By John, Skincare Contributor
John describes himself as eccentric–you might find him having a conversation with himself or making “A Beautiful Mind”-like movements while doing so. He’s a stickler for accuracy, so you might find him correcting one thing or another! His goal is to answer questions and provide unbiased, meaningful, and insightful information.
At 21, he is an aspiring dermatologist and will return to school next fall to get those plans moving. John enjoys singing, playing piano, hitting volleyballs, playing video games, and chatting with friends. Some day, he’d love to try more adventurous activities, like skydiving and mountain climbing! Check out his blog, The Triple Helix Liaison!
The Skin Saga: Breaking Blemish
Currently, I have very oily, acne-prone, mildly sensitive skin that occasionally flakes and feels dehydrated in certain areas, like around the nose, mouth, and eyes. I hope to one day have very pale, perfectly-formed, diamond-hard skin that will occasionally shimmer and radiate when exposed to sunlight! This post will chronicle the stages of acne and explain how and what ingredients treat those stages.
A combination of factors including irregular polarization of the keratinocytes, excess sebum production from heightened androgen activity, and inflammation of the hair follicle lining, contribute to the formation of comedones, either as blackheads or whiteheads. The ingredients that block or inhibit this step include the following:
- Topical retinoids (tretinoin, adapalene, tazarotene): Topical retinoids function by reducing the positive and negative polarities of keratinocytes, which will allow for more even and normalized natural exfoliation. They do so by decreasing the levels of transglutaminase, an enzyme that cross-links the trans-membrane proteins present on keratinocyte surfaces.
Recommendations: Besides the brand-name and generic prescription treatments such as Retin-A, Differin, and Tazorac that are available from your doctor, the Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65.00), which allegedly contains 1.5% retinol, a precursor of tretinoin that is roughly 20 times weaker, is a fantastic option and I can personally attest that it provides significant results without much irritation. Note that “weaker” only refers to the ratio of retinol that undergoes esterification to become retinal and ultimately tretinoin. The word has nothing to do with the molecule itself because the skin cannot use retinol, only tretinoin.
- Oral retinoids and contraceptives (Accutane, Ortho TriCyclen, Estrostep, and Yaz): Oral retinoids and contraceptives function by reducing sebaceous gland activity. Less sebum means lesser chances of clogs or plugs forming. This may be surprising but retinoids are actually types of hormones because there exist various receptors (RARs and RXRs) throughout the body that are activated by the presence of such chemicals. So while they are distinct, oral retinoids and contraceptives do have overlapping characteristics. Oral contraceptives function by reducing the amount of circulating androgens; they stimulate the production of sex hormone-binding globulin, which inactive testosterone.
Fun fact: Ever wonder why many women experience acne once they reach menopause? It’s because their estrogen levels plummet, which means they can no longer hide the effects of the androgens still present (at now comparatively higher levels). Estrogens exhibit anti-inflammatory properties by decreasing neutrophil chemotaxis (meaning they inhibit and slow down the immune system), while androgens do the opposite. I guess that explains why men love to fight!
- Hydroxy acids (Glycolic, salicylic): This family of ingredients was already discussed in detail during my last post; they will only be covered briefly here. They function by loosening follicular impactions and inducing exfoliation.
Recommendations: Paula’s Choice makes excellent salicylic and glycolic leave-on products with varying degrees of concentration that employ different vehicular bases for corresponding different skin types. Alpha Hydrox makes several good ones as well. They are just less cosmetically elegant in my opinion.
- Regarding cleansers with hydroxy acids: Most hydroxy acids require a certain pH range to function properly, which is determined by the acid’s pKa and molecular electronegativity. Now, when pH = pKa that signifies that equal amounts of the free acid and salt form are present in the solution (50/50). Only the free acid form will allow for meaningful exfoliation. Now, even if a cleanser is in an appropriate pH range, which many are not, it still won’t function optimally because the pH of water is seven. The pKa of glycolic acid is 3.83; salicylic acid’s is 2.97. When you emulsify your cleanser with water and spread it onto your face, the pH will undoubtedly increase. By how much? It depends on how much water you use and if your cleanser is a buffered solution. You will be getting suboptimal or nonexistent treatment for your condition. Cleansers only stay on your face for what, thirty seconds? However, if you are currently using cleanser with a member of the hydroxy acid family in it, continue to use if you enjoy it, but I would advise against purchasing one expecting to see major results.
Learn more about the infection, inflammation, and eruption stages! Continue reading →
By Caitlin, Fragrance Contributor
Caitlin recently completed her master’s degree in British Literature at St. Andrews in Scotland. She’s just moved back to the U.S., currently residing in Pennsylvania, and now works for a local non-profit. She studed French during her undergraduate years and even lived in Paris for a years. She loves traveling, but now that she has to hold down a “real job” now, she travels by way of new perfumes. She says fragrance has a way of transporting you to a new place, which is one of the reasons she loves perfume! You can follow her on Twitter!
Have a Fragrant Valentine’s Day!
It doesn’t matter what your plans for Valentine’s Day are. Whether you like to go out for an elegant evening or prefer to do a cozy night in (or if, like me, you plan to curl up with a Colin Firth movie and a bottle of wine) there’s no reason you shouldn’t be happy about the way you smell!
For a splash of delicate sensuality, try By Kilian, Liaisons Dangereuses ($225.00). With top notes of ripe plum and rose of Damascus, this fragrance evokes the sense of a leisurely stroll through the grounds at Versailles. Like the French court, this fragrance is decadent, yet not completely reckless or hedonist. Liaisons Dangereuses settles into the smoothest of blends as the florals mix with the base notes of vanilla and white musk. I find that this fragrance wears close to the skin, and all the better too! Spraying this on is like wearing the most charming secret.
For an elegant night out, try Tom Ford, Noir de Noir ($195.00). This is another rose-centered fragrance, but the striking thing about Noir de Noir is the sense of effervescence it conveys. The effervescence is an interesting touch, as it gives the impression of keeping the rose somehow alive on the skin. Darker notes like patchouli and something chocolatey (yum!) creep in during the dry down, but the rose note just lasts and lasts. Noir de Noir is like a glass of champagne with a rose petal floating on top. In other words, the essence of luxury.
Forget the red hot candies, go for Serge Lutens, Rousse ($120.00) if you’re looking for a taste of spicy sweetness. Rousse is a showcase for cinnamon, but the fragrance never becomes too overpowering, as it uses a base of amber, vanilla and musk to anchor the spice. At times the heat of the cinnamon comes across quite strongly. At other times, the amber and musk peek through, adding mild sweetness and depth to the composition. For a fragrance focused on spice, Rousse is more sexy than foodie. Cinnamon has never been so sophisticated or so compelling.
If you’re in the mood to go bold, try L’Artisan Parfumeur, Poivre Piquant ($145.00). This offering from L’Artisan combines white pepper with milk and honey and is for true spice lovers. This opens with a blast of powdery pepper but, the next time I lean in to smell my wrist, I only get soft notes of milk and honey. This fragrance never settles into a smooth blend and it isn’t meant to. This is a composition that not only embraces discord, but celebrates it. The juxtaposition of intense spice with mild sweetness is striking and addictive—I can’t stop smelling my wrist when wearing this. In the end, discord renders Poivre Piquant surprisingly seductive.
Note: I realize that full bottles of each of these fragrances are pretty pricey and I am by no means recommending that you rush out and drop $200 on a bottle of perfume! I myself have samples of each of these. I recommend Luckyscent for samples of the L’Artisan and By Kilian, and The Perfumed Court for Serge Lutens and Tom Ford.
By Madeline, Teen Beauty Contributor
Madeline is 17-years old and currently attends high school in southern California. She’s also lived in D.C. and a Connecticut suburb of NYC. She loves to read, write, as well as shop, travel, play golf, and spend time with her family and friends. She’s excited to go to college and hopes to attend university on the east coast. Despite living in California now, she feels like a New Yorker!
Check out her blog, This Little Preppy Goes West!
Madeline’s Beauty Journey
When I was about 11 years old, my mother took me to the SoHo Bloomingdales to purchase my first Clinique 3-Step Skincare System. This was my first venture into the world of beauty. I clearly remember the wonderful women at the counter who helped me pick out which products would best suit my skin. They, along with my mom, taught me the importance of caring for my skin. Although I am lucky to have naturally good skin, I do still credit the Clinique ladies for teaching me several important lessons in beauty.
I, like many young girls, first began to wear makeup using Clinique products. I fondly remember my first eyeliner and mascara I wore as a young teen. I’m still a big fan of their High Impact Mascara. Today, I love my Whoppin’ Watermelon Chubby Stick. Whenever I walk by the Clinique counter at the mall, I can’t help but smile, because, for me, that is where my love of beauty began.
Clinique is where I had my start, and while I’m still a big fan of their products, the next turning point in my beauty journey was my introduction to MAC. After reading blogs for some time, I realized that MAC is one of the most loved cosmetic brands on the market. I became enthralled with the art-inspired collections, and this is what made my own MAC collection begin to grow.
Before I started high school, I typically only wore mascara and/or eyeliner. By the time I moved across the country to southern California, I decided to experiment with makeup. My first MAC eye shadows were typical and neutral–All That Glitters and Soba. Eventually, I accumulated more eyeshadows, lipsticks, and my holy grail product: MAC Makeup Remover Wipes. Now, I love following the latest MAC collections and stocking up on my old favorites from Clinique, but I have also graduated to one of the ultimate beauty brands: Chanel.
I recently picked up the Chanel Boy Rouge Coco Shine Lipstick at the very same Bloomingdales where my beauty obsession began. It’s funny how things come full circle–some of my absolute favorite products have come from my favorite brands in three different but important parts of my life.
How did you fall in love with makeup? What was the first beauty product you bought or had bought for you?
This morning, Khadine tweeted to me a write-up she did in response to a recent Temptalia post. I thought it was an excellent post that offered clarification, insight, and helped to educate everyone regarding the particular topic. She’s graciously allowing me to share her response and thoughts.
I also asked her for some of her personal recommendations, and she said, “As for products for darker skin tones, Ben Nye has a great range of colors in foundations and powders that even very deep skin tones can benefit from. Graftobian has great options as well. In terms of specific contour colors (I prefer to use creams), Black Opal Stick Foundations like Suede Mocha and Black Walnut come to mind. Another one is Graftobian HD Glamour Creme Foundation in Sienna. Also, check out their HD Glamour Creme Palette in Neutral #3. Of course, these are only examples so they won’t work for everyone, however, readers can feel free to check out the product websites for the full range of options.”
To Contour or Not to Contour for Darker Skin Tones
Recently, there was a guest post on Temptalia on the subject of “blushing and highlighting”, where the author advised, “If you’re of a darker skintone, like NC/W 45+, skip the contour and stick only with highlight. Contour colours unfortunately rarely run too dark, and you risk the color looking muddy on the face.” Some of Temptalia’s readers took offense and voiced their complaints in the comment section below the article, as well as via Twitter.
I, on the other hand, wasn’t as negatively moved by the statement. I certainly disagree with the author on the suggestion that dark skin cannot or should not be contoured, but I actually see the logic in what she’s saying (I’ll explain further). I am in the category she’s referring to (I wear NC 50 in MAC Select SPF 15 foundation), and I contour all the time. However, I wouldn’t totally write-off everything she said!
When she says, “skip the contour and stick only with highlight,” this does make sense in the case of women with very deep skin tones (Alek Wek is the only person that comes to mind immediately). What makes contouring (and its counterpart, highlighting) effective is contrast, however you can best achieve it. If you have a deep enough complexion to be able to use your skin tone as the contour color, then that’s okay! If you’re of a dark complexion and can find appropriate contour colors, there’s no need to limit yourself. I think Victoria had the right idea but happened to be a little off in the shade range (as I said, I’m an NC 50 and contouring isn’t an issue for me).
It’s the same thing on the opposite end of the spectrum. If you are really fair (think Nicole Kidman) and it makes more sense to only contour (and use your skin tone as a highlight), then so be it!
Her claim that “Contour colours unfortunately rarely run too dark,” is not a stretch at all! There are limited options out there for contouring darker complexions. The deeper your color, the harder it is to find something even darker for contouring (I didn’t say impossible, I said harder). Sometimes you’re lucky if you even find a color to match you in the first place! You can use black pigments to deepen your foundation, but the average person would just rather be able to pick up a ready-made shade at their local cosmetics counter rather than mix multiple products to get the right match.
In summary, of course, contouring can be done on dark skin tones, but with a caveat! When executed well, the results are magnificent (ask Sam Fine)! However, some individuals of deeper complexions may benefit more from highlighting (especially if color options are limited) than they would from contouring. Similarly, some individuals of lighter complexions may benefit more from contouring than they would from highlighting.
You can check out Khadine’s original article on her blog, Cosmetic Passion. Khadine is an emerging makeup artist based in New York City who has a long-time passion for cosmetics. With her blog, she hopes to share her passion for beauty with enthusiasts like her while exchanging beauty tips!
By Edith (Edie) Bryan, Nail Care Expert
Edie is 27-years old and hails from the beautiful country that is Wales, in the UK. She’s an esthetician and has been trained in all aspects of beauty, from waxing to skincare, but she specializes in nails. She discovered her talent for nails at 17 and worked as a junior technician. In 2005, she started her own business running a nail salon in her home town. She found creating beautiful nails was the perfect way to combine her natural creativity and her obsession with fashion and beauty into one. Check out her blog Touch Beauty and follow her on Twitter!
3 Essential Nail Lacquers that Suit Everyone
With such a huge array of nail polish shades and effects to choose from, it can be difficult to choose the right shade for your skin tone. This is made even more difficult by the fact that polishes can look completely different once applied to the nails than how they appeared in the bottle!
I think there are three basic polish shades that every girl should keep in their collection: a nude, bright red, and rouge noir (or dark burgundy). Here are three recommendations of polishes that will suit everyone. I chose three crème shades, as they can always be layered under shimmers or glitters, or worn alone, depending on the occasion. I applied each polish over CND Stickey Base Coat and sealed with a swipe of Seche Vite Top Coat.
OPI polishes have exceptional quality for the price, and out of their collection of nude shades, this is one that will work for everyone. It is a rich and opaque nude-pink-brown that applies easily and wears well. Nude polishes are great for wearing to the office or for job interviews, and they will match any outfit in your wardrobe. They can be glammed up for an evening out with a swipe of glittery polish on top. OPI Dulce de Leche ($8.00) is a great investment shade from OPI’s Classics collection.
Revlon Revlon Red ($4.79) is an absolutely iconic shade of nail polish–it is glamour and gorgeousness in a bottle. I have always found Revlon polishes to be very hard-wearing, but they do tend to have a thin and runny consistency, so have some Q-Tips ready for any boo-boos you might make during application. This shade of red is almost exactly between cool and warm. I would say it has the tiniest bit more blue than yellow, but in such a fabulous bold red, that is forgivable. This shade is a winner for me and will work on any skin tone.
Jessica Street Swagger ($7.50) is a fairly new polish on the market, it is part of the Jessica Rebel Glam collection for fall 2011, and I believe the only crème shade out of the six. Jessica’s polish formulation is definitely in my top five, being so highly pigmented and super smooth. Two coats of this delicious, dark wine-red gives perfect opaque coverage and superior wear. Sophisticated, glossy and it even gives the illusion of longer nails. I often find that dark red polishes are particularly difficult to judge when in the bottle, but this is a true blackened red, both in the bottle and on the nail.
By Dain, New England, Skincare Contributor
Dain is a freelance editor and writer, who graduated with a Bachelor of Art in English. She expected to pursue an academic career but found her interests straying elsewhere–like beauty! She has dry, sensitive skin and is always looking for ways to keep her skin hydrated. When she isn’t writing about beauty, she loves to play video games, cook (and eat!), and read.
Check out her blog, Ars Aromatica!
On me: a reaction to a magnesium abscorbyl phosphate serum, a derivative of vitamin C
As a rule, you don’t treat sensitivity so much as avoid it. Unfortunately, because irritants are completely specific to the individual—for example, essential oils don’t bother my skin, but I can’t go near a scrub. People with sensitive skin must learn to read ingredients lists and identify irritants before they start. If you do trigger a reaction, it is time that heals your skin, rather than any products. Nevertheless, it is possible to alleviate some of the symptoms of sensitivity with skincare, though they are not quite as effective as your skin’s ability to heal itself.
If you’re experiencing damage…
It should resemble severe dehydration, perhaps accompanied by pain and redness: the skin’s surface should be rough and dry to the touch, dead many layers down. This is generally the side effect of detergent-based cleansers, over-exfoliation, retinoids, and dermatological peels, but it can also occur if you are exposed to a harsh climate. Unless you’re on a retinoid (follow your doctor’s instructions), it’s best to stop all treatments and switch to a basic regimen of mild cleanser and moisturizer generously applied while fresh skin grows back. When it’s nearly done healing, a gentle exfoliant will buff away the dead, damaged surface.
If you’re experiencing an allergic response…
Allergens are unique to every individual. An allergic reaction can be characterized by redness, heat, inflammation, hives, and itchiness. I prefer to wait it out, because it dies down on its own without any further ill effect, but you can apply oatmeal or cortisone to problem areas. Depending on the severity of the reaction, may want to consult your doctor before proceeding.
If you’re experiencing inflammation…
Sunburns fall under this category, as does acne, some forms of rosacea, and contact dermatitis. Certain ingredients, such as the vitamin C on me shown above, can sometimes trigger an immune response that resembles acne, because the pores are aggravated, inflamed, and filled with pus. If you are acne-prone, it is advisable to approach your skin as if it were sensitive and not provoke already reactive skin with harsh skincare that can turn a mild condition into a severe one. There are a number of anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as salicylic acid, bisabalol, aloe vera, oatmeal, calendula, zinc oxide, and the essential fatty acids in many plant oils—and yet, some of these can be irritants themselves, depending on the individual. Always do a patch test.
If you’re experiencing physical sensitivity…
Though anyone may encounter inflammation, damage, or allergies, thin skin is largely a physiological condition. Some people also encounter physical sensitivity when they’re on retinoids. This is a deficiency in the skin’s barrier function, so there is a higher incidence of the other kinds of sensitivity. You can reinforce the barrier with moisturizer, built up in several layers: a humectant solution in direct contact with the skin to aid penetration; a lipid barrier in direct contact with the environment to prevent moisture loss and any further damage; and an emulsion sandwiched in between. Look for ingredients like shea butter, plant oils, mineral oil, and anything that forms a barrier. It’s not the same as healthy, resilient skin, but it helps buffer thin skin from the elements.