Saturday, November 22, 2014

Please Stop Saying Chemical-Free (please).

There. I’ve said it. Please stop saying chemical-free. Because ladies and gents- absolutely nothing in this world is chemical free (outside of electricity and light).
The word chemical has gotten a bad name. Let’s define it.

Question: What Is a Chemical? 
Answer: Short answer: Everything is a chemical. Longer answer: Chemistry is the study of matter and its interactions with other matter. Anything made of matter is therefore a chemical. Any liquid, solid, gas. Any pure substance; any mixture. Water is a chemical. Technically speaking, so is a chunk of your computer. A chemical can often be broken down into components, as is true with your computer. However, people generally use the term 'chemical' to refer to a substance that appears homogeneous or the same throughout its structure.  
Helmenstine, PhD, A. M. (2014, May 16). What Is a Chemical? Retrieved from

That bears repeating. Everything is a chemical. Marketers have (very adeptly) warped the meaning into something else. A "chemical" is now a toxic, dangerous, or hazardous ingredient. This use has become quite mainstream. I hear phrases like “You don’t use chemicals in your products right?” or “I’m looking for something natural and chemical-free” in my practice all the time. I know what some of you are thinking. “Hey, you know what we mean, the bad stuff, the dangerous ones!” The fact is, if we’re going to have an intelligent dialogue, we have to use words carefully and correctly. If we don’t start there, there’s truly no productive place to go when everyone’s defining words differently. Having this dialogue about safety, efficacy and ethics in what we use on our skin is so important. Let’s just start it from a well defined neutral space.

Sooo….. No one can sell you chemical free skin care. If a label/rep/salesperson says chemical free as a selling point, I would opt for another line. In my opinion, it calls into question the rest of their labeling. Is it accurate? Is it legal? Can you trust their formulation, or claims about the product?

I understand it can be daunting to sort the facts from the marketing hype. If you’re worried about specific ingredients/chemicals that may be in your products, let me know which ones! I’ll be posting about chemicals/ingredients that clients have asked questions about, as well as spotlighting some that I think are amazing!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Do you really need a "special" sunscreen for your face?

Questions about sunscreen come up over and over again. There’s a lot to talk about, and trust me, I have many posts planned on this topic. But as I hear this one repeatedly- we’ll start there.

From M.G.: “Do I need a separate or “special” sunscreen for my face? Does it really matter?”

Great question. Answer? In my opinion, yes (with one exception).
Let me break it down a bit.
What is a “special” sunscreen? Let’s work under the assumption that this simply means a different formulation than what you would use on your body. I also believe that a slightly higher price is usually inferred as well.

Formulations for the face will usually have a more elegant formulation. Translation? They feel nicer on the skin.
  • Often less sticky or greasy.
  • There are formulas to suit different skin types: rich creams, sensitive skin formulas, and lighter non-comedogenic formulations for those with congestion issues. This is a distinction not often found in full body sunscreens.
  • There can be added ingredients with additional benefits to help with a particular skin type or condition, or to boost the antioxidant benefits of the sunscreen.
  • Formulations developed for the face usually serve as a smoother base if you wear makeup.

So in my opinion? Well worth it.

The one exception to the advice above? If you find yourself out, or about to be out in the sun and (gasp) unprotected, use whatever is available, even if not formulated for the face. (Common sense caution: disregard if you have a known allergy.) I know, I know not the perfect scenario if you’re prone to breakouts etc., but a sunburn is worse. Inflammation and free radical damage make every skin condition worse without exception. In addition (I’ll say this over and over again), ANY sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. So avoid the burn, and take extra care with your skin care routine for the next few days to keep everything on track.

Do you need to spend more money on facial sunscreen? I think it’s worth a little extra for all the reasons listed above. Most important is to find something that works for you. When you find a formula you like- it’s an easy daily habit to get into. With so many options, there are quality products in all price ranges. Personally, I do use more inexpensive sunscreen on my body. In our house, the more utilitarian over the counter (“otc”) sunscreen is used almost exclusively (in large quantities) for the body on trips to sunny locales as opposed to the professional line we use daily for face, neck and hands. We have a joke regarding “smelling like vacation” when my partner in crime uses the otc version for daily use.

Questions or comments? Always feel free to leave feedback below. Need help finding a formula that’s right for you? Contact me directly or 415-997-8141, and I’m happy to help!