Wednesday 26 October 2016

Seeing clearly through the anti-ageing maze

Published 26/05/2015 | 02:30

Cheap moisturiser provided as much moisture to the under-eye area as one of the most expensive brands on the market
Cheap moisturiser provided as much moisture to the under-eye area as one of the most expensive brands on the market

GP Dr Nina Hynes gives advice on anti-ageing creams and blepharitis.

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Question: I am 40 years of age and I have noticed changes in my skin. I'd like to start with a good anti-ageing cream. Do these work?

The anti-ageing industry is estimated to be worth €291.9bn worldwide and is growing steadily.

As skincare products are not considered medicinal, they are not subject to the same rigorous trials and testing that medicines must undergo.

Essentially, cosmetic companies can make all kinds of claims once they don't imply that their product has medicinal properties. With this in mind, how do you make sense of the claims made? The simple answer is that a facelift in a bottle doesn't exist.

Most creams and lotions only absorb to the superficial layers of skin and so can't repair deep down in the skin structure. A good moisturiser will plump up the skin and can smooth it out.

Cheaper moisturisers are as good as more expensive ones in this regard. Which magazine reported that cheap supermarket eye-cream provided as much moisture to the under-eye area as one of the most expensive brands on the market.

Another high-street brand couldn't keep its serum on the shelf after a study showed it did have some anti-ageing benefits. A large American study showed that, on average, anti-ageing creams reduce wrinkle depth by 10pc, which is unlikely to be visible to the naked eye.

UV protection is important to look for. Sun damage is one of the major causes of premature ageing and protecting your skin from UV rays, in winter and summer, will provide benefit over time.

Vitamin C and retinol have antioxidant properties and may be helpful in skin care products. Alpha and Beta hydroxy acids are exfoliants that can remove the upper layer old dead skin cells revealing fresher skin underneath.

Hyaluronic acid brings moisture into the skin and can have a plumping effect. The concentration of these products is low in most over-the-counter products and cost doesn't imply potency.

Many anti-ageing products have the potential to irritate the skin so those with sensitive skin should beware. Benefits from creams and lotions are short-lived and they require daily use.

The best anti-ageing routine is to avoid sun exposure, or wear effective UV protection, drink plenty water, eat well and avoid smoking and alcohol both of which age the skin prematurely.

Question: My eyelids are red and itchy all the time. I thought it was  conjunctivitis but it keeps coming back. I've tried changing mascara and make-up but nothing works. Is this an allergy and what can I do?

Dr Nina replies: The symptoms of blepharitis include redness, soreness and itching of the eyelids. The eyes may feel gritty or have a burning sensation. Sometimes, the eyelids appear greasy or may have dandruff-like discharge. The build-up of debris may cause the eyelids to become sticky with discharge.

There are three main types of blepharitis. It may be caused by a bacterial infection. Seborrhoeic dermatitis may cause the skin to become oily and scaly, causing irritation leading to blepharitis.

Meibomian blepharitis occurs when the meibomian glands don't function correctly. Meibomian glands are tiny glands located at the base of the eyelashes. They produce an oily substance that helps lubricate the lids and eye. This type of blepharitis may be accompanied by dry eyes.

The main treatment for blepharitis is regular lid hygiene. There are three important parts to this. They are heat, cleaning and massage. It is important to bathe the eyes and lids twice daily. Use cooled boiled water. This should be as warm as you can tolerate.

Place a cloth on the eyes to heat them up. Next, massage from the outer part of the eyelid towards the inner corner. Finally, cleanse the eyes. Putting a drop of baby shampoo into the water and cleansing as if you are taking off mascara will help remove the build up of oils and waxy substance.

For those who also have dry eyes, using regular eye drops may help. If a bacterial cause is likely you may be prescribed a course of antibiotic ointment. This should be applied after cleansing the lids.

There is no cure for blepharitis and it often reoccurs.

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