• BB Creams: Hip or Hype?

    Annet KingIf you are anything like me, then the much-hyped marketing term “BB Cream” makes you want to roll your eyes just a bit, which of course you’d never do in front of a client! For those of us who have been at this party for a while, we’ve weathered all kinds of promotional puff over the years – from stretch mark creams that supposedly erase wrinkles, to gadgets that zap hairs and pimples to the latest crop of glued on everything from lashes to nail art to tooth gems! But we can’t ignore the popularity of the BB Cream, which according to a report by The NPD Group, has amounted to over $9 million dollars in sales in U.S. department stores in the past year. And with a new BB cream being introduced every second in the professional, prestige and mass channels, the trend isn’t dying down any time soon.

    So what’s the history? The BB stands for Blemish Balm, Blemish Base, Beauty Balm or Beblesh Balm. The concept originated from Christine Schrammek, a Polish-born, early pioneer of skin care training and products in Germany who developed the cream for patients to use after receiving her peel. It was designed to provide light coverage and to protect and soothe the skin. So how does a German cream become an overnight sensation with Korean celebrities? It may have begun with the popularity of the peel among Asian women who wanted to quite literally peel away their hyperpigmentation and lighten their skin. The original Blemish Balm was then retailed for the client to use at home. Korean celebrities were quick to share their enthusiasm, and product endorsement ensued, igniting a craze in Korea marketed as “the secret of Korean actresses.” They now comprise 13% of the Korean cosmetic market. Faster than a Kardshian marriage, the trend spread from Korea to Japan, China, South East Asia and has since made its way to Europe and the U.S.

    So what makes them so special? In a nutshell, they help to save time, as they are truly just a multi-purpose cream much like a tinted moisturizer with SPF. They are essentially a cream that provides skin benefits or treatment, coverage and UV protection. They come in a variety of different formulations and levels of quality, so make sure you check that ingredient list before recommending one packed with artificial colors and Mineral Oil to an acne-prone client. Some claim to have skin brightening properties, while some say they’ll fight acne or wrinkles. Others can be used like a primer under foundation, or they can replace foundation. Some recently introduced creams claim to function as a primer, foundation, moisturizer, SPF, and pore-minimizer all in one!

    As with any trend, it’s important to thoroughly investigate and research a product or treatment before jumping onto the beauty band wagon. Ensure you educate your clients on the facts, and as this truly is just a marketing term, the next time you are recommending that Sheer Tint SPF20 hydrating moisturizer, feel free to say it’s just like a BB Cream!

  • A New Generation of Retinoids

    While it is common knowledge today that Retinoids, including Retinol (pure Vitamin A), Retinyl Palmitate and Retinoic Acid, are amongst the most powerful topically applied ingredients to address the signs of aging, perhaps less known is the fact that of all the Retinoids only Retinoic Acid, has a direct biological effect on the skin. One certainly has the option of applying Retinoic Acid to the skin; however, it is only available as a prescription drug cream in most parts of the world. In fact, Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin) is the active ingredient in Retin-A TM (TM Ortho Dermatological) and Renova,TM (TM Ortho Dermatological) two of the best-known prescription anti-wrinkle/anti-acne creams. Unfortunately, topical Retinoic Acid often causes skin irritation including excessive peeling, redness and photosensitivity which limits its use.

    If Retinoic Acid is the only biologically active form of Retinoid that has a direct effect on the skin, why is it that the cosmetic companies still use Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate to fight aging? Fortunately for us, our skin has naturally occurring enzymes that convert Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate into the active form, Retinoic Acid. While it may take two and three steps to convert Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate to Retinoic Acid, they can deliver the well-established skin benefits of Retinoic Acid while producing fewer side effects.

    At The International Dermal Institute we have discovered a new patented molecule, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (abbreviated HPR), that is an ester of Retinoic Acid and works similar to Tretinoin (Retin–A) but without the irritation. Unlike Retinoic Acid, results of the standard RIPT (Repeat Insult Patch Test) skin irritation test showed no irritation after 21 days of continual use. And because it is not a drug it can be used in cosmetic products. Results of a two week study showed that a 0.1% concentration of HPR applied topically gave a 50% improvement in skin roughness and a 40% improvement in skin surface scaling, an indicator of dryness. No irritation was evident in any of the test subjects. And unlike Retinol and other derivatives that must be converted to the biologically active form of Retinoic Acid, HPR binds directly with Retinoid receptors to initiate a response (i.e. cell proliferation and differentiation) in the skin. Think of receptor binding as turning on or off a light switch. When the Retinoic Acid binds to the receptor the light switch turns on, initiating a cellular response. By the same token, HPR is also capable of turning on the light switch, whereas, Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate must first be converted to Retinoic Acid.

    Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate represents a new generation of Retinoids that will no doubt be continually researched for their positive impact on the skin especially in addressing skin aging.

    For more information on the research behind Retinol, refer to this blog entry:

  • The ABCDEFGs of Mole Detection

    Skin cancer is on the rise. In fact, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancers are diagnosed annually in more than 2 million people. That’s roughly 1 in 5 people that will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. But skin cancer is just the beginning; it could lead or develop into other types of cancer. Checking for skin cancer or suspicious markings should be as easy as your ABC’s, which is the exact guide skin care experts have developed for looking for visible changes on the skin.

    With the advancement of technology there is a variety of tools available, such as the UMSkinCheck app available via iTunes. This app sends automatic reminders and offers step-by-step instructions for a skin self-exam. It also provides pictures of various types of skin cancers for comparison with any questionable markings on the skin you may encounter. But for those who aren’t as technologically savvy, the classic method of checking will still help.

    Follow the ABCDE’s of mole detection to check for potential risks and red flags:

    – Asymmetrical: an irregularly shaped mole.
    – Borders: the borders/edges of the mole are uneven.
    – Color: the mole is multi-colored.
    – Diameter: the mole is larger in diameter than 6mm (about the width of the top of a pencil).
    – Evolving: the mole has changed over time.
    – Firm: the mole is harder than surrounding tissue and doesn’t flatten if you press it.
    – Growing: the mole is getting gradually larger.

    For some there are just a few weeks left of summer; however, the prevention of skin cancer should be year round because ultraviolet (UV) rays are always present. Follow these tips for prevention and protection from UV rays:

    – Apply a teaspoon to the face and a shotglass amount to the body of a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) SPF daily (yes, everyday). Apply 30 minutes before going outside.
    – Ensure protection by wearing minimum SPF15, however SPF30 is preferable.
    – Reapply every two hours.
    – Seek shade, do not burn.
    – Exfoliate! It not only smooths and freshens skin, it helps to remove possible precancerous cells before they become dangerous.
    – Face-kinis are all the rage in Qingdao, China. This light cloth looks much like a ski mask but allows one to enjoy the water and sand without the effects of the sun, much like wearing a long-sleeved shirt.
    – Increase intake of antioxidants, fruits and vegetables. A variety of foods have been found to help minimize the attack of free-radical damage and even help protect us from the inside out. Drink moderate amounts of green tea or coffee, and consuming berries (such as blueberries, raspberries, cherries), colored peppers, red ripe tomatoes, turmeric root, and cocoa have all been found to be some of nature’s antioxidants.

    There are advances in genetic testing that can be done for those with a family history to identify potential threats and incorporate a possible vaccination. One such case is the catalytic DNA molecule (DNAzyme) that looks promising in vivo efficacy in the treatment of some types of cancer. PD1, while still in the early stages of clinical trials, is making waves as a potential for anticancer immunotherapy. Increased levels of the protein Panx1 is being further studied as a potential in treating melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer). And two studies suggest that two peptide agents used either together or individually with a low-dose of a standard chemotherapy drug might offer more effective cancer therapy than current standard single-drug treatments.

    You can still enjoy your time in the sun, just remember your sun smarts and use your ABCDEFG’s when examining your skin!


    1. Rogers, HW, Weinstock, MA, Harris, AR, et al. Incidence estimate of nonmelanoma skin cancer in the United States, 2006. Arch Dermatol 2010; 146(3):283-287

    2. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 11, 602 (August 2012) | doi:10.1038/nrd3807

    3. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 11, 601 (August 2012) | doi:10.1038/nrd3806


  • Restoring the Barrier Layer with Skin-Repairing Ingredients

    Barrier function. It’s one of the most important aspects of healthy skin and the strength of it needs to be assessed before any product recommendation. A lack of barrier function can lead to breakouts, dehydration, sensitization, pigmentation and aging. Common disruptors of the epidermal barrier integrity can range from hydroxy acids and soaps to stress. In order to repair the damage, skin therapists need to conduct not only a thorough skin analysis, but also ask key questions to determine how the skin became irritated or how the barrier was compromised. Once this has been done, skin repairing ingredients can be incorporated to restore optimal skin health.

    Years ago, consumers and skin therapists alike may have used barrier creams with occlusive ingredients to cover the skin and allow it to heal, however more modern ingredients can provide many more benefits than simply being occlusive.

    Healing the skin is the first step to improving the barrier layer, and an essential component is replacing depleted lipids. Tomato Seed, Argan Oil and Rose Oil are all rich in antioxidants and lipids that restore protective barrier lipids. Carrot Root Extract is a good source of Vitamin A, which battles oxidation and rejuvenates dry, stressed skin. Panthenol heals and hydrates the skin.

    The next step to improve the barrier function is to ensure optimal hydration within the skin since dehydration can be one of the leading causes of most skin conditions. Cross-linked Hyaluronic Acid provides increased hydration and improved elasticity, and it holds more moisture than a traditional Hyaluronic Acid. Salicornia Extract, or, Glasswort, helps reinforce the skin’s Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) and increases water content in the skin. Green and brown algae help regulate moisture content and water levels to provide in-depth moisturization.

    In addition to healing and hydrating, inflammation needs to be reduced and controlled. Acetyl-Hexapeptide-15, a neurocosmeceutical soother, can minimize the pain associated with inflammation. Red Hogweed targets neurogenic inflammation by limiting the production of prostaglandins, as well as promoting the production of natural anti-inflammatory agents in the skin. Avena Sativa, or, Oatmeal, has been proven to have natural anti-irritant and anti-redness properties and is considered a favorite for conditions like chicken pox, psoriasis and eczema.

    One last and very important note is to reduce stress levels. Stress is one of the biggest trigger factors for all forms of skin conditions. Encourage clients to take time out by receiving regular massages, trying meditation and thinking positively. Your support with their skin care recommendations has the potential to alleviate stress levels!

  • Hormones and the Skin Q & A

    As seen in CLEO Magazine, Australia, July 2012

    Do hormones affect our skin? How?
    Absolutely! There are dozens of hormones that have major effects on the body, including our skin. Scientists are still discovering new hormones and new actions of known ones when it comes to effects on skin. The major hormones that affect skin are the sex steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, and growth hormones. The key is balance when it comes to hormones. When there is an imbalance, effects are seen on skin, hair and nails. For example, too much thyroid hormone and you get moist, smooth skin. Too little and you get rough, dry skin. Too much or too little and you can get alopecia. Too much of the androgen (male) hormones increase skin oiliness and face/body hair. This can lead to acne in both men and women. Too little of the female hormones (estrogens and progestogens) and you get thin, dry skin with reduced collagen and elastin, something that is seen in menopausal women.

    Why do we sometimes get pimples in the same spot around the time of our periods?
    Many adult women get a pimple around the time of ovulation, typically a couple weeks before the start of their period. This is most likely due to the surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) that is seen at this time. This hormone can trigger sebaceous gland activity, leading to increased oil production and the perfect environment for an invading bacteria to cause inflammation. Hormonal breakouts are quite common and can be controlled.

    What can be done to stop this kind of skin problem?

    Some methods of birth control can help regulate the hormones that lead to oil production and breakouts. But a good skin care regimen will do wonders for breakout-prone skin. Using mild cleansers that don’t strip skin oils is a good first step, since many people believe that the more squeaky-clean they are the better. Using harsh soaps to remove all oils can actually cause skin to produce even more oil, in an attempt to self-regulate. Next you want to moisturize with oil-free moisturizers to maintain hydration without clogging pores. And using spot treatments with Sulfur and Salicylic Acid are great ways to control breakouts without causing unwanted inflammation, which can worsen the problem. Retinoids (Vitamin A derivatives) are also good ways to manage adult acne and skin aging at the same time.