What’s Old Is New Again In Skin Care

Our skin is the largest body organ that we have and has more medications and treatments per surface area than any body part. The skin care world is chocked full of thousands of products that claim to either protect it or make it look younger. The sheer cacophany of skin care products clamoring for our attention leaves most women (and a few men) completely confused about what to use.

One newer type of skin care technology is that of antioxidants. Besides the obvious psychological appeal of not wanting to be ‘oxidized’, products containing antioxidant ingredients are popping up everywhere. While the scientific benefits of antioxidants and how they work are better reserved for a classroom or as a replacement for melatonin before retiring, it strikes me that we are seeing what’s old becoming new again…through the wonders of modern chemistry.

Antioxidants in skin care is actually a bit nostalgic and reminds us that our great grandmothers had the right concept all along. Most of today’s antioxidant skin care potions derive their properties from the naturally available fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that were once the main ingredients of age-old facials and historic healing compounds. They may not have known why it worked, and may not have had the right proportions of ingredients, but their organic approach was rooted in science after all.The fruit acid facials of today (also known as alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs) derive their ingredients from extracts of grapefruit (procyanidin), lemon (vitamin C) or apple cores (vitamin C and phenols), are actually quite old. I have had more than one older patient who has told me they used to rub lemon juice or the cut edge of an orange on their face to reduce wrinkles or on their scars to make them look better. The ancient use of green tea facials (and you thought it was only for drinking) has been found to contain catechin which has potent antioxidant properties.

Old vegetable masks contained tomatoes, which are rich in lycopenes and carotenoids, to help control oily skin and reduce wrinkles. Oatmeal powder and other grains contain ferulic acid which has an antioxidant effect…not to mention the skin calming benefits of the well known oatmeal bath. Curd contains lactic acid which is a chemical peel. Cucumber and pumpkin have high levels of the potent antioxidant vitamin C. (the benefits of reducing eye puffiness from sliced cucumbers is not because they have a magic ingredient, it is that they are cold…a cool washcloth works just as well) Honey and egg yolk have been used in facials dating back to ancient Egypt. Honey contains flavinoids and vitamin C while egg yolks have the antioxidant carotenoid in them.

Before we wax romantically and start rubbing lemons and green teas leaves on our face, it is important to realize that science has several advantages over nature. Through purified and concentrated extracts from these natural sources and using technologically advanced delivery systems, what does come out of that expensive bottle is easier to use and does work better.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana