Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

What I’ve Been Reading January 18, 2013

The Oiran Komurasaki of Kadotamaya Reading a Letter

 

Before you go out and make your own beauty products read this post from The Beauty Brains:   Is DIY Mascara Safe?

Gouldylox Reviews gives you straightforward advice to getting great skin in Gouldylox Beauty Bootcamp 102: How to Get and Keep Great Skin.

Allure presents three simple steps to preventing dry hands in How to Prevent Dry, Cracked Hands in Winter.

The New York Times explores oxygen spa treatments and oxygen based creams and serums in Oxygen Bubbles Into Facial Care Products.  For more information about oxygen treatments see my posts Oxygenation Treatments: The Case For and Against and Does Your Skin Need to Detoxify/Breathe?

New Beauty discusses a sunscreen pill in Sun Protection in a Pill: The Results Are In.

Prevention helps you figure out how to make your moisturizer more effective in Why Your Moisturizer Isn’t Working.

Whole Living tells you how to use coconut oil as a beauty product in 3 New Skin Care Uses for Coconut Oil.

 

And lastly, but certainly not least, Dr. Leslie Baumann shares skin sins in The 10 Biggest Skin Mistakes – this is a must read!

 

 

Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art – The Oiran Komurasaki of Kadotamaya Reading a Letter by Chobunsai Eishi (Japanese 1756-1829)

 

What I am Reading Now January 9, 2013

Filed under: Recommended Reading — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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The Artist's Wife (Périe, 1849–1887) Reading

I like to use my blog’s Facebook page in order to share articles I read online that won’t make it into my blog, but lately I’ve come across so many interesting things that I thought I would share them here all at once instead of piece meal on Facebook.  (This type of post might become a regular feature on my blog, and it is inspired by The New York Times’ What We’re Reading)

Two articles about diet and skin caught my eye:

New Beauty helps you fix any holiday skincare issues in Help for Holiday Skin Problems.

Looking toward 2013 Vogue talks skin in Promises, Promises: Five Skin-Care Resolutions Worth Keeping in the Year Ahead.

I saw this feature a little while ago, but I thought it was worth sharing since there are vegan beauty products mentioned here that might be new for many readers (they were for me):  My Five Beauty Obsessions: Karim Orange from Well and Good NYC.

Lastly, beauty blogger Jake Sauvage shares helpful tips so that your foundation goes on flawlessly in Beauty FAQ – At the Risk of Sounding Rude – You’re Probably Making One of These Foundation Mistakes …

Read any good beauty tips or articles lately?  Please share below!

 

 

Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art –  The Artist’s Wife Reading by Albert Bartholome

 

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

 

Vitamin D and Your Skin: Part II March 1, 2012

Filed under: Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 6:00 am
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We all know that Vitamin D is essential to good health, but how does one reconcile the need for Vitamin D, which humans can synthesize through sun exposure, with the need to protect your skin from skin cancer and, if we can be vain for a moment, unnecessary aging?  I’ve written about this subject in the past (see my previous post), but armed with some new information on the subject I thought it was time to revisit this controversy.

Why Our Bodies Need Vitamin D and How to Get Enough

Our bodies need Vitamin D in order to maintain normal calcium metabolism and to support our bone health.  Further, Vitamin D helps form strong, healthy nails, plays a role in cellular metabolism and the growth of new skin cells, and helps stop the effects of skin diseases like psoriasis.

According to Dr. Jessica Wu, in her book Feed Your Face (pages 149-150), Vitamin D plays a vital role in our health for many reasons:

Vitamin D is essential for good health.  It helps the body absorb calcium for strong bones and muscles, and recent research suggests that vitamin D also plays a role in preventing colon, prostate, and breast cancer as well as diabetes (types 1 and 2), hypertension, and multiple sclerosis.  Since a number of cells (including the skin cells) contain vitamin D receptors, it’s possible that there are additional uses and benefits of vitamin D that we don’t yet know about.  And here’s another thing: Many of my patients tell me they feel healthier when they’ve had a little sun – and so do I.  Perhaps that’s our body’s way of telling us that it needs vitamin D, just as you might crave red meat during your period since your body loses a lot of iron when it’s that time of the month.

There is a lot of debate in medical community about what the optimal levels of Vitamin D are.  Different doctors recommend a very wide range of doses for certain age groups so it hard to know what the correct dosage is.  Certain groups are a risk for Vitamin D deficiencies:  the obese, people with darker skin tones, the elderly, and skin cancer patients/survivors.

You can obtain the necessary amount of Vitamin D through diets and supplements like a multivitamin or a calcium supplement with Vitamin D in it.  In terms of diet, foods that are rich in Vitamin D include some fish (like salmon, mackerel, and tuna), some varieties of mushrooms, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products that are also fortified with Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is also found in small amounts in egg yolks, beef liver, and cheese.

Despite the fact that your diet alone or combined with supplements can provide you with enough Vitamin D many people persist in claiming that the only true way to get enough Vitamin D is to get it through sun exposure.  Some people even say that they won’t wear sunscreen for this reason.  Personally, I completely disagree with this idea since going without sunscreen can expose you to a whole host of other problems like skin cancer.

But if you insist on getting your needed Vitamin D from the sun – just how much sun exposure is necessary to do that?  Not much.

Let me quote from Dr. Wu again (pages 150- 151):

How much vitamin D your body makes depends largely on where you live.  For example, if you live above 40 degrees north latitude (that’s like drawing a line from the northern border of California across to Boston), then the sunlight isn’t strong enough to make vitamin D in the winter, from November through February.  On the other hand, if you live below 34 degrees north latitude (a line from Los Angeles to Columbia, South Carolina), then spending just a few minutes a day outdoors will give you all the vitamin D you need, regardless of the season.

Another indicator of vitamin D production is the UV Index, which measures the strength of ultraviolet radiation on any given day.  (You can look up the UV Index in any basic weather report.)  One recent study showed that when the UV Index is 3, a fair-skinned individual will produce an adequate amount of vitamin D by exposing hands and face (without sunscreen) for just 10 minutes a day (it would take an hour to burn).  In the summer, when the UV Index might be 7 to 8, you might need only three to four minutes outside.

A little sunlight can be good for you, but that’s not an excuse to get a rotisserie tan or to visit the tanning salon every other week.  You can get enough UVB to make vitamin D well before developing a sunburn.  If you do burn, you’ve overdone it.  The body will break down the excess vitamin D (so it won’t even be stored for use later), and you’ll have increased your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.  After no more than a few minutes in strong sunlight, you’ll want to apply a sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection.  (I recommend a minimum SPF of 30)  And if you have a lot of sun damage, a previous skin cancer, or a family history of melanoma, get your vitamin D from food or a supplement, not the sun.

Keep something else in mind – most people don’t apply enough sunscreen anyhow so they are still getting their Vitamin D from sun exposure even though they are using sunscreen.  People routinely forget to apply sunscreen to every area of their exposed skin like their hands, necks, chests, and tips of their ears.  Your body can produce Vitamin D when any part of your skin is exposed.

One last thing to keep in mind – your body cannot recognize if the Vitamin D in your body came from the sun or from your diet.  No matter what the source, once it’s in your body the Vitamin C is all the same.

The Newest Ways to Get Your Vitamin D

It turns out that there are a number of new products on the market that protect your skin from sun damage while helping your body produce Vitamin D.  There are a few things to keep in mind before running out to purchase the first product that says it will help your body get enough Vitamin D.

In order for a product that claims to provide Vitamin D to the body to work properly and topically the Vitamin D has to be active.  The ingredient ergocalciferol is the active form of Vitamin D, but the application of Vitamin D topically will only deliver the vitamin to the area where you applied the product, unlike a supplement which enters the blood stream.

There is a new sunscreen ingredient being developed, Uniprotect PT-3, which is said to protect against oxidative and UV damage at the same level as spf 20, but it still allows the body to product Vitamin D at the same time.  Currently this ingredient is found in Supergoop!  Save Face Serum SPF 30+, but keep your eyes open for it in more products in the future.

In the meantime you can look for the following products that claim to help the skin produce or at least boost the amount of Vitamin D in the skin:

Source and Further Reading:

Image from hopkins-arthritis.org

 

Skin pH January 30, 2012

Filed under: Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 6:05 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

You’ve probably noticed that some skincare products define themselves as “pH balanced”.  Maybe you’ve tried to remember your high school chemistry lessons in order to figure out what that means.  When it comes to having healthy skin maintaining a proper pH level is important.

What Is pH?

Let’s refresh your memory about what the pH scale is anyhow:

Simplistically, it’s nothing more than a measuring system for comparing the strength of acids and bases. An abbreviation for “potential of hydrogen”, chemists long ago realized molecules which give up more protons the positively charged portion of an atom when placed into water, differed from those that give up a hydroxy group (OH-).

A scale from 1 to 14 was created to gauge these properties. Water, the elixir of life, is neutral; it is neither acidic nor alkaline. It was assigned the midway point on the scale: 7. Anything below 7 is categorized as an acid; those above, a base. ( Note: the terms base, basic and alkaline all refer to the same thing. ) The further the pH shifts from 7 in either direction, the stronger (and potentially irritating) the solution. So a compound with a pH of 3 is more acidic than one at 5; a base at 8 is less potentially irritating than one at 10.

Source:  pH and Your Skin by Audrey Kunin, M.D. on DERMAdoctor.com

pH and Your Skin

Our skin’s pH is affected by the skincare products that we use, our environment, our age, and lastly our diet.  When the skin’s acid mantle, a thin layer of sweat and sebum that sits on the epidermis and protects our skin, is disrupted by products or factors that are either too acidic or too alkaline skin issues occur.

An imperceptible thin viscous fluid, the acid mantle, important for maintaining overall health of skin and hair, protects both skin and hair. Secretions formed by sebaceous and eccrine sweat glands comprise the acid mantle. Sebum (the oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands) and sweat, (the salty, watery mix produced by the eccrine glands) blend and are further acidified by secretions from normal flora of the skin (bacteria known as Staphylococcus epidermis). The normal acid mantle for both skin and hair ranges between 4.0 and 5.5.

Sunlight, diet, excessive sweating and the application of skin or hair products can all lead to disruptions in the acid mantle.

The epidermis is protected by an external layer of dead, dry, tightly knit cells (outer stratum corneum) arranged like shingles on a roof. Any disruption to the acid mantle, elevating overall skin pH, interferes with this protective barrier, wrenching cells away from each other and results in dehydration, roughness, irritation and noticeable flaking. Skin is left defenseless and susceptible to further environmental damage.

As cells pull apart, minute breaks become exposed, leaving skin more vulnerable to bacterial invasion. Under normal circumstances, bacteria not only have a difficult time penetrating through the stratum corneum, but the acid mantle creates a hostile environment for bacteria which prefer an alkaline environment to flourish. A rise in pH plays mayhem with natural infection prevention, further increasing infection due to bacteria typically paralyzed by an acidic environment. Once the pH exceeds 6.5, bacterial invasion increases dramatically, a loss of normal skin integrity results and a variety of various skin diseases and disorders such as atopic dermatitis, seborrhea, ichthyosis and irritant contact dermatitis flare.

Source: pH and Your Skin by Audrey Kunin, M.D. on DERMAdoctor.com

You can damage the acid mantle and throw off your skin’s natural pH balance by using skincare products that are too acidic (think glycolic acids and other AHA acids) or too alkaline (harsh detergent soaps, like typical bar soaps).  Skin whose pH level has been disrupted can feel dry, irritated, and look dull.

Maintaining a proper skin pH isn’t too hard.  In order to restore balance to your skin choose a gentle or creamy cleanser, moisturize often, don’t spend too long in the shower, and protect your skin from the sun.

Source:

  • The Right pH for Perfect Skin – New Beauty Fall-Winter 2009

Further Reading:

Image from allaboutparasites.com

 

Just Say No to Botox Parties November 14, 2011

Filed under: beauty,Plastic Surgery — askanesthetician @ 7:00 am
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Sometimes I get the impression that people take medical cosmetic procedures too lightly.  Instead of understanding that any operation has its risks and recovery time people feel that if the procedure is meant for cosmetic reasons rather then life saving ones there shouldn’t be any side effects.  One case in point – Botox and fillers.  In certain circles it is quite popular for girlfriends to get together for Botox and filler parties which are done in someone’s home – not a medical setting.  If you are invited to such a party I would strongly advise against getting anything done.

New Beauty did a great job of breaking down all the reasons you want to avoid Botox and filler parties and instead get these procedures done in a medical setting:

 “I would be wary of any type of ‘pumping’ or injection party,” says La Jolla, CA, plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD. “It violates so many safety standards and puts patients at risk unnecessarily.”

Fillers or injectables may not have the same risks as more extensive treatments, but they are still medical procedures that have potential complication. It’s a bad decision to treat a cosmetic procedure as a party favor, and, according to Dr. Singer, here’s why:

1. You often don’t know the full background or expertise of the individual performing the procedure—he or she may not even be a physician. You should have fillers performed only by appropriately trained plastic surgeons or dermatologists in a medical office.
2. There is no customization of treatment. “Without thorough evaluations and patient charts, how can the individual doing the injections be sure of how to appropriately treat a patient?” Dr. Singer says.
3. You can’t be certain what materials are being used. “We’ve seen everything from silicone and paraffin to oils (which aren’t safe) being used as injection materials,” Dr. Singer says. These materials are also frequently injected in a nonsterile manner, which has led to infection, he adds.
4. A party isn’t the right atmosphere for medical procedures. “Oftentimes, there is alcohol involved and that dramatically increases chances for serious problems and negates any informed consent about the treatment, which is rarely given in those settings,” Dr. Singer says. If you are undergoing a procedure, you want the undivided attention of the medical provider without the potential distractions of a party.
5. There is no protocol in place to handle emergencies. “What will happen if someone has an allergic reaction that requires immediate medical care?” Dr. Singer asks. If you have the misfortune to have an adverse reaction or complication from a “pumping” party injectable, your injector may not be qualified or experienced in the treatment of your problem.
6. If it sounds like a bargain and “too good to be true,” it usually is.

So if you are thinking of getting fillers and Botox be sure to go to a medical office to have them done.  It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to these procedures.

 

Nail Health May 11, 2011

I can’t remember the last time I got a manicure though recently I did try those Sally Hansen real nail polish strips which say they last 10 days.  Mine lasted about 4 days which made me sad since they did look cool when they were on (I tried the bright flower pattern), and when I went to remove the strips I literally had to scrape/file the nail polish off my nails with a nail file.  Regular nail polish did not remove the strips at all even though that is what the manufacturer said would work.  It was so time-consuming to remove the strips, and my nails were left looking horrible – all beat up and scratched up.  Such a disappointment.  So there went my experiment with those nail polish strips.  I’ve also learned from lots of trial and error that it is best to get professional pedicures during the summer instead of trying to paint my own nails.  The professional pedicures always look better and last longer than any DIY pedicure.  Anyhow, I started thinking more about nails since I scheduled my first pedicure of the season for this week.   My problems with getting the right manicure and pedicure are nothing compared to having real nail problems.  So how does our health affect our nails?  And what is the best way to take care of our nails?

What Our Nails Tell Us About Our Health

It fascinated me to learn how much our nails can reveal about our overall health.  Before I give some explains I think it is important to point out that the growth cycle of a nail is six months.  And what exactly make up our nails?  In her book The Beauty Bible Paula Begoun explains (pages 376-377 , 2nd edition):

 Physiologically speaking, the nail is simply a protective covering composed of dead cells filled with a thick protein called keratin, quite similar in essence to the hair.  Although the part of the nail you can see is dead, the matrix (the part of the nail under the skin) is very much alive.  The white crescent area of the nail is called the lunula and is part of the matrix.  The nail grows out from the matrix and as the growth of new cells build up and dies it is pushed forward and out toward the surface.  The cuticle is the protective layer of skin between the outside environment and the matrix.  Keeping the cuticle intact is perhaps the single most important element in preserving the health of the nail.

It turns out that a lot about your nails is genetically predetermined so you cannot alter the why your nails naturally grow just as you cannot alter how your hair grows.

Ok so what can our nails reveal about our health?  Concave, spoon shaped nails, or koilonychia, can show that you have an iron deficiency.  Those white horizontal line that you sometimes have on some nails but not others?  That is called a Beau’s line and shows that the nail actually stopped growing during a period of physical or emotional stress.  Even a case of the flu can cause those lines to form.  Even the shape of your nails can be informative about a health issue.  Some people have nails’ whose tips are curved and slightly bulbous.  This occurs in people who don’t have enough oxygen reaching the tips of their fingertips because they smoke or have congestive heart failure.  This is actually almost like having a scar.  If the person stops smoking or is able to improve their heart condition their nail shape will change.  If your nails are discolored, for instance blue-gray, that could mean that you suffer from a collagen vascular disease or are having a negative reaction to medication.

 Brittle and peeling nails are chiefly caused by wetting and drying your hands and nails.  Chronic exposure to harsh detergents, water, toluene and formaldehyde in nail polish, and harsh nail polish remover solvents can stress our nails once again making them brittle.  Genes and diet definitely play a role in nail health as do medical conditions (as illustrated above).  And of course many people add to their nail problems by biting and picking at their nails when they are stressed, anxious, or bored.

According to an article in the Fall-Winter 2010 issue of New Beauty - pages 46-48 (New Beauty used to put issues of their magazine online but no longer do which is too bad in my opinion):

    • If your nails have white spots then you may have a vitamin or mineral deficiency
    • If your nails are brittle and separate easily from the nail bed, you may have a thyroid condition
    • If your nails are thin and concave, then you may have an iron deficiency
    • If your nails are overly thick or flakey you may have a fungal growth
    • When nails have a yellow case to them, it can be from a variety of causes, and a common culprit is dark nail polish. …  But, if you don’t regularly wear dark shades and your nails are yellow, it may be the sign of a health condition.  Discolored nails can hint toward fungal infections, psoriasis, diabetes or liver, kidney or lung conditions that require medical attention.

Suffice it to say, if your nails don’t look right go see a doctor immediately to have them checked since your nails could be revealing a larger and more serious health issue.

What Can or Cannot Help Your Nails

Can using a product on top of your nails help them grow or make them stronger?  Sadly no.  You cannot change the way your nail grows by applying a topical product.  In order to see a real change in the health or appearance of your nails you need to either treat a health problem or perhaps tweak your diet.  Remember that no matter what a manufacturer claims neither topical applications of fluoride or calcium will improve your nail health.

According to Dr. Amy Wechsler in her book The Mind-Beauty Connection (page 159):

Contrary to popular belief, our nails do not contain much calcium, so supplementation, while good for our bodies, may not help our nails.  In fact, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare causes of nail problems.  More often than not, brittle nails are caused by excessive exposure to harsh soaps, irritants, polish remover, and the wetting and drying of nails (all typical of a busy, kitchen-maven mom).  Brittle nails can also be seen with medical conditions like psoriasis, fungal infections, and thyroid problems.  Age also factors in, and the older you are the more likely your nails will become brittle.

That said, one little nutrient that may help give your nails a boost is biotin.  Found abundantly in foods like cauliflower, peanuts, and lentils, biotin is absorbed into the core of the nail, where it may encourage a better, thicker, nail to grow and prevent splitting and cracking.  In one study, people who consumed 2.5 milligrams of biotin daily had marked increases in nail thickness after six months.  To get this much biotin, ask your doctor about taking it in supplement form.

Nail Care 101

  • Moisturize the cuticle area
  • Wear gloves when washing dishes and doing house work
  • Apply hand cream frequently and especially after you wash your hands
  • Use a sunscreen on your hands – better yet get a hand cream with spf in it.  My current go to hand cream with spf is Boots No7 Protect and Perfect Hand Cream Spf 15 which you can get at Target or online
  • Don’t soak your nails for long period of time
  • Don’t use your nails as tools to open things such as letters or anything else
  • Avoid nail polish with toluene and formaldehyde and nail polis remover with acetone
  • Don’t bite or pick your nails

Sources and Further Reading:

 

 
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