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Dr. Oz (whose new magazine was launched today) went on national television to promote hydroquinone, an extremely controversial skin lightener that is banned in some countries.
Dr. Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist and guest on Dr. Oz’s TV show, said a 2% solution of hydroquinone will prevent and reverse age spots, melasma and other discolorations.
The Truth About Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is an effective inhibitor of melanogenesis, the process by which cells create melanin, the pigment that causes freckle and dark spots. But it achieves this by being cytoxic to melanocytes. Concerns about cancer have restricted the use of hydroquinone in Europe and Japan.
It can also cause irritation and redness and should not be used on skin that is sore or damaged. All in all, it is, in my opinion, irresponsible of doctors to recommend hydroquinone without alluding to any of the potential (and potentially serious) downsides.
Safer Alternatives to Hydroquinone
Decapeptide-12 is a synthetic peptide comprising a sequence of amino acids developed by dermatological researchers at Stanford University, and used in Lumixyl’s Brightening Crème ($120).
Arbutin is a form of hydroquinone found at high concentrations in certain plants. Gentler than hydroquinone, it can be found in Your Best Face Restore ($120).
Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is a non-irritating, stable form of vitamin C. It can be used at concentrations as low as 10% to suppress melanin formation. It can be found in Arcona Instant Magic Reversal Serum ($105).
Much less controversial were Dr. Oz’s other recommendations: He said multi-peptides restore firmness to sagging skin because they contain amino acids that promote collagen growth, and he advised applying retinol at night and using soy cream in the morning.
The Truth About Multi-Peptides
I am totally, 100% with the good doctor on this one. Peptides are chains of amino acids. When collagen breaks down, it forms specific peptides that signal to your skin that it was damaged and needs to make new collagen. So by applying peptides topically, we are trying to trick our skin into thinking that it has lost collagen recently and needs to make more. A dipeptide has two amino acids, tripeptide has three amino acids and a tetrapeptide has four amino acids.
My favorite multi-peptide serum is BRAD Biophotonic Essential Elixir Multi-Peptide ($95 in the shop) with at least 12 amino acids. To take one example, the amino acid arginine plays a pivotal role in cell division and the healing of wounds. This leaves my complexion looking dewy and rested. Skinfinite Peptide Repair Serum ($69 in the shop) has a moisture-binding peptide and another, rH-Oligopeptide-1 comprised of up to 53 amino acids. It stimulates cell growth to repair wrinkles.
The Truth About Retinol and Soy
Retinol is the name for the vitamin A family and prescription creams. Dr. Oz is right to suggest you use this at night since it makes the skin much more sensitive to sunlight. Retinol can also be irritating and drying for those with sensitive skin. And there is evidence that some forms – retinyl palmitate when subjected to sunlight, or tretinoin – can be toxic.
Nonetheless, the deep exfoliating effect can smooth the complexion of discoloration and wrinkles, and so retinol can seem very tempting. Dr. Oz suggests mitigating the drying effects of retinol with a soy cream. Soy typically appears in cosmetics as glycine soja and is a natural emollient and moisturizer. Some studies show it to act as an inhibitor of the activity of substances in the body that regulate cell division and cell survival. Some people experience soy allergies, but otherwise this ingredient is safe.
Products with retinol include Medik8 Retinol 3 TR ($55) and M.A.D Skincare Youth Transformation Retinol Complex Serum 1% ($79).
Products with soy include Suki Facial Lift Ultimate Firming Cream ($164.95), Snowberry Soothing Facial Massage Oil ($32) and Arcona Instant Magic Reversal Serum ($105 in the shop).