What’s Alum? A Review of The Art of Shaving Alum Block


The Art of Shaving is a retailer of upscale shaving products that was founded in Manhattan in 1996 by Eric Malka and Myriam Zaoui. It was purchased by Proctor and Gamble in 2007 and its headquarters are now located in Miami, FL. Alum is a compound in which aluminum and a monovalent cation (usually potassium) form a salt with sulfate; it is an astringent and helps stop small nicks and cuts from bleeding. Alum is an acidic compound; it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and can help decrease the incidence of post-shaving irritation. When used in wet shaving, alum comes in the form of a block or other solid that can be directly applied to the skin afterward.Alum-Block-Case


Type: Solid block.

Texture: Smooth.

Color: Whitish; translucent.

Scent: Unscented.

Finish: Smooth; leaves skin with a “tight” feeling.

Price: Inexpensive ($5.43 per ounce); lasts a long time.

Rating: 5/5 (Ideal)

Retailer: www.amazon.com Continue reading “What’s Alum? A Review of The Art of Shaving Alum Block”

What About Shaving Cream? Eh…and Soap/Foam/Gel?

Shaving cream is something that I had anticipated using since I was a child; I relished the scent and appearance of the cream long before I actually began shaving.

These days, there are so many shaving products that a lot of guys feel inundated with choices when trying to make a decision on which particular product to purchase.

The type and quality of the particular shaving product can make a big difference with regard to the comfort and the quality of your shave.

Shaving creams, soaps, and gels help to lubricate the skin and soften the facial hair to make shaving easier and more comfortable while helping to prevent irritation; however, each class of product has its own unique properties.

Shaving Foam and Aerosol Gels

  • Contents are packaged in cans with aerosol propellants that allow them to be applied directly to your face without having to work the product into a lather.
  • Although the foam may appear rich and luxurious, it can be deceptive, and the low-quality lubrication doesn’t offer as much skin protection as that obtained from traditional shaving cream and soap.Shaving-Foam
  • They often contain fragrance and alcohol, which can irritate and dry out skin, worsening post shaving irritation.
  • These products do not allow your facial hair to be lifted off of your face so that it can be optimally cut by the razor; hairs that are pressed flat against the skin can increase the chance of razor burn.
  • Shaving foam is relatively cheap and convenient; it is ideal if you’re in a hurry.
  • Shaving foam is quick and easy to use; it is a perfect product for teenagers and guys just starting to shave.

Continue reading “What About Shaving Cream? Eh…and Soap/Foam/Gel?”

What’s Ferulic Acid? A SkinCeuticals Serum Product Review


SkinCeuticals is a premier skincare product company that was co-founded in 1997 by Sheldon Pinnell, MD.

Dr. Pinnell completed his medical school training at Yale University Medical School and his residency in dermatology at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital.

He then served as the chief of the department of dermatology at Duke University Medical School for 15 years and developed what has become known as the Duke Antioxidant Patent, which is a product formulation for the effective delivery of Vitamin C to the skin.Skinceuticals-C-E-Ferulic

C E Ferulic® with 15% L-ascorbic acid

SkinCeuticals was purchased by the L’Oreal Company in 2005, and is headquartered in Dallas, TX.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is an antioxidant-rich serum containing Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and ferulic acid, which is found in the cell walls of certain plants.


Type: Serum.

Texture: Liquid.

Color: Very slight yellowish tint.

Scent: Earthy; vaguely coffee-like.

Finish: Light, slightly tacky.

Price: Expensive ($165 per ounce).

Rating: 4/5 (Good).

SkinCeuticals ACD Continue reading “What’s Ferulic Acid? A SkinCeuticals Serum Product Review”

What’s Pre-Shave Oil? Does It Make a Difference?

Most guys (myself included) began shaving with a razor and a can of aerosol shaving cream as teenagers; a relatively small number of men used oil after shaving to help with skin conditioning.

The use of oil prior to shaving came into public attention in the 1990s, and it has steadily increased in popularity.

So, what exactly is pre-shave oil; is it beneficial, or even necessary?Pre-Shave-Oil

Most pre-shave oils are a blend of natural plant oils; some of these oils are the same types as those found in facial oils and other cosmetic products.

Although pre-shave oil has begun to enter the mainstream over the past two decades, many have either not heard of it or have not tried it for themselves.

There are several benefits to using a pre-shave oil in addition to a high-quality shaving cream or gel; these benefits include additional lubrication, softening of facial hair, and a reduction in post-shaving irritation.

What’s In It?

Although pre-shave oil can be made using synthetic products, most guys agree that those derived from natural plant oils are of superior quality.

Quality pre-shave oils are packaged in dark glass bottles, which helps to prevent their degradation.

Depending on the types of oils used, they can have benefits ranging from increased lubrication to maintenance of the natural skin barrier.

Most naturally-derived pre-shave oils are a blend of 2-3 ingredients: Continue reading “What’s Pre-Shave Oil? Does It Make a Difference?”

What About Men’s Shaving? A Guide

When I think about shaving, I picture of all the shaving products currently available; all the razors, creams, gels, brushes, aftershave, and other shaving products on the market make it easy to forget that shaving is a crucial part of any guy’s skin care routine.

My Shaving Essentials

Although men have been shaving their faces for centuries, this essential challenge remains: to shave as close as possible without causing skin irritation.

Overaggressive or improper shaving techniques in an effort to shave more closely may only result in frustration and irritation.

Some techniques that have been employed to avoid shaving-induced skin irritation include:

  • Shaving while applying less pressure.
  • Development of pre- and post-shaving skin treatment.
  • Giving up on shaving altogether and growing a beard.

Shaving seems pointless if you have to compromise closeness; one reason that the beard has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past decade could be due to the perception that shaving is a hassle.

Although growing a beard is certainly a viable option, it should be a matter of choice and not a consequence of becoming so annoyed that you abandon the very idea of shaving.

While no technique or product can guarantee a shaving experience completely free of irritation, following a few simple guidelines drastically reduces your chances.

Preparation is Essential

Before you rush off to pick up your razor, it’s important to make sure that your skin is prepared for the impending shave.

Clean skin is ideal, so the first step is to wash your face to remove oil, dirt, and debris that accumulates throughout the day; shaving during or just after a shower gives the heat and steam time to soften your facial hair, making it easier to shave.

Hydration reduces the stiffness of beard hair by 30-65%; the force necessary to cut a beard hair is reduced by 20% after 1 minute and 40% after 4 minutes of hydration.

If you don’t have time for a shower, a good alternative is to wrap your face in a hot, moist towel for 2-3 minutes, which softens the hairs and opens pores.

Another grooming tip is to exfoliate your skin prior to shaving, which removes dead skin cells that can otherwise end up lodged between the blades of your razor.

A mild physical exfoliant can be used to gently exfoliate your face, which only takes 30-60 seconds.

Since shaving is an exfoliating process, it’s best not to be overly aggressive and to rinse with lukewarm water when you are finished.

A clean, exfoliated face helps to keep the razor free of debris during the shave and helps to prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs afterward. Continue reading “What About Men’s Shaving? A Guide”

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.

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.

Creme de la Mer
The Renewal Oil

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

Review: Neutrogena Triple Action Toner


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.

Acne Stress Control
2% Salicylic Acid Toner


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.

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.

    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.

      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.

        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.

        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


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.


Creme de la Mer: The Concentrate Serum

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