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!

 

 
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