Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

2 Book Reviews November 12, 2013

Filed under: Book Reviews — askanesthetician @ 8:24 am
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Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm?  by thebeautybrains.com

and

 Age-less by Fredric Brandt, MD

Chances are if you follow skincare and beauty news you’ve heard of Dr. Fredric Brandt.  He is quoted extensively in glossy fashion magazines, and his name pops up all over The New York Times (such as here or here  or here and here to name just a few articles).   A celebrity cosmetic dermatologist who works in both NYC and Miami, Dr. Brandt was one of the first doctors in the US to use Botox and fillers.  He has helped shape the face (pun intended) of today’s cosmetic dermatology and thriving Botox and filler culture.  Of course he also has his own successful line of skincare products.  His book that I am reviewing here; Age-Less, isn’t new at all; it was published in 2002, making parts of it already obsolete, particularly the sections about collagen fillers.  But there is enough well-thought out skincare advice here that I wanted to share my thoughts about the book with my readers.

This book is short and to the point; it was very readable and relatable.  I think that when a doctor is writing a book for the general public the readability factor is a utmost importance so that anyone can clearly understand the points they are trying to make instead of getting bogged down in scientific information.  The subtitle to this book is: The definitive guide to Botox, collagen, lasers, peels, and other solutions for flawless skin, but what I found most topical about the book was the straight-up skincare advice.  As with all books by dermatologists this book begins with a section about how the skin functions and continues with clear-cut information about what ages our skin.  Much to my liking Dr. Brandt takes the time to discuss the importance of protecting one’s skin from the sun and explains what an SPF rating means (though some of this information is outdated since the FDA finally changed their SPF requirements).  For instance he writes on page 16:

This next piece of advice is almost simplistic, but since I am constantly given a multitude of excuses for being sunburned, I think it bears repeating.  First, everyone needs to consider sunblock as vital as toothpaste and as indispensable as those pricey antiaging creams.  No sunblock will offer you complete protection from the sun – you’d need to go outside covered with a metal cage to accomplish that – but the options today are so wonderfully diverse that it’s truly inexcusable not to use one.

The home care advice that Dr. Brandt dispenses is succinct and very helpful.  He also goes over prominent skincare ingredients and how they help the skin.  The skincare ingredient information you can find in a multitude of sources, but if you are confused about how to care for your skin at home this book can help you get started with a simple and effective home care regime.  I did like the fact that Dr. Brandt explains how regular facials can help your skin (page 38):

Unlike our European counterparts, we are not a nation that values pampering rituals like facials.  Usually, as the aesthetician is busy slathering our faces with multiple potions and lotions, we’re busy thinking there must be something more productive that we should be doing instead.  The many new day spas that opened in the mid-1990s increased interest in facials, adding a sense of urgency and obligation to facials as a crucial step in a skin care routine.  There are many benefits to having regular facials.  The pores get professionally cleansed, the facial massage stimulates the skin’s microcirculation, and the concentrated percentages of active ingredients that are applied are a rare treat.  And, of course, anything that makes you feel this relaxed is going to have a positive effect on your skin.

If facials make you feel great, then by all means indulge.  Just remember that a facial is a supplementary treatment, not a replacement for a consistent home care routine.  Your facialist may truly be amazing, but the benefits received from one treatment will not carry you until your next appointment unless you do your share at home.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

A large section of the book deals with the benefits of Botox and of fillers.  While the information about Botox is still topical there have been so many advances in the world of fillers that most of the information in the book is already outdated.

My favorite part of the book is at the end – befores and afters.  I am a sucker for a good makeover.  Here Dr. Brandt takes four different women and shows how injections of Botox and filler can rejuvenate one’s appearance. What is nice about this chapter of the book is that not only does Dr. Brandt explain why and how he chose to do what he did for these patients, but each patient also explains what she thought about the process and results.  If you are considering non-surgical facial rejuvenation (which I fully endorse when done by the right physician) the stories in this book, and most importantly the photos, will be helpful for you in making your decision.

Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm?

If you are interested in skincare and science, figuring out the truth behind beauty companies’ claims, and making sure that you buy the most effective beauty products you need to be following the blog The Beauty Brains.  I’ve promoted this blog before in my blog for the simple reason that it is one of the best sources on the web for truthful information about the beauty industry.  The creators of the blog are cosmetic chemists so they really know what they are writing about.  There is definitely not an ounce of beauty bs on this site which I love.

The forces behind The Beauty Brains have written a few books; the one I am reviewing here – Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? – which was published in 2011.  The book is divided into sections: hair, skin, make-up, the beauty industry, and cosmetic concerns and perilous products.  At the very back of the book they even explain how to read a beauty product label which is of utmost importance if you want to be a savvy beauty consumer and not be duped by the beauty industry.  Each section of the book contains questions sent in by blog readers followed by a short, but very much effective, answer.  The questions really run the gamut from: Do pore strips really work? to Is it safe to use lipstick on your cheeks? or How to pop a pimple and top five causes of darkened armpits.  The problems and issues covered in the book are real life dilemmas and not at all esoteric.

While I liked the skincare section a lot (truth be told I wasn’t as interested in the hair or fragrance sections) I thought questions and answers in the beauty industry and perilous products sections were the most topical since those sections very clearly teach readers what to believe and what not to believe when it comes to the beauty industry.  On top of that these sections of the book really cut through all the noise and nonsense that surrounds the beauty industry and confuses consumers.  As I already mentioned above, reading this book (or the blog) makes you a much more savvy beauty consumer which in the end saves you lots of money and time.  The advice here is down-to-earth and clearly understandable.  The book is also a malleable read since you can skip around just reading the questions and answers that interest you the most or you can take the time to go through the whole book word by word.  Either way, the book won’t take you a long time to get through.  It is also a good reference book to have at home so you can look up common beauty questions without having to surf the web to find answers.

Bottom Line:  I enjoyed reading both of these books and am happy to have them as part of home beauty library for future reference.

Images from bookdepository.co.uk and http://www.ebay.com

 

Book Review: Heal Your Skin July 5, 2013

There are an endless number of skincare books by dermatologists on the market.  When I decide to purchase (or in this case I asked for this book as a birthday present so many thanks to my sister) yet another skincare book by a dermatologist I want to know that there is some different sort of content in the book that sets it apart from all the other books out there.  In the case of Dr. Ava Shamban’s book – Heal Your Skin: The Breakthrough Plan for Renewal – what I found that was different, especially for a book intended for mainstream, public use, was the chapter about how to care for your skin during cancer treatment.  After reading the book I also thought that this was the strongest chapter in the book overall.

Pros

This book is above all easy to read, written in accessible language, and has very concrete steps and suggestions about how to care for one’s skin.  After the obligatory introduction about how the skin works Dr. Shamban gets down to business by talking about what damages the skin and how to stop those “skin enemies”.  Chapter 4 of the book contains great introduction about how to build a skincare routine at home and really explains the basics of good skincare.  Chapter 5 which deals with food, nutrition, and skincare does a fine job at helping readers figure out what to eat in order to stay healthy and have great skin.

The next four chapters in the book, six through nine, discuss specific life situations that impact the skin and how to care for your skin while dealing with or experiencing these situations or issues.  The topics are: pregnancy, menopause, adult acne, and cancer treatment.  Each chapter follows that same format: how the particular topic of the chapter affects your skin, how to heal your skin, skincare and treatment options, nutrition and fitness tips, and step by step skincare regimes.  Dr. Shamban does not, for the most part, recommend specific products instead she gives readers a long list of ingredients to look for when searching for the right products for their skin.  Each of these chapters really gets down to the nitty-gritty of these topics – explaining in detail about what to expect skin-wise when going through these life events or issues, why your skin behaves as it does in these situations, and how best to treat your skin.  The information in each chapter is not only specific but valuable as well.  Out of these four chapters I thought the one about caring for your skin while undergoing cancer treatment was the best (as I already mentioned above).  Since I’ve studied the topic of oncology esthetics more in-depth I can definitely say that Dr. Shamban did a great job at getting the most important information across to the reader/patient in a clear and concise way.  Her concrete advice will definitely help those undergoing cancer treatment.

Next the book has a chapter on fitness and skincare with actual fitness plans.  Lastly a chapter with recipes for homemade skincare products (cleansers, scrubs, masks, etc.).  I haven’t made any of the recipes yet, but I plan to in the future.  The book even contains an appendix that breaks down three ingredient labels for products which is always helpful since trying to understand skincare products labels can be a challenge.

Cons

Truthfully I liked this book so I don’t have that much to say in the cons area of the this post.  There were a few minor things that bothered me.  Though Dr. Shamban does not in any way reach the levels hubris that Dr. Wu does in her skincare book (see my review of Dr. Wu’s book for more information about that) she does mention numerous times that she has many celebrity clients and that she was the dermatologist on the TV show “Extreme Makeover” (I should add that I used to watch that show because the makeovers, and who doesn’t love a good makeover, were jaw dropping though totally disturbing on a psychological level.  But that’s a different topic for a different blog).  I don’t understand the need to mention either of these facts more than once.  I really could care less how many celebrity clients Dr. Shamban has. I’m interested in her knowledge and expertise.

The other thing that bothered me about the book was the in skincare regimen sections.  There Dr. Shamban lists numerous ingredients to look for in skincare products and numerous ingredients to avoid.  The lists are overwhelming.  Only occasionally does she recommends specific products.  The fact that she doesn’t recommend products doesn’t bother me per-say, it is the length of the list of ingredients that really irked me and also the fact that there is no explanation about why certain ingredients are ok and others are not.  Personally I like explanations and would like to know why Dr. Shamban recommends certain ingredients but not others.  And if there wasn’t room in the book to explain each ingredient maybe the list should have been shorter with explanations.  I think just listing ingredients is a determent to readers since few people have the time or patience to research skincare ingredients or skincare products’ ingredient lists online or in a store.  In the end I suspect that most readers will continue to use the same products they have always used because they will be overwhelmed with the task of determining for themselves if a product has the right ingredients in it or not.

Lastly, because two of the main topics of the book are pregnancy and menopause this book is really geared toward women and not men which is a shame since men are becoming more and more interested in proper skincare.  It is too bad the book wasn’t more inclusive.

Bottom Line:  I would actually recommend buying this book if you are looking for a good, basic skincare knowledge book to have at home as a guide and if you are a woman.  If you want specific skincare product recommendations you are better off with a different book like Dr. Leslie Baumann’s The Skin Type Solution.  (See my review of her book)  I would recommend looking at Dr. Baumann’s book at the library or Barnes and Noble instead of purchasing it.  If you are undergoing cancer treatment or know someone who is the chapter in this book that deals with skincare during cancer treatment will be invaluable for you or your loved one.

Image from whatshaute.com

 

Book Review: Feed Your Face by Jessica Wu, MD November 10, 2011

 

I noticed Dr. Jessica Wu’s book Feed Your Face last year at my local Barnes and Noble and was intrigued, but I frankly I didn’t want to invest in buying the book so I was psyched to see that my local library had a copy.  There was a simple reason why I didn’t want to invest my money in buying this book – there really isn’t any new information in this book.  Now before you think I didn’t like this book let me explain.  I thought Dr. Wu’s book, for the most part, was well written, concise, easy to read, and contained a lot of good information.  They only thing was – there wasn’t really any new information in this book and you had to slog through lots of celebrity name dropping and ego stroking to actually get to the useful information in the book.  I’ll explain.

Check Your Ego At the Door

Dr. Wu spends a lot of her book reminding her readers of a few things:  she is a graduate of Harvard Medical School, she has MANY celebrity patients, and she used to be ugly but now she looks great.  I do have to say that if the one grainy photo included in the book is supposed to make me really believe that Dr. Wu used to look horrible in the past (acne, bad haircut, etc.) she should get a look at one of my photos from high school to really see how terrible one can look (I had an extremely unflattering haircut in high school coupled with grossly oversized glasses, not meant as an ironic fashion statement, and awful acne) and reevaluate her statement.  But I digress.  How many times do I have to read that Dr. Wu attended Harvard Medical School and that she has a large celebrity following?  I found the fact that she constantly harped on these details to be a massive turn off for me.  Neither of those issues made me want to read her book more.  They actually made me want to read the book less.  But the real kicker for me came with the following encounter Dr. Wu related in chapter 5 of the book (pages 99-100):

Not long ago I spent the evening at a charity fund-raiser in West Hollywood.  (One of my patients organized the event, and she was kind enough to snag me a ticket.)  It was a raucous scene –  a welcome change of pace from the buttoned-up medical conferences I usually attend – and I was enjoying the music, the dancing, and the free-flowing Champagne.  Suddenly I caught the eye of a handsome young actor.  I’d seen him professionally (during a routine exam at my office), but the thought of his sweet, shy smile and cool blue eyes still tied my stomach in nervous knots.  He waved and began making his way though the crowd.

I don’t usually develop crushes on celebrities, no matter how handsome.  After all, I am a doctor, a professional.  I went to Harvard, for crying out loud!  But this man is so charming, so charismatic, so unbelievably dreamy, that he usually travels with an entourage of swimsuit models and Hollywood “It Girls,” all clamoring for his attention.  That night, however, he was uncharacteristically alone.

We exchanged somewhat awkward hellos, and then, to my delight, he leaned forward to whisper something in my ear.  “Could we … go somewhere?” he asked.  He smelled like palm trees and expensive aftershave, a dizzyingly sweet combination.

I thought about my husband, home alone, probably reheating those noodles from last night’s dinner, sitting among a pile of work papers at the kitchen counter, dripping stir-fry sauce on his tie.  But I couldn’t help myself.  I followed the actor as he cut a path through a jam-packed dance floor, past throngs of tipsy partygoers, and led me into a dark, dimly lit hallway near the bathrooms, tucked out of view from the crowd.  All I could hear was the thud, thud, thud of my heart in my chest.  I can’t believe this is happening, I thought.  I can’t believe this is happening!  I held my breath as he leaned in and asked the question I’d been waiting to hear:

         “Um, could you take a look at this rash?”

Come on!!!  Really???!!!   Did the above story really need to be included in this book???!!  I have to say that these types of stories coupled with Dr. Wu’s incessant need to remind her readers of her educational background and current roster of celebrity clients were a huge problem for me with this book.  And that’s a real shame since the book contains lots of valuable information but you have to get past all the superfluous information in the book to get the real facts that can help your skin look its best.

One last thing in this category – Dr. Wu also uses her book as a way to settle scores with, if you are to believe her, is a rather old-fashioned and sexist professional dermatological community.  Dr. Wu takes pains to explain why she prefers to dress in sexy stilettos and skin-tight skirts instead of boring, boxy clothes and how most other dermatologists won’t take her seriously because of her choice of clothes.  Take for example the following (page 340):

There’s nothing more annoying (or more self-confidence-crushing) than being ignored or excluded because of the way you look – whether that’s because you’re a geek in glasses who can’t roll with the cool kids (that was me in high school) or because you’ve embraced your love of Louboutins and, subsequently, people think you’re an airhead.  (Sometimes that’s me now.)  But you know what?  Every year when it comes time to pack for the AAD Conference, I don’t reach for my most conservative duds.  Instead, I pack the hottest thing I own and a kick-ass pair of heels, because when they call the featured speaker to the stage, I can hold my head up high.  There is nothing like that long walk from the back of the room to the podium, the moment when 8,000 doctors realize they’ve flown thousands of miles and shelled out hundreds of dollars to listen (and learn!) from me: the petite woman from the party, the one who just doesn’t look like a doctor.  Knowing that I’ve earned the right to speak as a medical expert (and look damn good doing it) is the best feeling in the world (right up there with graduating from Harvard Medical School and getting paid to examine half-naked celebrity hunks).

Now while I think that a discussion of sexism in the medical community is important and necessary I found it disconcerting that Dr. Wu used her book as a vehicle to try to shame and reproach her fellow professionals.  Isn’t there a better time and place for this?

Having Said All That – What I Learned

It is a shame that Dr. Wu fills her book with so many unnecessary comments because overall her book is interesting, straightforward, and filled with a lot of helpful information.  The premise of the book is that through a healthy diet you can achieve great looking skin.  Is there anything revolutionary about this book and the diet it recommends?  Absolutely not.  The diet Dr. Wu recommends a low glycemic one that emphasizes eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and making sure you have omega 3s in your diet.  Numerous people have recommended a diet like this for weight loss and a healthy body.  Dr. Wu connects how certain foods directly affect the skin – both positively and negatively which is interesting.  Unlike the book The Clear Skin Diet which extensively quotes scientific studies in the body of the book Dr. Wu summarizes the findings of studies and then lists her sources in the back of the book so if you want you can look them up yourself.  This makes her book quite readable and accessible though not dumb downed at all.

I did learn quite a few things – like that if you have eczema who should avoid eggs, if you insist on eating a bagel pair it with some fat so that your body digests it more slowly, that almonds will protect your hair from going gray, and if you must have a candy bar have one that contains nuts, like a Snickers, which is better than eating pretzels which are simple carbs and your body just breaks that down like sugar.  Furthermore I learned the importance of eating tomatoes (and I loved that Dr. Wu puts pizza on her list of allowed foods), page 40:

Tomatoes have more lycopene than almost any other food, making them particularly effective at preventing sunburn and UV radiation damage in the skin.  In fact, studies show that eating as little as 20 g of tomato paste per day (about 1 1/4 tablespoons) can reduce the risk of sunburn by as much as 33 percent.

The next time you’re heading to the beach or spending the day in your garden, add some tomatoes to the menu.  You’ll counteract the effects of a day in th sun as well as help prevent wrinkles, age spots, and inflammation (not to mention lower your risk of developing skin cancer).  Even when you’re not lounging poolside, adding more tomatoes to your diet can protect you from the small amount of UV light you’ll inevitably encounter when your sunscreen wears off – or when you forget to put it on!

You can get the same amount of lycopene found in 20 g of tomato paste by eating

  • 1 slice of pizza (with marinara or red sauce)
  • 1/2 cup of V8 juice
  • 6 tablespoons of salsa

Bear in mind that lycopene is better absorbed by the intestines when the tomatoes are cooked.  In fact, the lycopene in tomato paste is four times more “bioavailable” than in fresh tomatoes (meaning it’s four times easier for the body to absorb).  The absolute best source of lycopene (offering the most sun protection) are tomato paste and tomato sauce – so opt for pizza instead of a burger, especially if you are dining al fresco.  Lycopene is also fat soluble, which means you need to pair your tomatoes with a healthy fat to get the maximum benefits.  Try drizzling tomato slices with a splash of olive oil or enjoy them with some avocado.

One more thing: Lycopene may be effective at preventing sun damage, but a diet rich in tomatoes doesn’t preclude the need for sunscreen altogether.  Slather on a minimum SPF 30 every time you’re headed outdoors.

Interesting stuff and well worth reading.

Since I’ve read The Clear Skin Diet (read my review here) the chapter about acne and diet was simply a review for me (avoid sugar and dairy, eat whole foods, etc.).  But there was a curious part of that chapter that didn’t make much sense to me (especially after a client of mine, with whom I was discussing the book, pointed out to me that this had little logic to it) and that was Dr. Wu’s assertion that iodine exposure causes acne.  Now I have read before that excessive iodine exposure will cause acne, but what makes little sense here is that in Japan, where the traditional diet is high in iodine, the national rates of acne are very low.  The Japanese began experiencing acne at the same levels as Americans when they moved away from that traditional diet and began eating a more American diet – high in fat and sugars and low in vegetables and omega-3s.  (See chapter 7: The Former Clear Skin Nation: Japan in The Clear Skin Diet for many more details on this phenomena).  So while it is true that the traditional American diet contains too much salt in it and that excessive consumption of iodine has been linked to acne I feel that singling out Japanese food as an acne culprit (see page 90 in the book) is misguided.

Chapter 6: To Tan or Not to Tan does a good job at going over the dangers of sun exposure and the importance of daily sun protection.  Dr. Wu’s discussion of the Vitamin D controversy (pages 149-151) is well done.  What I really appreciated was the meal plan for her diet outlined on pages 264 – 282.  Though vegetarian options were few and far between (I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years so I’m not going change now) I could see how I could tweak the menus for my use.  I just wished she provided some dessert options besides a strawberry drizzled with dark chocolate.  I found Chapter 8: Eating for Stronger, Healthier Hair and Nails thorough and helpful.  And according to Dr. Wu eating almonds prevents gray hairs so with the amount of almonds I consume on a daily basis I shouldn’t have any gray hairs ever.  The book even contains a chapter on how to make your own skin products at home if you are so inclined which is a perfect area to cover with the economy being as it is these days.

Buy It?

Overall I thought this book contained a great deal of valuable information.  The dietary tips, instructions, and menus are logical and easy to follow though you’ll have to cheat once or twice or go crazy.  Certainly this book made me reexamine my diet, and I got to thinking about how much sugar is contained in everyday foods (like your supermarket peanut butter).   This book could be a valuable addition to a home library though if you want a book that truly covers ALL skin issues purchase Simple Skin Beauty by Dr. Ellen Marmur.  If only Dr. Wu had stopped shoving the fact that she went to Harvard and has celebrity clients down the readers throat.  The book could have been a lot better without Dr. Wu trying to prove to everyone how smart, capable, and sexy she is.  In my opinion, address those personal issues with a therapist not your readers.

 

Book Review: The Clear Skin Diet March 17, 2011

One of the earliest posts I wrote for this blog was called:  Is Your Diet Causing Your Acne?, and in that post I basically concluded that there is no connection between diet and breakouts.  Well I have to say that I have changed my mind in regards to the connection between diet and acne.  I now do believe that you can improve your skin, in this case acne, with the help of a healthy diet.

I started to change my mind about the diet-acne connection about six months or so ago when I noticed a change in my skin after I drastically cutback on the amount of dairy that I was eating.  Almost a year ago I started to see an acupuncturist about chronic pain I had in my right shoulder.  Since Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the body as a whole as opposed to just focusing on what is bothering you and looks to bring balance back to the body one of the things my acupuncturist and I discussed was my diet.  She suggested that I cut back on dairy, sugar, and fried foods.  Well this scared me.  I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years, and I love dairy.  I pretty much ate dairy with every meal which isn’t surprising since if you look at vegetarian recipes they seem to inevitably have some sort of dairy in them.  I thought – how could I ever give up dairy?  But I wanted to feel better so I decided to try to cutback on the amount of dairy I was consuming.  I bought almond milk instead of cow’s milk (I absolutely hate soy milk so I wouldn’t even consider getting that) and started eating oatmeal each morning instead of my cup of greek yogurt.  And now the added bonus – anyone who has read the “about” section of my blog knows that I have suffered from acne for the last 20 years or so and this constant skin condition lead me to become an esthetician since I wanted to learn more about skin and skincare and help others as well – as I cutback on the amount of dairy I was consuming my skin started to look much better (and I lost a few stubborn pounds that I hadn’t been able to lose since I had my son three years ago).  No my breakouts have not stopped completely and yes I still follow a strict home care anti-acne regime, but I could definitely see a positive change in my skin.  I was very surprised to say the least.  I also really started to notice, more than ever before, a connection between how stressed out I was and the number of breakouts I had.  So now that I had seen a change in my skin I wanted to learn more.  I finally checked out The Clear Skin Diet from the library and started reading it.

So in many ways the authors of this book were preaching to the choir when it came to me reading this book since I have really started to believe in a connection between diet and health, including skin health.  At times I got very bogged down in the number of studies and scientific proof and explanations that the authors presented in the book, but truthfully I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  I was glad that the book didn’t just state a connection between certain foods and acne but actually proved that connection by quoting and explaining numerous scientific studies from all over the work (the scope of the research quoted was impressive).  Not only that but the authors of the book did the opposite as well; they thoroughly explained why so many doctors do not believe in a connection between food and diet.  Furthermore, the book goes out of its way to explain how past studies that claimed to prove that there were was no link between diet and acne were flawed and need to be reconsidered.  I really appreciated how much explanation the book contained.  Another thing I liked about the book were the summaries at the end of each chapter so if you didn’t want to read an entire chapter and just needed to be reminded of the key points in a chapter it was easy to do so.

The core point of the book is that the typical American diet which includes fast food, white bread and rice as opposed to whole grains, many foods filled with saturated fats, few vegetables and fruit, a lot of sugar, and many processed foods causes inflammation in the body which then triggers the production of hormones which lead to acne (this is an extremely brief summary of what the book aims to prove).  By changing the foods you eat you can stop this process from happening and thus help to clear up your skin.  The book doesn’t just promote changing one’s diet in order to improve their skin but also mentions leading a less stressed life in order to see an improvement in one’s skin.  The book goes beyond just explaining how diet and stress affect the skin, but also gives lots and lots of concrete tips on how to go about distressing and changing your diet.  It is great that the book doesn’t just say you need to change your lifestyle and/or diet but actually gives you the tools to do so.

I found two parts of the book intriguing.  The first thing I found interesting was the discussion of probiotics (chapter 5: Acne – A Gut Reaction) and acne and the other was the statistical information about the rise of acne in Japan as the traditional Japanese diet has given way to a more Western diet (chapter 7 – The Former Clear Skin Nation – Japan).  I had never given much thought to The trillions of microbes living in my intestines and how they affect my health but now I will.  I am on the lookout for topical skincare products that incorporate probiotics into them; I think we will be seeing more of those in the future.  So far I have found Bioelements Probiotic Anti-Aging Serum which, as the name suggests, isn’t marketed at acne sufferers but rather at people interested in an anti-aging product.  The chapter about Japan clearly presents a quite convincing report on how the traditional Japanese diet that includes lots of green tea, few processed foods, omega-3 rich foods, more fiber, little dairy, and a variety of foods rich in antioxidants protected the majority of the population against acne.  As Japanese food habits have changed and shifted more towards an American diet the rate of acne in Japan has risen tremendously.  As the charts, statistics, and research presented in the book explain this rise in acne with the change in the Japanese diet cannot be mere coincidence.  Lastly, I was also really fascinated by the studies that the authors quoted about the connection between diet and all sorts of other diseases like depression and anxiety.  For so long I have held on to the Western notion that diet, skin, beauty, and mood are not closely related so I was captivated (for lack of a better word) by the whole connection between food and health and not just for the sake of preventing acne.

Now if you are not one to want to read about scientific studies and such you can do two different things with this book:  read the summaries at the end of each chapter and read and follow the action plan for clear skin outlined in chapter 8 of the book.  There is a clear list of foods to include in your diet and which foods you should limit or avoid entirely.  I for one am making sure that I drink my green tea everyday without fail.

The one thing I didn’t really like about the book were the food suggestions and recipes.  I actually found all of the recipes completely unappealing, and I say this as someone who likes to cook and is always on the lookout  for new recipes to try.  Also in the food/snack suggestions dairy is mentioned again and again which is strange, in my opinion, since the book time and again talks about limiting the amount of dairy that one consumes.  Yes, I know the book explains that not everyone needs to completely cut dairy out of their diet and that different types of dairy affect one’s skin differently, but I just felt it strange that so many of the snack suggestions had dairy (or white potatoes) in them instead of someone coming up with a more creative, dairy-free suggestion.

Overall I really liked this book.  I would definitely suggest that if you are struggling with acne and have tried numerous topical solutions, oral antibiotics, etc. to no avail that you seriously consider changing your diet.  Yes, genetics plays a major role in acne (because we all know that person who eats fast food morning and night and never gets a pimple or gains weight, right?  I hate those people as much as you – believe me) as well as hormones, but perhaps the missing link to clear skin really is diet.  Eating healthy will only benefit you – there is no reason not to try the suggestions in this book.  You don’t need to try the actual recipes.  Take the list of good and bad foods and proceed from there.  And do a little meditation in the evenings as well.  Your body will thank you.

 

More reading, if you are inclined:

  • If you are less interested in effects of diet on acne but more interested in anti-aging be sure to read Dr. Amy Wechsler’s book The Mind-Beauty Connection.  I’ve recommended this book numerous times before in my blog, and I’ll continue to do so.  Her advice about living a healthy, happy life and how that will positively affect your skin, appearance, and psyche is wonderful.
  • Once I decided to give up eating a lot of dairy I went on the hunt for a good vegan cookbook.  I’ve been pleased with most of the recipes I tried in Appetite for Reduction.   The salad dressings in particular are great and so is the baked falafel.
  • Another great source for vegetarian and vegan recipes is Nava Atlas’ website Veg Kitchen.  Her cookbooks are great too.
  • For a concise article about the topic of this book read this article from WebMD Healthy Diet, Healthy Skin.
  • Can Eating Carbs Give You Pimples?Skin Inc.
 

Expired Make-up and Skincare Products – When to Replace Your Products January 5, 2011

It can be hard, even psychologically hard, to know when it is time to throw out your skincare and make-up products especially if you’ve invested a lot of money in their purchase.  But no matter how much money you’ve spent on a product sometimes it is just time to throw your products out since not doing so can actually put your health at risk.

With some products it is actually easy to determine when to throw them out because those products have expiration dates on them.  Products with expiration dates on them include sunscreens, some acne products, and prescription skincare products like Retin-A.  Once the expiration date has passed – throw out your product!  Yes, it might still work, but it won’t work as effectively.  Think about your sunscreen for instance.  If you could once stay outside for an hour without burning after you apply your sunscreen now you can only stay outside for 15 minutes or so without burning.  What’s the point?  Buy a new sunscreen.

 

Legislation Regarding Expiration Dates

 

It might surprise you, or not surprise you, to find out that there is no regulations governing expiration dates on cosmetic products.   According to the FDA:

There are no regulations or requirements under current United States law that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of cosmetic products. Manufacturers have the responsibility to determine shelf life for products, as part of their responsibility to substantiate product safety. FDA believes that failure to do so may cause a product to be adulterated or misbranded.

Voluntary shelf-life guidelines developed by the cosmetic industry vary, depending on the product and its intended use. For instance, a 1980 article by David Pope in Drug and Cosmetic Industry suggested a minimum shelf life of 18 to 24 months “to maximize cost efficiency in warehousing, distribution, and marketing.”

The 1984 text Cosmetic and Drug Preservation: Principles and Practice, edited by Jon J. Kabara, recommends testing product stability by evaluating samples at regular intervals for 3 years or longer, depending upon the product.

The European Union’s Cosmetic Directive, as amended in 1993, requires expiration dating only for products whose “minimum durability” is less than 30 months.

 

So where does that leave the consumer?  Lets breakdown the issue into two categories – skincare products and make-up.

 

Skincare Products

 

Throw out skincare products that have separated, have changed color, smell funny or have changed scent significantly, have changed texture dramatically, or just doesn’t feel right anymore when applied to the skin.  If the container holding your product has expanded than this is a sign that the product needs to be thrown away.  Finally, if you feel that your product has been exposed to bacteria consider chucking it. 

Also according to the FDA:

Among other cosmetics that are likely to have an unusually short shelf life are certain “all natural” products that may contain plant-derived substances conducive to microbial growth. It also is important for consumers and manufacturers to consider the increased risk of contamination in products that contain non-traditional preservatives, or no preservatives at all.

Furthermore, Paula Begoun points out:

As a rule, products that contain water as one of the first ingredients have the shortest shelf life after opening because water encourages the growth of bacteria and other microbes. Also susceptible to bacterial contamination are products that are mostly waxes with minimal water, but that also contain plant extracts. Think about how long produce lasts in your refrigerator—not very long! Products made up of almost no water (such as powders) last the longest, because almost nothing can grow in these kinds of products. Lastly, if your product is labeled “preservative-free” you should definitely take extra caution, because without some kind of preservative system bacteria can flourish easily.

 

Basically what it comes down to with skincare products and their expiration is that you need to make an intelligent guess and choice about when it throw them away.

 

Make-Up

 

The shelf life of make-up varies tremendously.  Eye make-up has a relatively short shelf life while mineral make-up foundation has a much longer one.  There are a few general rules of thumb about how long you can keep your make-up after you have started using it:

  • Mascara – Toss after 3 to 4 months
  • Eyeliner –  Toss after 3 to 6 months
  • Foundation – Toss after 6 to 12 months
  • Face powder, powder foundation – Toss after 2 years
  • Lipstick – Toss after about a year

 

 One more note – your make-up brushes also need TLC and once they start to fray or fall apart it is time to replace them, but with the right care make-up brushes can last you for years.

 

 

Tips for Keeping Your Make-up and Skincare Products Fresh

 

 Above all – Don’t share!  Let me once again quote the FDA:

Sharing makeup increases the risk of contamination. “Testers” commonly found at department store cosmetic counters are even more likely to become contaminated than the same products in an individual’s home. If you feel you must test a cosmetic before purchasing it, apply it with a new, unused applicator, such as a fresh cotton swab.

Keep your products out of direct sunlight, and wash your hands before using products.  Products kept in pumps are great since the pump keeps air from getting into the product and contaminating it. 

Toss eye make-up out after you’ve had an eye infection.  Don’t pump your mascara or add water to dried up mascara. Don’t add water to any skincare or make-up products at all. 

One last note, once again information from the FDA:

Consumers should be aware that expiration dates are simply “rules of thumb,” and that a product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored. Cosmetics that have been improperly stored – for example, exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to final sale – may deteriorate substantially before the expiration date. On the other hand, products stored under ideal conditions may be acceptable long after the expiration date has been reached.

So keep an eye on your products at all times, treat them well, and throw them out as needed.

 

Sources and Further Reading

 

Book Review: The Skin Type Solution by Leslie Baumann, MD July 23, 2010

I’ve already mentioned Dr. Leslie Baumann a few times in my blog mostly in connection to her blog on The Skin Guru on Yahoo! Health.  While for the most part I enjoy reading her blog I never liked the fact that Dr. Baumann continually disparages estheticians’ knowledge and expertise instead of realizing that doctors and estheticians can work well together and that their skills can complement one another.

If you read Allure magazine you are already familiar with Dr. Baumann’s name since she is quoted in that magazine almost monthly.  They even named her one of their top “influencers” in the field of fashion and beauty this past year.  Certainly when it comes to sharing her expert opinion on all matters connected to skincare Dr. Baumann is no stranger to fashion magazines.  Her enthusiasm for sharing her opinion about products has even gotten her in trouble with the FDA.

Besides for her constant media and print appearances Dr. Baumann is well-known for her book The Skin Type Solution which promises to save you both time and money in choosing your skincare products.  Since Dr. Baumann is both a practicing physician and a researcher (more on that later) she claims to have a unique perspective into knowing what products work well and which are a waste of money.  Furthermore, one Dr. Baumann’s contributions to the field of skincare is her expansion of the whole idea of skin types upping that number from five (dry, oily, combination, sensitive and normal) to sixteen. 

In order to figure out where you land on Dr. Baumann’s skin type assessment you need to fill out the questionnaire that is found at the beginning of her book.  The questionnaire measures four different factors in the skin: oiliness vs. dryness, resistance vs. sensitivity, pigmentation vs. non-pigmentation, and tightness vs. wrinkles.  For instance once I filled out the questionnaire and tallied my results I found that according to Dr. Baumann’s criteria my skin type was: OSPT or oily, sensitive, pigmented, and tight (though for the part when it came to tight vs. wrinkled I was really borderline).  I thought that was a good assessment about my skin.  Once you finish the questionnaire and determine your skin type you flip to the section of the book that corresponds to your skin type in order to learn more about your skin including numerous product recommendations.

Each different skin type has its own section that includes lots of information as it relates to that skin type exactly.  The information in each section is then subdivided into categories such as:  “about your skin”, “a close-up look at your skin”, “everyday care for your skin”, “daily skin care”, recommended products, “shopping for products”, “procedures for your skin”, and ongoing care for your skin”.  All good things especially the daily skin care regimes which really explain how and when to use your products; I think is always valuable.  You get a lot of information about your skin – a lot.  What can be confusing is all the asides or ifs and differences.  For example (page 69, paragraph two):

The OSPT Skin Type is quite common among people with medium and darker skin color, like Caribbean-Americans, Latin-Americans, Asians, and Mediterraneans.  Lighter-skinned people from other ethnic backgrounds, like the Irish or English, can be OSPTs, as can a redhead with freckles, which are a form of pigmentation. If the questionnaire revealed that you’re an OSPT, but you don’t experience all the symptoms I’ll cover, your rest result isn’t wrong.  OSPTs share many common problems, but there are some differences, so throughout this chapter, I’ll discuss the various symptoms, tendencies, and treatment options typical for dark, medium, and light-toned OSPTs.

Interspersed amongst the chapters are information about eczema, rosacea, acne, skin dehydration, sensitive skin, skin cancer, etc.  If your specific chapter doesn’t contain information about something you are interested in learning more about you can always use the index in the back of the book to locate the chapter that does.  Because of organization issues like that I found the book a bit choppy.  Of course I read the book straight through and didn’t just read the chapter for my skin type maybe if I had done that I wouldn’t have felt that the book was so choppy.

 

Things That Made Me Say “huh?”

 

There were a number of things that Dr. Baumann wrote in her book that made me raise my eyebrows.  For instance in the chapter for my skin type – oily, sensitive, pigmented, and tight – under the category “skin care ingredients to avoid if acne prone” jojoba oil is one of those ingredients.  I was very, very surprised to see that there since I feel (and I am not the only one) that jojoba oil is actually a great skincare ingredient for acne prone skin needing moisture.  [See my earlier post Ingredient Spotlight: Jojoba Oil for more information]  No explanation is given for including this ingredient in the list of ingredients to avoid.  In addition, Dr. Baumann continually recommends copper peptides as  great anti-aging ingredient.  I found that really interesting in light of the fact that few other experts agree with her.  Take for example what Dr. Ellen Marmur (also a dermatologist) writes about copper peptides in her excellent book Simple Skin Beauty:

Because copper is vital to enzyme function in the body, it follows that it’s also important to the synthesis of extracellular matrix in the skin.  I sound like a broken record, but although the notion of applying copper cutaneously to assist skin function is interesting in theory, it many be ineffectual in practice.  Is there enough concentrated copper peptide in an over-the-counter product, and is it stable?  Can it actually penetrate the skin to have an effect on the enzymatic workings of the body?  Personally, I would rather eat foods containing copper (such as sesame, sunflower sees, and cashews) to be sure the element is getting into my body to do its amazing job.  I’m doubtful [about copper peptides] until stronger scientific data proves the claims.

Lastly, Dr. Baumann recommends using eye creams with Vitamin K in them to help undereye circles.  Though many skincare companies have jumped on the Vitamin K bandwagon there is little proof that it actually does help undereye circles.

Issues like that made me wonder if I should believe everything written in this book.  It made me want to take Dr. Baumann’s advice with a grain of salt.

 

But My Real Issue?  The Product Recommendations

 

Dr. Baumann’s bio at the back of her book describes her thusly:

Leslie Baumann, M.D., is professor and director of Cosmetic Dermatology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, and founder of the university’s internationally recognized Cosmetic Center.  She is on the advisory boards or does research for many companies, including Johnson and Johnson (Aveeno, Neutrogena), Avon, Allergan, and others.

 

So guess how often Johnson and Johnson products (Aveeno, Neutrogena, and Clean & Clear) are recommended in this book?  A lot.  So I found it hard to believe when I read the following (page 9):

Instead of letting you waste your valuable time and money tracking down products that wind up in the trash, I will direct you to ones that will really help.  I’ve reviewed the clinical trial date for the products, when available, to offer those proven effective.  Finally, since my patients have used my recommendations, I’ve listened to their feedback and tracked their treatment results to guarantee the efficacy of the treatment approach and product selection for each Skin Type.  All you have to do is take the test, determine your Skin Type, and choose from products in your chapter.  And at least when you splurge on products and procedures, you’ll know you are getting your money’s worth.

The recommendations are independent of any relationships that I have with the companies that manufacture them.  Of course, when I with a company, I know more about its products.  However, I work with over thirty-seven companies and have approached many others for information while writing this book. 

 

I don’t know – I guess I’m not buying her complete impartiality.

I was happy to see that Skinceuticals and Topix products were recommended since they are both great product lines.

 

Skin Type Solutions Website

 

Throughout the book Dr. Baumann continually reminds her reader that they can log on to her website Skin Type Solutions for more product recommendations, to share their thoughts about their skin type and skincare products, and to get more skincare information in general.  The site even has its own version of her skin type questionnaire.  So that made me wonder – why do I need the book at all if everything is online?  Of course, someone had thought of that as well.  While the online quiz will tell you what your skin type is according to Dr. Baumann’s criteria (it took me about 5 minutes to complete the online quiz) it will only give you the briefest of summarizes afterwards about your skin type – no recommended skincare regimes, no product information, and no in-depth information at all.  You’ll need the book for that.

 

Buy It?

 

I would actually recommend NOT buying this book simply because most of the information in the book isn’t going to be relevant for you.  That isn’t to say that I didn’t learn some new things from the book because I did.  There is valuable information in the book, and taking an in-depth questionnaire that forces you to think about your skin is actually great.  Having lots of detailed advice about your skin type is also extremely valuable in my opinion even if I don’t agree with lots of Dr. Baumann’s product recommendations.  So I would recommend that you check the book out of your local library or take an hour to sit in the library, take the skin type quiz, read the section of the book that is relevant to your skin type, and photocopy just that section.  I just don’t see a reason to keep a copy of this book at home.  If you want to have a skincare book at home I will once again recommend the following books (see my reviews):

 

Book Review: Complexion Perfection! by Kate Somerville May 14, 2010

Kate Somerville has an enviable career – a successful skincare clinic in Los Angeles with numerous celebrity clients, a personal skincare line, and numerous media appearance (both television and print).  I had certainly heard of her when I found out that she had just published a book: Complexion Perfection! Your Ultimate Guide to Beautiful Skin by Hollywood’s Leading Skin Health Expert.  I looked the book over at Barnes and Noble and then decided to buy it.  One of the reason I wanted to buy the book were the full-page, color before and after photos she had for the makeover section of the book.  It is very, very hard to find a book about skincare with such quality, color photos.  I saw the photos, and I was hooked.  Additionally, as an esthetician I was very pleased to see that a fellow esthetician wrote a book about skincare instead of a dermatologist.

Kate Somerville begins her book with a very revealing autobiography section which chronicles both her personal and skincare struggles.  Needless to say, Somerville is certainly a self-made woman, and after reading about her tough childhood and young adult life (after her parents divorced when she was nine years old her mother descended into drug addiction eventually ending up homeless.  Her father remarried to a woman who already had her own children and eventually Somerville moved in with a friend in order to find stability) I truly admire her for overcoming great odds in order to be the success that she is today.  In addition, Somerville has suffered from severe eczema almost her entire life so she really does understand both the physical and psychological manifestations that skincare problems can have on one’s emotional wellbeing.

I love and wholeheartedly agree with Somerville’s philosophy about skincare and about being an esthetician.  I like the fact that Somerville sees a direct emotional connection to how one’s skin looks and also emphasizes the importance of leading a balanced life (good eating and exercise habits) in order to have healthy skin.  I think these sentences do a good job of summing up Somerville’s skincare philosophy:

Honor yourself and your skin.  After all, your complexion is constantly at work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  When you give back to it, you give back to yourself.  …  So make the time to take care of yourself, to enjoy who you are and your individual beauty.  … I truly believe that almost anything is possible in life, and believe it or not, it’s my career in skin care that taught me this.  So don’t throw in the towel just yet – or ever.  As a matter of act, grab that towel.  Cleanse your skin and begin to protect, hydrate, feed, stimulate, and detoxify your way to health and beauty.  Because the path to complexion perfection leads to more than just glowing skin; it will lead to a happier, better you.  (Pages 336-7)

It was writing like this that made me like this book. 

 

What I Liked About Complexion Perfection!

 

So first and foremost, as I already stated above, I really like and agree with Somerville’s outlook on skincare.  I liked hearing about how she treats and cares for her personal clients.  Somerville has a great upbeat attitude that I thought was refreshing. 

The information about skincare in the book is good – good but basic.  I didn’t learn anything new, but then, of course, I guess that is good since I’m an esthetician.  For non-skincare professionals looking to have a guide at home as to how to care for their skin this book will do the job.  I liked the fact that she had clear and concise instructions listed for all sorts of skin types and conditions.  For this reason you can simply use this book as a reference book if you want to know how to treat a particular skin condition (like acne, hyperpigmentation, or eczema).   There is information on common skincare ingredients and a clear explanation of how to care for your skin at home (including instructions for doing a home facial).

Chapter 6 of the book is entitled “Treatments That Transform” and gives very good information about a whole slew of facial treatment options from the basics like facials, to an explanation on four different kind of lasers, and explains the differences between injectables.  She even includes the estimated costs of different treatments which I think is great since it helps people understand how much they would be spending approximately if they wanted to try certain treatments. 

I also liked the fact that though Somerville has her own line of skincare products she doesn’t give them a hard sell in her book (which, in my opinion, is in direct contrast to what Paula Begoun does on her website and in her own books).  There is an explanation at the very back of the book on each product in Kate Somerville’s skincare line, and my book even came with a coupon for 10% off and free shipping on products ordered through her website.   Of course once I saw how much her products cost even with the discounts I decided to wait before trying any.

 

My Disappointments with Complexion Perfection!

 

The book includes a chapter all about diet and your skin.  I was happy that Somerville did not try to pass herself off as a nutritionist or medical dietary professional but instead included personal accounts of how diet effects skin and also advice of a doctor when it comes to food and its effects on the skin.  I don’t know how I feel about her passing out advice about supplements (she also sells supplements that claim to help certain skincare conditions) even if she did write the information in the chapter with the help of a doctor.  I never give my clients advise about diet since I am not a medical doctor or a nutritionist even though I do think there is a connection between the health of the skin and one’s diet.  For that reason part of this chapter made me feel uneasy.  I would definitely consult with a doctor or a nutritionist before taking any supplements to improve the appearance of your skin.  Somerville also sees a direct connection between the consumption of dairy and breakouts.  I am not so sure that things are so black and white when it comes to this issue.  Much more research needs to be done about the connection between acne and food before there can be definitive information on the subject.

But my main disappointment with this book comes from the makeover section which was the one section of book that I was most looking forward to reading.  Yes, the photos are glorious and add a great deal to the explanations provided so I guess I got my money’s worth there.  My problem was with the actual treatments the makeover volunteers received.  On average each volunteer received about four laser or light treatments and many received around four injectables as well (Botox, Restylane, Radiesse, and Juvederm)!  Anyone who received that many intense, expensive, and strong treatments would see the results that were presented in the book!  I longed for a makeover that did not include any of these treatments (or many fewer of them) and instead presented results that could be achieved by anyone even those without access to such sophisticated treatments and certainly for those without the means to invest in such treatments.  Yes, the home care regimes of each makeover volunteers are explained, but believe me – the dramatic makeover results had nothing to do with the volunteer’s new home care regime.  The results had everything to do with the power of lasers and injectables; the home care regimes are important for maintenance reasons alone.  It was upsetting for me to realize that though Somerville believes everyone deserves to have beautiful skin and feel great about their skin she is suggesting treatments that few people can afford.  Yes, Somerville is a medical esthetician (or a paramedical esthetician as she calls herself), but I wish she had at least for one person   presented in the makeover section who didn’t have one laser treatment or injectable.

 

Bottom Line

 

Complexion Perfection! is a good, basic reference book about skincare to have at home.  If you are interested and can afford laser and light treatments this book is a great guide to what results you can expect from such treatments.  Certainly Somerville’s life story and career success will help others realize that anything is possible, and her positive philosophy about skincare will inspire many more.

 

 
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