Fine lines and tiny spots of dark pigmentation started to appear on my face. A middle aged woman on TV vouched that alpha-hydroxy-acid cream was the panacea for facial blemishes. Another one recommended seaweed creams, stressing that it was natural. Sure enough, her face turned to glow as she spoke. So I thought why not I try one of these creams to get rid of dark spots on my face? I went to Macy’s.
There were many body and facial creams with alpha-hydroxy-acid and glycerin. I spotted one which read, “Active Naturals. Positively Ageless.” I thought this was good for me and read the label. The first ingredient was water, very natural. Then came glycerin followed by several chemicals with long names that were hard to pronounce. For example, there was Tetrahydoxypropyl Ethylenediamine. Other ingredients were: algae extract, mushroom stem extract, southernwood AKA Boy’s Love plant extracts from its flower, leaf and stems. The product promised healthier and younger looking skin, exactly what I wanted.
What are these chemicals and do they really help?
Alpha-hydroxy-acid (AHA): Currently, there are more than 200 creams or lotions containing this chemical. AHA is believed to improve fine skin lines and lighten pigmented spots. Excessive use may bleach the skin or cause irritation. So, use the cream on alternate days or start with a lower concentration of AHA.
Glycerin: This ingredient prevents dryness and moisturizes the skin by forming an oily layer on the skin. Glycerin is often used with other chemicals such as, AHA or urea which soften the skin’s horny keratin layer. The skin feels soft and smooth.
Algae Extract: Seaweeds are algae and their extract is used in several skin products. There are many varieties of algae with varied chemicals in them. The companies generally do not reveal the nature of the algae used. Seaweed extracts are potent antioxidants and reduce inflammation. Some seaweed extracts have polygalactosides and ursolic acid. Companies which make the creams claim that these chemicals hydrate the skin forming a protective moisturizing complex.
Mushroom Extracts: Many facial creams have mushroom extracts as one of the ingredients. Japanese mushroom extract contains antioxidants that prevent cell destruction. Some have kojic acid which is a natural skin lightener. It is helpful in brightening black spots and acne scars.
Southernwood Extract: Southernwood is a shrub with an aromatic fragrance. Dried leaves, stems and flowers have been used medicinally for centuries. Greeks, Chinese, Japanese and Aztecs treated colic, stomach disorders, menstrual problems and intestinal worms with the plant parts. It was used in baths to eliminate inflammation. Young men applied the ashes of the plant to grow hair (beard,) hence the name “Boy’s Love” came about. The plant’s flower, leaf and stem extract is particularly suitable to treat dry skin. When used in conjunction with antioxidants like polyphenols, the southernwood extract attracts water and binds it to the skin. The skin appears fresh and smooth.
Even though I didn’t favor growing a beard, I decided to get the “Positively Ageless” cream. Who does not want to look young?
Dr. Raghavendra Rao is a pediatrician in Porterville. He writes periodically for The Recorder.