Saturday, October 25, 2014

Is your skin in balance?

I thought this would be particularly useful for fall when temperatures drop and skin becomes drier.

Everything good in life comes from moderation and the same applies to our skin. To function at its best, skin should be comfortable naked meaning without any products - after all products should only enhance and improve. If skin becomes reliant on any products to function normally for long periods of time, it is sending a signal that something is amiss. Fret not, this is usually caused by products used rather than a larger holistic issue.

Although people's skin will differ from one another, it's important to remember that we're evolved to be resilient not delicate. Barring any greater health issues at play, skin should not be in either extreme of oiliness or dryness.

Those with oily skin should understand how using stripping products can aggravate and imbalance skin causing further irritation when skin responds by overproducing sebum to alleviate the unnatural dryness. What few in the market understand is that the same can be applied to dry skin. We all hear how moisturizing is key yet how much, how often and which moisturizers to use should be an individual choice dictated by skin responsiveness.

I've met many people who have this over-reliance on moisturizers where it becomes absolutely essential for their skin to function. This actually means skin is no longer able to hold moisture on its own which is not a good thing. Brands aren't to blame for marketing their moisturizers necessarily and I believe it is important to provide your skin with moisture only when this boost is needed. There are several brands such as Dr. Hauschka and Arcona who deliberately take an active stance against moisturizers especially moisturizing at night (to let skin breath and work on its own).

Unlike imbalanced oily skin, it is harder for those with imbalanced dry skin to see when they're no longer helping their skin but suffocating and hindering it's functionality since there aren't clear signs. Those with dry skin who overuse moisturizers will often not notice that their skin has become weaker but that lightweight moisturizers that used to work are no longer enough which will often lead the person to slathering on MORE product and going after HEAVIER moisturizers in a vicious cycle.

If you have dry skin here's an easy way to tell if you've played a preventable part in compromising skin's abilities: cleanse your skin with water in the morning and allow your skin to stay 'naked' for 3 minutes. This is the amount of time after cleansing that skin can lock in "outside moisture". Without the aid of moisturizers or serums, see if your skin is able to manage this on its own. For those who are accustomed to using moisturizers immediately, you may feel some tightness and dryness. Skin that retains function should be able to counter this tightness and dryness within 10-15 minutes. If your skin becomes progressively worse, it could mean you've over relying on moisturizers and your skin can no longer manage this on its own. But base your skin's response off of both how it feels to the touch and how it appears rather than what's going on in your head since our brains are programmed to accept routine.

Here are some tips that can help regain function:

1. Slowly adjust to a lighter moisturizer in the evening until your skin can manage with something on the level of just one face oil.
2. Cleanse your skin. And I mean really cleanse your skin and not just go over it with an oil to hydrate and remove makeup - it does only those two things and not the actual cleanse which in the long term makes skin irritated and unresponsive. To make sure you don't end up using a cleanser that strips your skin just look for ingredients that do not include: soaps (including castille and organic soaps which ARE gentler than conventional soaps but still... not something to indulge in as a daily use product), alcohol (including organic grain/grape alcohol which again are more gentle but still can strip skin), sulfates. Look for a low foam formula that washes off with water (no cloth wiping).
3. Vitamin C and Vitamin A help with skin renewal which means compromised skin can get a fresh beginning. (When using a concentrated C or A serum, it's okay to add some moisturizer to balance the drying effects)
4. Save the moisturizer for the day. If you REALLY can't be without your moisturizer, then use the heavy duty stuff during the day. This is when the primary concern for skin is combating exposure. At night, skin needs to go into recovery mode and having a suffocating moisturizer is of greater hindrance.
5. Avoid moisturizers that use mineral oil that coat skin and for green beauties, do not use facial products that contain beeswax at night as this coats skin as well. Use it during the day, but wash off before bed.

If you use these tips to strengthen and build your skin back up, you must understand that the first few days will be the toughest as you'r weaning skin from an over reliance on these heavy products. Think of it as quitting smoking cold turkey, the first few days will make you not feel so great until you start to feel better. A lot of this is mental as well. You might feel that your skin feels tight or stripped, and it's because the feeling of "naked" skin is one you and your skin have to readjust to. Your skin will reteach itself how to balance itself over time.

Recommended Products:
Pacific Vitamin C Topical Treatment  - mix with serum for hydration and treatment
Elta MD AM Moisturizer or Dr. Alkaitis Organic Day Cream - breathable day time moisturizers
Skinceuticals Renew Overnight Dry - breathable night time moisturizer for improving dry skin
Yuli Halcyon Cleanser - gentle low foaming cleanser without alcohol, soap, sulfates that strip skin

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Skin Brighteners and Correctors FULL REVIEW

A long overdue post on some popular skin brighteners and correctors from my first impressions post.

What I did besides trying some on myself for first impressions on the texture and scent was that I had 5 people in my program test these products as well.

Before we go in, a disclaimer that everyone's skin may react differently to these products as everyone has their own sensitivities, so something that received a good feedback from a tester may not necessarily work for you and something that maybe irritated someones skin may actually work well for you. Also the testers did not see ingredient lists nor were they given information on specifics such as fragrance origin (natural/artificial), so all feedback is purely through how everyone perceived the experience and result of the products.

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum received good feedback from most testers who enjoyed the smell and milky texture. This earned the distinction of best smelling and feeling from testers. The testers seemed to agree that there was some positive difference in skin tone and dark spots although most complained that the results were too limited to be noticeable although they would be okay with investing in at least a full bottle of this to stick it through and see what results they get.

Kahina Giving Beauty Brightening Serum was recognized as a good brightening serum for those with drier/sensitive skin due to its gentle lotion like texture. Its light fragrance in a field of fragranced products was welcomed by all testers. Overall testers noted some improvement on par with the Caudalie serum but said it was not overwhelmingly discernible.

Testers feedback seemed to agree that while this serum may help brighten overall complexion with regular use, specific treatment of spots will need something more. Two testers also broke out from use although they do have oilier acne prone skin. These two also described the texture as slightly heavy and sticky while drier skinned testers enjoyed the heavier texture of the serum.

La Prairie White Caviar Illuminating Serum received the best first impression marks from the testers for the way it made their skin feel. Described as luxurious and quick absorbing, this serum glistens with a sheen thanks to strategic light diffusing ingredients that don't actually get absorbed into skin and will lose the luminosity once washed or worn off. This made skin look great for most people who cited a smoothing and tightening effect, due mostly to the high alcohol concentration and pervasive use of silicones.

With longer term use, this serum actually received the lowest scores for results as testers saw little to no discernible positive improvement. The same ingredients that give a great initial feel and impression do not actively improve skin and beneficial ingredients are limited to sparsely used essential oils. 3 people reported some minor irritation, citing what they believed to be alcohol or synthetic fragrance as a culprit.

Shiseido Bio-Performance Super Corrective Serum received similar feedback to La Prairie except the serum did not contain any glistening agents. This also provides a tight feeling marketed as "firming" that is actually just a result of drying skin out through the pervasive use of alcohols. Testers also reported problems with this serum absorbing into skin, remarking that it left a waxy texture.yet was also drying (alcohol).

Low shelf life (1 month) was a major dealbreaker for most testers. Although little is needed per use, the one month per bottle cost is higher than the rest of the products. Unlike the other serums, testers felt this didn't seem to fully address skin tone as the marketing material focused heavily on skin firming and anti-aging benefits.

Tatcha Deep Brightening Serum received kudos for best overall serum from the testers due to ease of use, fragrance/texture, initial impression and results. Testers loved the consistency of this light, milky serum and found the scent to be pleasant but not overboard. Two testers with fair skin noted that it was too strong for their skin resulting in a 'burning' feeling. Two testers also described the serum as sticky on skin while the other three said it absorbed well and did not leave a sticky feeling on skin.

An interesting note, immediate use felt very strong but it was not as visible as testers expected. Results after 2-3 weeks was the best with this serum with many noticing some improvement in dark spots and skin tone. Three testers reported that further improvement ceased after this period.

YULI Cell Perfecto PM received the most interesting feedback. It's herbal smell agreed with some and did not agree with two who felt it was more "science than luxurious unlike the other serums." A key drawback was the difficulty of use, with many calling the formula out for it's complicated texture that is totally unlike the other serums due to its unique ingredient component. This could result in improper usage or discourage casual users.

Despite its steeper learning curve, this serum scored highest in overall results and elicited the strongest recommendations from testers who cite noticeable improvement in skin tone, dark spots and also scars. Showing mostly likely that the very nature of the formula that results in the complex texture also provides these singular results. Three users with acne scars reported that they were surprised how effectively this serum healed their scars and red marks. Overall testers valued the performance of this serum and ranked it as the favorite for effectiveness.

Any questions or feedback? Drop them in the comments or send me an e-mail.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Office Hours!

I've been receiving so many e-mails from you all that I decided to just do a series called Office hours on this blog and address some of the most common questions I am asked. Will do my best to update periodically.

Is it just good marketing or should I really change the products I use every season?
It's good marketing because it gets you out to purchase more products, but it's also true but not in the way you imagine. To be fair, you probably will be using different products in the summer and winter where in the summer you might feel a facial oil will suffice by itself yet in winter, you might want a moisturizer. But the way I prefer to see it is, the skin is so dynamic that it's needs are constantly changing as a response to your diet, lifestyle, environment, stress, climate and so forth. Therefore this entire idea of changing out products due to weather is such a small part of the overall picture. My advice: listen to your skin and what it needs on an ongoing basis.

What products can I save money on and where should I splurge?

This is quite different for everyone, for instance if you live somewhere like Miami or Hawaii you will definitely need a sunscreen that works with your skin regardless of price. If you're pretty young with oily yet problematic skin, indulging in a moisturizer like La Mer is counter productive yet you should purchase a really good acne treatment (even opting for organic Tea Tree Oil over regular Tea Tree Oil).

Generally, I believe there are 2 areas that are investments: your serum and your cleanser. Without a good cleanser, none of the other products you use will really get a chance to do their job so it's completely wasted time and money. Serums are the most active skincare products and they are the most concentrated, these are the products that make a difference in your skin so investing in this will more directly benefit your skin.

An area to save in my opinion is moisturizer. Moisturizers provide a barrier for your skin, other than that any additional benefits are secondary and pale in comparison to the activity found in serums. The best moisturizer should not clog your skin but should provide you with supple skin, beyond that there is no need to go for fancier ingredients.

Should men and women use different products?

Everyone, regardless of gender, should be using products suitable for their skin. In other words, I'd rather you consider products are being suitable for skin type rather than gender. Most of the men's lines on the market are marketed as gender-specific in order to draw in the hesitant male customer and there are no ingredients in there that for example will give a woman a beard if she uses it.

There are some generalities (as with all generalizations there are exceptions): men tend to have thicker and oilier skin caused by testosterone which means the products we use in general are lighter. Men should also exfoliate more (and we do through shaving). Besides that it's just everyone figuring out what works for them.

If you have any questions you'd like me to answer just leave them in the comments and I'll try to get to them for my next office hour!

Friday, June 27, 2014

June Reader Questions

Dear Green Derm,

I hope you can help me with this. I use the Arcona Tabula Pads every morning and night to exfoliate my skin. My girlfriend says this is a toner and it doesn't actually exfoliate yet I SEE the dead skin cells and flakes with my own eyes. This is all I use to clean my skin and I'm really curious why I see all this stuff come off if it doesn't exfoliate, provide me some clarity?

Your girlfriend is half right. Arcona's pads can be simplified as toner soaked cotton pads. Toners when used alone can condition your skin and disinfect. It's a big of a stretch to call it cleansing, but not too far fetched as the pads indeed help get a lot of stuff off your face similar to cleansing wipes. The reason your girlfriend is only half-right is because of two reasons:

1. This product contains lactic acid which offers chemical exfoliation.
2. The cotton pads when swiped over skin offers physical exfoliation.

This is why you're seeing the dead skin accumulation on the pads. Something I want to point out is, if this is all your use to clean your skin and you're seeing dead skin regularly with cleansing, you should consider investing in a good cleanser which will help clean deep down (some with enzymes or acids can also continue to break down dead skin cells).


I have keratosis pilaris on my legs and as it is summer, I would like to work to get rid of this so I can go to the beach or pool in confidence instead of hiding behind wraps. Are there any good solutions?

Keratosis Pilaris is firstly a very common skin condition that many people have, so you should definitely not feel like you have to hide. Now I have good news and bad news. The good news is that this condition is often benign and will fade as you get older (in fact, a lot of women say it significantly goes away with hormonal changes during their first pregnancy). The bad news is that it is difficult to fully treat so the common method of treatment is managing and improving the condition. In terms of solutions, dry skin tends to intensify this condition so moisturize your skin. The best option is to use a moisturizer that also contains an exfoliant to break through that excess layer of accumulated protein. There is a good product on the market that I am not associated with in any way called AmLactin which is an Alpha-Hydroxy moisturizer especially made for this condition. It isn't green but it's the best product on the market (in my opinion) to help manage this.

I have a daughter who will inherit and her parents bad skin genes (both of us had terrible teenage skin), are there any steps I can take to prevent this? 

Prevent is smart but depending on how old she is right now, be careful not to go overboard. Most young kids have resilient, durable skin that shouldn't be tinkered with too much. I recommend gentle cleansing and a good sunscreen as preventive measures that will go far in her adult life. Beyond that, I think you two should look for a dermatologist so there is a professional who will be prepared to help your daughter when the time comes and her skin begins to change. Also start preparing a list of the do's and don'ts that you wish you could have had when you were going through these things so your daughter can avoid making the mistakes you've made (such as picking at pimples, using 5% BP solutions, so forth) and keep only the good behavior. Finally, no one has perfect skin and going through that at times painful transition from childhood to adulthood is a part of life. Your daughter will be fine and she will have parents who will serve as a resourceful pool of knowledge when she does need help.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

First Impressions: Skin Brighteners and Correctors

For the past two weeks I've been playing with a variety of the most raved about brighteners and correctors from ultra premium brands both green and not green. Brighteners and Correctors are a very complicated category because it is easy to confuse what the products are supposed to do. Brighteners will enhance skin, making it appear more even and "lit", which is beneficial for those who have dull and uneven skin. A lot of brighteners fade color with acids or melanin suppressants. Correctors focus on the damaged skin that contributes to the flawed complexion so they work on turning over damaged skin and making it healthy and normal again. Results usually come more quickly with brighteners because they are meant for the more superficial surface level issues while correctors often work on deeper damage.. While it is too early to call out the performers, I thought I'd post a little about the first impressions.

Texture and scent:

Shiseido and La Prairie are very similar to each other. Their serums both promise brightening with Shiseido going a step further to offer correcting. They're both light and sink into skin easily thanks to alcohol and silicones which there is a lot of. The fragrance is as expected for a high-end brand. La Prairie has sparkle pigments that resemble a subtle glitter bomb which probably gives a temporary luminosity to skin until it is washed off.

Caudalie and Tatcha are very similar in that theirs are both very fluid, milky serums with nice fragrances. The fragrances Caudalie uses in their products are so good that they've been bottled into perfumes but unfortunately, similar to Shiseido and La Prairie, they're synthetic while Tatcha uses natural fragrance. 

Kahina is also milky but a little thicker than the others. The scent is very light compared to the others but there does seem to be a mint smell.

Yuli has a plant oil base but the texture is actually more of a clear gel because of the other ingredients. This gel texture enables some material to be suspended which supposedly gives off activity over time and is supposed to be massaged onto skin to penetrate and stimulate - smart! The scent is herbal and light.

Skin Response:

After initial tests and 2 week trial runs, if I were to pick the ones that I predict would deliver the most results with extended use, I would say Tatcha's Deep Brightening Serum and Yuli Cell Perfecto. These two felt like they did the most in this short amount of time so I think given a more extended run, the results will probably keep coming.

I'll post a full rundown on these products when I've had more time but for those of you looking for some direction now, I thought this might be helpful.