Vampire Facelift: Does It Work?

The sight of blood has always made me queasy. Once, when I was about 12, it also made me faint. I like to think that now that I’m all grown-up, I’m stronger and less impressionable, but the truth is that I’ll always be a wimp who recoils at the sight of blood. Even fake blood! I have to watch most True Blood and Game Of Thrones episodes through my fingers! :oops:

So, I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would be willing to take some of their blood out and reinject it back, after it’s been separated with a centrifuge, into their face in the name of beauty (although, if Eric Northman were to perform the procedure, I might actually consider it, ahem. ;) )

This creepy treatment is called Selphyl, platelet-rich plasma injections, or, more commonly, vampire facelift. According to the Vampire Facelift website, the procedure is supposed to promote “collagen growth and long-term skin rejuvenation,” thus helping treat wrinkles and improving the texture of your skin. But is that really true? How can blood do that?

What’s in my blood?

Human blood consists of two main components: blood cells and plasma. Plasma is a yellowish liquid which contains nutrients, proteins, hormones, waste materials and a lot of other stuff. Floating in plasma are the three main types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells, which give blood its colour, transport oxygen around your body. White blood cells are part of the immune system and defends your body from diseases. Cell platelets are a lot less famous than the other types of blood cells, but not less important. These small, irregularly-shaped cells help the blood clot. They also contain growth factors and proteins that help repair and regenerate tissue.

How a vampire facelift is made

If you decide to have a vampire facelift done, some blood will be drawn from your arm. This blood will then be inserted into a centrifuge, a machine that can separate all the blood components by density. The red blood cells are the densest, so they sink to the bottom and are then removed from the solution. What’s left is a two-layer solution: a small layer of white blood cells and platelets and a bigger one of plasma. The resulting solution is called platelet-rich plasma. To this, calcium chloride or thrombin is added. Finally, the gel is injected into your face.

Because all the red blood cells are removed from the final solution, the colour of the gel isn’t red but yellow. We’ve all seen the creepy pictures of Kim Kardashian and other celebs and models slathered in blood. That’s not what happens at all, but hey, why let something as trivial as the truth get in the way of a good advertisement (I’m being sarcastic here, obviously)?

Do vampire facelifts work?

Because of its growth factors content, this platelet-rich plasma, could potentially promote the growth of cells and accelerate the healing process in the injected areas. Because this is such a new procedure, not many studies have been done to prove (or disprove) its efficacy yet. One, conducted in 2010, showed that it can improve the appearance of deep nasolabial folds. But whether it is effected in those areas target by the vampire facelift, such as the hollows of your eyes, remains to be seen.

Is the Vampire Facelift safe?

The vampire facelift is said to be gentler than other derma fillers that promote cell growth too because there’s little chance of lumping or migration. Also, there’s no chance of rejection. Like all fillers, though, it can cause bruising and swelling.

The Bottom Line

Although relatively safe, there isn’t yet enough convincing scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of the vampire facelift. But even if there were, I’d frankly rather invest the money in a well-formulated retinoid serum that can stimulate collagen production and improve the texture of my skin without the need to inject anything, let alone my blood, into it.

Have you tried the vampire facelift? What do you think of it?

Why I Don’t Use Pore Strips (And You Shouldn’t Either)

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When I was a teenager, I inflicted all kinds of damage to my skin. I didn’t always bother to remove makeup before going to bed. Sunscreen was something I used only at the beach (and I rarely went there, so I almost never wore it). I bought cheap skincare products with comedogenic ingredients that would give me pimples and blackheads. And then, I tried to remove the latter with pore strips. Ugh. Sorry, skin!

Of course, back then I thought I was doing all the right things. No one knew the importance of wearing sunscreen daily, and pore strips were something that pretty much every magazine recommended (and still do). And why not? After all they work. You apply one to your nose, press, remove, and voilà. Your blackheads are gone and your pores look smaller. But only temporarily. In the long run, it could even enlarge them!

How pore strips stretch pores

According to Futurederm, “pore strips contain a hairspray-like substance [Polyquaternium-37] on one side. It sticks to the material within your pores, but when you rip the strip off, it stretches the pore. Over time, this leads to enlarged pores, in which material collects, leaving you with a nose filled with blackheads.”

Pore strips can irritate and tear skin too

Paula Begoun agrees and points out further dangers: “the plastic-forming agent can get into the pores and possibly cause breakouts and irritation. The way these strips adhere, they can absolutely injure or tear skin and cause spider veins to surface. They are especially unsafe if you’ve been having facial peels; using Retin-A, Renova, AHAs, or BHA; or are taking oral vitamin A (isotretinoin) for acne; or if you have naturally thin skin or any skin disorder such as rosacea, psoriasis, or seborrhea.”

Pore strips don’t remove the entire blackhead

If you still think that the benefits of pore strips outweigh its side effects, at least once in a while, think again. Seeing all that gunk come off your skin can give you a feeling of satisfaction, but the truth is, pore strips don’t really remove much. What they do is remove the top black layer, giving us the illusion that the problem has been taken care of. But the rest of the blackhead remains firmly inside the pore, clogging it. Soon, the gunk inside the pore will reach the surface again, oxidize (ie become black), and you’ll have to remove it again!

What to do instead

If you’re prone to blackheads, exfoliate your skin regularly with a Salicylic Acid (BHA) exfoliant (my favourite is Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA). Salicylic Acid can penetrate inside the pores, removing all the gunk that’s accumulated within them, and helping to keep them free of clogs. Also, avoid products with comedogenic ingredients that can cause breakouts. Only if the blackhead is particularly stubborn, you may consider removing it with the help of a comedone extractor.

The Bottom Line

Pore strips offer minimal benefits but can cause serious harm to the skin. Instead, create a skincare regimen that includes gentle, non-comedogenic products and a BHA exfoliant that can keep oil production under control and the pores free from impurities.

Do you use pore strips?

Is It A Blackhead? Is It A Whitehead? Is It A Pimple? What’s The Difference?

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Who has never had to deal with a blackhead, or a whitehead, or a pimple? These naughty buggers are all types of acne that can affect the face, back, shoulders, and chest. And they all appear at the worst moments!

Once you get them, all you want to do is get rid of them as quickly as possible. But, to do that, you need to know exactly what you are dealing with. Different types of acne require, in fact, different treatments.

What causes breakouts

All forms of acne begin with clogged pores. Pores release sebum, a moisturizing substance, produced by the sebaceous glands. When these glands are working properly, producing only the amount of sebum your skin needs, your skin is smooth and hydrated. But when too much sebum is produced, the pores cannot release it fast enough. Instead, sebum remains trapped inside them, where it mixes with dead skin cells. That’s when a breakout occurs. Whether it’s a blackhead, a whitehead, or a pimple, though, depends on what else is happening inside the pores.

Blackheads

A blackhead is a type of acne that’s not inflamed. It occurs when sebum and the other gunk trapped into the pore is near its opening. Here, it is exposed to air, oxidizes and turns a dark black colour. It has nothing to do with dirt! The best way to get rid of blackheads is to use a well-formulated exfoliant with Salicylic Acid (BHA), such as Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. That’s because Salicylic Acid can penetrate inside the pore, exfoliating it from within.

If your blackheads are really stubborn, ask your dermatologist to perform a series of BHA peels on your skin. Skincare products with retinoids, by improving cell functions, can also help pores work normally, preventing the formation of blackheads. Instead, stay away from pore strips or scrubs. These products can only get rid of the gunk that’s on the surface of the skin. So, while it’ll remove the dark dot, it’ll leave the excess oils and dead cells inside the pore, where they will soon cause another breakout.

Whiteheads

Like blackheads, whiteheads are a type of acne that’s not inflamed. A whitehead is made up of the same mix of sebum and dead skin cells, but, because the opening to the surface is so small, it does not oxidize. Instead, it remains white and looks like a small pimple without the redness or inflammation. Whiteheads can’t be squeezed, and are particularly difficult to treat. Again, your best option is an exfoliant with BHA. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to have them removed by a dermatologist or aesthetician.

Pimples

A pimple is a red bump with a raised white, pus-filled tip. It occurs when a clogged pore ruptures. It then becomes infected with bacteria, which cause the inflammation, and the white fluid and sebum is pushed to the surface. Products with Salicylic Acid or, for more serious cases, Benzoyl Peroxide work very well at treating pimples. The latter too can exfoliate pores, but also kills P. Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.

How do you deal with blackeads, whiteheads, and pimples?

Would You Pay $180 For A Bird Poop Facial?

Would you be willing to pay $180 to have bird poop slathered all over your face?

You’re all rolling your eyes and shaking your heads in disgust now, aren’t you? “Eww! No, of course not, Gio,” I hear you claim, outraged. “Who the hell would want THAT?!” I hear ya. I wouldn’t either.

But what if I asked you, instead: “Would you like to try a Geisha facial? It has nightingale poop in it, but it makes your skin so clear and bright, like a chemical peel, but without the irritation. And Victoria Beckham is a huge fan. That’s how she keeps her skin looking so young!”

When put it like that, I guess some of you would be willing to give it a try. Just out of curiosity. You never know what may work, right? Ah, the things women would do in the name of beauty!

You may be happy to know, though, that there is no reason to splurge that much on this shit. Here’s why:

How a Geisha facial is made

Apparently, you can’t take the poop from just any nightingale. It has to be a Japanese bush warbler. Allegedly, it was geishas, back when they wore those heavy white, lead-based makeup concoctions that destroyed their skin, who noticed how well these nightingales’ poop worked at clearing it up. The scientific explanation, though, is that these birds have a small digestive tract which is supposed to allow the poop to maintain all those substances that are beneficial for the skin.

These nightingales are fed an organic seed diet, and when they defecate, the poop is scraped from their cages, sterilized with an ultraviolet light, and ground into a fine powder. Then, this stuff is put into a facial cream (which apparently doesn’t smell like poop) to be used during the facial.

Urea molecular structure

What’s so special about nightingale poop?

So, what are these substances in bird poop that are supposed to be so good for the skin? Urea and guanine. Let’s start with the first. Urea, a substance found in urine (this doesn’t get any better, does it?), has good water-binding properties, improves skin’s barrier function, and prevents water loss, thus helping to keep skin moisturized. But it needs to stay on the skin to work. Used in a facial for a few minutes will hardly do anything. Much better to use a moisturizer with urea. There are many on the market and, you’ll be relieved to know, the type of urea used in them is made synthetically in a lab. If there’s no reason to get this stuff from pee, there sure isn’t any to get it from poop either.

What about guanine? If the name sounds familiar to you, it’s because you’ve probably heard it in science class at school. Guanine is one of the four bases found in DNA. But don’t worry, this stuff can’t affect your DNA when topically applied on the skin. Guanine is an iridescent substance so it can brighten your skin. But so can glitters and shimmers. Why slather on bird poop when a highlighter can give you the same effect?

The Bottom Line

Don’t waste your money on Geisha facials. If you need extra hydration, get a moisturizer with urea (the type made in a lab), while if you want to brighten your skin, you can exfoliate it or use a highlighter. They work better, and don’t contain anything so gross as poop.

Have you ever tried a Geisha facial? If so, how did you like it? If not, would you?

Is It Ok For Skincare Products To Tingle?

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If it makes your skin tingle, then it works.

How many times have you heard that? Being the sceptical girl that I am, the first time I did, I thought it was just some silly excuse cosmetic companies used to convince you to use a poorly formulated product. I mean, most skincare products don’t tingle, so, if one does, it must mean there’s something wrong with it, right? In most cases, yes. But, when I decided to dig deeper, I discovered there’s an exception:

When it is ok for skincare products to tingle?

Exfoliants with AHAs (such as Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid and Tartaric Acid) and BHA (Salicylic Acid) can cause a slight tingling sensation when you apply them. The tingling, which is sometimes accompanied by a sensation of heat, feels like tiny needles are very gently pricking your skin, and lasts only for a few seconds. This means that the product is penetrating the skin, and there’s nothing to worry about.

Not everyone experiences this tingling sensation though. It usually depends on how sensitive your skin is and how high the concentration of these active ingredients is. In any case, your skin should soon get used to them, making the tingling sensation disappear overtime. Only if your skin is very sensitive, or the concentration of AHAs or BHA too high, the tingling sensation can turn into stinging or burning, in which case you should discontinue the product immediately.

When it is not ok for skin to tingle

AHAs and BHA aren’t the only ingredients that can make skin tingle. Menthol, peppermint, mint and camphor can do that too. But in this case, the tingling is bad. Why? Because these ingredients are counter-irritants. They cause local inflammation (hence the tingling feeling) to reduce inflammation in deeper or adjacent tissues. Or, more simply, they substitute one type of inflammation with another. But inflammation is never good for skin. Overtime, the damage caused by these ingredients, when used regularly, adds up, and can harm the skin’s healing response and lead to premature aging. Therefore, these ingredients should be used very sparingly, or, better yet, not at all.

Use common sense

Other ingredients shouldn’t cause your skin to tingle. If they do, and the tingling sensation is short and gentle, then it is probably ok. But if the tingling increases, turns into stinging or burning, lasts more than a minute, and is accompanied by redness, peeling or other signs of irritations, then it means that the product is not compatible with your skin type. Wash it off immediately and never used it again.

Have you ever used a skincare product that made your skin tingle?

Pack Smart: Skincare Tips For Travelling

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Summer is almost here, and that means that a lot of us are already starting to plan much-needed vacations. After choosing our destination, the first question, obviously, is: what to bring? As tempting as taking all our beloved skincare products with us is, there are just so many restrictions and limitations on what you can bring in your luggage these days to make that impossible.

Even if you’re not travelling by plane, you may not want to bring too much. Skincare products can be heavy, and you don’t want to carry full-size ones around if you know you’ll only use tiny amounts of each one during your trip. So, you’ll have to pack smart. Here’s how:

1. Figure out what you need

Some of us use lots of products both in our day and night time skincare routines. But, especially on shorter trips, there’s no need to bring them all with you. Just pack the essentials. Mine are a cleanser, a moisturizing sunscreen, a lip balm, a night cream, and a body lotion. If you have dry skin, you’ll want to add a moisturizer to the list.

You should also bring any prescription products or specific treatments for any particular skincare needs you may have. For instance, if you have oily, acne-prone skin, you should carry your BHA exfoliant with you. But things like toners, masks, scrubs, and serums, can be left at home. Most hotels provide shampoos and body washes, so there’s no need to bring those too.

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2. Choose the right products

Once you’ve figured out what products you need on the trip, make sure they are suitable both for your skin type and the climate of your destination. If you’re going somewhere hot and humid, choose a lighter moisturizer than that you normally use. If you have oily skin, you may not need one at all. On the other hand, if the climate is dry and cold, bring a heavier moisturizer. If you’re going on holiday to a tropical destination, instead, bring a sunscreen with a very high SPF.

3. Substitute liquids with solids

With all the airport restrictions on liquids, it’s best to opt for solid products or wipes whenever possible. Instead than your cleanser or makeup remover, for instance, consider bringing cleansing wipes. Although I dislike using bar soaps on the face, Dove makes a gentle one that’s a great substitute, when travelling, for gel or liquid cleansers. If you must take your shampoo or body wash with you, why not choose one in bar form? Visit a Lush store and you’ll find a lot of cute, and effective, solid bath and body care products that are airplane-friendly.

4. Opt for multitasking products

When possible, opt for multitasking products. Unless your skin is very dry, choose a moisturizing sunscreen so that you can leave your moisturizer at home (BB and CC Creams aren’t substitutes for sunscreen, doesn’t matter what the labels say). Need to shave your legs? Use your hair conditioner. If you really must bring your shampoo and body wash, and hate those in solid form, opt for a 2 in 1 product that can be used to wash your whole body, from head to foot.

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5. Go mini

A lot of airlines have restrictions not just on what you can carry in your carry-on bag, but also on how much your suitcase can weight. To avoid problems at the airport, like having your expensive Chanel moisturizer confiscated because it is too big, or be forced to pay a fine because your bag exceeds weight limitations, leave your full-size products at home. First of all, check out what the rules are on what you’re allowed to bring with you. Every country has its own, so it’s wise to check them before packing. As a general rule, though, any product in your carry-on bag can’t exceed 100ml, and all of them together must fit into a quart-size zip lock bag.

So, figure out how much of each product you’ll need (for 3 days, 9ml of moisturizer would usually do, for instance) and pour the amount in a small jar or bottle (remember that sunscreen and anything with antioxidants must be packed in an air-tight, opaque container).  You can buy empty jars at most beauty stores, but if you’re not a fan of decanting, you can ask for samples of your favourite skincare products to a SA or your dermatologist. Some brands also offer sample travel-kits of their most popular products. Or, you can bring those sample sachets you’ve found in your magazines with you. Just check the ingredients first to make sure they don’t contain anything that would irritate your skin or cause breakouts.

How do you pack your skincare products when you travel?