Marta Wohrle

Eye Gels Evaluated

I haven’t really focused on eye gels before now.  I’m not sure why not, but I have some innate bias towards creams. Recently, though, I got into an email exchange with a reader, a meandering path that ultimately led to eye gels and piqued my interest in them.  My correspondent, ‘K”, started out looking for an eye cream to treat dryness and dark circles (wrinkles are, happily, not yet an issue for this 20-something). Unfortunately, my recommended eye cream resulted in milia-like spots and so, after some back and forth, an eye gel seemed like the way to go.

K deserves the kudos for hauling in this selection of eye gels. Together we analyzed the ingredients and their potential pros and cons. I haven’t personally tried any of them, but thought the list would be worth sharing. Obviously, K and I would love to hear from anyone who has tried them.

Goddess Garden Rejuvenating Eye Gel ($24.99 for 0.5 oz).  This claims to have 95% organic ingredients. This  looks as if it will be well-tolerated by someone prone to milia as it has base that is aloe gel. It has the added advantage of having Haloxyl for dark under eye circles and Eyeliss for puffiness. The only thing that concerns me (apart from the potentially irritating preservative phenoxyethanol) is retinol palmitate. This ingredient can be very drying and could be a little too harsh for the delicate eye area. Plus it may be carcinogenic in sunlight.

Novena Organic Cucumber Cranberry Eye Gel ($22). At first glance, this eye gel looks good. Novena focuses on cosmetics for pregnant women and this eye gel is a favorite of Fit Pregnancy Magazine. On the other hand, there is nothing in it that stands out as an active, although the aloe juice, soothing cucumber and antioxidant cranberry look good. The gel consistency is likely achieved by vegetable glycerinOptiphen might sound like something to do with eyes but it is actually the preservative phenoxyethanol. So I would pass on this.

Avalon Organics Revitalizing Eye Gel, Lavender ($20.95). I was pleasantly surprised by this one, although the way that Avalon has listed the ingredients is confusing. Lavender comes first even though it can’t really be the dominant ingredient. I am guessing that the base is vegetable glycerin and this may, or may not, be of good quality and could conceivably make matters worse for the milia prone. That aside, it has a peptide and hyaluronic acid as well as some botanical antioxidants. Worth checking out at the very least.

Clarins Eye Contour Gel Dark  Circle Treatment ($38 for 0.7oz ). This is the most disappointing of all the eye gels we looked at. As with many of  Clarins’ formulations, there seems to be a bacteria phobic chemist behind it. There are many harsh preservatives and some are high up the ingredients list. It has aloe and ginko biloba and some flower waters. But they are almost outnumbered by the preservatives. Definitely one to pass.

Madara Ecocosmetics Firming Eye Contour Gel ($50 ). I like many of the ingredients here including horse chestnut and skin tightening parsley is a very nice and unusual touch. I am put off though by the alcohol – two types – right near the top of the ingredients list. These could make Madara’s gel too drying for the delicate eye area. Compared to the others, it looks pricey for what it is.

Ingredients in Goddess Garden Rejuvenating Eye Gel: Organic Aloe barbadensis (Aloe Leaf) Gel, Cucumis sativus (Cucumber) Distillate, Vegetable Glycerin, Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel), Vaccinium macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Citric Acid, Soy Peptides, Menadione (Vitamin K), and Retinol Palmitate (Vitamin A), Retinol Palmitate (Vitamin A), Haloxyl (for dark circles), Eyeliss (for puffiness), Phenoxyethanol.

Ingredients in Novena Organic Cucumber Cranberry Eye Gel: Aloe barbadensis (Organic Aloe) Juice, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose; Optiphen, Cucumis sativus (Cucumber)Distillate Vegetable Glycerin, Hamamelis virginiana(Witch Hazel) Vaccinium macrocarpon (Cranberry)Seed

Ingredients in Avalon: Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower (Organic) (lavender), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extract, Arnica Montana (Montana Flower) Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Peptide Complex (Hydroxysuccinimide, Chrysin, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide 3, Hyaluronic Acid, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (Licorice Root) (licorice root), Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), Sodium PCA, Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract (willow bark), Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice (1 see product details), Allantoin (Comfrey Root), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Polyphenols (grape seed), Laminaria Digitata (Kelp) Extract (kelp), Salix Alba (Willow Bark) Extract (willow bark), Curcuma Longa Extract (Organic) (turmeric – 1), Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol

Ingredients in Clarins: Water, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Citrus Aurantium Amara (bitter Orange) Flower Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Caffeine, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, PEG-8, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, PEG-32, Citric Acid, Benzyl Acohol, Centaurea Cyanus Flower Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Methylisothiazolinone, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Dehydroacetic Acid, CI 42090/Blue 1.

Ingredients in Madar: Aqua, Rosa Damascena Flower Water*, Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Lecithin, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Glycerin*, Decyl Cocoate, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil*, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Extract*, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice*, Carum Petroselinum (Parsley) Extract*, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Extract*, Betain, Cetearyl Alcohol, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter*, Xantan gum, Glyceryl Stearate, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Extract, Titanium Dioxide***, CI77019 (Mica)***, Sodium Hyaluronate, Lactic acid, Aroma

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Posted on by Marta Wohrle in skin care Leave a comment

Red lips are sexy lips

by makeup artist and TIA contributor, Kristen Arnett

Red lipstick looks amazing on women of all ages and complexions.

No matter where my makeup brushes have landed, in whatever country or on whatever occasion, women will often lean in to ask about how to wear red lips. I don’t blame them because it’s the one classic makeup staple that will never go out of style, because it makes women, all women, look hot.

While confessing a desire to wear red, women often follow with hesitation, usually accompanied by the pervasive phrase, “I want to wear red, but I don’t want to look like a hooker.”  For extra emphasis sometimes they’ll say, “an old hooker.”  Oh, you all are so funny! No worries, hooker red isn’t what we are aiming for, and unless you have the outfit to match, don’t concern yourselves with being confused with a lady of the night.

The truth is if you aren’t used to red, it can seem terribly audacious, as if you are asking to attract a lot of attention.  But what fun is life if we are always playing it safe?  It just takes some guts and spunk to pull off a bold red mouth. Think of pinup bombshells like Dita Von Teese and Marilyn Monroe, and rocker Gwen Stefani, who are all elegant, sexy and empowered in their own ways.

What’s even better is this vibrant hue has no age limit. Last year I had the privilege of doing Zelda Kaplan’s makeup for a portrait commemorating her 94th birthday.  As a famous New York socialite, party-goer, and do-gooder, Zelda’s incredible spirit and her signature red lips are her accessories for every outfit. She refuses to be seen without them and they may just be the secret to her looking young, fabulous and being the life of every party.

Zelda Kaplan: proof that red lips know no age

My inspiration for this article came from my client this week. A Truth in Aging reader (who I’ll call Kate) was brave enough to ask about red lips during our makeup lesson.  Kate had just turned 50 and was stepping out on a limb, and I was thrilled!  The majority of women, just like Kate, say their added reluctance with red is they aren’t sure what their best shade is.   It took some trial and error before we found the right one for Kate, because her complexion turned most reds very pink.  Changing colors is something everyone should be aware of.  When you wear a color on your lips, give it five to ten minutes before you decide on it.  Each person has a unique body chemistry that can dramatically alter a color.  So we found Kate a more orange-based red (Dr. Hauschka #6) to achieve the classic red mouth she was dreaming of.

No matter how light or dark your skin, or what tone your hair is, there is a red out there for you! It’s just a matter of deciding which type of red you like, and trying a few on until you get it right.

The sales people at the department store aren’t going to know what “your” red shade is unless you first decide on your “red style.”  Everyone in retail knows that most women say they want change, but they just buy a different version of their safe color over again.  So no sales person is going to push, because she doesn’t want to lose a sale or have you come back to return it.

Let’s figure out your red style.  What sort of reds are you attracted to?  Are you a classic gal who needs a brighter red, like a bathing beauty from the 50s? Are you a more vampy type that steers towards something more sultry and dark? Which type of women have you seen with red mouth who you admire?  Mine tends to be a fantastical image of a graceful Parisian woman riding around on her bike with a baguette in the basket, wearing a cream colored coat and a silk scarf blowing in the wind.  Once you have the style of red you’d like to wear, you then have to do the legwork and apply a variety of shades until you find the one that works for you.

Red lipstick rules:

1. The more fine lines you have around your mouth, the more you need to use a lip liner.  (See the Lip liner is your frienemy article).

2. You must be willing to conceal ALL redness on your face (other than on the cheeks) and blue under the eyes, and powder your t-zone well.

3. Wearing red is high maintenance so you will have to do touch ups throughout the day/night.

Once you have that perfect red tube in your hands, put it on!  Give yourself a bit of time to get used to it, wear it around, feel empowered and sexy – just because you can!  After all, it’s just a little makeup. You can wipe it off and be back to your safe self anytime you please. Life is short.  Have fun!

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Posted on by Marta Wohrle in beauty, lipstick, Makeup Leave a comment

Anti-aging and dietary supplements

Beauty from within seems obvious. It can’t be enough to just slather on some expensive anti-aging serum, so surely we should be taking additional vitamins and antioxidants through supplements. I do subscribe to the idea of beauty from within, but I am an even bigger believer in the adage “you are what you eat”. In other words, I think actual food rather than dietary supplements is the way to go.

Just recently, the results of a huge, long-term study concluded something that many people may find very startling, if not shocking: for older women, vitamin and mineral supplements may not do much good – and might actually increase mortality risk.

The Iowa Women’s Health Study analyzed data on 38,772 women with an average age 61.6. The study followed them for nearly 20 years from 1986 and 2004. Over that time the percentage of women popping at least one supplement a day increased from 62.7% to 85.1%. But of all the supplements studied, only extra calcium was positively associated with reduced risk of dying during an average 19-year follow-up.

That didn’t surprise me all that much as the benefits of calcium supplementation seem to be well-documented. But I was taken aback to see that multivitamins and supplements of vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper and especially iron were all associated with greater risk of dying.

I heard the lead researcher interviewed on the radio and, to paraphrase, her advise was to skip supplements (unless you are diagnosed with a specific deficiency) and eat food instead. Ah, food. Now there’s a radical notion.

The supplement industry seems to have convinced many of us that getting enough vitamins by food is really difficult and requires chomping through mountains of cabbage and crates of oranges. This just isn’t true. Food is actually extremely efficient. One cup of spinach will give you 10 times your daily vitamin K requirement, while one cup of cereal or 2 ounces of almonds will give you all the vitamin E you need.  Oh, and all those oranges…. It takes half a cup of orange juice to deliver your daily vit C quota. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Now, I got an email the other day from Stan, with a link to a source for astaxanthin supplements. Here at TIA, we are rather intrigued by the anti-aging potential of this antioxidant. It is abundant in salmon (its what makes them salmon colored) and I get how it isn’t really practical to eat pink-colored fish every day (despite Dr Perricone’s exhortations). So perhaps, in the case of more exotic nutrients, there is a case to be made for supplements. Well, it isn’t certain. As far as astaxanthin goes, there is research that claims that they do work, but it has been paid for by supplement makers.

I take a calcium supplement each day (partly because I don’t like milk and, therefore, don’t consume all that much dairy) and, somewhat reluctantly, vitamin B12 and vitamin because my doctor had told me to. Mostly, I think supplements are waste of money (a high percentage is, literally, pissed away) and a decent diet is a much better – and totally achievable – way to go.

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Posted on by Marta Wohrle in anti-aging, skin care 1 Comment

Concealer Lesson

by makeup artist and TIA contributor, Kristen Arnett

Yellow and light colored concealers don’t cover under eye circles, nor is concealer supposed to go all the way under the eye.

The funny thing is that yellow and white-ish concealers are exactly what most beauty consultants will sell you. Plus they’ll apply them in one big semi-circle underneath your whole eye in an attempt to diffuse the darkness, but that’s oh, so wrong!

Under eye darkness usually has a tone of blue or purple for those with more Caucasian coloring and those with dark skin have a deep grey/brown cast, which causes them to look tired.

Elementary art class teaches us that yellow and blue mixed together make green.  So why anyone would suggest yellow concealer is beyond me.  It makes eyes look sallow and diseased.

To that same point, if one mixes white into any color it becomes a lighter version of the base color. By doing that with makeup under your eyes you’ll have a lighter version of blue, purple or grey. Again, not the effect that we are going for.

What you want to do is find a concealer which is no more than one shade lighter than the rest of your face AND which has a peach, salmon, melon, or pink undertone to counteract the blue.  For dark skin, as described before, you’ll need to choose something in the same tone of your skin but with a bright orange hue.

A staple in my makeup kit concealers is the natural and mineral based Jane Iredale Circle Delete Concealers. For fair to medium skin use Jane Iredale Circle Delete Concealer #2 (use the peach side for color correction and beware of using too much of the light because it can get too white very quickly). For darker skin try the Gold/Brown shade (use mainly the gold side for color correction and mix in the lighter shade as needed).

Here is the second most important part, placement.

99 times out of 100 concealer is not needed on the outer third of the eye.  Putting concealer there will only draw attention to crow’s feet and creepiness.  Where concealer should be concentrated is wherever you see darkness.  Think of it as a comma shape that begins next to the nose and the inner corner of the eye and extends to where you can feel your ocular bone.

If you still need help understanding where exactly your discoloration is, try this scary exercise: Look in the mirror, tilt your chin down and turn your face slightly to the side.  Now you can’t miss it!  I warned you it would be scary, so please don’t obsess over it.  Just concentrate putting your concealer there with patting motions, using either a finger or brush rather than wiping.  When you feel you are done give one last boost with a dab of concealer in each inner corner of your eye.  Then pick your head back up and walk confidently away from the mirror.

Looking forward to hearing how this works for you!

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Posted on by Marta Wohrle in beauty, concealer, Makeup 2 Comments

Is John Frieda Sheer Blonde really better for blondes?

by Copley, TIA staff writer

Does John Frieda's Sheer Blonde really work? #review
As soon as the sun emerges from its half-yearlong hibernation, I instinctively crave lighter hair. Not that I have anything against darker shades (in fact I think some of the world’s greatest beauties are brunettes), but I miss the blonde locks I was born with and somehow feel that brighter hair gives me a sunnier disposition. With the arrival of hot weather, I want to look like a sun-kissed, golden-hued beach goddess returning from the French Riviera, not the washed-out apparition topped with the dishwater-dull mop I see before me in the mirror. That’s wishful thinking, of course, since a trip to France is definitely not in the cards this summer and my roots keep dashing my blonde ambitions by growing back darker and drabber each winter.

I would never entertain the thought of chemically bleaching my entire head, since my hair’s health and texture trump color in my book. However, I do make bi-annual visits to my hometown salon to give the strands around my face an occasional pick-me-up. Foil highlights are an expensive habit (especially considering they only last four to six weeks before roots start to show), and they do cumulative – albeit intermittent – injury to the hair follicles. Semi-permanent lightening products like Sun-in strip the hair of its natural color thanks to hydrogen peroxide – healthy hair’s worst enemy. What’s a girl with blonde on the brain to do?

I turned to John Frieda, taking a cue from the countless devotees who have made him a household name over the past decade. There’s no doubt you have seen the Sheer Blonde line in drugstores or commercials. I remember when the original Sheer Blonde shampoo was first launched, long before I started coloring my hair. Clearly, the concept of marketing to a particular hair color took off, as there is now a slew of industry copycats such as Pantene Pro-V Blonde Expressions. But for my experiment I went with the blond-boosting shampoo that started it all, the one that has withstood the test of time and even spawned a family of spin-off products.

A few of my friends swear by Sheer Blonde for extending the life of their highlights. Others keep the products in their shower just because they like the subtle, unisex scent. When I purchased Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening shampoo, I didn’t have unrealistic expectations. Besides prolonging the period between salon visits, my goal was to brighten my hair’s artificially blonde highlights and the unadulterated surrounding strands. The product information doesn’t specify whether its lightening effects work better on color-treated or natural hair, so I was hedging my bets on both.

Even with my reasonable expectations, I set the bar too high. After swapping out my regular shampoo with Sheer Blonde, I waited patiently for a noticeable difference in my hair’s dirty blond shade. Once I had worked the shampoo into a foamy lather, my hair instantly felt parched and craved deep conditioning. Two weeks later, I still hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the slightest brightening power within my new product. If anything, my hair seemed more brassy and subdued than ever. The worst part wasn’t the lack of results regarding color, but rather the unfortunate effect it had on my hair’s texture. Instead of emerging from the shower moisturized and healthy-looking, my hair became flat, dry, and brittle.

One glance at the ingredients explained why. Sheer Blonde touts chamomile and citrus as its secret blond-enhancing ingredients. Rinsing the hair with chamomile flower extract or chamomile tea has been used for centuries as a method of brightening hair. Today, lemon juice is probably the most popular natural remedy for lightening hair, but it is also highly acidic and can be damaging if not diluted. Both of these applications require at least 20 minutes under sunlight to enhance their brightening effects. However, John Frieda does not indicate that the daily Sheer Blonde shampoo needs to be activated by UV light in order to maximize results, so I avoided the sun as usual. Could this be why the blond effects fell flat?

Instead of offsetting the drying properties of lemon extract with a conditioning base, John Frieda’s shampoo formula gives top billing to two very unattractive sisters: the Sulfates. Sodium lauryl sulfate and closely-related sodium laureth sulfate are harsh chemical detergents known to dissolve oils, denature proteins, and deposit on the skin surface and the hair follicle, thus leaving both susceptible to damage. The sulfates are also accused of being absorbed by the skin and wreaking havoc on the internal organs. SLS in concentrations of 10-30% causes severe skin irritation and corrosion, as described in a report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology. Formulations with SLS at a concentration higher than 30% (likely the level that Sheer Blonde contains) are labeled “highly irritating and dangerous” in the report.

Additional allergens and irritants join the fray in the form of coco-betaine, DMDM hydantoin, and propylene glycol. I consider myself lucky that, besides stripping and aggravating my hair, the shampoo didn’t add insult to injury by triggering skin inflammation. John Frieda makes a point of boasting that Sheer Blonde’s formula is free of ammonia and peroxide. Ironically, it is not the highlighting ingredients in the product, but rather the cleansing ingredients, that end up raising red flags. Meanwhile, the alleged blond-enhancing actives – chamomile and citrus – are too weak to overtly affect hair color.

If you read the fine print on the Sheer Blonde shampoo bottle, you’ll notice that the lightening claims are couched in rather sneaky language. John Frieda never says that the shampoo will deposit color or permanently lighten hair. Instead, he says that the shampoo is equipped with a “natural lightening complex” that will “gently reduce color pigments in the hair.” Apart from the chamomile and citrus, there is no science buried within Sheer Blonde’s formula to turn hair a lighter shade, and the only real “technology” at work is a thorough cleansing. By ridding hair of residue with the help of sulfates, the shampoo removes buildup that can make strands appear dark and dull.

Despite a handful of beneficial botanicals in the mix, Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening Shampoo does not contain enough quality ingredients to justify stripping the hair with harsh chemicals. Its lightening effects are minimal, if not illusory. Though the concept of targeting shampoo formulas to specific hair colors is genius from a marketing standpoint, there is no technology to support that it makes a difference. The (dumb blonde) joke’s on you, John Frieda!

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Ingredients: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Lactic Acid, Glycol Distearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Betaine, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (Matricaria), Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Extract (Lemon), Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract (Turmeric), Crocus Sativus Flower Extract, Helianthus Annuus Seed Extract (Sunflower), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract (Grape), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract (Grape), Glycerin, Benzyl Alcohol, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Cocamide MEA, PEG 40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Glycine, Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Chloride, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Xylene Sulfonate, Maleic Acid, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Disodium EDTA, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance, Yellow 10 Aluminum Lake (CI 47005)

Posted on by Marta Wohrle in beauty, Hair Care Leave a comment

Aqua Glycolic Toner: the ultimate anti-aging product?

by Copley, TIA staff writer

If I was ever curious about what rock-bottom would look like for my skin, all I had to do was look in the mirror. Flaming red bumps had sprouted on top of a rash covering the southern hemisphere of my face. After weeks of waiting for the storm to pass, I finally resigned myself to the fact that the forecast was only getting gloomier and I needed professional intervention. The dermatologist diagnosed me with dermatitis, and I hung on his every word for a miracle cure that would turn the fate of my skin around.

Unfortunately, my condition had no corresponding miracle cure. Instead, I received not one – or two – but three prescriptions. The first two were an oral antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory gel which I could easily incorporate into my daily routine. The third prescription required me to change my cosmetic habits, paring down my skin’s diet to sunscreen only and replacing my standard rotation of cleansers with Aqua Glycolic Toner.

I was appalled at the thought of giving up my daytime cosmetics and methodical evening regimen, which usually entail over ten different products. “What am I supposed to do for anti-aging? Can’t I use targeted treatments where I have shallow wrinkles and sun spots?” I pleaded with the doctor. His response: “The best anti-aging therapy that you can give your skin is to use the Aqua Glycolic Toner every day as recommended.” Eschew all my other products for a single toner? This was a tall order. Yet my skin was visibly on strike, so I had no choice but to follow the doctor’s orders.

After picking up my other two prescriptions from the pharmacist, I grumbled as I forked over another $15 for a big plastic jug (6 fl oz) of bright blue liquid, expecting it to go the same way as all the other toners I’ve tried: into the back of the medicine cabinet. My previous relationships with toners have made me commitment-phobic. The astringent variety that I used during adolescence (Sea Breeze) sapped every last drop of moisture from my skin, while the tonic types that I tried later in life added nothing except an extra step in my routine. I believe in the benefits of good organic toners (such as the ones on this list), which contain natural actives that refresh and rebalance the skin. But my experiences have always left me underwhelmed, wondering whether my skin is too stubborn to take advantage of the toner’s perks.

Toners come in several types with different purposes, as this two-part series on toners explains in detail. My skin tends to feel dry, so I have always limited my toner trials to weak, water-based versions low on alcohol and high on plant extracts. The only two that I have stuck with on some sort of regular basis are Dermophisiologique Polivalente Tonic and L’uvalla Orange Toner. I generally only dab them on after cleansing when I want to give my face a breather from the regular serum/moisturizer routine or temper a breakout. The Aqua Glycolic Toner was entirely unlike any toner product I had used before.

For one, the dermatologist said that I should splash my face with water both before and after applying the toner. This method seemed counter-intuitive compared to most other toners I know, which are meant to be left on the skin and soaked up. The other odd thing was that I had to make a special request from the pharmacist to pull the Aqua Glycolic Toner down from the shelves behind the counter. Though it is an OTC product and can be bought online, my local pharmacy keeps it behind the counter, presumably because its formula contains medical-grade actives. I returned home to investigate these ingredients first-hand.

What jumped out at me right away was an extremely high level of alcohol. The first ingredient after purified water is SD alcohol, which is ethyl alcohol that has been denatured to prevent ingestion (and attendant lawsuits). Denatured alcohol can function as an astringent, anti-foaming, and anti-microbial agent. Because glycolic acid is water soluble and does not penetrate well with excess oil on the skin, SD alcohol is useful in the Aqua Glycolic Toner for its ability to remove residue and oil from the skin. The downside is that – unlike cetyl, cetearyl, and stearyl alcohols – SD alcohol is not a fatty alcohol that moisturizes the skin. Rather, it can be very drying, sensitizing, and irritating.

I certainly did not need any help drying out my already flaking, inflamed face. But if my skin had to be dried out in order to return to a state of equilibrium, I was willing to give it a try. For the sake of my acne-like condition, I liked the addition of eucalyptus oil, which contains chemicals that fight bacteria and fungi, as well as soothe inflammation. At least it seemed like there was nothing in it that could further clog my pores or create more bumps on my face. The rest of the minimalist formula gave me hope that the toner would pack a highly concentrated punch.

As its name gives away, the star of the Aqua Glycolic Toner is glycolic acid. This cosmetic darling, derived from sugar cane, loosens the bonds that hold skin cells together and dissolves the top layer of dull, dry, or damaged cells. Among alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid boasts the smallest molecular size and the deepest skin penetration. Because of its ability to penetrate, glycolic acid can reduce the appearance of fine lines, blemishes, and hyperpigmentation. Because of its power to shed the upper layer of the epidermis, it can reveal a fresh layer of underlying skin and even out tone. In the Aqua Glycolic Toner, it is accompanied by ammonium glycolate, a form of glycolic acid that serves a special purpose.

PH balance is critical in a glycolic acid formulation. The lower the pH level, the more potent the glycolic acid content will be, and the more likely it will sting and damage cells. The higher the pH level, the greater percentage of the acid will be neutralized, rendering it ineffective. Ammonium glycolate is often used in conjunction with glycolic acid to maintain an optimal pH level. To maximize results and minimize irritation, ideally you want a product that contains at least 10% glycolic acid and an acid-base balance close to your skin’s normal pH (5.5). The Aqua Glycolic Toner is comprised of 11% glycolic compound and has been partially neutralized to a pH of 4.5.

Except for its alcoholic base, everything else in the formula sounded well-orchestrated. I squeezed a generous squirt onto a cotton pad through the Aqua Glycolic Toner’s ingenious upside-down dispenser. As expected, the toner stung ever so slightly on areas that were already irritated or blemished. I think that the sting can be attributed more to the alcohol than the glycolic content, which has been pH balanced relatively close to the skin’s natural acid mantle. I was shocked (and grossed out) by the color that my cotton pad turned after a few swipes across my face. It took upwards of three cotton pads to finally achieve a negligible tint.

After using the toner twice daily for the past month, my complexion is remarkably clear and my skin didn’t become dehydrated by the alcohol, as I had feared. I think my skin’s about-face was more thanks to the medications I was prescribed than the toner. However, I know for a fact that the toner is removing far more grime and oil from my face than I would otherwise rinse off with a cleanser. This was borne out by several experiments in which I cleansed with my regular face washes and followed up with the Aqua Glycolic Toner. Even though the cotton pad turned over far less makeup after cleansing first, the toner managed to draw out yellowish debris and oils that the cleanser left behind.

Could it be detrimental to erase all of the face’s natural oils? Some theories contend that stripping oils from the skin can block its inherent ability to shed the top layer of cells and trigger an increase in oil production, thus clogging pores and leading to acne. My trial with the Aqua Glycolic Toner has had the opposite effect, giving me soft, smooth, and balanced skin. There are occasional patches of dryness around my nose, but overall my skin is surviving quite well on its restricted diet of toner and sunscreen. I’d like to believe that fine lines and brown spots are gradually becoming fainter, but I suspect that these sort of results take more time to see.

Though I appreciate how clean my skin feels after the full toner treatment, it’s a rather expensive habit. I used up my first bottle of Aqua Glycolic Toner and a bag of cotton pads in just one month, and had to purchase another round of each. More importantly, my face seems to be lacking the glow that it gets from my trusted potions and lotions (and my natural oils). Now that my skin is back to normal, I am slowly starting to reincorporate my old products. The Aqua Glycolic Toner will come into play every few days for a deep cleansing and exfoliation and will always be on stand-by in case of a breakout. It’s not the holy grail of anti-aging products, but it might be for oily skin types. Now the only toner that I plan to keep in my product rotation, the Aqua Glycolic Toner helped to rescue my skin from rock bottom.

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Purified water, SD alcohol (specially denatured), Ammonium glycolate, Glycolic acid, Eucalyptus globulus oil, FD&C green #3.

Posted on by Marta Wohrle in anti-aging, beauty, skin care Leave a comment

Salma Hayek Nuance Spot Correcting Treatment

I recently got to know Salma Hayek’s new Nuance range by starting with the Facial Serum.  After three weeks, I gave up on it, concluding that it nothing for me. Nothing bad, but nothing good. Just nada. I wasn’t surprised that the touted skin lightening didn’t happen, but it didn’t even moisturize. Still I feel that I should give Salma Hayek the benefit of the doubt and so I’ve been looking at a more targeted product in the range, the Salma Hayek Nuance Correcting Spot Treatment 10% Sulfur ($16.99).

Although I haven’t tried it, Nuance Correcting Spot Treatment looks as if it may be an effective and well-priced treatment for zapping zits. The key active is sulfur at a 10% concentration, plus a couple of clays that will help control oily breakout-prone skin.

Sulfur has a mild antifungal and antibacterial activity, yet its precise mechanism of action on acne is unknown. Some researchers, according, believe sulfur can actually make acne worse by promoting blackhead and whiteheads through increased cell adhesion and can be a little drying to the skin. However, a double-blind study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, done over six weeks on acne-free volunteers, found that after applying a 5% it didn’t clog the skin (the study did not say whether it helped with acne). Overall, though most studies show sulfur to be successful in the treatment of acne and rosacea as well as safe (dryness and irritation can be experienced though).

There are a few of Salma Hayek’s signature botanicals, including mimosa (albizzia julibrissin), which seems to have exciting possibilities as a free radical scavenger that is more potent than L-ascorbic acid, and cactus pear (opuntia).  However, since they were also in the Facial Serum that I tested to no avail, I suspect that they are in quantities too small to be effective.

One really off-putting ingredient is the magnesium-aluminum-silicate, especially as this comes high up the ingredient list. Generally concentrations must be limited since there is a known risk of any ingredient containing aluminum compounds, which are neurotoxins. At the end, thankfully, is o-cymen-5-ol, a neurotoxin that is restricted in Japan and Europe.

Ingredients: Sulfur 10%, water, glycerin, bentonite, kaolin, magnesium aluminum silicate, octyldodecyl neopentanoate, sorbitan stearate, butylene glycol, glyceryl stearate, xanthan gum, isopropyl myristate, shea butter, aloe extract, green tea extract, albizia julibrissin bark extract, opuntia ficus indica stem extract, physalis angulata extract, agave, tequilana extract, zinc glyconate, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin, o-cymen-5-ol

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Posted on by Marta Wohrle in acne, beauty, skin care Leave a comment

Estrogen Applied Topically and Benefits for Skin

Recently, I decided to take a look at estrogen as an anti-aging skin care ingredient. I’m confining my research to topical estrogen and what its positive effects – if any – might be. For those interested in the broader topic of hormone replacement therapies, there’s a discussion thread led by Susan after my post on the Second Half of Your Life. Here I want to try to work out if the good imparted by topical estrogen outweighs the possible risks.

The general theory is that postmenopausal women on estrogen replacement therapy develop less wrinkles and have better skin texture and elasticity than those not taking estrogens. So, it seems logical that topical application of estrogen should also be helpful. There are two ways to do this. One is with a topical estradiol or estriol cream. The other is with phytoestrogens, plant-derived ingredients that mimic human estrogens.

Estradiol and estriol are typically used in gels to treat vaginal dryness in post menopausal women. As far as their success with dry, wrinkled skin is concerned there is one much-quoted study from the University of Vienna Medical School, Austria. The trial was conducted with 0.01% estradiol or 0.3% estriol on 59 postmenopausal women. After six months of treatment, a marked improvement in skin elasticity and firmness was noted; wrinkle depth and pore size decreased by over 60% in both estradiol and estriol groups. Skin moisture and collagen synthesis increased significantly.

However, other studies have not been so positive and in 2009, dermatologist Margaret E. Parsons, MD, FAAD from the University of California reviewed them and concluded that at best the results where mixed as to whether estrogen improves the appearance of the skin.

“Based on the research conducted thus far, it does not appear that topical or oral estrogens are a viable long-term solution for improving sun-damaged or aging skin,” said Dr. Parsons. “In my practice, I do not prescribe estrogens for skin rejuvenation because of the lack of consistent data to support their use and the known risks of prolonged estrogen therapy – including an increased risk of breast cancer.”

For example, one study examined whether low-dose hormone therapy improved aging skin in 485 women who were on average five years post-menopausal the study concluded that estrogen supplementation did not provide any significant improvement in sun-damaged skin.

Timing might be a factor as in one study, using Premarin cream, researchers observed a trend, although not statistically significant, of improvement in the skin of women who were less than 24 months postmenopausal. Two other studies concluded that the use of topical estrogens, such as Premarin cream or topical estradiol gel, could decrease fine wrinkling, improve roughness of the skin and stimulate collagen synthesis. Yet another found local that estriol, when applied to abdominal skin for three weeks, thickened fibers in the papillary dermis of patients.

Phytoestrogens are another option. They tend to appear in anti-aging creams as plant derivatives such as black cohosh or isoflavonoids derived from soy. It turns out that black cohosh may not even be a phytoestrogen.Soy isoflavones, on the other hand, are a class of estrogen-like compounds, specifically genistein and daidzein. There are a few studies that suggest that soy is promising.  In 2004, European researchers found that soy extract resulted in increased collagen and HA synthesis and “appears to rejuvenate the structure of mature skin”.

But some dermatologists are not convinced. Acne (of the post menopausal varieties) is one of the skin conditions that estrogen is supposed to help with. Decline of estrogen can leave testosterone unopposed and this can increase sebum activity leading to acne. However, Diane Thiboutot, M.D at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine the concentration of estrogen needed to decrease sebum production would need to be very high. If there were high doses of topical estrogens, they might be able to reduce sebum production and offset the effects of androgen and the development of acne, but there would be concerns about systemic side effects.”

How likely are those systemic effects? Dr Leslie Baumann cites a trial by Kainz et al on 17 women for three months with a topical that suggested no systemic effects and estrogen may, therefore, she concludes be useful for aging skin. Nonetheless, she urges extreme caution and treatment of a small area only by post-menopausal women.

Another part of the concern about estrogens in cosmetics is that they are there “by stealth” as ingredients that mimic human estrogen (albeit usually weakly), such as parabens and they have been controversially been linked to cancer. Some of these ingredients and the types of concerns are in my post Estrogen In My Shampoo and Copley’s Estrogen In My Face Cream.

The way I feel about topical estrogen is that there may be risk of cancer. Certainly more research is needed on this area. In the meantime, the evidence of benefits of topical estrogen hasn’t convinced me to take that risk with a hormone gel. Would that mean I would ditch a cream that had soy or black cohosh in it? No, not yet. When I looked at soy in some detail, it seemed to me that there wasn’t a very robust link to cancer in studies done so far and the amounts in cosmetic formulations are relatively small. On the other hand, they don’t really convince me as skin rejuvenators so I won’t be going out of my way to use them either.

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Posted on by Marta Wohrle in anti-aging, skin care Leave a comment

Clinique Lid Smoothie Antioxidant 8-Hour Eye Color

Clinique’s Lid Smoothie Antioxidant 8-Hour Eye Color ($19.50) is a creamy eye shadow that promises no creasing for up to eight hours and says it will “coax fine lid lines into a blanket of smoothness”. The only thing Lid Smoothie coaxed my eye lids to do was itch like crazy.

I tried Clinique’s eye color out over several days, with a day off in between to be sure that it was the culprit for irritating my skin. It was/is. I am officially allergic to Lid Smoothie. Perhaps I am unusually sensitive because I have read that Clinique allergy-tests every product 12 times on 600 people and reformulates if a single application out of those 7200 incites an adverse reaction.

I think that the culprit might be an anti-caking agent. Ironically, since this is likely responsible for the much vaunted no crease of Clinique’s Lid Smoothie. There isn’t much information on HDI/trimethylol hexyllactone crosspolymer, but its material safety data sheet (MSDS) says that it may cause eye and skin irritation, including itchiness and redness. MSDS information refers to 100% concentrations and I am clearly not being exposed to it in its pure form. However, there may be enough in Lid Smoothie to make this product too uncomfortable to continue to wear.

It has a couple of potential partners in crime, including dimethicone/PEG-10/15 crosspolymer, which should not be used on damaged skin as it is suspected of skin and sense organ toxicity, according to the EWG. Another common irritant in Lid Smoothie is bismuth oxychloride, a white pigment whose tendency to cause allergic reactions is increased by sweating due to its molecular crystalline shape.

As far as the antioxidants go, I don’t think I’m going to be missing much. There’s a handful of perfectly nice botanical extracts, including antioxidant-rich spinach. Clinique has also given Lid Smoothie a bit more anti-aging oomph with the peptide that reduces expression lines, acetyl hexapeptide-8.

Performance of Lid Smoothie is a bit moot in my case, since the discomfort of using this product and an overriding concern that things that irritate should never be used anywhere near the eyes puts it firmly on the reject list. However, I can say that it does what it says on the can – it doesn’t crease. And the color I tested, pinkgo biloba, is a subtle pinky brown that gave a rather good highlighter effect that made my eyes look wide open. I’ll miss that part.

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Ingredients: Water, Dimethicone, Isododecane, Methyl Trimethicone, Trimethylsiloxyslicate, HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Polysilicone-11, Glycerin, Magneseum Myristate, Copernicia Cerifera, Wax, Silica, Microcrystalline wax, Butylene Glycol, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Cucumber fruit extract, Carrot Root Extract, Spinach leaf extract, Broccoli Extract, Blueberry Fruit Extract, Caffeine, Aloe Barbadenisis Leaf Water, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Ozokerite, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Hexyl Laurate, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Tocopheryl Acetate, Dipropylene Glycol, Sodium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, | +/- Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Bismuth Oxychloride, Iron Oxides

Posted on by Marta Wohrle in eye shadow, Makeup 3 Comments

Gold: Is it Worthy of a New Standard in Skincare

Gold is the new black given just about every other investment is enfeebled by the economy. It might be a better bet than government bonds, but other than a gold tooth – an acquired taste – should gold be considered an essential part of your beauty arsenal. Every now and then cosmetic formulators venture into alchemy and go for gold (E’shee, Nutra-Lift and just the other day it was mentioned in our interview with Cherie Dobbs, founder of Dermastart). But I can’t help but wonder: what is its true value in skincare?

Dermastart has a serum called AU 24K Gold and I am just starting to test it. Cherie Dobbs says that “gold works with our own body makeup and helps with blood flow and oxygen.”  I haven’t been able to find any specific evidence for that but claims for the medicinal benefits of gold date back many of thousands of years and ancient Indian, Egyptian and Chinese medicine used gold-based medicinal preparations for such ailments as smallpox, skin ulcers and measles.

The use of gold compounds in medicine is called chrysotherapy. One of its modern applications is the soothing arthritic symptoms. Gold salts (the ionic chemical compounds of gold) are injected to reduce inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Gold nano-bullets are being used, according to Science magazine, as a cure for cancer. And isotope gold-198 is used in some cancer treatments and other diseases.

As far as skincare is concerned, gold is said to minimize collagen depletion and boost elasticity. There’s even a gold thread face lift in which a 24K gold mesh framework is inserted permanently under the surface of the skin where it is supposed to stimulate collagen production which then plumps and firms up the skin and reduces wrinkles.

I can’t find independent research on gold and improving the skin, but there might be a clue to gold’s plausibility as an anti-ager in its used against arthritis. This is an inflammatory disease and chronic inflammation is believed to one of the causes of aging. So, theoretically, gold could help the skin by being an anti-inflammatory.

Except that the mechanism by which gold drugs operate to treat arthritis is a matter of scientific debate. Harvard Medical School thinks it’s not an anti-inflammatory and that gold works by making the proteins associated with autoimmune diseases inactive. Other theories are that gold helps in the transportation of drugs to their sites of action.

Also there’s much debate around the kill or cure theme. Once absorbed into the cell, gold is proposed to be linked to anti-mitochrondrial activity and induced cell apoptosis, so it might be affecting healthy cells as well as unhealthy ones. On the other hand, research indicates there’s an anti-inflammatory action from ionic gold nanoparticales with little or no toxicity. Although research on rats had less positive results. ). After a lot of burrowing around on academic websites, I did turn up some evidence that gold salts boost collagen lll.

All this contradictory research is a bit frustrating. As is finding out that the most common reaction to oral gold medication for rheumatoid arthritis is, ironically, a skin rash (source).

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Posted on by Marta Wohrle in anti-aging, beauty, Beauty Trends, skin care, Spa Leave a comment