Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

What Are Hydrosols? June 11, 2017

hydrosol

I like to think of myself as up to date about skincare ingredients and products, but somehow hydrosols were off my radar until a few months ago.  Now I am a devotee of this skincare product and am happy to recommend their use to other estheticians and clients.

What Is A Hydrosol?

Hydrosols are the byproduct of the essential oil distillation process.  As explained on the website Herb and Hedgerow in the post What is a Hydrosol?:

When plants are steam distilled for their essential oils, this process will release several compounds – some of which are soluble in water and will therefore end up in the hydrosol at the end of the process. Hydrosols contain the water from the distillation process as well as the herbal extracts from the plant. The essential oil droplets will float on top of this distillate and these tiny quantities are then removed to be sold.

Keep in mind that hydrosols are not simply essential oils added to water.   Hydrosols contain all the properties of the essential oil, just highly diluted which makes them much more gentle.  Hydrosols can also be used directly on the skin, unlike essential oils that should never to applied directly to the skin.  That’s what makes hydrosols so versatile and wonderful – they can provide your skin with the all the benefits of essential oils without any fear of irritation and negative reaction.

Be sure you trust your supplier when buying hydrosols since they can be contaminated or diluted with alcohol.

You could, of course, make your own hydrosol if you were so inclined.

How To Use A Hydrosol

Just as essential oils have different properties so do hydrosols.  The properties of the hydrosol are the same as the plant or essential oil they came from, just much more gentle so they can be used even on sensitive, irritated skin.  I work with clients who are undergoing chemotherapy and have very sensitive, compromised skin; I can use a hydrosol on the skin of such a client but not an essential oil.

Hydrosols can be used in a number of ways:  You can

  • use them like a toner – apply to a cotton pad and swipe across the face.
  • add them to a clay mask (or any mask) instead of water.
  • use in your bath
  • spray on your body like a body spray
  • use as a natural room or linen freshener/perfume
  • spray on your skin to cool down
  • after shaving spray or swipe on skin to soothe
  • spray to calm irritated skin

Personally I use hydrosols during facials just like I would toner and I add them to the masks I create for clients at the end of a facial.   But the sky’s the limit – there are a multitude of ways to use hydrosols both for your skin and for your home.

 

*I’m newly obsessed with the website Herb and Hedgerow.  Though the articles on the site are a few years old, I find that they are clearly written, interesting, and very informative.

 

Q&A With Mother Dirt President Jasmina Aganovic March 31, 2017

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I recently wrote a post about Mother Dirt skincare products.  In addition to trying their products, I also had the opportunity to ask Mother Dirt president Jasmina Aganovic some questions about the company’s current and future products, their skincare philosophy, and why spraying bacteria isn’t actually gross at all.

Question:  In your opinion, why is this new approach to skincare necessary?

Answer:  In just one generation, the amount of products we use daily has grown exponentially. In the process, we’ve interfered with our skin’s own ability to take care of itself.  Modern hygiene practices have us using more products than ever before. And yet, despite being cleaner than ever, and having more options than ever, healthy skin seems elusive. The numbers are staggering; 80 million Americans suffer from acne, and 1 in 6 children has eczema. Over 50% of adults claim to have sensitive skin, and it’s the fastest growing category in skin care.

Question:  Who do you see as your core customer base?

Answer:  We’re really unique in that our customers are 50% men, 50% women. We find that people who embrace the less is more philosophy, and those who steer toward green chemistry and green beauty, as well as those who just like the idea of probiotics for the skin as a wellness concept.

Question:  What is your opinion of probiotics in skincare products?

Answer:  It’s definitely exciting to see the bacteria/probiotic movement in personal care growing. Although it can be tricky, too. Some products out there marketing themselves as probiotics are most likely not actually living. Unlike food and supplements with probiotics that are typically refrigerated, the need for a multi-year shelf life and the general supply chain requires the use of preservatives in skin care. At the end of the day, this means that the skincare industry does not easily allow for “living” products like the food industry does.

Question:  What other skincare applications does this bacteria have besides for the ones your products already treat?

Answer:  Our research partner, AOBiome, is currently working with the FDA on clinical trials using different formulations of Ammonia Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB). You’re welcome to check out their site for more information.

Question:  Are there are other bacteria besides AOB that can help our skin?

Answer:  Most likely, yes. However, the field is young and our area of research remains specifically on AOB.

Question:  Only one of your products has AOB in it.  Are you creating other products that will contain AOB?  And if not – why?

Answer:  We never stop formulating and working on new products. Because of the novel and highly constrained nature of biome-friendly formulation, this is going to take a lot of time and work. We hope to one day have more products with AOB as well as others to supplement it.

Question:  Your products do not contain organic ingredients, why not?

Answer:  Our primary screening for formulations and ingredients is the impact on the skin’s ecosystem. Whether or not something is organic or non-organic, we have found no difference of impact on the skin microbiome.

Question:  If a customer uses just the products (shampoo, moisturizer) and not the AO+ spray will they still see positive skin changes or must you use the spray for best results?

Answer:  While the Mist is our hero product, there are definitely people who use only the Cleanser, Shampoo, or Moisturizer and have great results and see changes in their skin. Our studies show that there is benefit to be gained by using those products on their own, and even more benefit to be gained by incorporating the Mist as well.

Question:  The products have a very short shelf life – will this always be the case or are you working on a way to get around this issue?

Answer:  Our products will most likely always have a shelf life because not having preservatives is one of the traits that makes them biome-friendly. (Preservatives are anti-bacterials, and our goal is to keep the bacteria alive.) We are constantly working to do what we do better, and since we’ve launched our products, we’ve improved our shampoo and cleanser formulations to extend their shelf life from 4 weeks from first use, to 8 weeks from first use. It’s likely that packaging innovation will also play a role in extending shelf life.

Question:  Can someone undergoing chemotherapy or another cancer treatment safely use your products?

Answer:  Anyone who is immunocompromised should consult their physician before changing anything in their routine.

Question:  How can someone who lives outside the US purchase the products?

Answer:  We sell our products on our website, Amazon, and we ship internationally to a few countries. You can find out which regions we ship to on our site.

Question:  What’s next?  What new products are in the pipeline?

Answer:  We always have a lot of things in the works, but it takes a long time to work through the product development process. There are a few exciting launches coming later this year and we hope to share more soon.

Question:  What is the most gratifying experience to come out of creating these products?

Answer:  The positive feedback from our users is a really amazing thing to experience on an ongoing basis. We truly feel like we are creating a major shift in the world of public health and we have always approached it as a community-based mission.

Question:  What is the message you want to get out to potential customers who might find the concept of spraying bacteria on their faces gross?

Answer:  Ha! While some people still have the “ick” factor around spraying bacteria on their skin, the idea makes sense to most people. We have gut bacteria to thank for that! Once people make the connection between how you need good bacteria to keep your gut healthy and balanced, they can understand how the same applies to your skin. Our AOB used to be a naturally occurring bacteria on our skin up until about 100 years ago, but harsh chemicals and less time spent outdoors wiped it away. We’re just helping you put back what was once already there, and still exists everywhere in nature where living things thrive. You come in contact with AOB when you’re digging through rich soil, or swimming in a lake. Of course, there are still hurdles to overcome, but people have certainly been much more receptive than we expected.

 

Spray Bacteria On Your Skin? Well, Yes! March 12, 2017

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Some time ago I wrote an article for About.com about the so-called caveman regime which simply means you stop washing your face.   I’m definitely one of the last people to tell you to stop washing your face.  My belief in how important face washing is was only strengthened by what I read happened to people’s faces when they stopped washing them.

There are a variety of reasons why people decide to stop washing their faces – their skin is sensitive and they feel like facial cleansers are harming their skin instead of helping it, they think they are applying too many chemicals and products to their faces, or they connect a certain lifestyle choice (like eating a Paleo diet) with not washing their face, i.e. do as the cavemen would have done.  As I already wrote above after reading about what happened to people’s skin when they didn’t wash their face, I definitely was not about to try this myself.  I’m the last person who wants a build up of dead skin cells all over their face.

One part of what I read about these no-wash experiments was intriguing – people who had sensitive, easily irritated skin found that their skin calmed down after they stopped washing it.  This could be true because of what happens when you stop washing your face. Firstly, dead skin cells build up and literally sit on top of your skin, but not washing can actually restore your skin’s protective barrier (or acid mantle) which potentially could mean your skin will start “behaving” better – will be calm, acne free, less irritated, not red, etc. By not washing your face you are allowing your skin to perform its duties – protecting, hydrating, and healing.  One reason for someone’s skin improving in both look and texture after they stop washing it or stop using all other skincare products as well is the fact that bacteria, good bacteria, starts proliferating on the surface of the skin.  This good bacteria helps to kill acne causing bad bacteria and provides the skin with protection from outside sources that can irritate it.  The more good bacteria on your skin means that skin conditions like eczema and rosecea won’t flair up as much.

The idea of increasing the good bacteria on the skin, allowing the skin to heal itself, and just basically getting out of the way of “interfering” with your skin’s functions is a skincare idea that I find very intriguing even though my own daily, far from minimalist skincare routine is the opposite of those skincare ideas.  I’ve been reading about bacteria and probiotics (good bacteria) in skincare products for years and wrote a post on this topic in the past.   While not every expert thinks that applying topical skincare products with pre-biotics, probiotics, or bacteria to the skin is helpful, the number of products with these ingredients keeps growing (pun intended).  There is also the fermented skincare trend which came to the West from South Korea.

Mother Dirt Products

At this point you are probably wondering what all this has to do with photo at the top of this blog post.  Let me explain.  After my article on not washing your face was published on About.com I received an email from a PR person asking if I wanted to try Mother Dirt products.  What did my article have to do with this company’s products?   Well Mother Dirt sells bacteria to spray on your body and heal your skin.  Yes, bacteria you spray on your face or somewhere else on your body.

This product is far from something that was created overnight in order to jump on a skincare trend.  In May, 2014 an article appeared in The New York Times Magazine that chronicled the writer’s experience with not washing (body or hair) for a month and twice a day spraying her body and hair with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria instead.  After an initial gross period, the writer reported that her skin was softer, smoother, and breakout free because good bacteria had started to grow on her skin. Once the month ended and the writer went back to using regular skincare products and washing as she had before the good bacteria disappeared from her skin.

The skin friendly bacteria discussed in this article eventually made its way into Mother Dirt’s signature product – AO+ Mist, and is now available for all consumers.  While the Mother Dirt website is very thorough and is great at explaining both the science and the everyday use of their products, I’ll elaborate a little bit here as to what the product is supposed to do.  Mother Dirt’s proposes that in today’s world people are “too clean”, washing down the drain on a daily basis the good bacteria on their skin that is supposed to protect our skin and keep it healthy.  When this occurs our skin suffers – becomes sensitive and easily irritated, red, acne appears regularly, and our skin is dry.  Having healthy skin is as easy as spraying this mist on our skin at least once a day.  The company says that with regular use you won’t need as many skincare products including deodorant. Keeping all this in mind I was obviously intrigued.  So when the company offered to send me some products to try for free I jumped at the chance.

My Experience Using Mother Dirt

My Mother Dirt products arrived via messenger in a cool, silver padded envelope (yes, I am easily impressed by shiny things).  The company sent me a few bottles of the AO+ Mist, their cleanser (which has no SLS, more on that later), and their moisturizer to try for free. The company also makes a shampoo that they did not send me to try which is too bad since I would have loved to try it.  I suffer from seborrhea on my scalp and always use a special, medicated shampoo so I would have been happy to see if this product would have helped to relieve my itchy scalp.  The real star here in the AO+ Mist.  The other products are meant to treat your skin gently without getting in the way of the good bacteria that is supposed to start growing on your body.

I decided that everyone in my family needed to try the products.  My husband suffers from dry, itchy skin, my son has dry skin, and my daughter has easily irritated skin.  I did momentarily consider ditching all my facial serums, nightly retinol cream, and morning peptide cream to see how my skin would react to spraying the bacteria on it, but I just couldn’t do it.  Instead I decided to use the spray twice a day on my chest.  My chest is an area of skin embarrassment for me.  It is covered by red dots that sometimes have white heads on them.  At first I thought I had acne there and tried to treat my skin for acne. Nothing changed.  Eventually I realized that I simply had skin irritation in that area that looks like a lot like acne.  I always think twice before wearing a shirt with a v-neck because the area is most unsightly.  I hoped that using the AO+ Mist would clear up my skin irritation by helping my skin heal itself.

My husband and son dropped out of this skin routine experiment a day after they started. They had no interest in remembering to use the spray.  My daughter is still quite young so she had no choice other than to be part of this experiment.  I used the spray on her after bath time, washed her with the soap, and moisturized her with moisturizer.  I sprayed the mist on my chest and underarms, washed with the soap, and moisturized with the moisturizer.

I was pleased to see that the soap was SLS free.  SLS can be quite irritating to many people’s skin and though some companies have taken it out of their products it is still very widely used.  I’ve decided to avoid SLS for my daughter’s skin since she has experienced red, itchy skin in the past that cleared up once I started using a SLS free soap on her skin. Despite having no SLS in it, the soap still foams very nicely and cleaned the skin well yet gently.

Mother Dirt states that when it comes their moisturizer less is more which turned out to be true but it took me time to realize just how much I really needed and how to use it.  In addition, if you think of moisturizers as always being creams this product will confuse you since it is a liquid.  It feels and looks like an oil.  It does moisturize effectively once you get used to its feel and figure out just how much you need.  I can’t say how long it will actually last you, but I think you could easily have it on hand for about 2 months or more.

But you are probably wondering about the bacteria spray more than any other product I tried.  You need to keep in in the refrigerator once you open it (or even before) so it is cold when you spray it on your skin.  This made the product less than pleasant to use during the winter. Though I did spray it once or even twice a day on my underarms since it was winter I really couldn’t tell if it helped balance out the bacteria in that area and made deodorant less necessary since I don’t need much deodorant as is during the winter.

Now did the mist helped heal the skin irritation on my chest?  Well yes it did!  It took over a month to see a difference which didn’t surprise me since real skin changes take time.  I didn’t wash that area with soap during the time I used the spray (not even with the Mother Dirt soap), but water did wash over the area each time I showered.  My skin finally became little, red bump free after using the AO+ Mist.  BUT as soon as I stopped using the spray the bumps returned which is quite frustrating.

When it came to my daughter’s skin the products kept her sensitive skin irritation and rash free.  Her skin was also soft.  I passed along one bottle of the AO+ Mist to a friend who had hormonal breakouts on her back.  She definitely saw an improvement in her bacne after regularly using the product.

Would I Recommend Mother Dirt?

I would definitely recommend Mother Dirt products for people with sensitive, easily irritated skin, and those who suffer from regular breakouts.  These products will not get rid of hyperpigmentation for example or treat cystic acne, but they definitely can be helpful for people with sensitive skin.  People who want products with few and easily understandable ingredients will like Mother Dirt’s products.  I applaud the company’s transparency and innovation.

 

 

 

Long Overdue: Product Recommendations February 7, 2017

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I am embarrassed to say how long ago I tried the products I am going to mention in this post so it’s probably just best I don’t address that issue.  Instead please find my reviews below of a few products I have tried and liked.  Some of the products were sent to me for review, others I purchased on my own.  Let’s begin, in no particular order.

  • No7 Refreshing Toner:  This product I purchased out of desperation.  Two long airplane trips in a row left my skin extremely dry and parched.   I tried to think of something I could do to bring extra moisture back to my skin in addition to my regular moisturizer. This toner did a great job at bringing much needed moisture to my skin.  I recommend this product for someone looking for an easy yet effective way to get more skin hydration.
  • Neutrogena sent me a number of products to try.  Unfortunately most were strong, anti-acne products that weren’t right at all for my skin.  The only product I tried, and loved, was the Neutrogena Cooldry Sport Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 70.  This sunscreen felt great on my skin.  It goes on totally weightlessly, absorbs quickly, and didn’t leave any sticky residue behind.  I highly recommend this sunscreen for use on your body.  It isn’t meant for your face.
  • The kind folks at Meg21 approached me about trying their products many moons ago. This company has an intriguing approach to anti-aging skincare – the main thrust of their message is that glycation is ruining our skin.  “Toxic sugars” (their words not mine) are breaking down the collagen in our skin thus aging it.  Their products contain an ingredient called supplamine that inhibits glycation in the skin thus keeping your skin looking young for longer.  The company was kind enough to send me full size products to try along with a few samples.  Overall I really liked the texture, ease of application, and how the products felt on my skin.  The packaging for their moisturizers is great.  Unlike a lot of moisturizers that are in containers with tops that come all the way off which then exposes the product to the air, these moisturizers were packaged in containers that had a top that did not come off. Instead you pressed down on the top in order to release the amount of product that you wanted to use.  This way none of the moisturizer was ever exposed to the air.  I tried the antioxidant serum (I can’t live without using an antioxidant serum each and every morning), the cleanser, Smooth Radiance Face Treatment, and the Smooth Radiance Advanced Formula. Though I definitely liked the way all the products felt on my skin I did not use them for long enough to be able to tell you if my skin looked any younger or fresher.  I will say though that the science behind the products is definitely intriguing.  If you are looking for a new and innovative way to fight skin aging these products are definitely worth trying.

 

Skincare Tips For Cancer Patients From Dr. Ava Shamban January 26, 2017

Staying together in tough disease

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything about oncology esthetics.  I was certified in oncology esthetics by Oncology Training International over 4 years ago.  Since moving back to Israel in August, 2012 I have been advancing this esthetics field here in Israel where it is virtually unknown.  This past summer I started a Facebook page in Hebrew about oncology esthetics in order to better serve the Israeli population since there are few resources in Hebrew on this subject.

My last post about oncology esthetics was about how estheticians can help cancer patients.  In an even earlier post I shared skincare tips for cancer patients.   In this post I am privileged to share skincare tips for cancer patients that Dr. Ava Shamban shared with me.  Dr. Shamban is a Beverly Hills dermatologist and the creator of the skincare line SkinxFive.  She’s also the author of one of my favorite books about skincare called Heal Your Skin which includes a chapter all about caring for your skin during cancer treatment. You can read my review of her book here.

I’m sharing Dr. Shamban’s advice here along with some added comments of my own.  My comments are in italics.

The Skin Side Effects of Cancer Treatment:

How cancer treatment affects your skin (hair and nails) will depend on your individual physiology and the drugs you’re receiving. Side effects can occur right away or within several days, weeks, or even months of treatment. Always remember your mantra: take heart! There are ways to cope with even the most severe skin complaints.

Acneiform Rash (Follicular Eruption)

When you are treated with chemotherapy drugs that target the EGFRs you can develop a skin reaction known as acneiform (or acne-like) rash. It can look and feel like severe teenage acne, but it can erupt everywhere.

This skin reaction can look so similar to acne that you might be inclined to want to treat it with strong anti-acne ingredients, but this would be a mistake because your skin can be very sensitive at this time.  If you are confused about how to treat this skin condition be sure to talk to your oncologist or an esthetician trained in oncology esthetics about safe solutions to heal your skin.

 What to do: Acneiform can be tender, burning, and itching. If the rash is mild, you can try an over-the-counter low-strength salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide preparation followed by a moisturizer that contains ceramides. If the rash doesn’t respond within a short period, ask your doctor about using a topical or an oral prescription antibiotic to relieve the symptoms and lessen the severity of the rash.

Ceramides are an oily wax that is found in the outer layers of our skin.   They are naturally found in our skin and play an important role in helping our skin retain moisture by being part of the “glue” that keeps skin cells together.  When ceramides are depleted our skin has trouble staying moist and can be prone to not only dryness but sensitivity as well.   You can find ceramides in Curel products and in CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion.

Dryness

Extreme dryness is the most frequent skin complaint among patients in cancer treatment. Dehydration, extreme weather conditions, perfumed products, and allergies can contribute to dryness.

What to do: The best way to treat your dry skin is to use moisturizers regularly; Ceramides are a particularly valuable ingredient; they replace a skin lipid that chemotherapy specifically diminishes. Take a short shower or bath, then pat your dry skin with a soft towel and apply a moisturizer immediately. Use only mild, non-perfumed, non-deodorant soaps such as Dove, Basis, Aveeno, or Neutrogena. Wear cotton clothes next to the skin rather than wool, synthetic fibers, or rough clothing. Always wash clothing in a mild detergent and avoid any products that contain perfume, such as bubble baths, soaps, and lotions.

Caution: if you are receiving radiation treatments, do not apply anything to the skin in the treatment area without clearing it with your medical team first. Many common ointments and moisturizers, while nonirritating, may interfere with the ability of the radiation to penetrate the skin and do its work.

Nail Changes

Changes to your nails will depend on the treatment you receive. They are usually temporary, although the nails may take longer to repair themselves than the hair and other skin nails. Nail toxicity can occur weeks or months after you’ve begun a targeted treatment, and it often persists for weeks or months after stopping the drug.

What to do: Nail changes often disappear when the damaged nail is replaced by the growth of a new nail. Good nail care during your treatment can help you to avoid or diminish the severity of side effects.

  • Moisturize the nails and cuticles daily with a nonirritating balm, such as petroleum jelly. You can also use lip balm to soften the cuticles.
  • Do not trim or push back your cuticles. The seal they provide around the nail plate prevents infection.
  • If your nails begin to separate or show signs of breakage, try to keep them in place as long as possible. Even when loosened or shortened, they provide protection for the nail bed.
  • Inflammation can be treated in a variety of ways by your oncology team, such as by the use of topical antibiotic, an antifungal, or a cortisone cream. Wrapping the treated area with a bandage or clear plastic wrap (such as Saran Wrap) will help the ointment to penetrate the area. Some also find it helpful to apply a liquid bandage to the area at the first sign of any cracking skin.

Tips for dealing with hair loss

Keep in mind that you will need to take special care of your scalp. The skin on your head, neck, and forehead will suffer from the same dryness, propensity to irritation, and increased vulnerability to sun damage as the rest of your skin during cancer treatment. In fact, it may be quite tender. Here are some tips for dealing with hair loss:

  • My patients recommend using with hazel or a gentle baby shampoo to cleanse the scalp. Massaging the scalp gently with the fingertips can be soothing.
  • Don’t wear a wig or any other hair covering for too long a period in hot weather. Sweat can build up on your scalp and become very irritating.
  • There are many different options for wigs: real hair, synthetics, different hair colors. The most important aspect is the fabric of the skullcap.
  • Choose soft, natural, and breathable fabrics like cotton jersey for anything you wear on your head.

Rejuvenating Skin During Cancer Treatment:

  • Do not do extractions, exfoliation, or other procedures that might damage fragile skin.
  • Use only the mildest products that are free of irritants and potential allergens.
  • If your oncologist permits professional facials, have them performed in your dermatologist’s office by a licensed aesthetician working under strict sanitary conditions.

 

Always tell your dermatologist or aesthetician that you are undergoing cancer treatment before scheduling facials or other cosmetic treatments.

In addition to Dr. Shamban’s excellent tips, I want to share a few blogs and articles I came across recently.  The blogs and articles all deal with how to look your best while undergoing cancer treatment.  I am a very strong believer in the mind-body connection. When you like, or love, the way you look, it lifts your spirit.  Since cancer treatment can cause many negative appearance side effects I find these blogs and articles helpful in giving assistance and hope to those who need it during a difficult time in their life.

So in no particular order I want to recommend the following blogs and article:

  • Beauty Despite Cancer – this UK site sells products that cancer patients need and has a great blog with real life stories that will inspire you.
  • Someone With – an American website similar to the site mentioned above.  They sell clothes, beauty, and health products for cancer patients.
  • Leo with Cancer – a very personal blog by Dena who has breast cancer.  Lots of beauty tips along with her raw and honest thoughts about her cancer treatment and its side effects.
  • Beauty Products for Breast Cancer Patients has great tips for looking your best during cancer treatment from the perspective of someone who has been there.
  • My Cancer Chic came out of Anna’s need to look her best even while undergoing cancer treatment.  She not only shares her feelings about her cancer journey but beauty and hair tips as well.
  • In this moving article Deanna talks about how drastically her appearance changed while undergoing cancer treatment, especially after she lost her eyebrows.  That experience lead her to help develop a replacement brow.

I have a Pinterest board just for oncology esthetics.  Feel free to follow it.

And many thanks again to Dr. Shamban for sharing her skincare tips for cancer patients with me and my readers!

 

 

I Tried It: Micellar Water January 5, 2017

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Micellar waters are not a new skincare product.  They have been used in Europe, from what I can gather mainly in France, for quite some time.  In the last two years or so they became a hit States side, and more and more companies (both large and small) have come out with their version of this cleansing product.  When I first heard about micellar waters I was very intrigued, and when I saw this Garnier one on sale at my local drugstore I had to buy it.

Micellar water is said to gently cleanse the skin and has the added bonus of not having to rinse it off after using (more on that later in this post).  If you are one who likes to go camping (not me!) or spends days at outdoor festivals (once again not me!) having micellar water on hand means you can cleanse your face without having indoor plumbing nearby. It is also a good solution for making yourself presentable after a long flight when you are stuck freshing up in a cramped airplane bathroom.

The use of micellar waters as a skincare cure-all has been catching on recently.  You can find quite a few articles in the mainstream beauty world toting micellar water as the next great thing for your skin for all sorts of reasons such as the hard water you use to rinse your face after washing it destroys your skin so using a micellar water, which you don’t rinse off, is better for your skin.  Or that it must be great if the French love it.

For more information about how hard water affects our skin please see my post Hard Water and Your Skin.

The Science Behind Micellar Water

When I finally learned the in-depth science about micellar water via The Beauty Brains I realized that micellar waters were just mild cleansers.  There isn’t really anything special about them except perhaps for the fact that you do not need to rinse them off after use (once again more on that in a bit).  I suggest listening or reading to The Beauty Brains entire explanation about micellar waters, but I’ll share a few highlights here:

Micelles are structures that are formed when surfactant are dissolved in water. Remember that surfactants, short for surface active agents, are used in beauty products as cleansers and emulsifiers that help mix oil and water soluble ingredients.

If you look at the chemical structure of surfactants they typically have a long oil soluble tail and water soluble polar head group.  When surfactants are present in water at a certain concentration, they begin to assemble into larger structures based on the water soluble/oil soluble parts of the molecule. The oil soluble tails try to group together to get away from the water. The lowest energy state for them is to have all the tails together so they are shielded from water by the polar head groups – which again, water soluble. Think of it as a ball or sphere of surfactant molecules with head on outside, tails facing inside.

These spheres of surfactants are called micelles and the concentration of surfactant required to form them is called the Critical Micelle Concentration or CMC. …

Yeah, if you look at the ingredient list for products that claim to be micellar waters they tend NOT to use traditional, high foaming surfactants. Instead they use a combination of nonionic surfactants, which tend to be milder on skin. One of most common nonionic surfactant used in micellar waters is Poloxamer 184.  …

So overall, yes, these MW products are likely to be milder than many other cleansers. And, unlike traditional foaming cleanser’s they don’t necessarily have to be rinsed. They may even provide more of pleasant after feel than other cleansing products.

I have to say that companies have done a great job marketing these products. Somehow, these seem so special that they should be really expensive.

As you can see from The Beauty Brains explanation marketing hype plays a big part in the popularity of micellar waters.  Yes, someone with sensitive, easily irritated skin could find them to be helpful for their skin, but there are many more mild cleansers on the market that will probably be just as good, if not better, for their skin.

You can also get a great explanation (with helpful pictures) by reading Lab Muffin’s post about micellar water.   This post brings up a good point at the end – do you need to rinse off the micellar water even though it says you do not?  The rinse may be needed because of the surfactants that can potentially be irritating if left on the skin.  My skin never feels great after using micellar water; instead it feels like there is a layer of, well, something still on my skin after using the product, but I only use it as the first step in a double cleanse so I do rinse my skin after using a micellar water.  You need to play it by ear, but if you are using micellar water at home and as your only facial cleanser definitely consider rinsing your face after using it so that the surfactants do not stay on your skin.

My Experience

I use micellar water on a regular basis as the first step in a nightly double cleanse.  As I wrote above when I don’t rinse it off I do not like how the micellar water feels on my skin. I think micellar water is a great way to remove make-up, if you are washing your face with another cleanser afterwards.  I do find using a new cotton pad each night environmentally wasteful; I haven’t found a way around this issue yet.  Micellar water does not do a particularly good job at removing my eye make-up, but in my experience after trying a great number of make-up removers, nothing does.

Bottom Line: micellar waters can be a gentle way to cleanse your face, but they are not a miracle cleanser no matter what some people may claim.  Instead they are simply another mild cleanser.  Marketing hype can definitely blow things out of proportion.

Image from Cosmopolitan

 

Book Review: The Japanese Skincare Revolution December 6, 2016

51bambfqanl-_sx350_bo1204203200_I had wanted to read this book for a long time since I am fairly obsessed with all things Japanese – the culture, the food, their skincare esthetic.*  After it was part of my Amazon wishlist for years I finally took the plunge and purchased it.  I wish I could say that I loved the book, but unfortunately it disappointed me in so many ways.

The Good

The book started off great with wonderful, inclusive advice not just about skincare but about how to lead a fulfilling life.  Not only does the author Chizu Saeki suggest taking a few minutes a day to really tune into your skin (advice I love), she also makes sure her reader knows that each person is unique and that uniqueness should be celebrated.  She encourages her readers to embrace what makes them different and special, instead of trying to be like everyone else.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:

My message is simple: anyone who desires to be beautiful can be beautiful, and the power to do that is in your own hands.  A major principle of the Saeki method to get to know your skin and care for it yourself according to its condition.  To do this, you make full use of your hands.  Your hands are the ultimate tools – they can gauge your skin’s condition like a sensor and smooth wrinkles like an iron.  They can also warm and soothe tensed-up skin, making it more receptive to skincare ingredients. (Page 9)

Don’t fuss over every spot and line on your face.  It isn’t as if their presence diminishes your worth as a woman.  Most brown spots and lines can be erased with patience, and, at any rate, the overall demeanor and luster of your face are far more important in determining the impression you give.  (Page 15)

Of course, it’s nice to have good skin – which is why I’ve carefully attended to my face through the years.  But keep in mind that flawless skin isn’t everything.  Beauty isn’t something to be plastered on from the outside; it’s fake unless it also exudes from the within.  (Pages 15-16)

Interestingly enough, though Japanese women, like Korean women, are known for their multiple step home skincare routines Saeki actually encourages her readers to do less to their skin in order for their skin to look good.  For her a few products work best.  She puts an emphasis on how you apply those products to your face and encourages everyone to do daily facial massages.   This is all great advice.

My favorite part of the book were the different facial massage techniques.  Though I know how important facial massage is for the overall look and feel of your skin, I neglect my own face on a regular basis.  Since reading this book I have made sure to massage my face, even just for a few moments, daily and to do a little lymphatic massage as well.  The book includes a few nice of ideas about how to moisturize dry lips or prepare your skin before an important event.  Saeki writes about the importance of a healthy lifestyle in order to have beautiful skin and why you need sunscreen daily.  All excellent advice.  She even writes about how an active imagination leads to positive thoughts will positively benefit the look of our skin in the end. Though all of this is first-rate skincare advice, it is also very basic advice.  No new ground is being broken here.  Much to my immense disappointment there wasn’t much else that I took away from the book.  For me this book certainly wasn’t revolutionary.

The Bad

Saeki encourages her readers to do facial exercises.  Please don’t get me started on why facial exercises are a waste of time; read this post of mine instead.   There is very little truth to some of the skin science she writes about.  Don’t listen to what she writes about how our skin functions.  Listen to The Beauty Brains instead.  Pressing a serum into your face will not help that said serum penetrate all the way down to your dermis.

While I do agree that you don’t need to go overboard with the number of products you use daily in order to have lovely skin, the fact that she says you should exfoliate just with a scrub without any mention of retinol or facial acids perplexes me greatly.  The way she asks her readers to figure out their skin type and her analysis of each skin type is also very elementary.

The Too Bad

Perhaps if I had purchased this book years ago before the Korean skincare craze arrived in the United States I would have found it more valuable.  The thing is most, if not all, of the advice found in this book is easily accessible in thousands of online articles about Asian skincare routines.  I’ve written both here in my blog and on About.com about Korean skincare repeatedly. Though, of course, there are differences between Korean and Japanese skincare routines there is much that is the same – investing time in caring for your skin on a daily basis, performing facial massages, etc.  You could purchases this book in order to have an easy way to look at how to perform the massages in the privacy of your bathroom instead of doing them in front on your computer.  But frankly, you could take your phone into the bathroom with you, find a facial massage video on YouTube, and perform the massage in private.  No book needed.

One of the more prominent homecare ideas Saeki repeatedly mentions in her book is making what she calls a “lotion mask”.  This is essentially a DIY sheet mask.  It’s great that the book contains an easy “recipe” for how to make a sheet mask at home with the skincare products you already have on hand.  But with every store now selling sheet masks for very little money, do you really need to make your own?  You could if you are like me and don’t want to buy a sheet mask ever again after this summer’s sheet mask scandal.  Masking on a regular basis certainly does wonderful things for your skin, but there is no need for you to whip up those masks on your own if you don’t want to.

Bottom Line:  While some parts of the book were charming this really isn’t a must read and certainly not a must buy.  If you want to read a book by an esthetician as opposed to a dermatologist read Complexion Perfection! by Kate Somerville instead.  If you want to know more about Japanese skincare just Google it.

 

*If you are as obsessed with Japan as I am I suggest watching videos from Begin Japanology.  I learned many interesting things about Japan from these videos.

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