Friday, October 19, 2012

Skin Care: When To Toss a Product

All cosmetic products have a shelf life. In the US there is no requirement for cosmetics manufacturers to put this information on their products. The EU has a system called "period after opening" or PAO. The PAO system has pictures of open jars with a number in it. The number in or under the jar is the number of months the product can safely be used after opening.

Many US products also use this system (mostly because they don't want to print different packages for different countries) but it is not required. Shelf life of cosmetics is important because even an effective preservative package will lose efficacy after a certain amount of time and at that point the product can become contaminated with bacteria and molds. Also, all oils will go rancid given enough time. Some oils go rancid very quickly, like grapeseed oil, while others are stable for a long time, like mineral oil. All Natural products have a much shorter shelf life than conventional products and are more likely to lose their preservative efficacy more quickly. Manufacturers determine the appropriate shelf life based on the shelf life of the raw materials and internal stability testing. Unfortunately manufacturers can't account for the variable of how the consumer uses the product. For example, say you have a face cream packaged in a jar. Customer One stores the product in a dark cabinet in a non humid room, washes their hands before using it and re-caps the product tightly after each use. Customer Two stores the product on the counter in their bathroom, doesn't wash their hands before use and just sets the cap back on without screwing it down. Customer Two's product is FAR more likely to grow bacteria and mold than Customer One's. There are real dangers to using out of date or expired beauty products
  1. Skin infections
  2. Increased breakouts
  3. Dry skin
  4. Eye Infections
  5. Rashes and allergic reactions
So absent a PAO time on your product, how long should you keep various beauty products?

Eye products like mascara should be tossed after 4-6 months at the most. If you have a mascara that is clumpy and won't go on smoothly, do NOT add water or saliva to it to thin it down. Chuck it. 

Liquid face products like moisturizers and foundations should be good for 1-2 years. 

Powder products like blush, loose or pressed face powder or eye shadow should last for 2-3 years under appropriate storage conditions. 

If at any time you notice an off odor, thinning of the product or separation in an emulsified product, toss it out immediately. It's also not a good idea to share products, it increases the likely hood of contamination. Tester products in stores are also never really a good idea. You have no idea how many or how the people before you have used the product. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Skin Care Myths: Never Pop a Zit

I'm sure you've heard it before- never pop a pimple. Well I'm about to burst that little bubble. It's ok to pop a pimple if you do it correctly. If you do it incorrectly you risk scabs, increased healing time and permanent scars. However, done correctly, popping a pimple reduces inflammation, healing time and gets rid of the ugly white bump that is so hard to cover up. When you get a facial at a spa, the aesthetician will do extractions on clogged pores, which is what you want to do.

Before you start, make sure you are dealing with the correct type of blemish. Deep cystic acne cannot be popped safely without scarring. This method will work well on blackheads or white heads that are raised and inflamed. It's also easier to do when the zit is on a hard part of your face like the jawline, chin, forehead or nose area. It's more difficult to do correctly in the fleshy parts like your cheeks.

Here's how to correctly pop a pimple.
1) Buy a comedone extractor. This is what they look like:
 The loop end is what you are going to use to gently remove the pus from the clogged pore. You can use the needle end to gently pierce the top of the zit to make it easier to remove.

2) Wash and dry your face. It can be helpful to gently scrub with a wash cloth to remove dead skin cells on the surface. Don't use hot water- no need to inflame the pimple more than it already is.

3) Center the loop over the head of the pimple, press down gently and slide the loop over the pimple. Repeat if necessary but don't press down harder. You can also try piercing the top of the pimple with the needle and then try sliding the extractor over the pimple again. This should remove the pus.

Make sure to clean the extractor after each use (a quick wipe with rubbing alcohol should suffice). You don't want to spread the bacteria to a new place the next time you use it.

After you have extracted the zit, DO NOT pick at it. The point is to remove the pus and make the zit easier to cover up, not to create a scab. Scabs leave scars. Do not squeeze pimples with your fingers, this is what leads to damage in the lower layers of skin and leaves scars. It is also helpful at this point to apply your 2%  salicylic acid treatment gel to the treatment spot.

So there you have it. You can pop a pimple safely, just don't overdo it and don't pick at it afterwards. Good luck!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Skin Care: Acne Prone Skin

Acne care is a topic near and dear to my heart. As a teenager, I had relatively little acne. I started having more and more problems with acne as I got older. It was only recently that I realized my problems are entirely hormonal, a side effect of my PCOS and there is very little I can do to stop my skin from being oily and breaking out nearly every day. That doesn't stop me from trying to control my skin though. Since about 2008, I've tried just about every expensive and inexpensive option for acne control including ProActiv, Neutrogena Skin ID, hundreds of drugstore options and since starting with Bonne Bell, many iterations of my own creations with the "latest and greatest" from raw material suppliers. Through it all I have gained a lot of insight into what acne prone skin needs, and what it doesn't.

The most important thing to remember about acne prone skin is to avoid irritation. Irritation leads to more breakouts and slower healing. Unfortunately, many of the things that are commonly associated with skin care for acne prone skin are actually irritants and only make acne worse. One of the biggest is alcohol. You will see this in astringents, spot treatments, even face washes. Alcohol is way too drying for everyone's skin, even the most oily. Alcohol is actually counterproductive to oily skin because it over dries the skin and actually increases oil production. It's truly a relic from when it was thought that the best way to get rid of a zit was to dry it out as quickly as possible. Alcohol has no place in skin care products.

Other irritants commonly used in acne products are menthol/ peppermint extracts because they give a cooling sensation that many people believe means it's "working". There are many other fragrant botanicals that are irritants to skin as well. Witch hazel, eucalyptus, fennel, cinnamon, citruses and cloves are all too irritating for most skin types.

It's important to not over cleanse your face when you are trying to control acne. Wash your face twice a day (unless you are formulating a new skin care line and you are your own test subject, then wash your face 10 times a day and have your worst breakout in years). Wash your face with lukewarm water, not hot. Hot water is irritating to your skin and over time can lead to burst capillaries and splotchy redness on your face.

So now that I've covered all the things you SHOULDN'T use on your acne prone skin, what should you use? Basically for a face wash you want something gentle and mild that cleans off excess dirt, oil and makeup and doesn't irritate your skin. You will commonly find face washes with salicylic acid but really, salicylic acid in a face wash is a waste. Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant. It is known as a beta hydoxy acid or BHA. It works by sloughing off dead skin cells and clearing out dirt from your pores. However it only works if it stays on your skin. A face wash is on your skin for maybe a minute, tops. That is not nearly enough time for salicylic acid to do anything. So save that for later. Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser, Sensitive Skin is a gentle foaming face wash without irritating ingredients.

Now it's time for your BHA. Salicylic acid can only function as an exfoliant in the very narrow pH range of 3-4. If the product is outside of that range, it really won't be helpful at all. Unfortunately, unless you walk around with your pocket pH meter you have no idea if the chemist who formulated that product knew that or cared enough to bother to specify a pH for the product. Neutrogena Oil-Free Stress Control Acne treatment  is a well formulated product, in the correct pH range, with a good level of salicylic acid- 2%. Use your BHA product over your whole face, not just on your current zits. Like I said, salicylic acid exfoliates and clears dirt and oil out of your pores- thus preventing future breakouts when used over your whole face.

Basically that's all that you need to do to control most cases of acne. If your acne doesn't show signs of improvement with this type of treatment, talk to your doctor. It could be caused by hormones, in which case birth control pills have been shown to be very effective for controlling acne. Doctors can also prescribe antibiotics or topical steroids which are also effective at controlling more severe cases of acne.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Scary Story by Makayla

I just got done giving Makayla her bath tonight and she decided to tell me a scary story while I was brushing out her hair.

Once apon a time, a little girl and her mommy decided to go for a walk in the woods. They started a fire and they were roasting smores. And this is where is gets scary, Mommy. They saw a COYOTE and he said awooooooo! And then he saw the little girl and her mommy and he got so scared he ran away. The little girl and her mommy went home and went to bed. 

(For anyone who doesn't know- Makayla is almost 4) I asked her where she heard that story and she told me she just made it up right now. I said- Well that was a good story Makayla. She said "Oh and Mommy, the little girl in that story was me" Lol, ok sweetie. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Skin Care Myths: Mineral Oil

Mineral Oil gets a bad rap. People claim that mineral oil is terrible for your skin, it coats it like plastic wrap, doesn't allow it to breathe, gives you cancer and worst of all it comes from petroleum. First of all, yes, it comes from petroleum but why is that so bad? Petroleum comes from the earth, that's pretty natural if you ask me. We get a hell of a lot of stuff from petroleum and most of it makes our lives better. Pure cosmetic grade mineral oil has no relationship to cancer. Mineral oil actually scores a 0 (out of 5) on the comedogenicity scale meaning it DOES NOT clog pores. It also scores a 0 (out of 5) on the irritancy scale. Compare this to a "natural" oil like coconut oil which scores a 4 for comedogenicity and a 1 for irritation. I'd much rather have a product made from mineral oil than from coconut oil. Mineral oil is an occlusive ingredient, meaning that it prevents trans epidermal water loss (TEWL in the biz). So basically, if you are preventing TEWL, you are moisturizing because you are keeping the moisture in your skin where it belongs. Mineral oil is cheap and it has an amazingly long shelf life compared to most other oils. It's a great solvent for removing makeup and it is a great emollient. 

Probably the worst thing I can say about mineral oil in its pure form is that it feels greasy. However in a well formulated product, the greasiness will be mitigated by the other ingredients in the formula.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Skin Care Myths: If it's tingling, it's working

Last night, my husband spouted off one of the most common myths about skin care products. If a product is tingling or cooling, it means it's working. This truly couldn't be farther from the truth. Tingling/ cooling effects in washes, creams, balms etc come from menthol. Tingling is just your skin's response to irritation. Peppermint oil/ extract/ Menthol has antimicrobial properties but unfortunately is a known skin counter irritant. Counter-irritants are used to induce local inflammation for the purpose of relieving inflammation in deeper or adjacent tissues. In other words, they substitute one kind of inflammation for another, which is never good for skin. Irritation or inflammation, no matter what causes it or how it happens, impairs the skin’s immune and healing response. Although your skin may not show it or doesn't react in an irritated fashion, if you apply irritants to your skin the damage is still taking place and is ongoing, so it adds up over time. There is no good reason to put peppermint/ menthol in a skin care product. It's not helpful and it's damaging to your skin.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

If you have a cat

This is a repost from a note I wrote quite a while ago on Facebook. Since notes are hard to find nowadays, I figured I would reshare it here because this information is too valuable. 

At some point in your cat's life it's going to pee on something. Whether it's because they got themselves locked in a closet, have some sort of infection, are stressed or are just doing it because they feel like being evil little shits- it's going to happen. Don't say "My cats never pee on anything!" because you'll jinx yourself and they'll do it just to prove you wrong. I know- I said it. In my opinion, there is nothing in the world that smells worse than cat urine. It is the most powerfully foul stench and it can be smelled damn near a mile away.

Last time I changed the litter box I didn't really have enough litter to fill it to the normal level. I figured it would be fine until I got to the store to get more then I forgot about it. Fast forward 6 days and the litter box was getting stinky. I still hadn't been to the store but I was planning on going in the morning. At 6AM I was awakened by the unmistakable stench of cat urine. After coming to my senses I also realized that my leg was wet. One of the little bastards peed in the middle of my bed while I was sleeping in it! I could have killed them both. After showering and stripping the bed and fuming the whole time I was at a loss for what to do about the mattress. So I threw the linens in the washer with a cup or so of vinegar and started searching the internet for the answer. Well I found plenty of articles for so called cat urine neutralizers like Urine Gone and Nature's Miracle but I have already tried those in the past with lackluster results and there was no way I was going to sleep on a mattress with even the slightest smell of cat urine on it. I would get a new mattress first. Then I happened on an article claiming to get cat urine smell out anything  using vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and a little dish soap. Well I had all of those thing so I set to work somewhat skeptically.

OMG it worked. It's amazing. There is NO smell. NONE. I am so happy. I am really shocked that it eliminated a lake sized urine stain and smell with one treatment and probably about 5 bucks in materials. So I felt I should share this little miracle with everyone because no one should have to live with the smell of cat urine.

Step 1:
 Yell, curse and fume about the little bastard who has ruined yet another item of yours. This is why we can't have nice things. It'll make you feel better. Punishing cats is generally ineffective because when the little shits get pissed at you they tend to piss on more things to get back at you. They own you after all.

Step 2:
 If the area is still wet blot up as much of the urine as you can with paper towels.

Step 3:
 Make a 50/50 dilution of vinegar and saturate the stain and a good way around it with it. If the urine is on carpet a really small spot on the surface will spread out a whole lot underneath and you need to get it all to eliminate the smell.

Step 4:
 Blot up as much of the vinegar solution as possible.

Step 5:
 Spread a good amount of baking soda over the whole area. Allow to sit for 15 minutes while you continue to curse the cat.

Step 6:
 Mix 1/4 cup of Hydrogen Peroxide with a teaspoon of dish soap (scale up if your area is large) and drizzle it over the baking soda on the stain. Work in in with your fingers (rubber gloves if desired) or a brush.

Step 7:
 Blot up as much of the liquid as possible then allow to dry completely. (I used a hair dryer to speed the drying process as I would like to sleep tonight)

Step 8:
 Vacuum thoroughly to get rid of the baking soda.

That's it. Smell gone. Miracle.

Also, an update- most cats will remark something if it smells like their urine. Well it's been almost 2 years now and it has not happened again so I can only assume they can't smell it anymore either.