Let's Get Scientific-al: squalane and niacinamide, ingredients my skin loves

I'm no skincare expert, but after years of reading ingredient lists I've worked out what my skin likes. There's the retinols, salicylic acid, and alpha hydroxy acids (see my previous post on my skincare routine), but I've noticed squalane and niacinamide cropping up in several of my recent favourites.

Healthy skin contains a bunch of fats, sugars, and proteins known as Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF), which help to trap water and keep it hydrated. One of these molecules is squalene, which is an essential part of the production of sterols like cholesterol, vitamin D, and sex hormones. (It's also present in snot, FYI.) Commercially it's derived from shark liver oil, but it seems that most companies now use squalane, a closely related molecule which is mainly derived from plant sources like olives -- cruelty free, and much kinder on the environment. 

Niacinamide (AKA nicotinamide, vitamin B3, or nicotinic amide) is a cell communicating ingredient, which means it tells skin cells how to behave properly -- like your parents teaching you to share and say thank you. In particular, niacinamide derivatives act as antioxidants and are involved in DNA damage repair. It also acts to increase skin's barrier function and helping to improve the appearance of inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea and acne. Basically, it's fab for anti-ageing purposes.

I have combination skin -- visible pores, oily through the t-zone, and a few patches prone to dryness. My main skin concerns are post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (the marks left behind after acne) and moisturising my skin without overloading it. I've found the following products to work well for me, and all contain either squalane or niacinamide, or both.

Bio Beaute by Nuxe Flash Perfection Beautifying Serum and Pixi Flawless and Poreless mattifying primer

Bio Beaute by Nuxe Flash Perfection Beautifying Serum and Pixi Flawless and Poreless mattifying primer

Both the Bio Beaute by Nuxe Flash Perfection Beautifying Serum and the Pixi Flawless & Poreless Primer (previously) contain squalane, and I've been using them as daytime moisturisers and/or primers under makeup. Both are really lightweight lotions (the Pixi is just a touch thicker), but don't overload my skin. The only problem with the Nuxe is that it seems to only be available in Europe -- I haven't seen it here in the UK.

Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 CC Cream in Light to Medium SPF 15 and Night Firming Moisturiser

Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 CC Cream in Light to Medium SPF 15 and Night Firming Moisturiser

Olay is one of the few brands at the "drugstore" level which uses good anti-ageing ingredients like niacinamide. I've been liking their Total Effects range, particularly the Pore Minimizer CC Cream (previously) and the Night Firming Moisturiser. The CC Cream provides lightweight coverage and lasts pretty well if I put a layer of powder (like MAC MSFN) on top. I don't use the Night cream daily at the moment, as I prefer a lighter serum, but I'll use it on dryer days -- it leaves my skin balanced and "plump" feeling, without feeling greasy.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Contour Yeux eye cream and Effaclar Duo[+] moisturiser

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Contour Yeux eye cream and Effaclar Duo[+] moisturiser

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo[+] and Toleriane Ultra eye cream are both pretty new to me, and contain both squalane and niacinamide. I've been using the Effaclar Duo[+] almost every day, both day and night, as an all over moisturiser, and I feel like I've seen a noticeable difference in my post-acne marks. It's perfect as a lightweight moisturiser for oily skins, and it contains salicylic acid for your pore unclogging needs. The Toleriane Ultra eye cream is basically identical in texture to the Effaclar, and the great thing is that it's super lightweight and unscented -- both issues I've had with other eye creams. I don't have many under-eye issues, so I can't comment on its effects on under eye circles or wrinkles, but it's definitely helped with the dryness (when I remember to put it on).

Have you used any of these, or other products containing squalane and niacinamide? 

Lazy skincare: the ABCs

Lazy skincare: the ABCs

You would think that with me being unemployed (I prefer funemployed) and working on my dissertation, I would have gads of time to write for the blog. No, I've been too busy eating and drinking my way around London (and, briefly, Brighton and Bristol). I've seen Russell Brand, Catherine Tate, and Stephen Merchant, and I've been job-hunting (which: soul-destroying).

Since I've been in London, my skin seems to have gone from oily and acne-prone to normal-combination and slightly acne-prone. I don't know whether it's the hard water, the lower humidity, normal ageing or just, you know, hormones, but I like it. My hair's been loving it too, but more on that another day.

Despite my constant wittering on about "active ingredients" this, "scientifically-validated" that, my skincare routine... isn't much of a routine. Basically, I cleanse (currently with the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish -- love), wipe off with a muslin cloth, and pick one thing from an array of serums and light moisturisers. 

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L'Oreal Girls in Science Forum: guest post on Hyacinth Girl

L'Oreal Girls in Science Forum: guest post on Hyacinth Girl

Hello from London! I arrived just over two weeks ago, and it's been a whirlwind of sightseeing, shopping (mostly of the window variety), Tube-ing, and the start of job hunting. I've been walking everywhere, which, as a car-driving Aucklander, I totally wasn't used to -- for a while my feet hated me. I wasn't organised enough to have posts scheduled, plus I've had some technical issues, so this blog kind of fell by the wayside. Woops.

Before I left Auckland I had the chance to cover the L'Oreal Girls in Science Forum for Morgan at Hyacinth Girl. It was a pretty cool day, hearing three amazing Women in Science speak about their careers, and the enthusiasm of 150 students from Auckland schools. I'd love it if you gave it a read! And you should be following Hyacinth Girl anyway -- she's a fantastic blogger.

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Let's Get Scientific-al: Retinoids

RetinolMoisturisers

I've gotten slightly obsessed with reading about skincare over the past few years. In no way am I an expert, but I have learned that there are very few anti-ageing cosmetic ingredients that have been proven to actually work, and retinol is one of them.

Retinol is more commonly known as vitamin A, and there is a whole class of related chemicals known generally as retinoids. These mildly resurface skin by removing old stratum corneum (Latin for "horny layer", ahaha), the dead layer of skin cells at the surface. This has the bonus effect of sloughing away pigmentation and blocked pores -- great for acneic skins. At the same time, retinol also thickens and plumps the skin by stimulating the formation of collagen and blood vessels, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. 

To get all those anti-ageing perks, though, retinoids must first be converted into its active form, retinoic acid. The process goes something like this:

retinyl palmitate (and others) --> retinol --> retinoic acid

Why not just start with retinoic acid, then? Well, you could -- you can get retinoic acid based products prescribed by your doctor. They are highly potent, though, and can be very irritating and drying, not to mention expensive unless covered by insurance. 

Retinyl palmitate is the predominant form of retinoid found natively in the skin, acting as a form of stable storage for retinol. Due to the conversion process necessary to effect change in the skin, they are far less irritating than retinoic acid-based products. They are available over-the-counter, and are generally cheaper as well. Be careful, though, to pick something that is well-formulated and well-packaged, because retinoids are easily inactivated by exposure to sunlight and air.

I've had pretty good experiences with retinoid-based products, three of which are pictured above. Of these, I highly recommend the Environ AVST range (top left). This is a step-up system of moisturisers, going from AVST 1 through to 5, whereby each step has a higher dosage of retinyl palmitate as well as vitamin E, vitamin C, and other antioxidants. (I believe AVST 4 and 5 also include signal-enhancing peptides, which improve communication between cells.) All Environ products are packaged suitably to protect the ingredients, and of the ones I've tried, well-formulated. AVST 1 smells faintly of coffee, which I also found in a supermarket retinoid product! It was a great night time moisturiser, and works as as a spot treatment as well.

If you have extremely oily skin with acne, the Environ B-active range could be good. I was recommended the Sebugel-A (top middle) when it got to summer and I wanted something lighter, but this didn't agree with me as much. It seemed to dry out my skin a lot, and often pilled up if I put another product over the top. It contained tea tree oil, which I don't always get along with. I've been using it while my skin is still moist from toner, and will be going back to the AVST range after it's used up.

Another retinoid product I used was the Super Night Recharge with Red Algae, (top right) from the Super by Dr Perricone range (now discontinued, but I found this on Strawberrynet when searching for a cheaper alternative to Environ). This has a light lemongrass scent and was lightweight enough for me to use last Spring, but I didn't like that it came in see-through packaging.

Note: if you're in Auckland and looking for Environ stockists, I can highly recommend the About Face chain of salons. They really know their stuff!