Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

How to Read a Skincare Ingredient Label And Is That Information Enough In Order To Judge A Skincare Product? June 12, 2014

 

 

Understanding the ingredients listed in the ingredient list of a skincare product and figuring out if those ingredients are actually effective for your skin is an important skill for skincare consumers to have. But interpreting a skincare ingredient label is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  You need to not only have some basic skincare product formulation knowledge but also be able to recognize different ingredients and their function in skincare products in order to understand what you are reading and if the product will be right for your skin and will do what it claims to do.  I’ve addressed this topic in the past here in my blog, but lately I’ve come across a few interesting articles on the subject and thought it was time to revisit this issue much more in-depth than I did before.

The Basics and Some Examples

So let’s start with some basics about skincare labels that everyone should know.  In his Skin Inc. article Ingredient Labels Explained Robert Manzo writes:

There are basic rules that product manufacturers must comply with in order to list ingredients on their products.

  • Standardized names. Ingredient names must comply with the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) format. The ingredient names are standardized in this format so that all products can be compared to each other easily and for safety reasons.
  • Descending order. Ingredients must be listed in descending order of concentration to 1%. Ingredients below 1% can be listed in any order

How does this come together for the consumer?  Lab Muffin recently published yet another excellent post called How to Read an Ingredients List: Face Moisturisers in which she takes actual moisturizer labels and explains the ingredients for her readers.  For instance:

When looking at most product ingredients lists, the ingredients will be in order from the highest concentration to the lowest. Typically, when deciding if a moisturiser will suit your skin type, you don’t need to look past the first 6 ingredients or so, since they make up the majority of the product, and will be responsible for the moisturising action. It’s a different story when you’re looking at more potent ingredients that target specific concerns (e.g. anti-aging, exfoliants, antibacterials, lightening), but those tend to be useful regardless of skin type.

With this in mind, I’ll be classifying the top 6 ingredients in each of these facial moisturisers, as well as commenting on some of the notable ingredients further down in the list. If there’s no comment next to the ingredient, I’ve probably explained it in a product further up.

To recap, the main categories of moisturiser are:

Occlusives – block water from evaporating from the skin, especially good for dry and dehydrated skin
Emollients – smooth skin and help repair
Humectants – draw moisture to the skin, effective even at lower percentages.

Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Soothing Moisturising Cream

Aqua (water) – The base for most face creams, and the definition of moisture.
Cetearyl alcohol (emollient) – A blend of cetyl and stearyl alcohols, two fatty alcohols that are nothing like drinking alcohol (that is, ethyl alcohol), but are great for smoothing skin down as well as making sure the oily and watery parts of the moisturiser don’t separate (it’s an emulsifier). It can be derived from coconut oil.
Rosa canina fruit oil (emollient) – This is the technical name for rose hip oil from a specific species of rose. It mainly contains oleic and linoleic acids, which are excellent for repairing skin, as well as antioxidants.
Safflower seed oil (emollient/occlusive) – This also contains many linoleic acids and antioxidants.
Caprylic/capric triglyceride (emollient/occlusive) – This also comes from coconut oil, and smooths skin as well as blocks evaporation.
Jojoba seed oil (emollient) – This stuff is a lot like natural sebum.

Glycerin and honey are a little further down in the list, and there’s aloe vera extract as well – these humectants together would probably add noticeable humectant action to the mix (glycerin is typically used in moisturisers at 2-7%, otherwise it feels sticky).

Overall: Lots of emollients, a small amount of occlusives and some humectants. It’s suitable for all skin due to all the skin-repairing emollients, but drier skins might need some more occlusives on top.

Or for example how to interpret a serum label:

Generally, serums are used to deliver active ingredients to skin in higher concentrations in order to generate a specific skin response. Typical serums address skin-specific issues, such as hyperpigmentation, lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, texture, tone, pore size, acne, redness and irritation.

Understanding ingredient listings in serums is often difficult. Active ingredient names can take the form of Latin names for botanically sourced compounds, and more generic INCI names may be used, such as yeast extract, which can mean a multitude of biologically active ingredients. Quite long chemical names are often found.

Understanding the dose of active ingredients is also difficult by trying to interpret ingredient listings. If a particularly active ingredient is very biologically active, it may be dosed in the formula in part-per-million levels and be very low in the ingredient listing, but still be quite effective. Examples of these are epigenetic factors, epidermal growth factors and vascular growth factors.

Serum realities

1. There are more than 16,000 listings in the INCI dictionary. No one can know all the cosmetic ingredients at any given time. If you are unsure what dose and what active ingredient is in particular serum, request that the manufacturer supply that detailed information.

2. Watch out for serum claims and their target biology. For example, if you have a serum that claims it can improve collagen and elastin by stimulating skin, the ingredient would need to penetrate to the dermal tissue. If you need to lighten skin, ingredients must penetrate no more than to the epidermal-dermal junction, where color-producing cells exist. If you want to exfoliate, the serum should not penetrate far below the stratum corneum.

(From Ingredient Labels Explained)

 Putting It Together

Now that you have some basic knowledge about how skincare labels work is this really enough information in order to know if a product is right for your skin or not?  Sorry to complicate things for you, but even the most savvy consumer can get tripped up by a skincare ingredient label.  Renee Rouleau gives a great example in her blog post Can You Judge a Skin Care Product by an Ingredient Label?:

With so much awareness on skin care ingredients (the good, the bad and the ugly), consumers now more than ever are getting educated on what’s used in formulas, so they can make the best choices for their skin when it comes to choosing products to apply to their face. But by looking at an ingredient list on the back of a bottle or jar, can you really determine if it will deliver good results or not on your skin?

The answer is no. You might look at the ingredient list and form assumptions about the ingredients you may have read about or heard of. For example, if you’re prone to breakouts you might see shea butter or sunflower oil listed, and assume it will be greasy and pore clogging. These assumptions can be invalid, because the results a product delivers are based on the percentages of the ingredient used in a product—and this, you’ll never know from looking at the list on the back of a bottle.

Here’s another example of a time when one of my products, Daily Protection SPF 30, was reviewed by a fairly well-known ingredient expert who has written many books on helping you choose the best products when you go to the cosmetics counter. She had requested the ingredient list of my sunscreen to review, yet didn’t request the actual product. When the review was published, she gave it a really good review however, she said based on the moisturizing agents used in the formula, it was best suited for dry and very dry skin types. Really? Our Daily Protection SPF 30 is recommended for oily, acne-prone skin, because it is so light, and dries to a matte finish on the skin. As a matter of fact, when we get a customer return for this product, it’s usually a dry skin client saying it was too drying on their skin. Our oily skin clients absolutely love it because it disappears completely and leaves no residue. This is definitely not a sunscreen moisturizer for dry and very dry skin types, yet an ingredient label reviewed by an ingredient expert couldn’t tell this. (No disrespect to the expert, this is simply my experience.)

(Obviously Rouleau is writing about Paula Begoun here)

So Where Does That Leave You?

It is important to learn about ingredients and how skincare products are formulated in order to be an educated skincare consumer.  The more you know the better choices you can make for your skin, and you can save yourself time and money from buying the wrong products.  Part of that education is learning to read a skincare label instead of just blindly believing the manufacturers’ hype and marketing campaign.  But don’t let the skincare label be your be all or end all in order to know if a skincare product is right for you.  Try products first before rebuffing them.  Ask for samples and find online reviews from people who have actually tried the product before rejecting a product based just on reading the ingredient list or taking advice from someone who reviews products only according to their ingredient list.  Two websites that I like for product reviews combine both information about the products’ ingredients and actually try the products themselves before writing a review.  Those websites are FutureDerm and Lab Muffin.

One last thing – ever wondered what all those symbols (letters, numbers, and pictures) are on your beauty product container?  Into the Gloss has a guide that explains them all.

Image from http://www.rainshadowlabs.com

 

Reading Roundup March 17, 2014

It’s time for me to once again share a whole bunch of skincare and beauty related article that I thought you my readers would enjoy:

And now for a few articles for my fellow estheticians (and anyone else for that matter):

Happy Reading!

Image from http://www.theguardian.com

 

What I’ve Been Reading November 28, 2013

Spa cake pops

It’s been awhile since I wrote a post sharing the various articles I’ve been reading.  This week I finally found time to sit down and go through all my emails and catch-up on my skincare reading.  Here are my favorite articles that I’ve read lately:

And last, but definitely not least, my favorite article from those that I’ve read lately is The Wall Street Journal piece: Grooming Secrets of the NBA.  Even if you’re not a basketball fan this is a fun read.  I think I might start getting some skincare ideas from professional male athletes :).

Read any good beauty or skin related articles lately?  If you have please share below.

Image from mysweetindulgence.com, found on Pinterest

 

Dairy, Carbs, Sugar and Acne: Is There a Connection? September 12, 2013

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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I’ve written a lot in this blog about the connection between food and acne and diet and skincare in general.  (See the links at the end of this post)  This post will highlight new research that has emerged about the connection between diet and acne.

From the Skin Inc. article Long-term Research Links and High Sugar Foods to Acne we learn the following:

Review of 50 years of clinical studies indicates there may be a link between diet and acne after all. It’s been a subject of debate for decades, but it seems diet really does have an impact on a person’s complexion.

A landmark overview of research carried out over the past 50 years has found that eating foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) and drinking milk not only aggravated acne, but in some cases triggered it, too.  …

Since the late 19th century, research has linked diet to acne, with chocolate, sugar and fat singled out as the main culprits. But studies carried out from the 1960s onwards have disassociated diet from the development of the condition.

Jennifer Burris, researcher and doctoral candidate within New York University’sDepartment of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health in Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, says, “This change [in attitude] occurred largely because of the two important studies that are repeatedly cited in the literature and popular culture as evidence to refute the association between diet and acne.

“More recently, dermatologists and registered dietitians have revisited the diet-acne relationship and become increasingly interested in the role of medical nutritional therapy in acne treatment.”

Eating high GI foods – foods that are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly – is thought to have a direct effect on the severity of acne because of the hormonal fluctuations that are triggered. High GI foods cause a spike in hormone levels including insulin which is thought to instigate sebum production. A 2007 Australian study showed that young males who were put on a strict low GI diet noticed a significant improvement in the severity of their acne.

Milk is thought to affect acne because of the hormones it contains. A 2007 study carried out by Harvard School of Public Healthfound that there was a clear link between those who drank milk regularly and suffered with acne. Interestingly, those who drank skimmed milk suffered with the worst breakouts, with a 44% increase in the likelihood of developing blemishes. It is thought that processing the milk increases the levels of hormones in the drink.

Another Skin Inc. article expands on what I referenced above:

“The strongest evidence we have to date of a link between diet and acne comes from the glycemic index studies,” says Whitney P. Bowe, MD, FAAD, who is the lead author of the article “Diet and Acne,” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. “These studies show that low-glycemic index diets may improve acne. The consumption of high-glycemic index foods appears to trigger a cascade of responses, which can lead to acne through effects on growth hormones and sex hormones,” Bowe adds.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-rich foods based on their potential to increase blood sugar levels. For example, high GI foods include white bread, chips and white potatoes; low GI foods include multi-grain bread, peanuts, vegetables and beans.

A study of 23 Australian males ages 15–25 who followed a strict, low-glycemic load (LGL) diet experienced significant improvement in acne severity by adhering to a LGL diet. However, the participants in the LGL group also lost weight, which means the LGL diet may not solely be attributed to the outcome. Specifically, studies have also shown that acne improves when the patients’ blood sugar levels are controlled and a low-carbohydrate diet stabilizes hormones.

In addition, a web-based survey assessing the role of a low-glycemic diet in the treatment of acne found that 86.7% of the 2,528 dieters who completed this online survey reported improvements in their skin while following this diet. Still, based on some of the flaws in the design of the study, the results must be interpreted with “cautious optimism,” says Bowe.

Although there is weak evidence that dairy also impacts acne, Bowe says there’s still a possibility that an association may exist. While there were several flaws in the studies, “Dairy does appear to be weakly associated with acne, with the strongest association being skim milk,” according to Bowe. While the exact mechanism behind this association is unclear, she suspects that hormones and growth factors in milk might play a role.

While more clinical research is needed to determine dairy’s impact on acne severity, Bowe advises patients to speak with their dermatologist to determine if certain dairy products aggravate their acne. She also says patients who choose to limit dairy products should supplement their diets with appropriate levels of calcium and vitamin D.

(From Can Eating Carbs Give You Pimples?)

Still not convinced about the connection between acne and diet?  Check out the following information about societies that ate a plant based diet and acne:

Rural cultures with diets high in fruits, nuts and root vegetables have been observed to have a very minimal incidence of acne. Communities of Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and Achè hunter-gatherers of Paraguay were observed to not even have a single comedo while eating their native diets rich in fruits, coconut, wild foods and fish, with minimal amounts of Western foods. Similar rural cultures, which have zero incidence of acne, suddenly experience breakouts when introduced to a Western culture and diet.  This suggests that the disorder cannot be solely attributed to genetics, but is likely sourced from differing environmental factors.

These studies point to whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as having a positive correlation with clear skin. This makes sense: Plants are, by and large, some of the strongest anti-inflammatory food sources available. By increasing daily intake of fruits, greens and vegetables, clients biologically increase their immunity and could potentially decrease signs of acne.

(From The Diet-Acne Connection – Skin Inc.)

So how can you change your diet in order to prevent breakouts?  Here are some suggestions:

Choosing low GI foods

  • Only carbohydrates have a GI rating.
  • Because low GI foods take longer for the body to break down they help you feel fuller for longer too.
  • High GI foods include sugary fizzy drinks, cakes, pastries, chocolate, white bread and potatoes.
  • Low GI foods include fruit and vegetables, wholegrain options such as brown pasta, basmati rice, couscous and pulses.
  • Not overcooking your pasta and vegetables helps lower the GI.
  • Watch for food triggers that may seem to aggravate acne.
  • Keep a food diary and share it with your dermatologist.
  • Be patient. It may take up to 12 weeks of a diet change to determine if certain foods are contributing to acne.
  • Continue following your regular acne treatment routine. Diet changes are only a small part of an acne treatment plan and are meant to be used in conjunction with proven medical therapies for acne.

Have you seen a connection between your diet and your breakouts?  Please share your experiences below.

My Related Posts:

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For My Fellow Estheticians and For Aspiring Estheticians: Resources and Inspiration July 31, 2013

Spa day cake

No matter what industry you are in you know how important it is to keep improving and learning.  Everyone experiences burn out sometimes and needs inspiration in order to keep doing their best.  I’ve been thinking about these themes lately are they pertain to being an esthetician and thought I would share some articles, a book, and a website recommendation with my readers.  I know that quite a few estheticians read my blog (which makes me very happy) and aspiring estheticians as well.  Even if you aren’t an esthetician I hope that you’ll find this post helpful as well.

Book Recommendation

I just completed reading Lydia Sarfati’s book Success at Your Fingertips: How to Succeed in the Skin Care Business and am so happy that I got a chance to read this book!  Sarfati is the founder and president of the skincare line Repechage and an experienced esthetics professional.  She started her career as an esthetician and now owns Repechage and spas; she is also a spa industry consultant.  This book shares  invaluable experience, expertise, and advice for all estheticians – from those just beginning their career to those who have been treating skin for a long time.  Sarfati outlines how to start your own successful business, how to hire and manage employees (as a spa employee myself I thought this chapter was great since so many spas mismanage their employees), how to achieve retail goals, how to market yourself and your spa, and lastly how to balance your work life with your personal life.  This book did a great job at touching on all the important issues that estheticians have to deal with while being very readable and relatable.  If you are thinking of starting your own spa business this book is a must read, and even if you work for someone else at the moment you’ll find valuable tips in this book about how to succeed as an esthetician.  Even if you don’t work in the esthetics field I think her advice can be very helpful.  The chapter about managing employees can certainly help all bosses, no matter what profession they are in.  Highly recommended!

Though this book has nothing to do with skincare lately I’ve been reminded how important our words are and which words we choose to use (or not to use in a lot of cases).  Those thoughts made me reread an old favorite called Togue Fu! .  Knowing how to communicate with our clients (and our managers and our coworkers) correctly makes us much better estheticians.  As a matter of fact, without good communications skills it doesn’t matter how much skincare knowledge we have as estheticians we just won’t succeed.  So if you feel like you need some help in the communication department I definitely recommend reading this book.

Recommended Blog 

If you are thinking about becoming an esthetician or have just finished esthetics school it can be hard to find real-life information about your chosen field.  Looking for a job, especially when you still don’t have experience, can seem overwhelming at times.  Recently I discovered the blog My Life as an Esthetician which provides readers with very valuable information about being an esthetician such as resume advice and possible career paths   once you have your license.  It is well worth checking out.

Recommended Reading

Skin Inc. has published a number of interesting articles lately on how to maintain and manage your client base:

Recommended Resource

I’m a little late to the game with recommending the following website/forum, Skin Care Professionals, but I’m very glad I finally found it.  I follow a few esthetician groups on Linked In and find them very helpful as a way to connect and learn from my fellow estheticians and this website provides another way to connect with your fellow estheticians.  Once your membership with the site is approved you can post and respond to questions in the forum section. Many times as esthetician we work solo or only with a few other estheticians so having a way to “talk” with other estheticians can be invaluable and career enriching.  I always tell people that one of the reasons I love being an esthetician is that estheticians, for the most part, are friendly and helpful to one another, always willing to dispense tips and advice to one another.

I hope this post has both inspired and helped my fellow estheticians and all other readers as well.  Wishing everyone lots of career success and happiness!

My Related Posts:

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Psoriasis Information March 13, 2013

Filed under: Skin Conditions — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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Lately I have come across a few articles about the skin disease psoriasis so I thought I would share the information here.  I’ve addressed the issue of psoriasis before in this blog (see my post August is Psoriasis Awareness Month), but I wanted to go into greater detail here about this disease.

Just what is psoriasis and how many people does it affect?  In the article The Biology Behind Eczema and Psoriasis in Skin Inc. Dr. Claudia Aguirre explains:

Psoriasis has been confused with eczema, lupus, boils, vitiligo and leprosy. Because of the confusing connection with leprosy in ancient times, psoriasis sufferers were even made to wear special suits and carry a rattle or bell, like lepers, announcing their presence. Only in the 19th century was a distinction made between psoriasis and leprosy, alleviating some of the psychosocial impact of this highly visible and distressing skin disease.9 As with eczema, it presents as itchy, red skin and involves altered immunity. However, its complexities reach far beyond the surface of the skin. People with psoriasis have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity and other immune-related inflammatory diseases—even cancer. The mysteries behind this complicated and debilitating skin disease are only beginning to be unraveled. Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory multisystem disease affecting 1–3% of the world’s population.3 Whereas the rashes on eczematous skin can have irregular edges and texture, psoriatic lesions tend to be more uniform and distinct. Red or pink areas of thickened, raised and dry skin typically present on the elbows, knees and scalp. This presentation tends to be more common in areas of trauma, abrasions or repeated rubbing and use, although any area may be affected. Unlike eczema, psoriasis comes in five different forms: plaque, guttate, pustular, inverse and erythrodermic.

Plaque psoriasis affects about 80% of those who suffer from psoriasis, making it the most common type. …

It may initially appear as small red bumps that can then enlarge and form scales. The hallmarks of this type are raised, thickened patches of red skin covered in silvery scales. The other types are less common and present inflamed skin with red bumps; pustules; cracked, dry skin; and even burned-looking skin. Clients will most likely be under a physician’s care, who will diagnose the type of psoriasis present.

As of today, psoriasis has no cure. A single cause of the disease has yet to be uncovered, but it is known that developing the disease involves the immune system, genetics and environmental factors. In psoriasis, aberrant immune activity causes inflammatory signals to go haywire in the epidermis, causing a buildup of cells on the surface of the skin. While normal skin takes 28–30 days to mature, psoriatic skin takes only 3–4 days to mature and, instead of shedding off, the cells pile up on the surface of the skin, forming plaques and lesions. The underlying reason may be due to the hyperactivity of T-cells, which end up on the skin and trigger inflammation and keratinocyte overproduction. Although it is not known why this happens, it is known that the end result is a cycle of skin cells growing too fast, dead cell-debris accumulation and resulting inflammation.

Many psoriasis sufferers receive medication from their doctors but there is encouraging research that the use of OTC AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) can help improve psoriasis symptoms.  In the post How Alpha Hydroxy Acids Could Help Treat Psoriasis Rebecca Harmon writing on Future Derm explains:

In common plaque psoriasis, the overgrowth of skin cells that collect at elbows, knees, hands, scalp, face and other areas can cause embarrassment and in some cases can be painful as clothing catches and pulls on the dry skin patches.

During a particularly hard-to-manage outbreak in my late 20’s, I was desperate to avoid the greasy and expensive steroid cream ($50 for a small tube) and smelling like the back end of a large coal truck wasn’t working for me either.  My particular case was cosmetically disturbing but not medically-complicated so I decided to stop buying the $50 prescription cream and turned to the beauty industry which was just beginning to offer face cream with AHA’s.

I quickly became a fan as I discovered that the flaky psoriasis patches on my face disappeared with a skin care regimen that included a daily application of the AHA face cream. Those were my stay-at-home-with-babies days, and I was as far removed from research or academic writing as one could be, but I didn’t need the denial of a null hypothesis to tell me that this was working.  I used it twice daily on my face and then started rubbing it in to my elbows and knees.  I still laugh remembering the cosmetic rep who finally asked how much face cream I was using (I ordered a lot of this stuff!).

And, yet, the research is in my favor. One study of 12 patients found that a creams with 15% glycolic acid, as well as .05% betamethasone, respectively, were helpful in reducing erythema, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and lowering Laser Doppler values (Dry Skin and Moisturizer). And alpha hydroxy acids mixed with betamethasone were found to be even more effective in treating psoriasis in a double-blind, split-face, single site clinical study (JEAVD).

I have experienced mild outbreaks of psoriasis since that period but have continued to treat them with AHA-based lotions with consistent results.

And Rebecca isn’t the only extolling AHAs as a psoriasis cure from personal experience.  In the post We Answer Cara Delevingne’s Skin SOS: Psoriasis Alexandra Owens writes in Allure that:

A few years ago, I accidently discovered that Bliss Ingrown Eliminating Pads relieved my symptoms even better than prescription creams I’d tried. I asked New York dermatologist Doris Day why they work so well. “The alpha and beta hydroxy acids [in the pads] would help thin out the plaques of psoriasis, and the oat extracts, witch hazel, and lavender oil would soothe and hydrate the skin—but I would still apply a moisturizer after using them,” she says. “The nice thing about the ingredients being in a pad is that it’s easy to apply to the affected areas.” Another nice thing: You don’t need to see a doctor to get your hands on them.

When it comes to treating clients with psoriasis at the spa keep things simple and gentle and place an emphasis on encouraging relaxation.  Once again I’ll turn to the Skin Inc. article mentioned above:

Both eczema and psoriasis clients have impaired barrier function and increased inflammation, so your goal will be to protect and repair. Remember to always check first with your client’s physician for contraindications to medications and therapies, because some ingredients may counteract each other. For example, salicylic acid may seem a likely choice for exfoliating psoriatic skin, but could, in fact, inactivate a common topical treatment for psoriasis.

Once a full consultation with the client and possibly her physician is completed, proceed with a treatment using minimal products and procedures. A good way to compensate for minimal skin treatment time is to add on stress-relieving techniques, because there is a psychological component to eczema and psoriasis. Complementary therapies, such as aromatherapy, acupressure, reflexology, massage and inhalation techniques can be coupled with skin treatments to lower stress hormones and control inflammation.

Gentle cleansing and exfoliation is crucial to allow the penetration of rich, emollient moisturizers used on dry, sensitive skin. Avoid harsh exfoliants and detergents, and look for ingredients, such as lactic acid. Use anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as red hogweed, ginger, oats and chamomile, coupled with barrier-repairing oils, including evening primrose, borage, argan and sea buckthorn. Finishing a treatment with a physical sunscreen, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide will ensure that harmful UV rays do not cause further damage.

Bottom Line:  Though there is currently no cure for psoriasis there are ways to keep symptoms under control.  Since stress makes psoriasis worse finding ways to reduce stress is an integral part of psoriasis treatment and estheticians can certainly be a positive part of that process.

Further Reading:

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How Our Skin Gets Its Color and Tone July 30, 2012

Filed under: Skin and Skincare — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
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With the myriad of beautiful skin colors and tones the world over have you ever wondered how our skin gets its color and tone?  The process by which the skin’s melanin behaves is both interesting and complex.

The Skin Inc. article The Anatomy of Global Skin Tones helps to explain how skin color is produced:

The discerning factor in many ethnic groups is skin color. The color of the skin is produced in the deepest layer of the epidermis—the basal layer—which houses not only the keratinocytes responsible for the progression of cells to produce the epidermis, but also the melanocytes responsible for the production of melanin. Melanin plays a key role in protecting the skin from the penetration of UV rays. The darker the skin, the less UV penetration and the lower the incidence of skin cancer. The number of pigment-producing cells, called melanocytes, is equal, no matter what the skin color. The difference is the structure and function of these cells.

To produce melanin, there has to be two components: an enzyme—tyrosinase, and an amino acid—tyrosine. When these two components go through a conversion process called dopa, melanin is produced. In skin of color, there is increased tyrosinase activity, producing a more concentrated melanin content. The pigment granule’s size is the basis for skin color differences; the darker the skin, the larger the granule.

There are two distinct components of melanin. One is constitutive melanin, or pigmentation, and the other is facultative pigmentation. Constitutive pigmentation is the pigment that resides within the keratinocytes and is produced from the body’s own metabolism. Facultative pigmentation is introduced through external stimuli.

The melanocyte is a dendritic cell. The dendrites are tentaclelike projections that enable pigment cells to be deposited into the keratinocyte. These projections are longer in darker skin, enabling pigment granule dispersion into the upper layers of the epidermis.

Another unique difference in darker skin is that pigment granules—also known as melanosomes—are dispersed singularly over the nucleus of the keratinocyte. In Caucasian skin, the granules are considerably smaller and are released in clusters. Racially blended and lighter global skin colors disperse a combination of both single—and clusters of—pigment granules. The activity of a melanosome transfer generally takes place within the lower and upper spinosum layer. In some cases, the transferral is disseminated as pigment droppings into the dermis as a result of injury or trauma to the skin.

And what about how your skin reflects light?  This turns out to be an interesting scientific issue as well.  Another Skin Inc. article offers an explanation:

Reflection and refraction of light play a large role in the perception of overall skin tone. About 5% of the light that hits facial skin is reflected off the skin’s surface, while the other 95% penetrates it.5–9 It is this light reflection process that gives human skin its optical depth. The white light passing through skin’s transparent surface reflects off of collagen, which essentially acts as a mirror beneath the surface. As the light reflects back to the surface, it absorbs color from pigments such as melanin and blood within skin’s many layers. Colored light is then diffused softly by the surface, generating a luminous glow.

With aging, collagen becomes more like an antique mirror, and light passes through it, compromising the skin’s ability to reflect and refract light. Additionally, uneven distributions of melanin, or age spots, and hemoglobin, or dilated or broken blood vessels, in the skin can further impede or scatter light, contributing to a dull, less luminous complexion.

(From Talking Tone: Melanin Under the Microscope)

These explanations about how our skin gets its color and tone are also a great reminder about how complex our skin and its processes are.  Never underestimate it!

Image from braintraining101.com

 

Foods That Prevent Skin Cancer? July 26, 2012

My newest skin obsession is finding out how the foods we eat impact our skin both positively and negatively.  Recently I came across the following information about foods that may help prevent skin cancer.

According to Prevention magazine (August, 2012, page 26):

Supplements – including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from berries, green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate – may help protect against skin cancer, a recent spate of studies show.  “Regularly drinking green tea or adding antioxidants in the form of vitamin E or beta-carotene may be helpful, although topical use shows greater promise,” says Andrew Weil, MD, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.  “Compounds found in grapes (resveratrol); berries (ellagic acid); cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and brussel sprouts; garlic; onions; and the spice turmeric also show promise for general cancer prevention.”  But the effects are modest, Dr. Weil says.  Preliminary studies also suggest that Heliocare, an oral supplement made from South American fern plants, may boost the body’s defense against sun damage slightly, but it’s very expensive.  So don’t forget the sunblock!

And drinking caffeinated coffee may help prevent certain types of skin cancer as well:

Drinking more cups of caffeinated coffee could lower a person’s risk of developing the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, according to a recent study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Our data indicate that the more caffeinated coffee you consume, the lower your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma,” said Jiali Han, associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston and Harvard School of Public Health.

Han and his colleagues conducted a prospective analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a large and long-running study to aid in the investigation of factors influencing women’s health, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, an analogous study for men.

Of the 112,897 participants included in the analyses, 22,786 developed basal cell carcinoma during the more than 20 years of follow up in the two studies. The results revealed a decrease in the risk for basal cell carcinoma as coffee consumption increased. Similar results were seen with other caffeinated products such as tea, cola and chocolate. Caffeinated coffee also reduced risk for other serious conditions such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

However, consumption of decaffeinated coffee was not associated with a decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma, the study found. Also, neither coffee consumption nor caffeine intake were associated with the two other forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Still, Han said more studies in different populations are needed before the group can make a “definite” determination on the impact of caffeine on these serious health conditions.

(Skin Inc.Study Says Caffeinated Coffee Decreases Skin Cancer Risk)

At least now I know my morning coffee is protecting my skin instead of hurting it, and I’ll continue to drink my green tea in order to help my skin.

 

April is Rosacea Awareness Month April 23, 2012

Filed under: Skin and Skincare,Skin Conditions — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
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April is Rosacea Awareness Month so I thought it would be a good time to remind my readers about this skin disease.

Here are some basic facts about rosacea:

Rosacea usually first strikes individuals between the ages of 30–60, and may initially resemble a simple sunburn or an inexplicable blush. Suddenly, without warning, a flush comes to their cheeks, nose, chin or forehead. Then, just when they start to feel concerned, the redness disappears.

Unfortunately, it happens again and again, becoming ruddier and lasting longer each time–and eventually visible blood vessels may appear. Without treatment, bumps and pimples often develop, growing more extensive over time, and burning, itching and stinging are common.

In severe cases, especially in men, the nose may become enlarged from the development of excess tissue. This is the condition that gave comedian W.C. Fields his trademark red, bulbous nose. In some people the eyes are also affected, feeling irritated and appearing watery or bloodshot. Severe cases of this condition, known as ocular rosacea, can result in reduced visual acuity.

Among the most famous rosacea sufferers is former President Bill Clinton, whose doctors disclosed that he has this condition in The New York Times. Others reported to have suffered from the disorder include Princess Diana, financier J.P. Morgan and the Dutch painter Rembrandt.

In new NRS surveys, 69% of rosacea patients said they experienced a flare-up related to emotional stress at least once a month, and more than 90% of the respondents said they had suffered some form of physical pain from their condition. A burning sensation was the most commonly reported discomfort, named by 75%, followed by itching, cited by 65%, and stinging, mentioned by 62%. Other types of pain associated with rosacea included swelling (44%), tightness (42%), tenderness (40%), tingling (31%), prickling (23%) and headache (20%).

Perhaps even more ravaging than its physical effects, rosacea often inflicts significant damage to people’s emotional, social and professional lives.

Source:  Only on SkinInc.com: April is Rosacea Awareness Month – Are You Helping Rosacea Clients Cope?

Though there is no cure for rosacea this skin disease can be kept under control by making lifestyle adjustments (avoiding alcohol and steam rooms, applying proper sun protection, and avoiding other individual triggers) and using the right skincare products.  The right skincare products will be soothing, gentle, and anti-inflammatory.  Figuring out what triggers your rosacea to become worse and then avoiding and controlling those triggers makes a huge difference in how your rosacea looks and then affects your life.

Hopefully in the future scientists and doctors will find a cure for this skin disease.

Sources and Further Reading:

Image from buynaturalskincare.com

 

The Peptide Puzzle: Hype or a Real Breakthrough? November 28, 2011

If you are someone who is interested in anti-aging advances you’ve probably been hearing about peptides for quite some time.  Since being added to skincare products peptides have been touted as a true anti-aging breakthrough and as an ingredient that will revitalize and rejuvenate the skin.  Yet the question remains – are peptides truly an anti-aging breakthrough or is this just a lot of marketing hype?

What Are Peptides and What Do They Claim To Do?

Simply put – a peptide is a chain of amino acids that form a protein.  Peptides have numerous applications when it comes to our health and wellbeing, but when it comes to skincare peptides are said to repair and regenerate the skin and to help rebuild collagen.  But before you go out and purchase a product with peptides in it (these products are usually very expensive) there are a few things to keep in mind:

Peptides are biologically active compounds that closely resemble proteins—both are chains of amino acids. The difference? Peptide chains include fewer amino acids. Generally, a chain with more than 50 amino acids is a protein while those with fewer is a peptide. However, there are exceptions. Peptides are classified according to their length. Therefore, you’ll often encounter terms such as dipeptides—two amino acids; tripeptides—three; tetrapeptides- four; pentapeptides—five; and so on. Although there are probably thousands of naturally occurring peptides, to date, only several hundred have been characterized.1

Peptides play an array of important roles in the body, depending on the type. They may reduce inflammation, enhance antioxidant defense mechanisms, regulate bodily functions and even offer analgesic properties. In cosmeceuticals, three types of peptides are used, including:

  • Signal peptides that encourage fibroblasts to increase production of collagen while decreasing the breakdown of existing collagen;
  • Neurotransmitter peptides that limit muscle contraction and, thus, are said to mimic the effects of botulinum toxin; and
  • Carrier peptides that stabilize and deliver trace elements necessary for wound-healing and enzymatic processes.

Given that signs of skin aging, including fine lines and wrinkles, are caused by a breakdown of collagen and elastin—the proteins that give skin strength and elasticity, as well as slow cellular turnover—the abilities of these peptides seem the perfect match for skin care formulations. However, not only are peptides expensive to utilize, in their natural state they also have shortcomings that significantly limit their potential in skin care applications. These shortcomings include the following.

  • Peptides have a large molecular size and are hydropholic (water-liking), so they are unable to penetrate the lipopholic (fat-liking) stratum corneum layer of the epidermis.2 Despite this, peptides are generally unstable in water-based formulations. The presence of water breaks down the peptide bond, rendering it inactive.3
  • Should peptides be absorbed, the abundant presence of enzymes found in the skin can also break down peptide bonds.4

Fortunately, peptides are easily modified to improve their characteristics relative to use in skin care formulations. Chemists have found creative ways to overcome their limitations, such as attaching a fatty acid component to improve absorption into the skin, specific activity and economic feasibility.

Source:Peptides: Ready for Primetime?  by Ahmed Abdullah, MD in SkinInc.

Do Peptides Really Work in Skincare Products?

Here are some more consumer tips to keep in mind before purchasing a product with peptides in it:

Although chemists have found ways to optimize peptides for use in topical skin care formulations, they still face hurdles before they can generate the results anticipated by the consumers who buy them. Assuming the peptide has been modified to improve its stability in skin care formulations, through chemistry, the use of appropriate product packaging and its ability to penetrate the skin, it’s still essential that the product feature an effective delivery system to reach the target area where collagen synthesis, wound-healing and other activities may occur. Only when the peptide is absorbed by the skin and delivered to the targeted area in a stable form will it stand the potential of generating results.1

Formulators are certainly rising to this challenge. Sophisticated new delivery systems are regularly being developed, and the onus is on skin care professionals to stay on top of these new developments to ensure the products they are recommending stand a strong chance of truly providing their marketed benefits.

Another challenge: To be effective, peptides must be utilized in appropriate concentrations. Unfortunately, ingredient concentrations within a formulation are rarely disclosed on the label. Given the generally high cost of peptides, some manufacturers use them in concentrations below those utilized in scientific research or recommended by the peptide manufacturer. This is a marketing trick that allows the company to tout the use of a certain peptide and charge a lower price for the product. However, the formulation is nearly certain to be ineffective. Because of this, it is important to request and obtain backup research for product claims from manufacturers.

Speaking of research, although some third-party studies do exist that demonstrate positive outcomes from the use of peptides in skin care, there remains the issue of consumer expectations. For example, acetyl hexapeptide-8 is incapable of delivering results similar to that of botulinum toxin injections. Yet, this mantra is still promoted by many consumers and even individuals within the industry when referring to this compound. Because of this, consumer expectations are often out of line with the true capabilities of some peptide products. To be clear, if peptides were indeed able to produce results that matched much of the hype, they would be classified as drugs and require U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for use. To that point, it’s often necessary to downplay much of the hype surrounding the use of these ingredients until a stronger base of unbiased research exists.

Source:Peptides: Ready for Primetime?  by Ahmed Abdullah, MD in SkinInc.

There are even more issues with peptides to keep in mind.  Here is what Dr. Ellen Marmur in her book Simple Skin Beauty has to say about peptides (pages 288-289):

 Much like growth factors, peptides are a bioengineered version of a natural element in the body.  (Some natural moisturizers contain plant peptides, derived from wheat or rice.  Along the same lines as kinetin, which has a plant growth factor, these may work as well as biotech versions.  Considering that we don’t know what will penetrate the skin anyway, why not?)  The idea of adding peptides to the skin is theoretically like sending in a surge of troops to carry out repair and regeneration.  In vitro tests have found that pentapeptide-4 does prompt fibroblasts to product more collagen in cell cultures.  (As usual, there is a serious lack of truly objective data since the companies that manufacture the peptide ingredients have funded most of the studies.)  And remember, a cell culture is a dish of cells and is far cry from your skin.

My bottom line:  Can peptides penetrate to the dermis to stimulate collagen production?  Without scientific studies that biopsy the skin, it’s difficult to assess whether they can and if they really work.  The inspiration behind these ingredients makes sense, and time will tell if some may be effective antiagers.  Because peptides happen to be effective humectants, a product containing them will successfully hold moisture in the skin.

They’re worth a try, especially since you’re assured of getting an excellent humectant and most include antioxidant components too.

On the other hand, Dr. Leslie Baumann lists peptides as one of the “most misleading skin care claims of 2009“:

The theory is that topically applying peptides can trick our skin cells into producing even more collagen. In reality, peptides don’t penetrate the skin — if they did, other peptides such as insulin would already be supplied by creams rather than injections. Products like StriVectin may make the skin feel smooth but they have not been shown to have long-term clinically-significant benefits.

The Beauty Brains has even more damning things to say about peptides (though keep in mind that The Beauty Brains post I am quoting from is from 2008)

Peptides have no function in skin care products.  They do not increase collagen or prevent DNA damage.  They are story ingredients that make people feel better about the products they are using.  There’s nothing bad about them in your skin product.  They just don’t provide much benefit.

Should You Buy a Skincare Product with Peptides In It? 

So who do you believe when it comes to the benefits of peptides in skincare products?  I’m on the fence about this one – I do think that peptides in skincare products could be great, just make sure you get the right product.  Remember these products are pricey.  There are two good sources for specific product information – one is FutureDerm and another is Paula Begoun’s Beautypedia.  I would check both of these sources before making any purchases.

Further Reading:  Here are some more resources for peptide information – both for and against their use in skincare products

 

 
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