Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

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.

 

 

 

Skincare Tips For Cancer Patients From Dr. Ava Shamban January 26, 2017

Staying together in tough disease

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything about oncology esthetics.  I was certified in oncology esthetics by Oncology Training International over 4 years ago.  Since moving back to Israel in August, 2012 I have been advancing this esthetics field here in Israel where it is virtually unknown.  This past summer I started a Facebook page in Hebrew about oncology esthetics in order to better serve the Israeli population since there are few resources in Hebrew on this subject.

My last post about oncology esthetics was about how estheticians can help cancer patients.  In an even earlier post I shared skincare tips for cancer patients.   In this post I am privileged to share skincare tips for cancer patients that Dr. Ava Shamban shared with me.  Dr. Shamban is a Beverly Hills dermatologist and the creator of the skincare line SkinxFive.  She’s also the author of one of my favorite books about skincare called Heal Your Skin which includes a chapter all about caring for your skin during cancer treatment. You can read my review of her book here.

I’m sharing Dr. Shamban’s advice here along with some added comments of my own.  My comments are in italics.

The Skin Side Effects of Cancer Treatment:

How cancer treatment affects your skin (hair and nails) will depend on your individual physiology and the drugs you’re receiving. Side effects can occur right away or within several days, weeks, or even months of treatment. Always remember your mantra: take heart! There are ways to cope with even the most severe skin complaints.

Acneiform Rash (Follicular Eruption)

When you are treated with chemotherapy drugs that target the EGFRs you can develop a skin reaction known as acneiform (or acne-like) rash. It can look and feel like severe teenage acne, but it can erupt everywhere.

This skin reaction can look so similar to acne that you might be inclined to want to treat it with strong anti-acne ingredients, but this would be a mistake because your skin can be very sensitive at this time.  If you are confused about how to treat this skin condition be sure to talk to your oncologist or an esthetician trained in oncology esthetics about safe solutions to heal your skin.

 What to do: Acneiform can be tender, burning, and itching. If the rash is mild, you can try an over-the-counter low-strength salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide preparation followed by a moisturizer that contains ceramides. If the rash doesn’t respond within a short period, ask your doctor about using a topical or an oral prescription antibiotic to relieve the symptoms and lessen the severity of the rash.

Ceramides are an oily wax that is found in the outer layers of our skin.   They are naturally found in our skin and play an important role in helping our skin retain moisture by being part of the “glue” that keeps skin cells together.  When ceramides are depleted our skin has trouble staying moist and can be prone to not only dryness but sensitivity as well.   You can find ceramides in Curel products and in CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion.

Dryness

Extreme dryness is the most frequent skin complaint among patients in cancer treatment. Dehydration, extreme weather conditions, perfumed products, and allergies can contribute to dryness.

What to do: The best way to treat your dry skin is to use moisturizers regularly; Ceramides are a particularly valuable ingredient; they replace a skin lipid that chemotherapy specifically diminishes. Take a short shower or bath, then pat your dry skin with a soft towel and apply a moisturizer immediately. Use only mild, non-perfumed, non-deodorant soaps such as Dove, Basis, Aveeno, or Neutrogena. Wear cotton clothes next to the skin rather than wool, synthetic fibers, or rough clothing. Always wash clothing in a mild detergent and avoid any products that contain perfume, such as bubble baths, soaps, and lotions.

Caution: if you are receiving radiation treatments, do not apply anything to the skin in the treatment area without clearing it with your medical team first. Many common ointments and moisturizers, while nonirritating, may interfere with the ability of the radiation to penetrate the skin and do its work.

Nail Changes

Changes to your nails will depend on the treatment you receive. They are usually temporary, although the nails may take longer to repair themselves than the hair and other skin nails. Nail toxicity can occur weeks or months after you’ve begun a targeted treatment, and it often persists for weeks or months after stopping the drug.

What to do: Nail changes often disappear when the damaged nail is replaced by the growth of a new nail. Good nail care during your treatment can help you to avoid or diminish the severity of side effects.

  • Moisturize the nails and cuticles daily with a nonirritating balm, such as petroleum jelly. You can also use lip balm to soften the cuticles.
  • Do not trim or push back your cuticles. The seal they provide around the nail plate prevents infection.
  • If your nails begin to separate or show signs of breakage, try to keep them in place as long as possible. Even when loosened or shortened, they provide protection for the nail bed.
  • Inflammation can be treated in a variety of ways by your oncology team, such as by the use of topical antibiotic, an antifungal, or a cortisone cream. Wrapping the treated area with a bandage or clear plastic wrap (such as Saran Wrap) will help the ointment to penetrate the area. Some also find it helpful to apply a liquid bandage to the area at the first sign of any cracking skin.

Tips for dealing with hair loss

Keep in mind that you will need to take special care of your scalp. The skin on your head, neck, and forehead will suffer from the same dryness, propensity to irritation, and increased vulnerability to sun damage as the rest of your skin during cancer treatment. In fact, it may be quite tender. Here are some tips for dealing with hair loss:

  • My patients recommend using with hazel or a gentle baby shampoo to cleanse the scalp. Massaging the scalp gently with the fingertips can be soothing.
  • Don’t wear a wig or any other hair covering for too long a period in hot weather. Sweat can build up on your scalp and become very irritating.
  • There are many different options for wigs: real hair, synthetics, different hair colors. The most important aspect is the fabric of the skullcap.
  • Choose soft, natural, and breathable fabrics like cotton jersey for anything you wear on your head.

Rejuvenating Skin During Cancer Treatment:

  • Do not do extractions, exfoliation, or other procedures that might damage fragile skin.
  • Use only the mildest products that are free of irritants and potential allergens.
  • If your oncologist permits professional facials, have them performed in your dermatologist’s office by a licensed aesthetician working under strict sanitary conditions.

 

Always tell your dermatologist or aesthetician that you are undergoing cancer treatment before scheduling facials or other cosmetic treatments.

In addition to Dr. Shamban’s excellent tips, I want to share a few blogs and articles I came across recently.  The blogs and articles all deal with how to look your best while undergoing cancer treatment.  I am a very strong believer in the mind-body connection. When you like, or love, the way you look, it lifts your spirit.  Since cancer treatment can cause many negative appearance side effects I find these blogs and articles helpful in giving assistance and hope to those who need it during a difficult time in their life.

So in no particular order I want to recommend the following blogs and article:

  • Beauty Despite Cancer – this UK site sells products that cancer patients need and has a great blog with real life stories that will inspire you.
  • Someone With – an American website similar to the site mentioned above.  They sell clothes, beauty, and health products for cancer patients.
  • Leo with Cancer – a very personal blog by Dena who has breast cancer.  Lots of beauty tips along with her raw and honest thoughts about her cancer treatment and its side effects.
  • Beauty Products for Breast Cancer Patients has great tips for looking your best during cancer treatment from the perspective of someone who has been there.
  • My Cancer Chic came out of Anna’s need to look her best even while undergoing cancer treatment.  She not only shares her feelings about her cancer journey but beauty and hair tips as well.
  • In this moving article Deanna talks about how drastically her appearance changed while undergoing cancer treatment, especially after she lost her eyebrows.  That experience lead her to help develop a replacement brow.

I have a Pinterest board just for oncology esthetics.  Feel free to follow it.

And many thanks again to Dr. Shamban for sharing her skincare tips for cancer patients with me and my readers!

 

 

I Tried It: Micellar Water January 5, 2017

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Micellar waters are not a new skincare product.  They have been used in Europe, from what I can gather mainly in France, for quite some time.  In the last two years or so they became a hit States side, and more and more companies (both large and small) have come out with their version of this cleansing product.  When I first heard about micellar waters I was very intrigued, and when I saw this Garnier one on sale at my local drugstore I had to buy it.

Micellar water is said to gently cleanse the skin and has the added bonus of not having to rinse it off after using (more on that later in this post).  If you are one who likes to go camping (not me!) or spends days at outdoor festivals (once again not me!) having micellar water on hand means you can cleanse your face without having indoor plumbing nearby. It is also a good solution for making yourself presentable after a long flight when you are stuck freshing up in a cramped airplane bathroom.

The use of micellar waters as a skincare cure-all has been catching on recently.  You can find quite a few articles in the mainstream beauty world toting micellar water as the next great thing for your skin for all sorts of reasons such as the hard water you use to rinse your face after washing it destroys your skin so using a micellar water, which you don’t rinse off, is better for your skin.  Or that it must be great if the French love it.

For more information about how hard water affects our skin please see my post Hard Water and Your Skin.

The Science Behind Micellar Water

When I finally learned the in-depth science about micellar water via The Beauty Brains I realized that micellar waters were just mild cleansers.  There isn’t really anything special about them except perhaps for the fact that you do not need to rinse them off after use (once again more on that in a bit).  I suggest listening or reading to The Beauty Brains entire explanation about micellar waters, but I’ll share a few highlights here:

Micelles are structures that are formed when surfactant are dissolved in water. Remember that surfactants, short for surface active agents, are used in beauty products as cleansers and emulsifiers that help mix oil and water soluble ingredients.

If you look at the chemical structure of surfactants they typically have a long oil soluble tail and water soluble polar head group.  When surfactants are present in water at a certain concentration, they begin to assemble into larger structures based on the water soluble/oil soluble parts of the molecule. The oil soluble tails try to group together to get away from the water. The lowest energy state for them is to have all the tails together so they are shielded from water by the polar head groups – which again, water soluble. Think of it as a ball or sphere of surfactant molecules with head on outside, tails facing inside.

These spheres of surfactants are called micelles and the concentration of surfactant required to form them is called the Critical Micelle Concentration or CMC. …

Yeah, if you look at the ingredient list for products that claim to be micellar waters they tend NOT to use traditional, high foaming surfactants. Instead they use a combination of nonionic surfactants, which tend to be milder on skin. One of most common nonionic surfactant used in micellar waters is Poloxamer 184.  …

So overall, yes, these MW products are likely to be milder than many other cleansers. And, unlike traditional foaming cleanser’s they don’t necessarily have to be rinsed. They may even provide more of pleasant after feel than other cleansing products.

I have to say that companies have done a great job marketing these products. Somehow, these seem so special that they should be really expensive.

As you can see from The Beauty Brains explanation marketing hype plays a big part in the popularity of micellar waters.  Yes, someone with sensitive, easily irritated skin could find them to be helpful for their skin, but there are many more mild cleansers on the market that will probably be just as good, if not better, for their skin.

You can also get a great explanation (with helpful pictures) by reading Lab Muffin’s post about micellar water.   This post brings up a good point at the end – do you need to rinse off the micellar water even though it says you do not?  The rinse may be needed because of the surfactants that can potentially be irritating if left on the skin.  My skin never feels great after using micellar water; instead it feels like there is a layer of, well, something still on my skin after using the product, but I only use it as the first step in a double cleanse so I do rinse my skin after using a micellar water.  You need to play it by ear, but if you are using micellar water at home and as your only facial cleanser definitely consider rinsing your face after using it so that the surfactants do not stay on your skin.

My Experience

I use micellar water on a regular basis as the first step in a nightly double cleanse.  As I wrote above when I don’t rinse it off I do not like how the micellar water feels on my skin. I think micellar water is a great way to remove make-up, if you are washing your face with another cleanser afterwards.  I do find using a new cotton pad each night environmentally wasteful; I haven’t found a way around this issue yet.  Micellar water does not do a particularly good job at removing my eye make-up, but in my experience after trying a great number of make-up removers, nothing does.

Bottom Line: micellar waters can be a gentle way to cleanse your face, but they are not a miracle cleanser no matter what some people may claim.  Instead they are simply another mild cleanser.  Marketing hype can definitely blow things out of proportion.

Image from Cosmopolitan

 

Why Is Hyperpigmentation So Hard To Get Rid Of? June 23, 2016

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One of the more difficult skincare problems to solve is hyperpigmentation or dark spots on your skin.  This is also a very prevalent skincare issue that affects people of all skin tones.   Just where do these frustrating spots come from and how can you get rid of them for good? In this post I want to give you some insight into what causes hyperpigmentation in the first place and how to combat it effectively.

How Does Hyperpigmentation Form?

There are a few different types of hyperpigmentation or dark (brown) spots that can form on the skin.  You can get hyperpigmentation from the sun, from hormones, or as a result of an injury to the skin.  This last type of hyperpigmentation includes the marks that show up on the skin after a pimple heals.  (Please keep in mind that while many people call the red or brown marks that are left on the skin after a breakout heals “acne scars” they are definitely not scars but rather hyperpigmentation)   Certain ethnicities are more prone to hyperpigmentation than others.  Interestingly enough the treatment for hyperpigmentation is the same no matter its source.

I’ve been having an internal debate how technical I should be in explaining how hyperpigmentation forms because it is easy to get very lost among the scientific terms and processes that occur in the skin.  I also feel that such an explanation can be a bit overwhelming for non-science people (I include myself in that category).

I decided to take a middle of the road approach in my explanation.  Here it goes.  Your epidermis (the top layer of your skin) contains melanocytes which produce melanin. Melanin determines your skin color and tone. Everyone has the same number of melanocyctes in their skin; your skin color is determined by the amount of melanin activated in the skin.  Melanin is also the pigment that protects your skin from UV rays.  So when your skin experiences excessive sun exposure or prolonged sun exposure year after year, day after day more melanin is produced in order to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.  A tan is actually a sign of your skin’s “self defense” mechanism kicking into gear.  Sorry to say but with every tan you get you’ve done damage to your skin. Dark spots from the sun can show up in a cluster on one area of your face, perhaps on the side of your face that is exposed to a window in your office or while driving, and can take years to appear after the initial damage has been done to your skin.  Many times as an esthetician I find it hard to convince people to use sunscreen on a daily basis simply because the damage daily sun exposure is doing to their skin is not evident at first.  It can be hard to for people to realize that they need sunscreen everyday when the damage they will see from the sun will only show up 10, 20 years later.  So please remember to apply sunscreen daily in order to prevent hyperpigmentation in the future.

Melasma is the hormonal hyperpigmentation.  Many women develop this type of hyperpigmentation during and after a pregnancy or from using birth control pills.  The hormonal changes that are going on in your body due to pregnancy or the use of birth control pills cause this type of hyperpigmentation to form though exactly what doctors are still not entirely sure.  Sun exposure can make melasma worse. Some lucky women may find that their dark spots fade a bit after giving birth, but for many women this type of hyperpigmentation is an unhappy side effect from a happy life event.

Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the red, brown, or even yellow marks that are left on the skin after an injury to the skin or after a breakout has healed. Once again as a defense mechanism, in this case a defense against skin inflammation, the body produces extra melanin.  If there is one positive from this type of hyperpigmentation it is usually the easiest kind to get rid of.

Treatment

First of all it is important to keep something in mind when treating hyperpigmentation – there are no quick fixes for this skin care problem.  You need time, patience, and the daily use of skin care products in order to get rid of hyperpigmentation.  If you have had a dark spot on your face for 6 years you cannot expect it to disappear in just a month.  When I say patience I really mean it.  You need to religiously use the right skin care products at home in order to eventually see results months down the road.  Once hyperpigmentation occurs, with the exception of red marks (and some types of brown marks) left on the skin after breakouts heal, your dark spots have no real desire to go anywhere.  If anyone promises you a miracle cure for hyperpigmentation run in the opposite direction.  Also please don’t put lemon juice all over your face and go out in the sun expecting to fade dark spots.  No matter how many times this skincare hack appears in your Pinterest feed you need to ignore it.  You’ll just end up making your skin more sensitive or even causing burns instead of helping your skin if you follow this “tip”.

One of the reasons hyperpigmentation is so hard to get rid of is because you actually have to treat your skin in two different ways at the same time in order to lighten dark spots.  Though the skincare industry is constantly changing and innovating at the moment the accepted way to treat hyperpigmentation is to shutdown or suppress the production of new melanin, prevent the transfer of new melanin to the melanocyctes, and remove the existing dark spots.  This requires a combination of products to achieve; there is currently no one product on the market that can do all three of these things.  Usually hyperpigmentation is treated with one product that supresses melanin production and another product that brings excess melanin to the surface of the skin and then helps it flake off.

In the United States one of the more prevalent skincare ingredients used to treat hyperpigmentation effectively is hydroquinone.  Hydroquinone is controversial for a few different reasons and has been replaced by a host of other ingredients to brighten dark spots because of the controversy surrounding it.  In order to better understand the controversy about hydroquinone I suggest reading Dr. Leslie Baumann’s article that I have listed below in “sources and further reading”.  There is a lot of misinformation circulating about hydroquinone so be sure to educate yourself on this topic before buying into the anti-hydroquinone hype.

Other skincare ingredients that can help treat hyperpigmentation are:  Vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice, arbutin, and azelaic acid.   A product with one or more of these ingredients is best paired with a retinol (or prescription Retin-A) for best results.  You can also use a product that brightens dark spots in conjunction with an AHA exfoliator though keep in mind a strong exfoliator can actually make hyperpigmentation worse or even cause hyperpigmentation for people with sensitive.  When in doubt see a professional in order to create the perfect skincare regime for your skin.  And above all, apply a generous amount of sunscreen each and everyday!  Use at least SPF 30 and make sure your sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays.  Don’t think that your make-up with SPF is giving you enough sun protection because you’ll never apply enough make-up in order to reach the amount of SPF listed on the product.  So be sure to always apply a sunscreen first and then your moisturizer and make-up.

Other Treatment Options

If you have the money for more expensive in-office treatments getting laser treatments from a dermatologist should produce faster results than using just home care products to treat your hyperpigmentation.  Of course you’ll get the best results from a laser treatment if you take proper care of your skin both before and after the treatment.  Follow the advice the doctor or their esthetician gives you; if they don’t give you any before and after advice go to another office.

You can also see an esthetician or dermatologist for a series of chemical peels that coupled with the correct home care regime can help get rid of hyperpigmentation once again faster than if you were just using products at home.  Just as you need a good home care skincare regime before and after a laser treatment in order to get the best results you need to do the same with a chemical peel.

Sources and Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

 

 

Winter Skincare Round-Up December 14, 2014

 

Winter can bring about a lot of unpleasant skin changes – dry and itchy skin, red and irritated skin, cracked hands, chapped lips.  Fun, right?  As always I want to help my readers best care for their skin under any weather conditions, but instead of writing a new post about winter skin care I’m going to share my older posts on the topic.  Looking back at my previous posts I realized I had covered so many issues related to winter skincare that, at the moment, there wasn’t something new to add.

Happy reading and wishing you beautiful and healthy skin during the winter!

 

Photo from wallalay.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

 

All the Rage: Konjac Sponges February 26, 2014

konjac-sponge-opener

Chances are you’ve probably already heard of or even tried a konjac sponge.  I’m a little late to the game in explaining and reviewing these cleansing sponges.  But better late than never, correct?

What Is A Konjac Sponge and How Do You Use It?

Dr. Jessica Wu explains what a konjac sponge is and how to use it:

What is a konjac sponge? A konjac sponge is made of plant starch that’s extracted from a type of potato plant. The sponge absorb a lot of water, so it has a unique texture, kind of like a thick piece of squishy felt. It’s more nubby than a dish sponge, but softer than a loofah and has a finer texture than a washcloth so it’s safe to use on your face. Because of its bouncy, rubbery texture, it makes a rich lather and requires less cleanser that you would normally need. It dries quickly, so it’s more hygienic than a washcloth. Plus they are affordable (I get mine for less than $2 each), so you can change them frequently without having to worry about ruining your washcloths with makeup.

How do konjac sponges help your skin? They dislodge dirt, oil, makeup, and impurities to deep clean your skin, so they’re helpful for those with acne and large pores. They can help slough off dead, dry skin flakes that are a sign of sun damage. They can also help remove stubborn, water resistant sunscreen.

How do you use a konjac sponge? First, soak your sponge in warm water for at least five minutes to soften the fibers and avoid injuring your skin. Splash your face with warm water and squeeze a few drops of cleanser onto the sponge. Massage in a circular motion, concentrating on trouble areas and avoiding areas with healing pimples, infections, or abrasions. Rinse face with warm water and pat dry. Thoroughly rinse the sponge with warm water, squeeze out excess, and let air dry.

Personal Experience

First off, what Dr. Wu writes above about the sponge only costing about $2 is completely correct.  Buy your konjac sponge on eBay; most sellers also offer free shipping.  I bought a regular konjac sponge via eBay though the next time I buy one I’ll be trying a charcoal one since charcoal has acne fighting properties.  I did not find that I had to soak my sponge in warm water for five minutes in order to soften it; it took me about a minute to soften the sponge in the shower.  It is definitely true that you need less cleanser when using a konjac sponge; a little bit of your cleanser will foam up brilliantly on the sponge.  For me the most interesting thing about the konjac sponge was how much the texture changed once it was wet.  Dry the sponge is rough and hard, but once you’ve soaked it the sponge becomes incredibly soft.  I liked using the sponge and the price can’t be beat, but I didn’t see a difference in the appearance of my skin when using the sponge.  I think for someone like me who has tough, acne prone skin konjac sponges are a lovely addition to my skincare routine but not a necessity.  I do think that a konjac sponge can be an excellent way for someone with sensitive skin to exfoliate their skin without any irritation.  Plus, these sponges are just fun (and cheap).  I will definitely be buying another one and recommending them to clients with sensitive skin or to clients who are exfoliation phobic (unfortunately I meet a lot of those) since by using a konjac sponge you can definitely gently exfoliate while you cleanse.

Sources and Further Reading:

Photo from Refinery29

 

 
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