June 2010

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp


Know Your Cosmetic Ingredients

Skincare is exploding and attracting involvement from diverse professions.

An esthetician must invest more time in self-education and scientific analysis of the products they choose if they want to maintain client loyalty.

Physicians and pharmacists are paying attention to the increased demand for anti-aging skincare and meeting it head on. As estheticians, we will have to enhance our knowledge to a new level to meet this competition for our clients and their dollars.

With each new magazine issue a new ingredient is touted. Some articles include scientific data to support the claims while others take tidbits of information known about an ingredient and attempt to apply it to skincare. Herein lays a potential pitfall.

Clients are looking for products that will generate results. Yes, they are looking for hope in a jar. However, they want to become educated about those products to know first, if they work and then how they work. We need to be prepared to answer these questions with honesty and knowledge.

In order to do this we need to become educated. We need to ask manufacturers what is in their products and what documentation there is that they work. Have they done scientific tests? What type? How was efficacy of the product evaluated?

While it is not my intent to cast question on manufacturers, it is important for the esthetician to do some of their own research and reach their own decisions about “hot new ingredients.”

Consider some of these factors in reaching your decisions: skin compatibility, molecular structure, delivery system and effect/affect on the skin both immediate and long term.

Compatibility: how a product feels and reacts to the skin and the skin’s immediate response to it. If texture, efficacy, smell or residue of a product doesn’t make it pleasant to use, the odds are it will not stand the test of time, either in the treatment room or for home use. As professionals we know how we like a product to feel on the skin both immediately after and during its wear.

If it does not provide the desired effect or is unpleasant to use, we will probably not use it up and not reorder it. Given choices we will lean towards products that have become our favorites, (they smell good, apply well, wear well, function well and / or provide a good return on our investment). By keeping this in mind as we make our product investments, we avoid the ones that are eventually pitched or don’t sell.

Molecular structure: Not all estheticians want to get into chemistry but with the changes in our industry this is going to become more of a requirement. This knowledge will make us better technicians and more astute product shoppers. What is the ingredient supposed to do? Does its molecular structure provide for this?

If you were looking for a deeply hydrating product, collagen would be a poor choice. If you want a surface moisturizer collagen is very good. Its molecular structure doesn’t allow it to penetrate. It is a large molecule that sits on the surface of the skin. There have been books written on this subject and there is no way to address it fully in a brief article. It is only my goal to draw your attention to what you need to find out so you can have the best success in your practice.

Another example is Vitamin A. There are many forms of Vitamin A and they don’t all act the same on the skin. It is our responsibility to learn about the differences between these variations and then apply this information to product and ingredient selection.

Delivery System: this relates to how the ingredients are getting onto and into the epidermis. Vitamin C is a good example. Vitamin C has proven topically beneficial by protecting the skin from UV rays and playing a role in anti-aging. But the Vitamin C used during testing, L-ascorbic acid, is unstable. Some manufacturers, in order to offer a product with longer shelf life, have switched from this form to another more stable form of C esters. However, there are not studies to document its effectiveness. As with many other ingredients, it has been assumed that if a little is shown to be good, then more is better. What we have found with other acids is that more is irritating and drying to the skin.

At least one manufacturer has found a way to provide slow-release of low levels of Vitamin C to the skin. With this technique the best form of Vitamin C can be used because it is incorporated in lower percentages. To also mitigate the tendency for dryness, check to see if there are hydrating agents incorporated into your Vitamin C. At the appropriate levels this can totally change the C from a good product to a very efficacious product.

Affect / effect on the skin: While there are standards for production to create safe products for the consumer, this doesn’t mean they all work. I believe this to be true not just for commercial but for professional products. Manufacturers hear about a great new hot item and work with their local chemist to create one to sell. This is more common in our industry than any of us would like to think. All of the clinical trials are done at the market level.

For all of your products you want to know not only how long they have been on the market but are they purely cosmetic or are they cosmeceuticals. Cosmetics only make the skin feel good. They clean the skin, tone the skin or provide moisture. If this is your goal just about any product line will do. If you want to deal with correcting skin conditions or anti-aging, you need to know more. What tests show this product helped aging skin? What were the signs of improvement? How long did improvement last?

It is necessary to understand what, how and why we are affecting the client’s skin with ingredients and formulations and be able to advise them as to product usage.

If we hope to compete with compounding pharmacists and physicians who require medical data on their products then we need to do our own research. Clearly we must remain within the claims that can be made for non-prescription products.

Judith Culp, a CIDESCO Diplomat has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. A CPCP permanent makeup technician for over 18 years she served a 4-year term as a Director for the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, two years as their president. She is president of Culp Enterprises Inc. and CEO of NW Institute of Esthetics. Judy Culp is available for consulting. For more information visit www.estheticsnw.com.