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Why does your skin get so oily?

Violence in the Middle East. Child immigrants crossing into the US from Mexico. Ben Affleck as Batman.

If I asked you to name the day’s most controversial issue you might have guessed one of the above. However, you would have been wrong.  Apparently nothing is as contentious as what controls oil production on your skin.

In a previous post on oily skin I reported on a 1974 study which indicated that the presence of oil on the skin’s surface sends a signal to the sebaceous glands to turn off. One astute reader, Kiera, was quick to point out that the study I cited is “old” and that the most comprehensive view of the literature confirms that skin does NOT have an external mechanism for regulating the level of sebum on the skin. More comments followed:

Lejla: “That study is old and has been falsified.”

Lyn: “Are the authors going to respond? Is the content of this post accurate or not?”

Ahj: “I also am very interested why Beauty Brains quote such a controversial study without further comments.”

Whew! Who knew this was such a touchy topic?

Why sebum production is so confusing

The controversy stems (at least in part) from the opinion of renowned dermatologist Albert Kligman who refuted this so called “Feedback Theory” in 1958. Kligman (and coauthor Shelly) said that “the sebaceous gland functions continuously, without regard to what is on the surface.” Yet, the theory once more gained credence in 1974 based on a paper titled “The regulation of sebum excretion in man.” (No word on how sebum is excreted in women.)

But *gulp* in 1976 the Feedback Theory was refuted again and there it stayed until new data became available in 1979.  In the 1979 study, researchers found, after controlling as many variables as possible, that the excretion process does indeed slow down over time. If you read the paper you can see for yourself that the authors refuted arguments against the Feedback Theory which include:

  • A wiping off effect
  • A “run off” of sebum
  • A resorption of sebum and changes in the physical property of sebum

They conclude by saying that “the Feedback Theory should not be too lightly dismissed.”

In 1981 the Feedback Theory deniers made a good case by reinforcing Kligman’s objections (“Sebum secretion and sebaceous lipids.” Dermatologic Clinics, Vol. 1, No. 3, July 1983.) I couldn’t find any more recent studies so I assume that the controversy rages on. (Of course I may have missed something so I welcome our readers to poke around in the literature for more recent studies which may trump this one.)

So is there an answer or not?

Could the answer to this controversy be a question of language? When Kligman raised his initial objections he used the term “secretion” which can mean either production or excretion. The authors of the 1979 study were careful to point out that they only studied the excretion of sebum (in other words the “arrival of sebum at the surface of skin.”) This is not necessarily exactly the same as sebum production which is the creation of sebum by sebaceous glands. So, could both parties be right? Maybe the sebaceous glands are unregulated (as Kligman says) but the mechanism by which the sebum reaches the skin’s surface IS regulated by some kind of feed back loop.  Without further data, that’s my best guess and I hope it satisfies the hordes of passionate readers.

References:
Is the Excretion of Sebum Regulated ? H. Eberhardt and G. Trieb Arch. Dermatol. Res 266, 127-133 (1979)

http://www.acne.org/messageboard/topic/71047-still-more-evidence-against-the-feedback-theory/

 

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A phallic salute to lipstick

Welcome to the 1980s:  L’erin. which is French for “The Erin,” launches a “fiery arsenal of color” with a barrage of erectile lipsticks.

Even stranger than the phallic 21 gun salute is the wardrobe choice for the models. Why are they dressed as flight attendants? (Or did they call them “stewardesses” back in the ’80s?) Regardless, it makes no sense.

The beauty science bit: Did you ever think about how lipsticks get their sleek, glossy finish? The answer is FIRE! Here’s how it works: First, the waxes, oils, and pigments are heated and combined into a molten mixture which is poured into stick shaped molds. After the sticks cool they are inserted into cases. At this point they have a dull, grainy appearance. The final step in the process is to briefly expose the sticks to a flame which flash-melts a micro-coating of the surface, giving its characteristic gloss. Smaller manufacturers actually pass each individual lipstick over a flame by hand. Large scale manufacture uses a device called a “Flame Tunnel” which automates the process.

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Does sunscreen make you Vitamin D deficient?

Angela asks…My husband recently read an article (from Australia, but I can’t remember the source now) claiming that we shouldn’t be using sunscreens. I think the basis of the article was that many people are vitamin D deficient, and that applying sunscreen prevents the production of vitamin D. It suggested that the risk of skin cancer was low compared to the vast benefits of vitamin D. In all your experience/ readings, is there any truth to that or can I continue preaching the virtues of sunscreen to my outdoor loving hubbie? And if I were to stop using all sunscreen, wouldn’t I look like an old leather shoe as I age?

The Beauty Brains respond:

Hi Angela. Please tell your husband that you should NOT stop using sunscreens. The idea that sunscreens cause vitamin D deficiency is a myth.

What’s the deal with vitamin D?

There are several “D” vitamins. The two most important are vitamin D2 (cholecalciferol) and Vitamin D3 (ergocalciferol). These control absorption of important minerals (such as iron, magnesium and zinc) in our intestines. Without sufficient Vitamin D our bodies don’t process these minerals properly which decreases the hardness of our bones (a condition called rickets or osteomalacia.) Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to a compromised immune system. Some cancers, such as prostate, colon and breast, have even been linked to a lack of vitamin D.

Vitamin D can be obtained through diet or it can be produced by our bodies, with exposure to adequate sunlight. Since sunscreens prevent sunlight from interacting with our skin, it’s not surprising that this notion that they can impair our ability to product Vitamin D has been raised. Let’s review the key points of this controversy.

Myth: People who live in sunny climates experience fewer deaths from prostate, colon and breast cancers. 

Fact: Two doctors from the Department of Dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine have analyzed the studies which claim to link these cancers with sun exposure. Their analysis shows these studies to be of “variable quality” because they may be confounded by other factors including additional climatic factors variations in population genetics, diet and lifestyle. They concluded that these studies “cannot establish that solar exposure decreases incidence or mortality from these cancers.” Here’s a link if you’d like to read all the details: http://www.skincancer.org/healthy-lifestyle/vitamin-d/the-d-dilemma

Myth: The risk of vitamin D deficiency is greater than the risk of skin cancer

Fact: Over-exposure to UV radiation is strongly linked to skin cancer through a combination of animal and human population studies (as well as DNA research). There are than 1.3 million new annual cases diagnosed in the U.S., most of which can be attributed to sun exposure. In addition, UV radiation is a major cause of photo-aging and contributes to wrinkles, saggy skin, brown spots, and the “old leather shoe” look that Angela is rightfully worried about. The dangers of sun exposure outweigh the concerns about vitamin D deficiency.

Myth: The best way to prevent vitamin D deficiency is to get 5-10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure

Fact: The authors of the above mentioned study point out alternative ways to boost vitamin D levels that do not require sun exposure. For example, you can eat more foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D (like salmon); you can drink beverages that are fortified with vitamin D (like milk or orange juice); or you can take multivitamins which contain 600 units of vitamin D. These alternatives are easy and much safer for your skin.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

The scientific consensus is that it’s important to wear sunscreen to reduce your risk of skin cancer. It’s also important to eat a healthy diet to ensure an adequate supply of vitamin D. Those two health goals are NOT mutually exclusive.  So tell your outdoor-loving hubby to suit up (with sunscreen) before he goes outside.

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It’s our fabulous 44th anniversary episode!

You can win a Beauty Brains T-shirt if you’re the first to correctly guess the answer to our “Name that Noise” game. Just click the link to listen to the show and if you know the answer, leave a comment on this post. The first correct answer wins a “Be Brainy About Your Beauty” shirt.

Click below to play Episode 44 or click “download” to save the MP3 file to your computer.

Plus you get SO much more…

  • Learn why 44 is our milestone instead of 50. (You’ll be surprised at Perry’s explanation!)
  • The secret of the “lost” episodes (with Sarah Bellum!)
  • A tribute to YOU, the Beauty Brains community. (Listen for your own voice!)
  • The debut of 10 brand new catch phrases (in case you don’t like “Be brainy about your beauty.”)
  • Beauty Brains trivia! (‘Nuff said)
  •  AND the world premier of the amazingly clever (and totally original) Beauty Brains Theme Song! (Click below if you want to watch Perry perform the song live.)

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Would you use a skin gun to get rid of wrinkles?

Here is an amazing new technology that could represent a new way to treat skin wrinkles.  It is being tested for use for treating skin burns but I could see how this could be adapted to creating youthful skin for people who are dissatisfied with their wrinkles.  Maybe in the future rather than getting face lifts, people will just be getting their own skin stem cells sprayed onto their face.

It’s a very cool technology.  The inventor says it’s like paint spraying.  They take the patient’s own stem cells and spray it onto the arm.  The whole procedure takes only 90 minutes.  Amazing.

I wonder how long it will take for this to be tested for cosmetic procedures.

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Beauty Science News – August 17

Here are some of our favorite beauty science news stories from the past week…

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Split end menders that really work

If you have a problem with split ends, here are a few products that REALLY work.

We continue to get a lot of comments on our post about the split end mending technology known as PEC or PolyElectrolyte Complex. It works from inside the split to pull it back together and, best of all, it works from a rinse out product. It’s not a permanent fix but it does last through several shampoos and it works better than any other product we’ve ever seen.

If you have a problem with splits you might want to try one of these featured products. If you shop using the Beauty Brains link you’ll be helping to support us. Perry and I really appreciate it!

 

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Makeup fit for a prize fight – vintage cosmetic video

In the 1950s it was common for commercials to be part of the program which they sponsored. Here’s an example of Hazel Bishop makeup appearing on a game show.


The most compelling aspect of the ad is the “before and after” demo featuring Dorothy Smith of Chicago IL. Poor Dorothy looks like she just went 3 rounds in the ring with the heavy weight boxing champ of the world. If this concealor can make Dorothy look this good, just think what it’ll do for YOUR black eye.

Here’s the Beauty Science bit…

Ms. Bishop’s makeup was available in oily and dry skin variants and it’s interesting that even back in the mid ’50’s companies were beginning to differentiate by skin type. It would be years before the “oil free” craze caught on. By then products would contain silicones and emollient esters rather than traditional oils like mineral and plant oils.

My only regret is that the clip ended before we learned the secret behind Dad’s “special pair of trousers.”

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Anonymous asks…My partner both uses and (attempts to) distribute Nu Skin/Pharmanex/Epoch/LifePak products. I don’t know how he started but he says it was related to his contact dermatitis on his hands and needing better moisturizer. The products are 5x the price of high street products, and they make a lot of outlandish claims. I think he’s effectively wasting his money in a huge way and also possibly harming himself. He buys -every- product of theirs, not just ones for hand moisturizing as he originally started with.  How can I convince him he’s not using miracle products like he thinks he is and that they are not worth 5x the price of other products? 

The Beauty Brains respond:

Perry and I have discussed your problem and it’s not an easy one to solve. If your partner is as set in his ways as you make it sound then there’s probably little you can do to change his opinion. But there is one little test you can do to assess his open mindedness and to establish a possible plan of action. Just ask him the following question:

“What would it take to convince you to change your mind about these products?”

His answer will probably fall into one of four categories and then you can respond accordingly. (I’m paraphrasing his potential responses, of course.)

Answer 1: “Nothing will ever change my mind.”

Your action: Now you know that you’re just wasting your breath. If he’s that closed minded then it’s highly unlikely that anything you say or do will get him to change his opinion.

Answer 2: “I need to see scientific research that has tested these products against others.”

Your action: This answer gives something you can sink your teeth into. To start, you two can agree on one or two products to evaluate. Then, based on a review of the ingredients, you can look at the scientific literature to see what is known about this kind of product. (Once you agree on the specifics from him, we’d be glad to help with this part.)

Answer 3: “I need to see for myself that there’s really no difference between these products and others.”

Your action: If he’s open minded in this regard, we can help you set up an experiment where he blindly evaluates one of his products compared to another brand. (It may not be possible to completely blind him to which product is which but you can make it hard for him to know which is which. If he’s true to his word then he’ll have to change his mind if he can’t tell a difference between the two.

Answer 4: “I need to hear from other people who have used these products and decided that they’re not worth it.”

Your action: You may be able to find product reviews or a forum discussion featuring input from former users of his brands. This one may be more of a long shot but if he hears the truth from other people, instead of just you, maybe he’ll be convinced.

I hope this helps. Like I said, this is going to be tough! But depending on this answer to “The Question” we’d be glad to help you take further steps to convince him. Let us know how it turns out!

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Is L’Oreal Age Perfect Cell Renewal Cream old fashioned?

PMA is puzzled…L’oréal has just lanched this night cream: Age Perfect Cell Renewal Cream. As usual Beautypedia “said” a lot of bad things against the product: “Dated mineral oil and wax based formula.” Just because beeswax is old it’s bad then? I’ve found the best rated creams on the Internet among consumers are wax based…

The Beauty Brains respond: 

Randy covered this already in our Forum but I think his answer bears repeating.

Is beeswax bad?

I don’t know exactly what Paula means when she says the formula is “dated” but my guess is that she’s referring to the aesthetics of the formula and not necessarily saying it’s “bad.” That’s because beeswax, while it does form a good emulsion, can make a formula hard to speed. It can feel “draggy” on skin. There are plenty of newer ingredients (esters, etc) which provide a similar function but with more slip. So maybe that’s her issue.

As far as mineral oil is concerned, we know that MANY people consider it to be an outdated ingredient which clogs pores, etc etc even though its a highly effective ingredient. (Albeit one that can feel greasy.) If you want to refute those allegations you can read our post on the top 5 myths about mineral oil.

The bigger concern (and here we agree with Paula) is that the product doesn’t seem to contain any bona fide anti-aging ingredients. Rather, it appears to be little more than a moisturizer which isn’t a very good value considering it costs $25 for 1.7 ounces!

L’Oreal Age Perfect Cell Renewal Cream ingredients

Aqua/Water, Paraffinum Liquidum/Mineral Oil, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Squalane, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-40 Stearate, Cera Alba/Beeswax, Sorbitan Tristearate, Mel/Honey, Stearyl Alcohol, Cera Microcristallina/Microcrystalline Wax, Paraffin, Calcium Pantothenate, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Neohesperidin Dihydrochalcone, Isohexadecane, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Myristyl Alcohol, Vigna Aconitifolia/Vigna Aconitifolia Seed Extract, Disodium EDTA, Hydrolyzed Cicer Seed Extract, Hydroxyapatite, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Polysorbate 80, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Acrylonitrile/Methyl Methacrylate/Vinylidene Chloride Copolymer, Octyldodecanol, Oryzanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Ci 14700/Red 4, Ci 19140/Yellow 5, Linalool, Geraniol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Limonene, Hydroxycitronellal, Citronellol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Salicylate, Parfum/Fragrance.

 

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