Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Examining the Current State of Cosmetics:
US Congress Explores Safety in Cosmetics

For those of you who are unaware, the US Congress sat down today to discuss and hear testimony on the regulation process of cosmetics in the United States.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, of course, these regulations determine what companies can put into our makeup, hair care, body care, toothpaste, children's personal care products, sunscreens, etc...and that's hugely important. They also have an effect on the US economical landscape: according to a 2010 report prepared the Personal Care Products Council by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, the personal care/beauty industry accounts for 2.8 million jobs. That's a heck of a lot of people, and it results in $189 billion in GDP.

Obviously, this is a complex issue, and it is compounded by a lot of misinformation and scare tactic pseudo-science, which makes it even more important that we pay attention to what it going on. Here's the hearing in its entirety; I encourage each one of you to take the time, if you have it, to sit down and watch it.


Additional information from the hearing, including opening statements and written testimony, can be found on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pages:



You can also view the social media reaction by checking out the Twitter topic #cosmeticshearing.

Of course, I hope everyone out there will take the time to go over this information and make your voice heard, but for those of you that do not have the time, attention span, or inclination to follow congressional subcommittee hearings, never fear, you can borrow my notes! Keep an eye out in the next day or so for a "highlight reel" of the hearing.

Friday, March 16, 2012

3 Red Flags that Your Skin Care "Expert"...Isn't

Now let me preface this by saying: I'm not perfect. I make mistakes, and I certainly don't know everything. I benefit from the knowledge that I've collected over years of experience, but sometimes Google is my best friend. Being that science is an ever-evolving enterprise, I can and will revise my opinions should new findings illuminate a subject in a previously unexpected way.

You see, I don't just write a beauty blog, I read them too. A lot of them. I've done good time behind the makeup counters, and in front of it training associates. There are plenty of skin care experts out there, both on the internet and in the wild. However, I've also seen plenty of people applying the term "expert"... loosely, shall we say? Knowledge is an open pursuit, experts and "less-perts" can come from the very same makeup counters, cosmetology schools and universities. So, how can you tell which are full of knowledge and which are just full of themselves? Here are my red flags- the giveaways that will make me instantly leave a web-page or tune out a beauty advisor.

1. Tells you your skin type without asking what you're currently using:

Skin is a temperamental organ. What you use (or don't use) on it can make a big difference in the way it behaves. Using a cleanser that's too harsh can make normal skin seem dry. Treating breakouts over-aggressively can actually make skin oilier. Much as a doctor would ask what medications you're currently on before diagnosing a mysterious illness, any skin care expert worth her salt should inquire about your routine before making any suggestions. This may not overtly mean asking for a product list, but it does warrant a conversation beyond "I see you have blemishes, so you must have oily skin- use this".

2. Tells you "chemical free" is the way to go:

Simply put, everything is chemicals. We are. Air is. Water is. There is absolutely no product you could possibly put on your face that's even remotely "chemical free". Someone who says such things is showing that they have very little idea how the skin functions, because guess what? It has to do with chemicals. To induce any change in the skin, a chemical reaction has to take place.

Of course, I'm aware that most people using terms like "chemical free" are supporting products that are supposedly more true to their original state than their less lab-engineered "chemical" counterparts. Lest you chalk it up to semantics, however, be aware: there's no proof that "natural" products are any safer or more effective than lab-altered ones. Take lavender as an example: components in the herb have been shown to have antioxidant properties and to increase collagen and ceramide content in the skin- all good things. Unfortunately, lavender also contains compounds that are known skin irritants, photo-sensitizers and cytotoxic agents (that means cell-death). So what's a skin care formulator to do?

Easy. Modern science allows us to take lavender into a lab and essentially extract the helpful components while leaving the bad ones behind. Now, some people would prefer to see lavender oil (irritating cell death) rather than ursolic acid (helpful, lab-isolated compound) on their ingredient list, but which ingredient's results would you rather see on your skin?

3. Tells you to drink more water:

This one is tricky. The myth has been spread far and wide; I've even seen dermatologists perpetuating it. Nonetheless, myth it is. Dry skin isn't just lacking water; it's deficient in sebum- the skin's natural oil. I can't put it any more simply than dermatologist Cynthia Bailey: unless you're severely dehydrated (as in hospital-stay proportions) "drinking water won’t fix dry skin any more than taking a bath will quench your thirst."

Just because this is a particularly pervasive myth doesn't mean experts repeating it should get a free pass. To me, anyone sharing this tidbit of info is proving that they're only repeating what someone else has told them, rather than doing their own research on the subject. That makes me worry that they're just selling or reprinting some company's press release, and that doesn't sit well with me.

So, there you have it. Not a long list, but instances that make my eyes roll time after time. I'm sure that there are a few that I'm forgetting here, but we'll save those for another installment!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Illamasqua Spring/Summer 2012:
The Human Fundamentalism Collection

Once again, Illamasqua knocks it out of the park- but this season it's a whole new look for the company. Taking a vacation from the opulent, theatrically Gothic leanings we've come to know, the new collection celebrates "the fundamental human desire to express your inner beauty on the outside" with a collection full of poppy shades that could be plucked from a bazaar in Istanbul as easily as a rave in New York City.
''Human Fundamentalism to me is physical expression of your self-belief, sharing your opinions with colour that shape the narrative of your thoughts and inner self. It is a statement of conviction and colour confidence, it states, this is me and now see what I see, be tinted by how I express colour and behold an oblivion to social convention and constraints.''  
—David Horne, Illamasqua Director of New Product Development 
Chances are good that, if you're reading this blog, this statement resonates with you as much as it does me. Color is vital to my world, to my mood, to my being. It does indeed express and celebrate who I am, even if that "who" as completely different than the "me" of yesterday and tomorrow.

As always, Illamasqua Creative Director, revered makeup artist Alex Box, brings us visually shattering images to illustrate the collection (which includes brand new lip, eye, nail and skin shades).

Pretty amazing, right? And while it's on my mind, a big thumbs up to the folks over at Illamasqua for the new site design- the "moving skin swatch" feature is simply brilliant!

Human Fundamentalism launches today, March 15th 2012. I'm at the mercy of international post, but stay tuned for a closer look at the collection in the coming weeks!

Monday, March 12, 2012

This Week's Sales: TIGI Haircare, NYX, Ricky's NYC
...and more!

Cherry Culture
20% off site wide now through March 15th (11:59 pm CST) with code MMM2012

Beyond the Rack
Monday: TIGI Haircare
Tuesday: Must Have Makeup Brushes
Friday: Men's Fragrances

Now through Wednesday: Bellapierre Cosmetics, Murad Skincare

If you're not a member yet, click here for an invite and we can both earn a £10 voucher!

Tuesday: neuLash by Skin Research Labs
Thursday: Beauty Tools of the Trade: no!no!, Pretika, Bellecore & more.
Monday: NYX Cosmetics, RapidLash
Tuesday: Eve Pearl, Alterna
Wednesday: Ricky's NYC, Mica Beauty
Thursday: Hairdo by Jessica Simpson, Premier Dead Sea Product, NEO Hair Tools
Friday: Crown Brush, VIOlight, Amal Oils
Saturday: Pinook USA, Olive Essence
Monday 3/19: Kinerase, GO SMiLE, TEI Spa

Monday: Michael Todd Cosmetics
Friday: Epilady

Lucky Chic
Now through 1pm Monday: Kiehl's, Semi-Precious Home Spa Collection

If you're not a member yet and would like an invitation, click here.
Now through Tuesday: Bubalina
Now through Wednesday: Luxe Skin Care Sets feat. Boscia, NIA24, Dr. Hauschka and more
Starts Monday: Studio Gear Cosmetics

If you're not a member yet and would like an invitation, click here.

Rue La La
Monday: Trina & Tweezerman
Now through Wednesday: Bling Dental Products

Now through Tuesday: Babo Botanicals

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Urban Decay 2012 Friends & Family Sale

Now through 11:59 PM EST on Saturday, March 10th, get 20% off your entire order with code FFSPRING12. Enough said? Just in case you can't read the fine print, this offer excludes the Naked2 palette, which I think is a little skeevy, but that's just me. It is worth mentioning that though the details say "discount cannot be combines with any other offer" that doesn't include the sale section on the site, where you can grab your choice of several palettes and even some of UD's famous primer potion. Not too shabby.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Product Review: Ronald L Moy, M.D.
DNA EGF Renewal Collection

I'm always on the lookout for the latest, greatest new innovations to keep my skin looking its best. Skin care is a constantly evolving arena that is a melee of chemistry, technology, medicine, and not a little psychology. What we think of as the gold standard now could easily shrink into obscurity overnight with one key discovery. It's those advancements that I live for, so when I was given the opportunity to attend a web conference with Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Ronald Moy to discuss his line, DNA EGF Renewal, I jumped at the chance. Along with sharing lots of valuable knowledge, he also graciously sent along some products for me to try, so read on to see what I thought!

Former president of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Moy's line is based on 25 years of research that he believes holds the key to preventing and reversing the impact of time and environment on the skin. His line includes well known anti-aging favorites like peptides and alpha hydroxy acids, but focuses on two specific facets:

  • DNA Repair Enzymes: A combination of three marine and botanically sourced enzymes that, according to Dr. Moy "intensify the skin’s ability to repair and defend cellular DNA by stimulating the recognition and elimination of damaged DNA." Moy's own published study shows that these enzymes do indeed enhance repair of DNA caused by UV exposure, which, of course, shows on the skin in everything from dull skin to brown spots to wrinkles. 
  • Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF): A cell-communicating peptide that works by accelerating the growth of healthy skin cells. Unlike other products on the market that use a form of EGF derived from E. coli bacteria, the EGFs in Moy's line are bio-engineered from barley. While bacterial EGF is known to degrade and lose potency rather quickly, Moy claims barley based EGF is stable, and will not will not lose potency with exposure to UV light or normal room temperatures. It should be said that the science behind EGFs is still in the discovery phase, and is not without controversy. Because EGFs stimulate the growth of skin cells, the worry is that long-term use of EGFs could cause skin cells to over-produce. Unchecked cell proliferation can mean not-so-great things (yaknow, cancer) which is definitely something to keep in mind.
Experimental nature notwithstanding, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. The price point of the DNA EGF Renewal line is not for the faint of heart, with the key repair products ringing in at well over $100 each. So how do they perform? I was sent several products from the line- today I'll start of by featuring DNA EGF's daily cleanser. 

Renewal Foaming Cleanser 6.7oz for $28

They say:         
This gentle, foaming formula provides an innovative, non-irritating version of glycolic acid for gentle exfoliating action coupled with a naturally-derived, sulfate-free cleansing agent to remove dead skin cells and reveal clean, vibrant skin.

I say: 
I was skeptical when I first learned about this product. I've long been in the camp that believed that repair ingredients in cleanser were essentially a waste- rarely is the product on the skin long enough to actually have an effect. When I asked Dr. Moy his view on this he told me that glycolic acid works very quickly, so the cleanser only needs to remain on the skin for a minute or so to get full benefits of the alpha hyrdoxy acid. Since you really need to be cleansing for at least that long to effectively remove makeup, this was welcome news. FYI, always a skeptic, I did do some research to corroborate Dr. Moy's claims that AHAs can work within a limited time period and found plenty of support, including Dr. Leslie Baumann, the author the best-selling cosmetic dermatology textbook in the world.

Right off the bat, I'm going to tell you- the scent of this cleanser is..ah...and acquired taste (or smell, as the case may be). My first impression was bitter, acrid, chemically stink. I was not a fan. Oddly, after using the cleanser for a week or so, I began to like the scent and realized it actually reminds me of green apples. There's no artificial fragrance in the cleanser, so I'm guessing the formula's inclusion of grapefruit, orange and tangerine oils are what give it such a distinct odor. A citrusy smell might actually have been a more appealing choice, but since citrus oils can irritate skin, I really would have preferred to see them left out entirely. Sorry to get so hung up on a smell, but this one was so off-putting at first that I really think it could be a deal breaker for some people!

As far as actual performance of Renewal Foaming Cleanser, I couldn't ask for anything more. The sulfate-free formula isn't as high-sudsing as most face washes, but don't let that trick you into thinking it's not working. This cleanser is one of the very few lathering cleansers that I've used that completely removed all of my makeup but also left my skin soft and comfortable- not at all dry and tight.

The low concentration of glycolic acid (3.5%) also made this a great fit for my dry, sensitive skin. Though I've seen experts say that such a low level of glycolic acid is ineffective, I know from experience that on my skin, higher levels tend to cause excess dryness and irritation. Renewal cleanser did a great job of keeping my typically flaky skin smooth and glowing, yet I saw absolutely no irritation.

Though the scent of DNA EGF Renewal cleanser caught me off-guard at first, my only real critique about this product is the price. At $28, it's not exactly a steal, but if, like me, you have a hard time finding a cleanser that effectively removes makeup without stripping your skin, and want gentle exfoliation to boot, this would be a welcome addition to your skin routine.
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