Facial Care

The great thing about all natural skin care is that it's not just about using natural beauty products—it's also about nourishing your skin from the inside. Project Wellness serves as a natural skin care blog that can help you decipher which products to use and how to feed your skin internally. We'll continue to fill the blog with natural skin care tips, from cleansing rituals to hydration to the latest and greatest product ingredients. In one easy spot, you'll find information about natural skin care that draws from clinical research and the expertise of our estheticians, including information about natural sun protection and natural makeup looks that are perfect for every woman.

  • Gluten-Free Skin and Body Care

    No wheat, barley or rye. Sometimes no oats. For those living with Celiac disease or wheat allergies, reading food labels in search of these ingredients is a way of life.

    Although a gluten-free diet helps manage both conditions, the causes of the two are different. Wheat allergies are one of the most-common food allergies—they generate an antibody in reaction to the proteins found in wheat, producing a variety of symptoms, from hives and rashes to abdominal pain or breathing trouble. For those with Celiac disease, on the other hand, the reaction comes from one particular protein in wheat, called gluten, which can result in an abnormal and often severe immune system reaction in the small intestines.

    But what about gluten in products besides food? Gluten is often added to skin care products in ingredients that thicken or provide a creamy texture. Wheat protein in shampoos, for example, strengthens and adds fullness to the hair. Although some researchers say the proteins in gluten are too large to be absorbed through the skin, many people with Celiac disease and gluten or wheat allergies choose to limit their exposure.

    “There definitely needs to be more clinical research on topical gluten reactions,” says Julie McGinnis, a dietician at our south Boulder location (who happens to be an expert in gluten-free living). She says that in her practice, she’s seen many individuals who experience skin problems like acne, rashes or inflammation when they use products that contain gluten or other wheat proteins. “It may be a reaction from ingested glutens, topical glutens or both. Switching to gluten-free skin and body products can often help,” she says. Many people with eczema and less severe wheat sensitivities say their skin reacts better to gluten-free body, hair and skin care products, too.

    But glutens or wheat proteins may be tricky to identify. A good place to start is looking for any ingredient with wheat, barley, malt, rye or oat included in the name. Some of the most common ingredients containing gluten can be found as triticum vulgare (wheat), hordeum vulgare (barley), secale cereale (rye), avena (oat), phytosphingosine (made from yeast), tocopherol and vitamin E (sometimes derived from wheat).

    Because of the number of ingredients that may be suspect, sometimes it’s simplest to just look for products that are already labeled “gluten-free.” Fortunately Pharmaca offers a wide variety of skin care products that come with the gluten-free label. Here’s a rundown of some gluten-free favorites from Staci Minovitz, esthetician at our Los Angeles store.

    Acure’s Sensitive Facial Cleanser Argan Oil + Probiotic. This creamy cleanser is rich in calming botanical extracts like chamomile and rosehips, and its omega fatty acids hydrate and protect the skin’s natural balance.

    Alaffia EveryDay Shea Butter Body Lotion is a luxurious body moisturizer that blends hand-crafted shea butter with soothing lemongrass and antioxidants red palm oil and shea leaf.

    Pre de Provence Soaps and Cleansing Bars are gluten-free, and the milk, shea butter and argan varieties are particularly kind to sensitive skin.

    Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic Shampoos and Conditioners are formulated without chemical preservatives, petrochemicals or sulfates. Good for all hair types, these are nourishing, lightweight and full of antioxidants and organic essential oils like tamanu seed, red raspberry, pumpkin seed and black cumin to keep your scalp healthy.

    Finally, a gluten-free no-brainer: If you’ve got Celiac or a wheat allergy, it’s especially important to look for gluten-free lip balms, since they’re so easily ingested. Recommended by both Staci and Julie, ZuZu Luxe Lip Glosses are vegan and blend jojoba seed oil, sea fennel extract and sunscreen to moisturize and protect. Suki Lip Repair Butter and Juice Beauty’s Lip Glosses also hydrate and treat lips with natural oils and (safe) soy-based vitamin E.

    Check with a Pharmaca esthetician for more selections and favorites, or check out our entire selection of gluten-free facial care, glute-free body care, gluten-free hair care and gluten-free oral care.

  • BB & CC: The New ABCs of Beauty

    BB and CC creams are some of the most talked about beauty innovations to hit the market in recent times. BB, short for beauty balm, is a time-saving, all-in-one facial product. Created by a German dermatologist years ago, BB creams have steadily grown in popularity around the world, even as their formulations have evolved.

    Today’s BB creams cover all the essentials in one package. Advanced technologies combine moisturizer, coverage, skin treatment and sunscreen. The next generation of these multi-tasking creams is the CC cream, short for color correcting, that takes the benefits of BBs and adds ingredients that balance skin in a lighter-textured product. Here are a few of our favorite versions of these one-stop wonders.

    Beth Walker-Ellwood, esthetician at our downtown Boulder store, recommends jane iredale’s Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream. “I love that this offers serious coverage that’s great for hiding scars or discoloration, along with a host of healthy nutrients. It’s good for all skin types (except for those with acne), and makes it easy to obtain a polished look.”

    Glow Time combines the best of Mother Nature, including grapefruit extracts to minimize wrinkles and large pores, sunflower seed oil to moisturize, apple extracts for brightening and aloe juice to soothe the skin. This BB also has a broad-spectrum SPF 25 sunscreen to block both UVA and UVB rays. Ranging from fair to very dark, Glow Time is offered in six shades to match most skin tones.

    Great skin care isn’t just for women, however. Men can benefit, too, from Andalou Naturals’ Oil Control Beauty Balm Un-Tinted SPF 30featuring the same multi-purpose formula as other BBs, but without the color or tint. Especially good for oily skin, or for those prone to acne, this BB is full of botanicals and minerals that renew the skin, diminish oil and offer moisturizing, SPF 30 UVA/UVB protection.

    For those with mature skin, or those just looking for a lighter-weight product, Juice Beauty's Stem Cellular Repair CC Cream is the answer. “It’s especially great for summer with its chemical-free, high SPF and light texture,” says Beth. This cream incorporates skin perfecting color technology and mineral pigments that adjust to match individual skin tones. And its stem cell properties minimize signs of aging, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve firmness and moisturize.

    Ready to try a BB on for size? Talk to a Pharmaca esthetician about choosing the multi-tasker that’s right for your skin.

  • Dr. Hauschka’s Commitment to Authenticity, Integrity & Transparency

    Dr. Hauschka Skin Care proudly displays the mark of NATRUE certification, an international standard for natural and organic skin care. NATRUE certification ensures that a product has met the strongest criteria available for natural ingredients in cosmetics, as verified by an independent certifier.

    NATRUE_logo NATRUE is a non-profit, international association founded by some of the true pioneers of natural and organic cosmetics. The NATRUE seal establishes a natural and organic cosmetic certification that is internationally recognized, transparent and whose criteria is readily available to consumers worldwide.

    NATRUE certification assures our customers of our products' purity and quality. It is awarded exclusively to products and manufacturers that meet the following standards:

    Natural IngredientsBDIH_logo

    • Raw materials derived from nature
    • Minimal processing
    • Free of synthetic fragrances, colors and dyes

    Safety and Purity

    • No petroleum-derived synthetics (parabens, propylene glycol, silicones)
    • Exclusively non-toxic processing methods (no PEG's, Sodium Laureth Sulfate)
    • No nano-engineered ingredients
    • No irradiation at any stage of production
    • Demonstrated efforts to avoid genetically modified organisms

    Holistic Business

    • Eco-friendly harvesting and processing
    • No animal testing
    • Socially responsible business practices
    • Recyclable/biodegradable packaging

    As Dr. Hauschka transitions from certification by the BDIH, an association of German product manufacturers, to the international standard set by NATRUE, some products may still display BDIH certification. The BDIH's standards are comparable to those set by NATRUE and their “Guidelines for Natural Cosmetics” are amongst the most selective available. Following comprehensive independent testing and verification, BDIH certification is awarded exclusively to products that are free of synthetic preservatives, fragrances, dyes and petroleum-derived synthetics.

  • How do Plant Stem Cells Work?

    From our friends at MyChelle Dermaceuticals

    Stem cells have been a topic of increased research and advancement in the past decade—along with passionate debate from those who tout their health-promoting potential and those who warn of the slippery ethical slope they represent. The good news is that scientists have now found a way to gain some of the health benefits of stem cells without the moral ambiguity: by harvesting them from plants and fruit instead of human tissue. These plant stem cells show remarkable promise, and they’re already proving themselves to be powerful skin healers.

    The multipurpose cell
    While most cells in an organism have a specific purpose (i.e., a brain cell is specialized for the brain, a skin cell is specialized for the skin), stem cells have the potential to develop into various types of cells, and can repair and replace damaged cells by dividing almost limitlessly. When they divide, the new cells can become specialized cells in a process called differentiation.

    These new, specialized cells are usually the same types of cells as those near which they reside (in other words, a stem cell in the skin would generate new skin cells). The reason scientists are so excited about the use of stem cells is that so many diseases and disorders involve cell damage and death. Having access to cells that can proliferate  seemingly endlessly—and transform into the types of cells the body needs—offers amazing potential for treating disease.

    Plant stem cells
    One exciting area of research for stem cells is in treating skin problems, such as wrinkles, visible capillaries and sun damage. In the basal layer of the epidermis (the deepest layer of the outer surface of the skin), stem cells divide and replace lost or dying cells. They also repair the skin when it suffers injury. The epidermis is in a constant state of renewal—sloughing cells every single day—so it requires non-stop cell replacement. Therefore it’s essential that we optimize epidermal stem cell population throughout our lives, even as we age.

    As our skin faces its daily assaults—environmental toxins, excess sun exposure, improper nutrition—we run the risk of overwhelming the epidermal stem cells. When this happens, stem cells might not be able to keep up with the demand of cellular turnover, resulting in an excess of damaged cells and, eventually, aged and damaged skin.

    Recently, researchers have begun looking to plants as a source for stem cells, and those plant stem cells have proven to be effective in supporting the skin’s cellular turnover. Like human stem cells, plant stem cells develop according to their environment.

    The inspiration for using plant stem cells in skin care came from an unusual source: an almost extinct apple tree in Switzerland.

    Originally bred in the 18th century for their incredible shelf life, Uttwiler Spätlauber apples shrank into obscurity as modern shipping and storage caused longevity to take a backseat to flavor. Even more astonishing than the fruit’s long-lasting freshness was its ability to heal itself: When an apple was scratched while still on the tree, the skin would quickly regenerate and close the wound.

    Luckily, the Uttwiler Spätlauber, and the stem cells that gave it its staying power, caught the attention of researchers just in the nick of time—only a few trees remained in the world when scientists began to research its health benefits. Researchers found a way to extract stem cells from the fruit and generate new ones in a lab, and then began investigating how human cells would react to them.

    The results were astonishing: They found the apple’s stem cells could stimulate human stem cell proliferation by 80 percent and could protect human stem cells against UV damage. In experiments on human skin, researchers discovered that a cream containing the apple extract and liposomes from lecithin could decrease wrinkle depth by an average of 8 percent in just two weeks and by 15 percent in four weeks.

    New Frontiers
    Since the discovery of the Uttwiler Spätlauber’s remarkable skin benefits, leaders in the natural skin care industry have been looking for other sources of plant stem cells. After much research, two more plants have proven to have exciting and unique stem cell potential.

    Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is an herbaceous plant that grows on mountain ranges from the Pyrenees and Alps to the Himalayas. Over time it has developed many natural defenses in order to survive the extreme climates in which it grows. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In a recent study, 20 participants applied a cream containing Edelweiss stem cells to their faces twice daily for 40 days. The cream was found to reduce wrinkle depth of the eye contour area by 15 percent after only 20 days. Edelweiss stem cells also seem to be helpful in preventing collagen loss, firming and restructuring the skin, and preventing aging and sun damage.

    Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) is a small herbaceous plant that is found in southeast

    Asia, Australia and Africa. Gotu Kola grows in wet, marshy, high-altitude areas.

    In Indian traditional medicine, it is used for the healing of wounds, burns and varicose ulcers. Gotu Kola stem cells are helpful in firming and restructuring the skin, addressing stretch marks, controlling cellulite, and supporting good blood vessel tone.

    Plant stem cells are perhaps the most promising field of research in skin care today. Look to MyChelle products at the forefront of this new technology--creating natural skin care that shows visible results without the use of toxins.

  • A Solution for Every Skin Problem

    From breakouts to skin discolorations, Pharmaca has a natural, effective solution for every one of your skin concerns. Here, our estheticians recommend their favorites.

    Astara’s Blue Flame Purifying Treatment
    is a really wonderful product. It’s got salicylic acid, Tottara tree essence, witch hazel and tea tree oil that work together to kill bacteria. It works really well as a spot treatment, and even works for women who have hormonal or stress-related breakouts.
    -Margie Gonzales, Menlo Park

    I recommend the Sanitas Skin Light Gentle, which contains high concentrations of vitamin C and kojic acid to speed cell renewal—the discolored skin will slowly fade and new skin will show through. It also contains a small amount of hydroquinone, which can be prescribed in higher doses by a dermatologist to lighten skin. I also like Jurlique’s new Purely Bright line, which contains a powerful concentration of Kakadu Plum, the world's richest natural fruit source of vitamin C.
    -Lisa Sawabini, Portland

    Our herbalists recommend Quantum’s Scar Reducing Herbal Cream. One of the main ingredients is odorless onion extract, found in a lot of physician-recommended scar treatments, but with vitamin E and 14 other herbs for healing. It’s always best to use immediately after the wound heals, but it may even help later, since it can help heal stretch marks and calluses. We’ve been getting fabulous customer feedback on this for years!
    -Dana Garced, La Jolla

    Dry Skin
    Many skin issues need to be addressed internally, so if someone said they have dry skin, I’d want to make sure they’re taking omega-3s internally and getting lots of fruits and veggies in their diet.

    On the skin, I like Sanitas’ Topical C since it firms the skin, repairs elasticity and can help reduce free radical damage from the sun. I also love anything with hyaluronic acid—it’s a humectant that binds the moisture from the environment to the skin. Even people with oily skin say it helps balance their oil production. Derma E offers a Hyaluronic Acid Crème for day use and a more concentrated formula for the evening.
    -Victoria Haket, Menlo Park

    If you’re looking to treat wrinkles under your eyes, I like the Sanitas PeptiDerm Eye Treatment. Many people see a difference in just a few weeks! Other treatments are meant to prevent wrinkles, but this is actually supposed to reverse the damage that’s already been done. Peptides work on wrinkles in other areas of the skin, too.
    -Catherine Navarro, Brentwood, Calif.  

    Dark circles
    I love the new Cowgirl Extreme Eye Cream—it’s kind of an all-purpose eye treatment for hydration, fine lines, dark circles and puffiness. It’s got collagen-boosting peptides, as well as a shot of vitamins A and C to help keep your eyes looking healthy and bright!
    -Sara A., Seattle - Madison Park

    Get a personalized recommendation for your skin concerns when you speak with a Pharmaca esthetician.

  • What's In Your Skin Care?

    Americans use an astonishing number of different personal care products--from sunscreen to wrinkle cream--with potentially unsafe ingredients. Because the FDA has so little oversight of skin care, consumers have to be aware about what they're putting where.

    Why? Here are some numbers to keep in mind:

    10: The average number of different cosmetics or personal care products humans slather, spray or rub on every day. (via Discovery.com)

    The average number of ingredients applied to the skin each day. (via Environmental Working Group)

    22 percent:
    The percentage of personal care products on the market that contain at least one chemical linked to cancer. (via Environmental Working Group)

    60 percent:
    The portion of those creams, lotions and makeup that our skin absorbs. (via Discovery.com)

    That means that unless you're hyper-vigilant about everything you put on your skin, there's a pretty good chance that one of your skin care products contains a carcinogenic ingredient. (Click here to learn more from the Environmental Working Group about ingredients to avoid.)

    That's in part due to the fact that the onus for testing product safety falls on the cosmetic companies themselves. According to the FDA, "Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing." They go on to say that "a manufacturer may use any ingredient in the formulation of a cosmetic provided that the ingredient and the finished cosmetic are safe, the product is properly labeled, and the use of the ingredient does not otherwise cause the cosmetic to be adulterated or misbranded under the laws that FDA enforces." (via FDA)

    Fortunately, Pharmaca has taken the guesswork out of choosing the most natural products that are also the most effective. Our quality standards ensure we carry a wide selection of personal care products made without harmful ingredients. "We always try to stay away from ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, parabens, ammonia, formaldehyde and toluene," says Tiana Ukleja, manager of Pharmaca's skin care and cosmetics category.

    “So many of the cosmetics and skin care companies we work with are actively formulating their products without harmful ingredients, and even working toward natural certifications—like EcoCert, Natrue and the USDA Organic seal—for their products,” says Tiana. "They’re on top of the research and know that Pharmaca customers are too.”

    That’s why so many of the products Pharmaca offers are made with top-quality ingredients that aren’t just good for your skin, they actually work. From organic essential oils to biodynamically farmed herbs, from fruit-derived antioxidants to nutrients from the sea, these ingredients are carefully selected for their ability to nurture and heal the skin, naturally.

    And Pharmaca’s on-staff estheticians are the icing on the cake. “We know that customers don’t always have time to read every label to make sure they’re getting the most natural, most effective ingredients,” says Tiana. “That’s why our estheticians are there—to offer that much-needed guidance.”

    Visit with a Pharmaca esthetitican today to talk about the latest natural ingredients, or shop Pharmaca's all-natural skin care and cosmetics.

  • Exfoliation for Healthy, Glowing Skin

    Want to give your skin a healthy glow? Learn how exfoliation works to clear pores, tighten skin and boost absorption of treatments and moisturizers—and why it should be a regular part of your beauty routine.

    “Everyone needs some exfoliation,” says Kathryn Fairbanks, esthetician at our Berkeley location. “It’s especially important for aging skin because as we age, the skin slows its cellular renewal. So you want to slough that dead skin to create a healthy glow.”

    To start with, a system like the Clarisonic sonic face cleansing tool can help by doing a deep pore cleansing every day. “The Clarisonic is super gentle and will mildly exfoliate,” says Kathryn. If you have oilier skin and need more exfoliation, she says, you could even pair it with a serious cleanser like Sanitas’ Glycolic Citrus Cleanser or Lactic Cleanser.

    The next level of exfoliation: An enzyme-rich product that offers what Kathryn calls “micro-exfoliation.” “Enzymes digest dead skin, so they’re great for sensitive skin that can’t handle manual exfoliation (such as a physical scrub like Astara’s Daily Refining Scrub),” says Kathryn. Juice Beauty’s Exfoliating Cleanser, for example, includes enzymes from organic pineapple juice, along with nourishing oils like jojoba and avocado. “It’s gentle enough for everyday use, or you could alternate it with another cleanser,” says Kathryn. “It leaves the skin looking glowing and fresh without feeling you’ve scrubbed too hard.” For a twice-a-week treatment, try Sanitas’ Pumpkin Enzyme Mask.

    For more intense exfoliation, peels with glycolic and lactic acids help firm and slough skin. “Similar to an enzyme, glycolic dissolves the dead skin, but more intensely,” says Kathryn. She recommends the Astara Exfoliating Marine Treatment once or twice a week.

    Similarly, the fruit acids in Juice Beauty’s Green Apple Peel will digest the dead skin, but penetrate deeper than enzymes. “Both of these will firm and tighten the skin, help reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines and wrinkles, and create a healthy glow,” says Kathryn.

    No matter what, the more consistently you exfoliate, the better your other skin care products (especially moisturizers or serums) will work. And the same principles go for exfoliation on the rest of your body—try Alba Hawaiian’s Sea Salt Body Scrub on elbows, heels or anywhere else that needs a little softening.

    Talk to a Pharmaca esthetician about your skin type and the exfoliation regimen that will work best for you.

  • Your Skin Health Questions Answered

    We asked Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, member of Pharmaca's Integrative Health Advisory Board, to weigh in on some of our customers skin health questions. Here's what she has to say about creating a clearer, more radiant complexion.

    What can I do to minimize wrinkles?
    The two most important things you can do to prevent wrinkles: Avoid excessive sun exposure and don’t smoke. I always recommend sunscreen on the face, neck, ears and top of head (especially for balding individuals) if spending more than 10 minutes in the sun. Though we need some sun exposure for creation of vitamin D, too much can damage the skin and increase our risk for skin cancer.

    Next, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A pure, clean moisturizer (i.e. without all the nasty chemicals) is your very best friend when it comes to reducing the appearance of wrinkles. At the same time, make sure you don’t overdo face washing, as it can strip away the natural oils in the skin. I always recommend using a soap with moisturizer or a natural skin care cleanser that is designed for sensitive skin, as these are usually less harsh and drying.

    As far as nutrition, make sure you’re getting those omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, either by eating cold-water oily fish or taking 1,000 mg of fish oil (EPA/DHA) every day. And a diet rich in vegetables and fruits (with a low glycemic load) will provide you with all the antioxidants you need for healthy skin.

    Retinoids are one of the most common treatments to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Tretinoin (RetinA) is the only FDA-approved treatment for wrinkles, but can be highly irritating to the skin. In its place, retinol, a natural form of vitamin A that’s available in many over-the-counter products, can also be highly effective and is usually better tolerated on the skin. Tretinoin and retinol increase the skin’s capacity to hold water by stimulating the synthesis of glycosaminoglycan and collagen.

    Other options include alpha hydroxy acids, natural fruit acids that remove the top layer of dead skin cells, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and stimulating the production of collagen. Topical vitamin C may also be helpful.

    What are the most important things I can do to maintain youthful-looking skin?
    In addition to the above recommendations (don’t smoke, protect your skin from excessive sun exposure, etc.), make sure you use a gentle cleanser and moisturizer every day. Look for a moisturizer that meets the needs of your skin (e.g. dry, sensitive). In addition, a gentle exfoliant once a week can remove older skin cells and brighten/freshen the appearance.

    It’s also critical to focus on your diet if you want to look beautiful both inside and out! There is very strong evidence that all the sugar in our diet contributes to the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which bind and damage the collagen and elastin in skin. This is what makes the skin sag, lose tone and take on a lackluster hue. You can see early signs of this process when you look at the skin of a 45-year old who’s smoked for 25 years.

    If you want your skin to remain healthy and youthful in appearance, I recommend a low-glycemic load diet. The New Glucose Revolution by Jennie Brand-Miller is an excellent way to learn how to change your diet to reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers. This dietary pattern will also keep your skin radiant!

    What are the best treatments for acne?
    Acne is caused by hormonal imbalance, which leads to an overproduction of sebum that plugs follicles, creating an environment conducive to the overgrowth of bacteria. Plugged pores (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples and even deep cysts can develop on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Acne is often present in teenagers due to fluctuating hormones, and many women complain of acne during the menopausal transition. Sometimes chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus castus) can be useful for reducing acne at doses of 300-500 mg taken each morning.

    There are several vitamins that are very important for skin health when it comes to acne. Niacin (50 mg) and zinc (30 mg/d) reduce inflammation and have been shown to reduce inflammatory acne. Because zinc can deplete copper, make sure to add a supplement that provides 1 mg of copper per day.

    On a daily basis, wash the skin gently and thoroughly. If you wear makeup, use products that are hypoallergenic and fragrance free to reduce irritation and outbreaks. Topically, tea tree oil has been shown to be equivalent to benzoyl peroxide and better tolerated. Another of my favorite topicals is neem oil/cream. As a potent antibacterial, it often works when other topicals fail. And salicylic acid is often added to topical products as it can also reduce acne breakouts.

    Blue light therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for acne and is quite safe. The blue light destroys the bacteria inside your skin pores. This therapy is painless and is done in eight sessions of 10-15 minutes each at a dermatology clinic over a period of four weeks.

    If these types of therapies don’t work, a physician/dermatologist can prescribe tretinoin and/or antibiotics, depending upon the severity of the acne. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is extremely potent, effective and also dangerous. Women must be extremely careful not to get pregnant while taking the drug as it can cause birth defects.

    What can I do to minimize or erase liver spots?
    What are often called “liver” spots are actually areas of hyperpigmentation on our skin—they have nothing to do with our liver. These dark spots are most commonly a result of a condition known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). When inflammation occurs in the skin, a melanocyte-stimulating hormone is released, which then releases the enzyme tyrosinase, which converts tyrosine to L-DOPA, which then stimulates melanocytes to release melanin. That’s why many of the skin-lightening products for PIH contain ingredients that block tyrosinase, thus preventing the continued release of melanin, the pigment found in skin that causes it to darken upon exposure to ultraviolet light. PIH can occur in anyone, but is more common in individuals with darker skin because of their skin’s enhanced ability to produce melanin.

    Treatments that have been shown to lighten dark spots include topical agents like hydroquinone, mequinol, azelaic acid, kojic acid, licorice extracts, niacinamide, and retinoids. Some natural products also contain soy protease inhibitors, which have been clinically shown to lighten skin (though whole soy and soy isoflavones have not been shown to be effective).

    The best way to prevent hyperpigmentation is to avoid excessive inflammation and irritation. That means protecting the skin from sun damage, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet low in sugars, processed foods and rich in vegetables, nuts and fruits. Also consider taking omega-3 fatty acids (1000 mg EPA/DHA) and other herbal anti-inflammatories like turmeric and holy basil.

    Ultimately, your best strategy for skin health is a low-glycemic diet, good sun protection and not smoking. A daily multivitamin can fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet. If you are struggling with a skin condition that is not responding to over-the-counter treatments, make an appointment to see a dermatologist who can offer more in-depth guidance.

    Dr. Low Dog is an internationally recognized expert in the field of herbal medicine and integrative approaches to women's health. She is currently the Fellowship Director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. Find out more at drlowdog.com.

  • MyChelle's Secret Ingredient: Matrixyl synthe’6

    From our friends at MyChelle Dermaceuticals

    Throughout the years the face starts to reflect the times of fun, stress and memories. There are external and chronological factors that play a leading role in the aging process.. Sun exposure, pollution, dry climates, smoking and other bad habits that assault the skin lead to a breakdown of the dermal structure, commonly seen on the skin as wrinkles. In addition to extrinsic factors, we begin losing 1 percent of our collagen each year after our early 20s.

    Benefits of Matrixyl synthe’6
    Matrixyl synthe’6 is the new and much improved version of the popular Matrixyl family of ingredients. This advancement is a clean, non-toxic collaboration of notable ingredients that demonstrate--through evidence-based research and visual effect--a reduction in the volume and depth of a wrinkle. Matrixyl synthe’6 is a peptide, a chain of amino acids linked together. Studies have indicated that the sequence of the amino acids create the strong structural foundation for healthy, functioning skin.

    It is important that your skin care regimen include ingredients that stimulate the synthesis of collagen—the architectural structure of the skin. Matrixyl synthe’6 will affect the six major structural components of the skin to stimulate collagen and diminish or even prevent fine lines, increase hydration levels, and protect and repair damaged skin.

    The dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ) is where the epidermis, the top layer of the skin, meets the dermis, the lower layers of the skin. There is no blood flow in the dermis, so it relies on the epidermis for nourishment and protection. The epidermis sends efficacious ingredients from skin care products to the dermis through collagen channels. Matrixyl synthe’6 strengthens collagen; thereby, enhancing the communication between the epidermis and dermis. This helps create a fresh, youthful and glowing complexion.

    On an ingredient declaration, the collection of amino acids included in Matrixyl synthe’6 reads as glycerin, water, hydroxypropyl cyclodextrin and palmitoyl tripeptide-38. The previous version of Matrixyl 3000 contained the controversial ingredient butylene glycol. The advanced Matrixyl synthe’6 is not only better for the skin, but a purer formula. Natural and effective? Yes, please!

    Results You Will Notice
    So what does this all mean for you? You'll see a notable difference in your fine lines, they'll be less pronounced and your skin will be more refined. A significant decrease was observed in the severity of the wrinkle appearance after 30 days! The wrinkles were not as deep and the skin was smoother.

    On the forehead, measurements demonstrated a visible, mean reduction in wrinkle volume of 31 percent. This was complemented by a 28 percent reduction in the skin’s texture, which can be associated with a lifting effect. The maximum depth of the wrinkle decreased by a mean 16.3 percent.

    For the crow’s feet, the anti-wrinkle effect was measured through a decrease in the surface occupied by deep wrinkles by -28.5 percent, a decrease in the volume of a major wrinkle of -21 percent and a reduction in the mean depth by -15 percent. There was also a lifting effect since there was an approximate -13 percent reduction in skin’s texture.

    The Science
    These results are directly related to the in vitro results obtained, which demonstrated an increase in the quantity of six major components of cutaneous tissue:

    1. Collagen I improved by 111 percent
    Constitutes the most abundant collagen in our dermis

    2. Collagen III improved by 104 percent
    Referred to as the youth collagen because it is produced by our young fibroblast

    3. Collagen IV improved 42 percent
    Anchors the proteins in the basement layers of the skin

    4. Heat Shock Proteins improved by 123 percent
    Proteins whose expression is increased when cells are exposed to elevated temperatures or other stress

    5. Laminins improved 75 percent
    Is involved in the healing of damaged skin

    6. Hyaluronic production improved 174 percent
    An important component responsible for water retention

  • Dirty 30: How to Avoid Toxic Ingredients and Choose Safer Products

    From our friends at MyChelle Dermaceuticals

    Every day, millions of us reach for products that help keep our skin clean, hair shiny, teeth white and body smelling lovely. From moisturizer and lipstick to sunscreen and shampoo, these products are indispensable in today's busy world.

    Skin care ingredient lists use scientific names and it's hard to know which of these are bad and which just "sound" bad. We've made it easier for you by creating the Dirty 30, which lists the most toxic chemicals used in skin care today. Sure, it's cheaper and easier to buy a synthetic, toxic ingredient, but that's not MyChelle's style. MyChelle does not use the chemical preservatives, petroleum derivatives or toxic byproducts found in most skin care.

    Now that you know what to avoid, the next step is learning how to recognize safe and effective ingredients. MyChelle uses a variety of natural alternatives, so you don’t have to choose between a great complexion or good health.

    Ingredient Common Uses Affects
    Amylcinnamaldehyde Scent masking agent in face, skin care products Synthetic scent masking agent and
    known carcinogen.
    Artificial Colors

    (FD&C or D&C followed by color and/or number)

    Skin care, make-up, food, drinks Petroleum based; linked to allergies,
    cancer, and ADHD.
    Benzalkonium Chloride Antibacterial agent used in wipes, gels, contact
    solution, soap, skin antiseptics, spermicides
    Antibacterial agent linked to allergies
    and organ toxicity.
    Benzoyl Peroxide Acne care, bleaching agent Eye, skin, and respiratory irritant.
    Bisphenol-A (BPA)
    (#7 plastics may contain BPA, #1-6 are unlikely)
    Hard plastic packaging, bottles, make-up,
    nail polish
    Hormone disruptor.
    Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), Butylated
    Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
    Preservative or fragrance masking agent in skin
    care and food products
    Petroleum derived preservatives linked
    to endocrine disruption.
    Butylphenyl Methlyproprional (Lilial) Body and hair care, moisturizers Allergen and immune toxicant.
    Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA),
    Monoethanolamine (MEA)
    Emulsifier, pH adjuster, and foaming agent in
    shampoo, soaps, cosmetics
    Foaming agent that causes carcinogenic
    EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic), Tetrasodium
    EDTA, Disodium EDTA
    Binders in skin, hair and body care A potential formaldehyde (carcinogen)
    Fragrances (synthetic) Nearly everything: personal care, laundry and
    cleaning products, candles, air freshener
    Contain thousands of chemicals; linked
    to cancer and allergies.
    Hydroquinone Antioxidant, fragrance ingredient, bleaching
    agent and colorant in body, skin and hair care
    Causes photosensitivity and skin
    Imidazolidinyl, Diazolidinyl, DMDM Ureas used as antimicrobial preservatives in
    personal care products
    Preservatives that release formaldehyde,
    a carcinogen.
    Preservatives in body, skin and hair care,
    Skin irritant and possible neurotoxin.
    Mineral Oil or Mineral Spirits Conditioning agent and solvent in make-up and
    skin, body, and hair care
    Petroleum based; clogs pores and
    inhibits cell renewal.
    Octyl dimethyl PABA
    (padimate-0 or p-aminobenzoic acid)
    Sunscreen, lipstick, lip balm, and skin care to
    block UV light
    Linked to allergenic dermatitis and
    Oxybenzone Sunscreen to absorb UV light Linked to hormone disruption and
    cellular damage.
    (methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, ethyl-, isobutyl-,
    isopropyl-, poly-, benzyl-, phenyl-, calcium-,
    potassium-, icodecyl-, sodium-)
    The most commonly used synthetic
    preservatives in skin, hair and body care
    Mimics estrogen and disrupts
    hormones. Easily absorbs in skin and
    bioaccumulates. Linked to several
    types of cancer.
    Petroleum Jelly or White Petrolatum Skin, hair and bath care, makeup, shaving,
    sunscreen, cleaning products
    Often contaminated with heavy metals
    and carcinogens.
    Phenylenediamine (PPD)
    (o-, m-, p-, nitro-, amino-):
    Hair dye Toxic when mixed with hydrogen
    peroxide in hair dyes.
    (tere-, naph-, iso-, soy protein-, dibutyl-):
    Plasticizer in nail polish, hair spray, perfume.
    Often listed at Fragrance
    Impairs endocrine system. Linked to
    early breast development.
    Polyacrylamide Antistatic agent and film forming agent in
    moisturizers, gels, creams
    Synthetic polymer made from
    acrylamide, a carcinogen.
    Polybutene, Polyisobutene Plasticizer and viscosity agent in lip and eye
    products, sunscreen
    Skin irritant derived from petroleum.
    Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
    (Followed by a dash and number)
    Skin care, makeup, baby products, sunscreen Often contaminated with cancer causing
    toxins such as dioxin.
    Propylene Glycol (PG), Polypropylene Glycol
    Lotion, deodorant, sunscreen, shampoo,
    conditioner, body washes
    Damages skin by breaking down
    proteins and cellular structure.
    Quaternium, Polyquaternium
    (Followed by a number)
    Preservatives in makeup, skin, body
    and hair care
    Preservatives that release formaldehyde,
    a carcinogen.
    (cyclopenta-, cyclotetra-, hydroxypropyl
    poly-, dimethylpoly-):
    Hair and skin conditioning agent and emollient
    in conditioners, deodorant, foundation
    A known endocrine disruptor and skin
    and eye irritant.
    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth
    Sulfate (SLES):
    Common foaming agent in health and beauty
    Foaming agents contaminated with 1,4
    dioxane, a carcinogen.
    Talc/Talcum powder Makeup, baby, body and deodorizing powders Causes respiratory problems. May be
    contaminated with asbestos fibers.
    Triclosan Antibacterial agent and preservative in toothpaste,
    personal care, and home cleaning products
    A synthetic preservative and endocrine
    Urea Humectant and buffering agent in skin care.
    Very common synthetic preservative.
    Releases formaldehyde, possible

    Now that you know what to avoid, the next step is learning how to recognize safe and effective ingredients. MyChelle uses a variety of natural alternatives, so you don’t have to choose between a great complexion or good health.

    Toxic Ingredients MyChelle’s Safe & Effective Alternatives
    Phthalates Essential Oils; Natural Herbal, Floral and Fruit Extracts
    Parabens D-Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Plantservative from Honeysuckle
    Benzoyl Peroxide Totarol, Willow Bark, Tea Tree Oil, Sulphur, Zinc, Lemongrass
    Emulsifiers (DEA, TEA, MEA) Plant Waxes, Xanthan Gum, Cetearyl Olivate
    Propylene Glycol (PG) Lecithin, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Vegetable Glycerin
    Sulfates (SLS/SLES) Sugar Compounds, Coconut Oil Compounds
    Ureas Enzymes, Amino Acids, Oregano, Fruit Extracts
    Artificial Colors No added color; just 100% natural coloring from vitamins, herbs, fruits and flowers

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