Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Winter Skincare Tip: Use Glycerine November 20, 2016

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Lately my skin has been feeling very dry and even tight even though I use facial oils on a twice daily basis and moisturizer both morning and evening.  I believe that the weather where I live is pretty much to blame for this skin issue.  Currently, it is cool first thing in the morning and after sundown, but during the day it can still be quite hot (low 80s).  Some days it also windy with poor air quality.  For my skin this has been very drying.  I started trying to think of a way I could easily add moisture back to my skin.  My skincare routine, no surprise, already involves multiple steps, but since my skin was crying out for hydration I decided that I needed to add yet another product to the mix.

I remembered that I had a bottle of vegetable glycerine that I hadn’t really figured out how to use yet (not in my personal skincare routine and not on my clients during facials).   When I bought the glycerine I had this idea that it would be a good way to hydrate dehydrated skin.  Why?  Glycerine is a great humectant which means it attracts water to the skin and also seals that moisture into the skin. Then I recalled that I had pinned a link to a DIY recipe for a glycerine moisturizer.  The recipe is super easy:  1/4 cup glycerine to 1 cup distilled water.  You can add a little essential oil if you want.  Everything goes into a spray bottle.  Viola!  I just eyeballed the amounts when I made my own spray, and instead of essential oil I added some rose water.

The first time I used it I sprayed it directly on my face.  Take it from me – do not do this! Glycerine feels very heavy on the skin.  Instead of my skin feeling hydrated and refreshed after spraying this homemade product on my face, my skin actually felt gross and sticky.  I suggest spraying some of this product into your hands and pat it onto your face, pressing it gently into your skin.  Do this right after washing your face and before applying any other products in your routine.  I can definitely say that my skin feels much better since I added my glycerine spray to my routine.  My skin is much softer and doesn’t feel tight anymore. I’ve also started spraying it on my hair since my hair is always super dry.  I don’t recommend putting glycerine directly from the bottle onto your skin since it can feel heavy, thick, and sticky.  It is best to dilute it with distilled water or rose water (or another liquid product).  Be sure the shake your spray bottle before each use.

If you give this a try be sure to comment below and let me know if it worked for you.  If you are already a fan of glycerine for skincare let us know how you use it on your skin.

 

Photo from Amazon.com

 

How to Read a Skincare Ingredient Label And Is That Information Enough In Order To Judge A Skincare Product? June 12, 2014

 

 

Understanding the ingredients listed in the ingredient list of a skincare product and figuring out if those ingredients are actually effective for your skin is an important skill for skincare consumers to have. But interpreting a skincare ingredient label is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  You need to not only have some basic skincare product formulation knowledge but also be able to recognize different ingredients and their function in skincare products in order to understand what you are reading and if the product will be right for your skin and will do what it claims to do.  I’ve addressed this topic in the past here in my blog, but lately I’ve come across a few interesting articles on the subject and thought it was time to revisit this issue much more in-depth than I did before.

The Basics and Some Examples

So let’s start with some basics about skincare labels that everyone should know.  In his Skin Inc. article Ingredient Labels Explained Robert Manzo writes:

There are basic rules that product manufacturers must comply with in order to list ingredients on their products.

  • Standardized names. Ingredient names must comply with the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) format. The ingredient names are standardized in this format so that all products can be compared to each other easily and for safety reasons.
  • Descending order. Ingredients must be listed in descending order of concentration to 1%. Ingredients below 1% can be listed in any order

How does this come together for the consumer?  Lab Muffin recently published yet another excellent post called How to Read an Ingredients List: Face Moisturisers in which she takes actual moisturizer labels and explains the ingredients for her readers.  For instance:

When looking at most product ingredients lists, the ingredients will be in order from the highest concentration to the lowest. Typically, when deciding if a moisturiser will suit your skin type, you don’t need to look past the first 6 ingredients or so, since they make up the majority of the product, and will be responsible for the moisturising action. It’s a different story when you’re looking at more potent ingredients that target specific concerns (e.g. anti-aging, exfoliants, antibacterials, lightening), but those tend to be useful regardless of skin type.

With this in mind, I’ll be classifying the top 6 ingredients in each of these facial moisturisers, as well as commenting on some of the notable ingredients further down in the list. If there’s no comment next to the ingredient, I’ve probably explained it in a product further up.

To recap, the main categories of moisturiser are:

Occlusives – block water from evaporating from the skin, especially good for dry and dehydrated skin
Emollients – smooth skin and help repair
Humectants – draw moisture to the skin, effective even at lower percentages.

Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Soothing Moisturising Cream

Aqua (water) – The base for most face creams, and the definition of moisture.
Cetearyl alcohol (emollient) – A blend of cetyl and stearyl alcohols, two fatty alcohols that are nothing like drinking alcohol (that is, ethyl alcohol), but are great for smoothing skin down as well as making sure the oily and watery parts of the moisturiser don’t separate (it’s an emulsifier). It can be derived from coconut oil.
Rosa canina fruit oil (emollient) – This is the technical name for rose hip oil from a specific species of rose. It mainly contains oleic and linoleic acids, which are excellent for repairing skin, as well as antioxidants.
Safflower seed oil (emollient/occlusive) – This also contains many linoleic acids and antioxidants.
Caprylic/capric triglyceride (emollient/occlusive) – This also comes from coconut oil, and smooths skin as well as blocks evaporation.
Jojoba seed oil (emollient) – This stuff is a lot like natural sebum.

Glycerin and honey are a little further down in the list, and there’s aloe vera extract as well – these humectants together would probably add noticeable humectant action to the mix (glycerin is typically used in moisturisers at 2-7%, otherwise it feels sticky).

Overall: Lots of emollients, a small amount of occlusives and some humectants. It’s suitable for all skin due to all the skin-repairing emollients, but drier skins might need some more occlusives on top.

Or for example how to interpret a serum label:

Generally, serums are used to deliver active ingredients to skin in higher concentrations in order to generate a specific skin response. Typical serums address skin-specific issues, such as hyperpigmentation, lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, texture, tone, pore size, acne, redness and irritation.

Understanding ingredient listings in serums is often difficult. Active ingredient names can take the form of Latin names for botanically sourced compounds, and more generic INCI names may be used, such as yeast extract, which can mean a multitude of biologically active ingredients. Quite long chemical names are often found.

Understanding the dose of active ingredients is also difficult by trying to interpret ingredient listings. If a particularly active ingredient is very biologically active, it may be dosed in the formula in part-per-million levels and be very low in the ingredient listing, but still be quite effective. Examples of these are epigenetic factors, epidermal growth factors and vascular growth factors.

Serum realities

1. There are more than 16,000 listings in the INCI dictionary. No one can know all the cosmetic ingredients at any given time. If you are unsure what dose and what active ingredient is in particular serum, request that the manufacturer supply that detailed information.

2. Watch out for serum claims and their target biology. For example, if you have a serum that claims it can improve collagen and elastin by stimulating skin, the ingredient would need to penetrate to the dermal tissue. If you need to lighten skin, ingredients must penetrate no more than to the epidermal-dermal junction, where color-producing cells exist. If you want to exfoliate, the serum should not penetrate far below the stratum corneum.

(From Ingredient Labels Explained)

 Putting It Together

Now that you have some basic knowledge about how skincare labels work is this really enough information in order to know if a product is right for your skin or not?  Sorry to complicate things for you, but even the most savvy consumer can get tripped up by a skincare ingredient label.  Renee Rouleau gives a great example in her blog post Can You Judge a Skin Care Product by an Ingredient Label?:

With so much awareness on skin care ingredients (the good, the bad and the ugly), consumers now more than ever are getting educated on what’s used in formulas, so they can make the best choices for their skin when it comes to choosing products to apply to their face. But by looking at an ingredient list on the back of a bottle or jar, can you really determine if it will deliver good results or not on your skin?

The answer is no. You might look at the ingredient list and form assumptions about the ingredients you may have read about or heard of. For example, if you’re prone to breakouts you might see shea butter or sunflower oil listed, and assume it will be greasy and pore clogging. These assumptions can be invalid, because the results a product delivers are based on the percentages of the ingredient used in a product—and this, you’ll never know from looking at the list on the back of a bottle.

Here’s another example of a time when one of my products, Daily Protection SPF 30, was reviewed by a fairly well-known ingredient expert who has written many books on helping you choose the best products when you go to the cosmetics counter. She had requested the ingredient list of my sunscreen to review, yet didn’t request the actual product. When the review was published, she gave it a really good review however, she said based on the moisturizing agents used in the formula, it was best suited for dry and very dry skin types. Really? Our Daily Protection SPF 30 is recommended for oily, acne-prone skin, because it is so light, and dries to a matte finish on the skin. As a matter of fact, when we get a customer return for this product, it’s usually a dry skin client saying it was too drying on their skin. Our oily skin clients absolutely love it because it disappears completely and leaves no residue. This is definitely not a sunscreen moisturizer for dry and very dry skin types, yet an ingredient label reviewed by an ingredient expert couldn’t tell this. (No disrespect to the expert, this is simply my experience.)

(Obviously Rouleau is writing about Paula Begoun here)

So Where Does That Leave You?

It is important to learn about ingredients and how skincare products are formulated in order to be an educated skincare consumer.  The more you know the better choices you can make for your skin, and you can save yourself time and money from buying the wrong products.  Part of that education is learning to read a skincare label instead of just blindly believing the manufacturers’ hype and marketing campaign.  But don’t let the skincare label be your be all or end all in order to know if a skincare product is right for you.  Try products first before rebuffing them.  Ask for samples and find online reviews from people who have actually tried the product before rejecting a product based just on reading the ingredient list or taking advice from someone who reviews products only according to their ingredient list.  Two websites that I like for product reviews combine both information about the products’ ingredients and actually try the products themselves before writing a review.  Those websites are FutureDerm and Lab Muffin.

One last thing – ever wondered what all those symbols (letters, numbers, and pictures) are on your beauty product container?  Into the Gloss has a guide that explains them all.

Image from http://www.rainshadowlabs.com

 

Adding Coconut Oil to Your Beauty Regime May 28, 2013

Lately it seems everywhere you turn you find information about coconut oil – how to cook with it and how to use it as a beauty product/ingredient.  So I decided to do some of my own experiments with coconut oil to see if it lived up to the hype.

I have to say that I had long thought of coconut oil as an ingredient that was very bad for one’s health.  I can’t say when and why this idea got into my head, but it took until last year when I purchased the vegan cookbook Vegan Soul Kitchen  by Bryant Terry that I began to rethink my anti-coconut oil position.  I noticed that many recipes in the book called for coconut oil.  As Myra Kornfeld explains in her forward to the cookbook:

Byrant is not afraid to use the long-vilified coconut oil, an extraordinarily healthy and delicious oil that only in the last decade has been getting attention for its wonderful properties.

What exactly was the controversy about coconut oil and just what are those wonderful properties that coconut oil possesses?  The article Once a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World from The New York Times explains:

According to Thomas Brenna, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University who has extensively reviewed the literature on coconut oil, a considerable part of its stigma can be traced to one major factor.

“Most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which researchers used because they needed to raise the cholesterol levels of their rabbits in order to collect certain data,” Dr. Brenna said. “Virgin coconut oil, which has not been chemically treated, is a different thing in terms of a health risk perspective. And maybe it isn’t so bad for you after all.”

Partial hydrogenation creates dreaded trans fats. It also destroys many of the good essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other positive components present in virgin coconut oil. And while it’s true that most of the fats in virgin coconut oil are saturated, opinions are changing on whether saturated fats are the arterial villains they were made out to be. “I think we in the nutrition field are beginning to say that saturated fats are not so bad, and the evidence that said they were is not so strong,” Dr. Brenna said.

Plus, it turns out, not all saturated fats are created equal.

Marisa Moore, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, a nonprofit association of nutritionists, said, “Different types of saturated fats behave differently.”

The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood, but is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two.

She went on to say that while it is still uncertain whether coconut oil is actively beneficial the way olive oil is, small amounts probably are not harmful. The new federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10 percent of total dietary calories a day come from saturated fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s about 20 grams.

Any number of health claims have been made for lauric acid. According to proponents, it’s a wonder substance with possible antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties that could also, in theory, combat H.I.V., clear up acne and speed up your metabolism. Researchers are skeptical.

“There are a lot of claims that coconut oil may have health benefits, but there is no concrete scientific data yet to support this,” said Dr. Daniel Hwang, a research molecular biologist specializing in lauric acid at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center at the University of California, Davis.

But, he added, “Coconut is good food, in moderation.”

And just how does coconut oil help the skin?  The article The Surprising Health Benefits of Coconut Oil from the Dr. Oz Show website explains:

Is coconut oil good for my skin and hair?

We tell our patients that from the time of infancy through the senior years,  coconut oil is a wonderful moisturizer for skin and hair. It has good amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is very protective. If you are using on the skin regularly, it is best to try to find an organic coconut oil, to reduce the absorption of toxins and pesticides through your skin.

We even recommend new parents massage infants with coconut oil after a bath. One 2005 study of 120 babies showed that a coconut oil massage is safe and has health benefits.

Allure asked Dr. Jeannette Graf to explain the benefits of coconut oil for the skin (from the article Is Coconut Oil Worth the Hype?):

“Coconut oil is made up of anti-inflammatory dietary fatty acids, which are important for skin health. When applied topically, it has wonderful moisturizing properties for the skin, increasing elasticity and emolliency. In addition, coconut oil enhances wound healing and has antioxidant properties. Studies have also shown that the lauric acid in the oil has antimicrobial activity against P. Acnes [bacteria], so it’s a potential treatment for acne and adult atopic dermatis,” she says.

On his TV show Dr. Oz recommends using coconut oil on your skin if you suffer from eczema, psoriasis, or a fungal infection.

Interestingly enough in her book Heal Your Skin Dr. Ava Shamban advises against using coconut oil on acne prone or oily skin.  Unfortunately she does not explain why.

Personal Experience

I had no trouble finding coconut oil at one of my local grocery stores though I did not realize I needed to purchase virgin coconut oil.  Next time I’ll make sure to buy that kind of coconut oil.  Anyhow, after reading all the beauty uses for coconut oil in the sources listed below I decided to try a few of them out for myself.  Some uses worked better than others for me.

I have very thick, curly, very frizzy hair so I was excited about using coconut oil as a hair moisturizer/conditioner.  I applied the oil onto both wet and dry hair.  Neither application helped my hair.  My hair didn’t feel any softer and my frizz didn’t go anywhere.  (I have been on a search for a product that will control my hair almost my entire life; I have yet to find something)  I have to say I was disappointed that coconut oil did not work for me as a hair conditioner.

I tried coconut oil as a body moisturizer.  The problem with this was getting the right quantity.  Sometimes I put too little, sometimes I put too much.  If I put too much I felt greasy afterwards.  When I did hit on the right amount my skin felt good but no better or no worse than after using my regular body moisturizer.

I tried using coconut oil as an eye make-up remover.  I found it much too greasy and not that effective.  I’ll stick to using my jojoba oil for removing my eye make-up.

I did use coconut oil directly on my face as a moisturizer a few times in the evenings before bed and felt that my skin was soft in the morning.  But I am still completely paranoid that putting coconut oil on my face will make me break out even though I keep reading the opposite is true.  What can I say?  Old ideas take a long time to disappear.   I don’t know if I will use coconut oil again as a facial moisturizer.  (Of course one of the advantages of using coconut oil as a moisturizer is that is it quite cost effective.)

Now for the ways I liked using coconut oil and will continue to use it – in the shower instead of soap or a shaving cream to shave my legs.  Using coconut oil to shave cut down on irritation and my legs did feel very soft afterwards.

As a lip moisturizer.  I’ve been using coconut oil directly on my lips before bed and really like how it both feels and works.

So now it is your turn – do you incorporate coconut oil into your beauty regime?  If yes, comment below and explain how.

Further Reading:

Image from endlessbeauty.com

 

Time to Rethink Antioxidants? May 1, 2013

Filed under: Diet and Skin,Ingredients — askanesthetician @ 7:33 am
Tags: , ,

More foods are being marketed as high in antioxidants despite their questionable health benefits.

Last week I once again addressed the issue of antioxidants and free radicals as they impact the skin.  Today I thought I would give my readers a little food for thought  (pun intended) when it comes to antioxidants and our health, in general, and not just how it relates to our skin (even though this is a blog about skincare).  This post is a little off topic from the information that my blog usually contains, but I thought the information below was worthwhile to share, nonetheless.

Recently I came across a few articles that explain how consumers are being mislead when buying grocery products that claim to contain antioxidants.  The article Radical Thinking on Antioxidants from The Chicago Tribune explains:

Antioxidant-rich products promise an easy way to stave off disease. Simply swallow two softgels daily or knock back a glass of goji-pomegranate juice and the “supercritical” compounds will neutralize those nasty free radicals that threaten your health.

Such bold claims seem logical. There’s evidence that free radicals, or oxidants, are involved in certain illnesses, including cancer and degenerative brain diseases.

And when oxidants turn up in our bodies — it happens when we turn food into energy or are exposed to infection, smoking and other triggers — we fight back by producing antioxidants that can soak them up like a sponge.

Thus a theory was born: Maybe oxidation and disease can be prevented by eating fortified foods or taking dietary supplements containing plant-based antioxidants, which include vitamins C and E, beta carotene and polyphenols (flavonoids).

But researchers now say antioxidants have been overhyped and widely misunderstood. Scientists haven’t determined how antioxidants work in our bodies; it’s also unclear whether dietary supplements have any beneficial effect. In some cases, studies suggest antioxidants may cause more harm than good.

One recent study found that antioxidant compounds caused fertility problems in mice. Though popular among athletes, antioxidants haven’t been shown to improve performance or speed recovery. To the contrary, supplementing with antioxidants may blunt the beneficial effects of working out. And while some dietary antioxidants may have a role in cancer prevention, excessive doses of some vitamins can aggravate illness or even cause it, researchers say.

“People should be aware that there is little to no data supporting the use of antioxidants to protect against disease,” said cardiologist Toren Finkel, chief of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Yet “antioxidants” remains one of the hottest buzzwords in the health and wellness industry.

Manufacturers have emblazoned it on everything from water and cereal to alcoholic drinks. Last year hundreds of products with antioxidant claims were launched, and products containing the nutrients continue to be a strong area of development, said Carlotta Mast, editor in chief of newhope360.com, which tracks the market in natural, organic and healthy products.

In the U.S., sales of top antioxidant supplements hit $5 billion last year, up 2.3 percent over 2009, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

“Consumers have made an association between antioxidants and health,” said Mast. “They have a general understanding that antioxidants help with free radicals, and they know free radicals are bad. So they see a functional beverage that’s ‘rich in antioxidants’ and think, ‘This will be healthy for me.'”

A natural byproduct of eating, drinking and breathing, free radicals are an unavoidable hazard of living.

“Oxygen oxidizes our food to produce energy, and the oxygen is reduced, mostly to water,” said biochemist Barry Halliwell, a pioneering researcher in free radicals and disease. But some oxygen winds up as free radicals, unstable molecules that are missing an electron.

Desperate to regain its balance, a free radical will steal an electron from the nearest substance, whether it’s cellular DNA, protein or fat. The theft alters the structure of the nearby victim, creating another unstable compound and triggering a chain reaction.

In response, our bodies naturally produce antioxidants that, like bodyguards, defuse free radicals by donating electrons while staying in balance themselves — a system people can strengthen through regular exercise.

But aging and exposure to environmental stressors from sunburn to pollution make it harder to keep up with antioxidant production, said Amy Howell, an associate research scientist at the Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research at Rutgers University.

For example, X-rays create oxidative stress because “radiation splits the water to make free radicals,” said Halliwell, a deputy president of the National University of Singapore. And “cigarette smoke is already full of free radicals that attack the lungs and other parts of the body.”

Researchers have known for decades that diseases including heart disease, cancer, stroke and neurodegenerative disorders are linked to damage caused by free radicals. They also found that people who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables have lower rates of disease.

As a result, they hypothesized that taking antioxidants as supplements or fortified foods could decrease oxidative damage. But when antioxidant compounds were tested, the results were largely disappointing.

Beta carotene supplements didn’t just fail to protect people against cancer, they increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Trials looking at cardiovascular disease, other cancers and strokes have been mixed, but most haven’t found the hoped-for benefits. When Ironman triathletes supplemented with vitamin E for two months, it exacerbated oxidative stress and inflammation.

Meanwhile, free radicals aren’t always bad. The oxidant hydrogen peroxide, for example, can help open blood vessels; removing it with antioxidant therapy can impair the body’s ability to get oxygen to muscles.

There’s also some evidence that what doesn’t kill you can make you stronger: A little short-term free radical damage may activate pathways in the body that are protective in the long run, Finkel said.

“The real debate is whether we should let the radicals do their thing and not get in the way,” said David Neiman, director of the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University. “Probably 90 percent of all people who exercise will do fine with a fruit- and vegetable-based diet. But those who engage in more stressful exercise — marathoners, ultrarunners and Ironman triathletes — may need extra help.”

Consumer Reports goes into further detail about how antioxidant foods can be over-hyped to the detrement of the consumer (from the article Antioxidants: More Is Not Always Better).  The article busts several myths about foods and antioxidants such as:

MYTH: Packaged food with labels touting antioxidants will boost your health.

Antioxidant claims on packaged food don’t always mean a health benefit. “Unfortunately, ‘antioxidant’ is a very loosely used term,” says Joy Dubost, Ph.D., a nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Outside the lab, it has become more of a marketing term than a scientific term.”

Some food manufacturers add an antioxidant, such as vitamin C or E, and then label the product as containing antioxidants, presumably in hopes of boosting sales. Kellogg’s FiberPlus Antioxidants Dark Chocolate Almond bars, for example, have 20 percent of the daily value of vitamin E and zinc. But they also contain 7 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fat. You can avoid processed food and eat an ounce of dry-roasted almonds, which provides more vitamin E, and 3 ounces of lean beef, which has more zinc.

Some food manufacturers even advertise antioxidant “power,” represented by ORAC, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity values. But ORAC measures antioxidant activity in a test tube, not in the human body. So if you’re tempted by Mystic Harvest Purple Corn Tortilla Chips, which are supposed to have an ORAC score of 6,000, don’t be. “We don’t know what these values mean biologically,” Dubost says, but they don’t guarantee better health.

A class-action lawsuit filed in November 2012 against the makers of 7Up Cherry Antioxidant Soda claimed that the packaging and marketing could lead consumers to think that the antioxidants in the soft drink come from fruit, when they really come from added vitamin E, and a 12-ounce can provides only 15 percent of the daily value.

Another class-action lawsuit, filed in April 2012 against Hershey, alleges that the chocolate giant makes “misleading” and “unlawful” claims regarding antioxidants. For example, certain packages of Hershey Special Dark Kisses state that “Cocoa is a natural source of flavanol antioxidants.” While cocoa is a reasonable source of antioxidants, the suit alleges that many—if not all—of Hershey’s cocoa or chocolate products undergo alkalization, a process that reduces or virtually eliminates the flavanol content.

Both companies have publicly denied any wrongdoing. The maker of 7Up Cherry Antioxidant said that in a decision unrelated to the lawsuit it has produced a new version of 7Up Cherry without antioxidants.

After reading the above articles I began to wonder if the same findings might eventually come out in regards to topically applied antioxidants in skincare products and the fight against free radicals when it comes to skincare.  As I write this I haven’t seen anything that would contradict the advice that estheticians and dermatologists continue to give – that using a sunscreen with antioxidants or a serum with antioxidants is a must in order to keep your skin healthy and to stave off free radical damage.  It will be interesting to see in the future if this advice changes just as advice about consuming antioxidants in our food has changed.

Further Reading:

Image from The Chicago Tribune

 

What Are Free Radicals? April 23, 2013

I’ve written about the importance of incorporating a cream or serum with antioxidants into your daily skincare routine in this blog before (see the list below of my related posts), but when I came across the following information about free radicals I thought I should address the subject of antioxidants from a different angle.  That angle, of course, would be to address the issue of free radicals more in-depth.

In their book Physiology of the Skin Drs. Draelos and Pugliese devote an entire chapter (chapter 8) to the subject of free radicals and the skin (those words also happen to be the title of the chapter).  I want to highlight some of the more accessible parts of the chapter (page 163):

A free radical is any atom or molecule that has one or more unpaired electrons and is capable of independent existence.  Oxygen, then, is a free radical.  In fact, oxygen is a diradical, which means it has two unpaired electrons.

Here, simplified, is the secret of the free radical – one or more unpaired electrons in a molecule or atom that can exist independently, and can react actively with other nearby molecules to alter or destroy them.  An example will make this concept more graphic and easier to remember.

Water contains hydrogen and oxygen.  It is a very simple molecule, and is written in chemical notation as either H2O or HOH.  The hydrogen atoms exactly balance the electronic charges in the oxygen atom to give us one molecule of water.  If only one molecule of hydrogen would react with the oxygen molecule, a free radical would exist, the deadly hydroxyl radical ·OH.  The little dot to the left of the “OH” formula means it is a free radical.  This ·OH is called the hydroxyl radical and is a very nasty free radical because it reacts immediately with any molecule adjacent to it to alter or destroy it.  It is a blessing that oxygen does not react with hydrogen in this manner to form hydroxyl radicals because life would be impossible if it did.

The chapter goes into great detail about oxygen – its chemistry, the molecule itself, the process and repercussions of oxidation, and oxidative stress.  On page 171 there is a graph that clearly shows how free radicals affect cells by damaging DNA, nerves, and all body tissues.  According to the book “it is the oxygen that you breathe which ultimately destroys your body”.

At the end of chapter eight in their book the doctors discuss a few specific ways free radicals specifically impact the skin and how to combat these subsequent skin problems.  The skin issues discussed are: skin inflammation, photo-damaged skin (sun damage), and aging skin.  For example when it comes to skin inflammation the doctors explain (page 177):

Any inflammatory response will involve free radical formation – no ifs, ands or buts.  If you see a red area that is tender and hot, it is inflamed and seething with free radical activity.  Superoxide radical, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radical will be there.  Iron will react with the superoxide and peroxide to form hydroxyl radicals, and produce great tissue destruction.

In her book Simple Skin Beauty Dr. Ellen Marmur explains, in easier to understand terms, how the sun damages our DNA and how the sun produces free radicals (page 138 in the hardcover copy):

Free radicals may sound like some kind of rock band, but they are toxic by-products in the body.  To make a very long and complex scientific phenomenon short, this is how they are produced through UV damage to cell’s DNA.

A photon (the sun’s laser beam) zaps through the cell membrane and cytoplasm, through the nuclear membrane (the safe, womb-like center of the cell), and hits the DNA.  Imagine DNA as being like two pieces of spaghetti laid parallel, with crosshatches all the way along like a ladder, then rolled up and twisted like an intricately knotted cuff link.  When a photon burns a hole into the DNA knot, it starts to unravel and the two sides of the ladder begin opening up.  The immune system immediately sends out enzymes to fix the problem.  (Enzymes are proteins that act as workers in the body, fixing damage by causing chemical reactions.)  One enzyme comes in and gobbles up the damaged portion; then it creates a new DNA rung to fix that ladder.  Another enzyme double-checks it, another seals it together, and another wraps it up into a nice, perfect knot again.  All these chemical reactions done to reconstruct damaged DNA give off toxic oxygen by-products, or free radicals.  Oxygen can be stable, with two electrons in its orbit, or, if it has only one electron (as free radicals do), it’s on fire – trying to steal an electron from another molecule in order to become stable.  An unstable oxygen molecule races around like a toddler with a pair of scissors or a Tasmanian devil, causing destruction to anything it its path until it runs out of energy.  Antioxidants quench and destroy that toxic free radical.

Suggestions for combating these free radical induced skin problems include the use of sunscreens with antioxidants in them, taking multiple vitamins daily, using Retin-A, getting regular exercise, and avoiding stress.  Of course all those tips not only will help your skin stay healthy but your body as well.  Just keep the following in mind when it comes to skincare products, antioxidants, and combating free radical damage:

Any client with aging skin should be approached with the fact that treatment is a lifelong reality.  There are no easy fixes and no miracle products.  It takes time to age, and time to restore the skin to normal.  Good and effective anti-aging products address the free radical problem by containing antioxidants at levels that prove they work.  Do not buy a product that has not been tested for antioxidant activity.  Beware of products that have antioxidants listed at the end of the ingredients; they are low in concentration and are useless.  …

In addition, do not smoke cigarettes; they produce an alarming amount of free oxygen radicals that damage both the lungs and the skin.  Avoid sun exposure as much as is practical.  Use sunscreens that provide both UVA and UVB photoprotection whether working indoors or outdoors.  Increase dietary intake of fruits and vegetables at each meal, remembering to eat them freshly picked and raw to optimize nutritional content.  Unripened and preserved fruits and vegetables do not have the antioxidant levels found in fresh vine ripened varieties.

(Physiology of the Skin, pages 178 – 179)

My Related Posts:

I haven’t read this book yet, but it turns out that there is a whole book devoted to the subject of antioxidants and skin aptly titled Antioxidants and the Skin.

Image from docstoc.com

 

Ingredient Spotlight: Honey January 24, 2013

If you are a fan of DIY facial masks you’ve probably come across more than one recipe for at home facial masks using honey.  Why does this ingredient repeatedly appear in DIY facial treatments?  It turns out for a few very good reasons.   Honey is a humectant, which means it draws moisture to the skin, is antimicrobial, and an antioxidant.

According to Shape magazine honey helps the skin(and your overall health) in a few different ways:

1. Skin ailments: Everything from burns and scrapes to surgical incisions and radiation-associated ulcers have been shown to respond to “honey dressings.” That’s thanks to the hydrogen peroxide that naturally exists in honey, which is produced from an enzyme that bees have.

2. Mosquito bite relief: Honey’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a good option to help reduce the itch and irritation of mosquito bites.

3. It’s an immune booster: Honey is chock full of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that helps to protect cells from free radical damage. It can also contribute to heart health as well as protect against cancer.

4. Digestive aid: In a 2006 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that substituting honey for sugar in processed foods improved the gut microflora of male mice.

5. Acne treatment: According to preliminary research, Manuka, and Kanuka types of honey can effectively treat Acne vulgaris, the skin condition that is caused by inflammation and infection of the pilosebaceous follicle on the face, back, and chest.

(From 5 Health Benefits of Honey)

Future Derm highlights honey’s beauty benefits thusly:

Honey’s combination of vitamins, antioxidants, sugars and amino make it produce hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid — acidic solutions that are frequently used to clear dirt and bacteria from wounds.  It is due in part to its numerous antioxidants and hydrogen peroxide that honey is often lauded as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal agent — good news if you have oiler skin that could collect dirt more easily, have superficial wounds and scarring, or if you just need something to give your skin a little extra cleaning (Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery).

But honey’s effectiveness doesn’t just stop with being a skin cleanser – there is substantial evidence for its role in wound-healing. Coupled with its hydrogen peroxide, honey provides amoist environment for skin to repair itself, encourages epithelialization (skin cell regrowth), granulation tissue formation, (a type of connective tissue), and wound healing.  Plus, honey can reduce swelling and is a strong anti-inflammatory agent, meaning that it very may well reduce pain and irritation from skin lesions (Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery)

Honey is also good for dry skin, especially skin disorders such as Eczema and Psoriasis. These two skin ailments are characterized by their excessive dryness, itchiness, inflammation and irritation. After using the a mixture of honey, olive oil and beeswax three times a day for two weeks, 80 percent of the eczema patients had reduced symptoms of itching, scaling, and oozing from lesions. 63 percent of the psoriasis patients also reported significant improvement in symptoms (Complementary Therapies in Medicine).

Users should know that there are several different strains of honey whose efficacy can vary, such as the medical-quality Manuka and Revamil. If using pure honey, take caution — honey is able to support the bacteria that cause gangrene and botulism, and are typically treated with gamma irridation to eradicate these bacteria (Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery).

(From Lancome Tonique Confort Rehydrating Toner Review)

Many sources claim that not all honey is the same and you actually need to use raw honey in order to receive all the benefits described above.  In an article from Beauty at Skin Deep the benefits of raw honey are explained:

It should be noted that not all honey is created equal. Most of the honey found in grocery stores has been processed with heat, which kills off healing enzymes and destroys a lot of the nutrient-rich content. But, raw honey hasn’t been processed and will give your skin the healing benefits that it needs. Also, if you have allergies, try a patch test first and/or ask you physician if raw honey is a right for you.

BENEFITS

Raw honey is an amazing natural beauty solution for all skin types because of its healing skin benefits. It does wonders for a wide variety of skin ailments including:

Acne and enlarged pores
Rosacea
Eczema
Hyperpigmentation
Sensitive, mature, and dull lifeless skin

With its natural pH level of 4.5, raw honey falls within skin’s naturally healthy pH range. Its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties make it great for healing cuts and burns by killing bacteria and fungus. Raw honey also contains gluconic acid, a mild alpha hydroxy acid that brightens the complexion, evens out skin tone, and lightens scars and age spots.

Depending on where the honey is collected from, it contains many nutrients and minerals excellent for skin health such as vitamin B, iron, manganese, copper, potassium and calcium. It also acts as a humectant drawing moisture to the skin and is perfect as a gentle cleansing solution for even very sensitive skin. When mixed with water, honey releases peroxide properties which helps heal acne and impede bacterial growth causing more acne

(From Skin Benefits of Raw Honey)

Personally I’ve never tried honey, any type of honey, as a facial treatment, but I do find the information on it intriguing.  If you’ve ever used honey at home as a skincare treatment please comment below.

Sources and Further Reading:

Important read about the benefits of honey and the false marketing claims of beauty companies:

While researching this post I found that a lot of sources repeat the same information about honey over and over so I’ve highlighted just a few resources below.

Image from self.com

 

Chirality and Skincare December 19, 2012

I’ve never pretended that this blog is a skincare blog from a scientific perspective because frankly I’ve never been much of a science student.  When I was studying esthetics and realized that I had to refresh my high school chemistry knowledge (I received Cs in high school chemistry) I nearly had a panic attack.  As I’ve progressed in my work as an esthetician I’ve realized that science knowledge is key to understanding how skincare products work on the skin and key in helping my clients get great results from both treatments and home care products.  But I still need that science to be dumbed down for me or else my mind instantly goes blank.

All of this brings us to the subject of this post – chirality.  I wanted to address this issue since two skincare lines I’ve used make sure to explain that they are both “chirally correct”.  What does that mean exactly and how does that impact skincare products?

The two skincare lines – Glo Therapeutics and Tecniche – each explain why it is important that their products be chirally correct.  (These are just two of many skincare companies that make this claim)

Glo says:

Q: What does “Chirally Correct” mean and why is it important?

A: A molecule is considered chiral if it differs from its mirror image. For example, hold out your hands in front of you. Notice that they are mirror images of each other. If you place your right hand on top of your left hand, you can demonstrate this difference. None of the features of your hands will line up when stacked on top of each other; though they have the same features, they are exact mirors of each other. This means your hands are chiral.

Certain ingredients in glo.therapeutics products are lab produced and will be made of 2 forms: Left (L for left) and Right (D for dextro). These ingredients are mirror images of each other, not exact duplicates. One side of the ingredient is more useful and beneficial to the skin, while the other side is useless. glotherapeutics only uses the purest, highest quality form, making the products superior in the results.

Tecniche has pretty much the same thing to say:

Chirally Correct

Mother Nature creates molecules with two sides or hands, right and left. For reasons unknown to scientists, some right handed molecules work best on skin, where as some left handed molecules are better received by the skin. It may be a more extensive and expensive route, but it has been Tecniche’s™ life work to only use the ‘hand’ of the lab-neutral molecule that best mimics Mother Nature’s perfect plan (aka: Chirally Correct).

Yet is this really necessary in skincare?   Two sources that I’ve read disagree what is stated above.  First to The Beauty Brains and their post Are Cosmedix Products Another Scientific Scam:

Leatha Questions Chirality:

I have started using a skin care line called Cosmedix and they claim that their products are chirally correct. I don`t know what this means and whether it is a marketing gimmick or if there is some truth to it.

The Left Brain Criticizes Cosmedix:

chiral cosmedixThe term chiral is derived from the Greek work for handedness and a molecule is called chiral if it differs from its mirror image. (A simple way to visualize this concept is to think of your right and left hand. You can`t fit your left hand in your right glove, right? That`s because they`re chiral. You can learn more about the idea here.)

Some chemical reactions produce both the left handed and right handed version of the same molecule. These versions are called isomers. This concept is very important in drug manufacture where the Left and Right isomers may have different chemical properties. If the Left isomer is effective against a given disease, you want a chemical reaction that produces pure Left, not a mixture of Right and Left. So for drugs, chiral purity is very important.

But for cosmetic products, chirality isn`t really an issue. That’s because cosmetic ingredients don`t interact with the biological systems of your body the same way drugs do. So your first guess was correct “ this IS a marketing gimmick!

In their book Physiology of the Skin Drs. Draelos and Pugliese agree with The Beauty Brains (page 116):

A term that is being used lately is chirality.  The word chiral is from cheir, the Greek word for “hand”.  A chiral molecule is one that cannot be superimposed on its mirror image, just as you cannot superimpose your two hands in a mirror image.  Any compound that has four different atoms, or groups, attached to a single carbon is chiral.  You need to think about this for a minute or two before you realize that what you are thinking about is an asymmetrical figure, since all chiral compounds lack symmetry by definition.

More and more often, it’s being asked if a product’s chirality is correct.  What should be asked is if the product is biologically active.  Most chemical compounds in nature are chiral compounds that are biologically active, so they are indeed, correct chirally.  Asking if it is “chirally correct” is the same as asking “Is this water in this product really H2O?”  There is no such thing as chirally correct, any more than you can be facially correct.  What should be asked is, “Does this product have the correct optical isomerism?”  By being correct it is biologically active.

So what about some middle ground on this subject.  I found the following post on the blog The Science of Beauty –  What is Chirally Correct Skincare?  I’ll skip quoting the beginning of the post since it contains information I already covered above.  Let’s dive in towards the middle of the post:

Well, whilst some skincare ranges contain only naturally derived ingredients, the majority are comprised of laboratory created ingredients. It is much easier and cheaper to synthesise Vitamin E, for example, in a laboratory than to try and extract it from natural sources. Vitamin E can be found in almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, amongst other things but the quantities of these ingredients required to acquire sufficient Vitamin E, and the cost associated with extracting it would make the final skincare product exorbitantly expensive.
When molecules are synthesised by man they always form in pairs that are the mirror image of each other. So, like your left and right hand, these mirror imaged molecules contain all the same parts but are not identical to one and other. Each mirror image of the molecule is given a prefix to its chemical name – either d or l. So, using the Vitamin E example, the chemical name for Vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol so the mirror images of the molecules are called d-alpha-tocopherol and l-alpha-tocopherol. But even though these molecules are nearly identical (the only difference being the mirror image) only one of the molecules can be used by the human body – in this case the molecule with the d-prefix (d-alpha-tocopherol). So chirally correct skincare contains ingredients that have been tested to ensure that they only contain the active molecule, out of the mirror imaged pair, that can be used by the human body. The molecules are sorted so that only the active molecule is added. With Vitamin E it has already been determined that d-alpha-tocopherol the active molecule so any Vitamin E that is added to chirally correct skincare will have been sorted so that only d-alpha-tocopherol is added. If your skincare is not chirally correct, and the vitamin E molecules have not been sorted, it will be listed in the ingredients as dl-alpha-tocopherol, as it contains a 50/50 mixture of the d-alpha-tocopherol and l-alpha-tocopherol molecules.
So what happens if the molecules are not sorted? Generally nothing; however, your skincare will be less potent. When a molecule is made, equal amounts of the l-molecule and d-molecule are created. So, if your skincare range claims to have 10ml of Vitamin E in it, but the Vitamin E has not been sorted to get the chirally correct molecule then your skincare will actually contain 5ml of active Vitamin E and 5ml of a molecule that does absolutely nothing – so your skincare is half as potent as you expect. …
Therefore, there is no reason to be concerned if you are using skincare that is not chirally correct that it could be doing you damage, just be aware that it may not be as potent or effective as you think.

Bottom Line:  Like so many subject that I present in this blog there are truly opposing perspectives here on the same subject.  I think that at the moment I am inclined to agree with those who say that being chirally correct has no place in effective skincare products.  What do you think?  Please share your opinion below.

Image from photo.photoshelter.com

 

 
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