On Sunscreens & Serums

skinceuticals.pngSkinceuticals serums have made such an improvement in my skin. When people ask why I’m glowing, I resist the urge to tell them I’m pregnant, relinquishing a great opportunity for presents and attention. What I do tell them is, “Wear sunscreen, use a retinoid, and try Skinceuticals Phloretin CF.”

Maybe you have seen the highly-identifiable line of Skinceuticals’ silver-tubed sunscreens, irrefutably the best in the biz; or perhaps you have heard the buzz about Skinceuticals’ award-winning serums, which they have creatively mined for 15 years.

Their myriad of sunscreens and serums can seem overwhelming. That’s where Skinceuticals Account Executive Lisa Johnston comes in.

Lisa is a funny, beautiful woman. With long flaxen blonde hair and poreless milky skin down to her chest, Lisa is the type of woman who inspired envy from ‘the other kids’ in school, yet you can’t help but love her. Charming, genuine and interesting, yes, but damn she knows her stuff!

Her beauty disarms you for effortless talk of glycolic components and their contraindications, mechanisms of action, physical versus chemical barriers, UVA and UVB rays, carrier ingredients, free radicals and of course, that nasty glycation process. Her giant green eyes flash with talk of photolabile chemicals and trifective ingredients.

I learned a lot from Lisa, but what I remember most is…her skin. Lisa has been using Skinceuticals for ten years she told me, and it’s working.

The story of how she came to know and love the products is a funny one. While lounging on the beach in Aruba, Lisa and a girlfriend enjoyed the hot winds of the Caribbean island. “Aruba is 12 degrees from the equator,” she explained. “It’s always hot and sunny.”

Lisa ran out of her crappy, seven-dollar drugstore sunscreen. “My friend hands me this silver tube of sunscreen and says, ‘Use this on your face, it never breaks me out.’”

So Lisa slathered it onto her face and neck, slapping the remainder onto her chest smearing a giant white handprint of titanium dioxide across her cleavage.

“The rest of the trip, I was red everywhere except for my face and neck, and a big white handprint on my chest!” Lisa said. “I wish I could show you the pictures!”

“So I went to my dermatologist and asked him ‘What is in this? I need it.’ And he explained the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens. Then he told me, ‘If you really want to change your skin, use a topical vitamin C,’ and I started with the Skinceuticals C 15 serum. That was ten years ago.”

The amazing serums have received endless accolades, praise and awards from beauty editors and celebrities alike. Quite frankly, there is nothing on the market like them.

“The C E Ferulic and the Phloretin C F serums are the only two topical antioxidants on the market proven to block the formation of thymine dimers,” Lisa explained. “Thymine dimers are the DNA mutations which cause non-melanoma skin cancer,” she said. “That’s huge.”

“And the Retexturizing Activator serum is a phenomenal breakthrough,” she continued. “I mean, the science behind it is fantastic. When I went through the training modules I saw urea as an ingredient and I started getting excited because I think it is such an under-utilized product.”

“Urea is excellent at breaking down the keratin bonds between the dead skin cells so it’s a fantastic exfoliant, and it’s been used in a lot of products. But up until now it really hasn’t been used in a product that was elegant enough to use on the face. The wonderful thing about the product is that it is extremely effective but has no irritation. You’re able to use it twice a day and get significant exfoliation without the irritation,” she said.

Imagine a 20% glycolic, every day, twice a day. That is what the Retexturizing Activator is equivalent to. After using it for only a few days I noticed an incredible difference in my skin. Pore size minimized, scarring became less evident and the accompanying glow was just the icing on the cake.

Some skincare lines are punishing, with their harsh hydroquinones and aggressive exfoliation (you know who you are!) and some people feel they need that. But the entire Skinceuticals program, rooted in science yet luxurious to the senses, is a joy to use.

The ever-changing Skinceuticals empire continues to grow with their dizzying array of new products, made to meet the demands of savvy consumers.

“We have a brand new product that launches next month,” Lisa said. “And clinical studies show that there is no statistical difference between the effectiveness of this new product and a 4% hydroquinone, yet it will be OTC (over the counter) and it will not have hydroquinone.”

This is important to a lot of people because hydroquinone can be drying, or they’re not comfortable with some of the studies that have surfaced. In addition, you can’t use hydroquinone when you’re pregnant or nursing, which is critical for women with hormonal melasma.

“I’m Irish and Scottish,” she continued. “It’s not luck that I don’t have pigment. It takes work. I don’t go out of the house to get the newspaper without my topical antioxidant and my sunscreen.”

Her rule of thumb: If the sun is over the horizon, sunscreen. If the sun has not set, sunscreen. All year ’round, she insisted, and even indoors, since those evil UVA rays penetrate glass.

“And the amount of sunscreen makes a difference,” she emphasized. “I go through almost five tubes a month. I love the sun, I love the beach, I love driving my convertible on the weekends. I love being outside. And people should not give that up. They shouldn’t. But you have to be smart about it and take precautions.”

If you are worried about the surfacing reports on Vitamin D deficiency, Lisa said, “Pop a vitamin D3 and forget about it. You get enough sun with everyday exposure.”

“Each one of our sunscreens is geared toward a different lifestyle or what you’re going to do that day. I use our Ultimate UV Defense SPF 30 on my face because it is moisturizing and I’m a little dry. I use our Sport SPF 45 on my arms because I like the way it feels,” she said. “See? It’s not sticky.”

“People often ask me, ‘What is the absolute best sunscreen, which one is best?’ And it really depends on your lifestyle and what you’re going to do that day. There is no ‘best’ sunscreen. The best sunscreen for me on Saturday and Sunday may not be the best sunscreen for me Monday through Friday. I use a different sunscreen for a different purpose, and it’s nice to have in my arsenal all the different sunscreens that are available.”

All Skinceuticals sunscreeens—there is not one sunscreen out of the five—that doesn’t cover the entire coverable spectrum, which is pretty amazing.

“People say, ‘I don’t want to pay that much for a sunscreen,’” Lisa explained. “Well you can use a seven-dollar drugstore sunscreen, but when it burns and stings your eyes, or when you think you’re allergic to the sunscreen, the truth is, you’re probably not allergic to the sunscreen, even if it is a chemical. You’re probably allergic to the carrier ingredients. When someone can sell a bottle of sunscreen for seven dollars, as opposed to selling it for 40 dollars, there’s a difference in what the carrier products are. There’s a difference in how that sunscreen is going to protect you,” she said.

“I’m not going to trust a seven dollar drugstore sunscreen to my photoaging,” Lisa continued. “I’m gonna go with something that has the higher-end carriers, I’m gonna go with something that is thick enough to hold the zinc to my skin. I’m gonna go with something that leaves a giant white handprint across my chest when I’m laying on the beach in Aruba. There is a difference.”

And Lisa, herself, is living evidence.

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