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Just what is Glycolic Acid?

The Rx Systems PF line is a true system of skincare products built around the benefits of Glycolic Acid.  So just what is Glycolic Acid and what can it do for you skin?

What is Glycolic Acid?

Definition: An alpha hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane.  Alpha hydroxy acids occur naturally in certain fruits and foods. For example:

  • Glycolic acid from sugar cane
  • Citric acid from citrus fruit
  • Malic acid from apples
  • Tartaric acid from grapes
  • Lactic acid from sour milk

Of all the alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid is the most promising for skin rejuvenation because it has the smallest molecular size. This small molecular size allows it to penetrate the outer layer of the skin to a greater extent than the other alpha hydroxy acids. 

How does it work?

Glycolic Acid penetrates the layers of the skin and works in two ways.

First: Glycolic acid loosens and dissolves the glue-like substance that holds the outer layer of cells to each other and to the underlying epidermis.These thick, piled up, clinging cells are responsible for appearance of dry, rough, scaly skin and brown age or sun damage spots.

When the glue is loosened, the thick strateum corneum is sloughed away and the skin has a much more smooth, moist, refined, vibrant appearance. Glycolic acid also loosens the corneocytes (dead cells), which block the follicles and cause acne. Once the follicle clears, the glycolic acid continues to work to prevent acne from reoccurring.

Second:Glycolic acid affects deeper layers of the skin by regenerating collagen and elastin. Clinical studies show marked disappearance of fine lines and reduction of coarser, deeper wrinkles.

What are the benefits of glycolic acid?

With regular use of glycolic acid products skin will have:

  • Healthier appearance
  • Increased elasticity and firmness
  • Diminished fine lines / reduced coarser, deeper wrinkles
  • Diminished / reduced comedones (acne lesions)
  • Improved texture, color, tone, and moisture content

What makes some glycolic acid products better than others?

Some glycolic acid products better than other glycolic acid products. There are three important features, which affect the benefit of glycolic acid products:

  1. Free Acid Concentration of the product
  2. pH of the product
  3. Base of Vehicle which carries the glycolic acid

The free acid concentration is the most important factor regarding the benefits of glycolic acid. Most clinical studies have been performed with free acid concentrations of 5% or greater. The higher the free acid concentration the more significant the improvement in skin texture, color, tone and fine wrinkles. Many companies buffer or neutralize the glycolic acid, which reduces the pH and free acid concentration. Even buffered and neutralized products are effective if the pH range is 2.5 to 3.5 and the free acid concentration is 5% or greater. Obviously, appropriate labeling and product information is essential for clients to obtain maximum results. Skin can develop tolerance to the improvement produced by a level of free glycolic acid. Step-up programs have been designed which allow clients to increase the strength of home maintenance programs. Maximum improvement will occur at free acid concentrations of 15 to 20 percent. Higher levels are irritating to the skin if used on a daily basis, but can be used as maintenance chemical peels performed by trained personnel.

The pH is also an important factor regarding the benefits of glycolic acid. The normal skin pH is about 4.8, which means the skin is “acid balanced.” Glycolic acid products work because they are acidic. Acidic products with a pH of 2.5 to 3.5 cause a natural exfoliation in the outer layer of skin. The lower the pH and the higher the free acid concentration the greater the exfoliation. The pH of the glycolic acid peel is less than 2. This is the reason that the free glycolic acid peels produce a more profound effect. Buffered and neutralized products with pH levels near 4 and low free acid concentrations will produce a decreased benefit for clients.

The base or vehicle of the free glycolic acid can increase or decrease its penetration into the outer layer of the skin. Alcohol-based products increase skin penetration but need to be monitored due to irritation of thick skin (such as, around the eyes), and in clients with dry or sensitive skin. Oil-free, protein base products allow excellent penetration in areas of thick or sensitive skin. This is in large part due to the small molecular size of the base, which allows the chemical to penetrate the outer layer of the skin. Cream bases, which do not contain mineral oil, are excellent bases for the delivery of glycolic acid in normal skin areas. The larger molecular size of the cream base will not allow adequate penetration in areas of think skin (such as, the eyelids), but it will moisturize areas of thin skin. Because it does not contain mineral oil, it will not clog pores. Client’s skin types and skin areas have different characteristics, which necessitates the versatility of the products base.

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Is Your Skin Like Grapes, Raisins or Corn Flakes?

What do grapes, raisins and cornflakes have to do with your skin? They happen to be a great illustration of what happens to your skin as you age.

Cornflakes are the top layer of skin that is dry and needs to be removed via exfoliation. Raisins are the next layer of skin and has been damaged from the sun and environmental free radicals. Grapes are the undamaged layer of skin that you are trying to get to the top as soon as possible.

Learn from Dr. Larry Samuels how your aging skin starts as plump, juicy raisins and becomes like raisins and corn flakes.

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Skin Terror: An Ounce of Prevention

For years scientific data have shown that sun and environment ruins skin. The skin is the largest organ of the body and its architectural structure and acidic pH help protect the body from environmental damage and insults that include ultraviolet rays, carbon dioxide, noxious gases, and environmental air particles. Their damaging effects are well documented. The environmental attack not only impacts a person’s health but also causes significant damage and aging to the skin.

Environmental DamageOf particular concern are the sun’s ultraviolet rays, tobacco smoke, and air pollutants damaging the outer layer of the skin and its lipid bilayer. These toxins create inflammation and reactive oxygen species (free radicals) which damage cellular proteins and DNA. As a result, daily broad spectrum sunscreen use is essential. However, it is not the entire solution. It is important to neutralize free radicals that are created by the environmental damage.

Prevention begins with a consistent daily regimen using an effective cleanser to remove dead skin cells, dirt, oil, bacteria, and environmental pollutants on the skin.  Daily use of an effective cleanser also helps restore the normal acidic pH of the skin.

  • Our Reparative Cleanser or Rejuvenating Cleanser not only cleans but also maintains the normal acidic skin pH that enhances the benefit of cosmeceutical products in the regimen.
  • After cleansing, apply topical antioxidants, such as, L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) which is the most important water soluble antioxidant in the skin. Our Age Defense Antioxidant Serum C provides the highest L-ascorbic acid concentration (20%) with a pH of 2.6 to provide the best clinical benefit confirmed by scientific studies.
  • A glycoprotein like Hydrating HA Serum (Hyaluronic Acid) restores critical molecules to repair the barrier function & moisture content of the skin. Repair the skin’s peptide and lipid barrier with Rejuvenating Protein Moisturizer, featuring multiple small peptides.
  • Essential Lipid Hydrator rebuilds the skin’s protective lipid bilayer.
  • Facial Moisturizer SPF 35 with micronized zinc oxide and three other FDA-approved sunscreen ingredients deliver broad spectrum protection from both UVA & UVB sun rays while providing skin hydration.

Environmental damage does not stop with clouds or bad weather, nor should one’s skin care regimen take a day off. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In addition to the products mentioned above, there are other products which benefit skin damaged by environmental insults. Our Reparative Creams and Lotions with glycolic acid and alpha lipoic acid repair cellular damage. Retinol (Vitamin A) contains both rejuvenating and antioxidant properties … Our Rejuvenating Retinol Cream and Lotion neutralize free radicals created by sun damage.

Be an Educated Consumer

  • Make sure you skin care products have an appropriate active ingredient. Notice many products substitute acetates, esters, or aldehyde variants which decrease product benefit.
  • Check the concentration of the active ingredient in a product as well as the pH most effective for that product.
  • Don’t be fooled by imposter products which “over promise and under deliver.” It will quickly become clear that long words and high prices don’t guarantee a good, effective skin care product.
  • Check with your dermatologist or licensed esthetician for personalized recommendations.
  • Have a daily skin care regimen.

Encourage your clients to repair existing environmental damage while protecting against future exposure so they can achieve the best results possible!