Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

How Our Skin Gets Its Color and Tone July 30, 2012

Filed under: Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
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With the myriad of beautiful skin colors and tones the world over have you ever wondered how our skin gets its color and tone?  The process by which the skin’s melanin behaves is both interesting and complex.

The Skin Inc. article The Anatomy of Global Skin Tones helps to explain how skin color is produced:

The discerning factor in many ethnic groups is skin color. The color of the skin is produced in the deepest layer of the epidermis—the basal layer—which houses not only the keratinocytes responsible for the progression of cells to produce the epidermis, but also the melanocytes responsible for the production of melanin. Melanin plays a key role in protecting the skin from the penetration of UV rays. The darker the skin, the less UV penetration and the lower the incidence of skin cancer. The number of pigment-producing cells, called melanocytes, is equal, no matter what the skin color. The difference is the structure and function of these cells.

To produce melanin, there has to be two components: an enzyme—tyrosinase, and an amino acid—tyrosine. When these two components go through a conversion process called dopa, melanin is produced. In skin of color, there is increased tyrosinase activity, producing a more concentrated melanin content. The pigment granule’s size is the basis for skin color differences; the darker the skin, the larger the granule.

There are two distinct components of melanin. One is constitutive melanin, or pigmentation, and the other is facultative pigmentation. Constitutive pigmentation is the pigment that resides within the keratinocytes and is produced from the body’s own metabolism. Facultative pigmentation is introduced through external stimuli.

The melanocyte is a dendritic cell. The dendrites are tentaclelike projections that enable pigment cells to be deposited into the keratinocyte. These projections are longer in darker skin, enabling pigment granule dispersion into the upper layers of the epidermis.

Another unique difference in darker skin is that pigment granules—also known as melanosomes—are dispersed singularly over the nucleus of the keratinocyte. In Caucasian skin, the granules are considerably smaller and are released in clusters. Racially blended and lighter global skin colors disperse a combination of both single—and clusters of—pigment granules. The activity of a melanosome transfer generally takes place within the lower and upper spinosum layer. In some cases, the transferral is disseminated as pigment droppings into the dermis as a result of injury or trauma to the skin.

And what about how your skin reflects light?  This turns out to be an interesting scientific issue as well.  Another Skin Inc. article offers an explanation:

Reflection and refraction of light play a large role in the perception of overall skin tone. About 5% of the light that hits facial skin is reflected off the skin’s surface, while the other 95% penetrates it.5–9 It is this light reflection process that gives human skin its optical depth. The white light passing through skin’s transparent surface reflects off of collagen, which essentially acts as a mirror beneath the surface. As the light reflects back to the surface, it absorbs color from pigments such as melanin and blood within skin’s many layers. Colored light is then diffused softly by the surface, generating a luminous glow.

With aging, collagen becomes more like an antique mirror, and light passes through it, compromising the skin’s ability to reflect and refract light. Additionally, uneven distributions of melanin, or age spots, and hemoglobin, or dilated or broken blood vessels, in the skin can further impede or scatter light, contributing to a dull, less luminous complexion.

(From Talking Tone: Melanin Under the Microscope)

These explanations about how our skin gets its color and tone are also a great reminder about how complex our skin and its processes are.  Never underestimate it!

Image from braintraining101.com

 

Foods That Prevent Skin Cancer? July 26, 2012

My newest skin obsession is finding out how the foods we eat impact our skin both positively and negatively.  Recently I came across the following information about foods that may help prevent skin cancer.

According to Prevention magazine (August, 2012, page 26):

Supplements – including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from berries, green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate – may help protect against skin cancer, a recent spate of studies show.  “Regularly drinking green tea or adding antioxidants in the form of vitamin E or beta-carotene may be helpful, although topical use shows greater promise,” says Andrew Weil, MD, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.  “Compounds found in grapes (resveratrol); berries (ellagic acid); cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and brussel sprouts; garlic; onions; and the spice turmeric also show promise for general cancer prevention.”  But the effects are modest, Dr. Weil says.  Preliminary studies also suggest that Heliocare, an oral supplement made from South American fern plants, may boost the body’s defense against sun damage slightly, but it’s very expensive.  So don’t forget the sunblock!

And drinking caffeinated coffee may help prevent certain types of skin cancer as well:

Drinking more cups of caffeinated coffee could lower a person’s risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, according to a recent study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Our data indicate that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma,” said Jiali Han, associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston and Harvard School of Public Health.

Han and his colleagues conducted a prospective analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a large and long-running study to aid in the investigation of factors influencing women’s health, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, an analogous study for men.

Of the 112,897 participants included in the analyses, 22,786 developed basal cell carcinoma during the more than 20 years of follow up in the two studies. The results revealed a decrease in the risk for basal cell carcinoma as coffee consumption increased. Similar results were seen with other caffeinated products such as tea, cola and chocolate. Caffeinated coffee also reduced risk for other serious conditions such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

However, consumption of decaffeinated coffee was not associated with a decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma, the study found. Also, neither coffee consumption nor caffeine intake were associated with the two other forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Still, Han said more studies in different populations are needed before the group can make a “definite” determination on the impact of caffeine on these serious health conditions.

(Skin Inc.Study Says Caffeinated Coffee Decreases Skin Cancer Risk)

At least now I know my morning coffee is protecting my skin instead of hurting it, and I’ll continue to drink my green tea in order to help my skin.

 

Different Ways Estheticians Can Help Cancer Patients July 23, 2012

ALSO –  SPA SERVICES FOR CANCER PATIENTS

I recently completed a three day intensive course about oncology esthetics through the organization Touch for Cancer; this organization is headed by Morag Currin who wrote the book Oncology Esthetics.  The class was run by a wonderful instructor named Becky who was knowledgable and helpful.  We were 13 estheticians with varying backgrounds, but everyone of us shared the desire to help people affected by cancer.  The class included an overview of all aspects of cancer and its treatment and then we, of course, learned and spoke extensively about how as estheticians we could treat cancer patients safely and effectively.  On the last day of class we had the opportunity to work with women who were in different stages of treatment and recovery from cancer.  It was, in all, an amazing experience.

The course was held at Faye’s Light which is a nonprofit spa for cancer patients.  Faye’s Light is wonderful – they have created a warm, comforting, caring, and calming atmosphere for cancer patients to receive spa services for free.  It was great to see that cancer patients had a place where they could come to relax and recharge during their treatment.

It turns out that there are many places like Faye’s Light all across the US where cancer patients can receive spa services during treatment.  In the latest issue of Day Spa Magazine I found out about Angie’s Spa which provides free spa services at few different hospitals.  A simple Google search lead me to other spas and in-home or in-hospital services for cancer patients all over the country.  (There is also an organization in the Los Angeles area called Beauty Bus Foundation that brings spa and hair services to men, women, and children who are home bound because of illness.  They also provide services to the caregivers.  How thoughtful to think of the caregivers as well.)

I’ve mentioned in my blog before how I volunteer for The American Cancer Society’s program Look Good…Feel Better which provides free skincare and make-up products to cancer patients along with a complimentary session during which a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist explains how to care for your skin during cancer treatment.  We also apply the make-up during the session, and generally try to create a caring and stress-free environment for the patients so that they can focus on something fun instead of their cancer for a short period of time.  If you are an esthetician who is looking for a way to volunteer your time I strongly encourage you to contact your local American Cancer Society office and inquire about how you can help with Look Good … Feel Better.

Why Spa Services During Cancer Treatment?

It is amazing how the simple act of touch can have a positive and healing effect on the human body.  When you are feeling physically and mentally depleted from fighting cancer taking the time to have a gentle spa service can have both positive spiritual and physical effects on the body.

Chemotherapy and radiation can cause numerous unpleasant and difficult side effects in the skin.  Skin can become very dry and sensitive due to chemotherapy.  Nails can become brittle, discolored, and even flake off.  Radiation can burn the skin and cause rashes.  (These are just a few of the skin side effects that cancer treatment can cause)  So if you can visit an esthetician who has been trained to treat patients undergoing cancer treatment you can receive help in coping with any skin conditions that may arise while receiving treatment for cancer.  During the same session you can also get advice about how to care for your skin at home while it is compromised from treatments.  There are many gentle and effective skincare products on the market that cancer patients can safely use during cancer treatment in order to help, not hurt, their skin.  The key is to receive advice from an esthetician who has the right training to help you.  Above all, if you are feeling well enough to receive a spa service while undergoing cancer treatment taking that time to allow someone else to care and pamper you will help you relax and hopefully feel better for a while.

I encourage my fellow estheticians who have an interest in helping cancer patients to pursue further education in this field.  This line of esthetics isn’t for everyone, but for those who feel that they are drawn to it will be greatly rewarded if they can pursue it.

If you know someone undergoing cancer treatment look into available spa services for them.  Make sure the people giving the services are trained in oncology esthetics or massage.  A lot of spa services for cancer patients are available free of charge or at reduced rates.

 

 

Image from thecancermademedoit.com

 

Founding the Spa as We Know It July 19, 2012

Filed under: beauty,Spa Services — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
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I always think it is important for women to find female role models in the industry they work in.  Luckily for me since I work in the beauty industry I have a plethera of female role models to choose from.

Recently W magazine published an article about Deborah Szekey, the founder of the luxury spas Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico and the Golden Door in California.  Rancho La Puerto really can be called the first modern spa since it was the first spa to emphasize wellness, fitness, and health not just beauty treatments.  Way of ahead of her time in terms of her philosophy about diet, exercise, and healthy living, Szekey endevoured to educate those who came to her spas in how live a clean lifestyle for better health.

Sezeky’s life reads like a movie and how she ended up founding the spa is fascinating:

Deborah Shainman was born in Brooklyn to parents who ate a diet of raw foods; her mother, a nurse, was vice president of the New York Vegetarian Society. The family spent summers at health camps in the U.S. and abroad, where they were hosted by the Hungarian scholar Edmond Szekely, who lectured on the importance of natural living. When Deborah was 16, she worked as Szekely’s secretary. A year later, in 1939, she married him—but when he received orders to return to Eastern Europe and participate in Hitler’s war effort, the newlyweds, both Jewish, headed instead to Mexico, where they settled into an adobe house in the middle of a small vineyard.

Since Szekely’s acolytes were already used to traveling to his camps, Tecate became just another exotic spot where they could set up tents, stay for a week, and live a communal existence, pitching in with the gardening and cooking when they weren’t hiking, playing volleyball, or taking dips in the nearby Tecate river. In the afternoons, guests gathered outside Szekely’s hut for his talks—on everything from responsible sun exposure to the dangers of pesticides and cigarettes, pronouncements that at the time had the air of prophecy. Since Szekely had a number of expat friends in Los Angeles—there was a large Hungarian presence in Hollywood, including the founders of both Paramount and ­Twentieth Century Fox—showbiz types like William Holden, Barbara Rush, Kim Novak, and Burt Lancaster started to make the trek.

By the fifties, the importance of exercise was catching on, but following through occasionally presented a problem for better-known actors. “Kim ­Novak had a wonderful hourglass figure,” Szekely says. “But one day she told me, ‘­Deborah, it’s so hard exercising with people looking at my big bottom. I’m beginning to get a thing about it.’ So we opened the Door.” With its serene Japanese-garden setting and an 18-guest capacity, the Golden Door provided ideal privacy for actors to shape up for their next film role.

“In those days, nobody had trainers,” Szekely says. “They didn’t even know what a massage was. So they’d come and spend a month—and they worked—and the studio paid for it.”

(From the article Mother Nature from W magazine)

Even though Szekely recently turned 90 she has absolutely no intention of slowing down.  A very active volunteer and advocate for social justice Szekely lives life at full speed:

At age 90, the only pills she takes are vitamins, a little something for her thyroid and a B12 shot every month. She is living evidence that 90 is the new 60, and energy-wise, she shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, those who know her well say that on the occasion of her 85th birthday, she announced that she intended to only age one year in the next five and, by all accounts, she aced it.

“I can’t be 90,” she exclaimed, “My schedule is the same as it was when I was 60!” She eats no red meat or chicken and follows a diet “as close to nature as possible.” Four times a week, she does pilates and her weight has stayed steady at 118 to122 for decades. While we’re checking her vitals, her blood pressure is 104/62 and her cholesterol, 193 (not fasting).

About the only thing that raises her blood pressure are the actions of agri-business and Big Pharma and the government’s support of programs that have fueled the country’s obesity epidemic. Her Wellness Spring initiative aims to raise $10 million by collecting $10 each from one million people. The money will be used to fund lobbying efforts to counter those of businesses that she argues are poisoning and killing Americans with fast food and a culture that “considers watching TV an activity.”

(From Happy Birthday Deborah Szekely, Godmother of the Wellness Movement Huffington Post)

I can only hope that if I get the chance to live to 90 I’ll have Szekely’s health, clarity, and energy.  What a great inspiration to us all!

Sources and Further Reading:

Image from W magazine

 

The Beauty Product I Can’t Live Without July 16, 2012

My family and I are in the midst of getting ready for a big move next month so we have started going through our apartment, where we have lived for the last five years, to see what we can donate, recycle, throw-out, and sell before the move.  At the moment I live in chaos while I wait for the movers to arrive in less than ten days to pack our things and load them onto a container.  Instead of feeling like I have less things I feel like our stuff is multiplying and taking over the apartment.  No matter how much I try to part with things there only seems to be more and more things around.

In the past I’ve shared with my readers how I am a beauty product hoarder.  (See my post Are You a Skincare Product Hoarder?)  When we move next month I am planning on bringing with me an entire, large bag just for all my make-up and skincare products. The bag is actually the one I used to use when I was an esthetics student, and I am sure that I will fill the entire thing up with my products.  (a picture of the bag is below)

Going through our home has made me wonder the following things repeatedly:  why do I need all these things?  And can’t I just live with less?  If you think the number of beauty products I have is bad, you should realize that I also hoard clothes and shoes, especially shoes.  I have always had a thing for shoes.  But I digress.  So I got to thinking: if I could only choose one beauty product to have around what would it be?  I realized that I would actually have to have two: sunscreen and tweezers.  I simply cannot live without my tweezers!  Twice a day, at least, I have to pluck stray hairs from my face, chin (always my chin), and my brows.  I’ve been attached to my tweezers for longer than I can remember; without them I feel lost.  I can’t stand feeling or seeing coarse, usually black hairs, on my face.  I have a pathological need to get rid of the hairs as quickly as I can.  I guess if I really had to I could let go of all my other skincare products (my cleansers, my exfoliating lotions, my retin-a, my antioxidant serums, etc.) but never my tweezers.  As for the sunscreen, I think my need for it is pretty self-explanatory.

There is a quote that keeps making the rounds on Pinterest*:

Someone else is happy with less than what you have

At this point in my life this quote resonates strongly with me; I know that this is something I should aspire to – living with less and being happy.

If you could only have one or two beauty products what would they be?  Please share below.  I love comments!

Further Reading:

 

 

Image of tweezers from hairbumpsrelief.com

Image of bag from overstock.com

*Not on Pinterest yet?  I suggest joining.  It is so much fun!

 

Nora Ephron on Beauty July 12, 2012

Filed under: Outlooks and Attitudes about Beauty — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
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Nora Ephron passed away on June 26, 2012 at the age of 71.  A prolific essayist, screenwriter, and movie director Ephron was known for her wit and insight – particularly when it came to women’s issues and feelings.  Since she passed away I’ve been looking, knowing it must be out there, for Ephron’s take on beauty in order to share her thoughts with my readers.  I hit pay dirt when I finally found her essay On Maintenance which was published in the October, 2005 issue of O magazine.

The essay is a very funny discussion of everything that Ephron does in order to look good.  Since this is a blog all about skincare I’ll share what she had to say about skin maintenance:

I have cream for my face. I have lotion for my arms and legs. I have oil for my bath. I have Vaseline for my feet. I cannot begin to tell you how much time I spend rubbing these moisturizers into myself. But I still get pimples on my face and rough patches on my arms and legs. What’s more, the skin on my back is so dry that when I take off a black sweater it looks as if it’s been in a snowstorm, and the skin on my heels has the consistency of a loofah.

The conclusion of the essay is witty and insightful all at once:

I have no doubt omitted something where maintenance is concerned. The world of maintenance is changing every second, and I may not know about all sorts of things that women my age are up to. (The other day, for instance, I had lunch with a friend who assured me that I hadn’t lived until I had tried having some sort of facial that seems to include a mild form of electroshock.)

What I know is that I spend a huge amount of time with my finger in the dike, and that doesn’t begin to include all the things I promised not to go into—the pathetic things. I have never had plastic surgery, but I have done any number of things that fall just short of it. I even had all the fillings in my mouth replaced with white material, and I swear to God it took six months off my age. From time to time my dermatologist shoots a hypodermic needle full of something called Restylane into my chin, and it sort of fills in the saggy parts.

But the other day, on the street, I passed a homeless woman, and as I watched her shuffle down the street, it crossed my mind that I am only about eight hours a week of maintenance away from looking exactly like her—with frizzled flyaway gray hair I would probably have if I stopped dyeing mine, with a pot belly I would definitely develop if I ate just half of what I think about eating every day, with the dirty nails and chapped lips and mustache and bushy eyebrows that would be my destiny if I ever spent even two weeks on a desert island.

Eight hours a week and counting. By the time I reach my 70s, I’m sure it will take at least twice as long. The only consolation I take in any of this is that when I’m very old and virtually unemployable, I will at least have something to do. Assuming, of course, that I haven’t spent all my money doing it.

That’s just a little taste of what Ephron had to say about beauty and maintaining her looks.  Her wit and humor will definitely be missed, but you can always watch one of the movies she directed or wrote when you feel you need some humor and heart.

Further Reading:

 

Image from O magazine

 

Products I’ve Been Trying July 9, 2012

Lately I’ve had an opportunity  to try some new skincare products and make-up.  I thought I would share with my readers what I’ve been trying.

Through this blog I was approached by Sue Nelson from L’bri Pure and Natural skincare who asked if I wanted to their products.  She was nice enough to send me sample sizes of products for both normal to oily skin that I could try and normal to dry products for my friend Sarah to try.  A few things about this line – all the products are aloe vera based* as opposed to water based like most skincare products (check your products and you’ll see that the first ingredient in most skincare products is water), are paraben free (if that is important to you), contain no artificial colors or fragrances, and no mineral oil or waxes.  It does not say anywhere in the literature or website that the products are organic so keep that in mind if that is important to you.

I tried the deep pore cleanser, the deep pore freshener, the oil-free moisture lotion, and the facial masque.  I was also sent a sample of the rejuvenating facial peel, but I can’t comment on it too much because I didn’t bother to read the directions before trying it and completely misused it all up.  My bad.  I have to say that I liked the feel of all the products.  The mask left my face very smooth and soft, but it also tightened to an extreme extent.  I happen to be claustrophobic so having a product on my face that was tight didn’t make me happy one bit, but I was pleased with the end result.  I especially liked the oil free moisturizer because it managed to be rich and creamy but also light on the skin.  A lot of moisturizers for oily skin can feel too light so I liked how this one moisturizer felt and worked.  I think the normal to oily skin products I tried are good for just that – someone with a little more than normal amount of oil in their skin.  I don’t think that these products would work well for someone with active acne breakouts at all.

My friend Sarah raved about the products she tried saying that they she liked the way they felt on her skin and how her skin looked and felt after using them.  She particularly liked the facial masque (the same one that I tried) and gave the line a thumbs up.

In all, if you are looking for a natural skincare line you might want to give L’bri a try.  Of the products I tried my favorites were the oil free moisturizer and the facial masque.

As an aside, if you are wondering why aloe is good for the skin this is what Paula Begoun has to say about aloe in her online cosmetic ingredient dictionary:

In pure form, aloe vera’s benefits on skin are probably its lack of occlusion and the refreshing sensation it provides. Aloe serves as a water-binding agent for skin due to its polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate) and sterol content. (An example of a sterol that’s beneficial for skin is cholesterol) Although research has shown aloe also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial qualities, no study has proven it to be superior to other ingredients with similar properties, including vitamin C, green tea, pomegranate, and many other antioxidants (Source: http://www.naturaldatabase.com).

*There are other skincare lines that are aloe based liked Lexli.

Another skincare line I’ve been trying products from and absolutely love is called Tecniche.  I was introduced to this line when I took my oncology esthetics class through Touch for Cancer.  As part of the class we were given full size products to use on the cancer patients we worked with and to try ourselves.  This line is extremely gentle so it can be used by anyone with compromised skin, and it is organic and paraben free.  The line’s tagline is:  “savvy science for healing sensitive skin”.  The philosophy behind the skincare line is explained this way:

Tecniche™ Savvy Science products are the gentlest anti-age cosmeceutical products in the skincare industry, uniting the once-separate branches of cosmeceutical/anti-age and sensitive/healing.

Tecniche™ products are designed specifically for the short- and long-term care of sensitive skin. In the short-term, your skin will be comforted, softened and balanced. In the long-term, the gentle introduction of cosmeceutical-strength ingredients will strengthen and revitalize your skin for a beautiful future.

I certainly do not have sensitive skin, but I’ve loved all the products I tried from this line.  I was so pleased with everything I got during my class that I went and set-up an account with Tecniche so I could buy more products.  So far I’ve tried and loved:

  • Plantae Foaming Wash – creamy and non stripping this cleanser leaves my skin feeling fabulous
  • Jojoba Polish and Jadease Mask worked great during facials and client’s skin was soft and had a great glow to it afterwards (which is always something you want to achieve with facials)
  • The DNA Care Natural SPF 30 is thicker than the sunscreens I usually use but it absorbs nicely and quickly into the skin
  • Joy Mist is a great way to set your mineral make-up and an excellent toner

I’ve bought but still have to try the SupremeC Serum, the Taheebo Nail Balmand Incredible Enzymes.  I was delighted to find Tecniche’s Unscented Massage Oil which I think is amazing.  My regular 100% jojoba oil just wasn’t cutting during facial massages because of all the extremely dehydrated skin I see here in Chicago.  The Tecniche massage oil has been a fabulous addition to my facials.  I highly recommend it to all my fellow estheticians.

I was surprised by how much I’ve loved this line.  I’ve tried a lot of different skincare products over the years so I was very skeptical when I was given this line to try.  But now I love it.  Really!  You can purchase Tecniche through a licensed professional.  It is a great line for all skin types but particularly for compromised skin (like people with cancer) or those with sensitive skin.  One last thing, the other estheticians in my oncology esthetics class also really loved the Tecniche products we all got to try.

I got a chance to try a few Youngblood Cosmetics through my job.  I like my make-up to look natural and Youngblood certainly fulfilled that goal.  I tried liquid foundation, the loose powder foundation, and the moisture tint.  Though I liked all the products the moisture tint was my favorite.  The shadow and blush that I tried went on smoothly and looked fresh and natural.  The primer was excellent as well.  But of all the products I tried my favorite has to be the ultimate concealer.  It worked on my undereye circles, my red spots, and blemishes.  It blended seamlessly into my skin.  A fabulous find!  There are a lot of mineral make-up lines available, but this is definitely one that I can get behind and recommend.  (It was also started my an esthetician; I always like to hear fellow esthetician success stories)

Have you been trying any new products lately?  If yes, please share below.

 

One of the Worst Foods For Your Skin July 5, 2012

Just how bad is sugar for us and for our skin?

According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, writing in the July issue of Prevention magazine, sugar is a potential toxin (page 96):

People think the problem with sugar is that it makes you fat.   But it’s not just inches around your waist.  Sugar is a potential toxin.  The liver becomes fatty, and it starts to release small, dense particles of LDL, which are most damaging kind of blood vessels.  There is also some interesting new data suggesting that a third of some common cancers, including breast and colon cancer, have insulin receptors on them, so you could be fueling indolent cancers.

If that is what sugar does to your body, what does it do to your skin?

The Prevention article Face Facts About Sugar explains:

At blame is a natural process that’s known as glycation, in which the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (or, appropriately, AGEs for short). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop. “As AGEs accumulate, they damage adjacent proteins in a domino-like fashion,” explains Fredric Brandt, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Miami and New York City and author of 10 Minutes 10 Years. Most vulnerable to damage: collagen and elastin, the protein fibers that keep skin firm and elastic. In fact, collagen is the most prevalent protein in the body. Once damaged, springy and resilient collagen and elastin become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These aging effects start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Besides damaging collagen, a high-sugar diet also affects what type of collagen you have–another factor in how resistant skin is to wrinkling, says Brandt. The most abundant collagens in the skin are types I, II, and III, with type III being the most stable and longest lasting. Glycation transforms type III collagen into type I, which is more fragile. “When that happens, the skin looks and feels less supple,” says Brandt. The final blow: AGEs deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving you more vulnerable to sun damage–still the main cause of skin aging.

According to the article How giving up sugar can take 20 years off your looks from The Daily Mail:

…  a direct link has been established between the amount of sugar circulating in the blood and how old a person looks. Scientists from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and Unilever in the UK, measured the blood sugar levels of 600 men and women aged between 50 and 70.

They then showed photographs of these people to a board of 60 independent assessors and found that those with higher blood sugar looked older than those with lower blood sugar. In fact for every 1mm/litre increase in blood sugar, the perceived age of that person rose by five months.

‘We took into account other factors such as whether or not that person smoked and yet still the effects were clear — the higher the blood glucose, the older the person looked,’ says Dr David Gunn, a senior scientist at Unilever who helped conduct the trial.

‘Those who looked the oldest of all were the diabetics in the group. Because of their condition, they will have had the high levels of glucose for a long period of time.’ The skin experts agree. A diet high in sugar is a disaster for the face.

‘There is no point in spending lots of money on expensive skin creams if you are eating a diet high in sugar,’ says Dr Aamer Khan, a cosmetic dermatologist who is also medical director of the Harley Street Skin Clinic. ‘Yes, you can protect and moisturise your skin from the outside with creams, but you need to feed and stimulate the growth of good strong skin cells from inside too and sugar will sabotage that.’

Are there any skincare products or ingredients out there that might help slow down this glycation process?  It turns out that scientists and cosmetic chemists are working on it:

Skin care too makes a difference. Scientists have been on the hunt for potent antiglycation agents since the ’80s, when biochemist Anthony Cerami, PhD, found that aminoguanidine molecules block glucose-collagen pairs from forming, but products containing viable AGE fighters only began to appear on the market about five years ago with the introduction of Brandt’s Lineless range. Now that glycation is widely recognized as a major cause of aging, lots of comprehensive anti-aging creams contain AGE fighters too. Superstar multitasker green tea has been proven to significantly interfere with the glycation process while stimulating collagen synthesis—so if you’re using a product containing green tea (or drinking it regularly), you’re already protecting your skin. “Anything that stimulates the fibroblasts to build new collagen is going to help eradicate damage,” Brandt says, noting that retinoids and some dermal fillers fall into this category. “Since your body has a process where old collagen is broken down by enzymes and new collagen is generated, what’s going to happen is that the old glycated collagen will eventually be eliminated and replaced by un-glycated collagen.”

(From Sugar and Aging: How to Fight GlycationElle)

I’ve been trying to cut back on sugar for over two years now, and I struggle with it on a daily basis.  I have finally admitted to myself that I have a sugar addiction.  If you are thinking that it is time to start cutting back on sugar keep in mind that sugar is hidden in all sorts of ready made foods, condiments, and processed foods besides the obvious desserts and baked goods.  I know from my personal experience that trying to limit my sugar intake has been next to impossible.  I started by cutting out my teaspoon of sugar in my coffee in the morning, and I try to eat small amounts of dessert when I have dessert, but I do still crave sweets.  I see how much my four and a half year-old son loves sweets, and I realize that our sugar addictions start very early.

One last thing – just how much sugar should the average person consume in a day (if you really need to have sugar)?  According to the Prevention article Face Facts About Sugar:

Keep added sugar to no more than 10% of total calories. If you’re a 45-year-old woman of average height (5-foot-4), that’s 160 calories (or 10 teaspoons) from added sugar–about the number in one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola or six Hershey’s Kisses. By comparison, the average American consumes 31 teaspoons per day of added sugar, or the equivalent of 465 calories.

Watch for hidden sugar in food. Many prepared foods contain hefty amounts of sugar–but it’s hidden under aliases–including barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, and turbinado–on ingredient panels. The key is determining how many teaspoons of sugar each serving contains. Doing this is easy: Check the nutrition label for sugars, which are listed in grams under total carbohydrates, and then divide that number by 4 (each teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 g) to convert it to teaspoons. For example, if sugars are listed as 12 g, you’re getting 3 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Avoid high fructose corn syrup. This type of sweetener, which is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose (another form of sugar), is believed to produce more AGEs than other types. Because HFCS extends the shelf life of foods and is sweeter and cheaper than other sugars, it’s a popular ingredient in soda, fruit-flavored drinks, and packaged foods such as breads, crackers, and other snacks. You can spot it in ingredient lists on nutrition labels.

Limiting our sugar consumption will help both our bodies and our skin.  Certainly if we can drastically cut down on the amount of sugar we consume we’ll be much healthier.  Good luck to everyone out there trying to limit their sugar intake!

My Related Post:

Lots More Reading about How Bad Sugar Is For You (if you are so inclined to keep reading about this topic):

Image from healthytimesblog.com

 

Sunscreen Myths – Beware of Things You Read and Hear July 2, 2012

Filed under: sun protection — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

A few weeks ago as a patient was leaving our office she turned to tell me and the doctor I work for that Dr. Oz had recommended on his TV show that you go outside without sunscreen on for 15 minutes in order to get enough Vitamin D.  Both the doctor I work for and myself told her that we did not agree with Dr. Oz’s recommendation.  We explained that by going outside, even for 15 minutes, without sunscreen you still get too much sun exposure and expose yourself to the risk of skin cancer.  The stakes were simply too high to follow that recommendation.  If you aren’t getting enough Vitamin D take a supplement instead of going out into the sun unprotected.

Of course being the sunscreen fanatic that I am along with the fact that I see it as a personal responsibility to warn people about the dangers of skin cancer, I was very upset after hearing that Dr. Oz had made that comment on TV to millions of viewers.  I can tell you that many women take Dr. Oz’s medical advice extremely seriously and want to follow it to a T.  So I did a little online research and found the reference our patient had mentioned:

If these foods don’t sound very appealing to you, there is good news: you don’t have to eat vitamin D to make sure you’re getting your daily dose! Vitamin D is actually produced in your body when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike your skin. The UV rays trigger synthesis of vitamin D, which then gets converted in your liver into its active form.

This means one of the best ways to get vitamin D is to spend about 10-15 minutes a day outside in the sun. Keep in mind that wearing sunscreen will prevent you from getting adequate vitamin D outdoors. In the summertime, an easy solution is skipping sunscreen on your legs for the first 15 minutes in the sun. Just make sure you apply in time to prevent any burns or damage.

If this sounds complicated (or it’s cloudy!), there’s an even easier way to get your vitamin D: many foods in the American diet are fortified with this essential nutrient. In fact, fortified foods provide the majority of vitamin D in our diets.

(From Daily Dose: Vitamin DThe Dr. Oz Show website)

I am not here to quibble about the fact that you can get all the Vitamin D that your body needs from the sun, what I am going to argue against is Dr. Oz’s advice.  Let’s be very realistic here – you’ve thought about it and today you notice it is sunny outside so you think “I’ll be out and about running errands, I won’t put sunscreen on for the first 15 minutes I am out”.  Now how many people do you know who will stop during their busy day and put on sunscreen??  I don’t know any.  People drastically underestimate the amount of damage intermittent sun exposure does to their skin.  Put your sunscreen on everyday before you leave the house.  If you are inside during the day and then leave to go out while it is still sunny put more sunscreen on all your exposed skin.  A tan may look sexy now but wrinkles and dark spots are not sexy later on.  And remember – a tan is a sign of damage to your skin no matter how fabulous you think you look right now.  One of the most common complaints any esthetician hears is about sun damage.  It is very hard to treat hyperpigmentation (one way you can gauge how hard it is to treat a specific skin issue is by the number of products on the market sold to treat it.  There is no perfect solution for hyperpigmentation hence the vast proliferation of products to erase it).  I found this comment about Vitamin D and sun exposure to be just another example of how well-meaning advice will be improperly followed and interpreted out in the real world.

Another case in point – terror over the safety of sunscreens.  The EWG has made numerous headlines over their claims that sunscreens are more harmful than helpful.  As with many controversies the cold hard truth gets lost adminsts the hype.  Renee Rouleau does a good job at explaining one controversial sunscreen ingredient in her blog post Does Sunscreen Cause Cancer?:

While the internet is an amazing resource for information, when a rumor gets out there, it spreads like crazy on the web and when people read it they may consider it to be factual.

One such skin care rumor that has swirled around on the internet for a while now is that octinoxate–the most common sunscreen ingredient in the world– causes cancer. Then the other day I was reading one of the handled bags from a recent Lululemon purchase and was shocked when I read the following printed on their bag: “Sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse than sunshine. Get the right amount of sunshine.” What? Did I really read this correctly on a Lululemon bag? Why is a fitness clothing company implying this claim on their cute bags that are given out in the stores? While I’m certainly okay with getting the right amount of sunshine as I do many of my own workouts outdoors, I am not okay with the comment implying that sunscreens may be worse than sunshine. This is wrong and misleading. Can we say melanoma–one of the deadliest forms of cancer??? There is so much scientific evidence that excessive sun exposure can increase your chances of skin cancer.  (Read more about melanoma here.)…

So does sunscreen cause cancer? No. This is simply not true because there is no study at all that proves octinoxate causes cancer, and without a proven scientific study, this claim simply can be not accurate and true.

Some cosmetic brands that do not use this ingredient in their sunscreens will use scare tactics to get consumers to believe that their product is safe and others are harmful. This has been the case with parabens and I have spoken publicly about this here. Instead, they use the phrase “linked to cancer” to scare the public to buy their product, instead of “proven to cause cancer”– and there is a huge difference between the two.

In some studies where octinoxate is “linked” to cancer, the ingredient has been placed in high concentrations directly onto various types of cells taken from skin or other areas of the body (liver, uterus) or was fed to rats or mice in their food. One such study, conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland in 2004, found evidence of endocrine disruption activity in rats fed octinoxate but did not find a link to cancer.*1 Shortly after the 2004 study was published, another research group in Australia found detectable amounts of octinoxate in the stratum corneum and epidermis layers of the skin 24 hours after applying the ingredient to intact skin, but the amount found was 5 times less than studies where octinoxate was applied directly to human keratinocytes in a Petrie dish.

Bottom line: There is no evidence or information about octinoxate causing cancer. Trust me, if there were valid, published studies about octinoxate as a cause of cancer, we would all know about it.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has long refuted the EWG’s claims that sunscreen ingredients are dangerous and are doing more harm than good.

Recent attacks on sunscreens in the media point to imperfections and potential risks, but miss the point that sunscreen continues to be one of the safest and most effective sun protection methods available.

We are concerned that the criticisms will raise unnecessary fears and cause people to stop using sunscreen, doing their skin serious harm.

In general, the criticisms have not been based on hard science. In fact, The Chair of the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee, an independent panel of top experts on sun damage and sun protection, reviewed the same studies cited in the media, and found that their determination of what made a sunscreen bad or good was based on “junk science.”

(If Recent Attacks on Sunscreen Concern YouThe Skin Cancer Foundation)

In the same article The Skin Cancer Foundation goes on to refute different claims made against sunscreens such as:

• Retinyl Palmitate, a Form of Vitamin A and an Ingredient in 41 Percent of Sunscreens, Speeds up Growth of Tumors and Other Lesions When Exposed to the Sun.

An FDA study is often cited for this data, with some faulting the FDA for not releasing the study. However, the FDA is yet to release the study precisely because it has not gone through proper peer review. Thus, the criticisms are based on an unapproved 10-year-old study of mice that has never been published in any journal. To date, there is no scientific evidence that vitamin A is a carcinogen in humans. What’s more, only trace amounts of retinyl palmitate appear in sunscreens, and some evidence suggests that it is actually protective against cancer.

I think the lesson here is don’t believe everything you read or see on TV.  You’re a smart person, right?  Do some of your own research before just accepting what someone else has to say.

Further watching and reading (from my related posts):

Mary Cassatt painting Children Playing on the Beach image from wikipaintings.org

 

 
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