Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Winter Skincare Secrets January 6, 2014

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

Change Your Facial Cleanser But Keep Exfoliating

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

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

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

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

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

Chapped Lips

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

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

(From Lip Service)

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

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

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

Additionally, Dr. Jessica Wu recommends:

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

A Few More Tips

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

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

Sources and Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

Image from ohioinsurance.org

 

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

 

Ayurveda Skincare June 6, 2013

I thought I would use this post as a way to introduce the theory and practice of Ayurvedic skincare to my readers.  Keep in mind that this post is just an introduction since subject and practice of Ayurvedic skincare is complicated and involved.  I hope that this post can give everyone a “taste” of what it means to practice Ayurvedic skincare.

What is Ayurveda?

The Chopra Center website provides an excellent explanation about Ayurveda:

Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Although suppressed during years of foreign occupation, Ayurveda has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and throughout the world. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. Early Greek medicine also embraced many concepts originally described in the classical ayurvedic medical texts dating back thousands of years.

More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life,Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential. Providing guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and the proper use of our senses, Ayurveda reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.

Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Earth), these primary forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If Pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, and goal-oriented and we have a strong appetite for life. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical, and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate.

For each element, there is a balanced and imbalance expression. When Vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty focusing. When Pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader, and a good speaker. When Pitta is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive and irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammatory condition. When Kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive, and stable but when Kapha is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, weight gain, and sinus congestion.

An important goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of balance, and offer interventions using diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatments, music, and meditation to reestablish balance.

Ayurveda and Skincare

Just as all people (and the state of their health) can be divided into the three dosha types – vata, pitta, and kappa – so can our skin.  Once you determine your Ayurvedic skin type then you can start to treat your skin accordingly.  So for example:

Vata Skin Type
If vata is predominant the skin of a person is dry, rough, cold, wrinkled and thin with fine pores. Vata skin may age faster, and tends to be dry, rough and flaky when out of balance.
Vata Skin Care and treatment
Vata skin is typically dry and delicate, and tends to lose tone and plumpness prematurely unless nourished on a regular basis. For Vata skin to stay youthful, skin care products used should be very nurturing and should include some essential oils or herbs in combination, which can nourish the skin and rehydrate it. Some treatment approaches to vata skin care includes having sufficient sleep, eating regular meals that will help balance Vata and nourish the skin and avoiding physical and emotional stress.

Pitta Skin Type
If pitta is predominant, the skin is fair, sensitive, soft, warm, and of medium thickness, less tolerant to hot food and burns easily. When out of balance, Pitta skin can flare up in rashes, rosacea, acne, or sunspots.
Pitta Skin Care and treatment
Pitta skin is generally sensitive, especially to the sun, and needs protection to stay in balance.The Pitta skin type needs both cooling and nurturing. Tanning treatments and therapies that expose skin to steam for extended periods of time should be avoided.

Kapha Skin Type
If the constitution is of kapha dosha the skin of a person is oily, cold, heavy, soft, slow, dense, dull, lubricating and thick with a tendency towards large pores and proneness to cystic acne.
Kapha Skin Care and treatment
Toxins are the bane of people with Kapha skin. This is because of its oily nature which attracts impurities. The skin should be cleansed from the inside and the outside, or else the skin breaks out because of toxin build-up. Kapha skin needs to get both internal detoxification and external detoxification on a regular basis.

(From Skin – Skin Care and Skin Treatments, Ayurvedic Skin Care)

Furthermore, remember that Ayurveda comes to treat the body as a whole not just your skin issues.  So keep in mind that treating your skin according to Ayurvedic principles isn’t just about what you put on your skin, it is also about what you eat and other lifestyle choices.:

Ayurveda’s holistic approach to health aims at treating the entire individual, not just a symptom or specific ailment.

The Ayurvedic approach to health encompasses all aspects of a person’s way of living. From nutrition to mindset and from exercise to sleeping patterns, the Ayurvedic approach takes into account not just the person individually, but also the environment that he lives in.

When it comes to skin care, the quality and youthfulness of a person’s skin is viewed as a reflection of one’s health. A person who has acne will therefore not just be treated to get rid of the blemish itself, but rather the blemishes will be looked at as a symptom of a deeper underlying condition. A treatment plan will then be suggested that correlates the person’s constitution, or his dosha.

Digestion, elimination, nutrition and metabolism all affect the quality of skin, according to Ayurveda. If any of these processes are out of balance, it will show up through the quality of the skin. An Ayurvedic approach to skin care will therefore intend to restore balance to any or all of the systems that are interrupting the body’s natural desire to healthy skin.

The quality of the skin is determined by a person’s dosha, or constitution. The three doshas are vata, pitta and kapha. While each person has all three within herself, usually one or two are more dominant, which creates certain imbalances. Therefore in order to restore health to the skin, the doshas must first be balanced.

The overall concept when it comes to Ayurveda and skin care is to choose a skin care regimen that matches the kind of skin a person has.

According to Ayurveda, if a person has oily skin, it is largely due to an imbalance in the kapha dosha. A treatment of oil-free cleansers and cooling tonics like cucumbers and lemons might be recommended. In addition, heavy and rich foods, and make-up that clogs pores should be avoided and instead should be replaced by light foods and light make-up. Exercise to release toxins through the pores and to get rid of excess oil is also recommended.

If a person has dry skin, a strongly vata condition, the treatment plan looks quite different. Oil-based cleansers and moisturizers are instead encouraged and a diet with a modest amount of healthy fats like olive oil, sesame oil and ghee are also recommended.

When it comes to Ayurvedic skin care, natural is best. Ayurvedic skin care products as well as Ayurvedic skin care practices rely only on natural ingredients, chemical-free processing methods and holistic regimens.

Some of most commonly-used Ayurvedic skin care ingredients are sandalwood, sesame seed oil, macadamia nut oil, lime oil, lemon oil, clary sage, sunflower seed oil, Gotu Kola, other essential oils, herbs and botanicals.

(From Live Strong – Ayurveda Skin Care)

I know this post just provided the briefest of introductions to Ayurvedic skincare.  Below I’ve listed more sources for learning about Ayurveda.  If you’ve ever treated your skin according to Ayurvedic principles please share your experiences below.

Further Reading:

Ayurvedic Skincare Lines:

There are numerous Ayurvedic skincare lines available.  I haven’t tried any, but a simple Google search produced an impressive number of sources:

Quizes to Determine Your Dosha:

Image from http://www.mindbodygreen.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

 

Dry, Cracked Heels: Causes and Treatments April 17, 2013

Dry skin on the heels, even cracked skin, is a fairly common problem that can be treated at home.  Be sure to give your feet some extra TLC year round, not just in the summer when you are wearing sandals.

Causes

So just what causes dry, cracked skin on our heels and feet?  There are more than a few causes for this condition, but first let’s remember everything our feet do for us on a daily basis.  The Skin Inc. article Sole Searching by Vicki Malo gives great overview on this issue:

The amount of pressure exerted on the feet gives a good indication that the skin on the soles must be very different than on the rest of the body.

The skin of the soles

The skin of the epidermis on the soles of the feet is much thicker; up to 1.4 mm and comprised of five distinct layers. It has to be thicker to withstand the amount of stress and pressure placed on the soles with every step. There’s more: The skin on the soles of the feet has an additional layer in the epidermis, and the skin cells are packed together in a strong, congruent membrane. The skin on the bottom of the feet also has four times more sweat glands, but does not have hair or sebaceous glands. Due to these functional features of the skin on the soles of the feet, it does not respond as readily to typical skin care techniques practiced elsewhere on the body.

The outermost layer of the epidermis, known as the stratum corneum, is crucial to the skin barrier. Made up of overlapping layers of cells, the stratum corneum keeps vital nutrients in, and damaging substances and elements out. Healthy skin keeps in moisture and protects against the entry of bacteria, fungus or viruses. Unhealthy or dry skin creates a portal of entry, leaving the skin traumatized and unable to perform its job of protection.

Lifestyle and foot issues

So why do you see so many clients with dry skin on their feet? A lot of the reason has to do with lifestyle. Today’s is a fast-paced, high-stress, super-sized lifestyle. Lack of exercise, and a diet high in sugars and simple carbohydrates can lead to a breakdown in the circulation of the lower limbs and increased incidences of diabetes. Lifestyle is the greatest contributor to developing chronic venous insufficiencies (CVI). Venous insufficiencies lead to a disruption in the function of the skin, breaking it down at an intercellular level. There are no capillaries in the epidermis; however, the skin is nourished by diffusion from the capillaries in the underlying dermis. If the capillaries are compromised, proper blood supply (nourishment) cannot be provided to the epidermis of the skin. Impaired elimination of metabolic waste due to CVI impairs the sweat glands, diminishing sweat production on the bottom of the feet. The tissue disturbances further cause a breakdown of the lipids, which are responsible for holding the cells together. The breakdown of the lipids causes the hydrolipid film to break down, leading to transdermal water loss. The skin loses elasticity and has less potential for regeneration. The intercellular water loss compromises the integrity of the skin leading to micro lesions, such as dry skin. Micro lesions are a portal of entry and can cause skin issues, such as athlete’s foot.

There are many other reasons that one can suffer from dry heels and feet such as cold weather, indoor heating, improper foot care, and standing on your feet all day.  There are even specific Ayurvedia explanations for dry and cracked heels:

Painful, cracked and dry heels is a predominant cosmetic problem and has been termed as Padadari in Ayurveda and has been explained inKshudra Rogas in Sushruta Samhita. There are innumerable remedies for cracked foot in Ayurveda and let’s have a look at the promising Ayurvedic essential oils for healing heel fissures.

Causes for cracks or fissures: Human foot is the powerful part of the body helping one to withstand all severe climatic conditions and roam around, yet it is this part of the body that is often neglected. Cracks on foot have no age limit and it can affect anyone for that matter irrelevant of the sex, color and origin. The major causes for cracks or heel fissures are:

  • Cracks are occupational especially for farmers and other people who are involved in laborious tasks that demand standing always, which lead to huge pressure on the foot forcing it to develop cracks.
  • Prolonged standing on hard floor and this is the reason why most of the homemakers develop cracks.
  • Dry, dull and lifeless skin that lacks moisture, especially during winter has the tendency to develop cracks.
  • Uncomfortable, not so fitting or open back footwear compels pressure on the foot, while widening and deepening the cracks.
  • Obesity or excess accumulation of fat and deficiency of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
  • Dry, hot, humid and tropical climatic conditions make your feet dull, dry and hard paving way to develop cracks.
  • Aging and skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, athlete’s foot etc.
  • High exposure of feet to dust, dirt, germs and other harmful organisms leading to infection in the foot.
  • Excess sweating of feet or other causal illnesses like thyroid and diabetes can also cause cracks on the foot.

Symptoms: Cracks generally appear on the external or outer walls of the heels, when it is thick and dry. The symptoms of cracked foot are dry, itchy and painful heels with flaky and red patches and partition of skin looking like root hairs. When left unnoticed, fissures may start bleeding with excruciating pain and might even lead to developing Calluses, Cellulites, and Lymphangitis etc. Anyone with cracked feet will have greater discomfort while walking and the cracks can act as a dangerous channel for bacteria, virus, fungi and other harmful organisms to enter into the body and complicate the situation.

(From Ayurvedic Treatment for Cracked FootEssential Depot)

Treatment Options

Now that we know the cause of dry and cracked heels what about the cure?

If you simply suffer from dry skin on your heels and feet you need to use a moisturizer with gentle acids in it in order to exfoliate and hydrate your feet.  Apply nightly after soaking your feet or taking a shower.  You can even wear cotton socks during the night if you want to in order to help the moisturizer penetrate deeper into your feet.

For very rough feet you can purchase a callous remover lotion or gel that is applied to the feet for about five to ten minutes.  After that time has elapsed file the skin gently with a pumice stone or foot file.  Finish with a moisturizer.

If your feet are cracked you need to use a product formulated for such a condition so that your skin can heal.

Bottom Line:  Though dry and cracked heels are an unpleasant phenomena this is a common skin condition that can be treated at home.  The key to proper treatment is finding the right product for you and using it daily.

Products:

At Home Treatments:

I found a few different at home treatment protocols that I thought were relevant to share:

Image from nerdygaga.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

 

Ingredient Spotlight: Honey January 24, 2013

If you are a fan of DIY facial masks you’ve probably come across more than one recipe for at home facial masks using honey.  Why does this ingredient repeatedly appear in DIY facial treatments?  It turns out for a few very good reasons.   Honey is a humectant, which means it draws moisture to the skin, is antimicrobial, and an antioxidant.

According to Shape magazine honey helps the skin(and your overall health) in a few different ways:

1. Skin ailments: Everything from burns and scrapes to surgical incisions and radiation-associated ulcers have been shown to respond to “honey dressings.” That’s thanks to the hydrogen peroxide that naturally exists in honey, which is produced from an enzyme that bees have.

2. Mosquito bite relief: Honey’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a good option to help reduce the itch and irritation of mosquito bites.

3. It’s an immune booster: Honey is chock full of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that helps to protect cells from free radical damage. It can also contribute to heart health as well as protect against cancer.

4. Digestive aid: In a 2006 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that substituting honey for sugar in processed foods improved the gut microflora of male mice.

5. Acne treatment: According to preliminary research, Manuka, and Kanuka types of honey can effectively treat Acne vulgaris, the skin condition that is caused by inflammation and infection of the pilosebaceous follicle on the face, back, and chest.

(From 5 Health Benefits of Honey)

Future Derm highlights honey’s beauty benefits thusly:

Honey’s combination of vitamins, antioxidants, sugars and amino make it produce hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid — acidic solutions that are frequently used to clear dirt and bacteria from wounds.  It is due in part to its numerous antioxidants and hydrogen peroxide that honey is often lauded as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal agent — good news if you have oiler skin that could collect dirt more easily, have superficial wounds and scarring, or if you just need something to give your skin a little extra cleaning (Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery).

But honey’s effectiveness doesn’t just stop with being a skin cleanser – there is substantial evidence for its role in wound-healing. Coupled with its hydrogen peroxide, honey provides amoist environment for skin to repair itself, encourages epithelialization (skin cell regrowth), granulation tissue formation, (a type of connective tissue), and wound healing.  Plus, honey can reduce swelling and is a strong anti-inflammatory agent, meaning that it very may well reduce pain and irritation from skin lesions (Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery)

Honey is also good for dry skin, especially skin disorders such as Eczema and Psoriasis. These two skin ailments are characterized by their excessive dryness, itchiness, inflammation and irritation. After using the a mixture of honey, olive oil and beeswax three times a day for two weeks, 80 percent of the eczema patients had reduced symptoms of itching, scaling, and oozing from lesions. 63 percent of the psoriasis patients also reported significant improvement in symptoms (Complementary Therapies in Medicine).

Users should know that there are several different strains of honey whose efficacy can vary, such as the medical-quality Manuka and Revamil. If using pure honey, take caution — honey is able to support the bacteria that cause gangrene and botulism, and are typically treated with gamma irridation to eradicate these bacteria (Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery).

(From Lancome Tonique Confort Rehydrating Toner Review)

Many sources claim that not all honey is the same and you actually need to use raw honey in order to receive all the benefits described above.  In an article from Beauty at Skin Deep the benefits of raw honey are explained:

It should be noted that not all honey is created equal. Most of the honey found in grocery stores has been processed with heat, which kills off healing enzymes and destroys a lot of the nutrient-rich content. But, raw honey hasn’t been processed and will give your skin the healing benefits that it needs. Also, if you have allergies, try a patch test first and/or ask you physician if raw honey is a right for you.

BENEFITS

Raw honey is an amazing natural beauty solution for all skin types because of its healing skin benefits. It does wonders for a wide variety of skin ailments including:

Acne and enlarged pores
Rosacea
Eczema
Hyperpigmentation
Sensitive, mature, and dull lifeless skin

With its natural pH level of 4.5, raw honey falls within skin’s naturally healthy pH range. Its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties make it great for healing cuts and burns by killing bacteria and fungus. Raw honey also contains gluconic acid, a mild alpha hydroxy acid that brightens the complexion, evens out skin tone, and lightens scars and age spots.

Depending on where the honey is collected from, it contains many nutrients and minerals excellent for skin health such as vitamin B, iron, manganese, copper, potassium and calcium. It also acts as a humectant drawing moisture to the skin and is perfect as a gentle cleansing solution for even very sensitive skin. When mixed with water, honey releases peroxide properties which helps heal acne and impede bacterial growth causing more acne

(From Skin Benefits of Raw Honey)

Personally I’ve never tried honey, any type of honey, as a facial treatment, but I do find the information on it intriguing.  If you’ve ever used honey at home as a skincare treatment please comment below.

Sources and Further Reading:

Important read about the benefits of honey and the false marketing claims of beauty companies:

While researching this post I found that a lot of sources repeat the same information about honey over and over so I’ve highlighted just a few resources below.

Image from filmannex.com

 

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)

 

Chirality and Skincare December 19, 2012

I’ve never pretended that this blog is a skincare blog from a scientific perspective because frankly I’ve never been much of a science student.  When I was studying esthetics and realized that I had to refresh my high school chemistry knowledge (I received Cs in high school chemistry) I nearly had a panic attack.  As I’ve progressed in my work as an esthetician I’ve realized that science knowledge is key to understanding how skincare products work on the skin and key in helping my clients get great results from both treatments and home care products.  But I still need that science to be dumbed down for me or else my mind instantly goes blank.

All of this brings us to the subject of this post – chirality.  I wanted to address this issue since two skincare lines I’ve used make sure to explain that they are both “chirally correct”.  What does that mean exactly and how does that impact skincare products?

The two skincare lines – Glo Therapeutics and Tecniche – each explain why it is important that their products be chirally correct.  (These are just two of many skincare companies that make this claim)

Glo says:

Q: What does “Chirally Correct” mean and why is it important?

A: A molecule is considered chiral if it differs from its mirror image. For example, hold out your hands in front of you. Notice that they are mirror images of each other. If you place your right hand on top of your left hand, you can demonstrate this difference. None of the features of your hands will line up when stacked on top of each other; though they have the same features, they are exact mirors of each other. This means your hands are chiral.

Certain ingredients in glo.therapeutics products are lab produced and will be made of 2 forms: Left (L for left) and Right (D for dextro). These ingredients are mirror images of each other, not exact duplicates. One side of the ingredient is more useful and beneficial to the skin, while the other side is useless. glotherapeutics only uses the purest, highest quality form, making the products superior in the results.

Tecniche has pretty much the same thing to say:

Chirally Correct

Mother Nature creates molecules with two sides or hands, right and left. For reasons unknown to scientists, some right handed molecules work best on skin, where as some left handed molecules are better received by the skin. It may be a more extensive and expensive route, but it has been Tecniche’s™ life work to only use the ‘hand’ of the lab-neutral molecule that best mimics Mother Nature’s perfect plan (aka: Chirally Correct).

Yet is this really necessary in skincare?   Two sources that I’ve read disagree what is stated above.  First to The Beauty Brains and their post Are Cosmedix Products Another Scientific Scam:

Leatha Questions Chirality:

I have started using a skin care line called Cosmedix and they claim that their products are chirally correct. I don`t know what this means and whether it is a marketing gimmick or if there is some truth to it.

The Left Brain Criticizes Cosmedix:

chiral cosmedixThe term chiral is derived from the Greek work for handedness and a molecule is called chiral if it differs from its mirror image. (A simple way to visualize this concept is to think of your right and left hand. You can`t fit your left hand in your right glove, right? That`s because they`re chiral. You can learn more about the idea here.)

Some chemical reactions produce both the left handed and right handed version of the same molecule. These versions are called isomers. This concept is very important in drug manufacture where the Left and Right isomers may have different chemical properties. If the Left isomer is effective against a given disease, you want a chemical reaction that produces pure Left, not a mixture of Right and Left. So for drugs, chiral purity is very important.

But for cosmetic products, chirality isn`t really an issue. That’s because cosmetic ingredients don`t interact with the biological systems of your body the same way drugs do. So your first guess was correct “ this IS a marketing gimmick!

In their book Physiology of the Skin Drs. Draelos and Pugliese agree with The Beauty Brains (page 116):

A term that is being used lately is chirality.  The word chiral is from cheir, the Greek word for “hand”.  A chiral molecule is one that cannot be superimposed on its mirror image, just as you cannot superimpose your two hands in a mirror image.  Any compound that has four different atoms, or groups, attached to a single carbon is chiral.  You need to think about this for a minute or two before you realize that what you are thinking about is an asymmetrical figure, since all chiral compounds lack symmetry by definition.

More and more often, it’s being asked if a product’s chirality is correct.  What should be asked is if the product is biologically active.  Most chemical compounds in nature are chiral compounds that are biologically active, so they are indeed, correct chirally.  Asking if it is “chirally correct” is the same as asking “Is this water in this product really H2O?”  There is no such thing as chirally correct, any more than you can be facially correct.  What should be asked is, “Does this product have the correct optical isomerism?”  By being correct it is biologically active.

So what about some middle ground on this subject.  I found the following post on the blog The Science of Beauty –  What is Chirally Correct Skincare?  I’ll skip quoting the beginning of the post since it contains information I already covered above.  Let’s dive in towards the middle of the post:

Well, whilst some skincare ranges contain only naturally derived ingredients, the majority are comprised of laboratory created ingredients. It is much easier and cheaper to synthesise Vitamin E, for example, in a laboratory than to try and extract it from natural sources. Vitamin E can be found in almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, amongst other things but the quantities of these ingredients required to acquire sufficient Vitamin E, and the cost associated with extracting it would make the final skincare product exorbitantly expensive.
When molecules are synthesised by man they always form in pairs that are the mirror image of each other. So, like your left and right hand, these mirror imaged molecules contain all the same parts but are not identical to one and other. Each mirror image of the molecule is given a prefix to its chemical name – either d or l. So, using the Vitamin E example, the chemical name for Vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol so the mirror images of the molecules are called d-alpha-tocopherol and l-alpha-tocopherol. But even though these molecules are nearly identical (the only difference being the mirror image) only one of the molecules can be used by the human body – in this case the molecule with the d-prefix (d-alpha-tocopherol). So chirally correct skincare contains ingredients that have been tested to ensure that they only contain the active molecule, out of the mirror imaged pair, that can be used by the human body. The molecules are sorted so that only the active molecule is added. With Vitamin E it has already been determined that d-alpha-tocopherol the active molecule so any Vitamin E that is added to chirally correct skincare will have been sorted so that only d-alpha-tocopherol is added. If your skincare is not chirally correct, and the vitamin E molecules have not been sorted, it will be listed in the ingredients as dl-alpha-tocopherol, as it contains a 50/50 mixture of the d-alpha-tocopherol and l-alpha-tocopherol molecules.
So what happens if the molecules are not sorted? Generally nothing; however, your skincare will be less potent. When a molecule is made, equal amounts of the l-molecule and d-molecule are created. So, if your skincare range claims to have 10ml of Vitamin E in it, but the Vitamin E has not been sorted to get the chirally correct molecule then your skincare will actually contain 5ml of active Vitamin E and 5ml of a molecule that does absolutely nothing – so your skincare is half as potent as you expect. …
Therefore, there is no reason to be concerned if you are using skincare that is not chirally correct that it could be doing you damage, just be aware that it may not be as potent or effective as you think.

Bottom Line:  Like so many subject that I present in this blog there are truly opposing perspectives here on the same subject.  I think that at the moment I am inclined to agree with those who say that being chirally correct has no place in effective skincare products.  What do you think?  Please share your opinion below.

Image from photo.photoshelter.com

 

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.

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Image from realbeauty.com

 

 
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