ALL ABOUT SERUMS
What exactly is a serum? The term serum is a medical term referring to the clear liquid in blood after both the cells and clotting factors are removed. Somehow this term morphed into a kind of cosmetic that most consumers assume is a clear water-based liquid with the promise to brighten skin, decrease wrinkles, improve pigmentation, improve tone and texture, give the skin a younger appearance, and more. Fact is there is no standard definition for the formulation of a serum, neither from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), from cosmetic chemists or dermatologists.
The buzz about serum is that they claim to contain a higher concentration of certain ingredients than other facial skincare products. They may. Or they may not. Consumers have no way of knowing what the actual concentration of any particular ingredient is in a cosmetic because the amount of each ingredient is proprietary and not given on the ingredient listing or the label. Serums are often touted as miraculous because of the ingredients they contain like hyaluronic acid, caffeine, snail mucin, peptides or arbutin, to name a few. There is little, if any, scientific evidence proving the effectiveness of any of these ingredients, which surprisingly, is in the manufacturers' best interest. If these products could actually change the structure or function of skin, they'd be classified as drugs and manufacturers would have to obtain FDA pre-market approval at great expense. Serums are cosmetics, not drugs.
My concern with serums is more about the ingredients they don't contain. Most serums do not contain ingredients that keep water from evaporating from the skin, such as petrolatum, mineral oil or dimethicone. Without one of these types of ingredients, a product is not very effective as a moisturizer.
And how these products fit into a healthy skincare regimen is also arbitrary. Some companies recommend serum application between cleansing and moisturizing. Others recommend application after both cleansing and moisturizing. Which one is it?
Even more confusing, the variations of serums keep growing. You can find combination serums (like serums plus primer, another unnecessary product), double serums, daytime serums and nighttime serums - a hysterical concept as ingredients can't tell time. Can serums be fun to apply? Yep. Do they feel good on the skin? Sometimes. Can they cause allergic reactions or irritation? Yep. Do you really need a serum? Nope.
DO I NEED SHAMPOO?
Shampoo is quite a recent invention with the first synthetic shampoo, Drene, being introduced in the United States in the 1930s. Shampoo didn't become a household staple until the early 1960s when products like Breck, Prell, and Johnson & Johnson's Baby shampoo became popular. Prior to that, hair was typically washed with bar soap.
Traditional bar soap is made from animal fat and lye. When mixed with hard water, it left a difficult to rinse soap scum on the hair. This resulted in hair that felt rough and dry. It also left the hair unmanageable. And because traditional soap didn't lather well, there were plenty of marketing opportunities to promote new and improved hair cleansers.
Shampoo is a hair care product that is designed to clean, remove sebum, desquamating skin cells, oils, dirt and sweat from the scalp and hair. It is also designed to beautify. It is simple to formulate a shampoo that will removed unwanted oil and dirt from the hair and scalp but to formulate one that also leaves the hair soft, smooth and manageable is much more challenging. Formulating shampoo is a balancing act between removing enough of the unwanted oils and dirt so the hair appears clean while leaving the hair conditioned and aesthetically pleasing to the consumer.
Although there is no known overall health risk to shampooing with synthetic shampoos, there is little science studying the effects of daily exposure to shampoo ingredients. We do know that over washing the hair can damage the hair itself.
So, if you have a healthy scalp, do you really need to wash your hair with shampoo? For some individuals the answer is a resounding NO. Proponents of the 'no-poo' method espouse that there is no medical reason to wash the hair with synthetic shampoos and that doing so is solely determined by cultural norms. Strengthening their argument is the fact that shampooing has only become a daily essential in the past half-century and the fact that there is little, if any, research proving the health benefits of shampooing as part of our daily hygiene.
Modern shampoos have made it easier to get cosmetic outcomes that are pleasing (clean, silky, manageable hair.) It all depends on how much you want to pay for it and how you feel about using synthetic products.
The selection of effective shampoos on skincare aisles that both clean and beautify is plentiful. Which shampoo you prefer and how often you shampoo is still mostly based on personal preference. Regarding the instructions on many shampoo bottles, Lather Rinse Repeat, personally I don't follow them. I just lather and rinse.
DRY WINTER SKIN
The dry winter days are here. There are beautiful snowflakes. And with them come lots of skin flakes as well. Your skin is dry, scaly and may even show signs of cracking.
Moisturizers come as creams, lotions and ointments. Petroleum based ointments tend to be more occlusive, limiting the evaporation of water from the skin. During the cold winter months, oil based moisturizers may be more effective. For very dry skin and for problem areas such as the elbows and knees, moisturizers containing urea and/or lactic acid may be beneficial as these ingredients draw moisturize into the skin. One caution when using these types of moisturizers: they may cause the skin to sting or burn when applied to irritated, cracked, or inflamed skin.
Try these steps to alleviate dry winter skin:
- Moisturize more frequently (3 - 5 applications/day) to help keep the skin hydrated. Always apply moisturizer after a shower or bath.
- Take brief, 5 to 10 minute, showers with lukewarm water. Long showers and hot showers may strip the skin of its natural lipids and proteins that help maintain adequate hydration.
- Use a mild soap free cleanser to minimize the loss of the skin's own moisturizing proteins and lipids.
- Apply petroleum or wax based lip balm to help keep the lips smooth and prevent chapping.
- Apply moisturizers to your hands regularly.
- Cover up when exposed to dry cold winter air. Wear hats, gloves and scarves to help prevent dry skin and chapped lips.
- To increase moisturize levels in the home, consider using a humidifier. Humidity levels between 30% - 50% may prevent the skin from drying out.
- If dry skin is severe or if it persists, see a dermatologist to rule out any underlying medical cause of dry skin like eczema, psoriasis or other inflammatory process. Prescription products may be necessary.
You can select effective soap-free cleansers, moisturizers, hand creams and lip balms with the Product Selector tool.
EXPENSIVE SKINCARE, DON'T BOTHER
After 30 years of practicing dermatology, reading the medical literature and testing skincare product formulations it is clear to me that:
- There is no correlation between the cost of an over-the-counter (OTC) skincare cosmetic, including "anti-aging", "anti-wrinkle", firming, toning, and night creams, to name a few, and its efficacy. The ability of an OTC product to temporarily improve the appearance of fine lines depends on its ability to increase the water content of skin, to moisturize. And,
- There is no OTC skincare product that can reverse the aging process. As a matter of fact, science has yet to discover a single ingredient that can do that. Simply stated, there is no "Fountain of Youth" in a bottle, jar, tube or pump.
Too many of my patients spend an astronomical amount of money on OTC skincare products with the hopes of looking many years younger. $50, $80, $100 per ounce. Up to $4800 per pound. Absurd! Save your money. Aging is inevitable. Embrace it. Don't let marketing and media hype convince you that you are somehow physically inadequate. You're NOT.
Optimize your skin health and appearance by living a healthy lifestyle. Magic potions do not exist. Apply a well-formulated moisturizer that you can purchase at your local pharmacy. Apply sunscreen daily. And remind yourself often, you're already awesome!
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.
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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