Is Cheaper Better When It Comes to Sunscreen?

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If a sunscreen costs more money, it must be better, right? Wrong.

I’ve been telling my patients for years that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on sunscreens (or facial cleansers) because most brands have similar active ingredients. Now, I’ve got back up: A new Consumer Reports study of sunscreens shows that inexpensive store brand options were among the best.

Consumer Reports examined 12 sunscreens for their effectiveness at protecting against UVA and UVB rays — both of which cause skin cancer. Top honors went to Target’s Up & Up Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50 and Wal-Mart’s Equate Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50 which were also among the least expensive. Other high-scoring sunscreens included: Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 Lotion and Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50.

So you don’t have to buy expensive department-store facial cleansers to have clean, healthy skin. But if you’re using an expensive facial cleanser and love it, then keep using it.

Photo credit: stockmonkeys.com

Best Budget Facial Cleansers For Different Skin Types

sudso b & w

Is a $46 facial cleanser better than a $6 one? That usually depends more on the user than on the products. The truth is most facial cleansers, no matter the price, have similar active ingredients. So you don’t have to buy expensive department-store facial cleansers to have clean, healthy skin. But if you’re using an expensive facial cleanser and love it, then by all means continue to do so.

Every day in my office, I have at least a couple of patients ask me what I recommend for affordable facial cleansers, which I consider to be under $15. Here’s what I tell them to look for in a facial cleanser:

1. Avoid harsh bar soaps which strip natural oils off your skin, leaving your face dry and tight. See all those suds on the woman’s face above? They’re stripping oils off her skin, like dish washing detergent strips oils off of dirty dishes. It may feel good while it’s lathering, but your skin will end up feeling tight and dry.

2. Use gentle non-soap liquid or foaming cleansers designed specifically for the face. They’ll clean the skin, removing dirt and makeup, without removing the skin’s natural oils.

3. Use lukewarm water when washing your face, as hot water can strips off natural oils. And always gently pat dry; never rub.

4. Wash your face with cleanser once a day before you go to bed. For most people simple rinsing with water in the morning is sufficient.

5. I know you want my product recommendations now, and I’m happy to share them. Just remember, that there are many more quality products available, but the ones listed here are ones I have either personally used or have been highly recommended by patients for years.

Normal Skin:

Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser: A low-foaming, creamy, gentle liquid cleanser. (About $6 at drugstores.) It’s in my medicine cabinet right now.

Normal to Oily Skin: 

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash: A low-foaming salicylic acid wash that helps prevent breakouts yet is gentle, not drying, on your skin. (About $8 at drugstores and online.)

Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub: Unlike other scrubs, this one is gentle on your skin, and with beta hydroxy acid, it helps keep skin feeling soft. (About $7 in drugstores and online.)

Normal to Dry Skin: 

Purpose: This non-soap cleanser is gentle, not drying, on the skin. (About $6 at drugstores and online.)

Dry Skin:
Cera Ve Hydrating Cleanser: This moisturizing cleanser with glycerin helps cleanse dirt and oil without drying out skin. It’s good for people with sensitive skin as well. (About $15 in drugstores and online.)

Sensitive Skin, Combination Skin, and People with Skin Conditions:

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser: A creamy, gentle liquid cleanser that is non-irritating and non-comedogenic. (About $9 at drugstores and online.)

Oil of Olay Foaming Face Wash for Sensitive Skin: A lightweight foaming cleanser that’s both oil and fragrance- free, making it ideal for sensitive skin. (About $5 at drugstores and online.)

How about you? Which facial cleansers do you like? Please share with us in the comment section below. 

Photo credit: FCC, shannonkringen

6 Tips for Choosing the Right Facial Moisturizer

Beauty potion?

Last week I explained why you need a separate facial lotion in addition to body lotion. That was easy. Now comes the hard part: Buying one. If your drugstore is like mine, there are scores to choose from. I’m here to make the process a little easier for you.

Here are 6 steps for choosing a facial moisturizer:

1. If you have sensitive skin, then look for fragrance-free and oil-free moisturizers, such as Eucerin’s Daily Protection with SPF 30 (about $8) or Aveeno’s Ultra Calming Facial Lotion with SPF 15 (about $16).

2. If you’re prone to acne, then look for moisturizers labeled “non-comedogenic,” which means they won’t clog pores. Consider Neutrogena’s Rapid Defense Acne Clear Facial Lotion (about $7) or Eucerin’s Daily Protection with SPF 30 (about $8), the latter which is both fragrance-free and non-comedogenic.

3. For normal to oily skin, choose a non-greasy, water-based moisturizer with silicone-derived ingredients, such as dimethicone. Consider Neutrogena’s Rapid Defense Acne Clear Facial Lotion (about $7) or Cetaphil DermaControl Moisturizer SPF 30 (about $15) which has a matte finish to combat shininess.

4. For dry to very dry skin, try heavier oil-based products made with mineral oil, glycerin.  or hyaluronic acid. For dry skin, consider Oil of Olay Active Hydrating Cream (about $15) and for very dry skin, try old-fashioned facials creams such as Pond’s Dry Skin Cream (about $7), or moisturizing creams made with shea butter or olive oil.

5. Be flexible. Realize that many factors affect your skin, including weather, hormones, medications, and age, so if your moisturizer doesn’t seem to be working, consider trying a different one. In fact, you may like a heavier one for the cold weather months, and a lighter gel or silicone-based one for warmer weather.

6. Save your money. You don’t have to buy expensive designer facial moisturizers. Whether it’s $50 or $15, they’ll likely have the same active ingredients. Most over-the-counter facial moisturizers are under $20 and do the job. In fact, one of my most frequently recommended products is Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 (about $15). It’s in my bathroom drawer at home.

And, remember, always apply facial moisturizer to still-damp skin after cleansing and allow to set for several minutes before applying make-up.

Got any facial moisturizers you like? Please share them with us in the comment section below.

Photo credit: FCC, daniela vladimirova

How Your Skin Can Benefit from Apple Cider Vinegar

wet apple

Patients are always asking me for natural or non-chemical remedies. Sometimes, there are good ones, sometimes not.

Inexpensive apple cider vinegar (it need not be organic) is a good one. Soak a cotton ball with it and use it these three ways to treat minor skin conditions:

1. Bug Bites: Reduces itching and swelling of bug bites, especially mosquito bites.

2. Athlete’s Foot: Mix 3 parts vinegar with 1 part water and soak feet for 15 minutes once or twice a day. It can help eliminate the fungus.

3. Smelly Pits: Sweat doesn’t smell bad. It’s the bacteria that breaks down your sweat that does. Rubbing apple cider vinegar on your pits can help kill bacteria and odor.

Photo credit: FCC, Loco’s Photos

Olive Oil Benefits for Your Skin

Trying to keep up with what’s hot in skincare is like trying to keep up with the Kardashians. It’s impossible (not that I’ve tried, with the Kardashians, that is.

Then how are you to know what are the latest and greatest ingredients? Well, you could listen to your grandmother.

Some of the newest discoveries in skin care aren’t new at all: Olive oil may seem hot now, but countless Mediterranean grandmothers, including mine, have sworn by its skincare benefits for centuries. Were they right? Olive oil contains caffeic acid, oleic acid, and oleuropein, all potent antioxidants. Unlike berries or teas, these antioxidants are already in oil, allowing them to be directly applied to the skin.

Topically applied olive oil helps dry skin, rosacea, psoriasis, seborrhea, burns, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, diaper dermatitis, hand dermatitis, and eczema.

Here are some ways to apply olive oil to your body:

  • Rub it into your scalp and wrap your head with a warm towel.
  • Rub it in your cuticles and nails to moisturize dry, brittle nails.
  • Make a body scrub with olive oil and sugar.
  • Coat your skin with olive oil, then take a warm, not hot, bath.
  • Massage it on dry hands or feet before bedtime and wear cotton gloves or socks. Note: It can stain your sheets.

Consumed olive oil is also healthy for your skin. Eating 2 tablespoons a day might help reduce your risk for heart disease as well. (I could eat 2 tablespoons straight from the bottle on a crusty piece of bread.) If you’re not so daring, you could use it in salad dressings, add it to pasta, vegetables, and soups and even drizzle a little on meats such as grilled chicken. 

Remember, only virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil are unprocessed. Other olive oils are refined or chemically treated. Use extra virgin, which has the best flavor, for eating, and save the lesser expensive virgin olive oil to apply to your skin. Well, unless you’re a Kardashian.

What skincare tip would your grandmother recommend?

Manuka Honey Fights MRSA Infection

honey justmakeit

I’ve always loved September. I loved the crispness in the air, the sounds of a football game, the feel of brand new textbooks. OK, so I was kind of a nerd.  But school was easier when I was young. For one thing, there were no MRSA infections to worry about.

MRSA is a staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. The bacteria infects you when your skin’s protective barrier is disrupted by small scrapes or other injuries. Once it has a foothold, it can spread aggressively leading to painful, even dangerous infections.

School-age athletes are particularly vulnerable to MRSA because the bacteria likes to spread in locker rooms and on contaminated sports equipment (but not on chemistry flasks, so I guess I would have been safe).

Because the bacteria is resistant to many antibiotics, it is difficult to treat. In rare cases, it can be life threatening, defying all medical therapies.

One of the ways we can reduce the risk of drug resistant bacteria like MRSA is to reduce our use of antibiotics. Researchers at the University of Wales Institute have been working on this problem and looked at an old home remedy to treat infection: honey. Honey has natural antibacterial properties and has been used to aid in wound healing. But, they asked, how would honey fare against MRSA, the staph superbug?

They found that in the laboratory, manuka honey does kill MRSA bacteria. If it turns out that it also works when applied to real patients, then we might be able to use medicinal honey to treat minor cuts and abrasions or to treat superficial staph infections without resorting to antibiotics. However, don’t try try this at home, as yet, this is not yet an approved, safe treatment for staph infections.

Staph infections, especially MRSA infections, can be serious. If you suspect that you or your child has a staph infection, then see a physician.