What is Collagen and why is it important?



Collagen fibers give the skin resistance to strain and traction. Collagen constitutes about 70% of skin mass, but total collagen decreases about 1% per year. It may look like a small decline, but as such a major component of the skin it will affect skin volume and its physical properties. Also, aging changes collagen structure. What was an organized pattern in young skin, becomes an assembly of disorganized bundles of thick fibrils in older skin. It is not only quantity, it is also quality.

We know that aging decreases skin thickness and elasticity, and it is likely that collagen is a good part of the solution. If we care about slowing down and reversing skin aging, we should care about collagen too. Because collagen is such a major constituent of the skin, the objective should be to stimulate its synthesis, and preserve the collagen protein in an active, organized structure.

Chemically, we want to prevent glycation, the attachment of sugar moieties to the protein amino acids, a modification that affects protein function. The fibroblasts are the main cells in the dermis. They specialize in producing two types of proteins, collagen and elastin, which are a major part of the extra-cellular matrix.

Collagen is synthesized by fibroblasts, initially as procollagen alpha chains on membrane-bound ribosomes. The alpha chains then interact to form a triple-helical molecule after hydroxylation of proline and lysine amino acids. Stability is further enhanced by disulfide cross-linking. The procollagen is then packaged into secretory vesicles that move to the cell surface. At the cell membrane, procollagen peptidases cleave the procollagen into collagen.

Collagen is a structural, long-lived protein. Even if synthesis decreases, the total content may not decrease, it will depend on how much collagen was hydrolyzed by protease action. Proteolysis is not bad in itself, it is good for the skin to eliminate proteins whose structure and properties have been modified beyond usefulness.

Skin aging means, mostly, photoaging. To see the net effect of UV on skin aging, compare the outside of your arm with the underside, a skin area you don’t usually expose to the sun. UV radiation increases the synthesis of proteases, including collagenase, and this is likely to be a reason why collagen decreases after UV irradiation. Natural aging decreases collagen synthesis and increases the expression of matrix metalloproteinases, whereas photoaging results in an increase of collagen synthesis and greater matrix metalloproteinase expression in human skin in vivo. Thus, the balance between collagen synthesis and degradation leading to collagen deficiency is different in photoaged and naturally aged skin. A good part of the changes in collagen related to aging seem to be associated with decreased levels of estrogen.

-Dr. Hannah Sivak

Natural Deodorants vs. Anti-Perspirants. Is Aluminum as bad as THEY say it is?

If you don’t like aluminum, you may have to move to another planet!

Aluminum is so abundant on the earth’s crust (third after oxygen and silicon) that the only way to avoid it is to leave Earth altogether. It is present in our water and food along with most common items, like your shoes…it’s everywhere. And yet, some people will continue eating and drinking and living on earth, but avoid antiperspirants because they are scared of aluminum.

Don’t be. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where the quality of your water and food is monitored, there will be little aluminum found in them. Your body is already excellent at dealing with aluminum. Because we grew up in an environment that is so rich in this metal, our body very easily excretes aluminum and our skin is bad at absorbing it in the first place.

Should you worry about the aluminum in your antiperspirant? No, unless you have a serious health problem that interferes with the elimination of this very abundant metal.  Even then, skin absorption is the least of your problems because most of the aluminum in your body comes from ingestion or breathing our air.

The next logical question is: Why so many “natural” deodorants in the market? Fear, however silly, is heavily used in advertising. I will not expand here on this advertising but just wanted to stress that sellers of “natural” products take advantage of fears that THEY create to sell you stuff that is really not safe.

What is my interest in this subject? A Skin Actives team member (Jess) informed me about a friend that had acquired a chronic skin irritation/infection after one month of using a new natural deodorant. For decades I have been using the same “classic” aluminum-containing antiperspirant without a hint of irritation. Naturally, I wanted to look further into this issue. We even bought a couple natural deodorant brands and Jess volunteered to be the product tester for this experiment.

Sweat is not naturally smelly, it becomes smelly because of the bacteria that flourish naturally in the armpit. Aluminium chlorohydrate may work by decreasing sweat production at the pore level.

What about the “natural” approach? I looked into several brands. As usual, nothing natural about them, because most of the ingredients are obtained using laboratory chemistry. We even found one brand who had a suspicious looking ingredient- Zeolite. When you look up the definition for Zeolite: Zeolites are microporous, aluminosilicate minerals commonly used as commercial adsorbents and catalysts. Aluminosilicate minerals are minerals composed of aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. NATURAL aluminum?

These natural deodorants claim to combat smell, but many claim to contain no aluminum. So, how do they do their job? Some work by increasing the pH of the armpit so that it becomes inhospitable for the usual bacterial flora. If the “smelly” bacteria are not there, the sweat is not transformed into a smelly mess. This is an ingenious approach, but there is a fundamental flaw: bacteria that do like the higher pH may not be safe for your skin. One of these bacteria is Propionibacterium, involved in acne, and a slightly increased pH leads to its rapid growth.

Another strategy is the use of fragrances to hide the smell of perspiration, what would be called a true deodorant. No problem with this approach unless the user is allergic to the fragrances used.

So, where are we left? If the reason why you were looking for ‘natural” was the avoidance of aluminum, just forget about it. Your skin is great at excluding aluminum, so the only effect will be the prevention of smelly armpits. If the reason was that “natural” sounds good, please remember that natural is a word devoid of any meaning thanks to marketing professionals and that natural may not be good for you.

Jess turned out to be even more sensitive than her friend. After only 6 days of using a natural deodorant (with arrowroot powder and baking soda base) her armpit broke out in a painful red rash. She happily returned to using her antiperspirant after several days of using Restoration Cream to repair the damage done by the natural deodorant.


-Dr. Hannah Sivak


Rash after 6 days of usage. Deoderant had a pH of 10.

RapidLash is wrong in so many ways…

Plexaura homomalla, a.k.a. Black sea rod, now the victim of a cosmetic company's greed.

Plexaura homomalla, a.k.a. Black sea rod, now the victim of a cosmetic company’s greed.

The difference between a drug and a cosmetic.
I have written many times about the problems that occur because of the grey area between drugs and medicines (both prescription or over the counter) and cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. In the case of Rapidlash, we see this company taking “heroic” steps to fit into the cosmetic side while trying to avoid a lawsuit by Allergan, the maker of Latisse. Allergan has exclusive rights to bimatoprost, the FDA-approved ingredient behind lash growth. In 2012, the courts found that Lifetech Resources LLC’s NeuLash and RapidLash are drugs because they are intended not as instantly effective cosmetics, but as treatments meant to grow eyelashes over time. This was found to be unfair competition to exclusivity rights held by Allergan. Below, you will see the original ingredient list for Rapidlash (with isopropyl cloprostenate the original drug in question) and the current Rapidlash ingredient list (where they have replaced isopropyl cloprostenate with black sea rod oil) which also has a prostaglandin analogue present.

Original formula ingredient List: Water, Rhizobium Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate, Butylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Biotin, Panthenol, Pantethine, Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans, Allantoin, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Extract, Sea Water, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Alcohol Denatured (and) Isopropyl Cloprostenate, Octapeptide-2, Copper Tripeptide-1, Glycerin, Glycine Soja (Soybean Oil), Phosphatidylcholine, Polypeptide-23, Phenoxyethylene, Chlorphenesin, Sorbic Acid.

Current formula ingredient List: Water, Butylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Glycerin, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17, Rhizobium Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate, Biotin, Panthenol, Pantethine, Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans, Allantoin, Pumpkin Seed Extract, Sea Water, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Octapeptide-2, Copper Tripeptide-1, Sh-Polypeptide-1, Soybean Oil, Black Sea Rod (Plexaura homomalla ) Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Sorbic Acid.

Why this product is wrong for you
Why is this chemical wrong for you? Natural or synthetic, a chemical will do what its chemical structure dictates. It does not matter whether said chemical was made by a coral trying to convince predators that it is not a tasty lunch or synthesized in a lab for cosmetic use. The prostaglandin analogue found in black sea rod was found to be toxic to fish, causing vomiting and in some cases death for the fish tested. In nature, fish quickly learned not to eat the coral. New coral predators come in the shape of skin care companies and without clinical trials, we don’t know what effects this chemical will have on humans.

Why this product is wrong for the corals
Octocorals (gorgonians) are corals that have eight tentacles. Most octocorals secrete a flexible skeleton and the polyps are embedded in the outer layer, the rind.  Plexaura homomalla, commonly known as the black sea rod or Caribbean sea whip, is a gorgonian coral that lives in the Caribbean from the Florida Keys to the northern coast of Venezuela. P. homomalla contains the bioactive lipid Prostaglandin A2 15-acetate methyl ester at approximately 3% of total wet weight.

It seems that this coral’s method of defense has backfired. RapidLash has decided that on top of the damage that global warming is inflicting to corals, they will go one step further and harvest black sea rod coral. Why? To circumvent FDA regulations. Even assuming that this extract will promote eyelash growth like the prescription medication it means to replace, it can bypass the regulations that ban prescription medications from cosmetics. It can also bypass Allergan lawyers, although I hope somebody will find a way to curtail this abuse of nature and the law.

-Dr. Hannah Sivak

The Free Skin Care Trial Offer that is Scamming the Nation

Screenshot 2016-06-30 13.24.05


You may have seen a pop-up ad for a free trial of a miracle product, or two miracle products that offer a “free trial” if you simply pay the $4.95 shipping charge. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of these scams using various unauthorized celebrity endorsements. The ads show badly photoshopped before and after photos of Sandra Bullock, Katie Couric and many others. Once you give them your credit card, they start charging it and charging it and charging it. Hundreds of dollars later, the victims can’t find a way to “turn it off”.

These ads have targeted Dr. Oz & Ellen DeGeneres and recently Dr. Phil McGraw’s wife Robin. Some ads have even used our very own Skin Actives’ product names and pictures from our website. The ads and links are only up for a few hours, then disappear forever.

Please be cautious of these scams, Skin Actives has never and will never sell a skin care subscription. Here is a great article by Women’s Blog Talk that outlines more details of these scams. Please share with your friends and family!

If you or anyone you know falls victim to this scam, immediately contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your credit card and request a chargeback of the fees. 

‘Second Skin’ May Reduced Wrinkles, Eyebags, Scientists Say

The New York Times posted an article last month with this headline: ‘Second Skin’ May Reduce Wrinkles, Eyebags, Scientists Say. If you continue reading, you will find that title to be slightly misleading. Let’s break down what the article actually states. A silicone solution is applied to your skin and becomes a mesh that stretches and covers your skin with a transparent film that will last for up to 24 hours. It will not reduce wrinkles, just hide them underneath the transparent mask.

You can’t criticize a scientist for trying to make money. We don’t pledge a Hippocratic-type oath that forbids us from benefitting financially from our breakthroughs. It would definitely not be the first time that somebody with a PhD tried to sell us the key to immortality.

This “second skin” product is not very different from the liquid bandages you can purchase in the supermarket. What is different is the quality of the texture and its transparency. I have seen acrylate and siloxane polymers used in a “natural” liquid bandage, so the materials are not necessarily new. However, I do appreciate the improvements they promise: The polymer forms a transparent, stretchy film that feels nice and lasts for 24 hours. Who would not want a pleasant film that can help with conditions such as eczema?

However, it is not a second skin as the article claims. Skin is a living tissue and silicon film is not alive. There is no way that this product can fight wrinkles, it simply hides them temporarily.

As for cosmetic applications, I see this as a temporary make-up that can perhaps decrease the need for blepharoplasty (eye lift). However, our Collagen Serum paired with Vitamin A Cream already decreases this need and our results don’t have to be washed away every 24 hours. This product does not emulate young skin. It does not emulate skin at all. It makes a film that will stretch and smooth the skin as the monomers polymerize. The resulting film is not alive and cannot replace skin. Think of it more like a transparent band-aid or surgical dressing that cannot be seen easily.

If the FDA approves this product, it will be very useful for certain skin conditions. If they can make it easy to use, it will be a good tool to help with water loss and healing of the skin. It will be interesting to see how many uses cosmetic companies will come up with for this “Second Skin”.

-Dr. Hannah Sivak

Probiotics and Prebiotics: The Newest Cosmetic “It-Words”


Just in case you got bored from hearing the words “natural and organic” or “preservative-free”, here comes a brand new catch phrase courtesy of the marketing departments of skin care companies: Probiotic. This word is borrowed from medicine, in which live bacteria are used for the gastro-intestinal (GI) system to accelerate recovery from antibiotics and other general problems. The skincare industry has no problem using a word that doesn’t apply in any way to skin care to sell you their old products as something brand new.

An Interesting Dilemma

Probiotics in medicine involve the delivery of live bacteria that may help change the bacterial flora of your GI system. However, bacteria are not allowed in skin care. They would lead to changes in the product that would vary depending on different environmental conditions. This is why we must use preservatives. The law demands testing for bacteria and allows for only a few  innocuous (harmless) bacteria and NO disease-causing bacteria. How does the industry plan on getting away with selling bacteria filled skin care products? It doesn’t. At most, the industry can add dead bacteria or extracts that are free from bacteria. But, with a bit of chutzpah, they call these “probiotics” and “prebiotics”, which does not apply in any way.

We will always warn you to distrust misguided marketing, so don’t buy skin care products that are advertised as probiotic. If you want a probiotic skin care treatment, do it yourself! Give yourself a yogurt facial.

Our May/June bonus celebrates this do-it-yourself idea. It features a kit that you simply add to a plain (full fat) yogurt from your local grocery store. It’s easier than making a salad, and is a real probiotic mask!


In a diet, a prebiotic is an ingredient obtained by fermentation. It modifies the GI environment and changes the bacterial composition in a beneficial way. In nutrition, the following  polysaccharides have been shown to change the GI flora: trans-galactooligosaccharide and inulin, larch arabinogalactan, pectin, beta-glucans, and xylooligosaccharides.
We use some of these polysaccharides in our products, but we would not call them prebiotic. There is no published research showing that they actually change the skin’s bacterial flora. We use them because they have been shown to provide other benefits, usually an improvement of the immune response of the skin.

What will you find in “probiotic” skin products?

Below are some ingredient lists of “probiotic” skin care products. In bold you will find ingredients related to bacteria, but they are definitely bacteria-free! Bacteria have been killed using heat or UV radiation.

Tula Hydrating Day & Night Cream, 1.7oz $52

Ingredients: Water, Butylene Glycol, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Squalane, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Dimethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Lactose, Milk Protein, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Yogurt Extract, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Chicory Root Extract, Blueberry Fruit Extract, Vegetable Oil, Camelina Sativa Seed Oil, Tea Extract, Turmeric Root Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopherol, Ascorbic Acid, Safflower Seed Oil, Olive Oil, Watermelon Extract, Apple  Extract, Lentil Fruit Extract, Palo Santo Wood Oil, Lemon Fruit Oil, Orange Oil, Texas Cedarwood Oil, Ylang-Yalang Flower Oil, Sodium Lactate, Sodium PCA, Sodium Carbonate, Polysorbate 80, Polysorbate 20, Beeswax, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, Disodium EDTA, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.

mybody FUTURE IS BRIGHT Probiotic Anti-Aging Hydrator, 1.7oz $85
Nothing probiotic (or very useful either) in this list

Ingredients: Water, Lauryl Lactate, Emulsifying Wax, Pentaerythrityl Tetracaprylate/ Tetracaprate, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Glycerin, PPG-2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane,  Cyclohexasiloxane,  Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3,  Dimethylmethoxy Chromanyl Palmitate,  Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, Beta Glucan, Arginine, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tea Extract, Matricaria Flower Extract, Borage Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Retinyl Palmitate, Disodium EDTA, Methyl Gluceth-20, Polyacrylamide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-17, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance.

Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Masque, 2oz $54

Ingredients: Cucumber Juice, Corn Germ Oil, Shea Butter, Marigold Oil, Yogurt*, Vegetable Glycerin, Kaolin Clay, Stone Crop Juice, Tea Tree Oil, Cyclodextrin, Soybean Oil, Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Squalane, Ubiquinone, Tocopheryl Acetate (synthetic Vitamin E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (synthetic Vitamin C Ester).

*Yogurt can’t be used in skin care because it contains millions of bacteria. Dead yogurt, by definition, is NOT a probiotic.

Mother Dirt Cleanser, 3.4oz $15

Water, Lauramidopropyl Betaine (synthetic detergent), Rose Flower Water, Decyl Glucoside (synthetic detergent), Apple Fruit Extract, Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Hydroxypropylcellulose  (synthetic thickener), Citric Acid (pH adjuster).

Note that there are no preservatives listed (very unlikely because there is good food for bacteria and mold in this formulation!)

And, from the same company that produces Mother Dirt skin care, AO + Mist, a product actively defying FDA regulations, and containing “Live cultured ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) is our patented strain of live cultured Nitrosomonas bacteria (Nitrosomonas D23), a type of Ammonia-Oxidizing-Bacteria.”
I could not find information regarding Nitrosomonas D23. I would not volunteer for this experiment in which you agree to be a Guinea pig!

Skin Care Confusion: Getting to Know Skin Care Formulas

By far, the most common customer questions we receive are about HOW MANY skin care formulas are out there. Which ones are truly necessary? How many do I need and what order do I apply them? The marketing we see on a daily basis leads us to believe if we aren’t using this miracle serum or that wrinkle-busting cream we are missing out on the latest skin care miracle. With a new one every week, how different can it really be?
Can it be worth these enormous retail prices? Is it all just glossy marketing?

We asked Dr. Hannah to give us the breakdown of what these formulas really are (or are supposed to be).

Below that we will go over “skin care routines” and what order to use your skin care.




Emulsion of oil and water in approximately equal proportions. Penetrates stratum corneum outer layer of skin well. Both oil soluble and water soluble actives can be used.

A lotion is a low viscosity topical preparation intended for application to unbroken skin. By contrast, creams have higher viscosity than lotions.

A gel is a jelly-like material that can have properties ranging from soft and weak to hard and tough. Gels are defined as a substantially dilute cross-linked system, which exhibits no flow when in the steady-state. By weight, gels are mostly liquid, yet they behave like solids because the polymers dissolved in the water form a three-dimensional cross-linked network within the liquid. It is the crosslinking within the fluid that give a gel its structure and contribute to the adhesive stick. Because viscosity of the gel depends on the interaction between the solid and water, it can change greatly by adding even small amounts of salts or other ingredients.

In the skin care industry, “serum” is a fancy term for lotion, with oil and water components that vary.  Serum is a word borrowed from medicine, to suggest the idea of something strong that can benefit your skin. The usual meaning is less fancy: a blood derived liquid, plasma, from which the clotting factors have been removed. The industry steals many terms from medicine and science in general. Because by the FDA definition a cosmetic cannot be claimed to change skin physiology, the medical-sounding terminology is used to convey the idea of a medical benefit without annoying the FDA.

A toner is a liquid, mostly water but with additions, used to remove rests of oils and sebum, stripping the skin from oily substances. But oil has a purpose: it lubricates and hydrates the skin. People think oil means they’re dirty, not true at all. Photoshop has also convienced people (women mostly) that the skin is supposed to be opaque and not glossy.

Resurface your skin and get the “smooth feel” but beware of the cost to your skin. There are three ways of exfoliating your skin: physical (like crystals used in micro-exfoliation), chemical peels, and enzymatic peels. At Skin Actives we have products that use these three methodologies while preserving skin health.

Chemical peels are acid solutions that will break down the proteins in the most external layers of the skin when used with caution (if used without great caution they will burn the skin). Our TCA spot peel is the strongest we offer, for those pesky hyperpigmentation spots that will not go away with anything else. Use as directed and you will do well. We have a milder form of chemical peel, our Alpha Beta Exfoliator, which can be used on face, décolleté and hands without problems. It will provide an “invisible” peel, and you will have satisfyingly smooth skin without down time or visible peeling. Our Vitamin C Serum with its low pH will leave your skin feeling smooth.

Have you ever used meat tenderizer? Do you use cold water washing powder for your clothes? How about contact lens cleansers? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then you have used proteases. Meat tenderizer contains papain. Cold water washing liquid has subtilisin to break down proteins that stain your clothes. And strong contact lens cleansers also contain subtilisin. Proteases are proteins with enzymatic activity; they can break down very specific bonds linking amino acids in proteins, breaking down those proteins into pieces. Proteases will not penetrate very far at all, so they are very safe. A warning for those of us with a tendency to develop allergies: please take into account that many people become allergic to some proteases, especially papain and subtilisin (this is why I use protease free liquid to wash my clothes). When applied to skin, proteases with the right specificity will hydrolyze the proteins in the most superficial layers of the skin, exfoliating dead skin cells and impurities. Exfoliation will help keep your pores open and free of blackheads and acne.

This is a lotion that contains ingredients capable of absorbing or reflecting UV radiation before it reaches the skin to prevent burning and aging.

What is the perfect “routine” or “regime” for my skin?

Guess what? There isn’t one. The a.m. and p.m. timetable, with detailed accounts of the products is a fake. What would you expect? The same cosmetic line that is giving you this information is trying to sell you everything at their counter. No big surprise there… There is no evidence supporting it. It was devised by the marketing department in an effort to get you to buy as many products as possible.Is there anything that you must do to protect your skin from the harsh environment and aging? Yes. Of course. If a schedule makes your life easier, go for it. You need to think of the specific obstacles to skin health that you face every day. Do you live in a polluted city? Then, you need to either move or start using antioxidants. Always use sunscreen, as sunlight will age your skin if it has a chance to reach it. If you have acne, stop touching your blemishes and try our Acne Control Set. Most importantly, find a schedule that will make it easy for you to remember what to do. If you never remember to put it on, you will never get the benefit.

What about Cleanse, Tone, Moisturize? 

It is always a good idea to cleanse your skin before you apply a product, because whatever stuff has accumulated during the day will have a chance to enter your skin unless it is removed. But please don’t try to remove what should not be removed. Your skin is not a wall to scrub clean, but a living organ. Go too far and you will be breaking the skin barrier, created by your body to keep you safe.

And what about toner? Nobody knows what this term means, except for the marketing department. It used to be an alcohol/water solution used to remove any traces of sebum in order to make you think that your skin was “clean”. Now it is anything used to remove cleanser. The alcohol would dry your skin and tighten it, making you think that the toner was doing it’s job. In reality, alcohol is just stripping your skin. Find a nice alcohol-free toner like ours, SAS Marine Toner is nourishing with sea kelp and refreshes with neroli and witch hazel.

Most of you know that moisturizing your skin is the key to younger looking and healthier, happier skin. We have many options with many different actives for every skin type. You can moisturize as often as your skin needs. This can change with seasons, hormones and diet. Listen to your skin!

Here are a few guidelines for application of the different formulas: Water based serums should be layered before your creams or oils. Vitamin C Serum should be applied 30-60 min before any moisturizers. Vitamin A should only be used at night, it makes you light sensitive.



Cosmetics: A Long Tradition of Ignoring Common Sense

How old is the complicity between cosmetic companies and the press? Very old. Take a look at an excerpt from this article titled “The Poisonous Beauty Advice Columns of Victorian England.”



“Glass and tin bottles hide snug in a case, waiting for a woman’s daily ritual. She reaches for a bottle of ammonia and washes it over her face, careful to replace the delicate glass stopper. Next, she dips her fingertips into the creams and powders of her toilet table, gravitating toward a bright white paint, filled with lead, which she delicately paints over her features. It’s important to avoid smiling; the paint will set, and any emotion will make it unattractively crack.”


YIKES! The article goes on to explain how women would nibble on arsenic wafers to get a very pale skin tone and acheive a “near death” look. This may seem crazy to us now, but it was all the rage less than two centuries ago. Don’t think for a moment that this type of marketing is isolated to the cosmetics industry. Chocolate lovers were tricked in the same way that many skin care buyers have been again and again. Slick marketing from Mast Brothers Chocolate (see articles HERE) set out to trick consumers into thinking the company was providing something rare and costly. They were simply remelting other companies’ chocolate and saying they were “bean-to-bar” chocolatiers. It is true that liars are eventually caught, but in the meantime they make lots of money at the expense of good people, and they leave everyone with the sour taste of feeling cheated.

What to do? How do you protect yourself from these marketing tactics? Simply put, do not trust the magazines or newspapers that depend on advertising for their livelihood! They can’t bite the hand that feeds them…

Who can you trust, then? Skin Actives, for sure.

Beauty brands don’t even bother any more with “genesis stories”. Now they just go for a good name and a photogenic owner. The new brand Pestle & Mortar is selling a Pure Hyaluronic Serum for $69 per ounce (30 ml) with a nice free advertisement in New York Times, the same newspaper that brought you Freeze 24/7.

Instead of falling into the trap, get SAS’ Dermagen at $30 for 4 fluid ounces and you get peptides included in the deal; and feel free to make fun of the people who bought into the gimmick.

-Dr. Hannah Sivak

Nanotechnology in Skin Care

The year was 2000. They told us that nanotechnology is great and that it is the “decade of nanotechnology”. Then they tried to sell us stuff by using the word “nano”.

Ten years later, Robin Cook wrote a medical thriller titled “Nano”.

Soon after, some people began to say that nanotechnology is bad. They ask for money to fund “non-profits” to put pressure on Congress so that everything nano can be banned.

What is nano? You probably learned about this term in high school, when studying the metric system. The nanometer is one thousandth of a micrometer, which is one thousandth of a millimeter, etc.

How small is a nanometer?  Below is a (logarithmic) scale showing where the atom is compared to a giant sequoia.



Where will you encounter the terms nanotechnology or nanoparticles in skin care? In marketing. These are used as scientific-sounding terms to convey extra penetration of ingredients into the skin. In these cases, just ignore the words completely. It was introduced into the advertising world by marketing departments. You need to check the ingredient list, or ask about the ingredients in the SAS forum.

  Continue reading

Fatty Acids

What is a fatty acid?

A fatty acid (example: palmitic acid) has a carboxylic acid attached to a long hydrocarbon chain.

Why are fatty acids so important?

Fatty acids are used as a major source of energy during metabolism and as a starting point for the synthesis of phospholipids, the main category of lipid molecules used to construct biological membranes (generally composed of two fatty acids linked through glycerol phosphate to one of a variety of polar groups).

Why are the differences in chemical structure so important?

The chemical structure makes the function possible.  Stearic acid cannot do what linoleic acid can.

Fatty acids can differ in

  1. number of carbon in the chain,
  2. number and carbon position of the double (unsaturated) bond (the ω refers to the position of the double bond relative to the #1 carbon in the chain)
  3. configuration of the unsaturated bond (cis vs. trans). A “cis” bond bends the chain in space and is very important for the fluidity of cell membranes.

Note: “trans” bonds are not usually found in nature but in synthetic, hydrogenated fats. (whose idea was to hydrogenate vegetable oils to make margarine? And who decided that they were healthier than butter?)

What is an essential fatty acid?

It is a fatty acids that humans and other animals must ingest because the body requires them for good health but cannot synthesize them. Why not? We don’t have the enzymes (desaturases 12 and 15) required to synthesize them from the saturated fatty acid stearic acid.

Only two fatty acids are known to be essential for humans: alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).

Some other fatty acids are sometimes classified as “conditionally essential,” meaning that they can become essential under some developmental or disease conditions; examples include docosahexaenoic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and gamma-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).  At SAS we use a variety of plant and algae fatty acids to ensure that our skin has a good supply of both essential and conditional essential fatty acids.

Figure: linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid abundant in pitaya oil. Note the position of the double bonds relative to the omega Carbon 1 in red).

Figure: linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid abundant in pitaya oil. Note the position of the double bonds relative to the omega Carbon 1 in red).






What is the role of fatty acids in our skin?

Cell membranes are crucial to health. Deficiency in essential fatty acids shows as dermatitis.

Fatty acids in general are central to the use of energy in the skin, required to make new skin and maintain function and health.