. Reapplying after swimming or doing any activities which make you sweat will also offer best protection. The most effective sunscreens are broad spectrum sunscreens which form a barrier from both UVB and UVA rays rather than just sunscreens labelled sun protection factors which only protect against UVB rays.
Whether it’s reducing the risk of skin cancer, or minimising the impact of premature ageing, sunscreen is an amazing, underrated superhero in your anti-ageing skincare routine. It is in essential product that will help keep your skin protected and looking and feeling young for years to come. Happy Anti-Ageing!
Skin needling has come a long way from the barbaric, painful treatment practiced only a short time ago (and I must admit it is still happening!), when sessions had patients dripping with blood, often needed topical anaesthetic and required some serious downtime. Thanks to innovative aestheticians, skin needling is now quick with minimal discomfort and almost no downtime.
Innovators such as Dr. Andrew Christie have studied thoroughly the effects needling has on the skin and discovered that old techniques were actually over treating the skin. This meant that the wrong healing response was being stimulated which was actually hindering results. His revolutionary technique took what was a harsh ablative treatment to a gentle fractional therapy.
The changes that occur in the deeper layers of the skin following needling, need adequate time to transpire. Treating again before this time has elapsed is actually detrimental in that it triggers a cicatrical wound healing response and is effectively over-treating the skin.
Cicatricial wound healing encourages the body to produce collagen type 1; which is large and forms a weak structure which is what we see in scar tissue. It also produces an imbalance of pigment growth factors, which is why scar tissue is usually a different colour from our healthy skin. Neither of these things are desirable following a needling treatment.
The scarless wound healing that is observed with Dr Christie’s revolutionary technique triggers an entirely different response. Collagen type 3 is produced; which is small, compact and forms a strong structure akin to the collagen present in the dermis of children.
I can only hope that over time all aestheticians will be adequately informed of this important skin needling stigma.
There's always a leader in the pack and when you're talking skincare; it's Vitamin A.
This Super Vitamin was up and coming in the 80's where the cosmetic industry thought they had stumbled across the worlds best kept secret.
Topically it was proven to slow down the ageing process, clear acne and improve skin texture.
With this discovery came an evolution of Vitamin A based skin care. Its stabilisation and delivery system has been fine tuned, proving less retinoid reactions and a wider scope of use. Most of us should be using it, not only to help us age more gracefully and have clear skin, but, more importantly, so our skin is healthier.
Function's of Vitamin A for the Skin:
The secret to achieving Vitamin A Rich skin is to listen to it! Slow and steady wins the race, your skin will, over time, build a tolerance to vitamin A. At Skin Geraldton we start our vitamin A at a Baseline Ultraceutical's mild .2% strength, ranging up to our Medical Grade Concentrate 1% Pure Retinol (Ultraceuticals MD). A Skin Consultation is necessary to determine the correct skincare products and ingredients to suit you.
* WARNING * If pregnant, thinking of being so or breastfeeding, please discuss the use of any Vitamin A product with your doctor. We recommend that you cease use during this period.