Friday, January 20, 2012

At Home Chemical Peels - Are They Safe?

Working for a manufacturer that produces and sells chemical peels on the open market, the most common question I get asked is “Are peels safe for home use?".  It's not a question of whether the peels are safe really…. it boils down to how intelligent the user is. I hate to be blunt but, so many people will jump into things head first without even doing the most basic amount of research.  

Buying and using a chemical peel is like purchasing a chainsaw to cut down a tree. If you know how to use a chainsaw, you will most likely be successful and keep all your limbs. If you have never touched a chainsaw in your life, make sure you have really good medical insurance before you start it up. And why do these folks always buy the most powerful, dangerous “chainsaw” available then try to hold the “chainsaw company” at fault when things go bad?

Of course, the majority of consumers operate at a higher level of responsibility – asking questions, following instructions, using caution, and consulting professionals.  If you have this skill set, at-home chemical peels can be perfectly safe and a great way to rejuvenate your skin without having to spend a ton of money.

There are a certain key points to make, having said that:  1) all at home chemical peels are created equal,  2) not all companies offering peel solutions are scrupulous  3) YOU MUST BE ABLE TO CALL THE COMPANY.  This is where we circle back around to due diligence, researching, asking questions, and knowing information about the company you're purchasing from.  If you're buying a "mix it yourself" chemical peel from Ebay, you can count on something going awry.  Never purchase a peel under a "free trial".  It is never free, 9 times out of 10 you cannot reach a human, GOD only knows what you are getting and you can be pretty sure they are going to hit your credit card for a hefty amount within 4 weeks.  

So what question should you ask?  What's easy!  First of all, make sure you can get a hold of them via the phone, they have an address posted on the website, and you hit the jackpot if they offer phone consultations.  Things like “do you manufacture your products?”, “what is the pH of your peel solutions”, “are your raw materials made in the US?”  are just a few to help you feel out the company.  All peels have 3 components – percent of acid, pH level, and buffered or unbuffered.  In order to compare apples to apples, you need to know those 3 components on all peels you are considering.  And if you have NO experience in peeling, have them help you select the solution to be sure you are getting the correct one.

Remember, you may be saving a ton of money but, you are losing out on the professionals expertise.  This is why doing your homework is so important.  Below are a few pointers to help guide you:

         SCALY SKIN CONDITIONS (psoriasis, sebaceous dermatitis, eczema). 

Oh, and “peeling” doesn’t mean you will always have big chunks of skin falling off your face.  Some peels show little to no visible shedding BUT that doesn’t mean they don’t work!  Good luck and happy peeling! 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Skin Care - the good, the bad, and the ridiculous.

Yes, there is actually a face cream with a $10,00 price tag.  Is it the best thing you could possibly use on your face?  It's highly unlikely that ANYONE can pack enough actives into a 1oz jar that would justify that amount of money.  If the container was a jewel encrusted platinum vessel or each purchase included a specially trained monkey that applies the concoction for you, there may be cause to consider this option.  Alas, all you get is a jar of cream.

So how do you sift through the BS and get good stuff for a reasonable price?  That's the easy part.  Shop for your face products like you shop for your groceries - READ THE LABELS!  Sounds like a breeze but, you need to know what you are looking for - the good and the bad.  Cosmetic companies don't make it easy and loose government regulations for cosmetics give companys license to be shady.  Case in point - Parabens.  They have become the big, bad, boogieman of ingredients.  Most of this is based on a study were some scientist fed lab rats 5lbs of parabens over 2 years and they ended up getting cancer.  Conclusion - use parabens, get cancer.  What they don't tell you is 1) Domesticated rats live for about 2-3 years max and almost always die of tumors/cancer  2) Parabens are used as a preservative.  If you don't put a preservative in face creams, you would have little nasty things growing in there that are way more dangerous than parabens.  Even with all this swirl going on, major cosmeceutical lines still use them so.....are they really that scary or is it marketing mumbo jumbo?  Below is a list of THE GOOD (what you want to see on the label) and THE BAD (what you don't want to see).  Keep in mind, the placement on the ingredient list is important - the closer to the top, the higher the concentration.  This plays a role in pricing and efficacy.

hyaluronic    quite simply one of the best ingredients you can use on your skin.  Also known as sodium hyaluronate, this little wonder helps restore skin water levels (dehydrated skin lacks water - even oily skin can be dehydrated), heals and maintains the health of skin, and naturally plumps due to the fact is can hold 1,000 times its weight in water.  

vitamin c    plain old vitamin c, better known as L-ascorbic acid.  It helps with fine lines, discoloration, acne, and prevents free radical damage.  There are many types of Vitamin C....L-ascorbic is the one you want to use for the best results.

squalane    derived from olives and highly refined, this oil is almost identical to the sebum (oil) your skin produces.  It has anti-bacterial properties, is noncomedogenic (won't give you pimples), helps retain moisture (great for those long, cold winter months).  It can be used alone for those who want a 100% preservative free moisturizer.

So, there you have it.  3 ingredients you shouldn't be without.  Of course, there are others that help and enhance a product.  These are ACTIVES and they make a serum or cream do its "job".  Below is a list of performance ingredients that you may also want to look for and why.
      • salicylic - if you have oily skin and acne
      • argireline - (acetyl hexapeptide-3)  anti-wrinkle
      • arbutin - suppresses areas of discoloration
      • glycolic - refines skin surface for anti-aging
There are so many more and I could never list them all.  Do your research, pick the ones that are time tested, and once you find something you like/that works, STICK WITH IT.  Trust me when I tell you, until someone invents a radical new delivery system, topically applied skin care can only do so much. 
The bad is really bad.  There are ingredients that are useless but, harmless.  Thisis not what I am referring to.  There are ingredients used in cosmetics that are actually harmful to your skin.  Now, some of these are obvious like mercury, formaldehyde, and lead.  You would never think of buying a product with mercury on the label, right?  Well, that doesn't mean it's not in there.  Be wary of products manufactured in China and India.  If an ingredient is less than 1%, it doesn't HAVE to be listed in the ingredients as per the FDA guidelines.  Yes, I said 1%.  To be honest, you will never really know exactly whats in your bottle unless you send it out for advance micro testing. 

The ingredients that WILL show and you want to avoid are: hydroquinone (carcinogen), formaldeyhde (carcinogen), DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (these last 4 release formaldeyde in the body). 

You can look on the internet and find tons more but, just like the parabens - it's best to not take things on face value.  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is on the no-no list however, there are varying grades and the lower the grade, the more irritating to the skin.  Do your homework! 

Losing a "fur-mly" member

Growing up, getting married and having a family is the universal dream for most people.  Soccer moms, dad and son day at the ballpark, family vacations….who doesn’t want that right? 

Well, there are a growing number of adults who are foregoing the “ideal” family and devoting their lives to adopting, loving, rearing, and spoiling pets just as they would a human child.  Whether they opt to remain single and fill the house with fur babies or their human children are long gone with lives of their own, this special group of people love and cherish the animals who share their lives just like genetic members.  So, when they pass away, the sorrow and grief can be just as intense.  For those who don’t understand this special bond, it may be hard to show proper sympathy or compassion during this time. 

Why shouldn’t we love Fido or Jinxy just as much as a sister, brother or offspring?  Pets give unconditional love and only ask for minimal payback – feed me, keep me warm and safe, pet me.  They forgive us when we mess up, don’t hold grudges, protect us, and clean up the crumbs we drop on the floor.  Doctors have long touted the benefits of owning pets.  They lower our blood pressure, reduce stress levels, calm a nervous mind, make us laugh and smile, and can soften even the hardest soul.  This becomes especially beneficial to those who have been traumatized, suffer from mental or physical disabilities, or are not socially integrated.  The elderly, who are often abandoned by children and isolated from friends, benefit greatly from animal companionship. 

With the loss of a much-loved pet comes pain, suffering, sense of loss, and grief.  Actually, such a strong connection can affect both the animal and the human.  There are legendary tales of dogs who have lost their owners and simply died from broken hearts.   People who have never experienced this amazing relationship should remember this devastating blow is real and the depth of despair can be deep.  Comments like “why don’t you just get another kitty/puppy?” are insulting during the recovery.  Would you tell someone who just lost their baby to “just make another one”?   They didn’t lose their favorite pair of shoes….they lost their constant companion, only friend, soulmate.  So, if you know someone who has recently lost a pet - have sympathy, show love, be understanding, and try to support them.  Let them grieve, let them cry, and let them tell you their “stories” about Fido, no matter how many times it takes.  Remember, their hearts are broken and they are looking for ways to heal.  And if you are someone who is healing from a recent loss, do not feel guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed that you weep for your fuzz child.  Be proud that you were blessed to have been loved by such as special animal.

Dedicated to Doris Strum and Gizzy.