Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Remembering Two Skincare Pioneers July 23, 2013

Recently two dermatologists who made groundbreaking contributions to the skincare industry passed away.  Both Dr. James Fulton and Dr. Sheldon Pinnell changed the skincare industry as we know making lasting and significant impacts in the field of dermatology and esthetics.

Dr. James Fulton

Dr. Fulton will probably be remembered best for his research and discoveries connected to acne.  He was the co-developer, with Dr. Albert Kligman, of Retin-A, and pioneered cosmetic surgical procedures in order reduce acne scars.

Skin Inc.‘s obituary outlines Dr. Fulton’s career:

Born in Ottumwa, Iowa to Alice Hermann Fulton and James Sr. (a one-time CEO of Cracker Jack), Fulton’s interest in dermatology stemmed from the acne struggles he endured as a pre-teen and throughout adulthood. He earned his bachelor of science and doctor of medicine degrees from Tulane University in 1965, and while there his academic achievements led to his induction into the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and Phi Beta Kappa Society. While in residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Fulton met his close friend and mentor Dr. Albert Kligman; together they co-developed Retin-A, a topical form of vitamin A. At the request of Phillip Frost, MD, he relocated to South Florida and earned a PhD in biochemistry under the noted dermatologist Harvey Blank, MD, from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in the early 1970s. Fulton and Blank developed benzoyl peroxide gel (Panoxyl) and topical erythromycin (E-Gel).

In the early 1970’s with his wife Sara, Fulton launched a successful chain of 12 acne clinics called Acne Healthcare Centers, opened the Acne Research Institute and developed and manufactured a line of patented skin care products under the AHC and Face Up brands in their FDA-approved manufacturing facilities. Here he invented a high-speed diamond fraise for dermabrasion and was the first to use estheticians in the medical office developing a paramedical esthetician training program.

In 1990, Fulton opened JEF Medical Group, a cosmetic surgery and dermatology practice where he pioneered fat transfer and laser surgery and was the first to use hyperbaric oxygen chambers for post-surgical recovery. In addition, Fulton and Sara co-founded Vivant Skin Care in 1990, a clinical skin care line rooted in Fulton’s patented vitamin A therapies.

Fulton served as mentor and role model for countless leaders in dermatology and esthetics across the nation. Most recently he was volunteer faculty at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology and part of the internship program at St. Thomas University. A popular international speaker and teacher, he authored the definitive book Acne Rx and published more than 300 medical articles, the most recent ones being released earlier this year in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology and presented at the Skin of Color Seminar Series in New York City and the Orlando Dermatology & Aesthetic & Clinical Conference.

Fulton volunteered his dermatology services to His House Children’s Home, a private, nonprofit, faith-based foster children organization, to which he provided no-charge medical treatment to the children and hosted a yearly Thanksgiving luncheon. He actively split time between Flores Dermatology in Coral Gables where he continued to see patients weekly and his research lab at the Vivant Skin Care headquarters in Miami Lakes until taking ill in mid-June.

He was most proud of his beloved wife, Sara, who helped him with his PhD, and worked with him in research and in the medical office. She always attended medical meetings with him and helped with his teaching projects. Fulton always told her he couldn’t have done what he did without her. Among his noteworthy achievements were creating more than 50 original skin care formulations, stabilizing benzoyl peroxide in gel form, qualifying as a Full Fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, membership in the American Society of Lipo Suction Surgery and election to the Dermatology Foundation’s Leader Society.

Dr. Fulton passed away from colon cancer on July 4, 2013.

Dr. Sheldon Pinnell

Dr. Pinnell, whose research changed the use of topical antioxidants in the skincare industry forever, also passed away on July 4, 2013.

According to his obituary in Skin Inc.:

Sheldon Pinnell, MD, an internationally eminent scientist, dermatologist, leading scientist behind L’Oreal-owned SkinCeuticals, and J. Lamar Callaway professor emeritus of dermatology and chief emeritus of the division of dermatology at Duke University, passed away peacefully in Durham, NC, on Thursday, July 4, 2013. He was 76.

Pinnell’s investigative research has changed the way the world uses topical antioxidants today. As one of the founding fathers of topical antioxidants, he was the first to patent a stable form of vitamin C proven through peer-reviewed research to effectively penetrate skin, delivering eight times the skin’s natural antioxidant protection.

Before helping to shape the cosmeceutical industry, Pinnell led major advances in the understanding of skin biology and the parthenogenesis of skin diseases. Early in his career, he made seminal contributions to the understanding of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the role of vitamin C in collagen biosynthesis. Pinnell has been globally recognized for his contributions to science and skin care, most recently receiving an honorary membership to the Society for Investigative Dermatology.

Over his lifetime, he also received numerous medical and scientific awards including the “Best Doctors in America, the international Who’s Who in Medicine and HealthcareWho’s Who in Science and Engineeringand Who’s Who in America. Pinnell has published more than 200 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals on dermatology topics such as photoaging, collagen synthesis, UV protectiontopical vitamin C and other antioxidants. Pinnell also authored approximately 20 book chapters and holds10 patents.

“It is our greatest privilege to have been able to help Pinnell bring his discovery of topical antioxidants to life. Prior to the introduction of topical vitamin C in the early 1990s, skin care professionals were largely limited to sunscreens to protect against the deleterious effects of the sun. It was Pinnell who gave the medical community the confidence to transform the approach to at-home skincare. We are fortunate to have known Pinnell as a scientist, a family man and a dear friend. His life lessons and infectious spirit will remain with us forever,” said SkinCeuticals co-founders Alden Pinnell and Russell Moon.

Further Reading:

Image from parajunkee.com

 

Time to Rethink Antioxidants? May 1, 2013

Filed under: Diet and Skin,Ingredients — askanesthetician @ 7:33 am
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More foods are being marketed as high in antioxidants despite their questionable health benefits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

Image from The Chicago Tribune

 

What Are Free Radicals? April 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Physiology of the Skin, pages 178 – 179)

My Related Posts:

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

Image from docstoc.com

 

Inflammation: The Ultimate Skin Enemy? January 24, 2012

One of the hottest topics in the skincare and dermatology world is the topic of inflammation and how it affects the skin.  Just as inflammation in the body can lead to disease and aging, inflammation in the skin can cause wrinkles, acne, hives, even eczema and rosacea.  With inflammation so prevalent in our bodies and skin how do you protect yourself and your skin?

What Is Skin Inflammation?

According to the article “Skin’s New Enemy” from Allure magazine (unfortunately the article is not available online):

Inflammation has become the hottest topic in dermatology today, since research suggests it plays a role in acne, aging, skin cancer, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and even hair loss.  “After the sun, inflammation is the skin enemy number one,” says David J. Leffell, professor of dermatology and dermatologic surgery at Yale School of Medicine.  …  Technically, inflammation is a necessary self-defense mechanism – the immune system’s response to infection, irritation, or injury.  The body produces inflammatory substances, such as histamines and cytokines, and blood vessels swell, sending immune cells to the skin to kill bacteria, says Bryan B. Fuller, adjunct professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City.  It’s a kind of scrimmage, then, at a cellular level, with bacteria and viruses the losers (one hopes).  With foreign invaders vanquished, healing can begin.  The problem is that sometimes, thanks to genetic and environmental factors, inflammation becomes chronic.  Like a runaway train, it gains speed (stimulating production of skin-eroding enzymes) and mows down everything in its path (collagen, elastin).  While there are obvious states of inflammation, like a pimple or a rash, we may not even be aware that our bodies are on “red alert”.

Furthermore, according to the article “Seeing Red” in the January, 2012 issue of Day Spa magazine (once again – not available online):

Non-acute, or chronic, inflammation manifests in various ways, including ongoing swelling in the feet and ankles, sinus issues and skin problems.  “The skin is a telltale,” [Wallace] Nelson [naturopathic doctor and president of M’lis] says.  “In skin, inflammation manifests as acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.”  Many people, including Nelson, see a dietary connection.  We know that compounds in the blood called C-reactive proteins are at high levels when inflammation is present.  “Saturated fats, salt, refined sugars and high-glycemic carbohydrates like those made from white flour are foods that set off C-reactive proteins,” says Nelson.

Dr. Amy Wechsler in her book The Mind-Beauty Connection   explains that most of us are not even aware of the fact that our bodies may be victims of chronic inflammation (pages 174-175):

Eventually, you do have to take note of [inflammation] when it builds up over time and results in an ailment or disease, from simple skin rashes and persistent acne t more serious problems like heart disease and cancer.

What fuels the endless burn of chronic inflammation?  Oxidative stress, or free-radical damage that can cause wrinkles and cancer.  Because free radicals steal electrons from other molecules, rendering those molecules handicapped and damaged, they both trigger inflammation and are created by it.

The sun’s UV light also generates an army of free radicals.  It’s estimated that half of the sun’s skin damage is caused by them.  Inflammation and UV assaults are like a one-two punch to your skin because its major components – fats, proteins, and DNA – are favorite free-radical targets.  The end results is, yes, skin aging: collagen breaks down, abnormal elastin increases, moisture is lost, wrinkles accumulate, and skin cancer may start brewing, too.

How Do You Treat Skin Inflammation?

There are actually a lot of different ways that you can treat your skin in order to reduce inflammation:

  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidant foods – think brightly colored fruits and vegetables.  Drink green tea.
  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods like those with omega-3 fatty acids like fatty fish (think salmon), flaxseed, and fish oil.
  • Follow a low glycemic diet – eliminate white flour, processed foods, and sugar.
  • Apply topical antioxidants.  No one antioxidant is better than other; they are all anti-inflammatory and soothing.  Vitamin C, green tea, coffeeberry, and resveratrol are all good antioxidants to try in skincare products.  For more information on antioxidants see my post Skincare Tip: Add Antioxidants to Your Home Skincare Regime for more details on antioxidants and specific product recommendations.
  • Quit smoking.  Smoking creates more free radicals and causes vascular injury which the body then tries to repair thus setting off the inflammatory process in the body.  For more information about how smoking negatively affects your skin see my previous post How Smoking Ruins Your Skin.
  • Allergies to skincare product ingredients, such as fragrance and preservatives, can increase inflammation.  Once you figure out which ingredients have caused a reaction keep a list with you so you can avoid them in the future.
  • Moisture often – skin dryness can lead to the skin barrier, your skin’s first line of defense, being compromised which can trigger more skin inflammation.  A soothing moisturizer can help your skin restore its natural ability to protect and heal itself.  One line of moisturizers to try is from Epionce.  The concept behind this whole skincare line, developed by dermatologist Carl Thornfeldt, is to soothe, protect, and repair damaged skin barriers.  (I’ve been trying these products lately through my job, and I can definitely say that the feel great on the skin and smell wonderful too)
  • Protect your skin with sunscreen.  Too much sun can lead to further skin inflammation.

Though preventing skin inflammation (and inflammation in the body as well) can seem daunting you can take some small but concrete steps to protect your skin.  Start by quitting smoking (if you smoke), use skincare products with antioxidants, and protect your skin with both moisturizer and sunscreen daily.

Further Reading:

Image from achooallergy.com

 

Toner: What Is It? Do You Need One? February 27, 2010

I suspect that I am not the only person you spent a good deal of her high school years drying her face out with the use of toner.  I used a drying, alcohol based toner because I believed that this was a very necessary step in my skincare regime in order to prevent acne.  Luckily I finally realized that the use of an alcohol based toner was unnecessary in order to prevent acne.  It took me some more time to learn that not all toners are created equal and that there are some products labeled “toner” that actually can do some good things for your skin.  Let me explain.

What is Toner?

Toners are a liquid skincare product that is applied to the skin after cleansing, just before moisturizing.  Their use is advertised as a way to remove residue or make-up left behind after cleansing, restore the skin’s natural pH level after cleansing, to close pores, and to even hydrate and treat the skin.  There are actually three different types of toners:

  • Freshners have either no alcohol content or up to 4% alcohol content.  The use of this product is meant for dry, mature, or sensitive skin since too much alcohol will dry out and damage those skin types. 
  • Toners  have an alcohol content for between 4 to 15% and are meant to be used by those with normal to combination skin.
  • Astringents have a very high alcohol content – up to 35% – and are meant for oily skin.  They are meant to remove excess oil from the skin, but because of their high alcohol content most people will find them too drying.  This product is rarely needed since it can do more harm than good.

 

Do You Need A Toner?

 

When you don’t need a toner:    I don’t think that you need a toner every night in order to make sure that you have removed all your make-up or cleanser.  Using  a good make-up remover and the proper cleanser is definitely more than enough in order to make sure that your make-up is all off (the only place you might feel the need to go over again would be the eye area since waterproof eye make-up can be hard to remove).  If after washing your face you feel that you still have cleanser on your face than switch your cleanser.  A properly formulated facial cleanser will certainly wash off your face easily without leaving residue behind.  

The claim that toners will close your pores is a silly claim.  First of all, there is no need to seal your pores shut.  Toners will give you a temporary tightening effect but why do you need that anyhow? 

The issue of your skin’s pH level being disrupted because of cleansing is really only a problem if you use soap, which is very alkaline, to wash your face.  If you use a facial wash or cleanser you won’t have to deal with the issue of your skin’s pH being disrupted.

When you could consider using a toner:  There are lots of toners available that can actually hydrate the skin and even leave behind a number of beneficial antioxidants.  These types of toner are good for use during the summer when your skin feels more oily and you don’t feel that you need to moisturize (your skin isn’t actually producing more oil during the summer; it just feels that way because of the increased humidity in the air).   In addition, there are some people who don’t feel the need to use a lot of moisturizer ever so using a toner could be a great way to add some moisture to the skin and get some antioxidant benefits as well.

If you have combination skin (oily T-zone, normal skin everywhere else) you might consider using a toner with witch hazel extract, lactic acid, or salicylic acid just on your T-zone.  But don’t go overboard since too much toner with the above mentioned ingredients can be drying.  Use them on as needed basis and no more than once a day.

Some toners have ingredients that can actually soothe the skin and reduce inflammation so using a product like that if you have sensitive skin might be a good option.

Lastly, in a previous post I mentioned that some people who have very dry or irritated skin may want to forgo washing their face in the morning.  If you don’t feel comfortable just splashing your face with warm water in the morning consider using a gentle, alcohol free toner in the morning instead of your facial wash.  You will very gently clean your skin that way and also hydrate at the same time.

 

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Products

 

 
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