This is a transcript from our session – The Midlife Glow – The ultimate guide to healthy skin beyond your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond with Dija Ayodele, a highly respected Aesthetician and multi-award-winning founder of the Black Skin Directory on 7 October 2020. This is a part of LBB’s 7 Days of Wellbeing, a virtual retreat to celebrate our 1st birthday. October is also Black History Month (BHM) in the UK, and as a black owned universal skincare and wellness brand, we believe representation matters. So we are also elevating some phenomenal black voices in wellness.
Today we are talking about the Midlife Glow, this is a topic that’s very close to my heart and that fits very well into my repertoire because many of my clientele are in this very late 20s, 30s, 40s category as these are people I see regularly and provide advice to on a weekly basis
Changes to the physiology of skin – what’s going?
“That ageing will be impacted by external factors as much as they are by the internal clock that’s counting down”
Let’s first look at the physiology of skin, And I know it sounds morbid at this time of night. But the skin ages because the body isn’t designed to work forever. It’s got a finite period that it is working for, all predetermined, not governed by us. So therefore, the skin is in a constant state of maturation. It’s constantly evolving and constantly changing. Therefore, as we age, intrinsically, our skin will also age as well. That ageing will be impacted by external factors as much as they are by the internal clock that’s counting down. The skin cells will also be affected. Hence our skin, whether you’re 20, 30, 40, 50 will show the effects of that.
What’s going on internally?
So generally, what you’ll find happening because of the fluctuations in hormones and the drop in certain hormones like oestrogen and the rise and other hormones like the androgen hormones. You will find that skin will become thinner, it will be less responsive to treatment, skin will be drier and will also be more dehydrated. Though not skin but related to skin, the bones, especially your facial bones will recede. And whether you have black skin or white skin, you will find facial drooping happening, the skin starts to droop and starts to get very crepey. That’s because the scaffolding, i.e. the core scaffolding of the bone and the bony structure underneath is starting to recede. You will find that things like collagen, and elastin, which are the secondary scaffolding to the skin and give us sort of the plumpness we’d typically refer to as the youthfulness of skin also starts to diminish – and you start seeing things like lines, and wrinkles. All because the body isn’t designed to work forever.
Just like real life batteries, the skin also has its own cells and batteries, which are called ATPs and these will deplete. Though they will deplete intrinsically and you can’t stop the process, there are many things you can do to support and slow the process. And you can combat the process from different angles, so those batteries the ATP’s remains as charged up as possible. Your skin matures and you go through life and I do think we all have to have a realistic expectation of our skin and management of our skin – because there is intrinsic ageing, you know.
What’s going on externally?
So what you have to obviously be more aware of are the external factors that can impact on the skin. External factors, perhaps led by yourself, or the impact of your lifestyle – your work, stress and all that. Which is why I like the whole thing of “Life is Beautiful in Balance”, because if your life isn’t balanced, it will show up on your skin in one way or the other. It will manifest whether it be in skin disease, or just the unhealthiness of the skin, it will manifest.
What happens in the 30s – white vs darker skin tones?
So from about the age of 25, collagen starts to deplete, but this will be exacerbated by life, basically, by adulting
You will probably see changes from your mid 20s, when the collagen will start to deplete. You’ll notice collagen depletion more in white skin than you will on black skin. That’s because black and darker skin has much tighter collagen bundles stored in the Dermis. Collagen sits in the second layer of skin and because white skin doesn’t have the protection of an even melanin content, the collagen will start to deplete earlier. Therefore, you’ll notice that even as you approach your 30s, early 30s, on white skin, you may start seeing things like fine lines and wrinkles creeping up around the eyes, especially where the skin is much thinner. While on black skin, you won’t notice that at all. That’s because the collagen bundles are much thicker, so therefore, the structural integrity of the skin is much stronger. You can put a white lady next to a black lady at that age and you’ll find that there are marked differences in the collagen and elastin levels of the skin.
So from about the age of 25, collagen will start to deplete, but this will be exacerbated by life, basically, by adulting. Whether it be through pregnancy, which are massive hormonal upheavals on the skin, through stress, you could have a very stressful job. I once worked with someone who broke out in hives each time she got stressed. I used to have a previous career in banking and every time you could tell when she was stressed, she broke out in hives. That can also impact on skin because disease and inflammation puts a lot of stress on the skin, so that impacts the ageing process of the skin. Illness can impact the skin as well, likewise, your lifestyle or your smoker can impact the skin do you eat? Well? Do you eat a colourful diet or a colourful plate? Are you for example taking drugs, and it doesn’t have to be illegal or recreational drugs. It could be that you are on medication drugs, because prescribed medication can also impact on the skin as well. Things like birth control impacts on the skin, it’s an external hormone that’s being introduced into your system. So in your 30s, you’ll start getting the early signs of ageing, like fine lines. Also things like sun damage from your teenage years will start to show. So if you enjoyed being out in the sun without sun protection, it will now start to start to show and you’ll start getting things like pigmentation patches coming up. Also, if you are darker skin toned, and there’s a misconception that darker skin doesn’t need sunscreen then that will also start to show in the form of a more patchy look to your skin. The 30s is when perhaps the enjoyment of your youth starts to pay back.
Having Children, Dark Circles
It is usually in your 30s, I find with a lot of my clients, that’s when they are having children, that’s when people start getting married. So everything comes at once. That’s when we really need to start looking at managing the skin. You can also have the hormonal impact of conditions, like for example melasma (tan or dark skin discoloration) on the skin, which are very hormonally and UV driven. It can show up in 30 to 40 age group and progressively get worse over time. You can have things like cheek volume starts to deplete as well. So you can start losing the fat pads under the eyes -that’s when people start saying oh, you know, I look tired all the time. I have dark circles or my dark circles are more pronounced, and part of that has to do with the loss of fat pads. Which is why you’ll find easily, people get teardrop injections to re-volumize that area. The skin around the eyes is already very thin, so if you lose the fat pads around there, you basically start seeing what’s underneath and it can cause things like shadows.
So you start seeing that in your 30s as well. And you know, the lighter you are, the more obvious the circles and things will be. This is also when hyperpigmentation concerns come to the fore. Even things like adult acne, you can start seeing the onset of adult acne, especially if there’s a lot of stress in your life. Because stress will stimulate the cortisol in your system, which like a domino effect will go ahead and stimulate also testosterone, which will also then stimulate the pilosebaceous unit (consists of the hair shaft, the hair follicle, the sebaceous gland) that controls the sebum and oil content of your skin. That stimulation will cause skin to produce more oil and therefore you’ll have a higher likelihood of developing things like adult acne. Especially in these COVID times when we all wear masks as well (maskne), the likelihood of those triggers are even higher.
Age and Liver Spots, Hands
If you’re say of Caucasian skin tone or white skin tone, you’ll start seeing the early signs and formation of age spots and liver spots on the skin and not just on the face. But also on the back of the hands, where you’ll also see the loss again of collagen, the hands will start taking on a much drier feel to it. I always have clients say, you know, my hands feel much drier now than they did in my 20s, for example. That’s all due to the loss of collagen, and of hyaluronic acid in the skin. So if you’ve ever come across the ingredient hyaluronic acid, which always encourage to apply topically on the skin, it’s actually an ingredient that’s bio-available, I call it part of the skin soup, i.e. you already have it in the skin. But that will also start to deplete or diminish as we mature. I never like saying the word getting older, I prefer as we mature.
So you can also start to see some of the very, very early signs of menopause, with the drop in oestrogen in the skin as it starts to gently, gently decline. Which is why they say from the age of 35, it starts to become a more tedious process for women to get pregnant, if you wanted to have a baby. Because you’ve start seeing some of those drops in hormones especially oestrogen. That will also fuel more dryness of the skin and more dehydration of the skin. So those are the sort of the early signs to look out for in your 30s but obviously the 30s are still fly. You know a lot of these changes are happening in the dermal layers of the skin, but you may not necessarily be seeing many visible changes to the upper layers of the skin, i.e. the epidermis. It’s almost as if the skin stores it to really reveal itself in the months and years to come.
What happens in the 40s – white vs darker skin tones?
In your 40s you’re really looking at an exacerbation of what you’ve experienced in your 30s where you’re probably approaching perimenopause, especially if you are if you are Caucasian and lighter skinned. You’re probably going to see the effects of that perimenopause (or early menopause) more pronounced in your skin. Because now, you’re actually going to see wrinkles. If you’ve had a high sugar diet, you’re going to also see what we call glycation of the skin (that’s where you get sort of a crisscross pattern of wrinkles on the skin, especially on areas like the chin). That’s the effects of sugar crystallising collagen and therefore making it brittle and this brittleness will break as well. You’ll start to see increased dryness of the skin again, and things like that pigmentation and melasma.
Melasma is a hormonal condition where you can never ever really get rid of but you can manage it, so the appearance is faded on the skin. But it’s easily triggered up again by UV. You’ll start to see the real manifestations of conditions like melasma. Because where initially you may have just seen a little patch, usually starts on the tops of the cheek or around the eyes in this sort of C pattern. And because melasma is always symmetrical, you’ll eventually find that Oh, you got C’s on both sides of the face, or that you’ve got it on both sides of your cheeks that or your upper lip, you’ll now start to find more and more of that. The other thing you might find is also an increase in again adult acne.
Androgen and facial hair
But you can also find because of the increase in androgen hormones in the body, you could also find that facial hair becomes a thing which you may have never experienced before, but it becomes a thing. If you’ve ever looked at sort of elderly ladies, you might see that they have one or two strands of facial hair on the chin. I think ladies get to a certain age where they’re like you know I just don’t care. I always see ladies in supermarket and I speak to them, because as you know obviously as someone who works with skin I’m super, hyper, conscious of other people’s skin and I’m constantly doing mini analysis in my head when I come across people. And so you’ll see these ladies, elderly ladies as I live in a village out in Kent, a tiny little village, so I see the ladies in the farm shop and I’m just like that I know that they’re like I don’t care. I’m way past caring or I’m too old to care. But then if you are like in your 40s and 50s, you probably may care. So you know we may want to start looking at solutions for that as well. So those are sort of some of the midlife changes that can happen to your skin. Changes that can affect your skin glow. And really we all want to maintain the healthiest skin possible.
So what can we do to manage the effects on the skin?
So, you know, how do we combat this. What sort of things do we put into place that will negate some of these effects on the skin. So, my first thing is that it’s never too late to start. You don’t ever get to a certain age where you know you are past it, it’s too late now and nothing’s going to work. No, it’s never too late to start! I have a philosophy that’s more progressive versus aggressive, just because you may think you’ve left it a bit late to start. That doesn’t mean you kind of go in, gung ho, and start throwing products at your skin, start throwing harsh treatments at your skin, because the truth of the matter is, you’re not going to get the skin that you had when you were 20. Or when you were a teenager, that’s not going to happen. I have many people come into clinic and say, Well, you know, when I just left uni, I’m like, Well, you know, life has moved on a lot since then. You’ve adulted since then. And that is, you know, there’s effects of showing on the skin. So we’re never gonna get that. But what we’re going to do is give you your best skin, you can have at this current time. The best skin is going to live with you as long as you maintain it, but live with you as you progress through life. And we support your skin at every life change.
So we take a look at your entire regimen. We look at how you are exfoliating, for example. Exfoliation, especially what are you exfoliating with? Are we using things like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)? Like say Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Mandelic acid, if you like. Or are we using mainly enzyme exfoliators, like say, Papaya, or Pineapple, or Pomegranate, Pumpkin, what are we using? Because that’s going to detail the level of stimulation that you’re going to the dermal layers of your skin. So if you’re using alpha hydroxy acids, you’re going to get more stimulation, quicker than you would if you were using say enzyme for exfoliation. But exfoliation is key to help smooth out the skin, that’s what we’re looking for. Because you do when things like your skins batch B cells start depleting. If that’s if that’s a little dull, it’s more sluggish, the cell turnover is slower. So if the cell turnover is slow, it means you are not naturally exfoliating as well as you could and used to you see. You notice the skin starts to be rough, and rough skin doesn’t bounce light. When you think about skin looking radiant and amazing and that’s because it’s bouncing light. That’s why we have so many sheen products, you know, available and people will highlight the top of their cheeks and eyebrows and lots of stuff because you want the light to bounce back off the skin and therefore give you a nice glow. But you can achieve that naturally and much more sort of healthy radiance. But that’s not going to happen if you’ve got lots of dead skin cells sitting on the surface of your skin.
Likewise, we want to be stimulating what we call the natural moisturising factors of the skin. Because if you’re going to if you’re naturally going to start to experience more dryness or an increase in dryness of the skin and dehydration, the skin has its own natural moisturising factors. So you may have heard of ingredients like ceramides or cholesterols or essential fatty acids. Those are natural ingredients you already have in your skin and you can obviously support them with peptides. You can support the skin more by looking for moisturisers that have those sorts of ingredients in it to help support the skin.
You also want to make sure you are using sunscreen, it’s never too late to start using sunscreen. Because one thing the UV radiation will do is that it will worsen conditions like hyperpigmentation. So you know if you are seeing the visible signs of pigmentation coming through on your skin while you’re in your mid 30s and 40s. You can’t start to think oh, well, it’s happened now. So therefore you want to continue to use sunscreen, or you start to implement sunscreen into your skincare regime because it will stop the worsening of the hyperpigmentation.
Likewise, you want to be looking at your antioxidants. If we’re talking about the battery pack of the skin cells dying away because they are being attacked by free radical damage by pollution, our poor lifestyles and our stressy lives. We want to be able to protect the skin cells as much as possible. So including antioxidants that help to defend the skin against any sort of damage is key. I always say, you know, antioxidants are like the insurance policy for your skin. You know, a lot of people think oh, it doesn’t do much. But it’s the same way you pay insurance for your car for your house. Every year. You might never get burgled. But if you do get burgled, you know you really find out the true worth of your insurance policy and antioxidants are similar to do that as well.
Vitamin A / Retinol
Chiefly also we want to be using things like Vitamin A in our skincare. So, you may have had heard of as a Retinol for example, which is just one type of Vitamin A, but there are many types of Vitamin A. So you want to be including a type of vitamin A in your skincare because that will do all manner of things that will stimulate collagen and elastin in your skin. Which obviously collagen being one of the building blocks that give you a youthful plump, you know, look to your skin, fill out some of those fine lines or at least reduce the appearance of them on the skin. You want to be stimulating that. You want to be stimulating naturally hyaluronic acid in your skin. Because again, hyaluronic acid plumps up the skin. Vitamin A will also exfoliate the skin and give you increased smoothness to the skin. So it has many roles that it plays within the skin that that helps, which is why I always say it’s a number one key product type to have in the skin.
Also you want to include in what we call tyrosinase inhibitors in your skincare. It’s just a fancy word for saying products or ingredients that helps to stop excess pigmentation. So if you are darker skinned and we know from our research that things like hyperpigmentation tend to distress darker skin tones more because it’s more pronounced on the skin. So you definitely want to make sure your routine includes something to address pigmentation. For this, we’re looking at ingredients like alpha-arbutin, kojic acid, liquorice root extract, niacinamide, vitamin C (or L-ascorbic acid), cystamine. So we’re looking at a wide variety of ingredients that can provide this benefit of stopping excessive pigment or melanin or inhibiting that melanin production process. Because if you can do that, then you can limit the impact of pigmentation on the skin. But you know, I can tell you all these sort of product categories that you should include in your skincare.
How are you going to decide what to use?
My number one thing is, go and see someone like myself, or any other aesthetician or dermatologist (if you want). Actually you don’t necessarily need to see a dermatologist for your day to day skincare and that is because they tend to be focused more on skin disease. So if it’s more about your day to day skincare, you know what cleanser should I be using, for example, that’s a very expensive appointment to find out what cleanser you should be using, or a very long wait on the NHS to get that sort of information. And you probably will never get referred for that anyway. So for your day to day skincare, see an aesthetician I think that’s a quicker and easier process. Definitely have a consultation because you need to understand your skin and what your skin is doing. You can have a consultation every 12 to 18 months, because that takes into account your skin as it’s changing. Or if you know that you’ve had a massive upheaval in your life, then booking in for skin consultation when things are calmer will be able to address any concerns that have crept up during that stressful period. What a skin consultation will help you do is develop a routine that works for you. The product categories that work for you, because it’s all well and good me saying yes, you need all these x y z. But if you if you’re a busy mom or you know, busy businesswoman, then it’s pointless you just picking and choosing and buying different things yourself. And also you need to get a bit of education into what the different ingredients do, how they are delivered into your skin and how it works.
Conclusion before Q&A
So to finish off before we do questions, with all the changes that might be happening in your skin, whether it be increased dryness, you know, bone recession, more sort of saggy droopy skin – having a conversation is key because that helps establish a plan for yourself. You will also want to include a discussion of what professional treatments you should be using. To look after your skin 30s 40s 50s and beyond – these are the product categories you need in your current skincare regime.
You need to think about what sort of facewash you’re using. What sort of level of exfoliation or nourishment does that face wash give your skin? You may need two different types of face washes depending on what’s going. Your antioxidants, you’re going to definitely need. You’re going to need a TI a tyrosinase inhibitor, i.e. a pigment serum. You’re going to need in a moisturiser that that supports your skin, the more the skin matures, the more your need for a good quality moisturiser will be apparent. You’re going to need a sunscreen every day black or white, whatever colour your skin is. You’re going to need a sunscreen – minimum SPF 30. You’re going to need a Vitamin A as your sort of overall treatment for your skin. You’re going to need or should consider (obviously, it’s all sort of budget dependent) a monthly or at least four to six weeks professional treatments that help to stimulate the skin. Because the older the skin get, the more the skin matures, the more the more sluggish it is. So therefore, you need to be basically charging it up. And that’s where professional treatments come in – because you’re never going to get those sort of strength products at home. So a combination of good quality products and those product categories I’ve mentioned, getting a consultation and having a minimum of six weekly professional treatments will help in my experience and in my expertise to give you your best skin no matter what age. Your best skin and the best supportive skin that minimises the impact of external ageing on the skin, whether you’re black or white. And that is where we will stop for questions.
What should a typical skincare starter pack routine look like?
Yes, it starts with cleansers, believe it or not, a lot of people don’t know what they should be using. Some people are still out there throwing water on their face. So what do you want to wash your face with in the morning? Your cleanser should include a level of exfoliation in as many touch points within the skincare regime as possible. But fast forward to your point about toners, I don’t necessarily advocate toners so it’s never featured in any of our regimes. So therefore if you are including your exfoliation and your morning and your night time routine, then that cancels out the need for toner especially if you’re using well formulated products. So you could be looking at a range of different cleansers. Your regular or general cleanser would address your skin type i.e. your dominant skin type. So if you are say oily skin, you’re looking at cleanser that has salicylic acid that may be mixed with the mandelic or glycolic acid in one product. But you may have times of the year where you may suffer a little bit more dryness, so you’re looking at a cleanser there that is more nourishing and hydrating. So you know you could have two different categories of cleanses. I always say if you can develop a cleansing wardrobe then that’s great because then you’re never left out with something to use. If you wear makeup a lot and sunscreen then you want to be using a pre cleanse which is your typical maybe oil based cleanser. I absolutely love the DHC deep cleansing oil for removing makeup its fantastic. Likewise, the Clinique take the day off balm sits in the same category. I believe they have it in an oil now as well. So anything that can help sort of dislodge makeup and sunscreen before you actually go in and use your cleanser on your skin is great. I have ladies who sort of just before their period, get excessively oily. So we may go for just like a pure salicylic acid wash at that time, and only using it for a week or so, but it makes all the difference to their skin for just mopping up that excess oil.
Is there no need for toners if you have the right cleanser?
We just wouldn’t go for toner. Traditionally, I think toners have had many sorts of lives, at first they were like – Oh, well, you know this is to remove the excess residue. And I’m like, well just go wash your face again. Because clearly your face is still dirty if you’re having to use a toner on a pad, and you look at it and you think that’s excess residue. That’s just duh, wash your face again. Then we had exfoliating toners, like, you know the P50, which some people absolutely love – and it’s not a bad product to be honest. But again, it can be absorbed into your cleansing routine. Then you have people who use hydrating toners. And I say well just use a cleanser that’s not striping your skin. Because if you are using a cleanser, where when you finish your face feels tight, then you get that feeling because it’s too stripping and is not for you – maybe it’s got too much astringent in it. So you shouldn’t need to then use a hydrating toner to negate the effects of the cleanser you’ve just used which was a poor choice for your skin. So um, if you’re using the right or have access to the right type of cleansers, then you haven’t stripped the skin back or you haven’t left the skin or too much residue of product. So you don’t need a toner. There are a few instances where it is handy.
So what people should be using – antioxidants?
I don’t tend to recommend antioxidants for everybody. If but if you say to me things like I work in banking, or in law or that I’m a barrister. Or you say you work in the square mile and you’re out and about a lot – going from office to office and that kind of stuff. Then I will be like yes you need to use an antioxidant because you are out in pollution and London’s buses and fumes and all that kind of stuff. So I don’t always recommend a standalone antioxidant for most people. If I am recommending antioxidant, we’re looking at ingredients like Vitamin C for example that is one of the key ones but a stable one because it is highly unstable. We’re looking at ingredients like resveratrol (a polyphenol), caffeine, for example, green tea extract.
Let’s stay with Vitamin C for a moment
Which would be some good brands you’d recommend because what’s the point when you open it and the next second it’s almost useless. Well see that’s the thing. I don’t recommend pure vitamin C’s because they do have that instability factor. I would go for something like the SkinBetter Science Defence Serum and obviously complete disclaimer, we retail it in my clinic, but that’s because it is hands down the best vitamin C you could go for because it’s l-ascorbic acid and vitamin C will make it the 19th ingredient within a product formulation of 19 antioxidants. So therefore it’s well formulated and stabilised and so if for whatever reason the Vitamin C goes off, there are 18 other ingredients still doing a better job for you.
If you go for pure vitamin C’s that sometimes you see in pippets, that’s going off in three minutes. Single use caspules like Exuviance does the vitamin C orange single use capsules. So obviously you break the capsule top to apply it to the skin and you know you get pure use of it. You can also you get things like vitamin C crystals which you can add to your serums as well – Cosmedix has one.
Vitamin C for hyperpigmentation?
A lot of people also use Vitamin C for pigmentation and I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of vitamin C for pigmentation because the effects of vitamin C on lightening or fading pigmentation are very secondary. Contrary to the primary purpose of Vitamin C which is as an antioxidant. So any action that it has on pigmentation is secondary. I much prefer for people especially darker skin tone clients who are suffering from the effects of pigmentation to have a proper pigmentation serum in their routine. So something that addresses like with resorcinol or gallic acid or liquorice root extract, niacinamide,arbutin, kojic acid – a good concoction of those ingredients because formula is king. So good concoction of those ingredients, because you will have ingredients actively feeding pigmentation, you will have those that shore up the skin so that impending pigmentation damage is staved off, or the skin is much more resilient to tackle pigmentation.
What foods Should we eat to boost collagen in the skin?
You need to healthy diet. Collagen is made out of protein, so you need to have good fats and the proteins in your diet. But that’s mainly why you’d go for a colourful plate.
Can you expand on the role of poor sleep as we get into midlife? How does that show up, at least in your experience?
The skin is more tired and isn’t getting a chance to recover properly. It’s more lacklustre, and you are much more prone to things like inflammation, because your skin cells aren’t performing at their best or they’re not strong enough. It’s almost like the analogy I always use with a boxer. If you’ve trained for your match, you’re going to be standing strong. If you haven’t trained for your match, you’re going to be falling at the first blow. So if you’re not sleeping properly, then your skin is just like you as a human being, if you don’t sleep properly, you’re less likely to perform the next day. And over time that’s the same thing that happens to your skin.
Can we get product recommendations for the GLOW for menopausal women in their 50s?
If I was to give you one thing and one thing only – it would be SkinbetterScience Even tone serum.
Would you use lactic acid exfoliator before you use hyaluronic acid? Or would you use them together?
I would use it before. So if you’re using it in your cleanser, for example, or maybe a toner type product, if you want, I would use it before. Because otherwise, if you put the hyaluronic acid on first, then you will then remove it with the lactic acid.
Do you recommend one specific AHA over the other? Or is a treatment with a mix of multiple AHA’s a better approach?
That’s a good question. I think it depends what you’re doing, or what you’re trying to achieve. Generally, I tend to go for things like glycolic acid and mandelic acid first. I don’t have a preference. There’s this whole myth that black skin can’t use glycolic acid and that’s an absolute misconception. And that’s why I tend to go for that first. If there’s a particular reason why someone is saying, you know, I don’t want to use their glycolic acid or I don’t want to use mandelic acid or anything like that. Then yes, I’d go for something like a lactic as that is hydrating as well, which is not a bad thing. We can also go for polyhydroxy acid (these are ingredients such as gluconolactone and lactobionic acid. They’re supposed to be as effective as AHAs, but less sensitizing). So generally a mix a couple of different ones together is what I tend to go for addressing different needs.
What are your thoughts on The Ordinary as they do a lot of single ingredient type products?
I think they’re great, and they’ve done a lot for democratising skincare. But other than that, I’m not necessarily recommending their products because it makes people feel like they’re skincare chemists mixing different things. And fundamentally formulation is king!
What role do you think oral supplements can play in helping our skin glow – especially as we start to hit that midlife point?
I’d say if you want to take supplements, you need to speak to your doctor, get a blood test first and find out what you’re missing. I don’t think you should take supplements willy nilly. I think that a lot of the time, it depends on which supplements you’re taking, doesn’t really get to what your intended use for it is. So if you speak to most dermatologists, they will tell you eat a healthy, balanced diet and you will get what you need. If you need supplements, your doctor will inform you what you need.
So let’s talk hydroquinone prescription for black skin? I’ve seen some FDA approved medical grade products with hydroquinone, but I keep hearing it’s bad.
It is not bad at all. No, no, no, no. Hydroquinone is a pigment inhibitor – it basically suppresses melanin in the skin. It has a bad reputation because people use it for skin bleaching or in very, very high percentages for skin bleaching. Prescribed hydroquinone is FDA approved. It’s between 2-4% and in the short term, used to suppress melanin, say, prior to a chemical peel sort of treatment where you don’t want melanin to fire off and cause pigmentation. So it is absolutely fine. The problem is, is the misuse and overuse of hydroquinone, and that’s why it gets a bad rap. We tend not to talk about it in my space because hydroquinone needs a medical prescription in the UK. So we tend to go for Cyspera which is the equivalent performance of hydroquinone, but without a medical prescription. Hydroquinone also has a toxicity to it which affects the skin if you overuse it, which is what happens when you see people who have been skin bleaching and they get this sort of brown or black look to their skin. That’s the hydroquinone. After a while, the toxicity poisons the skin and you get what’s called Exogenous Ochronosis, which is the blue-black or excessive blackness to the skin and damage to the melanin sitting in both the epidermis and dermal layers. It is very difficult to get rid of and you may never be able to get rid of it completely. So hydroquinone is absolutely fine but you just need to be under medical supervision to use it.
Your skin is glowing, so clearly, you’re a good advocate for your services. What kind of professional treatments should we be getting every four to six weeks?
We’re looking at things like chemical peels, micro needling, led light treatment. Sometimes Mesotherapy, particularly when the skin is depleted – this when you can sort of infuse nutrients into the upper layers of the skin. If you are starting to experience things like skin sagging, then we’re looking at things like Microcurrent facials, which some people may know is the KC treatment, which used to be very popular in Hollywood. Microcurrents stimulate the muscles of the face, stimulates the skin cells, the face is more lifted or the facial volume is improved as well. So in the main, you’re looking at things that rejuvenate the skin, which is more the chemical peels and there’s hundreds of those you can have.
At home devices – which would you recommend?
Yeah. I mean, generally, any of the sort of LSD devices the LightStim, a hand held device is good. If you’re really, really flush, you can get The Dermalux Flex, which is more of a hood that you lie down underneath. Now that’s got blue light. So therefore, if you are acne prone or oily skin prone, that will help to tackle the bacteria on the skin and the red light will stimulate the skin cells and stimulate for collagen renewal as well. So those would be the two types.
What would you recommend to treat adult acne?
First of all, we want to calm down inflammation of the skin because acne is the type of inflammation of the skin. So I would be looking at things like, there’s a particular brand called Osmosis and they have a serum called Osmosis Rescue epidermal repair serum – that basically turns down inflammation. We’ll be looking at your routine in terms of cleansing – do we have exfoliants in there? Do we have salicylic acid in there to help mop up that excess oil? Do we have, you know, some sort of glycolic or mandelic to exfoliate the skin? The people who suffer from adult acne will also suffer pigmentation concerns. So pigmentation Serums and Vitamin A, what sort of vitamin A do we need to be on? Or do we need a prescribed Vitamin A like Tretinoin – which is when people are running for the hills. If it’s very active acne, we’ll probably be looking at things like gentle led light therapy treatments. We may be able to get with a few very light chemical peels, but nothing else is extensive because that will actually injure the skin.
What one or two products post cleansing, would you recommend I use in my skincare routine every night in addition to moisturizer – especially if I’m time poor?
You just need one! If you’re very time poor, you just need vitamin A product. And you can get to a point where you wash your face and that’s literally all you need – nothing else.
Vitamin A can be a minefield, so please just give us a quick lesson on this
Vitamin A, most people hear of it as retinol. Which is just literally a type of vitamin A – that’s the family name. You have retinol, Retinaldehyde, tretinoin or retinoic acid, AlphaRet, you have – you have several different types of molecules of vitamin A all doing slightly different jobs. However, with the overall job of rejuvenating the skin. If you need prescription vitamin A, say tretinoin, then that has obviously come from a doctor. The reason why is that’s the most potent form of vitamin A, which goes to action straightaway on your skin. Everything else kind of comes within a vehicle that needs to be unwrapped on the skin. But all vitamin A products that you use need to be converted to Retinoic Acid before it can actually be of benefit to the skin. That conversion process itself can have a level of irritation attached to it, which is where people say, No, I can’t use Vitamin A, it does this or it does that to my skin. There is a trick and a skill to using Vitamin A. Because vitamin A compounds typically have about a 48 hour life on the skin. So therefore, if you start using vitamin A today and you pile it on today, you pile it on tomorrow, you pile it on the next day, you will start to see your skin go very irritated. It might come up in a bit of a rash, it might be sore and that’s what we call retinisation. That’s because you’ve overused the Vitamin A and basically it’s compounded in your skin. So we always advise that when you first start it’s maybe just twice a week on opposite ends of the week, maybe a Monday and a Friday, for example, or Thursday. You do that for a few weeks before you move on to three times a week and four times a week and so on and so forth. The Vitamin A you use will be dependent on your skin. Concern. Generally, I’d go for retinaldehyde Vitamin A because its conversion process is only one step, which makes it less irritable to the skin.
A retinol is a two-step conversion and that can create a bit more irritation to the skin than we would like. Especially as human nature, we tend to be heavy handed. I’ve never known anyone to use a pea sized amount of anything, it’s always double the size that’s needed. So I tend to go for retinaldehyde, because that will negate some of our heavy handedness to a certain extent. Sometimes, we might buffer it on the skin, which means you apply a moisturizer first and then apply the vitamin A. That, again, is to reduce the potency a little bit – especially if you’re a complete newbie to vitamin A. You also have the vitamin As like AlphaRet, which have an additional exfoliating acid attached to it. So it has a lactic acid or a glycolic acid mixed into it – so it’s really good one. Again, if you’re someone who’s short on time AlphaRet will exfoliate as well as deposit the vitamin A to the skin. So that’s a really good one doing two jobs that once. You have Retinoate which is also a very gentle form of vitamin A. That’s from a brand called Medik8, they patented that and it’s also very gentle. I don’t carry it in my clinic because I don’t think it’s strong enough. However, there’s a lot of people who use it and a section of the market it suits. There’s also retinol palmitate, which is a supporting type of vitamin A. If your product only has some palmitate in it, it’s not really going to give you the greatest effects of vitamin A. You tend to find that it’s used in conjunction with another vitamin A to boost it a little bit.
There’s things like bakuchiol, which some brands will say it’s the equivalent of vitamin A. And so therefore, maybe if you’re pregnant, perhaps you may not want to use a pure vitamin A. There are obviously no tests or clinical trials done on pregnant people, so nobody really knows the effect of topical, non-prescribed vitamin A is on the skin of someone who is pregnant. But to air on the side of caution, it’s obvious do not use vitamin A when you’re pregnant. So you could opt for something that bakuchiol, which can give you good performance. I wouldn’t say equivalent performance. I think a lot of these sort of more natural vitamin A options that you mentioned are more about managing skin health. And in the long term, yeah, that’s what a really good moisturizer should do. It should be hitting at a number of things which just continue to help maintain that help. And that’s when you can then go in with those specific things to hit your concerns.
Let’s talk serums, what do I need? Where does it go in the routine? If there was probably one you could recommend at this stage – which and at what stage of the routine?
Well, it all depends on your on your skin condition and your skin needs. There are some people who don’t need any serum. A serum really refers to the texture of the product, so you might not need a serum – you might just need an antioxidant, which is an all-rounder. But if you had specific concerns about pigmentation, then you’d look for pigmentation serum. If you had specific concerns about the dryness of the skin, you maybe want to go for a hyaluronic acid that’s hydrating. You can also have oil based serums, which you can use, some people use them as moisturisers. I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of oils, I think they can be a bit clogging to the skin. You can definitely add them in – e.g. in winter months, maybe I can get a bit more persuaded as a means of boosting or sealing the hydration in the skin. But on a Day-To-Day basis, a good, well formulated moisturiser mimicking the natural moisturizers of the skin to give the skin what it needs. Because the skin is a self-balancing organ, if you leave it well alone enough, it will balance itself. Then you can then pinpoint where you need the extra bits of help to come through. So when it comes to serums – the question is what your skin concern, I guess?
Aesthetician Dija Ayodele is well-known in the British beauty community, she sits on the board of several Beauty associations in the UK including the British Beauty Council. She has become a pivotal champion and advocate for providing tools for people of colour to be educated on their unique skincare needs whilst advocating for the service of this sector. Dija has led conversations at the House of Commons, Stylist Live, and is also a columnist for Glamour Magazine. Not a woman to rest on her laurels, she has recently launched a boutique skincare space, Westroom Aesthetics in Maida Vale, London, and is the founder of the Black Skin Directory, an online resource for men and women looking for a skincare professional or dermatologist experienced in caring for darker skin.
Nnenna Onuba is an experienced global corporate finance executive and qualified chartered accountant with a track record in mergers and acquisitions, strategic business development and deal execution. She has worked in top tier organisations such as PwC and Rothschild, advised global businesses, several on the FTSE 100 and Governments.
As a woman in a busy, high flying career, Nnenna knows life is much easier when we feel confident, calm and in control. Combining a passion for holistic wellness and the knowledge of how hard it is to make time for self-care when you have none, inspired her latest venture. LBB skincare – short for Life is Beautiful in Balance is a skincare and wellness brand that harnesses the power of clean, high-performing natural ingredients to design products that are streamlined, rejuvenating and easily adaptable to our needs, time and schedules – all without compromising on efficacy, performance and pleasure.
Nnenna is passionate about inspiring others to lead full lives without limitations, promoting topical content and conversations that educate and challenge our perceptions of balance and self-care. Because how amazing would it be to look great, because we feel great?
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