Archive for December, 2011

Every New Years Eve  my Mom and Dad would put out a tray of caviar and champagne.  In good years it was a little bowl of Beluga– and in  bad times  ( my Dad was a blacklisted writer) it was a bigger bowl of  red caviar from the supermarket. I have always  somehow believed that  this was  a healthy way to start the  New Year. 

This year, I decided to check it out.  On the plus side all types of caviar from the most expensive ( beluga, seruga and oserta)  to the little jars of red or black fish roe on supermarket shelves,   have about the same  nutritional  profile.  On the  plus side, one tablespoon of caviar has  a full days supply of vitamin B12. But every  animal protein– eggs, chesse, fish, meat and poultry is loaded with B12, so unless you’re a vegan, this is not a key selling point.  A tablespoon of caviar has 40 calories, and about 3 grams of omega 3– excellent since this has been  linked to so  many health benefits.  But here’s where things take a darker turn.  That little tablespoon  has 94 grams of cholesterol ( it is an egg after all).  Since  caviar is often served with  a topping of chopped eggs or in an omlette, you can be delievering quite a cholesterol payload to your body.

And then there is the issue of sodium.   The  priciest caviar at $150/oz  has  200-300 mg of sodium in a scant tablespoon.  The more affordable red salmon caviar ( $8/4oz jar) has a whopping 700-800mg of sodium per tablespoon.

Washing  down   salty caviar with champagne is actually not a bad idea- in moderation.   A study published in 2007  found that moderate consumption of champagne may help preserve brain cells. One last piece of advice.   Because the alcohol is mixed with bubbles in champagne, its absorbed more easily  you can get  get drunker quicker.  Keep in mind that alcohol in any form  attacks collagen and accelerates wrinkling, so limit  your champagne to one delicious glass.


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I  had already tried the low and medium settings of the Palovia home laser and barely felt  them on my skin– and  now was ready  to go to the max and try the highest setting. However, these settings while painless had left raised, red splotches which were still around up to eight hours later.  The skin also felt a bit tender as if  it had been sunburned. 

A friend  who knew  her way around lasers thought she knew the source of the problem.  I wasn’t using enough of the gel.  The instructions  said the enclosed bottle of gel was enough for 60 treatments.  It was not that  big a bottle, so I just used  a light topping of gel before zapping my arm with the laser.  I remembered that when I had IPL or lasers with a physician,  they really did slather it on.

I decided to increase amount of gel, but keep the setting at medium.  I pumped the  bottle about six times and applied a pretty thick coating– not as thick as in an office based procedure, but certainly more than I had been using. Treating the same area  on my arm, I applied the laser and pressed the on button.  It worked once, then a notice came up on the little treatment screen  saying ‘Interrupted”. Hmm?  I shook the device and checked the battery, but it was almost full.  I continued with the treatment and almost half the time, the session  was stopped  with an interrupted sign.  Hmm? 

I stopped to check the instruction booklet again. Apparently this sign comes on  when the device it on, but not in contact with the skin.  I began to wonder if  I had  put  on too much gel and it was blocking access to the device.

The results on my skin was also interesting.  I got some red patches, but they were pretty flat and went away within an hour.  In addition, my skin did not feel sunburned.  So I think that the extra gel was definately a step in the right direction, but now the question was how  much should I really be using.  I’ll try again tomorrow.

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This week the host of Fashion Flash is Kari of Fab Over Forty.  When it comes to  make-up colors, Kari has an almost intuitive sense of what works and what doesn’t.  When I  want a new lisptick or shadow, I always check her current recommendations.  She tries them all and knows which  lipsticks are too brown and  which grey liner gives the smoothest line.  This month  her post on  hair styles over forty is a must read!  She shows a gallery of styles that graze the coller bone rather than the usual advice to cut it short.

Most of the Fashion FLash sites this week  offer great holiday beauty advice.  Menopause makeover offers a healthy yet delicious champagne cocktail while over at Fabulous After 40, the GLam Gals rock  New Year’s Eve fashion.  Taking their advice, I “shopped”  in my closet and put together two great options for the New Year.

And when you’ve finished celebrating, check out The Essential Green You by Deirdre Imus. This  small book is packed with useful info on every page.  From nutrition  to personal  care products to health care she explains  the dangers in our  lives and points  out easy and affordable solutions that benefit  both  the individual and the planet.  What makes this book stand out from other  books on the topic is her attention to details.  She is passionate about  greener  living  and her  research  has resulted in a book with real time solutions.  For example, I am always concerned about the chemicals in nail  care  products.  When I go to my nail place, I cringe to see people working with masks.  If these chemicals are so toxic for the staff  what about me?  Ms. Imus recommends soaking  your fingers in hydrogen peroxide for a mintute once a week to  lift discolorations and it works beautifully!  If I  just absolutely feel the need to  wear polish, she has found   an odorless formaldehyde-free  nail polish  that adds both shine and color without toxic ingredients. 


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Each time I do a post on  skin lightening and mention hydroquinone, I get a flurry of concerned emails warning  me against using it.  Often  they point  out that hydroquinone can cause cancer and was banned in Europe.  Yet  the usually  quick to pull the recall trigger FDA still permits hydroquinone to be sold here– both in over the counter  formulations and in prescription only preparations.    I was both confused and worried.  Digging into the literature and talking  to a few trusted experts, here is the current  take on hydroquinone.

Hydroquinone is considered the most effective skin lightenens currently available and is one of  the very few on that acts by preventing melanin formation. There are three problems associated with hydroquinone:

1)  Tthe British Cancer Journal published  a study that linked  very high doses of hydroquinine to cancers in mice.  A second similar study found similar results.  Subsequently, hydroquinone was banned in Europe ,Australia and parts of Asia and Africa.    In 2006, the FDA  issued a four month moratorium on hydroquinone to review the data, but then allowed it to be used for”severe melasma for a short period of time”.   Animal studies linking something to cancer is certainly a big, ugly, red flag, but to date there are no studies that  show  it affects people the same way.

There is also concern that hydroquinone is linked to increased risk of skin cancer, because it  makes the skin more vulnerable to UV rays.  For this reason its important to use an SPF50   when treating the skin with hydroquinone based products.

2) Hydroquinine is thought to cause a condition called  ochronosis  which provokes the appearance of dark blue/black pigment in the skin.  If you pick up almost any article on hydroquinone  you will read about this problem.  However current wisdom now believes that  this problem is actually due to  the illegal presence of mercury in hydroquinone preparations, a common practice overseas including products from  South Asia,  and Africa.  It was interesting that at a national dermatology meeting this summer, the speaker  pointed out that  most dermatologists  had never seen a case of  ochronosis from hydroquinone in this country.  She asked the audience of 500 dermatologists to raise their hand  if they had seen the problem in any patient.  Only 2 out of the 500  raised their hands and both  had seen these patients  outside of the US– one in Africa and the other in Jamacia.  Interesting.

3) Hydroquinone  has been known to cause irritation and redness  which in women of color can lead to increased  patches of irregular pigmentation.  I personally experienced  the mother of all  reactions when I did a patch test of popular skin lightening product when I was still in high school.  A small dab in the crook of my arm produced  a five inch patch of red, itchy skin.  However, I was able to use Triluma without any problems, and I wonder what else was in that  old time skin bleach.  Because of its itrritation potential, doctors  agree that  it should not  be used on skin that is already sunburned, dry, chapped or inflamed.

So to bottom line it, hydroquinone is strong stuff  and certainly has some baggage.  But its still the most effective skin lightening  we have in out tool kit.   It seems to work beautifully with other ingredients like vitamin C, retin A and alpha hydroxy acids.  You can use lower concertrations and get addtional benefits from complementary ingredients.  Always keep the concentration of hydroquinone as low as possible.  Over the counter preparations can have up to 2% while those available by prescriptions usually have around 4% hydroquinone.  And only  buy skin lightening products made in the US.  Mercury has been  banned  for decades  and this seems to be a  major source of problems in skin bleaching  preparations from other countries

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Triluma, a combo of hydroquinone, Retin-A and a steroid was one of the first anti-aging tools I tried.  I used it successfully to reduce my dark circles and was planning to keep using it, but my dermatologist Dr Marmur said that I  needed to take a “Triluma Holiday”.  Apparently, it cannot be used  for more than three months at a time.  Then the skin needs to take a rest for three months before using it again.  But when I tried to refill my prescription, the product was “on back order”  at every pharmacy in NYC.  I began to hear from people who also reported they could  not get Triluma.  What  happened?

There was no FDA recall and no announcement from Galderma, the manufacturer of Triluma.   I kept digging and found that  Galderma itself  announced a recall of all its Triluma products made by a sub-contractor, Hill Dermaceuticals.  Apparently, Hill reported to Galderma that one of the  critical ingredients ( eg the steroid, the hydroquinone or the retin A)  did not meet ” labeling standards of concentration and/or potency” ( my quote marks, not theirs).  This means that one of these powerful substances was either too weak or too strong.  Not good, especially at $300/tube.

Well, recalls are not uncommon, but this did not explain why Triluma quietly dispappeared from drug store shelves.  Usually after a recall,  a manufacturer  does a mea culpa and then reissues a new  effective batch with great fanfare.  Not this time.  No more Triluma, no public explanation and no product to replace it.

So what are skin lightening options to replace Triluma?  Some pharmacies are quietly compounding special order mixtures of the hydroquinone, retin A and steroid.  Obagi Nu-derm  has a prescription only combination of 4% of hydroquinone and vitamin C which I am going to try this winter.  Elure is a new product made from  mushrooms that blocks melanin production like hydroquinone, but is not  non-irritating.   Most experts  now believe that the best skin lightening products have a combination of ingedients that  both break down existing melanin as well as prevent new melanin formation.  There are many options and I’d love to hear about  products that worked ( or didn’t)  for you.

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This week Staness of Menopause Makeover is the host of Fashion Flash.  What makes  her site unique is the blend of nutrition and health issues specifically for women over 40.  Her personal touch makes it fun and easy to read, and her hard hitting health research make it a site you can trust.  I also  have to admit I’m almost addicted to her recipe for turkey chili.  When the weather turns  cold as it thas this week in NYC, I scramble for the ingredients to make  up a big pot.

Fab Over Forty has another  must read article in  Fashion Flash–  IMO the best article I’ve seen on cellulite creams.  It explains what creams and machine can and cannot do and how they  make changes albeit temporary, in your skin.  I learned that  many creams contain caffeine which temporarily change skin contours.  Cellulite machine provide lipomassage  which reduce  fat cell volume   and increase  blood and lymph circirculation.  Now that I  know  how it works I’m curious to see  how it works on me.

When you’ve finished clicking through Fashion FLash, I  recommend checking out a new edition of  a book  that should be in  your beauty library.   ” A Consumer’s Guide of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter  has a pretty dry title, but the info inside is amazing. From  Acai to  Menthol to Zinc Oxide, this book explains where the ingredients came from, how it is used and if its safe and or effective.   I used an early edition of this book to help we write No-Nonsense Beauty Book in the 80’s and I’m so psyched that  the author has continued to update it.  When a  new product or claim comes out, its the first place I look to see if  its based on science or science fiction.   Its available in paperback ($7-18)  on Amazon and  its a great beauty investment.

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Question: I just found out that my old crush is coming to the holiday office party this week. I want to look  amazing.  Would you suggest  IPL or Botox?

Answer:  Both  procedures are very effective, but I would be concerned about doing them right before an important event, especially if its the first time you’ve had them.  Although its called the “lunchtime laser”, IPL can leave red splotches and scabs  that will take a few days to heal.  Botox injections can  hit  a little blood vessels and produce  pretty big bruises.   Rather than doing a full court  press on your face,  If you need to look amazing immediately I would start with  a home microdermabrasion kit  from Clarisonic, DDF, or Neutrogena.  They will polish and refresh your skin and make an incredible difference, especially  if  its not something  you do everyday.    Then  make certain that  you hair is freshly colored, cut and blown  out professionally for the  night of the party. And  I trick I learned  in college,  stop by a cosmetics counter and get a professional makeup.  There’s no charge, but I always  buy a lipstick or shadow since  most stylists work on commission.

If you really want to own the room, make sure  your outfit is new and reflects  current  style trends.  For really great holiday fashion tips check out  Fabulous After 40.

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