Sep 24, 2012

Treating Melasma

Recently I was approached by a dear friend who suddenly had the appearance of a brown 'splotchiness' on her upper lip of which she was finding very distressing. When she is not wearing any makeup it appeared (her words not mine) as if she had a mustache and as you can imagine she found this very stressful and embarrassing. I suggested she visit with her doctor and he diagnosed her with Melasma. 
Together, over the next few months we are going to keep a record of the treatment she will undertake along with the results and outcome which hopefully will be of some help and encouragement to those who are experiencing the same condition.
What Causes Melasma
Melasma is caused by over active melanin producing cells called melanocytes. This is caused either externally (excess sun) hormonally (oral birth control, hrt treatment and some oral medications) or genetic predisposition.
It really is important that you find out what is the root of the problem because if you don’t you will just end up wasting your time, money and even worsening the situation as melasma is notorious for returning the second time darker than the original outbreak. 
External Causes
If the cause of your melasma is through external causes treatment is somewhat easier. However the process is still rather slow and it takes comitment and patience along with religous use of sunscreen and protective clothing such as a large protective hat and staying out of the sun as much as possible.
Hormonal Causes
If you are currently on oral birth control or on hrt treatment this could be the root of your problem and you should check with your doctor to see if your melasma is hormonal based and you can do this by having your Estrogen levels checked to see if you are Estrogen dominant. Also Melasma can rear its ugly head after a pregnancy, however once the underlying hormonal cause is taken care of you can then work on it topically.
For optimum health, the progesterone to estrogen ratio should be between 200–300 to 1

The above chart shows that from the age of 35 to 50, there is a 75% reduction in production of progesterone in the body. Estrogen, during the same period, only declines about 35%. By menopause, the total amount of progesterone made is extremely low, while estrogen is still present in the body at about half its pre-menopausal level.
With the gradual drop in estrogen but severe drop in progesterone, there is insufficient progesterone to counteract the amount of estrogen in our body. This state is called estrogen dominance. Many women in their mid-thirties, most women during peri-menopause (mid-forties), and essentially all women during menopause (age 50 and beyond) are overloaded with estrogen and at the same time suffering from progesterone deficiency because of the severe drop in physiological production during this period. The end result - excessive estrogen relative to progesterone, a condition we call estrogen dominance.
Diet and Melasma
Women who drank four to five cups of coffee daily had nearly 70% more estrogen than women who consume less than one cup of coffee. Tea is not much better. And for that matter, neither are soft drinks with caffeine in them like Red Bull or Mountain Dew.
Having a high body fat content also intend to have an Estrogen dominance therefore losing some weight along with exercise will lower Estrogen levels.
Vitamin B6 and magnesium are needed to neutralize estrogen in the liver. Therefore make sure you do not have a Vitamin B6 deficiency.                                                                          Who Can Get Melasma 
Melasma is most common in women 20-50 years of age
Melasma Appearance
Melasma looks like brown, tan, or blue-gray spots on the face (hyperpigmentation).
Most Common Areas for Melasma
Melasma is characterized by three location patterns (central face, cheekbone, and jawline)
Melasma may clear spontaneously without treatment. Other times, it may clear with sunscreen usage and sun avoidance. For some people, the discoloration with Melasma may disappear following pregnancy or if birth control pills and hormone therapy are discontinued. But most commonly it requires topical treatment along with long term sun avoidance,
Finacea (Azelaic Acid) 15%-20% Azelaic acid is a non-hydroquinone cream that can be used to treat melasma. Studies have reported that 15%-20% azelaic acid was very effective and safe in melasma. There are no major complications reported with azelaic acid. Possible minor side effects include itching, redness, flaking and a temporary burning sensation that tends to improve after 14-30 days of use.
Retin-A 0.025%-0.1%
Tazorac 0.05%-.01%
Both of the above help increase the effects of the Azelaic Acid (Finacea) enabling it to penetrate deeper
Topical Vitamin C 10%-20% (click HERE)
Obagi Nu-Derm system (click HERE)
Lactic Acid Lotions 12% (click HERE)
Regular skin lighteners that have arbutin, mulberry extract, bearberry and licorice can help especially in combination will the above.

Sep 19, 2012

Beautyblender Sponge Review

I know this item has been on the market for quite some time but I finally succumbed.
The Beauty Blender Official website states:
'Now you can look like a movie star without the pricey services of a major make up artist. Introducing Beautyblender, the ultimate make up sponge applicator. Invented by top Hollywood make up artist Rea Ann Silva, Beautyblender has been created to leave you with a professional finish and a flawless complexion. Silva knows that the key to a perfect face is simple: a perfect blend. So forget your fingers or sharp-edged triangular sponges, these application methods waste make up and can leave visible streaks.
Beautyblender’s patent-pending elliptical shape makes application foolproof by allowing you to access hard-to-reach areas with stunning ease. Its suede texture is sensual to the touch and its unique curves fit the contours of your face, leaving your make up dazzling and undetectable. Beautyblender is latex free, non-allergenic and odor free'.
I followed the instructions and held the Beautyblender under running water (cool) and squeezed it half a dozen times. Whilst doing this the Beautyblender increased approximately double in size I then I squeezed the excess water out and finally placed the Beautyblender inside a clean washcloth so as to remove the moisture leaving it slightly damp but 'not' wet.
I must admit that before trying this I thought it was going to be another beauty 'fad' that would prove to be a waste of time and money but I was wrong!
I have tried numerous methods of apply foundation including foundation brushes, sponges, fingers and a stippling brush (which up until trying the Beautyblender was my favorite method) but without doubt the Beautyblender in my opinion really is the best so far. I now understand what all the hype is about and I can say with confidence that the Beautyblender will be the only way I will apply foundation from now on.
Application Method:
I prepped my skin in the usual way, sunscreen followed by primer and placed a small amount of foundation in the palm of my hand. I gently touched the Beautyblender onto the foundation and 'tapped' this onto my face and was amazed as to how easy and 'fool-proof' this was.
The Beautyblender is perfectly shaped. The 'larger' end is for the overall face and the 'narrower' end for around the eyes and nose.
This without doubt is the most simple and fastest method I have ever used to apply my foundation.
Overall application finish:
Foundation appears flawless when applied with the Beautyblender and even if you have dry or flaky skin the 'tapping' method used is so gently and non irritating that it does not cause the skin flakes to lift, in fact the complete opposite occurs....everything stays in place just like we need it too!
Simple to use
Perfect for all skin types especially dry or flaky (Retin A user here)!
Gives a 'flawless' finish to makeup
Gives fuller coverage using less product (foundation)
A little on the expensive side, but still cheaper than some of the foundation brushes out there
Would I recommend this to a friend?
Yes...without hesitation!

Sep 10, 2012

Sunscreen...The Never Ending Search! Updated 09/09/12

Summer is finally coming to an end and throughout the intense heat of Phoenix Arizona I have tried and tested many SS on the continuous quest of finding the 'perfect' that will not only protect my skin from any further sun damage but also be non irritating, does not leave a white cast, non greasy and totally compatible underneath my makeup. Have I found this bottle of perfection yet......I think I just may have!
I have tried and tested quite a few sunscreens and the majority do not even warrant a mention due to the fact that they are usually either extremely heavy, irritating, greasy or totally ineffective. However there are some which deserve mentioning and in my opinion are worth trying.

#1 Pick for Face
SARA SARA UV Aqua Rich Watery essence Water base SPF 50+ PA+++                            Cost anywhere between $15.00 to $25.00 for a 50g bottle.

Key Ingredients:
Water (Aqua), Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Lauryl Methacrylate/Sodium Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Dimethicone, Acrylates/
C10-30 Acrylate Crosspolymer, Glyceryl Stearate, Agar, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum(Lemon) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Xylitol, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Fragrance (Parfum).
This has now taken the #1 spot as my all time favorite sunscreen which was previously held by Devita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+
This is a very light weight gel like cream which turns into a water like consistency the moment you place it on your skin. It absorbs into to the skin within seconds (yes seconds) and I am left wondering if I have applied it due to it not leaving any residue at greasiness like most sunscreens, but also does not mattify leaving the skin feeling dry and parched....its is totally invisible to the eye and to the touch.
It works wonderfully underneath makeup as a primer and does not ball-up when applying foundation. This may all sound to good to be true but I promise you this is a Japanese water based sunscreen which I highly recommend you try.

Excellent protection. I live in the intense heat of Arizona and do not get any color when using this.
The most incredible base underneath makeup
I can apply my makeup within seconds of application as this sinks into to the skin with 'no' residue almost immediately
Leaves skin feeling silky smooth
Non greasy
Non drying
Non irritating
Cost effective
The only con I can think of is if you should be allergic to any of the ingredients

#2 Pick  for Face
Skin Aqua Sara Sara Skin Care UV Essence SPF 50+ PA+++
Cost $15-$25                                                          

This comes in as a close 2nd place to the above with identical advantages 'except' I find it does not perform as well underneath makeup hence I intend to use this on the days I do not wear makeup (which is very rare)!
Excellent protection. I live in the intense heat of Arizona and do not get any color when using this.
Leaves skin feeling silky smooth
Non greasy
Non drying
Non irritating
Cost effective
Can ball up under makeup (depends on application)

#3 Pick for Face Devita Solar Protective Moisurizer SPF 30+
Cost $25.95 2.5 oz

ACTIVE INGREDIENT: Micronized Zinc oxide 19%
I apply this sunscreen approximately 15 minutes before I apply my makeup allowing it to settle on my skin. I then apply a silicone base primer before applying my silicone base foundation. However I do want to add that on the occassions I have not used a primer before applying my foundation I do notice that my makeup will 'slide' a little throughout the day....hence why I 'always' use a primer after applying the sunscreen. After attempting to previously use the Devita Body Block for my face I have found this to be far less greasy. Yes, it has the same ingredients as the Body Block but minus the Shea Butter therefore making the greasiness nonexistent.
#1 Pick for Body
Allie EX UV Protector (Perfect Alpha) 50+ PA+++

Cost $34.00

Key Ingredients

Again I purchased this one to use on arms, hands and decolletage and have only been using it for the past couple of days so my opinion is a little premature as yet 'but' so far I am really liking the feel and texture of this SS. It doe not have that 'powdery' feel to it like the above SS with the advantage of it also being waterproof and sweat-proof and like all the above this also does not need any special treatment in regards to removal.
#2 Pick for Body
Devita Solar Body Block SPF 30+
Cost $27.95 for a 7 oz bottle

ACTIVE INGREDIENT: Micronized Zinc oxide 19%.
Originally this was the best sunscreen for body I had tried until it was superseded by Allie (review above) but this runs a very close 2nd to Allie and overall is more cost effective. 
It is a 'physical' sunscreen with the only active ingredient being Zinc Oxide at 19% which is incredibly high. Usually zinc oxide will alway leave a 'white cast' on the face, especially at 19% but his product does not do this.
This is a full spectrum sunscreen which is very light and absorbs very quickly and is Paraben free.

Cost effective
No white cast whatsoever
No irritation due to it being a'Physical' SS
None that I can think of

#3 Pick for Body
Biore' Sara Sara UV Perfect Milk for Face & Body SPF 50+ PA+++

Cost $14.00

Key Ingredients

I purchased this for use on my arms, hands and decolletage as I was aware that it would not be very compatible underneath makeup.
Again this works wonderfully in regards to sun protection as I have used this throughout the summer and have not got any tan at all 'but' I have found this to be a little drying on my skin so the jury is still out on this one until I can find something with the same protection but feels a little more 'comfortable' on my skin. However this may work well for the face if you have oily skin.

Most easily available
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55 with Helioplex
Cost $9.50 for a 3.0 oz bottle
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 3.0%, Homosalate 10.0%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 2.8%, Oxybenzone 6%

This without doubt gives great protection from the sun. I tried and tested this product whilst spending a week in Panama City Beach Florida and my skin did not even turn the slightest bit pink and I was very impressed. This sunscreen is also non-comedogenic (will not clog pores).
However, I was under the impression that due to the product having the description of 'Dry Touch' in its title that there would be very little 'shine' or 'greasiness' but this was not the case. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch is very shiny and greasy when applied to the skin. I found it impossible to use underneath makeup and no matter how long I gave this product to absorb into my skin (which it never did) foundation was impossible to apply. However, I highly recommend this sunscreen and will continue to use this for outdoor protection but feel it is totally incompatible for using underneath makeup.
Excellent protection
Very cost effective
Totally incompatible underneath makeup
Very greasy and shiny
Leaves a faint white cast

#1 Disappointment
La-Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid
Cost $23.00 for a 1.7 oz bottle.

Key Ingredient's

Avobenzone 3% (sunscreen)
• Homosalate 15% (suncreen)
• Octisalate 5% (sunscreen)
• Octocrylene 5% (sunscreen)
• Oxybenzone 6% (sunscreen)

What I loved most about this sunscreen was just how light it was on my skin. It has a very 'watery' consistency and absorbs into the skin within minutes. It is also non-comedogenic (won't clog pores). It did not leave a greasy residue and the protection was first class as I did not experience any increase in pigmentation issues which is fantastic considering I live in Phoenix Arizona where the sun shines with intensity for 365 days each year!
Why oh why did I not continue to use this wonderful product? unfortunately around day 10 I started to notice some irritation which slowly increased with noticeable redness on my skin with me reluctantly having to conclude that I was allergic to one of the ingredient's which also cause sensitivity to my eyes causing them to sting and constantly run.
First class protection
Very light consistency 
Non greasy 
No white cast
Balled up under makeup
Stings eyes no matter how careful I was with application
Caused my skin to be irritated becoming dry and blotchy