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Choosing Skin Care Products: Know Your Ingredients

Vitamin C

As you age, your body slows down its production of collagen and elastin, which keep skin strong, flexible, and resilient. The antioxidants found in vitamin C may stimulate the production of collagen and minimize fine lines, wrinkles, and scars.

Vitamin C is being added to skin care products such as creams and lotions. If you want to use a topical vitamin C-based product, ask your dermatologist which one would be right for you.

CoEnzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10)

Your body naturally makes CoQ-10 to neutralize free radicals in cells. As you age, you make less  CoQ-10. That may make skin cells more vulnerable to damage by free radicals. That's the reasoning behind the use of the antioxidant in skin care products such as toners, gels, and creams to be used alone or with a moisturizer. One study shows that CoQ-10 helps reduce wrinkles around the eyes known as crow's feet.

CoQ-10 is bright orange, so products containing it will be orange or yellow.

Caffeine

Caffeine is also an antioxidant, but whether it can be used on the skin to reverse aging isn't known. Still, skin care companies have added it to lotions and creams based on evidence that shows caffeine can inhibit the growth of skin cancer and, when applied to the skin, may make wrinkles less deep, especially ''crow's feet'' around the eyes.

Other Popular Ingredients

Skin-care and cosmetics companies are adding natural ingredients to their products, such as the following:

Alpha-hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

This group of natural-based acids found in a vast number of skin-care products includes glycolic, lactic, citric, and tartaric acids. Glycolic acid was the original AHA and remains popular for its ability to remove dead skin cells and leave skin smoother, softer, and more radiant.

AHAs are used to exfoliate the skin, reducing fine lines, age spots, acne scars, and irregular pigmentation. Peels with high concentrations of AHAs are usually administered by a beauty specialist (esthetician) or dermatologist, but you can use lower concentrations -- between 5% and 10% -- in creams or lotions on a daily basis.

To help avoid irritated skin, start with a low concentration and apply every other day gradually increasing frequency to every day.

Even at lower doses, however, the acids may irritate and dry skin as well as increase sensitivity to the sun. Doctors recommend using moisturizer and sunscreen when using any products that contain AHAs.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is used in many over-the-counter and prescription products to treat acne. It penetrates pores and reduces blackheads and whiteheads with less irritation than may occur with alpha-hydroxy acids. Like AHAs, salicylic acid in certain amounts exfoliates the skin, which can reduce signs of aging.

If you are allergic to salicylates (found in aspirin), you shouldn't use salicylic acid. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should ask your doctor before using any product with salicylic acid. Also be aware of symptoms of rare but serious allergic reactions. Seek emergency medical help if you have throat tightness, difficulty breathing, feeling faint, or swelling of the face or tongue. Also stop using the product if you develop hives or itching.

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