Don’t pour money down the drain, get the right skincare

The cosmeceutical industry is growing exponentially as the beauty-buying public becomes more savvy about skincare ingredients and what they are putting on their faces, writes Vicky Eldridge

While many women are ditching pampering beauty creams for high-end, results-driven skincare, misinformation in the public domain about topical anti-ageing products has left many more struggling to separate the snake oils from the products that actually work.

Even the economic downturn does not seem to have curbed consumer spending on skincare. Research by Mintel shows the market for facial skincare has increased 20 per cent in the last five years alone. It was valued at £1.1 billion in 2012 and is set to reach £1.2 billion in 2017, and anti-ageing products make up 40 per cent of the market.

With such buoyancy in the marketplace, it is no surprise that skincare brands are cashing in on the trend and upping the ante when it comes to advertising. Consumers are constantly bombarded with glossy adverts promising anti-ageing in a jar, but in reality few of these lotions and potions actually live up to the expectations they create and, as such, in the quest for perfect skin, many women are wasting hundreds if not thousands of pounds on “miracle creams” that simply do not work.

Research in the United States by Skin Deep shows that on average women use around 12 different products a day, containing a gargantuan 168 ingredients, while a report by Vaseline claimed that £964 million was spent every year on skincare products that were left gathering dust on bathroom shelves.

So why are so many women still wasting their hard earned cash on products that don’t work, while shying away from investing in clinically proven medical skincare products?

Surgery “knife” coach Wendy Lewis puts it down to fear. She says: “Some women are simply afraid that medical grade skincare is too strong for their skin, but that is just not true of most brands on the market.”

US-based dermatologist Dr Hema Sundaram adds: “Women have the eternal hope that they’ll find something that works. They are influenced by marketing campaigns for over-the-counter products, many of which are well-formulated and feel pleasant on the skin, but unfortunately don’t address in a scientific manner the true underlying issues of ageing.”

Cosmeceuticals are scientifically tested and formulated products that are designed to be results driven, and actually have an effect on the skin

Celebrity endorsement also seems to have an impact. Dr Sam Robson says: “People like to buy something they have heard of, especially if a celebrity that they admire and would aspire to be like, recommends it. Over-the-counter products can afford the marketing cost of celebrity endorsement.”

But what is the difference between a medical skincare product or “cosmeceutical” and any other anti-ageing cream? Cosmeceuticals bridge the gap between pampering beauty creams and prescription pharmaceutical products. A far cry from the cleanse, tone and moisturise regimes of the past, they are scientifically tested and formulated products that are designed to be results driven, and actually have an effect on the skin.

Although there are now many high street brands claiming to be cosmeceuticals, and using buzzwords like “growth factors”, “stem cells”, “peptides”, “anti-oxidants” and “retinoids”, most of what you can buy does not contain high enough dosages of these active ingredients to make any real noticeable difference. This is where medical skincare comes into its own.

In reality no skin cream is going to make you look ten years younger overnight, but as part of your anti-ageing regime, they have a strong and important place. And no more so than the SPF (skin protection factor) sunscreen.

Sun damage is by far the biggest cause of skin ageing so investing in a good SPF and applying it daily is one of the best bits of skin advice you can heed. Add into that an anti-oxidant and you are well on your way to giving your skin a fighting chance in the race against ageing.

Pioneering skincare formulator Joe Lewis explains: “No sunscreen is 100 per cent effective. Most people only apply 25 to 50 per cent of the recommended amount and they don’t apply them the way they are tested in the lab.

“Protect your skin with sunscreen, you have got to have it, but it is like protecting your skin with Swiss cheese, it’s got holes in it. You have got to have a backstop. It is like in baseball, you have a catcher and if he misses it you have a backstop. The catcher is the sunscreen, the backstop is the anti-oxidant.”

Dr Sundaram adds: “Studies show that we get most of our sun damage from incidental, daily exposure, not from lying on the beach a couple of times a year. Even driving in the car with windows up exposes us to UV damage because one component of UV light can pass through glass. There can be as much, or sometimes even more, potential for UV damage on a cloudy day as on a sunny day.”

Once you are protecting your skin properly, corrective and repair products can be used to address damage that has already been done, such as pigmentation and lines and wrinkles, and to target other skin concerns, such as acne and rosacea.

The best way to ensure you are getting products that actually work and are right for your skin is to visit a dermatologist or aesthetic skin specialist. This may seem like a costly way of going about it, but in reality the amount you will save by investing in a handful of quality products that address your personal skin concerns, rather than pouring money down the drain on products that don’t work, is likely to be significant.

Dr Robson concludes: “You need to understand exactly why and how to use the products, and have an expert advise on which products will be best suited for your skin. The skin is the biggest organ in your body and deserves to be treated with the very best and effective products that you can afford. Cosmeceuticals are not always the most expensive in any case and doctors are bound by an oath to give patient-centred, honest advice and not be driven by sales.”