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.


  1. I love this Q&A format! Very informative, especially the part about vitamin C since I know this causes a lot of confusion. Can you point me to any in-depth research that explains it in more detail?

    Also, further to your comment "there are so many great oils you can use that contain zero photosensitizing ingredients", which ones would you recommend?


    1. Thanks Sonja!

      What do you want to learn more about in terms of Vitamin C? I think in general, a lot of confusion came about through poorly researched and expressed views by one line. There isn't anything wrong with Ascorbic Acid, they just used it as a selling point at the cost of essentially damaging other lines who use this.

      For facial oils, I would recommend them based on skin type rather than just the citrus oil issue. For instance, Dr.Alkaitis Nourishing Oil is a good choice for drier skin types, Sunday Riley Juno Oil/Nude Progenius is good for normal skin, there are many many possibilities. I still think May Lindstrom's The Youth Dew is a wonderful oil that I would not hesitate to use at night, but there are so many oils you can use during the day that would be better for your skins long term health.

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    3. I should have clarified my question - apologies! I've been researching vitamin C in terms of its in-lab production, how the body absorbs and process it, and even though ascorbic acid penetrates the skin more deeply if you have diet rich in vitamin C will you see the same benefit? How do you know when ascorbic acid is cheaply made? Could a quick fix when your skin is in need of it simply be a pineapple or papaya mask? These are the questions I'm trying to research and since there are a lot of conflicting information out there I just wanted to see if you had a reputable source I could turn to.

      Also, you now have me curious with the "better for long term health" - what ingredients does an oil have to have in order to win in that category? Lastly, does your skin really need a different type of oil for day versus night?

      Thanks so much!

    4. So the 1st part is that not all Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) is a cheap in-lab product. L-Ascorbic Acid is naturally derived and even the Kakadu Plum Extract is produced in a lab to be extracted. So "in lab production" is an umbrella term that covers the variety.

      Topical versus supplemental intake of Vitamin C will definitely have different effects. However in this case we're comparing different forms of Vitamin C applied topically.

      There are some sources you can turn to, but they're primarily just going to echo the effectiveness of various forms of vitamin c (Ascorbic Acid, L-Ascorbic Acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbyl glucosamine, etc.) - btw the Kakadu Plum Extract contains various forms of the aforementioned Vitamin C, all Vitamin C is grouped into those subgroups, so when you see it written, that doesn't mean it's a "synthetic Vitamin C".

      Here's some cool reads: Farris PK. Topical vitamin C: A useful agent for treating photoaging and other dermatologic conditions. Dermatol Surg 2005;31:814-818 - Shindo Y, Witt E, Hans D, Epstein W, Packer L. Enzymic and nonenzymic antioxidants in epidermis and dermis of human skin. J Invest Dermatol 1994;102:122-124. Van Scott E, Ditre CM, Yu RJ. Alpha-hydroxyacids in the treatment of signs of photoaging. Clin Dermatol 1996;14:217-226. - Phillips CL, Combs SB, Pinnell SR. Effects of ascorbic acid on proliferation and collagen synthesis in relation to the donor age of human dermal fibroblasts. J Invest Dermatol 1994;103:228-232. - Colven RM, Pinnell SR. Topical Vitamin C in aging. Clin Dermatol 1996;14:227-234. Fitzpatrick RE, Rostan EF. Double-blind, half-face study comparingtopical Vitamin C and vehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage.Dermatol Surg 2002;28:231-236. Nusgens BV, Humbert P, Rougier A, Colige AC, Haftek M, Lambert CA, et al. Topically applied vitamin C enhances the mRNA level of collagens I and III, their processing enzymes and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase I in the human dermis. J Invest Dermatol 2001;116:853-859.Humbert PG, Haftek M, Creidi P, Lapiere C, Nusgens B, Richard A, et al. Topical ascorbic acid on photoaged skin. Clinical, topographical and ultrastructural evaluation: double-blind study vs placebo. Exp Dermatol 2003;12:237-244.Sauermann K, Jaspers S, Koop U, Wenck H. Topically applied Vitamin C increases the density of dermal papillae in aged human skin. BMC Dermatology 2004;4:13.

      Now the 2nd part of your question, better for long term health applies to the correlation of sun damage and citrus oils, not an overarching concept of better health in itself. The impact of photosensitivity attributed to citrus oils on skin manifests over time, not immediately, and this is what I meant when I said that there are better options to consider for the long term health of skin. You do not need a different type of oil for day versus night, but simply if you love The Youth Dew, I would unreservedly recommend it for night time use.

  2. I discovered your blog today and I am quite relieved by the breath of fresh air your writing has been to the green beauty world. As a medical student, I frequently shake my head at the pseudo science that is spouted so freely. And yes, La Bella Figura is one of the biggest offenders. Rather than promote products on the premise of "this is the worlds top this" or that, the focus should be on the product itself. Even if Kakadu Plums has 3 times the vitamin c of guava or acerola, how big of a different will it make? That doesn't mean a product only has one kakadu plum versus one guava, two grams of ascorbic acid powder will most likely trump the Vitamin C content regardless.

    1. Thank you. It's definitely daunting writing some things knowing how fervent and impassioned support for some brands are, but judging from a previous post, there are definitely also people who are yearning for more disclosure and education rather than the "pseudo science".

      And you are completely right as much debate as there is about what contains the most Vitamin C and what not, the amount and concentration used makes all other arguments irrelevant.

  3. Would you recommend May Lindstrom's Youth Dew as a night time oil? What sunscreen do you use?

    I'm not sure why Vitamin C is a big deal lol. It's just a vitamin! Kakadu plums are not anything new, they are used in several beauty lines here in Australia but there hasn't been this much fervor!

    1. yes I would recommend The Youth Dew as a night time oil, I do not think it is a bad product at all, not in the least! It smells fantastic, and I have recommended it in previous posts as a great acne oil for those with drier skin.

      I use Osmosis Shelter and I'm looking for a new sunscreen after this is done.

      Agree completely that Vitamin C should not be such a controversial topic.

  4. Very informed post as always green derm! I agree that more green beauties should look for companies that are better vetted such as Intelligent Nutrients which doesn't market as hard as LBF but has a lot of experience with skincare and uses the latest technology such as stem cells while LBF drones on about how they're always the "first to use" so and so ingredient that doesn't really matter. Also the modern radiance concentrate isn't a "revolutionary gel cream" texture, its oils +butter which makes it very occlusive so good luck getting other products to absorb!

  5. Thank you so much! Informative as ever! One question regarding citrus oil in spf; i do not quite understand why it isn't a biggie in physical spf when it is in a face oil.. (If the oil is topped up with an spf anyway during the day)? Do you think the citrus in kimberly sayer and ren spf is problematic? Laura

    1. I don't think that it isn't a bigger deal, it's more because in a face oil you typically have less ingredients so everything is so concentrated which means the impact of each ingredient is greater. In a natural physical spf, the zinc oxide or titanium dioxide blocks a lot of the UV from the citrus so it is less of a deal.

  6. Thanks for this post! It's nice to hear the facts from someone who doesn't have a brand to promote. I'm wondering what you think about the effects of steam on one's face? A lot of natural beauty proponents and some brands *ahem LBF* claim that steam, especially using herb-infused water, can "detox" the skin. I know that obviously it doesn't "open your pores"and the detox concept sounds like nonsense, but I'm wondering if steaming might carry other benefits? What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Alexa, I think steam is beneficial for boosting circulation and drawing blood to the surface which means more filtering. Cleansing might be more efficient as the trapped grime and gunk is more easily removed. I don't think whether or not the water is infused with water will make too much of an impact, it might be more for aromatherapy rather than any actual skin benefit.

      Although the heat will cause pores to be slightly relaxed through this process, steam itself does not 'detox' your skin as that is more of an internal process.

  7. Such an informative post. Love it. Thanks Green Derm.

  8. Great post (and blog in general)! I really enjoyed reading this, and thanks for shedding light on the whole Vitamin C issue.

    - widdershins

  9. Such a refershing blog and an honest straight to the point post. Love the fact you do not wax lyrical about a particular brand. I would rather use tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate or ascorbyl palmitate in my natural formulations rather than rely on a natural active which my have an inactive or unreliable form of vitamin c - potency or stability wise. Geeta

  10. I have a question...I stumble on your post, because you wrote about "La Bella Figura" and I've been advised to try it to remove my sun spots around my eyes and on my cheeks and I'm trying to find a natural product that would do so. I heard "vitamin C" is the best to remove sun spots, but after trying the Organic One Love from Elizabeth Dehn Vitamin C Serum, it did not resolve my sun spots problem! Any natural products advises??
    Thank you