Dr Julia Sen: Turn Back Your Skin’s Biological Clock

Following months of winter cold, central heating and the excesses of the festive period, February skin tends to look a bit ropey. But these short days where the sun remains elusive provide the perfect opportunity to get your skin glowing and ready to show off as the weather gets warmer and we finally say goodbye that scourge of recent times……the face mask, writes Dr Julia Sen.

I’m going to share with you how to take advantage of one of nature’s own beauty secrets that will stimulate your skin to rejuvenate all by itself!

How does ageing affect the skin?

Skin is made up of three layers; Epidermis, Dermis and Subdermis.

The epidermis, the most superficial layer is in a constant state of turnover, with new cells being produced and old ones being shed. In our 20’s it takes only 28 days to grow a whole new epidermis but as we get older this slows to as long as 60 days.

The dermis is the middle layer where cells known as fibroblasts produce collagen, elastin and other important proteins which give structure and support to the skin. One of these, hyaluronic acid (HA – the main ingredient in most dermal fillers) attracts and binds water, providing hydration and the plump radiance of youthful skin. With time, fibroblasts become less active and the structural proteins degenerate more rapidly than they are produced. For example, skin collagen levels decline by around 1% every year from the age of 25. The result is loss of volume and the appearance of wrinkles.

Changes in the subdermis, accelerated by the menopause, lead to fragile blood vessels, reduced production of oil from the sebaceous glands and a decline in the number of fat cells in this deepest layer of the skin. This reduces the nourishment and protection of the two uppermost layers.

What are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s)?

AHA’s occur naturally, many in fruits and plants. Although the idea of using an acid on your skin may seem a little scary, Cleopatra was reputed to have kept her skin seductively smooth using the power of the AHA, lactic acid by bathing in sour asses’ milk. Non-ass derived AHA’s have been used by Dermatologists for decades in the treatment of acne, warts and other conditions where keratin builds up and they have been clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, even out pigmentation and even to reverse pre-cancerous skin changes. Amazing!

How do AHA’s work?

AHA’s exfoliate the skin chemically by breaking the bonds between the cells; whilst it’s possible to mechanically exfoliate dead skin cells simply by using a scrub, AHA’s additionally stimulate dermal fibroblasts to increase their production of structural proteins, reversing the thinning of the dermal and epidermal layers and in effect, making your skin behave like younger skin!

Are there any side-effects?

In those with sensitive skin or more potent products, redness and irritation can occur, so ease in gently and give your skin a chance to acclimatise before using daily, if your skin has a reactive tendency.

Shedding of the dead cells on the skin’s surface which act as a natural UV barrier can make you more susceptible to sun damage, so it’s important to use a high factor SPF, although that advice still applies even if you’re not using an AHA.

The next level

What’s even better than a daily AHA in your skincare regime? Adding a chemical peel every few months to turboboost your skin. I’m a massive fan of chemical peels and recommend my clients have one three times per year, during the Autumn, Winter and Spring (not in Summer or before visiting a hot climate because of the higher UV levels). My go-to is the VIPeel range, which has peels for rejuvenation, acne and hyperpigmentation (e.g. melasma). I apply this new generation peel to face (including eyelids) neck and décolletage. Comfortable to apply, it’s self-neutralising and (unlike traditional peels) suitable for darker skin types. Shedding of the dead skin starts around the second day and continues for about a week. You can wear make-up throughout this time and continue all of your usual activities. Your new glowing skin will emerge 10-14 days following application – important to note if you want to look your best for a big event.

I’ve used AHA’s in my skincare regime for many years and highly recommend you consider using them too. I’ve never tried the sour milk bath, though. It sounds revolting but in in my commitment to step outside my comfort zone as much as possible this year, that’s the next challenge for me…. if I can find an ass to milk.


Julia x

For dry skin:

iS Clinical Poly-Vitamin Serum

For acne-prone skin:

iS Clinical Active Serum

For more advice or for a consultation please visit drjuliasen.co.uk, email [email protected] or call 07548 964367.
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