By Dr Jeremy Cumpston, Ageless Clinics

“Cosmetic doctors and injectables are the best way to age with grace” …Beauty Myth Número Uno…

I want to share with all you lovers of youth and ‘natural beauty’ some very important lessons I have learnt about how you can look your very best at any age.

Not everything I’ll discuss will cost you your arms or lower limbs. To the contrary, most of the (unashamedly) subjective information I’ll provide in the ensuing weeks will simply provide a basic education about ageing and how to best control the process with a modicum of grace. Natural beauty, ironically, can be maintained at very little cost… it is achieved by the provision of love, kindness and that truly rare commodity, time, spent on oneself. For no-one can turn back time and, let’s face it, those that try too hard often end up looking like bloated, distorted and oddly frozen train wrecks destined to the realm of “weird and weirder”.

Let’s start by understanding what causes skin to look ‘aged’. Ask 100 people this question and I’d bet 95 will say ‘wrinkles’. In fact facial wrinkles are just a symptom of a simple,totally natural ageing process that results in volume loss.

Volume loss occurs not only within the layers of the skin but also in the muscles, subcutaneous fat and in the actual bones of the face. It is best understood if you imagine the skin over the face is like a canvas, spread tightly across a perfect sized wooden frame. As we age we lose skin volume, facial fat pads, muscle volume and even bone. Our face structure literally shrinks. The result is the skin starts to ‘flap’, like a larger canvas over an increasingly smaller wooden frame.

The reason 16-18 year old skin is taut and seemingly ‘glows’ with vitality is because the skin has its full complement of essential building blocks – proteins like collagen and elastin and sugar molecules are present in huge concentration and these building blocks of skin all draw and maintain water within the tissue. Light entering the skin is refracted (bounced) by the water attached to the proteins and sugar and this gives the skin its natural plump and healthy glow. After the age of 20 the skin starts to lose the proteins mostly through environmental factors- pollution, stress and the major culprit, UV radiation from the sun.

The suns rays twist, break and literally destroy the skins building blocks and these denatured (abnormal) proteins and sugar molecules are then removed and have to be replaced by skin cells. After the age of 20 and increasingly after the age of 30-35 the ability for the skin cells (fibroblasts) to replace these lost building blocks is slowed due to ageing. This whole process is exaggerated in situations where UV exposure is higher because of a reduced UVblocking ozone layer…yep, that’s right, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. This UV radiation-induced degradation of water carrying molecules is exaggerated by the added loss of an essential skin element, vitamin A, also called retinol (or retinal)

In order for the skin to create the water retaining building blocks of collagen and elastin it requires vitamin A. Vitamin A is the petrol to the factory of collagen and elastin production. Without enough vitamin A, skin cell turnover is reduced, and importantly, the necessary vitamin A within the skin is almost immediately destroyed by, you guessed it, UV radiation.

Studies have repeatedly shown that the skin thickness (water content) in women 40 and above in northern Europe is up to double the skin thickness or volume of comparably aged women in Australia. The reason is the annoying double whammy we receive living down under; the huge UV exposure as a result of our diminished ozone layer accelerates our elastin and collagen loss, and the low levels of vitamin A within the skin means we have reduced ability to create more. The skin thins, it looks dry and wrinkled and is more prone to the development of pigmentation or ‘age spots’.

I thought for a long while that the best and only solution to this ageing process was the use of laser, collagen stimulating, nerve blocking and filler type injectables. However, I have to admit that I have learnt a lot with the help of great skin aestheticians, beauticians, nurses and dermatologists. Knowledge is power. If you can understand the simple science of ageing and have a good skin care ‘team’ every man and woman can act, with very little cost, to significantly improve the look, texture and thickness of their skin.

I hope the following ‘knowledge’ can provide you with the tools  to deliver a simple super low cost skin care regime that can see you take 3-5 years of age (or more!) off your face in as little as six weeks.

Protect and Hydrate:
1. Find an inexpensive sunblock that you enjoy using, and use it with obsessive frequency. The problem with companies that advertise 50+ or 70+ is that it leads people to think they can apply it in the morning and it will last all day. This is just bullshit. Sunblock, no matter what factor it is, will be all but gone in 2-4 hours. More importantly factor 15 sunblock will block 95% of UV radiation while 50+ will block 97-98% of radiation. Not a great difference, and worse still, both will only work for the same amount of time! So, unless you are prepared in summer, autumn, winter and spring to put it on in the morning AND REAPPLY the sunblock at 12 pm and at 4pm, you might as well get used to dry, thin and lifeless looking skin. The moral: For the next six weeks drink two glasses of water before you apply your favourite sunblock THREE x a DAY! Hydrate the skin and protect the loss of your collagen and elastin.

2. Increase skin turnover and elastin/ collagen production… Use Vitamin A at night!
My understanding of the value of vitamin A and the support of good skin care providers began early in my cosmetic career. Around five years or so ago I was given the opportunity to consult with Fancy Dish in Orange, NSW. Fancy Dish is run by the extremely dedicated and passionate skin aesthetician and registered nurse, Loretta Power.

Within the first year of consulting at Loretta’s clinic, I was struck by how Loretta’s clients’ skin was fantastically well maintained. I finally found the courage to ask Loretta what her secret was:

Me: “Loretta, your clients have exceptional skin tone and texture regardless of how old they are. How do you do it?”
Her response was to ask me a seemingly obtuse question…
Loretta: “Jeremy, why do you think I asked you to work with me last year?”
Me: “Well, I thought it was because you knew I was a passionate and, you know, competent cosmetic injector?”
Loretta: “Well, yes, you have a good reputation and the patients are happy, but to be honest I requested you because I really needed a medical doctor in order to supply Dr Zein Obagi’s ZO products…”

I was a tad miffed but realised she was deadly serious. Loretta had thoroughly researched the best cosmeceuticals on the market and chosen the products formulated by a professor of dermatology, Dr Obagi – who before becoming the most famous dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California, had spent twenty years researching skin cell turnover and the beneficial effects of topical vitamin A. He has been variously named the ‘father’ of retinol therapy. He successfully formulated a range of products, (requiring doctor supervision) that replenished vitamin A in the skin so that it could efficiently increase collagen and elastin production whilst increasing skin turnover and reducing visible sign of ageing (pigmentation and fine lines).

Ever honest, Loretta closed my inquiry;
Loretta: “Relax Jeremy, if you were crap at injecting you wouldn’t have lasted in the country five minutes. You’re the icing on the cake of good skincare!”

And she was right. Her excellent results with her clients were clear to see. I was surprised and impressed that Loretta’s small but busy rural clinic had twice won most successful ZO sales Australia wide, beating out far larger clinics in the capital cities – a testament to her clients’ satisfaction and her ability to achieve repeat sales.

I noticed, as I took on more clinics, that not only were my clients’ skin better hydrated and healthier when they utilised a team of professionals to have regular facials and ‘keep up’ the chosen products, but the results from my procedures had greater longevity and a ‘wow’ factor too. I always found a product or products that I felt were superb; the pure hydration and anti-oxidant support of the Ella Bache serum C powder and Spirulines range (thank you Christine and Magdalena at Dubbo and Batemans Bay); the ‘photoshop-like’ effect of the B hydrating serum and daily rich moisturiser from Ultraceuticals that Nadia and the team at Anima Clinica introduced me to in Bathurst; Christian Acuna’s multi award winning, organic range for men, in Sydney’s Woollahra provided my post laser clients a neuropeptide combination that halved the healing time.

Finally, Bec Miller of La Bella Medispa in NSW’s far west has consistently provided bespoke Dermaviduals range to my clients that literally extended the results of filler treatments by up to six months. Indeed it was Bec who explained to me that appropriately (individually) selected skin care resulted in the strengthening of the skins’ stratum spinosum layer, so that hydration and antioxidant actives remained “trapped”, creating longer lasting effects. Her passion and understanding of skin function is such that despite working in a town of less than 15000 people, she has twice been chosen to travel to Germany to meet and liaise with the creator of the Dermaviduals brand.

The lessons learned from my clinic colleagues, nurses and aestheticians have made me more aware of how important the ‘less expensive’ practice of a daily skincare routine is, with 1-2 monthly facials achieving and maintaining great skin.

In my practice I now also use excellent products that utilise Vitamin A, including Ultraceuticals MD and an excellent, very affordable range, formulated by a talented ‘doctor led’ company from Sydney called H2T. The H2T (Head to Toe) vitamin A product includes vitamin b3 to reduce vascularity and is perfect for individuals who may not have the budget to regularly use brands like ZO. It uses retinal instead of retinol which is less aggressive in terms of peeling, but is still exceptional in its ability to re-stimulate thinning, lifeless skin.

In summary, start your six week challenge with vitamin A in whatever formulation your cosmetic doctor or nurse suggests (available in the H2T range at Ageless Clinics Sydney). Use very sparingly, initially three times a week, building to nightly by week 6. You will see significantly plumper, brighter skin in six weeks when combined with increased hydration (minimum 1.5L a day of water) and the daily application of sunblock (ask Ageless Clinics about our Ultraceuticals range of SPFs)