THE CHARCOAL TREND
Like many ingredients touted as beneficial in skincare products, you can add activated charcoal to the list of "newest fads."
Charcoal is the result of burning a carbon rich material (like wood) at a low heat without oxygen. It creates a non-porous (without spaces) carbon substance. Heat up this substance with steam (oxygen) in a pressurized environment and activated charcoal is the result. Unlike charcoal, activated charcoal is porous, filled with many tiny sponge-like spaces or pores. All these little spaces within activated charcoal create a large surface area that is particulary helpful for "soaking up substances."
Although there is little, if any, scientific evidence proving efficacy, manufacturers often claim that activated charcoal in skincare products can absorb oil from skin pores, draw out dirt that other cleansers cannot reach (which probably means you're using the wrong cleanser), and remove "toxins" (although manufacturers never identify exactly which "toxins" they're talking about.) Some manufacturers go so far as to claim that activated charcoal has anti-aging properties.
After review of the dermatologic literature, no clinically significant scientific evidence proving the claimed benefits of topically applied activated charcoal in skincare products could be found. Products containing activated charcoal are usually inexpensive, and due to their black color, pretty cool looking. So although no scientific evidence proving any benefits of topically applied activated charcoal could be found, there was no evidence finding it harmful, either.
The best skincare advice: Moisturize, apply daily sunscreen, live a healthy lifestyle (eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, exercise regularly), and if you have a little disposable income and wish to "have fun" with a trendy, neat looking skincare product that contains activated charcoal, go for it!
ALL ABOUT VITAMIN C
Yes, vitamn C is good for you. As an essential vitamin, one that the human body cannot manufacture or store, it must be included in your daily diet, acquired from natural sources, like citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables, or taken as a supplement. Adequate vitamn C is necessary for the formation of connective tissue, for the absorption of iron, and important in wound healing. Too little vitamin C leads to bleeding gums and general muscle weakness. Too much vitamin C results in diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, even kidney stones. The absorption of vitamin C by the gut is limited despite high oral doses. Excess vitamin C is excreted in the urine. Research has yet to show that ingesting mega doses of vitamin C can pump up levels of the vitamin in the skin.
Vitamin C is an important molecule as it plays a vital role in collagen synthesis, the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissue. It is commonly found in skincare products with the hopes of repairing sun damaged skin and increasing collagen formation. Although few research studies do indicate that vitamin C containing skincare products (especially those with a very low pH) may reduce the number of sunburn cells on the skin surface after exposure to ultraviolet light, the majority of "oxidative damage" and wrinkle formation occurs in the lower layers of skin, in the dermis. Unfortunately, the ability of vitamin C to penetrate into the lower layers of skin is limited by its water solubility and extremely unstable nature. Vitamin C is oxidized readily in the presence of oxygen, and once it is, it is no longer an active vitamin.
Many vitamin C containing 'anti-aging' creams, serums, and gels are available. Many of them do not contain the most active form of vitamin C, ascorbic acid, and those that do, are often not formulated at the appropriate low pH that maximizes the effects of vitamin C (because at such a low pH products often cause irritation and inflammation.) And none of them, once exposed to air and applied onto the skin, are able to prevent the vitamin C from oxidizing and turning into an inactive yellow compound called Dehydro Ascorbic Acid (DHAA).
Consumers read the front of a skincare product and are content when it contains vitamin C. They do not know the pH of the product, as manufacturers are not required to put that information on the label. It is not evident when the vitamin C is inactive because of the wrong pH or because the form of vitamin C in the product has minimal, if any, benefit. In addition, until the product turns brown or orange, which may be difficult to see as many vitamin C containing skincare products are packaged in dark bottles (in an attempt to minimize exposure to light and oxygen), they can't tell whether the vitamn C has already oxidized. The consumer is happy with the product because 'contains vitamin C' is written on the front label.
As cosmetics, vitamin C containing 'anti-aging' products cannot legally claim to change the structure of skin or they would be classified as drugs and need to acquire FDA premarket approval (see Cosmetic vs Drug.) In actuality, vitamin C containing skincare products are formulated as moisturizers. The anti-oxidant and stabilizing effects the vitamin C has on the formulation itself may be beneficial, but it is likely the mositurizing ability of these products that appeals to the consumer. 'Anti-aging' benefits of topical vitamin C products remains controversial. And none of them have been shown to be as effective as sunscreen.
THE BEST SUNSCREEN
There is no doubt that the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays are damaging to the skin. UV light is a major risk factor for cancer development, sunburn, and premature aging. Scientific evidence clearly supports the use of sunscreen as a safe and effective way to protect the skin from the damaging effects of the sun's UV radiation.
The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulates sunscreen products as over-the-counter drugs. These products must prove safety and efficacy before being sold on skincare aisles. The benefits of using sunscreen have clearly been shown to outweigh any unproven human health hazards from sunscreen ingredients. The FDA has approved 17 sunscreen filters (ingredients.) Sunscreens contain one or more of these ingredients.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher (see Sun Facts to learn more.)
Correct sunscreen application impacts sunscreen effectiveness. Sunscreen should be applied liberally and often. Sunscreen should be applied prior to going outdoors and allowed to dry on the skin. This may take 10-15 minutes. UV light damage is cummulative so sunscreen should be applied daily to all exposed surfaces, even on cold or cloudy days (as UV rays penetrate the clouds.) The average adult in a bathing suit should apply 1 ounce (a shot glass full) to cover all exposed skin surfaces. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every 2 hours and immediately after swimming or excessively sweating for continued protection. Regardless of whether you select a sunscreen bottle, spray, or stick, applying an adequate amount of sunscreen is necessary to obtain the SPF protection shown on the sunscreen label.
The BEST sunscreen is the one you use, use liberally, and use often.
Try the Product Selector to select a sunscreen that's right for you!
DON'T BUY SNAKE OIL!
"Don't cross your eyes, they'll get stuck like that!" "Don't go outside with a wet head, you'll get a cold." "Sleep on your back to prevent the formation of wrinkles." Or, "If you don't take your makeup off before you go to sleep at night, you'll get more wrinkles." What you'll get is a dirty pillowcase!
Science based medicine evaluates medical treatments and advice in a scientific light, promoting the highest standards in healthcare. The gold-standard for a scientific study is the Randomized Double-Blinded Placebo Control ( RDBPC) study which, by design, minimizes biases, and has the ability to demonstrate the cause and effect relationship. Unfortunately, these studies can be expensive and time consuming.
All too often, skincare "experts" give advice based on assumption and personal experience. Human "intuition" and personal experience are awful ways to figure out which treatments are actually effective. (read more)
Scientific studies, even RDBPC studies, are not perfect, but experimental studies are, by far, the best way to find out if a particular medicine, ingredient, or therapy is safe and effective. It's the basis of almost every major medical advance in history!
When you come across skincare advice, question whether the advice is based on scientific studies or someone's "intuition." Conjucture in medicine is dangerous. It is "ok" to "not be sure" or to conclude "further studies need to be done." But snake-oil exists. Don't buy any!
A "NIGHT CREAM" IS ESSENTIAL
A "Night Cream" is a moisturizer. Yes, it is often (but not always) thicker, found in a smaller jar, and more expensive per ounce than a conventional facial moisturizer. Night creams sold on skincare aisles are formulated just like other facial moisturizers. They are water based, contain humectants to pull water into the most superficial layer of skin, occlusives to prevent water from evaporating into the environment, emulsifiers to keep the water and oily components from seperating, preservative to keep the formulation from becoming contaminated with mold and bacteria, and frequently, fragrance. There is a common myth that "skin rejuvenates at night." Research at the cellular level suggests that a possible "circadian rhythm" of skin STEM cells may exist. Cells in the superficial layer of skin, the epidermis, however, continuously divide and turnover 24/7. When the alarm clock rings at 7:00 am, skin cells don't stop replicating!
A "night" cream is a facial moisturizer that does NOT contain sunscreen.
FALSE: You do NOT need a "night" cream.
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