Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

What Are Free Radicals? April 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Physiology of the Skin, pages 178 – 179)

My Related Posts:

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

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Watch Out for Photosensitivity September 15, 2011

How Your Medications or Medical Condition Could Be Making You More Sun Sensitive


What exactly is photosensitivity, and how do you protect yourself from it?

Photosensitivity is an abnormal increase in the skin’s sensitivity to sun exposure brought on by certain medical conditions, medications, and skincare products and treatments.  According to the Skin Cancer Foundation if you are photosensitive your skin can have a few different reactions:

A person who is photosensitive may experience some form of dermatitis, a skin rash caused by an allergy to or physical contact with a particular substance, in this case UVR. The face, outer arms, and upper chest are the most common areas for a rash due to photosensitivity.

The reaction may be either photoallergic or (more commonly) phototoxic, often in response to a specific medication. A phototoxic reaction typically shows up as an exaggerated sunburn, usually occurring within 24 hours of sun exposure. Photoallergic reactions, however, do not occur until one to three days after the substance has come into contact with the body, since they require activation of the immune system to mount the response. Photoallergy, like other allergies, tends to occur in previously sensitized individuals; repeat exposure to the same allergen plus UVR exposure can prompt a typical pruritic (itching) and eczematous reaction (red bumps, scaling, and oozing lesions, as in eczema).

There are more than a few medical conditions that can cause photosensitivity.  They include but are not limited to: lupus, dermatomyositis, actinic prurigo, chronic actinic dermatitis, polymorphous light eruption, solar urticaria, and xeroderma pigmentosum.  (For more information on each of these diseases and how they cause photosensitivity see the article Photosensitivity – A Reason To Be Even Safer in the Sun on the Skin Cancer Foundation website.)  If you happen to have one of these disorders or know someone who does be sure to check with your doctor on how to properly protect your skin from sun exposure.

Furthermore, many medications can cause photosensitivity.  According to Dr. Ellen Marmur in her book Simple Skin Beauty (pages 146-147):

Be sure to check with your pharmacist or doctor about what sun-related side effects your medications could give you.  Antibiotics such as tetracycline and sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim), some diuretics and antihistamines (such as Benadryl), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Feldene, Naproxen, Motrin), and some antidepressants can be phototoxic after exposure to UV light.  Researchers have found that taking these drugs also increases the risk of skin cancer if you are exposed to the sun.

For a very comprehensive list of medications that can cause photosensitivity see the chart in the Skin Cancer Foundation article Photosensitivity – A Reason To Be Even Safer in the Sun.

But before you despair if you have a medical condition or take a medication that causes photosensitivity keep a few things in mind.  Once again I’ll quote the Skin Cancer Foundation article:

Since many of the medications are vital in maintaining or restoring health and quality of life, it is important not to “throw out the baby with the bath water.” Rather than eliminating these treatments, some combination of sun avoidance and sun protection is the preferred strategy to prevent the unwanted effects of photosensitivity. By seeking shade and staying out of direct sunlight between 10 AM and 4 PM (generally the sun’s most intense hours); employing high-SPF broad spectrum sunscreens (SPF 30 or higher is advisable for photosensitive individuals); and wearing sun-protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses, patients can continue to reap the benefits of these medications while avoiding sun damage.

Skincare Treatments and Products That Can Cause Photosensitivity

Since skincare treatments like chemical peels and microdermabrasion that cause photosensitivity are done by choice and not a health necessity you have a lot of control over when to them and how to protect your skin afterwards.  Both chemical peels and microdermabrasion remove the layers of dead skin cells on the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) which then causes sun sensitivity.  So it is advisable not to have a chemical peel or a microdermabrasion treatment done right before a tropical vacation or an outdoor adventure.  After either of those treatments be very careful to consistently reapply your sunscreen every 3 hours or so if you are outside or even if you are just sitting by a window in your office or driving around in your car.  If you get too much sun exposure following one of these treatments you could erase all the positive effects of the treatments.

As for skincare products like Retin-A that increase sun sensitivity be sure to apply them at night in order to get all the positive effects of the products without the sun sensitivity side effect.  Furthermore, according to Dr. Marmur:

Retinoids such as Retin-A, any AHA, even facial scrubs – anything that exfoliates the top layers of your skin – will make you more vulnerable to the elements.  You should probably stop using any of them one week before going on a beach vacation.  If the stratum corneum doesn’t have that dead keratinocyte barrier on top of it, you’re setting the skin up for irritation by salt water, chlorine, wind, and most of all the sun.

So be sure to error on the side of caution and speak to your doctor about this issue when receiving a prescription for any new medication.  And be smart about your timing for any skincare treatments that cause sun sensitivity.


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 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:


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 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

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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