STEM CELL: THE NEW BUZZWORD
The hottest trend in skincare today, stem cells! (By the way, there aren't really any live stem cells in skincare products because in the presence of preservatives and without appropriate growth medium live cells cannot survive in these emulsions.) Skincare company Research & Development departments are excited to jump on board as "Stem Cell Technology" has become a part of the beauty industry's pop-culture. Claims that stem cell creams can rejuvenate the skin are not hard to find and the marketing benefit of labeling a facial cream with the words "Stem Cell Cream" is astronomical.
Unlike most cells found in plants and animals, stem cells are unique in that they have no specialized purpose, like a muscle cell or nerve cell. In addition, stem cells have the ability to renew themselves for long periods of time. These two characteristics make stem cells great "factories" for producing plant compounds that have been shown to have potentially beneficial biological effects. (In the United States, cosmetic manufacturers only use stem cells derived from plants to produce desired ingredients. Human stem cells are not used.)
When applied to the skin surface, newly discovered naturally occuring plant compounds have recently been shown to provide low levels of sun protection of the most superficial layers of skin. Even though the protection is minimal and it is still necessary to apply daily sunscreen, applying topical plant extracts may be beneficial. This potential benefit combined with a large sector of the population that truly believes, despite any real scientific evidence, that plant derived, "natural" ingredients are better than synthetic ones, makes stem cell technology desirable.
The real benefit of stem cell technology, however, is the ability to produce pure and more consistent plant derived ingredients. By using plant stem cell cultures as the "factory" by which desired ingredients are produced, scientists can manufacture high quality, more concentrated plant extracts independent of environmental factors like weather, soil conditions or seasonal variation. These extracts are cleaner as they are made in more sterile conditions with less risk of contamination from organisms or pesticide exposure. Batches of plant stem cell extracts can be standardized with the hopes of manufacturing a more consistent product. Unfortunately, plant stem cell extract production is an expensive proposition.
And despite the uncommon allergic reaction or sun sensitivity caused by applying products containing plant extracts, for most, there is no evidence of harm. Mostly based on folklore, plant derived ingredients have been used for both cosmetic and medical treatments for millennia, and will likely continue to be popular.
Although stem cell technology may have its benefits, when it comes to efficacy of plant stem cell extracts, science is lacking and marketing is plentiful!
Petroleum jelly, also known as petrolatum, is an odorless, tasteless semisolid mixture of hydrocarbons recognized by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as an approved over-the-counter skin protectant. It is widely used in the cosmetic skincare industry found in more that half of all skincare products sold today. Not to be confused with industrial grade petrolatum, which may contain pore-clogging impurities, well-manufactured cosmetic grade petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic (does not block pores) and is not a skin irritant.
Petroleum jelly is the gold standard moisturizer as it reduces water loss through the skin by 98% creating an environment conducive for skin healing. In skincare formulations, it serves as an occlusive ingredient, one that physically prevents water loss from the skin surface.
Due to its lubricating and coating properties, petroleum jelly can be used to:
- Soothe dry cracked skin on problematic areas like elbows and knees
- Soften dry cracked heels
- Heal chapped lips
- Calm inflamed eyelids
- Protect skin around the nose when chaffed from wind or from over blowing the nose due to a cold
- Help earring insertion by applying to earring posts
- Prevent windburn on cheeks
- Improve nail health by rubbing onto nails and around nail cuticles
- Tame runaway eyebrows
- Assist in hair grooming
- Prevent inflammation in areas that may chafe by reducing friction between skin and clothing during exercise for cyclists, wrestlers, runners and other athletes
- Enhance wound repair when applied to superficial cuts and lacerations
- Treat diaper rash
- And, used as a negative control by allergists and dermatologists for allergy testing as the allergic reaction rate of petroleum jelly is practically zero
Cometic grade petroleum jelly is available in local drugstores and pharmacies and is extremely affordable. A jar of petroleum jelly should be in everyone's bathroom vanity.
What are preservatives? Preservatives are compounds that when added to a skincare product, prevent the growth of microorganisms like bacteria, mold and fungus within that product.
Why are preservatives necessary? Microorganisms are ubiquitous and grow whenever conditions are optimal. These opportunists grow in the presence of water, at any pH between 3 and 10, and in temperate environments. Almost all skincare products sold on skincare aisles today contain water, have a pH of approximately 5 - 6 and are stored at room temperature. Perfect conditions for organism growth. Since most of us prefer our creams and lotions without contaminates, in addition to the fact that the Food Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) prohibits the sale of adulterated skincare products (including contaminated ones) most skincare products require preservatives to be deemed safe for use.
What is the best preservative? Unfortunately, there is no perfect preservative. Nor is there one preservative that can prevent the growth of all organisms in all formulations. Some preservatives are only effective at a certain pH, while others may not be ideal because they change the pH of the formulation. Due to the chemistry of the preservative or the charge, some are not compatible with certain ingredients that may be found in the formulation. Some preservatives can prevent growth of organisms but cannot kill microorganisms that are introduced into the product. Hence the need for many preservatives, and often, more than one is found in any given product.
Why is there so much controversy regarding preservatives? Consumers are misinformed. Sensationalism sells, and all too often, health and beauty magazines, media outlets, and erroneous do-gooders take full advantage. Preservatives in skincare products are used in tiny doses to prevent the growth of and kill microorganisms. Preservatives disrupt cell membranes and protein structure; they interfere with metabolic systems and enzyme function of microorganisms. That's how they function. That's why we use them! Misleading fear campaigns imply that the activity of these preservatives have the same effect on us. The tiny concentrations of preservatives used in skincare products that have these favorable for us, untoward effects on microorganisms, cannot and do not have the same effects on 170 pound adults (or even on 10 pound infants.)
Preservatives are used in concentrations that are well within the safety limits determined by government regulatory authorities and science in the United States, Australia, Japan, and in the European Union. Appropriate use of these preservatives assures the safety of the finished skincare product.
Related information: Paraben Story
ANTIPERSPIRANT VS DEODORANT
Deoderants are cosmetics formulated to mask body odor, to make the skin smell better. They commonly contain odor-masking fragrance. They can be formulated as aerosols and sprays, pumps, roll-ons, solid sticks, gels and creams. Deoderants do not prevent sweating. Antiperspirants are over-the-counter drugs, regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are usually formulated with aluminum-based compounds with the intent on preventing sweat from reaching the skin surface by creating a temporary plug within the sweat duct. All sweat is odorless until it combines with bacteria found on the skin surface. By preventing perspiration, antiperspirants are also deoderants.
DO I NEED A TONER?
Toner, the skincare product that is as varied in formulation as is the list of their alleged benefits. The benefits touted by health and beauty magazines for toners are endless. They supposedly cleanse, shrink pores (note: like the length of your arms, pore size does not change), remove dirt, pollen, and pollution, hydrate, soothe and calm, repair, balance the skin's pH, nourish, stimulate blood circulation, function as an antibacterial, clear blemishes, and more.
Toners can be sprayed on, dabbed on with a cotton ball, applied with guaze or a washcloth, or with the fingers. Some are used with water, some without.
Toners come without alcohol, these claim to "refresh." They come with little alcohol (up to 20%), also known as tonics, not to be confused with the traditional quinine containing carbonated beverage. And they can be formulated with a high percentage of alcohol (20-60%), also called an astringent or drying agent, which may cause redness, irritation, or burning in individuals with sensitive or normal skin.
Want to cleanse the skin? Use a mild soap-free cleanser. Want to hydrate the skin? Apply a well-formulated moisturizer. Have oily or acne-prone skin, see a dermatologist. Skip the toner!
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Welcome to Fully Exposed
Hello, and welcome to FryFace!
I've been a New York based dermatologist for over 25 years. I love music. I love triathlons. I love chemistry. (I love petroleum jelly.) I study skincare ingredients and product formulation. I listen to skincare "advice" from self-proclaimed ......Read More