Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin: A Back-to-Basics Approach

Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin: A Back-to-Basics Approach

by Ahmed Abdullah

Millions of individuals describe themselves as being confused about the steps necessary to improve the appearance of their skin. After all, the average consumer is regularly confronted with advertisements and recommendations for a dizzying array of skincare products, not to mention conflicting messages about the skincare practices that are most helpful. It’s


Millions of individuals describe themselves as being confused about the steps necessary to improve the appearance of their skin. After all, the average consumer is regularly confronted with advertisements and recommendations for a dizzying array of skincare products, not to mention conflicting messages about the skincare practices that are most helpful. It’s no wonder most individuals are unsure of what their skin needs; uncertainty that often leads to the implementation of regimens that do more harm than good.

In Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin: A Back-to-Basics Approach, Dr. Ahmed Abdullah presents readers with the scientific facts related to skincare. By highlighting the most relevant pieces of information in an approachable manner, he intends to create an empowered consumer – one capable of making smart choices about the products they use and the skincare practices they employ. After all, as Dr. Abdullah reminds readers throughout the book, beautiful skin can only be expected from healthy skin.

A board-certified plastic surgeon actively practicing in the United State and Dubai, and an internationally recognized aloe researcher, Dr. Abdullah has been promoting a back-to-basics approach to skincare for nearly 15 years though his practice, his skincare brand, and his skincare clinics. Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin: A Back-to-Basics Approach represents a collection of some of his most effective advice.

Editorial Reviews

Steven S. Carp

“Dr. Abdullah has written the most accurate and practical book on skincare today. His clear and easy-to-understand principles and applications brilliantly bridge the gap between the science of skin and clinical skincare.”

—Steven S. Carp, MD, American Board of Plastic Surgery–certified surgeon at Carp Cosmetic Surgery Center

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Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
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Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2012 KayMed Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60832-383-8

Chapter One


For centuries, humans have been searching for the exact formulation of ingredients that will erase the signs of aging from their faces. Today, that pursuit has hit record proportions, with Americans spending nearly $1.6 billion on anti-aging skincare products alone. Yet, ask these individuals if they're happy with the results they're getting from these products and you're certain to get a lukewarm response. In fact, of those who use anti-aging products, only 3 percent claim to have used them because they found them effective.

This statistic comes as no surprise to me. Throughout my nearly twenty years in practice as a plastic and cosmetic surgeon, countless patients—both women and men—have told me stories of spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars on products that promised to deliver a youthful appearance but did little more than smell good. Despite this, the number one question I'm asked remains, "What product do you recommend I use to remove wrinkles?" As consumers, we continue to hold out hope that the fountain of youth really can be found in a jar.

Motivated by a consumer willingness to spend dollar after dollar on skincare that promises to turn back the hands of time, cosmetic companies have sent their product development teams into overdrive. The result: Thousands of products are launched each year featuring "revolutionary" new ingredients or "miracle" formulations and accompanied by marketing campaigns that feature scientific claims and flawless models. Who can blame people for being convinced?

When my patients tell me about the disappointing products they've used, they inevitably defend their purchase by referring to the science that backed the products' claims. You know what they're talking about: "clinically proven to reduce wrinkles in seven days," or "after four weeks, 90 percent reported that fine lines had faded away." While many companies do cite justifiable, independent research to back product ingredients, of concern are the organizations that tout biased findings. We need to be certain that the claims are founded on "good science" and are, thus, valid.


While commonly accepted myths are prevalent in many consumer industries, they run particularly rampant in the skincare category. Given the emotion that accompanies the desire to improve one's appearance, marketers have been able to convince consumers of many factors that, at face value, don't make much sense. It's as though the trendy product design and incredible before and after photos erode one's better judgment.

Some of my favorite skincare myths are outlined below. You'll also find the facts that debunk them.


Countless advertisements in recent years exclaim a product's use of collagen and/or elastin. These are major structural proteins in our skin that are often advertised to have magical qualities when applied topically. However, the reality is that, when added to a product, collagen or elastin has absolutely no benefit to the skin whatsoever. At most, they may make the product consistency "feel" more silky and smooth.

Here's why:

Collagen and elastin are proteins found in our skin and in that of all animals. These proteins comprise the structure of the dermal layer of the skin. However, collagen and elastin cannot be absorbed into the skin because their moleculer size is too large, a step that would be essential if they were to do any good whatsoever. What's more, if you take them out of a human or animal source, the proteins are dead. Therefore, even if the skin could absorb them, they're completely inactive and would not provide any benefit. The only collagen or elastin our bodies can use is that created by our own cells and tissues. That from another human or animal source is completely useless.

Say for a moment, however, that collagen and elastin did have some beneficial properties when applied topically to the skin. It would then be important to note the type of collagen or elastin that is used. Most collagen and elastin found on ingredient lists is referred to as "soluble collagen" or "hydrolyzed elastin." This means the manufacturer has actually cut the molecule into tiny pieces. Therefore, even if they were beneficial, you aren't getting true collagen or elastin in these products—only pieces of these proteins.

The only benefit of using collagen and elastin in skincare products is the improvement it brings to the consistency of the product. In other words, they make the product feel nice on the skin.


Given that oxygen is essential to life, its usage on our skin must be beneficial, right? Wrong.

Simply put, we need approximately 23% oxygen in the air we breathe to live. Anything more than that may be converted into O3, otherwise known as oxidants or free radicals. This fact alone demonstrates that oxygen in skincare products isn't beneficial. However, let's go a step further and look at a few additional realities. First, humans cannot absorb oxygen through the skin; it is only absorbed through the lungs. From an evolutionary standpoint, if our skin could absorb oxygen, our lungs wouldn't have developed. Second—and here's the real catch—oxygen cannot even be put into a skincare product because it's a gas. It simply won't mix with the product's other added ingredients. Even if it could be contained in a product formulation, it would release into the atmosphere rather than penetrate the skin when applied, due to its gaseous state. Therefore, any marketing that claims a product contains pure oxygen is little more than false advertising.


It is a common misconception that skin needs numerous, separate moisturizers for different areas of the face. The skin does need a good moisturizer, the type of which is dependent upon skin type. For instance, oily skin requires a moisturizer with less oil-based humectants, while very dry skin needs a moisturizer with heavier humectants. However, there is no absolute need to buy separate moisturizers for different parts of your face.


The skin around the eyes is thinner and has fewer oil glands. Therefore, it does require extra care. However, use of a hydrating moisturizer works just fine if carefully applied around the eyes. Skin is skin, so what works on the rest of your face works in this area, as well.

If trying, specifically, to improve the appearance of fine lines, puffiness, and dark circles, then a separate eye product such as a serum or gel-formulated product with extra emollients may be considered.


There is no such thing as "gentle exfoliation." By its nature, exfoliation requires force or strong acid to remove dead and damaged skin cells. Only by being aggressive with exfoliation will it give the desired effect of collagen stimulation and dermal rejuvenation. Although rubbing the skin with "granules" or "microspheres" may give a temporary polished feel to the skin, it will not provide the necessary force to slough dead skin cells and boost collagen production.


Phrases like "dermatologist recommended" or "dermatologist tested" simply mean that as few as one dermatologist has tried the product or used it on a patient with no negative results. It is in no way valid proof of a product's performance.


In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of skincare products formulated specifically for men. Remember the tenant that "skin is skin?" The same rule applies here. Of course, individuals have different concerns and, thus, require differing approaches to skincare. But these differences cannot simply be divided down gender lines.

Given the recent growth of the male personal care market, it's no wonder that companies are putting out skincare lines targeted specifically to this audience. However, the only difference between these products and other skincare lines is the fragrance and the look of the bottles. After all, few men want a "cute" bottle on their bathroom shelf!


This is exactly what the marketers of these brands want you to think. In reality, this statement is far from true. These brands, most of which invest far more in marketing than in product research and development, gain their "well known" reputation through aggressive advertising campaigns.


This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest myths within the skincare industry. Water-based skincare products don't hydrate because the skin cannot absorb water. The presence of water simply dilutes the active ingredients that are contained within the product.

Motivated by my patients' obvious frustration and confusion about skincare, in 1996 I embarked on a yearlong quest to find the best skincare line. I wanted to give my patients a strong recommendation when they asked what products to use pre- and post-procedure and for ongoing maintenance of their skin.

My background certainly was helpful in this endeavor. A significant part of my surgical training was spent working with burns and exploring elements that impact wound healing. In fact, I conducted research on the growth factors involved in skin repair at a cellular level. Additionally, I was aided by an expert knowledge of organic chemistry, biology, and pharmacology.

Given that my surgical mentor, Dr. Martin Robson, past chair of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, was recognized worldwide for his research on the benefits of aloe in healing, I was influenced to utilize high-grade aloe in my surgical practice. After all, I saw firsthand how the application of aloe to skin flaps in surgery has a remarkable ability to prevent tissue damage and accelerate healing. Robson's work encouraged me to pursue my own research into potential applications for aloe within a clinical environment and, thus, I've authored numerous studies proving its benefits in conditions ranging from frostbite and burns to diabetes. These experiences, including the results I've seen in my own practice, have continually convinced me that aloe vera is a powerhouse ingredient for use in sensible skincare. Aloe vera has immense and manifold benefits to the skin, and its effectiveness has been proven not only in the laboratory but in human studies, as well. Because of this, I became particularly interested in developing a line of skincare products that could properly use aloe's valuable properties.

The research project was eye opening, at minimum. I was surprised to find that nearly every skincare brand I encountered—whether physician-dispensed or over-the-counter, drugstore or department store, organic or conventional—utilized a base of water. When aloe was utilized, it was in minute quantities and of inadequate quality to generate results. I began to realize that product formulations were often more marketing than science. Most formulations I reviewed had little hope of ever accomplishing the results for which they were intended, and I was left feeling disenchanted. In good faith, I couldn't recommend any single brand to my patients. What's more, I realized it was essential that consumers become educated about the basic needs of their skin to prevent the continued frustration they were encountering. With that, I've spent the past ten years providing this knowledge to each of my patients, and it's that knowledge that I share with you.

While I now formulate skincare products utilizing a base of pharmaceutical-grade aloe and ingredients proven by unbiased science to benefit the skin, it is important I note that, beyond my brand, many good skincare products do exist. However, rather than blindly trusting a single brand, buying a bundled regimen, or placing hope in a product that makes big promises, it's important to review each formulation independently to determine if it will work for your skin. Through the pages of this book, I will give you the skills you need to become an empowered consumer of skincare.


The simple truth is that the aging process cannot be reversed, and, thus, it's important that consumers are realistic about the results they'll achieve by using a skincare formulation. While there are certainly methods available to mask one's age (I should know; I've made a career of it), they do not come from a bottle. However, the importance of healthy skin cannot be underestimated for what it can do to improve the aesthetics of the skin. Advanced formulations are, indeed, capable of greatly improving characteristics associated with poor skin health, such as rough texture and fine lines dramatized by a lack of exfoliation, and diminishment of the skin's ability to produce collagen and elastin. You see, healthy skin is beautiful skin. And skincare products can help your skin reach its peak condition.

In the chapters that follow, we're going to cover a lot of territory. But as we embark on this journey, there are several key facts I want you to keep in mind:

1. The most effective skincare regimen is one that is simple.

2. If a product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

3. Maintaining an effective skincare regimen should not cost you a fortune.

4. There are no shortcuts on the path to beautiful skin. Getting there requires a commitment to healthy behaviors.

5. An advertisement should never be the tool by which you decide the skincare products you'll buy. By becoming educated, you empower yourself to objectively evaluate claims and select products that will meet the needs of your skin.

With that, let's get started.

Chapter Two


As the covering that surrounds us, skin is charged with the vital task of protecting internal organs from the dangerous elements of the world. It is our body's first line of defense and, thus, prevents the invasion of non-resident bacteria. It also regulates temperature and provides us with sensory information. Given its importance, our primary concern is to ensure its health. By maintaining healthy skin, we make certain it can perform its important functions, while benefitting from improved aesthetic characteristics, including smooth, soft texture; absence of blemishes; even coloring; small pore size; and overall radiance.

For an example of optimal skin health, one needs only to look at a baby. Infant skin is properly hydrated and free from damage, resulting in an ideal appearance. Of course, it isn't realistic for an adult to expect skin so flawless, but this model demonstrates what skin looks like when proper nutrition is provided to the body, and factors like excessive sun exposure or smoking have not been introduced. Unfortunately, some skin damage is a natural part of the body's aging process. Lines and wrinkles are inevitable and will increase with age. Thus, our goal must be to optimize skin health while having realistic expectations for what our skin should look like given our age, medical history, and past behaviors.

While a sound knowledge of skin biology and physiology is unnecessary to achieving optimal skin health, having a basic understanding of the composition of skin and the factors that impact it is certainly beneficial. Armed with this information, you will be better able to interpret the "science speak" found on skincare products and more objectively evaluate product claims. It also helps bring logic to the necessary steps involved in improving skin health.


Of course, there's more to the skin than that which you see on the surface. Human skin is comprised of three main layers—the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis—each of which carries out a key role in protecting the body. To prevent disruption to the body's nutrients, skin is water-resistant. And to prevent fluid loss, it is semi-impermeable. These points are important when considering skincare product formulations and are ones we'll return to in a later chapter.

The skin is a complicated structure with numerous layers within the three main layers, each of which is specific in its function.

For the purposes of this discussion, let's review the three main layers:


The epidermis is the visible, external section of the skin, mainly comprised of keratinocytes—cells that produce keratin, a protein that protects the skin. Five layers comprise the epidermis. At the bottom layer (the stratum basale), new cells are produced. These cells continuously migrate up through the layers of the epidermis, flattening as they go, until they reach the outermost layer (stratum corneum), which contains dead keratinocytes. The stratum corneum layer is shed every thirty days, approximately.


Excerpted from SIMPLE SKINCARE, BEAUTIFUL SKIN by AHMED ABDULLAH Copyright © 2012 by KayMed Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Dr. Ahmed Abdullah is a board-certified plastic and cosmetic surgeon and a recognized expert on the restorative and medicinal effects of aloe vera. Additionally, he is founder/formulator of the Lexli line of aloe-based professional skincare.
Dr. Abdullah has proven that many common skin concerns can be avoided by optimizing skin health. His research has shown that the use of pharmaceutical-grade aloe vera is a beneficial tool in that effort. Thus, Dr. Abdullah travels the world educating licensed skincare professionals and consumers alike about the proper ways to utilize aloe in skincare applications, the essential steps to ensuring the skin’s basic needs are met, and setting the record straight on prevalent skincare myths. Furthermore, he continues to see patients regularly at his practices in North Dakota and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
A member of the International Aloe Science Council (IASC), Dr. Abdullah has served on its board of directors. He is also a Diplomat of the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and serves on the Ethics Committee of the North Dakota Medical Association.
Dr. Abdullah earned his medical degree from Northwestern University and completed his residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He is married to Dr. Kay Abdullah, a board-certified surgeon, with whom he has twin sons – Alex and Ali.

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