Understanding the ingredients listed in the ingredient list of a skincare product and figuring out if those ingredients are actually effective for your skin is an important skill for skincare consumers to have. But interpreting a skincare ingredient label is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. You need to not only have some basic skincare product formulation knowledge but also be able to recognize different ingredients and their function in skincare products in order to understand what you are reading and if the product will be right for your skin and will do what it claims to do. I’ve addressed this topic in the past here in my blog, but lately I’ve come across a few interesting articles on the subject and thought it was time to revisit this issue much more in-depth than I did before.
The Basics and Some Examples
There are basic rules that product manufacturers must comply with in order to list ingredients on their products.
- Standardized names. Ingredient names must comply with the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) format. The ingredient names are standardized in this format so that all products can be compared to each other easily and for safety reasons.
- Descending order. Ingredients must be listed in descending order of concentration to 1%. Ingredients below 1% can be listed in any order
How does this come together for the consumer? Lab Muffin recently published yet another excellent post called How to Read an Ingredients List: Face Moisturisers in which she takes actual moisturizer labels and explains the ingredients for her readers. For instance:
When looking at most product ingredients lists, the ingredients will be in order from the highest concentration to the lowest. Typically, when deciding if a moisturiser will suit your skin type, you don’t need to look past the first 6 ingredients or so, since they make up the majority of the product, and will be responsible for the moisturising action. It’s a different story when you’re looking at more potent ingredients that target specific concerns (e.g. anti-aging, exfoliants, antibacterials, lightening), but those tend to be useful regardless of skin type.
With this in mind, I’ll be classifying the top 6 ingredients in each of these facial moisturisers, as well as commenting on some of the notable ingredients further down in the list. If there’s no comment next to the ingredient, I’ve probably explained it in a product further up.
To recap, the main categories of moisturiser are:
Occlusives - block water from evaporating from the skin, especially good for dry and dehydrated skin
Emollients - smooth skin and help repair
Humectants - draw moisture to the skin, effective even at lower percentages.
Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Soothing Moisturising Cream
Aqua (water) - The base for most face creams, and the definition of moisture.
Cetearyl alcohol (emollient) – A blend of cetyl and stearyl alcohols, two fatty alcohols that are nothing like drinking alcohol (that is, ethyl alcohol), but are great for smoothing skin down as well as making sure the oily and watery parts of the moisturiser don’t separate (it’s an emulsifier). It can be derived from coconut oil.
Rosa canina fruit oil (emollient) – This is the technical name for rose hip oil from a specific species of rose. It mainly contains oleic and linoleic acids, which are excellent for repairing skin, as well as antioxidants.
Safflower seed oil (emollient/occlusive) – This also contains many linoleic acids and antioxidants.
Caprylic/capric triglyceride (emollient/occlusive) – This also comes from coconut oil, and smooths skin as well as blocks evaporation.
Jojoba seed oil (emollient) – This stuff is a lot like natural sebum.
Glycerin and honey are a little further down in the list, and there’s aloe vera extract as well – these humectants together would probably add noticeable humectant action to the mix (glycerin is typically used in moisturisers at 2-7%, otherwise it feels sticky).
Overall: Lots of emollients, a small amount of occlusives and some humectants. It’s suitable for all skin due to all the skin-repairing emollients, but drier skins might need some more occlusives on top.
Or for example how to interpret a serum label:
Generally, serums are used to deliver active ingredients to skin in higher concentrations in order to generate a specific skin response. Typical serums address skin-specific issues, such as hyperpigmentation, lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, texture, tone, pore size, acne, redness and irritation.
Understanding ingredient listings in serums is often difficult. Active ingredient names can take the form of Latin names for botanically sourced compounds, and more generic INCI names may be used, such as yeast extract, which can mean a multitude of biologically active ingredients. Quite long chemical names are often found.
Understanding the dose of active ingredients is also difficult by trying to interpret ingredient listings. If a particularly active ingredient is very biologically active, it may be dosed in the formula in part-per-million levels and be very low in the ingredient listing, but still be quite effective. Examples of these are epigenetic factors, epidermal growth factors and vascular growth factors.
1. There are more than 16,000 listings in the INCI dictionary. No one can know all the cosmetic ingredients at any given time. If you are unsure what dose and what active ingredient is in particular serum, request that the manufacturer supply that detailed information.
2. Watch out for serum claims and their target biology. For example, if you have a serum that claims it can improve collagen and elastin by stimulating skin, the ingredient would need to penetrate to the dermal tissue. If you need to lighten skin, ingredients must penetrate no more than to the epidermal-dermal junction, where color-producing cells exist. If you want to exfoliate, the serum should not penetrate far below the stratum corneum.
(From Ingredient Labels Explained)
Putting It Together
Now that you have some basic knowledge about how skincare labels work is this really enough information in order to know if a product is right for your skin or not? Sorry to complicate things for you, but even the most savvy consumer can get tripped up by a skincare ingredient label. Renee Rouleau gives a great example in her blog post Can You Judge a Skin Care Product by an Ingredient Label?:
With so much awareness on skin care ingredients (the good, the bad and the ugly), consumers now more than ever are getting educated on what’s used in formulas, so they can make the best choices for their skin when it comes to choosing products to apply to their face. But by looking at an ingredient list on the back of a bottle or jar, can you really determine if it will deliver good results or not on your skin?
The answer is no. You might look at the ingredient list and form assumptions about the ingredients you may have read about or heard of. For example, if you’re prone to breakouts you might see shea butter or sunflower oil listed, and assume it will be greasy and pore clogging. These assumptions can be invalid, because the results a product delivers are based on the percentages of the ingredient used in a product—and this, you’ll never know from looking at the list on the back of a bottle.
Here’s another example of a time when one of my products, Daily Protection SPF 30, was reviewed by a fairly well-known ingredient expert who has written many books on helping you choose the best products when you go to the cosmetics counter. She had requested the ingredient list of my sunscreen to review, yet didn’t request the actual product. When the review was published, she gave it a really good review however, she said based on the moisturizing agents used in the formula, it was best suited for dry and very dry skin types. Really? Our Daily Protection SPF 30 is recommended for oily, acne-prone skin, because it is so light, and dries to a matte finish on the skin. As a matter of fact, when we get a customer return for this product, it’s usually a dry skin client saying it was too drying on their skin. Our oily skin clients absolutely love it because it disappears completely and leaves no residue. This is definitely not a sunscreen moisturizer for dry and very dry skin types, yet an ingredient label reviewed by an ingredient expert couldn’t tell this. (No disrespect to the expert, this is simply my experience.)
(Obviously Rouleau is writing about Paula Begoun here)
So Where Does That Leave You?
It is important to learn about ingredients and how skincare products are formulated in order to be an educated skincare consumer. The more you know the better choices you can make for your skin, and you can save yourself time and money from buying the wrong products. Part of that education is learning to read a skincare label instead of just blindly believing the manufacturers’ hype and marketing campaign. But don’t let the skincare label be your be all or end all in order to know if a skincare product is right for you. Try products first before rebuffing them. Ask for samples and find online reviews from people who have actually tried the product before rejecting a product based just on reading the ingredient list or taking advice from someone who reviews products only according to their ingredient list. Two websites that I like for product reviews combine both information about the products’ ingredients and actually try the products themselves before writing a review. Those websites are FutureDerm and Lab Muffin.
Image from http://www.rainshadowlabs.com
This post was inspired by something I saw on Facebook. The reality for many women is just as they start to see wrinkles on their skin (perhaps around the eyes or on the forehead for example) they still get an occasional pimple. This can be both frustrating and confusing. Yet it isn’t so difficult to find one solution for both skincare issues.
I would like to point out that the skincare phenomena I am writing about here is not adult acne. While adult acne is definitely on the rise, I am referring here to people who are probably in their late 30s, early 40s and are starting to see the emergence of fine lines while still occasionally experiencing breakouts (for women perhaps around the time they get their period). This is also different from women who are undergoing menopause and find that they are all of a sudden breaking out. I’ve blogged about both adult acne and menopause’s effects on the skin in the past. Those posts are listed below if you would like to look at them.
In my opinion what is happening here is simple: you are starting to see fine lines because sun damage from years before is now becoming visible, and you are still experiencing an occasional breakout because of your hormones (especially those related to your period) and/or stress. Just as I see the cause of this skincare issue as fairly straightforward so is, in my opinion, the solution: add a retinol cream to your skincare regime at night, make sure you use sunscreen daily, and use an antioxidant serum every day. Be sure not to go overboard in order to improve the appearance of your skin. Do not start using anti-acne products meant for teenagers such as Stridex or Clean & Clear. These products will be much too harsh for pretty much anyone who isn’t a teenager anymore.
Retinol is the ideal skincare ingredient for people experiencing both fine lines and an occasional breakout because it can treat both issues simultaneously. I’ve written about retinol and Retin-A before in my blog (you can find the posts below), but I’ll explain again why this is a great skincare ingredient. As Lab Muffin explains in the post Fact-Check Friday: What Does Retinol Do? :
Retinol is a form of vitamin A. Other forms of vitamin A in skincare that you may be familiar with include isotretinoin (better known as Accutane) and retinyl palmitate (another topical ingredient found in many creams).
Things retinol can help:
- fine lines and wrinkles
- skin roughness and dullness
- skin firmness
- pigmentation from age spots
Retinoids are skin cell normalizers so that means that they speed up skin cell turn-over which will help clear up breakouts, and retinoids help rebuild collagen so they will minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time. As such adding a retinol product to your skincare regime is the perfect solution for both fine lines and breakouts.
Just keep a few things in mind when using retinoids (I’m quoting Lab Muffin again):
Retinols can be irritating to the skin, and cause dehydration. To reduce the chances of this happening, you should introduce it into your routine slowly (don’t use it every day to begin with), and use extra hydrating moisturisers.
Retinol breaks down with exposure to light and air. Pick a retinol product in an airtight, opaque container to improve its shelf life.
Using retinol with other excellent skin treatments like AHAs and vitamin C can speed up the skin renewal process, fading hyperpigmentation and wrinkles faster. However, the activation of retinol by skin enzymes is optimal at a higher pH (5.5-6) than the pH for AHAs (3.5). While there isn’t much research on how quickly the pH of skin readjusts itself, waiting an hour or so in between applying the two is a safe bet, or even using one in the morning and one in the evening.
Retinol, much like AHAs, can make the skin more susceptible to sunburn. Wear extra sunscreen when you use retinol so you don’t completely reverse its beneficial effects!
Lastly, keep in mind that you cannot use Retin-A or retinols when pregnant or nursing.
So how would this anti-aging, anti-acne skincare regime look? I suggest cleansing twice daily with a mild cleanser, applying an antioxidant serum in the morning (such as a Vitamin C serum in order to boost the effectiveness of your sunscreen, further prevent the signs of aging, protect your skin from inflammation), and then using a sunscreen with a spf between 30 to 50 (you can also use a separate moisturizer before your sunscreen if you feel your skin needs it). In the evening after cleansing apply a retinol cream followed by a moisturizer. Pretty simple, right?
I’ve written different posts about being an esthetician before, but frankly I never posted anything downright negative about the realities of being an esthetician. I don’t want this post to be negative; I want this post to be real. I got thinking about this post since a few weeks ago when a friend of mine asked me via Facebook why I became an esthetician and if I thought it would be a good profession for her to perhaps consider. The last week I received the following blog update from celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau about being an esthetician, and then today I read this.
The “about” section of my blog already explains why I became an esthetician so I won’t go over all of that again here. Instead I want to focus on the realities of being an esthetician – both the good and the bad. Let’s start with the not so great things about being an esthetician. You finish esthetics school excited to start working. You can’t wait to help people feel great about themselves by improving their skin or teaching them how to properly apply make-up or make them feel good by removing unwanted body hair and then reality hits. It can be very hard to find a job after finishing esthetics school since you have no experience and everyone wants to hire someone with experience. Additionally, finding the right job for you as an esthetician well that is something that sometimes feels impossible. Simply put – this isn’t an easy profession to break into and it isn’t an easy profession to succeed in. Estheticians have to be ready to work nights and weekends, to put up with jobs that only pay you per service and have no benefits, to feel pressure to sell products to clients even if you don’t think they need products or they can’t afford them because if you don’t sell what is considered enough product you get harassed by your manager, and to even, in some cases, have the cost of the products you use during treatments deducted from the pay you receive for the service you just performed. These are all standard employment practices for estheticians. So instead you think it would be better to work for yourself – great, right? Where are your clients going to come from? Are you good at marketing? Do you have the budget to properly market yourself and to buy all the products and equipment you need to work independently? And you are still working nights and weekends even when you are self-employed. And did I mention that you won’t be getting rich being an esthetician? This isn’t a very high paying profession for the most part (the celebrity esthetician you see quoted in magazines are few in number). And are you ready for no-show clients? Late clients? Rude clients? Let’s be frank – being an esthetician means being part of an industry that requires hard work, long hours, and paying your dues. There really isn’t any overnight success to becoming a successful esthetician. If you want to succeed in this profession you have to love it and put up with a lot in the process.
I had a number of teachers at esthetics school and each of them was very different from the other. Despite their differences one of the things I appreciated about each of my teachers was their honesty about what it was really like to work as an esthetician since all my teachers worked and taught. One teacher in particularly was a bit of a “Debbie Downer” when it came to the realities of working at a day spa, but in retrospect her honesty, though brutal at times, was helpful. For instance I still haven’t forgotten how she told us how much she hated doing facials for pregnant women (when an esthetician has a pregnant client we always lift the head of the bed up so the client is pretty much sitting instead of lying and then you end up doing most of the facial while standing) because of how tiring it was for her stand during an entire facial. Because of my teachers’ honesty I finished esthetics school knowing that working as an esthetician wasn’t going to be a bed of roses and believe me that is what I found out. As a matter of fact the worst job I ever had, hands down, was one esthetician job that I had not so long after finishing esthetics school. I’m about to turn 39 and I’ve been working since I was 16, and have held a lot of jobs in many work environments in two different countries, so believe me when I say that if that job was the worst one I’ve ever had it really was.
I mentioned Renee Rouleau’s blog post, My Tips For Having a Successful Career As An Esthetician on the mark, others irked me greatly. Some of the good things from her post include the following:
What tips do you have for a new esthetician right out of school?
It is a fact that a large percentage of people who go through the effort and investment of attending and graduating from esthetics school will never end up practicing esthetics or will do so for a short time. I believe this is because they could not find a job or if they did, the job was not the right fit for them. My advice is to explore every option for employment, but be sure to only apply for a position that best suits your style and personality.
This is very true. Also a lot of esthetics students give up on an esthetics career after school because full-time, well-paying employment as an esthetician is very hard to come by, and they simply cannot support themselves and/or their families working only as an esthetician.
Some of things I don’t entirely agree with from the post:
What jobs are out there for estheticians?
What I love about being an esthetician is that there are many options for places of employment. There are day spas, hair salons that have a skin treatment room (this is where I got my start), skin care spas (like the two I have in Dallas), hotel spas, cruise line spas, medical spas, department store spas associated with a skin care line and resort spas. If you prefer not to be a service provider, there are still many options. You can become a representative for a skin care line that is sold to department stores, medical offices, or spas so you would provide education and training classes to your various accounts, as well as work at trade shows. You can work in a retail environment selling a line at the department store counter (they LOVE hiring estheticians) or other beauty retailers. You can also become an independent contractor and be on-call to work at various spas or even be a freelance esthetician. It is also possible to become an educator and work as a teacher at your local esthetics school. Another option is to become an entrepreneur and develop your own skin care line.
All of the above are valid career paths for estheticians but take the time to think about those jobs. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, easy job options. Being an independent contractor or a freelance esthetician usually means uncertain hours which means uncertain pay and of course no benefits or job security. How many people can live like that? If you have a family there is just no way you can support your children with a job like that. Becoming a skincare line rep is good for someone who is great at sales and doesn’t want to spend their days in the same place, but once again this is a difficult job were you are usually met by a lot of rejection and your salary is mostly (or entirely) paid by commissions. Lastly, how fabulous to be able to develop your own skincare line, right? But realistically who has the money for that?
And now for the part of the post that really got me steamed:
I love that a career as an esthetician offers a very flexible schedule. Many places offer both part and full-time schedules so if you have another career or have children, this is ideal. I have employed many estheticians who were once full-time and now work part-time after having children.
Has Rouleau ever had a part-time job? Does she realize how little a part-time esthetics job actually pays? And even if you work part-time as an esthetician I can guarantee that you will be asked to work nights and weekends. Now if you’re a parent - what do you do about childcare? Finding and then paying for the right babysitter or daycare is one of the hardest things any parent faces. And of course if you are working part-time forget about getting any benefits with your job.
And now for the great part of the post:
How can an esthetician build a clientele?
It truly takes a long, long time to really build up a good, repeat clientele. The reason is because you will not connect with every client, and not every client will connect with you. Being an esthetician is a relationship-based profession. My best tip for this is to mimic their personality. If they are not much of a talker, then don’t talk their ear off. You have to be a chameleon with every client.
Try paying close attention to body language. Asking specific questions on your client intake form that gives you insight into their expectations will go a long way. One of my favorite questions is “What are you goals for today’s visit?” I then provide various options they can check off on the form ranging from “stress relief” to “I want to learn how to care for my skin.” Depending on all that they select, I will make sure to create an experience that gives them exactly what they ask for. I will also discuss their goals during our consultation to make sure I have complete clarity. Having a client leave getting exactly what they wanted will help build the relationship and ensure they will come back to see you again.
In my opinion this advice is spot-on. It isn’t always easy to meet clients needs and expectations. Every esthetician eventually has the experience of thinking that they just bonded with a client and gave them a great facial only to hear back something negative from the client in the end. It always helps to remember that even if you did give a client the greatest facial of her life she just might not be happy and a lot of time it has nothing at all to do with you. Not everyone is going to like you. Period.
Rouleau’s advice continues:
Another way to build a clientele is to give out free skin treatments. When you have an empty schedule, your goal is to fill it with clients. And waiting around for them to shell out money for a skin treatment that is often considered a luxury will leave you with an empty room and time on your hands. Make some really nice gift certificates and gift it to your friends, family, and anyone you come in contact with that you feel would be a good fit for you. Let them experience the services you provide at no charge because the more faces you can get your hands on, the more they can spread the word for you. Many of them may love the results and want to come back as a paying client. At the end of the appointment, give them a few of those free gift certificates and ask them to give it to their friends who they think would be a good client for you. Who would not love giving the gift of beautiful skin? Hands down, word of mouth with a referral will trump any other advertising or marketing opportunity. If you work this strategy long enough, and you give a treatment focused on managing expectations, you will no longer have an empty schedule. I promise.
I do agree that the best possible way to get clients is through word of mouth but giving away services isn’t always the answer to getting more clients, in my opinion. In my experience once people receive a service for free they do not want to pay for it ever and they rarely refer their friends. If you give away too many services you are simply losing a lot of money; esthetics products are expensive even with your esthetician discount. I would recommend instead to give certain services at a discount and to sell products at a discounted rate to a select group of people who hopefully will spread the word about what a great esthetician you are. Be careful who is in that group. Unfortunately a lot of people will be more than happy to take advantage of your generosity.
Rouleau’s blog post continues with some more solid advice for the aspiring or struggling esthetician. It is definitely worth reading even if, like me, you don’t agree with everything she has to say.
So I will readily admit that up until now this post hasn’t been entirely positive. Of course there are lots of things that I love about being an esthetician- for instance, meeting new and interesting people, getting to know my clients on a personal level (I’ve met some amazing people through my work as an esthetician), and feeling that I have had a positive impact on people’s lives through helping them care for their skin. I always wanted to be part of a profession that would allow me to continue to learn and being an esthetician certainly is such a profession – there is always something new and interesting to learn as an esthetician in a variety of related fields from cosmetic science, to dermatology, and make-up innovations. A lot of the ways I educate myself is through blogs and online magazines (on the right hand side of my blog you’ll find links to my favorite publications, blogs, etc.) and there are numerous courses that estheticians can take. The problem is that these course usually cost money, a lot of money sometimes, but if you feel that you can eventually make that money back by providing a different or new service to your clients than investing in a course is important.
Another thing I like about being an esthetician are my fellow estheticians. In my experience nasty estheticians are the exception not the rule. Most estheticians are more than happy to share tips, ideas, and expertise with their fellow estheticians. Estheticians truly help one another and to boot we are generally just a nice bunch of people. There are also numerous groups on Linked In where estheticians help one another so even if you work solo you can be part of a network of estheticians.
I’ve been fortunate to have found a few mentors since becoming an esthetician. The doctor I worked for in Chicago encouraged me and supported me immensely while I worked for her; she also took a leap of faith with me since I didn’t have much actual esthetics job experience when I applied to work for her. She gave me a chance which was priceless. Lately I’ve been encouraged by the advice I am receiving via email from estheticians in the oncology esthetics field in the US about how to market this important branch of esthetics in Israel.
If you are considering becoming an esthetician I encourage you to spend a day shadowing an esthetician to see what she really does during her work day. In my opinion you really need to have a very strong passion for skincare and beauty in order to last in this profession. Lastly, look before you leap. As I already explained this isn’t an easy profession to break into and succeed in so be well aware of the challenges before you sign-up for esthetics school.
Resources and My Related Posts:
In anticipation of moving very soon I’ve been trying to go through different parts of my home and get rid of everything I don’t need. I am a hoarder. No, not the kind that you see on one of those reality shows that can’t walk through their home because of the vast accumulation of things, but the more subtle kind that saves articles, refuses to donate clothes she hasn’t worn in years, and somehow has collected seven blank, decorative notebooks over the years (in my defense all those blank notebooks were gifts). It is really time that I move without taking things with me that I will never look at or use again. So this week I went through all the esthetics related materials that I had at home and discovered articles that I had saved from years ago. I looked things over, I evaluated if I really needed to save the information, and some of the articles I actually found online so I pinned them onto my skincare board on Pinterest. Though Pinterest has indeed revolutionized the way I save information for future reference (and no I don’t think using the word revolutionized is too dramatic) not all the esthetics related material I read online can be pinned. So sad. So I still have a binder with articles, but at least the binder is now very organized.
One article that I saved was from Dr. Leslie Baumann’s Skin Type Solutions website entitled The Anatomy of a Wrinkle. The article succinctly explains how wrinkles form and what factors contribute to the formation of wrinkles:
… all wrinkles are caused by the same chain of events within the skin. Age causes uppermost epidermal cells to get thinner and less sticky, which allows moisture to seep out in turn making skin drier. Oil glands begin to slow down, which contributes to dryness as well. A bit deeper in the skin, supportive scaffolding (i.e. collagen and elastin) breaks down, and skin loses its smoothness and tautness – leaving it no other choice than to wrinkle and sag. In the skin’s lowest layer, the subcutaneous layer, fat cells begin to shrink, so they are less able to “fill in” or plump out damage in the skin’s other layers.
And what factors can contribute to the formation of wrinkles? Dr. Baumann explains:
Sun exposure: The damage caused by UV rays does a number on our skin’s supportive matrix, mainly collagen and elastin. Think about it … wrinkles appear on the face, neck, chest, backs of the hands and forearms – all places that are most frequently exposed to the sun.
Facial expressions: You know what happens when you fold a piece of paper too many times? A line becomes etched and it’s impossible to smooth out. That’s exactly what happens in areas of the face that are responsible for facial expressions. This is why the areas around the eyes and lips and on the forehead are often the first to show wrinkles.
Skin color: Pigment plays a protective role, so those with lighter skin have less natural defense against damaging UV light. Conversely, darker skins usually show wrinkling much later in life, and they have their melanin to thank for that.
Genetics: As with many other beauty and health concerns, your DNA dictates how wrinkly your skin will get. If your mom looked great well into her 60s, it’s possible you will, too, as long as you’re not baking in the sun every chance you get.
Now what is the best way to prevent wrinkles and/or treat them? Dr. Baumann recommends the daily use of sunscreen to prevent wrinkles and retinoids if you already have wrinkles. To those recommendations I would recommend following anti-inflammation diet and incorporating antioxidant serum, such as a Vitamin C serum, into your daily skincare routine.
One more thing – another thing about looking through things you’ve saved is discovering that you have already used the above mentioned article in a post. I briefly toyed with the idea of just updating the old post (it is almost three years old), but in the spirit of “out with the old, in with the new” I wrote this new post instead.
My Related Posts:
Image from laserskinsolutions.com
It’s time for me to once again share a whole bunch of skincare and beauty related article that I thought you my readers would enjoy:
And now for a few articles for my fellow estheticians (and anyone else for that matter):
Image from http://www.theguardian.com
The older I get the more I need make-up. Though that doesn’t mean that I won’t leave the house without a full face of make-up it does mean that I have realized that a few strategically placed make-up products do make a big difference in my appearance. Some days I have the time and the inclination to put on eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara along with my other essential make-up steps, and other days I just make sure that I fill in my brows with brow powder, use undereye concealer, face powder, face concealer, and a little lip tint. It’s the little things that can make a big impact. You don’t have to use a lot of make-up to look polished and put together even if all you are doing is going to the grocery store. No one has flawless skin; everyone has a beauty feature or two that make-up can help look better. For instance, my brows are sparse so filling them in with brow powder makes a big impact on my face. I never seem to get enough sleep so using undereye concealer helps me look more rested. And no matter how much skincare knowledge I amass my skin still has post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, blackheads, breakouts, and blotchiness so using a foundation (either powder or cream) and a concealer makes me feel like I am putting my best face forward to the world (even if that world is just the grocery store clerks and patrons). Make-up gives you confidence. Make-up is fun.
But some people still worry that wearing make-up on a daily basis, particularly foundation, is actually bad for their skin instead of good for it. There is a persistent skincare myth that our skin needs to “breathe” and by wearing make-up we are preventing that important function from taking place. I’ve already debunked this myth in a previous post: Does Your Skin Need to Detoxify/Breathe?, but I’ll revisit the topic here briefly. I quoted Discovery Health in that previous post and let me once again share what they had to say about this topic:
Every day, a barrage of advertisements for various cosmetics, oils and ointments assault our eyes and ears, all claiming to “let your skin breathe.” But does your skin actually “breathe”? Does it really take in enough oxygen to keep you alive?
Not unless you’re an amphibian, an earthworm or a Julia Creek dunnart. Although it can’t perform the functions of respiration, your skin can absorb fat-soluble substances, including vitamins A,D, E and K, along with steroid hormones such as estrogen. Many menopausal women, for example, have estrogen patches to thank for their relief from hot flashes, while nicotine patches have relieved cravings for many smokers trying to kick the habit. So, while the skin can’t breathe, it can take substances from the outside and bring them in, including a little oxygen.
The skin and its appendages, such as hair and nails, make up the integumentary system. The word integumentary comes from Latin, meaning “to cover,” and that is the skin’s main purpose — to keep the world out and our internal organs protected. By its very nature, skin does not help us breathe. …
What does help us breathe is the respiratory system. The respiratory system is responsible for getting oxygen to our blood and removing carbon dioxide from the body. When we inhale, we take in oxygen through our mouth and nose and into the lungs. In the lungs, the oxygen flows into the blood through the arteries, while veins deliver carbon dioxide back to the lungs. From the lungs, we exhale the carbon dioxide back out into the atmosphere, and the process begins again.
So why might we be led to believe that oxygen can pass through the skin?
Misconceptions and Myths
Many people are convinced that we pull in oxygen through our pores, and cosmetic companies capitalize on this belief — at least through unspoken messages — by claiming that their products “let the skin breathe.” If pressed, the manufacturers would probably say what they really mean is that the cosmetics and creams are non-comedogenic, meaning they don’t block pores. This prevents acne from building up, not suffocation. Some companies take it a step further and claim that their products contain oxygen that your skin will absorb. Since your skin doesn’t have the capacity to absorb and use oxygen, dermatologists warn that this is totally bogus. The closest thing to pure oxygen in a skin care product is benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne-causing bacteria by oxidizing fatty acids.
Many people believe the urban legend that Buddy Ebsen, cast as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz,” nearly died because the aluminum in the makeup that gave him his silvery sheen clogged his pores. In fact, Ebsen did wind up in the hospital and was replaced, but it was attributed to an allergic reaction or an infection in his lungs caused by the aluminum dust. Needless to say, the makeup was modified for new scarecrow Jack Haley, and he danced through the role without incident.
Another famous movie incident involves 1964′s “Goldfinger.” After discovering his secretary has betrayed him, the villain Goldfinger paints her entirely — hair and all — with gold paint. Looking at her lifeless body, James Bond explains that the paint closed the pores she needed for respiration. In 1964, it seems, this was a medically accepted belief. The filmmakers took no chances and were careful to leave a patch of actress’s Shirley Eaton’s skin unpainted when shooting the scene.
Having gotten that issue out of the way, let’s focus again on the actual topic of this post: can using make-up actually help or even improve the appearance of your skin? Esthetician Renee Rouleau certainly thinks so:
The fact is, wearing makeup (appropriate for your skin type) offers a barrier of protection against harmful UV rays. UV rays from the sun is the #1 reason for skin aging. It’s not genetics, smoking, and believe it or not, even age. The sun is the skin’s WORST enemy. Most types of makeup contain sunscreen and even if they don’t indicate an SPF number, most have UV-protecting ingredients like Titanium Dioxide. Based on this benefit from wearing makeup, I never leave my skin bare and never suggest my clients to do so either. So do your skin a favor and start wearing makeup NOW, to prevent wrinkles in your future.
Light-reflecting. Acne-fighting. Energizing. Face powder, long associated with grandmothers and a dusty, chalky look, has been remade. Some companies say the product is not only a cosmetic, but also a face treatment, and are loading it with SPF, antioxidants and vitamins. …
Marketing hype aside, some doctors agree that powders pack more of a punch these days. “People have seen the utility of BB creams; they like getting many effects from the same products,” said Dr. Neal Schultz, a cosmetic dermatologist in private practice in Manhattan and founder of DermTV.com. “These are great for people who want fewer products to apply, and an oil absorber.”
But others say that the “poof — all gone” effects that these powders promise are basically stardust and mirrors. “I’m increasingly skeptical with products that over-promise,” said Ron Robinson, a Manhattan chemist specializing in the technology of cosmetic ingredients and the founder of BeautyStat.com, which reviews new products. “Where’s the clinical testing that validates their claims?”
“The blurring component is true,” he said, but “claims that it will reshape, sculpt and improve wrinkles are benefits few skin-care creams and serums designed to plump and firm the skin can offer.” …
“There’s a real science to these products and to the ingredients in them, which help and maintain the skin,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. But he pointed out that a powder’s visual effects vanish once the product is removed; its particles are too big to penetrate skin.
As for long-term benefits: “That has yet to be determined,” Dr. Zeichner said. “If you use products like this on a regular basis and take care of your skin, it’s possible these powders can help slow down the aging process.” …
Dr. Francesca Fusco, a Manhattan dermatologist, says she is firmly pro-powder, at least when it comes to the new modern products. “A powder won’t replace your moisturizer, serum or retinol, but it’s a great added extra,” she said. “For not a lot of money you can get a flawless look. And that’s better than using nothing.”
So when it comes to your make-up should you trust it to transform your skin long after you remove it? Personally I am still very skeptical that a few extra ingredients mixed into your cream or powder foundation will be your anti-aging or anti-acne answer, but the better you look the better you feel and that is truly transformative.
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Image from makeupandbeautyblog.com