Enter to Win the Entire Yes to Tomatoes Line with FutureDerm!

The winner of our $100 Sephora gift card giveaway is SPetierra (#272).  Congratulations!

But don’t fret:  We’re giving away over $50 in free products!  Win the full Yes to Tomatoes line, including:

  • Yes to Tomatoes Facial Towelettes
  • Yes to Tomatoes Acne Control Gel Cleanser
  • Yes to Tomatoes Daily Pore Scrub
  • Yes to Tomatoes Roller Ball Spot Stick
  • Yes to Tomatoes Daily Balancing Moisturizer
  • Yes to Tomatoes Facial Mask

What are you waiting for?  :-)  Enter below!

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Which Pencil Eyeliner at Sephora Lasts the Longest?

I’ve always thought that Consumer Reports did a really great job at evaluating different products ranging from cars to colleges.  So when a recent FutureDerm survey revealed that over half of our readers wanted more cosmetics reviews, I jumped at the chance to test different beauty products!

So here’s our first.  For this review, I went to Sephora and compared nine different black eyeliners:

1 – Givenchy Magic Kahal ($22.50, Amazon.com)
2 – YSL Dessin Dugard Waterproof ($28.02, Amazon.com)
3 – NARS Larger than Life Eyeliner ($23.00, Amazon.com)
4 – Stila Smudge Stick Black Eyeliner ($15.52, Amazon.com)
5 – Urban Decay 24/7 Black Eyeliner ($19.86, Amazon.com)
6 – Sephora Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner ($12.00, Sephora.com)
7 – Laura Mercier Eye Pencil in Black Extreme ($19.00, Amazon.com)
8 – Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes Mat ($18.45, Amazon.com)
9 - bare Minerals Round the Clock Eyeliner ($12.95, Amazon.com)

How We Did It

Our “research” was actually really simple:  We applied a thin line of each liner across a clean hand.  We tried our best to use the same pressure when applying each liner.  It was actually the thickness that was a problem:  some, like the Stila Smudge Stick Black Eyeliner, had an automatic sharpening system that made it impossible to refine the point. But, we did the best we could, starting with one liner:

And then working up to another and another:

Until we got to this:

How We Tested Them

We had two options:

One, we could have a number of subjects apply each eyeliner daily for a certain number of days.  Take photos at the beginning and end of each day.  Evaluate the longevity.

Or, two, we could just apply it on our hands and see which one rubbed off the easiest.  And repeat with makeup remover.

Naturally, we went with the second option.  Here are the results after rubbing our finger over the eyeliners in an up-and-down (vertical) stroke five times:

And after applying makeup remover evenly to each:


The longest-lasting eyeliners of the nine we tested were:

This is me, wearing the Sephora smokey eyes kit and Make Up For Ever eyeliner in Black.

Overall, after we tried these three, we felt the Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes Mat lasted the longest and had the sharpest black color.  For a slightly less pigmented black, Laura Mercier Eye Pencil in Black Extreme had an easy-to-sharpen point and lasted almost as long.

What did you think of this post?  Let us know your feedback!


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Spotlight On: Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana)

” alt=”Witch-hazel in the Fürth Stadtpark (Germany)” width=”300″ height=”225″ />Witch hazel has been used for a long time in folk medicine and researchers are looking into its benefits. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hamamelis Virginiana, better known as witch hazel, is a plant found in North America that has been used in traditional to soothe skin irritation and inflammation (Mosby’s Handbook of Herbal and Natural Supplements). It’s got a lot of anti-abilities: anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-oxidant. It’s also been shown in studies with animals to have a vasoconstrictive effect, making it beneficial to people with varicose veins (Archives of Dermatology). Reports vary on whether it’s safe to ingest or will cause GI tract and liver damage.



Witch hazel has been shown to help treat inflammation due to UV-erythema. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In folk medicine, witch hazel is used as an anti-inflammatory because it contains tannins, which has astringent properties and binds and precipitates proteins (NYU Medical Center, Cornell University). The tannins are removed in the distillation process for commercially available witch hazel extract, but it’s still believed to have soothing properties.

In a double-blind study with 41 people, researchers found that a 10% solution of distilled witch hazel helped to treat inflammation in UV-erythema. However, it wasn’t as effective as 1% hydrocortisone (Journal of the German Society of Dermatology). Another study testing UVB-erythema when included in an after-sun lotion found similar results (Dermatology).  And the proanthocyanidins in it were found to have soothing and anti-inflammatory effects, while also reduceing transepidermal water loss (Phytochemistry). In studies with rats it’s been shown to reduce adjuvant-induced paw swelling (Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology). And other studies have found reason to think that witch hazel might help atopic dermatitis (Archives of Dermatology).


This time it's green tea.

While it has antioxidant powers, some studies suggest witch hazel isn’t as effective as green tea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a study with 28 herbs, witch hazel was found to have the best free-radical scavenger products against the cytotoxicant peroxynitrite (Phytotherapy Research). In studies on mouse skin it was found to have antioxidant effects (Journal of Inflammation). One study done in vitro hypothesized that witch hazel polyphenols work with cells in a very particular way as an antioxidant. By creating prooxidative challenges, the extract causes an endogenous detoxifying reaction (Chemical Research in Toxicology). So, the tannins essentially kickstart your internal detoxifying system. Still, some studies suggest witch hazel is not the most effective antioxidant out there, saying green tea extract, for example, is better (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry).

[Read more: Spotlight On: Green Tea]

Antiviral & Antibacterial

Herpes labialis

In at least one study, witch hazel was shown to help treat cold sores. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Witch hazel has shown antibacterial behavior that’s being explored in treatment of diseases like herpes. One study suggested that the proanthocyanidins may have more of an effect intreatment than the anti-inflammatory and wound-healing tannins. A combination of the two is a potent healer, the study says (Natural Product Research Consultants, Inc.). However, this is the most-cited study with few others being performed — which means more research needs to be done.

Witch hazel has also been shown to work against periodontal bacteria — which is bacteria that affects the structures around teeth in the mouth. This study suggests it as a topical medication (Phytotherapy Research). Once again, this particular usage of witch hazel is not as well studied as its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Bottom Line

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel works well for many reasons and is often put in beauty products for its astringent capabilities. (Photo credit: Ontario Wanderer)

Native American populations have used witch hazel in folk medicine for a long time and studies show that it’s often quite effective. As an anti-inflammatory it can reduce UV-erythma and soothe skin. It’s also an antioxidant that is hypothesized to work by creating a prooxidative challenge that causes the internal detoxifying system to kick in. As for antibacterial and anti-viral properties, the beginning studies are really promising and further studies will confirm how well witch hazel works. Results vary about whether it causes damage when ingested. There may be some allergic reactions, but it’s otherwise beneficial when used topically.

Witch hazel is particularly effective as an astringent, so if you’re looking to get some on your skin, consider these:

[Read More: Daily Question: Do You Really Need a Toner?]

Is There Actual Science Behind Tata Harper's Products?

Is there science in there?

In a July 17 post, I reviewed Tata Harper’s products.  Esteemed by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Tata Harper is a fresh-scrubbed farm girl with amazing marketing capabilities.  She sources all of the botanicals and natural ingredients in her products herself, many of them growing right on the farm where her lab is based.  It’s an interesting – simultaneously trendy and sentimental – stance, but I was skeptical of the claims of her products.  Particularly because her tagline is “non-toxic” beauty, which feeds the assertion that non-natural products are somehow “toxic” or contain “toxic” ingredients, which is largely not the case.  Most ingredients, including parabens and petrolatum, are not dangerous in the concentrations that they are used in skin care products.  While I agree that some can be drying, like sulfates, so can natural ingredients like limonene, citral, and menthol.  But I digress.

After the post was published, I received a kind e-mail from a member of Tata Harper’s team, and they sent me a booklet with the laboratory studies conducted on their products, the Tata Harper Skin Care Knowledge Manual.  So here they are, as well as our analysis:

Study Subject #1:  Date Palm Extract

Date palm fruit from Saudi Arabia

Dates taste good – and 1% of their extract is associated with antioxidant and wrinkle-fighting effects. This is most likely due to the fact that they are a source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and ursolic acid.

What Tata Harper Skin Care Says:  The company conducted 3 studies on date palm extract.  In the first and second studies, 1% date palm extract was applied to human fibroblasts.  It was shown to increase antioxidant activity by 42% and catalase activity by 58% over the course of 24 hours.  When exposed to UVA light, catalase activity increased by 85%.

In the third study, 1% date palm was applied to 10 volunteers aged 46-58.  After pictures, silicon replicas, and statistical analysis was done, the results were shown to have a “60% reduction” in skin wrinkles on the side treated with date palm extract after 5 weeks.

FutureDerm Analysis:  These results indicate that date palm extract may have similar activity to 10% vitamin C.  However, as any responsible dermatologist or scientist would tell you, there needs to be three things before this is confirmed.  First, there needs to be a much larger study in human subjects.  Ten subjects does not an impressive study make.  Second, there needs to be a comparative study of 10-20% vitamin C and 1% date palm extract.  A split-face study would be ideal, but splitting the subjects into three groups (i.e., placebo, vitamin C, and date palm) would work as well.  Third, I’d love to see this research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

However, there is promise in using date palm extract, more than just about any all-natural extract I’ve reviewed thus far.

Study Subject #2:  Narcissus Bulb Extract


The Narcissus flower is pretty – but it’s anti-aging effects are a little lackluster compared to some of the powerhouses out there. (Photo credit: uonbatto)

What Tata Harper Skin Care Says:  The company conducted a study that showed Narcissus bulb extract increases elasticity by 10.1% after 14 days, 9.3% after 28 days (not sure why that decreased), and 14.3% after 42 days.

An increase of 2.9% in skin firmness was shown after 14 days, 11.3% after 28 days, and 16.1% after the 42nd day.

Wrinkles were decreased 5.1% after 14 days, 10.5% after 28 days, and 17.5% after the 42nd day.  The company also asserts that “slowing down cell proliferation is the answer for anti-aging.”

FutureDerm Analysis:   These results remind me of the weaker retinyl palmitate or kinetin, not ingredients like peptides or higher-strength retinol or tretinoin.    For instance, use of palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 has been shown to decrease wrinkles by 27-36% – nearly double that of Narcissus bulb extract – over the course of 30 days (Pgdermatology.com).  Retinoids have also been associated with higher percentages wrinkle reduction in about one month (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1998).  This is not to say that Narcissus bulb extract isn’t doing something – it clearly is.  But compared to other ingredients out there, I’m not impressed enough to buy, at least not without direct comparative studies proving me wrong.

My real problem with the company’s information on Narcissus bulb extract is the assertion that “slowing down cell proliferation is the answer for anti-aging.”  Between the ages of 30 and 70, the skin naturally slows down cell turnover rates by as much as 60% (British Journal of Dermatology, 2006).   Without cell turnover, the skin does not renew collagen as quickly, leaving it less firm and more prone to wrinkling.  Treatments like retinoids and glycolic acid, renowned by many dermatologists, are documented to reverse the aging process in part by increasing cellular turnover (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1992; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 1999).   Thankfully, Narcissus bulb extract has not been shown to decrease cell turnover, so perhaps the company can just remove this statement from their publication.

Study #3:  Spanish Lavender Extract

Lavendar flower

Does Spanish lavender really work like Botox? We hope not, because you apply it all over your face. Of course, as a targeted treatment administered by a professional, this could be a great thing.

What Tata Harper Skin Care Says:  Spanish lavender improves wrinkles by 11% after 24 hours and 13% after 7 days, based on 20 women from ages 46-59.  It also inhibits muscle contractions by 95% after 2 hours, based on testing of human cell cultures.

FutureDerm Analysis:   I’m not impressed by these results very much; again, 11-13% is not that significant compared to other ingredients out there.  I’m also curious about the muscle contraction inhibition.  Agents that inhibit muscle contraction, like injected argireline or Botox, inhibit neurotransmitter release and SNARE complex formation, which are both necessary for muscle contraction.  So I’m curious which they are asserting that Spanish lavender does.  Also remember:  Botulism toxin, or Botox, is also derived from an all-natural source, but most natural product proponents are firmly against it.

Bottom Line

Tata Harper eco-friendly skin care products

If you do prefer natural skin care, there is nothing in Tata Harper that is likely to harm your skin. However, I personally am waiting for more research that directly compares the effects of these ingredients to synthetic ones, like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, peptides, or niacinamide. (Photo credit: sielju)

Overall, I’m most impressed with Tata Harper’s Date Palm Extract, which is in nearly all of her products.

However, as likeable as she and her story are, there are three things I need to see from Tata Harper Skin Care before I can say I am a fan:

  1. Comparative studies with non-natural products.   I like the idea that this all-natural brand conducts studies.  Many all-natural brands get out there, assert, “Hey, we’re all-natural!  Buy us!’ and that’s it. So while I respect the fact that there are studies here, I want to see where these products and their ingredients fit in with the science that is already out there.  Don’t tell me your product is better than vitamin C – please show me a split-face, multi-centered, placebo-controlled study with a large number of subjects proving it.  That’s the only way natural products are going to get respect from unbiased experts in the long run.  So once the natural companies start to show how their ingredients work compared to other established ingredients out there, like retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, peptides, or niacinamide, I’ll consider using them.
  2. Stop saying they’re “non-toxic.”  Any brand that gets out there and says, “We use all non-toxic ingredients!” immediately loses a tiny bit of respect from me.  First of all, every ingredient is toxic in high enough concentrations.  Vitamin C is toxic at 20,000 times the average dose (National Academy of the Sciences, 1996) – the very same concentration parabens are found to be toxic in some published studies (International Journal of Pharmacology, 1998).   For the record, whether you like them or not, parabens (preservatives), propylene glycol (delivery system), petrolatum (occlusive agent), and many other ingredients rumored to be “toxic” are fine and actually beneficial in the concentrations used in beauty products.  The use of the term “non-toxic” as a marketing tool implies that other companies are selling products that are toxic, which is not only a malignant implication, but also a largely inaccurate one.
  3. Proof that their ingredients are superior to other all-natural brands.  One advantage to synthetic ingredients is that you know what you are getting.  10% glycolic acid, for instance, is the same compound whether it is made in the U.S. or China.  However, all-natural products are different based upon where they are grown, the nutrients they are given, the way they are harvested, etc.  For instance, shea butter derived from different regions of the world has significantly altered fatty acid and vitamin E content, depending largely on climate (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004).  So in order for me to pay $100+ for Tata Harper products, I’d like comparisons of their ingredients with other all-natural brands.  This might be unreasonable – I get that.  But it would be nice.  :-)
So I hope I didn’t come across as too harsh.  I just don’t feel that this is the best skin care out there – I still feel that natural products are years behind synthetic ones.  As Dr. Debra Jaliman, M.D., the dermatologist to Rachel Bilson and Vera Farmiga recently told me in an interview, “I eat all-natural foods and like the idea of all-natural products. However, I have yet to find an all-natural anti-aging product that works.”  I think Tata Harper Skin Care is taking a step in the right direction with their scientific studies, I really do.  I just hope that they start comparing their ingredients to synthetic ones and stop claiming they are “non-toxic”, when in reality, nearly all skin care products on the market really and truly are safe.