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Skin Care Tips

Chemical Exfoliators Part 2: Acids

Chemical Exfoliators Part 2: Acids

What is Acid Exfoliation?

Acid exfoliation is the most common and well-known type of exfoliation. While extremely effective, it is a type that is easy to overuse and is the most susceptible form to user error. The two primary types of acid exfoliation are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs).

Many skincare users either use the wrong type of acid for their skin type, causing a reaction resulting in the discontinuing of acid use altogether; or they use too many formulations at once (many treatment products, even if not specifically marketed as an exfoliant, have some type of acid, so it’s easy to unknowingly stack many within a single routine), or use too strong of acid products that compromise their skin barrier. Both incompatible products and overuse are equally detrimental to the skin.

Currently, exfoliating acids are seen everywhere in the marketplace – and for good reason! You can find strong acids on shelves of department stores, physician offices, and in drugstores. Why is this? First, they are clinically proven ingredients that work for a variety of skin issues ranging from acne to wrinkles. Furthermore, they are relatively inexpensive ingredients, so it doesn’t cost much to add them to a product’s ingredient deck. However, not all acids are created or formulated equal. The acid type used is only as good as the formulation it sits in. Also, there are now a plethora of ways that acids are formulated, utilizing varying patented transportation systems. You will see ‘encapsulated’ acids, which are used to time-release the acid in small doses over a longer period of time. In this way, it reduces side effects from acid use which is a plus as it allows the user to incorporate more treatment products without over exasperating the skin for maximum benefits.


How to Choose an Acid

When choosing acids, it is best to focus on percentage and pH. These two factors are what determines how ‘strong’ the acid will be. If you are new to acids, it is important to start with a lower percentage acid with a higher pH. The percentage of the acid is typically listed on the product packaging or website. However, the pH of the product can sometimes be harder to find. When it is unknown, choose one that says it is ‘gentle’ or for sensitive skin. A good and normal acid pH is typically 3-4. The pH level of various acids will play a large role in the good and adverse effects of acids.


How to Apply

Consumers need to make sure they are aware of the acids in their skincare and choose one from a trusted brand or a clinically proven product. Also, make sure that you are not layering acids that are not meant to be used simultaneously. Sometimes using too many acids can cause superficial burns or degrade the skin’s barrier. Other times, using acids with various serums and active products can make the product ineffective. There is no point in spending $300 for a serum that is rendered ineffective due to the acid applied before or after. When in doubt, consult a skincare professional or use products that are formulated or know to be used together. Also, it is recommended not to use an acid in the same routine as an active serum.


When to Apply

When an ingredient can cause you to burn from standard sun exposure it is known as being photosensitizing. There is much debate on the photosensitivity of acids, and that debate is often centralized in when you should apply certain acids. Historically, it has been advised to use acids exclusively at night, due to the fact they can cause this sun sensitivity or photosensitivity, ultimately contradicting the application of skincare as it will increase the rate of skin aging. However, some modern acids, like Poly Hydroxy Acids (PHAs) do not cause the same sun sensitivity as their predecessors - AHAs & BHAs - due to being a less aggressive acid.

Another modern debate of acids lies in whether they themselves are actually photosensitizing to the skin. The debate can get lengthy, but the main take away is that the acid itself may not cause sun sensitivity, but rather the side effect of strong acids on unexfoliated skin can strip the skin of a natural SPF (the dead skin layer) and cause some to burn more easily. Typically, it is still widely advised to use acids at nighttime, unless the specific product or manufacturer states otherwise.


Types of Acids

Currently, AHAs & BHAs are ingredient types used the most in skincare and are in almost every category of product, including cleansers, masks, moisturizers, serums, and even alongside retinols. Consequently, the overuse of acids is increasing as well. It is important to be mindful of the skincare ingredients in your products and try not to use too many sequential steps containing various acids. For example, you wouldn’t want to use an acid cleanser, toner, serum, and/or moisturizer all in the same routine. A good rule of thumb is to incorporate an acid product in either your morning or nighttime routine 3-4x/ week and build up to once a day. Some thicker, less sensitive skin types can tolerate multiple exfoliating ingredients in the same routine, but a lot depends on the strength and pH of the products being applied..

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

AHAs are used for a wide variety of skin concerns, and they are a powerful tool for skin health and anti-aging. However, they are probably the most overused acid in skincare. These acids include glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric, mandelic, and malic acid. AHAs are extremely beneficial to the skin and can be tolerated in small quantities by most all skin types, excluding those with extremely sensitive or dry skin.

Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

Most notoriously used for acne, BHAs are a powerful tool that clears out pores by absorbing oil and removing dead skin cells. However, BHAs are also good at combating hyperpigmentation and rosacea. The most primary form of BHA used in skincare is Salicylic Acid which is derived from willow bark. The percentage of Salicylic Acid should be between .5%-2%. Some products will contain higher percentages, but unless known to be formulated gently, I wouldn’t exceed a 2% BHA.


Harben House's Acid Exfoliation Recommendations:

Normal to Oily Skin

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Acneic Skin

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For Wrinkle Reduction

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Dry Skin

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Normal or Combination Skin

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Sensitive Skin

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Chemical Exfoliators Part 1: Enzymes

Chemical Exfoliators Part 1: Enzymes

Most have heard of top chemical exfoliators Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), but enzyme exfoliants haven’t yet received the notoriety they deserve. Active enzymes are just as important as other prominent cell-sloughing ingredients, and for some, are a powerful everyday solution against accelerated skin aging.


What are Enzymes?

An enzyme is a protein substance formed by organic matter to catalyze a certain chemical reaction. More simply put, enzymes cause and speed up the many vital functions of our body, including the break down process of some protein substances within the skin. Most enzymes in skincare come from a variety of plant-based sources such as fruit-types like papaya, pineapple, and cranberry; from grass-like plants such as bamboo and lemongrass; while some enzymes are even gathered from animals, like baby salmon!

A Few Examples of Skincare Enzyme's Origin

Also of note, enzymes are extremely active to the point where scientist have debated describing them as being alive. We won’t get into the debate now, but what is important to note is that enzymes remain active when in suitable conditions. Therefore, if you apply a serum or cream with an active enzyme, it will continue to chip away at dead skin cells until it is physically washed away or destabilized.


How are Enzymes Used in Skincare?

Enzymes work to gently break down protein buildup on your skin – a perk compared to acid exfoliants that can be too harsh for healing skin or those with sensitive skin. Like we discussed in our first blog on exfoliation, our skin is constantly removing dead skin at its own pace (which is good!), but we should either physically or chemically assist in this process to quicken cellular turnover, which is ultimately anti-aging. The dead skin on the outer surface of our skin is held together by proteins, which enzymes work to exfoliate by breaking down these proteins. In doing so, it loosens up the bonds and helps release the dead skin without physically scrubbing it away or using a stronger, deeper acid exfoliation. Hence the reason enzymes are a much gentler approach to exfoliating. However, due to being gentler, they can take longer to take effect than other forms of exfoliation.


Which Skincare Products Contain Enzymes?

Like other exfoliants, most enzyme exfoliators come in cleansers and masks, but enzymes can also be found in some serums and moisturizers. Formulating products with enzymes can be tricky due to their unstable and ever-changing nature. Some enzyme ingredients are easier to work with than other active forms.

Top skincare brands, like Restorsea, have based their entire skincare line around enzymes. Restorsea’s enzyme, Aquabeautine XL, is derived from salmon roe. This enzyme is released upon the hatching of baby salmon within the shell and is unique because it is strong enough to break apart the outer, hard shell layer but gentle enough not to harm the delicate salmon roe. More information about Restorsea’s enzyme, AqubeautineXL, can be find on our blog titled, "Salmon Egg Skincare? Restorsea’s One-Of-A-Kind Aquatic Exfoliant".

All of Restorsea’s products contain this patented enzyme, however, they have had to discontinue some of their products in the past due to the overactive state of the enzyme. Since the enzyme is somewhat ‘alive’, or continuously active, it has caused erratic color changes to some products and has even caused deterioration of some of the product’s packaging. Therefore, Restorsea had to discontinue the products due to the inconsistent output of the products color and state. Though these may be considered examples of faults, it has absolutely piqued our interest as you can see the product at work and know that the active ingredients truly are active!


What is the Best Enzyme Exfoliant?

Personally, I like to use enzyme exfoliants in cleansers and mask, with an occasional lotion or serum. Masks like the Osmosis Polish Mask and iS Clinical’s TriActive Exfoliating Mask are among my favorites. Enzyme cleansers are some of my favorites as well, although you are not getting the full effect of the enzyme by washing it off so quickly. I do, however, think that enzyme cleanser are a great tool, because really anything in your cleanser is getting washed off as well. Some of my favorite enzyme cleansers are the Revision Papaya Cleanser and LeahLani Tropical Enzyme Cleansing Oil.

Leave-on products will give the enzyme the most time to work, but you want to be careful if you have reactive skin. Since the enzyme is active, it can continuously chip away at the dead skin, and can cause some skin sensitivity at first. However, some find that using leave-on enzymes can replace and be an alternative to some other exfoliating products, like retinols, for those who don’t tolerate it well. Restorsea’s Rebalancing Lotion is a great retinol alternative and leave-on enzyme product as is their All Day Every Day Lotion 3x which is in their PRO, physician-only dispensed line. My personal favorite leave-on enzyme exfoliant from Restorsea, or any skincare brand, is their Intensive Hand Treatment 10X and Firming Eye Serum, both of which are in their PRO line as well.

Harben House's Top 3 Enzyme Cleansers

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Physical Exfoliation - 3 Types: Scrubs, Treatments & Tools

Physical Exfoliation - 3 Types: Scrubs, Treatments & Tools

What is a Physical Exfoliant?

Physical exfoliation is when you use a product or device to manually scrub, rub, or scrape off dead skin. You can achieve this type of exfoliation with skincare products, in-office treatments, or tools. Most product types containing a physical exfoliant component will be scrubs, masks, and cleansers, and that component is almost always something that is washed off your skin. Additionally, there are various treatments and tools that can be done either professionally or at home to physically exfoliate, and we will discuss those as well.


1. Skincare Scrubs

Physical exfoliating scrubs have gotten a bad rep in the past due to some of the early made products that could make micro-tears in the skin and cause more harm than good - think St. Ives Apricot Scrub featuring walnut shells. However, not all scrubs are abrasive, and there are many new products that use much gentler physical exfoliating ingredients. Most products use natural physical exfoliants like Jojoa beads which are gentle, soft beads for a light exfoliation. A combo of physical and chemical exfoliating ingredients is often seen together and the physical aspect will certainly assist with removing dead skin cells. Most older scrubs and physical exfoliants contained plastic microbeads that worked well but were deemed dangerous to the environment.

In 2015 the FDA banned the manufacturing of plastic microbeads in the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which didn’t go into effect until July of last year. After this law was passed, all product manufacturers had to find a natural or environmentally friendly way to develop these cosmetic scrubs. The only effected medical-grade product Harben House carried was the SkinMedica GlyPro Exfoliating Cleanser, which unfortunately contained these plastic microbeads and was thus discontinued.

Too much physical exfoliation can cause over-sensitivity and adverse reactions within the skin. Like everything else, moderation is key. Look for scrubs, masks, and cleansers that have small and soft beads instead of large, course, and hard exfoliants.

Harben House's Top 3 Physical Exfoliants

Eco-friendly micro-beads

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Ultra-fine crystals

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Alumina (Corrundum Crystals)

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2. In-Office Treatments

There are many skincare treatments that can be professionally done to physically exfoliate, such as HydraFacials, microdermabrasion, dermaplaning (or dermaleveling), and many more.

Treatment Types:

  • Professional treatments, HydraFacial and/or Dermal Infusion, simultaneously hydrate and exfoliate the skin. They achieve this by using an exfoliating tip which includes a blade along with suction. Together these aspects of the device dislodge and removes debris on the top layer of skin and sucks impurities from the pores. After cleansing and exfoliating it then pushes hydrating products into the skin with their patented systems.

 

  • Treatments like Microdermabrasion use either a diamond shape wand or sand crystals to physical remove the dead skin. Abrasion procedures are performed in-office by professionals and can be done a couple of times per month.
  • Dermaplaing, or as some call it “dermaleveling”, is when an aesthetician uses a scalpel blade to remove the top layer of skin. In doing so, hair is also removed, so it leaves your skin feeling extra soft and smooth. A similar treatment can be achieved at home by simply shaving the face with a traditional shaving razor or using single-bladed razors that can be purchased from places like Sephora. Some studies show that men tend to show signs of aging slower than women due to the consistent shaving, and therefore consistent physical exfoliation, of their face

3. At-Home Tools

Like the Sephora Level Setter Blades mentioned above, there are many OTC products you can purchase that will achieve manual exfoliation. A familiar one is the Clarisonic Cleansing Brushes that many people swear by. Even though these are designed for aiding with cleansing the face, they also cause a manual exfoliation by gently wiping away dead skin cells with their cleansing bristles. Additionally, there are now silicone devices like the Foreo as well as sponges, loofas, & mitts that all aim to offer some form of manual exfoliation.

This category, specifically, is where consumers need to be cautious. It is easy to over exfoliate and cause micro-tears in the skin with some of these devices when using to frequently or harshly. Try to choose one that is soft and designed primarily for the face. Also, perform a patch test on your arm, chest, or another body region, before fully committing to use on your face - a good note for skincare scrubs as well.

Like the Sephora Level Setter Blades linked above, there are many OTC products you can purchase that will achieve manual exfoliation. A familiar one is the Clarisonic Cleansing Brushes that many people swear by. Even though these are designed for aiding with cleansing the face, they also cause a manual exfoliation by gently wiping away dead skin cells with their cleansing bristles. Additionally, there are now silicone devices like the Foreo as well as sponges, loofas, & mitts that all aim to offer some form of manual exfoliation.

This category, specifically, is where consumers need to be cautious. It is easy to over exfoliate and cause micro-tears in the skin with some of these devices when using to frequently or harshly. Try to choose one that is soft and designed primarily for the face. Also, perform a patch test on your arm, chest, or another body region, before fully committing to use on your face - a good note for skincare scrubs as well.


Further Exfoliation

Scrubs, procedures and tools are the three main types of physical exfoliation. You do not need all these forms to achieve perfect skin, but you can achieve physical exfoliation with any one of them. I would play around with different products, treatments, and tools to see which form works best for your skin type. An easy and cost-effective way is to start is with one of the scrubs and work your way up the line from there.

Chemical exfoliation will be our next topic and is a critical part of your skincare routine, but don’t forget to occasionally physically exfoliate as well.

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Harben House’s 1-year Anniversary Gift with Purchase. A $500 value!

Harben House’s 1-year Anniversary Gift with Purchase. A $500 value!

Our most recent Gift Bag, an 11-piece kit valued at $500, celebrating our 1-year anniversary has now sold out, but the next gift (unveiling later this year!) is already in the works. If you’re new here or missed out on the current one, this breakdown of all 3 previous bags will give an idea of what we have to offer.

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Harben House's TOP 4 RETINOLS & RETINOL ALTERNATIVES OF 2019

Harben House's TOP 4 RETINOLS & RETINOL ALTERNATIVES OF 2019

A nightly retinol is one of the most important skincare staples that most everyone should include within their skincare regimen. Retinol is a potent form of Vitamin A, which is best applied at night to prevent and reverse the signs of aging. It is the counterpart to a daily Vitamin C serum in the morning. Below are Harben House’s top retinol products of 2019 that have impressed us the most!

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Pregnancy Safe Skin Care - Best Products for Skin Changes

Pregnancy Safe Skin Care - Best Products for Skin Changes

I typically go with the motto “when in doubt, go without”. During my pregnancies and now being a mother of young children, if the safety of a product or ingredient is debatable or iffy, I believe it’s best to simply avoid it. I’ve especially found that using organic or “clean” skincare is beneficial for certain areas during this expecting time, so let me guide you on the product types not to skip over that will benefit you most during pregnancy.

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All Shades of the New Osmosis CC Cream Now Here!

All Shades of the New Osmosis CC Cream Now Here!

Osmosis CC Creams are now back in-stock! After a brief hiatus due to packaging redesign, we’re happy to say that the update was a success and we’ve fallen for the CC Cream ($44) all over again. Let's take a second to explain how the redesign makes this color correcting cream even better, the magic involved to get the perfect base color-match, and why you need to try it out for yourself.

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Our Top 6 Favorite Skin Care Items Under $40

Our Top 6 Favorite Skin Care Items Under $40

We love our super serums and luxurious moisturizer that may have an investment piece price tag, but let’s acknowledge the fantastic and effective skin care that can be found for much, much less.  In no particular order, Harben House’s top 6 products under $40:

1. Baby Foot Exfoliant Foot Peel - $25

2. Suzan Obagi MD Cleansing Wipes - $20

3. iS Clinical Cleansing Complex (2 oz) - $24

4. Truth Treatment Systems Transdermal C Serum - $39

5. RevitaLash Micellar Water Lash Wash - $36

6. All EltaMD Sunscreen $10-$34

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SkinMedica vs. Skinbetter Science vs. SkinCeuticals vs. Neocutis. Which Skincare Brand is Best?

SkinMedica vs. Skinbetter Science vs. SkinCeuticals vs. Neocutis. Which Skincare Brand is Best?

“Which is better?!” I get this question often when customers ask between one brand or the other. Purchasing medical-grade skincare is often a pricey investment, takes weeks and sometimes months of consistent use to see true results, and can change your daily appearance and thus your attitude, so picking the best product from the best brand is the #1 goal. Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this seemingly simple question, but these tips will help you make your choice.

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