4 Skin Care Ingredients & Treatments That Sound Scary But Actually Aren't
The skin care sphere is full of ingredients and procedures that seem like they could negatively impact your skin, especially if you don’t have a degree in medical cosmetics. Let’s face it: Slathering your skin in acids or peeling off dead surface cells with chemicals can in theory be quite frightening. But what if we told you that in actuality, those very same ingredients could help improve the overall health and appearance of your body’s largest organ? Well, don’t just take our word for it. Below, we tapped board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dendy Engelman to help demystify some of these scary-sounding skin care ingredients and treatments.
Retinol is a multi-tasking powerhouse ingredient that’s beloved by many, but that’s not to say adding it to a routine won’t intimidate others. It’s powerful, and its use is often accompanied by additional precautionary measures such as applying broad-spectrum sunscreen when outdoors, wearing protective clothing, and limiting exposure to UV light. And that’s not even taking into account the results. “A lot of patients are scared of retinol because they’ve seen the results that can be given, which can include redness, peeling, and irritation,” says Dr. Engelman. “The reason we shouldn’t be scared is that it’s one of the best molecules out there for anti-aging.”
Dr. Engelman mentioned that vitamin A derivatives, which retinol is, help with fine lines and wrinkles, help build collagen and elastin, and reverse signs of aging, pigmentation, and photodamage. With so many benefits to the ingredient, it’s surely not one you want to miss out on. If you’re nervous, Dr. Engelman recommends taking things slow. “We can ‘retinize’ the skin and get it used to a retinol,” she says. “You don’t have to put it on every night. You can use it once a week for a week, then twice a week for two weeks, then three times a week for three weeks. Then you can just use it in a gradual process so that you don’t see the downside and only the upside to using retinol.” For more tips, check out our beginner’s guide to using retinol here!
If your first thought when hearing the word “chemical peel” is an image of red, flaking skin that’s irritated and uncomfortable, it’s not surprising that you’re hesitant to try it out. What many people don’t know, however, is that not all chemical peels are frightening, and most of them won’t require you to hide from the public until your skin looks presentable again. “Every patient who comes to me when they talk about using chemical peels, they always worry that they’ll look bright red and have to hide from everyone,” Dr. Engelman says. “The reality is that there are so many different chemical peels now, and some don’t even result in overt peeling. It’s almost microscopic and a very gentle peel.”
Say what? A chemical peel that barely induces peeling? See, not so scary after all. To find out which peel is best for your skin, it’s important to talk to your skin care provider. “If you have sensitive skin or rosacea, you’ll want to go with a gentler peel,” Dr. Engelman says. “If your skin is very oily or acne-prone, there are other peels that are more aggressive but won’t result in bright redness, peeling and irritation.”
So the next time you think of a chemical peel, keep in mind that not all peels are created equally. If you’re headed to your first chemical peel, check out our guide detailing what to expect and how to prepare for your peel.
Dr. Engelman knows that when it comes to your skin, acids are typically not the first ingredient people think of as being beneficial. “Nobody wants to put an acid on their skin because that would theoretically result in a burn,” she says. “And while that can be the case in high concentrations, in beauty products most often they are beneficial for the skin.” The acids Dr. Engelman is referring to are probably ones you’ve heard of before or have seen plastered on the front of product labels. The first is salicylic acid, a common acne-fighting ingredient which can help to decrease follicular plugging. Another common acid used in skin care is glycolic acid which helps to exfoliate the surface of the skin, followed by hyaluronic acid which can hold up to 1000x its weight in water. “We use hyaluronic acid in both beauty products for humectant properties to add hydration to the skin or in my hands we inject it into the dermis in order to plump or fill the appearance of the skin,” she says. So while all of these acids sound scary out of context, when you discover what their benefits are in the right concentrations—and in the right hands—they are anything but. Discover more skin care acids in our ultimate guide to using acids in skin care here!
In-office micro-needling involves tiny needles puncturing the surface of your skin, which certainly sounds daunting (and even a little painful). But in truth, this minimally-invasive procedure can deliver a plethora of skin benefits that make it so worth it. But in order to determine if you’re the right candidate for micro-needling, there are a few distinctions to be made. “Under the umbrella of micro-needling there are two different houses,” Dr. Engelman explains. “One is an in-office procedure, and one is an at-home procedure. The one in-office is much more medical and can help with acne scarring and signs of aging, but needs to be done by a licensed and trained professional.” Got that? In the right hands, there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of. For a less invasive approach, you can try at-home derma rollers. “The at-home derma rollers don’t go into the skin as deeply and can be used safely and effectively at home in order to help drive products that you’re using into the skin.” Our editor gave at-home derma-rolling a try and shared her experience. Find out what happened to her skin after derma-rolling for six weeks here!