Spotlight On: Acetyl Tetrapeptide-5

Peptide Contraversy

There are issues that might have members of a community on opposite sides, like when your family debates whether to serve turkey or ham for dinner when your nephew comes home from college. And then there are issues that divide the dermatology community, such as whether or not peptides have value.

The Peptide Controversy

Some experts, like one of my favorites, esteemed dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., say that peptides are a part of a series of substances that do absolutely nothing: “Many active ingredients that are used as “buzz words” in skin care cannot penetrate the skin, leaving them useless, for instance: Oxygen, Stem Cells, Hyaluronic acid and Peptides.” (source)

On the other hand, other dermatologists seem to think that certain peptides are the wave of the future. In fact, derms like Dr. Francesca Fusco, M.D., recommend starting a peptide cream as anti-aging in your 20′s (source). There are a number of studies that support peptide use, including palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 and palmitoyl oligopeptide. For example, double-blind study with a control group that had participants apply different things to each side of their face found that palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 effectively increase the production of collagen and of extracellular matrix proteins (International Journal of Cosmetic Science). As for palmitoyl oligopeptide, a study found that when palmitoyl oligopeptide stimulates collagen production in skin fibroblasts when used twice a day for six months (Dermatologic Therapy).  It is believed that peptides may work by signaling receptors within the skin without having to penetrate the skin themselves, though the exact mechanism of action remains to be seen.

Acetyl tetrapeptide-5 (Eyeseryl®)

Acetyl Tetrapeptide-5 - Is It Effective?

Acetyl tetrapeptide-5 is a part of this controversy. Found primarily in eye creams, acetyl tetrapeptide-5 has been shown to reduce puffiness and swelling by changing the micro-circulation in the skin in this area, making it less permeable to fluid (Clinics in Dermatology, 2009).

Marketed by Lipotec under the trade name Eyeseryl®, the company claims that regular use of 0.001% Eyeseryl can reduce the leaking of interstitial fluid into the eye by up to 50% — meaning your eyes have far less swelling and puffing (

How Acetyl tetrapeptide-5 (Eyeseryl®) Works

How this works is a bit complex.Eyeseryl® works in two ways. First, it inhibits glycation in the skin around the eyes. Glycation normally causes abnormal, disorganized cross-linking in collagen fibers. Rather than having all of your collagen fibers working together in a unified, organized fashion, glycation causes skin to be less elastic. Eyeseryl® combats this by binding to one of the proteins that is involved in glycation, preventing this protein from binding to the next substance necessary to continue glycation, and hence stopping glycation in its tracks.

The second way Eyeseryl® works is by changing the permeability of your blood vessels in the region. (Yes, this sounds scary, but it actually is no scarier than putting pressure on a wound — you are simply changing the circulation). By decreasing the permeability of blood vessels in the region, you decrease the amount of fluid that can accumulate in the region.



Though only 20 individuals used the product for 30 days, 63-70% of them reduced their undereye bags, which is a beautiful thing, and more significant than existing treatments like caffeine. The ingredient appears to have a very high safety potential.

What are the Best Products with Eyeseryl®?

YBF Product Line

Of the products I have researched with Eyeseryl, the best is Correct by Your Best Face Skin Care ($160). This cream contains a lot of other beneficial ingredients, including Matrixyl 3000, Haloxyl, and many other great peptides. It does make a marked difference in your undereye bags and fine lines/wrinkles within a short amount of time.

Bottom Line

Acetyl tetrapeptide-5 is a win for undereye bags and puffiness. If you have seasonal allergies, it’s an absolute must-have to pick up Correct by Your Best Face Skin Care Eye Cream and some Claritin!

Let’s Be Real: Is Oxygen Good — or Bad — in Skin Care?

Are Oxygen Facials Effective

There are ingredients you know are great, nearly all of the time, in skin care: Retinol, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacinamide, sunscreen. And then there are ingredients you’ve heard mixed reviews about. Put best in the words of Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., a renowned dermatologist in an exclusive FutureDerm interview, “Many active ingredients that are used as buzz words in skin care cannot penetrate the skin, leaving them useless, for instance: Oxygen, Stem cells, Hyaluronic acid…”

Here, I’ll break down the science behind oxygen-containing products and procedures. We’ll start with what is proven to work, and make our way down, so you really “get” the logic behind it.

What Really Works: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Madonna Oxygen Facials

Let’s start with what really works.

There is a procedure known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is used to increase the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. Typically recommended for conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, or a wound that won’t heal, hyperbaric oxygen therapy promotes tissue healing and fights infection (Mayo Clinic).

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. Within this chamber, the air pressure is raised up to three times higher than normal air pressure. In effect, your lungs will get up to three times more oxygen. Your blood then carries this oxygen throughout your body, which stimulates the release of growth factors and stem cells (Mayo Clinic).

Unfortunately, hyperbaric oxygen therapy isn’t something you can just go and get in the name of better skin and vanity. At the same time, this idea holds promise for the future of skin care treatments.


Oxygen Facials: Not The Same

oxygen facial

Manufacturers of oxygen facial machines claim that because they are blowing oxygen under pressure onto the face the treatment resembles a hyperbaric treatment and thus will produce the results of hyperbaric therapy. There is one 2010 study in support of this: “Topical dissolved oxygen can penetrate skin and may be useful to aid chronic wound healing.”

However, most scientific studies and medical experts say the benefits of oxygen therapy are an exaggeration, since they aren’t fully recreating a true, hyperbaric environment. A review of the existing scientific data supporting oxygen facial treatments was found to be scarce, anecdotal, and not well-documented (Aesthetic Plastic Surgery journal, 2011).

Dr. Ellen Marmur, M.D., of the Mount Sinai Medical Center says of oxygen facials, “Although I’m sure that an oxygen facial makes your skin glowing and radiant; the effect has nothing to do with oxygen. The machine used for this facial treatment has a hose-like attachment that discharges pressurized oxygen along with a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum. The moisturizing mist is what plumps the skin and makes it temporarily look and feel dewy.”

She continues, “The use of oxygen cosmetically claims to have a wound-healing effect on the skin. This may stem from the fact that hyperbaric oxygen treatment has been proven to help heal wounds, but placing a patient in a pressurized hyperbaric chamber to increase the amount of oxygen in the lungs, which in turn delivers it through the blood to injured tissue, is not the same as having air sprayed onto your face.”

Therefore, oxygen facials likely not increasing the delivery of oxygen and hence stimulating growth factors and stem cells within your skin. Instead, if anything, it seems the moisturization from the hyaluronic acid is giving your skin a temporary glow.

The Bottom of the Barrel: Topical Treatments Containing Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide is a Free Radical


There is a whole lot of additional controversy surrounding the use of hydrogen peroxide in skin care.

Keep in mind that antioxidants are used to combat oxidation. On the other hand, hydrogen peroxide is a significant oxidizing agent, meaning that it causes oxidation, or the release of free radicals, into your skin. In fact, the oxidizing capacity of hydrogen peroxide is so strong that it itself considered a highly reactive oxygen species – a free radical!

In addition, Paula Begoun states, “There is a great deal of current research showing that hydrogen peroxide is problematic as a topical disinfectant because it can [...] reduce the production of healthy new skin cells (Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery).”

There is one company out of San Diego called Aura Research that claims to have introduced the first “stabilized emulsion of hydrogen peroxide”. They claim that their exclusive form of hydrogen peroxide emulsion delivers oxygen to the skin in this way:

“When hydrogen peroxide meets the skin, it always breaks down to water and oxygen. Instead of the oxygen being released on the skin, and escaping back into the atmosphere, the oxygen released from the emulsion penetrates the skin.

Why this happens is very simple. The oil phase of the emulsion offers a resistance to the oxygen, and the skin becomes the path of least resistance. When hydrogen peroxide changes from a liquid to a gas, which is instantaneously, it increases in volume 22.4 times. This increase in volume is what causes the pressure and why it penetrates the skin.”

However, this sounds quite complicated, and a bit dubious (if I am completely honest). I need to see more research in order to evaluate this properly.

Therefore, any products that are claiming to be “oxygenating” because they contain hydrogen peroxide are likely not providing the benefits we associate with oxygen, including the generation of new growth factors, stem cells, and (eventually) skin cells.

You Can’t Put Oxygen in a Jar

A cream or lotion cannot contain oxygen, which is a gas. Furthermore, any oxygen that is put into a product must be stabilized. I have absolutely no idea what most products that list “oxygen” on the ingredients list are actually including in their product.

One Oxygenated Product with Promise

Oxygen Botanics

Unlike most products that contain oxygen, which often contain hydrogen peroxide and other oxides that can be detrimental to the skin, Oxygen Botanicals Oxygen Super Hydrating Cream merely infuses, or treats, each individual ingredient with oxygen before adding it to the jar. On the one hand, this probably doesn’t do that much, but on the other hand, this product contains so many good hydrators, I don’t care. It goes on the skin thick, but dries quickly and evenly. Best for normal to dry skin types. These hydrators include orchid oil (which has been found to increase UVB protection (Archives of Dermatology, 1980)), vitamin E, and sodium hyaluronate.

I really like Oxygen Botanicals Oxygen Super Hydrating Cream for use nightly. It can be used after a retinoid or AHA treatment, and during the day after an antioxidant serum and before a sunscreen. Orchid oil is one of the few “hip” ingredients I really love! With UVB protection, hydrating ability, and a pretty high safety/non-irritating potential, it is a solid “natural” ingredient I support. For the full review on this product, click here.

Bottom Line

Keep in mind the following:

  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy stimulates blood flow up to 3x, which in turn stimulates growth factors and stem cells within the skin.
  • Oxygen facials are just “OK.” The increased “glow” is mostly attributable to hyaluronic acid, not oxygen. (Sorry!)
  • Avoid products containing hydrogen peroxide with a passion! These are pro-oxidant.
  • If you absolutely must-have an oxygen-containing product, Oxygen Botanicals Oxygen Super Hydrating Cream contains oxygenated hydrating ingredients, including orchid oil, vitamin E, and sodium hyaluronate, which makes it the best oxygen-containing treatment I have found.

Got questions? Let me know in Comments!

Spotlight On: Jojoba Oil

The Jojoba Company Nicki youth potion

In addition to having a funny name, jojoba oil (pronounced “ho-ho-bah”) is pretty awesome. Unlike other exotic oils like argan, coconut, and olive, jojoba oil is actually a wax with a chemical composition mimics your skin’s sebum more closely than any other oil. For more about the science behind this awesome product, read on:

Understanding Oils and Your Skin

Right now, skin care oils are all the rage. You will hear even very esteemed skin care experts who work for brands now claiming that “everyone” can benefit from a skin care oil, despite decades of research demonstrating that skin care oils can be pore-clogging, acne-causing, and even inflammatory to susceptible individuals.

New skin care oils are actually not that different from old skin care oils, either; you can’t change the composition of an oil, and most companies do not dilute oils down well, either. All skin care oils are naturally comprised of a blend of mostly fatty acids and some squalane, meaning a product with 100% jojoba oil had the same chemical composition in 1974 as it does today. 

Some skin care oils are more beneficial for your skin than others. It is the length of the carbon chain and the composition of the fatty acids — saturated (contains only single-bonded carbon atoms) or unsaturated (contains double-bonded carbon atoms) — that makes them have entirely different chemical properties. For example, olive oil is made up of about 15% saturated and 85% unsaturated fatty acids. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is made up of the inverse: about 85% saturated and 15% unsaturated fatty acids. Understanding this, know that there are certain oils better for dry skin than others:  

  • Those with dry skin will not benefit much, if at all, from oils like almond, apricot, avocado, castor, and olive. These are best for those with normal skin types. This is because these oils are occlusive agents that trap only existing moisture into the skin.  If you don’t have much moisture in your skin to begin with, these won’t help much.
  • Those with dry skin are better suited to oils like palm, coconut, pequi, and argan.  These oils contain fatty acids with more medium-to-long chain hydrocarbons.  As a result, they function as emollients, which increase the amount of moisture skin is capable of holding while binding to water and oils within the skin.

Keep in mind, however, that applying too much of any oil makes them solely occlusive – so you’re just trapping moisture in, not allowing your skin to add any, even with its increased capacity to hold moisture.

Where Jojoba Fits In

jojoba oil benefits diagram

Because jojoba is so similar to our skin’s natural oil, it is thought that jojoba oil can “trick” the skin into thinking it’s producing enough oil, which helps balance oil production [Source:]. “Jojoba oil is rich in natural fats that mimic those in the outer layer of the skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “This means it can help the skin retain moisture and heal itself.” (source)

Scientific research confirms this. One study shows that use of jojoba oil shows modest swelling, indicative of moisture retention, in the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of skin) after use (Journal of Dermatological Science, 2008). Jojoba oil can also help to increase the penetration of other ingredients into the skin, something that may be useful for anti-acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids (Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 1984).

This means that jojoba oil is good for those with oily and acne-prone skin in small amounts. Just remember what I said above: Applying too much of any oil is not a good thing. Think a dime-size amount for the entire face.

What are the Best Products with Jojoba Oil?

The Jojoba Company 100% natural ultimate jojoba

Best for Dry Skin: Jojoba 100% Natural Ultimate Jojoba ($39.95,

This formulation contains jojoba oil, plus white tea, argan oil, and coenzyme Q10. Of the two Jojoba Company products, this one is significantly heavier compared to the other. The formulation is high-quality and has a medium-to-thick texture, which glides evenly along the skin. It takes about 10-20 seconds to absorb after application, and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. You can tell something is on your skin, but it is not tacky.

The Jojoba Company 100% Natural Ultimate Jojoba Youth Potion on hand

It also leaves a nice subtle light-reflective texture on the skin, kind-of like models and actresses often have in photographs. I enjoy applying it to my body, as it is a bit too heavy for my facial skin. I wish it was a little less scented (it smells a lot like a bouquet of lilacs), but I still enjoy that slight “modelistic” sheen it gives to my legs and arms. Considering that jojoba does not increase photosensitivity and is quite stable in the presence of UV light (Seventh International Conference on Jojoba and Its Uses), I am using it under a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen on my body, and liking the results.

The Jojoba Company 100% Natural Australian Jojoba

Best for Normal to Oily Skin: Jojoba Company Australian Golden Jojoba Oil ($19.95 for 1 fl.oz., $29.95 for 2.9 fl.oz.,

This formulation contains only 100% jojoba oil. Of the two Jojoba Company products, this one is much lighter. The formulation is high-quality and has a thin to very thin texture, which glides without tugging onto the skin. It takes about 5-10 seconds to absorb after application, and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. It also leaves a nice subtle light-reflective texture on the skin, but less so than with the other product.

I apply this to my face nightly after using our retinol. It is not as scented as the other product, and the smell of pure jojoba reminds me of a faint floral, nearly tropical, scent. It leaves my skin feeling soft and supple.


Bonus points: The skin under your eyes does not have as many oil glands as the rest of the face. I do not have particularly sensitive skin under my eyes, nor am I prone to puffiness in this region. For that reason, I have been applying Jojoba Company Golden Jojoba Oil under my eyes, and I find that I really like the results. It mimics your skin’s natural sebum and reflects the light ever-so-slightly. Still, this tip is not for everyone. Try it if you wish, but use caution!

Bottom Line

You have to love jojoba oil. My favorite source for these products is the Jojoba Company, and I absolutely love their Jojoba Company Australian Golden Jojoba Oil for my face, and their Jojoba 100% Natural Ultimate Jojoba Youth Potion for my body.

Editor’s Note: I just found out from the Jojoba Company that they recommend the converse; that is, their Jojoba Company Australian Golden Jojoba Oil for the face, and their Jojoba 100% Natural Ultimate Jojoba Youth Potion for the body. After hearing this, I re-evaluated, and think it depends on your personal preference and skin type:

Thoughts on this post? Let me know in comments!



Follow Friday + Nicki’s Personal Updates: The Two Kinds of Strength

Inner Strength Clarity

I’m a huge fan of Tory Johnson, the CEO and founder of Women for Hire and Spark & Hustle, best-selling author, and a regular contributor on Good Morning America.

Recently, I picked up her latest book, The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier LIfe, and this one line really stuck with me:

Clarity trumps willpower.

In our society, we are driven by results. Top athletes, businesspersons, and surgeons aren’t talking in the media about clarity. They’re talking about willpower, strength, the drive to thrive, the need to succeed. Willpower means getting up early, staying up late, getting things done, and being the very best in the world at what they do. Willpower is command. Success in this supposed highest form is a battle comprised of all male energy: very aggressive, forceful, determined, and even combative at times.

But clarity, this is something else.

Clarity comes from taking a deep breath. Clarity is identifying the options available to you, and taking the time to fully comprehend each choice and what they will mean for you in the short and the long-term. Clarity is about feminine energy, a graceful, peaceful energy, almost a faith. Clarity enables you to know with quiet confidence you will do what is right for you at each given moment, and progress steadily forward in that manner. Inevitably, clarity leads to success; after all, as Buddha said, drop by drop fills the bucket. Not sporadic gigantic rainfalls followed by long periods of drought. But steady, clear commitment to your goal.

Now, as regular readers of the FutureDerm blog know, I’m obsessed with a commitment to constant self-improvement. Which means, at least in part, understanding your true psychological nature. From most of the reading that I have done, my belief is there are two primary driving forces in life: Your ego, which protects you from danger and harm, but is constantly in fear-based mode, and your inner spirit, which is drawn to love and joy, but is not always aware of social norms and proprieties. I know that there are multiple variances on these theories — Freud for one has three driving forces – but I have found that many Buddhist texts and popular modern spiritualists like Eckhart Tolle and Martha Beck adopt this “social self” versus “essential self” theory that I have found works well for me.

Understanding that you have two sets of considerations, one exclusively fear-based and the other entirely joy-based, makes it clear that the inner struggle to success must be managed in both sectors. The social self, obviously, wants the title, the big salary, and the corner office. After all, this protects you from criticism from friends and family, gives you a hefty savings, and you will have more security at work. The social self will make you get out of bed and put your nose to the grindstone from dawn till dusk (and sometimes later). The social self is all of the Nike commercials: Just do it. And to appease the social self, you need to have the big goals, the five-year plan, the suit and the business cards.

On the other hand, the essential self gets something else: In 150 years, there will be all new people on this earth. Life is short. Seize every moment of joy that you can. Live a life that is joyous and fulfilling, even if it makes your friends and families raise eyebrows when you go from $200,000 a year in your miserable corporate job to $20,000 in your first year being an artist like you’ve always dreamed. The essential self is that little spark in you that says to cancel your meetings and go to the movies today, because you deserve it. (And you really want to see that new Ryan Gosling movie). To appease the essential self, you need to feel joy, connect with each moment, have faith things will turn out well, and do something that has a higher meaning to you than money, power, or status.

Why I loved Tory Johnson’s quote so much is because it reminded me that true success is not always willpower, strength, drive to succeed. It reminded me that there is another, quieter voice inside that needs to be managed. A voice that is fully aware that each moment you spend sacrificing is a moment you will never get back. A voice that knows sometimes sacrifice is worth it, and sometimes it isn’t, but you have to take the time to decide, each and every time, whether a choice is worth the consequences.

Willpower fades. What you are left with is your core self, your enigma, your heart, your spirit — whatever you call it, let that motivate you. When the money, power, and status have lost their luster (and they always do eventually), whatever is left is what truly motivates you. Those quiet reasons are your clarity. That is who you are.

You will find it is much easier to save money because you want to have security and freedom later on, not a beach house in retirement. You will find it is much easier to lose weight because you want to feel confident and beautiful and be around for your kids, not because you want to fit into that size 0 Narciso Rodriguez dress for a dinner date next Tuesday. You will find it is much easier to stick with anything if you just remember: Clarity trumps willpower. Have the patience with yourself to cultivate your inner voice, and you will find a new meaning of success.



Follow Friday

Spotlight On: Photolyase


Photolyase is naturally found within the skin, but most assuredly deplete with age (Gerontology, 1991).  Photolyase reverses DNA damage in cells and prevents cell death caused by UV exposure.  It has been shown in trials to reduce UVB radiation-induced dimers by 45% and to increase UV protection by 300% (source). According to the text The New Science of Perfect Skin, liposome-encapsulated photolyase is delivered to the skin within an hour of application.  It requires light for its activation, though any mild indoor light that passes through sunscreen should be enough for it to work properly.

DNA Repair Enzymes Plankton Photolyase

As for whether or not the photolyase could potentially harm the cell’s DNA, I called in Dr. Helen Torok, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist for twenty-five years and the current Medical Director at Trillium Creek Dermatology in Medina, OH, who is familiar with the technology.  Of potential damage to cellular DNA, she says, “We cannot say with complete certainty but most likely not. The DNA repair enzymes detect DNA damage, remove the damage and then assist the body’s own natural repair mechanisms in restoring healthy DNA. The body can do this on its own, but repeated sun exposure – whether or not a sunburn forms – lessens the skin’s ability to repair itself. The DNA repair enzymes help to promote the recovery process.”

As for products that contain photolyase, nearly all NEOVA products do. Visit our NEOVA page to view all of the products!

Product Review: Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum

Kiehls Super Multi-Corrective Eye-Opening Serum Nicki


Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum promises to be the next great eye serum. Filled with ingredients like rhamnose, sodium hyaluronate, and silicones, the company promises the product is a 5-in-1 solution to many of the signs of aging found around the eyes:

      • Lift, firm, smooth, hydrate, and restore youthful shape of the eye
      • Skin around the eye area looks visibly firmer, lifted and skin texture looks more refined in less than one week*
      • 95% of women showed a significant improvement in eye opening**
      • Paraben-free, mineral-oil-free, fragrance-free, colorant-free, and suitable for sensitive eyes

* Based on consumer evaluations after 4 days of use ** Based on consumer evaluations after 4 weeks of use

Based on this information, Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum could be a godsend, but what does the science say? For more, read on:


In an exclusive interview with dermatologist Dr. David Bank, M.D., “Rhamnose works similar to retinol but is gentler on the skin. Instead of generating cell turnover like retinol, it works by signaling the current cells to act younger thus boosting collagen, elastin and protein production.”

This is also verified in many notable journals, including the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, in which it is shown that rhamnose prevents cells from undergoing glycation. Normally, when you consume too much sugar, the skin cells can produce a new, hardened state of collagen, called glucosepane. Amongst other things, glucosepane is responsible for the lack of elasticity you see in elderly persons’ skin, as the skin no longer bounces back and has lost all elasticity. But when you use ingredients like retinol or rhamnose, the glycation process has been shown to slow significantly, or not to occur altogether.

Sodium Hyaluronate

Sodium Hyaluronate Can Hold 1000X Its Weight in Water

One of my favorite skincare ingredients is sodium hyaluronate, which is one of the natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) found in the skin. Other notable NMFs include glycerin, urea, alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, propylene glycol, and hyaluronic acid, which all prevent evaporation of products in the bottle.  Natural NMFs maintain moisture in the skin, even under low humidity, and provide an optimal environment for enzymatic functions (Baumann).

All of these NMFs are humectants, meaning that they are able to attract water from the atmosphere if atmospheric humidity is greater than 80 percent. However, when atmospheric humidity is low, NMFs may actually cause dryness, as they extract water from the deeper layers of the skin; for this reason, NMFs work best when they are combined with occlusives like dimethicone or paraffin, as they are in Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum and most skincare formulations.

That said, sodium hyaluronate is a little different from other NMFs, in that sodium hyaluronate is a particularly effective humectant because it is effective in both high and low humidity conditions (In Cosmetics). In other words, sodium hyaluronate is hydrating alone or with occlusive agents, in high and low humidity, unlike glycerin, urea, alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, and propylene glycol, which require occlusive agents to be hydrating at low humidity.

And yes, there is a difference between sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid: Sodium hyaluronate, with similar water-binding abilities, is commonly used instead of hyaluronic acid in skincare products due to its greater chemical stability (Kewpie).

In skincare products like Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum, sodium hyaluronate draws water into the skin, reducing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), and creating a slight swelling of the skin that reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Sodium hyaluronate also helps to temporarily stabilize and maintain the complex intercellular-skin matrix, which is the “glue” that holds the skin together. This temporarily gives the skin a smoother appearance  The water retention and stabilization of the skin are the likely reasons that the press release for Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum says “90% of women said the skin around the eye area looks visibly firmer, lifted and skin texture looks more refined in less than one week.” The rhamnose is the slow-and-steady ingredient, which will likely not show results for 6-12 weeks, whereas the sodium hyaluronate gives almost-instant benefits.

Is there long-term benefit to sodium hyaluronate? Maybe. Despite their lack of long-term anti-aging benefits, NMFs may still be important for anti-aging prevention, according to Dr. Howard Murad, He states that hydration of the skin with NMFs allows the skin to operate at optimum capacity, and provides a better defense against environmental assaults. Therefore, sodium hyaluronate and other NMFs are often included in “anti-wrinkle” and “anti-aging” products, but they improve the appearance of the skin on a temporary basis more than they provide actual long-term correction of the skin, like retinoids.

Titanium Dioxide

Physical Sunscreen Vs. Chemical Sunscreen

Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum contains titanium dioxide, a physical sunscreen. Kiehl’s doesn’t quantify the amount of sunscreen on the label, most likely because the SPF is 5 or less. A quick perusal of the ingredients list leads me to believe it’s 1% or less, correlating to about an SPF protection of 5 or less, if I had to make a guess. Probably not worth their time or money to quantify.

Physical sunscreens include both titanium and zinc oxide. Some skin experts like oxides better than all of the other sunscreens (i.e., oxybenzone, avobenzone) because zinc and titanium oxides form a topical layer that prevents UV light from hitting the skin altogether.  Think of them as a physical barrier, hence oxides are “physical” sunscreens.

On the other hand, the rest of the sunscreen active ingredients out there, like avobenzone, oxybenzone, and Mexoryl, are “chemical sunscreens.” The big difference is that chemical sunscreens allow your skin to absorb UV light but very quickly dissipate it as a different form of energy, like small quantities of heat or non-damaging light.  Some dermatologists use both chemical and physical sunscreens for extra protection, making sure to apply the chemical sunscreens first and to let them absorb into the skin to activate for at least 30 minutes first.

It is a little-known fact that zinc oxide (the one NOT found in Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum) is better as a physical block than titanium oxide.  This is because UVA and UVB rays are separated into longer UVA (UV-aging) and shorter UVB (UV-burning), and zinc oxide blocks a significantly longer portion of UVA rays.  (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2005)

The best sunscreens with oxides also have the ingredient micronized, unlike Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum.  Some scientists argue that micronized is bad because small oxides can get into your skin and cause oxidation, yet the vast majority argue that the benefit of a micronized zinc oxide in preventing UV-induced oxidation is greater than the risk of oxide-induced oxidation.  What’s more, very precise studies [with electron microscopy] have shown only very minimal levels of micronized oxides penetrate the uppermost layer of the skin (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2007). Besides, let’s face it – many men and women still tan to look better.  The cosmetic advantage afforded by micronizing oxides is magnificent – no telltale white streaks, fast absorption, easy make-up application afterwards.

However, the point of Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum isn’t to provide UV protection. Even if UV light is the number one cause of the visible signs of aging, your best bet is to apply this product underneath a sunscreen with actual quantified UVB protection (and UVA, if you’re lucky enough to find one with the five-star rating).

Personal Use and Opinions

Kiehls Super Multi-Corrective Eye-Opening Serum Nicki Apply

Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum has a lightweight to medium, slightly hydrating, texture that is characteristic of a serum with silicones. It glides over the skin and then drinks into the skin in under a minute. It feels slightly cooling on the skin. When it dries, it is slightly light-reflective, owing to the mica particles therein. It is great to apply makeup over, and should not present a problem for even the most oily of skin types. (The eye region contains less oil glands than the rest of the face).

Bottom Line

Kiehls Super Multi-Corrective Eye-Opening Serum Bottle

Let me give it to you straight: Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum is absolutely fantastic for fine lines and wrinkles and sagging around the eyes. It will instantly plump up and lift the skin, with ample amounts of sodium hyaluronate and occlusive agents, and the high concentration of rhamnose therein will cause your skin to produce more collagen over time. (Think months, not days, on the latter point).

On the other hand, if you have dark circles or puffiness, Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum isn’t the right eye treatment for you. Dark circles are either caused by hyperpigmentation or blood pooling in the region. In the case of hyperpigmentation, you want to think hydroquinone, kojic acid, retinol + vitamin K together, glycolic acid, vitamin C in high concentrations, and certain peptides like Lumixyl. On the other hand, with blood pooling in the region, you want to look at sleeping on more than one pillow for eight=plus hour (if you’re lucky!) head elevation, and certain peptides like Haloxyl. Rhamnose and sodium hyaluronate aren’t going to cut it as your actives for dark circles or puffiness.

So, depending on your gripe, Kiehl’s Super Corrective Eye-Opening Serum could be the eye cream for you!

Got a question? Let me know in comments!

Ingredients: Aqua/Water, Rhamnose, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Dimethicone, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Octyldodecanol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Mica, Phenoxyethanol, Ammonium Polyacryldimethyltauramide/Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, CI 77891/Titanium Dioxide, Chlorphenesin, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Triethanolamine, Xanthan Gum, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Disodium EDTA, Adenosine, Salicyloyl Phytosphingosine, Fmla 685683 4 F.I.L. Code D165265/3


Product Review: Oxygen Botanicals Super Hydrating Cream



Sometimes I really like characters and places that are far more than what you would gather from initial impressions: Shrek, purse organizers (they’re life-saving!), and this really great unassuming Cambodican place near my boyfriend’s place. Oxygen Botanicals Oxygen Super Hydrating Cream ($61.70, Skin Care by doesn’t admittedly look like much in way of packaging, but this little jar is filled with proven-effective ingredients like antioxidant vitamin E and hydrating hyaluronic acid, plus bonus ingredients, like orchid oil.

Unlike most products that contain oxygen, which often contain hydrogen peroxide and other oxides that can be detrimental to the skin, Oxygen Botanicals Oxygen Super Hydrating Cream merely infuses, or treats, each individual ingredient with oxygen before adding it to the jar. On the one hand, this probably doesn’t do that much, but on the other hand, this product contains so many good hydrators, I don’t care. It goes on the skin thick, but dries quickly and evenly. Best for normal to dry skin types. For more, read on:

Orchid Oil


Unlike most of the others, orchid oil may do more than provide hydration. According to at least one study, orchid oil may help to boost UVB protection significantly when used in conjunction with a sunscreen (H&PC2012). The reasons for this are likely to be the constituents of the orchid itself, which include vitamin C. Of course, are you likely to get more from a concentrated vitamin C serum? Of course. But it doesn’t hurt that this is a benefit of using orchid oil or extract on the skin.

Orchid oil also appears to be (mostly) safe for the skin. Those with particularly sensitive skin may find that they have an allergic reaction (Archives of Dermatology, 1980). But overall, the ingredient is safe and effective.

Vitamin E


Vitamin E is naturally found within the skin — in fact, every time you sweat, it is naturally produced in your sebum (Packer and Valacchi). Interestingly enough, the greatest amounts of vitamin E are found deep within your skin: Vitamin E shows a characteristic gradient in the skin, with lower levels being found towards the uppermost stratum corneum layers.

What does get to the top of your skin does a great job: vitamin E hydrates and protects the skin from environmental ozone, UV light, and other hazards (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology). It also protects from collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases (Free Radical Biology and Medicine2002).

You can actually tell how much damage your skin has been subjected to by measuring its vitamin E levels! In a study by J.J. Thiele, depleted levels of vitamin E serve as a “very early and sensitive biomarker of environmentally-induced oxidation.”

Thankfully, slapping vitamin E on your face is every bit as good as what is naturally produced by your skin. According to the last mentioned study, “Topical and/or systemic application of antioxidants could support physiologic mechanisms to maintain or restore a healthy skin barrier and to modulate desquamatory skin disorders.”

Vitamin E fares well in the raging antioxidant market

Vitamin C and E

In fact, vitamin E has an environmental protection factor (EPF) of 80, which is relatively high compared to other commonly used antioxidants in skin care formulations. EPF was established for measuring the overall oxidative stress protection capacity of commonly used antioxidants in a 2006 study by McDaniel et. al. In this study, the researchers found that (on a scale from 1 to 100) idebenone had an EPF of 95; vitamin E (tocopherol), 80; kinetin, 68; ubiquinone, 55; vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 52; and lipoic acid, 41. However, coffee berry, which has been established to have more antioxidant activity than idebenone, was not included in the study.

Hyaluronic acid

Sodium Hyaluric Acid

If there was a Regina George of skin care ingredients, hyaluronic acid would be it, except it’s not mean or elitist, just very popular. This natural moisturizing factor (NMF) is a humectant moisturizer (meaning it pulls moisture from the atmosphere). Hyaluronic acid can actually bond with 10,000 times its weight in water (10 Minutes, 10 YearsBaumann)!

One of the reasons that natural moisturizing factors are important is that they allow the skin to operate at an optimal level, meaning that it can provide the best protection against environmental assaults (Murad). And one of the things that makes it great is that hyaluronic acid does this well in both high and low humidity environments (In Cosmetics).

Hyaluronic acid has also been shown to help speed up wound healing from oxygen free-radical damage in mouse skin (International Journal of Tissue Reactions). Researchers were not, however, certain if hyaluronic worked as a free-radical scavenger.

Bottom Line

I really like Oxygen Botanicals Oxygen Super Hydrating Cream for use nightly. It can be used nightly after a retinoid or AHA treatment, and during the day after an antioxidant serum and before a sunscreen. Orchid oil is one of the few “hip” ingredients I really love! With UVB protection, hydrating ability, and a pretty high safety/non-irritating potential, it is a solid “natural” ingredient I support.


Spotlight On: Yes to Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray

Yes To Coconuts Products

You don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot. People (and car commercials) often say this, and sometimes it is true.

Like with Yes to Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray ($9.99, — this is a fantastic product for the body, especially before bed. I was recently sent a sample by a PR agent, and I will tell you, this stuff is awesome! I did my usual patch test, and then promptly switched to spraying it all over my hands, arms, legs…really. It’s that good. For the science behind it, read on…

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

When discussing coconut oil, it’s important to note that studies are generally talking about virgin, unrefined, or “pure” coconut oil — so if you decide to use it, keep that in mind. Unrefined coconut oil is richer in phytonutrients than refined coconut oil. Polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in the body, are damaged by the bleaching and heating process used to produce refined coconut oil, so more are present in the unrefined kind (SF Gate).

Coconut oil has been shown to hydrate skin as well as increase elasticity and decrease roughness (Molecules). It contains kinetin, which has been shown to be effective in anti-aging treatment, though it does not contain as much kinetin as products that list kinetin on the label.

Another study found that virgin coconut oil could be used for its antibacterial and emollient qualities to treat contact dermatitis (Dermatitis). It can also help to heal burn wounds, though the researchers did not uncover why exactly, hypothesizing that it is because coconut has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties (Indian Journal of Pharmacology). Unlike many oils, coconut also does provide some UV protection — blocking about 20% of UV rays (the study didn’t specify UVA or UVB) (Pharmacology Reviews).

But it can also clog pores, so it’s important to use coconut products on clean skin. And aside from its very limited potential to irritate due to allergy, the FDA has rated as “safe.”

Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil

Avocados are rich in vitamin E, a naturally-occurring antioxidant in the skin that can help cut the chain of free radical reactions (Encyclopedia Britannica). Avocado is essentially awesome in helping to work against UV exposure damage and save your skin (Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology).

Like coconut oil, avocado oil has been shown to be slightly photoprotective for the skin, which means they aid in protection against UV damage (The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health).

As with any natural oil, allergies are definitely possible. Avocado has been shown to cause allergic reactions when topically applied to the skin of susceptible individuals (Allergy, 2004). For this reason, it is important to patch test this or any other “natural” product containing many fruit or vegetable oils.

Argan Oil

Argan Oil

In the case of argan oil, the entire oil is rich in fatty acids that are able to maintain skin elasticity, smoothness, and radiance. These fatty acids include linoleic acid and oleic acid. In studies, linoleic acid has been proven capable of reducing inflammation and acne and increasing skin’s moisturization levels.

On the other hand, oleic acid is a omega-9 monounsaturated (i.e., contains only one double bond) nonessential fatty acid that makes up 55-60% of olive oil and 56% of açai berry.

Tamanu Oil

Tamanu Oil

Of all of the oils listed here, I think that tamanu oil has the greatest potential to become the next argan oil. (Except for argan oil, because, hey, you can’t best yourself!)

That said, tamanu oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties (International Journal of Aromatherapy, 1999). It is a sticky, greenish-yellow oil that has been used in its native Southeast Asia to treat minor cuts, abrasions, rashes, sores, and scarring for centuries (Mountain Rose Herbs). Due to the fact it is relatively new in western skin care, there is a severe lack of scientific and medical studies determining its efficacy against other potent known healing herbs and nutrients. But tamanu oil still shows promise, nonetheless.

Tamanu oil also has very low allergic potential (Journal of Medical Entomology, 2010).

Is It Actually Effective for Eczema?

Yes To Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray

This one, quite honestly, is a big fat “maybe.”

Eczema itself is a collective term for a group of conditions that can cause the skin to become inflamed or irritated. No matter the trigger, eczema is believed to be a response of the immune system against the allergen or culprit. Eczema tends to leave the skin red, swollen, and itchy. It most commonly appears on the face, back of the knees, wrists, hands, or feet.

In order for an agent to be classified as “effective for eczema,” it needs to relieve the itching, redness, and inflammation. While Yes to Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray contains hydrators that are likely to soothe the skin, it doesn’t contain the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins or prostaglandin-triggering compounds that are likely to get to the root of the cause. These agents are found in prescription corticosteroids or over-the-counter colloidal oatmeal products.

So while I like Yes to Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray, I would not recommend it for severe cases of eczema at all.

Really Great for Normal to Dry Skin, Especially of the Body

Yes to Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray

I really like Yes to Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray for nighttime use. Yes, it contains a small amount of natural UV protection, but I find that the blend of rich emollient oils is great when applied to slightly damp skin, freshly out of the shower or bath. Apply a layer all over the skin, put on some cotton pajamas and socks, and wake up to really soft, hydrated skin. Bonus points if you apply a really thick layer and rinse it off in the morning!

The texture is a little thick for a spray, and it takes a few sprays to cover an area. It absorbs fairly well. It has a little bit of a plastic-like smell that is ironically characteristic of many natural formulas.

Bottom Line

Yes To Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray

Yes to Coconuts Eczema Relief Spray is an awesome hydrating product that is stocked full of natural oils, including the hard-to-find sensation Tamanu oil. Ironically enough, I like this spray best for the skin of the body, and when applied at night. For best results, apply a thick layer after a shower or bath to still slightly damp skin.

Product Rating: 9.5/10. (High concentration of proven ingredients: 3/3. Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3. Value for the money: 3/3. Sunscreen: 0.5/1).


Water (Aqua), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Lauramide DIPA, Glycerin, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil*, Aleurites Moluccana Seed Extract, Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract, Morinda Citrifolia Fruit Extract, Musa Sapientum (Banana) Fruit Extract, Orchis Mascula Flower Extract, Psidium Guajava Fruit Extract, Polyquaternium-10, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Diisopropanolamine, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Fragrance.
*Certified Organic Ingredient

Spotlight On: Orchid Oil

Spotlight on Orchid

As women, they say we will try anything to look good. There are bewildering substances I have heard of and tested here at FutureDerm in skin care products: Queen bee royal jelly, bovine extract, “dragon’s blood,” placenta extract, mink oil, emu oil, shark liver oil, and now orchid oil.

What Does Orchid Oil Do?

Unlike most of the others, orchid oil may do more than provide hydration. According to at least one study, orchid oil may help to boost UVB protection significantly when used in conjunction with a sunscreen (H&PC2012). The reasons for this are likely to be the constituents of the orchid itself, which include vitamin C. Of course, are you likely to get more from a concentrated vitamin C serum? Of course. But it doesn’t hurt that this is a benefit of using orchid oil or extract on the skin.

Is Orchid Oil Safe?

Orchid oil also appears to be (mostly) safe for the skin. Those with particularly sensitive skin may find that they have an allergic reaction (Archives of Dermatology, 1980). But overall, the ingredient is safe and effective.

What are the Best Products with Orchid Oil?

Clarins Blue Orchid Oil

Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil ($41.99,; $62.00 retail). This hazelnut-based oil is bursting with omega-3′s, which are fatty acids that reduce inflammation and hydrate when applied topically to the skin (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2002). Omega-3′s may also play a role in preventing skin cancer (Cancer Detection and Prevention, 2006).

This product is best used alone by those with normal-dry to dry skin. Hazelnut oil can be pore-clogging when used with other ingredients, because it can trap other ingredients against the skin. Therefore, use Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil at night, immediately after cleansing, and don’t use anything else that night to avoid pore-clogging.

Oxygen Botanics

Oxygen Botanicals Oxygen Super Hydrating Cream ($61.70, Skin Care by also contains orchid oil, in addition to antioxidant vitamin E and hydrating hyaluronic acid. Unlike most products that contain oxygen, which contain hydrogen peroxide and other oxides that can be detrimental to the skin, Oxygen Botanicals Oxygen Super Hydrating Cream merely infuses, or treats, each individual ingredient with oxygen. On the one hand, this probably doesn’t do much of anything, but on the other hand, this product contains so many good hydrators, I don’t care. It goes on the skin thick, but dries quickly and evenly. Best for normal to dry skin types. Best of all, it can be used nightly after a retinoid or AHA treatment, and during the day after an antioxidant serum and before a sunscreen.

Bottom Line

Orchid oil is one of the few “hip” ingredients I really love! With UVB protection, hydrating ability, and a pretty high safety/non-irritating potential, it is a solid “natural” ingredient I support.


Follow Friday + Nicki’s Personal Updates: Happiness


I read a lot of personal development books. I liked the business-centered ones, the spiritual ones, the little daily guides, and even the Buddhist ones (I am technically Catholic, but I enjoy a good Buddhist theory now and then). I’ll even read those hokey-dokey books written by 20-and-30-somethings for confused Millennials about how to be an adult or whatever. (Hey, even if I don’t feel confused, I figure I can learn something).

But here’s a confession: After seven years of reading these self-help books and doing a lot of soul-searching, I still felt this inner sense of sadness. I tried living in the moment. I tried following my passion. I even did the things where you would try a new activity daily, like journaling or yoga or meditating or sipping green tea by a window, to try to feel genuinely excited about life again. But I still largely felt dull and lifeless. Most people didn’t suspect anything, not even my closest friends and family members, because I have one of those witty little personalities that makes me seem upbeat and cheerful, even though on the inside I often felt like I wanted to crawl in a hole and stay there with my fears and anxieties all day long rather than face life and all its challenges.

A lot happened to me seven years ago, and I don’t think I ever fully recovered from it. Despite everything I tried since to recover, my baseline mood was still a little disappointed, dismal, down. Better than before reading the books, mind you, but never back to my old normal.

But here’s the thing. In the past few weeks, I had a conversation with someone about something. It’s not a matter for this blog, but it is something important, and something I have wanted for a long time. And it occurred to me that is the secret to happiness: A goal. Not just any goal, but a goal that is something you genuinely want with your whole heart and soul. A goal that inspires you to get up in the morning and have a purpose to live for and work towards. A goal that you can break down into smaller pieces and work on achieving daily.

It’s not easy. But if you’re completely honest with yourself, you know that there are things in your life that you’re not happy about. Instead of trying to justify (“Everyone else is the same”), blame (“It’s not my fault, it’s because of this or him or her”), or act like you really don’t care (“It’s not that important”) be completely honest with yourself about what you want from your life. Get excited about it, and let yourself feel genuine excitement about it, as if you are already successful in your career, are 30 pounds lighter, have a boyfriend, or whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Nothing is stupid.

And then make a plan to get it. And live for that purpose.

I tried for too long to listen to the self-help authors and find bliss in the moment. Or to set goals that were so small, they weren’t exciting enough to me to chase after them. But the truth of the matter is, for better or worse, our society mandates that you should be young, thin, rich, smart, and happy. It’s hard to fit into our success-oriented society by just being, as many modern self-help books dictate. I think you have to get brutally honest with yourself, and whether you want to change yourself professionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, or in your relationships with others, you have to know that you can be all you want to me.  But you have to live to change, and stay excited about it. If you’re not, find a new goal.

No matter what happens in your life, I hope that you find your purpose, and wake up excited about it daily. As for me, I’m definitely improving, and I genuinely feel more excited about life again.




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