On Skincare

“Beauty is only skin deep.”
Sir Thomas Overbury (1613)

Its fair to say I’ve never bothered with skincare besides sunscreen when I go paddling. My wife tells me I have a nice weather-beaten look that identifies me well with my waterman crowd. Never too old to learn new tricks, I listened to a Peter Attia podcast with guest Brett Kotlus , a plastic surgeon, who makes a few simple suggestions for skincare I’m trying out:

  1. Protect your skin from the sun
  2. Retinoic acid for skin protection and maintenance
  3. Vitamin C to reverse sun damage

Protect your skin from the sun

Sunlight contains UVA and UVB which are different wavelengths of ultraviolet light. UVB (not UVA) turns your skin red, UVA ages your skin. Both can cause cancer. SPF ratings on sunscreen refer to protection from UVB rays, the SPF rating does not apply to UVA rays. To protect from UVA look for a ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen with a SPF rating of 30.

Sunscreen comes in two main categories – organic (chemical) and inorganic (physical). With organic sunscreens the active ingredients are absorbed into the skin. They absorb the UV rays and disperse the energy as heat. Organic, in some cases, have negative side effects such as hormonal disruption so Brett advises against these. Inorganic sunscreens, which uses zinc and/or titanium as a reflective agent, are better and safer in Brett’s opinion.

Brett recommends the following brands:

Chris Kresser, my favorite source of health and nutrition information, has an article on sunscreen that goes into more detail.

Retinoic acid for skin protection and maintenance

Retinoic acid is a form of vitamin A that is proven for both anti-aging (i.e., wrinkles) as well as for acne. It acts like a hormone working at the DNA level, affecting transcription of particular genes. It promoting collagen synthesis and increases the turnover of skin cells. Per Brett: “One of the top 3 things I would recommend for everyone to be using if they are interested in having a skin care regimen that is effective”.

Retinoic acid is available as prescription Tretinoin, is more potent, but has more side effects (i.e., dry skin). Alternatively Retinol is available over-the-counter, is less potent and a better place to start. There are many brands, including:

Brett suggests starting with over-the-counter retinol to avoid getting dry skin. Try doing it daily, but if you are getting dry skin, try the following:

  • Every 2nd or 3rd day.
  • “Pulse” treatment – put it on, and 10 minutes later, wash it off.

Apply at night before bed because sun exposure renders retinol ineffective. If you can tolerate this without side effects, you may consider a prescription.

Use vitamin C to reverse sun damage

Topical vitamin C helps to reverse sun damage – its unclear as to whether it helps to prevent against sun damage. L ascorbic acid is the form of vitamin C thought to be the most effective. Brett recommends the vitamin C serums. Apply vitamin C serum in the morning, then apply sunscreen on top of the vitamin C once the serum dries.

I’ve started with a couple products from The Ordinary.

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