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.Cane + Austin Miracle Pad has become a cult favorite in many beauty circles. Created by Dr. Craig Austin, M.D., a dermatologist in Fishkill, New York, the Cane + Austin Miracle Pad claims to have results comparable to 20% glycolic acid. Designed to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores and the appearance of age spots, it contains a blend of glycolic acid, witch hazel, vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate), vitamin E (tocopherol acetate) and ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10).
Here are my thoughts on the pads and what the science says:
Yes, Glycolic Acid is Something of a Miracle Ingredient
Glycolic acid is the smallest of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and is a common ingredient in skincare ingredients. Both in vitro and in vivo tests have shown it to increase collagen production, fibroblast proliferation, and cell turnover rates (Dermatologic Surgery).
Glycolic acid is the most common of all the alpha hydroxy acids. Glycolic acid peels advance desquamation and thinning of the stratum corneum (the uppermost layer of the skin). By exfoliating the top layer of the skin, glycolic acid peels smooth the skin, quicken the rate of cell turnover (which is reduced by up to 7% every ten years), decrease small wrinkles and increase the fibroblast proliferation of collagen.[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 1000 times its weight in water, thus making glycolic acid a humectant. It also exfoliates by increasing the separation of skin cells, a process calledcorneocyte desquamation, resulting in even more cell turnover! And you know what that means: smoother, more elastic skin (Skin Therapy Letter)!
Keep in mind: The higher the value, the more biologic activity, and the more sensitive your skin is to sun (Skin Therapy Letter). Although the concentration of glycolic acid isn’t listed on the label of Cane + Austin Miracle Pad (instead, it reads “results comparable to 20% glycolic acid”), I estimate the actual concentration of glycolic acid here to be in the 10-15% range, due to the very high placement of glycolic acid on the ingredient list. An amazing ingredient, to say the least, and found here in enough concentration to really do something great for your skin!
Witch Hazel is a Surprisingly Potent Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidant
Hamamelis Virginiana, better known as witch hazel, is a plant found in North America that has been used in traditional to soothe skin irritation and inflammation (Mosby’s Handbook of Herbal and Natural Supplements). It’s got a lot of anti-abilities: anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-oxidant. It’s also been shown in studies with animals to have a vasoconstrictive effect, making it beneficial to people with varicose veins (Archives of Dermatology). Reports vary on whether it’s safe to ingest or will cause GI tract and liver damage.
Witch hazel is anti-inflammatory because it contains tannins, which has astringent properties and binds and precipitates proteins (NYU Medical Center, Cornell University). The tannins are removed in the distillation process for commercially available witch hazel extract, but it’s still believed to have soothing properties.
In a double-blind study with 41 people, researchers found that a 10% solution of distilled witch hazel helped to treat inflammation in UV-erythema. However, it wasn’t as effective as 1% hydrocortisone (Journal of the German Society of Dermatology). Another study testing UVB-erythema when included in an after-sun lotion found similar results (Dermatology). And the proanthocyanidins in it were found to have soothing and anti-inflammatory effects, while also reduceing transepidermal water loss (Phytochemistry). In studies with rats it’s been shown to reduce adjuvant-induced paw swelling (Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology). And other studies have found reason to think that witch hazel might help atopic dermatitis (Archives of Dermatology).
And in a comparison study with 28 other herbs and plant extracts, witch hazel was found to have the best free-radical scavenger products against the cytotoxicant peroxynitrite (Phytotherapy Research). In studies on mouse skin it was found to have antioxidanteffects (Journal of Inflammation). One study done in vitro hypothesized that witch hazel polyphenols work with cells in a very particular way as an antioxidant. By creating prooxidative challenges, the extract causes an endogenous detoxifying reaction (Chemical Research in Toxicology). So, the tannins essentially kickstart your internal detoxifying system. Still, some studies suggest witch hazel is not the most effective antioxidant out there, saying green tea extract, for example, is better (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry).
I Am NOT Concerned This Product Has Retinoids + AHAs — Here’s Why
Typically, I am very concerned when products contain both retinol and alpha hydroxy acids.
Using most retinoids and an AHA (e.g. glycolic acid) actually diminishes the effectiveness of both ingredients. According to Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., a practicing dermatologist and the co-founder and chief of the Cosmetic Dermatology department at the University of Miami School of Medicine, “Your question about order is a great one. Retinoids should not be mixed with BHA (i.e., salicylic acid) or AHA (i.e,. glycolic acid) because the BHA and AHA can inactivate the retinoid. Always use retinoids at night because the sun can also make the retinoid less effective.”
In the case of retinyl palmitate, the ultra-weak form of retinol found inCane + Austin Miracle Pad, the retinol is bound to a fatty acid. Retinyl palmitate is a combination of pure retinol and palmitic acid (a substance typically used in cosmetics as a cleansing agent). In order to do anything in the skin, retinyl palmitate must be converted to retinaldehyde and then all-trans retinoic acid within the skin in order to be effective. I have found retinyl palmitate to be about 20-30 times weaker than retinol in the research, and that’s being generous to the retinyl palmitate. And in a product like Cane + Austin Miracle Pad, with so little retinyl palmitate to begin with, you’re not likely to get very many effects of retinol — including deactivation of the AHA glycolic acid. So I’m honestly not concerned. If anything, I wish the retinyl palmitate was excluded from this product altogether.
Vitamins C + E + Coenzyme Q10 = So Genius!
According to Cosmetic Dermatology, vitamins C and E, glutathione, lipoic acid, and coenzyme Q10 are “network antioxidants,” which work together synergistically to regenerate or enhance their action. For instance, after vitamin E is used to neutralize a free radical, vitamin C or coenzyme Q10 can donate electrons to vitamin E, effectively “recycling” it in the system. For this reason, antioxidant products like Skinceuticals CE Ferulic are particularly valuable; when used with a sunscreen, this product has been shown to provide eight times the free radical protection of sunscreen alone.
And in a product like Cane + Austin Miracle Pad, the effects are all the more valuable. Although glycolic acid increases skin thickness over time, it will may thin the skin for the first six to eight weeks of use. Using photoprotective antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10 in conjunction together under sunscreen is a great way to protect your skin from getting damaged while it’s temporarily thinned. In other words, awesome now and awesome later!
Personal Use and Opinions
My first impression of Cane + Austin Miracle Pads is that they are really doused in solution. They’re pretty wet. My second impression was that they smelled surprisingly peppermint-y, and when I looked at the ingredients again, I found that there is a substantial concentration of menthol. So it makes sense.
One pad is certainly enough to cover your entire face, neck and upper chest. They definitely create a certain degree of tingling, which was surprising, given that I use enough skincare products for this blog that I usually don’t get any tingling anymore, even from, like, 25% vitamin C solutions.
Nonetheless, these Cane + Austin Miracle Pads are potent, and they do work. Those “11” forehead expression lines that keep trying to form between my eyebrows keep going away, and I believe I owe it to these pads — plus a religious regimen of potent vitamin CE serum, sunscreen, niacinamide, retinoids, peptides, and amino acids!
If you’ve tried everything for fine lines, wrinkles, skin dullness, and clogged pores, go ahead and give Cane + Austin Miracle Pads a try. They contain a very high concentration of glycolic acid and witch hazel to refine fine lines and blackheads, plus vitamins C, E, and coenzyme Q10 for more preventative action. I’m a huge fan!