I decided to write a follow up to my apparently very popular Oil Cleaning article. I have had so many questions about this technique, people asking if it will suit their skin and if they should give up gel/foaming or milk cleansers for good. So I thought I would clarify a few points and also add more about my experience.

Firstly, I don’t think oil cleansing suits everyone. I do think it is particularly good for dry and dehydrated skin however, I have read (www.highonhealth.org) that oil cleansing can be far too rich for oily or acne prone skin. Fran from highonhealth.org says that her skin broke out quite badly using this method however when this occured, her skin was acne-prone and oily. I have also had a number of comments in person and on the blog indicating poor results, generally from those with normal to oily skin. In some cases, coconut and olive oil were used instead of a lighter oil such as jojoba so it may also be the type of oil impacting on the outcome.

Oil Cleansing isn’t the only good way to cleanse skin and milk, gel and foaming cleansers certainly have a role depending on your skin type (click here to read more about cleansers). So if you like using any of these cleansing methods, keep going, there is no “one answer” for everyone. Some people love the feeling of a really clean face and this is not something you will feel after oil cleansing.

Currently I use oil cleansing at night only as it helps to take off any makeup I have worn throughout the day. In the morning I use a gel cleanser as it makes my skin feel fresh and clean. Come Summer I will forego Oil Cleansing altogether as I just think this technique is going to feel too heavy in humid and hot Brisbane. I will go back to Oil Cleansing as soon as the humidity starts to decrease, probably around Easter next year.

So to clarify, if you are happy with the cleanser you are currently using and it works for you skin, keep using it! However, if you think your skin would benefit, give Oil Cleansing a go. Please keep your questions and comments coming – I love hearing your experiences about both oil cleansing and any other cleansers.

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Skin care advertisers promise women so much…and do they deliver? Is it really possible that a supermarket brand such as Olay can halt the 7 signs of aging? Well quite frankly I doubt it given the ingredients. So what indeed can a product such as this can do for your skin?

Olay falls into the category of a cosmetic which is classed as a product that helps to maintain the surface of the skin. The ingredients don’t pass through the stratum corneum and as such are active only on the top
layer of skin which means they don’t stimulate any structural changes in the deeper layers of skin. What cosmetics can do is maintain the moisture level on the skin by blocking water loss and nourish the top layer of skin with herbs and nutrients. This is ideal for dry, dehydrated and normal to oily skin with no significant issues. However, if you want results for skin conditions or slow ageing, you are going to need more than a cosmedic.

Cosmeceutical products contain “active” ingredients which are capable of treating beyond the surface of the skin. They are used by beauty therapists and skin professionals to bring about skin change results where
there are conditions such as premature ageing, pigmentation, acne and rosacea. Ingredients that you may recognize that are considered cosmeceutical include active AHAs, retinoids, and some herbs among others. I also think that many oils such as bilberry, sea buckthorn seed oil, acai pulp oil, lingonberry seed oil and tamanu nut oil fall into this category as they are high in natural phytonutrients such as carotenoids, tocotrienols and essential fatty acids that help maintain and improve the health of skin cells.

The newest category of product is called cosmedical which are really just hyped up cosmeceutial prdoucts. They may employ advanced delivery methods ensuring the benefits are delivered as deep as possible into
the skin, higher strengths ingredients or contain clinical trialed ingredients. Therapeutically they can target past and present skin damage. They may also have a preventative affect to some degree and help slow the ageing process. Ingredients that you can look for include AHAs, retinoids, newer forms of vitamin C such as Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, peptides, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and SPF technology (micronized zinc

Please let me know if you have had any experiences with skin improvement using cosmeceutical or cosmedical products or ingredients.

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As you may know at Vitale we are trying out the new La Mav range of products and one that I have been getting feedback from the staff about is the Pore Refining Toner. La Mav describe this product as being good for skin that is prone to imbalance and congestion. As I haven’t personally tried this I pored (no pun intended) the ingredients to see why it was working so well and came up with a few ingredients of particular interest:

  1. Vitamin B5 - topically, vitamin B5 (d-panthenol) is required in synthesis of fatty acids and sphingolipids. These components are important for the skin lipid layers and cell membrane integrity. Essentially this will help to maintain a healthy acid mantle on the skin and therefore skin moisture. It also helps counteract the bacteria that may contribute to whiteheads and acne breakouts.
  2. Natural Fruit Enzymes including apple and sugar cane which work to increase skin cells turnover and prevent pore clogging. The other benefits of fruit acids include helping to minimize break-outs particularly if they are related to congestion or makeup use, and milia bumps, reduce the appearance of fine lines, deeper wrinkles and darkened areas on the face.
  3. Lemon Balm Extract which purifies, exfoliates and helps to balance skin’s pH which means less oil production and less clogging of pores

The base of this toner is aloe vera, glycerine and rose hydrosol which are all hydrating ingredients that don’t increase the likelihood of congestion. This is another product that goes on my list of “products I must try” as in summer or if I have been consuming rubbish food, congestion can be an issue for me.

I would love to hear any comments you may have about this product so please write us a review.

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    My love affair with topical oils for skin and indeed, hair continues with the recent discovery of Tamanu oil. Once again the Remedica brand that brought this amazing oil to my attention. Used in Sensitive Visage and now also available as 100% oil, Tamanu has extraordinarily high levels of essential fatty acids which means it is a powerful skin anti-inflammatory and the potential for a strong healing effect on damaged skin.

    The oil is derived from the nut of the Calophyllum inophyllum, a large evergreen tree native to East Africa, coastal India, the South Pacific and even Australia. The oil is green coloured with a “moss” type odour. The green colour is due to the high level of antioxidant phytochemicals in the oil. The nutritional profile of the oil shows up to 38% omega 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs), 0.5% omega 3 EFAs and phytochemicals with healing, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and even anti-viral activity.

    As part of my research about Tamanu oil I did a search on You Tube and came up with some interesting videos. There is an amazing progressive healing pictorials using Tamanu oil on a severe scald – it did make me cringe to look at the open burn but the outcome was amazing. If you have the stomach for it, click here. Please note, seek medical advice before applying anything to an open burn as the exposed flesh is so susceptible to infection.

    It is not only new burns that benefit from Tamanu oil. A 9 week study looking at the effect of Tamanu oil on significant old scars (over one year or more) showed a reduction in both scar length and width. Twice daily application for a 6 week period was enough to show obvious improvement. I find this quite exciting as old scars are generally really quite hard to minimize and so this effect is quite significant.
    Other research has shown the following benefits:

    • a soothing effect on damaged skin including sunburn, skin redness, bites and inflammation
    • a regenerating effect on skin cells which promotes skin healing (wounds, burns, cracks, scars)
    • an anti-bacterial effect which may assist with skin bacterial overgrowth in acne
    • antioxidant which has a protective effect against DNA damage and free radical stress resulting from sun exposure
    • moisturising and nourishing effects on the skin which can assist with dry, damaged skin – this has a normalizing effect on the protective acid mantle
    • an increase in microcirculation which may assist with bruising

    I know that we use Sensitive Visage to great effect on those with sensitive, dry and damaged skin but I would love to read comments from any reader that has used Tamanu oil for other skin issues.

    Research reference: Dweck, A.C.: Calophyllum inophyllum – Tamanu oil the African, Asian, Polynesian and Pacific Panacea. International Journal of Cosmetic Science 24, 6, 1-8 (2002).

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    I have to admit I am a bit lackadaisical when it comes to using a toner every day. If it is in front of me, I use one under my moisturizer but if it isn’t I don’t go searching. This is in contrast to Mary and Caitlyn, our Vitale beauty therapists – they both swear by toners and use them religiously. May I also add they both have gorgeous skin! So when the Dr recently told me to keep the scars on my face moist, I added in the use of a toner first under the healing oils to deliver extra moisture, with might I add, excellent results! Since then I have been using a toner daily.

    There are three categories of toner so it is important to make the distinction between them: traditional toners, astringents and fresheners.

    Traditional toners are used to restore moisture to the skin. They are ideal for those with normal to dry or dehydrated skin as they contain moisturizing ingredients, herbal extracts and essential oils. They do not contain alcohol, which can reduce moisture and oil content in the skin and potential cause irritation. Examples of traditional toners are:

    Remedica Hydra Mist – this amazing looking and smelling product is an active hydrator, moisture retainer and lipid-acid mantle restorer. The effectiveness of this product is due to a complex synergism between antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins and of the natural water binder Lecithin (humectant) which attracts water molecules from the atmosphere and helps bind these molecules to the skin. These actions are exactly what are needed for dry, dehydrated or damaged skin.

    La Mav Refining Toner – again excellent for normal to dry or dehydrated skin this toner contains loads of slow ageing ingredients which when used under the La Mav Wrinkle Smoother, layer nutrients and enhance their effects.

    Astiringent Toners contain alcohol based (or ethanol) in some form, which has the effect of tightening pores and removing oil. The natural & organic skin care industry moved away from this type of toner a long time ago however, you can still get the pore tightening, cleansing and refreshing effect from other ingredients used in toners that are suitable for normal to oily skin. I will also add that I think toners are excellent and often overlooked for very oil and acne-prone skin. They can deliver a light layer of healing and oil minimizing ingredients without the congestion issues that are sometimes found with moisturizers. Acne prone or oily skin is surprisingly often quite dehydrated. Yes you can have oily but dehydrated (low water) skin. So delivering moisture to oily skin is essential.

    Examples of toners for oily or acne-prone skin include:

    Third Stone Botanicals Cedarwood Toner – this product delivers concentrated hydration to skin after cleansing just when it needs it and before acid mantle returns which is the best opportunity to lock in extra moisture. The cedarwood essential oil helps to balance out oil production.

    Devita Cool Cucumber Toner – well this just smells divine for a start but it also contains chamomile to soothe irritated skin and natural fruit acids to help clean out and tighten pores.

    Fresheners are a category of toners that are used for…well exactly that, freshening up your face on a hot day or resetting your mineral makeup, cleansing off makeup at the end of the day or just adding that extra bit of moisture when you look and feel tired or your skin is dehydrated. Based on floral waters, they give much needed moisture but without the drying effects of water (ironic isn’t it but one of the most drying thing we do to our faces everyday is wash with water!).

    Treasured Earth Gardenia & Honeysuckle Rehydrating Mist uses rose and lemon myrtle floral water to refresh and rehydrated skin. It also includes the purifying qualities of Iceland Moss so is excellent to help cleanse skin after makeup removal.

    For best results use toners twice a day, morning and night after washing your face. One or two sprays is usually enough.

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    Cruelty-Free Products

    Posted by: vitale in Categories: Articles, Cosmetic Ingredients, Education.
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    I was given a great resource the other day from the Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) organisation: a copy of their latest booklet “being cruel is uncool”. I opened the book an almost vomited on the spot – true! The picture that made me feel so queasy was of an animal that had had been used to test eye cosmetics. I won’t describe the picture more than to say it was gruesome. Images of cruelty aside this booklet contains a product list of preferred vegan and cruelty free products in Australia.

    It also outlines the common animal tests including the following:

    • Toxicity test – animals are fed substances until a predetermined percentage of them die. I couldn’t work out why these tests are done except if it were to extrapolate the data to humans to determine the potential toxicity in humans? Can anyone comment?
    • Draize Eye Test – this is where concentrated substances are applied to the eyes of test animals that are restrained and unanaesthetised.
    • Draize Patch Test – this is a big one in the cosmetic industry where test substances are applied to animal’s skin. Reactions include severe burns.

    I strongly feel that cosmetic testing on animals is completely unnecessary when there are so many alternatives available. One of the things that appeals to me about using natural ingredients is that most of them have been used safely by humans for a very long time. This creates a history of safe use and so animal tests don’t even factor into the equation. Thank goodness.

    The most interesting thing I noticed was that there are obviously many ingredients that are animal derivatives that are being used in some cosmetics that do have natural plant alternatives. A couple of examples I found:

    • Glycerine from animal fat which is a byproduct of soap manufacture. Before the development of syndet bars (petrochemical based soaps and detergents) most commercial soap was made from beef tallow which is essentially beef fat. Fortunately for us the Spanish had developed Castile soap a couple of hundred years ago and now we have the benefit of natural plant based soaps that are rich in vegetable glycerine.
    • Hyaluronic acid – this is an anti-aging hero ingredient that is easily sourced from vegetables such as mushrooms or potatoes. However, up until 5 years ago the most common source was rooster combs. I am really glad the humble potato is a source of this great skin nutrient.
    • Palm Oil – well this one comes from Palm Trees however the palm oil industry has a devastating effect on the fauna of the Asia Pacific, particularly wild Orangutan colonies.  Fortunately there are a number of sustainable alternatives including Australian palm oil plantations that are grown without rainforest destruction. These have to be certified to be given the sustainable label. Lavera is one company that uses certified sustainable palm oil. There are also great alternatives to palm oil including rice bran oil and grapeseed oil.

    From my perspective, not all the brands included are natural or even organic but it does list many natural ranges and some that we sell. I must say at this point that brands that test cosmetics on animals are automatically excluded from the ranges that we retail. We don’t even consider them – ever. Nor do we have products that include animal parts that are extracted from animals such as placenta. We do however have products that contain beeswax, goat’s milk, propolis and carmine and I will note that those products wouldn’t be endorsed by CCF.

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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    This Summer has been great for me from the perspective of minimal sun exposure…we have had so much rain that it has only been in the last month that the sun has really had a chance to make an impact. I do sun myself in the early morning and late afternoon – I need the vitamin D and the emotional “shine” that comes from sunshine. But really, I am mostly freckle and sun-damage free. Good news for me however, I have had so many people ask me about skin brightening and preventing pigmentation – what works, is there anything natural, how long it takes and what to do to prevent dark spots and sun damage next Summer?

    I have written an article about the individual ingredients that assist with skin brightening before. You can read that here: My Skin Lightening Experiment

    Skin Pigmentation

    In this blog I am going to review 3 skin-brightening products and discuss how they are best used. I will just note that I use the terms “lightening” or “brightening” with reference to pigmentation only as opposed to lightening the natural skin tone.

    Prevention/Sun Damage: La Mav Brightening Complex – this product is more effective for evening out skin tone rather than lightening specific pigmentation areas. It is effective for helping to prevent sun damage and inhibiting melanin formation. Use this to prevent damage or for evening skin tone.

    Melasma/Sun Spots/Small Area Sun Damage: Devita Skin Brightening Serum – this product is specifically designed to help fight the appearance of Hyperpigmentation that is primarily caused by hormones, birth control pill use, chemical peels, waxes etc. SBS works using the natural skin lighteners Kojic acid and Arbutin which work synergistically to help break-up hyperpigmentation, along with Emblica fruit extract, a proven skin lightener, all which help give the look of a balanced skin tone. SBS is applied to small areas or for spot application. One bottle will last up to 6 months.

    Chemical Peel Discolouration/Large Facial Area Sun Damage: Devita Complex KBA – this is from the Devita professional Rx range. It has been formulated to lighten the appearance of skin, which has been discoloured from chemical peels, age spots, sun-spots and freckles. A cream rather than a serum, it spreads over the entire face rather than being used for spot or area application.

    Remember any skin lightening treatment takes up to 8-10 weeks to see significant effects.

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    Chin Congestion

    I have been having a few problems with congestion on my chin…again! I think it is due to the warm weather and not having a bathroom – our house is mid-renovation and so I have nowhere to put my skincare. As such my skin is suffering a little! So I pulled out my emergency bottle of Devita AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and have applied it 3 nights out of the last 6. I can already feel the difference – my chin feels less rough. I have put down a little about fruit acids below – how they work and what to look for in a good AHA product.

    Fruit acids have long been shown to promote rapid change in rough skin by encouraging the rate of cellular turnover which can bring the appearance of smoother, younger looking skin, reduced pore size, and to give a healthy glow. The other benefits of fruit acids include helping to minimize break-outs particularly if they are related to congestion or makeup use, and milia bumps, reduce the appearance of fine lines, deeper wrinkles and darkened areas on the face. With past use I have noticed a reduction in pore size on my chin and nose. I have no wrinkles on my chin so cannot comment about their size reduction!

    Using a therapeutic fruit acid blend will help manage the damaged upper layers of skin. They work by destroying the ‘glue’, which holds dead skin to the surface. As this dead skin is lifted, the other ingredients carry the individual flakes away and a water rinse neutralizes the skin. The result is a much-smoother skin surface and a more youthful appearance. A secondary benefit is fruit acid’s ability to draw moisturizers into the newly-exfoliated skin surface. It is always recommended to follow fruit acid use with a good quality moisturizer. New skin will absorb more of any product applied, both good and bad so it is best to use a natural or organic moisturizer.

    Sources of Hydroxy Acids

    • Alpha hydroxy acids found in fruits including lemons, strawberries and grapes;
    • Malic acid comes from apples, vinegar, applesauce, cider;
    • Lactic acid is found in buttermilk, yogurt, powdered skim milk, sour cream, blackberries, tomatoes;
    • Tartaric acid is found in grapes, grape juice and wine;
    • Glycolic acid come from sugar cane.

    How often can Fruit Acids be used?

    It is ideal to use Fruit Acids no more than 2-3 times a week and preferably at night. Night-time use is due to a potential increase in sun sensitivity. Your skin can be more easily sunburnt when you use fruit acids as they are revealing newer, younger skin so ensure that you use an SPF30 sunscreen during the day.

    The concentration (or %) of acid needs to be above 8% to be effective. Anything below 8% will not have significant skin benefits. Devita AHA is a potent blend of all natural fruit and sugar acids (12%). The high concentration means that this product will gently help retexturize the skin.

    Please note with any concentrated product it is possible to over-use and over-stress the skin. A less is more approach is recommended and more is not better in this case. Use any AHA product as directed.

    Read more about Devita AHAs

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    I read this blog post by Grace from Pure & Green Organics with great interest as it outlines some great Shopping Guides that help you to navigate your way through the maze of ingredients on cosmetic labels. I have personally used all of these guides and found them excellent. I particularly like the phone apps as they are portable.

    Grace from Pure & Green writes: The good news is there are guides already in existence and most of them very reasonably priced, and some are even free.  I have broken the options down to the ones I have used and feel comfortable recommending &  also into three formats (1)  PC downloads you can print out (2) apps for your iphone or (3) apps for your android phone

    Cosmetic Dictionary

    While most cosmetic dictionaries are so bulky you couldn’t possibly bring them to the shops with you, one very clever lady named Ruth Winter has prepared her dictionary in multiple formats making life a little easier.  The book is titled “A Consumer’s Dictionary of  Cosmetic Ingredients – 7th edition” .  Here is a blurb from her about the latest edition

    Everything you need to know about the safety and efficacy of cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. Is it a cosmetic? A drug? A nutrient? Its becoming more and more difficult to tell the difference with the cosmetic companies combining the three. …. . So before you slather on that wrinkle-reducing cream or swallow a skin-rejuvenating vitamin, find out whats in your health and beauty products with A Consumers Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients.”

    I bought her dictionary in e-book form and it does the job although the focus is on explaining the ingredients, not emphatically stating avoid this or that.

    You can buy the book as an e-book or  in hard cover  (which is probably easier to navigate than the e-book) both versions cost $17.99


    or as an iphone app – also $17.99


    nothing available for android phones at the moment

    If $17.99 is outside your budget you could print out the free shoppers guide from the David Suzuki Foundation.  This little guide is well,  little, so it focuses on what they have called the dirty dozen, the top 12 “families” of chemicals to avoid.  It’s not as comprehensive as Ruth Winter’s book but it’s free, easy to carry and a good start.


    Update: readers have recommended “The Chemical Maze Shopping Companion 4th edition: Your Guide to Food Additives and Cosmetic Ingredients”.  Author – Bill Statham.  This book is very small – compact enough to fit into your handbag while shopping, and is available through online booksellers for approx $16.00

    Sunscreen Guides

    For help in choosing a sunscreen, there is a free guide available from Friends of the Earth which you can print out.  It’s focus is on nano-free products not the overall toxicity.


    Environmental Working Group have produced a report into the toxicity of sunscreens, which you could access free with an iphone  app


    I find a combination of the two guides is useful as they each have a different focus, it’s only by combining them that you get the whole picture.

    Ed. note: Do you know of any great cosmetic resources. If so please share the love so we can all benefit! Thanks.

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    A bush tucker food native to the Northern Territory and Western Australia has raised the interest of a major US cosmetics giant. Last year Mary Kay cosmetics applied for an international patent on the Kakadu Plum extract to be used in skin care products. Traditionally used for food and medicine by the Mirrar people of Kakadu, this patent would create a monopoly of use for Mary Kay for up to the next 20 years. There is concern about this patent application as it may limit future use of similar extracts and indeed may exclude the use of Kakadu Plum in existing cosmetic products. The application had also angered some indigenous people as it doesn’t take into account any benefit sharing for traditional use of the plum.

    Also known as Billygoat plum, the round, light green fruits are usually eaten raw or made into jam. The fruits gained increased popularity after the vitamin C content became known. Significantly the Kakadu Plum has been identified world wide as the single natural food source with the highest vitamin C content on the planet. It contains up to 3000mg of vitamin C per 100g of fruit, which is over 50 times the concentration found in oranges. In addition high levels of folate and polyphenolic antioxidants were also found.

    Unfortunately, supply of high-vitamin C content Kakadu Plum may be limited. Antioxidant levels including vitamin C respond to harsh growing conditions and rise when the plant is under environmental threat which is common in wild stands of trees. Plantation crops of the fruit have lower levels of vitamin C due to irrigation and less harsh growing conditions.

    The vitamin C content in particular explains why it Kakadu Plum has gained the recent interest of Mary Kay. Among other benefits Vitamin C – supports and stimulates collagen synthesis and reduces free radical damage. Significantly in the Australian climate, it also minimised photoaging. Photo-aging damage includes but is not limited to: wrinkles, dark blotches, freckles, leathery texture and loss of elasticity.

    This exceptional extract can be found in the Mukti range, in particular their newly reformulated Nourishing Facial Cream as well as the divine Kakadu Plum & Honey Gel Hydrating Mask.

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