Archive for April, 2010

Meeting Giselle

A few years ago I was excited to be called into a meeting to discuss a beauty book project with Giselle Bundchen, the  legendary  supermodel.  The meeting started  late and so in the interest of time, the assorted agents, editors and fashionistas decided to skip introductions.  Looking around the conference room I was a little bummed that I did not see Giselle at the table.  I pulled out a notebook and tried to follow the rapid fire conversation  which often dissolved into French or Italian.  It seemed  that they were talking as though Giselle was in the room, but I could not see her.  Everytime someone spoke I stretched  out my neck to see who was speaking, but still no Giselle.  After about 15 very confusing minutes I realized that the slender girl sitting two chairs to my right ( who I thought was someone’s admin) was the iconic beauty.  I stared so hard at her that the agent who had brought me into the project  dug her elbow sharply into my rib.”Stop staring” she hissed in my ear.

Dressed in a baggy sweater and pants, her  hair pulled back into a tight bun, she looked like a pretty upper east side school girl.  I could barely see a trace of the blonde glamazon who strutted so confidently on the Victoria’s Secret runway.  She was charming, friendly and completely unpretentious.  But this was the woman that set the standards of beauty that men expected and woman measured themselves by.  My point, and I do have one, is that in real time not even Giselle looked like the statuesque iconic Giselle. Comparing ourselves to unreal and unachievable standards only fuels painful  insecurity about  our appearance. And that is so unnecessary.

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After the “Boob Job in a Box” fiasco, I have given up on over the counter remedies for dark undereye circles.  I decided  crank up my  strategy with a cream called Tri-luma.  Available only by prescription it is a combintion of Retin A, hydroquinone which is known to lighten skin and a steroid to control inflammation from these two heavy hitters.  Unfortunately it carries a hefty  price tag of almost $300/30grams ( about one ounce).   Since I don’t know if  it will actually work  for me, that’s a big investment for a ‘maybe’. 

To get a better price, I went online to order Tri-luma from an online Canadian pharmacy.   It  looked so easy online, but getting my  hands on a  tube of  Tri-luma  was harder  than I expected.  Despite  listing Tri-luma on their websites, most pharmacies   did not actually sell Tri-luma  or were indefinately out of stock. None took American Express.  Prices were lower  than in my local  drug store, but still pretty high at around $179.  By comparison, the cost of Retin A , which also retails for about $300 was  just $40-50/tube online.

I finally found a pharmacy which had it in stock.  They had a friendly helpful staff, took my credit card and told me to fax my prescriptionto them.  I was told I could  expect my Tri-luma in 8-14 business days.   However  a few days later I got a call from a very perky young lady explaining that since  the product was actually coming from the US, I needed to mail them, rather than just fax, the prescription.   Clearly online Canadian pharmacies are not a good choice if you need a prescription filled quickly.  Almost three weeks later after starting the process, I am still waiting  for my latest ” hope in a jar”.

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The Problem with Parabens?

Parabens are widely used as preservatives  in make-up and skin and hair care products.  Some studies with rats suggest that parabens can have a weakly estrogenic effect on cells.  The potential result? It may stimulate growth of estrogen -dependant breast  cancer cells.   There are no human studies that show this effect from  toiletries with parabens and the FDA is currently studying the issue.  

Parabens  have been considered less irritating than other forms of presevatives and  are found in processed and prepared foods.  Interestingly, soy which is lauded  for its health benefits, also  has weakly estrogenic activity.

Keep in mind that parabens  are found  in over 80% of all  skin and hair care products.   I  have taken a  position  of watchful waiting.  I limit  my soy intake ( such as edamame) and  I’m delighted  when  a product I like is paraben free.  But presence of parabens is not a deal breaker for me.

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I have been using two eye care products for about a month and neither has made a visible difference. In the morning I applied a roller with caffeine and at night I used a cream with AHA’s.   My shadows are still there and the slight bagging under the eyes  actually seems a bit worse. So when a dramatic looking package at Sephora  caught my attention, I was hooked.  Called Hylexin,  the box had a photo of  a young woman  with a football players black smudge under  her eye.  The box copy said that this product was for’serious dark circles’ (hence the name) and not for dark circles  that  ‘pop up in the morning and are gone by breakfast ‘ . 

Directions on the box said  to do a patch test on my arm.  I opened the tube and was rocked back by a heavy fragrance.  I hesitated a moment, took a breath and applied a small amount on my  arm.  Very quickly the spot  felt warm and a bit itchy.  I opened the brochure to read more about Hylexin, but instead of information about the product, it was an flyer for other products from the manufacturer.  Apparently the company was very proud of an item  called ” Boob Job in a Box” .  I don’t know about you, but I have a problem  taking  skin care advice from a company that  sells “Boob Job in a Box”.  Between the  heavy perfume, itchy patch test  and the Boob Job thing, I decided that I did not want to put this product anywhere near my eyes.  I packed it  up, found my sales slip  and plan to take it back today for a refund.

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I have been using Retin A Micro for several months and I’m thrilled  with the results.  There are also several other types of  Retin A products ( available only by prescription) that you should know about.  In addition I’m going  to decribe  two new types of  retinoids  that   have different features that could be of value.

1.  Retin A — This is the granddaddy of anti-aging products and has volumes of research behind it.  Its now available in a generic version that costs less than $30 online.  By comparison the drugstore price for the brand name Retin A is about @$120/tube. This is one of the strongest  forms of Retin A and you  should follow the rules  very carefully to avoid irritation– its worth it and the savings are amazing.

2. Retin-A Micro-  This is the form that I currently use.  It has  two strengths–.o4%  and .1%.  It is made up in a slow release formula to make it less irritating .

3. Renova—  This is a particularly mild form of tretinoin.  It comes in a .02% concentration in a rich creamy base.

4.  Refissa —  The only fragrance-free tretinoin, Refissa  is the newest  form on the market.  It i a very creamy formulation  with a .05% concentration.

5. Differin — This product has a different retinoid called adapalene.  There are two strengths– .1% cream and .3% gel.  Adapalene is  milder than  Retin A, but  not quite as effective.  Its an excellent choice  for people who cannot handle Retin A, but still want to deal with aging/sun-damaged skin.

6. Tazorac — This product contains   tazarotene, another type of retinoid.  It is available in .1% concentration  in both a gel and a cream.  Doctors report that can be more effective than Retin A, but also more irritating

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The return of warm  sunny weather  made me realize that  my beauty tool kit needed a tune-up. While I keep using Retin A,   I need to crank up  my sun protection and  add anti0xidants  to repair sun damage.  I  have found six products that fit the bill perfectly:

1.  Eye Make-up Remover —Almay Oil-Free  Travel  Pack ($.99)

I used this product  all winter and really loved  the way it took off my mascara without leaving an oily film.  Only problem was the package — a 3 inch high jar that did not pack well.  At Ultra, I discovered  it came in a travel size of 15 pads that fit beautifullyinto my toiletries bag.  Just perfect for weekend strips  to the country.

2. Cleanser — Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash ($8.99)  This fragrance-free clear liquid cleanser is gentle and oil free.  Its so mild that it can be used to remove eye make-up, but for that I am going to stick with my  disposable pads.  

3. Daytime Moisturizer/Sunscreen – Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock with SPF 70.  ( $12.99) This product is the linchpin of my daytime anti-aging skin care.  Not only does it  have  an amazing 70SPF,  its stuffed with four different  antioxidants– soy protein, and vitamins A, C and E.   Different types of free-radicals  are subdued by different antioxidants.  The more types of antioxidants a product contains, the  more it will control  free radicals in your skin cells. Nice!

4.  Eye Care Cream — Clarins Sunscreen Wrinkle Control Eye High Protection ($22) Despite the way too long name, this is such a well-thought  out product.  It’s  a  mineral based physical sunscreen  which is  less irritating than chemcial sunscreens– really important when you are using something around the eyes.  Even better it boasts a 30SPF.

5. Night Care— Korres Quercetin and Oak Anti-Aging and Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream ($52 — where do they get these names?)  This cream costs more than most of my other products, but it had  so  many excellent features, I had to bring it home with me.  Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant (found in apples and grapes) which offers serious protection against sun-induced DNA damage. This night cream also has  a slew of other appealing features.  Its  free of  mineral oil, parabans, alcohol, fragrance and retinols. Even the packaging  is totally recyclable.

6. Body Lotion —  Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Sensitive Creme ($12.99)

During the day my arms and legs are going to  spend a lot of time in the sun, and I want to try to repair the damge  at night. Eucerin  has CoQ10,  a  natural antioxidant in the body.  As we grow older  the level of CoQ10  keeps declining and by age 60, its about half  what we had in our twenties.   Like most of my other skin care products, it is fragrance-free and non-irritating. 

Let the summer games begin!

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You  see antioxidants advertised  in practically everything from baby cereal to low-carb beer.  Some experts believe that  antioxidants can prevent cancer,  heart disease and aging.  Other scientists are  rather dubious about the health benefits of antioxidants.  As with  most things in life– the truth  lies somewhere in between.

Antioxidants    have the ability to subdue unstable molecules known as free- radicals.  These bad boys  are molecules that have lost an electron. Free radicals crash around cells interferring with routinue functions such as growth, repair and immunity. Things calm down when  antioxidants  provide the missing electron.

There is no shortage  of antioxidants in  our environment. The short list  of antioxidant- rich items  include   vitamins A, C and E, olive oil, salmon, green tea, red wine tumeric and sunflower seeds. We have lots of  laboratory studies that show anti0xidants can protect cells from free- radicals.  In real life  the results are not so clear.  While  we can  see that people whose diets are high in antioxidant rich food have a lower risk of cancer and heart disease, when we take  antioxidant supplements, the benefits are just not there.

But, and this is a very big but, one area where  antioxidants perform well is on the skin.  Antioxidants from green tea, soy oats  and tumeric  can protect the skin  from sun damage.  Antioxidants in skin care products have  products  have been shown to reduce  sunburn and DNA damage from sun exposure.  Antioxidant  rich sunscreens not only reduce  risk of skin cancer, it may protect against  sun-related aging.  Since about 90% of skin aging under age 60 is due to sun exposure, this is huge!   Moisturizers, sunscreens, and make-up  can all benefit from antioxidants.

On Friday I will be posting my Summer Beauty Tool Kit and not surprisingly, antioxidants will have a starring role.

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