You guys asked so many great questions about clean beauty! Check out my responses:

  1. How does Retinol/Retin-A fit into the clean beauty picture?

ANSWER: Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative which is often added to topical skincare products to promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone, reduce acne, and boost your skin’s collagen production. It also functions like an antioxidant to help address free radical damage which leads to visible signs of aging. The term retinoids is most commonly used to cover the class of Vitamin A derivatives which includes over the counter retinol and prescription strength Retin-A.  Retinol is probably the most powerful over-the-counter anti-aging ingredient on the market today and has the most impressive data when it comes to truly transforming our skin, provided that we use it consistently over time. I often recommend that my patients who are starting to notice fine lines and wrinkles (typically ages 30+) incorporate an OTC retinol into their nightly skincare routine. Retinol helps to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improves your overall skin tone and appearance and can even help to reverse some of the side effects of sun damage. When applying it, don’t neglect your neck, chest, and eye area. If you are using a retinol to address fine lines and wrinkles, I often tell my patients that they will see the clearest visible results in about 6 months with even more impact after one year. In the case of retinol, in my opinion, natural alternatives just haven’t caught up to the efficacy of safe, consistently effective, synthetic ingredients formulated in a lab. You might see some products containing rosehip seed oil, or beta carotene, with claims that the product has “natural retinol alternatives.” While these ingredients do have some nice benefits for the skin, they aren’t going to deliver comparable results to a synthetic retinol made in a laboratory. I regularly test new products, so if I find a product that changes my mind, I will share that information!

2. What do you recommend for dry, acne prone skin that’s sensitive when it comes to clean beauty?

ANSWER: As I share in Dirty Looks, I would consider addressing these symptoms using a 360 degree approach, including dietary changes, in addition to topical products. We now know that certain foods can trigger acne, including whey protein and skim milk. Many times, internal inflammation, which begins in our gut, manifests externally as sensitive skin, acne, dryness, etc. So, that is where I would begin. In terms of clean beauty products, I would avoid any harsh cleansers or scrubs that will disturb your skin’s gentle natural barrier and healthy microbiome. A gentle cleanser would be a great option. Look for the words “gentle,” “hydrating” or “pH balanced” on the label.  When it comes to exfoliating your skin, make sure to limit any form of exfoliation to twice a week and for sensitive skin, I prefer chemical over physical or manual exfoliants.  Here’s a facebook live I did on exfoliating that you might find helpful. Since your skin is acne prone, you want to look for words like “non-comedogenic”, which means that the product will not clog your pores.

  1. Clean beauty in sunscreen – is this even possible?

ANSWER: This is such a great question because the terms we see advertised on sunscreen bottles can be incredibly confusing. For example, does organic mean natural? Actually, organic sunscreen technically means that the sunscreen includes carbon-based ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone. Organic sunscreens, according to dermatologists and chemists, are the chemical sunscreens. In contrast, physical blockers, the barrier blockers are inorganic, meaning not-carbon based and include zinc oxide and and/or titanium dioxide. So, you truly have to check the label to know whether your “organic” sunscreen is the type of sunscreen you think you are buying! Some of my favorites, which would be in sync with most definitions of clean beauty, are: Naturopathica UV Defense Cream and ThinkBaby SPF 50+ Sunscreen.

  1. Is xanthan gum safe? It’s in a lot of clean beauty products.

ANSWER: Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide. It’s basically a sugar-based polymer, or chain, produced by bacteria. It’s commonly used in cosmetics, many foods, supplements . . . it can be found in so many ingestible and topical products. It can be a digestive irritant if consumed in large quantities, but overall, based on available studies, it doesn’t appear to pose substantial health concerns. It does not appear to be absorbed into our bloodstream and I have not seen any studies to date that specifically concern me when it comes to topical usage.

  1. Is grape seed oil as a body moisturizer safe for everyday use?

ANSWER: In general, grapeseed oil does appear to be safe based on what we do know, provided that it’s cold-pressed or expeller-pressed. Grapeseed oil might have some beauty benefits due to its Vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acid content. It can be used for oil cleansing and can protect against skin irritation. I would like to see more studies on grapeseed oil usage, particularly with respect to everyday use, though, before I come to a conclusion on whether that’s beneficial.

  1. What do you think about parabens? Cetaphil is so often recommended and I’ve been using it for years but I know there is some concern about parabens.

ANSWER: This is a great question because parabens have been so widely used as a preservative in beauty and skincare products for so many years and now, we are seeing so much attention called to “paraben-free” products. So, the natural question is, what is the danger here and why are parabens getting so much negative attention? Currently, the US Food and Drug Association and World Health Organization consider parabens to be safe at low levels. The main concerns with parabens surround whether they are hormone disruptors. Specifically, estrogen disruption has been linked to cancer and reproductive issues and the questions surrounding parabens relate to these subject matters. Therefore, many companies are including parabens on their “dirty lists” and emphasize that their products are “paraben-free.” Parabens include Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Methylparaben, and Propylparaben. I have been very much aligned with the clean beauty space and the direction of clean beauty and I do think that mindfulness is warranted when it comes to paraben use. There are so many options now that are paraben-free that I feel it makes good sense to embrace those products and to move away from products which are made with parabens while further research is done with respect to their safety.

  1. Are essential oils actually good for your skin? I’ve heard conflicting advice.

ANSWER: So many of my patients swear by their essential oils. They can be energizing, relaxing, and everything in between. Diffusing them can be helpful in terms of mindfulness and anxiety reduction, which is very beneficial to the skin. In addition, some people like to use essential oils topically –whether diluted with a carrier oil or already incorporated into skincare products. Importantly, some essential oils are photosensitizing, meaning, you should not put them on your skin if you are going to be out in the sun. Some examples are: bergamot, bitter orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, verbena, and several others. Be sure to check the information which accompanies your essential oils, as many are labeled photosensitizing! Also, certain essential oils can cause significant irritation when applied to the skin, especially if applied without diluting them first in a carrier oil. I think a determination as to skin benefits would really need to be made on a product by product basis because essential oils are used at very different levels and for different reasons in particular products. For example, some companies use very minimal amounts of essential oils for fragrance purposes only whereas some products boast higher concentrations. I always recommend that my patients try a “patch test” if they are trying a new product, meaning that you would want to try the product on a small space on the inside of your arm to determine whether you have a reaction/experience irritation. Due diligence in this area is very important – research your oils before applying topically.

Dr. Whitney

 

As I explain in The Beauty of Dirty Skin (and now in Dirty Looks), the word “probiotic” literally means “for life.” Probiotics support the health of the good bugs that make up our microbiome, to keep our gut and skin healthy. The balance of bacteria in our gut has a profound role in the health of our skin. Inflamed gut leads to inflamed skin. If you restore the healthy balance, you calm inflammation in the gut and you will see that reflected in your skin.

Among their many health boosting jobs, probiotics:

  • fight bad bacteria
  • help regulate our immune system by working to control inflammation, and
  • support the healthy barrier function in both our gut and skin, preventing “leaky gut” (and “leaky skin”)

What to look for: Not all probiotics are created equal. Different strains of probiotics serve different purposes and, certain probiotics are much more effective than others. I’ve broken down many of the most effective strains for you right here:

  • Lactobacillus plantarum has been shown to help with wrinkles, elasticity and improve hydration in the skin. Some studies were done using oral supplementation and used a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled design which suggests it has an inside-out benefit (oral supplementation). These studies demonstrated a significant reduction in the depth of wrinkles, as well as improved elasticity and hydration.  Furthermore, lab and animal studies show that it actually protects skin against damaging UVB rays by protecting collagen. It does so by dialing down the enzyme that breaks collagen down when UVB rays penetrate the skin (MMP). It might have topical benefits as well. In summary, I think this particular species shows promise for hydration AND photoaging and is particularly relevant for the summer as it might help to serve as an additional form of protection for your skin against damaging ultraviolet rays, preserving collagen!

 

  • L rhamnosus also might protect the skin from UV damage from the inside out.  In mouse studies, oral ingestion appears protective of UV damage in skin.

 

  • L fermentum appears to have antioxidant properties, which is important for protecting the skin from free radical damage which can lead to signs of aging and skin cancer. It’s even shown promise in helping with severely dry skin. Antioxidant properties: L fermentum appears to help combat free radicals and oxidative stress in the body. Free radicals are like missiles that target and damage all parts of the skin, leading to inflammation and signs of aging. We’ve always thought of Vitamin C and Vitamin E as our first line of defense against free radical damage from UV rays, infrared heat, visible light or pollution. These studies, demonstrating that certain probiotics can actually have antioxidant properties, is groundbreaking. I can envision it being used to help slow down the development of fine lines, wrinkles, dilated pores, acne, and brown spots including melasma.  We now know that free radical damage plays a role in all of those conditions so having antioxidants on board both topically and through diet or supplementation is one of the most proactive and protective things you can do for your skin.  I’ve personally published on the link between oxidative stress and acne, and I recommend topical and oral antioxidants for all my acne patients. In laboratory studies, Lactobacillus fermentum showed antioxidant properties, and in human studies, it was shown to downregulate inflammatory markers (dec IL-6 and TNF alpha), as well as to improve the inflammatory skin condition atopic dermatitis (eczema).

 

  • Bifidobacterium longum, when applied TOPICALLY, might help with sensitive skin or skin that easily reacts with stinging or burning. Reduces sensitive skin (chemical and physical stressors). In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, subjects who applied the probiotic twice a day for two months saw increased skin resistance against physical (heat, cold, wind) and chemical aggressors (skin-care products), and a decrease in dryness after 29 days.  Some ex vivo lab studies suggest it can be good for rosacea, eczema, sensitive skin.

 

  • One study on Lactococcus lactis showed that oral administration improves skin health including elasticity of skin and hydration. Lactococcus lactis might help with wound healing, skin hydration and elasticity and even shows promise in preventing hair loss from the inside out.

 

  • Lactobacillus paracasei (topical) has been shown to inhibit Substance P (a pain-promoting neuropeptide) to regulate inflammation and oil production. Potential role in acne and rosacea patients.

 

  • Enterococcus faecalis SL-5 (topical) reduced study participants’ acne by 50 percent in eight weeks compared to subjects who used a probiotic-free placebo lotion.

 

  • Lactobacillus plantarum (topical) decreased the number and size of acne lesions as well as redness; may also help with rosacea flares.

 

  • Streptococcus salivarius (topical) secretes a bacteriocin-like inhibitory substance (BLIS) that reigns in the acne-causing bacteria, acnes.

 

  • Lactococcus sp. HY 449 (topical) produces an antimicrobial agent to control the growth of acnes and prevent inflammation and breakouts.

 

  • Streptococcus thermophilus (topical) increases the production of ceramides in the skin to counter moisture loss and irritation. Potential benefit for eczema/sensitive skin, dry skin.

 

  • Staphylococcus hominis and Staphylococcus epidermis (topical) can suppress the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, an infectious bacterial strain that drives the symptoms of eczema. So useful for atopic dermatitis/eczema/dry inflamed skin.

 

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (oral) was shown to reduce the odds of eczema in high-risk babies born to mothers who took the probiotic two to four weeks before giving birth, and then either continued taking it while breastfeeding, or added it to infant formula. So useful for eczema, dry skin, hydration.

 

  • Bacillus coagulans (topical and oral) produces free radical-scavenging chemicals, and increases the skin’s synthesis of moisturizing ceramides, to arrest sagging and wrinkles. Useful for any skin conditions linked to free radicals and oxidative stress (lentigos/brown spots, acne, fine lines/loss of collagen) and the ceramide production makes it beneficial for dry skin/eczema/hydration.

 

 

  • Lactobacillus paracasei (oral) has anti-inflammatory properties and helps strengthen the skin barrier to prevent moisture loss. Potential benefit in acne, rosacea, and eczema, sensitive skin and dry skin.

 

  • Lactobacillus johnsonii (oral) when taken in combination with 7.2 mg of carotenoids (plant-derived antioxidants) for 10 weeks before sun exposure, it protected skin’s Langerhans cells from UV damage, enabling them to better inhibit inflammation. The probiotic also helped subjects’ immune systems rebound faster after intense UV exposure.

 

I receive so many questions about which specific products and which BRANDS I recommend — which topicals and which oral supplements.  To get you started, I share some of my favorite topical probiotic products on my Picks page. Many more brands, both topical and oral (supplements) are currently in development and poised to launch in the near future. I am going to be releasing more information on these products very soon. I am currently personally testing and sampling a number of the newest products about to hit the market in this space and I am not going to prematurely make specific recommendations. Due diligence is very important to me! So, this information is coming very soon and check back frequently for more information on topical and oral probiotics with specific skin benefits!

 

Dr. Whitney

If you read my blog and social media posts, you already know that I often describe the skin’s microbiome as a rainforest of diverse organisms (bacteria, fungi and viruses) which live on your skin’s various layers, from the deep-down fat cushion all the way up to your epidermal cells. Incredibly, there are more than one trillion bacteria in the skin, originating from approximately one thousand different species! When your skin’s healthy microbiome is disrupted by harsh cleansers and other abrasive skincare products or by your diet and lifestyle choices, this discontent can manifest as breakouts, rosacea flares, psoriasis, eczema, and even skin sensitivity. Healthy biome, healthy skin.

Stressing 24/7 is a habit you want to kick for healthy skin. Here’s why —

Something triggers stress in your body. Let’s start here. Your brain perceives something as stressful and your fight or flight response is activated. Once that happens, the digestion in your belly slows as your blood is shunted away from your intestines toward your extremities (just in case you need to fight or flee). Given that you most likely don’t need to do either, this is just disruptive to your body’s healthy functioning. There’s more.

Stress hormones also restrict the contractions of your digestive muscles, and diminish your digestive juices—all of which forces food to sit idly in the GI tract, inviting an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast. These unsavory characters cause your intestinal lining to grow weak and leaky, allowing toxins to spill into the bloodstream, and triggering body-wide inflammation and a host of potential diseases. You’ve heard me talk about Leaky Gut and Leaky Skin, so this is what we are talking about.

The best medicine? Decompression. As I note in The Beauty of Dirty Skin, meditation is a shortcut to calm. It sparks what’s known as the relaxation response, during which the body slows down muscles and organs while boosting blood flow to the brain, thereby easing anxiety—and the skin conditions that come along with it. Meditation can even turn on genes that are anti-inflammatory in nature. If traditional Om-style meditation isn’t your thing, try yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, repetitive prayer—whatever you find most grounding. Dedicate a few moments twice a day to your practice. You can try an app like headspace or breathe. Just a few minutes a day is a great start.

You’ve got this. This is a small change which will have a big impact not only on the health of your skin, but on your overall health! So, take a deep breath, and give it a try.

As I discuss in The Beauty of Dirty Skin, in order to have healthy, radiant skin, we have to keep our natural warrior bugs healthy. I’ve frequently discussed the concept of our healthy skin barrier and “microbiome” — which is the invisible rainforest of microorganisms, primarily bacteria, that are coating your skin right now. So, I know it won’t come as a surprise at this point when I tell you that the health and appearance of our skin is impacted by the health and diversity of our “good bugs.” The question now becomes, how to we keep our good bugs, a.k.a. our skin microbiome, healthy so that our skin is radiant?
I’ve often referred to the term “probiotic”, which refers to the live bugs, or live bacteria. Now, we are starting to focus on an important related term – “prebiotic” – which refers to the food the good bugs like to eat! I actually think the strongest skin-care products emerging on the market will likely be those made with prebiotics.

As I mention above, prebiotics are like the nourishing food that naturally allows healthy, good bacteria to thrive on your skin. Some prebiotics encourage specific healthy strains of bacteria to grow, and others increase the diversity of the bacteria on your skin, which is also very important. When you remove your skin’s healthy bacterial diversity – the rainforest of microorganisms that should be thriving on your skin — that’s when you see problems like rosacea, acne, fine lines, and discoloration. To put it simply, probiotics contain the good guys, and prebiotics contain what the good guys like to consume to ensure their own survival and proliferation.

One of my favorite products in this space is Aleavia’s Restore Soothing Mist. Made with organic coconut oil, Acadian sea kelp – included in this formulation for its prebiotic properties — citric acid and aloe vera, this mist soothes and hydrates your skin with prebiotics that help to bring your skin’s natural barrier into balance. I apply it to the dry or inflamed areas on my skin following my shower. If my skin is extra dry or inflamed, I’ll then use a moisturizer on top for an added layer of hydration. If I’m heading to the beach, I give it a few minutes to absorb and then I apply sunscreen on top. It’s very light and refreshing, feels very soothing and Aleavia has done quite a bit of testing of this product to ensure its efficacy, which is very important to me in making a recommendation to you.

Ideal for the following skin conditions: dry, itchy, irritated skin.

Made with: Filtered Water, Coconut Oil, Acadian Sea Kelp, Citric Acid, Soy Lecithin, Aloe Vera; Certified Organic, 100 percent pure plant-based ingredients; Vegan.

Made without: Free of synthetic fragrance and dyes, chemical and paraben free. I do not find that this product has a scent.

For every one human cell on your body, you have between 3 and 10 bacterial cells either right above it or below it! The bacteria that are in contact with our human cells are capable of turning on or turning off our own genes. So, our microbiome can impact our own gene expression. What does this mean for you? It means that our bacteria have a huge say in our risk for diseases like obesity, diabetes and more. Learn more about this incredible science for your health in The Beauty of Dirty Skin.

You probably have heard about leaky gut. Here’s a quick explanation of that term. When our intestinal lining is working properly, it forms a tight barrier which controls what is absorbed into our bloodstream. However, a compromised gut lining allows toxins, undigested food particles, and bad bacteria to “leak” out of your intestines and to then travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these foreign substances as threats and therefore attacks them. This, in turn, gives rise to many substantial health issues.

But, did you know that you can also have leaky skin? When your skin microbiome is off balance, meaning that the healthy balance of good bacteria on your skin is not intact, this can compromise your skin’s natural barrier. This leads to inflammation which in turn results in chronic skin conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. How are we contributing to this issue and what can we do to prevent leaky skin? Check out this video and to learn more, be sure to order The Beauty of Dirty Skin, your guide to healthy, radiant skin.

This is one of my favorite topics because it is transforming medicine today! In my video, America is Redefining Clean, I explained that you will be seeing more and more skincare products on the market that protect your skin’s healthy barrier and microbiome. What does this mean? Your skin’s “microbiome” is a beautiful rainforest of diverse organisms (bacteria, fungi and viruses) which live in and on your skin’s various layers, from the deep-down fat cushion all the way up to your epidermal cells on high. Did you know that there are more than one trillion bacteria in the skin, originating from approximately one thousand different species!

How is America redefining clean? The skincare industry is recognizing that clean and healthy skin means supporting and nurturing the diverse array of good bacteria on our skin! Their research and development departments (R & D) are re-examining product formulations to consider their impact on our skin microbiome. What can you expect to see on the market in the next 6 months? Check this video out to find out! And, to learn more, click here: https://drwhitneybowe.com/beauty-of-dirty-skin-book/.

For years in the skin-care world, dirty skin equaled bad skin — even to the point of overcleansing. But recent science has turned the squeaky-clean axiom on its head as new research about the power of your skin’s microbiome makes a case for getting dirty. Dr. Whitney Bowe tells Allure that “a healthy microbiome can keep our skin healthy and glowing in a number of different ways.”

Your skin’s good bugs can prevent infection, control inflammation, aid in wound healing, and keep your skin looking young. This video, all about your skin’s microbiome, will help you to understand these bugs and their role in your skin’s health!

There are more than one trillion bacteria in the skin, originating from roughly one thousand different species. They vary by body part, based on the amount of light in the area, precise pH levels, and other conditions, like climate (moist or dry) and topography (hairy or smooth). When they’re happy and harmonious, your complexion is, too. But when disrupted—by harsh cleansers or dietary missteps—their discontent can surface as breakouts, rosacea flares, psoriasis, eczema, even random bouts of sensitivity.

I can’t wait to share all of this cutting edge information with you guys because this really is the future of skincare and skin health!

And, for early access to Videos 2 and 3 in this Microbiome Series, be sure to sign up below to be a Bowe Glow Insider.

Video Transcript

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