Ingredient Spotlight: Glycerin

Source: flickr.com user Jeff Kubina
Source: flickr.com user Jeff Kubina

One of the most common skin care ingredients today is glycerin. Sometimes listed as glycerolglycerin is a simple sugar alcohol compound that’s used both for cosmetic purposes and to treat a range of skin care conditions.

Glycerin is a humectant. This means it attracts water, which makes it a great ingredient for use in dry skin care products. When a skin care formula containing glycerin is applied, it actually draws moisture in from external sources (like the air), while also sealing moisture into the skin.

In addition to attracting and sealing in water, glycerin also helps to maintain the skin’s natural water balance. This is obviously extremely important for dry and sensitive skin, but it can also help to treat and prevent visible signs of aging by “plumping” the skin and smoothing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

On a more medical level, glycerin is a great psoriasis treatment. One article published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology stated that glycerin is actually able to signal the skin cells to mature and exfoliate in a normal fashion. For psoriasis sufferers, this means that skin that would normally become thick and scaly can instead take on a normal, healthy, and more comfortable tone and texture. Similarly, glycerin can also work to speed wound healing, and may even help prevent or reduce the appearance of scarring.

On a very surface level, skin care glycerin just makes the skin look healthier. When skin is properly hydrated, it takes on a brighter and more radiant appearance. Immediately after applying glycerin, your skin will have this appearance. Over time as the glycerin provides its benefits, your skin will begin to look brighter and more radiant all the time!

As you can see, we love glycerin at Atopalm. Because we cater to dry and sensitive skin types, as well as those with psoriasiseczema, rosacea, and similar conditions, glycerin is a huge help to our clients. When glycerin is used in conjunction with our proprietary MLE formula, even extreme cases of dry, sensitive skin can find relief and beauty with Atopalm.

Skin Care Application: Too Much of a Good Thing

Source: freedigitalphotos.net
Source: freedigitalphotos.net

Last week on the Atopalm blog, we talked about how to properly apply and layer skin care products. (If you missed it, check out the Applying and Layering Skin Care Products post!) As sort of an add-on, I decided to also go over why it’s so important to follow beauty product application directions.

Many people think that skin care product application directions are superfluous. While it’s true that some cleanser instructions are fairly obvious (“Massage into damp skin. Rinse.”), even many of the simplest skin care products have a certain application process that can enhance the product’s efficacy, or even cause unnecessary damage to the skin. Here’s a look at common application specifics, and why they matter.

Damp Skin
Almost all skin care products recommend that one applies the product onto damp skin. There are absolutely many products that require dry skin, but applying products to damp skin is absolutely the most common recommendation.

To understand why, think of your kitchen sponge. When it’s used regularly and remains damp, it absorbs liquid readily. However, when it’s been sitting out and allowed to become dry and hard, it actually won’t absorb almost any liquid until it’s been moistened again.

Your skin works the same way. Dry skin somewhat repels liquids, creams, and the like. Moistened skin, however, will drink it up, allowing the active ingredients to penetrate deeper and provide better results.

Application Dosage
Another common application recommendation is the amount of product to use. A bottle will specify a pea-size amount, quarter-size amount, or even a dollop! These application amounts may sound made-up, but you should actually think of them as dosages. You wouldn’t take twice the prescribed amount of a medication; why would you twice as much product?

When a beauty product is formulated, especially highly active products, the formulators will figure out the exact dosage needed to provide great results without causing irritation. These “dosages” also help your product to last longer, as most people tend to over-apply, thinking that more is better. But, there can be too much of a good thing! Even a great product can cause irritation and damage when used too liberally.

Pay close attention to the bottle’s instructions on how much of your skin care product to use, and you’ll find that your results are better, with fewer (or no) adverse effects, and that your product lasts longer. It’s a win-win-win!

Specified Fingers
Now, this one is something that a lot of people find odd: when a skin care product specifies which fingers one should use to apply said product. Many people probably assume that the writer just got bored, or wanted to trick people into looking silly while applying face cream with their pinkies!

This beauty application step actually does have a reason, though. You’ll usually find these sorts of instructions on eye cream, and it will usually specify the ring finger. This is because the ring finger is generally the weakest finger on the hand, and the eye area is one of the most delicate places on the face. Weak finger + delicate area = reduced risk of skin damage. That’s all there is to it!

Now, if you find a product that tells you to apply a scrub with only your thumbs, you’re probably looking at the work of a prankster.

Time of Day
Last but not least, one of your beauty products may tell you to apply it at a certain time of day. You may think, “It’s face moisturizer. I’ll just use it when I want to use it.” However, there really is a different between some day and night formulations, and you actually risk damage to your skin by misusing them.

For example, a nighttime moisturizer with vitamin A is specifically designed to renew skin while you sleep. Its ingredients would work with your body’s natural healing process to reduce damage. The vitamin A would be included to reduce sun spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. What vitamin A can also do is make your skin highly sensitive to sunlight, making extreme skin care damage more likely.

Adversely, a daytime moisturizer is created to hydrate and protect while out and about. It probably has an SPF, and is focused on keeping sun and environmental damage at bay. While using a daily moisturizer at night may not cause damage, it does neutralize the product’s protective benefits, thereby making it an inferior skin care product.

Hopefully these tips sound more helpful than bossy; they’re intended to help you get the most out of your products! Just take a look at your regimen’s individual application directions and you’ll find that the instructions may not sound quite as silly as they used to.

Skin Care Ingredient Spotlight: Harsh Ingredients

Source: flickr.com user movetheclouds
Source: flickr.com user movetheclouds

Does your sensitive skin react to common skin care ingredients? You may have always assumed that the issue was your skin itself, but the truth is that you could actually be using harsh ingredients that would cause most skin to react!

You see, the unfortunate fact is that many skin care brands utilize ingredients that are “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS, even though they might cause a reaction in most skin types. The GRAS headline is very broad and includes essentially everything that won’t just melt your skin off.

Rather than settle for sub-par ingredients that do more harm than good, be choosy with your products and scan the ingredients list before purchasing. To give you a leg up, here are two of the most commonly used harsh skin care ingredients, and some gentler and more beneficial alternatives.

Sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate
This common cleansing and foaming agent goes by sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, or simply SLS. It is in almost all of the shampoos, face washes, body soaps, toothpastes (and more) at your local big box store.

The problem with SLS is that it is a known irritant, causing irritation in the eyes and on the skin. It is also believed that SLS can cause more irritation after extended use.

To give you an idea of just how harsh SLS is, ponder this: SLS is commonly used in industrial floor cleaners in places such as auto mechanic shops. Is that something you want in your hair and on your skin? Never!

Furthermore, many products containing SLS have been found to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which is a “probable human carcinogen” and is classified in California as a cancer-causing agent. The FDA encourages companies to remove this contaminant, though it is not required by law, which is an issue in and of itself.

Now that SLS’ ugliness has been revealed, what can you use instead? Well, the short answer is…Almost anything! There are so many gentler, natural cleansing agents out there that you basically have pick of the litter.

Personally, I love a coconut cleanser which uses coconut-derived cleansing agents and oils. Another great choice is castile soap, a vegetable-based soap which provides gentle cleansing and a rich lather.

Benzoyl peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide, or BP, is a very common acne treatment. Found in every type of acne skin care product, from cleansers to spot treatments, benzoyl peroxide is used without a second thought by millions of acne sufferers. BP is also sometimes used in non-acne treatments, though it is most commonly seen in products intended for acne.

However, BP is exceedingly harsh and has a long list of possible adverse effects, including skin burning, itching, peeling, dryness, swelling, and redness. BP is also a powerful bleaching agent which has the potential to lighten certain areas of the skin, as well as bleach stain your clothes, sheets, and towels.

The adverse effects of BP are, of course, experienced mainly by those with more sensitive skin types, though the effects can be seen in any skin type. In a 1977 study, 76% of BP users experienced some form of contact sensitivity, regardless of skin type.

If BP is such a harsh skin care ingredient, why is it used? Well, BP is also an effective acne treatment. It works by killing P. acnes (acne-causing) bacteria, and providing antimicrobial functions. However, there are plenty of benzoyl peroxide alternatives that work just as well, if not better, and without all the side effects.

Salicylic acid is a great alternative, though it should be considered a mid-range choice as it can also cause some redness and irritation in very sensitive skin types. Salicylic acid works by boosting cell turnover to slough away dead skin cells and “un-plug” acne blemishes. Because of its function, salicylic acid takes longer to heal current breakouts, though it is also an effective preventative treatment.

Another option is using a vitamin A or retinoid treatment. These products are for moderate to severe acne, and users may experience redness or peeling when using a vitamin A product. However, retinol acne treatments work well by unclogging pores, preventing future clogs, and also diminishing acne scars.

In addition, retinoids are also effective anti-aging skin care ingredients, and are also used as a treatment for psoriasis. Therefore, a retinol product might be a great choice if you suffer from a combination of any of these skin care concerns.

Skin Care Ingredients: Natural Oils

Source: flickr.com user bottleleaf
Source: flickr.com user bottleleaf

Have you ever said no to a new skin care product simply because it contained oils? Many people are nervous about using oils on their skin because they believe that the oils will make them break out with blackheads and acne blemishes, or will make their oily skin even oilier!

The truth is, many skin care oils are nothing but good for your skin! Of course, there are some oils you want to stay away from, but most of the oils used in today’s beauty products fall under the category of non-comedogenic.

Non-comedogenic oils won’t clog your pores, make skin feel oily, or cause blemishes. They will instead deliver concentrated nutrients and moisture to the skin, which will help it to become healthier, softer, and more radiant. These oils are generally safe for all skin types, including acne-prone skin, as long as one isn’t allergic to the type of oil being used.

To give you an idea of the benefits which can be obtained through natural skin care oils, here’s a look at some of the oils used in Atopalm’s products.

Grape seed oil is an extremely gentle moisturizing oil that is ideal for hydrating sensitive skin and, amazingly enough, oily skin. Grape seed oil actually helps your skin regulate its own oil production, which means that oily skin will be balanced, and dry skin will begin to create a healthier level of natural oils. Finally, grape seed oil is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which can help brighten the complexion.

Olive fruit oil is another great oil for oily and acne-prone skin, while being moisturizing enough for use on dry skin. It is able to heal UV damage, tighten the skin, and tone for a more youthful appearance. It closely mirrors the skin’s natural sebum, which allows olive fruit oil to absorb quickly and completely for comfortable use.

Jojoba seed oil is a great anti-aging skin care oil. It creates a lipid layer when applied to the skin which simultaneously moisturizes while preventing transepidermal water loss, resulting in incredible hydration. It is lightweight and quickly absorbed, leaving the skin feeling silky smooth.

Meadowfoam seed oil is the multi-tasker of the group. It moisturizes, rejuvenates, helps protect against sun damage, reduces visible signs of aging (like lines and wrinkles), and supplies the skin with a slew of nutrients. It never feels greasy or heavy, ensuring that all skin types will remain comfortable.

Green tea seed oil, also known as camellia sinensis oil, is the beautifier. It heals and protects with antioxidants while illuminating dry, dull skin. It smoothes fine lines and wrinkles, softens, and boosts suppleness, leaving skin looking youthful and feeling gorgeous.

These fantastic natural oils for skin care are prevalent in all of the Atopalm products, and when paired with other proven skin care ingredients, can truly revolutionize your skin.