Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

What Are Hydrosols? June 11, 2017

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I like to think of myself as up to date about skincare ingredients and products, but somehow hydrosols were off my radar until a few months ago.  Now I am a devotee of this skincare product and am happy to recommend their use to other estheticians and clients.

What Is A Hydrosol?

Hydrosols are the byproduct of the essential oil distillation process.  As explained on the website Herb and Hedgerow in the post What is a Hydrosol?:

When plants are steam distilled for their essential oils, this process will release several compounds – some of which are soluble in water and will therefore end up in the hydrosol at the end of the process. Hydrosols contain the water from the distillation process as well as the herbal extracts from the plant. The essential oil droplets will float on top of this distillate and these tiny quantities are then removed to be sold.

Keep in mind that hydrosols are not simply essential oils added to water.   Hydrosols contain all the properties of the essential oil, just highly diluted which makes them much more gentle.  Hydrosols can also be used directly on the skin, unlike essential oils that should never to applied directly to the skin.  That’s what makes hydrosols so versatile and wonderful – they can provide your skin with the all the benefits of essential oils without any fear of irritation and negative reaction.

Be sure you trust your supplier when buying hydrosols since they can be contaminated or diluted with alcohol.

You could, of course, make your own hydrosol if you were so inclined.

How To Use A Hydrosol

Just as essential oils have different properties so do hydrosols.  The properties of the hydrosol are the same as the plant or essential oil they came from, just much more gentle so they can be used even on sensitive, irritated skin.  I work with clients who are undergoing chemotherapy and have very sensitive, compromised skin; I can use a hydrosol on the skin of such a client but not an essential oil.

Hydrosols can be used in a number of ways:  You can

  • use them like a toner – apply to a cotton pad and swipe across the face.
  • add them to a clay mask (or any mask) instead of water.
  • use in your bath
  • spray on your body like a body spray
  • use as a natural room or linen freshener/perfume
  • spray on your skin to cool down
  • after shaving spray or swipe on skin to soothe
  • spray to calm irritated skin

Personally I use hydrosols during facials just like I would toner and I add them to the masks I create for clients at the end of a facial.   But the sky’s the limit – there are a multitude of ways to use hydrosols both for your skin and for your home.

 

*I’m newly obsessed with the website Herb and Hedgerow.  Though the articles on the site are a few years old, I find that they are clearly written, interesting, and very informative.

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Q&A With Mother Dirt President Jasmina Aganovic March 31, 2017

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I recently wrote a post about Mother Dirt skincare products.  In addition to trying their products, I also had the opportunity to ask Mother Dirt president Jasmina Aganovic some questions about the company’s current and future products, their skincare philosophy, and why spraying bacteria isn’t actually gross at all.

Question:  In your opinion, why is this new approach to skincare necessary?

Answer:  In just one generation, the amount of products we use daily has grown exponentially. In the process, we’ve interfered with our skin’s own ability to take care of itself.  Modern hygiene practices have us using more products than ever before. And yet, despite being cleaner than ever, and having more options than ever, healthy skin seems elusive. The numbers are staggering; 80 million Americans suffer from acne, and 1 in 6 children has eczema. Over 50% of adults claim to have sensitive skin, and it’s the fastest growing category in skin care.

Question:  Who do you see as your core customer base?

Answer:  We’re really unique in that our customers are 50% men, 50% women. We find that people who embrace the less is more philosophy, and those who steer toward green chemistry and green beauty, as well as those who just like the idea of probiotics for the skin as a wellness concept.

Question:  What is your opinion of probiotics in skincare products?

Answer:  It’s definitely exciting to see the bacteria/probiotic movement in personal care growing. Although it can be tricky, too. Some products out there marketing themselves as probiotics are most likely not actually living. Unlike food and supplements with probiotics that are typically refrigerated, the need for a multi-year shelf life and the general supply chain requires the use of preservatives in skin care. At the end of the day, this means that the skincare industry does not easily allow for “living” products like the food industry does.

Question:  What other skincare applications does this bacteria have besides for the ones your products already treat?

Answer:  Our research partner, AOBiome, is currently working with the FDA on clinical trials using different formulations of Ammonia Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB). You’re welcome to check out their site for more information.

Question:  Are there are other bacteria besides AOB that can help our skin?

Answer:  Most likely, yes. However, the field is young and our area of research remains specifically on AOB.

Question:  Only one of your products has AOB in it.  Are you creating other products that will contain AOB?  And if not – why?

Answer:  We never stop formulating and working on new products. Because of the novel and highly constrained nature of biome-friendly formulation, this is going to take a lot of time and work. We hope to one day have more products with AOB as well as others to supplement it.

Question:  Your products do not contain organic ingredients, why not?

Answer:  Our primary screening for formulations and ingredients is the impact on the skin’s ecosystem. Whether or not something is organic or non-organic, we have found no difference of impact on the skin microbiome.

Question:  If a customer uses just the products (shampoo, moisturizer) and not the AO+ spray will they still see positive skin changes or must you use the spray for best results?

Answer:  While the Mist is our hero product, there are definitely people who use only the Cleanser, Shampoo, or Moisturizer and have great results and see changes in their skin. Our studies show that there is benefit to be gained by using those products on their own, and even more benefit to be gained by incorporating the Mist as well.

Question:  The products have a very short shelf life – will this always be the case or are you working on a way to get around this issue?

Answer:  Our products will most likely always have a shelf life because not having preservatives is one of the traits that makes them biome-friendly. (Preservatives are anti-bacterials, and our goal is to keep the bacteria alive.) We are constantly working to do what we do better, and since we’ve launched our products, we’ve improved our shampoo and cleanser formulations to extend their shelf life from 4 weeks from first use, to 8 weeks from first use. It’s likely that packaging innovation will also play a role in extending shelf life.

Question:  Can someone undergoing chemotherapy or another cancer treatment safely use your products?

Answer:  Anyone who is immunocompromised should consult their physician before changing anything in their routine.

Question:  How can someone who lives outside the US purchase the products?

Answer:  We sell our products on our website, Amazon, and we ship internationally to a few countries. You can find out which regions we ship to on our site.

Question:  What’s next?  What new products are in the pipeline?

Answer:  We always have a lot of things in the works, but it takes a long time to work through the product development process. There are a few exciting launches coming later this year and we hope to share more soon.

Question:  What is the most gratifying experience to come out of creating these products?

Answer:  The positive feedback from our users is a really amazing thing to experience on an ongoing basis. We truly feel like we are creating a major shift in the world of public health and we have always approached it as a community-based mission.

Question:  What is the message you want to get out to potential customers who might find the concept of spraying bacteria on their faces gross?

Answer:  Ha! While some people still have the “ick” factor around spraying bacteria on their skin, the idea makes sense to most people. We have gut bacteria to thank for that! Once people make the connection between how you need good bacteria to keep your gut healthy and balanced, they can understand how the same applies to your skin. Our AOB used to be a naturally occurring bacteria on our skin up until about 100 years ago, but harsh chemicals and less time spent outdoors wiped it away. We’re just helping you put back what was once already there, and still exists everywhere in nature where living things thrive. You come in contact with AOB when you’re digging through rich soil, or swimming in a lake. Of course, there are still hurdles to overcome, but people have certainly been much more receptive than we expected.

 

Spray Bacteria On Your Skin? Well, Yes! March 12, 2017

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Some time ago I wrote an article for About.com about the so-called caveman regime which simply means you stop washing your face.   I’m definitely one of the last people to tell you to stop washing your face.  My belief in how important face washing is was only strengthened by what I read happened to people’s faces when they stopped washing them.

There are a variety of reasons why people decide to stop washing their faces – their skin is sensitive and they feel like facial cleansers are harming their skin instead of helping it, they think they are applying too many chemicals and products to their faces, or they connect a certain lifestyle choice (like eating a Paleo diet) with not washing their face, i.e. do as the cavemen would have done.  As I already wrote above after reading about what happened to people’s skin when they didn’t wash their face, I definitely was not about to try this myself.  I’m the last person who wants a build up of dead skin cells all over their face.

One part of what I read about these no-wash experiments was intriguing – people who had sensitive, easily irritated skin found that their skin calmed down after they stopped washing it.  This could be true because of what happens when you stop washing your face. Firstly, dead skin cells build up and literally sit on top of your skin, but not washing can actually restore your skin’s protective barrier (or acid mantle) which potentially could mean your skin will start “behaving” better – will be calm, acne free, less irritated, not red, etc. By not washing your face you are allowing your skin to perform its duties – protecting, hydrating, and healing.  One reason for someone’s skin improving in both look and texture after they stop washing it or stop using all other skincare products as well is the fact that bacteria, good bacteria, starts proliferating on the surface of the skin.  This good bacteria helps to kill acne causing bad bacteria and provides the skin with protection from outside sources that can irritate it.  The more good bacteria on your skin means that skin conditions like eczema and rosecea won’t flair up as much.

The idea of increasing the good bacteria on the skin, allowing the skin to heal itself, and just basically getting out of the way of “interfering” with your skin’s functions is a skincare idea that I find very intriguing even though my own daily, far from minimalist skincare routine is the opposite of those skincare ideas.  I’ve been reading about bacteria and probiotics (good bacteria) in skincare products for years and wrote a post on this topic in the past.   While not every expert thinks that applying topical skincare products with pre-biotics, probiotics, or bacteria to the skin is helpful, the number of products with these ingredients keeps growing (pun intended).  There is also the fermented skincare trend which came to the West from South Korea.

Mother Dirt Products

At this point you are probably wondering what all this has to do with photo at the top of this blog post.  Let me explain.  After my article on not washing your face was published on About.com I received an email from a PR person asking if I wanted to try Mother Dirt products.  What did my article have to do with this company’s products?   Well Mother Dirt sells bacteria to spray on your body and heal your skin.  Yes, bacteria you spray on your face or somewhere else on your body.

This product is far from something that was created overnight in order to jump on a skincare trend.  In May, 2014 an article appeared in The New York Times Magazine that chronicled the writer’s experience with not washing (body or hair) for a month and twice a day spraying her body and hair with ammonia-oxidizing bacteria instead.  After an initial gross period, the writer reported that her skin was softer, smoother, and breakout free because good bacteria had started to grow on her skin. Once the month ended and the writer went back to using regular skincare products and washing as she had before the good bacteria disappeared from her skin.

The skin friendly bacteria discussed in this article eventually made its way into Mother Dirt’s signature product – AO+ Mist, and is now available for all consumers.  While the Mother Dirt website is very thorough and is great at explaining both the science and the everyday use of their products, I’ll elaborate a little bit here as to what the product is supposed to do.  Mother Dirt’s proposes that in today’s world people are “too clean”, washing down the drain on a daily basis the good bacteria on their skin that is supposed to protect our skin and keep it healthy.  When this occurs our skin suffers – becomes sensitive and easily irritated, red, acne appears regularly, and our skin is dry.  Having healthy skin is as easy as spraying this mist on our skin at least once a day.  The company says that with regular use you won’t need as many skincare products including deodorant. Keeping all this in mind I was obviously intrigued.  So when the company offered to send me some products to try for free I jumped at the chance.

My Experience Using Mother Dirt

My Mother Dirt products arrived via messenger in a cool, silver padded envelope (yes, I am easily impressed by shiny things).  The company sent me a few bottles of the AO+ Mist, their cleanser (which has no SLS, more on that later), and their moisturizer to try for free. The company also makes a shampoo that they did not send me to try which is too bad since I would have loved to try it.  I suffer from seborrhea on my scalp and always use a special, medicated shampoo so I would have been happy to see if this product would have helped to relieve my itchy scalp.  The real star here in the AO+ Mist.  The other products are meant to treat your skin gently without getting in the way of the good bacteria that is supposed to start growing on your body.

I decided that everyone in my family needed to try the products.  My husband suffers from dry, itchy skin, my son has dry skin, and my daughter has easily irritated skin.  I did momentarily consider ditching all my facial serums, nightly retinol cream, and morning peptide cream to see how my skin would react to spraying the bacteria on it, but I just couldn’t do it.  Instead I decided to use the spray twice a day on my chest.  My chest is an area of skin embarrassment for me.  It is covered by red dots that sometimes have white heads on them.  At first I thought I had acne there and tried to treat my skin for acne. Nothing changed.  Eventually I realized that I simply had skin irritation in that area that looks like a lot like acne.  I always think twice before wearing a shirt with a v-neck because the area is most unsightly.  I hoped that using the AO+ Mist would clear up my skin irritation by helping my skin heal itself.

My husband and son dropped out of this skin routine experiment a day after they started. They had no interest in remembering to use the spray.  My daughter is still quite young so she had no choice other than to be part of this experiment.  I used the spray on her after bath time, washed her with the soap, and moisturized her with moisturizer.  I sprayed the mist on my chest and underarms, washed with the soap, and moisturized with the moisturizer.

I was pleased to see that the soap was SLS free.  SLS can be quite irritating to many people’s skin and though some companies have taken it out of their products it is still very widely used.  I’ve decided to avoid SLS for my daughter’s skin since she has experienced red, itchy skin in the past that cleared up once I started using a SLS free soap on her skin. Despite having no SLS in it, the soap still foams very nicely and cleaned the skin well yet gently.

Mother Dirt states that when it comes their moisturizer less is more which turned out to be true but it took me time to realize just how much I really needed and how to use it.  In addition, if you think of moisturizers as always being creams this product will confuse you since it is a liquid.  It feels and looks like an oil.  It does moisturize effectively once you get used to its feel and figure out just how much you need.  I can’t say how long it will actually last you, but I think you could easily have it on hand for about 2 months or more.

But you are probably wondering about the bacteria spray more than any other product I tried.  You need to keep in in the refrigerator once you open it (or even before) so it is cold when you spray it on your skin.  This made the product less than pleasant to use during the winter. Though I did spray it once or even twice a day on my underarms since it was winter I really couldn’t tell if it helped balance out the bacteria in that area and made deodorant less necessary since I don’t need much deodorant as is during the winter.

Now did the mist helped heal the skin irritation on my chest?  Well yes it did!  It took over a month to see a difference which didn’t surprise me since real skin changes take time.  I didn’t wash that area with soap during the time I used the spray (not even with the Mother Dirt soap), but water did wash over the area each time I showered.  My skin finally became little, red bump free after using the AO+ Mist.  BUT as soon as I stopped using the spray the bumps returned which is quite frustrating.

When it came to my daughter’s skin the products kept her sensitive skin irritation and rash free.  Her skin was also soft.  I passed along one bottle of the AO+ Mist to a friend who had hormonal breakouts on her back.  She definitely saw an improvement in her bacne after regularly using the product.

Would I Recommend Mother Dirt?

I would definitely recommend Mother Dirt products for people with sensitive, easily irritated skin, and those who suffer from regular breakouts.  These products will not get rid of hyperpigmentation for example or treat cystic acne, but they definitely can be helpful for people with sensitive skin.  People who want products with few and easily understandable ingredients will like Mother Dirt’s products.  I applaud the company’s transparency and innovation.

 

 

 

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

 

 
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