Sunday, December 22, 2013

My take on Colloidal Silver

I have been receiving e-mails for a while now asking about colloidal silver; whether it is safe, if it will turn skin blue, and so forth. The natural beauty community seems to have a neutral to negative take on this ingredient based on comments I've read online. So rather than me writing out what I know about colloidal silver, I thought it may be more productive to directly answer or examine some beliefs about this ingredient.

What is it?

Think of colloidal silver as a suspension of tiny silver particles evenly dispersed in water.

What does it do?

Colloidal silver is used for many reasons, however in skincare products, it has an anti-bacterial and anti-viral function that acts as a natural preservative and helps to kill bacteria.

What is the problem with it?

For most people, the problem has more to do with the past than with the product itself. When it first came out, there were all sorts of health claims for colloidal silver including as a dietary supplement, HIV/AIDS cure, herpes vaccine, etc. However much of these claims are unsubstantiated through scientific testing. Furthermore, there were no dosages so people ingested large quantities to cure everything from the common cold to allergies. The build up of large doses of colloidal silver when ingested over time can lead to a condition called Argyria, which gives a blue discoloration to skin, eyes, nails, and other membranes. Argyria doesn't have any real health impacts although the appearance can be extremely disconcerting.

So what happened?

Because of these isolated cases, the FDA realized that there needed to be measures in place as this was being used as a form of oral medication without any tested medical results to back the claims. After testing, they concluded that much of the claims could not be proven true and enacted sweeping measures to restrict all manufacturers of colloidal silver who made these claims.

Why are some skincare brands using it now?

Although colloidal silver has never proven to be a legitimate source of fighting off the claims manufacturers initially suggested, it does have real efficacy as an anti-bacterial that inhibits the growth of bacteria, germs, and viruses. As it is a pure and clean ingredient (using only silver), it is considered a very natural preservative.

Why don't they use other preservatives?

As a preservative, colloidal silver delivers great results and is also fairly beneficial for the skin. This makes them exceptional as they have dual functions to both protect the formula from spoiling and provide benefit for skin. It seems that commonly detractors of any ingredient in natural beauty will make the following claims: 1) The ingredient is cheap 2) It isn't pure/natural 3) It is bad for sensitive skin!

So let's address those claims:

1. Colloidal silver is much more expensive than typical food grade preservatives (which are in turn more expensive than paraben/phenoxyethanol) because of the fact that it is a high quality and effective ingredient that uses actual silver. There I don't believe skincare lines use this ingredient to skirt the issue of cost.

In fact there is nothing budget-friendly about colloidal silver at all, the recently launched La Potion Infinie Argentum is a $245 jar of cream that is said to have anti-aging, hydrating, and anti-bacterial impact on skin. It's key ingredient is colloidal silver. Similarly, Julisis, another expensive line uses colloidal silver across its silver essence line. In this case, they're showing off their access to and use of colloidal silver as an attractive ingredient.

2. Colloidal silver contains nothing but a naturally occurring metal that contains benefits for skin compared to most other preservatives which are synthetically produced. Although I will refrain from making a judgement call on whether synthetic is worse due to the complex biochemistry, I will say from a pure/natural standpoint, colloidal silver is one of the cleanest preservatives available.

3. Unless you have an actual allergy to colloidal silver, then it won't irritate your skin. In fact many food good preservatives have been shown to have the potential to cause irritation, eye allergies, dermatitis in smaller concentrations.

But aren't other preservatives safer?

Much of the safety concern related to colloidal silver applies to extreme cases of regular ingestion. No such results have ever occurred from topical application because it just isn't realistic. This fear is akin to the fear of contracting HIV from mouth-to-mouth contact, it is misguided. Furthermore, if we're going to access safety through regular consumption, food grade preservatives don't fare any better. For instance, sodium benzoate which is used in Kahina products has been shown to have potential carcinogenic effect when combined with Vitamin C, and in large doses can impact nerve health (this was the ingredient that got Skinnygirl Margaritas into trouble a while back). Benzyl Benzoate used in Tata Harper products has been used in insecticides and has been shown to have potentially irritating effects including dermatitis on human skin.

The takeaway is that none of these preservatives are meant to be ingested straight, so when it happens there may very likely be side effects that aren't favorable. The point isn't to say other preservatives are worse, but rather to point out colloidal silver is not more dangerous than any of the other preservatives most consumers including natural green beauties happily use every day.

So why does the FDA go hard after this?

The FDA goes hard after those who continue to market colloidal silver as an oral medication that cures those unproven claims, not skincare companies who use colloidal silver as a preservative. In the same way that if the ingestion of the food-grade preservative potassium sorbate took off for unproven claims, the FDA would probably go after that as well.

On the flip side, the FDA has approved MANY products that incorporate colloidal silver for its anti-bacterial properties.

What is your take?

The pictures of people with Argyria are hard to look at, so I get the fear. But all those cases came about from a lack of education, we're more educated now. And we now know that Argyria comes from chronic long term ingestion of colloidal silver, not through topical application of skincare. With the sufficient studies that the FDA has done for the approval of topical usage of colloidal silver, I'm very comfortable with this preservative. Colloidal silver helps to maintain the stability of products and unlike most preservatives, actually seems to have skin benefits. If you're not comfortable with colloidal silver yet, look for formulas where it is listed toward the end of the ingredients listing as those concentrations are incredibly harmless.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Do toners do anything?

"It seems every line is coming out with a toner/spray for face. Can you tell me if this is needed? I've heard that toners are either essential or a total waste of money, and I'd like to hear your thoughts. La Bella Figura and May Lindstrom have both said in the past that these sprays essentially don't do anything, yet they both have sprays now so I'm a little confused. Are they trying to make money or should I expect to see benefits?"
- Jasmine

Hello Jasmine, I get this question a lot. First let's figure out what toners are because the definition is a bit loose. Toners have an umbrella term that represents astringents, make-up removers, and primers for serums. Classical toners tend to have a high alcohol composition which helps as an additional cleanse. This helps remove impurities so serums can better penetrate the skin. Fancier toners will also have extracts that are beneficial to skin to ideally make it more receptive to moisture and treatments. Green beauty toners are often formulated with floral waters which in my opinion excel beyond the classical toners because they're much more nutrient rich which means your skin can receive more benefits.

Now - what do they do? In the way that a cleanser should cleanser, a moisturizer should moisturize, a toner would tone. This means ideally it should help condition your skin which can include any of the following:

  • improving moisture levels and hydration retention
  • enhancing skin texture
  • managing complexion 
  • refreshing dull skin
  • increasing absorption rate of serums
Personally, I believe a well formulated, high quality toner is very helpful for good skin and I use them in my daily regimen. I won't argue with those who say it is a waste of money because toners don't give instant results that cleansers or moisturizers do, where with those products you'll feel cleansed and moisturized, it's hard to quantify the feeling of "toned". I will say this, I consider a good toner essential to giving me my best skin and going without it does indeed hinder the performance of every other product in my regimen. I can see/feel when my skin getting better after regularly using a toner versus when I do not. It's the subtleties. I consider it similar to drinking tea and juices, your skin is not going to show anything right away but stick with it and your skin will get that glow. Juicers and tea drinkers should know what I'm talking about.

As for La Bella Figura and May Lindstrom, I can't tell you what their intents are but if they said that, I'd guess that it's a mix of the two. Perhaps they changed their minds from when they originally had that stance and they now believe that toners are effective products. It sure doesn't hurt that they're selling a product. I do think it's a bad business move for them ti say that and then end up producing a toner, because it makes me wonder how authentic it is when they champion their product when they don't even seem to believe in it. Though keep in mind that neither of these brands have a dermatological or chemistry background so perhaps as they gained more experience in this field and had exposure to more information, their perspective on this changed. I'd respect them more if they didn't disparage this when others were selling toners but are now fully embracing it when they have a toner to sell.

Regardless, some good ingredients to look for in toners depend on your skin type. Firstly, I recommend floral waters because they contain a lot of nutrients including antioxidants and minerals that your skin can absorb. Look for the ingredients that can have anti-inflammation properties because it helps counter all types of problems like aging, redness, and breakouts. I personally don't like for toners to contain any oils because it should be light. In order to use oils (which are mainly used for fragrance) and maintain a light texture, toners often use emulsifiers and my personal philosophy is that there should not be too many chemicals in the toner especially if it is a spray since you will ingest some of it (through your nose). For dry skin, look for hyaluronic acid that is biologically identical to the ones already present in our skin, as a lot of chemical hyaluronic acid is actually not able to be effectively absorbed. Go for smaller particles that will absorb easily into skin, try to stay away from alcohol not only for what it can do to skin but the fact that it also destroys beneficial ingredients. Because this is a very pure product, try to buy products where the first five ingredients are organic or wild grown. 

Beyond this guideline, I'd urge you to give toners a good long test run to help make up your mind. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Greatest Pet Peeve: Sensitive Skin

There is perhaps no statement that causes me to to shut down quicker than when someone says "I have sensitive skin". This most happens when asking for product recommendations or general advice on skincare. While I know nothing is meant by this comment, from a professional perspective (and hearing it ALL THE TIME), I can't help but have a visceral reaction to it. I urge you to read this with an open mind if you've used this phrase before with your dermatologist because it could help you communicate better with your dermatologist. Here's why:

  • It doesn't mean what you think it means. Sensitive skin is actually more of a marketing term that some companies used in the early 90s that really took off. Initially the intention was to sell products that would relieve redness and inflammation. But consumers took this phrase and through a continuous consumer-led cycle redefined this to stand for "products suitable for sensitive skin", giving the impression that sensitive skin is a "skin category" - which it isn't. The skin is a spectrum and there is no set guideline for when it is sensitive and when it is normal, after all, do you ever hear the phrase "products suitable for insensitive skin"? 
    • It is a non-quantifiable word that is utterly meaningless in helping me access and diagnose your skin. Sensitive skin means your skin has had a sensitivity to something (if it does not, you shouldn't say you have sensitive skin).Those who have skin that is reactive to lot of products most often have a sensitivity to a common ingredient. It is not helpful to say you have sensitive skin but if you can follow it with what you are actually sensitive to (synthetic fragrance, silicones, etc), and what it does to your skin, that would help. 
    • It is overused. 80% of women claim to have sensitive skin, if we were to take this statistically, it really means the "majority of people have sensitive skin" which given the definition of sensitive is statistically impossible. The real world implication is that most people who say they have sensitive skin just have normal skin since they're in the majority. This really just goes back to my former statement that there is no quantifiable measure for sensitive skin so everyone uses it in different ways that in the end don't really represent anything. 
    So think about it from your dermatologist or skincare professional's view. 8 in 10 patients they see say their skin is sensitive, after a while of this what this means is that they're numb to the word rendering it ineffective. Anyone can have a sensitivity to anything. I once heard a girl say her skin was allergic to water, true story. So whether a patient reports having sensitive skin or not, as dermatologists we still have to go in preparing for the possibility that there are some things you could be sensitive to and some things you won't be. 

    Psychologically, the reason a lot of people use sensitive skin, is as a crutch against the possibility of an adverse reaction and for companies/professionals to provide more accountability/attention to their specific skin history. So although the word to us is meaningless, when we hear someone use it, we're already mentally categorizing the patient as potentially high-maintenance and problematic. For the patient, using this strategy is also not advantageous because most of the time the response you'll hear back is "then use less of this product" or "discontinue use if irritation occurs" which is pretty general knowledge that should be a given.

    So next time you visit your derm or talk to a skincare consultant, try to explain what you mean if you truly believe your skin is "sensitive" - what is it sensitive to? what are the ingredients you need to avoid because of this? what are the reactions and what interactions do you believe led to this reaction? The result is that you'll give us more to work with so we can better help you and you'll actually end up getting the information you were looking for. 

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Get skin ready for Fall-Winter

    Break out the sweaters, fall is here! It's a season I've come to love as it means I can walk along to campus to gorgeous autumn foliage. It also means that it's time to transition your skin care. I've compiled some tips to help prepare your skin for the colder months to ensure you maintain that radiance.

    1. Humidifier

    Winter is notorious for dry and chapped skin. Invest in a quality humidifier to put moisture back into the air. Not only is this wonderful for maintaining skin moisture, it also keeps your immune system in shape to fend off the spread of seasonal diseases and viruses. I personally prefer the humidifiers that allow you to adjust strength and temperature because there is no "one size fits all". I like to set the humidifier slightly hotter than room temperature so that I don't need to use the heater as much which helps maintain the natural moisture in the air.

    2. Exfoliate

    It's not just the lack of sun making you feel that your skin is more dull and lifeless during the colder months, its actually the combination of the drier climate and application of more occlusive moisturizers that can keep dead skin cells from turning over. This contributes to the dull, sallow complexion and can even clog pores. May Lindstrom's The Clean Dirt is one of the most well known green exfoliators out there. Some people call this a cleanser, she calls it a cleansing clay, but I think of it as a clean version of Bobbi Brown's Buffing Beads except with spices to stimulate circulation. This is sure to slough off dead skin cells. Sensitive skins should not use this more than twice a week to prevent the possibility of irritation.

    Photo from Eva Chen's Instagram

    3. Face Oil

    I was surprised to see on my instragram feed over the weekend that Lucky's new EIC, Eva Chen posted the above picture with the caption: I know it's officially fall when I start using face oils. These are my four favorites!

    It's good to see a face oils get recognized in the mainstream because they're so efficient. A few drops provides the moisture capabilities of a moisturizer while also feeding skin with a lot of nutrition. It is really the best combination of a serum + moisturiser. And because it is so pure and concentrated, the chances of congestion and irritation are actually less than using a cream moisturiser which tends to use more chemicals, emulsifiers, waxes, etc which can clog pores and irritate skin.

    To read more about picking oils, read my post on how not all oils are equal and for those with acne-prone skin who are taking the plunge into oils, this is a list of recommended face oils.

    Photo from YULI's Facebook

    4. Anti-irritants

    Our skin is sensitive to temperature extremes. In brisk, harsh cold climates, the winds and snow can feel like whips lashing against the delicate skin. I remember a key sign of winter when I was a child was when my dad would bring home hand balms. Balms not only help skin retain moisture, but their thick barrier also forms a protective shield against the harsh environmental exposure.

    I really like YULI's Cocoon Elixir because it contains anti-irritants that help to relieve redness and soothe skin with calming calendula, chamomile, and healing lavender. And for when skin is really problematic, it contains anti-inflammatories to treat those painful itches caused by dry harsh air.

    Photo from Salonzola Instagram

    5. Protect your lips

    This should be obvious as your lips are one of the most exposed parts of your face. To prevent chapped, dry lips, I recommend an occlusive balm. A personal favorite is Intelligent Nutrient's Lip Delivery which features beeswax, coconut oil, and shea butter which are among the most powerful moisture retaining ingredients by far comparable to even their chemical sibling petrolatum. I also love that besides just waxes and thick oils, it has antioxidants and real nutrients which makes it almost like a balm-serum.

    Photo from I Am Natural Instagram

    If your lips are beyond the need for a simple moisture fix, use YULI's Cellular Lip Conditioner to heal and treat dry/cracked lips and layer it under your balm to fix damaged lips and soak in moisture. It's called a super-concentrated lip serum which means there are more actives that repair lips beyond forming a barrier.

    Both products are not only natural & mostly organic but they're food-grade and safe enough for pregnant women which is so important because upwards of 80% of lip products are ingested.

    Photo from Clementine Fields Instagram
    6. Moisture

    Everyone should use a moisturiser but if you have dry skin, it is even more important to step up moisturisers in the winter to keep your skin in check. I personally like Tata Harper's moisturisers, I buy the Repairative Moisturiser (above) for my mom as it is suited for dry/mature skin, while during the coldest bits of winter, I apply a pump of the Rebuilding Moisturiser over dry patches around my mouth. My favorite quality about the moisturisers from this line is that they're packed with skin restoring ingredients. Some moisturisers just help lock in hydration but Tata definitely makes hers a hybrid between moisturiser/anti-aging treatment. I almost see no need to add an anti-aging treatment on top of her creams for this reason.

    Some people don't like that the Tata Harper line is very fragrant but I consider it a step above other companies that use parfums (synthetic fragrance). So if you don't have any sensitivities to the fragrance she uses, I consider her moisturisers really effective for dry skin.


    Have any questions over how to transition your skincare regimen to winter? Ask in the comments!

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Green Beauties, Your Makeup Could be Causing Your Breakout

    One of the greatest ironies I see in the green beauty world is women with acne switching to green makeup in hopes of getting their skin under control. While it is true that mainstream beauty brands use more chemicals and toxic ingredients, what causes acne are suffocating or irritating ingredients such as fragrance, mineral oil, and silicones. All this aside, switching from these ingredients to lines that use coconut oil and waxes is not going to be better for your skin.

    I would almost say as a rule that if you have blemish prone skin, do NOT use RMS Beauty which uses coconut oil in nearly everything. My parents have seen many patients who go to them with massive clogged pores and breakouts after switching to "holistic natural" products and cleansing/moisturizing their skin with these thick oils. I'm not saying coconut oil is a bad ingredient, not at all, if you have dry skin or skin that just doesn't break out, you will even find it to be very useful but for people who break out, you should absolutely refrain from using this on your skin. The moisturizing properties aren't worth it because it will break you out eventually.

    So that is makeup itself, now let's talk about how we remove makeup. Many green beauties swear by oil cleansing. I can see why, it works wonders in removing stubborn makeup as the oil pulls products from skin that water cannot. However, if your skin is prone to breakouts, I would definitely advise against just oil cleansing. No matter how well you wash, there will be residue left over that accumulates in your pores leading to more breakouts down the road. If you want the performance of a oil cleanse, I suggest the double cleanse method. Use an oil to clean your face, wash it as much as possible. Then go over it with a traditional cleanser that can take off the left over oil and actually clean out the other grime in your skin that oils do not remove.

    Remember that just because something is holistic and green, it doesn't mean that it is suitable for you. Acne is a treatable condition, for most people who have those persistent but not severe types of acne, it is nearly always preventable by changing a few things in their routine.

    Monday, September 30, 2013

    September Reader Questions

    I'm trying my best to answer all of your e-mails but it can be challenging to answer product specific questions for things that I have not used before, and I try to frame my answers as objective and well researched as possible. From your questions it definitely seems that citrus oils and sun protection is a big question in the green beauty market. Please note, these are simply my views.

    "My sunscreen contains citrus oils, is this okay?"
    From: A lot of you!

    The answer is that this depends on the product. What is the the sun protection factor, is it a physical or chemical sunscreen, what is the concentration of citrus oils in the formula? A lot of companies use citrus oils because it provides natural fragrance, otherwise many people might be turned off by the natural scent of the cream. Obviously, I would like to use a product that didn't contain citrus oils in my sun protection, but I don't think it will be make a sunscreen bad (especially if it contains a high degree of physical blockers which will guard the photosensitizing ingredients from UV rays).

    "I read that ascorbic acid is a cheap form of Vitamin C that isn't complete, is this true? It is in many of the vitamins I take and skincare products that I use."
    From: Lara, Mark, and Meghan

    I received variations of this question and I just want to get this out there: Ascorbic Acid IS Vitamin C, there is nothing wrong with it and not all forms of ascorbic acid are cheap. This type of erroneous information is why there is perhaps no green beauty company I'm more frustrated with than La Bella Figura. I know that this was part of their campaign to publicize their "non-synthetic" Vitamin C from Kakadu Plum Extract but I've mentioned before how this is a fallacy (see active vs concentration question). While Kakadu Plum Extract does contain a high concentration of Vitamin C, it would be like saying rubbing a lemon on your face is going to be better than using a Vitamin C serum because "it's a non-synthetic, whole source". It's just wrong.

    Here are a few of the reasons:
    1. Not all of the extract is absorbed into skin and the amount that is contains non-Vitamin C as this is a food product. In fact fiber rich fruits such as this contain mostly cellulose and fiber which is present in nutritional content even in extracts, so a good chunk of the extract is most likely not even active. Versus pure-active Vitamin C ascorbic acid which is shown to deeply penetrate skin.

    2. You can't control the concentration of vitamin c in food extracts, and you need a certain percentage concentration to make it effective in topical products.

    I really really urge you to think about the qualifications these ladies behind the brand have for developing these products because their haphazard marketing and research has caused so much confusion in the space. So please, the next time before you start calling out perfectly reasonable ingredients, ask yourself where your beliefs came from and how reliable the source is. 

    "I read about the concern people had for May Lindstrom's The Youth Dew for its citrus oils. May says that the amount isn't significant to cause damage and she has never received a complaint about it. Can you provide some guidance?"
    From: Mary, Elise, and Susan

    I have tried The Youth Dew and it is a wonderful face oil. Not too heavy, moisturizing, and smells great! In fact when I use it at night, my skin feels very balanced in the morning, can't complain! I probably wouldn't use it during the day time just because there are so many great oils you can use that contain zero photosensitizing ingredients compared to her small but still existent amount. May probably has never received a complaint about this before because it isn't an immediately perceivable issue, like a blemish or skin rash. Dark spots and sun spots can take months and years to form, so by the time you get those spots, you've probably already moved onto another product or you don't even realize what caused it, erroneously attributing it to natural effects. Many many of the patients my parents see come from using products that contain citrus oils across the line such as Ren and they wonder why their skin is so much more prone to developing sun spots - this is why.

    Monday, September 23, 2013

    Review of Vered Herb Infused Toner

    My first full product review! When it comes to toners, we're fortunate to have many types to choose from but it also means the definition of a toner is different for everyone. The purpose of a toner is to tone the skin, ideally to prime it for the serums and moisturizers that follow. For some, toners are make-up removers, for others they're the alcohol-heavy astringents that remove layers of oil, and more recently, they've become facial mists. But this isn't a post that will attempt to define what a toner is, instead I'm going to review Vered's Herb-Infused Toner which reminds me of a throwback to the classic toners that you apply with a cotton ball and have a significant alcohol content.

    This product is described as "a non-drying face toner that thoroughly cleansers, balances, and nourishes all skin types." Reading this, I believe Vered may have intended this to sort of be an all in one: cleanser, toner, moisturizer. With that said, I don't believe this will be suitable for all skin types, and those with drier skin may likely find themselves reaching for a moisturizer. For my skin, which is relatively normal yet prone to oiliness (men tend to have largers pores, thicker skin, and produce more oil than women due to testosterone), this worked well when used once a day. During my trip with limited supply to water, I saw wonderful benefits to using this twice a day in the morning and before dinner due to the heat/sweating as there was always enough oil/grime/dirt to remove. However at home, I felt that using it more than once resulted in my skin feeling dry and slightly stripped of healthy oils.

    Part of the reason for this is because this product relies on a mixed base consisting of alcohol, water, and glycerin. To give her credit, the alcohol is sourced from organic grain alcohol which is a clean form of alcohol but it is an alcohol all the same. I like alcohol for its anti-bacterial nature but it is not the best ingredient for sensitive skin as it can easily disrupt the moisture and lipid barrier. I much preferred the other ingredients Vered chose to use such as the calming calendula, healing echinacea, astringent orange and lemon peel, and soothing comfrey.

    For those who might have oily less sensitive skin, I think this would be wonderful. In fact, you'll enjoy the grape juice scent mixed with the very attractive burgundy color of the product. When applied on a cotton round, you can easily see the oil and grime coming off without applying much pressure that may get your face red. I prefer to use this as a pre cleanse after the gym to remove everything while I'm getting ready for a shower, then I use a gentle cleanser to remove whats left of the toner and impurities.

    This is a purists toner, a throwback to those days when toners meant alcohol, cotton pads, astringents but that doesn't mean it is a bad thing especially when wrapped in a attractive package that includes organic ingredients that are ethically sourced, high quality essential oils, and a beautiful scent that is sure to put a smile on anyones face. So for anyone transitioning from their La Mer and Clarins make-up removing, astringent toners, look no further: Vered Herb Infused Toner

    Thursday, September 5, 2013

    My Skincare - Aug/Sept

    L to R: Osmosis Shelter SPF 30, Vered Herb Infused Toner, YÜLI Cocoon, YÜLI M.E. Skin Fuel, Dr.Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel, Dr.Alkaitis Organic Nourishing Treatment Oil

    I haven't really been updating my blog because I was accepted into a volunteer program for medical students so I have been working at what the team calls a "pre-doctors without borders" environment. It is extremely tough work but not to sound cliche, the feeling of accomplishment in providing medical aid to those without healthcare is even more amazing.

    There is a 3 room clinic so most of us work outside in the make-shift tents all day and we have limited source of clean running water that we have to ration. I thought this would be a good post to show how my green skincare regimen provides the versatility and performance that shows how amazing these green products are when put to the test.


    This is a terrible shot but I was trying to shoot this with my phone in one hand and The Clean Dirt in the other, not easy! The Clean Dirt is great because you just need to splash your face a little bit and ration a little trickle of water to mix the dirt into a paste. It helps to exfoliate skin and break through the dirt. I use this probably three times a week so prevent my skin from looking dull or rough. I didn't bring the full bottle because I tried to travel lightly so I poured these into smaller containers.

    Quick Clean: I was sent a full size of Vered's Botanical Herb-Infused Toner which I will review shortly. I find that when water is scarce or I just need a quick clean (often after working an entire day then going directly to a dinner), I dab this liberally over a cotton pad and it takes all the excess oils and dirt off my face. 

    Sunscreen: My mom carries Osmosis in her office and it is a solid line, though not one for green beauties (for instance, while they don't use parabens, they use a lot of honeysuckle which contains a natural form of parabens that impacts the body in the same harmful way). I like their Shelter SPF30 sunscreen because it's a great physical block that also moisturizes skin. It's one of the only sunscreens that doesn't sting my eyes if I get some in through sweating. 

    Face Mist: I knew that I would be in a hot and dry climate so I needed something cooling, refreshing, but that could also relieve my skin of sunburn, heat, and environmental irritation so YULI's Cocoon Elixir was the perfect choice. True to it's word, redness and inflammation is calmed down quickly, and let's just say if I ever find this bottle gone, it's usually with one of my fair skinned cohorts who have taken a liking to this. Oh and it feels and smells so good.

    Night time: At night I like to use the Dr.Alkaitis Soothing Gel to help keep breakouts from forming and also provide a little moisturization. I also think it's important to have an anti-bacterial product just because things aren't as clean here. If my skin is ever feeling a little warm or exhausted, using this with Cocoon is a sure bet to calm everything down.


    Body - I like to use Dr.Alkaitis Nourishing Treatment Oil as it is a thicker oil that can feed my depleted, sun-drenched skin. The oil helps dry/damaged skin which is perfect for extremeties that can often be neglected in the heat.
    Face - I really enjoy YULI's ME Skin Fuel, which besides the superb ingredients which I mentioned here, is very light and balancing. It's perfect for providing skin with nutrients and moisture without weighing it down. I try to put a few more drops around parts that have high sun exposure as this has natural UV protectors. There are a lot of blemish calming ingredients in here and even angry red flare-ups seem pacified after applying this. At the end of a long day, my skin absolutely drinks this stuff up and I wake up with really happy skin. 

    So this is my routine, relatively low dependence on water and very versatile. Most of all, the performance is amazing. I'm able to finish my routine in 1-2 minutes while everyone else is waiting in line for water. I've also noticed that I'm the only one who hasn't suffered sun burns, acne, or skin flaking this entire trip, so I give a lot of credit to these products.

    Monday, August 12, 2013

    Reader E-mails: Benzoyl Peroxide, Skin Purging, Active vs Concentration

    I received my first e-mails over the weekend so I thought I would answer it on here. Paraphrasing just the questions here.

    "I have been on every acne medication and my prescription just increases more and more. Even my 10% Benzoyl Peroxide cream is not doing anything to hold the breakouts. I'm using maximum strength cleansers, toners, creams but my skin seems to be getting worse. I feel like the only answer is to go on Accutane, what do you suggest?"
    From: Jas

    I definitely think you should see a dermatologist regarding your acne. Without seeing you in person, I really can't give you a set plan. It does seem like your response to break outs is to up the ante by strengthening your products. I get the logic behind it, but in general I don't advise anyone 'fight' with their body, it never goes well. I'm assuming when you say maximum strength products, your cleansers have exfoliating acids, your toners have astringents and alcohols, and you're using a 10% BP solution. You're declaring chemical warefare on your skin. Instead, I would urge you to try and 'work' with your body by giving it a more gentle regimen.  Try to use a gentle, non stripping cleanser that won't irritate your skin or cause imbalance in sebum level. Switch your toner to a healing one that doesn't have alcohols. I know you probably see the benzoyl peroxide solution as an essential product but try to just let your blemishes go down on their own for 2 weeks. You won't see immediate changes, but I believe helping your skin heal itself will be the best thing you can do at this point. Depending on your severity, a dermatologist might prescribe Accutane but see if you can manage your skin on your own first. Just remember: your skin WANTS to be healthy, help it, don't hinder it.

    "I have really sensitive skin and since switching to natural skincare, I have experienced redness and irritation. I am currently using the Marie Veronique Organics line and while I really love the ingredients and philosophy, I find my skin has broken out like never before. I contacted them to ask about it and they said that my skin is just purging, is this normal?"
    From: Leah

    I haven't personally used any products from MVO but I do like the ingredients list. I also see a lot of good comments for their products and I like the science behind it. What is important to remember is that every one has their own unique skin chemistry so just because the formula of a product is high quality and good, it doesn't mean that it will work with your skin. Purging and 'adjusting' can indeed happen, but if it's been over a month, your skin is no longer 'purging', I think you might be sensitive to a particular ingredient. Natural skincare is often times more potent than the alternative because you're getting less chemical fillers, so this belief that natural skincare is best for sensitive skin isn't necessarily true.

    "I have been using Arcona's Night Worker which is a Vitamin C serum. I really like how it makes my skin feel but the active ingredient is ascorbic acid, which I read from La Bella Figura is a lab synthetic derived from GMO corn in China so it is less effective than a product that uses a natural complete form of Vitamin C like the one in their Modern Radiance Concentrate. Is this true?"
    From: Elleco

    I think using a natural complete form of any vitamin or supplement is a good idea in the same way that getting your vitamins from fruits and vegetables are preferable to getting it from a pill. Let's go beyond the large words for a minute: natural complete form just means a natural ingredient that has vitamin c, of which many ingredients in Arcona's Night Worker all contain, such as Black Currant, Evening Primrose, Borage, and Lemon. So even with all these ingredients, why would a company still choose to use Ascorbic Acid? Because although the natural ingredients do provide Vitamin C, what matters in dermatology is the concentration. Anything less than a certain threshold is not going to produce results when applied topically, and Ascorbic Acid offers a more concentrated dosage that naturals cannot provide. I understand that La Bella Figura has a product to sell and I think based off of the ingredients list, they have a great product. I don't think they mean to be misleading but the conclusion they drew comparing a natural whole source Vitamin C to being an effective topical active is indeed a fallacy. I really wish there was a better system of accountability in the natural beauty industry but as it's still very small with individual who might not have the education or industry experience to understand the intricacies of dermatology and skin care, not every statement is scientifically vetted, which leads to misinformation for the audience.

    Any other questions, just e-mail me: greentechderm at gmail dot com

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    A Word on EWG (Environmental Working Group): Cosmetics Database

    The Environmental Working Group is a company that many of you probably heard of especially if you've been on the 'natural' kick for a while now. Their skin deep database holds a lot of clout and the numbers they give out for safety are the human equivalent of a BMI number (the lower, the better). It is a very informative tool that teaches you what to avoid. Anyone who wants to use this should go to this website to see a full safety report using national and international databases.

    Dermatologists that I have worked with have told me that more and more of their patients are introducing the EWG into conversation. While this access to information can be empowering, like all things, it's best to keep those numbers into perspective. The way EWG measures safety can at times be questionable and without doing some homework yourself, you might be misled by their report.

    Here are some areas where misinformation can arise:

    1. Natural & Synthetic

    Here's an example of two shampoos who both achieved a ranked of "2" on their report, Terressentials Cool Mint Pure Earth Hair Wash and Giovanni's Magnetic Energizing Shampoo. Terressentials is for most part an all natural herb-infused mud for hair while the Giovanni shampoo uses synthetics such as Cocamidopropyl Betaine (a risk score of 5). So how did they both arrive at the same score? The Giovanni shampoo offsets their chemical with a host of herbs that rate a 0 to pull down the score. The Terressentials shampoo is flagged a '4' for their ingredient 'clay minerals' which is not identifiable to EWG, however similar natural ingredients such as Kaolin clay pass with flying colors. Because the herb-infused mud is purer, there are less ingredients to offset this outlying mark that shouldn't have been given in the first place.

    So while on EWG the two look equal, in reality you're comparing a very natural mud shampoo infused with select herbs with a synthetic detergent shampoo that is loaded with herbs.

    2. Double check the ingredients list

    There are many times that a product will be reformulated or is entered with an error on the database. For example Hylunia recently began reformulating their products to include Phenoxyethanol, but some of the products on their database with low scores do not have this listed.

    3. Read the actual concerns cited in studies

    EWG relies on a broad system of studies looking for the ingredient as the key word and not the use. For instance, Aloe Vera is listed as having cancer risks yet it is one of the safest most effective skin ingredients that have been used since prehistoric times. The study in question could have been done on intravenous consumption of aloe vera and in high doses (that exceed even abnormally high concentrations) over a prolonged period of time in lab testing environments, maybe it did lead to cell mutation. This would cause it to receive that risk label, but I can assure you that even if you bathed in aloe every day of your life, it will not trigger cancer growth.


    EWG is a wonderful tool but like all tools designed to help us, we have to know how to use it effectively otherwise it could get in the way. It's important to note that EWG is constantly working to improve and tune it's metrics which I applaud.

    Friday, August 2, 2013

    Vitamin A: Myth vs Facts Retinoic Acid & Natural Retinols

    Vitamin A has become the go to source for most skin concerns. Wrinkles? Sagging skin? Apply some Retinols! Acne and breakouts? Tazorac! Indeed Vitamin A can be a very powerful active in improving skin health but many people have become a little unclear due to all the noise out there so this is a list of the most commonly asked questions I get.

    Why all the different names?

    The most common form of active Vitamin A for topical application is Retinoic Acid. It's what you're most likely to be prescribed by your dermatologist, although it might be branded as Retin-A, Renova, Tazorac, etc. For the most part this branding makes little difference and the formulas are pretty similar. Some skin types will take better to others, and most dermatologists (if they're not contracted with a specific brand) are happy to provide you with samples from different brands to try out. It's worthwhile to ask about insurance coverage as some will cover specific brands which can save you a lot of money in the long run.

    What does it do?

    Retinoic Acid is used to treat wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, sun damage, and acne, so this is why it's seen as a cure all for most skin concerns. Research has shown that retinoic acid restores elastin fibers, stimulates collagen growth, and increases cell turnover which help renew mature skin, making it firmer and more youthful. For acne, the acid helps breaks down dead skin cells and induce new skin cells which helps remove pore clogging debris and heal the marks that zits can leave behind. Stronger concentrations of retinoic acid can also deplete sebum levels which means acne is less likely to be triggered.

    What are the side-effects?

    Everyone will respond differently to everything. That's just the nature of the beast. Even with different brands of Retinoic Acid, people will respond differently and it has little to do the actual quality of the product. General side-effects of retinoic acid include photo-sensitivity, skin sensitivity, dry skin/flaking, redness, and some people might experience initial breakouts.

    What form of retinoic acid should I use?

    The ingredients list is only somewhat different and the active Retinoic Acid will be at most at a 5% concentration (though you will very likely start out on something way less concentrated). For dry and sensitive skin types, ask for a cream formula as they're less drying. For acne prone and oily skin, ask for a gel formula as they'll be lighter on your skin.

    Start off on the retinoic acid every other night, applying only to the areas you'd like to treat.

    Is it true that long term use will make my skin thinner?

    This perception mainly comes from the fact that retinoic acid sloughs off dead skin cells, so people think it will just eat away at epidermal layers. This is incorrect. In fact, retinoic acid has been shown to boost collagen synthesis so if anything, you should notice thicker, stronger skin.

    Can I use retinoic acid in the day time?

    I wouldn't advise it, but if you do, you should absolutely apply a strong sunscreen and stay out of the sun. Retinoic Acid is instable in sunlight meaning at best it will be rendered ineffective, and at worst it will generate skin damage. The photo-sensitivity caused by retinols is attributed to this quality and also that the skin regenerative properties mean new skin is particularly vulnerable to exposure.

    I am using products that contain natural retinols, is this different?

    Yes and no. There are companies like Intelligent Nutrients, Pai, Ren, and Yuli who use naturally derived retinols. They have similar benefits as retinoic acid but structurally, these are different from Retinoic Acid which is a synthetic chemical. There are some key advantages to using these:
    • More readily absorbed, meaning you won't experience the sensitivity/irritation with naturals as you would with Retinoic Acid because these synthetic chemicals are harsher for skin while the naturals are in a form that skin can break down and utilize. 
    • More stable under sun light, meaning your skin will not be as prone to photo-sensitivity because the chemicals that cause Retinoic Acid to breakdown under sunlight and be instable are not present in natural retinols. Natural retinols are not only more stable and resist breakdown, but many are anti-oxidants which protect against sun damage and free radicals. 
    Like synthetic retinols, these natural retinols have similar benefits for skin. So your skin will experience increased skin turnover which does mean that it will be more prone to exposure. However this is fairly minimal and is generally not the factor that causes discomfort. Applying a sunscreen of SPF 30+ should be enough to offset this. And in Yuli's case their formula also contains skin protecting ingredients such as avocado oil, so they covered their bases to the degree where I am comfortable recommending these products as suitable for day and night use. The minor setback for many of these naturals are that the trade-off to the irritation and sensitivity is that these naturals are not as concentrated as something like a 10% Retin-A Gel, but you will see gradual improvement that could be even more advantageous over long-term comparison since the natural retinols often carry other "phyto-nutrients" that science is only beginning to untap.

    Having a natural version of retinols in a concentrated formula gives you the effective power of retinols that us dermatologists love, but in a safer and less irritating way as your skin can more efficiently utilize this stable form. This is one of the reasons why I am an advocate for doing things the natural way.

    Monday, July 29, 2013

    Summer Skincare Tips

    We're in the home stretch of summer so by this point you've probably already figured out the challenges you're facing with keeping skin happy and healthy. Many patients I speak to believe that the winter is the time to protect skin from the environment, not realizing that the summer heat and higher exposure due to outdoor activities during the summer months can often leave skin under-protected and under-nourished.

    Here are a few tips to keep your skin in top shape:

    1. Keep hydrated: drinking plenty of water is a year round must, but it's especially important during the summer because we lose a lot of fluids through sweat. In drier climates, the sun will seemingly 'evaporate' the water from your skin so make sure you keep your body fluid levels in check. So like Malin Ackerman, make sure you have a bottle of water on hand when you go out and especially after a work out. (photo from mybrk instagram)

    2. Apply sunscreen: I'll make a post for recommended sunscreens soon but I'm telling you now that sunscreen is a must. It is a key anti-aging preventative measure. Frequent sun exposure can lead to premature aging causing sun spots, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, etc. It's the difference between looking like Nicole Kidman or Tan Mom by the time you're approaching 50 (Nicole Kidman is actually a few years older than tan mom, but can pass as her daughter). Vanity aside, melanoma and skin cancer is a top concern in dermatology so I can't stress how important it is to implement a healthy attitude about sun protection from an early age. For real protection, use SPF30+, preferably from a physical block as they're more stable when exposed to UV rays. Men should take extra care to apply sunscreen to the top of their ears as that is the top spot where males are likely to develop skin cancer. A future post will cover frequency and amount.

    3. Wear sunglasses: the skin under the eyes is the most delicate area of the entire face. It is also the thinnest. So provide extra protection with sunglasses that provide protection from UV rays. Furthermore, wearing sunglasses also prevent squinting which can causing fine lines to form around the eyes. The Olsen twins have the idea with their very protective lenses.

    4. Antioxidants: it's another buzz word, but antioxidants are key free-radical fighters that are generated from sun exposure. Be sure to load up both externally and internally. Luckily many antioxidant-rich foods are perfect for summer, such as tomatoes, berries, kale, plums, bell pepper, cantaloupe, and cherries. Externally, apply an antioxidant serum under your sunscreen to counter any UV Rays that bypass the physical blockers.

    5. Beat the heat: I mentioned in this post why facial mists are important but one of the key benefits of using one is because it does for the face what cool water does for the body during an outdoor activity: refresh, cool down, and diffuse heat. Learn from luxury exec Edo Jao, and keep your facial mist stash cooled down in the fridge for an extra refreshing and soothing spray after you've worked out. This helps dissipate the heat, preventing your skin from irritation, inflammation, and redness. (photo from Edo Jao instagram)

    Friday, July 26, 2013

    Not all Oils are Equal

    Facial Oils are made up of blends of plant oils. There are no quality 'grades' but it is important to figure out what is for you and what isn't, especially when prices can vary a lot.

    What kinds of oils there are:

    Organic: These are oils derived from plants that have been raised organically.

    Wild Craft:
    These are oils derived from plants that grow in wild environments. There is a misconception that these are inferior to organic oils but this is not the case as wild craft means the plants grow in a natural environment that can sustain it. Think about it this way, would you prefer wild Salmon or organic farm-raised Salmon?

    If your oil is not labelled, chances are, it is neither of the two.

    Why it matters:

    Many people believe 'organic' is a marketing buzzword, and I can understand that. However for something as concentrated as facial oils, it is important to realize what this means. Organic means the plant is raised without antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and that it is not processed with industrial solvents, radiation, or genetic engineering. The reason this is important for oils is because the concentrated nature means any of the "bad stuff" becomes even more concentrated when it is applied to skin. So that drop of rose oil you applied onto your skin could have pesticides and artificial growth hormones from 100 actual roses. Not so beautiful now right?

    Does it really make a difference?

    Yes, oils that are organic and wild craft are different from oils that are not. You can see this through comparing the scent, color, and texture. Generally I've found that the less processed and pure an oil is, the better it smells and feels on skin. Not to be confused with facial oils that use good smelling oils in their blends (i.e. The purest argan oil is never going to smell as pleasing as lemongrass oil)

    Is all organic/wild craft oil created equally?

    This is more complicated and the short answer is, no. There are many processes plants go through to become oil, including cold-pressed, steam distillation, and supercritical extraction. Some companies might use oils that have been extracted using a process that requires hexane, which is not clean. In general, you want to preserve the live nature of the plant as much as possible so look for companies that use cold-pressed methods or supercritical.

    How can I tell which companies do extract the oils in the preferred methods?

    This is trickier because there is no form of certification they can provide for extraction process and to be honest, many brands might not even be fully aware. It's kind of unspoken but realized that a lot of the natural beauty brands order their oils from online, which is fine but it's just something you should know even when you read their literature and marketing material about how pure their oils are. If you want the best oils, since these contain living nutrients, it is best to order from companies that don't source from online because those oils are less fresh (the more hands/shipping it goes through, the more the quality degrades when it gets to the final step: your house).

    So the companies that probably have the highest quality are usually the ones who are able to source from their own lands and work closer to the actual source. This is highly different from those photos some brands put up of a garden they grow plants in, which I feel is incredibly misleading because the scale of those gardens would not be enough to sustain a 30-ml bottle of oil much less an entire operation.

    Some companies that grow and use their own plants include: Dr.Alkaitis, Intelligent Nutrients, Kahina Giving Beauty (Argan Oil), Tata Harper, and Yuli. On a more budget-friendly level, Weleda sources directly from many farms as well, although they aren't know for making any facial oils. If you're using a product that contains similar ingredients with similar "organic" status, the oils from the aforementioned companies will likely be of a higher quality as they are closer to the source, which is natural skincare is incredibly important.

    *Opinions expressed are my own based from knowledge of essential oil processing and candid conversations regarding sourcing from contacts at Dr.Hauschka & Weleda, neither of whose products, I have any incentive to sell 

    Saturday, July 13, 2013

    5 Face Oils for Acne Prone Skin

    It used to be that anyone with acne steered away from any products that contained oils, which were seen as greasy pore clogging agents. The majority of oils on the skincare market today can indeed be bad for skin because manufacturers rely on mineral oil for two main reasons: more economic and good performance. The mineral oil is a synthetic that is not costly to obtain and it does a good job of preventing moisture loss by coating the skin. The drawback is that the skin essentially is saran wrapped. In various studies, it's shown that these mineral oils can contribute to clogging pores and suffocating skin over long term use. This leads to systematic issues such as cancer, thyroid/lymphatic issues, chronic skin issues, etc. as the epidermal waste and filtration system cannot do its job.

    A lot of green companies are changing the perception of oils by introducing plant based oils that provide the high performance hydration benefits yet also provide skin with health benefits. Plant oils are exceptionally high in nutritional value, when Hilary Swank trained to become a boxer in Million Dollar Baby, Flax Seed Oil was the main component of her dietary supplement. Plant oils have different viscosity (thickness) and benefits so I've compiled a few blends that I think are especially beneficial for those who have acne prone skin.

    de Mamiel Summer Facial Oil ($100 for 25ml/0.84oz): What makes this blend unique is that the oils are crafted by seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall). So it goes without saying that this oil is especially suitable for summer by focusing on preventing sun damage, anti-inflammation (wonderful for acne), and essential fatty acids. Here are a few of the ingredients:

    May Chang: A calming anti-inflammatory that also revitalizes circulation. Great to flush out blemish causing impurities and sooth skin.

    Rosemary: A regenerative essential oil that helps to balance skin. Rosemary is abundant in antioxidant power that can repair and heal skin.

    Lemon: Wonderful for cutting through and dissolving surface impurities on oily skin. May cause photo-sensitivity so remember to apply a sunscreen.

    Vered Theraputic Balancing Face Oil ($68 for 45ml/1.5oz): A handcrafted facial oil with herb-infused blends that balance sebum production, also containing anti-inflammatories and anti-bacterial ingredients to tone down and prevent blemishes. A few of the star ingredients include:

    Chickweed: An anti-viral herb that has both a cooling and drying effect which makes it suitable for acne.

    SpeedwellAn anti-inflammatory that is also rich in antioxidants (due to high tannin concentration).

    Lemon ThymeAn anti-septic that is also used as a natural disinfectant, this helps kill acne causing bacteria. Think of this almost as a natural alternative to Benzoyl Peroxide.

    In Fiore Pur Face Oil ($65 for 30ml/1oz): The complexion treatment from In Fiore features a simple roster of just 5 oils: Grapeseed Oil, Rose Hip Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Sweet Orange Peel Oil, and Neroli Oil. These 5 team up to regulate and balance sebum oily and acneic skin.

    Evening PrimroseActs as a regulator to balance skin tissues while aiding in regeneration. Will absolutely satiate lackluster skin tissue.

    Grapeseed OilAntioxidant rich with anti-inflammatory benefits to heal skin that needs to recover from breakouts. Grapeseed oil is known to provide a wonderful base for acne prone skin as it is light and quick sinking.

    Sweet Orange Peel OilAn astringent with toning properties that eases and conditions acneic skin. This oil breaks down excess oil and overproduction of sebum as it strengthens tissue.

    May Lindstrom The Youth Dew ($120 for 20ml/0.68oz): Though the Youth Dew might seem like it belongs on an anti-aging face oils list, I think this is an oil suitable for those who have acne prone skin that veers on the dry side (after all, not everyone who gets blemishes has oily skin). 

    Tamanu OilA very healing oil with a cool green color. It's a star acne fighter due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-oxidant properties. 

    Borage Seed OilFound to be extremely rich in Essential Fatty Acids which in turn help keep skin healthy. A deficiency in EFA's can lead to imbalances which cause acne.

    Grapefruit Oil: An antiseptic astringent that helps to tone skin and relieve blemishes. Grapefruit also has aromatherapy benefits which uplift mood and calm the wearer, thus creating a balance for acne sufferers.

    YÜLI M.E. Skin Fuel ($92 for 30ml/1oz): Described as a nutrient cocktail especially beneficial for blemish prone skin, this blend truly lives up to it's name as it contains all the major essential nutrients to fuel healthy skin incorporating the best superstar ingredients to optimize complexion:

    Black Cumin Oil: Described by Dr.Gary Null as "the most important oil to put in your system", this oil is incredibly healing and stimulates the immune system to self correct. It is another star ingredient that meets the trifecta criteria of being an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral. 

    Indian Fig Seed OilAnother superstar ingredient known by many names including Barberry Fig Seed, Prickly Pear Seed, Cactus Pear, its profile is spectacular: super antioxidant concentration, amazing anti-inflammation action, and remarkable healing powers that even fade acne scars.

    Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil: Hailed by holistic practitioners including Dr.Oz as an acne remedy, this oil balances skin, regulates hormones and stress that can cause breakouts, sooth inflammation, and heal scars. 

    Although all of these oils have wonderful ingredients, it is important to pick one with the right texture for your skin type. For those who have drier and more mature skin, May Lindstrom's base on avocado and meadowfoam seed will provide that extra bit of moisture for you. For those who worry about oily complexions and grease slicks by mid-day, look into the Vered or YÜLI blends which are the lightest and fastest absorbing of the group. Sensitive skins should look for formulas that contain less essential oils as that can cause potential irritation but many of these essential oils also have acne fighting properties, so it might be a trade off. With the right information, those with acne prone skin can enjoy facial oils which tend to be much more pure and concentrated in nutrients than the typical moisturizing cream. Have fun experimenting!

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    Summer Skin Must: Facial Mist

    In the summer, we tend to be out a lot more and it is important to prevent a few potential risks such as sun damage, prolonged exposure to the elements, overheating skin, oilier complexion, and breakouts induced by the sticky combination of sweat and extended coverage sunscreens. Therefore, I recommend adding a facial mist for prevention as it helps to cool the skin while adding hydration that is evaporated from the sun. Facial mists are also important because they provide a weightless instant hydration. A good facial mist can even help with complexion to prevent breakouts and balance oily complexion. Gone are the days of toners that mainly comprise of alcohol, water, and fragrance, we are lucky that there are now wonderful natural green companies that have come out with truly unique mists that will do skin a lot of good.

    image from Tata Harper's blog

    Tata Harper's Hydrating Floral Essence is a moisturizing toner that is the perfect pick-me-up that also provides an anti-aging treatment on the go. It comes in two convenient sizes, one for travel (50ml) and one for true fans who can't get enough (125ml). 

    The price is quite steep, starting at $65 for 1.7oz but the ingredients are extremely pure (many are sourced from Tata Harper's own farm in Vermont) and the overall quality is very high. The scent is floral as the name suggests but guys won't find it overly feminine. If anything, some men may find that the translucent green and gold topped bottle kind of looks like it belongs more in their mothers beauty collection than theirs. 

    The gentle waters truly are pleasant to use and feel undoubtedly luxurious. The actives will calm, moisturize, and please skin while the relaxed scent will relax the wearer. This is a very versatile option for any skin type but especially beneficial for mature skin.

    Pai Skincare's line of BioAffinity Toners are another good option and comes in 2 "flavors". The Rice Plant & Rosemary Toner is for combination/sensitive skin while the Lotus & Orange Blossom is for dry/sensitive skin. Guys might prefer the former as testosterone leaves men's skin thicker so a dry/sensitive formula may not penetrate as well, in addition the scent of the Orange Blossom might not be to every dudes liking. 

    The BioAffinity Toners are a blend of floral waters which are said to contain vibrational energy as the waters are 'living'. These waters contain vitamins and minerals as well as what Pai calls "water-soluble" compounds to tone and texturize skin. 

    At $55 for 1.7oz, these are probably the priciest toners although the simple ingredients list of usually 3 living flower waters is extremely pure. The uncomplicated ingredients list means sensitive skins can use with relatively low risk as typically the more ingredients, the greater likelihood for a reaction to occur. I just don't know if it's worth that much as 1.7oz will last mere weeks.

    YÜLI is probably the most unisex of the brands here, and they have a line of elixirs with fascinating names like Cocoon (for sensitive skin), Metamorphic (for mature/dry skin), and Panacea ("cure all" for normal to combination skin). 

    Theirs is not a formula that just throws together 3 high quality living floral waters, instead you get a truly special blend of living waters and bio-actives such as enzymes, nutrients, and minerals formulated specifically for your skin type combined with their own 'frequency enhanced water' that is uniquely imprinted to correct skin conditions. 

    This is a truly unique line that is doing something special and pairing extremely pure ingredients (they source from their own biodynamic farms) with innovative technology (i.e. they're one of the only companies that boast chiral ingredients, which isn't seen in natural beauty). Starting at $36 for 1.7 oz, with stellar ingredients, no wonder this quiet press-shy brand has amassed a legion of fans.


    I grew up in a household that cared about beauty and skincare. Both of my parents are educated professionals in their fields, my dad as a plastic surgeon and my mom as a dermatologist. So I guess it was meant to be that I would have a natural affinity for all things skincare.

    I'm a huge fan of the green movement, these non-toxic lines who make great products and after following many green bloggers and companies on social networks quietly, I've decided to write my perspective as a guy and as a dermatology student in med school which I hope you'll find insightful.