Rebecca Fine is the National Director of Education and Training for Ageless Esthetics, a US distributor of best-in-class skin care products from around the world, including Medik8, an award-winning global skin-care brand known as the first green cosmeceutical line. Ms. Fine has over 13 years of experience as a medical aesthetician and brings to her work specialized training in both oncology care and integrative nutrition. She graciously agreed to share some of her skin care expertise in an exclusive interview.
How would you advise individuals with inflammatory disorders to adapt/tailor general skin care approaches?
Rebecca Fine (RF): After nearing 11,000 hours in practice, I can tell you that less is more for almost every skin type. My general recommendation is fewer steps with better products. This is something that most people need to subscribe to, particularly if there is chronic inflammation, but good advice for almost anyone. When inflammation is an issue, it’s helpful to look at exercise, hydration, and diet and aim for a healthy balance at each, avoiding anything that is too hot (e.g., hot yoga, hot water), because high levels of heat impair the skin barrier, causing further inflammation.
Can you explain your understanding the importance of finding a balance with exfoliation and not overdoing it, particularly for individuals with chronic inflammation? In general, what would you advise in terms of the best approach(es) and frequency for exfoliation for people prone to inflammation?
RF: Before I got into this field, I had very sensitive skin and ended up with acne in my mid-twenties, having never struggled with it before. When it comes to exfoliation, we have a tendency to want to scrub, particularly if there is acne. The truth is, healthy skin does a fairly decent job at sloughing itself off, and we really don’t need to go crazy with it. For anyone dealing with chronic inflammation—whether an inflammatory disorder or an inflammatory process like acne—I would suggest gentle chemical exfoliation only. Even this can be overdone. Generally, I would suggest a combination of AHA and BHA in mild doses such as you will find in Medik8 beta Cleanse, poreCleanse Gel; however, with skin that is actively inflamed, you typically want to go with a gentler ingredient like lactic or mandelic acid. You can find the latter in a gentle formula with Medik8 creamCleanse. The only manual exfoliation I would suggest is either Medik8 White Balance Cleanse, which contains a very fine grain in combination with soothing ingredients or the Cashmere Brush Head by Clarisonic.
How can an impaired skin barrier worsen inflammation, and what tips do you have for maintaining optimal barrier function?
RF: Optimal barrier function is even more essential for skin that is inflamed. Start with cleansing that does not strip natural oils; if your skin feels particularly tight and dry afterward, you have overdone it. Be sure, if you use toner, to use a non-alcoholic toner; toners can be useful to bring the skin back to a more optimal pH after cleansing. Protect the skin from unnecessary or overly harsh chemicals. Avoid anything too hot. Find a balance between a hyaluronic moisturizer (which absorbs water) and an oil-based moisturizer (which holds the moisture in). Also, try to avoid the sun and UV rays, which are a killer for the lipid barrier. In terms of products, Medik8 Red Alert Serum is a soothing anti-aging product that also repairs the lipid barrier.
Similarly, how can individuals prone to acne find a healthy balance between adequate exfoliation and maintaining barrier function? Are there any misconceptions about this balance that you see causing people problems?
RF: As I mentioned, there’s a tendency to want to scrub when you have acne. If you have cystic acne, scrubbing will not help, and if you have pustules, scrubbing will actually spread bacteria while also creating micro-tears in the skin—exactly what you want to avoid. If you cannot resist using a manual exfoliant, be sure to use very gentle pressure and only do so once a week.
In general, you want to approach things gently: gentle cleansing, gentle balancing and hydration. Oil within the skin is a positive thing, as you want blemishes to come to the surface and be pushed out so they can resolve. Therefore, balancing oil over stripping oil is the key here. When it comes to hydration, I recommend acne patients use a hyaluronic-based moisturizer to tackle dehydration, such as Medik8 Hydrate B5 Serum or beta AOX. Then follow with an oil-free SPF.
What are your personal favorite actives for anti-aging, and why?
RF: Vitamin C is definitely one of my favorites. It needs to be bioavailable. Medik8 offers C Tetra, CE Tetra, and CE Thione, which are not only bioavailable, but also chirally correct (please follow link for explanation), so you get more bang for your buck with these (or any of our products). Also, a little-known bonus of the ingredient is that Vitamin C does not wash off of the skin for 2-3 days, so if cost is an issue, you can use a Vitamin C product every other day and still get benefits. In addition to stimulating collagen production, Vitamin C also gives you a little photoprotection. SPF and Vitamin C are like weights and cardio; they are good alone, but together they offer tremendous benefits.
Niacinamide is another wonderful anti-aging active with lots of benefits; it gives glow, calms irritation as an anti-inflammatory, balances sebum and is also antibacterial.
Finally, last but not least, there is retinol, the gold standard for anti-aging. When inflammation or sensitivity is an issue, you will want to start low and allow the benefits to build slowly. Retinol is truly a 401K for your face; the results are not immediate (as they might be with an ingredient like, say, Vitamin C), but there are significant benefits over time. Retinol is the 10-year difference you notice in people at your high school reunion! Medik8 offers r-Retinoate, a truly innovative serum that uses a special next-generation form of retinol to deliver 8x the anti-aging benefits of typical retinol with far less irritation.
What are your favorite things about Medik8?
RF: As an esthetician, I worked with well over 50 lines, and Medik8 was by far my favorite in terms of product quality and performance. I loved the line so much that I actually reached out and asked about my current position, Director of Training. There are so many things I love about this line. Medik8 is chemically superior, chirally correct, and highly bioavailable—unlike so many other lines. I love that every product is carefully designed in the correct chemical form to make a significant change, and yet all Medik8 products are accessible to sensitive skin. The line is made in small batches and is more efficacious, luxurious, and fresher than other lines I have worked with. Yet despite all this, the line is kept affordable, simple and priced very competitively.
Medik8 products are chirally correct. Can you explain what this means and what benefits it confers? How unsual are chirally correct products?
RF: The topic of ‘chirality’ is concerned with getting the most from your actives and limiting unnecessary irritation. A chiral molecule has a mirror-image form, a left and a right and is very important in the field of serious cosmeceutical product formulation. Amino acids, for example, can be either right- or left-handed mirror images of each other. However, they are always left-handed when produced by living organisms. This is important, because chirality can affect how a molecule behaves in the chemical reactions crucial for life.
There are two reasons why correct chirality is important: firstly, if the ingredient is irritating, for example with Lactic Acid, there is little point in adding double the percentage of the mixed DL ingredient to achieve the same result as half the correct L-isomer. Secondly, it is remarkably common for the wrong isomer to actually damage the body rather than simply be inactive. Medik8 understands the importance of chirality and always uses the correct form of an ingredient, wherever possible. Chirally correct purification makes the cost of the active 10 times greater or more. When Medik8 uses an ingredient, the chirally correct form is always used where appropriate to ensure maximum efficacy and minimum irritation.