The 6 Most Shocking Facts I've Learned as a Beauty Blogger

Skin Care

Being a medical student and part-time scientific researcher, I learn a lot of interesting facts all the time.  But being a beauty blogger – that’s what has me reading the surprising material.  All of the following facts had my jaw dropping while reading – and double (and sometimes triple!) checking my sources after.  Here are my most shocking finds of the past two years:

1.  As of December 1, 2009, you can be charged $11,000 for blogging without “full disclosure”.

As of December 01, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission is enforcing a law in which all new online material must disclose “conflicts of interest.”  Although the law is a bit fuzzy for bloggers, it is known that disclosure must be “clear and conspicuous,” according to Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC’s advertising practices division.  One interpretation of the law is letting your readers know how you have been compensated for a review, whether through products or a pay-per-post.   According to popular beauty blogger and author Nadine Jolie, this means beauty bloggers in particular must disclose “…which review products have been sent to us by publicists.”

While I will abide by the law, and have no problem with it, I think it is important that readers know that my opinions are never bought.  I inform each and every one of my potential advertisers that any products or payment for review does not guarantee a favorable review of their merchandise.  This system has worked well for me: only advertisers who really believe in their products send them to me, and as such, I have more wonderful products to feature on the site!

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this law is revised in the future, though.  For one thing, many beauty magazine editors accept products without the need for disclosing which products they have been given, and they are still trusted to provide honest, well-informed opinions.  In years to come, I imagine beauty bloggers will be given similar respect, but in the meantime, we will all surely abide by this rather surprising new law.

2.  SPF 100 is not 100% protection.  (Not even with ideal application and re-application).

SPF 100 actually blocks 99% of rays.  How do I know this?   Use the following algorithm from Dr. Rachel Herschenfeld: SPF 30 allows 1/30 UVB rays, or 3.3% through, meaning it blocks about 96.6% of UVB rays; SPF 50 allows 1/50 UVB rays, or 2.0% through, meaning it blocks 98.0% of UVB rays.  However, this is only the amount of protection that is provided when you use enough sunscreen (very few patients use the shot glass-full recommended for the entire body) and reapply religiously every 2-3 hours.  As such, it’s very safe to say, there is no such thing as 100% sun protection, at least not on the current market.

3.  Self-tanner may be harmful to the skin.

I know plenty of women who want to avoid the aging effects of the sun, but still have that summertime glow year-round.  Unfortunately, some self-tanners may release free radicals into the skin, ultimately resulting in cellular damage.

How does this happen?   Most self-tanners work by using dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the main ingredient.  According to a 2007 study published in Germany, DHA causes the skin to release 180% more free radicals once being exposed to the sun.  This means two important things:  One, avoid using self-tanner for “base color” before going to the beach (FYI artificial “base color” doesn’t help shield from the sun anyway), and two, sun protection is extremely important when you have used DHA-containing self-tanners within the past 24 hours.

4.  Certain skin care ingredients should not be mixed.

One great reason to visit your dermatologist:  have your skin care regime evaluated.  While there are many great skin care products out there, mixing certain ingredients together can alter the effectiveness of each via the pH (e.g., retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids), conflicting effects (e.g., niacinamide and sirtuins), or even the texture of each (in general, many derms recommend applying lighter formulations before heavier ones, like serum before moisturizer).  As such, as your dermatologist to ensure each of your skin care products is achieving maximal effectiveness in your current regime.

5.  Many, many beauty brands are interrelated.

Growing up, my best friend would only use Clinique, but never, ever Estee Lauder.  She just didn’t like the brand.  Little did she know that Clinique, like many other brands, is one of the Estee Lauder companies.  Because diversification is a wonderful way to appeal to a large population, as well as to keep your products fresh in the market, many brands we swear by are actually sub-brands of larger ones.  For a complete list, please click here.

6.  The best anti-aging cream is sunscreen, but you need to be careful in selecting one.

It’s been said before: if you can afford just one beauty product, make it a sunscreen.  After all, the sun is responsible for up to 90% of the visible signs of aging.  With that said, both physical sunscreens (i.e., zinc oxide, titanium oxide) and chemical sunscreens (i.e., avobenzone, oxybenzone) have raised eyebrows in the past.

Physical sunscreens have been alarming because it was believed that they may release damaging oxygen free radicals at the skin’s surface upon exposure to the sun.  (Kind-of like DHA in self-tanner!)  However, according to Dr. Leslie Baumann in her textbook Cosmetic Dermatology, particles of microfine Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide are too large to traverse the uppermost layer of skin, and thus should not be able to induce free radical damage within the skin. According to a 1997 study by Gillies et. al cited in Dr. Baumann‘s book, most companies now further minimize the possibility of photoreactivity of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide by coating the surface with dimethicone or silicone.

On the other hand, certain chemical sunscreens, which include oxybenzone, avobenzone, and Parsol 1789, can cause photoallergic contact dermatitis in susceptible patients.   Avobenzone and oxybenzone (the latter present in 20-30% of sunscreens) have also been demonstrated by Hayden et. al to be absorbed into the body and secreted into the urine of users. While avobenzone and oxybenzone are not considered to be toxic agents based on animal studies, some experts prefer that sunscreens with oxybenzone are not used on children or by pregnant or nursing women, because they are absorbed into the body.


Let me know if you come across any surprising skin care information or studies!  I am also always looking for enterprising, insightful guest writers, so whether you have interesting facts or opinions, I’m all ears.  Please feel free to contact me at nicki [at] futurederm [dot] com.  🙂

Photo Source: Cat Retro Surprise Originally uploaded by disneymike (flickr)

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  • Rosa

    Love your blogs very insightful to the obsessive beauty junkie that I am coming to be.
    I have used oxybenzone products specifically SPF lipbalms and I’m positive that they were the cause of my coldsores. As when I would use these products they would make my lips feel tingly and i could feel a cold sore coming on. Maybe its just me and im sensitive to this ingredient. But I only use physical sunscreens now.

    Also what brand of sunscreens would you recommend?

    Many Thanks

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