According to EU regulations:
– Cosmetics have the main purpose of cleaning, perfuming, changing the appearance, protecting, keeping in good condition or correcting body odors.
– Medicinal Products and Non-Prescription Medicines (called OTC – Over-the-Counter in US) are used to treat or prevent disease, and correct or modify physiological functions by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action.
There may be differences between countries on the definitions and purposes of cosmetics and drugs: some products (e.g. sunscreens, antiperspirants) are classified as cosmetics in EU, but are classified as OTC products in USA.
Cosmetic products can help with cleansing, protecting, and maintaining the skin in the best possible condition. You can take care of your skin using appropriate cosmetics for your skin type.
Dermatologists can treat medical (e.g. acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea) and aesthetic conditions (e.g. medical fillers, laser resurfacing).
Our skin is composed of layers, from outside to inside:
– An outermost thin layer (epidermis) protects from outside aggressors and maintains hydration of internal tissues. It is constantly renewing and regenerating (it is on average a 28 day cycle, cycle time progressively increases with age).
– Below the epidermis lies a thick layer (dermis) containing many structural elements (e.g. fibroblasts, collagen, elastin, etc.) that gives our skin strength and elasticity.
– Finally, below the dermis lies the deepest layer (hypodermis) made of tissue, fat, and blood vessels. It provides structural support for the skin, protects the muscles beneath and supports thermoregulation.
Skin is an active organ. Its most important function is to form a barrier between the human organism and the external environment. This function is crucial for terrestrial life.
Skin has a network of different barriers:
- Microbiome barrier: natural skin flora controls potentially harmful bacteria
- Physical barrier: consists mainly of Stratum Corneum (SC), the outermost layer of epidermis. It is formed by a continuous sheet of cells (corneocytes) embedded in a lipid matrix (cholesterol, ceramides, free fatty acids) and assembled into a “brick and mortar” model
- Chemical barrier: includes factors that contribute to the acidic skin pH and compounds forming the ‘natural moisturizing factor’ (NMF), for example, free amino acids, PCA, sodium lactate, urea, etc.
- Immune barrier: composed of several types of cells, determining the immune response, a defense against sensitizers and pathogens. Cosmetics cannot boost, cure, or treat the immune system of the skin. If you have allergic reactions, please see visit a dermatologist.
Skin barrier’s main functions:
- Prevents excessive water loss, maintaining and balancing the water content
- Protects from external aggressors (e.g. UV, chemicals, microorganisms, mechanical forces)
- Acts as thermoregulator (e.g. via sweat) and sensory transmission (e.g. pain, touch)
The skin barrier can be damaged by cutaneous irritants (allergens, pollutants, harsh products or bad skincare habits e.g. over-exfoliating or unprotected UV exposure), environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity, wind), aging/hormonal changes, stress and genetics (e.g. psoriasis, atopic dermatitis).
An impaired skin barrier is characterized by tightness, itchiness, inflammation, dry or flaky aspect, inflamed/sensitive areas, adverse reaction to commonly used products, changes in texture (e.g. thin, rough skin).
Physiological skin pH varies in the range 4.5-5.9 (slightly acidic) and it can be affected by:
- Intrinsic factors, for example, age (elderly have higher pH), sebum, moisturization, genetic predisposition, anatomic site (occluded areas such as armpit have higher pH), ethnicity (dark-pigmented skin has lower pH)
- Extrinsic factors, for example, environmental stressors (UV chronic exposure, pollution), harsh cleansers, season, over cleansing/over exfoliating, skin irritants
Skin acid mantle is important for a healthy skin:
- Barrier formation and integrity (e.g. synthesis (ideal pH 4.5-5.6)) and degradation (pH 7.0-9.0) of ceramides are pH-dependent processes
- Desquamation (an increase in pH causes accelerated degradation)
- Maintenance of microbiome (natural skin flora), e.g. physiological pH (pH 4.5-5.9) is beneficial for resident flora and limits colonization by pathogenic microorganisms
- Buffering capacity: skin has a self-balancing system able to restore normal pH when skin is exposed to acid/alkaline aggression. It may be impaired by repeated use of extreme pH products.
Acid mantle’s disruption may lead to increase sensitivity that can cause irritation, dryness, flakiness, tight sensation.
During aging the skin is subjected to structural changes:
- Epidermal turnover rate decreases, resulting in a thinner skin more likely to wrinkle
- Sebum production, water content, and lipid content (in particular ceramides and triglycerides) all significantly reduce, making the skin dry and itchy
- Number of active melanocytes decreases resulting in uneven pigmentation (e.g. age spots in sun-exposed areas on the face)
- The junction between epidermis and dermis flattens causing skin fragility, less mechanical resistance and diminished elasticity (e.g. loosening skin), contributing to wrinkle formation
- The lower production of dermal collagen, hyaluronic acid, and elastin causes skin thickness and sagging. The decrease in subcutaneous fat, results in increased vulnerability to mechanical trauma (e.g. less capacity to recovery from deformation)
The rate of the intrinsic (chronological) aging is a natural process genetically determined and is influenced by the degenerative effects of free radicals and the decreased ability to repair the damage. Extrinsic aging is a non-genetic accelerated process due to environmental stressors (e.g. UV, pollution, smoking), able to amplify natural aging resulting in prematurely aged skin.
Everyone has a skin type, but not everyone has a skin condition. Skin type (e.g. oily, combination, dry, normal) is mostly predetermined by genetics and it can evolve with age, can be managed by a proper daily skincare routine (e.g. choosing a rich or light moisturizer depending on your skin type)
Skin condition (e.g. acne, hyper/hypo pigmentation, dehydration, sensitive, aging) is:
- A specific concern that can be occasionally experienced over lifetime and it can be influenced by internal (e.g. hormones, stress level, aging) or external factors (e.g. skincare routine, weather, environment, lifestyle). It can affect all skin type and can be treated with specifically addressed products.
- We do not treat skin disease, serious medical conditions, or conditions requiring dermatological observation.
Identifying your skin type is important for you to know how to treat it.
- Oily skin exhibits an over-production of sebum (skin oil composed of triglycerides, squalene, wax esters) and is more likely to have clogged pores. This skin type needs to balance the oil production without over cleansing, while maintaining well-hydrated skin.
- Dry skin lacks natural sebum and may feel tight and itchy. Dry skin needs to restore the lipid layer (ceramides, cholesterol, fatty acids) to prevent loss of water from inside the skin and sealing moisture in using rich moisturizers and hydrators.
- Combination skin usually experiences an oily T-zone, while the outer areas (U-zone) are normal or dry. A balance in skin’s water/oil ratio is needed.
- Normal skin has optimal water and oil concentrations, it is important to maintain this well-balanced status.
Wash your face with a mild cleanser or just water. Gently pat dry with a towel and wait 1 h without applying anything on your face. Notice how your skin looks and how you feel it (e.g. smiling).
- Dry skin: tight sensation, skin looks dull, feels brittle and rough
- Oily skin: refreshed sensation immediately after washing, shiny look after 1 hr
- Combination skin: feeling of residue on the T zone, while the outside areas feel tight
- Normal skin: no greasy or dry feeling
There is no such thing as a perfect skin in real life (blemishes, dark spots, breakouts are normal). The main purpose is to have a healthy skin, that is, maintaining the skin barrier and prevent chronic skin conditions. Consistency is the key and changes need time. Keep it simple, so that you can do it every day.
- Cleanser: the function of a cleanser is to remove dirt, residue, and sebum, so the rest of your routine can work at its best. Depending on your skin type you can choose just water (even if water’s ability to remove oil is limited), a gentle cleanser, or double cleansing to remove makeup or sunscreen.
- Moisturizer: a moisturizing product contains humectants, emollients, and occlusive substances that help restore/maintain the optimal status of the skin barrier.
- Photoprotection in the morning: chronic exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is responsible for photoaging and skin damage. It is important to wear a SPF 30 minimum broad-spectrum protection.
INCI is the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients, a globally accepted standard used to identify cosmetic ingredients on the label. The majority of the terms contained in this code is in English, while we find in Latin those referring to botanical names (e.g. Olea europaea (Olive) fruit oil. INCI lists simplify the identification of substances to which you may be allergic.
According to EU and US regulations the list must be provided in descending order of weight of the ingredients. Ingredients in concentrations of less than 1 % may be listed in any order after those in concentrations of more than 1 %.
Each ingredient has a purpose:
Key ingredients, also known as actives (e.g. ceramides, salicylic acid, retinol, hyaluronic acid, etc.)
- Deliver a skincare benefit to the consumer for a specific skin condition
- They are used at recommended concentrations to be effective, supported by scientific or laboratory studies
- Often called “actives” even if this term is related to drugs and OTC
Functional ingredients (e.g. emollients, thickening agents, emulsifiers, preservatives, etc.)
- Help to achieve the performance and claimed cosmetic benefits (e.g. a poorly spreadable product is worthless even if very potent because you are not able to use it)
- Provide the product form (e.g. lotion, cream, fluid) and determine the texture (e.g. light-weight or heavier)
- Shape the pleasantness and the sensorial evaluation of the product (e.g. appearance, pick-up, rub-out, after-feel)
Less ingredients mean:
- Our chemists can focus on key ingredients. Each ingredient, to be effective, should be used at suggested concentrations. To reduce the likely of adverse effects, there is a limit to the number of the effective active ingredients you can have in a formula. Less ingredients make it easier to identify instability due to incompatible ingredients.
- Consumers can more easily search for information on substances they are interested in, for a more conscious use of the product.