Basics

Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense & Tranexamic Acid

fullsizeoutput_5200

The newest launch from Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense with 5% Niacinamide, 3% Tranexamic Acid, and 1% Kojic Acid. Based on these hero ingredients, you’d expect improvements in skin discoloration as a result of excessive UV exposure, hormonal fluctuations, acne scars, melasma, aging, etc.

To better understand how this product works, it is important to understand the formulation and chosen star ingredients. My focus for this post is going to be Tranexamic acid, a water soluble amino acid hugely popular in south east Asia while gaining momentum in western markets. This ingredient is by no means a new discovery, and it’s been around for a long time. By the very nature of its properties, this acid is used for blood clotting during surgeries, heavy periods, etc. However, in the skincare world, this ingredient is used in small amounts to reduce redness and improve pigmented spots. Used to treat melasma or hyperpigmentation caused by UV radiation, photosensitization (can be caused due to essential oils too), hormonal influences, post spots scars (HIP). Known to be just as effective as Hydroquinone, which is fantastic news for coloured skins given our limitations with using Hydroquinone.

There are myriad ways of delivery and formulation around this ingredient. As for Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense the product is paired with Niacinamide and Kojic Acid, while SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 paired with Niacinamide, Phenylethyl Resorcinol (antioxidant ingredient used for lightening and brightening – synthetic compound derived from scotch pine bark), Tetrapeptide-3.0, Marine Algae Extract and Phytic acid, and Su-man Velvet skin brightening serum paired with Hyaluronic acid and Dragons blood extract. Ultimately it depends on your skin needs and what ingredients are you looking for as a ‘package’.

As mentioned earlier Asian markets already love this ingredient and widely used in sheet masks such as My Beauty Diary, Kose (Clear Turn) and Essence and Serums from Hada Labo (Shirojyun Premium), Shiseido (White Lucent, Aqualabel), Cle de Peau (Brightening Serum), Naruko (Apple and Tranexamic acid line), Bio essence (Tanaka White range with Tanaka extract, Kojic acid and Arbutin). This can be an endless list, therefore the point is, it is a widely used, effective ingredient and available in various formats and formulations. These are some combinations summarized which can help you identify which product formulation would best address your needs:

Niacinamide Rosacea prone skin

Reduces redness and it has anti-inflammatory effects

Azelaic acid

Boswellic acid

Reduces bacterial activity

Reduce increased activity of natural proteases

Kojic Acid Protein called Tyrosinase

Prevents skin pigmentation and help with brightening

Arbutin Derived synthetically but naturally derived from Bearberry plant

Prevents skin pigmentation and help with brightening

Lets focus on Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense’s Ingredient listing (key ingredients will be bolded):

Aqua / Water, Butylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid (HEPES), Glycerin, Tranexamic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Kojic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Allantoin, Chlorphenesin, Xanthan Gum, Disodium Edta

The claims of “improves the appearance of skin discoloration, brightens skin, and evens skin tone” aligns well with the ingredient listing. Improvement of discoloration, brightening and evening of skin tone is covered by Tranexamic Acid, Niacinamide, and Kojic Acid. On the other hand we have HEPES….not Herpes! A synthetically-derived acid activates natural enzymes in skin to help break the bonds that bind dead skin cells to the surface for even exfoliation. The formulation is developed with a targeted and focused inci list for specific skin concern. Also this can be used on all skin types.

Now onto my experience with Discoloration Defense – initially completely thrown off by the consistency and texture of the serum. I tried applying at ‘serum stage’ but didn’t see any visible impact or improvement, possibly because it didn’t absorb in skin so well (due to other products used before). With that in mind, I changed my method, now I use it in the following order of my routine:

Option 1: cleanse – acid – toning mist – Discoloration Defense – Sheet mask with Tranexamic Acid – seal with cream/oil/balm

Option 2: cleanse – acid – toning mist – Discoloration Defense – essence (thicker than toning mist) – layering another treatment product (optional) – cream/oil/balm

The point is, due to the thinner (almost water like but slightly thicker than water) consistency, I use it before essence or any other denser product. Simple rule of thumb, thinnest to thickest. Give it a few minutes to soak and I feel it leaves a sticky residue on skin but following by balm or cream or oil, it’s almost negated. In terms of visible improvements on skin, long story short it works for me with some visible improvements. I used all over and as a spot treatment as well. Also, used in conjunction with Naruko Dermalane Mandelic Acid serum the results are astounding (almost an accelerated improvement). Given some of the scarring and pigmentation is fairly recent and new, the improvement was visibly faster. The older stubborn patches are still working their way through, although I think I might need something tad more aggressive and deeper for that (laser or peels). Effective yet gentle on skin, no dryness, tightness, flakiness or any such side effects.

Speaking of which in south east Asia (also in Europe), a combination of fruit acid peels, microdermabrasion, IPL and laser treatments is used in conjunction with liposomal tranexamic acid preparations. One important point to note is, Tranexamic acid is effective in low dosage; high dosage will not improve the effects but rather cause irritations to the skin (as with many skincare active ingredients). With that said, I hope more and more brands embrace this ingredient and formulate some products around it particularly for western markets.

HHW.com

xx

 

Skincare Gadgets

fullsizeoutput_4999

Giving you the professional spa like results at home over a period of time. Skincare market has evolved immensely to empower consumers with these skincare gadgets. Over the course of my skincare journey I’ve tried and experimented a few and here are my brief thoughts.

Couple of points which are important for me include: are they easy to incorporate in my routine and how often would I be able commit to them to have visible results? Are they going to pay for themselves spa like treatments?

First up, basic steamer. Dr Dennis Gross Pro Facial Steamer. To anyone who has had regular facials would know that steaming with exfoliation is good way to deep clean the skin. This steamer is exactly that, however $139 is a tad steep. In the past I’ve tried knock off’s from Amazon for $30-40 and they’ve performed fine. Typically part of my weekly facials however lazy me prefers sticking my face over a pot of pasta boiling water too (not recommended at all). Also post steaming, products absorb much better in the skin, definite keeper.

fullsizeoutput_499a

fullsizeoutput_4396fullsizeoutput_435eDr Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite Eye Care Pro is unusual, no cheap knock offs available (to my knowledge) and I wouldn’t get cheapies either. This is your EYE area FDA cleared device and you need to be careful. Thankfully this is a FDA cleared device too. Easily incorporated in the routine, very easy to use, takes only 3 minutes while I moisturize my body and have visible results. Wouldn’t necessarily call it a must have, but if eye area is a concern would recommend looking into this investment.

High Frequency device for me is a must have. I’ve loved these in facials and have always had good results. The spa devices frequency level is stronger at typically 100,000-2500,000+ Hertz (cycles per second) however at home piece is 50-60 Hertz. So you see, you will not electrocute yourself but still have results with consistent use. Another difference is, the home piece is orange (neon gas) for treating aging skin and scalp, while violet (argon gas) is for treating acne, inflammation and scalp. For me personally the orange light is working just fine in dealing with spots.

The piece I chose (from Amazon – cheap knock off), comes with 4 attachments (Mushroom tube, Tongue tube – most used, Bend tube, Comb tube for hair). Results on skin are: skin appears tauter, ‘zapping’ spots has reduced their redness and size, stimulated growth on scalp, and overall skin appears healthier.

NuFace is the newest addition in gadgetry family. Its too early to definitely tell about its effectiveness, but I’ve been using NuFace now for roughly 3 weeks (not consistently every night, but 4-5 times a week). So far, I’m noticing mild results specifically around jaw (sharper jawline) or may be I’m hallucinating because I really want it to work. Also noticed, it helped calm down an angry spot on jaw, although they don’t claim this at all. As they say, with consistent 60 days of use one would notice visible results however I’m only at day 12-15 uses (irregular use). One major downside for me has been when to use in my routine because a gel needs to be used. The gel is necessary as it acts as a conductor for micro currents. Without the gel, you will feel zaps and currents on skin which is basically an unpleasant feeling. They provide a gel primer however I don’t enjoy that product, so I’ve been experimenting with all hydrating gel masks I have. That certainly works for me.

Personal Micro Dermabrasion (PMD) is bi-monthly to quarterly used gadget. Does this replace my spa microderm? For me, I’d say yes. Does the job, HOWEVER the spa treatments are stronger, immediately effective and last longer. Plus technology in this space has evolved in spas. I really like this more for my body (particularly legs and back). And I think its paid for itself. Is it a must have, absolutely not.

Luna Foreo Mini is very new to me, personally I’ve not been a cleansing devices person (referring to Clarisonic etc.). But keeping an open mind and with some trial and error I dont mind this. Preference is still with a firm hand massage and wash cloth. Not a must have for me.

To wrap this up, some important points to mention, none of this was overnight! I’ve consistently used these devices to get the result I want for my skin. As always I’m driven by what my skin needs, when it needs and how much it needs it. Following with an appropriate skincare routine is just as instrumental as well.

HHW.com

xx

Retinol Treatments

P1040392

We’ve all heard horror stories about Retinol, here are some forms of Vitamin A (lowest strength to the strongest),  Retinyl Palmitate, Retinol Propionate,  Retinyl Linoleate, Retinol, Retinaldehyde, Adapalene, Tretinoin, Isotretinoin, and Tazarotene. The prescription strength retinol treatment has Retinoid acid. Basically a derivative of retinol which is super effective.

There is common misconception that retinols exfoliate the skin, in fact they go deeper into skin, enhance collagen production, aid with skin smoothing, evening out of pigmentation, helps with spots and future prevention of spots and addresses skin blotchiness.

Today there are three prescription-strength retinoids:

  • Tretinoin (brands include Atralin, Avita, Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, Renova),
  • Tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and
  • Adapalene (Differin).

Many dermatologists find tazarotene stronger (and potentially more irritating) than tretinoin; adapalene is the gentlest but may be less effective.

In this post, I will not be delving into prescription products, instead will be covering various products and brands that offer retinol solutions without any dryness irritation and some added benefits of other ingredients.

P1040385

La Roche Posay Redermic R ($57) My first array in Retinol, and it was instant love. Enriched with Retinol and Retinyl Linoleate (15th and 16th ingredient in formulation) with a cream textured gel like consistency in a metal tube, with no exposure to air or light. Due to its mild strength and addition of Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, it doesn’t dry out skin and gradually does its job. I’d say if you’re starting with retinols I think LRP option is a safe bet as it’s gentler on skin and comparatively lower price point.

Auspect Clinical Pro A Serum is an Australian skincare brand. The formulation is enriched with Fireweed extract, Retinol, Lactic Acid, Kakadu Plum (one of my fav Aussie ingredient) housed in an opaque twist up pump action bottle designed to address skin resurfacing, even tone and firmer skin. I’ve used it multiple times, and it left my skin firm, under control (as far as spots are concerned), even toned and overall skin appeared wonderful. Did not experience any dryness or tightness or sensitivities (obviously wore sunscreen).

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65) is the only Retinol solution I’ve come across with the least possible ingredient listing. The brand claims to have 1.5% retinol (third listed ingredient after Cyclopentasiloxane and Squalane) however I did not experience any dryness or flakiness. Slightly silicony texture but absorbs beautifully in the skin. Excellent for calming angry skin, and resurfacing skin tone and texture. Packaging is poor with see through glass bottle and pipette.

Kate Somerville RetAsphere Micro Peel – Retinol Glycolic Treatment ($90)  is a treatment peel in combination with Glycolic Acid (AHA). The formulation has Glycolic Acid listed as second ingredient with additions of Lactose, Glycerin, Arbutin, Plankton Extract, Opuntia Ficus-indica (Napol Cactus) Fruit Extract, Soybean Extract, Kelp Extract, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid,  Adenosine, Licorice Root Extract. Whilst all these are great additions, Retinol is listed as third last ingredient. I think the title of product is misleading in that the third last ingredient is prominently advertised. Nothing wrong with Glycolic peel but don’t shift focus by calling it Retinol and charging extra moolah for that. That aside, in my experience this product works better as stand alone after toning. If layered under an oil or moisturizer it does roll off the skin. Major kudos for packaging in a white opaque tube with a pump.

Colleen Rothschild Retinol Treatment ($65) is a relatively newer addition to my retinol familia. However one which makes me question why didn’t I look into this sooner. Retinol (listed as 4th ingredient), Retinyl Palmitate (listed as 5th ingredient), followed by thoughtful additions of Boswellia Serrata Gum Extract, Arabidopsis Thaliana Extract, Bakuchiol, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Plankton Extract, Lecithin, Glycine Soja Extract. The formula is light gel cream texture and absorbs instantly in skin. Can be wonderfully layered under or over any other skincare treats and yet doesn’t compromise its efficacy. I’ve used this 5 nights in a row as well and not noted any dryness or flakiness.
Dr Brandt Overnight Resurfacing Serum ($85) is an odd ball for me. The ingredient listing is heavy of Shea butter and other skin moisturizing ingredients and retinol pushed all the way at 16th place followed by more nourishing ingredient like Jojoba. Overall the formulation appears very heavy on emulsifiers and preservatives. Therefore the results on skin are at best mild. The “resurfacing” term could be very misleading. Although credit to be given where its due, excellent packaging in an opaque bottle, zero exposure to light and heat with pump mechanism.
Cosmedix Define Treatment with Hydroxy Acids and Retinol ($80) This brand I’ve always known of but never took a plunge with. The ingredients and reviews all were in favour of the brand and its products. Eventually I welcome Define treatment and I found myself head over heels.
Unlike Kate Somerville peel, Define is very clear and mentions AHA first which is corroborated with Lactic Acid as second ingredient, followed by Glycerin, Albumen, Retinol (AHAAAAA 5th ingredient – claims to have microencapsulated retinol complex), some more acids: Stearic Acid, Malic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Witch Hazel Water, Olive Fruit Oil, Aloe Leaf Juice, Sweet Almond Oil, Grapefruit Peel Oil, Ylang Ylang Flower Oil, Peach Kernel Oil. See this is why I love this product so much. No dryness, no sensitivity, no flakiness and overall noticeable improvement to skin with continued use. Texture and consistency of thick cream but once pushed into the skin absorbs seamlessly. On top if an oil or moisturizer is added no rolling or pilling either. Housed in a tube with limited exposure to light and humidity. This will definitely be repurchased.

P1040389

Eye creams with retinol are by far the most effective and results are visible sooner. From the picture above I guess needless to say but Dr Dennis Gross range of Ferulic+Retinol is my preferred choice.
La Roche Posay Redermic R ($46.95) is a fabulous eye gel cream enriched with Glycerin, Caffeine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Retinol, Retinyl Linoleate, Adenosine. Easily the most used eye cream for me with visible results. Smooths and tightens the skin around eyes.
Cane+Austin Glycolic Treatment Eye Cream ($105) is the priciest option on this list, comparable to any other face serum in terms of price. But the inci list may or may not justify the pricing. Glycolic Acid, Kelp Extract, Camellia, Green Tea Polyphenols, Retinol, Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone (bioflavinoid), Sodium Hyaluronate, Phytonadione (Vitamin K), Milk Thistle Fruit Extract, Indian Gooseberry Fruit Extract,  Ascorbic acid, Arnica Montana Powder. The packaging is wonderful with a pump and no exposure to light or air. Absorbs nicely in skin, and helps with fine lines near the eye. Still cannot justify the price point.
Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic+Retinol Eye Cream ($68) possibly my fave texture and consistency in eye cream. So creamy, whipped and not as rich to cause any milia. The inci list tickles my soul with some acids (amino, ferule, gallic, ellagic,glycolic, lactic), retinol, caffeine, algae, sodium hyaluronate, lipids, and skin moisturizers, this is a definite repurchase for me however the Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic+Retinol Eye Serum ($68) is my preferred choice. The light gel texture is amazing, and feels like nothing on skin. Absorbs beautifully and within a week I had noticeable results. The fine lines under my eyes were less visible/deep, and overall skin appeared taut. Some of the ingredients in this formulation include Centella Asiatica Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Ferulic Acid, Retinol, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Morus Nigra Fruit Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Quercetin, Caffeine, Ubiquinone, Sodium Hyaluronate, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Panthenol.

Hylamide SubQ Eyes ($35) is a unique one, in that, on application I experience a slight tingle. Now I’m all for tingle on skin however near eyes it makes me uncomfortable (just personal preference). This is much raved eye serum however for me, this is my least preferred eye serum. Not impressed with inci list, not impressed with feel on skin and not impressed with results either.

P1040381

In my experience, my absolute favourite and most reliable products for retinol are Dr Dennis Gross’s Ferulic + Retinol range. Started my journey with their Brightening solution but soon fell in love with rest of the range.

Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid & Retinol Brightening Solution ($88) Repurchased this product for its effectiveness with acne scars (including any extraction scars), dark spots, and sun damage. Jam-packed with Ferulic Acid, Retinol, Licorice Root Extract, Bearberry Extract, Arbutin, Mulberry Leaf Extract, Willow Bark Extract, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, among others.

I have a detailed post comparing the Brightening Solution and Overnight Serum (click on link) where I take deeper dive with ingredients and expected outcomes. As for the Wrinkle Recovery Pads, are wonderful weekly or bi-weekly boosted treatment for the skin.

Some say its best to dive into prescription strength retinols, I beg to differ unless you have a serious skin concern which warrants that. Over the counter skincare products do a fine job at daily maintenance with added benefits of other ingredients. However it can argued both ways and not one is right or wrong. It’s what works best for you and your skin. Now that’s just my two cents on the topic.

HHW.com

xx

LOLI Beauty

P1040118

The domain of Subscriptions Boxes is so excruciatingly mundane and boring, same old thing with a bunch of ‘deluxe sized samples’. Of which more than half the times I don’t like the products, I don’t like the brand, I don’t need the product and before I realize another month passes by and my $10-$15 down the deluxe sample sized drain!

P1030915

Few weeks ago, I was contacted with an interesting concept, which kinda tickled my DIY  soul! LOLI Beauty is a sub box service which packages natural products with high quality, ethically sourced organic ingredients, including blending recipes.

P1030922

Week later, my first package arrived with a Ghee cleanser (with mix of other oils), Matcha Latte Peel, Fruit Smoothie Peel, More Mojo and Peace Out Essential Oils, stirring spoon & bowl, pipette to dispense oils.

P1030923

Of course needless to mention, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in to. It also had a recipe card, which I did not refer to (honest confession). I started mixing my own thing, I had no idea what I was doing, but it was sooo much fun.

P1030926

Mixed it all, slathered and sat back. The peel powder was slightly gritty giving right level of exfoliation, the ghee cleanser moisturized skin so well and essential oils made it a relaxing experience. Days later my experiments continued till my inner wild creative beast wasn’t fulfilled.

P1040113

Month passed and then I received another box, with brand new ingredients. Of course it tickled my fancy and decided to refer to all cards this time (for sake of an informed blog post).

P1040116

Immediately as I glanced at the cards, I LOVED it. Not only full break down of ingredients but also details on its source and level of purity. In natural skincare world, these things are sooo crucial because poor quality ingredients basically equates to poor products with possible skin reactions.

P1040115

It also includes Tips on how to use each product in isolation or combinations with each other. However, I’ve also been mixing and matching ingredients from previous box, and the creations are endless.

P1040114

The possibilities and concoctions seem endless and your creative blending juices can flow and flow away! Have you tried this box? or tried any other box with a similar concept?

HHW.com

xx

Enzymes 101

Capture.JPG

In my last post on Acids 101 I decoded all Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids however this post I will talk about Enzymes. They are different to Alpha Hydroxy Acids in the way they operate. AHA’s dissolve lipids (oils) that hold cells together, penetrate in skin and loosen the clingy skin cells. However, enzymes dissolve the dead skin cells on the surface of skin. Enzymes are not pH dependent; therefore limited exfoliation can be achieved.

Skin Concerns: used to treat pigmentation, acne, fine lines, sun spots. The only catch to these products are the enzymatic activity (active period) lasts 4-6 months.

Textures & Consistency: comes in all forms, cleanser, exfoliants, peels or masks. Generally you can smell the original primary ingredient.

The Experience: stinging, tingling are common however you have to be guided by your skin’s tolerance.

Operation Mode: Enzymes are wonderful surface exfoliants without any manual scrubbing tugging or pulling action. They’re are gentler on the skin compared to AHA’s however some aggressive enzymes such as Papain may not be the best option for sensitive skins.

The table below shows the main types of enzymes used in products aiding in removal of dead skin cells with some product suggestions:

Source Enzyme Name Products Suggestions
Papaya Papain Cleanser: Jan Marini Clean Zyme

Exfoliator: Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder, Kate Somerville ExfoliKate

Mask: Astara Green Papaya Nutrient Mask, Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Mask, Mario Badescu Enzyme Revitalising Mask, Elemis Papaya Enzyme Mask, Jurlique Fruit Enzyme Exfoliator, Jan Marini Skin Zyme, Herbivore Botanicals Blue Tansy Mask

Moisurizer: Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream

Pineapple Bromelian Cleanser: My Chelle Enzyme Fruit Enzyme Cleanser, Alba Botanica Hawaiian Pineapple Enzyme Facial Cleanser

Exfoliant: Tracie Martyn Enzyme Exfoliant

Mask: Herbivore Botanicals Brighten Pineapple Enzyme + Gemstone Instant Glow Mask, Philosphy MicroDelivery Purifying Peel

Pumpkin Curcubita Exfoliator, Peel: Peter Lamas Exfoliating Pumpkin Facial Scrub, Perfect Image Labs Pineapple Pumpkin Enzyme Peel (includes AHA’s),

Mask: Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Mask

Pomegranate Cleanser: Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser

Mask: Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask

Blueberry Mask: Ole Henriksen Blue/Black Berry Enzyme Mask

Hope this was helpful and thank you for taking the time to read this post!

HHW.com

xx