The Right Sunscreen

Cut Through the Hype and Learn What Works
Jason Barbaria

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States each year. There are more than 2,000 over-the-counter sunscreen formulas on the market today. How can you tell which sunscreens are the safest, most effective, and represent the best value for your money? In most cases, the answer comes down to the difference between the two types of filtering ingredients.

Chemical or Physical?
The UV radiation in sunlight consists of UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays. UV-A and UV-B are both responsible for photoaging, skin cancer, sunburn, tanning, and wrinkling. UV-C is not a factor in skin health, as it is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and does not reach us in significant amounts. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UV-A and UV-B. This protection can work in one of two ways: chemical or physical.

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Chemical UV Filters
Work by absorbing UV radiation; Require application 30 minutes before sun exposure; Provide partial protection from UV spectrum; May irritate the skin and eyes; Not regulated for safety by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–some may even be carcinogenic; Not photostable (exposure to sunlight degrades effectiveness); Avobenzone is the most commonly used chemical filter ingredient.

Physical UV Filters
Work by reflecting UV radiation; Start protecting immediately upon use; Provide full broad-spectrum protection; Non-irritating to skin and eyes; Safe, as particles do not penetrate the skin; Highly photostable (exposure to sunlight does not change effectiveness). Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the most commonly used physical filter ingredients. Clothing and shade structures also count as physical filters.

How Stable Is It?
One of the most important factors in the effectiveness of a sunscreen formula is also one of the least known to the general public. Photostability is an ingredient’s ability to remain effective after exposure to sunlight. Many people are aware that this is an issue for numerous skin care ingredients, but may be surprised to learn that some active ingredients in sunscreen–a product whose sole purpose involves being exposed to sunlight–are not photostable. In addition, the FDA’s new rules do not require sunscreen ingredients to be tested for photostability. Yet, many consumers expect that their sunscreen will protect them for longer than one hour.

Physical filters such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are photostable. Studies have shown that these ingredients suffer no degradation after more than two hours of sun exposure. However, the chemical filter avobenzone is not at all photostable, and degrades almost completely in less than one hour. Even worse, avobenzone also degrades on contact with other UV filters such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and with metal ions such as iron oxide, which is commonly found in makeup. This goes a long way toward explaining why many consumers experience sunburn even after applying sunscreen as directed.

Health Concerns
Effectiveness is not the only thing to consider in any product being applied to the face or body. Significant health concerns have also been raised about many sunscreen ingredients. Here are some issues to consider.

Avobenzone has been found to generate free radicals beyond acceptable safety levels after sitting on the skin for just one hour, and children and pregnant women have been advised not to use products containing it.

Octocrylene, which is known to act as an endocrine disrupter, is used in many sunscreens as a stabilizer. It can also cause skin irritation. According to the Archives of Dermatology, “Octocrylene appears to be a strong allergen leading to contact dermatitis in children and mostly photoallergic contact dermatitis in adults.”

Chemical UV filters can also have harmful effects on the environment. Octocrylene does not seem to be effectively contained in wastewater treatment plants, and studies in Switzerland have indicated that it accumulates in fish. Oxybenzone, a chemical UV-B filter often used in combination with avobenzone, has been found to negatively impact reef ecosystems and biodiversity.

Physical UV filters, in contrast, have an excellent safety profile. The FDA has long considered zinc oxide to be a safe ingredient for both external use and as a food additive, even in infant formula.

Considering all these factors, physical UV blockers represent the best choice overall. The main challenge in getting consumers to use sunscreens based on physical filters is purely cosmetic: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to feel thick and greasy, and are visible on the skin, leaving a white residue. However, new advances mean there are now an increasing number of sunscreens that use these ingredients in formulations that allow for clear application.

When evaluating a sunscreen, the most important considerations should be safety and effectiveness. Carefully examine the ingredients and make use of all available information to make the best choices for yourself and your family.

Jason Barbaria is director of marketing at Dermagenics, a skin care line that includes sunscreen, cleansers, and moisturizers.

sunscreen

A Peek Into Peels

lmichChemical peels have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Once a strictly medical procedure, peels entered the beauty industry in the 1980s as a way to rejuvenate aging skin, smooth lines, even out skin tone, fade dark spots, minimize enlarged pores, improve acne, and generally promote healthier skin.

Technically speaking, the peels offered in spas and salons across the country aren’t really peels, but are a kind of resurfacing that many refer to as chemical exfoliation. Deeper peels are considered medical procedures because of how deeply they penetrate skin and are done by medical care providers. These peels use much more potent chemicals and are substantially more expensive, costing several hundred dollars.

Chemical exfoliation, a treatment you can receive from your esthetician, involves applying one or more acids to facial skin to remove the outermost layer. In general, chemical exfoliation involves the use of alpha hydroxy acids, which are naturally found in foods. The most common are glycolic acid that is derived from sugar cane, and lactic acid from sour milk. These acids have a long track record of treating dry skin and hyperpigmentation, and of reversing the effects of aging. Another frequently used substance is salicylic acid. Derived from the bark of the willow tree, it is an oil-grabber that helps unclog pores.

After a chemical exfoliation, you must take good care of your skin or risk developing dark patches. Skin will be especially sensitive to sunburn for about a week after the peel, so sunscreen is a must, even on cloudy days. Other potential side effects include flaking or scabbing.

Not everyone is a good candidate for chemical exfoliation. Dark-skinned and olive-toned individuals are at greater risk for scarring. Some medications and medical conditions, like pregnancy or autoimmune disorders, may preclude you from this treatment.

The Sunshine Vitamin

By Shelley Burns

In the world of skin health, we focus on ways to improve skin quality. We work to prevent acne, cellular damage, dryness, and wrinkles. It is less common to discuss how a skin-care strategy may increase risk of developing other health conditions.

Skin cancer is one example. To prevent skin cancer, we protect ourselves with sunscreen–especially during the summer months. But by using sunscreen we are blocking the absorption of vitamin D, the “sunshine” vitamin.

Vitamin D is fat soluble and contains powerful antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties that can prevent premature aging and cellular damage. Solid research indicates that vitamin D plays a role in reducing the risk of cancer, specifically breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Vitamin D has been associated with preventing diabetes by reducing insulin sensitivity. It also improves heart health, reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis, strengthens bones, and decreases the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

Vitamin D can help resolve skin conditions like psoriasis, as it plays a role in skin cell regulation, including cell turnover and growth. Vitamin D can be effective in reducing the itching and flaking associated with this disorder. Ultraviolet B (UVB) treatments have long been used successfully in treating psoriasis because UVB produces vitamin D in the body.

Getting between 5-10 minutes of direct sun exposure daily on the arms, face, hands, and back (without sunscreen) can provide enough vitamin D to meet your daily requirements, though sun exposure does present a risk. Because it is difficult to obtain enough vitamin D through food, many prefer to use supplements. Research on the health benefits of ingesting vitamin D led experts to advise an intake of 25-50 micrograms daily.

Shelley Burns is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and campleted studies at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She has certification in complementary and integrative medicine from Harvard University.

Be Smart About Sunscreen

By Jason Barbaria

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States each year. There are more than
2,000 over-the-counter sunscreen formulas on the market today. How can you tell which sunscreens are the safest, most effective, and represent the best value for your money? In most cases, the answer comes down to the difference between the two types of filtering ingredients. Here’s what you need to know.

sunraysChemical or Physical?
The UV radiation in sunlight consists of UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays. UV-A and UV-B are both responsible for photoaging, skin cancer, sunburn, tanning, and wrinkling. UV-C is not a factor in skin health, as it is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and does not reach us in significant amounts.Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UV-A and UV-B. This protection can work in one of two ways: chemical or physical.

Chemical UV Filters
Work by absorbing UV radiation; Require application 30 minutes before sun exposure; Provide partial protection from UV spectrum; May irritate the skin and eyes; Not regulated for safety by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–some may even be carcinogenic; Not photostable (exposure to sunlight degrades effectiveness); Avobenzone is the most commonly used chemical filter ingredient.

Physical UV Filters
Work by reflecting UV radiation; Start protecting immediately upon use; Provide full broad-spectrum protection; Non-irritating to skin and eyes; Safe, as
particles do not penetrate the skin; Highly photostable (exposure to sunlight does not change effectiveness). Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the most commonly used physical filter ingredients. Clothing and shade structures also count as physical filters.

Flaxseed Facts – Reap the Health Benefits of This Little Seed

Flaxseed, the humble little brown seed with a nutty flavor, is a powerhouse in the nutrition world. It’s able to reduce blood pressure, decrease risk of heart attacks and stroke, improve skin quality, help control blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol, and even prevent breast and colon cancer–all in a single seed!
But what makes flax so powerful? Flaxseed contains high concentrations of alpha linoleic acid, a form of omega-3 fatty acids, which serve as the basic building blocks of cell walls. Additionally, flax is high in lignans, powerful antioxidants known for alleviating menopausal symptoms and fighting breast cancer. There are three forms of flaxseed, making it easy to incorporate into your diet.

Flax Oil
While available in capsule form to be taken as a supplement, flax oil is best consumed as a food to get the most benefits from it. Many nutritionists often  recommend purchasing the oil in small quantities, storing it in the refrigerator, and consuming a daily intake of two tablespoons. You can add a tablespoon to your morning smoothie or substitute flax oil in the vinaigrette dressing for your salad. Flax oil breaks down to trans fats when heated, so it should never be used in cooking. While lower in lignans than other forms of flax, the oil is sometimes processed to preserve the lignans. Check the label for details.

Flaxseeds
Whole seeds are sure to have all the nutritional benefits of flax. Simply add these to your granola or salads for a nutty flavor. If a little tough on the teeth, grind them in a coffee grinder and sprinkle on foods. One note: raw, whole flaxseeds contain chemicals that can affect thyroid function. To get around this, simply toast the seeds in the oven for twenty minutes at 250 degrees, or limit your consumption of raw seeds to three to four tablespoons a day.

Flax Meal
Ground flax meal is another option to get the powerful nutritional value of flax. Add a tablespoon of it to your smoothies for extra fiber, or stir it into your oatmeal in the morning.

Tattoos and Skin Care

A tattoo is a serious investment, both financially and of valuable real estate on your skin. Making sure that it lasts, and that you avoid any complications or skin conditions, is important. If you have a tattoo or are considering one, it is worthwhile to understand tattooing and permanent makeup from a skin care perspective, as well as problems that can arise with tattooed skin.

New Tattoos
Tattoos are becoming widely accepted in society. Approximately 21 percent of the population has at least one, with that figure increasing to 38 percent among 30-39 year olds. Tattoo artists use a machine with small needles that penetrate the skin at a frequency of 50-3,000 times per minute. The needles inject pigment to a depth of one-eighth to one-sixty-fourth of an inch, which can reach the reticular dermis (lower layer of the dermis). Permanent makeup works on the same
principle, but may only reach the papillary dermis (upper layer or the dermis) or even the basal layer (lower layer of the epidermis).

Image_003A new tattoo takes time to heal, ranging anywhere from a week to a couple of months. Through the healing process, there is often skin flaking, itching, and redness. There is a high risk of infection at this time, as well as during the actual tattooing process. Skin care services should not be performed on the tattooed area until it is fully healed. Until then, consider it an open wound. An older tattoo that was recently touched up or recolored should also be treated as a new tattoo for safety purposes.

Skin Care Issues
Since tattoo needles break the skin, many complications are possible, including allergic reactions, skin infections, bloodborne diseases, and more. In addition, there are some long-term risks to be aware of when dealing with tattooed skin.

Some pigments used in tattoos are phototoxic: when exposed to light, they can cause a reaction and irritation in some people. This seems to be more common with certain pigment colors, especially red. Plain black ink, on the other hand, generally does not cause problems. If you seem to have an allergic reaction to sunlight, ask a doctor about tattoo phototoxicity as a possible cause.

Watch, too, for swelling, burning, bruising, inflammation, and increased cell production. These reactions can sometimes occur after the initial healing period is over, for both tattoos and permanent makeup. These reactions are also more frequent in cases where colored pigment was used.

Consult an Esthetician
An esthetician can be a valuable asset, both before and after the tattooing process. A series of pretreatments on any area where new artwork is planned is recommended because healthy, well-hydrated skin takes ink better and will prolong the life of the tattoo. Also consider a series of hydrating and exfoliating body treatments to prepare the skin for the best possible results.

If you have older tattoos, a brightening treatment might be in order. This could consist of an enzyme peel, mild acid exfoliation, hyaluronic- or algae-based serum, or a hydrating mask (a shea butter base would be perfect) for 15 minutes.

More Tips
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends waiting to get a tattoo if you are pregnant, and also choosing an area of skin that is free of moles for your tattoo. It also offers the following tips on caring for skin with a tattoo at www.aad.org:

  • Apply sunscreen every day before going outdoors. Choose broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of
    30 or higher.
  • Pay attention to rashes and sunburn-like reactions.
  • Skin can be extra sensitive during this time, and may need to be covered.Stay out of tanning beds and away from sunlamps. UV light can irritate or fade tattoos.
  • If your tattooed skin feels dry, apply a water-based lotion or cream. The risk of fading a tattoo is higher with petroleum-based products.
  • If you have a skin reaction or see your skin change in any way, see a dermatologist. Don’t take a chance if you suspect that something is wrong.
  • If you no longer want a tattoo, see a dermatologist. Before turning to an over-the-counter removal kit, consult a professional for the best course of action.

Tattoo Removal
It is a misconception that any tattoo can easily be removed with a laser. Some inks, especially those containing titanium dioxide, are not affected by lasers at all. Inks containing iron oxides will blur and turn black when laser removal is attempted. For tattoos that can be removed, a series of treatments is needed. The laser ruptures the dermal cells to redistribute the ink. Exactly what happens to the ink particles after that is unknown, but it is believed the body processes them.

Professional care for your tattoo can help keep it bright.

The Face of Winter

How to Protect Your Skin in the Dry, Cold Months By Barbara Hey

Winter can be tough on skin, but there’s much you can do to defend against the assaults of the season. The skin’s primary role — to protect the body — is ever more important in extreme weather, and in most locations, that means extreme cold outside and dry, over-heated air inside during the winter. Your epidermis must “weather” these drastic fluctuations in temperature, and often the result is chapped, scaly, flaky skin.

Facing the Frost

The biggest wintertime concern is dehydration. In colder climates, you definitely need to increase the protection quotient. “You must over-treat skin to keep it hydrated,” says Barbara Schumann-Ortega, vice president of Wilma Schumann Skin Care in Coral Gables, Florida. That means a shift from lighter skin care products used during warmer months to winter-weight products, such as thicker, cream-based cleansers and moisturizers. These will provide stronger barriers against the harsh environment of winter months.

And this is especially important for the face. And if much time is spent outdoors skiing, snowboarding, or walking, for example, your complexion needs heavy-duty protection from brisk wind and winter sun as well.

“People often forget about sunscreen in the winter,” says Schumann-Ortega. For regular outdoor time — a few hours a day — a sunscreen with an SPF of 20 should be sufficient. But if a winter trip on the slopes or shore is part of the plan, sunscreen with a higher protective factor is needed, even if your time is spent beneath an umbrella. “Both snow and sand reflect the sun,” she says, so don’t obvious casualties of winter are the hands. Exposed to the elements and the subject of frequent hand-washing during the cold and flu season, hands can turn to rawhide just as holiday parties go into full swing — not an elegant look for holding onto a champagne flute. This is the season to slather hands with heavy, oil-rich cream at night and cover them with gloves. And don’t forget feet: they also require the same special care. Consider a moisturizer for them in the evenings and sleep with socks on. In the morning, your feet and hands will feel soft and moisturized. Your skin care professional can recommend appropriate gloves, socks, and a home-care routine for this process. In addition, treat hands and feet to regular spa treatments to exfoliate dead skin cells, and paraffin treatments to replenish and moisturize.

Relax and Enjoy It

In winter, and all seasons, stress can disrupt even the best skin. “We always ask clients what’s going on in life, since adrenaline, holiday pressures, and even joy can have an effect on body chemistry,” says Schumann-Ortega. The skin reflects it all. “Some clients may come in after four weeks and they look like a train wreck,” she says. So do your best to minimize the effects of stress with exercise, meditation, and proper diet. And don’t skimp on the self-care. Schedule time for pampering, relaxing treatments.

Some final tips:

– Drink water. Even when there’s a chill in the air and thirst isn’t overwhelming, water consumption needs to be high to combat the dry air.

– Avoid products with a high percentage of synthetic ingredients (propylene glycol, petroleum), chemical detergents (sodium laurel sulfates), and artificial colors and fragrances.

– Employ quality skin care products suited to your skin type.

– Check your medications. Illness and ongoing pharmaceuticals can upset pH balance.

– Incorporate nutritional supplements into your skin health regimen, such as essential fatty acids, zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, and B vitamins.

Winter doesn’t have to take its long, hard toll on your skin. Ask your skin care professional about hydrating products and circulation-enhancing treatments to ease the long, dry months of winter.

After all, spring is just around the corner.

Is the Season Getting You Down?

Shine the Light on Winter Blues

In northern climates when the heavy snows fall and the sun moves south, many people find their moods shift from upbeat to downright depressed. The severe form of winter depression–called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD–affects at least two million North Americans. Another thirty-nine million experience milder symptoms of moodiness and extended sleep patterns that somewhat resemble hibernation.

Overeating, sleeping for prolonged periods, mood swings, carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain during winter months may be more than just symptoms of cabin fever. They can suggest a biochemical reaction caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight.

Like all living things, we humans are sensitive to the seasons and sunlight. Wesecrete a hormone called melatonin, which helps us sleep at night and stay awake during the day. Melatonin production is directly linked to sun exposure. So, as the days get shorter during the winter, our bodies produce more and more melatonin and we can literally feel like going into a cave and hibernating.

Many SAD sufferers manage their seasonal depression with daily exposure to full-spectrum lamps or light boxes. By getting daily doses of natural light, they can fool their brains into thinking it’s summertime, and their need to sleep decreases.

Recent research shows that timing these light therapy sessions to our natural biological clocks is even more beneficial than usage during the day. Exposure to natural spectrum bright light for thirty minutes on awakening is twice as effective as evening sessions, and one study found this practice actually had an 80 percent chance of sending SAD into remission.

If winter blues are getting to you, consider investing in a full spectrum lamp and use it first thing in the morning–because SAD is for the bears..

Tis the season to be beautiful

Winter Skin by David Waggoner

As you embrace the holiday season, explore new products and services and nurture your skin during these cold months.

Let It Snow
Cold temperatures, windy weather, and low humidity all make it harder for the skin to retain moisture–and that’s only half of the problem. Indoors, the heating systems we use to warm our homes make the skin even dryer, further compounding the issue. The mainstay of winter skin care is increased use of moisturizers. Your goal should be to keep the skin hydrated. If you don’t already use a creamy daily cleanser, now’s the time to start.

The Drying Effects of Water
Each time we wash, we strip moisture and natural oils from the skin. Harsh soaps increase the damage. Hot tubs and heated pools, so appealing in the chillier months, are especially drying because of their chlorine and bromine content.

Similarly, you should avoid taking too many long, hot showers, which will also dehydrate your skin even further. We wash our hands multiple times a day, and the skin on the hands is thinner than on most parts of the body, so moisturizer needs to be applied more frequently to them than to the rest of
the body. A good hand cream is essential in winter.

Red-Nosed Reindeer
Many winter woes are simply a result of skin irritation from the weather and can be solved with proper hydration and protection, but others may need to be medically managed. Eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and xerosis (extreme skin dryness) are all worsened by cold, dry weather. Rosacea flare-ups can be caused by emotional changes, such as depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and stress, all common this time of year. Though there’s no way
to eliminate rosacea, lifestyle changes and prescription medication can relieve the symptoms.

A Few Of My Favorite Things
Look for anti-inflammatory moisturizing ingredients when building a winter skin care routine. Some good, natural ingredients to consider include beeswax, calendula, comfrey, marshmallow root, and olive oil. What else is good for skin hydration and protection?

These are a few of my favorite things:

Glycerin
Glycerin, also called glycerine or glycerol, is a humectant (an ingredient that helps your skin retain moisture). It is a sugar alcohol and is also used in foods like sweeteners or thickeners. Skin care products that contain glycerin will be goopier and heavier than those that don’t. Give the skin a couple of weeks to get used to the consistency and the heaviness will soon be unnoticeable.

Hyaluronic Acid
If you prefer gentle, natural ingredients, don’t be frightened away by the “acid” part. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally
in the skin. It is a great plumper, capable of holding up to 1,000 times its own weight in water. The amount our bodies produce declines with age, so topical products with this ingredient can
have a great effect on aging skin.

Shea Butter
Naturally rich in vitamins A, E, and F, this natural nut oil moisturizes, revitalizes, and softens skin.

Sunscreen
Perhaps the most common skin care myth during winter months is that you don’t need to consider ultraviolet (UV) protection. But UV exposure is UV exposure, regardless of the season.

Winter sports enthusiasts should always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on the slopes. Apply generously, using enough to create a barrier between the sun and your skin, and be sure to reapply frequently if you stay outside for a long time.

Skip the Scents
Perfumes with alcohol content can irritate the skin and disrupt your body’s natural ability to maintain appropriate moisture levels. Best to keep the application of perfume to a minimum in the winter months.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The end of a calendar year is a traditional time to reflect and revitalize. There’s a natural tendency to review where you are and where you want to go. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!