Archive for March, 2010

These are my under eye circles, untreated but  after four months of Retin A on the rest of my face.  Dr. Marmur of Mount Sinai says they are caused by both melanin deposits and loss of  fat pads under the eye. In the first photo you can see that there is a depression in  facial contours under the eye.  That dip is  part of aging.  Look at a baby or a child under age 10.  No depression in that area.  The  darkness in the skin due to melanin which  may, and the operative word here is “may”  respond to skin lighteners like kojic acid or hydroquinone. But to  make a bigger difference  I will need injectable fillers to erase the shadows.  The idea of  injecting stuff under my eye  makes me cringe, so I’ll see how far I can get with under eye creams and gels.

To prevent further discoloration and wrinkling I found two promising products.  Revlon Age Defying Moisturizing Concealer ($9.99) is a concealer with a 25 SPF.   It both hides  the dark circles and prevents more melanin   formation.  Nice!   The second photo shows  how well it works.  And I don’t have to wear foundation on the rest of my  face to blend it in. If nothing actually helps the shadows, I can  buy a case of this stuff and use  it to disguise them.  Its  good to  have a plan B. 

I also found  a great  eye area sunscreen from Clarins.  Called  Sunscreen Wrinkle Control Eye High Protection ( $22) it has  a 30SPF.   I plan to  use it hen I spend time outdoors in the summer sun. 

Coming Up:  Lightening dark circles as you sleep


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It happens to all of us.  When we don’t get enough sleep, catch a cold, work 24/7 or deal with personal problems, the face in the mirror includes dark under eye circles.  It turns out that the body reads all these problems as “stress” and reacts by producing large amounts  of  a hormone  called costisol.  This creates a cascade of changes in the body  that includes  higher blood pressure, a slowdown in cell growth and an increase in heart rate.  Under the eyes, dark circles become  more pronounced.  This is because cortisol increases leaking from tiny blood vessels and slows removal of  body fluids.  The result?  Fluids and hemoglobin build up in the eye area creating dark shadows,

Its really easy to tell people to relax and take it easy.  But while we are waiting  for the world to become an easier place to live, we all need a few quick tools to deal with stress induced circles  Here are three tips to try  until life calms down:

* After a rough night, put cold tea bags on your eyes for 5 minutes.  The caffeine in the tea will shrink wollen blood vessels.  Black tea works better here than green tea because it contains more caffeine.

* Cut salt intake.  Salt  retains fluids in the body that shows up as dark bags under your eyes.  Don’t add salt to your food and  avoid all processed food.

* Raise the headboard of your bed by 2-3 inches. This will encourage fluids to drain from the eye area.  You can do this easily if you put a thick paperback on each side. A nice hefty travel book is just  perfect.

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Eliminating or at least reducing dark circles depends on what is causing them in the first place.  For shadows caused by melanin ( from sun exposure) ingredients is focused on techniques that ” bleach”  out the darkened skin tone.  There are  shelves of products which contain ingredients such as hydroquione, kojic acid, azaleic acid and niacinamide.  Other products contain caffeine which are known to shrink blood vessels.  The theory here is that  swollen capillaries  in the eye area make make the skin look puffy and leak  minute amounts of blood into the skin.  Sounds reasonable, but we’ll have to see.  Another category of ingredients  such as Haloxyl claim that they can break down the hemoglobin ( from the leaked blood) that are causing the shadows.  I am trying to get  my hands on the clinical trials that support these claims, but I know Haloxyl are used in  a  number of expensive brands.

I found two interesting candidates– Skin Renew Anti–Puff Eye Roller ( Garnier) $14.99 at CVS  and Triple Task Eye Treatment  ( Bigalow)   which contains 2% Haloxyl. Its from Bath and Body Works.  I  must admit I am a sucker for a product that gives percentages of its active ingredients.

I  will  try out these products for two weeks taking before and after pictures.  Best of all if they don’t work I get a full refund  from CVS  and Bath and Body Works as long as I have the receit.

During the day, I want, no need, an eye cream with a sunscreen.  I was atonished that I could not find a single eye cream with sunscreen at CVS or Duane Reade.   I took it up a notch and made a field trip to Saphora. They had nine good candidates, but that was still a very small portion of the literally dozens of different eye care products.  I am  really excited about  the three I picked:

* Mured Essential C Eye Cream SPF 15.( $67)  Its a hefty price tag, but it has vitamin C  wich has been shown to lower risk of cell damge from sun exposure

* Dior  Hydraction Eye Creame SPF 20 ($24.  And it comes with DiorShow  mascara.  Nice!

* Shiseido Sun Protection SPF 32 $32. ( no, its not a typo).  I’m really psyched about a 32SPF.

It  looks like a bright beautiful sunny day and I am eagar to roadtest  one of my  sunscreen fortified eye cream.

Next Post:  Stress and Under Eye Shadows

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Layers of Beauty Care

This week, as I was  prowling thru the aisles of a department store looking for the perfect eye cream, I found myself  in the middle of a total beauty pitch.  Pushing side my request for a single product, the sales consultant launched into a demonstration of  a series of creams and serums, all to be used at the same time.  First she recommended a cleanser, then a treatment serum, then a skin lightner, followed by a moisturizer and topped off with a sunscreen.  Total price for this –almost $1000.   Individually  a number of these products looked interesting, but piling them  one on top of another made no sense.  Remember the major role of the skin, its raison d’etre so to say, is to keep  stuff out.  Stuff  like dirt, insects, bacteria, viruses, and just plain poisons.  In fact, when  the integrity of the skin is damaged, such as   in a scrape or cut,  the risk of infection rises sharply.  In beauty care,  one of the biggest challenges is to  get treatment products to be absorbed into the lower layers of the skin where problems are developing.  Once you put a product on the skin, you are creating another layer that blocks absorption of anything else. 

To get the best results ( and not waste money)  use your treatment product first  and top it with a moisturizer that comes with added benefits. In the daytime, make sure that this moisturizer has a strong  sunscreen.  At night, check that the  moisturizer  has lots of water attracting elements such as  collagen and hyaluronic acid. You don’t get that many opportunities to treat your skin and each product should offer a combintion of benefits.  Layering them will  just cut down  on how well ach can  work.

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I think the most prominent signs of aging on my face  are the dark shadows under my eyes.  Most women over age 40 share my problem, but not all shadows come from the same source.  In fact there are three  major causes:

1.  Excess Pigmentation– the darkened areas are actually deposits of melanin, produced from too much sun exposure.  The melanin can accumulate both above and below the eyes and is often an inheritied trait.  That is to say, some people tend to make more melanin in that area.  This  is a major cause of my dark circles.  According to Dr Ellen Marmur, my dermatologist,  the dark pigmentation under my eyes are actually  groups of  10-12 tiny freckles.  My take-away from that is that I really need a turbo powered sunscreen for my eyes.  Its the #1 item on my beauty  shopping list.

2.  Pigmentation from blood hemoglobin—  the second cause  of dark shadows  is the presence of tiny fragile blood vessels that leak  minute  amounts of blood.  The hemoglobin in the blood darkens  and is seen as bluish shadows under the very thin skin  in the area. I  have seen eye care products with caffeine  and since  caffeine  consticts blood vessels, maybe that’s another  effective tool.    That might also be how cold tea bags can reduce  eye swelling. 

3.  Structural changes age we grow older —  Fat pads which give  youthful contours to our cheeks and jawline, also plump up the eye area.  As the fat pads naturally shrink with age, the loss of underlying volume leads to hollows under the eye, which then look dark and shaded. How do you tell  if this  is the cause of your under eye shadows?    Gently move the skin away from the shadow.  If the skin looks light and natural, then the discoloration is caused, at least in part, by age-related hollows. 

There is certainly no shortage of products that promise to reduce dark circles-  but do they deliever?  Some have good science behind them while others seem to  created in a  marketing brain storming session.  I’ve been  trying out different ones and taking before and after pix.  But I have only two eyes and there are  so many  options.  Happily,  friends  have offered the use of their dark circles for science.  I’m really curious to see  what we   discover.

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Since I have seven, count ’em seven signs of aging, I don’t want to buy beauty care products I don’t need.  So as I was assembling  my beauty tool kit I hesitated before buying  eye creams.  Do we really need separate products for the eyes?  The simple answer is YES– but  for reasons that may surprise you. The skin around the eyes is thinner and more vulnerable to just about everything– sunlight, irritation, allergies, infection, aging and discoloration. Problems arise here earlier and tend to be more obvious.

To both prevent and relieve  these issues, the eye area needs extra protection but milder formulations.  Ingredients such as alcohol, Vitamin C, fruit acids, even Retin A need to be in lower concentration.  

The eye area is also more vulnerable to infection from bacteria and mold that can  build up in skin care products.  This is why  eye area products tend to come in very  little jars or tubes.  The tiny openings  actually inhibit contamination.

Finally  eye care products for daytime use need to offer especially good  sunscreens.  Not only does sunlight  increase skin wrinkling, it causes the release of melanin that are a major cause of under eye circles.  I need an eye cream with of an SPF of t least 15– and 30 would be even better.

So what does all this mean when you are standing  in front of a wall of skin care products?   For daytime, I want an eye cream that is a gentle moisturizer with a strong sunscreen. Since anti-oxidents  like vitamin E or green tea can  reduce damage from sun exposure, they  could offer potential benefits.  At  bedtime, my eye cream could benefit from ingredients that encourage collagen growth such as retinols and peptides.  I’m going  on a field trip to find products that meet  my guidelines. I’ll pick up a few  good candidates and then blog the results over the next few weeks.  Under eye shadow are one of my biggest beauty complaints and I really want to  to get a handle on them.

Close-Up: Ceramides

Ceramides, a type of lipid, are the glue that hold cells together in the upper layers of the skin.  They help the skin look smooth,  soft and fresh.  As we get  wiser ( as well as older) we produce less and less ceramides.  By age 60, the level of ceramides have stopped by 30%.  The result?   The skin  tends to feel dry and look flaky as disconnected  skin cells fall apart.

Skin care products with ceramides are intended to replace  our missing natural ceramides.  Expert are devided ( again) as to whether or not the ceramides in a product can get deep enough in the skin and actually  glue cells together.  I really like the concept of ceramides and I hope that  research will soon prove its value.  They are just the type of ingredient  that would be gentle enough for the eye area.

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A picture is worth a thousand words.  I  took  a few  photos  to show the “before” of  my dark circles.  That is the area  which I am going to work on next and I want to see  what works and what doesn’t.  You can certainly see the dark circles, but  you can also see the amazing improvement  from treatments about six weeks into the  project.  I don’t know if I look  younger, but I certainly know my skin looks better.   I just followed the standard advice of  Retin A  and had my age spots fried with a laser.  The  first photo was taken  at the start of this project.  Just me and my age spots and deep smile lines.                                                                                                                                                                                                       

The second photo was taken after about six weeks  on Retin A  and following laser removal of age spots. You can see that the skin texture looks fresher  with more  even skin color. What blew me away me the most was the decline in  the depth of the  smile lines.  I really have something  new to smile about. Now about those dark circles…

Close-Up:  GABA ( gamma-aminobutyric acid)

What a mouthful! GABA is a chemical in the body that is known  to relax  muscles.  In a cosmetic cream or serum it is designed  to act like a low-rent Botox, relaxing facial muces to reduce frowns  or wrinkle.  But doctor are dubious that GABA can be absorbed by the skin and then find it way to the right muscles. 

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