How your anti-aging product works

Every store in the Philippines—including sari-sari stores—carries products that promise to make you look younger. But do they really work?

By Bernardette Sto. Domingo


The Filipinos’ penchant for looking young is evident in their spending habits. In 2012, beauty and personal care in the Philippines increased in value by four percent, as Filipinos continue to spend on beauty and personal care products mainly to improve their physical appearance, states a report from London-based market intelligence firm Euromonitor International.

Beauty boom

In its Beauty and Personal Care in Philippines market research report, the firm points out that whitening and anti-aging benefits were the main drivers of growth. “It should be noted that Filipinas consider skin care products significant in maintaining a fair and spotless complexion, which is integral to being beautiful. The desire to look good increased consumers’ willingness to invest in a wider range of products for better results,” the report elaborates.

The rest of the world shares this sentiment. Global business strategy and market intelligence research firm Global Industry Analysts, Inc. said in a 2009 report that the global anti-aging products market is expected to reach U.S. $291.9 billion by 2015.

Shields up

Exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) light accelerates the natural aging process of skin, making sunscreen the most common anti-aging product. Dermatologist Olga Bernardo, M.D. of Asian Hospital and Medical Center, and SCS Skin and Laser Center, says sunscreen works like a shield that protects the skin by reducing UV exposure.

Broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage with sun protection factor (SPF) 30 and PA+ or higher are generally recommended for daily use.

“Because sunscreens do not block all UV radiation, maximal protection from UV damage is provided by using an antioxidant in addition to a sunscreen. Higher number SPFs block slightly more … but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun's rays,” Dr. Bernardo explains. To complement sunscreen use, suggests limiting sun exposure and wearing protective clothing and a hat.

Hello, hydration

Hyaluronic acid (HA), which is found in most anti-aging products like lotions and eye creams, absorbs water and plumps up the skin. Moisturizers containing HA help the skin repair and regenerate to fend off dryness or irritation.

According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, HA is said to be relevant in controlling tissue hydration, that’s why it’s often used as a moisturizing agent in cosmetic formulations. “In the skin, HA might also act as a scavenger of free radicals and antioxidants under physiological conditions,” the study states.

Dr. Bernardo clarifies that HA fillers provide structural support and nutrients and add volume and fullness to the skin through its hydrophilic (readily absorbing or dissolving in water) capacity.

A for anti-aging

Retinoids are another popular anti-aging element. These vitamin A products range from potent prescription products such as tretinoin and synthetic tretinoin derivatives, to less active cosmeceutical products such as retinol, Dr. Bernardo says. “Topical retinoids are used to treat photo-aged skin, fine lines, dry and rough skin, hyper-pigmentation and acne.”

Retinol is found in most over-the-counter skin creams, but the more potent form, tretinoin, may be more effective but has serious side effects. These include redness of the skin, sensitivity and skin peeling. These may occur within a week of initial application and spontaneously resolve in four to six weeks in most patients. Results can be seen after one month of therapy. People undergoing retinoid treatment should avoid the sun, and those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should not try it at all.

Injection solution

For the more adventurous beauty advocate, anti-aging procedures are also available in the market.

One of the most trusted and popular methods is the botulinum toxin injection. “Botulinum toxin is a potent neurotoxin protein that reduces muscular contraction. Injection of small quantities of toxin into specifically targeted muscles causes localized, temporary chemical de-nervation with resultant muscle relaxation,” Dr. Bernardo explains. Dermatologists use it for numerous facial aesthetic problems such as frown lines, horizontal forehead lines, crow's feet—and as a treatment for hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating.

Some complications include bruising, skin redness, tenderness, swelling, infection, numbness and headache if injection-related. The botulinum toxin itself may cause facial asymmetry, eyelid droop, blurry vision, eyebrow droop, hypersensitivity reaction, and ectropion, a medical condition in which the lower eyelid turns outwards.

Careful research into your favorite cream’s properties can help you understand the benefits better. Being healthy from the inside can complement your anti-aging efforts. Get tips on going natural in the September issue of HealthToday.

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