Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

I Tried It: Micellar Water January 5, 2017


Micellar waters are not a new skincare product.  They have been used in Europe, from what I can gather mainly in France, for quite some time.  In the last two years or so they became a hit States side, and more and more companies (both large and small) have come out with their version of this cleansing product.  When I first heard about micellar waters I was very intrigued, and when I saw this Garnier one on sale at my local drugstore I had to buy it.

Micellar water is said to gently cleanse the skin and has the added bonus of not having to rinse it off after using (more on that later in this post).  If you are one who likes to go camping (not me!) or spends days at outdoor festivals (once again not me!) having micellar water on hand means you can cleanse your face without having indoor plumbing nearby. It is also a good solution for making yourself presentable after a long flight when you are stuck freshing up in a cramped airplane bathroom.

The use of micellar waters as a skincare cure-all has been catching on recently.  You can find quite a few articles in the mainstream beauty world toting micellar water as the next great thing for your skin for all sorts of reasons such as the hard water you use to rinse your face after washing it destroys your skin so using a micellar water, which you don’t rinse off, is better for your skin.  Or that it must be great if the French love it.

For more information about how hard water affects our skin please see my post Hard Water and Your Skin.

The Science Behind Micellar Water

When I finally learned the in-depth science about micellar water via The Beauty Brains I realized that micellar waters were just mild cleansers.  There isn’t really anything special about them except perhaps for the fact that you do not need to rinse them off after use (once again more on that in a bit).  I suggest listening or reading to The Beauty Brains entire explanation about micellar waters, but I’ll share a few highlights here:

Micelles are structures that are formed when surfactant are dissolved in water. Remember that surfactants, short for surface active agents, are used in beauty products as cleansers and emulsifiers that help mix oil and water soluble ingredients.

If you look at the chemical structure of surfactants they typically have a long oil soluble tail and water soluble polar head group.  When surfactants are present in water at a certain concentration, they begin to assemble into larger structures based on the water soluble/oil soluble parts of the molecule. The oil soluble tails try to group together to get away from the water. The lowest energy state for them is to have all the tails together so they are shielded from water by the polar head groups – which again, water soluble. Think of it as a ball or sphere of surfactant molecules with head on outside, tails facing inside.

These spheres of surfactants are called micelles and the concentration of surfactant required to form them is called the Critical Micelle Concentration or CMC. …

Yeah, if you look at the ingredient list for products that claim to be micellar waters they tend NOT to use traditional, high foaming surfactants. Instead they use a combination of nonionic surfactants, which tend to be milder on skin. One of most common nonionic surfactant used in micellar waters is Poloxamer 184.  …

So overall, yes, these MW products are likely to be milder than many other cleansers. And, unlike traditional foaming cleanser’s they don’t necessarily have to be rinsed. They may even provide more of pleasant after feel than other cleansing products.

I have to say that companies have done a great job marketing these products. Somehow, these seem so special that they should be really expensive.

As you can see from The Beauty Brains explanation marketing hype plays a big part in the popularity of micellar waters.  Yes, someone with sensitive, easily irritated skin could find them to be helpful for their skin, but there are many more mild cleansers on the market that will probably be just as good, if not better, for their skin.

You can also get a great explanation (with helpful pictures) by reading Lab Muffin’s post about micellar water.   This post brings up a good point at the end – do you need to rinse off the micellar water even though it says you do not?  The rinse may be needed because of the surfactants that can potentially be irritating if left on the skin.  My skin never feels great after using micellar water; instead it feels like there is a layer of, well, something still on my skin after using the product, but I only use it as the first step in a double cleanse so I do rinse my skin after using a micellar water.  You need to play it by ear, but if you are using micellar water at home and as your only facial cleanser definitely consider rinsing your face after using it so that the surfactants do not stay on your skin.

My Experience

I use micellar water on a regular basis as the first step in a nightly double cleanse.  As I wrote above when I don’t rinse it off I do not like how the micellar water feels on my skin. I think micellar water is a great way to remove make-up, if you are washing your face with another cleanser afterwards.  I do find using a new cotton pad each night environmentally wasteful; I haven’t found a way around this issue yet.  Micellar water does not do a particularly good job at removing my eye make-up, but in my experience after trying a great number of make-up removers, nothing does.

Bottom Line: micellar waters can be a gentle way to cleanse your face, but they are not a miracle cleanser no matter what some people may claim.  Instead they are simply another mild cleanser.  Marketing hype can definitely blow things out of proportion.

Image from Cosmopolitan


2 Book Reviews November 12, 2013

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


 Age-less by Fredric Brandt, MD

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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

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

Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm?

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

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

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

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

Images from and


What I’ve Been Reading January 18, 2013

The Oiran Komurasaki of Kadotamaya Reading a Letter


Before you go out and make your own beauty products read this post from The Beauty Brains:   Is DIY Mascara Safe?

Gouldylox Reviews gives you straightforward advice to getting great skin in Gouldylox Beauty Bootcamp 102: How to Get and Keep Great Skin.

Allure presents three simple steps to preventing dry hands in How to Prevent Dry, Cracked Hands in Winter.

The New York Times explores oxygen spa treatments and oxygen based creams and serums in Oxygen Bubbles Into Facial Care Products.  For more information about oxygen treatments see my posts Oxygenation Treatments: The Case For and Against and Does Your Skin Need to Detoxify/Breathe?

New Beauty discusses a sunscreen pill in Sun Protection in a Pill: The Results Are In.

Prevention helps you figure out how to make your moisturizer more effective in Why Your Moisturizer Isn’t Working.

Whole Living tells you how to use coconut oil as a beauty product in 3 New Skin Care Uses for Coconut Oil.


And lastly, but certainly not least, Dr. Leslie Baumann shares skin sins in The 10 Biggest Skin Mistakes – this is a must read!



Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art – The Oiran Komurasaki of Kadotamaya Reading a Letter by Chobunsai Eishi (Japanese 1756-1829)


Chirality and Skincare December 19, 2012

I’ve never pretended that this blog is a skincare blog from a scientific perspective because frankly I’ve never been much of a science student.  When I was studying esthetics and realized that I had to refresh my high school chemistry knowledge (I received Cs in high school chemistry) I nearly had a panic attack.  As I’ve progressed in my work as an esthetician I’ve realized that science knowledge is key to understanding how skincare products work on the skin and key in helping my clients get great results from both treatments and home care products.  But I still need that science to be dumbed down for me or else my mind instantly goes blank.

All of this brings us to the subject of this post – chirality.  I wanted to address this issue since two skincare lines I’ve used make sure to explain that they are both “chirally correct”.  What does that mean exactly and how does that impact skincare products?

The two skincare lines – Glo Therapeutics and Tecniche – each explain why it is important that their products be chirally correct.  (These are just two of many skincare companies that make this claim)

Glo says:

Q: What does “Chirally Correct” mean and why is it important?

A: A molecule is considered chiral if it differs from its mirror image. For example, hold out your hands in front of you. Notice that they are mirror images of each other. If you place your right hand on top of your left hand, you can demonstrate this difference. None of the features of your hands will line up when stacked on top of each other; though they have the same features, they are exact mirors of each other. This means your hands are chiral.

Certain ingredients in glo.therapeutics products are lab produced and will be made of 2 forms: Left (L for left) and Right (D for dextro). These ingredients are mirror images of each other, not exact duplicates. One side of the ingredient is more useful and beneficial to the skin, while the other side is useless. glotherapeutics only uses the purest, highest quality form, making the products superior in the results.

Tecniche has pretty much the same thing to say:

Chirally Correct

Mother Nature creates molecules with two sides or hands, right and left. For reasons unknown to scientists, some right handed molecules work best on skin, where as some left handed molecules are better received by the skin. It may be a more extensive and expensive route, but it has been Tecniche’s™ life work to only use the ‘hand’ of the lab-neutral molecule that best mimics Mother Nature’s perfect plan (aka: Chirally Correct).

Yet is this really necessary in skincare?   Two sources that I’ve read disagree what is stated above.  First to The Beauty Brains and their post Are Cosmedix Products Another Scientific Scam:

Leatha Questions Chirality:

I have started using a skin care line called Cosmedix and they claim that their products are chirally correct. I don`t know what this means and whether it is a marketing gimmick or if there is some truth to it.

The Left Brain Criticizes Cosmedix:

chiral cosmedixThe term chiral is derived from the Greek work for handedness and a molecule is called chiral if it differs from its mirror image. (A simple way to visualize this concept is to think of your right and left hand. You can`t fit your left hand in your right glove, right? That`s because they`re chiral. You can learn more about the idea here.)

Some chemical reactions produce both the left handed and right handed version of the same molecule. These versions are called isomers. This concept is very important in drug manufacture where the Left and Right isomers may have different chemical properties. If the Left isomer is effective against a given disease, you want a chemical reaction that produces pure Left, not a mixture of Right and Left. So for drugs, chiral purity is very important.

But for cosmetic products, chirality isn`t really an issue. That’s because cosmetic ingredients don`t interact with the biological systems of your body the same way drugs do. So your first guess was correct “ this IS a marketing gimmick!

In their book Physiology of the Skin Drs. Draelos and Pugliese agree with The Beauty Brains (page 116):

A term that is being used lately is chirality.  The word chiral is from cheir, the Greek word for “hand”.  A chiral molecule is one that cannot be superimposed on its mirror image, just as you cannot superimpose your two hands in a mirror image.  Any compound that has four different atoms, or groups, attached to a single carbon is chiral.  You need to think about this for a minute or two before you realize that what you are thinking about is an asymmetrical figure, since all chiral compounds lack symmetry by definition.

More and more often, it’s being asked if a product’s chirality is correct.  What should be asked is if the product is biologically active.  Most chemical compounds in nature are chiral compounds that are biologically active, so they are indeed, correct chirally.  Asking if it is “chirally correct” is the same as asking “Is this water in this product really H2O?”  There is no such thing as chirally correct, any more than you can be facially correct.  What should be asked is, “Does this product have the correct optical isomerism?”  By being correct it is biologically active.

So what about some middle ground on this subject.  I found the following post on the blog The Science of Beauty –  What is Chirally Correct Skincare?  I’ll skip quoting the beginning of the post since it contains information I already covered above.  Let’s dive in towards the middle of the post:

Well, whilst some skincare ranges contain only naturally derived ingredients, the majority are comprised of laboratory created ingredients. It is much easier and cheaper to synthesise Vitamin E, for example, in a laboratory than to try and extract it from natural sources. Vitamin E can be found in almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, amongst other things but the quantities of these ingredients required to acquire sufficient Vitamin E, and the cost associated with extracting it would make the final skincare product exorbitantly expensive.
When molecules are synthesised by man they always form in pairs that are the mirror image of each other. So, like your left and right hand, these mirror imaged molecules contain all the same parts but are not identical to one and other. Each mirror image of the molecule is given a prefix to its chemical name – either d or l. So, using the Vitamin E example, the chemical name for Vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol so the mirror images of the molecules are called d-alpha-tocopherol and l-alpha-tocopherol. But even though these molecules are nearly identical (the only difference being the mirror image) only one of the molecules can be used by the human body – in this case the molecule with the d-prefix (d-alpha-tocopherol). So chirally correct skincare contains ingredients that have been tested to ensure that they only contain the active molecule, out of the mirror imaged pair, that can be used by the human body. The molecules are sorted so that only the active molecule is added. With Vitamin E it has already been determined that d-alpha-tocopherol the active molecule so any Vitamin E that is added to chirally correct skincare will have been sorted so that only d-alpha-tocopherol is added. If your skincare is not chirally correct, and the vitamin E molecules have not been sorted, it will be listed in the ingredients as dl-alpha-tocopherol, as it contains a 50/50 mixture of the d-alpha-tocopherol and l-alpha-tocopherol molecules.
So what happens if the molecules are not sorted? Generally nothing; however, your skincare will be less potent. When a molecule is made, equal amounts of the l-molecule and d-molecule are created. So, if your skincare range claims to have 10ml of Vitamin E in it, but the Vitamin E has not been sorted to get the chirally correct molecule then your skincare will actually contain 5ml of active Vitamin E and 5ml of a molecule that does absolutely nothing – so your skincare is half as potent as you expect. …
Therefore, there is no reason to be concerned if you are using skincare that is not chirally correct that it could be doing you damage, just be aware that it may not be as potent or effective as you think.

Bottom Line:  Like so many subject that I present in this blog there are truly opposing perspectives here on the same subject.  I think that at the moment I am inclined to agree with those who say that being chirally correct has no place in effective skincare products.  What do you think?  Please share your opinion below.

Image from


Why Does Mineral Oil Have Such A Bad Reputation? November 5, 2012

A very long time ago a reader asked me to address the issue of mineral oil in my blog.  I am just now getting around to writing this post.  My apologizes to that reader.

Let me start off with information about mineral oil that I found on the holistic lifestyle website The Chalk Board:

Toxic Tuesday Ingredient Focus: Mineral Oil (aka Paraffinum Liquidum)

WHAT IS IT? An extremely cheap & common petroleum derivative (refined crude oil petrochemical) which is found in 98% of skincare products sold in the US.

HEALTH RISK: Petrochemicals contain neurotoxins which damage the nervous system. Mineral oil forms a film on the surface of your skin that can not be absorbed, thereby blocking the pores and the skin’s natural respiration. It traps dirt and bacteria and blocks the absorption of vitamins/minerals/botanicals that may be in a product. John Hopkins University named mineral oil in cosmetics and moisturizers as the number two cause of aging (first being direct exposure to sun). It may also cause allergic reactions and dryness, as well as promote acne and other skin disorders.

Oy!  If I took everything I read at face value I would be throwing out my beauty products right now instead of writing this post.  Scary information, right?  Extreme information, right?  (I recently did a training with a very well known international skincare company during which the trainer repeated the same information about mineral oil that you see above)  So what’s the truth about mineral oil?  What was written above or is it something else?

In his book The New Ideal in Skin Health Dr. Carl Thornfeldt devotes three pages just to the topic of mineral oil.  He debunks the information above (pages 377-380):

One of the most widely used ingredients for moisturizers is the first controversial ingredient we will cover.  Petrolatum (also known as petroleum jelly and white petroleum) and mineral oil have been much maligned from “natural” based cosmetics companies, internet consumer sites and other environmental groups.  These sources erroneously claim that petrolatum and mineral oil are terrible ingredients because they come from crude oil (petroleum) which causes harm to the skin by forming an occlusive oil film, thereby “suffocating” it.  Unfortunately for these sources, this claim defies known human biology. In the body oxygen is transported to the skin by the blood supply, and then diffuses into the epidermal cells – oxygen is not absorbed directly from the air.  Herbal mucilages have been used for wound healing to soothe, protect and heal damaged or abnormal skin for centuries.  These mucilages naturally mimic the occlusive activity of petrolatum and mineral oil.  However, the “suffocating” claim is never used to dissuade use of those types of products.

Mineral oil, also known as soft paraffin, is the liquid form of petrolatum.  All of these ingredients consist of mixtures of hydrocarbons that are byproducts of crude petroleum distillation; thus they are all actually organic, natural ingredients. …

Mineral oil reduces TEWL (transepidermal water loss) by 40%, is equally as occlusive as coconut oil and more occlusive than linoleic acid, yet it does not induce acne.  Mineral oil and petrolatum provide inhibition of excessive inflammatory activity superior to 1% hydrocortisone is treating soap induced contact irritant dermatitis conducted by this author.  It has also been documented these ingredients have anticarcinogenic and mild antibacterial effects.

Many of these misconceptions regarding safety and efficacy of these ingredients are directly related to the quality of the grade.  Technical grade is the least unpurified form of the oil, and is commonly used by machinists to lubricate engines and equipment.  It is known to induce contact reactions in 10-50% of the machinists.  Cosmetic grade is a more purified option.  The highest standard is United States Pharmacopeia (USP) pharmaceutical grade, which indicates that it is essentially free of impurities.  …

Prescription pharmaceuticals and some cosmetic companies do use the highest quality USP grade in their marketed formulations.  Cosmetic companies are not required to use USP grade, even though USP grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, least irritating moistutrizing ingredients ever found in the skin care industry.  In addition, they are commonly used as a “vehicle” for most substances used in patch testing by dermatologists due to their nonirritating and nonsensitizing properties.  This is a medical diagnostic process used to determine if one is allergic to ingredients in products applied to the skin.

Neither pharmaceutical nor cosmetic grades of petrolatum or mineral oil are considered comedogenic when using the standardized comedogenicity testing.  With the highest comedogenicity rating at 5, these ingredients have tested at a 0-1 rating.  This rating indicates the increased impurities in lower grades appear to be the major cause of adverse reactions including comedogenicity, contact irritant and allergic dermatitis. …

As to claims that people react negatively even to USP grade petrolatum or mineral oil, to date all compounds used in skin care have at least one documented positive patch test response.  Even purified water applied to the skin may activate hives in people afflicted with a disease called aquagenic pruritus.  Thus, while safety testing is imperative, there can always be the exceptional patient that may react negatively to even the safest known ingredient.

If that information isn’t enough to persuade you that mineral oil in skincare products is ok let me present some more evidence.  The Beauty Brains debunked five long-held myths about mineral oil in their post The Top 5 Myths About Mineral Oil – Part 1:

We often see the advice that people should avoid mineral oil at all costs.

This idea is propagated by numerous “natural” companies. Well, this advice is just bogus. It’s not based on any scientific studies. Mineral oil is a perfectly fine ingredient and has been used in cosmetics for over 100 years.

Here are the top 5 Myths that companies tell people to make them afraid of mineral oil.

Mineral Oil Myths

1. Mineral oil is contaminated with carcinogens. While it’s true that some petroleum derivatives contain carcinogenic materials (like some polycyclic aromatic compounds) the mineral oil that is used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry is highly refined and purified. It’s purity is even regulated by the US FDA and other international regulatory agencies. There is absolutely no evidence that cosmetic grade mineral oil causes cancer. And there has been plenty of testing done to ensure that fact. We could find no published reports in any of the dermatological or medical journals indicating a link between mineral oil and any forms of cancer.

2. Mineral oil dries the skin and causes premature aging. Mineral oil works as a barrier between the skin and the air. It acts as an occlusive agent which prevents water from naturally leaving your body through your skin. It will not dry out your skin or cause premature aging. Quite the contrary. It will provide moisturization.

3. Mineral oil robs the skin of vitamins. Since many vitamins are oil based, people assume that mineral oil will pull them out of your skin. There is no legitimate scientific evidence that this is true. Mineral oil has no effect on the vitamin levels in your skin.

4. Mineral oil prevents absorption of collagen from collagen moisturizers. Collagen in your skin lotions and moisturizers is too big to actually penetrate your skin. Therefore, mineral oil will have no effect on whether the collagen gets absorbed or not.

5. Mineral oil causes acne. In some people, mineral oil can exacerbate acne problems. However, most people will not experience any problems.

So, if it is not for safety concerns, why would companies be telling you to avoid mineral oil? We’ll look at that in part 2 of our series.

The Beauty Brains Bottom line. Mineral oil is NOT bad for you or your skin. It is one of the best ingredients available in skin lotions and moisturizers. It is also 100% natural taken directly out of our dear Mother Earth.

Next I’ll turn to the blog Lab Muffin to further debunk a few mineral oil myths (From the posts – Is Mineral Oil Dangerous? Part 1 and Is Mineral Oil Dangerous? Part 2):

Mineral oil comes from crude oil… I’m not putting gasoline on my face! – FALSE

While it’s true that mineral oil comes from crude oil, it doesn’t mean that its properties are the same, or even similar to gasoline!

Crude oil is formed when biological material (from algae and plankton) gets buried under the sea. Over millions of years, the pressure transforms the carbon-containing compounds in the once-living tissue into the carbon-containing compounds which make up crude oil.

Crude oil contains lots of different things, mainly made up of carbon and hydrogen only. After it’s been pumped out of the ground, it has to be refined to separate out the different bits.

Apart from mineral oil and gasoline, things that come from crude oil include paraffin wax (found in most candles, and in cheese wax) and asphalt/bitumen. And as you know, candles and gasoline and asphalt are completely different! So just because it comes from the same stuff at the beginning doesn’t mean it’ll look, act or be the same.

Mineral oil is comedogenic and will make you break out – FALSE

Mineral oil appears on a large range of “comedogenic ingredients” lists. Once upon a time (well, in the 1970s), cosmetic companies noticed that a lot of women started getting acne from their makeup products. One scientific study on comedogenicity used the inside of a rabbit’s ear to test whether products caused pimples, and this quickly became the test of choice. However, later on, they found that sometimes the results on a rabbit and the results on a human were different. (Lab Muffin loves rabbits, and this made her sad, because an awful lot of rabbits got ear pimples for no good reason!)

A later study tested products containing between 0 and 30% mineral oil, and found that it wasn’t comedogenic on human skin. The best thing about mineral oil is that (unlike a lot of plant oils) it’s incredibly stable – it doesn’t oxidise, and stays liquid. In other words, it’s not likely to clump up later on, after reacting with oxygen and light, and clog your pores! However, this doesn’t mean that it won’t cause you to break out, since different people respond differently to certain ingredients.

It just sits on top of skin – it doesn’t moisturise! It suffocates your skin – PARTLY FALSE

There are three ways in which moisturisers moisturise – occlusive (covering your skin up so water can’t evaporate), humectant (grabbing water and keeping it next to your skin) and emollient (makes your skin feel soft) actions. Mineral oil is an excellent occlusive, so yes, it does just sit on top of your skin – but it definitely moisturises! In fact, scientists often use it as a standard for comparing other moisturisers. Of course, if you have dry skin to begin with, just putting mineral oil isn’t going to work so well (if there’s not enough water to begin with, there’s not much water to keep in!).

As to whether skin can be suffocated – skin is porous, but it doesn’t really need to “breathe”. What people usually mean by “letting your skin breathe” means washing off the dirty gunk from your pores… dirt can stick to mineral oil, just like it can stick to anything else on your face.

Because mineral oil is really good at being an occlusive, it’s possible that it can block certain nutrients in your cream from reaching your skin – the solution is to put on the active ingredient first, then cover it up with the mineral oil, and the mineral oil will keep that stuff on your skin.

Lastly, now that my sources have debunked the different myths about mineral oil perhaps you are asking yourself – if mineral oil is good for our skin why do I need another moisturizer?  Once again I’ll turn to The Beauty Brains to explain (from Why Can’t I Just Use Mineral Oil?):

Yashendwirh says…I’ve read here and several other blogs that mineral oil, vitamin-E and a few other very inexpensive products are both hydrating and non-comedogenic. Would that make them effective every day go-to moisturizers? That said, what is the benefit of spending anything more than the couple bucks it costs for these products on expensive moisturizer formulas?  Even inexpensive ones that are $10-$20 seem expensive compared to the $3 it costs for an absolutely enormous bottle of mineral oil? We know it works, why would we throw our money at anything else? Would I be doing my skin a massive disservice by forgoing my current moisturizer (clinique gel) in favor of using mineral oil long term?

The Right Brain replies

You certainly won’t be hurting your skin by using mineral oil but you may be missing out on some of the benefits of a fully formulated product. Here are three examples:

1. Balanced moisture
Fully formulated lotions contain water and ingredients that can attract water to your skin like glycerin. You won’t get that with just mineral oil.

2. Non-greasy feel
Compared to modern lotion formulas which feel nice and soft on the skin mineral oil can leave you feeling a bit, well, oily.

3. Special function ingredients
Creams and lotions can deliver sunscreens and retin-A which are both important anti-aging ingredients that you won’t get from just mineral oil.

Bottom Line:  Don’t let mineral oil scare you.  It’s an effective and worthwhile skincare ingredient.

Further Reading:

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Should You Avoid Spray On Sunscreens? June 14, 2012

Filed under: sun protection — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I spend a lot of time thinking about sun protection.  Anyone who knows me personally or professionally knows that.  So of course when I saw the following post from The Beauty Brains I got to thinking:

Rebecca requests…On a recent trip to the beach I was unfortunate enough to sit down wind of someone applying a spray on sunscreen. I think less than half of what she sprayed actually hit her body because most of it was blown away by the breeze and landed on me!  I could feel it and even see a fine film covering my  sunglasses. I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world a spray on product can provide effective sun protection. Do the spray products use different ingredients than the lotions?

The Left Brain responds:

Formulating a spray-on sunscreen does present different challenges than creating a lotion product.

Spray-on savvy

To start with, even thin emulsions are difficult to spray because they don’t atomize well and they can clog the valve. So, most spray products are solutions of UV absorbers in ethanol. That means only alcohol soluble ingredients like Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Oxybenzone can be used.   Physical sunblocks, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are not alcohol soluble so they can’t be sprayed from this type of product.  In addition, to help ensure that the sunscreen coats the skin evenly, film forming ingredients like Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer are added. These film formers helps keep prevent the alcohol solution from pooling in nooks and crannies of your skin.

Of course none of this matters if too much overspray occurs. If the spray doesn’t hit your skin it’s obviously wasted.  While they are appealing because of ease of application you may be getting less deposition than you realize, especially if you’re applying them on a windy day. Considering how important uniform sunscreen application is for the prevention of sunburn (and potentially skin cancer), I think it’s a bit risky to rely on this kind of spray application.

Perhaps that’s why sprays are not “officially” approved as sunscreens even though they are sold as such. According to an article by Stanley B Levy, MD published Medscape, as of April 11, 2012, “The FDA Final Monograph has not approved sprays as a dosage form pending further considerations and testing.”

Spray-on= $$

Furthermore, all that wasted over spray makes spray-on sunscreens potentially more expensive to use. And when you factor in the cost of ethanol (which is a more expensive  solvent than water) and the aluminum can and the valve hardware (which are more expensive than a plastic lotion bottle), you may end up paying a lot more for the convenience of not getting lotion all over your hands. I think I’ll stick with lotions.

Though I am far from a fan of the EWG this organization also urges people to avoid the use of spray sunscreens because:

Aerosol spray sunscreen packages will soon be required to display FDA-mandated warnings such as “use in a well ventilated area” and “intentional misuse… can be harmful or fatal.” These cautions highlight growing concerns that sprays pose serious inhalation risks. Spray sunscreens also make it too easy to miss a spot, leaving bare skin exposed to harmful rays.

As mentioned in the above quote from the EWG, the FDA is concerned about what people are inhaling when spray sunscreens are used:

For sunscreen spray products, the agency requested additional data to establish effectiveness and to determine whether they present a safety concern if inhaled unintentionally.  These requests arose because sprays are applied differently from other sunscreen dosage forms, such as lotions and sticks.

(From FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens)

Bottom Line:  Spray on sunscreens are a god sent for people with children who can’t and won’t sit still long enough for you to apply the proper amount of sunscreen to their skin.  Yet even with the best intentions you still run the risk of really not getting adequate sun protection when using these sunscreens.   If you can use cream and lotion sunscreens instead.



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Applying Skincare Products One on Top of the Other – Was I Wrong? April 9, 2012

Last summer I wrote a post about if you actually needed to wait in-between applying skincare products, and I pretty much concluded that unless the product manufacturer told you to wait before applying another product on top of the one you just applied or if the bottom product proved in compatible to the top product without a waiting period then there was no need to wait.

So it seems that I was slightly off the mark with the advice that I gave.  I’ve come around to a new way of looking at things because of a post I read on The Beauty Brains website and because of my experience with the Epionce skincare line.  Since starting to use Epionce I’ve learned that I have to wait, which is hard for me, between certain steps in the routine.  For instance after applying my Lytic lotion or my Retin-A (I alternate nights with these products) I have to wait at least 7 minutes, but more is preferable, before applying my Epionce moisturizer or I run the risk of deactivating the active ingredients in the Lytic lotion or Retin-A.  It turns out that you need to allow your skin to fully absorb a product before applying the next one or you run the risk of not getting all the benefits from your skincare ingredients.

So that got me thinking about how important it is to allow products with active ingredients to be fully absorbed into the skin before going ahead with your next step in your skincare routine.  My nighttime and morning skincare routines are now a matter of playing a waiting game.  I apply one product, go do something else like brush my teeth, apply another product, get dressed or put on my pjs, and then apply another product.  Quick?  No, but at least I now know my products are getting time to absorb and I am not diluting them or halting their effectiveness.

Further Reading:

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