HOW DO MOISTURIZERS WORK?
Koala bears aren't really bears. Jellyfish aren't really fish. And moisturizers don't really add water to the skin. And it's a good thing the skin doesn't absorb water or we'd swell up like a sponge when we swam in the ocean. And we don't.
Built like a brick wall, the outermost layer of skin is an incredible barrier. It protects us from outside elements including bacteria, fungus, mold, and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This barrier makes us virtually waterproof. One of the most important functions of skin is to prevent the body from losing water. Water is constantly evaporating from the skin into the environment. On cold winter days our skin feels drier as we lose more water into the air, on humid days we lose less.
Effective moisturizers do not add water to the sin. They create an environment where water loss from the skin is minimized. By decreasing the amount of water loss, skin water content can rise. Well formulated "moisturizers" contain occlusives, ingredients that prevent water evaporation by forming a film on the skin surface. Petroleum jelly is the gold standard occlusive decreasing water loss from the skin by 98%. Although it is extremely effective as an occlusive, it can feel greasy on the skin, not always cosmetically elegant for the user. Silicone derivatives like dimethicone are often used in lieu of petroleum jelly or in addition to it to improve the elegance of the product. These synthetic silicone derivatives, however, are not as effective in preventing water loss from the skin. Effective moisturizers contain other ingredients called humectants that help the skin hold onto water. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are common humectants.
So the next time you use your favorite moisturizer, do know that the product will not add water to your skin. If it is an effective product, however, it will prevent water loss from your skin and create an environment where your skin can hold onto it's own water. Moisturizers don't really moisturize. The skin does that on its own.
By the way, fireflies aren't really flies. And strawberries aren't really berries.
DO I NEED TO SKIN DETOX ?
The word detox, used to describe a multitude of creams, lotions, serums, and masks, is often advertised boldly on product labels. There are expensive boutique "detox" potions and less costly drugstore products readily available today. These products purport to remove dreadful toxins that accumulate in your skin. What toxins?
As a graduate of an Ivy League medical school who had the honor of being taught by some of the greatest medical minds on the planet, I'm wondering why I can't name a single toxin known to accumulate in the skin. And exactly what is the end result of a "skin detox' and how do you confirm that these poisonous toxins are eradicated?
The word detox (short for detoxification) means to remove unhealthy substances, such as alcohol or addictive substances like opiates and barbiturates, from the body. It's a common expression used in hospitals and rehabilitation centers all over the world. However, during my four years at medical school, one-year internship and three years of dermatology residency, including a year as Chief Resident, I never once heard the word "detox" used in connection with the skin. So, let's be clear, from a medical perspective, skin "detox" isn't a thing.
The human body is amazing. Your skin is a barrier, and a very good one. It is very difficult for toxins to pass through healthy skin. There are no studies that show perspiration, or sweat, removes toxins from the body. The liver and kidneys have the primary responsibility for detoxifying the body. The bowel and urinary systems remove the waste. If toxins were to build up in your body, you'd likely feel quite ill.
The word "detox" on skincare products is used as marketing jargon, hijacked with the sole purpose of increasing sales. If the word "detox" is being used as a replacement for the word "cleanse" I recommend you simply use a cleanser, such as a bar of soap. Cleansing the skin also removes the most superficial layers of skin cells. If, on occasion, you'd like to use a scrub or exfoliant because you like the way it feels, do so. Just know that none of these treatments can be considered a "detox."
If you want healthy skin, live a healthy lifestyle.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Keep the skin hydrated by moisturizing when necessary.
- Protect yourself from the sun and wear sunscreen 365 days/year.
And one last recommendation...laugh lots. Especially when you see the word "detox" on a skincare product label.
DOES THE FDA REGULATE COSMETICS?
I hear time and time again..."The FDA doesn't regulate cosmetics."
"Beware! Beauty products are unsafe and unregulated."
False and false.
In the U.S.., to ensure the safety of cosmetic products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the cosmetics industry. Using science-based information, the FDA has broad regulatory authority under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) passed by Congress in 1938 and amended many times since.
Here is where the confusion occurs. Unlike drugs, the FDA does NOT approve cosmetics (see Cosmetic vs. Drug). It is the legal obligation and responsibility of the manufacturer to assure that their cosmetic product is safe when used under customary conditions and that the product is appropriately labeled. The law states that it is illegal to sell adulterated or misbranded cosmetics.
What is an adulterated cosmetic?
An adulterated cosmetic is one that...
- contains any poisonous or harmful ingredient, which may be harmful when the product is used as described on the label.
- contains any filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance.
- is packaged, prepared or manufactured in unsanitary conditions where it may be contaminated with microbial organisms or any substance that renders the product harmful to the consumer.
- is packaged in a container that is composed of poisonous or harmful substances that renders the product harmful to the user.
- is not a hair dye but contains an unsafe color additive as determined by the FD&C Act.
What is a misbranded product?
The FD&C Act defines a misbranded product as ont that...
- contains misleading or false information on the label.
- does not contain the name and place of the business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor on the label, the quantity of contents in terms of weight or measure.
- does not contain any prominently displayed required information in an easy to read and understood fashion by an ordinary individual under customary condition of use.
- is packaged in a misleading container.
- is a color additive and does not fulfill the packaging and labeling requirements of such color additives.
- has packaging and labeling in violation of the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970.
The FDA has the right to enforce any of these regulations. FDA inspectors can inspect any cosmetic manufacturing plant or office at any time without notice. The FDA has the authority to:
- Restrict or ban cosmetic ingredient usage for safety reasons.
- Mandate warning labels on cosmetic products.
- Issue warning letters to manufacturers, packagers or distributors.
- Seize illegal products.
- Stop unlawful activities.
- Prosecute violators of these laws.
- Collaborate with companies to implement product recalls.
Although the FDA doe not "approve" cosmetics, the FDA absolutely regulates the industry. Enjoy your cosmetics!
IS SUNSCREEN BURNING YOUR EYES?
The skin around the eyes is the thinnest skin on the body (approximatley 0.5 mm thick.) It also happens to be a common site for non-melanoma, sun induced skin cancers, like basal cell carcinomas. Although the concave areas of the corners of the eyes may seem protected from direct sun exposure, light that reflects off of the brow and other orbital bones, ultimately hits this area which may explain the propensity for skin cancer formation at this site.
Many users simply forget to apply sunscreen around the eyes. Others opt not to due to burning or stinging in the eyes when the sunscreen is applied in that area.
Sunscreens commonly contain ingredients that may irritate the eye itself. Fragrance, the active ingredients in sunscreens, especially the chemical filters, preservatives, and other ingredients may cause eye stinging and burning if applied too close to the eye. The best eye protection is seeking shade, a wide brimmed hat and 100% ultraviolet protective sunglasses. Other alternatives include applying a fragrance-free sunscreen stick, or lip balm, around the eyes, one that is formulated with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the active ingredients. (You can select one using the Product Selector.) Sunscreen sticks and lip balms have a high wax content which may prevent the sunscreen from spreading into the eyes with sweating or increased physical activity. Although SPF facial foundation, concealers, and powdered eye makeup applied around the eye does not offer adequate sun protection, it may prevent some of the sun's ultraviolet light from hitting this sensitive area.
"Free-from" Skincare Products
We've all seen ads proclaiming that a skincare product is "free-from" some particular ingredient: a brilliant scare tactic that implies that the product is now safer because it is "free-from" that particular ingredient. Let's take the commonly used, most studied class of preservatives called parabens, for example.
To prevent contamination, all water-based products (which include the vast majority of facial and body moisturizers) require a preservative. Without one, mold and bacteria spoils the product in less than two weeks.
Stories in the media accuse parabens of having negative health effects, of being harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals. Yes, parabens may have estrogenic activity. But their estrogenic activity is magnitudes weaker that the natural phytoestrogens found in soy products, flaxseed, and tomatoes - foods we consume every day. Fact is, parabens have not been proven to be toxic in human beings when used in approved doses of less than 1%.
A poorly designed 2014 British study found parabens in breast tumor tissue samples. The author herself clarified that the study never concluded that the parabens caused the tumors. Media and consumer advocacy groups created a firestorm, perpetuating this erroneous conclusion. Fake news! A completely unnecessary consumer demand for paraben-free products was born.
But the one important question remains, one that consumers are unlikely to even think to ask. What alternative preservative is being used in those skincare products that are "free-from" parabens? Has the paraben preservative been replaced with DMDM Hydantoin, a formaldehyde-releasing preservative (not terrible unless you have an allergy to it or are eczema-prone)? Or is phenoxyethanol or iodopropynl butylcarbamate being used? The safety of these chemicals is not as well documented at that of parabens as they are all less studied alternatives.
A skincare product with "free-from" on the label may tell you what's NOT in the product, but it says nothing about the safety of the product. Don't be fooled!
Search Our Blog!
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