What’s Facial Oil? Is It Harmful or Helpful?

When I first heard about facial oil, that is, oil that you literally apply to your face, I was shocked.

Do I actually need to put oil on my face? What if my face already has too much oil as it is?

Facial oils are typically used as emollients to soften the skin; however, these oils generally only coat the surface of the skin without forming an effective barrier.

In order to be an effective moisturizer, a substance needs to form an occlusive or semi-occlusive barrier on the skin to prevent trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which is water lost from the skin by evaporation into the surrounding environment.

Although facial oils may not be effective moisturizers when used alone, some of them can help to restore the skin barrier integrity and function, as well as possessing antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Structure and Function of the Skin Barrier

In order to understand the potentially beneficial applications of facial oils, we must first understand what is meant by the “skin barrier”.

The skin barrier (SB) is composed of corneocytes (keratinized skin cells) and the intercellular lamellar compartment (lipids/oils).

In the “brick wall” analogy, the corneocytes are the “bricks” that are surrounded by and held together by the intercellular lipid lamallae “mortar” to maintain the stratum corneum’s (outermost layer of the skin) integrity and its functional permeability barrier.

Brick-Wall-Analogy
SC (Brick Wall)
Corneocytes (Bricks)
Intercellular Lipid Lamallae (Mortar)

The stratum corneum (SC) acts as both a permeability barrier and an antimicrobial barrier of the skin.

What’s Facial Oil?

So, what exactly is facial oil–what’s in it, and should I be using it?

For the purposes of this discussion, facial oils are naturally-derived plant oils; ideally, these plant oils are extracted by cold-pressing so that their bioactive components are not exposed to heat or caustic chemicals, which could alter their composition.

Plant oils can be classified as either fixed oils or essential oils; fixed plant oils are not volatile at room temperature.

Skin lipids consist of multiple compounds, including free fatty acids (FFAs), ceramide precursors, sterols, phenols, tocopherols, and triterpenes.

Lineoleic acid is the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid in the skin and has a direct role in maintaining its integrity and permeability, while monounsaturated FFAs, such as oleic acid, are detrimental to the structure and function of the SB.

Phenolic compounds are antioxidants that are important for the oxidative stability of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Triterpenes can enhance tissue repair by inducing cell proliferation and collagen deposition.

La-Mer-The-Renewal-Oil
Creme de la Mer
The Renewal Oil

Continue reading “What’s Facial Oil? Is It Harmful or Helpful?”

Review: Neutrogena Triple Action Toner

Background

For as long as I can remember, when I think of skin care, my mind immediately pictures the transparent, orange-yellow cleansing bar with the word Neutrogena stamped into it. Neutrogena, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has definitely been around long enough to become a recognizable name in the skincare industry and is the most recommended (by dermatologists) over-the-counter skin care brand in the USA. Neutrogena makes a wide variety of skin care products ranging from soaps and facial cleansers to anti-wrinkle creams and serums and is well-known for products used to prevent and treat acne, one of which is The Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Triple Action Toner. When used as part of a more comprehensive skin care routine, toners are known to have a variety of benefits.

Neutrogena-Acne-Stress-Control
Neutrogena
Acne Stress Control
2% Salicylic Acid Toner

Specifications

Type: Toner.

Texture: Liquid.

Color: Transparent bluish-green.

Scent: Botanical; cucumber.

Finish: Smooth; easily-absorbed.

Price: $7 for 8 fluid ounces ($0.87/ounce).

Rating: 4/5 (good).

Retailers: www.neutrogena.com (official site); www.amazon.com (best prices). Continue reading “Review: Neutrogena Triple Action Toner”

What About Adult Acne? Is It Just Me?

Acne is a chronic, inflammatory-mediated disorder affecting the hair follicle and its associated sebaceous gland, resulting in distention (expansion) and obstruction (blockage) of the affected follicle.

Sebaceous glands normally function to keep hair shafts conditioned and prevent them from drying out; when these glands begin to produce excess oil (sebum), dead skin cells can become trapped within the pore, forming a plug.

This plug of oil and dead skin cells blocks the pore, trapping and creating an ideal environment for the proliferation of bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) that normally exist on the skin, resulting in inflammation and the development of acne.

Factors that may contribute to the development of acne include certain medications, heredity, stress, and increases in androgenic hormones.

Most people (over 90%) suffer from some type of acne as a teenager; however, about 20% of women and 10% of men are affected by acne after the age of 25.

Causes of Acne

The causes of acne are the same regardless of age; acne occurs as a result of excess sebum production, resulting in the proliferation of P. acnes and subsequent inflammation.

Excess sebum combines with dead skin cells and obstructs pores, creating an ideal environment for the proliferation P. acnes.

The body then mounts an immune response to the bacteria, which is manifested in the skin as red bumps and pustules.

Pathogenesis-of-Acne
Progression of Acne in Hair Follicles
  • Fluctuations in hormone levels persist into adulthood, and elevated levels of androgenic hormones stimulate the sebaceous glands to secrete excess oil.
  • Stress causes an increase in the secretion of androgenic hormones, leading to excessive sebum production.
  • Excessively dry skin causes sebaceous glands to secrete increased amounts of oil in order to balance the dry skin.
  • Chemicals in some skin care products can irritate the skin, leading to inflammation, which causes acne.
  • Certain medications can precipitate outbreaks of acne:
    • Corticosteroids (prednisone, hydrocortisone) can increase yeast proliferation within the hair follicle.
    • Lithium.
    • Antiepileptic drugs (carbamazepine, phenytoin).
    • Barbiturates (phenobarbital).
    • Androgenic steroid hormones.
    • Halogated medications (iodides, bromides, chlorides).
    • Antituberculosis medications (isoniazid, rifampin).

Prevention of Acne

Although it is impossible to completely prevent acne, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the severity of acne outbreaks:

  • Avoid touching your face, which can increase oil production, encourage bacterial growth, and irritate the skin.
  • Wash your face twice a day and after profusely sweating (e.g., running, exercise).
  • Gently cleanse your skin:
    • Use your clean fingertips when washing your face.
    • Avoid scrubbing your face with abrasive cleansers.
    • Avoid products that contain alcohol (e.g., toners, astringents).
  • Rinse your skin with lukewarm water; hot or cold water can irritate the skin and precipitate outbreaks.
  • Make sure that your skin care products are:
    • non-comedogenic
    • oil-free

Acne Characteristics and Severity

Acne can cause a variety of characteristic lesions:

  1. Comedones (obstructed pores):
    • Blackheads: open clogged pores.
    • Whiteheads: closed clogged pores.
  2. Papules: small, red, elevated lesion.
  3. Pustules: papules containing pus.
  4. Nodules: large, solid, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin.
  5. Cysts: nodules containing pus.
  6. Macules: flat, red areas of inflammation.

    Facial-Acne
    Acne On the Face

Acne severity can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of lesions that are present at a given time.

  • Mild acne: < 30 lesions.
  • Moderate acne: a lesion count between 30 and 125.
  • Severe acne: > 125 lesions.

Acne Treatment

  1. Mild Acne
    1. Keratolytic washes and toners containing salicylic acid can become concentrated inside obstructed pores, where they can dissolve dead skin cells and sebum to relieve the obstruction. Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties.

      Neutrogena-Acne-Stress-Control
      Neutrogena
      Acne Stress Control
      2% Salicylic Acid Toner

    2. Over the counter (OTC) topical agents:
      1. Washes and masks containing benzoyl peroxide (in concentrations of 10% or less) kill bacteria by peroxidation, decreasing the amount of surface bacteria on the skin. Benzoyl peroxide may also have anti-inflammatory properties, and it helps to break down keratin and unclog pores.
      2. Azelaic acid (in concentrations of 10% or less) has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it inhibits keratinization in hair follicles to decrease comedone formation.
      3. Adapalene (Differin) is a retinoid cream that was previously available only by prescription and is effective in the treatment of acne. It is often less irritating to the skin than tretinoin.
  2. Moderate Acne
    1. Topical antibiotics are effective at killing excess skin bacteria and reducing redness; they are often combined with benzoyl peroxide in order to decrease antibiotic resistance.
      1. Clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide (BenzaClin).
      2. Erythromycin and benzoyl peroxide (Benzamycin).
    2. Topical prescription retinoids such as tretinoin (Retin-A), adapalene (Differin), and tazarotene can be used to increase cell turnover, decrease inflammation, and prevent the adherence of keratinized epithelial cells in hair follicles.
    3. Topical dapsone gel has both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be effective in the treatment of acne.
  3. Severe Acne
    1. Severe cases of acne should be referred to a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
    2. Systemic (oral) antibiotics can be given in combination with topical benzoyl peroxide creams in order to kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation.
    3. Systemic (oral) isotretinoin (Accutane, Claravis) works by decreasing the sebaceous gland size and sebum production. It can be very effective in the treatment of severe acne, but there are several side effects, and female patients must use two forms of birth control and take pregnancy tests for 30 days before, during, and for 30 days after treatment.
      1. Birth defects (in pregnant women).
      2. Depression (increased risk of suicide).
      3. Hepatitis.
      4. Osteoporosis.

You’re Not Alone

Treatment of adult acne depends on the severity of the breakouts and is often aimed at decreasing sebum production, reducing the amount of bacteria on the skin, decreasing associated inflammation, and removal of debris and dead skin cells.

Acne breakouts consist of different types of skin lesions, each having its own characteristic appearance.

Although there is no way to prevent the occurrence of acne breakouts, their frequency, and severity can be reduced by identification and avoidance of contributing factors.

The incidence of adults afflicted with acne seems to be increasing; however, effective OTC and prescription treatments are widely available, and consultation with your dermatologist will maximize your chance of success.

If you have struggled with adult acne or know someone who has, please leave a comment and let me know how you dealt with it and/or treated it.

What’s Facial Exfoliation? And Should I Do It?

When the term “exfoliation” is used in the context of skin care, it refers to the removal of a superficial layer of dead skin cells, which are sloughed off routinely every month when we are young.

As we age, natural exfoliation of skin cells can take twice as long, resulting in the accumulation of a layer of dead skin cells.

This thicker layer of dead skin can cause the complexion to appear dull, discolored, and broken out (resulting from clogged pores).

Exfoliation, achieved by either mechanical or by chemical means, can make your skin look brighter, smoother, and more even; however, if done too aggressively, it can cause micro-tears that compromise the protective skin barrier.

Benefits of Exfoliation

Removal of layers of dead skin cells can help to brighten your complexion, reduce redness, smooth rough patches, fade acne scars and dark spots, and stimulate collagen production.

Exfoliation helps to unclog pores, which prevents breakouts and increases the effectiveness of other skincare products by allowing them to penetrate more deeply into the skin. It also helps to loosen ingrown hairs when done prior to shaving.

Types of Exfoliation

  1. Mechanical (physical) exfoliation requires physical force to remove dead skin cells; it can be achieved by using a sponge, a brush, or mild abrasive particles to smooth and refine the skin.
  2. Chemical exfoliation is usually more gentle on the skin than mechanical exfoliation; it utilizes acids or enzymes to loosen desmosomes that hold the dead skin cells together, facilitating their removal.
    1. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are water-soluble and exfoliate the surface of the skin. They draw in moisture to help keep the face hydrated. Types of AHAs include lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and tarteric acid.
      1. Lactic acid is the most gentle of the AHAs, which makes it an excellent choice for sensitive skin.
      2. AHAs should be applied every three nights on clean, dry skin when you are beginning to use them.
      3. AHAs should be allowed to penetrate the skin for about 10 minutes before application of subsequent skincare products.
      4. Glycolic acid is stronger and quicker-acting than lactic acid; it is appropriate for normal or oily skin.

        Glycolic-Acid
        The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

    2. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are oil-soluble and re-open oil-clogged pores to treat blackheads and comedones. They have anti-inflammatory properties, which help to reduce some of their irritating effects.
      1. Salicylic acid is a common type of BHA.
      2. BHAs can be irritating and drying if high concentrations are applied to the entire face.
      3. BHAs should be used every third night on clean, dry skin.

        Salicylic-Acid-Pads
        Neutrogena Rapid Clear
        Salicylic Acid
        Treatment Pads

    3. Retinoids
    4. Urea
  3. Certain skin types require specialized types of exfoliation:
    1. Oily, thick skin can tolerate more potent chemical exfoliants and mechanical exfoliants.
    2. Individuals with darker skin should refrain from the more aggressive forms of exfoliation, which can result in the formation of dark spots on the skin.
    3. People who have dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin benefit from a mild chemical exfoliant as mechanical types may be too irritating.

Continue reading “What’s Facial Exfoliation? And Should I Do It?”

La Mer Concentrate Serum: A Versatile Product

Background

Creme de la Mer has evolved into a quasi-legendary skin care product line; it began as a smaller, word-of-mouth organization and was later purchased by the Estee Lauder company in 1995. The Concentrate is an anti-inflammatory, hydrating serum that contains a concentrated form of “Miracle Broth, an ingredient common to all Creme de la Mer products, which is a proprietary, nutrient-rich serum derived from the “biofermentation” of sea kelp. Due to its iconic status among celebrities, beauty professionals, and obsessive skin care consumers, the price of Creme de la Mer has been driven to unbelievable heights over the years.

 

La-Mer-The-Concentrate
Creme de la Mer: The Concentrate Serum

Continue reading “La Mer Concentrate Serum: A Versatile Product”

What’s a Retinoid? The Role of Vitamin A Derivatives in Skin Care

Retinol
Retinol (Vitamin A)

The contemporary skin care market boasts thousands of products, each containing hundreds of active ingredients, offering a vast array of benefits.

Acne control, radiant skin, and less visible signs of aging are among some of the more popular claims made by modern products, and creams and serums containing retinoids are certainly no stranger to the spotlight.

Very few compounds have the ablility to reliably deliver the benefits of retinoids, yet even making a decision on what type of retinoid to use can be a daunting task in itself.

Retinoids are a class of chemical compounds that are derived from vitamin A; there are seemenly endless types and formulations designed for various purposes.

Retinoids bind to receptors within the cell that affect DNA regulation, and they are intimately involved in the mediation of cell proliferation and differentiation.

Retinoids are common active ingredients in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription creams that bind to nucleic acid (DNA) receptors in the skin cells to:

  • Stimulate cellular turnover in the epidermis.
  • Thin the top layer of skin.
  • Promote collagen production/repair.
  • Prevent collagen damage/breakdown.
  • Decrease sebum (oil) production.
  • Help to clear debris and dead skin cells from pores.
  • Play a role in the prevention of skin cancers.

SkinCeuticals ACD

Classes of Retinoids

Some types of retinoids (i.e., retinol derivatives) must be converted (oxidized) to retinoic acid (the biologically active form) after they are applied to the skin in order to be effective.

Recalling one of my favorite college classes, organic chemistry (I know–I know…but it really was interesting…LOL), alcohols (e.g. retinol) are oxidized to form aldehydes (e.g. retinaldehyde), which are subsequently oxidized to form a carboxylic acid (retinoic acid).

Retinol
Retinol (Vitamin A)
Retinal
Retinaldehyde
Tretinoin
Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid)

 

 

 

 

 

Free radicals damage cellular tissue by “stealing” electrons from the tissues in order form stable compounds.

Retinoids are effective antioxidants, which donate electrons (become reduced) to free radicals, which accept the electrons (become oxidized) and form nonreactive compounds that compounds that do not damage cellular tissue.

Free-Radicals-and-Antioxidants
The antioxidant (electron donor) reacts with the free radical (electron acceptor).

Retinol derivatives are commonly found in OTC creams, while retinoic acid derivatives (with the exception of adapalane) require a prescription. Continue reading “What’s a Retinoid? The Role of Vitamin A Derivatives in Skin Care”

La Mer The Moisturizing Cream: Review of a Cult Favorite

Background

Creme de la Mer has evolved into a quasi-legendary skin care product line; it began as a smaller, word-of-mouth organization and was later purchased by the Estee Lauder company in 1995. The mainstay of this skincare line is The Moisturizing Cream, a luxurious facial moisturizing cream containing “Miracle Broth, an ingredient common to all Creme de la Mer products, which is a proprietary, nutrient-rich serum derived from the “biofermentation” of sea kelp. Due to its iconic status among celebrities, beauty professionals, and obsessive skin care consumers, the price of Creme de la Mer has been driven to unbelievable heights over the years.

La-Mer-Moisturizing Cream
Creme de la Mer
Moisturizing Cream
Special Edition Blue Heart Jar

Continue reading “La Mer The Moisturizing Cream: Review of a Cult Favorite”

What’s the Best Sunscreen for the Face?

Environmental factors, notably ultraviolet (UV) solar radiation, can cause sunburn and other types of sun damage, leading to skin cancer with prolonged and repeated exposure.

Sun-Damage-to-DNA
UV light causing linkage of DNA bases to each other.

Sunscreens are designed to prevent the bulk of the UV radiation from contacting the skin, thereby helping to prevent sun-related skin damage and skin cancer.

With so many types of sunscreen products available to the consumer, it can be difficult to know whether to purchase the product or not.

The FDA mandates that sunscreens clearly label certain qualities (i.e., SPF value, “broad spectrum”); these labels can be exploited by educated consumers to purchase quality products. Continue reading “What’s the Best Sunscreen for the Face?”

The Best Moisturizers for the Face: A Few Good Candidates

La-Mer-Moisturizing Cream
Creme de la Mer
Moisturizing Cream
Special Edition Blue Heart Jar

Despite being among the most recognizable facial care products, many people are unsure of what type of moisturizer to purchase and exactly how to use it.

Moisturizers have been around for quite some time, and their popularity continues to increase, as both men and women are putting them to use at an unprecedented rate.

Dry skin can enhance the appearance of wrinkles and imperfections, so it is important to apply an appropriate moisturizer twice a day.

Moisturizers can markedly reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles almost immediately by increasing skin hydration, resulting in a more plump appearance. Ideally, facial moisturizers should:

  1. Reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which is water lost from the body (dermal skin layers) to the environment via the epidermis from diffusion and evaporation.
  2. Restore the skin’s lipid barrier by enhancing the skin’s own moisture-retaining processes.
  3. Absorb into the skin quickly to provide immediate hydration.
  4. Confer protection from UV light with an SPF of 30 or greater (when used as part of your morning skincare routine).

    La-Prairie-Skin-Caviar-Luxe-Cream
    La Prairie
    Skin Caviar Luxe Cream

Continue reading “The Best Moisturizers for the Face: A Few Good Candidates”

What About Eye Cream for Men?

Eye cremes are often a hazy, gray area for anyone, let alone for men.

Some individuals are of the opinion that eye creams are really just face creams or moisturizers marketed in smaller jars carrying higher prices.

The skin surrounding the eye is thinner than on the rest of the face, so it is usually the first area to show signs of aging, and it’s also more prone to irritation.

Consequently, eye creams are usually lighter than facial moisturizers and contain less concentrated active ingredients so that they are less likely to irritate the skin.

Why Eye Cream?

Since the skin around the eyes is thinner (i.e., more delicate) than on the rest of the face, there is less collagen and elastin present within it.

Furthermore, the skin around the eyes produces less sebum (natural skin oils) than the rest of the face, which results in the skin in this area being prone to drying out and creasing.

With the repetitive contraction of the eye muscles (e.g., squinting, laughing, and smiling), creases form in the skin, resulting in increased breakage of the collagen and elastin fibers.

Another causal factor is the general decline in elasticity and firmness of the skin that occurs with aging and damage from the environment.

The delicate nature of the skin, especially with accelerated aging, makes this area especially prone to the development of wrinkles.

Maintenance of skin thickness and elasticity is crucial in order to delay the onset of these signs of aging.

“Crow’s feet” are linear wrinkles in the skin around the corner of the eye that generally appear in the mid-30s and are one of the most common types of wrinkles around the eye.

Crow's-Feet
Crow’s Feet

Truth be told, I have quite a few friends who indulge in tanning and cigarette smoking, and they have developed some fairly impressive crow’s feet.

This caused me to have an irrational fear of developing them prematurely; thankfully, it hasn’t happened yet.

Continue reading “What About Eye Cream for Men?”