Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Moisturizer Myths January 31, 2011


I think there are a few big myths about moisturizers that most people seem to believe.  One is that moisturizer can get rid of wrinkles.  Another myth about moisturizer is that it is a vital anti-aging tool.  Yet another myth about moisturizer is that you need one every day, twice a day. 

So what exactly does your moisturizer do?  And what can’t your moisturizer do?

First let’s debunk the idea that a moisturizer will get rid of wrinkles.  That is simply impossible.  What a moisturizer can do is temporarily plump up wrinkles and make them appear less obvious.  But a moisturizer cannot bring about a true change in regards to your wrinkles – you need plastic surgery, laser treatments, or Retin-A to truly erase wrinkles.   But if you want your skin to temporarily appear smoother and for your wrinkles to be less obvious than a moisturizer can help you temporarily achieve that goal.

So if you want to stay looking young as long as possible do you need a moisturizer as part of your anti-aging arsenal?  Not necessarily.  You need to use a moisturizer if you feel that your skin is dry (lacking oil) or dehydrated (lacking water).  Not everyone needs a moisturizer.  You might find that you need a moisturizer during the winter but not during the summer.  A moisturizer is not a must have skincare product like a great cleanser or an antioxidant serum. 

What is a good way to tell if you need a moisturizer or not?  Wash your face and then wait about 10 to 15  minutes.  During those 10 to 15 minutes do not put anything on your face.  After you’ve waited think about how your face feels – is it tight or dry feeling?  Then you need a moisturizer.  If you notice flakes on your face after the waiting period than you need to gently exfoliate and then use a moisturizer.

Now that you know what your moisturizer cannot do – what does a good moisturizer actually do?  Actually what a moisturizer does is very straightforward.  A moisturizer will keep the skin hydrated, help the skin’s barrier function work properly which means it keeps moisture in but bacteria and other undesirable elements out, and helps keep the natural moisturizing elements in the upper layers of the skin replenished.  And do remember that you don’t need to go overboard when applying moisturizer.  Use about a penny size worth of moisturizer on your face and neck to begin with.  If you feel you need more moisturizer than add it a little bit more at a time until you feel that your skin is well hydrated.  And one last tip on applying moisturizer – if at all possible apply moisturizer to your skin while it is slightly damp.  That way your skin locks in the water and that adds to the hydration your skin is getting.


Botox Explained January 27, 2011


Since Botox’s approval by the FDA for cosmetic use it almost seems like its uses, potential side effects, and safety are taken for granted.  But do you really know how Botox works, how to store it, and how it is injected?

Skin Inc. just published a very comprehensive article that really explains everything you need to know about Botox.  Entitled Chemodenervation From Physiology of the Skin, Third Edition the article succinctly goes into detail about the history of the use of Botox, how it is injected, how injecting Botox affects facial wrinkles and also other body conditions like excessive sweating, and the potential side effects from Botox injections.

If you have ever had any questions about Botox be sure to check this article out.  Reading it will only take a few moments and leave you much better informed in the long run.


Book Review: Allure Confessions of a Beauty Editor January 24, 2011

I will readily admit that I am quite a johnny come lately when it comes to reading this book.  It came out in 2006, and I am only getting around now to looking at it.  I figured since I am such a fan of the magazine Allure that it really was time to look at their book. 

I really wanted to love this book, but it definitely fell flat for me.  I’ve always enjoyed the letter from the editor page in Allure by Linda Wells, the magazine’s founding and current editor-in-chief, and once again her very short essays at the beginning of each chapter in the book were a highlight for me.  And the rest of the book – well it was a mystery to me frankly.  The book was so basic!  I still can’t quite figure out who the book’s intended audience was and why everything in the book was so dumbed down.  There are even instructions in the book on how to shave your legs! 

Is the intended audience for the book was a 13 year-old girl who was just starting to get interested in skincare and make-up then I would understand both the tone and content of the book, but I truly doubt that 13 year-old girls were the intended audience for the book.  In my opinion the magazine Allure is aimed at smart and savvy women who are very interested in skincare and make-up and who definitely don’t need to be told to exfoliate their skin or taught how to properly shave their legs.  I would assume that the average Allure reader really wants to know if there is a new and effective exfoliant on the market and how the latest innovations in hair removal work.  So why didn’t the book contain any information like that? 

Was there any new and exciting information in this book?  No, not really.  Overall I liked the make-up section the best.  Though most of the tips were old hat, I did pick up one or two new ideas on how to apply my make-up.  But so much of the book was extraneous and down right dull.  For instance, does anyone really need to be told that you have to apply your eyeliner before your mascara or you’ll end up with a huge mess?  I think you only need to be reminded of that if you have never applied eye make-up.

One more gripe for me were the photos.  The models in the photos are all extremely young, but what bothered me even more were how completely airbrushed the photos were.  Instead of offering up a realistic portrayal of how a woman could look if she followed the tips in the book, the photos instead offered an extremely stylized and unattainable beauty ideal.  No one has such perfect skin in real life.  The lighting in the photographs is amazing – no one and I will repeat no one can look that good in real life!  Yes, the photos in Allure are always stylized and high fashion, not particularly realistic, but the photos in the book, in my opinion, took that aesthetic too far.  Plus the photos looked really dated to me, as if they had been done in the late 1990s or early 2000 instead around 2005.  The photographs were so artificial that they ended up being a huge turn-off for me.

So who should you buy this book for?  I suggest getting the book for your favorite niece who is just starting to be interested in skincare and make-up or for your daughter who wants to begin wearing make-up and taking care of her skin.  And if you want a book at home with the most basic of information about skincare, body care, and make-up application this is the book for you.


Buyer Beware: Skincare Claims to Look out For January 20, 2011

I’ve written a post in the past about how to be savvy skincare product consumer, but once I wrote my post explaining what cosmeceuticals are I decided that it would be a good idea to write yet another post which goes into greater detail on the subject of skincare product claims versus reality.

One of the best explanations that I have ever come across that explains how to cut through the hype surrounding skincare products is from Daniel Yarosh’s book The New Science of Perfect Skin.  Overall I wasn’t a great fan of this book overall (see my review of the book), I did really like chapter 2 of the book: Cutting Through the Hype.  This chapter does a fabulous job at explaining how cosmetic companies market their products to consumers and how you can protect yourself from being had by false claims.

For example Yarosh points out (page 41):

Realize that large-scale manufacturers may (or may not) spend a lot of money on research, but they also have to satisfy a broad range of customers, and that means they avoid many specialty ingredients that might work for a few but that might prove irritating to some consumers.  So they sacrifice effectiveness for ingredients that have broad appeal.  …  Many dermatologists have entered the skin-care market in the last few years, and some have terrific products.  Others are good but not worth the markup.  Bear in mind, too, that dermatologists selling their own lines may or may not have had a hand in the lines’ development.  Some buy off-the-shelf products from popular suppliers and simply place a label with their name on it and pass it off as their own.

One of the more interesting things I learned from reading Yarosh’s book was how the cost of a product is determined (pages 46-48).  We all know that high price doesn’t equal a better quality product so where do these high prices for products come from?  According to Yarosh, the price of a product is determined by the cost of its raw ingredients and the production overhead. Regardless of that determination the high price of a skincare product might just be part of a marketing strategy in order to convince the consumer that they are worth investing this type of money in themselves and the care of their skin.  Some companies are simply trying to see how much they can charge for a product and get away with it.

For a breakdown of how the money you pay for a product is actually used by a manufacturer I’ll turn to Yarosh again for an explanation (page 48):

Let’s say the [high-end anti-aging] product [you might buy at a chain drugstore] costs thirty dollars.  The first fifteen dollars goes to the store, of which three dollars is kicked back up to the chain headquarters to support the national television advertising and circulars that stuff your mailbox.

That leaves fifteen dollars for the manufacturer.  He uses about seven of those dollars for his own advertising campaign in the glossy women’s magazines and sexy billboards along the highway.  So a total of at least ten dollars (three from the chain and seven from the manufacturer) of the original thirty-dollar price tag goes into trying to convince you to buy the item.

That leaves eight dollars of the original thirty for the product itself.  The manufacturer will use four dollars or more of that to buy a nice bottle and put it in a package with perhaps a false bottom, great graphics, and an enchanting name.  And for going to all that trouble he needs at least two dollars in profit per jar.

That leaves just about two dollars of the original thirty for all the ingredients, including the cream base, the pH adjuster, the emulsifier, the fragrance, and the preservative.  If there is anything left over, it just might go into the latest high-technology botanical extract that is greatest discovery of the century and will completely revitalize your aging looks!

Bottom line: High price and rare ingredients don’t prove anything, but low price means a product probably hasn’t incorporated new technology.

How to Protect Yourself For Falling for False Claims and Bogus Promises

In order not to succumb to advertising hype when you go shopping for skincare products keep a few other things in mind –

  • The photos in skincare and cosmetic ads are photoshopped to an inch of their lives!  The models do not really look that way in real life!  Putting on the cream in the ad will not make you look like the model or the celebrity in the ad because even they don’t look that way.  Remember that a lot of skincare products ads, no matter who they are targeted at, use very young models to promote them.  If you are 45 you will not look like the 25-year-old model in the ad.
  • Don’t believe before and after photos.  I have to admit that I love before and after photos and I love make-overs.  But if you look closely at before photos you’ll probably notice that the lighting and the make-up (or lack of make-up) is different from the after photos.  There is a reason for that.  The manufacturer wants you to see a difference between the photos so they will do whatever it takes – new haircut, better make-up application, flattering lighting – to distract you from noticing on little has actually changed with the person’s skin.  Don’t fall for it.
  • Read the words of ads carefully; they are vague for a reason.  You’ll see the words “helps”, “fights”, “may improve”, “may enhance” for a reason – the FDA requires that manufacturer use words like that because otherwise they would be making a false claim on how their product works.  This intentionally vague language this leads to lots of confusion on the part of the consumer which only helps the manufacturer in the end.  Look at the ingredients in a product, don’t read the ad copy or the blurb on the side of the package.


What About Scientific Studies and Other Endorsements?

Once again according to Yarosh (page 52):

A typical pseudoscientific study [in a skincare product ad] will say something like “76 percent improvement in wrinkles,” implying that one can expect three-quarters of facial wrinkles to disappear.  But upon inspection, the study asked participants whether they noticed any difference, and 76 percent said yes.  You don’t have to be good at math to realize that the fact that 76 percent of a group liked a product is not the same as a 76 percent improvement.  It could have simply been a 1 percent improvement noticed by 76 percent of the panelists.

The best type of doctor administered patient studies of a product are double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.  This means that the doctor administering the study doesn’t know whether the medication or product he is giving the study participants is an active drug or a placebo.  The patient also doesn’t know hence the double-blind part of the study.  All of this ensures that the results of the study are not biased by either side.  These studies are rarely if ever done with cosmetic and skincare products because they are expensive and take months, if not years, to perform.  If a double-blind study is not mentioned in connection to a product it has not been performed.  So be wary of scientific claims and studies in connection to products.

University associations with products should be questioned as well.  Cosmedicine actually gave John Hopkins University stock in its company in exchange for using its name in advertisements.

And the words “dermatologist tested” are meaningless as well.  The FDA does not approve such language; once again this is simply a marketing strategy in order to lend more credence to a product.  A dermatologist could have simply picked up and looked at a product in order for a manufacturer to use such language in its marketing.

What about endorsements from fashion and beauty magazines?  I reviewed Lucky’s beauty editor’s book in this blog in order to better understand what beauty editors know about skincare.  Reading that book did not shake my feeling that beauty editors know little to nothing about actual skincare.  So how do they know which products to recommend?  Well according to Yarosh magazines are beholden to their advertisers and promote the products that will make the magazine money in the end with ad pages (Yarosh page 55).  So be very wary of product recommendations in magazines.

And what about the FDA’s role in protecting consumers?  When it comes to FDA supervision over skincare products there are a few regulations that companies have to follow – instructions on how to use a product needs to written on the box or container.  If the product you bought was a drug than it needs to include an insert with very detailed instructions on how it works, potential side effects, and contraindications.  Unless the manufacturer is making really outrageous claims about their product the FDA rarely steps in.  This isn’t the case in other countries.  Take the UK for example:

In the U.K., advertising is regulated through the independent body Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which, in the past two years, has become much more active in scrutinizing cosmetics. The type of claim a brand can make in the U.K. is “softer” than elsewhere. For example, a skin care brand can claim to reduce wrinkles in U.S. advertising, but in the U.K., it must talk about reducing “the appearance of” wrinkles.

“Claims are the same, in principle,” said Chris Gummer, director of U.K. consultancy Cider Solutions Ltd. “It doesn’t stop a brand making global claims. The ‘rule’ is that if you can say it in the U.K., you can say it anywhere.”

However, brands must also be aware of what they imply. For example, L’Oréal Paris was reprimanded by the ASA for its Telescopic Mascara advertisement, which implied that spokesmodel Penelope Cruz had created her implausibly long lashes by using the product. L’Oréal admitted she was wearing false eyelashes in the TV and print ads, and the company was forced to include a disclaimer in future campaigns. These days, skin care brands go to great lengths to superimpose text onto U.K. ads to ensure they meet the ASA’s stringent criteria.

Gummer points out that although it may seem easier to make claims on the U.S. market, brands still need to have data to support what they say, and marketers remain responsible for juggling claims and where they are made. “Until other countries have similar controls as the U.K., then there will be different claims for products,” affirms Skinnovation’s Ferguson.  (From Skin Inc.’s article Justifying Skin Care Claims)


Case Study:  Dr. Perricone and His Products

In my opinion one of the biggest offenders in this world of hype and pseudoscience is Dr. Perricone who sells two skincare lines and a line of nutritional supplements while also writing many bestselling skincare information books.  If you read one of Dr. Perricone’s books or simply log on to his website you might think that you have found the cure for all that ails your skin (and perhaps even your overall health).  But stop!  Before you believe all that hype think of the following things.  (I am indebted to the website Quack Watch and their article A Skeptical View of the Perricone Prescription for the information about Dr. Perricone’s books and products):

Perricone‘s books are sprinkled with statements that his ideas are based on his own research. However, the extent and quality of this research is unclear. A PubMed search for his name brought up only six citations, of which only two appear to be original research, both on topical glycolic acid . His books describe situations in which he tested various ideas in a few patients, usually over a short period of time, but he provides few details and apparently published none of those findings in medical journals.

Dr. Perricone would be more credible if he could show us a study demonstrating that people who followed his prescription lived longer, had “younger” skin demonstrated by objective measures, or felt better compared to those on a placebo program—or that they were better in any measurable way. Instead, he provides only testimonials, exaggerated claims, partial truths, and incorrect statements. He cherry-picks possibly supportive studies from the literature and ignores contradictory studies. He cites lots of lab studies (in vitro or in animals), but few that demonstrate any clinical effects in humans. The diet he recommends is low in calories, and weight loss alone may improve the way his patients look and feel. His advice about tobacco and sunscreens is appropriate, but there is little science behind the rest of his program. He seems to have gathered every nutrient and skin cream he had any reason to hypothesize might work and advised using all of them. A more rational approach would have been to first see which ones really worked, and later to see if any combinations of the effective agents worked better than a single agent. No scientist worth his salt does experiments without controls; Perricone treats everyone, so that there is no basis for comparison.

Dr. Perricone has mixed a pinch of science with a gallon of imagination to create an elaborate, time-consuming, expensive, prescription for a healthy life and younger skin. There is no reason to think his program is more effective than standard measures. Although some of his advice is standard, most of his recommendations are based on speculation and fanciful interpretation of selected medical literature. He makes lots of money by convincing patients and consumers, but he hasn’t succeeded in convincing critical thinkers, doctors, scientists, or anyone who wants to see hard evidence. Perricone’s “prescription” isn’t science; it’s creative salesmanship.

So what can you do in order to protect yourself from false claims and promises when it comes to skincare products?  Education!  Keep learning, keep reading, and keep an open mind.  If it is too good to be true – it is.

Sources and Further Reading


What are Cosmeceuticals? January 17, 2011

I think of all the confusing terms/issues that are used by the cosmetic, beauty, and skincare industry one of the most confusing is the term cosmeceutical.  So what exactly is a cosmeceutical?  What does that term mean?  Is it even a legal term?


A Little History and an Explanation

The term cosmeceutical was coined in 1980 by the dermatologist Albert Kligman.  Dr. Kligman was a world-renowned dermatologist who made a lasting contribution to the world of skincare by discovering that topical retinoic acid (or tretinoin) could be used as both an acne and wrinkle treatment.  (Dr. Kligman’s research was, at times, very controversial, a fact I think should be noted).

The term cosmeceutical combines the words “cosmetic” and “pharmaceutical” together implying that any product labeled as such can actually change the appearance of the user’s skin for instance decrease wrinkles or fade sun spots.  BUT there is no actual medication in a cosmeceutical product because if there was the product would be labeled a drug and regulated by the FDA.  In essence a cosmeceutical is a blend of a beauty product and one or more active ingredients like peptides, antioxidants, or growth factors.  Now these active ingredients might have an affect on the skin, but they are not drugs so there is no guarantee that they will affect the skin in a positive (or negative) way.  As such cosmeceuticals fall under the same murky area as other cosmetic products on the market meaning companies can make all sorts of claims about their products and yet not offer a proof to those claims.

How the FDA Views Cosmeceuticals

According to the FDA (which regulates manufacture and approval of drugs in the US):

The legal difference between a cosmetic and a drug is determined by a product’s intended use. Different laws and regulations apply to each type of product. Firms sometimes violate the law by marketing a cosmetic with a drug claim, or by marketing a drug as if it were a cosmetic, without adhering to requirements for drugs.

How does the law define a cosmetic?

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics by their intended use, as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)]. Among the products included in this definition are skin moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup preparations, shampoos, permanent waves, hair colors, toothpastes, and deodorants, as well as any material intended for use as a component of a cosmetic product.

How does the law define a drug?

The FD&C Act defines drugs, in part, by their intended use, as “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1)].

How can a product be both a cosmetic and a drug?

Some products meet the definitions of both cosmetics and drugs. This may happen when a product has two intended uses. For example, a shampoo is a cosmetic because its intended use is to cleanse the hair. An antidandruff treatment is a drug because its intended use is to treat dandruff. Consequently, an antidandruff shampoo is both a cosmetic and a drug. Among other cosmetic/drug combinations are toothpastes that contain fluoride, deodorants that are also antiperspirants, and moisturizers and makeup marketed with sun-protection claims. Such products must comply with the requirements for both cosmetics and drugs.

What about “cosmeceuticals”?

The FD&C Act does not recognize any such category as “cosmeceuticals.” A product can be a drug, a cosmetic, or a combination of both, but the term “cosmeceutical” has no meaning under the law.

How is a product’s intended use established?

Intended use may be established in a number of ways. Among them are:

  • Claims stated on the product labeling, in advertising, on the Internet, or in other promotional materials. Certain claims may cause a product to be considered a drug, even if the product is marketed as if it were a cosmetic. Such claims establish the product as a drug because the intended use is to treat or prevent disease or otherwise affect the structure or functions of the human body. Some examples are claims that products will restore hair growth, reduce cellulite, treat varicose veins, or revitalize cells.
  • Consumer perception, which may be established through the product’s reputation. This means asking why the consumer is buying it and what the consumer expects it to do.
  • Ingredients that may cause a product to be considered a drug because they have a well known (to the public and industry) therapeutic use. An example is fluoride in toothpaste.

This principle also holds true for essential oils in fragrance products. A fragrance marketed for promoting attractiveness is a cosmetic. But a fragrance marketed with certain “aromatherapy” claims, such as assertions that the scent will help the consumer sleep or quit smoking, meets the definition of a drug because of its intended use.

 Where Does This Leave the Consumer?


In her excellent book Simple Skin Beauty Dr. Ellen Marmur makes an excellent point about cosmeceuticals (page 260):

When I read these labels [of anti-aging products] or beauty articles that explain how a cosmeceutical can reprogram cellular division, repair DNA, or extend the life span of cells, I have to wonder.  Think about it:  if these ingredients really did what they promise – namely, interact with cell function and the structure of the skin – they would certainly be considered drugs and thus regulated by the FDA.  If indeed some of these chemicals fundamentally impact the skin function in a significant way (rather than just the superficial appearance), we need to validate their safety as pharmaceuticals, with stronger FDA scrutiny.

 So when it comes to cosmeceuticals how can you make sure you aren’t being taken for a ride?

The American Academy of Dermatology has the following recommendations for consumers:

  • Ask yourself what the product claims to do and what kinds of studies have been performed.
  • Trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Stick with products and brands that you know to be reputable. Well-known manufacturers have more money behind their active ingredients and product testing.
  • Beware of website claims, because many are biased even if they say they are objective.
  • For day, wear sunscreen and consider also using products that contain antioxidants because they have sun-protection properties. At night, use products that contain retinoids, peptides, or growth factors for their repair properties.

I think it all comes down to one simple thing – educate yourself before you buy.

Further Reading


Ingredient Spotlight: Hyaluronic Acid January 13, 2011

During the winter most people are looking to restore the moisture content in their skin and finding the right moisturizer for your skin type will help you do that.  One great skincare ingredient to look for in a moisturizer is hyaluronic acid. 

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant skincare ingredient which means it draws water to the skin and increases the water content of the epidermis (or outer most layer of the skin).  If you are in a humid environment, picture yourself on a tropical island, than a humectant like hyaluronic acid can actually draw water from the atmosphere around you to your skin.  The great thing about hyaluronic acid is that it holds 1,000 times its weight in water.  Think of it as a super sponge.  So when applied topically hyaluronic acid has a two-fold purpose – it increases your skin’s moisture content and helps prevent moisture loss as well.

Everyone’s skin naturally contains hyaluronic acid.  It is found in the reticular layer of the skin or the deepest layer of the dermis (the dermis is located under the epidermis or the top layer of our skin).  The reticular layer contains collagen and elastin, and hyaluronic acid is found between these fibers helping to give your skin its volume and snap.  Babies skin in full of hyaluronic acid which explains why a baby has such soft and moist skin.  As we age the amount of hyaluronic acid in our skin diminishes; we simply produce less of it.  (This is why hyaluronic acid fillers like Restylane and Juvederm are so popular and effective.  I decided not to address the topic of hyaluronic acid fillers in this post since I wanted to concentrate on the subject hyaluronic acid in topical skincare products in this post instead) 

Don’t forget – applying hyaluronic acid topically will not replace what your skin has lost as it ages.  When applied topically hyaluronic acid simply acts as a great moisturizing agent – nothing more.  Only hyaluronic acid fillers can temporarily replace what has been lost as you age. 

Have I convinced you yet that hyaluronic acid is a great topical skincare ingredient?  Well before you run out to buy a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid in it there are a few more things to consider.  Hyaluronic acid is extremely expensive, it is more than a 1,000 times expensive as glycerin for example, so most topical skincare products don’t contain enough of it in order to be effective over the long-term according to dermatologist Jeannette Graf (in an article in Allure from December, 2010).  According to the Allure article the most effective skincare formulas with hyaluronic acid in them use a dehydrated form of hyaluronic acid packaged into microspheres which apparently makes it easier for this ingredient to be absorbed into the skin.

One more thing to consider – according to dermatologist Leslie Baumann in a low humidity environment, like a plane for instance, using a cream with a high concentration of hyaluronic acid could be counterproductive since in such an environment the hyaluronic acid actually draws water from the skin and dries out the skin.  According to Dr. Baumann, and so far I’ve only seen her say this, when hyaluronic acid isn’t getting enough moisture from the surrounding environment it will take moisture out the skin. 


Bottom Line:  Hyaluronic acid is a great skincare ingredient to look for in your moisturizer.  Perhaps if you are in a desert or a plane you might want to consider actually using a moisturizer without a high concentration of hyaluronic acid but that is really an individual choice. 



  • The Skin Type Solution by Dr. Leslie Baumann – pages 23 and 50
  • The Mind-Beauty Connection by Dr. Amy Wechsler – pages 31, 42, and 270
  • Hyaluronic Acid – article from Elle magazine from a few years ago (can’t say the exact date and can’t find it online – sorry!)
  • Best Face Forward Allure, December 2008
  • Anti-Aging Know-it-alls Allure, December 2010
  • Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians, 9th edition – page 157


Products with Hyaluronic Acid:

The article in Allure, Anti-Aging Know-it-Alls, recommends more products with hyaluronic acid in them.


Have I Finally Found My Cure for Chapped Hands? January 10, 2011

For the past few winters I have suffered greatly from fissures* on my thumbs.  The fissures are painful, and no matter what I have tried in ordering to heal them they never seem to go away.  Last winter I thought I had found the perfect cure for my ailment when I purchased a liquid bandage product that was supposed to cover and protect my wound while acting as an antiseptic as well.  It simply did not work (and it smelled terrible).  So this year as the temperature dropped and my now annual problem returned I became almost desperate for a solution.

I finally hit upon an effective solution by accident.  I received via email Paula Begoun’s review of DERMAdoctor’s Handy Manum Medicated Skin Repair Serum with 1% Hydrocortisone which explained that although the product contained great skin repair ingredients, specifically hydrocortisone which is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that can heal dry, itchy, and cracked skin, you don’t need to buy a $22 lotion in order to get the promised results.  You can just use the Cortaid or another hydrocortisone product that you have at home.  Well the lightbulb finally went off above my head.  I gathered my OTC 1% hydrocortisone lotion and for good measure my Neosporin as well because I figured a little antibiotic cream never hurt anyone.  I began applying both the Cortaid and Neosporin a few times a day to my fissures and the other chapped areas on my hands and followed that with hand lotion (I really think you can use whatever hand lotion brand you prefer).  Within a few days I finally felt and saw a difference!  One thing I did notice though, I have to keep up with the application of all three products if I want my skin to not crack or chap again.   But overall I have finally found relief from this frustrating skin condition, and I can’t emphasize enough how much this solution has helped me.   (I even created a little portable container with Neosporin and Cortaid in it to take with me in my purse so that I can always reapply when needed.)

Also – if you don’t want to use two products in order to treat your chapped hands and also don’t want to spend a ton of money on a hand lotion like the one mentioned above, I just saw that my local Target is carrying a Cortizone hand cream that contains 1% hydrocortisone.  This lotion costs about $7.  (There are actually two different versions of the cream to choose from)

*Fissures are a crack in the skin that penetrates down to the dermis which means it is deep and thus painful.  Chapped lips are another type of fissures.

Further readingPrevent and Soothe Chapped Winter Hands WebMD


Expired Make-up and Skincare Products – When to Replace Your Products January 5, 2011

It can be hard, even psychologically hard, to know when it is time to throw out your skincare and make-up products especially if you’ve invested a lot of money in their purchase.  But no matter how much money you’ve spent on a product sometimes it is just time to throw your products out since not doing so can actually put your health at risk.

With some products it is actually easy to determine when to throw them out because those products have expiration dates on them.  Products with expiration dates on them include sunscreens, some acne products, and prescription skincare products like Retin-A.  Once the expiration date has passed – throw out your product!  Yes, it might still work, but it won’t work as effectively.  Think about your sunscreen for instance.  If you could once stay outside for an hour without burning after you apply your sunscreen now you can only stay outside for 15 minutes or so without burning.  What’s the point?  Buy a new sunscreen.


Legislation Regarding Expiration Dates


It might surprise you, or not surprise you, to find out that there is no regulations governing expiration dates on cosmetic products.   According to the FDA:

There are no regulations or requirements under current United States law that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of cosmetic products. Manufacturers have the responsibility to determine shelf life for products, as part of their responsibility to substantiate product safety. FDA believes that failure to do so may cause a product to be adulterated or misbranded.

Voluntary shelf-life guidelines developed by the cosmetic industry vary, depending on the product and its intended use. For instance, a 1980 article by David Pope in Drug and Cosmetic Industry suggested a minimum shelf life of 18 to 24 months “to maximize cost efficiency in warehousing, distribution, and marketing.”

The 1984 text Cosmetic and Drug Preservation: Principles and Practice, edited by Jon J. Kabara, recommends testing product stability by evaluating samples at regular intervals for 3 years or longer, depending upon the product.

The European Union’s Cosmetic Directive, as amended in 1993, requires expiration dating only for products whose “minimum durability” is less than 30 months.


So where does that leave the consumer?  Lets breakdown the issue into two categories – skincare products and make-up.


Skincare Products


Throw out skincare products that have separated, have changed color, smell funny or have changed scent significantly, have changed texture dramatically, or just doesn’t feel right anymore when applied to the skin.  If the container holding your product has expanded than this is a sign that the product needs to be thrown away.  Finally, if you feel that your product has been exposed to bacteria consider chucking it. 

Also according to the FDA:

Among other cosmetics that are likely to have an unusually short shelf life are certain “all natural” products that may contain plant-derived substances conducive to microbial growth. It also is important for consumers and manufacturers to consider the increased risk of contamination in products that contain non-traditional preservatives, or no preservatives at all.

Furthermore, Paula Begoun points out:

As a rule, products that contain water as one of the first ingredients have the shortest shelf life after opening because water encourages the growth of bacteria and other microbes. Also susceptible to bacterial contamination are products that are mostly waxes with minimal water, but that also contain plant extracts. Think about how long produce lasts in your refrigerator—not very long! Products made up of almost no water (such as powders) last the longest, because almost nothing can grow in these kinds of products. Lastly, if your product is labeled “preservative-free” you should definitely take extra caution, because without some kind of preservative system bacteria can flourish easily.


Basically what it comes down to with skincare products and their expiration is that you need to make an intelligent guess and choice about when it throw them away.




The shelf life of make-up varies tremendously.  Eye make-up has a relatively short shelf life while mineral make-up foundation has a much longer one.  There are a few general rules of thumb about how long you can keep your make-up after you have started using it:

  • Mascara – Toss after 3 to 4 months
  • Eyeliner –  Toss after 3 to 6 months
  • Foundation – Toss after 6 to 12 months
  • Face powder, powder foundation – Toss after 2 years
  • Lipstick – Toss after about a year


 One more note – your make-up brushes also need TLC and once they start to fray or fall apart it is time to replace them, but with the right care make-up brushes can last you for years.



Tips for Keeping Your Make-up and Skincare Products Fresh


 Above all – Don’t share!  Let me once again quote the FDA:

Sharing makeup increases the risk of contamination. “Testers” commonly found at department store cosmetic counters are even more likely to become contaminated than the same products in an individual’s home. If you feel you must test a cosmetic before purchasing it, apply it with a new, unused applicator, such as a fresh cotton swab.

Keep your products out of direct sunlight, and wash your hands before using products.  Products kept in pumps are great since the pump keeps air from getting into the product and contaminating it. 

Toss eye make-up out after you’ve had an eye infection.  Don’t pump your mascara or add water to dried up mascara. Don’t add water to any skincare or make-up products at all. 

One last note, once again information from the FDA:

Consumers should be aware that expiration dates are simply “rules of thumb,” and that a product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored. Cosmetics that have been improperly stored – for example, exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to final sale – may deteriorate substantially before the expiration date. On the other hand, products stored under ideal conditions may be acceptable long after the expiration date has been reached.

So keep an eye on your products at all times, treat them well, and throw them out as needed.


Sources and Further Reading


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