You've likely heard, "Time may be the great healer, but it's a lousy beautician." It's no wonder, then, that aging skin is one of the top complaints of health and beauty shoppers today. "My clients are very concerned about preventing and treating the signs of aging. People are more aware now that it's important to start early on to delay the aging process of the skin," says Robin Carter, licensed aesthetician and manager of aesthetics at Deerfield, N.H.-based Dr. Hauschka Skin Care.
Naturals shoppers are usually health-minded to begin with, but the next step is to learn which products and ingredients will best suit their skin care needs as they mature. Becoming familiar with why skin changes as we age, as well as how to best care for aging skin, will help you better guide your shoppers on their quest for beautiful, young-looking skin.
Fine lines and wrinkles
Two types of wrinkles occur as we age—dynamic wrinkles and wrinkles caused by sun damage or lifestyle choices. "Dynamic wrinkles are often hereditary and are influenced by muscle contraction and relaxation. They can occur around the eyes and mouth and on the forehead. Sun-damage or lifestyle wrinkles are usually found on the cheeks, neck and chest and have a checkerboard look to them," says Alison O'Neil Andrew, a licensed aesthetician and geriatric aesthetics specialist. O'Neil Andrew is the founder of Atlanta-based Beauty Becomes You Foundation, a nonprofit organization that specializes in beauty care for seniors.
Furthermore, "The cell renewal process slows down—fibroblast cells, which are the things that generate collagen and elastin, decrease their production. Also, the skin naturally loses moisture as we age, so it has a tendency to wrinkle more easily the older we get," Carter says.
Skin discoloration and age spots
"Sun damage is the biggest cause of skin discoloration or texture changes and can show up as early as in the teenage years. The intensity of the damage caused will appear even more starting in the late 30s. Symptoms include changes in pigmentation, brown discolored spots on the skin and splotchiness of the skin following a burn," O'Neil Andrew says.
Sun exposure can lead to things worse than blotchy skin, however. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. . . . Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays appears to be the most important environmental factor in developing skin cancer." Be sure to inform your customers about the dangers of skin cancer, and advise them to see a doctor if they mention a spot on the skin that has irregular size, shape or coloring.
As we age, skin becomes less firm and, under the weight of gravity, can start to lack definition. "Our skin begins to lose its elasticity as we get older and as collagen production slows. Subcutaneous tissue is responsible for giving our skin a fresh, plump look and we start to lose some of that padding, particularly on our face, as time goes on. This can cause sagging skin," Carter says. Also, older skin is less able to defend itself against environmental toxins. "Our body's metabolism, and ability to heal, digest, fight free-radical assault and produce hormones declines simply because we are programmed to live a certain number of years," says Myra Eby, founder of MyChelle Dermaceuticals in Frisco, Colo.
Typically, because body fluid production naturally slows as we mature, the most common complaint about aging skin is dryness. Occasionally, however, hormonal fluctuations might cause unwanted blemishes to arise on the skin. "Women who are going through menopause experience hormonal shifts that cause the skin's oil to get thicker. This can cause clogged pores that can lead to papules and pimples," Carter says. However, breakouts can sometimes signify the body is functioning in a healthy way. "When breakouts come during a period of stress, it's actually a good thing because it signals that the skin has been called on by the body to release toxins that otherwise might sit internally," says Celia Lang, spa manager and licensed aesthetician for Weleda North America, a natural skin care company based in Palisades, N.Y.
Though pore size is genetically predetermined, pores can look bigger over time. "Already enlarged pores may seem to get larger as skin loses elasticity and pores stretch," O'Neil Andrew says. Also, if the skin has not been properly cared for over the years, its natural exfoliation process will be hindered and it will not be able to clear away dead skin cells efficiently, leading to clogged pores. "In this case, it's not that the pore is actually bigger, it is just more visible because it is not as smooth as it should be; it is clogged with oil or oil hardened with skin debris," Lang says.
Treatments that turn back time
Though time will continue marching on, there are products available to help your customers age gracefully. Following are some key antiaging components that consumers should incorporate into their beauty regimen.
Ridding the pores of blockages that can occur as skin ages is important for maintaining radiant skin, and to ensure that the skin is ready for optimal moisture absorption in the next step. However, it is crucial to be gentle on mature skin. "Older skin is not as forgiving as young skin and can be much more sensitive," Carter says. For this reason, using a gentle, moisturizing cleanser is best. Dr. Hauschka offers a cleansing kit that includes a cleanser, a lavender bath concentrate, a biodynamic compress and a toner. "Customers can choose a kit for either oily or dry skin, and it encourages them to properly cleanse their skin twice a day, which is the foundation of good-looking skin," Carter says. She advises against aggressive exfoliation pro?ducts and acids because they "remove too many of the skin's protective cells."
For those annoying breakouts that most adults wish they could have left in adolescence, Lang recommends addressing the situation from the inside and the outside. "Weleda offers a birch cleanse that will assist internally to tackle an acne breakout. And when people say they're concerned about aging because of hormonal changes, you want to recommend they soothe the situation by cooling and repairing that area," Lang says. Ingredients that will help reduce blemishes include tea tree oil, titanium or zinc oxide and calendula.
Surprisingly, Weleda's diaper care ointment contains zinc oxide and calendula, and is "great to use on breakouts because it will calm redness and dry the problem area without over drying," says Lang. She also advises warning customers against trying to extract blemishes themselves. "When you scrub and poke a blemish, that's when you aggravate the follicle, spread bacteria and open up a larger wound that really would have run its course on its own," she says.
Hydration, hydration, hydration
"Hydration masks are key to long-term results when addressing aging skin complaints," Lang says. "If you are not properly hydrated, then you can't expect skin cells to normalize or respond to a problem." Following a moisturizing cleanse, Lang suggests leaving a hydrating mask on the skin for 10 to 30 minutes so healing ingredients can fully penetrate. Masks should be used about once a month. For daily care, be sure to remind customers of the importance of using a moisturizing day cream that contains sunblock to prevent further sun damage and dryness.
"Caring for aging skin requires the same [cleansing, toning and moisturizing techniques as young skin] with a few extra serums and treatments added in to enhance the skin's own production of collagen and elastin," Eby says. MyChelle Dermaceuticals offers several serums to soften the signs of aging. "Our Perfect C Serum supplies 17 percent of L-ascorbic acid to support proper collagen and elastin production, as well as boost the immune function of skin cells," says Eby. MyChelle also produces a?polypeptide cream, which guarantees at least 67 percent wrinkle reduction within six months, and?an eye cream, which contains polypeptides Eyeliss and Haloxyl to reduce puffiness and dark circles. MyChelle's Lip Plumping Treatment contains a polypeptide known as Maxilip, which the company claims gives up to a 40 percent increase in lost lip volume in 29 days. ? Aging is inevitable. But with these tools, at least you are better equipped to help make your customers' aging processes as painless as possible.
Christine Spehar is a freelance writer in Boulder, Colo.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 3/p. 94. 98