Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Get It Before It’s Gone: Sephora’s Sun Safety Kit April 29, 2011

 

Sephora has once again started selling a sun safety kit for only $25.  You get 11 different sample size products from sunblocks to make-up with spf in them (and even a self tanner).  Plus you get a free tote.  Not only is this is a great price for so many different products, 100% of the net profits from the kits will benefit The Skin Cancer Foundation.  So what’s not to love about that?  Happy shopping!

 

Teens and Tanning Beds April 28, 2011

Hopefully you don’t know a teen who uses a tanning bed, but the scary thing is that too many teens do use tanning beds since they are completely unaware of the dangers involved with their use.  Once a teen starts tanning it is really hard to get them to stop (it has even been proven that tanning is addictive which is very scary).  The US lags behind other nations in banning the use of tanning beds by teens; for instance the UK has banned the use of tanning beds by anyone under the age of 18.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation:

Despite a link between indoor tanning bed use and an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, 2.3 million teenagers visit tanning salons every year. In the spring, many tanning salon patrons are college students getting ready for spring formals, and high school students gearing up for prom season. So it’s no surprise that melanoma is now the most common form of cancer in young adults 25-29 years old, and the second most common form of cancer in adolescents and young adults ages 15-29.

“The damage caused by the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds and the sun is cumulative and often irreversible, and the earlier people start to tan, the higher their risk of developing skin cancer in their lifetimes,” said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation. “In fact, melanoma risk increases by 75 percent when indoor tanning begins before age 35.”

If the threat of skin cancer isn’t enough to scare young people away from tanning salons, they should know that 90 percent of visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by exposure to UV radiation. Tanning accelerates the signs of aging, including wrinkles, leathering and fine lines, which can be seen as early as in one’s twenties.

Despite the fact that The American Academy of Pediatrics supports a ban on the use of tanning beds by minors it is still legal for teens to use tanning beds.  The Skin Cancer Foundation points out:

In the US, tanning is regulated by the states, some of which allow children as young as 14 to tan. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies UV-emitting tanning machines as Class I Medical Devices, meaning that it considers them to “present minimal potential for harm to the user.” Last year, the General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel of the FDA’s Medical Devices Advisory Committee unanimously recommended that the FDA upgrade its classification of tanning devices to better reflect the serious health risks tanning machines pose. The majority of the panel was also in favor of an age restriction to limit minors’ access to UV tanning devices.

So until the FDA and/or the federal government ban the use of tanning beds by minors what can you do to prevent teens from using tanning beds?  First and foremost, I think education is key.  If scaring a teen with the risk of cancer isn’t enough to get them to stop using a tanning bed appeal to their vanity by explaining that they are aging their skin tremendously by using a tanning bed.  If you want to do even more write to the FDA and/or your senator or congressperson asking them to support a ban on tanning bed use by minors.  Recommend to a teen who really likes how their skin looks tan to get a spray tan or fake a tan with a home applied tanning lotion.  There are a tremendous number of products on the market in all price ranges so there is really no excuse not to try one if you like the way your skin looks tan.

If any of the above tactics don’t stop the teens you know from tanning have them hear a personal story about the dangers of tanning beds.  I found this story on the FDA website:

Brittany Lietz Cicala of Chesapeake Beach, Md., began tanning indoors at age 17. She stopped at age 20 when she was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The former Miss Maryland says she used tanning beds at least four times a week, and sometimes every day.

“Growing up, until I started using tanning beds, my parents were very strict about me wearing sunscreen,” says Cicala. Although she also tanned in the summer sun during her 3 years of tanning bed use, Cicala estimates that 90 percent of her UV exposure was in tanning beds during this period.

In the 4 years since she was diagnosed with melanoma, Cicala’s surgeries have left her with about 25 scars. Cicala gets a head-to-toe skin exam every 3 months, which usually results in removal of a suspicious growth.

 

Sources and Further Reading:

 

 

 

Online Sources for Skincare Information April 25, 2011

Knowledge is power and though I would love my readers to look to my blog first for all their skincare concerns and questions even I have to admit that sometimes you might find the information you are looking for via another online source.  Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of good online resources for information about skin and skincare.  So in no particular order here are some online resources:

  • As I have mentioned too many times to count in my blog, Allure magazine is one of my favorite glossy magazines.  The magazine recently retooled their website and the “skin” section is definitely worth checking out.  Allure always has lots of up-to-date skincare and beauty information which they convey in a very easy to understand way.
  • WebMD has quite a few resources for information about skincare and skin issues.  One section is all about skin conditions and another is all about skincare concerns, skincare products, cosmetic surgery, anti-aging, etc.  They even have a whole video channel for information about skincare.
  • If you are interested and concerned about the ingredients and safety of your cosmetics you might want to check out the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database which contains tons and tons of information about product safety.  Just be aware that not all experts agree with the EWG’s findings and advice.
  • Paula Begoun’s Beautypedia is now free.  You’ll find all of Begoun’s product reviews on this site. 
  • Check out Dr. Leslie Baumann’s online Skin Type Solution Library which is collection of her articles about skincare, ingredients, skin science, and skin typing.

If you have a favorite online resource for skincare information please let everyone know by posting a comment below.

 

What is Sebum? It’s More Interesting Than You Think April 21, 2011

If you suffer from oily skin, shiny skin, or acne you’ve probably given the amount of oil or sebum your body produces some thought.  Probably that thought is: “Why does my body produce so much oil and how can I stop it?”.  Well before you try to entirely rid your skin of oil keep a few things in mind. 

According to the Skin Type Solutions  blog:

In simplest terms, sebum is just oil secreted by your skin’s sebaceous glands. Sebum is actually Latin for “fat,” which makes sense, and every square inch of your skin—with the exception of the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet—has it.

Most of us tend to focus on the negative side of sebum, such as its ability to make your face look shiny, and its connection with acne. But the presence of sebum is actually good for your skin since it protects the skin from losing moisture. Yet another good thing about sebum is that it contains a lot of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects the skin from aging as well as cancer. (The skin on the lips does not make sebum, which is why this area is more prone to skin cancer.)

Dermatologists are intrigued by the components of sebum, which seems to be determined by your individual genetic makeup. Upon taking a closer look, researchers have found sebum contains triglycerides, diglycerides, fatty acids, wax esters, squalane and cholesterol—why is why cosmetic chemists incorporate some of these ingredients in anti-aging creams. It was once believed that squalane levels in the sebum contributed to acne, but again, no definitive link has been made. Squalane is often added to skin creams so those with oily and acne-prone skins should avoid this ingredient to be on the safe side.

 

If you have acne then you have to deal with the excessive production of sebum by your body which contributes to breakouts.   According to the book Breaking Out (page 20):

People who are prone to acne tend to produce higher-than-average amounts of sebum.  This gives them oily skin – seborrhea, as it is called.  Seborrhea has no direct link with what you eat; the fats and oil in your diet are broken down by the digestive system, and there is no pathway from there to the skin.

Nor is sebum production influenced by anything you apply to your skin.  No matter how dry or tight they may make your face feel, astringent soaps, lotions, or cosmetics that mop up oil on the skin’s surface cannot retard sebum output.  Nor, contrary to popular belief, do they stimulate the sebaceous glands to overcompensate by stepping up oil production to lubricate the dried-out surface.  Sebum output is strictly under the domination of hormones that are indifferent to cleansers, toners, and other topical oil-control treatments.

The connection between hormones and sebum does not necessarily mean that if you have excess oil on your face, your body is producing an overabundance of testosterone, or that your skin boasts an excess follicle-stimulating DHT.  It is instead, typically, a sign that your sebaceous follicles are super-sensitive to these hormones and that they overreact to them, sending out the gush of shine-creating oil that is the most common feature of acne-prone skin.

 

So perhaps the next time you look at your oily face try to turn a negative into a positive and remember that the sebum in your skin can be beneficial.  But if your shiny face is bothering you, and I sympathize greatly since my face can look like an oil slick by the afternoon, follow my tips in my post Shine Free: How to Deal with Excessively Oily or Shiny Skin  for solutions.

 

Bumps on Your Arms: Solutions for Keratosis Pilaris April 18, 2011

So many people suffer from the following problem yet have no idea what it is.  Red, rough bumps on the back of your upper arms, face (especially in children), thighs, and even backside are actually a skin condition called keratosis pilaris.  According to Paula Begoun:

Keratosis pilaris has a few different forms: It can range from pink to red bumps on the cheeks to small red bumps that aren’t irritated, to pimple-like bumps that are inflamed and red. Overall, regardless of the type, these bumpy rough spots are clogged pores where skin cells have become hardened inside the pore and inflammation occurs.

So how do you treat keratosis pilaris?  In her book Simple Skin Beauty Dr. Ellen Marmur offers quite a number of solutions for keratosis pilaris, which is a form of eczema, along with some interesting insights into this condition (pages 219-220):

Instead of round bumps, dry skin can make triangular, pyramid-shaped bumps, or accuminate papules.  The keratin on top is shaped like a sharp spike which is why the skin is so rough.  There’s no good reason why these bumps are triangular while others elsewhere are round.  …  Like most eczema, the genetic condition stems from dry, sensitive skin and tends to get worse in the winter, when it’s cold and dry.  Ironically, most people with KP tend to do just the opposite of what they should to treat the condition.  They avoid moisturizing the area (thinking it’s a form of acne), when what’s really needed is the thickest cream possible.

The best prevention is slathering on a rich cream or ointment (one that contains occlusive emollients such as petrolatum, lanolin, and mineral oil) regularly to moisturize and protect the skin.  You can’t apply too much.  It will help keep the condition in check and may help it go away. …  When skin is chronically dehydrated, it tries to heal itself and the natural pattern of exfoliation is disrupted.  For this reason, you can use a loofah or body brush to gently scrub off the dead skin cells.  I also recommend over-the-counter lotions such as Lac-Hydrin or AmLactin to be applied once or twice a day.  They contain lactic acid (a great gentle exfoliant for sensitive skin) in a moisturizing base.  Another effective treatment is retinoid lotion, which regulates keratinocyte turnover and helps slough off the heaped-up, pointy dead skin cells.  To accelerate the exfoliation process, a dermatologist can do microdermabrasion and a light chemical peel followed by a deep moisturizing mask.  Once the area is smooth, a field of tiny red dots will be left behind.  They will fade somewhat though probably not completely on their own.  A pulsed dye laser treatment can make the redness go away faster.

Paula Begoun has a different solution for this problem:

Exfoliation to unclog pores is at the top of the list of treatments. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs, active ingredients would be lactic or glycolic acid) can help exfoliate skin cells, but these only work on the surface. AHAs can’t get inside the pore to dislodge the plug of skin and sebum.

To get to the root of the problem you need a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) product with the active ingredient salicylic acid and a pH low enough for exfoliation to occur. One other interesting aspect of BHA is that it has antimicrobial properties so it kills the bacteria that may be making matters worse. Plus, because salicylic acid is related to aspirin (aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid) it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Salicylic acid is a brilliant answer to eliminating these red bumps.

 And here is even more advice, this time from the May 2011 issue of Allure:

It’s better to use a chemical exfoliant than a physical one.  That means washes and lotions with alpha hydroxy acids.  Then use a hydrocortisone cream to reduce the redness, and the bumps should clear up in three weeks.

 

In the end, no matter whose advice you follow there are plenty of solution available for treating this common skin issue.

 

Further reading and products:

 

Reasons to Remove Your Make-Up and Wash Your Face April 14, 2011

It always surprises me how many people admit to me that they don’t wash their face at night.  They admit that they are either too tired or uninterested in taking one minute of their time before bed to remove their make-up and wash their face.  Personally, and this won’t come as a surprise, I simply cannot imagine going to bed without removing my make-up and washing my face.  Certainly both removing your make-up and washing your face shouldn’t be seen as a burden.  Instead it should be an automatic part of your pre-bedtime ritual.

I wrote a post in the past – How to Properly Remove Your Make-up – which includes tips on how to remove your make-up (as the title of the post explains).  I still find it hard to remove my eye make-up really well.  My go-to eye make-up remover has become jojoba oil because it not only gently removes my eye make-up but also moisturizes that area of my face in the process.  As a matter of fact I sometimes I use jojoba oil as a make-up remover for all my make-up since it is gentle, moisturizing, and won’t clog pores.  (For more information on jojoba oil see my post Ingredient Spotlight: Jojoba Oil)  I’ve also written a post in the past about how to properly wash your face, Is There a Correct Way to Wash Your Face?, which explained different ideas about how and when to wash your face.  But now I would like to add to all of that previous information and give all those people out there who don’t remove their make-up or wash their faces at night lots of reasons to reconsider.

You need to remove your make-up at night so that your make-up doesn’t sit on your face and clog your pores.  According to Dr. Howard Sobel, quoted in the April issue of Allure, not removing your make-up at the end of the day will mean that go to sleep with lots of free radicals, caused by pollution that is clinging to your make-up, on your skin.  These free radicals contribute to early aging and cellular damage.  As you go about your day dirt, residue, and pollution all collect on your face.  You need to remove all of those pollutants before going to bed.

Washing your face doesn’t need to be complicated.  Keep a few things in mind:

  • Don’t use a cleanser that is too harsh for your face.  You NEVER want to have that squeaky clean feeling.  That means that you have gone overboard with cleansing.
  • Be sure to wash with your facial cleanser for 30 seconds.
  • Be sure to work your cleanser all over your face.  Make sure you cleanse from the browline, into the hairline, and past your jawline.  Make sure the cleanser reaches all the way to the sides of your ears and slightly below your ears as well.  And don’t forget your neck.

If you currently don’t remove your make-up and/or wash your face at night please rethink that decision.  Investing 30 seconds in yourself each evening should be doable for everyone.  Think about those 30 seconds as some well needed “me time”.

Sources and Further Reading:

 

Stop Doing Those Facial Exercises! Give Yourself a Facial Massage Instead April 11, 2011

A while back a college friend of mine contacted me via Facebook to tell me that she was doing facial exercises nightly in order to maintain and improve her appearance and thought that she was getting good results.  But she was wondering if perhaps she was just seeing things and if facial exercises actually work.  I quickly emailed her back with a link to Paula Begoun’s take on facial exercise which, in a word, is that they are bogus. 

What are facial exercises anyhow?  I’ll quote from the book The Yoga Facelift in order to explain:

Facial expressions that reflect worry, unhappiness, and anger have a way of becoming permanent.  The good news is that we are not stuck with what we see in the mirror – if we don’t like what we see, we can change it.  There are a number of ways we can effect change.  First of all, from a purely physical stand-point, exercises do a lot to counteract the effects of time and gravity.  Over time our muscles lengthen as gravity pulls ever downward, causing the sagging we start to see everywhere in our faces; eyes start to droop, foreheads and cheeks sag, and jowls start to form until it’s almost like watching a snowman melt in slow motion.  Exercising shortens muscles, and so we end up with tighter, firmer faces as we tone the musculature underneath.  This method of addressing sagging is far superior to plastic surgery, the other option, because it actually improves your appearance over time. 

 

Sounds rather persuasive, doesn’t it?  The program outlined in this book takes an hour to perform and you need to do that hour long program once a day for about three months before you can go on a maintenance program that only requires you to do facial exercises for 10 to 15 minutes a day.  I tried a number of the exercises in the book just for fun.  Some were strange, uncomfortable, and difficult to do while others were just relaxing.  Truthfully even if I did believe that facial exercises worked I certainly don’t have a free hour each day to perform them.  But even if you do have that amount of free time to devote to facial exercises don’t waste your time!  Here’s why (I like how Paula Begoun explains why facial exercises don’t work so I’ll quote her here):

For the most part, facial exercises are more a problem for skin than a help. Facial exercises provide little or no benefit because loss of muscle tone is not a major cause of wrinkles or sagging skin. In fact, muscle tone is barely involved in these at all. The skin’s sagging and drooping are caused by four major factors:

  1. Deteriorated collagen and elastin (due primarily to sun damage);
  2. Depletion of the skin’s fat layer (a factor of genetic aging and gravity);
  3. Repetitive facial movement (particularly true for the forehead frown lines and for smile lines from the nose to the mouth);
  4. Muscle sagging due to the loosening of facial ligaments that hold the muscles in place.

Facial exercise is not helpful for worn-out collagen, elastin, or the skin’s fat layer, because none of that is about the muscles. It is especially not helpful for the lines caused by facial movement! Instead, facial exercises only make those areas appear more lined. The reason Botox injections into the muscles of the forehead and facial lines work to create a smoother face is because Botox prevents the muscles from moving!

Facial exercises won’t reattach facial ligaments; that is only possible via surgery. One procedure in a surgical face-lift is to re-drape the muscle of the cheek and the jaw, drawing it back and then literally stitching it back in place where it used to be. Exercise doesn’t reattach the ligaments, it just tones the sagging.

The ads for facial exercises often tout the fact that the facial muscles are the only muscles in the body that insert (or attach) into skin rather than into bone. They then use this fact to explain why, if you tone facial muscles, they directly affect the appearance of the skin. What this doesn’t say is that skin movement is one of the things that causes the skin to sag. If you are doing facial exercises and can see your skin move or frown lines and laugh lines look more apparent, it only makes matters worse.

 Now if doing facial exercises relax you after a long day then that is the only time I am all for them.  If you really want to do your skin and face some good consider giving yourself a nightly facial massage.  By giving yourself a short facial massage you are able to release tension that you hold in your face, relax, destress, relieve muscle pain, and make yourself feel good.  A facial massage also stimulates blood flow to your face and helps with your circulation.

In my opinion the easiest facial massage you can do on yourself is a pressure point massage.  Take your index fingers and gently make about 15 circles on the pressure point.  See the photos below for some ideas of where you can find pressure points on your face.  Only press as hard as you feel comfortable.  The idea is relax not hurt yourself.  I hold a lot of tension in my jaw so I particularly like to rub that pressure point.  A pressure point massage can be performed on any skin type even on someone with acne.  You can do it while watching TV.  Give it a try – you won’t regret it!

 

Raiding the Pantry: Making Your Own Beauty Products April 7, 2011

One my biggest beauty misadventures occurred a very long time ago and involved a bottle of olive oil.  I have thick, unruly, frizzy hair, and I was looking to condition and tame my hair.  Somewhere I read that if I applied olive oil to my hair, left it on for about 10 minutes or so, I would be left with soft and cooperative hair once I rinsed it off.  So I borrowed our family’s olive oil from the kitchen, poured A LOT of olive oil all over my hair, wrapped my hair up for 10 minutes or so, and waited.  Then I tried to rinse the olive oil out.  That proved to be very difficult.  In the end I had to shampoo my hair at least twice if not three times so that I wasn’t left with an oily, greasy mess of hair.  Did my hair become softer?  Frankly, I can’t remember.  All I remember is my hair being insanely oily and greasy and that it seemed to take me forever to get that oil out.

After that misadventure with using food as a beauty aid I have pretty much steered clear of the kitchen when it came to skin and hair care.  Only recently have I taken a tiny step back into that arena by trying to exfoliate my face with milk (more on that later).  I’ve also exfoliated my body with used coffee grinds (very effective and very messy) and a homemade concoction of sugar and olive oil (effective, cheap, and less messy than the coffee grinds), but otherwise I’ve never tried facial masks made of avocados or put mashed up fruit on my face in order to exfoliate.  Of course that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give these ideas a whirl.

Ok so if you want to raid your fridge, medicine cabinet, and pantry in order to treat your skin here are some ideas from the March 2011 issue of Allure:

  • For puffy eyes: Ice, tea bags, or cucumbers –  A washcloth soaked in ice water helps shrink swelling.  Tea bags are even better: Caffeine constricts blood vessels to counteract redness, and the tannic acid in the tea can temporarily tighten skin.  Chilled cucumber slices have soothing properties, too.
  • For dull hair: Beer – The ridges and chipped cuticles that make hair look damaged and dull can be filled in by protein in beer, giving hair the ability to reflect more light.  Rinsing with a thick, dark beer, such as Guinness Extra Stout, works best.  Cheers.
  • For zits: Aspirin and Visine – Acne-fighting salicylic acid is the compound from which aspirin is derived; a paste made from a crushed tablet and a few drops of water can help heal a spot.  To lessen redness, douse a cotton swab with Visine, pop it in the fridge until cold, and hold it on the blemish for a few minutes.
  • For redness: Milk – The proteins and fats in whole milk can calm irritated or sunburned skin – just make sure to follow a compress or cold powdered-milk bath with moisturizer.  Otherwise, the skin get right and dry as the liquid evaporates.
  • For rough skin:  Olive oil or vegetable shortening – cooking oils soften parched skin – ideal for chapped hands, feet, or elbows.  Slather on a thick coat of Crisco or olive oil before bed, then put on cotton gloves and socks to avoid messing up your iPad or sheets.  Let it soak in overnight.

My take on the advice from Allure:  Avoid the Visine entirely since it is too harsh to apply to skin.  A cold q-tip applied for a minute or so to a breakout should help take down some of the redness or just get out your green concealer (I always have a green concealer from Physician’s Formula on hand to counteract red marks and breakouts).  The milk treatment could work, but rinse off the milk before applying moisturizer.  And lastly, if you slather yourself with Crisco you will smell disgusting and be super greasy.  Use jojoba oil instead or just straight up petroleum jelly.

Earlier in this post I referred to trying to exfoliate with milk.  I got this idea from Dr. Ellen Marmur’s book Simple Skin Beauty.  On page 94 of her book Dr. Marmur writes about how exfoliate your skin if you have rosacea:

Scrubbing can aggravate rosacea or a painfully dry complexion.  And because acids work by temporarily lowering the natural pH balance of the skin, they can be very irritating for someone with sensitivity.  The gentlest option is lactic acid, which is probably the cheapest and easiest exfoliant around.  Just soak a washcloth in plain whole milk, then rest the damp cloth on your face, neck, and upper chest for a minute or two.  (You can dunk the cloth again and repeat, but don’t overdo it and cause inflammation.  Four minutes on your skin is more than enough to see results.)  Essentially, you’re getting a light chemical peel, but the fatty proteins in the milk act as a moisturizing buffer to the lactic acid.  Milk also has anti-inflammatory and humectant properties that help to sooth and moisturize skin simultaneously.  Talk about a perfect (and organic) beauty food!

After I recommended this exfoliation technique to a client who has rosacea I figured I had to give it a try myself.  I poured whole milk into a bowl, dunked my washcloth in the milk, and spread it all over my face as I watched TV.  Ok well I think first I put it on my forehead and then on the lower half of my face so that I could actually see the program I was watching on TV.  I definitely left the washcloth on for more than two minutes; I think I left it on for about 5 or 7 minutes.  Afterwards my face felt very, very tight so  I rinsed my face in warm water.  Then I felt my face – it felt very smooth.  But I have to admit that besides leaving my face very smooth I didn’t really see a difference in my complexion.  On the other hand, I have oily, acne-prone skin so I wasn’t exactly the person Dr. Marmur was referring to when making this tip.  If you are looking for a new, gentle, and cost-effective way to exfoliate I definitely would give the milk exfoliation a try.

Some of the most popular food ingredients that you can use to make homemade beauty products like facial masks:

  • Honey which is a humectant
  • Avocado and olive oil which are emollients or moisturizers
  • Cucumbers and oatmeal which are anti-inflammatory
  • Milk (as already mentioned above) and yogurt which gently exfoliate

Of course in order to combine these ingredients into effective facial masks you’ll probably want a recipe.  Both amazon.com and your local chain bookstore have plenty of DIY beauty books.  But whatever you do just make sure you are using the right ingredients for your skin type and condition.  For instance since I have oily, acne-prone skin (as I already mentioned above) I wouldn’t want to use a mask with avocado or olive oil but I could probably try a mask with honey if I was feeling a bit dry.

I would love to get some feedback from my readers about your own home experimentations with food or other household items made into beauty products.  If you’ve got the food lying around, and aren’t planning on eating it, I see no reason not to give it a try.

Further Reading:

  • The Skin Care Book: Simple Herbal Recipes by Kathlyn Quatrochi.  This is a little gem of a book that I found at my local library.  It has lots of interesting sounding recipes though be aware that buying the ingredients for the recipes could add up and you will certainly need to set aside time in order to make the recipes.  I haven’t tried any myself (and clearly I will be staying away from the olive oil hair mask recipe), but if anyone has tried these recipes please post a comment below.
  • In her book Feed Your Face Dr. Jessica Wu has devoted an entire chapter to homemade beauty remedies – Chapter 11:  Food on Your Face.
  • My Facial is Tastier than Yours – The New York Times from Nov. 18, 2008.  A fun article about a group of people trying homemade masks and body treatments.  I was particularly interested in the fact that the author had a very similar olive oil hair mask misadventure like I did.  The article includes recipes for the masks and body treatments.
  • 3 At-Home Recipes for Natural Skin Care – Prevention magazine
 

Challenging the EWG on Their Sunscreen Findings April 4, 2011

For the past few years The Environmental Working Group, a health and environmental watch group, has come out with an annual sunscreen report that casts an extremely damning eye on the vast majority of the sunscreens on the market today.  Last year the EWG recommended only 39 out of the 500 sunscreens that they reviewed.  The group called into question the use of retinyl palmitate (or vitamin A) and oxybenzone in sunscreens saying that retinyl palmitate could actually cause cancerous tumors if exposed to sunlight and that oxybenzone (which is so widely used in sunscreens it is hard to find a readily available commercial sunscreen without it) is an endocrine disruptor.  The report also went on to make harsh statements against The Skin Cancer Foundation for putting their seal of approval on sunscreens and the FDA for still not updating its sunscreen regulations, something they said they were going to do back in 1978 (yes, 1978 that isn’t a typo).   One more thing the EWG emphasized in their report was the fact that sunscreens’ were promising false security with exaggerated spf ratings.  I happen to agree with that last point wholeheartedly.  (For more on that issue please see my previous post – Spf 100 is a Joke.)

Last year’s EWG sunscreen report created quite a ruckus and got a lot of media attention.  In my opinion it also created a lot of unnecessary stress, worry, and aggravation particularly for parents who wanted to make sure that their children were properly protected from the sun.  Perhaps what bothered me the most wasn’t the debate about which sunscreens were best because I actually don’t think all sunscreens are created equal, but the lack of insight and the blind following that many people engaged in after reading (or just hearing) about the EWG report.  Instead of investigating the issue for themselves many people, and I knew quite a few personally, didn’t give the EWG’s statements a second thought and instead of doing some of their own investigating they simply became hysterical about buying the “right” sunscreen.  (I tried to cover different sides of this debate in my blog last summer is my posts: Sunscreen Woes – The EWG Releases Its Annual Sunscreen Report and The Debate Continues: More on the Sunscreen Controversy)  So I was pleased to see the recent article Shedding Light on Sunscreens in MedEsthetics Magazine which addressed many of the issues raised in the EWG report last year.

The article in MedEsthetics addressed the issues brought up by the EWG about retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone.  The article explains that the EWG reached their conclusions about retinyl palmitate causing cancerous tumors when exposed to sunlight:

based on initial, unpublished findings from a National Toxicology Program study released in late 2009 by the FDA.  The NTP is the federal government’s principal evaluator of substances that raise public health concerns.  In the study, lab mice were coated in 0.1% to 0.5% vitamin A cream and then exposed to the equivalent of up to nine minutes of midday Florida sunlight each day for one year.  The EWG says that tumors and lesions developed in up to 21% sooner in lab animals coated in the vitamin A cream compared to control animals covered in a vitamin-free cream.

The EWG’s interpretation caught physicians and the industry by surprise.  It wasn’t until November 2010 that dermatologists responded in a paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.  Lead author Steven Q. Wang, MD, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues disagreed with the EWG conclusions, saying that the number of malignant neoplasms in the two groups of mice were not significantly different in mice exposed to the higher doses of radiation.  They concluded that the evidence did not support calling the combination of retinyl palmitate and UV photocarcinogenic.

The EWG countered with its own online critique of the journal article, saying that it stood by its analysis of the data.  As we await a final report from the NTP, industry leaders weighing in on the evidence seem to agree with this statement from Tatiana Kononov, principle scientist at Revision Skin Care:  Although I applaud the stated mission of the EWG, the release of its report on sunscreens highlighted some harsh generalizations that I think were made solely for publicity purposes.  This specific act by the EWG was unfortunate and irresponsible.  I am sure that many future studies will show that retinyl palmitate is perfectly safe and even beneficial in sunscreen products.”

 As for oxybenzone, which the EWG labeled an endocrine disruptor, once again most experts disagreed with their findings:

The EWG bases its conclusion on studies in which mice were fed large amounts of oxybenzone.  “Oxybenzone has been around for 30 to 40 years, and there is no data showing that topical use is estrogenic in any way,” Dr. Lim says [Dr. Lim is the chairman of the department of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit].  “Since the original mouse studies, several groups have done human studies looking for hormonal effects but found none.”

Oxybenzone is a helpful ingredient because it has some UVA absorption characteristics,” says Kononov.  “It is approved for use in sunscreens by many other countries including Japan, Australia and South Korea.

I have to say that I was pleased to read these counter interpretations of the EWG’s conclusions.  Though I was initially inclined to think the EWG was on to something when I read their report last year I have since decided that their claims were way overblown.  Of course all this makes me wonder – what is the EWG going to say in their 2011 sunscreen report?  Only time will tell.

 

 
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