Test patching: Your new best friend

We all know that initial excitement when you buy a new hair or body product. You just want to rush home and try it on, and cannot wait until it gives you a fresh, new look! And then finally….oh wait a second what is this? Oh it’s just a couple pimples. Wait a second…no now they’re everywhere! It can be hard to resist, but test patching is something important most people should do, even more so if you have acne prone or sensitive skin.

 Acne prone? Apply on your most troublesome facial spots

 The reasoning behind this is pretty self-explanatory. Whenever trying out a new facial product, apply to the areas on your face that are most prone to clogging up. Another reason for applying on small sections of the face is because the pores on our face are larger than on any other part of the body. Thus, there is a higher chance of certain ingredients being able to enter the pores and clog them, causing bacteria to stay within the plug created and sprout into acne. 

 Is this going to irritate me? Apply on sensitive spots on your body

 Irritation differs from allergic reactions, in that it is a substance that would cause inflammation in most individuals if applied in a certain dose and amount of time. When testing out potential irritating ingredients it is recommended to apply them to small areas on the wrist or on the skin on inside of elbow. These are areas of the body that are thin and pliable, have less of a rough barrier, making it easier for ingredients to penetrate.

Allergic reactions? Apply behind the ear

 Allergic reactions are defined by specificity in reaction to an ingredient by an individual. This hypersensitivity is in direct connection to your body’s immune system. The back of the ear has a very thin layer that is easily penetrable, making it great for testing for allergies.

 How long should I test patch for?

 The average amount of time recommended for a test patch is application daily for at least a week. Some allergic reactions/irritations can become apparent within 24 hours. Some acne-ic reactions can sometimes even take as long as a month to appear. Although these are the three most common areas to test patch, if using a very body part specific product (such as deodorant), you may apply on a small spot in that area instead, as the reaction may not be the same.  

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Chemical or physical, which sunscreen is best for you?

Something not many people pay attention to is the importance of sunscreen. These bottles are mainly grabbed when on our way to the beach, but the truth is that they are essential on a daily basis. If you want to make the change and turn sunscreen into a habit though, there is another thing you must ask….what kind of sunscreen is chemically best for you?

another physicalphysical sunscreen

Physical

You know you have a physical sunscreen in your hands if it contains the ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These sunscreens work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting UVA/UVB light. Physical sunscreens are characterized by a thick white texture. Many times they are harder to apply, and leave the face with a white tinge. Titanium dioxide on its own does not protect against the full UVA spectrum, zinc oxide, however, does. Many physical sunscreens contain a mixture of both ingredients in order to combat titanium dioxide’s shortcomings.

Another characteristic of physical sunscreens is that they work better for more skin types, and can even be very beneficial for acne prone skin. This is because they are not readily absorbed, making them less likely to interact with your skin. Zinc Oxide has also been proven to contain anti bacterial properties, making it a great choice if acne is one of your problems.

Chemical

 There a tons of ingredients that fall under the chemical sunscreen category, some of these include: octinoxate, oxybenzone, octylcrylene, and helioplex. Chemical sunscreens work by being absorbed into the skin, from there it then absorbs the sun’s rays which become degraded when they come into contact with the sunscreen. They also provide more coverage against UVA and UVB rays, but the protection will vary from ingredient to ingredient.

Chemical sunscreens are a better option if you plan on wearing makeup over your sun protection since they easily absorb into the skin. Make sure to wait twenty minutes before heavy sun exposure, though, since chemical sunscreens need to activate before they begin working.

Although most skin types can handle chemical sunscreens, since they are absorbed there is a higher chance of it reacting with your body. Some can irritate skin, and in some people can even cause allergic reactions.

chemical sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens are common in liquid foundations, because they don’t affect the tint of the makeup

Availability?

Most sunscreens now contain mixtures of both physical and chemical sunscreens, but if you find yourself having problems with either, there are many products available that are dedicated to providing one type of sunscreen!

Part 1: Cancer causing cosmetics, fact or fiction?

One of the biggest fear inducing claims from the green cosmetics movement is that right beneath our noses the FDA is allowing cancer-causing ingredients to be used. Although they are included in minute quantities, eventually they build up and cause disease. Scary right? But how much truth is there behind this really? I will be discussing some of the most popular ingredients that “natural” products love to bash, but it will be up to decide if you still want to use them!

store

What lies here yonder?

First up…

 Parabens…

 Many products tout themselves as not containing these, but what are they exactly? Parabens are commonly used as preservatives. Preservatives are vital ingredients in cosmetics because they keep bacteria from growing in the solution and lengthen the shelf life of products. The amount found in cosmetics is quite small usually ranging from .01 to .3%.

Parabens came under fire when in a 2004 toxicology study they were discovered in small quantities in breast cancer tumors.  The study then went on to describe parabens as having estrogen-like qualities, leading to their ability to affect breast tissue.

The fact is that although parabens have weak estrogen-like qualities, their influence are far below of our body’s own naturally occurring estrogen. Even the strongest forms of parabens have been tested, and their capacity to affect the body was still 10,000-100,000 times less than naturally occurring estrogen.  Additionally, the study was also too small, and merely correlational and did not prove parabens’ connection to cancer.

talc powder

Talc is commonly found in powder foundations and blushers

 Talc or should I say Asbestos?

Talc is an ingredient found in all kinds of base makeup, blushes, and even baby powder! It is commonly used because of its ability to mattify the skin, and lend soft texture to a product. Talc is a naturally occurring ingredient and is derived from oxygen, silicon, magnesium, and hydrogen.

Asbestos is also another naturally occurring silicate material, which can be found near where talc naturally appears. Asbestos has a completely different crystal structure from talc and is a proven carcinogen. The fear-mongering behind talc started when there were claims that tiny asbestos fibers may be located inside talc, and subsequently making its way into our cosmetics.

The FDA responded to this by seeking out talc suppliers and testing their supplies for asbestos. Research found no traces of asbestos, and confirmed that cosmetic grade talc (containing no asbestos) is not carcinogenic to humans. Several other smaller studies have been done, but results have been mixed and inconclusive.

 

BHAs and AHAs: Your skin will thank you

Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids are two beneficial skin exfoliants found in many face washes/toners/and anti aging remedies. Many of you may even be using them without knowing so! These are great ingredients to incorporate into your skin care regimen but to really get the full benefits you must know what skin types each ingredient is geared specifically to.

Why are they beneficial?

As you know, your skin naturally sheds off billions of skin cells off each day. However, not all skin types exfoliate at the same rate. Factors such as sun damage, aging, acne prone skin, etc. can slow down the exfoliation process. Usage of chemical exfoliants (like BHAs/AHAs) can help your skin speed up this process and result in smoother skin with less hyper pigmentation.

 Okay, so what are the differences between them?

 Alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble, i.e. you should not be using them in tandem with any products that contain oils. If you do this will cause AHAs to not work as effectively. AHAs are also better suited to people with dry skin because they are humectants. Humectants are substances that are able to attract and retain moisture from the air. They have this ability thanks to the higher amount of hydroxyl ( -OH ) groups they contain, which allow hydrogen to bond with water.

Some AHAs include lactic acid, citric acid, and glycolic acid.

Beta hydroxyl acid (the most commonly used is salicylic acid) is oil soluble and you can use it with any products containing oils and it will remain effective. BHA is better geared towards acne prone skin because it is better at penetrating pores and “unplugging” them.

BHA

This is a cheap but effective product containing BHA!

Some things to remember…

 Some negatives of using chemical exfolliants is that they carry the chance of initial purging (they will cause acne). This occurs because the rapid exfoliation of skin brings plugged pores more rapidly to the surface, resulting in acne (that would have taken longer to rise) popping up more frequently than usual. Remember that this is only temporary and usually ceases within a month.

Another important fact is that BHAs/AHAs significantly raise your skin’s sensitivity to UV light. If you decide to use products containing these ingredients make sure to always use sunscreen!

What’s that squeaky feeling?

Hello everyone! I thought for my first post I would talk about an ingredient that I am sure EVERYONE uses on a daily basis, sulfates!

shampoos

What are sulfates?

Although there are many combinations, all sulfates are surfactants. Surfactants are compounds that help lower the surface tension between two items (liquid/liquid or liquid/solid). Surfactants are composed of long chains of atoms, at which one end is hydrophobic and the other is hydrophilic. The reason they work is that the hydrophobic (afraid of water) attaches to the sebum in your hair, meanwhile the hydrophilic end attaches to the water you are showering in and gets washed away. What this essentially means is that surfactants are detergents, or the agents responsible for the foam produced when you scrub a bar of soap. However, what sets sulfates apart from other surfactants is that is much too effective at removing sebum from the skin’s surface.

Some variations on sulfates include: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate,

What’s so bad about it?

Although we are accustomed to attributing cleanliness to foaming capability, foaming in no way equates to cleanliness and in fact in most cases represents over cleansing. Over cleansing leads to drying out hair by stripping the scalp (or any of body part) of sebum, which is the protective layer of oil, that conditions that hair. In response to this the scalps actually responds by OVER producing sebum in preparation for your next cleansing. So in fact, your cleansers may be responsible for your hair/face getting greasy quickly. In some people it can also dry out your face or body and it also irritates eyes.

Where are they found?

In nearly everything! Sulfate is cheap to manufacture and produce and is found anywhere from your shampoos, facial washes, and even your dish soap. In most products that contain sulfate, it is usually amongst the first five ingredients.

better shampoo

This is one example of a gentler shampoo brand!

What can I do to avoid them?

No need to worry there are TONS of alternatives to these harsh cleansers. Many indie and organic companies, and even more mainstream companies, offer sulfate free options. Since sulfates are so cheap to produce though you will need to keep in mind that these alternative options do cost more however will be beneficial to your hair and body in the long run.