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The Three Faces of Exfoliation, Part 3: Enzymes

Enzymes: A Uniquely Effective Approach to Exfoliation

Organic Peel at Lavinia Borcau SalonIf you’re wishing someone would invent an effective anti-aging exfoliation treatment without the side effects of harsh synthetic acid peels, you’ll be glad that nature has already provided the perfect solution—enzymes. The enzymes used in exfoliation treatments come foods we eat such as fruits, vegetables, and milk and contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that speed up cell turnover. While the enzyme approach achieves its effects more gradually than invasive chemical peels, the additional benefits it confers on your skin are more than worth it.

What’s so different about enzymes? Unlike synthetic chemicals, enzymes are familiar to our bodies. Many enzymes are regularly introduced to our bodies through our diet. Some of them are also produced by our own cells and play a major role in the digestion of nutrients, detoxification, and energy production. As a result of this ability to stimulate healthy cellular activity, enzymes are a highly effective way to achieve significant positive changes in our skin.

In the article “Skin Exfoliation,” scientist Diana L.Howard Ph.D., of the International Dermal Institute explains that the AHAs in enzymes exfoliate the skin in a unique way. According to Dr. Howard,  “Some researchers believe the mechanism of action for AHAs cannot be tied solely to stimulation of the skin as measured by traditional cell renewal techniques.” She notes that studies suggest that AHAs may disrupt the “glue-like bonds” between dead skin cells, “causing a burst in skin exfoliation.” Howard points out that “it is often said that AHAs affect the skin from the inside out because of the suggestion that they influence corneocyte [dead skin cell] cohesion at the lower layers of the stratum corneum [outermost skin]. The result is a thinner stratum corneum, which is more flexible and compact, reflects more light and overall gives the skin a more youthful appearance.”

But the unmatched revitalizing power of enzyme peels and masks doesn’t end there. The special properties of some enzymes also contribute greatly to healthy functioning of the skin. In my next post I’ll explain the unique benefits of the natural enzymes used in my salon organic peel program, as well as in my LaVie Organique™ exfoliating mask.

The Three Faces of Exfoliation, Part 2: Chemical Exfoliation

The Unappealing Side of Chemical Exfoliation

Twenty-five years ago, the discovery of the bonus benefits of the acne treatment tretinoin (Retin-A) launched a revolution in skin care. Since then the use of synthetic vitamin A derivatives and other chemical exfoliants as anti-aging treatments has swept the beauty industry. At last, there were products and procedures that could dramatically improve the appearance of aging skin. In addition to Retin-A and related skin care products, more extreme versions of chemical seemed to promise a quick fix for every skin problem from acne and oily skin to age spots, warts, and wrinkles. But as with so many “miracle” products, the powerful effects of these chemical treatments come with risks.

Vitamin A Derivatives: A Word of Caution

The active ingredient in tretinoin and its over-the-counter cousins, the various retinol facial treatments retinol, is a vitamin A byproduct that induces a light chemical peel by introducing high doses of vitamin A into the skin. These products can cause severe irritation when used improperly. Women who are pregnant or nursing are warned not to use them because of the link between high doses of vitamin A and birth defects. Many women with sensitive skin find the redness and flakiness caused by these products too unpleasant to tolerate.

A Choice for an Organic Life

The Lavie Organique Product Line

At the right dosage level for your skin type, however, this powerful antioxidant does help restore a more youthful appearance by exfoliating worn-out surface skin cells and promoting cellular renewal in the underlying epidermal layer. With a natural form of vitamin A such as the retinyl palmitate in my LaVie Organique™ Original Formulas, you’re assured of the anti-aging effects of a plant-derived free radical scavenger without the risk of looking and feeling like you have a major case of sunburn.

Synthetic Chemical Peels: What Price Beauty?

Synthetic chemical peels are sometimes referred to as “lunchtime facelifts.” The implication is that you can radically change your appearance quickly, painlessly, and without any downtime. But even light peels with alpha hydroxyl acid (the active ingredient in many acne medications) or synthetic glycolic acid may cause flakiness, redness, and scabbing that can mar your appearance for days or weeks—and the deeper your go beneath the skin’s surface the higher the cost in pain and suffering. A medium trichloroacetic acid (TCA) can cause blistering and severe redness that may make you want to hide your face longer than you’d anticipated. With a deeper peel, the potential are more serious. In fact, the risks of this type of peel are equivalent to the dangers of surgery. This invasive procedure uses phenolic acid, a coal tar-derived industrial solvent and known carcinogen, also known as carbolic acid. Sedation and heart monitoring with an electrocardiograph are required. Recovery time usually takes three or four months and patients generally require strong medication to endure the deep throbbing pain.

The fact is, both TCA and phenol achieve their effects by inflicting a second-degree burn on your face. The severity of this injury to your skin poses serious risks including heart arrhythmias, shock, and infection. And in some cases the final result of all this painful damage can leave you with a ghostly white or brownish complexion.

As a European, I was schooled in a different approach to beauty. We prefer to incorporate a program of gradual, milder exfoliation into our holistic skin care regimen to achieve lasting results over time. I’ll explain more about this approach in Part 3 of “The Three Faces of Exfoliation.”

Rosemary: The Scent of Ageless Health and Beauty

I designed the elegant scent of my Lavie Organique professional skincare products to capture the essence of my balanced, synergistic approach to radiant health and beauty. Just as my special blend of natural and organic extracts works together to restore equilibrium to overstressed skin, the different fragrance notes that scent my proprietary formulas blend in perfect harmony to soothe and refresh your spirit.

Natural Ingredient in Lavie Organique

A Natural Ingredient Found in Lavie Organique

Rosemary leaf (Rosemarinus officinalis) extract lends a tangy evergreen note to the scent of my plant-based formulas—and the healing properties of a time-honored folk remedy. Aromatherapists still treat stress and fatigue with its fragrant leaves, but its medicinal properties been revered throughout history. Ancient Romans believed rosemary improved memory and traditional herbalists have been cooking up rosemary teas to treat headaches and digestive disorders for centuries. Medieval Europeans relied on rosemary to freshen breath and to keep meat from spoiling. In fact, its effectiveness as a natural preservative is borne out by its presence in the tissues of Egyptian mummies that have lasted for thousands of years.

With a history like that, it’s not surprising that today’s scientists are searching for the facts behind rosemary’s fabled reputation. Researchers have discovered that rosemary is not only a natural antiseptic, but also a diuretic that reduces swelling, as well as a possible cancer fighter and liver stimulant. The same anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, such as carnosol and caffeic acid that make rosemary a potential weapon against disease also explain why many of today’s best natural skincare products include it in their anti-aging arsenal.

In 2008,the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that rosemary extracts complied with its notoriously stringent safety and effectiveness standards for use as an antioxidant. A 2009 press release that announced certification of rosemary extracts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), noted the particular suitability of water-soluble rosmarinic acid for water-based products such as creams, as well as its heat stability, which prevents its antioxidant activity from dissipating at high temperatures.

Like Queen of Hungary Water—one of Europe’s first alcohol-based perfumes and astringents—Lavie Organique Toner also contains rosemary. But without the brandy that 14th century monks who invented it added to Elizabeth of Hungary’s signature cologne. Those monks obviously didn’t know much about the irritating effects of alcohols on sensitive skin!

Can an Apple a Day Keep Age Spots Away?

Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

While freckles or age spots may bother us, in the majority of cases, they’re perfectly harmless. As I explained in my last post, blotchy areas of darkened skin are most often the result of an interaction between solar radiation and the type of melanin cells we’ve inherited. Facial hyperpigmentation may also signal natural hormonal changes. Melasma, “the mask of pregnancy,” is one such benign condition that occurs in approximately 65% of expectant mothers. Nevertheless it’s important to be aware that not all brown spots are normal. Some may indicate serious health problems.

A dark spot with irregular borders could, for instance, be a malignant melanoma. Among the many other serious diseases associated with hyperpigmentation are Addison’s disease, lupus, scleroderma, and diabetes. Any change in skin pigmentation that comes on suddenly or looks unusual warrants a visit to your physician. If your areas of hyperpigmentation are the natural, normal kind, does that mean you just have to live with them? The fact is age spots are a stubborn—but far from hopeless—problem. While increased melanin production is the best-known contributor to the development of age spots, another culprit is implicated as well.

Known as the “age pigment,” lipofuscin is make up of oxidized fat and other dark-colored wastes that accumulate in our cells as we grow older. Sun exposure and an unhealthy lifestyle also contribute to and hasten the buildup of these free radicals in aging cells. Scientific studies, including one on the effects of grape seed extract on lipofuscin formation, suggest that flavonoids, as well as vitamin E, and other antioxidants can help repair this damage.

Contains Apples & Appleseed

So what’s my prescription for age spots? An all-natural skin care regime that includes plant-based antioxidants and exfoliants and a mineral sunblock. With my full range of LaVie Organique™ skin care products—from the gentle daily cleanser to the revitalizing mask you get all that and more: sun protection from the soothing sea salt zinc oxide, the gentle exfoliating action of ground walnuts; pure, unprocessed tocopherol (vitamin E); anti- inflammatory flavonoids, such as eucalyptus leaf oil and white tea—and the most famous folk remedy of all time—apples.

The remarkable organic compound that makes apples the perfect health food for your skin is malic acid, a potent antioxidant that’s also an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). In my salon’s signature organic peels as well as in the LaVie Organique Exfoliating Mask, this double-duty skin rejuvenator helps refine the skin’s texture and restore a more uniform tone by stripping away the damaged outer layer of skin.

Take advantage of the power of a professional skincare regime—at home or in the salon—and see for yourself what an apple a day can do for your skin.

Cruel Isn’t Beautiful

Many consumers still believe that animal cruelty is the price of human health and safety. However, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act refutes the popular misconception that cosmetics must be tested on animals to comply with FDA safety regulations. In fact, the FDA strongly supports the development of cruelty-free alternatives to animal experimentation.

Lavinia Borcau Quality Standards specifically forbid the use of animal testing to demonstrate product safety or effectiveness. To ensure this cruelty-free development strategy never interferes with the safety and quality of my all-natural skincare line, my exacting product standards require that the Lavie Organique Proprietary Blend of natural and certified organic ingredients comply with both Environmental Working Group and Natural Product Association guidelines.

My belief in the gentleness and effectiveness of natural skincare is rooted in my traditional European heritage. Over the years as I’ve read the results of scientific studies on botanical ingredients and gained hands-on experience with plant-based professional skincare, my instinctive trust in the Old World beauty secrets of my Romanian grandmother has evolved into a firm conviction.

By designing a personal skin care regimen that’s kind to your skin without hurting other living creatures, I’ve also stayed true to my holistic philosophy. As part of the natural world, we’re inextricably connected to the plants and animals that share our environment. By showing respect and caring for every part of this environment, we can achieve a more balanced lifestyle. The result is healthier body and mind—and the natural glow of genuine, lasting beauty.

Avocado Oil in Organic Skincare: Delicious Food for Your Skin

The rich, buttery flesh of the avocado is one of nature’s most perfect foods. The nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in this luscious fruit include vitamins E and C, as well as beta carotene—powerful antioxidants that help repair free radical damage from sun exposure and environmental toxins. Even the fats and sugars in avocados are the kinds that are good for you!

Early Spanish missionaries in Central America used avocados to treat wounds and improve the skin, a trick they most likely learned from the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incans who lived in the avocado’s native rainforest habitat. In fact, many stories claim that the Indians’ ancient ancestors were the first to use the avocado as a cosmetic. Like so many herbalists and healers before the dawn of modern science, these ancient researchers undoubtedly relied and their on keen intuition and powers of observation to make a logical deduction: External application of a succulent, creamy food that nourished the body from the inside would also feed and enhance their skin and hair.

Now 21st century science is showing why and how this nutritional treasure lives up to its legendary reputation. In addition to repairing cell damage, avocados help revitalize our skin in several other ways. Research suggests that the D-manno-heptulose sugars in avocado help prevent infection by forming an antimicrobial shield on the skin surface. Even more important, these complex natural sugars appear to increase the strength and resilience of the skin’s underlying collagen network.

Avocado oil is also a superior softener and moisturizer. In fact, this natural emollient outperforms every synthetic moisturizer on the market. Petroleum-based moisturizers, for instance, sit on the surface and slow cell turnover—exactly what you don’t want! The avocado’s plant-based lipids, essential fatty acids, and sterolins, on the other hand, do all the right things: These rich, yet non-greasy, oils penetrate the skin, lock in moisture, and deliver vital nutrients that accelerate cell regeneration. All these healing and restorative properties help support and explain avocado oil’s effectiveness as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis.

The all-natural avocado oil in Lavie-Organique™ Face Cream and Day Cream is elegant food for your for your skin. Like all the ingredients in the Lavinia Borcau personal care system, this plant-derived oil is a simple, powerful, and luxurious way to nurture healthy, beautiful skin.

Aloe Vera Part 2: Can Aloe Vera Help Your Skin Look Younger?

Ancient herbalists and physicians believed in aloe vera ’s medicinal and rejuvenating qualities—and Mahatma Gandhi swore it was the secret of his strength and endurance. But even centuries of intuition and experience lack the persuasive power of the latest scientific knowledge. As today’s dermatologists and researchers continue rigorously investigating the science behind these claims, they’re discovering that the medical instincts of these long-ago healers were way ahead of their times.

The websites of prestigious institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, now cite evidence that aloe vera helps heal a variety of skin conditions. A number of studies indicate that topical aloe vera treatments help improve psoriasis, seborrhea, and herpes. Preliminary research on aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory properties and role in promoting hormonal balance also look promising.

But how exactly does this plant extract help turn back the clock for aging skin? According to a study by Dr. Ivan E. Danhof, M.D./Ph.D., president of North Texas Research Laboratories, and a retired University of Texas Professor of Physiology, the key appears to lie just below the surface in the skin’s collagen layer. Collagen’s network of protein fibers support the skin’s surface and helps repair blood vessels and tissues. When sun exposure and normal aging gradually weaken this support system, our skin starts to sag and develop lines and wrinkles. Danho’s research shows that aloe vera extract boosts the turnover rate of the fibroblast cells that produce collagen. In his study, fibroblast cells reproduced six to eight times faster than the normal rate. The result? Stronger, more resilient collagen fibers and firmer, younger-looking skin!

The most convincing proof, however, ultimately lies in the product. The Aloe vera 200X in my Lavie Organique™ care system is just one of the plant-based ingredients that work synergistically to balance and support skin health. Try it and see for yourself what my signature blend of traditional wisdom, 21st century science, and European luxury can do for your skin.

Organic Skincare for Sensitive Skin Part 4: Do Synthetic Moisturizers Deliver on Their Promises?

Once you’ve evaluated the risk factors, there’s another important question about synthetic skin care additives that remains to be answered. How effective are they?

Let’s start with a closer look at the world’ favorite moisturizer and all-purpose skin remedy: petrolatum jelly. Generations of consumers have relied on this sticky ointment to moisturize, soothe, and protect sensitive skin. Although petrolatum is often promoted as a remedy for sunburn, diaper rash, and dry, irritated skin, its physical properties actually worsen these conditions. In fact, this semi-solid mixture of hydrocarbons actually repels moisture. Furthermore, physicians have shown that our skin can’t absorb petrolatum. The thick barrier this gooey substance forms on the skin may help keep germs out of wounds, but it also seals in the heat generated by any type of burn. Petrolatum jelly’s promise as a moisturizer is equally deceiving. Instead of the soft, dewy skin this product supposedly ensures, petrolatum leaves you with a greasy film. Other petroleum derivatives such as mineral oil—the main ingredient in baby oil—produce a similar effect.

What about propylene glycol? Unlike petrolatum, this additive can penetrate the skin surface. Propylene glycol is a humectant, a type of chemical whose molecules attract and easily bond with water molecules. Theoretically, then, propylene glycol should be a good skin moisturizer. But these two facts don’t tell the whole story of this widely used wetting agent and solvent. When humidity drops, propylene glycol tends to draw moisture from the lower layers of the skin instead of from the surrounding air. The ultimate result to your skin is increased dryness as well as irritation.

So why do cosmetic companies love these ingredients so much? The most likely reason is economic: Both petrolatum and propylene glycol are cheap.

The superiority of plant-based oils as skin moisturizers comes from a simple fact of nature: Botanical oils resemble sebum, the natural moisturizer found in our skin. One of the most effective of these plant-derived moisturizers, Aloe vera 200x, is an extract of a well-known succulent plant species. The water-retaining tissue of succulents enable these plants to thrive in the parched atmosphere of desert climates. Anyone who’s ever seen and touched an aloe vera plant’s sleek, juicy leaves has firsthand evidence of it’s amazing emollient and revitalizing properties.

To meet Lavinia Borcau Quality Standards, the Aloe vera 200x used in La Vie Organique™ Original Formulas must meet or exceed the Natural Product Association safety guidelines, as well as my own exacting criteria for professional skincare performance. So you’re assured of the highest levels of quality, purity, and safety.

In my next post, I’ll explain more about aloe vera’s power to enhance the health and beauty of your skin.

Organic Skincare for Sensitive Skin Part 3: Three Top Troublemakers

Parabens, petrolatum, and propylene glycol are the cosmetic industry’s three favorite synthetic additives. From skin cleaners and moisturizers to shampoos, sunscreens, makeup, deodorants, and shaving cream, virtually every beauty and personal care item in your local drugstore contains one or more these substances. In fact you’ll find all three on the label of almost every brand of baby lotion you can buy. That might be enough to reassure most consumers—but do evidence-based studies on these ingredients unanimously confirm their safety and effectiveness?

As it turns out, researchers at an organization specializing in environmental safety have challenged the widespread belief that parabens, petrolatum, and propylene glycol are harmless and even good for your skin. According to the database compiled by the Environmental Working Group, the potential health hazards of these ingredients extend far beyond their tendency to cause allergies and dermatitis. Let’s look at what EWG research reports have to say about each one.

Petrolatum jelly: Researcher classified this widely used moisturizer as a possible cancer risk and raised concerns about potential organ damage and the presence of toxic contaminants.

Parabens: This popular synthetic preservative may interfere with hormonal balance and has been found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. Approximately 250,000 beauty and personal care products contain parabens!

Propylene glycol: Evidence from animal studies suggests moderate doses of this petroleum derivative may cause widespread organ toxicity. Emerging concerns include potential damage to natural ecosystems.
In addition its use as a wetting agent in personal care products, propylene glycol is an ingredient often found in antifreeze—does that sound like anything you’d want put on your skin?

You can avoid all these health risks by maintaining an all-natural skin care regime. Every Orginal Formula product—from my daily cleanser, to my weekly exfoliating mask —in the Lavie Organique™ skin care system contains only certified organic and natural plant-derived ingredients. The complete line provides a total solution to the risk of skin and other health problems from exposure to synthetic additives.

In my concluding comments on sensitive skin, you’ll find out why safer and gentler natural alternatives to synthetic moisturizing and anti-agents can also deliver superior results.

Organic Skincare for Sensitive Skin Part 2: What’s in a Name?

When I advise clients with sensitive skin to avoid face creams and other beauty products with harsh chemical ingredients, they sometimes ask me to identify the major offenders. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. In fact, anyone who’s committed to healthy eating already has a head start. If you check the labels of food products for harmful additives, you can probably spot synthetic chemicals immediately. Names like FD&C Yellow #6, sodium benzoate, BHA, BHT, and diacetyl tend to raise alarm bells in people who care about their diet. Basically, if the ingredient name looks like it belongs in a chemistry book, it probably doesn’t belong inside your body.

This same logic applies to the ingredients we put on our skin. For instance, ingredient names with –ly endings—ethyl, benzyl, methyl, and so forth—automatically spell trouble for sensitive skin. These alcohol derivatives are found in many high-priced cleansers, toners, and moisturizers—yet they can seriously damage your skin. Alcohols not only cause dryness and irritation, but also interfere with vitamin A absorption. The resulting deficiency may contribute to the premature development of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.

Obviously there’s nothing beautiful about beauty products that can make you look old before your time! You won’t find any alcohols in Lavinia Borcau natural skin care products. In fact, any ingredient that isn’t 100% natural is specifically excluded from the Lavie Organique™ product line by my official Quality Standards. And as my clients will tell you, that’s a promise, you can trust!

Stay tuned—I’ll be naming more of the prime suspects in cases of red, irritated skin in Part 3.