Spotlight On: Monk's Pepper Berry

Vitex agnus-castus - flowering Chaste-tree

Monk’s Pepper Berry is beautiful and there are claims that it will make skin look firm and smooth, but there are only a few studies. (Photo credit: Tatters:))

Monk’s Pepper Berry is one of the newest ingredients in anti-aging. Though it’s been used in homeopathic medicine for years for various reasons, it’s just hit skin creams. There’s a lot out there about how it’s an endorphin that helps prompt the skin to heal and regenerate, but is it all it says it is? Well, the initial results look promising, but there’s plenty more scientific researching to be done to see if Monk’s Pepper Berry really stacks up.

What is Monk’s Pepper Berry?

English: Chinese Buddhist monks performing a f...

The plant derives its name from monks who harvest it for its ability to decrease libido. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monk’s Pepper Berry, also known as Chasteberry, earned its name for its traditional usage as a sexual desire suppressant. Monks in the Middle Ages purported used the lavender, floral plant, which hails from Central Asia and the Mediterranean, to curb their undesired libidinous appetites. The plant has been used for over 2,500 years for this effect, as well as the claims in homeopathic medicine that it relieves symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). It’s still used for this purpose today (American Family Physician, National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine).

Can it treat PMS?


Monk’s Pepper Berry has endorphins that help PMS. (Photo credit: cloois)

Monk’s Pepper Berry works on a hormonal level when used to treat menstrual disorders. It was once thought that Monk’s Pepper Berry worked to suppress the anterior pituitary gland, however new research suggests that it works as an endorphin. But current research suggests that it actually works to release dopamine, which in turn stops the pituitary gland from releasing prolactin, which causes issues like cyclical breast pain, increasing progesterone (Nutritional Wellness).

There have been a few low quality studies that have demonstrated that Monk’s Pepper Berry has a positive effect on PMS. A higher quality study observed the effects of Monk’s Pepper Berry on breast fullness (though not pain) and found that more than half the women saw a reduction of over 50% of their symptoms. Another double-blind study found that over the course of three menstrual cycles, found that cyclical breast pain was greatly reduced in the test group. However, studies demonstrating the effectiveness of Monk’s Pepper Berry on other PMS symptoms have been of poor quality and further research needs to be conducted (American Family Physician).

Can it Stop Aging?

Head of an old Roman, ca. 60 BC. The realistic...

Monk’s Pepper Berry has been used for thousands of years for various ailments, but scientists are just now looking at it as something that could slow aging. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The claim on Monk’s Pepper Berry is that it’s an antioxidant that helps defend the skin against damage and boosts regeneration. The endorphins found in Monk’s Pepper Berry may be beneficial (Cosmetics and Toiletries). Endorphins have recently been discovered in human skin and they have an immunomodulatory effect and stop the nerve ending pain response (Neuroendocrinology of the Skin). Lab tests appear to show that they push for the migration of melanin production and keratinocytes in melaninocytes. More, it’s believed these endorphins may have wound healing and skin-regenerative effects (Formulation and Science).

Unfortunately there aren’t many studies to back up these anti-aging predictions. One study done by creators of Monk’s Pepper Berry-based Happybelle-PE, Mibelle, found that women between the ages of 30 and 61 saw a 30 percent improvement in skin hydration and a 20 percent improvement in firmness with four weeks of usage (Formulation and Science).

There haven’t been many studies done on the recently introduced ingredient to firmly prove its efficacy. Initial studies are promising, but more need to be done to understand what negative side effects might arise and exactly how effective Monk’s Pepper Berry is.

Bottom Line

The aptly named Monk’s Pepper Berry, or Chasteberry, has an interesting back-story as something used to limit sexual desire for clergymen. It’s been used for thousands of years worldwide and more recently in European medicine to treat symptoms of PMS but many of the studies done to prove its efficacy have been weak. It has, however, been shown as effective in helping women suffering from cyclical breast pain. For as little research as there is on it’s effects on PMS, there’s even less on it’s anti-aging effects. The first studies are promising and it looks like Monk’s Pepper Berry, the newest anti-aging ingredient, could really help keep skin young — but we’re not totally convinced until more evidence is in.

If you’re looking to try Monk’s Pepper Berry, consider a product like Elegance Stages of Beauty ($48.99, with super moisturizing sodium hyaluronate and a skin-healing amino acid complex.

Product Review: DHC Renewing AHA Cream

Dry skin can be a nightmare – irritation, inflammation, and itchiness.  It tends to occur more during the fall and winter due to low humidity and excessive bathing.  In fact, xerosis is often called “winter itch” because it is at its worst during those months.  Even worse, those with dry skin are less likely to exfoliate, leaving dry skin looking rough and mottled as well.

Luckily, for those with dry skin, there is lactic acid, and treatments like DHC Renewing AHA Cream ($39.00,; official site).  Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid with smoothing abilities similar to glycolic acid.  It is better for dry skin than glycolic:  Lactic acid at 12% is one of the only prescription drugs FDA approved for dry skin as LacHydrin. In DHC Renewing AHA Cream, the percentage of lactic acid is 10% – just 2% shy of the prescription giant.

What if you don’t have dry skin?

Lactic acid in DHC Renewing AHA Cream, or glycolic acid in products like Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel pads – which to choose if you don’t have dry skin?

Here’s the thing:  Lactic and glycolic acid have similar chemical properties – that’s why they’re both alpha hydroxy acids.  However, glycolic acid is smaller, so it penetrates the skin better (Cosmetic Dermatology).  Perhaps this is why only glycolic acid has been found to thicken the skin down to the deepest layer, the dermis – lactic acid will not do this (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1996).

On the flip side, while both will thicken the skin over time, there is an initial adjustment period with glycolic acid.  Lactic acid does not temporarily thin the skin like glycolic acid does, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

So if you have dry skin, lactic acid is the clear winner.  But if you have normal to oily skin, it’s a toss-up.  My personal opinion?  Lactic acid in the cooler months, glycolic acid when it’s warm.  Both with sunscreen, of course!

Is Butylene Glycol Safe?

Another ingredient in DHC Renewing AHA Cream:  butylene glycol.  The short answer:  Yes, in DHC Renewing AHA Cream, it is not only safe but efficacious, delivering lactic acid deeper within the skin, so it can better stimulate collagen.

The long answer: The internet rumors surrounding propylene glycol, butylene glycol, and ethylene glycol started about five years ago, when people realized the industrial Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) online.  According to the MSDS, these substances can cause liver and kidney damage and act as a skin irritant. However, MSDS sheets refer to 100% concentrations of a substance. In the very small concentrations used in skin care cosmetics, it is not a concern.  In fact, propylene glycol is used in many life-saving drugs as a part of transdermal patches.  I personally agree with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who have said, “Studies have not shown these chemicals [propylene or the other glycols as used in cosmetics] to be carcinogens”.

In DHC Renewing AHA Cream, I do not believe the glycol is anything but beneficial.

Personal Use and Opinions

DHC Renewing AHA Cream has a smooth, light texture and drinks in quickly.  If your skin is sensitive, there is a slight stinging for a few seconds, but it wears off gradually.  (And after repeated use, you probably will not experience it at all).  Leaves you with smoother skin in the morning, which is always a wonderful thing!

Bottom Line

I don’t mix retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids, because the optimal pH for retinoids is higher than the level for alpha hydroxy acids.  With that said, I use FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 six nights per week, and will start using DHC Renewing AHA Cream (with lactic acid) one night per week in the fall/winter months, with Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel pads (with glycolic acid) one night per week instead in the spring/summer.


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NARS Velvet Matte & Gloss Lip Pencils

I love jumbo lip pencils! Today I wanted to show you the NARS Velvet Gloss and Velvet Matte lip pencils. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils are perfect for fall. They’re long wearing, enriched with Vitamin E, so they’re comfortable to slip on and wear. They’re nicely pigmented, too. NARS Velvet Gloss Lip Pencils are lightweight, moisturizing but still pack a punch with color and shine. I really love how they feel on the lips. They have Vitamin E as well, and the glossy finish makes your lips appear fuller.

I have four shades to show you today, two in each formula.

First up are the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils.

This is Train Bleu, a deep aubergine.

Damned is a rich magenta. I just love this shade of pink on me!

Next are the Velvet Gloss Lip Pencils.

Buenos Aires is a nude beige pink. I think it pulls a little peach on me.

I saved the best for last.

New Lover is a gold-infused strawberry pink. It’s my favorite of these four and it was released this spring. However, because of the gold iridescence I am definitely wearing it this fall! I also think you can change how it looks by using a different lip liner under it, such as a coral red, plum or pink.

New Lover is definitely my favorite, though I adore Damned, too. I like Train Bleu and Buenos Aires better now that my hair is darker.

Which is your favorite? Which would you wear?

NARS Velvet Gloss and Matte Lip Pencils are $24 each.

You can purchase NARS at or Sephora.

NARS is cruelty-free. Buenos Aires sent for consideration. All other products purchased by me. All opinions are my own.

Follow Friday + Nicki's Personal Updates: Week of August 24, 2012

Me, in the office today.

The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.
Robert Cushing

In school, we’re all measured by a strict set of standards:  Are we skilled at reading?  Can we solve math problems?  Do we keep quiet, do as we are told, keep our lockers clean?

But post-school years, the only thing we keep learning is that we need to keep learning. More important how we learn than what we learn.  School itself is not a means to an end but a means we keep repeating informally throughout our lives.  The meta-skills we acquire – memorization, comprehension, application – we find we must apply to future endeavors to succeed.

I always did very well in school, partly due to the fact that I found “nerdy” subjects interesting, but mostly because I was ambitious and interested in the potential rewards good grades could bring.  But now that I’m on a leave, concentrating on the FutureDerm Inc. brand, I’m finding that all of the A’s in calculus and physics in the world can’t help me now.

While my science and medical background certainly help sometimes, it’s not making or breaking my business.  What is?  Having the ability to acknowledge my fear when I approach retailers or customers, but moreover, the willingness to learn how to combat those fears.  I’ve been picking up some books and undergoing some training, which has helped a lot.  (For the record, the Dale Carnegie Sales Training Course has been amazing thus far!)

I’ve also been reading a lot of the great business philosopher Jim Rohn.  Remembering the good times when things aren’t going well, and conversely remembering the bad times when things are going well is some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.  Most people tell us to always think positive all of the time, and this is particularly great advice when things are going poorly.  But saving up for a rainy day when the sun is shining is also fantastic advice.

With that said, sales of FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 have been going well, and I’m very happy about that.  We’ve created a unique, superior product, and I can’t wait for more testimonials to start rolling in.  :-)  (To get yours, please visit

So maybe everything we need to learn about life we don’t learn in school.  But so long as we learn how to admit what we don’t know and the confidence and grit to find out as best we can, we can be students of life.  And I can’t think of a better teacher.

Follow Friday

This week:

  • Moxie Reviews is giving away Reviva Labs
  • Temptalia has a sneak peek of the NARS Andy Warhol Collection
  • 15 Minute Beauty Fanatic has a look at the latest PopSugar Sneek Peek Box and Glossybox
  • Phyrra is giving away a $100 Too Faced Gift Card
  • My Beauty Bunny‘s Editor-in-Chief, Jen, just wrote a book on social media!  She’s also the CEO of Top Tier Media.  I bought it, and found it to be a valuable resource!

How’d you like this post?  Let me know!