Monthly Archives: January 2011

302 Skincare – Keys to Success

 

If you are new to 302 Skincare, you need to fully understand how the products work and how to best apply them.  You should be working hand-in-hand with a certified 302 professional, either in person or, if that is not possible, through online and e-mail consultations. 

These are some pointers to think about before embarking on a 302 regimen:

1.  302 Skincare is based on a metabolic model and not a repair model.  The repair model is what most skincare lines use to induce collagen and elastin production.   A repair process involves creating trauma to the surface of the skin, either by manual means (dermabrasion or microdermabrasion) or chemical peels using acids and harsh chemicals.   These include common AHA acids such as glycolic acid, lactic, mandelic acid.  We all know when the epidermis is stripped, the skin goes into repair mode, so cell turnover is speeded up temporarily to repair the damage.  While this kind of repair process may result in collagen and elastin production in the short-term, aging skin cannot keep up with the constant demand of replacing cells indefinitely.  Energy provided by the mitochondrial organelles in skin cells will eventually be depleted from the constant free radical damage resulting from the inflammation of the skin which is an unavoidable side effect of acids and peels.  With each exfoliative treatment, telomeres are shortened and the aging of the skin speeds up.  In addition, exfoliated skin is especially susceptible to sun damage, which even the strongest of sunscreens cannot prevent.  Additionally, the quality of the collagen is often poor, with fragmented and cross-linked proteins (collagen) leading to thinned, hardened skin and accumulation of wastes, including lipofuscin (pigments).  The time it takes for the skin to deteriorate to this point varies greatly between individuals.  Some people seemingly do well on acids for many years or decades, but the underlying mechanism is not a healthy approach in the long-run, and the damage may be irreversible at some point.

 So, if there is a better, safer approach, wouldn’t you rather do that first?  302 Skincare is that safer alternative.  Using the metabolic model, you increase energy and nutrients to the cells, without creating trauma to the epidermis.  The epidermis remains intact to protect you from environmental damage, UV damage and toxins.  It is a more natural process and is sustainable for the long-term.  It increases energy instead of depleting it from the cells. 

302 Skincare believes “less is best” and this is why:  The whole process of turnover is furthered hampered with over application of topicals morning and night.  The skin cannot handle so many substances before it just gives up and does nothing or, worse yet, turns on you by becoming sensitive or breaking out in an allergic reaction.   Subsequently, the less products you use, the less ingredients you are putting on your skin, and the less likelihood you will develop an intolerance or sensitivity. 

The 302 metabolic model is on the cutting edge of rejuvenating skincare.  Unlike a repair model, this model is sustainable and produces a healthier skin.  If you want evidence of that, just read the skincare forums.  The incidence of sensitivity and rosacea is on the rise, and it’s no coincidence that most it occurs in people with a long history of acid use, harsh chemicals, and exfoliative treatments.         

2.  Since 302 Avogen increases the metabolism of the skin, if your skin is in a bad state to begin with irritation, breakouts, dryness, it will only increase your problems if introduced too soon.  Therefore, a transitional period of at least 2 weeks is recommended before applying actives.  There are cleansers, moisturizers and sunscreens which can be used during this transitional phase.   You want your skin at baseline but in a calmed nonirritated state before applying any of the Avogen-containing products.  

3.  People who have little or no history of prior skincare use or invasive treatments may not need a transition period and probably will have no problems starting with the regular strength products, including the Avogen products.   

4.   If you are a long-term acid user, or have used many skincare products and occlusive makeup on a regular basis, your skin will likely be in a state of dysfunction when you start 302.   If you are serious about getting results, you have to stop all your current products, give your skin a rest for as long as it takes to be calmed.  In some cases where there has been long-term use of acids, hydroquinone, benzoyl peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, excessive irritation from chemical agents and sunscreens, your skin may need several months of down-time or transitioning.  The underlying problems usually appear when you stop your current products.  You may experience extreme dryness, breakouts, plugs of goo surfacing, advanced sagging and wrinkling.  This reflects the true condition of your skin which has been damaged by the long-term use of irritants and chemicals.  302 can repair it, but you need to start really slow and observe what is happening with your skin.   If you apply an active containing Avogen and see an adverse reaction, your skin may not be ready for 302 actives.  The solution is to extend the transitional period some more.  Continue with the non-Avogen 302 cleansers, moisturizers and sunscreens until the skin is calmed before proceeding.  Jumping from one skincare line immediately into 302 Skincare is a common mistake that newbies make; another is mixing other skincare lines with 302 Avogen products.  This can cause undesirable interactions and adverse reactions.  Just be aware of the consequences and scale back if you encounter problems, consult with a 302 professional at the same time. 

5.  302 Skincare uses a step-by-step approach.  You don’t apply the strongest actives, and certainly not more than once at night when beginning.  The general rule is only 1 active at night, rotating actives nightly, and rotate your cleansers in the a.m. and p.m.   The Face/Body bar is an excellent cleanser to use, alternating with another 302 cleanser.  This ensures your skin will not be overwhelmed or fatigued by too many topicals at one time.  We want to prompt the skin into behaving, not force it.   After your transitional period is over, start with 1 active.   If you have sensitive skin, you start with the RX products.  If you have regular skin, you start with the regular products.  If you have acneic skin, there are separate products for you.  There are about 40 products in total, so you see the value in working with a pro.   Unless you have in depth knowledge of each and every product, you probably will have problems with developing a regimen for your issues.  Experienced estheticians who have worked with many skin types and issues are invaluable when using this line, so consult with one when you begin.  

6.  As your skin rebuilds and becomes healthier, you will be able to move up to stronger actives, but there is no rule that requires you to move up at all.  If you see improvements, you can stay with the same level of products.  Over time, however, it best to shake up your regimen so the skin does not get used to any routine.   You want to “surprise” the skin and keep it on its proverbial toes.  Even taking a break from 302 actives, especially when you sense a plateau, is a good idea.  Just continue with the cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreen.  You shall be pleasantly surprised that your skin will not take a turn for the worse when you go on these 302 holidays, and will perform even better when you resume.   

7.   Remember, rebuilding the skin is a long-term process, so it will take time and patience on your part to see visible results.   You should think of it as your personal 302 journey.  If you are older, have extremely damaged skin, are chronically ill and take medications, your results will take longer.  If you indulge in aging practices such as smoking, excessive sun exposure, a sedentary or stressful lifestyle, and bad eating habits, this also hinders results.  The healthier you are, the sooner you will see results.  However, if you manage to stay the course and work with your 302 pro, the end result is the same either way….Healthy, beautiful skin, which requires little to maintain it.  You won’t want or need to wear foundation.  You save time, money, and frustration at the end of your journey, and who doesn’t want that?

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302 Skincare – Revolutionary Skincare

With a basic understanding of how the skin works, what to look for in skincare, and how to evaluate, you now have the tools to find something that really works. 

The next few articles will describe what I use, 302 Skincare, and how to use it for maximal benefits.  Seldom do you find something that totally changes your life, but I have to say that since discovering 302 Skincare back in 2005, my whole way of life has been affected.   It opened my eyes about living holistically and using socially and environmentally sensible options for everyday products, including skincare:

First of all, some facts about this skincare line:

1.  302 Skincare is only available from professionals, people who are trained in its use.  You cannot buy it in a store or order it online.  The reason for this is simple.  It is a line which contains highly active ingredients.  With such potent ingredients, you can affect a true change in the skin structure and cells.  However, the flip side is that you can misuse it and cause undesirable results as well.  With such highly active ingredients, you must not over apply these products and will need to monitor your skin’s response.  This is why a professional should be monitoring you, at least in the beginning, until you understand the products better.   

2.  302 Skincare does not advertise.  This is why you’ve never heard of it.  It is a small privately held business which started in 2002 and has headquarters in Hayden, Idaho.  Most of their professional clients (estheticians) are in California, but they are slowly rolling out to other states and countries, with distribution to Canada in 2010. 

3.  The line is about 90% organic and natural.   Natural and organic ingredients are used if possible, but some synthetics are necessary for stabilizing and preservation.  All synthetic ingredients must have a proven safety record.

4.  302 Skincare is constantly improving its formulations and products.  Because it is a small company, they can do this relatively faster than big skincare companies.  They listen to their clients and consumers and often make changes based on their suggestions.      

5.  302 Skincare’s main philosophy is that the best way to rejuvenate the skin is to make it healthy at the cellular level.  Aging, scarring, rosacea, hyperpigmentation are all signs of cellular dysfunction in the skin.  The ingredients in the products work together to bring the skin back to a healthy state without using harmful irritating ingredients or requiring exfoliative methods.  It preserves and maintains the skin barrier (epidermis).  Another 302 philosophy is that “less is best”.  You want the skin to do all the work, not your skincare products.  You will find that over time, you will need less product, not more. 

6.  The star ingredient is Avogen, which is patented.  The common ingredient name is avocatin.  This is a synthesized version of a special lipid found in a particular species of avocado which has been proven in independent studies to have anti-aging properties.  You have probably heard of the amazing benefits of eating avocados for the skin and general health.  A team of scientists from Eli Lilly isolated the molecule responsible for these benefits and then found a way to duplicate it through a special processing method.   This is the 302 molecule, or Avogen, which became the namesake of the line.  The “302” is its molecular size, which is very, very tiny and, therefore, easily reaches the dermis of the skin and affects changes to the skin cells there.

7.  As Avogen is a strong metabolizer, you cannot use it with acids or other irritants.   You should be off acids at least 2 weeks (longer if possible) to make sure the skin is not in an inflammatory state when you begin.  Otherwise, the irritation and inflammation will be magnified if you use the two together.  You may very well encounter breakouts and other unpleasant adverse reaction if you try to use acids while using the Avogen-containing products at the same time.   Acids includes all AHAs, Retin-A, L-ascorbic acid, and hyalauronic acid.  For the same reason, reduce any topical medications if you are using them, for example acne topicals.   The dryness caused by these meds wil be magnified when using Avogen.  Reduce the frequency of application of your topical meds if this happens.

8.  302 Skincare is an all-inclusive system.  If you decide to use 302 Skincare, then ONLY use 302 Skincare products.  All the products are formulated to work together for best results.  You should not try to mix in other skincare lines.  Mixing products from other lines only complicates the process and results in suboptimal or unpredictable results.  I’ve seen many people try to incorporate 302 with their old favorites and it usually results in disappointment or problems.  This is a very important consideration.  302 is not like other skincare lines, and you have to change your old ways of thinking about skincare.  Follow the instructions from your 302 professional exactly, and you will get results. 

The History of 302 Skincare and the Avogen Molecule

The story of how Avogen was discovered is the stuff of movies, but it actually did happen over 20 years ago.  A team of scientists funded by Eli Lilly and MIT heard of a village of people in Guatemala whose skin seemed to age significantly less than neighboring villages.  They set off on a 2-year exploration to find out why.  They discovered that the village people ate a lot of avocados, as there was an abundance of avocado trees surrounding the coffee plants which they harvested.  Eating 8 to 10 avocados a day was not unusual.  The result was that their skin was very resilient and resistant to sun damage.  After much experimentation, the actual molecule responsible for this amazingly resilient skin was isolated.  The scientists named it avocatin, but later patented it as Avogen.  There were independent, double-blind, placebo-based studies performed which verified their observations.  There was no toxicity, and the results were sustainable and permanent.  After patenting Avogen, the 302 Skincare line was born in 2003.  The patents can be found here:

http://www.302skincare.com/tech_patents.html

The 302 line started with only 3 products but has now grown to 40.  Not all the products contain Avogen.  The non-Avogen products consist of moisturizers, cleansers, sunscreens, and other specialized products which work synergistically with the Avogen products.

I’ve been using the products since 2005, when they only had 3 products, the 302 Protein Drops, Face and Body Bar, and 302 Cleanser.  My full story is documented in the Essential Day Spa Forum  at:

 http://www.essentialdayspa.com/forum/viewthread.php?tid=28855 

I’m still using 302 Skincare products after 6 years, however much less frequently.  It’s the only products I use.  I don’t require a daily regimen of multiple products.  I simply wash with water in the morning, apply the Recovery Minerals for sunscreen if going out.  At night, I rotate one of my 302 cleansers.  On 3 or 4 nights of the week, I will apply one of the topicals.  That’s it!  Very simple, yet my skin is radiant and plump and healthy.  These products have totally changed how I use skincare and how I live.  I’m more conscious of what I put on my skin, what I eat, and how I live.  Having beautiful skin requires this kind of holistic approach.

What Makes 302 Skincare Different?

These are the reasons I feel 302 Skincare is one of the best lines available on the market today:

1.   The cost is very reasonable for such a potent and exclusive line.  The processing required to produce Avogen is expensive.  It takes about 1 ton of avocados to make 1 ounce of 302 Avogen, so most of the cost is due to this ingredient.  You will not find this ingredient in any other skincare line.  All ingredients are used because of effectiveness and not purely to save cost.  They don’t use cheap fillers and bases or the cheapest forms of actives they can get.  Each ingredient must have scientifically proven results to justify their inclusion.  You will not find a long list of fancy-sounding or chemical ingredients in their formulations.  The formulations are simple yet powerful.  Each ingredient is listed along with their purpose on the company website.  Even though 302 products cost more than drugstore brands, they are still very economical because you use so little at a time.  You will find most of the actives and cleansers last 2 to 3 months. 

2.  The formulations are done by on-site chemists and scientists with extensive knowledge of skin regeneration.  They understand the biochemical mechanisms of the skin and the unique characteristics of Avogen.  It’s not formulated by a contracted cosmetic chemist or formulating lab which churns out products for multiple skincare lines.  Many private label brands are formulated by outside vendors, but you wouldn’t know it.  With 302, everything is controlled by their own people from sourcing the raw ingredients to putting the formulations together, so they know exactly what goes into their products.  Every product is carefully formulated to maximize results without harming or damaging the skin.

3.  The line is highly customizable.  Each person’s skin is at a different stage of health, so you can’t expect one product to work the same for everybody.  To address the uniqueness of people’s skin requirements, there are 40 products to select from, making it highly adjustable or customizable.   There are products for all types of skin and skin problems.  Even the most sensitive of skin can use 302 products.  You just need a 302 professional to help you decide what to use and how to use it.  The actual regimen is simple.  You usually start with a couple cleansers, 1 active, and a sunscreen.   Depending on your issues, you can add on products as needed.    

4.  Results are long-term and sustainable.  While results take awhile to show, they are permanent changes.  Skin rebuilding takes time and patience.  Your skin can only produce collagen and elastin so fast, so don’t expect overnight results.  After 6 months of steady use, you should see marked improvement in your skin.  Depending on the current state of your skin, it could be much faster.  Skin which has been damaged and rendered dysfunctional by long-term use of acids, peels, sun damage, harsh chemicals, invasive procedures, etc. will take longer to correct and rebuild.  But the results are cumulative and should require less product to maintain after awhile.  

5.  The ingredients are safe and nontoxic.  Each ingredient is scrutinized for their safety and toxicity studies.   If new studies show an ingredient is toxic, it will be changed or removed.    

6.  There are patents, independent studies, and many unsolicited testimonials to back up the claims of the products.  With the growing following of happy 302 users, you can easily find testimonials on the Internet about how 302 has changed their skin.  All of their business comes from word of mouth and they have been around long enough now (8 years) to prove that the products are not a passing fad.  They actually work, and they have many happy customers to prove it.  But they never brag about it or advertise about it, another good sign to me that it works.  They don’t need to use marketing hype to sell their products.   

7.  Results are real and permanent, not simply surface changes.  You are addressing the root causes of your skin problems with real solutions, not temporary coverups or band-aid solutions.  You can stop 302 products and your skin remains the same.  302 actually restores your skin’s metabolism and health.  The cells receive the nutrients they need, the skin can repair itself faster, cells turn over faster, and the aging process slows.  Your skin will function much like it did in your 30s without relying on a daily regimen of any sort.  I’ve heard of long-term 302 users taking breaks from 302 actives for up to a month with no decline in their skin.  This is the true test of an effective skincare line.  If you can do this with your current skincare, you have a winner.   

In the next article, I’ll discuss specific things you can to do to ensure success with 302 products.   Until then, you can explore the 302 Skincare website at www.302skincare.com.

Evaluating Skincare – Seeing Through the Hype

Marketing Gimmicks to be Aware Of

Be a savvy consumer and be aware that skincare companies want to convince you to buy their products out of the thousands if not tens of thousands lines out there in the market.   Some tactics are deliberately used to draw people into a euphoria of hope, and entice impulse buying.   Don’t fall for marketing hype such as this:

1)  The TV infomercial with celebrity endorsements and auto-ship programs.    Just because a celebrity may have used a product, doesn’t guarantee you the same results.   This is true for anything in life because people are unique….your biological makeup, how healthy you are, what your habits are, what medications you are on, age, gender, environment, all affect your results.   No one product will work the same on everybody.  It’s just biologically impossible.  The auto-ship programs are especially deceitful because many people don’t realize they have committed to auto-ship from an introductory offer until it’s too late, and then it’s hard to stop.  

2)  The amazing “before and after” photos.   I would be cautious about believing what you see in photos.  Lighting and angles can make a tremendous difference on the appearance of lines and spots.   Look at the color of the hair, the background, the lighting levels, and the position of the facial features.  If they are exactly identical, then I would be more prone to believe any changes but even then, photo shopping an image is very easy to do.  You can wipe out wrinkles instantly. 

3)  The “instant’ anything, instant wrinkle removers, instant lightening creams.   The skin isn’t biologically able to instantly repair wrinkles or hyperpigmentation within a few minutes, hours, or even a couple weeks.  Collagen takes a minimum of 3 weeks to rebuild and the skin turnover is from 3 to 6 weeks, longer if you are older.   So anything that results from 2 or less weeks of use is unlikely to be real and permanent.  If you see a product claiming instantaneous or overnight results, you can almost guarantee it’s only temporary and may actually be harming your skin in the long run.   The diminished wrinkles can be the result of irritation, inflammation and swelling, which is also creating free radicals.  Once you stop the irritant, the wrinkles will come right back and maybe deeper.   Applying anything to the skin to the point of saturation, will temporarily plump it up and make it appear more resilient.  But again, when you stop using the products, all the temporary improvements will be gone as well.   Same thing with lightening products.  The immunosuppressants like hydroquinone will lighten your spots while you are using it, but when you stop, the spots come right back and perhaps darker.  While you are on hydroquinone, you are also irritating the skin, which again accelerates aging.  So you put yourself in an endless cycle and are forced to lifetime maintenance on these irritating substances to maintain your “results”.  Unfortunately, they’re not addressing the root cause of the problems and are only band-aids covering up the visible symptoms of the problems.   Also, these kinds of maintenance programs are not usually sustainable due to the sensitivity and irritation which results from long-term use of these products.  Eventually, you will find yourself unable to tolerate these and other substances and in a worse situation than when you started.  So, it’s best to never start using band-aid type skincare regimens.

Learn to Listen to Your Skin

If you find your skin continually dry, irritated, and inflamed after using your products, it’s a sign that your products are damaging the skin, specifically the skin cells are being bombarded with free radicals, the telomeres are shortening faster, and the cells’ energy reserves are being depleted.  If stressed long enough, eventually the skin forgets how to function normally and becomes a dysfunctional artifact.  In effect, the continual damage causes the skin to prematurely age or become senescent.  Senescent skin takes on the appearance of a much older person’s skin in their 80s or 90s, with a hardened, thinned,  inelastic, parchment-like texture, as illustrated by this 90-year-old woman’s face:

This type of skin eventually becomes unresponsive to any kind of skincare treatment.   It’s much harder to repair damage than to prevent the damage in the first place.  So listen to your skin and stop products that are irritating.   

Hallmarks of an Effective Skincare Product

If you can answer yes to all these questions, then you probably have a safe, effective product that is making your skin healthier for the long-run.

1.   Are all the ingredients readily listed and available for the consumer to read prior to buying?

2.  Is each ingredient safe, non-irritating, and have a proven safety record.

3.  Are the concentrations of actives high enough to actuate a change in the skin over time? 

4.  When you stop using the product, does the skin remain the same and does not immediately decline in appearance?   This is the #1 test of effectiveness for any skincare product.  If you stop a product for 2 or more weeks, and the skin remains the same, then it’s a sign the skin is functioning well on its own.   If you notice an instant decline with sagging, dryness, wrinkling, irritation, breakouts, then you know you have developed a dependence on the products….similar to a drug addiction.  Don’t believe the adage that you need products to keep the skin healthy looking on a daily basis.  That is a convenient myth propagated by skincare companies who want to keep you buying their products for as long as possible.  You want products which bring the skin’s own functions back to optimal levels, so it does not “require” any topical to look good.  If you find you need less of a product over time, that is the true sign of effective skincare.  Conversely, if you find yourself in a frantic if you miss a daily application of anything, you have become a prisoner of your skincare.  You want to free yourself from that dependency.  Also, many people who find themselves tied to a maintenance program using irritating and sensitizing agents develop an unnatural fear of being outside, fearing the sun, and enjoying the outdoors.  You need to get a healthy dose of sunshine, both to maintain your vitamin D level and to maintain mental wellness.  

5.  Is the price of the products reasonable for what the contents are?  Look at the ingredients.   Know what you are paying for.  Are you paying for fancy-sounding and exotic ingredients, the latest antioxidants?  Fancy bottle?  Advertising in high-end stores?  What are you paying for?   Just because all the greatest sounding actives and botanicals are in a product, doesn’t guarantee that it will produce results.  Especially if the concentrations are miniscule or the formulation is carelessly thrown together.  Compare other lines with similar ingredients.   It’s not unusual for markups of 100, 200, or 300% on skincare.    Look at the first 4 ingredients.   If you see water (aqua), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), aloe, mineral oil (paraffinum liquidum), glycerin, alcohols, parabens,  or silicones listed, you are paying exorbitant prices for a product comprised of mostly cheap ingredients.

6.   Are there independent human, double-blind and placebo-based tests to support results?   Eliminate any studies performed by the company or people selling the products because often studies can be manipulated or performed in a way to make the results more impressive than they are.  Also remember many studies are too short and only reflect morphologic changes (surface changes).  You want long-term studies or feedback from independent reliable sources.  If a company claims its studies show results, they may be reflecting temporary results that diminish the “appearance” of wrinkles.   Doesn’t mean the actual skin structure has changed at all, it could merely be swelling.  In order to measure true change, cell health and functioning must be measured, but this is almost never done with skincare products.   So, for now, you will have look for independent testing and/or consumer reviews which support long-term results.  Also, keep in mind if the company studies use in vitro tests to claim results, that may not be a true reflection of what happens on a real person.   In vitro tests are lab tests done in a laboratory setting using Petri dishes within a very controlled environment.  It doesn’t factor in all the variables when applied on real people.   It may work well in the lab, but do nothing in a real-world setting.   You want to find long-term (over 6 months at least) studies using “in vivo” testing on real people, measured in a clinical setting.  

Measuring Results in a Logical Way

Assuming you have chosen a skincare line to test out, how do you measure its effectiveness?   Well, it’s best to start with a clean slate and trial each product one at a time, so you really see what is happening with each individual product.  If you use multiple new products at one time, you will have no idea what is working and what is not. 

So, to begin your trial, stop using all the current products you using on a daily basis for at least 2 weeks.   Find a very simple cleanser with no SLS or other irritants to wash with at night and try to use sunscreen only when you are in the sun for more than 15 minutes at a time.  You want to see what your skin really is like before starting; this is your baseline.     At the end of 2 weeks, take a “before” photo if possible.   This will give you some visual reminder of what you began with.  

Trial each product for at least a month and see what, if anything, happens.  Take another photo at 1 month.  If you are doing okay, you could add another product and then observe what happens after a month of that.   Make notes of when you started each product and what you observe.   Takes “after” photos at 1 month intervals.   

Finding a truly effective skincare line or product takes diligence and patience because real changes don’t happen overnight.   There are no “miracles” in skincare and anybody who claims to have found one doesn’t understand how the skin works.  You can’t solely rely on potions and lotions to reverse signs of aging.  You need to address your overall health too.  Just by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, your skin should visibly improve on its own.   Using skincare to boost your skin’s own natural functions and not artificially forcing it to look a certain way is the ideal long-term solution.

Skincare Labels – What to Look For

Deciding on a skincare line and deciding if it’s going to work is a daunting and frustrating ordeal. We are bombarded with ads and celebrity endorsements for products all the time. In the past, I would buy mainly based on how glitzy the packaging was, before and after photos, the promise of instant results. Well, in 90% of the products I tried, the claims did not live up to the hype. I never knew how to tell the reality from the hype, so I ended up being a victim of marketing and impulse buying. I bought into so many products, and it they all ended in my wastebasket or back of the cabinet.

After awhile, I realized I could be more informed and make better decisions on what to try. It just takes some investigative work and time. I will give you some pointers on what to look for in ingredient labels. Once you have this basic knowledge, you will not be as lost in the cosmetic aisles, and you will save yourself from a lot of grief, disappointment, and money.

Deciphering Ingredient Labels

Surprisingly, this is the most important thing in understanding skincare, but most people don’t even bother to look at ingredients. Just like reading nutrition labels on your food products, you want to know what you are putting on your face. The FDA does not monitor or approve skincare ingredients like it does for drugs. Therefore, it is even more important you know what is going on your skin and, potentially, accumulating in your body. Even if a product proclaims itself as “natural” and “organic”, there are no government regulations that ensure this is true. Be aware that most claims by skincare companies are not proven or backed by independent studies. Take any claims with a grain of salt and find out what the ingredients actually are and how they work. Look for scientific studies, patents, and impartial reviews from other consumers before buying.

Find yourself a good source for information on ingredients. The Environmental Working Group has a good database at http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com which rates ingredients on a scale of 1-10 for safety. You can also purchase the “Milady’s Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary”. Even using the Internet or Wikipedia is a good source for looking up ingredients. Also, check out the ingredients glossary found on the Smart Skincare website at http://www.smartskincare.com.

These are guidelines to look for in any ingredient label:

1. You want to make sure there are proven actives in the formula, something that will change the structure of the skin or affect some change in the cells. Actives would include things like tretinoin, retinoids, vitamin C derivatives, peptides, Avogen, etc.

2. Are the actives able to penetrate the skin and reach the dermal cells (where aging occurs) or are they just sitting on the surface of the skin? The molecule should be small enough (less than 750 Daltons) or there must be a transport mechanism in the formula to allow penetration of the active.

3. Other than the actives, look at the inactive ingredients. These are ingredients to keep lotions and creams from separating, make it go on better, the preservatives, fragrances, color. Are there so many other inactive ingredients that the actives are overpowered or hindered by all the inactive ingredients? If so, you may want to skip this product, because you will be paying for mostly inactive ingredients.

4. Make sure there are is not a long laundry list of ingredients on the label. The more ingredients, the more likely the concentration of each is too small to make much difference.

5. Try to eliminate products that contain known irritants and are potential sensitizers and pore cloggers. This is why you need a resource guide for ingredients. Look up every ingredient. When you are putting something on your face day after day, you need to make sure it is safe for your skin and body for long-term use.

6. Make sure the actives are listed towards the front of the list. The ingredients which make up a product are listed from highest to lowest concentration on the ingredient label. So if the actives are listed towards the end, the concentrations may be so low they won’t do anything for your skin. However, they can claim it’s in the product purely for marketing purposes.

7. Do the contents justify the price or are you paying for packaging and advertising? Is there some patented ingredient, special processing that justifies the price? Unfortunately, most skincare companies will use the cheapest ingredients but mark up the products so high, it appears you are getting high quality ingredients. Cost does not equate to effectiveness in skincare.

Natural/Organic Versus Synthetic/Chemical Skincare

This is a hot topic of discussion. More and more people are turning to a natural and organic approach to skincare. Often, people talk about their preference for one or the other. Some people claim that the natural and organic skincare lines are totally ineffective and irritating, while the other camp claims that there are too many toxins and cancer-promoting chemicals in anything except natural/organic lines.  My take is you can’t categorize either approach as all good or all bad because there are so many different formations.  You cannot generalize with sweeping statements that one or the other approach is better. There are very good natural/organic lines and very bad natural/organic lines. Same goes for the mostly chemical and synthetic based lines; there are good ones and bad ones. You have to evaluate each skincare product on its individual merits, ingredients, and formulation. The cosmetic chemist who formulates a product has to know exactly what each ingredient does and how they interact with each other in order to produce something that works and will not cause damage to your skin. It is a science experiment in a bottle, and I prefer experts to be doing that. Which is why I don’t advise DIY skincare or mixing products from different skincare lines unless you understand the chemistry and interactions of ingredients.

Personally, I prefer a more natural and organic approach simply for the reason that there is less chance of encountering toxins and mutagens with natural substances and less chance of adverse reaction from mixing natural ingredients. But I don’t shun all synthetics or man-made chemicals either. My guideline is always use natural if the ingredient is safe and effective. If the only safe and effective options are synthetic, then I would go with those. Each formation must be safe and effective, regardless of whether they are mainly natural or synthetic ingredients.

Avoid Ingredients That Will Age Your Skin

Some natural ingredients such as essential oils can cause sensitivity in some people, especially in high concentrations. So look out for things you are allergic to in ingredient labels. Conversely, many chemicals in skincare products can cause sensitivity. The best way to avoid sensitivity issues is to limit the number of ingredients that are not necessary in a product. These include things that make something look better, feel better on the skin, or smell better… artificial dyes, fragrance, or preservatives. Check out every ingredient. If you see a bunch of ingredients which are comedogenic, unnecessary, redundant, or likely to make your irritated and sensitive over time, I would skip it. Ingredients which cause irritation will cause inflammation, and remember that free radicals result from inflammation, which in turn ages your skin. So, it’s very important to avoid all ingredients that create sensitivity, irritation, inflammation, and the subsequent free radicals. This includes acids, hydroquinone, peroxides, formaldehydes, ascorbic C, overuse of Retin-A, fragrance, dyes, detergents, excessive use of essential oils, etc.

More than likely, you will eventually develop sensitive skin or rosacea from a regimen of layering multiple products, which themselves, contain multiple ingredients. Look at your current products (cleansers, toners, moisturizers, primers, sunscreen, makeup, etc.) and count the number of ingredients you are putting on your face and body. It will probably amaze you to know that it’s not uncommon for a woman to be applying 200 or more substances, mostly chemicals, over the course of a day on her face and body. Keep your products simple with a few potent, but effective and proven, ingredients and reduce the chance of creating problems for your skin and general health.

Other Common Ingredients to Avoid

These are some other common ingredients to avoid in your skincare because of potential systemic toxicity or damage to skin they can cause with long-term use:

1. Sodium lauryl sulfate: Very common detergent used in many, many cleansers, skincare, shampoo, personal hygiene products. Long-term use causes sensitivity, dry, irritated skin. If something bubbles and foams a lot, more than likely it contains SLS. Opt for lotion cleansers instead of foamy ones.

2. Mineral oil: A very inexpensive base made from petrochemicals used in many formulations because of its moisture retention properties. It can be moderately pore clogging and interfere with normal skin functions by creating an occlusive barrier on top of the skin.

3. Imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea: Preservatives which can lead to extreme skin sensitivity with long-term use.

4. Synthetic colors and fragrance: There is no benefit to having these in skincare, except for making things smell and look better. The long-term effects are unknown, so best to avoid them to prevent any possible irritation and toxicity from these.

5. Parabens (methy, ethyl, and butyl): Preservatives used widely in skincare which may have estrogenic properties and, therefore, could cause breast cancers. There is no definitive study with direct links to cancer, but use formulations that don’t use these as much as possible.

Why Good Skin Goes Bad (Part 2). . . Slowing the Aging Process

In our last discussion, the factors that cause aging were discussed.  Aging affects your entire body, not just the skin.  Address your general health issues, and you will have clearer, healthier looking skin.   There are many things you can do to slow down or, in some cases, help reverse the signs and symptoms of aging.     

As discussed in Part 1, these are the most common theories of aging which are supported by research and are generally accepted in the scientific community are:

1.  Oxidation or Free Radical Damage.

 2.  DNA Damage.

 3.  Mitochondrial Burnout.

4.  Glycation. 

5.  Lipofuscin Accumulation. 

6.  Chronic Inflammation. 

7.  Telomere Shortening. 

 The goal in slowing the aging process is to avoid as many of these conditions as possible that are within your control.  That is, reduce exposure to free radicals, mutagens that destroy DNA, prevent mitochondrial burnout, lessen the chance of glycation and lipofuscin accumulation, avoid any substances or treatments which induce chronic inflammation, and keep your telomeres long for as long as possible.  Also, look at adding supplements to your diet to augment the nutrients from your food.  Many people are not eating enough of the right kinds of food to keep their body healthy. 

I will address specific things you can do to prevent aging on the skin, but before we go into those, here is a healthy lifestyle regimen which will slow down aging in general.  These are things that have numerous studies to back up their benefits, but it’s also just common sense.  If you resolve yourself to do as many of these things on a daily basis, you will feel and look much younger in a matter of a few months.    

Healthy Lifestyle Regimen to Slow Aging

1.  Avoid things that produce free radicals such as unnecessary x-rays, excessive exposure to UV rays.  Do not smoke or be around 2nd hand smoke.  Cigarette smoke is highly toxic and a known mutagenic and carcinogenic substance.   It causes accelerated wrinkling and blotchy skin.  Similarly, avoid exposure to other toxins and chemicals as well.   If you stay with mostly natural substances, things found in nature, your chance of being exposed to mutagens and toxins will be reduced. 

2.  Avoid irritants and inflammatory ingredients as those increases free radical activity.  A couple good sources of information for ingredient safety is the Environmental Working Group Cosmetic Safety Database at http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ and the Milady Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary.    

3.  To aid in repairing free radical damage and give your skin a natural glow, eat plenty of colorful high-fiber vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, spinach, kale, radishes, berries, carrots, peppers, apples, oranges.  Avoid eating a lot of fatty meats, especially red meat.  Limit unhealthy fats such as margarine, hydrogenated fats, trans-fats.  DO, however, eat nuts and cook with olive and coconut oils.  Eat raw vegetables and fruits as much as possible or cook minimally to ensure the nutrients are retained and available to the body.  Avoid eating a lot of fried, grilled, or roasted foods which have been browned excessively. 

4.  Avoid stress, get plenty of sleep, and laugh.   There is a definite mind-body connection at work here.  The emotional ups and downs of life affect your bodily functions by releasing free radicals and shortening your telomeres.   The placebo effect is a well know mind-body phenomenon.   If you think positively, the more likely it will work.  Sleep is necessary for cell renewal, so get adequate restorative sleep.

5.   Moderate exercise at least 4 times a week.  I’m talking about any exercise….walking, aerobics, weight training, running, etc.  A combination is best, but at least 30 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week should be your goal.   Research has shown that exercise can enhance telomerase expression and human growth hormones, which keeps the telomeres long and retard aging. 

6.  Take supplements if not adequately provided by your food intake.   This is a big topic that will be delved into further at a later time, but my top 10 for skin and health would be vitamin D3, ubiquinol (potent form of CoQ-10), r-alpha lipoic acid, resveratrol, curcumin, green tea, krill oil, black currant oil, astragalus root, MSM.  Many of these are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, immune boosters.   I will discuss these and other supplements further in a future blog entry.  

7.  Overeating and weight gain is another major cause of age-related disease, especially diabetes and hypertension.  Small portions throughout the day are better than huge meals.  Reduce your sugar intake drastically and use low-glycemic alternatives.  You want to reduce the glucose levels in your body to reduce the possibility of glycation.  I like coconut palm sugar and agave nectar as alternatives to white sugar.  Reduce the refined carbohydrates like white flour, potatoes, pasta, soda, candy.   If you do eat carbohydrates, make them whole grain or whole wheat, sweet potatoes over white potatoes, wheat pasta or low-carbohydrate pasta.  I love Dreamfields pasta which is a reduced carbohydrate white pasta, it looks and tastes just like regular pasta.   Make smoothies with veggies and fruits for a healthy and filling breakfast meal or snack. 

Avoid the processed and fast foods as much as possible.  Avoid the center aisles of the grocery where all the prepackaged and processed foods are.  Buy tons of fresh local produce and organics when possible.  You want to avoid the additives and hormones found in most processed foods.  You will enjoy the taste of meals made from scratch, and you will know exactly what you are putting in your body as well.  

8.  Drink lots of water.  I keep a non-BPA water bottle (Camelbak brand) near me at all times during the day.  I refill it with filtered water a couple of times a day and take it everywhere, to the office, in the car, in the bathroom, exercising.  By just doing this, I drink at least 8 cups a day.  Also consider drinking green or white teas.  

9.  Lastly, try to avoid using prescription drugs to address problems associated with aging.  Most problems associated with aging can be helped or resolved by following the healthy regimen above.  If you cannot resolve your health issues with these measures alone, then look at prescriptions as a temporary solution.  Prescriptions should be limited so you do not become dependent on them.  Also, drugs often have side effects which can adversely affect your skin, so it’s best to try to avoid them if possible. 

Other Anti-aging Solutions for the Skin

Here are some other things you can do to help slow the signs of aging on your skin.

1.  Avoid excessive exfoliative treatments on the skin.  This includes acid or chemical peels and mechanical peels such as microdermabrasion and scrubbing gadgets.  When you over exfoliate, the chance of increased pigmentation increases.  Keep the epidermis as intact as possible to prevent moisture loss and sun damage.  Overexfoliating may speed up the turnover of cells but, in the process, you are using up nutrients that would normally be used by the dermis.  The dermis is where the wrinkle and pigment problems originate, so you are actually making those problems more likely by over exfoliating.  You can probably safely exfoliate once a month but only do it if your skin is really dull.  Don’t make exfoliative treatments a habit.  If you live the healthy lifestyle regimen described above, your cell turnover should increase and you will not require exfoliation on a daily or weekly basis.      

2.  Do not oversaturate the skin with topicals, including sunscreens, moisturizers, primers, liquid makeup, toners, etc.  As you age, your skin can only process so much without becoming totally overwhelmed.  Your skin metabolism is slowed.  Applying more and more will usually cause the opposite to happen.  Instead of improving the skin’s health, it will cause skin dysfunction, resulting in sensitive and reactive skin.

Try to apply topicals which are potent but do it infrequently.  This prompting of the skin is less likely to induce sensitivity and rosacea or a dependency.

3.  Use ultrasound and microcurrent to keep the skin tighter and lifted.  This is another topic which will be delved in detail at a later point.  You can find home ultrasound and microcurrent gadgets which will produce the same results as a professional spa, but it may take longer.  The good thing about these gadgets is that they are not risky to use at home. 

4.  Use effective and potent, but mostly natural and organic skincare which does not contain toxins, irritants, dyes, fragrances.  This is the best type of skincare for long-term and sustainable results which will not endanger your health or skin’s health.  Find a skincare line which works with the skin’s natural biologically processes by increasing metabolism and increasing production of collagen and elastin without irritating the skin.   If you see irritation on your skin developing after applying any topical, it is a sign your skin does not like it and is sending you a signal to stop.

5.  Do not over-cleanse.  Twice a day, at most, is adequate.  If you can get away with one time, even better.  I wash with only water in the morning and one cleanser at night.  Overwashing just strips the skin of natural oils, especially if using detergent-based cleansers.  The ones with SLS are especially bad for the skin, as they irritate the skin.  Very foamy cleansers generally contain SLS.   Find a cleanser with no SLS and has few ingredients for your daily cleanser.          

6.  Overhaul your makeup and get rid of liquid foundations, primers, concealers, etc. that contain pore cloggers and unnecessary dyes, fragrance, or preservatives.  I find mineral makeup to be the best solution for daily use, especially for women with oily, acneic, sensitive skins.  Try not to wear makeup on a daily basis.  Allow the skin to breathe.   Once your skin is healthy and functioning well, you will need less makeup to cover up flaws, and that should be the goal of your anti-aging regimen.

Resources:

http://www.smartskincare.com/conditions/acne/acne-and-skin-aging.html