The skin of humans consists of three layers – the epidermis, the thin, outermost layer; the dermis, the thicker, stronger middle layer; and the subcutaneous layer, which is where the body stores fat. The epidermis – actually encounters a pretty hostile exterior environment: really dry, or else cold or hot, of even filled with radiation from sunlight.
Our skin is constantly replenishing the cells in the epidermis with new cells. We also shed or “exfoliate” dead cells from the surface of the epidermis. Exfoliation is the removal of these oldest dead skin cells, similar to the process whereby trees “exfoliate” or shed their dead leaves in the autumn.
Certain skin conditions like eczema (atopic dermatitis) and psoriasis often result in an accumulation of dead cells on the skin surface, with skin flaking, peeling, roughness, and scaling. Dermatologists often use certain moisturizers like petrolatum or Shea Butter to improve the skin environment to help these patients. We have found that many other skin conditions – such as a face and scalp condition called seborrheic dermatitis and a body eruption called lichen planus tend to improve with moisturizers as well.
We often pick what are called “Alpha Hydroxy Acids” to promote skin exfoliation. Alpha Hydoxy Acids include Lactic Acid, originally discovered in milk, and Glycolic Acid, originally discovered in sugarcane and sugar beets.
After 25 years practicing dermatology, I designed a moisturizer product called GlycoShea® Hand and Body Cream to incorporate the moisturizing effectiveness of Shea Butter with the exfoliation benefits of Glycolic Acid, to help smooth the skin surface and to improve the appearance of fine lines. The glycolic acid in GlycoShea Hand and Body Cream helps this skin exfoliation by releasing the “stickiness” of dead skin cells to each other.
As a member of the American Contact Dermatitis Society, I decided to keep this new product “hypoallergenic” by avoiding preservatives like formaldehyde. I picked a preservative that’s considered quite low risk for allergic reactions, and I avoided any dyes and any fragrances.
I chose Shea Butter because it’s truly a natural, organic product that’s been used for centuries in Africa, with an excellent safety profile even allowing it to be used as a food. Shea Butter comes from the Shea Tree, which grows naturally in certain countries in Africa, and Shea Butter’s qualities make it a really effective skin moisturizer without greasiness. Shea Butter is also thick, so it only needs to be applied one or several times a day, thereby saving people’s time.