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!