Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Way Things Work

Dear Friends,

I started this blog almost 4 years ago as a medical student in dermatology. Unlike other blogs, I didn't utilize fancy visuals or full blown product pitches, the way I operated was simple: I just provided my insight with the intention of being helpful.

The beauty industry often lacks clarity and is filled with unsubstantiated claims or overblown promises. This blog has served as an outlet for me to dispel myths, and provide actual guidance. I did not know if writing from my point of view, free of marketing language and the "glam" would find an audience. Years later, I still receive around 2-3 e-mails a day asking what I think about a product or how a routine can be improved. To say I am amazed by the response is an understatement.

When I was attacked by a brand you came to my support and provided very kind words that motivated me to continue. On the flip side of honesty and that "integrity" is that sometimes a brand may be threatened or hurt by an opinion. I've been blocked, received threatening DMs and even legal notices. It is all very draining and my interest in continuing this blog waned.

In the fall of 2016, I was approached by a website Garçon's World with their mission of including guys in the conversation of health and wellness. It immediately caught my attention as men just never seemed to move beyond the lifestyle pages of GQ the way that women have created communities such as Into The Gloss and GOOP. Through continued conversation, I realized that Garçon's World would be the ideal platform for me to continue my goal of providing honest insight to a larger audience.

I welcome each and every one of you to follow me (and the continuation of this blog) over on Garçon's World. Waiting for you right now is my latest post on reader questions where I tackle retinols, acne treatments and exfoliation. I look forward to continuing the journey with you all over there!

As always, messages sent to me will continue to be answered even if it takes a while for me to get to them!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Reader Questions: Formula Edition

It's been a while since I've been able to post on here. Mostly school has kept me pretty busy and the time I'd spend writing a post is now relegated to answering the growing numbers of e-mails. I'm going to try and organize your reader questions into categories so they're easy to find if you ever need to come back to them at a later date.

This edition is about common ingredients in formulas that many of you had questions about.

What should I look for a in face oil for the most hydration?

I get this type of question a lot and the reason I'm posting it is to help distinguish the difference: oils help with dry skin and they can seal in hydration. They're products that are good for DRY skin which is characterized by a lack of natural oils on skin surface. The way they might contribute to hydration is by sealing in moisture and for that, you'll need a a formula that has a good mix of carrier oils with larger molecular size that don't penetrate as deeply as some essential oils.

Water based products with glycerin and hyaluronic acid are what you're looking for if the intent is to help with maximizing hydration. The best time to put on products for hydration is within 3 minutes of showering. And as oils can help seal in the moisture (depending on the formula), make sure your skin is damp when they are applied.

I'm looking for a natural retinol or alternative, what are my green product options?

I've made a conscious effort to stay away from specific product analysis on here due to what transpired when I had questioned La Bella Figura's claimed Vitamin C effectiveness (which despite some plants that contain Vitamin C, does not actually contain active Vitamin C in the formula!) in Modern Radiance Concentrate which led to them harassing and attacking me. With that out of the way, the fact is that I do receive questions about new products and popular products ALL THE TIME and I understand many of you want to know my honest feedback so please - take what I am saying about this and all future specific products as purely my opinion.

There are some products that use retinol such as Osmosis and Arcona. Both use the chemical form which isn't bad, but most of you who e-mail me are making an effort to avoid them. Although neither Osmosis nor Arcona are fully 'green', their formula in general is pretty good as far as retinol based products go.

Sunday Riley has the Luna oil that contains transretinol ester which is also a chemical form in an oil base. What I don't like about it is the fact that there is blue coloring in the formula and I found her 'reasoning' behind it (to tell you when it is absorbed) to be frivolous and invalid due to the fact that dyes simply do not work as absorption indicators and they're also not included with the rest of the line (so does that mean absorption of her other products including 3 other face oils, aren't important?)

Natural forms of retinol do occur but not in the extracted, pure forms that are only present in chemical retinol form. This means they work slower, but you may also avoid some of the side effects like dryness, potential mutagenetic impact and phototoxicity. Some recommendations and more information is in a previous post I wrote about Vitamin A which you can check out here.

Lastly there are the 'retinol alternatives' and these are products that don't use any form of retinol but mimic their activity. Moonlight Catalyst is a retinol alternative and perhaps the one I get asked about most. This means it doesn't contain retinols nor naturally sourced retinols. The claim as a retinol alternative is because it's an exfoliating/resurfacing product with pumpkin enzymes and willow bark (often used as a natural form of salicylic acid) which is why it is a night time only product, also the new formula contains a biomimetic form of epidermal growth factor which is a building active. There are also actives like sea algae and peach extract that are said to hydrate skin. The truth is that retinol is more complex and does more than just exfoliating and we all know that retinol does not hydrate skin so I would say that Moonlight Catalyst is more of a broad anti-aging serum rather than a direct retinol alternative. I know their founder hates the phrase anti-aging, but honestly you guys- it's a scientific term that chemists actually use to describe what happens to skin and I wish we should stop wrongfully politicizing it as some type of age shaming concept when it isn't. It just creates a lot of confusion and in this case suggests retinol type activity when it isn't really accurate.

Soapbox moment aside, I also know from a formula standpoint that products shouldn't integrate 'building' ingredients such as growth factors with 'resurfacing/exfoliating' ingredients that break down such as enzymes and natural forms of acids. It can cause volatility and diminish the activity of the more fragile ingredient, in most cases the growth factors will be neutralized (additional source - via ELLE magazine October issue, below).

The last point to note is that a significant part of the price is due to the presence of Epidermal Growth Factor which the founder says cost them $300,000 per kilo ((source - where it is stated in the comments section) which may mean you're shelling out a lot for a product with an active ingredient that may not actually be doing too much due to how it is formulated. This isn't to bash the product, the founder, nor the brand, I want to make that apparent. I also want to be honest about my perspective which I know is different from the Kypris perspective, which is OKAY. Ultimately, it's up to everyone to use products as they please.

All green brands talk about how their ingredients are the freshest, in this case how do I tell who really has the most high quality products?

That is a great question but firstly, while freshness of ingredients is very (VERY) important, it isn't the only factor that determines the quality of a formula/product. I would consider the entire integrity of the formula as a whole, the level of ingredients themselves, the way plants might be extracted, all the way to how the products are packaged.

Now onto the question of freshness, I also see every brand discussing this and the truth is that for the most part these companies do order regularly and keep limited stock so in comparison to mass market brands, their products (and ingredients) are quite a bit fresher! With that said, companies that move more units will by nature tend to have fresher ingredients than a company that has ingredients waiting for orders. So more in-demand green brands are probably going to have fresher inventory than the small emerging one. The best way to tell this is to look at how they perform at retailers, if the inventory is pretty hurried and sells quickly, it's most likely a good sign.

A brand that controls their own production and sourcing will also tend to make fresher products than a brand that may source from other suppliers because in the latter case there is less control of production schedule so while they may order ingredients regularly, the actual ingredients shipped may be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months old when it gets to them.

Also, products made in a lab or co-packing environment should be better than products made at home even though many green fans like the idea of supporting a home-made line. There are lots more production standards in lab environments that limit contamination, ensure ingredient storage conditions, etc. that gives it a consistent level of quality assurance that cannot be matched by home production.

I wrote an earlier post called Not All Oils Created Equal that may be a helpful read. Essentially if you want fresh, you want as close to the source as possible and this differentiates between all the hoopla every brand spouts.

Brands that grow some to many* of their own ingredients (self-sourcing):
Bottega Organica
Earth Tu Face
Intelligent Nutrients
Tata Harper

*Based on publicly disclosed information

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A General Guideline on Sun Protection

Sun protection is one of the most discussed topics when it comes to skincare. I think the reason there is no clear cut guideline for sun protection is because there are so many lifestyle and personal variables involved. Despite the best advice and research, it's ultimately up to each person to figure out what works best for them and their lifestyle. A few general things to get out of the way first:

1. Sun protection is important and necessary. Cancer is the second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States. Skin Cancer is the most common form of cancer.  All skin cancer prevention revolves around sun protection.

2. Even if that alone doesn't convince you, prolonged sun exposure significantly ages skin.

3. No, the sun is not bad for you. When it comes to personal health, we have the tendency to group things into the "good" and "bad" category. However, it's not that simple. The sun is necessary for sustaining life, plants require sunlight for photosynthesis, which in turn fuels the food chain. Sunlight triggers the synthesis of Vitamin D and has been shown to be effective as an anti-depressive stimulant.

With that out of the way, let's approach the following recommendations with the open mind of cultivating a healthy relationship with the sun rather than one that gravitates toward either extreme of complete fearful avoidance or unrestrained acceptance.

  • Sunscreens offer chemical protection. Chemical sunscreens are often thinner and more quick to absorb into skin however sunscreens must be applied 15-30 minutes before exposure for any significant protection and mostly - some ingredients provide questionable levels of protection and may themselves become volatile under sun exposure. 
  • Sunblocks offer physical protection. Sunblocks are heavier and require more work to absorb into skin. If you're looking for natural/green sun protection, this is where you'll need to look. Newer formulas are getting around the thick/visibility issue by offering tinted formulas that function almost like a BB cream/tinted moisturizer. 
  • It's not just about the sunscreens/blocks: Avoiding direct sunlight by staying in shaded areas, wearing UV deterrent clothing along with sunglasses and hats all help shield skin from potential sun damage.
  • Consider the areas you are most exposed: many men forget to apply product to their ears while women tend to forget ankles. Remember that burns can occur anywhere under prolonged exposure so no area is insignificant.
  • Wear an SPF 15+ when indoors and under low exposure while SPF 30+ is ideal for anything else. There are higher SPFs but the pay-off dramatically decreases beyond SPF 30. The numbers are not on a consistent scale and a SPF 15 will absorb around 93% of UV radiation while SPF 30 increases this to 97%. 
  • Re-apply. Apply your product 30 minutes before going out. Rather than crunching numbers with how long you're outside, the time in between exposure and your SPF -- even the best laid plans are useless if they're hard to follow. I have an easier way to think about re-application. For those in the office with a 9 to 5, once in the morning and once before going out for lunch. Active? Apply again after showering or heavy perspiration. 
  • Waterproof vs Water-resistant. Unless you're planning to swim, opt for the Water-resistant formula which is easier to rinse off in the shower. Water-resistant formulas are designed to withstand exposure to water for 40 minutes whereas waterproof formulas are designed to withstand exposure to water for 80 minutes. 
Top questions:
  • I am Vitamin D deficient, do I still need sun protection? Yes you do. A lot of people are Vitamin D deficient and that is an issue because Vitamin D is important for maintaining cell immunity. If you fall into this camp, I recommend speaking to your primary care physician about adding a Vitamin D supplement. Based on your blood work, they'll be able to work out a dosage with you. The supplement may not be as "natural" as getting your Vitamin D through sunlight synthesis however it outweighs the risks of deliberate sun exposure for this purpose.
  • I live in a cloudy area, do I still need to apply SPF? Yes, 80% of UV radiation is able to penetrate through that layer so while it may not seem like you'll get a burn, the danger is still very much present.
  • Is sun protection more important if my skin is pale? Well yes, because you're more prone to getting a burn which in turn increases the likelihood of melanoma. However it's a misconception that those with darker, more pigmented skin tones do not need as much protection as one of the fastest growing demographics for skin cancer are African-Americans. 
  • What is the best active ingredient to look for in sun protection? There are many active ingredients and you want to look for a product that offers broad spectrum protection. The single most effective active ingredient is Zinc Oxide, which (good news!) is a staple in nearly all natural/green sunblocks and can be found in many broad spectrum sunscreens as well.  Zinc Oxide is one the only ingredients that covers UVA and UVB damage. Nano-particle Zinc Oxide was shown to be potentially harmful but most companies stopped using this form of Zinc Oxide. There are some environmental concerns but if you avoid going into the ocean/sea - you should be fine for the most part.
  • I don't use SPF because it's too heavy and my skin is oily and prone to acne, I know I'm supposed to use SPF so what should I do? On the priority scale, it should be skin cancer > acne right? So let's always make SPF necessary regardless of skin type. Next, experiment with products by going into your dermatologist and asking for light formulas. Often times this doesn't need to be a "oil-free" as even liquid sunscreens can clog pores. Your dermatologist will be able to recommend some good products for you (most of us even have samples on hand). As a general rule, chemical sunscreens are lighter and fast-absorbing compared to sunblocks. For those who adhere to natural/green products, the good news is there are some newer products out that do a pretty good job of being as light as possible for a physical block - also Zinc Oxide can be beneficial for some acne sufferers due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • My eyes are very sensitive, should I apply SPF around my eyes? Yes - the skin around your eyes are the thinnest which makes it more susceptible to UV radiation penetration. Most of the time when there is sensitivity to SPF there, it's actually due to the product getting into the eyes which can come from sweat/perspiration and rain so I recommend looking for a water-resistant formula.
  • I know I should protect my lips but I also don't want to ingest the chemicals that I put on my lips, is there any way to get around this? You should protect your lips as they're very much exposed to sunlight. What I'm about to say may come across strange but stay with me: to avoid ingesting your SPF, physical blockers should be avoided because they're meant to stay on skin surface which makes them not very ideal for lips. Instead what I suggest is choosing a chemical sunscreen that you can apply when you know you won't be eating/drinking for the next 30 minutes. Once the SPF absorbs into your skin, you're clear.
  • Are there other products I can apply to help my SPF? Yes! A lot of foundations (especially mineral based formulas) offer SPF. Antioxidant serums are also good at boosting due to their ability to neutralize free radical damage. Look for face oils that have sun protection such as raspberry seed oil, carrot seed oil, sea buckthorn oil, etc. and avoid ones that use photo-sensitizing oils such as citrus oils. 
What products do you recommend?

I like these brands: Elta MD, Coola*, Suntegrity*, Mustela*, Skinceuticals, Avene, La-Roche Posay, Pratima*

*Denotes natural/green options available

If you're purchasing a green physical block, be sure the packaging is air tight as the formula tends to be prone to drying over time, resulting in wasted product. I've seen this happen with sunblocks from John Masters, DeVita and Osmosis. 

I personally use Elta MD Physical sunblock because it's a well-balanced formula although not green as there are some chemicals that help with the texture to make it more easily absorbed. I don't believe these chemicals, used in the amounts presented will harm skin and I think they carry significant benefit in helping the sunblock bond with skin to be more effective. For days when I'm mainly indoors, I like Pratima's Neem Rose Sunscreen which is a very simple formula.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

MARCH Reader Questions

I've been getting more questions lately and if you have any you want me to look at, feel free to drop them in the comments. Some of the most frequently asked are compiled together.

What is an essence and how should I use it?

Essences are being introduced into the American market and like BB creams before them, seem to be influenced from Asia. When purchasing products I think it is important to look at ingredients and see how products work with your skin rather than buying simply into labels like toners, essences, serums. Some serums are thick enough to work as moisturizers, some toning lotions are actually fluid lotions, you'll find a lot of overlap with the definition.

Essences are meant to be used after toning and before serums. The classic cleansers were primarily soap based which damaged skin's acid mantle so acidic toners were necessary to restore the balance while conveniently sloughing off dead skin cells to allow serums to better penetrate. Essences would figure into priming the skin for serums. Now there are good cleansers that are not soap based so a lot of toners already do the job of essences especially green facial mists that are concentrated in botanicals (look for products whose first ingredient is not water).

A lot of essences in Asia are actually a lot like serums in that they're light, fluid creamy products. As to actual benefit, a well formulated product can always benefit skin but whether it's a toner, essence or serum will not matter as much as the individual product's ingredients and what it is meant to do.

How often should I exfoliate my skin?

As often as it's good for your skin. Everybody's skin is different, I'm not telling you anything new here. So you shouldn't exfoliate your skin based on a set formula but rather adjust as you see fit. One of the things I think a lot of people often overlook is they don't realize when they exfoliate. Exfoliation isn't just a chemical peel or abrasive scrub, you exfoliate a little with every cleanse (citrus oils, enzymes and acids often do this task), most non-hydrating masks carry some sort of exfoliation whether chemical based or physical, your Vitamin C and Retinol treatments exfoliate skin, etc.

If you're seeing clogged pores, dull complexion then go for some gentle exfoliation. Those who wear heavier products like make-up, thick moisturizers and chalky sunscreens may find they need to exfoliate more frequently. On the other hand if your skin is frail, easily reddens and feels really sensitive to the touch it's a sign you've went a little overboard.

One of the precautions I want to share is not to go overboard. This isn't only because of potential irritation. Scientifically, our cells will reach a hayflick limit which is the number of times a cell will divide until it stops. This is because each division shortens the cell DNA's telomeres. It's really difficult to actually identify when this is reached but you might notice some people who really advocate daily Retinols and exfoliating acids have really beautiful and smooth yet thin and crepey skin that kind of looks strained the moment they move a facial muscle. When skin reaches that point, there really aren't many viable treatment options.

What is double cleansing and when/why should I do it?

I had no idea cleansing was going to be such a heavily discussed topic. Firstly, cleansing is super important. When someone tells me they don't 'believe' in cleansing or simply don't cleanse, in my mind I'm already silently panicking before they go on to tell me about their skin troubles. In fact, a lot of times when patients say they don't cleanse or aren't doing it properly then tell me they have very very irritable, weak or compromised skin, I always tell them to get on a recommended cleanser and follow-up if the issue persists. That's how important cleansing is for skin health.

You might be reading this and thinking "but I don't really cleanse or I just use an oil and my skin is fine" - more power to you! But I'm going to burst your bubble and let you know that the expensive serums you use are essentially useless as they're most likely sitting on your skin since you haven't cleared the way for them to properly be absorbed into your skin.

Caroline Hirons explains this in more detail and I recommend reading her post.

Essentially: mornings, cleanse with something light. Evenings make-up remover to remove make-up/oil/sunscreen, follow with a proper cleanser to get to work on your skin after you've removed all that stuff off the surface of your skin.

Need recommendations, have questions? Drop them in the comments.

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!