Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Wrinkles and Pimples At The Same Time: Solutions May 5, 2014

wrinklesorpimples (1)

 

This post was inspired by something I saw on Facebook.  The reality for many women is just as they start to see wrinkles on their skin (perhaps around the eyes or on the forehead for example) they still get an occasional pimple.  This can be both frustrating and confusing.  Yet it isn’t so difficult to find one solution for both skincare issues.

I would like to point out that the skincare phenomena I am writing about here is not adult acne.  While adult acne is definitely on the rise, I am referring here to people who are probably in their late 30s, early 40s and are starting to see the emergence of fine lines while still occasionally experiencing breakouts (for women perhaps around the time they get their period).  This is also different from women who are undergoing menopause and find that they are all of a sudden breaking out.  I’ve blogged about both adult acne and menopause’s effects on the skin in the past.  Those posts are listed below if you would like to look at them.

In my opinion what is happening here is simple: you are starting to see fine lines because sun damage from years before is now becoming visible, and you are still experiencing an occasional breakout because of your hormones (especially those related to your period) and/or stress.  Just as I see the cause of this skincare issue as fairly straightforward so is, in my opinion, the solution: add a retinol cream to your skincare regime at night, make sure you use sunscreen daily, and use an antioxidant serum every day.  Be sure not to go overboard in order to improve the appearance of your skin.  Do not start using anti-acne products meant for teenagers such as Stridex or Clean & Clear.  These products will be much too harsh for pretty much anyone who isn’t a teenager anymore.

Retinol is the ideal skincare ingredient for people experiencing both fine lines and an occasional breakout because it can treat both issues simultaneously.  I’ve written about retinol and Retin-A before in my blog (you can find the posts below), but I’ll explain again why this is a great skincare ingredient.  As Lab Muffin explains in the post Fact-Check Friday: What Does Retinol Do? :

Retinol is a form of vitamin A. Other forms of vitamin A in skincare that you may be familiar with include isotretinoin (better known as Accutane) and retinyl palmitate (another topical ingredient found in many creams).

Things retinol can help:

- fine lines and wrinkles
- skin roughness and dullness
- skin firmness
- pigmentation from age spots
- acne

Retinoids are skin cell normalizers so that means that they speed up skin cell turn-over which will help clear up breakouts, and retinoids help rebuild collagen so they will minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time. As such adding a retinol product to your skincare regime is the perfect solution for both fine lines and breakouts.

Just keep a few things in mind when using retinoids (I’m quoting Lab Muffin again):

Retinols can be irritating to the skin, and cause dehydration. To reduce the chances of this happening, you should introduce it into your routine slowly (don’t use it every day to begin with), and use extra hydrating moisturisers.

Retinol breaks down with exposure to light and air. Pick a retinol product in an airtight, opaque container to improve its shelf life.

Using retinol with other excellent skin treatments like AHAs and vitamin C can speed up the skin renewal process, fading hyperpigmentation and wrinkles faster. However, the activation of retinol by skin enzymes is optimal at a higher pH (5.5-6) than the pH for AHAs (3.5). While there isn’t much research on how quickly the pH of skin readjusts itself, waiting an hour or so in between applying the two is a safe bet, or even using one in the morning and one in the evening.

Retinol, much like AHAs, can make the skin more susceptible to sunburn. Wear extra sunscreen when you use retinol so you don’t completely reverse its beneficial effects!

Lastly, keep in mind that you cannot use Retin-A or retinols when pregnant or nursing.

 

So how would this anti-aging, anti-acne skincare regime look?  I suggest cleansing twice daily with a mild cleanser, applying an antioxidant serum in the morning (such as a Vitamin C serum in order to boost the effectiveness of your sunscreen, further prevent the signs of aging, protect your skin from inflammation), and then using a sunscreen with a spf between 30 to 50 (you can also use a separate moisturizer before your sunscreen if you feel your skin needs it).  In the evening after cleansing apply a retinol cream followed by a moisturizer.  Pretty simple, right?

 

Recommended Products:

  • While I am not familiar with all the recommended products in this article I like the approach of this skincare regime since the recommended products are not too harsh.  Remember there is no need to buy just anti-acne products if you only experience an occasional breakout.
  • Cleanser:  I suggest using a mild cleanser such as CeraVe or even Cetaphil.  You don’t need to use an anti-acne cleanser.  That would be overkill for most people.
  • Antioxidant serum:  See my previous posts below for more information about why you want to use an antioxidant serum and in particular a Vitamin C serum.  There are quite a few good (and even great) Vitamin C serums out there, but at the moment my recommendation is to buy one from South Korea.  OST Original Pure Vitamin C20 Serum is excellent and super affordable (even when you factor in the shipping costs). I am using it now and love it.
  • Moisturizers and Sunscreens:  Choose your products according to your skincare needs and the weather in the area you live in.  Some people may need a richer moisturizer and others not so much especially if you live in a humid climate.  Now that Target is selling some of my favorite skincare lines making them accessible to all I would recommend Laneige Water Sleeping Mask as a moisturizer (don’t be put off by the name; it’s a moisturizer), particularly as a nighttime one, and any La Roche-Posay sunscreen, particularly Anthelios Ultra Light spf 60.
  • Retinol Creams or Serums:  There are also numerous retinol products on the market including ones from Roc and Neutrogena, but for my money I would try either La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Daily Renovating Acne Treatment (if you have blackheads and more than just the occasional breakout) or La Roche-Posay Redermic R (if you only have an occasional breakout).

Further Reading:

 

All the Rage: Konjac Sponges February 26, 2014

konjac-sponge-opener

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Experience

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

Sources and Further Reading:

Photo from Refinery29

 

Martha Stewart’s Beauty Routine January 15, 2014

Need I Say More?  Actually Yes, I Need To

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

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

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

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

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

Still not convinced?  Watch this video from WebMD.

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

Moving along.  Stewart tells The New York Times:

I slather myself with serums.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.  Skin on the hands and face is different.

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

2.  Drying Conditions are different for hands and face.

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

3.  The hands and face have different cosmetic needs.

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

The Bottom Line:

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

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

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

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

I don’t get clogged pores.

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

And now I really have nothing else to say.

Image from www.homemadeintheheartland.com

 

Winter Skincare Secrets January 6, 2014

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

Change Your Facial Cleanser But Keep Exfoliating

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

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

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

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

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

Chapped Lips

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

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

(From Lip Service)

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

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

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

Additionally, Dr. Jessica Wu recommends:

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

A Few More Tips

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

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

Sources and Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

Image from ohioinsurance.org

 

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

Filed under: Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 7:51 am
Tags: , , , ,

Magritte Lithograph Signed, Golconde (Golconda), 1953, Series 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Men and Women Need Different Skincare Products?

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

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

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

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

(From Do Men and Women Need Different Cleansers?)

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

Make-up, Spa, and Cosmetic Services for Men

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

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

Sources and Further Reading:

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

 

PCOS and Your Skin October 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Causes:

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

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

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

How to Manage PCOS

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

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

PCOS and Skin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

 

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

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

What is Milia and What Causes It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Me?

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

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

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

What Can Be Done to Prevent and Treat Milia?

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

Image from jacintak.com

 

 
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