Ask a Skin Care Biologist is a recurring Mask of Vanity post where OUMERE's CEO and CSO, Wendy Ouriel, M.S., answers your skin care questions. Wendy is a cellular biologist with expertise in cellular aging, extracellular matrix biology and the biology of skin care.
Question: I want to make my lips appear fuller without filler, do lip plumping products actually work?
Answer: No. I am not an advocate for fillers or cosmetic surgery but the only way to increase the volume of your lips is to inject them with a filler material.
The reason why lip plumping glosses, balms and other topicals do not work is because it is biologically impossible for your skin to absorb them and then incorporate the material into your body's own tissue.
Think about it this way, if you put water on your lips, or silicone or melted butter on your lips, does this make them plumper? Of course not, so why would you think that putting a goo on your lips with hyaluronic acid would make your lips plumper? Just because it was told to you that it would? Cosmetic companies will say anything to sell a product regardless of its truth.
And if you want to actually take an intelligent approach to analyzing skin care, you would look at that tube of product and think, is it all going into my body? If no, how am I supposed to expect that just the good ingredients go in and all of the fragrance, plastic and chemicals stay out? If yes, do I really want those things going into my body and stay there?
The good news is that skin is not an open channel for everything to be absorbed and incorporated. The skin is not a sponge, the skin is a barrier. And for good reason. You do not want a lip gloss or balm to be able to be incorporated into your body because this will lead to poisoning.
The majority of cosmetic packaging and ingredients are contaminated with bacteria, mold spores and other microbials. If these products were able to go into your body and stay there, well that also means that all of the contaminants, in addition to the contaminants from the environment are going into your body as well and into your tissues and bloodstream.
There is no scientific basis for the claims that topically applied ingredients in "lip plumpers" such as hyaluronic acid can be absorbed by the body, and there is no scientific research that supports that it can be absorbed by the lips, anchored into the tissue and remain there. If the body routinely absorbed and incorporated everything topically applied then we would weigh thousands of pounds and die within a few months of life.
Some lip plumpers also contain ingredients intended to give you an inflammatory reaction. Ingredients such as cayenne pepper, fragrance and harsh alcohols cause your body to elicit an attack response, which temporarily does make the lips plumper, like if you were to be stung by a bee. But this response is temporary and has the long-term effect of thinning the lips out by depleting the collagen and elastin material from the inflammatory response.
The moral of this story is that there is no scientific basis for the claims made by companies who sell these products to you, and the only thing that they do is harm your health. I would not trust any company that sells such a product thinking it could make the lips bigger because it proves they either do not know what they are talking about or they are hoping you are too stupid to know otherwise.
Question: I started using a serum with vitamins C, E and K a few years ago. I also noticed that I have had to receive more Botox injections in my forehead and filler around my laugh lines. Are the two related?
- M. B.
Answer: Vitamins can interfere with the body's normal functioning. One thing that I have been saying for years is that topically applied vitamins have no benefit on the body, vitamins must be digested from food, not pills or skin care to benefit your health.
If you take vitamins, such as vitamin C, I believe that you make it so that cellular processes involved in normal vitamin digestion, metabolism and biological output slowly begin to diminish. And this causes your body to become less and less efficient in the processes over time. So if you take vitamin C every day, and one thing vitamin C does is shape the collagen molecule after it has been synthesized, your body will become less efficient over time at shaping the collagen molecule. The result is saggier skin, skin quality loss, and an aged appearance.
I say no to vitamins (except for vitamin D), just eat healthy, use healthy skin care that was scientifically formulated by someone who knows what they're doing, and avoid cosmetic procedures. You save money and your youth.
Question: I have some blackheads, what should I do to remove them?
Answer: Believe it or not, your skin is supposed to have blackheads. I know there is an entire market devoted to their removal, but that does not mean those products or procedures are safe, or necessary.
I believe that small blackheads are somewhat necessary because although the pores are not a tunnel for a lip plumper to travel into and fill your lips, some very small particulate matter such as pesticides can get in there and into your bloodstream. Blackheads can act as a sort of plug for your pores to protect you.
Furthermore, blackhead removal often involves imposing mechanical stress unto the skin such as pressing the nails or needles into your face. By causing this mechanical stress upon your skin you do the following:
1. Break the skin
2. Kill live skin cells
3. Create an open wound
These result in skin reddening, infection, inflammation, collagen breakdown, excessive oiliness, and yes, more blackheads.
The best thing to do is to leave the little blackheads alone, no one else notices them but you, and if you see them, that means you are looking at yourself too closely in the mirror. I never look at my skin closer than arm's length and that was one of the top things that has kept my skin looking its best.
For larger blackheads, I recommend to OUMERE customers to massage the Oil Dissolution Theory cleanser for one minute into the skin, focusing on spots with blackheads. They will eventually pop out.
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