The ocean is wild and calm, dangerous and beautiful. It holds miraculous treasures; powerful, healing treasures. Life flourishes here. Algae are one of those life forces with abundant potential for our skin.
Algae are nonflowering, mainly aquatic plants. They can be classified as macro (large enough to see with the naked eye) or micro (small enough to need a microscope to see it). Some algae live in the salty sea and others live in fresh water. They both hold promise, but for now, I want to focus on the macroalgae of the sea.
Macroalgae are better known as seaweed. There are three groups of seaweed, green (Chlorophyta), brown (Phaeophyta) and red (Rhodophyta). These seaweeds are a culinary delicacy in some parts of Asia. They are rich in healthful nutrients like dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, essential amino acids, and vitamins A, B, C and E. They have also been used in alternative medicine for internal and external applications for centuries. Phlorotannins, sulfated polysaccharides and tyrosinase inhibitors are a few stars in seaweed that have been shown to be beneficial for skin health.
The largest cause of skin wrinkling is from oxidative damage, primarily from over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. There is a whole chemical cascade of events that occurs starting from the UV damage to the up-regulation of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP’s). MMP’s are a group of enzymes that are activated by UV exposure or inflammation. They breakdown collagen and inhibit new collagen from forming. When this happens we see skin wrinkling and sagging. There are two specific kinds of MMP’s (MMP-2 and MMP-9) that are elevated in sun-damaged or inflamed skin. Studies using extracts from the marine alga Corallina pilulifera (a red seaweed) prevented expressions of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in human dermal fibroblast cells. This suggests that this seaweed may be able to prevent skin-aging caused by UV damage and inflammation. Another bonus, and maybe even a more important one, is that it protected DNA. This means it could protect against skin cancer.
A large population of us experience hyperpigmentation (a harmless condition where patches of skin are darker than surrounding normal areas). Examples are age spots and melasma. It’s not necessarily all that attractive and we have been searching for ways to safely and effectively eradicate it. Hydroquinone has been the gold standard but carries with it some potential negative side effects (if you’re interested you can see my post about melasma here). Seaweed to the rescue! Derivatives from Laminaria japonica (a brown algae) have shown to suppress tyrosinase activity. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that controls the production of melanin. Melanin is the natural pigment found in all human skin that gives it color. If tyrosinase is activated by say UV exposure, then a signal is sent to increase production of melanin. Increase in production of melanin equals darker skin (a tan) and sometimes, in uneven patches.
In addition to their skin and health benefits algae are natural, abundant, and reproduce rapidly. Although more studies need to be done, algae in skincare products shows some exciting promise.
If you want to give algae a try there are a lot of products out there:
La Mer Crème de La Mer is a cult favorite. It was created by aerospace physicist, Max Huber, to treat burns to his face after a laboratory accident. It combines fermented sea kelp, vitamins & minerals. You can now find La Mer products at Sephora.
Ahava Age Perfecting Hand Cream. Ahava products contain brown algae, a patented combination of Dead Sea minerals called Osmoter as well as other botanical ingredients. As an added bonus, this hand cream contains SPF for UV protection. You can find Ahava products at Ulta.
OSEA Undaria Algae Oil. OSEA is an organic, family-run company. They incorporate USDA certified organic algae into their products & are completely vegan. I am currently pregnant and want to nourish my stretching skin the best way I can, so I have been using the Undaria Algae Oil every day. OSEA’s products can be obtained directly through their website or are available in several spas.
Ren Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Cream. This line contains kelp, Magnesium, and Algae as well as other beneficial botanical ingredients. This is a newer line from Ren. It is not available through Sephora right now but I am willing to bet it will be in the future as they carry other Ren products. It can be obtained directly from Ren’s website or from one of my favorite online skincare stores, Dermstore.
When we think about protection from the sun’s rays we think of our skin. Our skin is very important, and deserves thorough daily sunscreen application. There is another part of our bodies that is exposed to the sun every day, and yet we don’t even think about protecting it… our hair.
We may not think much about protecting our hair from sun damage because it’s not living and therefore, can’t get sunburned or develop life-threatening diseases like cancer. Also, if our hair becomes damaged we can just cut it off, and new healthy hair will grow in its place. Can our hair even be damaged from the sun, and if so, why do we care?
First, yes our hair can be damaged by the sun. Our hair contains natural oils that make it shiny and easier to style. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun damages those natural oils (also called lipids) causing the hair to be dull, dry, frizzy, and prone to static electricity and breakage. Our hair also has proteins and disulfide bonds which help to keep it strong. They exist to protect the hair shaft from breaking when we brush or comb it. UV damage can disrupt the proteins and disulfide bonds, which then makes the hair weak and brittle.
Our bodies know that we need protection from the sun so it produces melanin. Melanin is the pigment we have in our skin that causes it to darken when we tan. Our hair also contains melanin. Very black hair has more melanin than blond hair. This means that light hair is more susceptible to UV damage than dark hair. That doesn’t mean that dark hair can’t be damaged, it can; it just takes longer exposure time for that to happen. This also means that the sun’s rays will cause all hair colors to lighten. If you color your hair, it’s in your best interest to keep it protected from the sun so that expensive color doesn’t fade.
There are ways to protect our hair (and scalp) from the damaging effects of the sun. We can stay inside (boo), stay in the shade (boo again), wear hats, and/or put UV protecting products on our hair.
We use hair care products in a couple of different ways: in the shower or bath for shampooing and conditioning, or spray-on products like hairspray and heat protectant. For a sunscreen to do its job it has to adhere to the surface of the hair for a long period of time. Shampoos and conditioners are applied for a short period of time and then washed away. It is likely any photo-protection that existed would be washed away as well.
We also wouldn’t want to think that if we applied shampoos and conditioners with sunscreen to our hair and let it wash over our bodies, that would be adequate sun protection for our skin. If it washes out of our hair it washes off our bodies.
For a spray sunscreen to be effective, it would have to evenly coat every square inch of hair. Since we don’t have beehive hairdos anymore, most people don’t use that much hairspray. A spray sunscreen will be more effective at protecting your scalp which, unlike our hair, is susceptible to sunburn and carcinomas like the rest of the skin on our bodies.
If you are looking for the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating on your favorite hair care products, you won’t find it. That’s because the US FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) prohibits SPF ratings on any hair care products in the United States. It is permitted, however, to state a product will provide UV protection. It just won’t say how much.
There are several manufacturers out there that have UV protection in their products. It will likely state it right on the front of the product but it’s important to read the list of ingredients. Some products will say they are UV protecting but they don’t contain any sunscreens. They will probably have all kinds of great conditioning agents in them that are great for keeping your hair hydrated, but they won’t block any UV rays.
Below is a list of FDA acceptable active ingredients in products that are labeled as sunscreens.
- Aminobenzoic acid
- Menthyl anthranilate
- Octyl methoxycinnamate/Octyl salicylate
- Padimate O
- Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid
- Titanium dioxide
- Trolamine salicylate
- Zinc oxide
Look for these ingredients in your hair care products. Also, be aware that some ingredients have more than one name. For example, octyl methoxycinnamate is also known as ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate or octinoxate. If you would like to see a complete list of FDA approved sunscreens with all of their glorious chemical names, then go here.
Products with sunscreens:
Coola Organic Scalp & Hair Mist SPF 30. This one states an SPF because it is for the scalp.
Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray SPF 30. This one also states an SPF because it is for the skin but can be used on your hair.
The ultimate protection for your scalp and hair is to stay in the shade away from reflective surfaces like sand, water, and cement but what fun is that? The second-best option is to wear a hat. There are a lot of fun hats out there and you can find one to go with pretty much any outfit. Coolibar has some great hats that are all rated UPF 50 (Ultraviolet Protection Factor).
If you don’t want to wear a hat then you can always apply sunscreen directly to your scalp. This is where the spray sunscreens come in handy. Trader Joe’s has an inexpensive spray sunscreen that was highly-rated by Consumer Reports. Dr. Cynthia Bailey offers a mineral spray sunscreen with micro-sized zinc particles so it’s not so white.
Although there isn’t a product out there that will effectively provide UV protection for your hair, there is always hope. Advancements happen every day. So, until that day arrives protect your strands with a spray like any of the ones listed above, wear a hat, and seek shade when you can.
You’ve most likely heard of probiotics for good gut health. It’s a hot topic with a lot of buzz right now. There has been some promising research to suggest that if we keep our digestive tract happy, the rest of our bodies will follow suit. Yes, even including our skin.
So what are probiotics anyway? Simply put, probiotics are live microorganisms like bacteria and yeasts that have health benefits.
Our bodies host large numbers of microorganisms on the inside and out. These tiny “bugs” help keep us in a state of good health and homeostasis. Sometimes these good bugs get out of balance and that leaves the door open for bad bugs to take over. When that happens we can experience digestive issues, infections, allergic disorders, and skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.
Probiotics are intended to be the same or similar to the good bugs that live in and on our bodies. If our good bugs need some help then a probiotic is meant to be that help. If we can keep the good bugs healthy, that can translate to a healthy body overall.
If you want to try taking a probiotic there are some things to keep in mind because not all are created equal.
What to look for in a probiotic
- It’s always best if you can obtain probiotics from fermented foods and beverages like Kimchi, yogurt and kombucha but if you are not a fan of those foods then taking a probiotic supplement is a great option.
- The FDA regulates probiotics like food instead of like medicine. This means that the makers of probiotic supplements (or any other supplements) don’t have to prove that their product is safe and that it works. You want to make sure you are getting what you pay for. Look for established manufacturers of probiotics. These guys will go the extra mile to have their products verified by outside groups that have a reputable history of certifying supplements. A few names to look for are ConsumberLab, NSF International, US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), and Good Manufacturing Practice Certification (GMP). Some manufactures will list the certification directly on the bottle but some do not. If you are purchasing your probiotic from a store or pharmacy, you could ask a store employee or pharmacist. Another option is to go directly to the manufacturer’s website. If you are unsure or can’t find this information then choose another probiotic. There are a lot of different brands out there.
- Look for a probiotic that contains multiple strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. There are a lot of different strains of bacteria that live in our guts and we don’t yet know the functions of all of them or what each one needs to thrive. If you can add a combination of strains, then you greatly improve your chances of a healthier gut and skin.
- Your chosen probiotic should contain ten billion colony forming units (CFU) per dose. CFU’s are the amount of living probiotic organisms. Studies have shown that ten billion CFU’s was effective for treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
- The packaging should have information about the viability of the probiotic. Manufacturers may use enteric coating or some other proprietary process for protecting the probiotic. Look for an expiration date as well. You may also need to refrigerate your probiotic. These live organisms don’t like heat and can die during transport from manufacturer to the store. They can also die when they are exposed to the acid in our stomachs. We want the bacteria to be alive when it reaches our gut so it can work.
Our bodies are true miracles that possess everything they need to grow and thrive. They are fine-tuned machines that function perfectly without us even realizing what’s going on. Sometimes that magical machine gets a wrench in it and needs a little help. Probiotics just might be exactly what the doctor ordered!
Antimicrobials from human skin commensal bacteria protect against Staphylococcus aureus and are deficient in atopic dermatitis
Every part of our bodies that sees the sun’s rays is susceptible to premature ageing and skin cancer. The best defense, aside from staying inside all the time which is not recommended, is to apply sunscreen. There happens to be one place that we cannot and should not apply sunscreen, our eyes.
Just like our skin, our eyes can get sunburned. Our eyelids are designed to protect our delicate eyes but the skin is so thin that light passes through, including sunlight. Over exposure to the sun can lead to vision loss, cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye causing blurry or double vision), macular degeneration (destruction of the central part of the retina impairing central vision) and eyelid cancer. In addition, squinting every time we go outside can contribute to those pesky crow’s feet on the skin surrounding our eyes.
So, how do we protect our eyes? The best thing we can do is wear sunglasses every time we go outside (despite the title of this piece, you don’t need to wear your sunglasses at night). It may sound funny to wear sunglasses if it’s not sunny out, but the UVA rays from the sun penetrate through clouds and haze and can still cause damage. I started wearing my sunglasses every day, rain or shine, a long time ago because my eyes are sensitive to light. I have what’s known as a photic sneeze reflex. It’s also known as, not joking, ACHOO (autosomal dominant compelling helio-opthalmic outburst) . I start sneezing uncontrollably when I go from low light (inside) to brighter light (outside). I found that if I wore my sunglasses I could avoid the sneezing fits most of the time. I believe it’s one of the reasons I don’t have a lot of wrinkles around my eyes; I’m not squinting every time I go outside.
Not all sunglasses are created equally, so how do you find the best sunglasses that (let’s face it) also look good.
- The sunglasses should have packaging or labels that state they have the ability to absorb and block 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
- Size matters. They should be large enough to cover the eyes, eyelids, and surrounding skin. The sun’s rays can enter the eye from a lot of different angles, so the bigger the better.
- They should be durable so they don’t break after one wear or even if they get dropped. I have lost count of the number of times I have dropped my poor sunglasses. They are still going strong despite the abuse.
- Polarized lenses to eliminate glare. This is especially helpful when driving, out in the snow, or when you are near water and white sand. Pavement, snow, water and white sand all reflect UV rays and cause us to squint from the glare. My lenses are polarized and it makes everything around me seem more colorful and vibrant. I put them on and look at the trees, the ocean, and the sky and it’s like whole new world! The polarized lenses can also help you see fish, turtles, and other fun stuff under the water. When I went to Hawaii I was able to see turtles swimming under the water but only if I had my polarized sunglasses on.
- Anti-reflective coating. This coating is applied to the back surface of the lenses in sunglasses. When the sun is behind you, its rays can be reflected from the back surfaces of the sunglasses into your eyes. The anti-reflective coating helps to eliminate this. Higher quality sunglasses often times come with this coating.
- For additional peace of mind that you are getting adequate sun protection from your sunglasses, you can look for the seal of recommendation from the Skin Cancer Foundation.
The following sunglasses brands have great, stylish options for every type of outdoor activity and they also offer prescription and readers:
I have 2 pairs of Maui Jim sunglasses and I absolutely love them! They fit into every category above including the seal of approval from the Skin Cancer Foundation. They are a little pricey, but they are amazing! When it comes to my health and well-being I am willing to spend a little more for the best because, well, I’m worth it.
Each one of us was born with our very own personal body suit, our skin. It is the largest organ that we possess. It grows and changes as we grow and change. It has a very important job to do, and that is to protect our inside from infection and germs. Our skin is constantly exposed to injury, whether from UV exposure, pollution, or physical injuries like scratches, scrapes, and other wounds. It is perpetually making new skin cells to repair itself. It’s always on the defensive, just waiting to mobilize the troops if damage is detected. In fact, our skin fully regenerates itself roughly every 27 days!
Unfortunately, each time our skin regenerates itself, it loses a little bit of it’s luster. We can help keep it fresh and youthful by taking care of it. The most important thing you can do is apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every single day. I have said this before and I will keep saying it because it is that important! If you don’t take this first step, the signs of ageing like fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone will keep getting worse!
So, now that we are applying sunscreen every day what else can we do to keep our skin healthy and youthful? We can apply skincare products with key ingredients. Once these products are applied we expect to see results, especially if we have paid a lot of money for them. So, when can you expect to see results from your skincare products?
The most disappointing news about skincare products is that they do not work overnight. It took years for skin damage to appear so we can’t really expect to apply a magic cream and wake up with ageless skin. We need to have a little patience. It takes time and consistency to see results. All good things come to those who wait.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to protect our skin from free radical damage like sun spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. It also helps to lighten existing sun spots and boosts collagen production. You may start to see results after a few weeks of daily use but maximum results can be seen after 2-4 months. The wait is worth it. You will see an improvement in skin tone and texture and your complexion will be brighter. You can read my Vitamin C post here.
This is a power house ingredient that works wonders. Retinols are available without a prescription and retinoids require a prescription. They increase the rate of cell turnover which stimulates new collagen production, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, diminish sun/age spots, and help prevent and treat acne. When first starting to use a retinol/retinoid most people experience redness, flaking, and/or purging (pimples that were lurking below the skin waiting to escape). If this happens try mixing it with a moisturizer and applying it every other or every third night. Gradually increase to nightly application as your skin gets used to it, and those annoying symptoms will subside. Expect to see results after six to eight weeks but you can expect your best results after 3 to 6 months. You can read my retinol/retinoid post here.
If you have dark spots, the most common lightener is hydroquinone. This ingredient blocks melanin production in our skin. You will likely notice a more even skin tone in approximately one month but your best results will be seen after 3 months. For more information about skin lighteners see my post here.
It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is different and everyone’s skin responds to different products in different ways. Some people may experience results much sooner than others and some may not experience the results they were hoping for. The one thing that is true for everyone is that if you don’t use sunscreen every day, you will not see improvement, no matter what products you use.
When I was in elementary school I had the most wonderful music teacher. She loved what she did and her enthusiasm spread to me so profoundly, that music was my favorite class of the day. She taught us to sing the popular music that we liked; she taught us to dance. Each spring she would choose a musical for us to perform. She directed and produced each one herself, and my favorite was Oliver Twist.
If you don’t already know, Oliver Twist is a tale written by Charles Dickens. It’s about an orphaned boy named Oliver Twist who was mistreated in many ways, including starvation. The musical includes a wonderful song about food which so happens to be called Food, Glorious Food. It was my favorite song to sing and the lyrics are sealed in my long term memory forever.
It is a powerful song because food is powerful. What we eat has such a profound effect on our bodies, both physically and mentally. There is even evidence that when we eat foods rich in sugar, fat, and salt we trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine. Once we experience that dopamine rush we typically want more and more because, hey, who doesn’t like to feel good? The problem is that this reward signal may suppress other natural responses like fullness and satisfaction. A survival instinct becomes an addiction.
Eating too much of the wrong kinds of food can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer. According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of deaths from heart disease and stroke are caused by high blood pressure, tobacco use, elevated cholesterol and low consumption of fruits and vegetables. There is evidence that changing what we eat can slow inflammation or make the body inhospitable to cancer cells. It’s amazing to think that just by changing what we eat, we can prevent, or sometimes reverse disease! Food really is medicine.
I’m not saying you can never eat pizza and hamburgers, because we were given taste buds for a reason. We have just trained our taste buds to prefer pizza and hamburgers over fruits and vegetables all the time. This is where the problem lies. I love food, I love to eat and I love pizza and hamburgers. I also love fruits and vegetables. I don’t have pizza and hamburgers every day, but I do have fruit and vegetables every day. I find the fruits and vegetables that I enjoy and I eat those. If I can find what’s in season, even better because it will be fresher. The fresher your fruits and veggies the more antioxidants and vital nutrients they have to give to you. Look for farmer’s markets, even in the winter, because they will be able to offer the freshest, in-season produce.
Every organ, blood vessel, and cell in our bodies benefits from good food. We begin to see a healthy glow that begins on the inside and radiates outward. Our brains are happier, our bodies are happier, our hair and skin are happier. We give ourselves the chance to increase not only quantity of life but quality as well. And I’ll take quality over quantity every time.
I love to read and I recently read a great book about food. If you are interested:
One day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and there they were. Vertical creases in between my cleavage. It was official, I had clinkles!!! I had worried about and took steps to prevent and diminish wrinkles on my face, neck and hands but I didn’t really think about my cleavage. Were they permanent? I slathered those babies with moisturizer and peaked in on them throughout the day. Luckily, they disappeared by the mid-morning. Phew.
The next morning those clinkles reared their ugly heads again. I hastily researched cleavage wrinkles (I tried clinkles but apparently that is not a very scientific name) and I found some useful information, including an old-school way to prevent and treat them.
Let’s talk about what causes cleavage wrinkles. The first culprits are the thieves of collagen: age and the sun. You can’t stop ageing but you can protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen every day. In addition to sunscreen, you can also wear clothing that reflects or absorbs the sun’s rays.
Sleeping on your side will also hasten the appearance of our clinkle friends. The skin between our breasts is smooshed and creased over and over each night we sleep on our sides. Over time, lines or wrinkles will form. I have always been a side-sleeper but I have trained myself to sleep on my back. I purchased a sleep pillow that encourages back sleeping and this has helped. Even though I am now a back-sleeper, those clinkles still pop up to say hi. It’s because I move around at night and end up on my side at some point (this is totally normal because if you didn’t move around at night you would develop pressure wounds, which is bad). So, is there something else I can do to keep those creases from forming?
If you already have clinkles, like me, and you want to diminish their appearance and prevent any future surprise visits, then you may want to check out silicone pads. Silicone pads have been used in the medical field to treat scars for years. There is ample evidence that silicone pads reduce the appearance of scars significantly. And since scars and wrinkles are happy cousins, in that they are both related to collagen, then silicone pads, in theory, should work to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
The silicon pads are not really magic, they work in a very simple way. They provide an occlusive barrier that prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL). TEWL is the term used to describe water evaporation from our skin. Our skin needs hydration to keep it from drying out and turning into a crepey crypt keeper. Wrinkles will become less pronounced when the skin is hydrated. Think of what happens when you put water on a dry sponge. The hard, dry sponge becomes soft and pliable. If you don’t keep adding water to the sponge it will dry out again. Our skin is pretty good at keeping a moisture balance but as we age it needs extra help. The silicone pads prevent water from evaporating from the skin to preserve the water balance needed for plump, youthful skin.
How to use silicone pads:
- Wash your face, neck, and décolletage
- Apply your favorite moisturizer
- Apply the silicone pad
- Go to sleep
- Wake up and remove pad
It is best to have the pads in place for several hours which is why it is recommended to use them at night (they also don’t look all that glamorous to wear during the day & probably wouldn’t go well with your bikini).
If your interested in trying some silicone pads, there are several available. There are pads that can be used for places other than your cleavage as well. I purchased a Sio Decollete Skin Pad, Nurse Jamie Neck & Décolleté Wrap, and the Nurse Jamie Face Wrap. I have been using the Sio pad and I noticed a difference after the first night.
Lastly, I read something the other day that I think I will remember from now on: Your face starts at the bottom of your boobs.
I had no idea what melasma was until I was pregnant. I never had as much as a freckle on my face beforehand. I didn’t even really notice it until after I delivered my baby. It started out as uneven, light brown patches on my cheeks. Those patches went from light to dark in the summer time when I was outside more. What I learned from my summer time hyperpigmentation fun was that I was not doing a very good job at applying my sunscreen. I was not applying enough sunscreen to my cheeks and just a few hours in the sun produced giant patches of brown on my cheeks (it looked like someone flicked a paint brush covered in brown paint at my face). I now begin my sunscreen application at my cheeks and take extra time to make sure I have adequate coverage, not just on my cheeks but all over. In addition to proper and adequate application of sunscreen, I used (and still use) other methods to keep my melasma at bay.
What is melasma?
We all have cells in our skin that produce a pigment called melanin. How much melanin we have is primarily genetically determined; the darker your skin the more melanin you have. Excess melanin production occurs when the cells are stimulated by hormonal fluctuations, heat, and/or UV light. The current school of thought is that melasma is hormone related, specifically estrogen, which is why it is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” (men can also be affected but far less frequently than women). It usually shows up as brown or grayish patches on the face, forearms, chest, and/or neck.
How to treat melasma
If you have melasma there is hope; you can get rid of it. If it occurs during pregnancy, it may fade on its own after delivery of your baby. If it does not fade, there are things you can do to move things along. Exfoliate to help with skin cell turnover and apply topical products that contain ingredients that help break down existing melanin and/or prevent new melanin from forming. Look for the following ingredients:
- Hydroquinone, naturally found in berries and wheat, is a topical skin lightener that works well, but there has been some controversy over its use. It works by breaking down existing melanin and destroying the cells that produce melanin so new melanin cannot form. Killing off the melanin cells could cause the skin to darken (a condition called exogenous ochronosis) but this is extremely rare & has only been reported in those who have used hydroquinone for a prolonged period of time (more than 6 months). Another reported issue is skin irritation, but this can be alleviated by using a lower concentration. If you decide to use hydroquinone try not to use it for longer than 6 months at a time, especially if you have darker skin naturally (some dermatologists recommend using it no longer than 3 months at a time). Typically you should see results after 4 weeks of use. One to try is Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum. This one also contains kojic acid and licorice. Rodan + Fields also offers a Reverse Lightening Regimen that includes hydroquinone.
- Kojic acid, naturally found in soy and mushrooms, will prevent new melanin from forming. Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum contains licorice and hydroquinone as well.
- Retinoids, synthetically produced, prevent new melanin from forming and boost cell turnover which helps to get rid of hyperpigmented cells. As an added bonus, retinoids help with collagen and elastin production which will aid in reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Retinoids can cause skin irritation but this can be alleviated if you apply a moisturizer as well. Stronger retinoids require a prescription but you can purchase some great lower concentration retinoid products like Rodan + Fields Redefine AMP MD System, Skin Medica and Replenix.
- Vitamin C, naturally found in citrus fruits, prevents new melanin from forming. I use and love Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, and Dermadoctor Kakadu C Intensive Vitamin C Peel Pads.
- Glycolic Acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, decreases melanin. Exuviance Triple Microdermabrasion Face Polish, Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, Drunk Elephant TLC Babyfacial, and Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel Pads are all great products.
- Lactic acid, found in milk and sugars, prevents melanin from forming. I use and love Dermadoctor Kakadu C Intensive Vitamin C Peel Pads. Another option is Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strenght Daily Peel Pads.
- Licorice, natural root, prevents new melanin from forming and reduces inflammation. I love the products by Tatcha and they have a Deep Brightening Serum with licorice root extract. The full size is a little spendy at $185 for 50 ml (1.7 oz) but they offer a travel size at $39 for 10 ml (0.34 oz). My personal philosophy is to get free samples, if I can, to try products before I buy them. If free samples aren’t available, then I look for travel size options which will be significantly cheaper than the full size versions. This way, if the product does not work for my skin I am not wasting my hard-earned money.
- N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG) and niacinamide, two compounds found in a recent study to reduce facial hyperpigmentation in Japanese and Caucasian subjects. Find these ingredients in Olay Definity.
Melasma is exacerbated by exposure to the sun, so it is also highly recommended to wear broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day (this is something you should do even if you don’t have melasma). It is possible to over treat melasma, which will cause it to worsen. Avoid treatments that cause heat or friction including laser treatments and high concentration chemical peels.
So how did I treat my melasma? I did not use hydroquinone products simply because I did not want to add another product to my routine. I like to keep things as simple as I can, so I try to find products that can multitask and that I can use every day as a part of my routine. That is why I chose to use exfoliation and a vitamin C serum and although it took about 6 months for my brown spots to fade, they did fade. I also received the amazing benefits of the vitamin C. If my goal was to get rid of my melasma quickly then I would have chosen a hydroquinone product.
- Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 every day!!!
- Exfoliate to help skin cells turn over.
- Apply topical products that contain any of the above ingredients.
- If you want quick results (in skincare that means weeks instead of instantly) use a product that contains hydroquinone.
- Avoid laser treatments and high concentration chemical peels.
- Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 every day!!! (I know I already put this one in here but it is that important.)
- Consult your dermatologist or aesthetician.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.
We have all heard this nursery rhyme but what does it have to do with skin care or health in general? The point I want to make is, that once something is broken it can be really difficult (and/or expensive) to fix. The same thing goes for our bodies. The earlier we start taking care of ourselves the less damage we will have to try to “fix” later in life.
Most of the cells in our bodies divide, die, and regenerate. The old or damaged cells are replaced by new cells but as we age, that turnover slows down and is less efficient. That means things start to break down and wear out (collagen and elastin start to fizz out as early as 25 years old!).
Ageing is inevitable and there is nothing we can do to stop that from happening, at least not yet. How well we age and the quality of life we have is largely based upon how well we treat ourselves (I know people who take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies). So what can we do to take better care of ourselves? Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (find the ones you like and eat those), drink water (infuse it with fruit or herbs for flavor), exercise (just walking is great), learn something new (anything at all), get quality sleep (important for just functioning properly), wear sunscreen every day (helps prevent skin cancer and wrinkles), spend time with the people you love (people who do this are happier and healthier), and relax (stress leads to all kinds of problems including premature ageing).
Take a little time to take care of yourself now and every day. Like we’re instructed on the airplane: put the oxygen mask on yourself first; you can’t help anyone else if you don’t first help yourself.
I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from the late George Carlin:
Life in reverse By George Carlin
“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends.
I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time.
What do you get at the end of it?
What’s that, a bonus?
I think the life cycle is all backwards.
You should die first; get it out of the way.
Then you live in an old age home.
You get kicked out when you’re too young, you get a gold watch,
you go to work.
You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement.
You drink alcohol, you party,
you get ready for high school.
You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb,
You spend your last nine months floating…
Then you finish off as an orgasm.”
The position in which we sleep and the material our pillowcase is made of might play a role in wrinkle formation or what are called sleep lines. When we lie on our side or stomach, our face gets smooshed into the pillow. If this happens over and over, permanent lines may form. The best option is to sleep on our backs. This position may not be comfortable for some people and we move around a lot when we sleep, so we are likely to end up on our side at some point. You could try placing pillows behind your back to make it more difficult to roll over. I did try this, and it sort of worked; but I move a lot so the pillows were on the floor by morning and I was on my side.
Another option is to purchase a sleep pillow. I bought the Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Delay Pillow. This pillow encouraged more back sleeping. I also no longer experienced neck pain or headaches after I started using it. And because I still end up on my side at times, it has U-shape to it so your forehead and chin are propped up but your cheek is free. The Beauty Bear pillow is also available in memory foam. I’ve had both fill types, and I personally like the memory foam one quite a bit more.
There are other sleep pillows on the market so I decided to try out a different brand. I found the Envy Pillow. This one comes from a couple of Canadian nurses and is made out of memory foam (you may have noticed a nurse trend here and that’s because I love nurses, plus I am one). This pillow also encourages back-sleeping but if you end up on your side it has a gull wing shape so your cheek is elevated. It is bigger than the Nurse Jamie pillow (about the size of a standard pillow) but it has a great design and really helps with proper neck alignment and support. They also offer a travel size and a kid’s pillow.
The pillow is important but so is the pillowcase. Most pillowcases are made out of cotton. Cotton is great, and I love cotton, but not for my pillowcase. Cotton bunches up and pulls against our delicate facial skin each time we move. The best material is silk or satin. These materials allow our skin to slide on the pillow. They are less absorbent than cotton so those expensive skin care products you applied before bed stay on your skin instead of transferring to your pillow. The smooth texture of silk and satin is also good for our hair. For the same reason it doesn’t pull on our skin it doesn’t pull on our hair. This means less breakage and healthier hair. The Beauty Bear pillow comes with a satin pillow case. The Envy pillow provides a choice of bamboo or silk. I purchased the silk cover and I love it. Envy also comes with a lovely travel bag.
If you don’t want to purchase a sleep pillow (because the prices can be a little high) you can switch out your cotton pillowcase for a silk or satin one. I found this inexpensive Silk Pillowcase on amazon. Soft Surroundings also has an inexpensive silk pillowcase and it comes in 3 different sizes and a nice range of colors. Silk can still be on the pricey side so a satin one will work and I have found some inexpensive satin pillowcases at Target, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Home Goods.
Get a good night’s sleep (see my post on sleep here), use a silk or satin pillowcase (and/or a sleep pillow), and always remember to wear sunscreen (if this is confusing, you must be new to my site). Your skin will thank you.
For further reading:
For the longest time, I resisted even trying micellar water. I thought, “What’s the point?” I use facial cleanser and water to wash my face. I couldn’t imagine how swiping a liquid-soaked cotton pad across my face, without rinsing it off no less, could possibly clean anything. Well, I’m always up for trying new things.
I knew what the term micellar meant. I studied micelles in high school and college chemistry. The definition of micelle is an aggregate of molecules in a colloidal solution, such as those formed be detergents. That is not very glamorous nor does it really mean anything to those of us who aren’t scientists. I could go into the chemistry of how micelles work but I won’t bore you. If you are really interested visit this site or this one here. In a nutshell, micellar water contains a bunch of micelles, which are like little sponges, suspended in water. The micelles have oil-loving tails and water-loving heads. This magical combination traps dirt, oil, and makeup and whisks it away with the swipe of a cotton pad.
I subscribe to the New Beauty Test Tube and in my last box of goodies, I received a sample of micellar water from Lumene. I read the ingredients and put it aside with the intention of trying it at a later date. My husband saw it and decided he wanted to try it out. He loved it! I was still a little skeptical but decided to give it a try anyway. To my surprise, I really liked it too. I thought my skin would still feel dirty or possibly dried out but it didn’t. It felt clean and hydrated. I wondered if other micellar waters would feel the same way so I went to Ulta and purchased a few others. I read through the ingredients lists of several brands and decided to purchase La Roche Posay Micellar Water, Pacifica Kale Water, Pacifica Cactus Water, and another bottle of the Lumene. I chose La Roche Posay because I like and use several of their products. I chose the two from Pacifica because I liked the ingredients, I like and use several other Pacifica products, and they are a local company and I like to support local when I can. So far, I like the Lumene and the Pacifica the best. That’s because they have additional, beneficial ingredients in them like Birch sap in the Lumene or glycolic acid in the Pacifica Kale Water. The La Roche Posay is best for those with sensitive skin because there are no additional ingredients. There are a lot of different micellar waters out there, so don’t’ be afraid to ask for samples. I ask for samples all of the time. This way if I don’t like it I don’t have to waste my money. I also shop around to see if I can find better prices. Amazon is always a great option and I purchase my Lumene from Amazon for $5.99 for a full size bottle. It’s even better if you are a Prime subscriber because you get free 2 day shipping!
I am pretty diligent about washing my face at night, but sometimes I feel so lazy I don’t want to do anything but go to bed. This is the perfect time to use my micellar water. Keep a bottle on the nightstand with some cotton pads, swipe your face, and done. You don’t even have to sit up! It’s also great for camping when you may not have access to a lot of fresh water.
I’m not really sure how micellar water will perform if you wear a lot of makeup. I don’t wear a lot, so it works pretty well for me. I clean my face, neck and chest every day and I have to use at least 3 cotton pads for that. I would bet with more makeup you are going to be using a good amount of cotton pads, and even then it may not feel like you have removed all of your makeup. I would suggest using a makeup remover wipe beforehand.
I found an article in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology discussing sensitive skin compatibility of micellar water. There was no increased irritation from using micellar water compared to water. There was also an immediate increase in skin hydration after its use, and that skin hydration persisted for 4 hours. The study was 100% sponsored by Unilever. This means that the research and its outcomes may have some bias and should be taken with a grain of salt. However, there does seem to be something great about micellar water. After all, how could all those French women be wrong?
Taking care of our skin does not have to be difficult or expensive. There are simple things you can do every day that will give you glowing skin.
- Drink water. I know that for some of us this can be a difficult task. Some people forget and some people just don’t like drinking water. I get it. I used to be there, but I have since become a believer in the power of water. When I started drinking more water I began getting compliments on how nice my skin looked, and I noticed a little glow myself. Try filling a water bottle with water before you leave home in the morning and keep it with you to sip on throughout the day. Other liquids & foods count too as long as they do not include caffeine or alcohol. Herbal teas, lettuce, melons, and soup all contain water. You could also try adding fruits, vegetables and herbs to your water to infuse it with flavor. I love lemons, limes, blueberries and cucumbers.
- Get a good night’s sleep. This one can be tough too because we live in a fast-paced, always going society. Even if we manage by some miracle to get to bed at a decent hour we toss and turn and wake up feeling like we never slept at all. Stay away from caffeine before going to bed, make sure your bedroom is dark or wear a sleep mask, your bedroom temperature should be between 65-68 degrees F, and make sure you have a good mattress and pillow. If you like herbal teas you could try drinking chamomile tea or Fortified Calming Tea from WelleCo before bed. Use this code, http://fbuy.me/fJnBp, to receive $10 off your first purchase of $50 or more.
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have proven benefits for more than just our skin. They help keep all of our organs healthy which makes us feel better which, in turn, makes us look better. As an added bonus dark chocolate contains antioxidants. I keep dark chocolate in my pantry as well as dark chocolate powder to make hot drinking chocolate as a treat. Look for organic cacao without sugar added. I like and use Navitas Organics Cacao Powder, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, and Crio Brü. The Crio Brü is roasted and ground cocoa beans and you can brew it like coffee. One of my favorites was the Maya which had cinnamon, vanilla, and cayenne pepper but they don’t make it anymore.
- Wash your face daily. It’s important to wash your face at least once per day before bed to clean away accumulated dirt and makeup. If you have oily skin, a gel or foam cleanser works well. If you have dry skin, a creamy cleanser may work better. It is also important to exfoliate once or twice per week. Don’t over wash or over exfoliate because too much can cause more harm.
- Apply sunscreen EVERY DAY. I can’t say this enough. UV light can cause skin damage even on a cloudy day. The best way to protect our skin is to wear sunscreen every day. Also, it’s not enough to wear just your foundation, even if it has sunscreen in it. You are likely not applying enough foundation to get the right amount of sun protection. Apply sunscreen first then apply foundation.
- Don’t pick at pimples. I know this one is really tough but picking at pimples could cause scarring or infection. Apply an over-the-counter spot treatment that contains salicylic acid like Dermalogica Overnight Clearing Gel or benzoyl peroxide like Dermalogica Special Clearing Booster and/or wash with a cleanser that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution.
- Move your body. Exercise increases blood flow which increases the amount of oxygen delivered to your skin. This will give you that glow you are looking for. You don’t have to run a marathon; walking is some of the best exercise you can do.
- Avoid long, hot showers. This is important if you have dry skin or suffer from eczema or rosacea. Long periods of exposure to hot water can dry out your skin and increase red flushing and visible blood vessels. I’m not saying you have to eliminate hot showers entirely. If hot showers bring you joy, don’t stop (I personally know someone who would be devastated if he couldn’t take hot showers). Maybe take a 10 minute hot shower instead of a 20 minute hot shower. My motto is everything in moderation
- Apply antioxidants to your skin. Applying products that contain vitamin C and E will help to build collagen and keep your skin smooth. I use Skinceuticals CE Ferulic or Vitamin C+E Serum from Cosmetic Skin Solutions.
- Keep it simple: We all live busy lives and I don’t know anyone who has the time or energy for a multi-step process every night. In the morning wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply an antioxidant serum, moisturizer if you need it, and then apply sunscreen. To keep thinks even simpler, in the morning multi-task with a sunscreen that contains moisturizers like Drunk Elephant Umbra Sunscreen; this saves time and money. Before you go to bed wash your face with a gentle cleanser, apply retinol, and then apply a moisturizer. It’s also important to remember to exfoliate one to two times per week to remove dead skin cells.
There you have it. Simple, right?