Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month August 11, 2011

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month so I wanted to use this post to highlight some resources for those suffering from this skin disease.

 

What Is Psoriasis?

According to Dr. Ellen Marmur in her book Simple Skin Beauty (pages 230-231) psoriasis is a condition that is:

 … characterized by thick, red plaque with a white, silvery (micaceous) scale on top.  It’s itchy and painful and can create big fissures on the skin.  It tends to be on extensor surfaces, such as the elbows, knees, and scalp.  There are several types of psoriasis, and some can be quite severe, affecting the joints and causing something called “psoriatic arthritis”.  It can also be mild, manifesting itself as one patch of plaque on the body, such as dry, cracked elbows that don’t soften no matter how much moisturizer you put on.

Psoriasis is a genetic, chronic inflammatory disease where for some reason lymphocytes (immune cells) are attaching the skin, causing cell turnover to accelerate.  Therefore, the dead skin cells aren’t shedding as fast as the maturing cells are rising to the surface.  This pile-up creates a silvery scale on the surface.

Psoriasis Treatments

If you do suffer from psoriasis there are some things you can do at home to help prevent your condition from getting worse.   Once again, according to Dr. Marmur:

Don’t scratch or try to scrub off the scaly skin.  Instead, moisturize with a thick, occlusive cream or ointment twice a day.  Sweat will irritate the skin, as will fragranced products or perfume.  Psoriasis sufferers have to be careful about everything they put on their skin – even sunscreen can sting.  Even one patch of plaque should lead you to see a dermatologist, especially since it’s likely that you will develop others in the future.  It’s important to get a good treatment program to prevent a more extensive outbreak.

So what other treatment options are out?  According to Dr. Amy Taub, as quoted in the article August is Psoriasis Awareness Month; Is Your Spa Ready? online at Skin Inc. :

  • Laser. A 308nm laser provides targeted phototherapy treatment for psoriasis offering safe, effective and lasting results. This laser uses a focused beam of ultraviolet light on the affected skin area avoiding exposure to healthy skin.
  • Topical agents. In mild psoriasis, where less than 10% of the body surface is affected, topical creams, ointments, gels and lotions are often applied first. These usually consist of steroids, vitamin D derivatives, retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) and tar-based topical treatments. The most common is a steroid because of its anti-inflammatory properties and because it also decreases the redness and scaling relatively quickly.
  • Oral or injectables. When psoriasis is more severe or light treatments or topicals have failed, oral or injectable solutions may be considered. They work by decreasing the metabolism in overactive cells thereby decreasing the rapidity with which psoriatic skin is made helping to normalize it. In addition, sufferers now have biologic medications available, also known as “designer” drugs, which attack specific molecular targets in the immune system.

Dr. Taub tells SkinInc.com exclusively about possible psoriasis treatments that are currently in the works.

Awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, new biologic agents are being investigated at a very rapid pace. New receptor molecules have been identified as targets (called IL-23 receptors) that may be even more specific than the agents that are known about today. The older biologics have undergone many years of study, and the dermatologic community is finally feeling more confident about the long-term safety of these agents as a result of this data. In fact, there may even be some negative consequences of not treating psoriasis. More data is pointing to the fact that having unchecked psoriasis could lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, leading many dermatologists to push more toward treatment as being more conservative.

If you think that you may have psoriasis see a dermatologist immediately in order to start a treatment plan before your condition worsens.  Please see below for lots of online resources for even more information about psoriasis.

 

Other online resources for information about psoriasis and treatment options:

 

Nail Health May 11, 2011

I can’t remember the last time I got a manicure though recently I did try those Sally Hansen real nail polish strips which say they last 10 days.  Mine lasted about 4 days which made me sad since they did look cool when they were on (I tried the bright flower pattern), and when I went to remove the strips I literally had to scrape/file the nail polish off my nails with a nail file.  Regular nail polish did not remove the strips at all even though that is what the manufacturer said would work.  It was so time-consuming to remove the strips, and my nails were left looking horrible – all beat up and scratched up.  Such a disappointment.  So there went my experiment with those nail polish strips.  I’ve also learned from lots of trial and error that it is best to get professional pedicures during the summer instead of trying to paint my own nails.  The professional pedicures always look better and last longer than any DIY pedicure.  Anyhow, I started thinking more about nails since I scheduled my first pedicure of the season for this week.   My problems with getting the right manicure and pedicure are nothing compared to having real nail problems.  So how does our health affect our nails?  And what is the best way to take care of our nails?

What Our Nails Tell Us About Our Health

It fascinated me to learn how much our nails can reveal about our overall health.  Before I give some explains I think it is important to point out that the growth cycle of a nail is six months.  And what exactly make up our nails?  In her book The Beauty Bible Paula Begoun explains (pages 376-377 , 2nd edition):

 Physiologically speaking, the nail is simply a protective covering composed of dead cells filled with a thick protein called keratin, quite similar in essence to the hair.  Although the part of the nail you can see is dead, the matrix (the part of the nail under the skin) is very much alive.  The white crescent area of the nail is called the lunula and is part of the matrix.  The nail grows out from the matrix and as the growth of new cells build up and dies it is pushed forward and out toward the surface.  The cuticle is the protective layer of skin between the outside environment and the matrix.  Keeping the cuticle intact is perhaps the single most important element in preserving the health of the nail.

It turns out that a lot about your nails is genetically predetermined so you cannot alter the why your nails naturally grow just as you cannot alter how your hair grows.

Ok so what can our nails reveal about our health?  Concave, spoon shaped nails, or koilonychia, can show that you have an iron deficiency.  Those white horizontal line that you sometimes have on some nails but not others?  That is called a Beau’s line and shows that the nail actually stopped growing during a period of physical or emotional stress.  Even a case of the flu can cause those lines to form.  Even the shape of your nails can be informative about a health issue.  Some people have nails’ whose tips are curved and slightly bulbous.  This occurs in people who don’t have enough oxygen reaching the tips of their fingertips because they smoke or have congestive heart failure.  This is actually almost like having a scar.  If the person stops smoking or is able to improve their heart condition their nail shape will change.  If your nails are discolored, for instance blue-gray, that could mean that you suffer from a collagen vascular disease or are having a negative reaction to medication.

 Brittle and peeling nails are chiefly caused by wetting and drying your hands and nails.  Chronic exposure to harsh detergents, water, toluene and formaldehyde in nail polish, and harsh nail polish remover solvents can stress our nails once again making them brittle.  Genes and diet definitely play a role in nail health as do medical conditions (as illustrated above).  And of course many people add to their nail problems by biting and picking at their nails when they are stressed, anxious, or bored.

According to an article in the Fall-Winter 2010 issue of New Beauty – pages 46-48 (New Beauty used to put issues of their magazine online but no longer do which is too bad in my opinion):

    • If your nails have white spots then you may have a vitamin or mineral deficiency
    • If your nails are brittle and separate easily from the nail bed, you may have a thyroid condition
    • If your nails are thin and concave, then you may have an iron deficiency
    • If your nails are overly thick or flakey you may have a fungal growth
    • When nails have a yellow case to them, it can be from a variety of causes, and a common culprit is dark nail polish. …  But, if you don’t regularly wear dark shades and your nails are yellow, it may be the sign of a health condition.  Discolored nails can hint toward fungal infections, psoriasis, diabetes or liver, kidney or lung conditions that require medical attention.

Suffice it to say, if your nails don’t look right go see a doctor immediately to have them checked since your nails could be revealing a larger and more serious health issue.

What Can or Cannot Help Your Nails

Can using a product on top of your nails help them grow or make them stronger?  Sadly no.  You cannot change the way your nail grows by applying a topical product.  In order to see a real change in the health or appearance of your nails you need to either treat a health problem or perhaps tweak your diet.  Remember that no matter what a manufacturer claims neither topical applications of fluoride or calcium will improve your nail health.

According to Dr. Amy Wechsler in her book The Mind-Beauty Connection (page 159):

Contrary to popular belief, our nails do not contain much calcium, so supplementation, while good for our bodies, may not help our nails.  In fact, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare causes of nail problems.  More often than not, brittle nails are caused by excessive exposure to harsh soaps, irritants, polish remover, and the wetting and drying of nails (all typical of a busy, kitchen-maven mom).  Brittle nails can also be seen with medical conditions like psoriasis, fungal infections, and thyroid problems.  Age also factors in, and the older you are the more likely your nails will become brittle.

That said, one little nutrient that may help give your nails a boost is biotin.  Found abundantly in foods like cauliflower, peanuts, and lentils, biotin is absorbed into the core of the nail, where it may encourage a better, thicker, nail to grow and prevent splitting and cracking.  In one study, people who consumed 2.5 milligrams of biotin daily had marked increases in nail thickness after six months.  To get this much biotin, ask your doctor about taking it in supplement form.

Nail Care 101

  • Moisturize the cuticle area
  • Wear gloves when washing dishes and doing house work
  • Apply hand cream frequently and especially after you wash your hands
  • Use a sunscreen on your hands – better yet get a hand cream with spf in it.  My current go to hand cream with spf is Boots No7 Protect and Perfect Hand Cream Spf 15 which you can get at Target or online
  • Don’t soak your nails for long period of time
  • Don’t use your nails as tools to open things such as letters or anything else
  • Avoid nail polish with toluene and formaldehyde and nail polis remover with acetone
  • Don’t bite or pick your nails

Sources and Further Reading:

 

Bumps on Your Arms: Solutions for Keratosis Pilaris April 18, 2011

So many people suffer from the following problem yet have no idea what it is.  Red, rough bumps on the back of your upper arms, face (especially in children), thighs, and even backside are actually a skin condition called keratosis pilaris.  According to Paula Begoun:

Keratosis pilaris has a few different forms: It can range from pink to red bumps on the cheeks to small red bumps that aren’t irritated, to pimple-like bumps that are inflamed and red. Overall, regardless of the type, these bumpy rough spots are clogged pores where skin cells have become hardened inside the pore and inflammation occurs.

So how do you treat keratosis pilaris?  In her book Simple Skin Beauty Dr. Ellen Marmur offers quite a number of solutions for keratosis pilaris, which is a form of eczema, along with some interesting insights into this condition (pages 219-220):

Instead of round bumps, dry skin can make triangular, pyramid-shaped bumps, or accuminate papules.  The keratin on top is shaped like a sharp spike which is why the skin is so rough.  There’s no good reason why these bumps are triangular while others elsewhere are round.  …  Like most eczema, the genetic condition stems from dry, sensitive skin and tends to get worse in the winter, when it’s cold and dry.  Ironically, most people with KP tend to do just the opposite of what they should to treat the condition.  They avoid moisturizing the area (thinking it’s a form of acne), when what’s really needed is the thickest cream possible.

The best prevention is slathering on a rich cream or ointment (one that contains occlusive emollients such as petrolatum, lanolin, and mineral oil) regularly to moisturize and protect the skin.  You can’t apply too much.  It will help keep the condition in check and may help it go away. …  When skin is chronically dehydrated, it tries to heal itself and the natural pattern of exfoliation is disrupted.  For this reason, you can use a loofah or body brush to gently scrub off the dead skin cells.  I also recommend over-the-counter lotions such as Lac-Hydrin or AmLactin to be applied once or twice a day.  They contain lactic acid (a great gentle exfoliant for sensitive skin) in a moisturizing base.  Another effective treatment is retinoid lotion, which regulates keratinocyte turnover and helps slough off the heaped-up, pointy dead skin cells.  To accelerate the exfoliation process, a dermatologist can do microdermabrasion and a light chemical peel followed by a deep moisturizing mask.  Once the area is smooth, a field of tiny red dots will be left behind.  They will fade somewhat though probably not completely on their own.  A pulsed dye laser treatment can make the redness go away faster.

Paula Begoun has a different solution for this problem:

Exfoliation to unclog pores is at the top of the list of treatments. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs, active ingredients would be lactic or glycolic acid) can help exfoliate skin cells, but these only work on the surface. AHAs can’t get inside the pore to dislodge the plug of skin and sebum.

To get to the root of the problem you need a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) product with the active ingredient salicylic acid and a pH low enough for exfoliation to occur. One other interesting aspect of BHA is that it has antimicrobial properties so it kills the bacteria that may be making matters worse. Plus, because salicylic acid is related to aspirin (aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid) it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Salicylic acid is a brilliant answer to eliminating these red bumps.

 And here is even more advice, this time from the May 2011 issue of Allure:

It’s better to use a chemical exfoliant than a physical one.  That means washes and lotions with alpha hydroxy acids.  Then use a hydrocortisone cream to reduce the redness, and the bumps should clear up in three weeks.

 

In the end, no matter whose advice you follow there are plenty of solution available for treating this common skin issue.

 

Further reading and products:

 

Raiding the Pantry: Making Your Own Beauty Products April 7, 2011

One my biggest beauty misadventures occurred a very long time ago and involved a bottle of olive oil.  I have thick, unruly, frizzy hair, and I was looking to condition and tame my hair.  Somewhere I read that if I applied olive oil to my hair, left it on for about 10 minutes or so, I would be left with soft and cooperative hair once I rinsed it off.  So I borrowed our family’s olive oil from the kitchen, poured A LOT of olive oil all over my hair, wrapped my hair up for 10 minutes or so, and waited.  Then I tried to rinse the olive oil out.  That proved to be very difficult.  In the end I had to shampoo my hair at least twice if not three times so that I wasn’t left with an oily, greasy mess of hair.  Did my hair become softer?  Frankly, I can’t remember.  All I remember is my hair being insanely oily and greasy and that it seemed to take me forever to get that oil out.

After that misadventure with using food as a beauty aid I have pretty much steered clear of the kitchen when it came to skin and hair care.  Only recently have I taken a tiny step back into that arena by trying to exfoliate my face with milk (more on that later).  I’ve also exfoliated my body with used coffee grinds (very effective and very messy) and a homemade concoction of sugar and olive oil (effective, cheap, and less messy than the coffee grinds), but otherwise I’ve never tried facial masks made of avocados or put mashed up fruit on my face in order to exfoliate.  Of course that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give these ideas a whirl.

Ok so if you want to raid your fridge, medicine cabinet, and pantry in order to treat your skin here are some ideas from the March 2011 issue of Allure:

  • For puffy eyes: Ice, tea bags, or cucumbers –  A washcloth soaked in ice water helps shrink swelling.  Tea bags are even better: Caffeine constricts blood vessels to counteract redness, and the tannic acid in the tea can temporarily tighten skin.  Chilled cucumber slices have soothing properties, too.
  • For dull hair: Beer – The ridges and chipped cuticles that make hair look damaged and dull can be filled in by protein in beer, giving hair the ability to reflect more light.  Rinsing with a thick, dark beer, such as Guinness Extra Stout, works best.  Cheers.
  • For zits: Aspirin and Visine – Acne-fighting salicylic acid is the compound from which aspirin is derived; a paste made from a crushed tablet and a few drops of water can help heal a spot.  To lessen redness, douse a cotton swab with Visine, pop it in the fridge until cold, and hold it on the blemish for a few minutes.
  • For redness: Milk – The proteins and fats in whole milk can calm irritated or sunburned skin – just make sure to follow a compress or cold powdered-milk bath with moisturizer.  Otherwise, the skin get right and dry as the liquid evaporates.
  • For rough skin:  Olive oil or vegetable shortening – cooking oils soften parched skin – ideal for chapped hands, feet, or elbows.  Slather on a thick coat of Crisco or olive oil before bed, then put on cotton gloves and socks to avoid messing up your iPad or sheets.  Let it soak in overnight.

My take on the advice from Allure:  Avoid the Visine entirely since it is too harsh to apply to skin.  A cold q-tip applied for a minute or so to a breakout should help take down some of the redness or just get out your green concealer (I always have a green concealer from Physician’s Formula on hand to counteract red marks and breakouts).  The milk treatment could work, but rinse off the milk before applying moisturizer.  And lastly, if you slather yourself with Crisco you will smell disgusting and be super greasy.  Use jojoba oil instead or just straight up petroleum jelly.

Earlier in this post I referred to trying to exfoliate with milk.  I got this idea from Dr. Ellen Marmur’s book Simple Skin Beauty.  On page 94 of her book Dr. Marmur writes about how exfoliate your skin if you have rosacea:

Scrubbing can aggravate rosacea or a painfully dry complexion.  And because acids work by temporarily lowering the natural pH balance of the skin, they can be very irritating for someone with sensitivity.  The gentlest option is lactic acid, which is probably the cheapest and easiest exfoliant around.  Just soak a washcloth in plain whole milk, then rest the damp cloth on your face, neck, and upper chest for a minute or two.  (You can dunk the cloth again and repeat, but don’t overdo it and cause inflammation.  Four minutes on your skin is more than enough to see results.)  Essentially, you’re getting a light chemical peel, but the fatty proteins in the milk act as a moisturizing buffer to the lactic acid.  Milk also has anti-inflammatory and humectant properties that help to sooth and moisturize skin simultaneously.  Talk about a perfect (and organic) beauty food!

After I recommended this exfoliation technique to a client who has rosacea I figured I had to give it a try myself.  I poured whole milk into a bowl, dunked my washcloth in the milk, and spread it all over my face as I watched TV.  Ok well I think first I put it on my forehead and then on the lower half of my face so that I could actually see the program I was watching on TV.  I definitely left the washcloth on for more than two minutes; I think I left it on for about 5 or 7 minutes.  Afterwards my face felt very, very tight so  I rinsed my face in warm water.  Then I felt my face – it felt very smooth.  But I have to admit that besides leaving my face very smooth I didn’t really see a difference in my complexion.  On the other hand, I have oily, acne-prone skin so I wasn’t exactly the person Dr. Marmur was referring to when making this tip.  If you are looking for a new, gentle, and cost-effective way to exfoliate I definitely would give the milk exfoliation a try.

Some of the most popular food ingredients that you can use to make homemade beauty products like facial masks:

  • Honey which is a humectant
  • Avocado and olive oil which are emollients or moisturizers
  • Cucumbers and oatmeal which are anti-inflammatory
  • Milk (as already mentioned above) and yogurt which gently exfoliate

Of course in order to combine these ingredients into effective facial masks you’ll probably want a recipe.  Both amazon.com and your local chain bookstore have plenty of DIY beauty books.  But whatever you do just make sure you are using the right ingredients for your skin type and condition.  For instance since I have oily, acne-prone skin (as I already mentioned above) I wouldn’t want to use a mask with avocado or olive oil but I could probably try a mask with honey if I was feeling a bit dry.

I would love to get some feedback from my readers about your own home experimentations with food or other household items made into beauty products.  If you’ve got the food lying around, and aren’t planning on eating it, I see no reason not to give it a try.

Further Reading:

  • The Skin Care Book: Simple Herbal Recipes by Kathlyn Quatrochi.  This is a little gem of a book that I found at my local library.  It has lots of interesting sounding recipes though be aware that buying the ingredients for the recipes could add up and you will certainly need to set aside time in order to make the recipes.  I haven’t tried any myself (and clearly I will be staying away from the olive oil hair mask recipe), but if anyone has tried these recipes please post a comment below.
  • In her book Feed Your Face Dr. Jessica Wu has devoted an entire chapter to homemade beauty remedies – Chapter 11:  Food on Your Face.
  • My Facial is Tastier than Yours – The New York Times from Nov. 18, 2008.  A fun article about a group of people trying homemade masks and body treatments.  I was particularly interested in the fact that the author had a very similar olive oil hair mask misadventure like I did.  The article includes recipes for the masks and body treatments.
  • 3 At-Home Recipes for Natural Skin Care – Prevention magazine
 

Can You Get Rid of Cellulite? October 27, 2010

Is there any comfort in the fact that anyone can get cellulite?    Thin people get cellulite, rich people get cellulite, beautiful people get cellulite.  About 85% of women over the age of 18 have some degree of cellulite on their upper legs, buttocks, and abdomens.  It can affect you regardless of ethnicity, age, race, weight, and lifestyle choices because cellulite is mostly a genetic disorder.   This lumpy appearance on our thighs, some call it the cottage cheese look, is caused by fat cells bulging upwards – a function of the structure of how the fat and skin fit together.  Our epidermis, the top layer of our skin, has fibrous anchors that go down to the fat layer of our skin, and it is these connections that cause the dimpling appearance of cellulite.  While losing weight may help improve the appearance of cellulite on some people there are many other factors involved in the formation of cellulite that make it a huge challenge to treat.  Of course that doesn’t mean that Americans aren’t willing to try – by 2012 it is estimated that Americans will spend more than $215 on anti-cellulite treatments.

 

Myths About Cellulite

There are so many ideas out there about what causes cellulite and how to treat it.  In a piece on her website Paula Begoun debunks a number of  the biggest cellulite myths:

Drinking water helps: If water could change skin structure and reduce fat I assure you no one would have cellulite, or would be overweight for that matter. Drinking water probably is beneficial (although there is really no research showing how much is healthy versus unhealthy) but there is no research showing water consumption will impact fat anywhere on your body, let alone the dimples on your thighs.

Arguments for high water intake are generally based on the assumption that because our bodies consist mostly of wa-ter (50-70% of body weight, about forty-two liters) and our blood, muscles, brain, and bones are made up mainly of wa-ter (85%, 80%, 75%, and 25%, respectively), we therefore need at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. But assumptions aren’t science and this one is a non-sequitur; it is similar to arguing that since our cars run on gasoline, they always need a full tank to run efficiently. (Source: American Journal of Physiology—Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology, November 2002, pages 993-1004)

Water retention causes cellulite: It’s ironic that low water intake is considered a possible cause of cellulite, and the polar opposite—retaining too much water—is thought to be a factor as well. There is lots of speculation of how water retention can affect cellulite but there is no actual research supporting this notion. Further, fat cells actually contain only about 10% water, so claiming to eliminate excess water won’t make a difference and any measurable result would be transient at best. It is true that water retention can make you look bloated and feel like you’ve gained weight, but water itself doesn’t impact fat or the appearance of cellulite. (Source: Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, November 2003, pages 817-821)Eating a specialized diet can help: A healthy diet that encourages weight loss may help your entire body look better. How-ever, because weight in and of itself is not a cause of cellulite, dieting won’t change the skin structure of your thighs, which causes the dimpled contours to show. For some people cellulite is made worse by the accumulation of extra fat. In those cases, weight reduction may decrease the total area and depth of cellulite. (Source: Clinical Dermatology, July-August 2004, pages 303-309)

Exercise can help: Exercise helps almost every system in the human body, but it won’t necessarily impact the appearance of cellulite. Exercise doesn’t improve skin structure and it can’t affect localized areas of fat. In other words, you can’t spot reduce fat accumulation in a specific area. (Source: British Journal of Plastic Surgery, April 2004, pages 222-227)

Detoxifying the body reduces the appearance of cellulite: Detoxifying the body for consumers has taken on the meaning of purging it of pollutants or any other problem substances in the environment or in the foods we eat. In terms of the way this concept has been mass marketed, there is little research showing credible efficacy as to whether or not detoxification of the body is even possible. However, “detoxifying” the body as it is used in the scientific community describes the process of reducing cellular damage primarily by antioxidants or enzymes that prevent certain abnormal or undesirable cell func-tions from taking place. There is no doubt this is helpful for the body. Whether or not this reduces cellulite is completely unknown because skin structure and fat accumulation are not caused by toxins in the environment. Furthermore, there are no studies showing toxins of any kind prevent fat from being broken down. (Sources: Journal of Endotoxin Research, April 2005, pages 69-84 and Journal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, May 2003, pages 258-264)

 

 

Treatment Options

 

Cellulite treatment options fall into two main categories:  topical products and machines.  I’ll also mention mesotherapy which are injections.

 

Topical Products

In my opinion, topical creams that claim to treat cellulite are pretty much a big waste of your money.  I’m certainly not alone in my opinion.  Ellen Marmur, MD in her book Simple Skin Beauty, page 213 writes:

As with most topicals, any visible results wash off or fade away fast.  Again, if any one of these really worked, it would be the hottest product on the market.  …  My advice:  save your money, let the cellulite battle go, and buy yourself a beautiful pair of shoes.  That will have a much better payoff.

Furthermore, Paula Begoun states:

As far as skin-care products for the body are concerned, the litany of options is mesmerizing. Yet there is almost no uniformity between formulas. It would appear, if the claims are to be believed, a wide variety of unrelated plant extracts can deflate or break down fat and/or restructure skin. Looking at the research, however, most articles suggest there is little hope that anything rubbed on the skin can change fat deposits or radically improve the appearance of cellulite.

The hope that botanicals have the answer is odd because not one study points to what concentration of an ingredient needs to be in a formulation, what physiochemical characteristics particular to each active ingredient need to be present, or whether or not these ingredients retain any standardized properties between batches. (Sources: Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 866-872 and The European Journal of Dermatology, December 2000, pages 596–603)

So as tempting as it is to think that you can solve your cellulite problem with a cream – skip it.   At best these creams and lotions very temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite.   But there is one thing to keep in mind – a fake tan will make your cellulite less noticeable.  So thinking to invest in a good self-tanner is actually a viable option in order to disguise your cellulite temporarily.  (For a very thorough breakdown of both ingredients and products that claim to treat cellulite see Paula Begoun’s article)

 

What about in office treatments?

 

First let me talk about mesotherapy which I would advise against.  During a mesotherapy treatment caffeine, enzymes, anti-inflammatories, alphahydroxy acids, vitamins, or the drugs phosphatydalcholine and deoxycholate  are injected into the areas of cellulite and fatty deposits.  It is said that these injections help to break up fat cells (fat cells burst and die) and reduce cellulite.  Complications can include ulcers, scarring, deformities, skin infections, and tissue damage.  Mesotherapy is widely practiced in Europe, but highly controversial in the United States.  Currently the FDA has started cracking down on medical spas that offer this treatment, but it has taken the FDA time to look into the practice since it falls outside of FDA regulations.  The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery along with the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation is conducting a FDA approved study on the safety and efficacy of mesotherapy.  There is a hope that in the future there will be both a FDA approved formula for injection and a standardization of procedures, safety, and protocols.   As I already stated, I would stay away from mesotherapy.  Once the FDA reaches its conclusions about this procedure it might be time to reconsider, but overall I think it will never be a good option for treating cellulite.

 

Machines

 

Perhaps you have heard of Endermologie or VelaSmooth for treating cellulite.  Endermologie uses rollers and suction to massage areas with cellulite, and while the device is FDA approved for cellulite treatment that does not prove that it actually works as claims.  At best these treatments are expensive and offer a temporary improvement in the appearance of cellulite.  So try Endermologie at your own risk, a risk mostly to your bank account.  Velasmooth combines infrared light, radio-frequency, and mechanical suction in an attempt to reduce the appearance of cellulite by heating the fat and liquefying it or reducing its size.  As with Endermologie a series of treatments is needed in order to see results with Velasmooth, and once again, treatments do not come cheap.  Results, as always, are mixed.    Personally I would save my money when it comes to both of these treatments.  While there are few risks to your health with these treatments, they also don’t really work.  The only place you will see a real difference is in your bank account.  Save your money!

There are even more procedures out there that claim to address cellulite including cellulite subscissions that uses a needle to sever the anchors under the skin so that the skin looks smoother.  While this might make theoretical sense, it works successfully on acne scars, safety studies are few and far between and the surgery is expensive.

 

 

Bottom Line

 

I’ll reiterate what Dr. Marmur wrote:

Save your money, let the cellulite battle go, and buy yourself a beautiful pair of shoes.  That will have a much better payoff.

And if you really, really want to try something to reduce the appearance of your cellulite before wearing a bathing suit or short skirt I’ll mention it again – use a self-tanner to temporarily disguise the appearance of cellulite.  Above all – don’t believe the hype or anything for that matter when it comes to cellulite treatments.

 

Sources and Further Reading

 

 

Book Review: Simple Skin Beauty by Ellen Marmur, MD March 18, 2010

 

 

Simply put – this is an overall great book.  If you want to have only one book at home to refer to for skincare questions I would suggest getting this one.  (And of course keep reading my blog – wink, wink)

Once I began reading this book I found myself referring to it again and again in for both my blog and for my own knowledge.  The book is extremely thorough when it comes to addressing skincare issues – both cosmetic and health issues.  The book is clearly written in a personal and friendly manner making it an easy read  (I guess credit for the writing style should go to the co-author Gina Way). 

Dr. Ellen Marmur has pretty impeccable credentials so that does make it easy to trust what is written in the book.  There is A LOT of information contained in the book so you’ll definitely learn something new.  One of the goals of the book is to educate the reader, and the book certainly delivers on that count.

 

The Good Parts

 

The book explains in easy to understand terms just exactly how our skin works.  There are only a few illustrations in the book but all are a good addition, helping to supplement the text.  Dr. Marmur clearly explains exactly what a dermatologist does and what to expect during a visit to the dermatologist (chapter 6).  Perhaps for some people this chapter might seem a bit simplistic, but I was happy it was included in the book.  There is also a lot of explanation in the book about how a dermatologist can help you take care of your skin. 

One overall message in the book is that you deserve to feel good about how you look but there is no need to go overboard in the pursuit of beautiful skin.  To that end quite a bit of the book is devoted to understanding skincare products, skincare ingredients, skincare product formulations, and daily skincare routines.  Dr. Marmur doesn’t recommend very many products in the book; instead she tries to teach her readers how to read product labels so that they can decide if a product works for them or not.  She doesn’t give her readers “the easy way out” when it comes to finding skincare products, but she certainly does give the reader the tools to be better educated and informed about skincare products.  I also found it interesting that she suggests going a skin “detox” if you find that your skin is red or irritated.  I hadn’t really read about anyone else suggesting such a drastic tactic, and I found it intriguing.

Like many other books about skincare this book contains a chapter about the importance of sun protection.  It is a good chapter filled with lots of important information and advice.  Other good parts of the book include advice about common skincare conditions and concerns(acne, eczema, etc.) and good explanations about medical skincare treatments (chemical peels, lasers, and injectables).  It helps that Dr. Marmur has lots of experience to share with her readers and to back up the information she is presenting.

 

Room for Improvement

 

Though obviously I liked this book a great deal there were a few things that bothered me.  The format of the book is quite “jumpy” – for lack of a better word.  In between the regular text there are asides – true story type of explanations meant to enhance the text.  There are also lots of “questions”.  I don’t know if these are real questions or ones created for the book and certainly while they enhance the text a great deal the fact that everything is not integrated entirely is a bit off-putting.  In order to read everything in the book you find yourself “leaving” the text and looking at another part of the page.  Once you finish reading the aside you return to the text.  I wish there could have been a better way of organizing the information in the book.

From pages 103 to 111 there is a jumbled and confusing discussion about natural and organic skincare products and being environmentally conscious.  I was surprised that this part of the book was so poorly written and organized since certainly Dr. Marmur must have come across numerous questions from her patients about organic and natural products, and this part of the book does very little to clear up confusion over these issues.  Instead of clearly stating facts about the issue there is instead a long treatise about taking care of the environment.  Since the whole issue of natural and organic skincare products is controversial and misleading (see my post The Natural, Green, Organic Skincare Fallacy for more information) I wish Dr. Marmur had been more forceful and clear in this section of her book.

I found it interesting that Dr. Marmur repeatedly wrote in her book that she wore little to no make-up since the cover photo of the book shows her with TONS of make-up, particularly eye make-up.  I thought this was very ironic.  Why couldn’t she be photographed looking more like she claims she does on a daily basis?

 

This Book Made Me Think About How To Wash My Face

 

Dr. Marmur is one of many dermatologists who suggests “washing” your face only with water.  When I had read this before it was completely confusing  and even strange advice to me, but once I read Dr. Marmur’s explanation about why you should do this I began to rethink my previous held ideas.  Now I see that rinsing one’s face only with water in the morning, and I emphasis only in the morning, is actually a good idea for some people.  (For more information about how to wash your face see my post Is There A Correct Way To Wash Your Face?)

 

If You Read Only One Chapter in this Book

 

If you only want to skim this book be sure to read the chapter about skin cancer (chapter 7).  It is by far the most thorough discussion on skin cancer in any book I have read by a dermatologist (and yes, I have read quite a few).  The information about skin cancer – its causes and treatments –  was enlightening and thought-provoking, even scary.  A definite must read especially for people who don’t think they need sunscreen on a daily basis or who, god forbid, actually still use tanning beds.

 

Bottom Line

 

Simple Skin Beauty is a book well worth reading.

 

 
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