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The Skin Saga: Breaking Blemish

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.

Formation

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! 

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Have a Fragrant Valentine’s Day!

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.

Madeline’s Beauty Journey

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?

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Bobbi Brown Angel Pink Rich Color Lipgloss

Bobbi Brown Angel Pink Rich Color Lipgloss
Bobbi Brown Angel Pink Rich Color Lipgloss

Bobbi Brown Angel Pink Rich Color Lipgloss

Bobbi Brown Angel Pink Rich Color Lipgloss ($23.00 for 0.24 fl. oz.) is described simply as “a soft pink.” If you’re not familiar with this particular gloss formula, it’s supposed to yield “the full color coverage of a lipstick” with “the shine of a gloss” while feeling like a balm when worn. It’s also supposed to “moisturize, condition, and last throughout the day without feathering.”

Angel Pink is a warm, yellow-toned medium pink with a glossy shine. The color itself is creamy and mostly opaque, though because of its creamier finish, it does settle into lip lines slightly. The only gloss that seemed a bit similar was MAC Tour de Fabulous, which is a bit less pink and has lots of shimmer. It did remind me of a yellow-toned version of NYX Stella. Chanel Empire is pinker and darker.

Bobbi Brown gets a lot of things right with this gloss formula–it’s as opaque as it’s supposed to be, has a healthy shine as a gloss ought to, and feels comfortable when worn.  I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say it’s like a lip balm, because it has a slicker, more slippery texture–more akin to your average non-sticky lipgloss.  It lasts between four and five hours on me, but it is a good moisturizing gloss.  My lips never feel dry after wearing it, even if I’ve stretched the wear to six hours.  This formula is mint-scented but has no real taste.

Bobbi Brown Angel Pink Rich Color Lipgloss

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Win It! MAC Shop MAC, Cook MAC + Vera Blushes!

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