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


  1. Thank you for writing these informative posts, they are so different from what else is online and I really appreciate your grounded approach to these often times confusing issues!

    This is perhaps the first blog I read that didn't blow sunshine up LBF's behind! I follow all the brands and write a lot on NMDL and I feel like their profile has increased a lot since using Spirit Beauty Lounge's PR person but I just can't take them seriously because my skin has suffered from using products made by people who have no formal skincare background. I'm glad you called them out on their hokey science. I can't believe how all the other bloggers are being fooled into thinking theirs is a serious line.

    1. I'm glad you appreciate them. My goal isn't to berate any line or blow sunshine toward anyone's behind, but merely try to lend some scientific merit to the green beauty movement. I think there are many many great products but there is also a lot of misinformation.

      I definitely am an advocate that consumers should buy from lines created by people who have experience and relevancy in skincare. As passionate as some of the green beauty brands are, it's ultimately a disservice to consumers to provide misinformation.

  2. @Alyssa I e-mail a few of the green beauty blogging ladies and I don't think anyone is being fooled. Most of LBF's most avid fans are the Chicago-based bloggers who they lunch and shop with, as much as these blogs might have disclaimers about being unbiased, the fact is theirs has become more of a personal relationship. Add on top that LBF is very generous with sending samples to bloggers, often sending full sized products to sweeten the deal. Even though bloggers are not 'paid' for reviews or 'swayed', I highly doubt they are likely to 'bite the hand that feeds'.

  3. Horray for discovering your gem of a blog! I too used many LBF products from the recommendation of NMDL and blogs. When I e-mailed them about an issue I had, I noticed they would throw things out that were contradictory. Like I told them I was using a toner and they said toners were useless, but later on told me that they were releasing one and to get that. And they said their bottles are UV coated so I asked if there was a certification and they ignored me. This makes me really question their ethics so I discovered a few other things like this:

    The girl who posts that amazing review works for LBF as their national sales manager (

    Misleading is putting it nicely, I just cannot trust this brand anymore and I would certainly not trust them with my skin.

  4. I don't think La Bella Figura is doing what some of the commentators are saying, I mean seriously it's like a witch hunt! I'm surprised you guys are so obsessed over their every move! Personally, I can't wait for Modern Radiance Concentrate to come out and after reading the wonderful reviews for it on 312 Beauty and Seed to Serum, I already placed my pre-order. So what you will about them but these ladies make great products!

    1. I'm not sure what you mean Erin because I provided links to back up what I was saying to illustrate the point. As someone who has paid hundreds of dollars for her products, of course I'm going to be attentive to the people behind my skincare.

      And as @Annabelle said those blog reviews you cited are both personal friends of hers who also live in Chicago and they even hang out together to have lunch and shopping( It's no mystery why every LBF product is a "HG" for those two, it just sucks that when people ask for (what they think is unbiased advice) product comparisons, they're led to believe in what they say. Notice how Megan of Seedtoserum never has an unkind word to say about any LBF product, case in point her review today on the Modern Radiance concentrate which is apparently better than One Love Organics Vitamin C serum (which actually contains true Vitamin C powder) and Yuli (even though Yuli doesn't even have a Vitamin C serum). I used to enjoy reading her blog because she buys so much shit but then I got tired of sniffing LBF's ass every time I went to her blog cause her head is stuck so far up there.

  5. So the line is a hack job yes?