Vitamins, acids . . . and, um, cholesterol? It’s not the kind of thing you might expect to find in your skincare, but this year’s beauty buzzword is, indeed, cholesterol.
And, according to the latest research, you might well need more of the stuff — not less. For while we’ve all been diligently lowering the levels in our bodies, we’ve been unaware of the fact that our skin, particularly ageing skin, needs plenty of cholesterol to function properly.
In fact, our skin needs cholesterol so much, it makes its own supply, entirely independently of the levels in your blood.
FEMAIL writer Alice Hart-Davis tried four of the best cholesterol creams believed to repair and improve skin
Cholesterol makes up one third of the skin’s ‘lipid layer’ — the fatty ‘mortar’ that surrounds the ‘bricks’ of skin cells in the outer layers of the epidermis — which makes our skin such a good, waterproof barrier against the outside world.
‘The healthiest skin is made up of the correct balance of three key lipids: cholesterol, ceramides and free fatty acids,’ says cosmetic dermatologist Dr Mervyn Patterson, of Woodford Medical. ‘These lipids lie between our surface cells or ‘roof tiles’ in our skin. They are skin’s natural protection and ideally, they exist in a ratio of 1:1:1.’
When skin-cholesterol levels are good, this bricks-and-mortar arrangement lets our skin work properly and hold moisture.But if our skin’s self-defence mechanisms aren’t working as well as they ought — because, for example, the cold weather and the central heating are doing their worst — tiny gaps appear in the skin’s barrier, accelerating moisture loss and causing damage.
Enter cholesterol creams, which, fans claim, help to repair this and improve our skin. Don’t worry, putting cholesterol on to your skin doesn’t in any way affect your blood cholesterol levels and taking statins won’t lower your skin’s levels, either. Here we test four of the best.
TEN YEARS YOUNGER
Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum with cholesterol (£66 for 60 capsules, elizabetharden.co.uk)
Alice Hart-Davis claims the Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum with cholesterol (pictured) nourished her skin
The details: These cute little gold-coloured capsules with twist-off ends are the latest update in Elizabeth Arden’s much-loved Ceramide range.
Ceramides are a key part of the trio of lipids, fatty substances that form the skin’s ‘extra-cellular matrix’, the mortar in the wall of skin cells. While Elizabeth Arden has used ceramides in skincare for nearly 30 years, this latest version also contains cholesterol along with the fatty acids that help complete the trio. The serum also contains retinyl palmitate, a vitamin-A derivative that works to smooth wrinkles and support the production of collagen in skin.
The verdict: Each tiny capsule looks far too small to contain a decent dose of serum, but, once I have twisted the top off, there is masses of oily serum inside it, so much that I can treat my face, neck, decolletage and the backs of my hands for good measure.
It feels nourishing on my 54-year-old skin, but slippery if you use too much. But it’s worth persevering. In clinical tests, Arden’s scientists showed using the product for 12 weeks could take ten years off the appearance of ageing skin.
DEEP-DOWN SKIN REGENERATION
Vis Viva Retinyl + Frankincense Restorative Oil Serum (£39, visvivaskincare.com)
Alice says Vis Viva Retinyl + Frankincense Restorative Oil Serum (pictured) was immediately effective and she believes it will bring further benefits in the long-term
The details: An ‘oil serum’ that feels lighter than a traditional oil yet more replenishing than a normal serum. Its key ingredients, along with cholesterol, are retinyl palmitate (a gentler form of retinol, but one that has proven skin-regeneration abilities with continued use) and frankincense, which has been prized for centuries.
‘Cholesterol has a bad reputation, but is an amazing biological substance and is present in every cell of the human body,’ says Emma Hart, founder of new skincare brand Vis Viva. ‘It is a building block of steroid hormone production and the material that our skin uses to create vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.’
The Verdict: A delicate pink serum, it feels silky, rather than oily, and not at all greasy. I only needed four drops to cover my face and neck as it spreads well and sinks in almost immediately. Lovely, and I know that the retinyl palmitate will bring long-term benefits over time.
BETTER SKIN IN MINUTES
Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore (£129.15, skinceuticals.co.uk)
Studies suggest Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore (pictured) can improve skin texture within minutes and boost hydration
The Details: Having put a great deal of research into the question of just how the different types of fatty skin lipids behaved in ageing skin, Skinceuticals’ scientists made a crucial discovery — that while dry skin in younger people is mostly caused by a lack of ceramides, in ageing skin, it’s largely to do with a shortage of cholesterol.
So, rather than make a skin-replenishing cream with equal parts of ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids, they doubled the amount of cholesterol, which was a challenge for the formulators, and this product is the result.
The Verdict: This is just lovely. It looks like a normal night cream, with the sort of texture that could stand in peaks, but it sinks into my skin without a hint of oiliness.Prodding my skin over the next couple of hours, it feels firm, pliable and well-nourished.
I believe that it really does, as the scientific studies on the product show, improve skin texture by 40 per cent within minutes and boosts skin hydration by up to 39 per cent within 24 hours. But it is eye-wateringly expensive with it.
GREAT FOR TIRED BUT OILY SKIN
Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Omega Serum (£32, paulaschoice.co.uk)
Alice believes Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Omega Serum (pictured) is ideal for those with oily skin
The Details: A light, lotion-style serum, rich in omega fatty acids, antioxidants, ceramides and cholesterol. This serum is aimed at those with dry, dehydrated, tired skin to repair and strengthen the skin’s natural barrier.
The Verdict: A bit of a revelation. It feels light on the skin; a little sturdier than your average lotion, but it is wonderfully non-oily. If, like me, your skin feels dry, but has more than its fair share of oil already, this is a delight.