Jeffrey Frentzen

Skin care science has been going through revolutionary times, especially if one looks closely at advances in skin care products and the field of energy-based therapies, which includes laser-based, radiofrequency (RF), and ultrasound devices as they apply to skin care, skin rejuvenation, and other treatment types. Every aesthetic procedure involves the skin; therefore, you should know as much as possible about it and what products work best for your patients.

The research and development efforts behind improving skin care products are massive and quite successful, so far. Scientists have in large part backed off developing new chemical and artificial formulations, such as those that use cheap petrochemicals and other known carcinogens, in favor of creating so-called natural or organic products. The more successful products incorporate a combination of chemical and organic ingredients that are safe for humans.

In skin care research, recent scientific work in topical formulations has focused on figuring out how chemical instructions are transmitted to cells and how cells carry out these instructions.

For example, research indicates that the anti-inflammatory wound-healing agent thymosin beta-4, which helps regulate immune cells, has a strong effect on aging skin. It can handle this communication with cells and stimulates the production of collagen and elastin.

You may have heard of peptides as they relate to skin care. Pentapeptides, which are different from early nonspecific peptides, are strings of amino acids that communicate with cells by directly improving or correcting instructions that cells need to function properly. This is breakthrough skin care chemistry that lets scientists selectively define the scope of each individual peptide, enabling them to “program” the desired type of cell repair or assistance.

Dermatologists are at the forefront of knowledge on how these developments are shaping their industry, but plastic and cosmetic surgeons cannot afford to lag behind.

For reasons too arcane to relate here, the universes of plastic surgeons and dermatologists seem to barely intersect. Ignoring any turf wars that may exist between these professions, it behooves plastic surgeons to stay on top of the scientific and research-related developments in skin care and wound care products. The revolution in skin care science is significant enough for you to not ignore and to start investigating what’s going on.


Your patients may know more than you about skin care and dermatology-related breakthroughs. Enter in discussions with patients about these and other new products armed with information—don’t get caught responding to them with a blank stare.

Take it a step further and note how developments in skin care science seriously intersect with parallel advances in the field of energy-based devices used for correcting skin-related issues in cosmetic surgery. For example, wound care products of yore may be adequate for use on patients after a laser-based treatment, but newer products are probably better.

Many skin care products are promoted as “natural” or “organic,” which can be very misleading because these terms are mostly used for product marketing purposes and have nothing to do with reality. For instance, skin care products require preservatives to keep them safe for patients and consumers. Many patients will tell you that natural preservatives are better for skin, but they simply are not as effective as chemical preservatives that are not dangerous.

In addition, it is a myth that the US government is protecting its citizens from dangerous chemical substances. They assume that something for sale in the health and beauty aisle of their local pharmacy must be safe. This is just not the case. The FDA demands no safety testing of skin care products.

On The Web!

See also “Skin Care, Skin Cure” by Schae Kane in the June 2010 issue of PSP.

In these matters, professional turf battles are truly irrelevant. Get out of your own way and enter the derm universe—poke around, find out what works, what doesn’t, and why. The patient benefits when physicians put aside petty differences and focus on what technologies and approaches work best. In this truly exciting time for aesthetic medicine, we should all work together for the patient’s sake.

The revolution that is taking place in the skin care field has been a benefit to many patients, and cosmetic and plastic surgeons should not only embrace and understand these changes but also investigate how to apply these scientific breakthroughs in their practices.