As a Johnson & Johnson Skincare Specialist, Rebecca Bennett has had the most valuable of insights into the science, creation and innovation behind some of beauty’s most memorable products. Having worked with dermatologists and skincare experts for over 20 years, she’s developed a keen eye for differentiating between fad and fact and highlighting the hard-working ingredients that are truly worthy of the hype. Which technologies and ingredients are set for big things? Rebecca shares her top 5 picks with us.
1. Boosting the skin barrier
One of the things we’re finding more and more about at the moment is the importance of the skin barrier. In the past, skincare has been mostly dermis-focused, centering around stores of collagen and elastin for better structure and firmness. The epidermis, the top layer, has often been dismissed as dead skin cells designed to be exfoliated off or dissolved with acid, but that’s old thinking now. It’s important to have an intact skin barrier. There are so many independent activities that occur in the epidermis and so it deserves a lot more respect. It’s the first line of defence against the environment and micro-organisms like bacteria, so it’s really important to keep it in good condition in order to protect the skin from outside influences.
Recently, the American Academy of Dermatology discussed the effect of pollution on the skin barrier and the importance of protection not just against pollutants, but also moisture imbalances in the skin. Hyaluronic acid is great at moisturising for instance, but unless the skin barrier is protected in order to keep moisture in, you may as well not be applying it at all as it’s not maintaining the moisture in the skin. Look for moisturisers that hydrate, but also include ingredients that boost the barrier. Neutrogena’s two Hydro Boost Moisturisers - Hydro Boost Water Gel , £12.99, and Hydro Boost Gel Cream , £12.99 - contain hyaluronic acid to increase moisture levels in the skin, but also glycerin and olive extract to strengthen skin barrier as well.
Linked to the above point, this also centres around protecting the skin barrier too. Oatmeal’s an age-old ingredient that’s been around for thousands of years (having been used as a skin soothing balm in ancient Egypt). However, now with our superior science, we’ve been able to examine it more closely and see what produces its skin boosting and protective effects. We’ve found that its complex carbohydrates reinforce the skin barrier, making it particularly effective at treating dry, itchy skin conditions like eczema. Our Aveeno line contains oatmeal for the treatment of dry skin conditions - in fact dermatologists recommend it for their patients. It contains colloidal oatmeal, meaning that it’s extremely finely ground, making it more available to the skin and therefore more easily absorbed.
There are so many things that have been used for thousands of years, the science of which we are only just starting to appreciate (even though they sound off the wall at first). I attended a lecture at the American Academy of Dermatology about the use of honey as a skin healing agent and its proven efficacy in the treatment of wounds and ulcers. A dentist was even speaking about applying cobwebs over open wounds to help them heal due to the vitamin K in them.
3. The Nordic berry aka the cloudberry
The Nordic berry is a tiny little plant that grows in the Arctic Circle. Sometimes, it can be the only thing growing and bearing fruit for miles in the harsh conditions. Something about it allows it to survive in extremely cold and snowy conditions for days and weeks on end. We found it showed really high levels of vitamin C, a fantastic antioxidant, when eaten, but it is also of value when applied to the skin too. Vitamin C disappears very quickly in human skin, so applying it topically to boost its levels can be very beneficial. We developed the Neutrogena Nordic Berry range with this in mind and to help it to mirror some of the resiliency that the plant demonstrates. Vitamin C is notoriously tricky to apply topically and to obtain in levels that make a physical difference. However, with the vitamin C found in the berry along with a glycerin base (such as that in the range), we’ve found that it provides a benefit to the skin.
4. Salicylic acid
A classic, almost ‘old fashioned’ ingredient used for oily or spot prone skin and acne, a lot of products containing it often dry out the skin and cause soreness which usually discourages use. Treating spots and acne can be a double edged sword. You want to reduce the levels of oil on the skin, bit this in turn can damage the skin barrier, leaving it dry and irritated. It’s a delicate balance to strike.
In this case, it’s about taking a classic ingredient and making it work in a better and more sophisticated way. In our Neutrogena Visibly Clear range, we’ve used glycerin and sugar bases to help reduce its over-drying effects. It’s proven effective for not just teens with spots, but also older people who have oily skin and are prone to spots too.
5. 3D skin printing
The ramifications of printing bio-identical skin could be huge when it comes to disease, cosmetics and aesthetics. It’ll remove the need for animal testing and also allow for larger scale product trials for much more reliable results. With it, comes the potential to 3D print fresh skin which can then be grafted to old skin. Theoretically, you could fine-tune what was printed to the specific requirements of the person to create a perfectly bio-identical copy.
I talked about this at a training conference about five years ago and now only a short time afterwards, there are scientists in Madrid actually doing it. It shows how fast medicine and skincare is changing. I think it’s still got some way to go, but I think within five years, it’ll probably be a standard process.
Any other key consumer advice?
It’s a really exciting time for advances in skincare at the moment. The only problem though is because it’s so exciting and fast moving, it can be very difficult to see what has value when you’re standing in Boots with 98 or so products in front you and deciding what’s right for your specific needs. It’s important for brands to provide clear information for consumers, while also encouraging them to explore skincare more - to read the ingredients list, see what it’s promising, how to use it and to give it a fair chance (not trying it for a week and then moving onto the next). It can take around 28 days to see results and to give skin enough time to regenerate. If your skin’s stinging or turning red, stop straight away, but otherwise, give it that amount of time in order to appreciate its value. If you start understanding your skin and understanding the right products for it, it will reward you for that effort later on.