Environmental Defense Treatments
In an earlier ‘Flo says’ publication, we talked about hydration treatments and mentioned a little about how the relevant ambient humidity can affect the results of a treatment. I often say in class that you have to think like a ‘weather girl’ and consider if the treatment is seasonally appropriate or if the correct procedure has been chosen for the client's living, working or play environment.
The mind-set of thinking ‘Hydration treatment because it's summer’ may be entirely inappropriate for a summer clinical service as these treatments can often over hydrate in conditions of high humidity.
What should you be thinking of as a suitable treatment for the summer? What environmental conditions prevail the most often? UVR is usually the first thing that comes to mind for most of you, however, along with that thought you should be thinking ‘free radicals and oxidative stress and the resulting lipid peroxidation.'
Oxidative stress is the loss of both oil and water soluble antioxidants within the immediate environment around the protective membrane. Examples of these are vitamin E, thioctic acid (alpha lipoic acid), omega’s 3 & 6, (in the form of essential fatty acids), vitamin A, (in the form of retinyl palmitate and beta-carotene) and vitamin C.
Although vitamin E abounds in quantity, it is a very poor antioxidant and can only neutralise a small number of free radicals before becoming inactive.
Vitamin E is reactivated by vitamin C and therefore without vitamin C, the cell has lost an important antioxidant (Vit E) leaving it susceptible to oxidative stress.
This compounded loss of vitamin E then leads on to lipid peroxidation, which is a deterioration of the phospholipids that make up 45% of the cell.
Including antioxidants into your facial treatment
So how do you change a hydration treatment into one that protects the skin from the environment? What actives do you require to make a difference?
Think free radicals and the ensuing oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation that follows. What actives commonly negate the action of a radical? Of course, it is the antioxidant and flavonoids group.
The relative importance and interactions between different antioxidants is a complex area, with the various metabolites and enzyme systems having synergistic and interdependent effects on one another.
The action of one antioxidant may depend on the proper function of other members of the antioxidant system, and the amount of protection provided by any one antioxidant, therefore, depends on its concentration, its reactivity towards the particular reactive oxygen species being considered, and the status of the antioxidants with which it interacts.
There are two main groups of antioxidants: (Hydrophilic) water soluble or (Hydrophobic) oil-soluble, and in general, the following principles apply:
• Water-soluble antioxidants react with oxidants in the cell, (Intracellular) and outside the cell (extracellular).
• Lipid-soluble antioxidants protect cell membranes from lipid peroxidation and work in synergy with the water-soluble group.
Not all enzymes, proteins, vitamins, and metabolites can be used as actives in cosmetic chemistry. However, what should be understood is what specific cells of various systems require to function efficiently. This knowledge will help choose an antioxidant most effective for a particular condition.
The ACE Vitamins are always the first to come to mind when thinking about protecting a skin from oxidative stress. Environmental Defense treatments could use these vitamins as serums under masks or may even be the mask itself, all would offer good repair and protection.
Others available are the botanicals as antioxidants. Many if not most of the antioxidants used in the cosmetic industry come from botanical origins and categorising the actions of botanical antioxidant is difficult because they are too many to mention. However, most botanical antioxidants can be classified into one of the three categories; flavonoids, carotenoids, and polypheols.
Flavonoids possess a polyphenolic structure that accounts for their antioxidant, UV protectant, and metal chelation abilities. Bioflavonoids work with other antioxidants to offer a system of protection. Numerous studies have shown their unique role in protecting vitamin C from oxidation in the body, thereby allowing the body to reap more benefits from vitamin C.
Polyphenols as antioxidants
Polyphenols compose the largest category of botanical antioxidants. The most widely used
commercialised polyphenol antioxidants are:
• Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) (from greeen & white tea)
• Ferulic Acid • Caffeic acid
• Resveratrol • Rosmarinic acid (rosemary)
• Hypericin (St. John’s wort) • Ellagic acid (pomegranate fruit)
• Chlorogenic acid (blueberry leaf)
• Oleuropein (olive leaf)
Xanthones as antioxidants
Xanthones exhibit strong antioxidant activity, and are thought to be more potent than both vitamin C and vitamin E. Often referred to as the “Super Antioxidants”, Xanthones have been found to support and enhance the body’s immune system. They are heat stable molecules and unlike proteins, won’t denature or lose their structure when heated. This property should make them a useful addition to sun protection and other formulations exposed to radiant heat.
In addition to ßeta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and astaxanthin, there are also the colourless carotenoids; phytoene and phytofluene from algae and tomato sources that are also UV protectants and antioxidants.
Writing the treatment program:
The outline that follows is for a compromised skin that is high risk for pigmentation. This means I am following the protocols for a sensitive skin.
After the usual preparatory phase of cleanse and balancing the acid mantle with your post cleanser lotion, apply the antioxidant serums of your choice.
Just remember that if you have chosen a Vitamin C it is best to use an encapsulated sodium ascorbyl phosphate or ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. (Oil soluble vit C)
Do not use ascorbic acid it is too acidic and will cause the high risk skin to sting.
Now apply a layer of cream suitable for lipid dryness or compromised skin. Then apply the mask, preferably a paraplastic mask that will infuse the actives and cream by the occlusive properties of the mask.
Peel off the mask after 20 minutes and then massage with a cream or oil that also has an antioxidant profile.
Complete your treatment with an oil soluble antioxidant and with a sun protection product if it has been a day time appointment.
Of course if the treatment has been performed during the evening, finish with a layer of oil soluble antioxidant serums and night cream.
Why do I finish this treatment with an oil soluble antioxidant?
Using the principle that oil sits on top of water, it is logical to assume that after the completion of the facial massage which had been done with an oil based cream or massage oil, that to apply a water based serum would be a waste of time.
Why? Simple physics. Because a water based serum would be unable to penetrate the oil that has been massaged into the skin for preceding 20 minutes.
The other reason is that an oil soluble antioxidant will not oxidise as quickly and the benefits of the environmental defense treatment is extended.
I know you will now reconsider what the new summer treatment protocols will be and that you will offer your clients a treatment that is of benefit to the skin - not one that is just about hydration and relaxation.
About the Author
New Zealand born Florence Barrett-Hill is an internationally acclaimed dermal science educator, practitioner, researcher, and author with over 30 years of experience covering all aspects of professional aesthetic therapy and paramedical skin care. Florence is the creator of the internationally recognised Pastiche Method of advanced skin analysis, and spends her time travelling the world teaching and presenting to skin treatment therapists, practitioners and medical professionals.