In the US, since 2011, sunscreens need to pass a specific test to be allowed to carry a "Broad Spectrum" sun protection label. Sounds good - but can you trust this test?
The test is performed by the manufacturer and needs to be documented (in case you were wondering, FDA does not go out and test sunscreens for labelling purposes). The "Broad Spectrum" label test is a laboratory exercise, meaning that it is not performed with real humans in real life conditions. A certain amount of a product is applied to a standard plate with texture resembling skin, is exposed to an artificial source of the UVA radiation. The amount of radiation that passes through the plate with the sunscreen on is measured. Then, a point (a wavelength) at which 90% of the product's combined UVB and UVA absorption happens is determined, and it's called a "critical wavelength". If this point is at 370 nm or lower, the sunscreen passes the test and can carry the "Broad Spectrum" label.
What the test checks in practice is whether the sunscreen offer some protection in the UVA range. It doesn't help to determine how much UVA protection is actually offered. Two sunscreens can have an identical "critical wavelength", and have an identical "Broad Spectrum" labeling, but one of them would let through about 15% of the radiation in the UVA long range, while the other one will expose the skin to double that amount (30%).
Sunscreen Series #001 - UVBs
Welcome to the beginning of our series! Let’s start with the basics - UVA rays 🧐 They have the longest wavelength and account for 95% of UV rays that reach the earth 🌎
Research shows that the sun is responsible for about 80% of facial aging (you can slow it down!) & UVA rays are the main UV rays responsible for premature aging and wrinkles 🔬☀️
I have been on tretinoin 0.05% consistently for about 6 weeks. My skin was mostly clear, and I decided to try this for anti-aging purposes. Since then, I have had significant purging, on the upper left of my forehead, T-zone, and around my mouth (also very dry in mouth region). A few spots on my cheeks/mouth more recently, I think due to masking.
Lightweight sunscreen that offers strong broad spectrum protection while seamlessly sinking into the skin and being totally invisible is a dream of any daily sunscreen wearer. More and more brands release "ultra light" formulas, and every skincare influencer seems to be on a quest to find the lightest one.
There might be a problem with this approach. To offer a proper protection, a sunscreen needs to form a uniform film on the surface of the skin. The reason it is so important is that our skin is not even, its surface is made up of hills and valleys. A thin layer applied over these hilly surface may result in uneven coverage where “valleys” are filled/covered, but “peaks” are not (think about painting a wall with uneven surface with only a little bit of paint on your brush). The lighter the texture, the easier (and more tempting) it is to apply a thin layer. Remember though that in the SPF testing, 2 mg of sunscreen is applied for every square centimeter of the skin. To get a feel for how much it is in relation to an average face, squeeze out an amount of product that is slightly larger than a US quarter coin. That's a lot of sunscreen to spread over a face. You might even need to layer it twice if the product consistency is truly thin. If you are applying less than that, you are certainly not getting the protection advertised on the product label. It is entirely possible that if a product advertised with SPF 50 would be applied in an amount less than 2 mg per square cm, it wouldn't be able to pass the minimum SPF rating of 15 because of the failure to cover the "skin hills".
If you don't feel any sunscreen residue on the skin after applying it, chances are you didn't apply enough and the film isn't formed. As the result, most of the skin surface is not protected. This can be especially dangerous because you think that since you've applied a sunscreen, it is safe to spend time in the sun.
Yes, mineral sunscreens are a better choice for you if:
Your skin is extremely sensitive.
Your skin is somewhat sensitive and you shop for a sunscreen in the US (Avobenzone, the best broad spectrum organic filter fully approved by the FDA, can be an irritant).
You tend to get your sunscreen into your eyes (organic filters can sting the eyes).
You are choosing a sunscreen for a baby or young child (it's best to treat children's skin as extremely sensitive by default).
The skincare world has been raving about Krave ever since its launch in 2018. It’s focus on transparency and ethics has captured the hearts of skincare junkies and vegan-oriented shoppers alike 🌱
The brand wanted to clear the myth that a cleanser needs to be harsh in order to effective. The Matcha Hemp Cleanser is their first product - let’s take a closer look 🧐🔬
The product is fragrance-free & contains a great selection of moisturising ingredients such as glycerin and prunus amygdalus dulcet oil (sweet almond oil). In terms of improving the skin barrier function, it contains Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil and Avena Sativa Kernel Extract (Oats). The product also contains Panthenol (a form of Vitamin B5) which reduces itching, redness and calms down inflammation. It also acts as a moisturising ingredient (its both a humectant and emollient).
Late May, tennis superstar Venus Williams teamed up with Credo Beauty to create a mineral sunscreen collection. She is known for helping make her sport a more inclusive space for people of colour, especially black women, a task she also took to heart when creating her first beauty product 🎾 🥂
Historically, sunscreens have been known to leave an especially visible white cast or ashy finish on people of colour. This gap is slowly being filled by both small and larger companies -- with a sunscreen being the number 1 product of any routine, it’s important that the skincare industry to caters to everyone!🌏
The EleVen by Venus x Credo collaboration launched 2 products: the On-The-Defense Sunscreen SPF30 and the Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 30. We’ll focus on the latter☀️
Today it is easy to get lost in the booming skincare market. Hundreds of new products are released every day. Of course, it is great to have a choice, but it gets overwhelming: What skincare products do I even need? How do I know if a product is worth the money? How do I know which product will work better? These 5 tips will help you look beyond pretty packaging and select great skincare products faster.
1. Go for one-purpose skincare products
Effective products, except for simple moisturizers, need to include solid active ingredients that are at least in theory able to do what the product promises. Most skincare ingredients that fall into this category are notoriously capricious. They are not easy to formulate with and always demand some kind of special treatment in the formula, packaging or both. Think about vitamin C (unstable), retinol (photosensitive), sunscreens (require very particular formulations to be stable and form an even protective layer on the skin). Because of this, the more “dedicated” a product is, the higher the chances for an appropriate concentration of active ingredients and that the formula is specifically designed to maximize the effectiveness of the actives. For example, a sunscreen that is formulated to be a sunscreen rather than an “x in 1” product (foundation, primer, moisturizer, antioxidant and sunscreen) is more likely to do the main active ingredient justice.
If you have an occasional breakout, clogged pores or more persistent spots, you need a product with salicylic acid in your life. Here is why.
Salicylic acid is one of a few ingredients that has solid clinical evidence for being effective against acne. It helps to clear up clogged pores, heal inflamed blemishes faster and prevent new ones from forming. It can do it because of the two main properties. First, it is a good anti-inflammatory agent. It helps calm down the inflammation like the one inside and around a red breakout. Its second superpower is the ability to exfoliate inside pores and hair follicles, explaining its effectiveness against spots and clogged pores. In contrast to other chemical exfoliants used in skincare (for example, glycolic and lactic acid) which are water-soluble, salicylic acid is oil-soluble, meaning that it can mix with lipids in our skin and be effective a little bit deeper inside our skin.
If you have an occasional breakout, clogged pores or more persistent spots, you need a product with salicylic acid in your life. Here is why.
The cleansing action in any cleanser comes from the compounds called "surfactants". They are molecules with two different ends: one end loves oil, and the other one loves water. Because of this property, these molecules get attracted to oil on one side, and also pull towards water on the other - and this is how you remove dirt and oil from your skin when you use a cleanser, and then rinse it off with water. A physical action of whipping the surfactants off together with a bit of water present in the product achieves the same effect - this is how micellar waters work (we still recommend to rinse micellar water off with water to make sure no surfactants remain on the skin to reduce the risk of irritation).
Not all surfactants produce foam. The ability of a surfactant to produce foam has nothing to do with its cleansing abilities (as in your skin can get perfectly clean without any foam whatsoever). It is just so happened that the first surfactant that was readily available for skin cleansing (soap) creates foam, and this is how we've learned to associate foam with cleanliness.
Ok, so foam is not needed for a good cleansing, but is it bad for the skin or is it a harmless add-on to make the cleansing experience more fun?
Cleansing is always a stress for our skin. As we remove the dirt, sunscreen, sweat or sebum, we also inevitably remove some of the skin's protective lipid layer and interfere with the surface's pH. Even contact with a plain water has some of this effect and can lead to irritation of the most sensitive skin.
The more cleansing steps you take, the higher the risk you'll disrupt your skin's barrier. So think twice before falling for the double-cleanse hype.
If you feel that you need an extra step to remove make-up, limit it to the area that needs it - for example, eyes or lips only. If you can remove the make-up and sunscreen with one gentle product, it is almost certainly be better for your skin than two cleansing steps. At the same time, if you feel that you need to use a "harsher" cleanser to get the job done in one step, two separate cleanses, each with a gentler product, would be still a better choice.
Reading a skincare label can be terrifying - lots of symbols and ingredient names that seem like a foreign language. But it doesn’t have to be that way! 🚫Understanding the basics of a label can be empowering when choosing/buying a product🤩
Note: In the EU, if a product contains one of the 26 allergens official allergens, it needs to be listed on the product explicitly. You can find it with an Asterix (*) or in italic. There are also differences in labelling between the EU and the US which we can explore in another post!🌍
UVA rays are a type of light emitted from the sun. UVA rays are known to cause premature skin aging with wrinkles, elasticity loss, and age spots. They can also trigger hyperpigmentation (for example, post-acne marks and melasma). UVA rays are responsible for the natural tanning of our skin (this is why the so called "healthy tan" always comes together with skin damage). UVA rays contribute to development of skin cancers.
UVA rays are defined based on the length of their wave. UVA light has the wavelength between 320 and 400 nanometers. Not all UVA sunscreen filters can cover this range in full, and this is why it is useful to split the UVA spectrum further into the UVA I (the longest UVA waves with the length of 340 to 400 nanometers) and UVA II (shorter UVA waves with the length of 320 to 340 nanometers). Most of the UV radiation we are exposed to falls within the UVA I range (long rays). At the same time, protection against the UVA I rays (the longer ones) is the most tricky to achieve. Because of that, in skincare, a sunscreen filter is defined as a UVA one in most cases only if it is able to protect against the long UVA waves (UVA I).
In general, all UVA waves are shorter than the UVB ones. This is why they are able to penetrate human skin deeper than the UVB light. At the same time, UVA light has less energy in it, meaning that it does not cause a direct damage to the skin cell DNA in the same way that the UVB rays do. Unfortunately, it is still causing the DNA damage, but through an indirect mechanism (it creates free radicals that then can cause chemical reactions that are harmful to the skin health).
UVB rays are a type of light emitted from the sun. UVB rays are known to cause sunburn, skin cancer, and accelerate skin aging. UVB rays are defined based on the length of their wave. UVB light has the wavelength between 290 and 320 nanometers.
UVB waves are shorter than the UVA ones. This is why they cannot penetrate human skin as deep as the UVA light can. At the same time, UVB light has more energy in it, meaning that it can cause a more direct damage to the skin cells (and their DNA more specifically).
Some of the popular UVB filters used in sunscreen include:
Sun radiates different types of light. Some of it falls into the so called ultraviolet range (UV light). When you hear terms "sun protection" and "sunscreen", what is usually meant is protection from the UV light.
The effect of light on the skin depends on the length of its wave. The shorter the wave, the more energy it has, but also, the more "shallow" it is in terms of how deep it can penetrate into our skin. The longer the wave, the less powerful it is in terms of energy, but the deeper it can penetrate into the skin.
Depending on the wavelength, we differentiate ultraviolet light type A (UVA), ultraviolet light type B (UVB), and ultraviolet light type C (UVC). UVC rays are the shortest, most powerful, and least penetrating, while the UVA rays are the least powerful, but the most penetrating among the three types. Luckily, the ozone layer in the atmosphere absorbs the UVC rays so they don't reach the Earth surface and don't get a chance to harm our skin.
I discovered this brand - London Grant (handcrafted in Atlanta) - looking specifically for indie brands founded by people of color. I'm so grateful I've discovered it - beyond a great story, I just love the way they approach skincare and formulations.
In a nutshell, it's the best of the two worlds that rarely meet in skincare today: natural + fragrance free. And I personally as a skincare minimalist dig the name of their product line: The Minimalist Collection ❤️.
The brands founder, Tiffany Staten, started the company in 2016 in her small Atlanta kitchen. The brand's goal is to create products that are effective and safe for the whole family. And I think that many of the products indeed would work even for children.
Hello! Let me introduce myself: I’m Chloé and I work with What’s In my Jar 👋🏼I am about to graduate with a degree in Biomedical Sciences, but my focus was Neuroscience, so I never particularly focused on skincare (until I got so obsessed with it that I decided to do my thesis on the microbiome and skin ageing this year🔬)
Like many of you, I have an acne journey. It started 3 years ago out of nowhere when I started university. I didn’t know why my skin was acting up and I didn’t know who to turn to because I thought my condition wasn’t severe enough to see a doctor. I had a preconception that acne was only related to poor hygiene which led me to over-exfoliate, pick at my skin, grow increasingly paranoid about each new blackhead or pimple, and be very hard on myself. It took me 2 years to go see a dermatologist...when my confidence was at an all time low. And it took me an extra year to finally feel equipped to take care of my acne on my own - phew, took a while!
Fastforward to today, there are three main things I wish I would’ve known:
We are seeing a surge of searches for this product on our website, and I thought I'd type a quick formula review.
Great things about this product:
Good basic moisturizing formula with humectants (sodium hyaluronate) and emollients (silicones mostly do the job, with addition of olive oil and tiny amounts of avocado oil).
“I’m only in my 20s so I don’t need to think about skin aging”. There is no miraculous switch that turns on skin aging the moment you hit 30 - you age your whole life from the day you were born. The appearance of wrinkles shouldn’t be the trigger for you to start caring about your skin💪
Skin aging is more than just a cosmetic problem, but people’s endless quest towards the fountain of youth has definitely fuelled research & innovation in the field ⛲️ With life expectancies on the rise, the care of aging skin must also include how skin disorders affect quality of life, not just aesthetics. Most people over 65, in fact, have at least one skin disorder, and many have two or more. Although rarely fatal, they deserve attention ⚠️
It is commonly thought that aging is mainly predetermined by your genes - “my parents have deep wrinkles, therefore I am doomed to have the same”. However, research suggests that most of the effects of skin aging are caused by extrinsic factors (sun exposure, pollution, etc), and only 3% of aging factors have intrinsic background (genetics, etc)❗️
That’s what we are so often advised to do. Beat it back, stay ahead of it. Be consistent and stick with it – it’s going to be a while. Yet, “a while” became a consistent part of life for 15 years.
It's estimated that about a third of all cosmetics-related skin reactions are related to fragrances (natural or synthetic).
But what exactly do the fragrances do to harm the skin?
The disappointing answer is: the science doesn’t fully understand why. It might have something to do with the fact that all fragrances used in skincare are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). But this chemical “family” is very broad and includes many different chemicals ranging from compounds that our own skin emits, to those causing strawberries or a face cream to smell delicious to road traffic pollutants.
Cannabis plant is famous (and infamous) because it contains a specific type of chemical compounds called phytocannabinoids. There are over 100 different types of them.
These compounds are similar in their chemical structure and biological effect to endocannabinoids, the chemicals that human body produces naturally. These chemicals can bind to special receptors in our cells, “instructing” the cell to behave in a certain way. For example, to change its inflammatory response or grow slower or faster. Our skin cells have the cannabinoid receptors, and this is why cannabis is more than just a trend in skincare.
Not all parts of the hemp plant contain cannabinoids. For example, hemp seeds contain, if any, only a small amount of cannabinoids. This means that if you see a product with a cannabis seed extract in it, you should not expect any cannabinoid-related effects.
Surely we all heard that sun exposure (UV light) is a driver of skin ageing and an effective skincare routine should include a daily sunscreen. But how exactly can something as nice, warm and mood-boosting as sunlight cause the harm? What does UV radiation actually do to our skin that causes wrinkles and elasticity loss?
The main mechanism of damage is the following. UV light activates cell receptors in the epidermis (upper) and dermis (deeper layer) of our skin. This activation happens within 15 min of sun exposure and lasts for at least 2 hours after it.
The activated receptors start accepting distress signals from outside of the cells. It happens within 30 min of sun exposure and lasts for full 24 hours. The signals activate enzymes within the cells, and the enzymes, in turn, start synthesis of special proteins with the function of "cleaning up" a site of skin wound. The "cleaning up" involves destruction of collagen fibers in the skin.
Acne-causing bacteria, Cutibacterium acnes (C.acnes) is part of a healthy skin microbiome. Most people have it on their skin, and in majority of the time, it doesn’t cause any trouble.
The C. acnes bacteria can produce active enzymes and compounds that are recognized as “inflammation signals” by our skin - and this is how we get inflammed lesions.
While C. acnes plays a role in acne, it is not an infectious disease (hence you can’t contract it from someone with acne). Growth of the C. acnes colony on skin is a necessary precondition for developing acne, but much more factors need to come together for these skin inhabitants to cause the problem.
Skincare minimalism is an approach to skincare that advocates for a careful selection of skincare steps, products, and ingredients. Only those with solid scientific evidence backing their effectiveness are included in a minimalist skincare regimen. This results in a skincare routine that is easy to follow, does not take much time out of your day, and does not need to be expensive.
Skincare minimalism does not mean not using skincare products. It means using only the products that work. Each ingredient in an ideal skincare minimalist product has a clear purpose. No ingredients are added for “decoration” only, this is why a minimalist skincare prefers products without fragrance, colorants, and any ingredient that lacks solid evidence for a skin benefit. This approach respects the skin as an organ of our body that performs many vital and complex functions on a delicate balance. We should avoid interfering with the natural balance of our skin as much as possible, and avoid exposing it to ingredients that do not have a clear purpose.
Our mission at WIMJ is to help you craft a minimalist skincare routine that works. We’ve created a system that can help you create your own minimalist skincare routine. A minimalist skincare routine includes 3 types of skincare steps (and products that go along with the steps).
Advanced Night Recovery range is definitely a special one: it introduced a word "serum" into skincare vocabulary and got us accustomed to the idea of delivering potent active ingredients into our skin in a thin watery texture rather than in a thick cream. Well done for this one, Estée Lauder! When it comes to effectiveness, though, this product is not that advanced actually: it is a basic hyaluronic-acid based moisturizing serum. A very expensive one: it's $107 for 1.7 oz.
In addition to hyaluronic acid, it includes a few fermented moisturizing ingredients like Bifida Ferment Lysate. This extract consists of remains of dead yeast bacteria cells. It helps hydrate the skin and reduce irritation. It might also has some anti-oxidant effect, but we don't know if and how well it works for sure.
All-in-all, this iconic product is an excellent moisturizer, but there are equally as effective moisturizing serums on the market today for a fraction of a price. When it comes to the anti-aging promise, it is definitely overstated, don't get fooled by the name.
Don't get fooled by skincare products that claim to "help your skin renew / detox / rejuvenate itself at night".
Our skin doesn't sleep, even though skin cells do "prioritize" different activities for the day and night time.
This is still a new area of research, but scientists have found out that epidermal stem cells differentiate (aka “decide who they want to be when they grow up”) at a higher rate at night. Also, skin cells have their highest natural UV defense on during the day (it’s still not sufficient, so use sunscreen!).
Confession time: I had a DIY period in my skincare journey. My mom used to do a lot of DIY masks. But she had a good excuse: it was Soviet Union and skincare products were not available. Her favorites included fresh sour cream mask (it probably delivered a tiny-tiny amount of lactic acid, while the acidity helped maintain the healthy skin surface pH - so better than nothing), fresh yeast mask (smelled yucky, but probably delivers some beta-glucans for moisturization - again, better than nothing). There were less safe ones, too, like a fresh strawberry mask (don’t do it, nothing is better!).
So I wasn’t alien to the idea of DIY skincare (I did even partake in the pampering activities with my mom, mostly for the fun of it). When I was in my early 20th, DIY powder clay masks were a thing in Ukraine. At least in the underground skincare circles I hang out it. The process worked like this. First, you buy a sachet of dry clay. You had a choice of different colors of clay, all claimed to be natural (not sure if it’s true) and having different impressive benefits for the skin (definitely not true). Then you mix a bit of the powder with warm water, and “spice it up” with stuff that should have been eaten. Like yogourt or egg yolk (yuck, I know). Or, even worse, with essential oils. Tea tree was my favorite. I am sorry, skin.
The good thing about DIY skincare is that it is tedious, so there is no way you can do it regularly. The fact that I was engaging in this activity no more frequently than once per month probably helped to control the damage. At least for some time. The masks obviously didn’t work to improve clarity and hydration of my skin, but I didn’t experience a reaction. My skin was still full of youthful resilience.
Hello! I am Maria from the WIMJ team. I’ll share my skincare journey with you. I grew up in Ukraine. I have an older sister, and my mom has always been interested in skincare, so I grew us watching these two beautiful women do DIY face masks. The thing is many skincare products were not available in Ukraine at that time, or they just couldn’t afford it. This is where my love for skincare comes from.
I also have a little bit of hate towards some skincare:). When I approached my teenage years, menthol-enriched anti- skin acne washes were, unfortunately, already in abundance. And an older friend told me that “blackheads appear because the skin is dirty”. So yeah, I was off to a great start in facing the hormonal rollercoaster of adolescence:).
Things got sad when I started college. Stress, alcohol, lack of sleep, and I’ve got hit with moderate hormonal acne. I was still using menthol washes, trying to “dry out” blemishes, and scrub away acne marks. I was very surprised when my friend told me she was using a moisturizer (if I remember correctly, it was Vichy Aqua Thermal). I thought creams were for old people in their thirties (I'm 32 today :) ).
The uppermost layer of the skin resembles a brick wall: already dead cells serve as bricks, and skin lipids together with moisture-loving compounds "glue" them together like mortar.
This “brick wall” is called stratum corneum and it is responsible for the skin’s barrier function. In other words, its purpose is not to let things into the deeper, living layers of the skin and the rest of our body. This also means that the products we apply to the skin are most likely to stay on the surface never making it through the “brick wall”. Some products can penetrate deeper though. In most cases, the penetration happens through the “mortar”: the lipids between the dead cell “bricks”. The route is long: our skin’s “brick wall” is 10-15 cell layers thick, and the larger the bricks are, the longer way the compounds need to travel around them through the lipid “mortar”. This route is also only accessible to lipophilic molecules (like retinol) and not water-soluble ones (like Vitamin C). Water soluble molecules can still fight their way through - but they need to penetrate the “bricks” themselves. Ingredients can penetrate deeper into the skin through hair follicles and pores: they can offer a "short cut" for reaching skin's dermis.
As skin ages, its look might be changing. But its ability to serve as an excellent barrier against environmental factors remains strong.
This is a skin science post of ultimate positivity: we don’t need to worry about aging of the upper most layer of our skin, the stratum corneum. Based on the studies conducted to date, it appears that the skin’s barrier function doesn’t age, or, at least, there tend to be no significant differences in the barrier function between people aged 20-25 and those who can boast with 30-40 more years of life experience.
While the composition of the stratum corneum change (younger people have more lipids, while older people’s skin has larger and flatter corneocytes, the non-living “bricks” that form the uppermost skin layer), the researchers have been not able to detect a difference in the epidermis’ ability to perform its main function (which is absolutely vital for our whole body)- as measured by trans-epidermal water loss and substance penetration through the stratum corneum.
Our bodies are made of chemicals, so is our skin. Plant extracts and DIY kitchen cabinet masks are made of complex chemical compounds, too.
In fact, their chemical composition is more complex than the man-made skincare ingredients. In other words, with a lab-produced ingredient, you are getting one pure well-known substance.
Plant extracts, on the other hand, can contain hundreds of different chemicals, with complex interactions between them.