Friday, February 10, 2017

The anti-aging skin savior you’ve never heard of

Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that gives seafood including lobster, shrimp and salmon their brilliant red and orange hues. It is also responsible for the flamingo’s vibrant pink hue.
by Delia von Neuschatz

You’re familiar with antioxidants like vitamins E, C and D,
but have you ever heard of astaxanthin?  Pronounced asta-ZAN-thin, this free radical fighter is second to none when it comes to antioxidant efficacy.   It is reportedly 40 times more powerful than beta carotene and clinical studies demonstrate that it is 1,000 times more effective than Vitamin C and 550 times more active than vitamin E and green tea in combating oxidation, i.e. decay or decomposition.  So, what exactly is it?

Discovered in the 1940s and dubbed “red gold from the sea,” astaxanthin is a carotenoid (a cousin of beta carotene) found in marine plants, algae and seafood.  Carotenoids are naturally-occurring pigments that give seafood including lobster, red trout and shrimp their brilliant red and orange hues.  It is what gives flamingoes their vibrant pink color too.  (Flamingoes are actually born white, not pink!)  And, as it is found in the highest concentration in the muscles of salmon, it is credited by the scientific community with providing the stamina this fish needs to swim upstream.
Its benefits to skin are considerable.  Clinical studies have shown that men and women who have taken astaxanthin in the form of oral supplements have exhibited improvement in wrinkle reduction, skin moisturization and elasticity.  It also protects against photo-aging, mitigating the damage caused by excessive exposure to the sun.  But astaxanthin’s body absorption is limited, so what about using it in a topical application?  Why haven’t we seen this antioxidant as an ingredient in skin care products?

Dr. Kenneth Mark, a Board Certified dermatologist, practices in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Aspen.  He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at NYU.
“Astaxanthin is an unstable, expensive molecule which is why it hasn’t been heard of that much,” explains dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Mark. Until now that is, for Dr. Mark has managed to successfully encapsulate this molecule, enabling him to include it in several products that are part of his new, comprehensive skin care line. We talked about the line over lunch.

How do you differentiate your products from the competition?

What’s special and unique about my products is that I actually created them.  Almost every other doctor line that’s out there is just label-slapped.  The amount of product development that went into this took years and I even switched chemists half-way through because I’m such a perfectionist. 

What we have now is the most comprehensive clinically active anti-aging line, period.  We wanted it to have the best, most powerful ingredients in a synergistic line that was very simple to use.  It is only a five-step process.  So, it’s very easy to follow and adhere to.  We wanted to keep it simple, but also get real results.  When I was testing these products, within five days, I saw a difference in my skin and I have very good skin to begin with.  One of my patients — someone who sails a lot, socializes a lot — told me that this past summer was the first summer that she felt like her skin actually did not get damaged.  Her words were “My skin was actually strengthened.”  It was the first summer when, afterwards, she felt like she didn’t need laser treatment to try to reverse some of the sun damage.
“Simply put, this is the most comprehensive and clinically active anti-aging line on the market,” says Dr. Mark.  “We figured out a way to encapsulate astaxanthin.  That led us to put a higher amount in the product and have a sustained delayed release with it.  Within seven days, your skin will undergo transformation from the unique blend of antioxidants, stem cells, peptides, exfoliating agents, and botanicals.”
What do you attribute that to?

It’s about the ingredients with astaxanthin being a primary one.  We figured out a way to encapsulate it.  That led us to put a higher amount in the product and have a sustained delayed release with it.  It’s in the Antioxidant Boost and in the eye cream as well.

Let’s talk about the Antioxidant Boost.

You have the astaxanthin, you have Vitamin A (i.e. retinol).  You have green tea, you have a precious mineral extract called hematite.  Hematite is rich in iron and iron is a co-factor of collagen synthesis.  In head-to-head studies against TGF (transforming growth factor) and retinol, hematite stimulated 20% more collagen.  But, it’s less irritating than retinol.
In addition to the astaxanthin, the retinol and the hematite, the Antioxidant Boost also contains stem cells from a type of apple that comes from Switzerland.  Tests have shown that stem cells increase the longevity of epidermal skin.  We’ve also included peptides.  Peptides are very important when it comes to anti-aging because they are the building blocks of protein and in this case, the significant protein is collagen.  The amino acids making up peptides trigger an SOS response in the skin, prompting it to make more collagen.   Increased collagen obviously helps decrease fine lines and wrinkles and firms the skin. 

Something else that is very nice and unique about the line is that it contains ingredients which increase the production of your body’s own hyaluronic acid.   Hyaluronic acid works by binding water.  As we get older, our hyaluronic acid levels diminish and there’s a specific component in the Antioxidant Boost that stimulates and regenerates your body’s own ability to maintain hyaluronic acid.  And it also helps with your elastin levels.  So, all those anti-aging ingredients are in that one product. 
The powerful formula in the Antioxidant Boost contains “ASTA-ZOME,” encapsulated astaxanthin, (Dr. Kenneth Mark’s proprietary ingredient), stem cells, peptides, precious mineral extract, and vitamins, argan oil, açai oil, shea butter, olive oil, and grape seed oil for long-lasting hydration.
Tell me about the moisturizer.

If you use the Moisture Cure, you’ll see it’s thick and rich and that’s from the açai oil, the argan oil, the grapeseed oil and the shea butter.  But, it’s not just a moisturizer.  Each product in the line has anti-aging properties due to the individual anti-aging ingredients.  The Moisture Cure has a different peptide and a different hyaluronic acid booster than the Antioxidant Boost has.   So you get a different ingredient to deliver anti-aging benefits. 

The Moisture Cure also has a combination of five different alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) for exfoliation.  You wouldn’t think of exfoliation as a moisturizer because you think exfoliation would be drying like Retin A is drying and actually irritating, but the Moisture Cure, because of all the other moisturizing ingredients, is a moisturizer.  The exfoliating effects of the alpha hydroxy acids also help send signals down into the dermis to stimulate collagen and help with elastin. 
The Moisture Cure provides long lasting hydration with its blend of argan oil, açai oil, grape seed oil, and shea butter.  It also helps exfoliate and stimulate collagen production with its inclusion of peptides and naturally-sourced botanical alpha hydroxy acids.
What about the cleanser?

The right cleanser can make a difference in your skin.  You really have to get rid of the impurities on your skin — all the debris, the dirt, the grime.  But also, my cleanser is both a cleanser and a toner.  It contains organically-derived surfactants from coconut which act as a cleanser and a toner.  It’s not the typical cleanser that has sodium laurel sulfate which is a no-no toxic ingredient.  Its bi-products can affect your endocrine system, it can be carcinogenic.  We’re sodium laurel sulfate-free in all products.  We’re paraben-free in all products.  We’re mineral-oil free in all products.  We’re also alcohol-free in all products. 
The multi-tasking deep cleanser removes impurities and protects the skin from pollutants with green tea extract, a potent antioxidant.  Green tea, according to Dr. Mark, has been shown to help prevent ultraviolet damage and even result in fewer skin cancers when applied to mice prior to ultraviolet exposure.  The cleanser also acts as a toner.  Toners help to get rid of any residual makeup and/or debris that a cleanser alone may not completely remove.  They can also minimize pores.  “The toner helps to fully prepare the skin canvas for the optimal absorption of the anti-aging ingredients in the rest of my products,” reveals Dr. Mark.  “Of note, my toner is alcohol free and as such avoids over drying the skin.”
And the eye cream?

The Tighten & Lighten Eye Cream is a complete formula to fully address the global contour of the eye.  Specifically, it can lift the fold of the upper eyelid, decrease crow’s feet, strengthen dermal elasticity, fade dark circles by decreasing pigmentation and reduce puffiness by improving the microvascular network.  The above is accomplished by the key ingredients of encapsulated astaxanthin, the newest active peptide and a hyaluronic acid booster to increase the body’s own production of hyaluronic acids and help with elastin.  This helps to firm the delicate skin of the eyelid and decreases the appearance of wrinkles.
With ingredients which include encapsulated astaxanthin, an active peptide and a hyaluronic acid booster, the eye cream treats the global contour of the eye.  It has a lifting effect and also helps fade dark circles and diminish puffiness.
And lastly, what about the mask?

We didn’t want to have a typical clay mask that just cakes on.  We wanted to have a unique product differentiation — a rich and hydrating mask that exfoliates at the same time.  So, if you put this on, you’re going to notice it’s light and fluffy in texture like a soufflé.  It is clay-based, but we have jojoba oil for hydration and calendula oil for hydration and soothing.  We also have five different naturally plant-based alpha hydroxy acids from bilberry extract, lemon, orange, sugar and maple.  Those are not synthetic, but naturally-based alpha hydroxy acids.  So, you get the exfoliating effect and that’s what stays on the surface.  But then, part of the mask is absorbed into the skin and that’s the hydrating effect. So, unlike other masks where it’s thick and you have to use a lot of water to get it off, this starts penetrating into your skin.
The mask, which has a soufflé-like texture, contains alpha hydroxy acids, peptides and several naturally-sourced oils.  A patented delivery system of AHAs helps prevent skin irritation.  As such, this is a products that men can use as well after shaving. 
Dr. Mark’s skin care advice

What should people do to take care of their skin?

Sun Avoidance
First of all, as a dermatologist, I would be remiss in not starting off right away by saying you really need to avoid the sun.  It doesn’t mean you can’t go outside, but wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen.  Sun avoidance and protection should be part of your daily routine.

Dr. Mark on a recent skiing trip to Japan.  The avid skier likes to protect his skin from the sport’s harsh weather conditions:  “When I get off the mountain, it’s really important for me to put my eye cream on which helps to plump the skin.  Eyelid skin is so thin and delicate.  It has the thickness of a piece of paper – only a millimeter or two.”
Cleansing & Exfoliation
Secondly, if you wear make up or even if you don’t wear make up, clogged pores are not attractive.  Clogged pores lead to blemishes, lead to pimples, lead to cysts, lead to dilation of pores.  So you really need exfoliation whether it’s with a cleanser or toner if you’re keeping it simple or if you’re going to a dermatologist’s office like my Park Avenue ladies or models and getting in-office peels on a monthly basis or using my mask or my moisturizer which has the exfoliating ingredients.

You need to moisturize.  You need hydration.  Dry, cracked skin is not attractive and it makes fine lines and wrinkles more apparent.  When I’m in Aspen and I get off the mountain, I put eye cream on my eyelid skin which is so thin and delicate (like the thickness of a piece of paper — a millimeter or two).  My eye cream has pro-collagen peptides and hyaluronic acid for water binding that helps to plump. 

Reversing and preventing damage
You also have to think about reversing and preventing damage that is going to happen inevitably.  Even if we avoid the sun, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, we’re still getting old.  We’re not standing still in time.  So, you have to do things to try to reverse that process.  That’s where the peptides come in.  That’s where the anti-oxidants come in, that’s where the hyaluronic acid boosters come in and that’s where the AHAs come in because besides exfoliating, they send signals into the dermis to improve elasticity in the skin.

So, when people come in for medical peels, it’s not just to unclog their pores.  When done on a consistent basis, we know scientifically that it sends signals to stimulate collagen.  The stripping of the epidermis sends those signals.  That’s also part of the reason why Retin A works.

Even though a little bit of irritation is not a bad thing, everything has to be tolerated.  In my office, I don’t give every person that walks in the same exact peel unlike a lot of other offices in Manhattan.  There are offices that have made tons of money on one peel.  It’s also important to see how someone reacts.  I customize the peels. 
Expert tip:  When it comes to fillers, I published an article about the layering technique in a plastic surgery journal in 2001.  That’s really where the mastery of fillers comes in — not injecting somebody and saying you’re good for a year.  But, layering it in depth and layering it in over time to get the most consistent, most natural result that then will also be the most long-lasting.

For more beauty tips and information, follow Delia on Instagram: @chasingbeautywithdvn