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!

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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


Is Oxybenzone Really a Hormone Disruptor?

oxybenzone hormone disruptor

Recently, I received a comment asking me if oxybenzone was really a hormone disruptor or not. But before I delve into the science, let me tell the backstory for everyone involved.

The EWG Concludes Oxybenzone is a Hormone Disruptor, but the Evidence is Highly Debatable

The recent report published online by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has blacklisted Oxybenzone as a hormone disruptor that penetrates deeply into the skin.

According to Dr. Claudia Aguirre for the Dermal Institute, “The EWG report states that Oxybenzone is a potential hormone disruptor, although they once again extrapolate data from scientific studies to assess daily human use and risk. One study they cited (Schlumpf et al 2001) did show estrogenic effects on rats after ingestion of Oxybenzone. However, it is important to note that these animals were exposed to large amounts (more than the recommended for human use) of Oxybenzone via routes not used by humans, namely the mouth. So these results only apply to rodents eating large amounts of Oxybenzone, not humans spreading an Oxybenzone-containing cream over their skin. Another study on humans with more natural conditions could not confirm this data (Janjua et al 2004).”

Dr. Aguirre continues, “Let’s imagine that there is a risk of Oxybenzone to be a hormone disruptor. To do this it would have to penetrate deep into the living dermis. The EWG claims that this is the case, citing a study on Oxybenzone and penetration (Hayden 1997). However, they do not mention that this study was done in vitro, meaning they looked at the absorption in skin samples in the lab, and not on a human being. Another study by the same group saw deleterious effects on humans; however the fine print is that the participants were asked to use about 6 times the recommended amount of sunscreen needed to prevent sunburn. Again, these studies do not prove that Oxybenzone penetrates at the recommended levels.” [Full article at the Dermal Institute]

What is Known: You Shouldn’t Use Oxybenzone if You Are Pregnant or Nursing, or on a Child Under the Age of 2

Oxybenzone While Pregnant

Oxybenzone is absorbed into the skin and secreted in the urine in trace amounts (Cosmetic Dermatology). For persons over the age of 2, these trace amounts are considered to be safe, and have been evaluated in peer-reviewed laboratory studies as such. The Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) of the European Commission concluded in 2008 that oxybenzone in concentrations of 1-6% (typical to sunscreen products) does not pose a significant risk to consumers, apart from contact allergenic potential.

That said, if you are pregnant or nursing, or using oxybenzone-containing products on a child under the age of 2, these trace amounts are higher than in persons who are older and hence larger. For this reason, dermatologists like Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., founder and director the Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute, state, “Chemical sunscreens [like avobenzone, oxybenzone] should not be used in children under two years of age.”  (Cosmetic DermatologyI personally advise avoiding them if pregnant or nursing as well.

Bottom Line: For Non-Pregnant, Non-Nursing Individuals and Adults, Oxybenzone is Fine

Ingredient plus concentration plus delivery system plus subject applied to is what is important

As I have said many times on this blog, it is NOT just an ingredient that matters. Rather, it is a combination of the ingredient, the concentration and the delivery system in which it is used, and the system (animal or human, cell culture or living creature) to which it is applied. I am not in favor of fearmongering and personally feel as though many of the risks posed by the EWG are greatly exaggerated, particularly when it comes to personal care products. But that is a conversation for another place and time.

At this time, I just want to say: Oxybenzone is fine for adults in the concentrations/delivery systems it is used in sunscreens and cosmetic products, and there are far more studies to validate its efficacy and safety as a sunscreen than to demonstrate it is an endocrine disruptor.

5 Ways the Vitamin C in FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 Benefits Your Skin

FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2

As longtime readers of the FutureDerm blog know, we love vitamin C here. Loooove it. Vitamin C is known for doing all kinds of wonderful things for your skin (particularly when combined with vitamin E!). It tightens and brightens skin, protects from UV-radiation, helps decrease the appearance of sun damage, and works as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger (Cosmetic Dermatology).

Our Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 includes two kinds of vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid, which is the most commonly used and scientifically-tested form, and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which has been found to be one of the best for cell penetration (Dermatologic Surgery).

Here’s a look at some of the things it does:

Vitamin C TIGHTENS Skin by Increasing Collagen

It turns out, if you don’t get enough vitamin C, you end up with a collagen deficiency and full-blown scurvy. (I actually know of someone who only ate Ramen noodles through college and ended up with scurvy, but that’s another story). L-ascorbic acid — or vitamin C — is necessary for normal collagen formation because it is necessary for your cells to synthesize two components of collagen: hydroxyproline (which stabilizes the collagen triple helix) and hydroxylysine (which is needed to create the intermolecular crosslinks in collagen) (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

But Vitamin C might do even more. The aforementioned study found that, when L-ascorbic acid was applied to human cells in vitro, L-ascorbic acid increased collagen production eight-fold. Though this study was small, others have looked into why this phenomenon might take place. One study suggests L-ascorbic acid may upregulate collagen because it increases the transcription rate of procollagen’s coding genes and procollagen’s mRNA levels (Journal of Investigative Dermatology).

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 10-female participants found that regular application of a solution with 5% L-ascorbic acid increased the mRNA in procollagen types I and II (Journal of Investigative Dermatology). It also increased the inhibition of matrix metalloproteinases, which are enzymes that degrade collagen.

Essentially, by telling the genes to speed up the rate of collagen formation, as well as the quantity of messengers sent to do so, application of L-ascorbic acid may result in an increase in collagen.

Vitamin C BRIGHTENS Skin

Vitamin C brightens skin in two different ways. First, vitamin C inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase, which is a part of melanin development, in a mechanism similar to hydroquinone (though more weakly). Vitamin C also decomposes pigment within skin itself, melanin (Cosmetic DermatologyInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics).

In a 1990′s study done by Kameyama et al. cited in Dr. Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology, a derivative of vitamin C used on patients with melasma served as a skin lightening ingredient for 19 of 34 participants. Another study comparing L-ascorbic to hydroquinone found that L-ascorbic acid wasn’t as good as hydroquinone at skin lightening (93 percent good/excellent results), but it had fairly good results (62.5 percent good/excellent results) and fewer side effects (International Journal of Dermatology).

Vitamin C PROTECTS Skin from Sun Damage

When you put concentrated L-ascorbic acid serum on and follow with sunscreen, you’re actually boosting your sunscreen’s power and doing even more to protect your skin. Topically appliedvitamin C was found to increase the amount of vitamins in porcine skin, which, in turn, minimized the damage from UVA rays. Researchers found that sun exposure depleted the amount of vitamin C in the skin, suggesting both how it protects and also why topically applied vitamin C can be so beneficial (British Journal of Dermatology).

And when it’s combined with vitamin E, it’s even better. VitaminE works to protect against UVB radiation, while vitamin C is better for UVA (Acta Dermato-Venereologica). Combined, the two offer great broad-spectrum protection. Just remember to add some sunscreen overtop! (For the record, our Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 contains 2% vitamin E. But, the point of this article is not to talk about ourselves. *cough*)

Vitamin C SMOOTHES Photo-Damaged Skin

In addition to adding to sun protection, vitamin C might actually help smooth skin that’s already been damaged by UV rays. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study using five percent ascorbic acid found that it helped to improve the appearance of photo-damaged skin over time (Experimental Dermatology). The study’s researchers hypothesized that over time, application of vitamin C may even activate dermal synthesis of elastin fibers.

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study, participants applied a solution with ten percent ascorbic acid and seven percent tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate to one side of their face and a placebo to the other half. The side with the vitamin C had a statistically significant improvement in the signs of photodamage, including the smoothing of wrinkles (Dermatologic Surgery).


What would a look at vitamin C be without discussing it a free-radical scavenging antioxidant? Though vitamin C isn’t as potent as vitamin E or ubiquinone, it’s still a free-radical scavenging antioxidant (Cosmetic Dermatology).

And when it’s combined with vitamin E, it creates a synergistic effect that ends up being more than the sum of its parts. That’s because when one antioxidant is depleted it can essentially “borrow” an electron from the other and vice versa, helping both antioxidants work better (Cosmetic Dermatology).

Free radicals from sun exposure and environmental damage, as well as lifestyle choice, can accumulate in the body over time and cause aging (in fact, they’re one of the four main causes of aging.) Antioxidants stop the potential chain reaction from free-radicals and help to maintain the skin.

Bottom Line


If you don’t have vitamin C in your skin care routine, you should definitely start incorporating it. You can benefit form using a vitamin C serum at virtually any age, whether you need to protect your skin from the causes of aging, or you need to smooth out some of the damage that’s already been done.

Order FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 today and be on your way to tighter, brighter, smoother, more protected skin soon!

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The Truth About Sunscreen Pills

Sunscreen Pills

Sunscreen pills seem like a dream come true: After all, if 80% of the visible signs of aging stem from sun exposure, doesn’t that make a sunscreen pill the equivalent of slurping down an extension of your skin’s youth?! Plus, with all of the concern in recent times regarding excessive exposure to chemicals in personal care and cosmetic products, using sunscreen pills could theoretically reduce the amount of sunscreen you need.

However, because sunscreen pills aren’t all that prevalent, there have been no independent, peer-reviewed, published studies to date on these  supplements yet. The FDA doesn’t have to review dietary supplements before they hit the market, and only takes action if the supplements are a danger to consumers. This means the individual companies are responsible for determining safety and for deciding whether there is adequate evidence to back their ingredients and subsequent marketing (FDA).

So I did some investigating of my own, and here is what I’ve found:

Option #1: Pomegranate — Good when ingested, OK when applied topically


It has been proposed that pomegranates can protect against UV-induced damage in human keratinocytes, both UVA and UVB in two separate studies in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology. Pomegranate extract may prevent against hyperpimgnetation as well: in this double-blind, placebo-controlled 2006 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, it was found that 100-200 mg/day of ellagic acid (a component of pomegranate extract) has an inhibitory effect on a slight pigmentation in the human skin caused by UV irradiation. The results of the Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry study suggest that the skin-whitening effect of PE was probably due to inhibition of the proliferation of melanocytes and melanin synthesis by tyrosinase in melanocytes.

For more on the effects of pomegranate extract on the skin, please click here.

Murad Pomphenol Sunguard Supplement ($35.00, contains pomegranate extract. According to Howard Murad, M.D., the supplement boosts sun protection by 25% “from the inside out.” According to Dr. Murad, most topical moisturizer ingredients are only able to enrich the stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of the skin. By taking supplements, Murad says that the lower dermal layer can be fortified with beneficial vitamins and nutrients. Studies confirm that blood levels of nutrients can be enriched via nutritional supplements and food, including a 1988 study by Roidt et. al., which found that serum levels of ß-carotene andserum alpha-carotene were weakly correlated with food and supplement frequency intake of vitamin A, ß-carotene, and other carotenoids

Option #2: Vitamins C and E — Great when topically applied, fair when ingested

Vitamin C and E

Vitamin C and E can help to slightly boost protection in the skin. In the plant world these carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and lycopene, help to give fruits and vegetables their color. They also help give your skin a glow and boost skin’s natural protection from UV-light (PLoS OneNPR). A 2002 study explain that these work to protect skin by reducing its sensitivity to UV-irradiation, resulting in less erythema (skin redness), and helping to prevent photodamage, because they’re antioxidants and free-radical scavengers (Journal of Nutrition). This results in less UV damage and fewer signs of photoaging, which researchers found in 2010 and 2011 studies, respectively (British Journal of DermatologyExperimental Dermatology).

[Read More: 4 Glowing Tan Alternatives for Beautiful Skin]

Option #3: Polypodium leucotomos, a fern extract — Fair when ingested



One of the most popular sunscreen pills is Heliocare ($54.00 for 60,, which contains Polypodium leucotomos extract derived from a tropical, fern-like plant.

Clinical studies on Heliocare demonstrate that Polypodium leucotomos extract protects against UV damage to the skin, decreases UVA-induced damage, prevents acute sunburn, and prevents Langerhans cell depletion upon UV exposure. One critique of these studies is given by Mayo Clinic dermatologist Lawrence Gibson, M.D., who says that “these trials were too small to have detected any possible side effects — meaning that the long-term safety of these extracts is still in question.”

Still, the results seem to be sound, and as Dr. Gibson allows, “this supplement is meant to be used in conjunction with — and not in place of — other sun protection measures, such as wearing sunscreen or protective clothing when outside.” If you wear sunscreen and sun-protective clothing already, I have not read any reason not to go the extra mile and take Heliocare if you can afford it.


Option #4: Zeaxanthin-containing products — Weak when ingested



Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid like lycopene and lutein, and is found in human blood and tissues. However, unlike beta-carotene, zeaxanthin does not contribute to vitamin A supply. According to The International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, zeaxanthin is an efficient antioxidant, and thus “may contribute to the prevention of light-exposed tissue, skin and eyes, from light-induced damage.”

Zeaxanthin-containing products have been found to decrease UVB-induced hyperproliferation and acute inflammation in hairless mice, according to a study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. According to a 2007 double-blind, placebo-controlled human study, daily oral administration of zeaxanthin and lutein significantly decreases the number of sunburned cells after UV exposure. A third study, this in The Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, suggests that ingesting and topically applying zeaxanthin and lutein is more beneficial than oral ingestion alone. The study, conducted by Mavi Cosmetics in Italy, demonstrated that either the oral supplement (0.6 mg zeaxanthin and 10 mg lutein) or the zeaxanthin-lutein cream improved skin elasticity, hydration, and protection against sun damage. However, the combination of oral and topical formulations boosted numbers the most — skin hydration by 60 percent and protection against sunburn by 20 percent.

Xeaxanthin and lutein results differ from another carotenoid, beta-carotene, which was found in a 2003 study in Archives of Dermatology to be significantly less effective than a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen at reducing the occurrence of solar keratoses in adults in a subtropical environment.

So why are zeaxanthin and lutein packaged together in many products sold for the eyes? Two reasons: One, zeaxanthin and lutein are responsible for the yellow color of the macula lutea, which protects against light-dependent damage. Two, epidemiological studies provide evidence that an increased consumption of lutein is associated with a lowered risk for age-related macular degeneration, a disease with increasing incidence in the elderly. As such, even though the product is packaged for the eyes, it seems to help protect against sun damage as well, although it is likely a supplementation and not a substitute for sunscreen and sun-protective clothing.

Watch that You Get Enough Vitamin D


Sunscreen pills are, overall, solid boosters to topical sunscreen, not a subs!  Any of the above supplements has been shown to have significant prevention against UV-induced damage.  My only concern about sunscreen pills is low vitamin D production, which is common. 2007 study from the University of Pittsburgh (my alma mater, yay) found that both black and white women in North America are “at high risk” for vitamin D insufficiencies, even when taking prenatal vitamins. According to Dr. Michael Holick, standing outside sunscreen-free between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. for fifteen minutes a day three times a week lets the skin produce enough vitamin D for most of the year. (Expose your face, arms, hands, and back.) In addition, daily supplementation of 400 IU vitamin D with food (as it is a fat-soluble vitamin) should helpBe careful not to let total vitamin D from food and supplements exceed 50 mg or 2000 IUalthough too much sun is unlikely to create an excess of vitamin D, too much vitamin D via food and supplement can lead to toxicity. Excessive vitamin D levels have been associated with nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, weight loss, and calcinosis, the deposition of calcium and phosphate in the body’s soft tissues such as the kidney.  However, if you eat healthfully and reasonably, and take a 400 IU vitamin D supplement, you should be fine.  Consult your physician if you have concerns.

Bottom Line

So can a combination of antioxidants really give you as much protection as slathering on the SPF topically? Short answer: No, but it might help make up for certain vitamins and minerals you aren’t getting enough of in your diet that are a part of the body’s natural sun protection. But they aren’t for everyone. Overall, I like to look at sunscreen pills as vitamins for skin care lovers: if you invest time and money into the best skin care products, sunscreen, and sun-protective clothing, why not go the extra mile for sunscreen pills if you can afford it and a 400 IU vitamin D supplement? :-) Let me know your thoughts!

[Read More: New Study: Wearing Sunscreen Every Day Can Keep Aging Away]

Zinc in Skin instead of on it?


The presence of zinc oxide immediately caught my eye in this supplement. Zinc oxide is one of the best physical-mineral sunscreens, but it works topically by flat-out block UV-rays from getting in, so I wondered what research had found on using zinc oxide orally. While it’s definitely promising to boost skin’s protection slightly, it’s not going to have anywhere near the same protective effects as zinc oxide-based sunscreen.

One of the ways it prevents UV damage internally is by working as an antioxidant, preventing oxidative damage in cells (Biological Trace Elements Research). A 1997 study on mice showed that zinc supplements helps to prevent DNA damage caused by UVB-irradiation (Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology).

But like the supplement’s other ingredients, zinc isn’t one that you want to go above the daily-recommended value on. It can hinder the absorption of copper and depress the immune system if taken excessively (Food Cures).

Bottom Line

Should you take SunAssure to help protect your skin from the sun? While it might add to skin’s natural defenses, “sunscreen” pills would be a bit of a misnomer. SunAssure doesn’t give you the same shield from UV-rays as topical sunscreen, and you should continue to wear topically applied sunscreen regularly (and reapply often), but it could help keep your body’s natural protection working optimally.

But SunAssure may not be for everyone. If you’re already taking a multivitamin or supplements that contain the same vitamins and/or minerals, then taking these might impact your health negatively due to excesses of certain vitamins or minerals. And it’s possible to get some of the effects of these supplements if you have a diet rich in foods with plenty of the right vitamins and minerals.

The bottom line is that SunAssure can help supplement what your diet might not be giving you in terms of certain vitamins and minerals. These are a part of the body’s natural sun protection. But this isn’t the same thing as sunscreen, and it shouldn’t be used as a substitute. If you do decide to use supplements to boost sun protection, remember to talk to your doctor about it. And stop using them immediately if you suffer negative effects or symptoms of a multiple vitamin overdose.

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Product Review: Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation

Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation

Once upon a time, in a Sephora far, far away (bear with me, that might not be accurate), there was moisturizer. Then, there was tinted moisturizer. And then, BB and CC cream were born.

It seems it was only a matter of time before someone came up with tinted serum. And, lo and behold, Perricone MD has done so with the new Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation ($59.50, Brimming with PEGs, this foundation is designed to be lightweight but provide medium coverage. For the full review, read on…

“Neuropeptides” = Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5

Palmitoyl oligopeptide is a fantastic ingredient. What is great about palmitoyl oligopeptide is that it significantly stimulates collagen production in human fibroblasts, as shown in a 2007 study in Dermatologic Therapy When used twice daily for a significant period of time – about six months – this means firmer skin, provided that other factors remain the same (i.e., weight, sun exposure, etc.).

Another ingredient Perricone No Foundation Foundation has to its benefit is palmitoyl tripeptide-5. This peptide sends a synthetic signal that indirectly promotes collagen formation. Specifically, Perricone No Foundation Foundation mimics like the throbospondin I tripeptide sequences and activates TGF- β, resulting in increased collagen production (Journal of Cosmetic Science). This is not just in theory, folks: In a study where participants were given a cream with 2.5% palmitoyl tripeptide-5, the cream benefitted users, even besting the cream it was compared to with a formulation of 10% palmitoyl pentapeptide-3.

Unfortunately, compared to other products out there with palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tripeptide-5, they are listed last on the ingredients list in Perricone MD products. Which, as savvy FutureDerm readers know, mean it is probably far less than 2.5% in concentration. Therefore, if you wish to try palmitoyl oligopeptide, I recommend Complexion MD Advanced Anti-Wrinkle Cream and theDERMADoctor Wrinkle Revenge Duo. This product? You might get a tiny twinge of benefit, but not much.

Alpha Lipoic Acid — No Proven Benefits

As far as skin care ingredients go, ALA is no AHA.

Alpha lipoic acid, or ALA for short, has been shown to improve skin roughness at 5% concentration when used versus a placebo (British Journal of Dermatology, 2003). Other than that, the benefits for ALA have been limited. Unlike retinoids or AHAs, there is no documentation in peer-reviewed independent studies that show the ingredient is effective against fine lines, wrinkles, skin sagging, or age spots.


In fact, in a direct comparison study of ALA and vitamins C and E, ALA performed so badly that the researchers titled their paper “Alpha Lipoic Acid is Ineffective as a Topical Antioxidant for the Photoprotection of the Skin.” Whoa.

Nonetheless, it’s not the end of the world if you use ALA, especially if you have rough skin. Just don’t go expecting any miracles.

Not Racially Diverse — Yet

Perhaps my biggest gripe with Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation is that it comes in just one color. Yes, the company says that you can “make it right for you” by adding bronzer, but I can tell you, there are shades of olive, brown, and yellow that an orange-tinted bronzer cannot match, no matter how precisely you try to layer it. Furthermore, I can also tell you that this foundation will not work for very pale women, either. Instead, this is only right if you’re right in the middle — say, medium-tone Mediterranean or East Asian, light Indian/Middle Eastern, or from Northern European descent with a bit of a tan.

SPF 30 — Sort-Of

With perfect application, an SPF 20 formula layered with an SPF 50 formula = SPF 50.

Futurederm Layered 20 and 50 SPF Diagram 2

With perfect application, sunscreens do not have an additive effect. Instead, think of sunscreens more as having a limiting effect — they limit the number of rays that get through, but you can’t increase above the limit of the highest number.

For instance, if you apply a very thick application of an SPF 50 formula, it will allow 1/50 UVB rays through, or about 2% (source).

If you apply a very thick application of an SPF 20 formula, it will allow 1/20 UVB rays through, or about 5%.

If you apply both formulations perfectly at the same time, the SPF 20 formula allows 5% of rays through. The SPF 50 formula will block some of those, but 2% of the overall rays will still get through. This is regardless of which formulation you apply first.

But this is for a sunscreen. Liquid and powder foundation formulas tend to provide less UV protection, because people simply don’t apply enough:

Average Application of Sunscreen by Catagory- FutureDerm Chart Table

Formulations undergo rigorous testing to achieve SPF that involves very thick application of product — 2 mg/cm2 of skin, or about half a 8 oz. bottle to cover the average body. It covers a grid until it appears almost white, and light is reflected onto the grid to measure absorbance capacity to determine the overall effectiveness of the product. This is how the SPF rating is achieved for all sunscreens.

Unfortunately, the average person only applies 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount of sunscreen needed to achieve the SPF rating on the bottle. So your SPF 30 sunscreen is more like an SPF 10-15 with the average application.

It’s even worse with powder formulations. The average consumer only applies 1/14 of the amount of sunscreen needed to achieve the SPF rating on the bottle, so your SPF 15 powder formula is more like an SPF 1 formula. So I wouldn’t make this product my sole source of sun protection.

Bottom Line

If you have medium skin and a solid skin care regimen otherwise, Perricone No Foundation Foundation is a solid enough product. On the other hand, if your skin is lighter or darker than medium, and you are looking for an anti-aging product, you’d be best to avoid this one. Product Rating: 6.5/10 (High or optimized concentration of proven ingredients: 1.5/3. Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3. Value: 1/3. Sunscreen: 1/1.)


Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Water, Titanium Dioxide CI 77891), PEG-10 Dimethicone, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Methyl Trimethicone, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Sodium Chloride, Silica, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Ethyl Ferulate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Lactate, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Phoenix Dactylifera (Date) Fruit Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Disodium EDTA, Thioctic Acid, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Hexylene Glycol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Dimethyl MEA, Tocopheryl Acetate, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5.

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What are the Best Products for New and Expectant Mothers?

What are the Best Products for New and Expectant Mothers?

Pregnancy can be one of the most beautiful times of a woman’s life – blood volume will more than double (Clinical Hematology, 1985), resulting in that characteristic “glow.” But by that same token, pregnancy can also come with difficulties for the skin, including stretch marks, skin tags, melasma, hyperpigmentation, and even acne.

Thankfully, there is a plethora of scientific research out there determining what pregnant women can – and cannot — use safely and effectively. Here is the summary:

3 Products You Should Use Daily

Mineral-Based, Non-Micronized Sunscreen

Depending on your level of weight gain and nutritional status, your skin may be stretched more quickly and more thinly than ever before during pregnancy. As you can imagine, the stress on the skin increases hyperpigmentation rates (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2007) and makes it more susceptible to UV damage in general. That’s why sunscreen is more important than ever.

Typically, for non-pregnant and nursing women, the best sunscreens are micronized zinc or titanium oxide. The reasons? First, oxides like zinc and titanium oxide prevent UV light from hitting the skin altogether. This is unlike chemical sunscreens, which allow for UV light to hit the skin, but then transform it into a non-damaging form of energy, like heat. I personally have found my skin is in better condition when I use physical sunscreens, but this may very well be a personal bias, since all sunscreens are measured on the same PA++++ scale (for UVA protection) and SPF scale (for UVB protection). Second, micronized oxide sunscreens generally leave the skin less white or chalky than non-micronized formulas.

However, I think the best sunscreens for pregnant and nursing women are non-micronized zinc and titanium oxide sunscreens. When UV light hits the skin, it has been suggested that metal oxides may produce oxygen free radicals and initiate deleterious events in the skin (Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 1997), but only when they are small enough to traverse the skin (Cosmetic Dermatology, 2002). Granted, don’t be too alarmed — most sunscreens won’t cause metal oxide-induced damage because most companies minimize the photoreactivity of metal oxides agents by coating the sunscreens with silicone or dimethicone (Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine, 2003).

Shiseido Anessa Mild Sunscreen SPF 43But if you are pregnant or nursing, I wouldn’t take the risk with micronized zinc or titanium oxide, which can have particle sizes as small as 0.2 micrometers or less. I would instead go with full-sized zinc or titanium oxide particles in sunscreens that are also coated with silicones, which lay atop the skin and protect the zinc or titanium oxide from UV-induced free radical production. My favorite of these is Shiseido Anessa Mild Sunscreen SPF 43 ($45.50,, which is typically available only in Europe, Asia, and Australia, but I managed to source through a vendor (yay!) for my American/Canadian followers as well. This sunscreen has significant UVA/UVB protection, seems to have enough silicones to protect the skin from any oxidation of metal oxides, and does not feature micronization but still does not result in a white tint on the skin. Bravo!

Ingredients: Cyclomethicone, Water, Dimethicone, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Polysilicone-15, Alcohol, Ethylhexyl ethylhexanoate, Sorbitan sesquiisostearate, Xylitol, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Aluminum hydroxide, Dextrin palmitate, Bis-butyldimethicone polyglyceryl-3, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Methyl gluceth-10, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Thymus Serpillum Extract, C9-15 Fluoroalcohol Phosphate, Potentilla Erecta Root Extract, Stearic Acid, Silica, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Hexyltrimethoxysilane, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Isostearic Acid, Trisodium EDTA, Butylene Glycol, Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides

Camellia Oil

Camellia Oil

Camellia oil, also known as tea seed oil, is similar to olive oil and grape seed oil in its storage qualities and low concentration of saturated fat.  For centuries, camellia oil has been used in cooking in China, a tradition that is likely to sit well with all-natural skin care enthusiasts who advocate to use only the skin care ingredients you would eat.  I personally am not that strict, but I do appreciate a 2007 study in Ethnobiologywhich found that camellia oil increases collagen production within the skin and promotes hydration.

Specifically, camellia oil was found in the aforementioned study to stimulate collagen production by two mechanisms:  One, camellia oil activates a gene promoter in human skin cells (COL1A2), which starts the production of a specific type of collagen (collagen type 1). Two, camellia oil prevents the breakdown of collagen by inhibiting matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1, an enzyme that breaks down collagen.  That’s pretty awesome.

Elemis Camellia Oil

Add in the fact that camellia oil-treated skin had less transepidermal water loss (TEWL) than non-treated skin 1-2 hours after treatment, and you’ve got yourself a quality product that may actually prevent stretch marks, which are caused by the breakage of collagen and elastin fibers. Amazing. My favorite? Elemis Camellia Oil ($38.95, — use it all over, morning and night (twice daily) from the time you’re starting to try to get pregnant until you stop breast-feeding to prevent stretch marks and keep skin supple.

Mama Mio FutureProof Firming Active Body Butter

During pregnancy, glucocorticoid hormones are released, preventing the skin cells from producing new collagen and elastin fibers.   This makes the skin less firm and more easily stretched.  As the pliable skin continues to grow, this can induce tearing of the dermis (under the skin) or epidermis (upper layer of the skin).   Interestingly enough, numerous creams have been shown in very reputable, peer-reviewed, double-blinded studies to prevent the formation of stretch marks.  These include cocoa butter, as established by a 2010 study in The International Journal of Obstretics and Gynecology, and a combination of Centella asiatica extract, vitamin E, and, interestingly, collagen and elastin hydrolisates, as proven by a 1991 study in The International Journal of Cosmetic Science.

Cocoa butter is likely to have an effect because it is hydrating, and Centella asiatica extract has potent antioxidant activity that may aid in dermal wound healing, as suggested by research in the Indian Journal of Medicine.

Mama Mio FutureProof Firming Active Body Butter

Personally, if I were pregnant, I would use Elemis Camellia Oil followed by a shea butter and vitamin E- rich cream like Mama Mio FutureProof Firming Active Body Butter ($56.98, twice daily to maximize collagen and elastin production, as well as to keep the skin supple.

Once You Stop Breast-Feeding, Resume to Normal Skin Care

Once you stop breast-feeding, resume to normal, full-strength skin care. As always, I recommend the “big 5″: retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (not at the same time as retinoids), niacinamide, antioxidants, and sunscreen!

11 Ingredients to Avoid

1. Accutane (orally administered)

Accutane (isotretinoin) is a derivative of vitamin A commonly prescribed to patients with acne. Of all the ingredients and drugs listed here, Accutane is by far the worst. According to the Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS), women who take Accutane during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy risk severe birth defects. These include severe fetal brain and heart defects, mental retardation, and other birth abnormalities. The correlation is strong, with one in four babies exposed to Accutane drug during the first trimester of pregnancy experiencing severe side effects.

Fortunately, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, the percentage of Accutane users who are advised about potential birth defects is high: 99 percent of 177,216 women prescribed Accutane recalled being instructed to avoid pregnancy (New England Journal of Medicine, 1995).

Women who are taking Accutane and plan to become pregnant are advised by OTIS to stop using the product one month before trying to get pregnant, to be absolutely sure that the product is gone from the bloodstream.

2. Retin-A, Avita, Renova (topical treatments)

Retin-A, Avita, and Renova all contain tretinoin, like Accutane. All are topical treatments that are commonly prescribed to improve acne, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and skin texture. Each contains between 0.025-0.1% tretinoin and is applied to the skin, whereas Accutane is 10-40 mg of orally administered isotretinoin ( A 2002 study by Briggs et. al. cited here estimated that even if maximal absorption (about 33%) occurred from a daily application of 1 g of a 1% tretinoin preparation, a patient would receive only one-seventh of the vitamin A activity from a typical prenatal vitamin supplement. A further study by Lancet et. al. in 1993 affirmed this opinion, concluding that “topical tretinoin is not associated with an increased risk for major congenital disorders.” Still, despite the research otherwise, the Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS) says that is “a safe approach” for women to stop using Retin-A one month before trying to get pregnant.

3. Skin Care Supplements Containing Vitamin A (orally administered)

Yes, we’re still on the “A-train” here. (Or encouraging pregnant women to step off of it!) Skin care supplements often contain vitamin A. However, you may be putting your child at risk of vitamin A overdose, as a slightly higher instance of birth defects have been found in babies whose mothers consumed more than 10000 IU/day of vitamin A, and the average adult diet in the U.S. contains 7,000–8,000 IU/day of vitamin A without a supplement (Russell-Briefel et al., ’85). At least seven case reports of adverse pregnancy outcome associated with a daily intake of vitamin A of 25,000 IU or more have been published (Rosa et al., ’86). However, before you get too alarmed, keep in mind one study of nearly 300 women did not find a link between consumption of about 50000 IU/day vitamin A and birth defects.

So what is a pregnant woman to do? Her best option is to continue to consume a healthy diet and talk to her physician about recommended prenatal vitamins, which normally have vitamin A levels adjusted for dietary intake.

One further caveat: do not get overly cautious and over-limit vitamin A, as retinol deficiency during pregnancy has been associated with anemia and other health problems. If you are ultra-diligent and want to monitor your vitamin A intake, write down the foods and supplements you consume during a typical week, and ask a nutritionist for a formal assessment.

4. Sunscreens containing avobenzone or oxybenzone

Before I continue any farther, I want to state first that no studies have been shown that avobenzone or oxybenzone are very toxic. In fact, a 2005 study by Hayden et. al.demonstrated that the ingredients are not harmful when applied to the skin. However, avobenzone and oxybenzone (the latter present in 20-30% of sunscreens) have been demonstrated by Hayden et. al to be absorbed into the body and secreted into the urine of users. According to Dr. Leslie Baumann, director of Baumann Cosmetic Research Institute in Miami, “Oxybenzone has low acute toxicity in animal studies, yet little is known about its chronic toxicity and disposition after its topical application in people. For this reason, sunscreens containing this agent are not recommended for use in children.” And, again,although maximal absorption of a topical ingredient from the skin is about 33%, it is probably a safe approach to use sunscreens without avobenzone or oxybenzone during pregnancy or while nursing. A safe alternative is a sunscreen containing zinc oxide with its photoreactivity minimized by surface coating with dimethicone or silicone, such as Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, SPF 30 ($12.99,

5. Salicyclic Acid (orally administered)

Salicyclic acid, which may be derived from the Salix alba plant (shown above) may cause birth defects in high doses of the oral form (BabyCenter). However, small amounts applied to the skin — such as a salicylic acid-containing toner used once or twice a day — are considered safe, says Sandra Marchese Johnson, a dermatologist with Johnson Dermatology in Fort Smith, Arkansas. But the concern is stronger about face and body peels, which contain higher concentrations of salicylic acid. “This kind of ‘soaking’ in the ingredient is similar to taking one or more aspirin when pregnant,” she explains.

According to, your best bet is to consult your dermatologist about any products you are using containing salicyclic acid, and to avoid ingesting any supplements containing salicyclic acid or BHA (beta hydroxy acid; salicyclic acid is a BHA).

6. Soy that is not “active soy”, or oil of bergamot

Many women experience a darkening of the skin during pregnancy (“the mask of pregnancy”) that is caused by overactive melanin production. According to, soy-containing products and oil of bergamot have estrogenic effects, which can make this form of melasma (darkening of the skin) worse. However, products by Johnson & Johnson brands (i.e., Neutrogena, Aveeno, amongst others) contain a form of soy known as “active soy,” in which the estrogenic compounds have been extracted, so these should not exacerbate melasma like other products.

7-17. The following list of herbs

Herbs are an interesting breed in skin care: On the one hand, alternative medicine practitioners have long noted the effects of certain herbs, like St. John’s Wort for depression, or aloe vera for soothing the skin. On the other hand, we still don’t know how efficacious most of these herbs are in comparison to many ingredients or drugs used in western medicine. We also don’t fully understand all of the potential contraindications of every possible combination of herbs with western ingredients/drugs. With that said, despite the limited research on herbs, there are some the Natural Medicines Database and the American Pregnancy Association declare “Unsafe” or “Likely unsafe” during pregnancy:

  • Saw Palmetto – when used orally, has hormonal activity
  • Goldenseal - when used orally, may cross the placenta
  • Dong Quai – when used orally, due to uterine stimulant and relaxant effects
  • Ephedra - when used orally
  • Yohimbe - when used orally
  • Pay D’ Arco – when used orally in large doses; contraindicated
  • Passion Flower - when used orally
  • Black Cohosh – when used orally in pregnant women who are not at term
  • Blue Cohosh – when used orally; uterine stimulant and can induce labor
  • Roman Chamomile – when used orally in medicinal amounts
  • Pennyroyal – when used orally or topically

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Giveaway: How Does Your Beauty Routine Change for Fall?

10 dollar amazon giftcard prize

How Does Your Beauty Routine Change for Fall? Share in Comments, and you could win a $10 Amazon gift card! Winner announced Tuesday, July 15, 2014.

My beauty routine changes in two ways:


First, I add a moisturizer to my skin care routine. Typically, I use a cleanser, toner, antioxidant serum, and sunscreen in the AM, and a cleanser, toner, and retinol at night for my normal/combination, somewhat sensitive skin. In the fall and winter months, I’ll add in a treatment moisturizer before sunscreen in the AM, and after the retinol at night. Currently I’m using all FutureDerm products (of course), and I’m working on formulating a new Retinol 0.75 and 1.0 for the fall/winter!


Second, I change up my makeup a little bit. The sunlight in Pittsburgh is pretty dim in the fall and winter months, so I can get away with more of a berry lipstick and blush than I can in the summer months. Currently, I’m looking at Estee Lauder Pure Color Lipstick in Fig as my fall go-to color.


Got other questions? Let me know at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com! Love hearing from you!

3 Effective Oral Treatments for Troublesome Acne

3 Effective Oral Treatments for Troublesome Acne

Acne is one of the most pervasive skin conditions. Almost 85% of Americans are affected by acne at some point in their lives, whether during adolescence or adulthood. Because acne can be surprisingly difficult to treat, there are a variety of options available for treatment. In this post, we’ll focus on oral acne treatments.

Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives are mainly prescribed to nonsmoking women under the age of 35 when they don’t see success with other acne treatments and are also in the market for contraception. Doctors have treated acne with oral contraceptives off-label for years, but the FDA has only approved three for the treatment of acne (Ortho Tri-Cyclen, YAZ, and Estrostep) because of their combinations of hormones. Each of the three contains both estrogen and progesterone.

All acne has four components. One well-known contributor is the bacteria P. acnes, but another culprit is hormone-mediated overproduction of sebum, the oil in your pores. These combine with inflammation and a build up of dead skin cells on the surface to create all of the forms of acne. Because oral contraceptives mainly influence oil production, they’re often used in combination with other treatments. Remember that it may take several months for you to see results. Some people experience no negative side effects, but others may experience depression and mood swings, migraines, hypertension, and blood clots (which are a risk for stroke), so be sure to discuss this option carefully with your doctor.

3 Effective Oral Treatments for Troublesome Acne

Oral Antibiotics

Much like topical antibiotics, oral antibiotics work to kill P. acnes, a bacteria that is one of the most common causes of acne. Different antibiotics work in different ways; for example, erythromycin kills bacteria to prevent breakouts, doxycycline slows the growth of bacteria, and clindamycin works to suppress formation of P. acnes proteins.

One antibiotic sometimes used off-label is Bactrim, a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole, which is FDA-approved for treatment of urinary tract infections, shigellosis, and acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis. Side effects for Bactrim include joint pain, rash, insomnia, and a swollen tongue. Bactrim also contains sulfur, which many people are allergic to.

All antibiotics are serious medications and should never be taken without a personal, direct prescription and ongoing supervision from your own physician.

3 Effective Oral Treatments for Troublesome Acne


Isotretinoin is an oral form of vitamin A approved to treat severe cystic acne. It should only used as a last resort for very severe acne or acne that is causing permanent scarring. Vitamin A derivatives help to regulate the maturation and turnover of skin cells and can be very effective in acne, but side effects have led the federal government to require that patients enroll in a program called iPledge to be monitored by their dermatologists very closely. For example, among several other risks, isotretinoin can cause severe birth defects, so all women of childbearing age must get monthly blood tests and pregnancy tests and participate in monthly counseling with the dermatologist.

Other side effects of isotretinoin include dry eyes, nose, and skin; itching; nosebleeds; sun sensitivity; muscle aches; and poor night vision. It may also increase triglyceride levels in the liver and increase cholesterol. Isotretinoin is also possibly associated with an increased risk of depression and suicide, although a causal relationship has yet to be determined. Since severe acne is also associated with these risks in teens, this issue is still being studied for clarification, but anyone who has a history of depression or psychiatric issues must be cleared by a mental health professional to be in the program.

Bottom Line

Oral treatments can be an effective way to treat acne and are often used in conjunction with other types of treatments to ensure maximum effectiveness. Of course, not all oral treatments are best for everyone, and sometimes the side effects can outweigh the benefits, so be sure to discuss the above options with your doctor to see what would work best for you.


Contributing author: Dr. Jessica Krant

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