It's this time of year when we put our moisturizers to the test - to see if they can truly go the extra mile. If you are like me, every winter your skin gets dry and flakey. No matter how thick you coat your skin or how much money you spend on a particular product, you can't stop the vicious cycle. Until now.

My quest to find the best moisturizer led me to Dr. Beckman, MD. Through research in combination with the education provided by Dr. Beckman, I rediscovered an ingredient that truly has magical powers. Lanolin. I know what you are thinking (especially if you were a nursing new mom). I challenge you to think again. See, skin care product companies turn to vegetable oils or mineral oils as the foundation elements in skin moisturizers. However, waxy mineral or vegetable oils cannot penetrate the skin. They simply coat the surface with a comedogenic, non-breathable, and non-absorbable coating. And though this coating does prevent evaporation, it falls short of restoring suppleness, pliability, breathability, and stretchability (movement between the layers of skin).

All lanolins are not the same. I learned through Dr. Beckman that there are actually 32 commonly accepted grades of lanolin. Only the top two grades are classified USP Superfine. Extracting this grade lanolin is expensive and laborious, which is why larger skin care manufacturers do not utilize this ingredient. USP Superfine grade lanolin is both hypo-allergenic and hydrophilic, allowing superb penetration throughout the entire epidermis. It leaves no oily residue, has minimal sensitivity, yet provides maximum pliability. In addition, USP Superfine lanolin contains no heavy oils or waxes and is therefore non-comedogenic. Subsequently, it provides a superior vehicle for carrying other ingredients to deeper levels of the epidermis (such as alpha hydroxy acids, humectants, vitamins).

So, what should you look for in a moisturizer? Stay away from products with mineral oils, petroleum, or cocoa butter in their ingredient list. To be certain of the lanolin used in any formulation, call the manufacturer and confirm that only USP Superfine grade lanolin is used. In making the switch to Theraderm's Enriched Facial Moisturizer, my skin has been completely restored and is soft, supple and moisturized - at all times. I haven't been dry for even one day since beginning the product in September - that's a first for me. Only one other moisturizer has been able to keep dry skin at bay for me - Creme de la Mer, but at a hefty price. Moisture is key - and if you have ever tried to layer products over top your moisturizer just to unveil flakes, you know what I am talking about.

It's time to ditch what isn't working and focus on the future of your skin's health. Masking dry skin will only get you so far. Solving the problem at hand will provide healthy, vibrant and beautiful skin for a lifetime.
If you haven't heard the buzz, listen up ... it's on the way. The coined "CoffeeBerry" describes the whole fruit of the coffee bush, the cherry. It is the red fruit that contains the bean, which up until now, was thrown away. Field workers were actually the first to discover the anti-aging properties of CoffeeBerry while picking coffee beans. They noticed the skin of their lower arms and hands became smoother and firmer (and showing fewer sun spots) from harvesting beans, after handling the flesh of the partially ripe coffee cherry. CoffeeBerry happens to be rich in antioxidants called phenolic acids (polyphenol, if you checking the list of antioxidants), and aids in preventing cellular damage to the skin. Its content is thought to be 3x greater than that of green tea and contains 5 out of 8 essential sugars called monosaccharides, which are critical for proper functioning of bio-physiological systems. CoffeeBerry is said to be effective for skin discoloration, as well as dry skin.

While you can find CoffeeBerry now in product lines such as CafeActiv and Revaleskin, I believe we'll see more and more companies adding this precious little ingredient into the mix. Why? Well, for one - we know the power antioxidants have in fighting free radicals and preventing sunspots. Sun damage and wrinkles result from oxidative stress on the skin. And two - it's the latest and greatest scientific find. Everyone wants what's new. Keep in mind, you can take advantage of non-topical antioxidants by:
  1. Enjoying broccoli, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts and other leafy green vegetables rich in Vitamin C and glutathione.
  2. Drinking acai juice (found at your local health-food market) or eating dried acai berries, which have high amounts of anthocyanins.
  3. A daily ritual of drinking white and/or green tea, effective at reducing cancerous growths and inhibiting other diseases.
  4. Snacking on nuts high in Vitamin E and berries high in Vitamin C.
  5. Dropping Dr. Brandt's liquid antioxidant into your water.
It hit me this morning, after my mom asked me if Vitamin C was an antioxidant, that I take this knowledge for granted. At first I wanted to say, duh Mom. But I soon realized that being exposed to information such as this on a daily basis keeps it top of mind for me. She helped me realize the importance of putting informative research in front of my readers. That way, we all make educated decisions on our health and skin care.
Nanotechnology could just become the next buzzword in the beauty industry. Although it's been around for centuries, it's relatively new to cosmetics and skin care. So, what is it? Nanotechnology has to do with forming, controlling and manipulating small particles which cannot be directly handled. For cosmetics and skin care products, companies can now change the way ingredients behave. And these companies are hoping to use nanotechnology to get ingredients deeper into the skin. The thought process is ... the deeper materials can travel, the more skin layers they encounter and the more available they can be to more skin in less time. When products penetrate deeper into the skin layers, they work better.

You will hear companies talk about using nanotechnology to break down an active ingredient into nanoparticals. Or, using nanosomes (nanometer-sized liposomes) in an attempt to allow vitamins and other materials to be absorbed more effectively and efficiently by the skin. Some sunscreens use nanoparticles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, such as Innovative Skincare's Suncare SPF 20 Moisturizing Treatment Sunscreen. (On a side note: Innovative Skincare is also known as IS Clinical - one of my favorite lines, based on science.) The first and only nanosized hyaluronic acid topical product is DermAvance's Hyalogy.

Want proof? It's actually quite difficult to find studies that show nano-engineered products as more effective than regular ones. The reason? Publishing results of scientific tests requires full disclosure of the method by which the formula being tested was produced. As you can imagine, companies are not eager to sign up. And, unfortunately, that means we just don't have easily available proof that nano-engineered cosmetics and skin care products work well. The concept of using nanotechnology in the beauty industry sounds really good. However, experts have raised the question whether these substances remaining in the skin can age it prematurely. The FDA does not have any evidence that ingredients manufactured this way pose a safety risk.

Food for thought:
As reported in Science Daily just the other day
There are 356 products in the health and fitness category that contain nanotechnology -- the inventory's largest category -- and 66 products in the food and beverage category of the list prepared by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.
Did you know that a nanometer is 100,000 times thinner than a strand of hair? Currently, researchers in Berkley are working to uncover the potential of nanoscience to battle global warming and disease.
Have you heard? Mineral activity is heating up ... compliments of your latest and greatest skin care product lines. These megacreams, that utilize gemstones, minerals and precious metals from deep below the earth's surface, claim to erase wrinkles and energize skin cells. With ingredients such as sapphires, citrines, diamonds and gold ... what will they think of next?

Ingredient: Obsidian Pantelleria.
It's a form of petrified lava made from quick-cooling magma chambers. It's supposedly rich in restorative, therapeutic minerals and elements. Giorgio Armani developed Cream Nera, a water-in-oil emulsion that dissolves upon contact with the skin. It releases microscopic ampules of silicon (skin firming), potassium and sodium (moisture balancing), and iron (energy boosting).

Ingredients: Malachite, sapphire, citrine and tourmaline.
These gemstones are naturally rich in skin-essential minerals and elements like copper, zinc, magnesium, iron and silicon. Bulgari’s Crème Precieuse and Emulsion de Lumiere contain a polypeptide complex (collagen boosting) and hydroporine (a potent hydrating molecule) for smooth, supple skin. These products promise to help improve hydration (with zinc), regulate the production of melanin (with magnesium) and fight free radicals (antioxidant effects of silicon, copper and iron). However, little research has been done to attest to the ability of these minerals to actually penetrate the skin’s surface. It's set to launch October in Italy and in 2008 in the States.

Ingredient: Amber.
Mined from the Baltic Sea, Amber is said to trigger the skin’s production of tensotrophin (a natural collagen and elastin-boosting polypeptide) and decrease production of the enzymes that contribute to fine lines and wrinkles. Guerlain’s Success Future skin care line was developed with Amber as its secret ingredient.

Ingredient: Gold.
Gold is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cell-energizing ingredient. The question is, can it penetrate the skin? Lab tests have been done to determine just that. What's interesting is that the highly stable micro-particles of the metal allow for a potential pass through to skin tissue and into tumors, where it may be heated to destroy cancerous cells. Chantecaille’s Nano Gold Energizing Cream is loaded with silk fibers (collagen boosting) and gold particles that promise to fight fine lines and free radicals. It launches in November. Oh, and Orlane’s Crème Royale and La Prairie’s Cellular Radiance Gold Concentrate go for the gold, as well!

Ingredient: Azurite.
From the Congo, Azurite is a bright, glittering blue stone teeming with copper (for collagen) and magnetized Brazilian hematite, which attracts iron. La Mer’s new Eye Concentrate blends azurite into its concoction, for increased circulation and to decrease puffiness.

diamond-magnetic-2.thumbnailIngredient: Diamonds. Not really sure what to say about this luxury ingredient. It's shown up in exfoliators many times before. Natura Bisse’s Diamond Magnetic cream is a gritty, lavender-scented paste that aims to recast shoulders, collarbones, and legs as glimmering diamonds themselves. It also claims to detoxify the skin and relieve stress. It will be available in November at Neiman Marcus.

These product gems come at a very hefty price. What I wouldn't do to get my hands on one of these to road test (somebody please send me some!). I have to go back to my frame of reference, though, and question - what will these antioxidants do for me that my regular antioxidant won't?
I would be remiss if I didn't share my most recent mishaps with you. I mean really, why shouldn't everyone else learn from my mistakes? If you take away one thing from this, it should be skin care awareness.

Lesson #1 - Just because a Derm Doc is tenured and credentialed, doesn't mean he is properly educated in his field.

And yes, I reference "he" for a reason. I realize I may be a little overzealous but ... I truly look forward to visiting the dermatologist. I do. It's a chance for me to learn more about my skin and how I can best take care of it. It's also a chance to learn of the latest technology in treatments and skin care products. Unfortunately, I was greatly disappointed by my last visit. Let me preface this by saying I recently moved to a new city and had to seek out a new derm doc. I thought I was doing all of the right things - asking around, researching online, etc. Apparently, that wasn't good enough. I found a nearby dermatologist who has 20+ years of experience in this particular practice. He's quite credentialed, as well. Honestly, he looked perfect on paper. He was far from perfect. On top of being a total dweeb (sorry, I really could not resist), he couldn't answer any of my questions - gave me that deer in the headlights look with responses such as "well, I am not sure what might have caused that...what do you think it could be?" Dude, if I knew do you think I would be asking you? Seriously, I had to answer my own questions. I walked away thinking "I know more than this man." Of course at the check out I asked, "which doctor would you recommend I see next time?" Response: "I can't tell you that." So I continue, "could you please tell me which doctor is most visited at this practice?" Response: "I can't tell you that." Are you feeling my frustration yet?

So I walked away with the scripts I needed and never turned back. That dermatology office won't be seeing me again. Next time, I will depend on my friend's coveted dermatologist. Lesson learned.

Lesson #2 - Don't use expired products. Ever. Seriously. I mean it.
You would think of all people I would realize the importance of an expiration date. I know to throw away mascara after 2-3 months. I know eyeliners aren't safe to use after 6 months. Why did I not realize that a liquid highlighter (my YSL Touche eclat) is no good after a year. Well, it might have been more like two ... for shame, for shame. So, because I hadn't used it, in like forever, I thought it would be a nice time to whip it out and highlight my inner eyes. Mistake. Big mistake. Almost immediately my eyes began to itch. And did I see or feel the signs enough to wash it off my face immediately? Of course not. So I proceeded to wear it all day, not having a clue what could be causing the skin around my eyes to itch. Later that night: the skin underneath my eyes began to swell and turn bright red. Next morning: red bumps, to boot. I looked like I had been double whammied in the eyes! Oh, and just in time for my company's quarterly regional meeting - thank you very much. (And sorry co-workers for not telling the whole truth - I was a wee bit ashamed.)

Of course I threw out the product and vowed to myself to actually practice what I preach. Bacteria can seep into products - and any product used around your eyes is more susceptible. Lesson learned.