Update: A few of you have been asking for an SPF update. I’m working on getting it feeling just right with ingredients that are uncompromisingly high quality yet within financial reach. The bottom line is that it will come out when all of this comes together but I can’t guarantee when that will be. It may take some time since SPF is quite a tricky brew. I know it’s been a very long time, and it may still be longer. I can promise you one thing–that I am working on it and will let you know the minute it’s done.

In the meantime: A couple of options:

1. Olay Complete All Day UV Moisturizer with a 5-6 drops of jojoba oil added.

2. If that doesn’t work well enough to take care of flakiness, you can mix equal parts Olay Complete All Day UV Moisturizer with Acne.org Moisturizer, and then add 5-6 drops of jojoba oil.

3. Another option is Philosophy Hope In A Jar SPF30. I love this stuff but it is zinc based like so it is a flake promoter, much like the Olay. Since I use benzoyl peroxide and need something to combat flakes, I often mix equal parts Philosophy Hope In A Jar SPF30 with Acne.org Moisturizer plus 5-6 drops of jojoba oil. This gives me an SPF of around 15 and keeps me pretty good on flakes. The only downside is that the Philosophy SPF is very expensive (around $35 for 2 ounces). But since I mix it with Acne.org Moisturizer it goes twice as far.

Spot treatment: Someone asked about the spot treatment as well. This project is on the back burner at this point. In the meantime, the AHA+ works so well for spot treating that it is definitely a suitable alternative.

SPF: We have been painstakingly sourcing each ingredient from around the world in an attempt to keep the price on the SPF within reason and within reach. We’re making good progress, and it’s my goal (perhaps I should say prayer since it’s not entirely up to me) to put a sample into FDA required stability testing soon so it can be out for at least part of this summer’s season. No promises, but we’re working on it every day. Depending on certain ingredient lead times and availability, my fingers are crossed that we can make this happen sooner rather than later.

Spot Treatment: The last spot treatment we designed seemed to have everything going for it, and then wham, our testers tried it under BP. It balled up and looked like mini cottage cheese curds on the skin. At the same time, my mind got piqued regarding other potentially beneficial ingredients, and I have been reading about some of them while having a team of people gather research on others. The spot treatment appears to be more of a long term project at this point. I want to launch a spot treatment only when it is revolutionary and amazing since the AHA+ already works so well for me. However, it is very much on the radar.

Moisturizer: For quite some time now, because of my extreme schedule and inability to read through the message boards as much as I would like, Brandy and C’est La Vigne have been updating me regularly on your posts. Rest assured that if you express your concerns to C’est or Brandy, they are likely to be expressed to me. Lately, Brandy and C’est have been telling me that several of you would like me to bring the old moisturizer back. I am hearing you and understand your frustration. However, with my apologies, I’m afraid this is not possible. First, since I would not be recommending it or mentioning it on the web site, I would need to produce it in very small amounts. This is an extremely expensive proposition on several levels–small label runs & small production runs would run the cost into an entirely new “private label” placement in which prices would reflect expensive boutique brands. Next, our full-time team is swamped with current products, and we do not have the resources to relaunch a product at this time. Finally, I feel more comfortable with people using the new moisturizer. While the new formula requires more generous application (at least 3 pumps), the increased gentleness and soothing ingredients that the new moisturizer keep me steadily on board with strongly recommending it over the previous version. For those of you who are experiencing increased dryness with the new moisturizer, please read this post for my recommendation on how much to use, but keep in mind that our current batch of pumps dispense a bit less, so you will need at least 3 full pumps, not 2.

Are any of you wondering why it seems like your moisturizer isn’t working as well as it used to? You’re not alone. Every year around this time people come to me complaining that their moisturizer just doesn’t seem to be as powerful as it used to be. “Aha!,” I’ve exclaimed, in the nicest way possible of course, “It is not your moisturizer! It’s just winter.” It’s true that people experience increased dry skin in the winter. But this year I decided to do a little more digging to find out exactly why. As it turns out, there is startlingly little scientifically sound explanation to be found, and myths abound.  As is often the case, it falls to us to sift through the nonsense and make some sense of this issue.

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First, let’s dispell the myths:

When weather gets cold, it gets dry. This is claimed so often and by so many “reputable sources” that I almost took it at face value myself. But when I decided to double check this pervasive claim, it completely fell apart. I looked at historical charts of humidity levels across the United States throughout the seasons.* It turns out that humidity levels show no particular trend from summer to winter. In fact, in many cities, even Northern cities, humidity levels are higher in the freeze of winter than in the bask of summer.

The winter is blustery and wind dries out the skin. Many of us can recall experiencing our share of cold, windy winter days, and could swear that we experience “windburn”, characterized by dryness, redness, and irritation after being outside on these blustery days. But a look at the evidence forces us to consider other possible causes. The only experiment I could find was performed all the way back to 1937, and was published in Popular Science. Scientists founds through using a wind tunnel that wind alone does not create “reddening or chapping” of the skin. Furthermore, upon browsing through historical wind speed charts, I found that that much like humidity levels, wind speeds show no yearly trend. There is no evidence of higher winds in the winter months. Regardless of all this evidence against the wind creating redness, dryness, and irritation, many sources not only talk about the existence of windburn, but will even explain why it occurs. The most widely used explanation is that wind removes surface lipids (oils) from the skin. Exactly how the wind performs this feat is conspicuously absent from all of these articles. Furthermore, if wind is just as strong in the summer, why don’t people seem to experience windburn as much in the summer? Another common explanation that attempts to explain windburn, which is the current explanation on Wikipedia, is that windburn is actually just sunburn caused by the wind removing surface lipids (oils) which help protect us from UV rays (another claim I am yet to find evidence to support). While the wind can remove some of these surface lipids year round, they say, the removal of the surface lipids in the winter coincides with a season when we do not protect our skin as valiantly from the sun. Thus the redness and irritation people experience is simply a sunburn. This explanation is incomplete at best, and completely misinformed at worst. Yet another explanation, albeit less frequently posited, claims that wind removes sweat, which normally helps filter UV rays. Again, how sweat helps filter UV rays is conspicuously absent.

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Whew. So, now that we have gone through the myths, the fact remains that many people experience dryer skin in the winter. Why? After looking at all of the available evidence, I have a hunch it can be attributed almost entirely to:

Artificial heat: Mother nature can heat up or cool down the great outdoors while keeping humidity levels steady, but when we heat indoor areas, this lowers humidity. When you look at the science of relative humidity (I won’t bore you), this is how it works. For an everyday example, notice how when you heat your bathroom while taking a shower there is less steam in the air. Since most of us live and work in artificially heated indoor environments in the winter, it’s likely we experience long-term exposure to lower humidity environments during the winter months. This dries out the skin, causing many of us to wonder why our moisturizer isn’t working as well as it used to. Back to my original point, “It’s not your moisturizer!” And introducing my new, improved answer, “You’re living in lower humidity indoor environments in the winter!”

And what about the cold? Strangely, none of the authors or reporters writing about winter and dry skin mention the effect cold air itself has on the skin. However, I have a hunch extreme temperatures may figure into a complete explanation of why some people experience dry skin in the winter. When we expose our skin to freezing temperatures, the skin reacts through natural protective methods, most prominently by withdrawing blood from the surface of the skin to protect core temperature. This is the first step which ultimately leads to the skin freezing which causes frost bite and cell death. My hunch is that perhaps even during shorter duration exposure to freezing temperatures which people sometimes experience on cold days, the skin still reacts through a more mild form of cell death. This mild cell death, while not as apparent as the blisters caused by frostbite, is evidenced by flakiness or dryness as the dead cells flake off. The redness experienced by many people after exposure to winter weather, while it would require further research for me to be more definitive, could be the result of cell death or simply the body returning blood to areas where it has been withdrawn.

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So, what can we do about it?

1.  Humidify your home/workplace. Install a humidifying system into your central heat. Alternately, if you use wood burning stoves or kerosene heaters, you can place pots of water on top and let the water evaporate, then repeat. You can always boil a large pot of  water on the stovetop as well, being careful to keep a close eye on it of course. There are commercially available electric stand-alone humidifiers as well. 60% humidity is a good general goal to shoot for. You can measure humidity with widely available humidity measuring devices which are available at most hardware stores, or you can be more relaxed about it and just notice how you–and your skin–feel. When the humidity reaches a comfortable level you will feel less dry and generally more comfortable. You should also notice less static electricity, less shocks, and less frizz to your hair. An easy way to tell if you’ve gone too far and over-humidified your space is if your windows start to pool water at their bases.

Perk: Adequately humidified air feels warmer than dry air at the same temperature. In other words, you can get away with heating to a lower temperature.

2.  Use more moisturizer: An extra pump or two of moisturizer each time you apply should help.

3.  Add jojoba oil: Since jojoba oil does not evaporate, 5-6 drops of jojoba oil added into your moisturizer each time you apply it will provide a boost of all-day moisture support.

*Yes, I know. There is more to the world than the United States, but…well, okay fine, I have no excuse. I’ll make a note to look outside the U.S. for my next research-related blog. :-)

Hey you guys.  It’s Thanksgiving tomorrow. I want to take this opportunity to remark on how thankful I am to have your feedback on the site and the products. We take your comments under careful consideration. Nothing gets past you guys, and that’s awesome because it keeps our team here abreast of every possible issue.

The new pumps: Recently we switched to a new pump because some of you told us your products were arriving with broken pump heads.  The new pumps we ordered come with neck closures which help prevent breakage during transit.  We made sure the pumps have have-extra wide heads too since you guys tend to prefer that style.  However, you never know when you switch from one manufacturer to another if you will find variances, and in this case it appears that the new pumps dispense a little less per pump than the old pumps did.

Dispense 3 pumps now

We carefully measured, and to dispense exactly the same amount as before, you will need to dispense 3 pumps of each product instead of the usual 2. Aim for a quarter sized amount. Especially when it comes to benzoyl peroxide, it is absolutely vital that you are generous in application.  The moisturizer is also designed for generous application.  When in doubt, use more.

We will work to change the wording on the web site to reflect 3 pumps.  2 pumps is ideal, however, so we have already begun working with the manufacturer to make sure the next set of pumps dispenses slightly more.

Happy Thanksgiving and keep the feedback coming!  We really appreciate hearing from you guys.

Edit:  You guys wanted to see a comparison of old vs. new pumps.  I just took a quick pic so you can see:

SPF: We’ve nailed a formula. The good news. And it’s really good news because it’s taken about 128 formulas, and several years to get there. The bad news is that I’m finding it is super expensive to produce. The quotes I’m getting from suppliers are so high that I don’t feel right passing it on to you guys. We want products that are the very best in the world, but also affordable. I’m determined to make it happen, and we will launch this, but I want to do it affordably. I’ll keep negotiating with suppliers until we get the price into an acceptable range–while compromising nothing in regards to quality of course.

Spot On

Spot Treatment: The last group of testers gave me mixed feedback. We have good news and bad news again. The good news it that most people are saying this is a spot treatment which actually works. The bad news is that it’s not working well when it is applied before benzoyl peroxide. When people put it on before BP it can become very slightly curdled. So I went back into the lab this week and made a few more iterations in all different types of bases: creamier, more water-y, and more serum-esque, in an effort to remedy this. I kept all of the important active ingredients in there. In the meantime, if you want a spot treatment, the AHA works really well for me and lots of people on Acne.org. Just be certain to catch a zit at the very earliest stages.

We all know that irritation can aggravate acne. I talk about it all the time. However, throughout the years I’ve also read in multiple acne related books, and heard in multiple acne related classes which I’ve attended, that irritation plus sweat is even worse. I’ve found this to be very true in my own experience as well.

Let’s use me as an example for a sec. I often get tired at work or when sitting at a table somewhere and put my head down, resting my chin on the back of my hands. I rarely have any issues with that. But recently, I have been getting sun on my body and when I turn over to get some sun on my back, I end up resting my chin on the back of my hands. The difference is that outside in the sun there’s sweat in the mix. I got a “mysterious” breakout under my chin area recently and it perplexed me until I put this together. It was the sweat plus irritation combination that most likely caused the breakout.

Another good example of sweat mixing with irritation is chin straps. Not only do chin straps rub against the skin, they often cause sweatiness. Also, chin straps are worn during physical activity, which includes sweat. This is why for many people, it is especially important to treat that area during sports season. Helmets are another example. Backpack straps rubbing against the upper back in hot, humid weather is another. You get the idea…

I am not telling you this to make you paranoid. We all get sweaty, especially in the warm months, and there is no way to completely avoid irritation. I mention it just so you can become aware of what’s going on and try to mediate it if and when you can. If you end up experiencing sweat mixed with irritation in some area of your skin which tends to be acne prone, be extra careful to apply benzoyl peroxide judiciously in that area.

Hey you guys. You’ve asked and I’m listening. We’ve designed new labels and taken ACNE.ORG off the front of the label. It only whispers about the web site on the back of the label. We have also added longer, more specific directions to the labels so that “The Regimen is on the labels.” This is the “duh” idea that you guys told me you supported not too long ago. The new labels are much more medical looking, and that’s on purpose. Acne.org products are the very highest quality out there. I want the labels to reflect this.

The products themselves won’t change, just the labels. The one exception is our moisturizer, which if you’ve been reading the blog you know is changing to a new, improved version. Here is our moisturizer label, which will most likely roll out first.

I think we may have nailed the spot treatment. It’s got:

12% AHA at a 3.5pH, so it’s extremely powerful and stings to high heaven. You’ll need to use only a very tiny amount each time.

2% Salicylic Acid, to bump up acne fighting properties. Even though we all know sal acid isn’t good enough on its own, I thought it would make sense to put the legal limit of it in here just to cover all of our bases.

10% Willow Bark, which is a way of getting more natural aspirin/sal acid into the product, and hopefully helping out a bit with analgesic (pain killing) properties, even though, to be honest, this product isn’t the great topical pain reliever I wanted it to be. To get that effect, I’ve found you need to go with lidocaine or benzocaine, and they don’t work in an acidic base. I tried topical ibuprofen, ketoprofen, aspirin, and other similar topical pain killers and it turns out they just aren’t great for epidermis (surface) pain killing. Supposedly they work deep down on joint pain, but quite frankly I didn’t find that to be the case either.

0.1% Licochalcone, ‘cuz we all know it and love it.

Ayurvedics, like Neem, Boswellia, and Turmeric because even though all the bases were already covered, might as well double cover all the bases :)

I’ll be sending samples out to the moderators to get their response and if they OK it, we’ll make it a Go and get it out to you guys to see what everybody thinks. I’m not sure about price yet, or size for that matter. You need to use only a minuscule amount of it each time you use it, so it will be small. I’m making these decisions as we move forward. It is considered an over-the-counter acne treatment, so it must enter into FDA required stability testing before it goes for sale. This process takes months, but at least hopefully we can get the ball rolling…

Hey you guys. I’m writing up a new irritation page. It should be interactive and fun. I need your input tho if you have experience in these areas:

Chinstraps: For those of you who wear helmets with chinstraps, is there anything you have found that you can do to reduce the irritation? For example…put a tissue between the strap and your skin, or something like that? I obviously can’t ask people to not use helmets, so I’m hoping to provide advice on how to limit chin strap irritation.

Hair products: Lots of gels/mousses/hairsprays tend to irritate the skin. I do not use hair product, and don’t have a lot of experience in this area. I’m looking into it further, but in the meantime, do you guys know of any hair products that are specifically aimed at acne-prone people? Alternately, do you have ideas on how people can use alternative and safe products so they can still make awesome styles while staying confident that the products won’t irritate?

Thanks!

We all know that irritation can aggravate acne. This is most assuredly not a myth. It’s a widely accepted, and quite frankly, obvious truth to many of us who pay close attention to it. For instance, pretty much every time I get sick or have bad allergies, I will break out around my nose because I blow my nose so much, thus irritating the skin around that area. Also, pretty much every time I wear a tight hat for more than a day I will get little breakouts around my hair line where the hat squeezes into my skin.

We can’t avoid irritation altogether, but simply becoming aware of it helps empower us to keep as clear as we can. The list I currently have on Acne.org regarding irritation includes:

– picking
– tight hats
– resting your face in your hands
– helmets and chin straps
– cell phones
– napkins

I think we can come up with a more filled out list however. Here are the ones I’m going to add. Please reply with your suggestions as well.

– frequent nose blowing
– trying on clothes (the collars can rub against your face as you put them on and take them off)

What else?