August 28, 2012

Retinoids: How these Anti-aging Agents Work

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A.  Naturally vitamin A is in carrots, tomatoes and red vegetables. In skin care products, retinol and other derivatives know as retinoic acid, retinaldehyde, and retinal are synthetic compounds developed for their amazing effects on the skin. As a class, they are known as Retinoids and they work by increasing cell turnover, decreasing sebum (oil content of the skin), and decreasing bacterial content.  These effects help improve acne, however retinoids have also been proven to increase collagen production in the skin which also visibly reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinoids, however, can be very difficult to use.  Over-use of the product can lead to redness, irritation and scaling of the skin.  Many people say they are "allergic" to retinoids because they have used them either in too high a quantity or too often and have gotten a red, irritated reaction. These products need to be used in small amounts very infrequently with a slow upward titration.  I often recommend a pea size amount mixed in with your night moisturizer once a week and slowly increasing the frequency if there is no redness or peeling. 

They are wonderful products and provide amazing anti-aging benefits if used correctly!

August 16, 2012

Oral Sunscreen: Get the facts here!

Recent studies have been exploring the efficacy of oral supplements to be used as “oral sunscreen.” Let’s talk about what these supplements are, if they actually work to your benefit, and whether they should be a part of your sun protection regimen. 

Heliocare® is just one example of “oral sunscreen” products on the market. Like others of its kind, it consists of a fern extract called Polypodium leucotomos extract (PLE) in combination with other antioxidants, specifically green tea extract and beta-carotene. Antioxidants, as we know, can have a number of positive effects on your skin by reducing cell damage in your body. PLE works like an antioxidant and acts as a “sunscreen” by preserving the structure of your skin. How does it do this? Without getting too technical, the antioxidant nature of PLE can protect the cells in your skin by preventing the production of “free radicals,” molecules which can cause damage to your cells’ DNA and have been long-associated with different types of cancer. 

For decades, PLE has been used to provide relief of other skin conditions including psoriasis, dermatitis, and vitiligo. No long-term negative effects have been associated with consumption of this fern extract as a dietary supplement. Potential interactions between PLE and other drugs have not been thoroughly explored, however it is suspected to have effects on efficacy of heart medications. 

So do oral supplements work as sunscreen? NO. You will still get a sunburn if you stay in the sun. Antioxidants can protect your skin cells, however they will not prevent the changes UV light makes on your skin. Current evidence does not suggest that that this dietary supplement is harmful, but sun avoidance is truly the only way to protect yourself from skin cancer and the appearance of aged, sun damaged skin. 

Regardless of your skin type, history of sun exposure, and history of skin cancer, you should physically cover your skin by wearing wide-brimmed hats, staying under a large umbrella, and applying sunscreen with at least SPF 60 daily. 

By Lily Talakoub MD and Seville Nagia

August 15, 2012

The Truth about Sunscreen

Sunscreen products protect us from future skin cancer, premature aging, and other damaging effects. But with all the products on drug store shelves, what factors should we look for? 

Here are some tips:

1. SPF “sun protection factor” is used to measure your sunburn protection. SPF 15 allows you to stay out 15 times longer than without protection. However SPF only refers to your protection from UVB rays.

2. Pick a broad spectrum sunscreen. Broad spectrum means that the sunscreen protects against both UVA & UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper than UVB rays, which can cause skin cancers and accelerate skin aging. UVB rays are burning rays. Broad spectrum has ingredients such as 5% zinc oxide or avobenzone. 

3. The FDA has announced that sunscreens with SPF 15 and lower with broad-spectrum coverage cannot include anti-aging and anticancer print on their labels. Studies have shown that SPFs below 15 do not provide an adequate level of sun protection. 

4. Waterproof and sweat-proof products no longer exist. Sunscreen comes off as you go in the water or even when you perspire. New labeling will now say “water-resistant”. You must reapply every 40 to 80 minutes. 

5. To get the SPF protection on the label, you must use a “shot glass” amount to cover your face. If you use less than that, you are not getting the SPF on the label. So go higher in SPF if you are using less quantity of sunscreen.

By: Lily Talakoub MD and Tiffany Poetranto 

August 7, 2012

Harmful Skincare Products

Many women turn towards cosmetics to help boost their confidence. A woman’s image plays a significant role in how they perceive and interact with each other. This explains why women put so much effort into enhancing their beauty, through make-up for instance. However, factors women often ignore are the possible health issues that arise from hidden chemicals used in cosmetics. This further raises the question, can something that enhances our beauty be hazardous to our health? And what should women look out for when purchasing their favorite brands?

Lipstick, for instance, is a universal branch of make-up that has been carried in women’s bags for decades. But do we ever ask ourselves; exactly what are we applying onto our lips?

Parabens are one of the most common preservatives used in cosmetics. Although parabens increase the shelf life of most beauty products, they posses harmful chemicals that are associated with estrogenic effects and carcinogenicity.

The most popular lipstick brands contain a few of the following hidden chemicals: methylparaben, polymethl methacrylate, propylparaben, retinyl palmitate, and tocopheryl.   

Research has revealed that methylparaben, labeled as a highly hazardous preservative by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), may be linked to cancer as it has also been banned in the EU (but not in the US). Also very hazardous, propylmethyl which may cause allergic reactions. Likewise, tocopheryl acetate may cause skin blistering, itching and hives.  

As each chemical is ranked at its own degree of “hazard” by the Environmental Working Group, they all have similar effects on the human body. Studies show that after these toxins have been absorbed through ones skin, they may cause hormone disruption, neurological problems, and reproductive disorders.

It’s not just lipstick that women need to be cautious of, but a variety of beauty products. eMaxHealth claims that cadmium has been found in eyeliners, nickel in powders, beryllium in bronzers and arsenic in some foundations.

Although it is difficult to completely eliminate these hidden chemicals from our daily use, it is important to remain conscious of what we apply on our skin. Some women tend to use excessive amounts of make-up to “cover up” but, with all the hazardous effects that arise from make-up use, it’s important to bear in mind that less is more! 

All these chemicals may discourage women from purchasing make-up however, this is not a realistic solution. For a list of products with hazardous chemicals, go to or for any questions concerning cosmetics and skincare, contact Dr. Talakoub at 703-356-5111.

 By: Lily Talakoub and Tugce Erguven