Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Korean Skincare Products: Tested December 12, 2013

[SKIN&LAB] Dr.Vita Clinic : Fre-C Sun Protector

Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows that I am fascinated by skincare products and routines from around the world, and in particular I’ve developed a real obsession (not a scary, stalker one – I swear) with all things related to South Korean skincare and beauty.  Over a year ago I wrote a post called Beauty in South Korea in which I discussed how South Korea (and other Asian countries such as Japan) are world leaders in skincare innovations and trends.  (Don’t forget that the BB craze first caught on in South Korea)

After writing the post mentioned above I spent a lot of time online looking at various Korean skincare products and wondering just how well they worked.  Finally I took the plunge and ordered products from two different websites: Wishtrend and I Buy Beauti.  First a few words about these sites.  Each site has completely different brands, giving the consumer a wide variety of products to choose from.  Though both sites carry mostly skincare products they also have make-up (including lots of BB and CC creams).  Products are presented with lots of information, many times that includes instructional videos (sometimes in Korean, sometimes in English).  The English language is used very creatively on the sites which I found quite entertaining.  Prices are reasonable, and the sites always seem to be having specials as well.  Both sites ship worldwide (Wishtrend ships for a very reasonable fee, I Buy Beauti ships for free :)).  My items were packed very safely (ie lots of bubble wrap) and compactly.  It took about three weeks from the time of my order until I received my products here in Israel; I paid via PayPal each time.  You receive lots of free samples with your order, and I Buy Beauti even included a thank you postcard which I found to be a lovely touch.

I did wonder if the products on these websites were the Korean equivalent of drugstore products like Neutrogena or Garnier or more upscale like those skincare products sold at Sephora.  My attempts at researching this question failed so if anyone knows the answer I would appreciate hearing from you.  Also if anyone knows a good website to purchase Japanese skincare products from, that doesn’t have crazy international shipping costs, I would love to hear from you as well.

With so many products to choose from I had a lot of trouble deciding what to try.  Since at the time of my order I needed moisturizer and sunscreen I concentrated my purchases on those items.  Now that I am finally getting around to reviewing my purchases I’ve noticed that some of the items are no longer available online, but I’ll still review them here anyhow.

Wishtrend Products

When I was making my purchases the weather in Israel was turning hot and humid so I wanted to get a light, daytime moisturizer.  For reasons that I can no longer remember (it might have just come down to choosing according to price since there were so many interesting products to choose from) I bought Klair’s AC Control Lotion with aloe and snail  (I can no longer find the product on the website).  Yes, I chose a moisturizer with snail slime which is a very trendy ingredient in Asian skincare at the moment. As I already indicated when the product arrived I couldn’t figure out why I had decided to buy this moisturizer over another one particularly since I really don’t believe the hype about snail slime and I’m a lifelong vegetarian (yes, I know I was going to be putting it on my face and not eating the slime but I do prefer to avoid products with obvious animal ingredients though I am not a vegan).  But I have to admit that I didn’t have the patience to mail the product back and wait for another (even after the spring on the pump broke and I could no longer get the product out as intended I still didn’t send the product back) so I just decided to use it.  The entire label is in Korean though there is a nice snail smiling at me from the front of the container and that picture can be universally understood.  Apparently the snail is happy to share his slime with me.  Anyhow, the moisturizer itself is very light and just fine.  After using it for months there really isn’t anything else to say about it.  It absorbs quickly into the skin, you don’t need all that much in order to cover your whole face, and it smells ok.  I wasn’t blown away by this product and even if I could I wouldn’t purchase it again.

Another item I purchased was Skin&Lab Dr. Vita Clinic fre-C Sun Protector which is SPF 50 and has Vitamins C and E in the formulation.  This product promised all the things I look for in a sunscreen for summer – a high SPF, contains antioxidants, chemical and physical sunscreen ingredients, and was supposed to be non-sticky, lightweight, and non-whiting on the skin.  The label for this product is in both English and Korean.  In the end I was disappointed by this sunscreen as a summer sunscreen because I found it too heavy on the skin for use in hot and humid weather.  I recommend it for winter use since it actually is quite moisturizing.  As a sunscreen I have no complaints, but the feel on skin was not as light as I expected.  I constantly hear clients complain how sunscreen feels too heavy on their skin, and the feel of this product would certainly cause a lot of whining.

I also purchased a sheet Vitamin C mask which I can no longer find on the website.  This product was a lot of fun.  The product is packaged in a two pouch flat package that is sealed in the middle separating the sheet mask from the Vitamin C serum.  All the words on the label were in Korea, but luckily there are pictures on the package so you can easily figure out how to use the product.  You need to roll the package so that the seal breaks and you mix the mask with the serum.  Then you remove the mask and place it on your face for about 15 to 20 minutes.  No need to rinse your face afterwards; if any serum remains on your face just gently rub in into the skin.  I tried the mask before bedtime and found that my skin felt very soft the next morning.

Additonally,  I received a bunch of samples from Wishtrend that I had a lot of fun trying.  First off I tried Elisha Coy’s Always Nuddy BB 24 which I liked a lot.  It gave very natural, light coverag; I would definitely consider purchasing a regular size of this product in the future.  I also received a sample of Elisha Coy’s Skin Repairing Snail Cream (yes more snail slime) which was fine, but I would not purchase a regular size of this product.

I was also sent a lot of Skin&Lab samples which were lots of fun to play with.  The samples were moisturizers and essences which are labeled by the letter of a vitamin such as C Plus Brightening or A Plus Lifting or E Plus Moisturizing or ACE Triple Action Essence.  I mixed and matched the samples.  In the morning I might have used the moisturizer with Vitamin C and then in the evening the moisturizer with Vitamin A. Essences are an Asian skincare innovation that have a gel-like consistency.  After toning, but before moisturizing, you apply an essence to treat skin issues.  The moisturizers were nice, but I really loved the essences and would definitely consider purchasing one again in the future.

The last sample I received was two anti-blackhead, anti-acne mask both from Caolion: Blackhead Steam Pore Pack and Pore Minimizing Pack.  I actually haven’t tried these products yet so I can’t comment on them.

I Buy Beauti Products

I made just three purchases through this website and two were from the same brand – tn (teen’s nature).  I was looking for a nighttime moisturizer and was sucked in by the video that I found on the page for the moisturizer Moisture Cocktail Cream.  Yes, I fell for the advertising, something I always tell my readers to resist.  Anyhow, this moisturizer is very light with a gel-like consistency.  It is easily absorbed into the skin, has a light refreshing scent, and nice packaging (what can I say – I’m a sucker for good packaging).  I was surprised by the feel of the moisturizer since, as mentioned above, it is a gel not a cream or liquid, but I actually like it a lot.  If you live in a colder climate this is definitely not a winter moisturizer option for you, but it works well in warmer climates or in summer.  It’s also a good choice for oily skin.

For make-up removal I purchased Etude House Eraser Show Cleansing Serum which is a cream version of make-up removal products like Dermalogica’s PreCleanse or DHC’s Deep Cleansing Oil.  Apply to dry skin, gently rub into your skin, rinse, and then cleanse with your favorite facial cleanser.  I thought this product did a pretty good job removing my make-up (I have never found a product that removes all my eyeliner and waterproof mascara), and it certainly left my skin feeling soft.  Another plus – though the package is on the small size (75 ml or 2.53 fluid ounces) I have found that a little bit goes a long way, and it has lasted me months. This is a product I would definitely consider repurchasing; it is also very reasonably priced.

I am consistently on the look-out for a sunscreen that I can carry with me in order to reapply, over make-up, during the day.  I gave up on brush-on sunscreens about a year ago because they were constantly exploding all over my purse, but, more importantly, I realized that though they might not mess up my make-up they weren’t really giving me any sun protection.  I tried stick sunscreens and was disappointed.  So when I came across this sunscreen balm (tn Sun Balm SPF 50) that was packaged like a make-up compact I had to try it.  I love this!  All I can say is whomever invented this product is a genius.  The mirrored compact contains a sponge for easy application, and the product itself goes on smoothly and invisibly.  I have definitely found my solution for how to reapply sunscreen during the day.  It’s not messy and won’t explode in your bag like brush-on sunscreen, you definitely can control where you put it on your face and know how much you’ve applied, and it leaves a matte and silky finish on your skin.  Yes, my sponge quickly turned brown since some of my morning make-up was removed when I applied this product, but I never noticed that my complexion looked worse.  I highly, highly recommend this product!

Lastly, with my purchase I received samples of tn Facial Foam Cleanser and Moisture Lotion neither of which I can find on the website (though maybe I’m not looking for the right product; I can’t tell).  Both were fine though nothing to write home about.

Bottom Line:  Overall I was pretty happy with my Korean skincare product purchases.  I will definitely be trying other products in the future.  Both websites mentioned here are well worth exploring and buying from.

** Have you tried any Korean skincare or make-up products?  If yes, please share your experiences below.  Be sure to mention where you bought the products.  **

Image from wishtrend.com

 

Oxygen in Skincare Products and Treatments – Update October 17, 2013

I’ve discussed the subject of oxygen in skincare products and treatments before (please see my previous posts Does Your Skin Need to Detoxify/Breathe? and Oxygenation Treatments: The Case For and Against), but since the subject continues to be addressed in other places I thought I would share some new information that I came across.

Before I share some new information I learned I should mention that the argument about oxygen in beauty products usually, though not always, boils down to a product manufacturer saying that oxygen in a product or a treatment is great for the skin and a doctor saying just the opposite.  For example in the The New York Times article Oxygen Bubbles Into Facial Care Products Robin White from the skincare company Philosophy states:

“Oxygen is known to give skin brightness and clarity. It works on clogged pores and dullness, and brings back radiance and freshness.”

Or check out these other two examples from the same article:

“As we age, the oxygen in our body is depleted, which results in lifeless skin,” said Michael Ann Guthrie, vice president for retail for Natura Bissé. “Our oxygen products are based on stabilized hydrogen peroxide, which delivers molecules directly into the skin. This active ingredient breaks down into water and oxygen, and then supplies the skin with oxygen, which enables it to breathe.”  …

Bliss has also created a number of oxygen-infused products. In 2010 and 2011, they introduced the Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Mask ($54), Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Cleansing Foam ($28), and Instant Energizing Eye Mask ($50). In the spring of this year, two new items will be added to the line, including a rich oxygenating cream. The company’s spas also offer two oxygen facials, a 75-minute treatment and a 30-minute one. Both promise luminosity, include an oxygen spray, and are among the spa’s most popular, said Susan Grey, regional vice president of spa operations for New York Bliss Spas. “Oxygen increases circulation, which increases the delivery of nutrition to the skin, and gives your skin energy,” she said. “It also kills bacteria which keeps post-facial breakouts away.” And, she said that as oxygen travels through the body, the skin is the last to receive it. “By time it gets there,” she added, “it’s a little tired.”

And for the dissenting opinions:

… “There’s no scientific evidence that oxygen can penetrate the skin or that it can stay in the product,” said Dr. Bruce Katz, a clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the director of the Juva Skin and Laser Center in New York. He added that very few products can penetrate the stratum corneum, the outer layer of the skin.

Celeste Hilling, the chief executive of Skin Authority, a skin-care company in San Diego, is one cosmetics-industry professional who needs convincing; she believes better results can be achieved with other elements, like vitamin D or peptides.

“Oxygen is an inert ingredient, meaning it’s nonactive,” Ms. Hilling said. “We need it in the bloodstream to breathe and to live, but oxygen is what’s aging our skin. It’s oxidizing it. Plus, skin can’t absorb it.”

The apothecary giant Kiehl’s is another dissenter. “Oxygen is a gas and cannot be incorporated as a stand-alone ingredient,” said Chris Salgardo, the company’s president. “Products on the market that speak to ‘oxygenating’ usually use hydrogen peroxide, or other ingredients that will generate oxygen as the product is applied to skin.” To obtain the benefits oxygenating products are typically used for, like dark spots, wrinkles, pore size and elasticity, Kiehl’s uses other ingredients like vitamin C and calcium.

But products promising oxygen continue to make appearances. According to the NPD Group, a market research company, total oxygen-infused facial skin care products generated $4.1 million in department store sales from January through October 2012 in the United States, an increase of 54 percent, compared with the same time in 2011.

“Oxygen is appealing in concept because everyone knows it’s very good for you,” said Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel, a facial plastic surgeon and the director of advanced facial aesthetics in Chestnut Hill, Mass. “But it’s not clear that adding oxygen to the skin is going to improve someone’s appearance. We also get enough oxygen to our skin by having healthy lungs and not smoking.”

So who is right?  Does our skin even need oxygen to be healthy?  According to Drs. Draelos and Pugliese in their book Physiology of the Skin, third edition (pages 249-253):

The skin uses very little oxygen.  In fact, it uses only 12.8 milliliters per minute, just a tad over two teaspoons of oxygen, which is only 4.8% of the oxygen taken into the lungs each minute.  Every 100 grams of skin uses only 0.3 mL/min.  One hundred grams of skin is a lot if you consider only the epidermis, because the dermis uses almost no oxygen.  …

Such a small amount of oxygen does not require the blood supply found in the skin.  This tells us that the skin is not an oxygen-using tissue.  In fact, it prefers to metabolize without oxygen.  …

Oxygen Therapy

Peroxides.  There are two forms of oxygen therapy used by estheticians.  One form is peroxides of some type – hydrogen peroxide, zinc peroxide or other basic elements such as calcium.  All of these compounds decompose to release oxygen and the hydroxide of the base element.  In the case of hydrogen peroxide, the most commonly found oxygen source in cosmetics, water and oxygen are produced.  As the oxygen is released, it reacts on the skin surface with anything that it can oxidize.  It becomes an effective bleaching agent and a weak germicide on the surface of the skin.  But that is all.  It cannot penetrate the skin.

Oxygen is a gas, and gas will diffuse into other gases before it will dissolve in anything else.  You can’t affect anything other than the outer stratum corneum with these topical products.  Any claim that oxygen penetrates the epidermis, or goes to the deeper layers of the epidermis, must be highly suspect.  All other benefits from so-called oxygen generating products are not based on true science.

Oxygen as a gas

This form of oxygen therapy is a waste of time and money.  Here is why.  One molecule weight of oxygen will fill 22.4 liters of atmospheric pressure.  No matter how much pressure is in the tank, that comes out will be at atmospheric pressure when it hits the air.

If you spray this oxygen over a face that is dry, what will happen?  Nothing.  It immediately will go into the air, as oxygen does not diffuse into dry protein.  OK, so wet the face.  How much will dissolve in the water, or whatever fluid used?  Under atmospheric pressure, or 152 mm Hg, 5 micro liters of oxygen will dissolve per milliliter of water, written as 5 µL/mL of water.  Think about that for a minute; the water you are using consists of 1,000 mL of oxygen in the air or 1 million micro liters of oxygen.  How much water can you get on the face at one time?  Maybe an ounce, or even two ounces if a cotton cloth was used.  Now you have 60 mL of water in which 3 X 60 or 180 µL of oxygen at a maximum can be dissolved.

Of the one liter of oxygen that you have used, you have, at the very best, an opportunity to have 0.180 mL dissolve in the solution on the face.  You have wasted 500 times more oxygen.  Now here is the sad part.  None of the oxygen gets into the skin to do any good.  Even if it did, by some unknown law, it still would be of no benefit to the skin because of the skin’s physiological makeup.  Increased skin oxygen is only beneficial if the skin has an insufficient oxygen supply.  It is not possible to aid skin oxygenation of the skin already has as much as it needs.

Summary

…  The skin uses very little oxygen since 90% of the metabolic process in the skin is anaerobic, or does not require oxygen.  Oxygen does not penetrate the skin at atmospheric pressure or in a solution.  The action of oxygen is mainly a surface action; as an oxidant it is an effective bleaching agent and a weak germicide.  Gaseous oxygen has no basis of use in topical system since it does not penetrate dry skin and has very limited solubility on wet skin.  The medical application of gaseous oxygen is limited and difficult to use.  No data exists to support the use of topical oxygen for any non-medical application, but it may be of value to persons with wounds that are receiving insufficient oxygen.

New developments in skin oxygenation include the use of oxygen-releasing foams and oxygen-releasing skin care products.  The problem with evaluating this type of technology is that the oxygen is always used with a moisturizer.  Separating the effect of the moisturizer on the skin versus the oxygen is almost impossible.  It is for this reason that the value of topical oxygen has never been proven.

Now that you’ve read both sides of argument what do you think?  Yay or nay on oxygenation treatments or products with oxygen?

Further Reading:

Image from openwalls.com

 

What’s A Serum? July 17, 2013

Filed under: Skincare products — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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The number of facial skincare products available can be mind-boggling and downright confusing.  I think that one of the most perplexing skincare products for people to understand its use is a serum.

On her Daily Glow blog Dr. Jessica Wu explains:

Serums are thinner and lighter than lotions and creams, and they tend to have a higher concentration of active ingredients. They’re often meant to target a specific problem, like fine lines, dark spots, or undereye puffiness, so you can use them to spot-treat a particular area. Since they’re often water-based, some water-soluble ingredients like alpha-hydroxy (glycolic) acids are easier to formulate into a serum than a cream. However, serums are not necessarily more effective than creams; what’s important are the actual ingredients and their concentrations.

As explained above serums can be a great way to treat stubborn skincare issues like hyperpigmentation or acne, giving your skincare routine that extra push that it needs in order to be more effective.  Serums can contain ingredients such as:

ANTIOXIDANTS
Because of their efficient delivery system, serums can infuse the skin with antioxidants. Coenzyme Q10 is one that works very well in serums, for example.

VITAMINS
Vitamins A, C and E show up in many serums, mainly for their antioxidant properties. Look for them in formulas targeting aging.

SKIN BRIGHTENERS
You can expect to find natural skin brighteners like willow bark and rose extracts in serums that address dull-looking skin.

HYALURONIC ACID
In addition to hydrating, hyaluronic acid allows serums to penetrate deeper and stimulate new cell growth.

PEPTIDES AND GROWTH FACTORS
Since both are water-soluble and revered for their ability to ward off signs of aging, they can be delivered more potently and effectively in liquid form.

EXFOLIATORS
AHAs like lactic and glycolic acid remove dead skin. (Keep in mind, however, that even in serums, acids can irritate the skin.)

(What to Expect From SerumsNew Beauty)

Since the consistency of a serum is lighter and thinner than that of a cream you use it directly on your skin after cleansing.  Wait between 5 to 15 minutes in order to allow for penetration before you put on your moisturizer or sunscreen.  Generally a little bit of a serum goes a long way since the products are formulated to be concentrated and effective.

But before you run out to buy a serum (which can be very expensive) I want to quote Dr. Ellen Marmur’s take on serums.  This is from her excellent book (see my review here) Simple Skin Beauty – pages 297-298 (hardcover):

Skin Lie:  Serums penetrate the skin better than creams or lotions do.

Skin Truth:  Marketing departments are always devising sensible reasons for us to buy something new and unnecessary.  According to magazine articles and cosmetic advertisements, a serum should be layered underneath a moisturizer since it has a more concentrated composition of ingredients.  Okay.  But the fact is that a serum is not necessarily stronger than a lotion or cream delivery system.  And since the label doesn’t tell us the concentration of ingredients, we can’t be sure if it is more potent.  Some serums are oil-based, some are water-based, some might allow the ingredients to remain more stable, and some may be more compatible with the skin.  Serums (like every other product on the shelves) are not created equal, but it’s difficult to gauge any of this because cosmeceutical labels don’t provide enough information.  Perhaps an unstable ingredient (such as Vitamin C) may remain stable in a serum formulation containing fewer inactive ingredients.  If so, layering it underneath a sunscreen might make sense.  In general, I think a serum is just another layer, another product to purchase, and more time you have to spend on your face.

Personally I love to use a Vitamin C in the morning underneath my moisturizer and sunscreen.  I definitely believe that the best way to get Vitamin C into the skin is through a serum.  I also believe that exfoliating serums are a great alternative to harsh scrubs and an easy way to renew the skin since once you put the serum on there is no need to wash it off.  Exfoliation made easy.

Do you use a serum?  Have a favorite?  Please share below.

My Related Posts:

Further Reading:

Image from hellomagazine.com

 

Why It Is Important to Use Moisturizer During the Summer June 26, 2013

When advising clients about a home skincare regime I tell those who have combination or oily skin that moisturizer isn’t a must for them.  They should go by how their skin feels before applying a moisturizer.  Of course, if you have oily skin and are using stronger anti-acne or anti-oil products such as Retin-A or products with salicylic acid you may always need a moisturizer, twice a day, in order to bring balance back to your skin.  I also let clients know that during the summer a separate moisturizer and sunscreen may be unnecessary for them since their sunscreen might be moisturizing enough when the weather is hot (and depending on where you live humid too).  I actually like to recommend the use of a moisturizing toner during the summer for those with oily skin (see my post Let’s Talk About Toners – Again for more information).

Recently I read an article in the June, 2013 edition of Le Nouvelles Esthetiques and Spa that made me rethink the importance of moisturizer even during the summer.  The article Multiple Ways to Hydrate the Skin by Dr. Jennifer Linder (from PCA Skin) explains:

Proper hydration of the skin is often a conversation reserved for the cold and dry months of winter. Attention to skin moisture levels, however, is an essential topic of discussion year-round when seeking to achieve clear, glowing skin. For many reasons, hydrating the skin properly is equally important during the summer. By understanding the elements that influence hydration, as well as the interplay between water and oils, it is possible to maintain balanced, hydrated skin regardless of the season.

Elements that reduce hydration levels

In the intense heat of the summer, moisture is released from the skin at a high rate in order to cool the body internally. This moisture loss becomes even more pronounced if one regularly engages in sports or high impact exercise. Additionally, there is a tendency to shower more frequently and wash the face more often to remove sweat and oil buildup. If the moisture is not replaced (both internally and externally), the skin may appear dull over time, become susceptible to impaired barrier function or get stuck in a cycle of oil overproduction, leading to breakouts.
During the summer months, increased UV exposure can also lead to a reduction in skin hydration. Dry heat (evaporation) and humidity (increased sweating) deplete cutaneous moisture. While ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are at their strongest during the summer, ultraviolet A (UVA) rays remain constant throughout the year, making sun avoidance and protection a must during every season. During the summer months, people are typically outside more often for extended periods of time, therefore increasing direct and prolonged exposure to UV radiation that can set in motion a number of reactions that are harmful to the skin. The higher output of UVB rays increases free radical production that damages the cellular proteins and fats that make up and support the layers of the skin. Overexposure to UV rays can result in burning, cracking and peeling, which destabilizes the skin’s delicate moisture retention mechanisms, often causing permanent damage to the affected areas. To combat this, it is important to practice sun avoidance between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wear wide-brimmed hats and protective clothing, and use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, making sure to reapply it every two hours.

Water versus oil hydration

Many believe that moisturizing the skin becomes less important during the hotter and typically more humid months of the summer. This is not the case, however; regardless of the season, all skin types need moisture. Both oil and water serve important roles in cellular regeneration and moisture retention, and maintaining a balance between the two—as well as understanding the differences between them—is necessary to achieve clear, hydrated and healthy skin.

Water

The most important tasks of water in relation to skin hydration occur internally. The skin is the body’s largest organ, which requires adequate water intake to not only maintain moisture and elasticity, but to flush out harmful elements, regenerate and expel dead skin cells as well. The uppermost layer of the skin is known as the stratum corneum (SC). This protective layer is made up in part of dead skin cells, which act as a barrier to the elements while keeping the much needed moisture inside. Lack of proper hydration reduces the ability of the SC to turn over new cells, allowing old, lifeless skin cells to become mixed with perspiration and bacteria; the result in most cases is cellular inflammation, acne and dull skin.
Additionally, although the skin may appear to be hydrated and moist in the summer due to the production of sweat, it can actually be dehydrated from excessive water loss caused by perspiration. If water consumption is inadequate, the skin is the first organ water is taken from to increase the supply to critical organs and bodily systems. Also, the increased amounts of salt and uric acid deposited on the skin from sweat can be damaging if it is not gently and consistently removed. Insufficient water moisture in the skin also leads to an unwelcome increase in sebum production. This, in combination with increased sweat, is a recipe for breakouts. To maintain sufficient moisture, it is critical to increase water intake during the summer, as well as maintain regular moisturizer use. For those who are prone to oily skin, choose a product that primarily focuses on increasing water moisture without heavy oils.

Oil

We have largely been trained to shy away from using oil on the skin for fear of clogged pores and acne. Oil, however, is an essential component of healthy skin, and using the right oils—even during the summer—can help maintain homeostasis and flexibility within the skin.
It is crucial to ensure that patients understand the importance of maintaining cutaneous oil balance. In most cases, the oil glands naturally produce enough oil to lubricate the skin without causing breakouts; however, this process is easily disturbed. Scrubbing the face excessively or using harsh cleansers and exfoliators will strip the skin below its necessary oil threshold. In response to this imbalance, the skin will actually produce more oil to compensate for the loss. However, the patient often views this as an “oily skin problem,” and perpetually seeks to strip the oil away. Thus, the production of oils is continuously increased, and the skin seems to be unmanageable. Interestingly, studies have indicated that acneic skin is deficient in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which is partly responsible for the overproduction of sebum. By supplementing acneic skin with beneficial oils that are high in EFAs, sebum production can be kept in balance.

Humectants and occlusives

A humectant is a substance that attracts water, and can often hold many times its own weight in moisture within the skin. A humectant can pull water from the air, but in topical skin care the humectants are typically drawing moisture up from the dermis into the epidermis.
Common humectants include glycerin and honey, in addition to higher attraction humectants such as sorbitol, lactic acid, sodium PCA and urea. Hyaluronic acid is a particularly powerful humectant, in that it can attract and hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. The strategic use of humectants can have profound effects on the condition of your patients’ skin.
Oil is classified as an “occlusive,” meaning that it acts to lock moisture into the skin. Oils that are beneficial to the skin may be used after bathing to lock in the moisture from the water while the pores are still open. Additionally, moisturizing products that contain light oils, such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil (with compositions very similar to human sebum), are a good choice during the summer months, as they hold moisture within the skin without creating a greasy feel or clogging pores.
Ideally, a moisturizer should contain both humectants to draw moisture into the skin and occlusive ingredients that seal the necessary moisture within the skin. These principles apply to products designed for oily and breakout-prone skin, as well as those with dry skin. It is typically the occlusive agent that varies. For dry skin, a product might use shea butter to occlude, while a product for breakout-prone skin may instead employ niacinamide or jojoba oil to perform the same function, but without the emollience.

Since reading this article I’ve made sure to keep up with the moisturizing step in my home skincare regime.  I found the article persausive enough to remember the importance of moisturizer throughout the year, no matter the weather.  This is information that I will be sharing with my clients as well.

My Related Posts:

Further Reading:

Image from girlishh.com

 

Let’s Talk About Toners – Again June 12, 2013

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Sometimes it is necessary to revisit subjects I’ve already blogged about in the past once I come upon new and/or relevant information about the subject.  So today we’ll be revisiting the subject of toners (see the links below for my previous posts on the subject).

In my first post about toners I explained (back in February, 2010 but the information still holds true):

When you don’t need a toner:    I don’t think that you need a toner every night in order to make sure that you have removed all your make-up or cleanser.  Using  a good make-up remover and the proper cleanser is definitely more than enough in order to make sure that your make-up is all off (the only place you might feel the need to go over again would be the eye area since waterproof eye make-up can be hard to remove).  If after washing your face you feel that you still have cleanser on your face than switch your cleanser.  A properly formulated facial cleanser will certainly wash off your face easily without leaving residue behind.

The claim that toners will close your pores is a silly claim.  First of all, there is no need to seal your pores shut.  Toners will give you a temporary tightening effect but why do you need that anyhow?

The issue of your skin’s pH level being disrupted because of cleansing is really only a problem if you use soap, which is very alkaline, to wash your face.  If you use a facial wash or cleanser you won’t have to deal with the issue of your skin’s pH being disrupted.

When you could consider using a toner:  There are lots of toners available that can actually hydrate the skin and even leave behind a number of beneficial antioxidants.  These types of toner are good for use during the summer when your skin feels more oily and you don’t feel that you need to moisturize (your skin isn’t actually producing more oil during the summer; it just feels that way because of the increased humidity in the air).   In addition, there are some people who don’t feel the need to use a lot of moisturizer ever so using a toner could be a great way to add some moisture to the skin and get some antioxidant benefits as well.

If you have combination skin (oily T-zone, normal skin everywhere else) you might consider using a toner with witch hazel extract, lactic acid, or salicylic acid just on your T-zone.  But don’t go overboard since too much toner with the above mentioned ingredients can be drying.  Use them on as needed basis and no more than once a day.

Some toners have ingredients that can actually soothe the skin and reduce inflammation so using a product like that if you have sensitive skin might be a good option.

Recently I came across two articles to expand on what I had written above.   The New York Times article Toner, Often Met With A Shrug, Is Having Its Moment explains:

As temperatures climb, our thoughts turn to toner: that post-cleansing, pre-moisturizing, cooling concoction treasured in adolescence (Sea Breeze, Bonne Bell Ten O Six) for its ability to remove facial grime onto a cotton ball. Some insist that even in adulthood, their beauty routine would be incomplete without it. Others think it’s an unnecessary step, scoffing that toner, while often refreshing, doesn’t offer any real benefits to the complexion.

“Before cleansers became so effective, people needed to do what cleansers could not, which is why people gravitated towards toners,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of the cosmetic and clinical research department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical. “But formulation and technology has helped the cleanser evolve to the point that they’re so good, you don’t need the toner.”  …

They may not be the BB cream of tomorrow, but “toners have a bad rap,” said Dr. Paul Frank, a cosmetic dermatologist and the founder of the Fifth Avenue Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center. “They used to be associated with pimply skin and were alcohol-based or made to control the production of oil while rebalancing the skin’s pH levels,” he said. “Like anything else, they’ve dramatically changed. They’re now used as a second stage of cleansing, and treat a variety of issues. They can exfoliate, reduce redness, fight aging and brighten the skin.”

Besides preparing the skin to receive the benefits of products applied after, he said, they can soften and smooth the skin, and serve as a delivery system for antioxidants, vitamin B derivatives, retinoid and even glycolic acid.

And Allure explains just how to use a toner properly in Do You Really Need A Toner?:

When should we use them? “As the weather warms up, even combination skin tends to break out, so toners with salicylic acid can be really helpful for gently unclogging your pores and preventing summer breakouts. They are even great in the winter, when the ambient air is dry,” says [Erin] Gilbert [a New York City dermatologist]. “I like to recommend toning while traveling,” says Harper. “The air in-flight is so drying, and a toner will cleanse, hydrate, and leave you feeling refreshed.”

Can a toner be hydrating enough to replace your daily moisturizer? “They are not exactly a replacement,” says Harper. “I tell my patients with extremely oily skin that they can sometimes get away with skipping a moisturizer in the summertime if they use a toner instead,” adds Gilbert. “A toner can be hydrating enough, but don’t forget sunscreen.”

Recently I rediscovered my toner since my skin was feeling very dehydrated.  Now after cleansing I apply Epionce Balancing Toner to my face with a cotton pad (I hate spritzing my face with toner though that is an option.  I always seem to get toner in my eyes and mouth when I spritz – yuck).  In the morning I apply my Vitamin C serum (currently I am using Tecniche SupremeC Serum) afterwards and in the evening I apply my exfoliating serum after the toner while my skin is still a little damp.  I definitely feel that my skin is better hydrated since I added that step to my skincare routine.

Do you use a toner?  Is this a must step in your skincare routine?  Share your thoughts below!

My Previous Posts:

Products to Consider Trying:

Image from Epionce.com

 

Adding Coconut Oil to Your Beauty Regime May 28, 2013

Lately it seems everywhere you turn you find information about coconut oil – how to cook with it and how to use it as a beauty product/ingredient.  So I decided to do some of my own experiments with coconut oil to see if it lived up to the hype.

I have to say that I had long thought of coconut oil as an ingredient that was very bad for one’s health.  I can’t say when and why this idea got into my head, but it took until last year when I purchased the vegan cookbook Vegan Soul Kitchen  by Bryant Terry that I began to rethink my anti-coconut oil position.  I noticed that many recipes in the book called for coconut oil.  As Myra Kornfeld explains in her forward to the cookbook:

Byrant is not afraid to use the long-vilified coconut oil, an extraordinarily healthy and delicious oil that only in the last decade has been getting attention for its wonderful properties.

What exactly was the controversy about coconut oil and just what are those wonderful properties that coconut oil possesses?  The article Once a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World from The New York Times explains:

According to Thomas Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University who has extensively reviewed the literature on coconut oil, a considerable part of its stigma can be traced to one major factor.

“Most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which researchers used because they needed to raise the cholesterol levels of their rabbits in order to collect certain data,” Dr. Brenna said. “Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is a different thing in terms of a health risk perspective. And maybe it isn’t so bad for you after all.”

Partial hydrogenation creates dreaded trans fats. It also destroys many of the good essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other positive components present in virgin coconut oil. And while it’s true that most of the fats in virgin coconut oil are saturated, opinions are changing on whether saturated fats are the arterial villains they were made out to be. “I think we in the nutrition field are beginning to say that saturated fats are not so bad, and the evidence that said they were is not so strong,” Dr. Brenna said.

Plus, it turns out, not all saturated fats are created equal.

Marisa Moore, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, a nonprofit association of nutritionists, said, “Different types of saturated fats behave differently.”

The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood, but is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two.

She went on to say that while it is still uncertain whether coconut oil is actively beneficial the way olive oil is, small amounts probably are not harmful. The new federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10 percent of total dietary calories a day come from saturated fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s about 20 grams.

Any number of health claims have been made for lauric acid. According to proponents, it’s a wonder substance with possible antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties that could also, in theory, combat H.I.V., clear up acne and speed up your metabolism. Researchers are skeptical.

“There are a lot of claims that coconut oil may have health benefits, but there is no concrete scientific data yet to support this,” said Dr. Daniel Hwang, a research molecular biologist specializing in lauric acid at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California, Davis.

But, he added, “Coconut is good food, in moderation.”

And just how does coconut oil help the skin?  The article The Surprising Health Benefits of Coconut Oil from the Dr. Oz Show website explains:

Is coconut oil good for my skin and hair?

We tell our patients that from the time of infancy through the senior years,  coconut oil is a wonderful moisturizer for skin and hair. It has good amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is very protective. If you are using on the skin regularly, it is best to try to find an organic coconut oil, to reduce the absorption of toxins and pesticides through your skin.

We even recommend new parents massage infants with coconut oil after a bath. One 2005 study of 120 babies showed that a coconut oil massage is safe and has health benefits.

Allure asked Dr. Jeannette Graf to explain the benefits of coconut oil for the skin (from the article Is Coconut Oil Worth the Hype?):

“Coconut oil is made up of anti-inflammatory dietary fatty acids, which are important for skin health. When applied topically, it has wonderful moisturizing properties for the skin, increasing elasticity and emolliency. In addition, coconut oil enhances wound healing and has antioxidant properties. Studies have also shown that the lauric acid in the oil has antimicrobial activity against P. Acnes [bacteria], so it’s a potential treatment for acne and adult atopic dermatis,” she says.

On his TV show Dr. Oz recommends using coconut oil on your skin if you suffer from eczema, psoriasis, or a fungal infection.

Interestingly enough in her book Heal Your Skin Dr. Ava Shamban advises against using coconut oil on acne prone or oily skin.  Unfortunately she does not explain why.

Personal Experience

I had no trouble finding coconut oil at one of my local grocery stores though I did not realize I needed to purchase virgin coconut oil.  Next time I’ll make sure to buy that kind of coconut oil.  Anyhow, after reading all the beauty uses for coconut oil in the sources listed below I decided to try a few of them out for myself.  Some uses worked better than others for me.

I have very thick, curly, very frizzy hair so I was excited about using coconut oil as a hair moisturizer/conditioner.  I applied the oil onto both wet and dry hair.  Neither application helped my hair.  My hair didn’t feel any softer and my frizz didn’t go anywhere.  (I have been on a search for a product that will control my hair almost my entire life; I have yet to find something)  I have to say I was disappointed that coconut oil did not work for me as a hair conditioner.

I tried coconut oil as a body moisturizer.  The problem with this was getting the right quantity.  Sometimes I put too little, sometimes I put too much.  If I put too much I felt greasy afterwards.  When I did hit on the right amount my skin felt good but no better or no worse than after using my regular body moisturizer.

I tried using coconut oil as an eye make-up remover.  I found it much too greasy and not that effective.  I’ll stick to using my jojoba oil for removing my eye make-up.

I did use coconut oil directly on my face as a moisturizer a few times in the evenings before bed and felt that my skin was soft in the morning.  But I am still completely paranoid that putting coconut oil on my face will make me break out even though I keep reading the opposite is true.  What can I say?  Old ideas take a long time to disappear.   I don’t know if I will use coconut oil again as a facial moisturizer.  (Of course one of the advantages of using coconut oil as a moisturizer is that is it quite cost effective.)

Now for the ways I liked using coconut oil and will continue to use it – in the shower instead of soap or a shaving cream to shave my legs.  Using coconut oil to shave cut down on irritation and my legs did feel very soft afterwards.

As a lip moisturizer.  I’ve been using coconut oil directly on my lips before bed and really like how it both feels and works.

So now it is your turn – do you incorporate coconut oil into your beauty regime?  If yes, comment below and explain how.

Further Reading:

Image from endlessbeauty.com

 

Product Review: Dr. Spiller Pure Skincare Solutions February 20, 2013

Alpenrausch Organic

Months and months ago I was contacted by Melissa from Dr. Spiller skincare products asking me if I would be interested in trying some of the products from their organic line.  Even though I was in the process of moving back to Israel Melissa still graciously mailed all the products to my new home.  Not only that I also received full size products and an entire product brochure with ingredient breakdown.  I was impressed!  (Truth be told though I have been writing this blog for a little over three years I have very rarely received free products to try.  If I am contacted about receiving free products I always let the person know that I can’t guarantee that I will review their product, and if I do review the product I can’t guarantee it will be a positive review)

Before I get to my product review let me be very upfront about a few things – I see no reason to purchase organic skincare or beauty products as opposed to “conventional” products, I have no problem with parabens in skincare products (truth be told the Dr. Spiller line doesn’t talk about parabens, but I thought I would just throw that out there anyhow since the topic of organic skincare and parabens usually go hand in hand), and I don’t buy into the organic or natural skincare products are better for you nonsense.  (You can read more here and here for my opinions about these topics)  I am more interested in the feel, smell, and above all efficiency of a skincare product.  Does the product do what it says it will?  Yet in regards to the organic claim I was happy to see that Dr. Spiller did not just slap that label on their products without being able to back it up.  It turns out that their products meet strict standards for organic skincare products.  The fact that the products are full of natural ingredients is heavily promoted by the company, but in my view the proof is in the pudding.  If the product doesn’t feel good or make your skin look good then who cares what it has in it.

Here are the products that Melissa sent me to try:

First off take a look at the product information on the website.  Very thorough!  Not only is there a detailed explanation given for each of the main ingredients the product’s pH is stated along with the amount of lipids in the product and the base ingredient are listed as well.  I am all for as much consumer transparency as possible in skincare products so I was happy to see how much information was provided on the website.

After receiving the products I realized that some of them were not ideal for my very oily, acne prone skin, but I tried everything anyhow for the sake of this review.  After trying everything at least once I held onto the cleanser and passed the rest of the products along to my friend Vanessa.  I chose Vanessa as my tester because she has sensitive skin and has had numerous reactions to skincare products in the past.  Since this line is supposed to be good for sensitive skin I thought Vanessa would be the ideal candidate to try out the products.  So what was the verdict in regards to Vanessa’s sensitive skin and these products?  Vanessa experienced no irritation or side effects from using these products so indeed it seems that they really are ideal for those with sensitive or sensitized skin.

As I wrote above I kept the foaming cleanser for myself since I use a mild cleanser daily.  I liked that the cleanser came out as a foam (that was fun), it has lasted me a good four months with twice daily use, and was indeed gentle though a little drying in the winter.

Vanessa actually hasn’t gotten around to trying the toner.  From my use of it I really don’t have much to say.  It was a pleasant toner, and my skin felt fine after using it.  I didn’t notice anything either good or bad after using it.

The soft peeling for me was pleasant, but I am a fan (and my skin needs) of a much stronger exfoliant.  Vanessa, on the other hand, was very happy with this mild exfoliant.  She found it gentle with a good consistency and nice fragrance.  Thumbs up from her on this product.

Both Vanessa and I found the protecting care cream way to thick.  The consistency was almost like an ointment and not a cream.  We both thought it was much too dense and hard to spread on our skin.  This definitely was not the right cream for my oily skin even though my skin is really dehydrated.  Despite my skin dehydration this product was too thick for my skin.  Vanessa did not like the smell of the cream, and she felt it didn’t make her skin soft enough.  If this cream was not as thick I think it would appeal to more people.

The reviving eye care cream was gentle around the eye area and did not cause irritation.  Neither Vanessa or I saw a difference in how our eye area looked after using this cream, but we both found it pleasant and nice.

The last product we both tried was the cooling mineral mask which is really meant more for my skin type than Vanessa’s.  Needless to say we both found the mask strange because after applying the mask it dries and becomes EXTREMELY tight on your face.  So tight it is uncomfortable.  I left it on for the full 15 minutes as instructed, but I did not enjoy those 15 minutes.  My skin did feel soft afterwards but what I had to go through to get to temporarily softer skin wasn’t really worth it.  Vanessa did not like the mask at all.

Bottom Line:  If you have sensitive skin and/or are looking for an organic skincare line with natural ingredients than Dr. Spiller is for you.  I particularly appreciate the fact that these product meet high standards for organic products instead of just slapping a label on the product and that the website shares a plethora of information with the consumer about the products.  Though the products are not cheap they last a long time so you definitely get your money’s worth.

Image from Dr. Spiller website

 

The Risks of Over Exfoliation December 5, 2012

Usually I can’t say enough good things about exfoliation.  In my eyes regular, at home exfoliation is one of the most essential things you need to do to maintain healthy and beautiful skin.  Depending on your skin type, how your skin is feeling and looking, and what exfoliation product you use you can exfoliate every day or just twice a week.  The thing is – you need to exfoliate.

Why exfoliate?  New Beauty explains why succinctly:

There are many benefits of regular exfoliation. As we get older, skin-cell turnover slows down and exofoliating can help speed up the normal shedding cycle. Exfoliating can rid the skin’s dull, outer layer as well as all of the flaws that reside there, like fine lines, dark spots and blemishes. Plus, your skin-care products can better penetrate your skin. Here are our top four reasons to exfoliate on a regular basis:

1. Even out skin texture. “The granules polish the skin, leaving it with a softer, smoother texture. It’s like using sandpaper on coarse, unevenly textured wood—step-by-step it becomes smooth,” says Los Angeles aesthetician Ole Henriksen.

2. Fight the signs of aging. With age, the skin’s ability to naturally exfoliate slows down. When the skin is laden with dead cells, lines, wrinkles and dryness become more apparent. “Removing dead skin reveals fresher, brighter, younger looking skin,” says Mt. Pleasant, SC, dermatologist Marguerite Germain, MD.

3. Prevent blackheads, whiteheads and breakouts. When the pores get clogged with dead skin and oil gets stuck beneath the surface, pimples can occur.

4. Minimize dark spots. Long after a blemish has healed, a red, brown or purple mark may remain. But each time you exfoliate, you’re removing the top layer of skin to diminish the appearance of discoloration.

(From Four Reasons You Need to Exfoliate)

And what are different ways you can exfoliate?  Once again I’ll turn to New Beauty to explain:

Manual Exfoliation: exfoliates with beads or spheres
This involves physically removing dead skin with scrubbing spheres or beads, which are massaged into the skin by hand. Some ingredients, like ground-up nutshells, can tear the skin and potentially cause infections, so if you choose to use a manual exfoliant, make sure that you use one with beads or spheres, which are less likely to scratch the skin.
The Upside : Quick and easy to use, manual exfoliators are available in a variety of forms and are best for normal skin types.
The Downside: May aggravate acne or sensitive skin.

Enzymatic Exfoliation: exfoliates with fruit enzymes
Ideal for sensitive and mature skin, enzymatic exfoliators contain enzymes that are derived from fruits like pineapple, pumpkin, kiwi and papaya to purge the skin of dead cells.
The Upside: Can be used on extremely sensitive or reactive skin because they tend not to irritate since there is no physical scrubbing. Plus, they’re excellent for really cleaning out clogged pores.
The Downside: “Enzymatic exfoliators take longer to work because you have to let them sit on the skin for awhile,” says Kirkland, WA, dermatologist Julie Voss, MD.

Chemical Exfoliation: exfoliates with acids
Good for acne-prone and sun-damaged skin, chemical exfoliators rely upon ingredients like alphahydroxy (AHAs), betahydroxy, lactic, malic, tartaric, salicylic, retinoic, uric or glycolic acids to break the bond between the dead skin cells, dissolving and removing them.
The Upside: Deep cleans pores, making it a good choice for oily and acne-prone skin types. Exfoliators with AHAs offer anti-aging benefits too.
The Downside: Can cause sun sensitivity and may be too irritating for dry skin. “These exfoliators are usually found in cream or lotion form, rather than being part of a cleanser, so they require an added step,” says Dr. Voss.

But sometimes too much of a good thing well is just too much.  That brings us to the risks of over exfoliation.  Go overboard with exfoliation and risk red, irritated, dry, flaky, and even thin skin.  The New York Times T Magazine article The Peel Sessions explains:

… the search for perfection often leads to just the opposite. Instead of achieving plump, soft skin, some women are winding up with visages that are “thin and kind of stretched, almost like Saran wrap,” according to Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, an assistant professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine and the director of the Dermatology and Laser Surgery Center in New York. “It puckers like the material would if wrapped tightly on something and looks like if you pricked it with a pin, a clear fluid would come out.”

This is the over-exfoliated face. For the past few decades, the most dominant recipe for radiant skin has called for removing the dead layers of epidermis to reveal newer, brighter, less-wrinkled skin. But not everyone knows just how often to slough, and some women have been misled into thinking that the more often you do it, the better. Or women exfoliate constantly to ensure that anti-aging or anti-acne serums are delivered more effectively. Exfoliate too frequently, though, with chemical peels or Retin A, and you could encounter a multitude of problems: redness, a strange waxy look and, over time, the thin skin Alexiades-Armenakas described. It can look crepelike and translucent, with capillaries showing (if you’re Caucasian), and is far more prone to fine lines, not to mention increasingly vulnerable to cancer-causing UV rays, than untreated skin. For those with darker complexions, overpeeling can also cause hyper-pigmentation, which can be permanent. …

At-home treatments can have their downsides as well. Retinoids like Retin A increase skin turnover and should be used at the correct strength and frequency. “Everyone used to put it on every night — you brush your teeth, you put on your Retin A,” Enterprise recalled. “Cheeks were getting very thin and people had that glossy look. That waxy skin makes you look older and can make you look dated in the same way your hair or makeup can.”

Abuse of drugstore or beauty-emporium products is also a danger. “I’ve done R&D for a large cosmetic company, and unfortunately to launch these over-the-counter peeling agents, the rule of thumb is to recommend twice-weekly use,” Alexiades-Armenakas said. And why is that? “Because if you don’t use it that often, you’re not going to see any results. It’s so weak compared to a dermatologist’s peel, and to compensate for this they have people overuse it.”  …

Of course, disrupting that barrier at just the right rate — either by peels, Retin A, lasers or other means — is how you stimulate the skin into creating collagen. Alexiades-Armenakas is at work on a new method for doing so, testing pixelated radiofrequency technology and ultrasound to push anti-acne or anti-aging drugs into the skin. It’s another form of fractional resurfacing, whose advantage, she said, is that most of the epidermis is left intact. Eventually, according to the dermatologist, this science will make its way into an over-the-counter product, in the form of a hand-held roller.

There remains, however, the conundrum of what to do until those futuristic gadgets arrive. For now, Alexiades-Armenakas recommends relying on a much older technology — that of the body itself. “The skin turns over every 28 days,” she said. “I’m of the firm belief that you’re better off having a strong peel just once a month at most, giving the skin a chance to recover, rebound and rejuvenate itself.”

Furthermore, according to the article Exfoliation: When Is Just Enough … Enough?  by Annet King explains that exfoliation:

… a course of action intended to keep the skin vibrant, supple and youthful, may result in a skin which is more fragilehas less natural ability to protect from UV, is easily sensitized, heals more slowly and lacks in general structural fortitude. Parchment paper comes to mind.

We now know that much of what we call aging is caused by inflammation. And overly aggressive exfoliation, along with other cutaneous assault such as pollution and UV exposure, set off the cascade of dermal interactions known as inflammation.  It is very important to note that skin which is past the age of 25 or so recovers more slowly from inflammation. In fact, inflammation, whether in response to a heavy handed microdermabrasion procedure or some other inflammatory condition such as adult acne, may result in extremely persistent redness—and by persistent, we mean that it may not ever really dissipate.

The good news is, our skin is genetically designed for remarkable resilience. The human skin produces about 1,000,000 skin cells every 40 minutes, which equates to over 36 million skin cells per day. No wonder we think nothing of obliterating them with scrubs, enzymes, acids, sonic brushes and other procedures! …

LESS IS MORE
Gentle exfoliation keeps the debris from accumulating. Today, the market is full of exfoliants which are gentle enough to use daily, such as superfine micropowders and precise dose leave- on serums containing silky microparticles of rice bran, phytic acid or salicylic acid, botanical extract combo’s. These lift dead cell debris, gently resurface using only the mildest bit of mechanical action, and still leave the lipid barrier robust and intact. …

Often, problems arise when clients start to “help the program along” by being over enthusiastic with different products in the confines of their bathroom or while in the gym sauna! Also discuss their comfort-level, perhaps from years in the gym with masochistic fitness trainers, many consumers believe that pain is required part of an effective regimen. This may be true of acquiring a rock-hard six-pack—but it definitely is NOT true of effective skin care.

NIX THE MIX
Combining products and procedures “freestyle”, without the close supervision of a licensed therapist, is where consumers often get themselves into trouble. The trumpeting claims of lunchtime lasers and other medi-office procedures along with powerful products may prove irresistible, especially with the advance of age, and especially with the impending arrival of a pivotal life passage such as a high school reunion or a daughter’s wedding.

Lastly, another reason to stop with over exfoliating – you may be causing breakouts.  According to Allure:

Convincing people that they’re exfoliating too much “is one of my great challenges,” laughs [ Ranella] Hirsch, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine. “Over-exfoliating is probably the single most significant cause of breakouts. For some reason, people think exfoliating means ‘torture my skin like it has secret government information.’” In particular, Hirsch shakes her finger at skin-care overachievers: “The person who is exfoliating too much is also putting on actives [such as Retin-A and salicylic and glycolic acid], is doing facials, is doing microdermabrasion. Each of those things on their own is good, but when you add every form of treatment together it leads to injury.”

So how can you exfoliate effectively?  Once again according to Allure:

Hirsch insists that for the most part skin knows how to exfoliate itself and says using just one exfoliator should be enough. And instead of having a set routine for how often you use your product, leave it up to your face. In other words, don’t exfoliate because it’s 7AM—exfoliate because you feel like you need to. “You have to listen to your skin,” says Hirsch. “Something that’s right at one moment can shift in real time. Just listen and adapt.”

Bottom Line:  Everyone needs to exfoliate just don’t overdo it.  Check in with your skin regularly to see if you need to adjust your exfoliation routine.  Strive for balance (I know – much easier said than done)  Experiencing breakouts and clogged pores turn to a salicylic acid product for exfoliation.  Flaky yet normal skin?  You could use a gentle scrub.  Want an effective anti-aging product?  Find the right retinol or Retin-A product for you.  Just remember – when your skin starts to feel irritated and sensitive or is constantly red you could be overdoing it.  Then it is time to reevaluate your exfoliation routine.  Keep in mind that correct exfoliation will make your skin soft, smooth, and bright.  Since everyone is different don’t look to others – figure out what your skin needs.  Check in regularly with your skin to make sure you are doing what is best for your skin.

My Related Posts:

Image from realbeauty.com

 

Baking Soda – A Great Natural Exfoliant? November 26, 2012

I’m not someone who usually makes her own skincare products except for the occasional body scrub from sugar and oil (you can read about my misadventures in trying to make my own beauty products here).  I am very diligent about facial exfoliation though it has never occurred to me make my own facial exfoliant.  Yet again and again I’ve seen baking soda recommended as a DIY exfoliant (even Arm & Hammer recommends you do this).  So is it really ok to put baking soda on your face and scrub away?

I’ll turn to The Beauty Brains for some explanations from their post Is Baking Soda an Effective Natural Exfoliant?:

Baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) falls under the category of physical exfoliants, and what makes it especially effective is that it is a fine, yet hard powder, making it highly effective at removing the dead skin cells without causing excessive irritation. Chemically speaking, baking soda is acid neutral, and acts a mild buffer which means that it has the ability to neutralize other substances it comes in contact with that are acidic (like vinegar) or basic (like soap). Many people also believe that baking soda has cleaning properties; however, scientific evidence has shown that this is due to baking soda’s physically abrasive nature, and it is not an effective anti-microbial agent.

Exfoliating with baking soda

To reap the benefits of exfoliating with baking soda, add a teaspoon of the powder to your facial cleanser, mix well, and massage into skin like you would with a commercial exfoliant. Do this 2-3 times a week or as per your regular exfoliation routine. If you notice that your skin is red or irritated afterwards, try putting in less baking soda and use the treatment at night so that your skin has a chance to get back to normal while you sleep. Remember to always moisturize afterwards!

Baking soda as an acne treatment

While there are numerous testimonials in which people claim that baking soda cleared up their acne when nothing else helped, please remember to take these statements with a grain of salt. We don’t know what else that person had changed in their skin regimen; it’s possible that besides using baking soda they also started drinking more water, switched their cleanser or moisturizer, or maybe even changed the number of times they cleanse their skin per day. Seasonal changes and stress levels also have a very strong impact on how much and how noticeable your acne may be. However, there is some evidence that baking soda may be beneficial in treating acne since just the exfoliating properties of baking soda alone lead to an increased skin cell turnover rate making your acne look less noticeable. Plus, baking soda’s neutralizing properties maybe reduce redness of the skin also reducing the appearance of acne. If you want to try using baking soda as an acne treatment, my recommendation is to use one teaspoon of it in your cleanser at night to exfoliate your skin, as well as make a thicker paste of just baking soda and water and apply it to the acne as a mask for 5-10 minutes or overnight (beware, when it dries the mixture will crumble so you might up wake up to a messy pillow).

The Beauty Brains bottom line

In summary, all signs point to baking soda being an excellent and cheap physical exfoliant. It is ph neutral and a fine powder, which means that it will be gentle on your skin. Baking soda may also be useful in treating acne when made into a paste and applied to the affected areas although there is not as much scientific evidence to back that up.

(As an aside I want to mention that I was actually taught, though I never tried it, while in esthetics school that if we didn’t have another way to exfoliate skin we could use a mixture of baking soda and water.)

I thought for the purposes of this post I should try exfoliating with baking soda.  I added about a half a tablespoon of baking soda to my gentle cleanser one night and gently scrubbed away.  I found the baking soda felt very harsh on my skin, too harsh almost, but my skin did feel very soft afterwards – if only for that night.  Because I found the baking soda too  harsh I would think twice before using it again.  (I should mention that I use prescription Retin-A on a regular basis so my skin tends to be more sensitive to exfoliating products)

Bottom Line:  As long as you aren’t using a lot of other exfoliating products you can try baking soda a few times a week as a mild scrub to exfoliate.  Just keep in mind that a scrub will remove surface dead skin cells and will not penetrate into your pores in order to unclog pores or dissolve excess oil.  I would definitely not believe the internet hype that using baking soda cures acne.  Keep in mind what The Beauty Brains had to say above about that phenomena.

Further Reading:

Image from http://www.good.is

 

Moisturizer Musings November 19, 2012

I came across a few things lately related to moisturizers that I thought would be good to share with my readers especially now that the weather is getting colder most places.

Future Derm recently addressed a number of common moisturizer misconceptions.  The issue I found most interesting was that of moisturizers with spf versus sunscreens:

Moisturizers with SPF versus Sunscreens

Incorrect Definitions:

I don’t actually know how people (in their minds) differentiate moisturizers with SPF from sunscreens. But I always see people give this distinction, without giving an explanation. For example, a reader recently commented that:

“… HOWEVER, the LRP is actually a MOISTURIZER with SPF rather than a straight sunscreen.So I was wondering if the PCA Sunscreen you recommend is moisturizing as well or would it require an additional moisturizer?…”

Analysis:

Now that we’ve defined what a “moisturizer” is, a moisturizer with SPF is therefore just a leave-on product that contains occlusive agents AND UV filters, and may also contain humectants, emollients, and other beneficial ingredients. What about sunscreens? I honestly don’t know what to say, except that sunscreens are the exact same thing. They can certainly be “moisturizing.” In fact, a common complaint is that “sunscreens,” especially those that contain inorganic UV filters like titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, are TOO moisturizing, greasy, emollient, and/or heavy. So I don’t understand how this distinction was imagined in the first place. I mean, anything with an SPF rating is measured the same way; a “moisturizer” with an SPF of 20 and a “sunscreen” with an SPF of 20, will both provide the same initial level of UVB protection.

Correct Definitions:

Moisturizers with SPF and sunscreens are the exact same thing: leave- on products that contain occlusive agents AND UV filters, and may also contain humectants, emollients, and other beneficial ingredients.

After reading the above analysis of moisturizers with spf versus sunscreens I thought – why did this never occur to me before!?!?  Truthfully I can’t say why I needed to read what someone else had written about this in order to realize that it was true.  The real key here is finding the right product for you and using it – make sure that you use it every day without fail and that you use enough of it.  A tiny drop of sunscreen (or moisturizer with spf) will not give you enough protection, and make sure you reapply throughout the day.  Sunscreen only lasts two to three hours.

The Importance of Moisturizer

Recently I reviewed the book Stop Aging, Stop Living by Dr. Jeannette Graf.  My review focused on Dr. Graf’s dietary and lifestyle advice and how an alkaline diet helps your skin look and function at its best.  When it comes to hands on skincare advice Dr. Graf’s is very straightforward and easy to follow.  I was struck by her insistence of the daily use of moisturizer for all skin types.  Here is her advice about using moisturizer during the day (pages 112-114)

It doesn’t matter whether your skin is dry, oily, combination, or normal.  You need moisturizer to replace moisture lost during cleansing and seal in that moisture so it does not escape.  Your skin type may affect what type of moisturizer you use, but not whether or not you use it.

Moisturizers replace lost water and hold it there with humectants (water-binding agents).  In other words, they add moisture to your skin and prevent existing moisture from escaping.  Although your skin naturally retains moisture through small molecular weight compounds called natural moisturizing factor (NMF), it needs a layer of fatty acids (lipids) above the NMF layer to seal in this moisture and prevent it from evaporating.  Showering, cleansing, sun exposure, wind, dry heating and air-conditioning, swimming, and other factors remove these fatty acids on a nearly constant basis.  If you don’t use a moisturizer to replace this lipid layer and seal in NMF, your skin’s natural moisture evaporates, resulting in dry, thin, tight, older-looking skin.  …

Look for a moisturizer that advertises an SPF of at least 30.  During the winter months, when UVB rays are weakest, you can get away with an SPF of 15.  This SPF will protect your skin from sun damage during short outdoor activities, such as going to and from the car.  Apply it first thing in the morning rather than waiting until you are ready to head outdoors.  Although glass blocks sunburn-inducing UVB rays, it does not block much of UVA.  Your SPF protection will last about an hour*, so reapply (or touch up your mineral makeup, which also provides some sun protection) before going outdoors later in the day.

Make sure the sunscreen and/or sunblock in your moisturizer is broad-spectrum, with wording on the packaging that says it protects against both UVB and UVA rays.  …  As an added bonus, any antioxidants in your moisturizer (vitamins C, E, grape seed extract, or green tea) will enhance the protection from your sunblock as well as provide protection from environmental pollutants.

Finding the perfect moisturizer may take some trial and error.  Try free samples whenever possible, and trust your instincts.  If your skin feels shiny or greasy, the moisturizer is too rich for your skin type.  If your skin feels tight and dry, it’s not rich enough.  If you have combination skin, you may need two different moisturizers – a gel or a sheer sunscreen for the oily areas and a thicker moisturizer for the drier areas.  If you have very dry skin, you may need to double your efforts, both using a rich moisturizer that contains no SPF or anti-wrinkle ingredients and applying a separate SPF product on top.  This first layer moisturizer should contain humectants and emollient lipids such as ceramides and evening primrose oil.  Evening primrose oil is the richest source of gamma-linolenic acid, a type of essential fatty acid that is soothing and particularly moisturizing for the skin.

As for the evening Dr. Graf has the following to say (pages 119-120):

Moisturize and Renew

Use a different moisturizer at night than you use in the morning.  At night, your skin is renewing itself, so you need a moisturizer that helps the skin to perform this important function.  That comes down to one important ingredient: retinol.  This highly studied skin care ingredient has been proven to even skin tone, promote elasticity, build collagen, and renew skin cells, promoting the birth of new skin cells as well as protecting the ones that already exist.  It’s the most important skin care ingredient, apart from sunblock, no matter your age, complexion, or skin type.

Retinol is a natural form of the vitamin A that is found in yellow and green vegetables, egg yolks, and fish oils.  It’s the most abundant form of Vitamin A found in the skin.  We learned about the benefits of retinol in the 1970s, when researchers began using it to treat acne.  They noticed a side benefit to people who used Retin-A (a very strong prescription form of retinol).  Their skin began to look younger.  Retin-A seemed to reverse sun-induced aging in the following ways:

  • Decreasing fine lines and wrinkles
  • Improving collagen production
  • Enhancing elasticity
  • Improving skin tone and texture
  • Enhancing skin lightening and minimizing age spots

It was most effective on the people who needed the most help – on skin that already had suffered lots of premature aging due to sun exposure.  Retin-A is not available over the counter.  You need a prescription for it.  Over-the-counter retinol moisturizers, however, have also been shown to reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging – and without all the irritating side effects of prescription Retin-A.

To choose a moisturizer, follow these tips:

  • To avoid redness or irritation, start with the lowest retinol cream you can find, slowly working your way up to increasingly stronger creams.
  • Look for a retinol cream that is formulated for sensitive skin.
  • Buy a cream from a respected company to ensure stability and safety.  Respected companies include Johnson and Johnson, Neutrogena, and Roc.
  • Don’t step using retinol once your appearance improves.  You need to keep using retinol to maintain the results.

 

So there you have it – two interesting opinions about moisturizers.  My take on the issue is that you should find a moisturizer that is right for you and use it.  How your skin looks and feels and the climate that you live in will definitely influence which moisturizer is right for you.  Just as Dr. Graf explains it might take some trial and error to find the right moisturizer for you but once you do your skin will thank you.

 

My Related Posts:

 

*Yes, I know that I wrote above that your sunscreen lasts two to three hours and Dr. Graf says one hour.  Who’s right?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that you should reapply your sunscreen throughout the day.

 

Image from health.howstuffworks.com

 

 
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