Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

How to Read a Skincare Ingredient Label And Is That Information Enough In Order To Judge A Skincare Product? June 12, 2014

 

 

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

So let’s start with some basics about skincare labels that everyone should know.  In his Skin Inc. article Ingredient Labels Explained Robert Manzo writes:

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.

Serum realities

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.

One last thing – ever wondered what all those symbols (letters, numbers, and pictures) are on your beauty product container?  Into the Gloss has a guide that explains them all.

Image from http://www.rainshadowlabs.com

 

All the Rage: Konjac Sponges February 26, 2014

konjac-sponge-opener

Chances are you’ve probably already heard of or even tried a konjac sponge.  I’m a little late to the game in explaining and reviewing these cleansing sponges.  But better late than never, correct?

What Is A Konjac Sponge and How Do You Use It?

Dr. Jessica Wu explains what a konjac sponge is and how to use it:

What is a konjac sponge? A konjac sponge is made of plant starch that’s extracted from a type of potato plant. The sponge absorb a lot of water, so it has a unique texture, kind of like a thick piece of squishy felt. It’s more nubby than a dish sponge, but softer than a loofah and has a finer texture than a washcloth so it’s safe to use on your face. Because of its bouncy, rubbery texture, it makes a rich lather and requires less cleanser that you would normally need. It dries quickly, so it’s more hygienic than a washcloth. Plus they are affordable (I get mine for less than $2 each), so you can change them frequently without having to worry about ruining your washcloths with makeup.

How do konjac sponges help your skin? They dislodge dirt, oil, makeup, and impurities to deep clean your skin, so they’re helpful for those with acne and large pores. They can help slough off dead, dry skin flakes that are a sign of sun damage. They can also help remove stubborn, water resistant sunscreen.

How do you use a konjac sponge? First, soak your sponge in warm water for at least five minutes to soften the fibers and avoid injuring your skin. Splash your face with warm water and squeeze a few drops of cleanser onto the sponge. Massage in a circular motion, concentrating on trouble areas and avoiding areas with healing pimples, infections, or abrasions. Rinse face with warm water and pat dry. Thoroughly rinse the sponge with warm water, squeeze out excess, and let air dry.

Personal Experience

First off, what Dr. Wu writes above about the sponge only costing about $2 is completely correct.  Buy your konjac sponge on eBay; most sellers also offer free shipping.  I bought a regular konjac sponge via eBay though the next time I buy one I’ll be trying a charcoal one since charcoal has acne fighting properties.  I did not find that I had to soak my sponge in warm water for five minutes in order to soften it; it took me about a minute to soften the sponge in the shower.  It is definitely true that you need less cleanser when using a konjac sponge; a little bit of your cleanser will foam up brilliantly on the sponge.  For me the most interesting thing about the konjac sponge was how much the texture changed once it was wet.  Dry the sponge is rough and hard, but once you’ve soaked it the sponge becomes incredibly soft.  I liked using the sponge and the price can’t be beat, but I didn’t see a difference in the appearance of my skin when using the sponge.  I think for someone like me who has tough, acne prone skin konjac sponges are a lovely addition to my skincare routine but not a necessity.  I do think that a konjac sponge can be an excellent way for someone with sensitive skin to exfoliate their skin without any irritation.  Plus, these sponges are just fun (and cheap).  I will definitely be buying another one and recommending them to clients with sensitive skin or to clients who are exfoliation phobic (unfortunately I meet a lot of those) since by using a konjac sponge you can definitely gently exfoliate while you cleanse.

Sources and Further Reading:

Photo from Refinery29

 

Back to Basics: How to Cleanse Your Face January 22, 2014

This is the first post in what will be an occasional series for this blog – back to basics.  Sometimes it’s just important to review and discuss those daily skincare steps that we may take for granted.  I’ll kick things off with talking about how to properly cleanse your face.  I’ve addressed this issue before in my blog; see “my related posts” below for my other posts on this subject.  This particular post was inspired by something I read in the book Heal Your Skin by Dr. Ava Shamban (see my review of the book here).

Properly cleansing your face is an essential step for everyone, not just for those people who take their skincare routines seriously.  Clean skin is something to everyone needs and benefits from.  Think about the first steps of any facial – it’s always a double cleanse.

I’ll start with Dr. Shamban’s advice since her book inspired this new series (page 32):

How to Wash Your Face

This section may seem obvious, but a good technique for skin cleansing is just as important as your choice of cleanser.  To wash your face:

1.  Pull your hair back so that it’s easier to clean your whole face and neck.  This way you won’t transfer hair products to your clean skin.

2.  Wet your face by splashing it gently with room temperature water.

3.  Put a dollop of cleanser about the size of a medium (14 mm) to large (18 mm) pearl into the palm of your hand.  Rub your palms together to spread the cleanser evenly.  Gently massage the cleanser into your face, avoiding the eye area.  Be sure to apply the cleanser about a quarter inch into your hairline to remove built-up hair products and to address any acne that may be present in these areas.  Don’t forget to cleanse under your chin and the back of your neck.

4.  Rinse thoroughly by splashing your face or by using a clean, wet washcloth.

5.  Pat – don’t rub – your skin dry with a clean cotton towel.  If your skin is particularly dry or sensitive, leave your skin damp.  Applying moisturizer to skin that’s slightly wet improves absorption of active ingredients and seals in moisture.

In the evening, remove your makeup before cleansing.  Use a premoistened pad or a disposable wipe formulated for gentle makeup removal and tailored to your skin type.  Don’t leave behind any waterproof mascara that might irritate your eyes.  And remember, when you are in the shower, wash your face last – after you have rinsed off any shampoo or conditioner.

Though Dr. Shamban recommends using a disposable wipe or premoistened pad for make-up removal I suggest using either the gentle cleanser of your choice (which you then have on hand to wash your face with in the morning since most people just need a gentle cleanser in the morning) or an oil cleanser such as this or this or this or this.  I always find that I have spend a little of extra time removing my eye make-up; I use 100% pure jojoba oil to remove eye make-up.  (For more information about jojoba oil please see my post)

Make sure you have a separate towel just for your face.  This is particular crucial for those people who have issues with acne, and try to wash your face towel frequently.

It’s very important to remember to double cleanse your face in the evening; as a matter of fact it is essential if you use make-up and wear sunscreen (and I hope all my readers are using sunscreen everyday).  Skin Inc. explains the importance of cleansing twice in the PM:

The problem is that consumers are using heavier oil-based moisturizers and more water-resistant makeup and sunscreens that are not adequately removed with water-based cleansers. Combine this with how quickly average individuals cleanse their skin and too many people are walking around with dirty skin.

For this reason, always recommend a second cleansing to thoroughly remove oils from the skin. As a matter of fact, even if the skin is cleansed twice with a water-soluble cleanser, there still may be some oil-soluble substances that remain.

… When a cleanser is applied to the skin, surface active agents provide the primary cleansing action. During the initial cleansing process, the surfactants are emulsifying the fat or lipid grime, such as sebum, makeup, environmental hydrocarbons and sunscreens, allowing them to be solubilized in the rinse water. Meanwhile, the water-based portion of the cleanser solubilizes the water-soluble debris, namely sweat and some environmental pollutants. Considering the amount of material that potentially collects on the skin, it’s not surprising that this initial cleansing will only remove superficial debris and is not adequate for a thorough cleansing.

Just a splash of warm water and a single pass with a sudsy gel or milky cleanser—even a good one—is not enough. In fact, a light oil-based solvent should be used on the skin first as an initial step. This should not be mineral oil, although in generations past mineral oil and oily cold creams did perform the task of dissolving makeup. Today, there are nongreasy, microprocessed oils that do not require an alcohol-based toner to remove them. The methodology here: Like attracts like. Oils applied to the skin attract the oils produced by the skin for an ideal, nonaggressive cleansing. Water added to the mix allows the combined, released oils to be rinsed away.

(From Keep It Clean)

Lastly, don’t skimp of the time you take to wash your face.  Be sure to massage your cleanser into your face for at least 30 seconds, even up a minute if you have the time and patience.

Bottom Line:  Proper cleansing is the backbone of any good hygiene and skincare routine and doesn’t take a long time to execute.  Make proper facial cleansing a priority and your skin will thank you.

Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

Image from http://www.classcielife.com

 

Martha Stewart’s Beauty Routine January 15, 2014

Need I Say More?  Actually Yes, I Need To

Martha Stewart was generous enough to share, in great detail, her daily beauty routine with The New York Times*.  And it is quite a daily beauty routine!  Stewart is a beauty product junkie, and not just any beauty product junkie – a high-end beauty product junkie.  Since she can afford it – more power to her in my opinion, but I digress.  While Stewart also explains her make-up, fragrance, hair, fitness, and diet regimes I’ll focus on her skincare routine in this post.  Let’s start with a few highlights:

I get up a couple hours before I’m supposed to leave in the morning and I’ll put on a mask. …  I’ll do this about five days a week and I don’t repeat the same mask two days in a row. I’ve always done this – well basically since I discovered masks.

Stewart lists four different masks that she uses on a regular basis (just not two days in a row, of course).  I’ll address the fact that Stewart is a product junkie later on in this post because right now I want to address the issue if you need to rotate your skincare products as frequently as Stewart does.  Martha Stewart never outright states that you shouldn’t use the same skincare product each day; I found that idea implied by her beauty routine.  So the answer  to the question if you really need to change your skincare products so often is a resounding no!  I actually wrote about this very issue in my blog almost three years ago in a post entitled How Often Do You Need to Change Your Skincare Products?  In the post I explained:

You need to change your skincare products when something changes with your skin or if you want to treat a specific issue.  For example if you’ve never used or needed a moisturizer before but now you feel that your skin is dry and/or dehydrated you can add a moisturizer to your skincare routine.  Most people might find that they need to change their products as the seasons change. …

Also as the seasons change you’ll find that you need different formulations for your favorite products – instead of a creamy moisturizer you might want to switch to a gel or serum formulation.  You’ll need to change your skincare products/routine as you age since you’ll want to add products with antioxidants, peptides, and other anti-aging ingredients to your routine.  While you are pregnant and nursing you’ll need to stop using certain products like prescription tretinoin creams.

Still not convinced?  Watch this video from WebMD.

Stewart switches between a anti-aging, a hydrating, and a gommage mask (which is a fancy way of saying a mask that helps exfoliate).  Now are all these masks necessary?  Can’t she just use an anti-aging serum, a moisturizer, and a separate exfoliant?  Adding a hydrating mask to your skincare routine in the winter is a good idea for someone who suffers from extra dry, flaky skin during colder months.  Anti-aging masks are a waste of money in my opinion; invest in a good anti-aging serum with retinol for daily use instead.  I believe that Stewart is mask addicted and intervention might be needed.

Moving along.  Stewart tells The New York Times:

I slather myself with serums.

Serums are wonderful.  Once you find the right one you can treat a myriad of skincare issues with it.  Do you need to slather yourself with serums which are usually quite expensive?  Personally I think not.  (For more information about serums please see my post What’s A Serum?)

And now we’ve reached the part of the article that drove me crazy.  Stewart might be a lifestyle guru, but thank goodness she is neither an esthetician or a dermatologist because the next thing she says in the article is just downright wrong:

I use the same products on my body as I use on my face.  I don’t think there’s really any difference between the two, so the more moisturizers and serums you use, the better off you are.

Oy!  Where do I begin?  Once again Stewart is flaunting her product junkie tendency, but more sinister in my mind is her proclamation that our face and body skin are the same and do not need different products.  This is simply not true.  For example, the skin on our face is always exposed to the elements making it more sensitive to environmental factors such as sun and temperature and thus usually in need of extra TLC, the skin on our faces has more sebaceous glands than the skin on our body, and the skin on our face usually shows the signs of aging much sooner than the skin on our bodies because of its exposure to the elements.  Someone, not Martha Stewart of course, may have oily skin on their face but dry skin on their arms and legs and obviously would then different products for those different areas of their body.  As further explanation please read  The Beauty Brains explanation,  in their book Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm? (page 53), why you can’t use hand lotion on your face or vis-a-versa:

Three Reasons Why Moisturizers For The Hands and Face Should Be Different

Kay’s question: Is there a difference between moisturizers for your hands and for your face?  Also, is there a reason to use specially formulated antiwrinkle creams rather than ordinary moisturizers that you would use on your hands?

This is one of those cases where there really is some science behind the marketing hype.  Here’s why facial lotions should be different than hand lotions:

1.  Skin on the hands and face is different.

Skin is very thin on your face and thicker on your hands.  Also, your hands don’t (usually) develop acne or blackheads.  Therefore, they need to be treated differently.

2.  Drying Conditions are different for hands and face.

You may wash your hands in harsh soap many times a day; you may wash your face only once or twice a day with a gentle cleanser.  Hands are in and our of dishwater or laundry water; your face is not.  The cumulative effect is that your hands can be much dryer, even cracked and bleeding, and therefore they need stronger moisturization.

3.  The hands and face have different cosmetic needs.

You might want to tighten the little crow’s-feet wrinkles around your eyes, but this isn’t the case on your hands.

The Bottom Line:

For the reasons cited above and more, you need to use products designed to suit your skin’s different needs.  Hand lotions should be heavier barrier creams to protect hands from harsh conditions.  Facial moisturizers should be lightweight, noncomedogenic and many have film-forming agents that tighten skin to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  While hand and face products may share some of the same basic ingredients, the functions they need to perform are significantly different.  Using the right product on the right skin will give you better results.

I hope I’ve sufficiently explained why you need different products for your face and body; as for Stewart’s comment that the more moisturizers and serums you use the better off you are – I have to say that is just silly.  At a certain point your skin simply cannot “absorb” product after product.  The products, instead of performing their function, will sit on top of your skin making make-up application impossible.  Overkill is overkill.  You need the right products for your skin not a crazy number of products.

And now for the good advice from Stewart’s beauty routine.  Stewart uses a hot towel and oils to remove her make-up (she uses either an expensive oil based cleanser or simply Johnson’s baby oil).  This is actually a great way to remove make-up.  I’ve tried a lot of oil based cleansers and still haven’t found a favorite though I do love to use jojoba oil nightly to remove my eye make-up.  Additionally, Stewart is a strong advocate for daily use of sunscreen and proper sun protection when outdoors.  I am glad that she promoted both in this article.  She constantly hydrates while on a plane which is wonderful (for more information about how to care for your skin while traveling see my post: Airplane Travel and Your Skin: How to Care For Your Skin Inflight).  Lastly, Stewart gets monthly facials and how can I argue with that?

And now back to the product junkie point I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  I’ve called myself a product whore or junkie in this blog before but Martha Stewart puts me to shame.  I’ve met more than my share of product junkies since becoming an esthetician as such I have concluded that being a product junkie is definitely a psychological issue not a skincare issue.  Basically it comes down to: “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” feeling.  In my opinion, beauty product junkies always feel that they are missing out if they aren’t trying the newest and greatest products.  I completely understand why someone would want to try the newest products on the skincare market and would chase after trends in skincare.  But please remember the best ingredients for your skin are those with a proven track record, such as retinol and vitamins, and those ingredients have been used successfully in skincare products for years and years.  While skincare products proliferate and the ones you haven’t tried appear shiny and bright take a moment to think: do I really need this?  Does my skin really need this?  Does my skin really look that bad?.  And just because a celebrity or a glossy fashion magazine recommends a product doesn’t mean it is any better than what you are already using.

What more can I say?  Some of Martha Stewart’s skincare routine is excellent but a lot of it is just plain overkill and over the top.  There is no need to go crazy when it comes to your skincare routine or buy multiple soaps or serums.  And please, please remember your face and body DO need different products.

Further Reading:

It turns out I was not the only one intrigued by The New York Times Martha Stewart article.  Here are what some other sources had to say about the article:

*The Gloss points out that Stewart already shared her beauty routine with Allure last year where even more products are listed (spoiler: Stewart is also obsessed with soaps).  The New York Times piece just seems to expand on the lunacy of her beauty regime.  I am hard pressed to understand how she finds the time, while running her lifestyle empire, to devote so much effort her skin.  The routines she details in both publications are that extensive.  (By the way, for an interesting article on how Stewart’s empire is faring read this Vanity Fair article.)

And I have to share two more very “interesting” quotes from the article:

I don’t get clogged pores.

You can be the most beautiful person on earth, and if you don’t have a fitness or diet routine, you won’t be beautiful.

And now I really have nothing else to say.

Image from www.homemadeintheheartland.com

 

Winter Skincare Secrets January 6, 2014

I grew-up near Chicago, and though now I live in a much milder climate I have certainly not forgotten those Midwestern winters (and honestly I don’t miss them at all).  Even if you live in a place that doesn’t have winters as harsh as Chicago your skin can still go through a number of unpleasant changes during the colder months of the year.  Luckily with a few easy tweaks to your skincare routine you can make it through the winter with happy, healthy skin.

Change Your Facial Cleanser But Keep Exfoliating

If your skin starts to feel extra dry during the winter one of the first things you should do is look at your facial cleanser.  Now it the time to switch to a gentle, cream based cleanser.  This type of cleanser is even fine for those people with oily or acne prone skin though people with this skin type might want to use a cleanser like this once a day in the morning as opposed to twice a day.  Or if you really can’t give up your regular facial cleanser use a moisturizing toner afterwards in order to help balance out the drying effects of your cleanser.  (I like Epionce Balancing Toner).

Don’t stop exfoliating – just exfoliate less or with a gentler product.  Don’t use harsh scrubs in the winter to exfoliate.  Instead use scrubs with round beads not nut particles which can scratch and damage your skin. Or use a cleanser or serum with gentle acids in it like lactic acid.  Lactic acid not only exfoliates but brings moisture back to the skin as well.  When dead skin cells build up on epidermis (the outer layer of your skin) your moisturizer cannot penetrate and work as well as it should.  As long as you gently remove those dead skin cells you are helping your skin and not hurting it during the winter.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

I cannot emphasize enough how important using moisturizer is during the winter.  I’ve seen cracked, bleeding hands too many times to count.  I can spot dry hands from a mile away (I’m only exaggerating slightly).  Step up your moisturizing routine during the winter.  First of all, don’t shower or soak in very hot water.  I know this is a hard one, but hot water actually dehydrates your skin.  Moisturize your body immediately after bathing when your skin is still a little bit damp (damp not wet).  Switch from a lotion moisturizer to a cream based moisturizer.  This is both true for the moisturizer you use on your face and on your body.  Use a thicker and heavier moisturizer such as a body butter with shea butter or cocoa butter (look here for some suggestions for moisturizers to try) for your body.  Put small containers of moisturizer by all your sinks so you can immediately moisturize after washing your hands.  Use gloves when cleaning your house and washing the dishes.  Be sure to have a small container of moisturizer with spf in it in your bag so you can even moisturize on the go.  Gently exfoliate your body as well.  I recommend dry brushing.  Lastly, use a humidifier at home in order to add moisture back to the air around you.  Just using a humidifier at home can make a huge difference for many people’s skin.

My favorite thing that I have read about moisturizing in a long time is a post by Lab Muffin about how to layer your moisturizers for utmost effectiveness.  Follow this advice; it will help you immensely if you are suffering from day winter skin.

Chapped Lips

Many people suffer from chapped, even bleeding lips throughout the winter.  According to Natural Health Magazine this happens because:

“Our lips are very susceptible to drying out because they’re a thin layer of skin that’s exposed to the elements all the time,” says Diane Berson, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell University Medical College in New York City. “They’re also made up of mucous membranes, which dry out easily.”

(From Lip Service)

So what can you do to prevent or heal chapped lips?  Actually a lot.  Once again according to Natural Health Magazine:

To get your lips back in kissable form, you need to first rid them of dry, flaky skin. After brushing your teeth at night before bed, try gently rubbing your lips with your toothbrush or a damp washcloth, then slather on a thick layer of lip balm to leave on while you sleep.

Look for a balm that contains moisturizing oils to heal your lips along with wax to protect them from further damage. If you’re going to be outside, pick a formulation with an SPF to minimize the impact of the sun.

Additionally, Dr. Jessica Wu recommends:

  • Use a thick ointment instead of a stick lip balm. Ointments help heal cracked skin, while sticks can be waxy and ,when dragged across delicate lips, can make them more irritated. Try Aquaphor (available at drugstores), Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1, or Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25. Some of my patients prefer to use sweet almond oil or coconut oil, which are safe enough to eat.
  • Apply a thick layer before going to bed, especially if you wear a dental appliance at night. Some people who wear a night guard or retainer end up breathing though their mouths, which dries out the lips.
  • Avoid matte and long-wearing lipsticks, which have a drying effect. Instead, rub a thin layer of ointment over your lips when you get up in the morning. Let it soak in, apply another layer, then apply a moisturizing lipstick or gloss. I like Chanel Rouge Coco Shine, Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick, and Butter London Lippy Tinted Balm.
  • Avoid licking your lips. While it will temporarily moisten your lips, repeated lip licking will end up drying them out even more as the saliva evaporates. Also avoid picking or peeling off dead skin, since this can slow healing.
  • If the chapping persists more than a few weeks, or if you see blisters or oozing, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Nonhealing scabs or crusts can be a sign of an actinic keratosis, a potentially precancerous growth, while oozing can indicate an infection.

A Few More Tips

Keep using your sunscreen!  Our skin can still get sunburned and damaged even from weak winter rays.  Keep using your sunscreen and reapply throughout the day as usual.

Eat a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Foods such as salmon and nuts contain this fatty acid (DHA) which helps to restore moisture to your skin from the inside out.

Sources and Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

Image from ohioinsurance.org

 

Do Men and Women Have Different Skin? November 7, 2013

Filed under: Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 7:51 am
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Magritte Lithograph Signed, Golconde (Golconda), 1953, Series 3

Since November is Men’s Health Awareness Month or Movember I thought it was time to try to answer the question: do men and women really have different skin?

There are skincare lines made just for men and even spas that cater to a mostly male clientele.  Now is this a necessity or simply a marketing choice?  If you’re a man or if you want to buy a skincare gift for a man in your life do you need to purchase the gift from a skincare line that markets to men?  I have to say that spas and skincare lines that promote their products or services just to men are simply using a marketing strategy because when it comes down to it while there are differences between men and women skin that doesn’t mean that if you are a man you need to seek out a skincare line that is supposedly formulated just to your skin.  What is interesting, in my opinion, in the how the whole field for men’s make-up, cosmetic procedures, and spa services has grown and continues to grow.  More and more men are realizing the importance of caring for their skin on a daily basis and are embracing cosmetic procedures and services normally just done on women in order to look and feel their best.

The Nitty-Gritty: How Men and Women’s Skin Differs

The Dermalogica website sums up with differences between men and women’s skin thusly:

Besides having facial hair, there are structural differences between a man’s skin and a woman’s. Androgen (testosterone) stimulation causes an increase in skin thickness, which accounts for why a man’s skin is about 25% thicker than a woman’s. In addition to being thicker, a man’s skin texture is tougher.  …

Regardless of age, men also have a higher collagen density than women. Because collagen content is directly related to the signs of skin aging, it has been said a woman’s skin is about 15 years older than a man’s of the same age. However, men are less sun savvy than women, meaning they don’t use sunscreens, and could contribute to why the “15 year” skin age difference is not readily noticed. UV damage from the sun can add years to a man’s skin and negate the benefit of slowed intrinsic aging.

These differences are further expanded upon in The International Dermal Institute article Is a Man’s Skin Really Different?.  For instance:

Loss of Collagen
The physical signs of aging in adults, such as wrinkles and laxity to the tissue, are closely related to the collagen content of the skin. Both men and women lose about one percent of their collagen per year after their 30th birthday. For women, however, this escalates significantly in the first five years after menopause then slows down to a loss of two percent per year.

Texture
From a superficial perspective, the texture of a man’s skin is very different than a woman’s. The texture (on a man) is rougher, and the Stratum Corneum is thicker. There is also a difference in the composition of sebum and its production. After puberty, sebum production is greater in males than in females, which is attributed to androgen secretions and accounts for why men have longer lasting acne. The cells in a man’s sebaceous glands have more positive receptors for androgens, which explains why they produce more sebum. Interestingly, redness, proliferation of the sebaceous glands and swelling of the skin on the nose, (a condition known as rhinophyma that is found in extreme cases of rosacea) is only seen in males. It is unknown if this condition is controlled by androgens in a similar capacity as sebum production.

Do Men and Women Need Different Skincare Products?

So now that we’ve established that there are indeed differences in men and women’s skin do men and women really need difference skincare products?  I would answer that question with a resounding no.  Discovery Fit and Health agrees:

On a biological level, yes, men’s and women’s skin differ. The male of our species tends to boast a thicker epidural layer with larger pores that clog with dirt and oil more easily. Men also lose collagen, a skin-strengthening protein, at a slower rate than women. There’s also the whole issue of facial hair, as men usually have to factor in shaving their face regularly, which can further scrape and damage skin.

Differences in actual cleansers, however, generally amount more to marketing. Women’s skin care products have long dominated the market, and cleansers aimed at men generally revolve around looking and smelling more masculine: more spice, less fruit, more dark or clinical color schemes on the labeling. Top that off with a no-nonsense name like “MenScience Daily Face Wash,” and you have a real chance at scoring a slice of the $19.7 billion men’s grooming industry. Underneath all of this, there’s very little difference between most male facial cleansers and their female or unisex counterparts.

The real factors that determine which cleanser is right for you have more to do with your individual skin type, be it normal, dry, oily, combination or sensitive. Beyond that, consider the ingredients in your cleanser product as well as its role in your overall skin care regiment.

(From Do Men and Women Need Different Cleansers?)

When it comes down to caring for their skin men need to do the same things women do – determine their skincare issues, figure out what skin conditions they need or want to to treat, and look for products with the right ingredients in order to treat and keep their skin in its best shape.  If you like a certain product from a skincare line aimed at men then by all means use it, but there is no need to seek out skincare products targeted at men.

Make-up, Spa, and Cosmetic Services for Men

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post what I see as a very interesting phenomena is the increased use of make-up by men and the number of men who receive spa services and undergo cosmetic procedures.  The rise in the use of make-up by men is actually a world-wide occurrence spanning Asia, Europe, and the US.  Famous and influential fashion designers such as Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford have created their own beauty lines just for men.  All over the world men are embracing spa services that were once thought to be just for women (read about how Brazilian men as well as UK men are adopting this trend).  And finally in the US cosmetic procedures performed by doctors are on the rise for men.

Bottom Line:  If Movember is supposed to raise awareness about men’s health perhaps it can help raise some awareness about men’s skincare as well.  Don’t fall for slick packaging and seductive advertising, men don’t need different skincare products than women.  You just need to find the right products for your skin.  Remember to use your sunscreen daily, and if you feel that a little concealer and bronzer would help you look your best by all means start using them.

Sources and Further Reading:

Image Golconde by Rene Magritte (from http://www.masterworksfinearts.com)

 

PCOS and Your Skin October 24, 2013

Some of the most challenging skin issues I have ever tried to treat are those of women who have PCOS – polycystic ovarian syndrome.  It is hard for me to forget the skin of one client who by far had the worst acne I have ever tried to help get under control or the client who told me she wasn’t going to try to treat her acne since it was caused by an internal hormonal issue (PCOS) and since there was no cure for PCOS there was nothing she could do for her acne. Both clients got me thinking – is there really nothing you can do for someone’s acne if they suffer from an internal hormonal issue?  That question prompted this post.

First of all, though the focus of this post is skin and PCOS I think it is necessary to very briefly explain what PCOS is and its symptoms.  The Mayo Clinic explains:

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age. The name of the condition comes from the appearance of the ovaries in most, but not all, women with the disorder — enlarged and containing numerous small cysts located along the outer edge of each ovary (polycystic appearance).

Infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods, excess hair growth, acne and obesity can all occur in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. In adolescents, infrequent or absent menstruation may signal the condition. In women past adolescence, difficulty becoming pregnant or unexplained weight gain may be the first sign.

The exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is unknown. Early diagnosis and treatment may reduce the risk of long-term complications, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Polycystic ovary syndrome signs and symptoms often begin soon after a woman first begins having periods (menarche). In some cases, PCOS develops later on during the reproductive years, for instance, in response to substantial weight gain.

Signs and symptoms vary from person to person, in both type and severity. To be diagnosed with the condition, your doctor looks for at least two of the following:

  • Menstrual abnormality. This is the most common characteristic. Examples of menstrual abnormality include menstrual intervals longer than 35 days; fewer than eight menstrual cycles a year; failure to menstruate for four months or longer; and prolonged periods that may be scant or heavy.
  • Excess androgen. Elevated levels of male hormones (androgens) may result in physical signs, such as excess facial and body hair (hirsutism), adult acne or severe adolescent acne, and male-pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia). However, the physical signs of androgen excess vary with ethnicity, so depending on your ethnic background you may or may not show signs of excess androgen. For instance, women of Northern European or Asian descent may not be affected.
  • Polycystic ovaries. Enlarged ovaries containing numerous small cysts can be detected by ultrasound. Despite the condition’s name, polycystic ovaries alone do not confirm the diagnosis. To be diagnosed with PCOS, you must also have abnormal menstrual cycles or signs of androgen excess. Some women with polycystic ovaries may not have PCOS, while a few women with the condition have ovaries that appear normal.

Causes:

Doctors don’t know the cause of polycystic ovary syndrome, but these factors likely play a role:

  • Excess insulin. Insulin is the hormone produced in the pancreas that allows cells to use sugar (glucose) — your body’s primary energy supply. If you have insulin resistance, your ability to use insulin effectively is impaired, and your pancreas has to secrete more insulin to make glucose available to cells. The excess insulin might boost androgen production by your ovaries.
  • Low-grade inflammation. Your body’s white blood cells produce substances to fight infection in a response called inflammation. Eating certain foods can trigger an inflammatory response in some predisposed people. When this happens, white blood cells produce substances that can lead to insulin resistance and cholesterol accumulation in blood vessels (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis causes cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation.
  • Heredity. If your mother or sister has PCOS, you might have a greater chance of having it, too. Researchers also are looking into the possibility that mutated genes are linked to PCOS.
  • Abnormal fetal development. Some research shows that excessive exposure to male hormones (androgens) in fetal life may permanently prevent normal genes from working the way they’re supposed to — a process known as gene expression. This may promote a male pattern of abdominal fat distribution, which increases the risk of insulin resistance and low-grade inflammation. Researchers continue to investigate to what extent these factors might contribute to PCOS.

There are different ways to treat PCOS symptoms, remember there is no cure.  Some ways to treat this condition is through medications and another way is through lifestyle changes such as the ones described by PCOS for Dummies:

How to Manage PCOS

If you’re willing to overhaul your diet and start a simple exercise program, you can gain a great deal of control over your PCOS symptoms. Insulin resistance causes many PCOS symptoms, and diet and exercise help control insulin resistance.

  • If you’re overweight, lose weight by limiting yourself to 1,500 calories per day. Losing weight is one of the biggest factors in controlling PCOS symptoms, particularly if you’re trying to get pregnant.
  • Eat regular meals (but don’t pile your plate), and have a couple of small snacks during the day.Don’t let yourself get hungry.
  • Follow a low-GI diet by substituting low-GI carbs for high-GI carbs. The glycemic index (GI) measures how a carbohydrate affects blood sugar. High-GI foods break down quickly into glucose while low-GI foods are absorbed more slowly. Low-GI foods stabilize your blood sugar, while high-GI foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Refined sugars are high-GI foods, while fruits and vegetables are generally low-GI.
  • Limit the fat in your diet. Cut down particularly on saturated and trans fats (including fatty meat, butter, cakes, pastries, and cookies).
  • Use as little salt as possible. Look at labels of processed foods to try to keep your total sodium intake below 2,400 milligrams a day.
  • Eat at least five helpings of fruit and vegetables every day.
  • Get some physical activity every day. Half an hour is great, but an hour is even better to help keep your weight under control. Remember to start slowly and incorporate both aerobic and weight-bearing exercise into your routine. You don’t have to do all your exercise at one time — 10 minutes of exercise three times a day is just as good as 30 minutes all at once.

PCOS and Skin

As already mentioned above many women who suffer from PCOS also suffer from acne.  Their acne can be very bad with many papules and pustules and can be hard to control because of the excessive androgen in the body.  While birth control pills may help control some of the hormonal issues associated with this condition, what other lifestyle changes can help the acne caused by PCOS?  While I still believe that using anti-acne ingredients such as salicylic acid and retinol can help pores from becoming excessively clogged with dead skin cells and excess oil, are there any other solutions as well?  According to one article from the website Beauty Bible dietary changes may be the key to controlling PCOS related acne:

First – to explain the underlying situation – Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Solutions to PCOS, says this:

‘PCOS creates a vicious cycle of hormone imbalances, which has huge knock-on effects throughout the rest of your body. The problem often starts with the ovaries, which are unable to produce the hormones they should, and in the correct proportions. Linked to this is the common problem of insulin resistance. Women with PCOS very often have difficulties with blood sugar levels, which can cause weight gain and the excess insulin can stimulate your ovaries to produce yet more testosterone (the male hormone). Half of all women with PCOS do not have any problems with their weight, yet they can still have higher insulin levels than normal. ‘

The aim, Marilyn says, ‘is to balance your hormones in order to control the hormonal breakouts from the inside out. There is now overwhelming evidence to suggest that diet plays a significant role in helping with PCOS and also increasing the chances of conceiving.’

‘Adapting your eating habits so that you keep your blood-sugar levels on an even keel throughout the day is essential.  If your adrenal glands are over-stimulated by ever-fluctuating sugar highs and lows, they produce too much adrenaline – the stress hormone – and also too much testosterone, preventing ovulation altogether.’

Aim to eat little and often to keep your blood sugar under control and follow a low GI (glycemic index) diet, with little sugar of any kind, including fruit and fruit juices as well as the more obvious cakes, biscuits, etc.

The article also recommends taking various supplements though I recommend you speak to a doctor before following that advice.  I also found a personal testimonial about how one women changed her diet to successful control her PCOS acne:

According to Women’s Health UK, the elevated androgen level associated with PCOS causes the production of DHT, and this leads to acne. Additionally, insulin resistance is also typically part of PCOS, and insulin resistance further increases androgen levels. This leads to even higher DHT levels, and induces more acne breakouts.

Also, as PCOS women consume high amounts of refined carbohydrates, more negative changes occur in the body. Refined carbohydrates have a high glycemic index and consuming them increases your blood sugar. In response to the increase, your body produces more insulin, further increasing your androgen levels.

In short, it’s a terrible cycle that needs to be broken before clear skin can make an appearance.

What do I do about PCOS acne?
After learning all of this information, I finally decided that I should be treating the acne problem from the inside out, reasoning that my skin is only as good as what is circulating in my body. So, after talking to my OB/GYN and a Naturopath, I started tackling my hormonal problems the natural way. I began taking Vitex (Chastetree) to balance my hormones, and began a fairly strict low carb way of eating to treat the PCOS.

I stuck to plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, ate meat and dairy, and kept my daily intake of carbohydrates below 45 grams (although this number will vary widely by person). I also made sure to drink at least 10 glasses of water every day.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when my skin began clearing up after only 2 weeks. There were fewer pimples, and my skin tone was more even. Motivated and excited, I carried on with my new way of life. Within 6 weeks, my skin was completely clear and smooth – I was cured of my terrible skin. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! After nearly 15 years of trouble skin, I had a found a way to get the skin I had always dreamed of having.

Even more exciting – my PMS was practically gone, and “that time of the month” was no longer accompanied by a nightmarish number of breakouts.

To this day, my skin is still free of acne, and I couldn’t be happier about it. If you have the type of acne I did, and you think you might have PCOS, talk to your doctor, and try some low carb eating and Vitex – you have nothing to lose besides your breakouts!

I’ve addressed the issue of acne and diet numerous times in this blog (you can read my posts by clicking on the links below in the “further reading” section) so I am definitely a believer when it comes to linking acne and diet.  Do I think that simply changing your diet if you suffer from PCOS will clear your skin?  That’s a hard one to answer.  PCOS is a complicated condition so while it is good to hope for the best when making lifestyle and dietary changes you might have to temper your hopes as well.  Being under the care of the right doctor or naturopath can go a long way in helping you achieve clearer skin and control your PCOS.

Further Reading:

 

What Is Milia and How Do You Treat It? October 10, 2013

There are some skincare issues that, in my opinion, are more vexing than others.  To name a few –  hyperpigmentation, acne, and milia.  Just what is milia, how do you get it, and how do you treat it?

What is Milia and What Causes It?

According to Dr. Ellen Marmur in her book Simple Skin Beauty (pages 201-206) milia and whiteheads are very similar:

… both are closed-over keratin plugs – but milia is not associated with acne.  They are caused by aging and slower cell turnover.  Milia are tiny white bumps formed by trapped keratin compacted in the pore, but there is no bacteria or oil involved.  …

Milia is a case of keratin-obstructed pores caused by skin that isn’t shedding normally.  It is not an acne issue and happens frequently as we age; it generally starts to show up in your thirties.  Milia can also be a side effect of laser resurfacing, because the skin is growing at an accelerated rate (as a wound-healing response) and can trap keratin inside the pores.

The website Dermadoctor expands further on the causes of milia in an article by Dr. Audrey Kunin :

Milia are deep seeded white bumps that form when skin cells become trapped rather than exfoliate naturally. The trapped cells become walled off into tiny cysts that appear like white beads below the surface of the skin. Milia can occur on the skin or even on mucous membranes such as the inner surface of the cheek or the vermillion border of the lips.

As the surface is worn away, the tiny cyst may resolve on its own. Far too often, though, intervention to remove the cyst may offer more rapid resolution.

Why Me?

Milia form for a variety of reasons. Some you can fix, others aren’t so easily dealt with. But you need to scrutinize your skin care routine whenever milia make their appearance. Although some people naturally make milia, and I certainly expect everyone to have an occasional bump at one time or another, milia are often the result of a problem that has affected the skin’s surface.

Are there any skincare habits that contribute to the formation of milia?  According to Dr. Kunin yes there are:

  • No doubt the most common reason milia form is from smothering your skin with heavy skin care products or hair care items. Comedogenic creams and lotions may prevent the sloughing of dead epidermal skin cells. Hidden problem products include make-up removers not labeled oil-free or non-comedogenic, hair spray, hair mousse and gel, heavy sunscreens and some moisturizers. The eyelids are very thin and more likely to experience problems with milia due to cosmetics. Re-evaluate your eye make-up and eyelid make-up remover if you are finding this to be a concern.Certain lipsticks, lip balms and products meant to help with chapped lips may be the cause of little white pearly milia developing around the lipstick edge (aka vermillion border) of the lips. Again, if you see these forming, take a good look at the ingredients on the label.
  • Prolonged History Of Sun Damage
    The formation of milia can also be due to cumulative sun exposure. Aging skin forms a thicker epidermis that may make it far more difficult for skin cells to find their way out of the glands. And thicker skin also makes for more road blocks in the pathway to exfoliation.
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
    Milia can also be associated with certain skin diseases, particularly blistering disorders such as Porphyria Cutanea Tarda. Fortunately, there are other symptoms associated with these blistering diseases. Blisters, for one and increased hair on the face and backs of hands and knuckles, for another. PCT is an unusual disorder. If you have milia, don’t initially jump to the conclusion you have a blistering condition.
  • Genetics
    Sometimes we just inherit certain undesirable skin tendencies.

What Can Be Done to Prevent and Treat Milia?

Both doctors I quoted above believe that regular exfoliation and retinols can help fight milia.  Dr. Kunin explains:

Exfoliation can go a long way in helping deal with milia prone non eyelid skin. By keeping the epidermis thin and smooth, you can cut down on their formation. By mentioning exfoliation, I’m not talking about scrubbing off the top layer of your skin!

Retinol is also very helpful for both fighting and preventing milia. Again, retinol should not be applied to the upper eyelids.

Sometimes milia won’t come out in spite of your best efforts. Then you may need the milia to be extracted by your dermatologist. In a physician’s office, milia are easily removed. The skin is cleansed with some rubbing alcohol or other antiseptic. The skin overlying the milia is gently opened with a sterile lancet or needle. Then pressure is applied with a comedone extractor, and the milia typically pop out. I find that one of the most difficult areas from which to remove milia is the upper eyelid. There simply isn’t a good way to press on the area and avoid the eyeball, so the lid has to be pulled either upwards or to the side, which is somewhat challenging.

Furthermore, since extensive sun exposure can cause milia be sure to be vigilant, if you weren’t already, with using a sunscreen that won’t clog pores.  And if you’ve tried everything to get rid of your milia and it isn’t working please see a professional.  Don’t go stabbing your face with a needle on your own.

Further Reading:

Image from jacintak.com

 

What Is Seborrheic Dermatitis? October 3, 2013

When I was in esthetics school we discussed skin diseases, and I do remember that seborrhea was mentioned.  According to my textbook from school (yes, I still have my textbook) they divide seborrhea and seborrhea dermatitis into two different categories:

Seborrhea: Severe oiliness of the skin; an abnormal secretion from the sebaceous glands

Seborrheic Dermatitis:  A common form of eczema

(From Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians, 9th edition, page 203)

Before I became an esthetician I had come across a common form of seborrheic dermatitis which is cradle cap.  My son had had severe cradle cap as an infant so I was quite aware of what that was.  Yet once I was introduced to the concept of seborrhea as explained above, “severe oiliness of the skin”, I didn’t come across this condition at all while working in the US.  Then I moved back to Israel and I couldn’t believe how many people I encountered for facials that would tell me they had seborrhea.  I was surprised to say the least.  I couldn’t figure out how in one part of the world I had never come across this condition and in another part of the world I couldn’t seem to escape it.  I wondered if the definition of this skin condition had changed from country to country, from language to language.  The skincare companies that I worked with in the US never mentioned this condition to me or had products that treated it, unlike Israeli skincare companies that do both.  Truthfully I am still trying to figure this one out, but in the meantime I realized that I better brush up on my knowledge about seborrhea.

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

Dr. Carl Thornfeldt in his book The New Ideal In Skin Health defines seborrheic dermatitis as (page 86):

These lesions are usually found on areas of the body with more sebaceous glands, such as the forehead, eyebrows, around the nose and ears, scalp, midchest, and central trunk. It is characterized by greasy yellow scaling on erythematous patches of various thicknesses.  It usually has no itching.  It may be associated with rosacea.  Dandruff is a mild form on the scalp.  It is most common in infants (cradle cap) and elderly.  It may also be flared by physical and emotional stress.

Furthermore, according to the American Academy of Dermatology seborrheic dermatitis is characterized as:

The skin tends to have a:

  • Reddish color.
  • Swollen and greasy appearance.
  • White or yellowish crusty scale on the surface.

One or more of these rashes can appear on the body. Sometimes, the affected skin itches.

Seborrheic dermatitis can look like psoriasis, eczema, or a skin allergy.

What Causes Seborrheic Dermatitis?

The Mayo Clinic explains:

Doctors don’t yet know the cause of seborrheic dermatitis. Factors that may play a role include:

  • A yeast (fungus) called Malassezia. This fungus is one of the normal microscopic life forms that grow, along with certain bacteria, in your skin’s oily secretion (sebum). Creams, foams or lotions containing an antifungal agent, such as ketoconazole (Ketozole, Extina), often help reduce flare-ups, supporting the idea that this yeast is a contributing factor. But seborrheic dermatitis itself isn’t considered an infection, and it’s not contagious.
  • Change of season. Episodes are often worse in winter.
  • Neurological conditions. Seborrheic dermatitis may occur more frequently in people who have Parkinson’s disease and certain other neurological disorders.
  • Stress and fatigue. Stressful life events and situations may help trigger an episode or make it worse through mechanisms that aren’t yet understood. The role of neurological disorders and stress may be related through effects on the nervous system.
  • HIV/AIDS. Seborrheic dermatitis may occur more commonly and tend to be more severe in those with HIV/AIDS.

The American Academy of Dermatology expands on the causes and just who is affected by seborrheic dermatitis:

Who gets seborrheic dermatitis?

People of all colors and ages get seborrheic dermatitis. You have a higher risk if any of the following apply to you.

Age

People in these two age groups are most susceptible:

  • Infants 3 months of age and younger.
  • Adults between 30 and 60 years of age.

Medical conditions

Your risk increases if you have any of these medical conditions:

  • HIV (About 85 percent of people infected with HIV develop seborrheic dermatitis).
  • Acne, rosacea, or psoriasis.
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Stroke or heart attack (recovering from).
  • Alcoholism.
  • Depression.
  • Eating disorder.

Medical treatments

If you are taking any of the following medicines, your risk for seborrheic dermatitis increases:

  • Interferon.
  • Lithium.
  • Psoralen.

Facts about Seborrheic Dermatitis

For adults there is both good news and bad news about seborrheic dermatitis.  The good news is that the condition can be treated by a doctor and/or with proper home care.  The bad news is that this is chronic condition, with no cure. According to the Mayo Center:

Seborrheic dermatitis doesn’t affect your overall health, but it can be uncomfortable and cause embarrassment when it develops on visible parts of your body. It isn’t contagious, and it’s not a sign of poor personal hygiene. Seborrheic dermatitis tends to recur, but you may be able to manage flare-ups by recognizing its signs and symptoms and by using a combination of self-care steps and over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications.

How to Treat Seborrheic Dermatitis

First and foremost if you think that you are suffering from seborrheic dermatitis go see a dermatologist before trying to treat yourself.  The doctor can determine if you need prescription products or not to keep your condition under control.  Some skin conditions simply cannot be treated with over the counter products but with seborrheic dermatitis it depends on the severity of the condition.

The Mayo Clinic explains further how to treat this condition:

Seborrheic dermatitis tends to be chronic, and there’s usually no strategy that stops it permanently. But treatments — including many you can try at home — may control your signs and symptoms during a flare-up. The best approach for you depends on your skin type, the severity of your condition, and whether your symptoms affect your scalp or other areas of your body.

Creams and lotions that you apply to affected body areas and medicated shampoos are all mainstays of treatment. In very severe cases, physicians may prescribe oral medications with whole-body effects. Products are available with several kinds of active ingredients. Some preparations include active ingredients from more than one category.

The following over-the-counter treatments and self-care tips can help you control and manage seborrheic dermatitis.

  • Wash your hair with a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo according to the recommended schedule. If you don’t see results, try a shampoo with a different active ingredient.
  • Use an over-the-counter antifungal cream. Application of nonprescription-strength ketoconazole may be helpful.
  • Apply an anti-itch cream or lotion to the affected area. A short course of a nonprescription hydrocortisone cream containing at least 1 percent hydrocortisone can temporarily relieve itching.
  • Avoid harsh soaps and detergents. Be sure to rinse soap completely off your body and scalp.
  • Wear smooth-textured cotton clothing. This will help keep air circulating around your skin and avoid irritation.
  • Shave off your beard or mustache. Seborrheic dermatitis can be worse under mustaches and beards. If this is the case for you, shaving might ease your symptoms.
  • Avoid scratching whenever possible. Scratching can increase irritation, making you more uncomfortable and increasing your risk of infection.

What else can you do at home to keep your condition under control?  Dr. Thornfeldt recommends in his book using a gentle facial cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin’s pH.  He recommends that the homecare products that:

… contain ingredients such as low concentrations (<2%) azelaic acid, salicylic acid, zinc pryrithone and/or willow bark extract to help kill surface bacteria, reduce redness and scaling, and smooth skin texture.  (Page 87)

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following:

Adolescents and adults: Skin

  • Wash the skin daily with a soap that contains 2% zinc pyrithione.
  • Soften scale by:
    • Wetting the skin thoroughly before washing.
    • Applying a moisturizer after bathing.
    • Applying a tar cream, letting it sit on the skin for several hours before rinsing.
    • Applying a cream containing salicylic acid and sulfur.
    • Do not use petroleum jelly to soften the scales. It tends to worsen seborrheic dermatitis.

 

Bottom Line:  In adults seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition without an actual cure.  Proper home care coupled with prescription medications can help keep this skin condition under control.

 

Sources and Further Reading:

 

Image from http://www.aad.org

 

Meditation and Your Skin September 18, 2013

Filed under: beauty,Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 1:00 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

In the quest for beautiful skin have we missed out on a technique that can both quiet our mind, improve our health, and help our skin?  Can you meditate your way to perfect skin?

While the health benefits of meditation are well known – reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, strengthening immunity, and inducing calm – what about the skin benefits?

Celebrity esthetician Kate Somerville writes about the connection between meditation and appearance:

I became convinced about the power of meditation after I witnessed significant changes in the skin of several of my clients who practice it.  It really made me aware that I may be able to help someone topically or assist her in altering her diet, but if I can’t help her find a way to stop her brain craziness, she’s simply not going to look her best.

Meditation is a state of deep physical relaxation combined with acute mental alertness, and there are many ways to achieve this state.  Almost every religion incorporates meditative practices such as praying and chanting, and you might be able to find one in your belief system.  Other purely physiological techniques involve sitting and focusing on something that will hold your attention: a word, an image, your breath, or a visual cue.

(From Complexion Perfection! pages 36-37)

According to the online article Meditating for Better Skin as you practice meditation you reduce your stress levels and help your skin:

Meditation is practiced worldwide as an excellent way to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. Did you know, however, that meditation can also help improve your appearance?
When practiced properly and consistently, meditation is one of the few natural ways to improve the quality and tone of your skin, and even combat any number of skin ailments, ranging from acne to rosacea to premature wrinkling.
How stress affects your skin
The body responds to duress by releasing cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol, while necessary in small quantities to help you deal with “fight or flight” situations, is not meant to be sustained at high levels for prolonged periods of time. Continued production of cortisol can result in a variety of negative health issues including fat gain around the visceral organs, blood sugar imbalance, decreased bone density, higher blood pressure and of course, skin problems.
Cortisol can result in an increase in oil production, which can lead to acne and acne-related problems.
Additionally, when cortisol is released by the body, sugar levels in our bloodstream go up. Increased blood sugar promotes glycation in our skin, which damages collagen. Damage to collagen can lead to more lines and wrinkles.
As soon as cortisol is released by the body, sugar levels in the blood increase. We know that sugar spikes are especially bad for diabetics, but increased blood sugar also promotes a process called glycation in our skin which damages the collagen. Collagen is what makes your skin both firm and pliable. The breakdown of collagen leads to fine lines and eventually wrinkles.
Cortisol acts to dehydrate the skin by decreasing your skin’s production of hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizer for the skin. And it compromises the skin’s barrier, which allows hydration to evaporate instead of staying in the skin.
Another byproduct of stress that works negatively on the skin is adrenaline, which decreases blood flow to your skin and leads to a pale, wan complexion.
Better skin through meditationResearch has shown that meditation is a powerful stress-reliever. When you meditate, you slow your heart rate and produce less cortisol even as your immune functions improve. While difficult to adjust to initially, a consistent practitioner of meditation reaps myriad mental and physical benefits, including reduced stress responses and improved immunity to stress.

Reduction in stress naturally leads to reduction of stress hormones like cortisol, which allows your skin to continue to regenerate normally .

People have found that after consistent meditation, they see fewer lines and wrinkles, improvement in acne, fewer dark circles or bags under the eyes (due in part to improved quality of sleep that comes with meditation), and a healthy glow.

Note: For maximum benefits to your skin, do not shower immediately after meditation. Some studies have suggested that chemicals produced during meditation can be beneficial to the skin. Showering would not only wash off those beneficial chemicals, but also produce a shock to the nervous system, increasing the stress response which is the opposite of the intended goal. If you must shower post-meditation, try to wait at least half an hour to an hour. Ideally, avoid any kind of water exposure or submersion post-meditation.

There are many, many different ways to meditate.  Personally I suggest starting off slow – trying to sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes each day if possible.  I’ve found that guided meditations work best for me; I’ve even found some excellent free phone apps such as Take a Break and Omvana that make meditating anywhere easier.

 

Sources and Further Reading:

Image from http://www.healingwithhope.com

 

 
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