1. “That sunscreen broke me out!”

2. “The minute I changed to that cleanser, I broke out. It must be the cleanser.”

3. “Every time I try a product with that ingredient in it, I break out. I hate that ingredient.”

Any of these sound familiar, like something you may have said before? Now, consider these equally plausible reasons for what the person above is claiming:

1. The person applied the sunscreen four times a day for three days because they were in the sun for so long. They applied it without staying as gentle as they could. The real reason they broke out: Irritation from repeated, rough application.

2. Two weeks before the person changed the cleanser, he/she skipped two nights of BP application. The real reason they broke out: The missed treatment at night caused the initiation of a breakout which took two weeks to surface.

3. The problem is a combination of stabilizing ingredients which formulators very often use in conjunction with the ingredient in question. When used alone, that ingredient in question is perfectly safe. The real reason they broke out: Stabilizing ingredients.

I see this kind of premature jumping to conclusions frequently in people I coach through the Regimen. I also sometimes do it myself. I have to remind others and myself to take a step back and consider all variables first. If we jump prematurely to errant conclusions, we are doing ourselves a disservice because we won’t ever know the real reason for our problem.

So, my question to you guys: I want to help people learn that all variables must be taken into consideration and conclusions must be left tentative until it is definitively proven what is at fault. I’d like to get this lesson across in a fun way. Ideas on how to do this? Is there a game out there? Some other kind of fun group activity perhaps?

Here are some answers to some recent questions. I am not able to get to all open questions on the blog, but here’s a start:

Would you please be so kind as to list the five (Avobenzone) products you’ve tried in the past? Thank you.

I don’t remember most of them. Sorry. The only one I remember is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer.

What about the bare minerals new SPF powders. May be kind of girly but have you tried it?

I have tried it, in the name of science! I even went out on the town one day with it on, hoping no one would notice. The first thing my friend said when I saw him was, “Are you wearing makeup?” LOL. Anyway, I hated it. It felt cakey and my skin got dry and flaky. Do people really like that stuff? I can’t imagine. As a side note, makeup is an area that I want to study more. I know it is important. If anyone wants to help with research in this area, please contact me.

…isn’t mineral oil one of those things to avoid?

No. Mineral oil is non-comedogenic. In the old days they had multiple grades of mineral oil on the market and the lower grades were comedogenic, but these days only the highest grade is used in products, and it is non-comedogenic.

Is SPF 15 really enough for good protection than SPF30 during summer heat?

As you go up in SPF you get diminishing returns. SPF15 is over 90% as effective as SPF30. And anything over SPF30 is likely to not give any better protection than SPF30. I personally feel more than comfortable with SPF15. The higher SPF formulas I have tried seem too greasy and heavy.

I think too much BP (for me) causes too much irritation. Is this possible?

Yes, this is absolutely possible in two circumstances. (1) At the onset of a benzoyl peroxide regimen, and (2) if you are not using adequate moisturizer. At the start of the Regimen, you want to use a small amount of BP to reduce overly irritating side effects. And once you are on the Regimen it is vital to moisturize twice a day, every day, to maintain a balance in your skin. Benzoyl peroxide, when used correctly, is incredible for clearing acne, but it must be used within a regimen that includes adequate moisture to reduce overdrying the skin.

How close are you to releasing the new moisturizer?

We are hoping for 3 months from now or so.

Are you going to use (in the spot treatment) a betta-isomer of Salicylic Acid?

Yes, we use beta hydroxy acid, the active form of salicylic acid.

(Will the spot treatment have) BP in it??

No. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid cannot be in the same formula. Plus, benzoyl peroxide doesn’t do well in strongly acidic formulations. I am keeping the spot treatment at the legal limit for acidity, 3.5pH, so we can get as much activity from the glycolic acid as we can.

Is it okay to use (the spot treatment) on the whole face instead of the AHA treatment?

I wouldn’t recommend it. First of all, I am leaning toward bottling it in very small tubes. Secondly, it is extremely strong. The spot treatment is made to be used in a tiny pin size amount.

How do I know if I’m being gentle enough (on the Regimen)?

Check out the videos and when in doubt, be more gentle. Also, remember that staying gentle not only applies to during application of the Regimen, but also throughout your day. Try to keep your skin relatively untouched.

I am feeling tentatively excited that we might be finally getting closer to something ideal as far as an Acne.org SPF goes.

I worked with one of our formulators to take our new, improved non-SPF moisturizer (which should be out in a few months) and add in some Avobenzone and Octocrylene. I’ve been using this sample generously on half of my face each morning for over a week now and it’s not breaking me out. In fact, the half of my face where I’m using it looks better than the other side of my face where I’m using another sample SPF I’m testing.

This is surprising because all five of the Avobenzone based SPF moisturizers I’ve tried from drugstores over the years seemed to break me out. Because of this personal experience, I had no confidence in Avobenzone moisturizers. Also, because Zinc is a welcome ingredient to acne prone skin, I’ve been formulating only with Zinc or Titanium Dioxide (a similar physical blocker) up to this point. But as you know if you’ve been following this saga, I found that Zinc and Titanium Dioxide are such severe flake promoters that there’s really no way to make an SPF with those ingredients that works with a benzoyl peroxide regimen.

At my wits end, I decided to take another look at Avobenzone. Aside from Zinc and Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone is the only other reliable broad spectrum active ingredient available in the United States, where I manufacture products. I will only make an SPF which is protecting people from both UVB and UVA rays. It was time to take a second look at Avobenzone.

So, why is this sample not breaking me out? It’s hard to say. Since there are so many variables involved in acne, possible reasons abound. Were other ingredients in the other Avobenzone based moisturizers to blame? Was it other variables in my own life at the time when I tried each of them? Or have I simply not used this Avobenzone/Octocrylene SPF I am currently using long enough to experience a breakout?

I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’re on the right track here. I’ll keep you posted on how it progresses.

New office

Kent, Joel, Travis, and I moved into an office yesterday. It’s quite big and roomy and pretty much awesome. I can’t wait to see what we can all get done here for Acne.org. We’re in the process of hiring new programmers and some other people to help out with the day to day of the organization, so this office will likely be temporary until we move into a larger space in the coming year.

We’re off and running!

I recently came across an August, 2004 survey sponsored by Galderma Laboratories which presented some interesting findings regarding how parents view their son or daughter’s acne. It turns out their concern does not sometimes translate, and does not always reflect their teenager’s reality. Researchers surveyed 504 teenagers with acne along with 500 parents of teens with acne.

— 69% of parents claimed they were “supportive and understanding” about acne, but only 48% of the teens thought the same.

— 15% of parents said their teen experienced body image issues because of acne. 36% of the teens claimed they experienced body image issues.

— Only 1% of parents said acne caused problems with other family members. 18% of teens claimed problems, however.

— 9% of parents said their teens were “angry” as a result of acne. 25% of the teens said they were angry.

Do parents care? Yes, it appears that they really do, even more than we might think.

Do parents understand? While parents do seem to care, they may not understand the full ramifications of acne. From this survey, it appears that parents underestimate the negative emotional effects of acne. This could be because teenagers are not forthcoming with their feelings, or because our modern hectic lifestyles leave little time for engagement.

Bottom line: While the results of this survey point to a chasm in understanding, I’m walking away feeling good about the findings as a whole. The bottom line for me is that parents really do care about how their kids are feeling, even more than kids might know. Sure, they may not understand how much acne bothers you, but the care is there. If you are experiencing acne, or are on the Regimen now and clear but are still carrying around some anger toward your parents for not understanding your plight, just keep in mind that you may be misperceiving the situation. Give your parents some slack. They probably care more than you think…even if they may not understand as well as they could.

[I am not providing a link to the survey because the link appears to be broken. From what I can tell, this survey was published on a web site called losethezits.com but the page appears to be down.]

Pros: The one blade “trimmer” on the back is nice to have for perfect sideburns, although I did cut myself with it once.

Cons: Very irritating, tons of drag, expensive, doesn’t fit in usual razor shower caddy.

Bottom line: For all the talk of “thinner blades” and “less irritation” and “less drag”, I was expecting much more. Honestly, I didn’t notice much of a difference between this razor and Gillette or Bic’s previous 5 blade razors. They are all extraordinarily irritating. The 2 blade Sensor Excel or the two blade Trac II Plus are far less irritating and give a much more pleasant shave. I still would highly caution against these multi-blade razors and recommend strongly that people go with the Sensor Excel or Trac II Plus.

Recommended: Absolutely not.

I’ve learned to refrain from announcing when new products will be available. There are always a hundred and one things that can delay a launch. Perhaps Olay would be wise to do the same :) As many of you know, Olay let us know they would have the Complete Classic Gentle Formula with zinc oxide back on store shelves in April. When that didn’t happen, they told me May. Well, I had a few people check their local drugstores and so far no one has found it. One of our members contacted Olay again and got this response:

“Olay will re-launch the original version of Olay Complete All Day Sensitive SPF 15 Sensitive Cream and Lotion. Unfortunately, this formula change was pushed back and will begin to ship late May/June 2010. This will be a soft conversion which means the Skin Shield Version and Classic Gentle Formula may both be on store shelves for a period of time. The Classic Gentle Formula will have a green oval in the upper left corner that will say ‘Classic Gentle Formula’.”

At this point, I guess we’re just waiting. Honestly, I feel for Olay and I understand the stress they must be under trying to meet their deadlines in such a complex industry with complicated manufacturing and distribution channels. If any of you do see it on shelves, let me know and I’ll let everyone know. Until then, look for a zinc oxide based sunscreen, and be sure to add a few drops of jojoba oil in there to reduce flakiness. I am also working on several SPF formulas myself, and will keep you posted on that.

Joel, Acne.org’s main webmaster, and Travis, Acne.org’s customer service person and web guy, are on the road, moving from their hometown of Charlotte, NC to San Francisco to join us full time!

Joel has been working for Acne.org for seven years now and doing a bang up job. Now he’s done with college and free to move about the country. We found Travis through Joel. They were roommates at the time. Travis has been doing our customer service for over a year now and is starting to really branch out and show us his talents in other areas.

I can’t wait for them to come out! They should be here Thursday. Hopefully this means we’ll be able to move more quickly with changes to Acne.org and really rev up the engines.