«The Beauty Brains Book.indb 1 2/6/2008 12:14:12 PM The Beauty Brains Book.indb 2 2/6/2008 12:14:12 PM Real Scientists Answer Your Beauty Questions ...»
I have a question about a website I found: www.skintactix.com. This site claims to have a very interesting combination of cleansers in their acne treatment products, and go on to talk very scientifically about how each works to not only kill the bacteria causing acne, but also to stop the process of inflammation at a molecular level. As someone who has struggled with acne since I was a teen, and also someone who is a bit of a dork, the thought intrigued me. Do you think that these ingredients can really stop inflammation, and if so, why don’t dermatologists use it?
3. Bad bacterial blockage This is caused the organism Propionibacterium acnes (aka P. acnes) which thrives in the lipid-rich sebum in your oil glands. This bacteria feeds off the oil and grows and grows and grows… When the first two conditions are met the excess sebum and the dead keratin cells clog your oil duct by forming a follicular plug called a microcomedo.
(That’s where the term comedogenic comes from, get it?) This tiny plug is the first sign of acne. As more and more gunk fills up the duct, the walls of the hair follicle become swollen and distended. What was a micro comedo now becomes a larger comedo, also known as a whitehead. As the plug continues to grow it starts to poke through the opening of the oil duct and becomes visible as a blackhead. (BTW, Blackheads look black because they contain melanin, the same pigment in your skin that`s responsible for your suntan.) Whiteheads and blackheads are technically known as noninflammatory acne.
In inflammatory acne the comedo becomes inflamed and turns into a raised, reddened pus engorged bump. What, you ask, makes the noninflammatory type turn inflammatory? The culprit is lipase, a chemical produced by excessive growth of the P. acnes bacteria. The lipase breaks down the oily triglycerides in your skin, releasing fatty acids. These acids irritate the skin and cause inflammation. (That process has to do with the release of hydrolytic enzymes that break down the follicular wall. But we’ll save that story for another post.) Suffice it to say that these acids can turn a simple blackhead into an oozing pus-filled volcano.
Do Skintactix Ingredients Battle Acne Inflammation Yesterday we discussed how the bacteria responsible for acne create fatty acids that attack and inflame blackheads. Today we’ll finish the discussion and answer Lora’s question about dermatologists using ant-inflammatory agents like those in Skintactix.
What’s in Skintactix?
This Skintactix line consists primarily of surfactant-based cleansers and exofolliants that use Salicylic Acid as their active ingredient. They also contain a several plant extracts like cinnamon, sage, and thyme. Their website is not exactly clear about the precise purpose of these ingredients, but the implication is that they are anti-inflammatory agents.
Do Skintactix products really work?
Well, Sal acid is an approved anti-acne agent, so I’d expect these products would work as well as similar products on the market. But we can’t find any clinical data that suggest the plant extracts they mention have been proven efficacious against acne inflammation.
The Right Brain’s reply:
Our suggestion is to play the Lotto. When you win, you’ll be able to hire pimple poppers like the rest of us. In fact, the Left Brain and I use hired help to pop pimples, file warts and, on occasion, lance boils. That’s just our way of contributing to the capitalistic culture of cosmetics.
But seriously, by squeezing your own zits you might make them worse.
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, you should NOT pick, scratch, pop, or squeeze pimples yourself because you`ll get more redness, swelling, inflammation, and possible scarring. (If you want to learn more about the causes and effects of acne, read our previous posts.) But, if you INSIST on throwing caution to the winds and picking those pus
pockets yourself, here are some tips:
Katy has cause for concern:
I have clusters of dry, red raised bumps on either side of my chin. I’ve been using hydrocortisone that helps but doesn’t cure them. I also have a flush to my cheeks and am prone to blushing, which are two characteristics of Rosacea. Does this sound like Rosacea and do you know of any better remedies Hydrocortisone?
The Right Brain rambles on Rosacea:
Katy, based on your description you might have a form of Rosacea but you really should really check with a dermatologist for the best course of treatment. Your question prompted us to include Rosacea in our Cosmetic Diseases and Disorders Series so everyone gains a better understanding of this condition. Hopefully you’ll find this information helpful.
What is Rosacea Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that causes the skin around your nose, cheeks, chin and eyes to become very red and flushed. Over 14 million Americans suffer from this neurovascular disorder, according to the National Rosacea Society. Why is this such a disturbing disorder? Because it’s more than just a simple case of being red-faced! The condition has psychological effects as well. The Society has done studies that show nearly 70 percent of Rosacea sufferers have lowered self-esteem, and 41 percent say that the condition causes them to avoid public contact or cancel social engagements.
How can you tell if you have Rosacea?
Again, you should consult your dermatologist to find out if your condition really is Rosacea. But here are some common symptoms you can look for.
The redness associated with Rosacea primarily occurs in the flushing zone, the nose, cheeks, chin and forehead. Besides the reddening, you may see dilated blood vessels and facial swelling. You may also feel a slight burning sensation on your face. Inflammatory papules and pustules (the red bumps you described?) may develop as well.
You should also note that Rosacea starts as mild episodes of facial blushing or flushing which can turn into a permanently red face over time.
There is a special type of Rosacea, known as Ocular Rosacea, that affects both the eye surface and eyelid. This condition can cause redness, dry eyes, redness, crusting and even loss of eyelashes.
What can you do about Rosacea?
We didn’t find any reference to using hydrocortisone to fight Rosacea, but there are other medications that are used to control the redness and reduce the number of papules and pustules.
The most commonly used drugs are oral antibiotics and topical metronidazole. Isotretinoin (Accutane) has also been shown to work against severe papopustular rosacea because it physically shrinks sebaceous glands and it has potent anti-inflammatory properties. And there has been some discussion that topical application of a drug called Finacea may be a promising treatment as well. You’ll need a prescription form your doctor for all of these though.
For much, much more on this subject, visit the Rosacea Support Group.* What’s The Difference Between Antiperspirant And Deodorant?
Sarah V posts this perspiration puzzle:
What’s the difference between an antiperspirant and a deodorant? What gives?
The Right Brain responds:
Sara, thanks for probing this pithy perspiration poser! Here’s the real deal:
antiperspirants, as the name implies, stop you from perspiring, or sweating.
Deodorants simply get rid of odor. Ultimately, both products are trying to do the same thing: stop you from being stinky. But the way they do their deodorizing duty differs.
Why does sweat smell bad?
Before we explain how these products work, let’s talk a little bit about perspiration. It works like this: you sweat and bacteria grow in the moist, warm areas where the sweat collects. When the bacteria grow they eat some of the stuff in your sweat (primarily fatty acids) and they poop out stuff that smells bad. End result? B.O. (That’s the quick explanation if anyone’s interested in the long version, just let us know and we can dedicate a future post to a more detailed discussion on sweat. Or you can read all about it here.
And if you’re really interested, read this article about how women crave the smell of men’s sweat!) *http://rosacea-support.org/
How do antiperspirants act?
Antiperspirants, on the other hand, fight the odor problem in a different way.
The active ingredients in antiperspirants, typically zinc salts, interact with your sweat glands to stop perspiration. No perspiration = no food for bacteria = no body odor.
Is it bad to plug your pores?
Okay, we know what you’re thinking, isn’t it bad for you to plug up your sweat glands like that? Don’t sweat it. (Ha, that’s a pun, get it?) But seriously, it’s not something you need to worry about. You’re only affecting a small portion of your body’s sweat glands so you’re not interfering with your body’s natural cooling mechanism.
We should also note that antiperspirants do also have some mild antibacterial properties, so if you do still sweat little bit not much bacteria will grow. Oh, and by the way, both antiperspirants and deodorants also contain fragrance to cover up any odor that does sneak through.
Wet or dry, how do you decide?
So there you have it two different approaches to solving the same problem.
Which one should you use? That’s really up to you. Are your arm pits sensitive from shaving? You might want to use a deodorant because some antiperspirants can irritate freshly shaved skin. Do you really, really, really sweat a lot? Then you might need an antiperspirant to avoid dripping. Do you wear black dresses that get white stains from antiperspirants? A clear deodorant might be the way to go.
Vellus on the other hand are short hairs (a millimeter or less) they are very fine, and they have a very short life cycle, which means they spend most of the time in the Telogen phase. That also means they’ll never grow as long as scalp hair. These very fine hairs are found on “hairless” parts of the body like arms and legs. (Ok, those areas aren’t hairless, but they kind of look hairless because the hairs are so tiny and fine.) Soooo, to answer your question, that’s how hair knows when to grow it’s determined by the type of hair and the stage of growth it’s in. Which of course is determined by hormones. Isn’t everything?
3. Antiperspirant and deodorant usage In theory, some ingredients in these products (perhaps the fragrance) could be reacting with the skin to cause discoloration. Practically speaking this seems unlikely but many people do claim that when they stop using APDs, the darkness goes away.
Grace is grumbling:
I have severe allergies to dust and pollen and it really bugs me when I hear my friends say they’re “allergic” to cosmetics. I don’t think they’re allergic, the cosmetics are probably just irritating their skin. Please tell me who’s right so I can make them shut up!
The Right Brain Has An Allergic Response:
Actually you AND your friends might be right. Certain cosmetic chemicals can cause negative reactions in some people. There are two basic types of reactions: irritation reaction (also known as Irritant Contact Dermatitis, or ICD) and allergic response (known as Allergic Contact Dermatitis or ACD).
In general terms, irritation occurs when your cells are attacked by harsh chemicals. An allergy occurs when your immune system develops antibodies in response to a chemical you’ve been exposed to. (Just like your hayfever.) It’s important to understand if you’re irritated or allergic because it will help your doctor determine the right course of treatment. Here’s how you can tell
What They Do To Your Skin Irritation: Gives you redness with possible oozing sores. Your skin may develop a chapped, glazed or scaled appearance. You’ll feel burning, stinging, pain and soreness. You may also have some itchiness.
Allergy: Because you’re producing antibodies, the effect is not limited to the contact point. The effects may be worse in the contact area, but you can develop symptoms any where on your body.
Allergies: After the first exposure, you typically have no symptoms. That’s because your body hasn’t developed an antibody response to the agent yet.
After subsequent exposures, Symptoms may take 24 to 72 hours to develop.
Source: Dermatotoxicology, 6th edition. Edited by Hongbo Zhai and Howard I. Maibach
The Left Beauty Brain’s Lips Respond:
Fascinating question, Chris. And you can find an equally fascinating, but a little over-analyzed, discussion on the addictive properties of lip balm at Lip Balm Anonymous. The post is a bit outdated but we found it to be an interesting reference, nonetheless.
But the one argument that we did NOT see discussed was, in our opinion,
the most scientifically valid one. It goes something like this:
This theory provides a more scientific explanation for the mysterious Lip Balm Addiction and it seems to make sense for most balm users.
Lucy Longingly Asks:
I just bought Eyecon from Benefit, but I’m not sure if it’s really doing anything.
What are eye creams and is their claim of reducing under eye circles and puffiness at all valid? What ingredients should I look for in an eye cream for these things?
The Right Brain Strikes An Optic Nerve:
Do eye creams really do what they say they’ll do? Well, the answer is a little bit yes, a little bit no. All skin creams (should) moisturize. But eye creams have some added responsibilities.