Observer on Sunday: Skin care that packs a punch

(Published in the Observer on Sunday, 3 June, 2012)

Skin care has come a long way. Today’s lotions and potions are packed full of powerful tried and tested anti-aging nutrients and antioxidants. But, with numerous different formulas out there all promising to tighten, tone, brighten, lift or banish fine lines, how do you know which one is right for you? The Observer on Sunday spoke to Dr. Karlinsky-Bellini, a New York based cosmetic surgeon, who runs a clinic at KY Imaging in Cayman every five weeks.

Vitamin C

One of the most popular anti-aging skincare ingredients, Vitamin C has come a long way from its days of helping to cure scurvy ridden sailors. “Vitamin C products are made to protect and add nutrients to the skin, while acting as an antioxidant, protecting the skin from the action of every day environmental conditions. In particular, serum products work very well due to their high penetration capacity.” Dr. Karlinsky-Bellini says.


Retinol speeds up skin cell turnover and helps the skin create healthier skin cells. Indeed, Dr. Karlinsky-Bellini says that it is this renewal process which helps improve the skin’s complexion, reducing age spots, sun damage and fine lines. As a result, the skin looks healthier and younger. Like most things in life, there’s no gain without some pain. Retinol can cause skin irritation and is best used under the guidance of a physician. “High concentration of retinol may have some side effects: prolonged hyper-sensitivity, redness, flaking, peeling and/or excessive dryness. If you do choose to use retinol at home, use a product with a low concentration of retinol to avoid expensive doctor’s appointments,” Dr. Karlinsky-Bellini says. Packaging is important when it comes to buying a retinol product, since retinol is unstable and breaks down when exposed to light or air. Don’t buy a retinol product in a clear container and always choose one which comes in a tube or pump form.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid is a deep acting moisturizer which hydrates and plumps the skin, helping it to maintain its youthful glow. Like collagen, HA naturally occurs in the skin but decreases with age. “I am not a big fan of HA creams as I am not sure they do much,” Dr. Karlinsky-Bellini says. “I much prefer HA injections if volume is what a patient is looking for. Injectable HA, such as Juvederm and Restylane, are more effective, less expensive in the long run, and have virtually no side effects. “By injecting the product into the deep dermis or below, it attracts water molecules to itself, thereby rebuilding the loss of volume due to aging. All HA injections have also proven to stimulate collagen production.”

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

These are derived from fruit and milk sugars and have been shown to be effective at rejuvenating the skin, particularly improving skin tone. Alpha Hydroxy Acids work by helping to slough of the dead skin cells of the epidermis, making room for the fresh new cells below. Popular AHAs to look out for include glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid. “This product is typically used in chemical peels in higher concentrations – 20 to 30 percent – but of course it is a big no, at this concentration, at home,” Dr. Karlinsky-Bellni explains. “At home creams usually contain only five to eight percent of AHA and they work well, exfoliating old skin and exposing fresh and more rejuvenated skin.”

Copper Peptides

Used daily, Copper Peptides have been shown to improve skin texture and tone. In addition, research has shown that Copper Peptides can help with the skin’s natural tissue-building – a good ingredient to look for when you have a scar that you would like to help heal. Unlike many other anti-aging ingredients, Copper Peptides are gentle on the skin too. “The benefits of Copper Peptides have been known since the early 1970s, and are still used today for the treatment of chronic wounds and scars. Copper Peptides are able to degrade extra-large collagen aggregates, commonly found in scars and wounds, and promote the synthesis of smaller more regular collagen typical of normal skin. However, it is still unclear if this protein can reverse the signs of aging,” Dr. Karlinsky-Bellini says.

CoQ 10

According to Dr. Karlinsky-Bellini, this coenzyme is a relative newcomer in the beauty industry and its full benefits are still to be fully understood, however it is believed to help prevent damage to collagen and elastin production – essential for young looking skin. “As we age, production of this enzyme decreases and the cells lose their efficiency and protection,” she says. “Studies indicate that people over 30 years old have decreased levels of this substance in their skin cells making the barrier against free radicals significantly weaker. Due to a small size of the CoQ10 molecule the skin penetration is easy and the beauty industry firmly believes that the topical application of gels and creams containing this enzyme may significantly slow down the aging process.”

Application makes a difference

Believe it or not, how you apply serum and creams can make a big difference to how effective they really are. Active ingredients penetrate better when skin is clean, warmed and slightly moist. Apply a warm moist towel to your face after cleansing to help gently open pores and leave skin slightly moist. Apply tiny dots of the serum or cream all over your face and then gently blend lightly and quickly all over with your middle finger. Don’t ever rub or stretch the skin, especially around the delicate eye area.

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