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Sunscreen: Natural is Nicer!

Sunscreen: Natural is Nicer!

Since they feel relatively lightweight on skin and don’t leave a greasy white residue behind, chemical sunscreen formulations dominate the U.S. market. But the truth is that they are likely not doing us any favors. 

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV radiation to prevent it from penetrating skin. But many of the most common ones such as homosalate, octisalate, octinoxate and oxybenzone have been shown to cause allergic reactions and/or disrupt our hormones. Research also reveals that oxybenzone may damage our coral reefs. 

To add insult to injury, these ingredients only shield us from UVB rays—the ones that cause sunburns and pre-cancerous growths --while failing to protect us against UVA rays--the main culprits behind aging and skin cancers, including melanoma.  

Meanwhile, avobenzone, which is less harmful than other sun-blocking chemicals, though still can be irritating, does have FDA-approval for blocking UVA rays. But since it easily breaks down in sunlight becoming ineffective, avobenzone-based formulations typically include octocrylene, a potentially irritating chemical stabilizer.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which have natural UV filters that reflect, scatter and block the sun’s rays, are the only natural FDA-approved sun blocks. Zinc oxide is considered the gold standard in UVA protection. Both of these minerals are also far less likely to cause allergic reactions or irritations than their chemical counterparts and there is little, if any, evidence of any unhealthy side-effects from using them.  Some of my other favorite natural sun-smart solutions include:

  • Keeping Covered: The EWG (Environmental Working Group) estimates that wearing shorts, shirts and hats in the sun reduces our risk of sun damage by 27%. And don’t forget those shades.
  • Fighting Damage from the Inside Out: Antioxidant-rich summer fruits and vegetable such as tomatoes, carrots, watermelons, strawberries, kiwis and cantaloupe not only help fight free radicals but also can repair sun damage and, in some instances, even block the development of skin cancer cells.
  • Seeking Shade:  Slipping under an umbrella or large, leafy tree, or taking refuge inside with the A.C. are sure fire ways to not get burnt by the sun.

Thanks,
Ben

Trick of the Trade: Decode your Skincare Ingredients like a Pro!

Trick of the Trade: Decode your Skincare Ingredients like a Pro!

Choosing skincare that will address your specific concerns and lifestyle can be a tricky business.  With brands, forms, recommendations and endorsements knowing what product to buy can be an overwhelming experience.  And because of the dizzying number of ingredients used, making a wise decision on what to buy and use on your skin can be a daunting challenge.

A typical skincare product can be formulated with 20-30 ingredients—most of which are unidentifiable much less pronounceable--and sometimes products contain even twice that amount. But the truth is that most of these ingredients won’t improve skin and some may even harm it so here, a cheat sheet of what to avoid so you can achieve, a beautiful, healthy-looking complexion. Just say no to:

Waxes and emulsifiers: Often listed as triethanolamine (TEA), emulsifying wax, polysorbate, PEG-150 stearate and steareth-20, these ingredients may help prevent a product from splitting into a water portion and oil portion (scientists call that separation) and enhance texture but they can also cause irritation and allergic reactions. Even non allergenic and irritating emulsifiers which may not be harmful offer no skincare benefit, and are only used to make a product sellable.

Synthetic fragrances: Typically listed as “fragrance” or “parfum,” they can be harmful and/or trigger allergic reactions and have been linked to various health challenges including cancer and reproductive toxicities.

Parabens: May appear as ethylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben. These preservatives are used to kill bacteria and fungus, but can also harm healthy cells. 

Formaldehyde: Will not likely be listed on a label, but other potentially carcinogenic chemicals known as formaldehyde-releasing chemicals, often are. These include DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15 and polyoxymethylene urea.

Petrolatum: Also known as petroleum jelly (brand name: Vaseline), and it’s derivatives, mineral paraffin oil.  This product is favored by cosmetic chemists for it’s occlusive (covering) property which allows it to trap moisture in the skin.  Unfortunately, water is not supposed to be trapped in the skin as one of this organs functions is to allow the excretion of toxins.  Also petroleum products can be contaminated during processing with other compounds called PAHs that may be carcinogenic.

Phthalates: Used as solvents, fixatives and to make a product spread more easily, these potential toxins are most commonly listed as dibutylphthalate (DBP), dimethylphthalate (DMP) and diethylphthalate (DEP). 

And while this is already a staggering number of commonly-used ingredients to avoid, sadly it is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. So a good rule of thumb to choosing safe and effective skincare that will live up to its promises is to opt for products with just a few ingredients and ones that are not included merely to make a product a commodity that can be purchased, but one that will actually improve the health and appearance of your skin. 

Thanks,
Ben

Turn Back the Clock by Healing Skin!

Turn Back the Clock by Healing Skin!

As time starts taking a toll on our skin in the form of lines, wrinkles and loss of firmness, many of us start turning to so-called anti-aging skincare to reverse the damage. But while some products may help temporarily improve skin’s appearance by adding a cosmetic sheen, or superficially plumping up creases, they cannot make significant changes because they merely coat and address the skin’s surface and don’t address the underlying causes of these issues.

The truth is that from an anatomical perspective there are similarities between wrinkles and wounds and, like trauma, skin is equipped with everything it needs to heal them.  It’s just that these abilities decline with age, illness and environmental damage. 

When we’re younger and healthy skin is injured our bodies spring into action sending blood cells to help clot the cut, form a barrier, fight infection and deliver essential nutrients. Next, fibroblast cells enter the wound, dropping off collagen, which forms connective skin tissue to replace what was there before. In addition, natural moisture factors kick into high gear to help the wound stay lubricated, which is vital to the healing process. 

As we get older, it may take longer for abrasions to heal, just like it may take longer for pillow case depressions to disappear from our faces after a night’s sleep. This is because the same internal systems that heal skin also keep it firm and smooth and they start to wind down with the passing years.

So, the most effective anti-aging ingredients are going to be the ones that help “upregulate” and support the skin’s natural healing mechanisms. And the list of scientifically-substantiated anti-aging/healing ingredients is short and sweet. Your most effective clinically proven skin healers and age erasers are simply Retinol and Vitamin C.

High quality and potent doses of retinol have been confirmed by decades of research to stimulate collagen synthesis and the production of healthy cells. Retinol is quite stimulating but can cause irritation if applied directly to wounds. Vitamin C, in it’s fatty or “lipophilic” form, can be quite soothing and at the same time accelerate healing. Vitamin C is a confirmed heavy hitting collagen booster that also bolsters good circulation, fights damaging free radicals and stimulates crucial natural moisture factors. But don’t be fooled. There are different kinds of Vitamin C and they are not created equally. For example, ascorbic acid, which is the water soluble version of Vitamin C, can sting and oxidize. For this reason I don’t use ascorbic acid as in ingredient in my formulations.

Thanks, 
Ben