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Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Risks of Manicures and Artificial Nails

A manicure may look beautiful, but some chemicals involved in the process of getting one, especially the application of artificial nails, can affect the health of your nails, the surrounding skin, and other parts of the body.

Manicures and Allergic Reactions

“The development of an allergy to chemicals in nail products is the same mechanism that occurs with skin allergy to an allergen like poison ivy,” says Phoebe Rich, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.

These reactions may include:

  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Burning

These are symptoms of what’s called a contact allergy. Although they may be limited to the area around and underneath the nail, they can also occur around the face and neck. This type of reaction might be difficult to diagnose because you may not immediately connect a recent manicure with a reaction elsewhere on the body, and you may not think to mention it to your doctor when seeking treatment.

If you develop an allergic reaction, you need to avoid using that product again. “Once the allergy develops,” says Dr. Rich, “you will always be allergic to that substance and your skin will react with itching and burning when it is re-exposed.” And symptoms may occur with subsequent exposure to different chemicals; one chemical can make you allergic to others in a reaction called cross-reactivity.

What Can Cause an Allergic Reaction During a Manicure

Allergic reactions may occur with:

  • Artificial nails
  • Base coat
  • Top coat
  • Hardener
  • Nail polish

These reactions could be harmful to the customer and the technician. Says Rich, “Solvents may cause asthma to flare, and it is not clear if there is an effect on the baby if a woman is pregnant.”

Manicure and Artificial Nail Allergen Alert

Ingredients in artificial nails to watch out for include:

  • Ethyl methacrylate in sculptured nails
  • Benzophenone in nail gels
  • Ethyl cyanoacrylate and butylphenol formaldehyde in adhesive
  • Tricresyl ethyl phthalate in plasticizer

Ingredients in base coats, top coats, hardeners, and nail polishes to watch out for include:

  • Toluene sulfonamide formaldehyde resin (TSFR) in polish
  • Nickel in mixing beads in polish
  • Thermoplastic resin in polish
  • Formaldehyde resin in hardeners

To avoid problems with allergies, ask your manicurist or dermatologist to do a patch test (normally on the underside of the forearm) or to attach just one artificial nail to see if you have a reaction.

Try using TSFR-free polishes, which are less allergenic. However, polishes without this ingredient don’t last as long and still contain chemicals such as methyl acrylate, which can cause irritation.

Manicure Chemicals That Can Irritate Your Skin

While some chemicals are notorious for causing contact allergies, other ingredients can simply irritate the nail, both around and underneath it, sometimes causing the nail to separate from the nail bed.

This may occur with:

  • Methacrylic acid in primers
  • Formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, and isopropyl alcohol in nail hardeners
  • Sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide in cuticle removal creams and liquids
  • Acetone, alcohol, ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and methyl ethyl acetone in nail polish remover

To avoid irritant issues, don’t use chemicals to remove cuticles. For best nail health, simply soak your nails in warm water, then gently push the cuticles back. Also, cut back on how often you remove and reapply nail polish.

Other Manicure Health Concerns

Some chemicals can dry out the nail and can cause brittle nails, or make existing problems worse, Rich says.

Also, if nail polish contains a yellow dye, as many reds and pinks do, it can stain the nail. This does not necessarily damage it, but if you try scraping off the stain, you will thin the nails and possibly split or break them.

And then there’s infection. Any damage to the skin around and under the nails can open up small wounds. Infection is a virtual given if tissue around the nail or cuticle is injured during the manicure, and could result in your losing the nail. “Be sure that implements are clean and that you are careful not to cut the cuticle when grooming nails,” advises Rich.

Manicure Safety Measures

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates only some chemicals used in cosmetic nail products. “They regulate the concentration of formaldehyde [up to 3 percent] allowed in nail cosmetics,” says Rich. Also, the FDA recommends that a formaldehyde-containing product not touch the skin “to minimize the problem with allergic sensitization on the skin,” adds Rich.

The use of one chemical in particular, methyl methacrylate (MMA), has been severely restricted in the United States since the 1970s as it can cause nail deformities and fungal infections, but some salons have been found using it. The American Academy of Dermatology says MMA can be recognized by an unfamiliar smell, and by artificial nails that are very hard, difficult to shape, and almost impossible to remove. Contact your state cosmetology board or the FDA if you suspect a salon is using this product.

When You Need to See a Doctor

If a product stings or itches, stop using it, Rich advises. If that doesn’t fix the problem, see your doctor. In mild cases, a hydrocortisone cream is usually recommended. With a severe case, oral prednisone or a cortisone shot may be prescribed.

If you develop an allergy, a visit to a dermatologist may be a good idea. A dermatologist can test you for your reactions to a variety of known allergens to see what specifically you are allergic to.

The Beauty of Mineral Makeup

Mineral makeup has become popular for many reasons: It’s eco-friendly, looks good, and feels light on the face. And because TV infomercials and the celebrities who use and recommend it, mineral makeup has gotten a lot of media attention.

“Mineral makeup has been around for 30 years or more, but has recently regained popularity in the cosmetics industry,” says Scott Gerrish, MD, of Gerrish and Associates, PC, a nonsurgical skin care specialist with offices in Virginia and Maryland. “Mineral makeup was originally used by plastic surgeons and dermatologists on patients after cosmetic procedures to cover the redness and soreness.”

Is mineral makeup right for you? Read on to find out.

The Magic Behind Mineral Makeup

Mineral makeup is made from pure, crushed minerals and will not cake on the skin: It allows the skin to breathe and gives you a lighter, more natural look than traditionalmakeup. “Mineral makeup comes in powdered, pressed, and liquid forms and has beneficial properties for your skin,” says Helga Surratt, President of About Faces Day Spa & Salon, in Towson, Md.

It is ideal for all skin types, all skin tones, and women of all ages. Mineral makeup looks great, feels great, and helps to bring out your natural glow. “But take care to read the labels and make sure you’re getting pure mineral makeup,” Surratt says.

Why Mineral Makeup May Be Better

  • Mineral makeup won’t clog pores or irritate. As Pam Messy of Mary Kay Cosmetics in Owings Mills, Md., says, “Regular makeup contains artificial chemicals or preservatives, whereas true mineral makeup does not. Mineral makeup is hypoallergenic and usually safe to use on any skin.” It’s also free of oil, talc, perfume, dyes, alcohol, and other potentially irritating and comedogenic, or pore-clogging, ingredients, Surratt says.
  • Mineral makeup ingredients can soothe skin. What it does contain are natural anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as zinc and titanium oxides, which help calm the skin when it’s irritated. These ingredients also offer protection from UVA, UVB, and infrared sun rays. “Read the label, as you want at least an SPF of 15,” Surratt says.
  • Mineral makeup acts as a great concealer. Need to hide imperfections? Mineral makeup is lightweight and conceals, corrects, and covers pigmentations and lines on your face while still allowing your skin to breathe. “It offers skin-enhancing benefits. It smoothes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, conceals blotchiness, and improves the appearance of skin with acne or rosacea,” Gerrish says. Mineral makeup doesn’t need many touch-ups because it has water-resistant qualities that provide long-lasting coverage, another plus.

“Pure mineral makeup is so harmless you can almost sleep in it,” says Messy, “though I always recommend removing all makeup before going to bed, and applying a good moisturizer.”

While no form of makeup is perfect, mineral makeup products can help you avoid harsh preservatives and chemicals while hiding those fine lines and little flaws. You may never go back to regular makeup because of the way mineral makeup looks and feels on your face.

How to Use an Eyelash Curler

Eyeliner, eye shadow, and mascara are standard tools in any makeup kit. But makeup pros know that using an eyelash curler can further enhance your eyes by making them look wider and brighter. Inexpensive and easy to use, an eyelash curler is also safe if used properly. Read on for information about types of eyelash curlers and step-by-step instructions.

Eyelash Curler Options

There are two types of eyelash curlers — the conventional clamp-down kind and the newer heated eyelash curler. “Although manual or heated curlers can be used to curl the lashes, the effects are only temporary, from day to day,” notes lash stylist Twanna Smith, owner of Glam Eyelash and Brow Bar Salon in Duluth, GA.

Traditional eyelash curler.

This curler is metal and has the same kind of handles you’d find on a pair of scissors. The handles open and close a clamp that, when squeezed tight for a few seconds, produces the curl. The curling end has a rubber pad to protect delicate eyelashes from the metal clamp. The curler works by crimping your lashes up toward your brow, making them look longer and more pronounced. “Look for an eyelash curler that’s curved, not straight,” advises Candice Torres of Younique. “The curved base conforms well to the natural shape of the eye and can get closer to your lash line without pinching.” Be sure to choose a model with a good-sized pad to press against your lashes as well as a natural shaped handle, which will be easier to hold, she suggests. To avoid possible infection, you’ll want to replace the pad on the curler every two months. An eyelash curler typically costs between $5 and $25, depending on the brand and the store. Consider buying a replacement pack of the rubber pads at the same time.

Heated eyelash curlers.

Heated eyelash curlers are another option. Some use a small heated brush rather than a clamp to curl the eyelashes. You run the heated brush from the base of the lashes to the tip, working from the center of the eye out to the edges. Heated eyelash curlers cost from $10 to $20.

Step-by-Step Advice From the Pros

If you have one of the newer, heated curlers, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you prefer the traditional, inexpensive model, follow these tips to get the best curl.

Start with clean lashes.

For the best results, make sure to remove any old mascara from your eyelashes before you curl them. Old mascara can clog your curler or cause your lashes to clump, Torres explains, so it’s important to remove it. Use a gentle, oil-free eye makeup remover; any oil on the lashes would cause your new application of mascara to smudge. “The mascara will go on so much easier when your lashes are curled and more easily accessible,” Torres says. “I have naturally stick-straight lashes, so it’s hard to reach every little hair unless I curl them first.”

Next, do your eyelid makeup.

“Put your eyeshadow and liner on first, then curl your lashes and add your favorite mascara,” Torres says.

Clamp with care.

“Open the eyelash curler — and your eyes — and place your upper lashes between the padded base and the top,” Torres says. “Wiggle the eyelash curler into place, trying to get as close to your upper lash line/eyelid without pinching the skin. Don’t be scared — just go slowly if it’s your first time. “Close the clamp with the handle and gently squeeze in place for 10 to 15 seconds.”

To avoid a sharp bend and to create a natural curled look, gently release the curler and move it up the lash, away from the lid, by one or two millimeters, and again clamp the lashes for five to 10 seconds. Gently release the curler and repeat the process one or two more times, moving the curler up the lashes, closer to the end of the lashes each time.

You can repeat the process if you feel that your eyelashes are not sufficiently curled. Once you’re satisfied, add mascara. “In order to maintain the most curl, try to find a formula that’s not too wet or heavy,” Torres says.

You might need a little practice — to learn how to maneuver eyelashes through the clamp, how to comfortably clamp down, and how to use mascara to maintain that curl. But in very little time, you’ll create beautiful, long lashes with almost no effort.

Take Care of Your Lashes

You might have the best curler and mascara on the market, but it won’t help you if you don’t care for your lashes.

“The main problem with lashes is people tend to unconsciously fiddle with them, which can lead to shedding,” cautions dermatologist Lisa M. Donofrio, MD, associate clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. ” Side sleepers may also repeatedly crush their lashes, which can lead to lash loss over time.”

Dr. Donofrio recommends talking to your dermatologist if your lashes seem sparse — you may be able to use a prescription or over-the-counter serum to spur lusher lash growth. Or, when a curler isn’t enough, eyelash extensions may be option, Smith suggests. These individual lashes, applied along your own lash line, can last for up to six weeks with the right care.

Tips to Use a Skin Exfoliant

Our skin is constantly renewing itself, growing new skin cells to replace the surface skin cells that grow old, die, and fall, or slough, off. Every minute of every day, between 30,000 and 40,000 dead skin cells flake away.

Factors like age and dry skin can mean that dead skin cells don’t fall away as easily as they should. When these cells build up, they can make the complexion look rough and pasty and can also contribute to the clogged pores that lead to adult acne. The regular yet careful use of a skin exfoliant can help slough off dead skin cells and uncover fresh, more youthful skin.

There are two main types of skin exfoliants: mechanical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants. Both are commonly available, and both have pros and cons regarding their use and the types of skin conditions for which they are most appropriate.

Mechanical Skin Exfoliants

Mechanical exfoliants work by sanding off dead skin cells using mildly abrasive substances. These skin exfoliants typically are facial scrubs, creamy cleansers with tiny, rough particles. As you gently massage the exfoliant over the surface of your face and skin, the friction works to loosen the old skin cells.

Mechanical skin exfoliants are readily available in drugstores and easy to use. They are particularly good for people with oily skin or acne, as they remove skin cells and debris that clog pores, but only if you don’t scrub too hard as this can cause further irritation.

However, mechanical exfoliants can be harsh. When you use them, you’re literally sanding away the outer layer of your skin. Some contain particles so jagged and rough that they could actually cut the skin. Because of this, dermatologists recommend using a gentle motion when using a skin exfoliant, and skipping them altogether if you have sensitive skin.

Chemical Skin Exfoliants

A chemical skin exfoliant uses gentle acids to dissolve whatever bonds are preventing the outer layer of dead skin cells from falling off your face and body. There are two main types of chemical skin exfoliants, those that include an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and those that include a beta hydroxy acid (BHA):

  • Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from different foods, from fruits, such as apples and grapes, to milk. Some of the most common AHAs to look for on product labels are glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, alpha-hydroxyoctanoic acid, and triple fruit acid. An alpha hydroxy acid is best for people with dry or thickened skin.
  • Beta hydroxy acids are the chemical cousins of alpha hydroxy acids, but are more oil-soluble and therefore better at exfoliating oily skin or acne-prone skin. The best known beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid. On product labels, look for salicylate, sodium salicylate, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, or tropic acid.

Alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid skin care products tend to be less harsh on the skin than mechanical exfoliants. They also help refresh the skin in ways a facial scrub can’t: They lower the skin’s pH level and help smooth small, shallow wrinkles, improving the look of skin that is dry or sun damaged.

Finding the right formulation for your skin involves some trial and error. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you should choose alpha hydroxy acid-based chemical exfoliants with an alpha hydroxy acid concentration of 10 percent or less and a pH of 3.5 or more. Beta hydroxy acid-based exfoliants containing salicylic acid are effective at levels of 1.5 to 2 percent. Using stronger solutions can cause skin irritation.

Another caveat: These types of exfoliants increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun for as long as a week after each use. Before going out, always apply sunscreen — a skin-saving recommendation for everyone.

How and When to Use Exfoliants

You should not use an exfoliant every day. Your skin needs time to regenerate its topmost layer, which exfoliation strips away. People with dry skin should only exfoliate once or twice a week, while those with oily skin can exfoliate two to four times a week. Stop using an exfoliant if you find your skin becoming irritated or developing a rash. Remember to moisturize your skin after exfoliating, to soothe it and keep it from drying out.