Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Marketing Versus Truth in Wrinkle Creams August 30, 2010

I always wait for Thursdays to see what the Skin Deep article in the The New York Times Fashion and Style section will be about.  The Skin Deep article recently was called Debating the Claims Behind Wrinkle Creams; the article is essentially about StriVectin’s new line of products and its new marketing strategy.  StriVectin is famous for its slogan, now banned by the FDA, “better than Botox?” which, not surprisingly, is incorrect

StriVectin not only has a new product line, it has a new slogan as well:  “More science.  Less Wrinkles” .  The new product line has a star ingredient – NIA-114 which is a patented form for niacin or vitamin B3.  This time around the company does not compare the results of using its products to Botox but to the prescription anti-aging (and anti-acne) powerhouse, the gold standard of anti-aging topical products – tretinoin.  Tretinoin is also commonly known as retinol.  (For more about retinol see my previous post on the subject)

According to Dr. Myron Jacobson, a biochemist, who along with his wife lead the team that researched the ingredient:

NIA-114 provides many of the benefits of retinoic acid without those tolerability issues,” Myron Jacobson said. “You get the gain without the pain.”NIA-114, he said, “will be the dominant skin-care molecule for the next 20 years.”

Obviously this is an interesting development, but please allow me to remain skeptical.  I don’t have much faith in a company that first compared its product to Botox since that comparison was so blatantly bogus.  The author of the article interviewed two doctors about StriVectin’s new ingredient and each expressed their ambivalence about the StriVectin’s claims over NIA-114.  Not to say that the ingredient doesn’t help wrinkles, it just probably doesn’t do all that StriVectin claims that it does.

I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for reviews of the new StriVectin line and for more information about their star ingredient, but in the meantime what I really found fascinating about the article was how well StriVectin has succeeded in marketing their old product with the slogan:  Better than Botox?:

 

BEFORE StriVectin’s stretch-mark cream became an anti-wrinkle blockbuster sold in Sephora and Bloomingdale’s, it made its debut in 2002 at GNC, a retailer better known for its muscle-building supplements

Then in 2003, StriVectin started running print ads with the alluring claim that women who used the cream ($135 a tube) as a facial moisturizer found it reduced their wrinkles. The ads asked: Could StriVectin actually be “Better than Botox?”

That slogan did it. Hordes of women (and some men) were sold on the idea that this over-the-counter cream could deliver on its claims, even though its makers had scant science to back them. As a cosmetic, StriVectin-SD didn’t have to prove its efficacy as a wrinkle-fighter in a clinical trial the way that drugs like Botox did, but that fact got lost amid the marketing hype.

The ad was “fabulous” because it “immediately established the possibility that you could get benefits without the inconvenience” of a doctor’s visit, said Suzanne Grayson, a marketing consultant to the beauty industry.

In 2009, in a testament to its enduring appeal, StriVectin was still one of the fastest growing anti-aging brands, according to NPD Group, a market research firm. This despite the fact its kingpin cream hadn’t been updated in seven years.

Furthermore:

Scientific proof doesn’t necessarily matter to consumers. In the last year, StriVectin has worked with SheSpeaks, which helps brands glean consumer insight. Aliza Freud, chief executive of SheSpeaks, said 5,000 women were asked what StriVectin signified to them before this reintroduction; they said the brand had a “scientific edge.” “These consumers — most of them — have no idea what the science behind it means,” Ms. Freud said.

 

Frankly, this just saddens me.  Believe me I’ve fallen more than once for a persuasive marketing campaign only to realize that I’ve been had, yet I keep hoping that women won’t believe the marketing hype when it comes to skincare products since there is more than enough real scientific research out there that explains what ingredients will and will not work on the skin.  In the end I just hope that Abraham Lincoln’s famous statement is really true in the end:

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

 

Great Sunscreen Article – Hooray! August 27, 2010

(Though I know that summer is coming to an end I thought it would be useful to highlight this article about sunscreen as a reminder that you need to use your sunscreen year round.)

Recently I read More magazine, a fashion/lifestyle magazine geared toward women who are 40+, for the second time.   The tagline of More is: “For women of style & substance”, and I have to say that the magazine lives up its motto.  While I have yet to reach the age demographic the magazine is geared toward (though I am fast approaching it), I enjoy reading the articles in the magazine and really like the fashion advice.  While reading the June issue of the magazine I came across an excellent article about sun protection and sunscreen entitled Customize Your Sun Protection Strategy.

The article does a great job of debunking sunscreen myths and truly covers all the important issue when it comes to sun protection.  The published version of the article, though not the online version unfortunately, has short but thorough “asides” about SPF ratings, getting enough Vitamin D, and what level of SPF you need.  I especially liked the fact that the article correctly explains that even moderate to little sun exposure can be harmful and that everyone needs a sunscreen on a daily basis even if they are not spending the day outdoors. 

I only have one quibble with the article.  The author of the piece Genevieve Monsma writes:

If the formula you choose contains only chemical sunscreen, you must re­apply it every two hours to ensure protection. And when you’re in and out of water or sweating a lot, you should reapply any sun protection every two to three hours, whether it’s a chemical or physical formula.

No matter what sunscreen formula you use – chemical or physical – you need to reapply it every two hours if you are outdoors.

Bottom Line:  This is a great article to both read and save for future reference.  A job well done More!

 

Does Your Ethnicity Affect Your Skin? August 23, 2010

Skin is skin, right?  Well not quite actually.  It turns out that different skin colors and varying ethnicities sometimes do have different skincare needs since certain skin colors could be more prone to particular skin conditions and problems.

I was prompted to write this post when I noticed that both Allure and New Beauty recently published articles (Skin Deep August 2010 and  Skin Color Determines How You Will Age Summer-Fall 2010 respectively) that addressed skincare concerns just this way. 

Allure does a nice job of explaining the premise for treating skin according to its ethnicity:

In a society that strives not to judge people by the color of their skin, dermatologists have good reason to do just that.  Skin color can influence how skin will age and heal.  And “even beyond color, recent research shows that race and ethnicity play an important role in how the skin will respond to products and procedures,” says Jessica Wu, clinical instructor of dermatology at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.  Says Susan Taylor, founding director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt hospitals in New York City, “in the future, as we continue to learn more about genetic differences, we’ll be able to make treatments specific to certain racial or ethnic groups.”  (page 145)

 

So what should you be looking out for skin wise if we break things down according to ethnicity?

  • African-American/Black/Dark Skin:  Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation can be a problem for this skin color.  When skin ages it usually sags and droops first before fine lines and wrinkles appear. 
  • White/Fair Skin:  Sun damage, fine lines, and skin cancer are a concern for this skin color.  The lighter your skin is the earlier you can show signs of aging. 
  • Asian Skin:  This skin color can be sensitive and hyperpigmentation is a big concern as well. 
  • Olive Skin – Latinas, Mediterraneans, and South Asian:  Melasma and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation are concerns for this skin color.  A very diverse group of people fits into this skin color category so skincare concerns can be varied and can include sagging, fine lines, and rosacea.

 

It goes without saying that no matter what your skin color you’ll need daily sun protection.  While lighter skin can be more susceptible to skin cancer EVERYONE is at risk for skin cancer.

 

Sources and Further Reading

 

Besides the Allure and New Beauty articles mentioned above look at these other sources as well:

 

Dehydrated Skin Or Debunking the Myth that You Can Drink Your Way to Perfect Skin August 19, 2010

One thing I’ve noticed again and again when doing a skin analysis on my clients during facials is that almost everyone has dehydrated skin.  Dry skin and dehydrated skin are two very different issues in skincare.  Dry skin lacks oil; dehydrated skin lacks water.  So even if your skin is oily it can be dehydrated, and surprisingly restoring the water balance to your skin actually has nothing to do with drinking enough water.

 

Why Doesn’t Drinking Water Treat Dehydrated Skin?

Or

I Drink Enough Water – Why Isn’t My Skin Perfect?

 

Simply put your skin is dehydrated when your skin barrier is damaged or compromised and no amount of water that you drink will repair that damage.  The water that we drink first goes to our hearts, brain, liver, and kidneys before it ever reaches our skin.  So all those celebrities who credit their flawless skin to drinking water?  Chalk that up to yet another Hollywood PR myth.

Dr. Leslie Baumann explains in her book The Skin Type Solution that (pages 313-314):

Poor hydration is due to damage to the skin barrier, and drinking water makes no difference.  Cells on the surface of the skin line up to form what is called the skin barrier.  These cells look something like a row of bricks in a wall held together by mortar.  When the mortar breaks down and weakens, the wall cannot hold, and the skin cells (acting like bricks) move and leave gaps.  As a result, skin cannot hold water in the skin to maintain the skin’s cellular integrity.

Furthermore, Dr. Ellen Marmur points out in her book Simple Skin Beauty (pages 41-42):

Water has always been thought to provide benefits for the skin, but drinking huge amounts of it isn’t going to make you look even better.  The body will simply eliminate the excess through urination.  …  Water is essential to the skin’s metabolism and regeneration (actions such as producing new skin cells and growing new hair in follicles).  The highways bringing nutrients to your skin and taking metabolic debris away are the blood vessels.  Water moves blood flow along smoothly and washes away toxic by-products (enzymes, amino acids, salts) from chemical reactions.  The visible brightening effect that you see on your skin has to do with the that robust circulation.  It also increases the extracellular water in your facial tissues, so you may get a slight plumping effect.  But refuting these facts, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently found no clinical evidence that water consumption is essential to helping the kidneys filer toxins more efficiently.  Their findings also included this: drinking water can’t actually hydrate the skin from the inside out.  With all this contradictory information, how much water do you need to benefit the skin?  Since the liquid you drink won’t reach the stratum corneum, you’re better off alleviating dry skin topically with a moisturizer that prevents water loss from the surface.  Even though there may be no direct correlation between drinking water and plumping or moisturizing your skin, sufficient hydration is essential to keeping the body – and the skin – healthy.  Ultimately, adequate water consumption (this means not drinking to excess but avoiding dehydration) is like eating a balanced diet: it’s good for your body as a whole, your complexion included.

Too Much Water Can Hurt Your Skin

 

Ever notice how the skin on your fingers will pucker and prune if you take a long bath?  It turns out that prolonged water exposure either via long baths, swimming, or snorkeling/scuba diving can actually harm your skin.  Hot water, hard water (tap water with a high level of calcium), and chlorinated water all dehydrate the skin if you spend a long time in the water since soaking or spending a long time in water will actually harm your skin’s ability to retain water.  So as wonderful as soaking in a hot bath can feel keep those kinds of baths brief.

How Your Skin Became Dehydrated and How to Treat It

 

One of the main reasons so many people have dehydrated skin is the shifts in the weather and drying effects of going from either a cold environment to a warm one (in the winter) or from a hot, humid environment to an air conditioned one (in the summer).  This constant change in temperature doesn’t help our skin hold onto moisture.  Furthermore, if you are exposed to harsh chemicals, too strong skincare products (from your cleanser and/or exfoliant for example), or prolonged sun exposure without proper protection you can suck the moisture out of your skin.  Low humidity environments like airplanes can dehydrate your skin as well.

So how do you get that moisture back into your skin?  You need to restore your skin barrier so that it can help retain moisture again.  Look for moisturizers with ingredients like ceramides, fatty acids, and glycerin.  Consider spritzing your face with a facial water (see my earlier post for more information about facial waters and for product recommendations) and immediately applying a moisturizer in order to lock in more moisture for your skin.

 Sources and Further Reading

 

For more information on staying proper hydrated read:

 

 

Sunburn Relief August 16, 2010

Filed under: sun protection — askanesthetician @ 5:49 am
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What can I say?  I wish I didn’t have to write this post at all.  But even when you have the best intentions when it comes to sun protection sometimes you can still get a sunburn.  Hopefully once you’ve had one sunburn you’ll remember to religiously use your sunscreen in order to prevent another one because sunburns are actually a very dangerous injury to the skin, a massive trauma.  According to Allure “getting just six sunburns in your lifetime will increase your chances of developing melanoma by 50 percent”.

What is a Sunburn?

 

According to Dr. Ellen Marmur in her book Simple Skin Beauty (page 145):

The reason your skin is hot [after a sunburn] is that the sun is not only cooking you from the outside but also causing your blood vessels to dilate fully.  That redness is 100 percent due to increased vasodilation, rushing all of your repair mechanisms to the skin through the circulatory system.  When you blister, it’s because there’s a shift of fluid from where it should be, in the cells and blood vessels, to the skin tissue, making it bubble up.  A sunburn also kills basal cells, which then lose their ability to grip on to the dermis, and the loosening of the epidermis from the dermis generates blisters too.  …  To make matters worse, sunburn continues to develop for twelve to twenty-four hours after the initial burn takes place.  It’s no wonder that a sunburn (or a lot of them) can lead to skin cancer.

Signs You’re Getting a Sunburn

If you start to feel that your skin is stinging, feels sensitive, or tender you are getting a sunburn.  Of course if your skin turns red you have a sunburn.

 

What to Do Once You’ve Burned

 

  • Getting a burn is actually an inflammatory response by the body so consider taking an aspirin (or two) or ibuprofen to help calm the inflammation.
  • Apply fresh aloe vera to the burn.  Aloe has both anti-inflammatory and humectant properties which will help sooth the burn.  Be sure to use pure aloe vera.  Aloe vera creams and gels can contain alcohol which is drying.
  • Other anti-inflammatory ingredients that can soothe your burn: black tea (apply by soaking a washcloth in the tea), shea butter, olive oil, cucumber, and allantoin.  You can even try hydrocortisone cream.
  • Drink lots of water since your body loses fluids when you burn.
  • Stay out of the sun for a free days after your get burned because you are at a risk to burn again.

 

What NOT to do After a Burn

 

  • Avoid applying topical products with alcohol, witch hazel, menthol, peppermint, calamine, or benzocaine to your burn.
  • Don’t apply milk to your burn since the lactic acid in milk can exfoliate the already injured epidermis.
  • Don’t apply just plain water to the burn.  Once the water evaporates it dehydrates the skin and makes the burn feel worse.  Make sure your cold compresses are soaked in aloe or have a cream on them before applying to the burn.
  • When you skin begins to peel do not pull on the peeling skin or use a body scrub on it.

 

Sources and Further Reading: 

 

Facial Waters: What Are They? August 13, 2010

 

I must admit that until very recently I was a bit confused and skeptical about the concept of facial waters.  I wondered if they were just an overpriced, bogus product promoted by skincare and beauty companies to make money off of suckers.  Ok – so I was more than a bit confused and skeptical about this product.

Recently I finished reading Leslie Baumann’s book The Skin Type Solution and while I wasn’t the biggest fan of her book (see my review) I did learn a few new things including what exactly facial waters are and how they benefit the skin.  I have to say that I was intrigued.  Facial waters can definitely be of benefit for those with dry skin or as a temporary solution for when you are in a low-humidity environment like an airplane (see my earlier post Airplane Travel and Your Skin for more skincare travel tips).

 

What Are Facial Waters and How Do They Benefit The Skin?

According to Dr. Baumann (pages 198,199, and 216 of her book):

Facial waters come from thermal springs.  They do not contain chemicals such as chlorine that are added to our tap water to keep it free from algae and other organisms.   The constituents of the water vary according to the source.  Vichy water contains sulfur, while La Roche-Posay water contains selenium and has been shown to be effective in treating eczema.  Both selenium and sulfur can be anti-inflammatory.

Spray facial water on your face just before applying eye cream and moisturizer.  The moisturizer and eye cream will help trap the water on the skin, giving the skin a reservoir to pull water from.  This is particularly beneficial in low-humidity environments such as the dry winter air, on airplanes, in air-conditioning, or in windy locales.

Essentially facial waters deposit much needed water and soothing ingredients onto the skin.  I like the idea of using a facial water in combination with a traditional moisturizer.  If you find that your regular moisturizer isn’t doing the job consider adding a facial water to your regime before throwing away or switching your product altogether.  Perhaps the solutions to your dry skin is only a spray away.

 

Products to Try

 

Further Reading:

 

 

Spf 100 Is A Joke August 10, 2010

Have you noticed lately that you can easily find sunscreens with a SPF of 50, 70, or even 100?  Have you wondered if those sunscreens protect you better than ones that have a SPF of 30? 

Actually you should think twice before using a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 30. 

 

First of All – What Does the SPF Rating Mean?

 

In order to understand why you really don’t need a SPF over 30 you first need to understand the SPF ratings.  The Skin Cancer Foundation does a good job at explaining what SPF means:

The SPF rating is a reliable measurement of protection against UVB (short-spectrum) wavelengths (290-320 nanometers; 1 nm is a billionth of a meter). SPF is the comparative ratio between the minimal erythemal dose (MED) in skin protected with sunscreen and the MED in unprotected skin. For example, if it takes 20 minutes without protection to produce erythema, an SPF 15 sunscreen might prevent reddening 15 times longer—about five hours. That figure is theoretical, however, and sun damage can occur even without reddening, so dermatologists normally advise reapplying after approximately two hours.The Skin Cancer Foundation considers SPFs of 15 or higher acceptable UVB protection. Such sunscreens also provide some protection against UVA wavelengths (320-400 nm), though the SPF rating refers only to UVB protection. No FDA-approved measurement standard exists yet for UVA protection in the US, even though UVA penetrates more deeply into the skin than UVB, reaching the dermis. In the past, experts believed that UVB causes burning and skin cancer, while UVA causes photoaging, but the truth has proven more complex. In addition to producing sunburn, UVB can contribute to photoaging, and both UVA and UVB exposure can lead to skin cancer.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens combine UVB and UVA-absorbing chemicals and/or physical blockers, and give the most protection. However, they do not provide complete coverage in the UVA1 range (340 – 400 nm).

 

How Much Sun Is Blocked?

 

SPF 30 does not give you twice the sun protection of SPF 15.  Dr. Ellen Marmur explains the SPF rating confusion in her book Simple Skin Beauty thusly (page 88):

SPF math is also deceptive because the numbers don’t add up.  SPF 30 does not double the protection of SPF 15, for example.  It would figure that you should be able to stay in the sun thirty times longer, but that’s not the case.  An SPF 15 allegedly blocks 93 to 95 percent of UVB rays, while an SPF 30 supplies 97 percent coverage.  So bumping your SPF to over 50 doesn’t make it that much more protective.

Furthermore, The Skin Cancer Foundation answers the following question on their website:

Q. Many people mistakenly believe that an SPF 30 rating gives twice as much sun protection as an SPF 15 and an SPF 50 more than three times that much. What is really the difference?

A. In vitro tests have shown that SPF 15 sunscreens filter out 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 protects against 97% and SPF 50 98%.

  

  

What’s Wrong with SPF 100

 

As you now understand from what you’ve read above that anything over SPF 30 doesn’t give you much more sun protection than the sunscreen with SPF 30.  So do so many people persist on using products with a high SPF and why do so many companies manufacture them?  The answer comes down to people thinking that they are getting superior sun protection and the fact that companies are more than happy to sell that false hope.   According to the Environmental Working Group:

In 2007, the FDA published draft regulations that would prohibit companies from labeling sunscreens with an SPF (sun protection factor) higher than “SPF 50+.” The agency wrote that higher values would be “inherently misleading,” given that “there is no assurance that the specific values themselves are in fact truthful…” (FDA 2007).

Since then FDA has been flooded with data from sunscreen makers seeking to win agency approval for high-SPF products, and store shelves have been increasingly packed with high-SPF products the agency has yet to validate. Johnson & Johnson (makers of Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreens) submitted data in August 2008 to support SPF 70 and SPF 85 claims (J&J 2008). Playtex (Banana Boat sunscreen) sent data supporting high SPF claims in 2007. A Coppertone spokeswoman said, “Many manufacturers, including Coppertone, have submitted new data [on high-SPF products] for review and are awaiting FDA’s response” (Boyles 2009).

High-SPF sunscreens are popular. Sales have been on the rise for at least a decade, so it’s no wonder that sunscreen makers are fighting to keep them legal. In a letter to FDA 10 years ago, Neutrogena cited consumers’ clear demand for high SPF products, calling them “one of the fastest growing segments” of the market (Neutrogena 2000). Between 2004 and 2008, sales of high-SPF products in Europe (SPF 40 and 50+) swelled from 15 percent to 20 percent of the market (Jones 2010). In 2010, sunscreen makers have once again increased their high-SPF offerings in the US. Nearly one in six products now lists SPF values higher than “SPF 50+”, compared to only one in eight the year before, according to EWG’s analysis of nearly 500 beach and sport sunscreens.

 

My anger with SPF 100 (or 50 or 70) really comes down to giving people a false sense of protection.  No matter what SPF rating your sunscreen has it gets used up over time and needs to reapplied.  People also use less of sunscreens with a SPF higher than 30 which means they actually get less sun protection and are really exposing themselves to more sun damage.  Once again I’ll quote from Dr. Marmur’s book (page 128):

 A 1999 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that using higher-SPF sunscreens lead to increased sun exposure.  In the experiment, one group was given a low-SPF sunscreen, while the other sued SPF 30.  The group given the higher SPF spent 20 percent more time in the sun than the other group.  Even though it’s wrong-headed, we’re often guilty of spending more time in the sun than we should and not reapplying a sunscreen just because the SPF is 50 or 70.  Those are deceptive numbers for sure, and inaccurate – especially if you remember that a higher SPF give you only a fraction more protection.  In fact, for these reasons, the FDA is considering limiting SPF values to 30, with higher SPF labeled “30 plus”.

 

 The Bottom Line

  

When it comes to sunscreen use SPF 30 will give you more than adequate protection.  What is most important when it comes to sunscreen use is applying enough sunscreen (an adult needs a shot glass size amount of sunscreen for their whole body) and to reapply sunscreen throughout the day – every two hours if you are spending the day outdoors.  It is also important to look for a sunscreen that gives you protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

 

Sources and Further Reading

 

 
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