Loving the 20% Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is one of my favorite ingredients. As the smallest of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), glycolic acid is best at penetrating the skin. Many tests, including in vitro (in cultured cells) and in vivo (in the body/live skin) tests have shown glycolic acid to increase collagen production, fibroblast proliferation, and cell turnover rates (Dermatologic Surgery).
[Related: Spotlight On: Alpha Hydroxy Acids]
Glycolic acid acts as both a moisturizer and an exfoliator; it increases the skin’s supply of hyaluronic acid, which can hold many times its weight in water, thus making glycolic acid a humectant. It also exfoliates by increasing corneocyte desquamation, resulting in increased epidermal proliferation. And you know what that means: smoother, more elastic skin (Skin Therapy Letter)!
In general, you get concentrations of up to 20% glycolic acid over-the-counter, and up to 70% in dermatologist office in-house treatments. (These typically also result in a phenomenon I like to call “Lobster Face,” at least for a few days!) All jokes aside, NEOVA Reveal Exfoliator has the maximum over-the-counter amount at 20%, which is strong enough to make a profound difference after just a few uses of the product, but still light enough so you don’t look like you belong on a plate at Red Lobster.
Isopropyl Alcohol Enhances Penetration
If there’s a misunderstood ingredient in skin care, it’s alcohols.
There are three major classes of alcohols: Heavyweight alcohols, lightweight alcohols, and glycols.
Heavyweight alcohols still have “alcohol” in the title, but these are not drying at all, even when dabbled on a cotton ball and applied directly to the skin. According to Dr. Audrey Kunin, board-certified dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor.com, the seven most-commonly used heavyweight alcohols are emulsifiers, thickening agents, stabilizers, and even (gasp!) moisturizers — that is, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, cetostearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol 40, C12-15 alcohols, stearyl alcohol and lanolin alcohol.
Lightweight alcohols are a little more tricky. These agents are ingredients like 100% isopropyl/SD-40 alcohol in fact drying when you apply them directly to the skin. When researching the effects of ethanol on skin, most of the existing studies investigate oral consumption; it is common knowledge that consuming ethanol can cause a variety of skin problems, from psoriasis to delayed wound healing. However, when used in the context of a skin care product, these lightweight alcohols thin the solution, making the formulation penetrate the skin better, and hence work more effectively.
When used in high concentration, lightweight alcohols in skin care products can also help to dissolve your skin’s natural lipid barrier so the skin more permeable to other ingredients (Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology). Most skin care formulators are smart enough to have other ingredients in the formulation or subsequent steps in a skin care set that will supplement your skin’s natural lipids and oils back into your skin after the key treatment ingredients have penetrated.
If you have sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis, or a similar condition, then lightweight alcohols might still be irritating. My best advice is to try NEOVA Reveal Exfoliator and to see if it works for you or not. (We have a 30 day return policy if you try it at FutureDerm.com)!
[Related: Is SD Alcohol Harmful for the Skin?]
Scientific Analysis Shows Propylene Glycol is Safe
The propylene/butylene glycol internet rumor started about eight years ago, when people realized the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) stated that glycols can cause liver and kidney damage and act as a skin irritant. Considering that over 4000 beauty products in the U.S. alone contain propylene glycol, this was a big deal, to say the least.
However, this is what happens when people who aren’t scientists read data sheets or studies. (I don’t mean this in a nasty or snarky way; for instance, if I read construction blueprints, you might end up with a cabin instead of a house.) Concentration matters. MSDS sheets refer to 100% concentrations of a substance. At 100%, propylene glycol is anti-freeze. (Whoa, right?) At 1% or less, propylene glycol is perfectly safe, thinning a solution and enhancing the penetration of skin care ingredients. In fact, propylene glycol at concentrations of 1% or less is the ingredient used in transdermal patches that delivers drugs to patients! To put your mind at ease, I’ll give another comparable: At 100% concentration, vitamin C will burn straight through your skin. You don’t get anything more natural or healthy than vitamin C, but there it is. But at concentrations of 15%, vitamin C has been shown to do everything from lighten to brighten to stimulate collagen production. In other words, concentration makes all the difference.
I am not the only scientist who has come to this conclusion. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, propylene glycol is classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), and proclaims, “Studies have not shown these chemicals [propylene or the other glycols as used in cosmetics] to be carcinogens”.
Does Not Contain DNA Repair Factors (But That’s OK!)
If NEOVA is known for a ingredient or a technology, it’s their DNA repair enzymes. One of them, photolyase, has been shown in trials to reduce UVB radiation-induced dimers by 45% and to increase UV protection by 300% (source)./span> Naturally found in cells, the job of photolyase is to undo DNA damage in cells and prevent cell death caused by UV exposure.
Since NEOVA Reveal Exfoliator will enhance the penetration of key ingredients, I recommend using the exfoliator twice weekly, followed by a treatment product with other actives. An example of a product I love with DNA repair enzymes is NEOVA DNA Damage Control Sunscreen Everyday SPF 44. It comes with zinc oxide, which instantly protects the skin for the sun, unlike chemical sunscreens that take 30 minutes or more to activate. Its photolyase will also start increasing UV protection further. According to the text The New Science of Perfect Skin, liposome-encapsulated photolyase is delivered to the skin within an hour of application.
First and foremost, use a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen while using NEOVA Reveal Exfoliator. As with any product containing glycolic acid, you want to be cautious about sun exposure when you are using it. The general rule of thumb is the higher the value, the more biologic activity, and the more sensitive your skin is to sun (Skin Therapy Letters).
My second opinion is to be sure to use NEOVA Reveal Exfoliator for at least a full minute, which is how most skin care products are formulated to be used, optimizing active ingredient-to-skin contact. Leave the exfoliator on the skin for 3-5 minutes, then rinse. The results are dramatic — I compare the use of this product to a mild 15-20% chemical peel in the dermatologist’s office! It’s that great!
Lastly, be sure that you do not use any products with glycolic acid with any containing retinol on the same evening. Despite what you may have read by other experts selling products with retinol and vitamin C/other acids, there is a pH problem. The pH optimal for retinol esterification (a process activating retinol in the skin) is between 5.5-6.0, as mentioned in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Applying a separate product with an acidic pH, even a product that is rinse-off, will take retinol out of its optimal pH range for activation. This doesn’t mean that products containing vitamin A and glycolic acid don’t work at all, but it does indicate that using them separately may be a bit more beneficial.
I love NEOVA Reveal Exfoliator, and I recommend use of it twice a week after cleansing. If using NEOVA Reveal Exfoliator in the morning, use it before a vitamin CE serum and sunscreen in the morning. If using NEOVA Reveal Exfoliator in the evening, use it under a serum or moisturizer with antioxidants, DNA repair enzymes, niacinamide, or peptides.
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Product Rating: 9/9 (100%). High or optimized concentration of proven ingredients: 3/3. Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3. Value: 3/3.
Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polyacrylate-1 Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide.