Anti-Aging Claims and the FDA

collection of cosmetic  productsCan anti-aging products really deliver as promised?  The FDA is not so sure and in recent months sent  warning letters to several  cosmetic  compaies including  Avon and L’Oreal.  Their concern?  Questionnable claims made for some of  their skin care products that included ” improve condition around stem cells”, “boosts activity of genes”,  and “stimulates production of youth proteins” (???).

Can You Believe What You Read?

By law, the FDA defines cosmetics as a product used for cleansing and beautifying, but if it affects structure or function of the skin or body, it is classified as a drug.  And if its a  drug, it must go through extensive clinical trials to prove its both safe and effective.  The FDA is asking that  Avon  and L’Oreal  either  prove their claims or change their marketing language.  But seriously,  some of these anti-aging claims are so remarkable that  if true, would not just be a drug, but  be eligible for the Nobel prize.

To be clear, women are not stupid.  We  just want to look good.  When we read cosmetic advertising claims, we assume that manufacturers cannot make claims  if they are not true.  Not quite.  The FDA does monitor cosmetic advertising and marketing claims, but they are poorly funded  for beauty product oversight.  The FDA reserves its time and muscle to make sure that  cosmetics are  free of toxic substances ( eg lead or  arsenic)  or bacterial contamination.  They tend to ignore what is commonly known  “puffery”– so-called harmless inflated marketing promises.   Hmmm.

While puffery might seem like a victimless crime, I feel it can interfere with making the best anti-aging  choices for you skin and  hair needs.  I really don’t understand why cosmetic claims are not held to the same standards  as other goods and services.  For example if a car maker  claims  a new model gets 30 miles to a gallon, but really only gets 20 miles per gallon,  the manufacturer who made these claims would face  quick fines, consumer rebates and some really awful press.

Maybe over-promised claims are a relic of the past.  Today, real advances in cosmetic forulations  have filled shelves with  genuinely effective and affordable products that  can make a real difference in you skin and hair quality.   In my series on Budget Beauty Care, I explained how  to assemble a truely helpful Beauty Tool Kit for  less than $1.00/day.   Because we can all be seduced  by shiny new promises, I recommend  shopping  at stores  with consumer friendly return policies.    My favorites include  Sephora, CVS and Bed and Body Works that will all  cheerfully refund your money  if you are not happy with your purchase. Nice.

A Moisturizer For All Seasons

Q&A2Question:  Is there a moisturizer that doesn’t clog pores?  When my skin gets dry from RetinA or a laser type treatment, I need to  put on a moisturizer to relieve dryness and flaking.  But whatever I try  seems to provoke acne  breakouts.  Any ideas?

Answer:  This is such a common problem and until last week I didn’t have  much of an answer.  Sometimes a moisturizer that was both oil and fragrance free would work, but often that too  could provoke problems.  Then at a recent dermatology conference in New York,  laser care expert Dr Mark Nestor of Miami recommended a  water based spray to provide moisture.  In addition to water, the spray should contain glycerin and  natural  moisturizing factors  such as hyaluronic acid. Plain water sprays would actually increase dryness but  the glycerin and hyaluronic acid would help the skin hold onto the water that had been sprayed on the  irritated face.

I found three such products and they all delivered as promised:

Thermal Spring Water Soothing Serum ( Avene,  $34, for 1oz)-  Don’t confuse this product with the  Eau Thermale  from Avene which is  just plain water– albeit apparently  very healthy water.   The Soothing Serum includes  both glycerin and dimethicone which provides  long lasting moisture holding  properties.  No hyaluronic acid, but it still hydrates the skin beautifully.

Ultracalming Mist ( Dermalogica, $32 for 6oz)- I really love product although it does not contain hyaluronic acid.  The  soothing ingredients like oat kernal extract and the water  holding glycerin really  provide hydration without  clogging the pores. 

Hyaluronic Hydrating Mist ( Derma e, $13 for 2 oz)– So far this is the only mist that I have found with all the ingredients recommended by Dr Nestor.   It also  has antioxidant rich green tea and two   super soothers– allantoin and aloe vera.

There are two other types of  water sprays that are less effective.  Some like those from Evian  have just plain water which can actually dry out the skin further.  Others  have oils  and waxes that put  it back in the category of a traditional moisturizer.   You need to read  the labels  carefully to spot unwanted  ingredients like oils and alcohol.

You can use the spray before bedtime or in the morning.  However during the day you will also need to use  a sunscreen to protect against aging UV rays. If  you find sunscreens, even oil free formulas   provoke acne breakouts,  brush on a SPF fortified powder such as Brush On BlockSPF 30 from Susan Posnick.

Anti-Aging Advances

DERMATOLOGY CONFERENCEEach year  in December, the three day Mount Sinai conference on new developments  in dermatology is the holiday gift that keeps on giving. The best of the best   share  what they’ve discovered and how they care for  a wide range of skin, nail and hair problems.  This year the presentations were truely amazing and I got answers to long asked questions including:

* How long do  you need to stick to an acne regimen to determine if its working?  Hint: its shorter than you might think.

* How can I moisturize  the skin without clogging pores?

* Can women of color use lasers?

Founded by Dr Albert Lefkovits, this program attracts worldwide  experts both to speak and to  learn.   What I find is especially helpful is that  most of the speakers focus on  real time practice   and not  just on  lab or bench research.  While its certainly  encouraging that a new formula can help a guinea pig, I  want to know how it will work for me.  And at this conference, there were very few guinea pigs.

In the following weeks I will  be covering   important developments from the conference that include:

* A dummies guide to anti-aging lasers-  which ones are painless,  who  should use them and what results can you expect

* The critical path  for rejuvenation– the order of anti-aging treatments. 

* The link between a tiny insect and rosacea– and what it means  for treatment

* The gold standard for successful acne care

*  How  medications used for arthritis  can get  eczema under control

*  Photodynamic therapy that  deals with   both aging and acne

* Cellulite treatments that can deliver real results

Its  sad but true that we are judged on our appearance. That’s the bad  news.  The good news?   The significant  skin care developments covered at the New York conference certainly level the playing field.

Budget Beauty Guide- Anti-Aging Sun Protection

I’m thinking of producing a tee shirt that reads: ” Up to age 60, 90% of skin aging is due to sun damage”.  Seriously, its that important.

Effective sun protection  creams and lotions are the only non-prescription product that the FDA allows to make anti-aging claims.  But buying a powerful  yet effective  sunscreen can be daunting.  Go into any pharmacy and you’re met with a long  wall of options.  Waterproof?  Oil-free?  Broad spectrum, Fragrance-free?  I covered this material  before in a series of Sunscreen  Cheat Sheets, but once you have picked the right formula, then you want to  get the best possible price.  Remember you need to  use sun protection each and every day and you need to use it fairly generously.   If you’re not using up  a 3 ounce bottle in three months, you’re not applying enough.  Designer  sunscreens from Peter Thomas Roth and Shiseido  are beautiful products  that are at least 3X the cost of drugstore brands.   It wil cost you $120-140 per year for just this one product.  We can do better.

Here are five  of my favorite affordable facial sunscreens.   Products that are meant to be used for the body  will tend to discolor make-up that is applied over it.  Facial sunscreens  are formulated to accept  layers of makeup without turning them dark or orangey.

1.  Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Radiant SPF 30 ($19)

A light  but broadspectrum moisturizing formulation that is beautiful for drier skins.  It also contains soy complex which is known to reduce melanin production.  This lightly scented sun screen  both prevents aging sun damage  and increased  dark patches.

2.Neutrogena Clear Face ( Break-out Free) SPF30($ 12.99)

This oil-free  lotion  contains Heli0plex, the uber strong broad spectrum sunscreen.   This is  an excellent choice for oily/acne prone complexions.

3. Coppertone Sensitive Skin Faces SPF50 $12.99

This super effective fragrance-free broad spectrum sunscreen is also water resistant.   It has both chemical and physical sunscreens for better protection with less irritation.

4. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin SPF 30 $10.99

This may be the best choice for truely sensitive skin as well as skin that  has just been treated with lasers, IPL or even Retin A.    This product contains only  titanium oxide  yet delivers a full 30SPF.  I always have a fresh bottle  of this sunscreen in  my beauty tool kit.

5. Susan Posnick Brush-On Block 30SPF( $25.00)

An innovative brush on sunscreen delivers a totally gentle broad spectrum 30 SPF.  When my skin seemed to be overreacting  to everything but water,  Brush on Block was the only sunscreen I could use.  Now that my skin has calmed down, I still use it  everyday to reapply  sunscreen protection.  It comes in a translucent shade that works  for  most skin tones. Its available online at Susan Posnick.

One final thought:  Most sunscreens are too irritating to use  in the delicate eye area.  Not only does the sun cause wrinkling, it  promotes dark circles.  To  protect the eyes, use sunscreen fortified concealers and   I reviewed   my five favorites in the current issue of the No-Nonsense Beauty Newsletter. You can subscribe to this quarterly online  newsletter  in the right hand column of this page.

Meet the Anti-aging, Antioxidant Beauty Food– Spinach

When I was a child the only spinach I knew was the droopy olive green strands that came in a can.   Then one night I went out to steak house with  my friend Kim and her parents.   I was  thinking only of a juicy filet and hash browns and my heart sank as Kim’s mother also ordered a spinach and bacon salad.   Still cringing I dug  in my fork and pulled out the tinest bit of bacon drenched  leaf.  It was love at first bite. I ate every morsel of that salad and every time I went to a  restaurant I scanned the menu for a similar dish.

But more than delicious and versatile,  spinach  is  a nutritious anti-aging, antioxidant  rock star.  Raw or cooked, its packed with antioxidants like vitamin A ( 168% of RDA), leutin, vitamin C vitamin E, vitamin B6, and  folic acid.  Spinach also packs a payload of anti-aging minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium.  Last but not least spinach is  fat -free, low in carbs and offers both fiber and protein.  Seriously, its that good.

When I first started to cook, spinach with bacon sald was one of the first dishes I mastered.  And like so  many  young brides of the time  I worked  my  way through Julia Child and learned how to saute fresh spinach with olive oil and garlic —  equally delicious without  the calories , fat and salt of  my first spinach favorite.

There are four basic types of spinach in the  markets these days:

1.  Curly spinach– can be a bit tough and its hard to get the dirt and sand out of its grooves.  Its been said that curly spinach  gave this gorgeous green a bad rep for a gritty texture.

2. Flat or smooth spinach– are tender and much easier to clean throughly of all the grit that clings to the leaves.  You can eat the whole thing, but the stem if they are long can be a bit untidy.  I take off half the stems so that the dish  looks  nice and leafy rather than stringy.

3.  Baby spinach– smooth tender  little leaves  are perfect for salds and can be be used in sandwiches in place of lettuce.

4.  Frozen spinach–  these lumpy green blocks preserve the antioxidants beautifully.   They are  an inexpensive  choice  where spinach is an ingredient in a soup, frittata,  quiche or stuffed mushroom.

One final thought.  While on paper spinach is high in both iron and calcium, these anti-aging minerals are in a form that is not easily available to the body. That’s the bad news. The good news? Serving and or cooking spinach with lemon juice or dairy increase absorption for both minerals. Squeezing lemon on sauteed spinach or mixing Greek yogurt into chopped cooked spinach are delicious ways to increase nutritional availability. FYI the antioxidant vitamins are available whether spinach is frozen, raw or cooked. Nice.

Its Anti-Aging Week on Fashion Flash!

This week the host of Fashion Flash is Jackie of Aging Backwards.  What I think makes Jackie unique  is that she looks at the whole self– body, mind and spirit.  Her mission  is to  share ways to have a long  happy life and she does it with  a passion that’s contagious.  Check out her recent posts to learn the stay slim secrets of supermodels  and the best ways to get the anti-aging benefits of fruits and vegetables.

To get the latest anti-aging news make a  date to attend the ” Face to Face” lecture at the 92nd Street Y on March 27 in NYC.  Dr Ellen Marmur, my anti-aging miracle worker, will be sharing her approach to skin care strategies for a radiant, youthful appearance.  From the best and affordable  skin care moisturizers and bleaching creams that you can buy  in drugstores to the latest  high tech  anti aging lasers, Dr Marmur will  give you tools to take  care of your skin safely and affordably.  And  I think the best part of the evening will be the opportunity to  ask her questions.  She has such a seamless  knowledge of anti aging tools and techniques that  her answers are always packed  with useful specific infomation.   For example, when  I wanted to use Retin A for six months and then laser-off  the big freckles, she explained that lasers  work best on darker spots and then I should use the laser first.  Retin A  lightens  irregular  pigments she explained, and the laser will be more effective  if used  when the spots are most prominent.  When my skin healed from the laser ( in about a week)  I could start using Retin A for maximum effect.   To see these results go to my Facebook Fan Page  and click on photos.  

I  will be there on March 27th  and  plan to ask  a question about the difference between serums and moisturizers– besides the price of course.  For more ticket info about the event  you can call  212-415-5500.  I hope to see you there!

Home Lasers– Day 1

It’s no secret that I’m a fan  of  lasers.  I respect their power to erase dark patches, eliminate  lines and fry away  unwanted  facial hair.  But they are expensive and when I saw  the arrival of home lasers I was interested– but cautious.  Lasers are powerful tools and in inexperienced hands can cause burns, scars, discolorations and even eye damage. 

At Beauty Bash in October, I stopped at the Palovia Booth to talk with the rep about their home laser kit.  I was delighted to learn that its made by Palomar, one of the most highly regarded makers of professional grade lasers used by dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons.  I was even more impressed to hear that Palovia   is FDA approved  to reduce fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes.

They offered me a machine to try out and  despite my natural cowardice, I really wanted to see what anti-aging benefits they can deliver.   The thick instruction booklet  was a little daunting.  It had a fairly extensive   list of guidelines and I read it severral times  before feeling comfortable enough to get things started.  There are several on and off buttons,  charging instructions, choices in intensity, and a list of  potential problems that were sobering.  And I have to admit that I was afraid of pain. 

I charged it up  for several hours, read the booklet one  more time and was ready to start– with baby steps.  The instruction book recommends trying out the machine on your arm to get used to the sensation.  I decided to try  the home laser on my arm for several sessions to see how my skin responds. I adjusted  the Palovia to its lowest setting and as per instructions, I spread on a layer of gel I ( included in the kit). I  placed the head of the machine on my arm and pressed the on button.  I felt a very mild buzzing sensation  for three seconds, then the machine turned off.  That was my signal to move to another area. I repeated the treatment in four closely linked areas.  When I wiped off the gel,  my skin felt a tiny bit irritated and  the redness lasted for about an hour.  So far, so good.  The sensation was definately not painful and I’m going to continue tonight,  extending the treatment time to see how my skin responds. Baby steps.

I’m Hosting Fashion Flash Monday!

This weekend, Fashion Flasher Geri of Fabulous Over Fifty hosted the amazing Beauty Bash in New York City.  For the first time, eight Fashion Flashers were together at one time.  We went out to dinner at Olives in the W Hotel and were having such a good time that a  young women came  over to find out who we were.  When she heard about Beauty Bash, she and her friends bought tickets and came to hear the lectures and visit the booths.  It was that good!  And in between giving presentations and talking to the over 1000 women who came to   visit, we kept blogging.  This week:

* Kari of  Fab Over Forty insists that beauty does not have to be complicaed, giving us  a few quick beauty fixes to  make the day a little easier.

* Deb of Fabulous After 40 answers the question– what is the top fall fashion acessory for casual dressing?

* Jodell of Black Cat Plus presents a plus size  fall fashion forecast including texture, color and animal prints.

Staness of  Menopause Makeover has another amazing recipe, this time  a chicken, charred tomato and broccoli salad.

Cat of Obsessed With Shoes  looks at what master cobbler Christian Louboutin is doing this fall.

Shawna of Female Fat Loss Over Forty asks  if  you are working out but  feeling tired and gaining weight?  Don’t worry, Shawna will sort things out.

And if  you are in the New York area this week,  Clarins is hosting the second in a series of four  beauty evenings, sponsored by  Glow magazine.  On Oct 6, ( from 6:30-8:30) this event  features Mommy Makeovers to  get back  your  shape and vitality.  I get so many emails from young moms  who are now concerned about early signs of aging.  Motherhood is wonderful, but stressful and takes a toll on  your skin, hair and contours.  The expert panel  includes Dr Wilfred Brown, plastic surgeon specializing in body contouring, nurse Julie Tupler who developed a technique on belly flattening that was featured on the Today Show, and nutrititionist  Brooke Alpert who is considered a rising star in the  health and wellness field. I will be held  at the Clarins store at  1061 Madison Avenue.  The  program is without charge, wine and cheese will be served AND you get a goody bag when you leave.  To attend please RSVP to Kerry at 212-374-6100 by October 3.  I’ll be there and I look forward to talking with you.