Thursday, 30 July 2015

5 Beauty trends that Gross Me Out

In the beauty world, some people will do anything to look good. And, I mean anything. Sometimes, people don't see the immediate results they desire, so they resort to witchcraft and sorcery. Ok, I suppose there are some of us who are a little more adventurous! Here are a few trends I find particularly interesting. And nauseating.

I remember seeing this picture of Kim Kardashian a long time ago that made me seriously queasy. I think some of you know where I'm going with this...

Blood Facials 

Also known as Vampire facials. Just google it if you want recurring nightmares. It involves getting your blood drawn, spinning it in a machine, where it separates. The platelets of your spun blood is reapplied onto your face, after drilling tiny holes for better absorption. To be fair, it's a little more complicated than that, I know one process is a registered trademark, and involves using your blood plasma as a filler (all natural, I guess...). There have been no studies for its effectiveness, rather anecdotal accounts of glowing skin, and journalists' dramatic tales of getting it done themselves.

Fish Foot Spa

This toe tingling pedicure just seems like a breeding ground for bacteria and infection. While looking this up, I came across a popular video, this time with a pregnant Kim K having a meltdown while having her feet nipped at by teeny tiny mouths. Is this spa experience supposed to be relaxing? And, why is this woman everywhere I go?

'Fish Spa, Singapore' by Jan Smith licensed under CC BY 2.0

Snail Slime

One of my favourite things to do is to go for a brisk walk right as the sun is rising and the air is crisp. I always notice the snail trails glistening on the concrete paths, left behind from the night before. I've never once thought to crouch down and smear my face across the pavement in the hopes I could have some of this slime touch my skin for anti-ageing benefits! Nor, have I picked up a few snails so I could apply them to my face for a live snail facial. Yes, people actually pay to do this! All in the hopes for glowing and younger skin. Snail secretions contains hyaluronic acid and antioxidants which has been shown to yield skin improvements. But snail mucus isn't the only source where these ingredients are available! Try potatoes or yams, if you're into honouring nature! Or a hyaluronic serum. Ewwww. And the poor garden snails, what happens to them?

Bird Poo

To be exact, Nightingale droppings. Not just any old bird ok? A special, rare, native-to-Japan Nightingale. They have been used by Geishas in Ancient Japan for brighter complexions, and are a modern day resurrection. You couldn't pay me to do this. Why you would want to slather faeces all over your face is beyond me. 

Placenta skin creams

Again, another anti-ageing ingredient: placenta. Facials and lotions usually use sheep placenta stem cells, but there are a few high-end brands who use human placenta from maternity wards. Need I say more? I will anyway: Gross. There is also something morally disturbing about supplying placenta to luxury skincare companies. Do mother's give consent or even know? Who is the middle man and how transparent is the transaction?

I do love skincare, and trying out new lotions and potions, but these are just too much for me. The last one turned a little morbid, but I guess, that is what happens when there is a certain demand.

Comment below on what beauty trends disgust you haha!

xo, Amali

If you're interested in a similar post, read about 10 things in your food that contain titanium dioxide, here!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Chemical Exfoliation | Part III | The Exfoliants

Following up from my last two posts where I questioned whether:

I wanted to get into the nuts and bolts of the actual exfoliants found in products today. This should help those who aren't sure what to use for their skin type or concern,  and whether the side effects are worth it.

The Exfoliants

Alpha-hydroxy acids

  • are hydrophillic, therefore water soluble
  • 'unglues' the bonds between the outermost cells of the epidermis (corneocytes), and thus ...
  • influences the creation of a new stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin, dead skin cells)
  • increases photosensitivity to the sun, as researched by FDA, but skin returns back to normal 1 week after ending treatment (study used glycolic)
  • improves dermal thickness and collagen density (Ditre et al.)
  • AHAs may promote hyaluronic acid production, thus aiding plumpness and hydration (Bernstein et al.)
  • can aid hyperpigmentation, by inhibiting melanin formation, as well as accelerating cell turnover (Usuki A)
  • side effects can include hyperpigmentation (after high concentration peels or after sun exposure, especially in darker skin) (Kaidbey et al. 2003)

glycolic acid from sugar cane
lactic acid from sour milk
malic acid from fruits and vegetables, apples
citric acid from citrus fruits
mandelic acid from bitter almond
tartaric acid from grapes (wine), tamarinds, bananas

Beta-hydroxy acids 

  • lipid soluble, so can penetrate into skin through sebaceous follicles, and thus ...
  • is able to exfoliate and pass through blocked pores, which makes it ideal for oily skin
  • possess some anti-inflammatory properties
  • a study has shown salicylic acid to have UV protecting properties (Mammone T), and not produce significant UV damage, but others are conflicting
  • not as strong as AHAs, or as iritaitng, so better for sensitive skin
  • can be drying

salicylic acid from willowbark and is the most commonly used


  • Biological enzymes 'digest' the glue of dead skin cells, breaking down proteins into smaller fragments, creating a softening effect to the skin. Think Pac-man
  • Enzyme activity is not dependent on pH, (like AHAs) but is triggered by water
  • Studies on the protease enzyme have demonstrated improvement on skin dermis and epidermis after topical use (Smith et al. 2007)

bromelain from pineapple stems - anti-inflammatory, little research regarding  topical application
papain from papaya - poor exfoliant, irritant


  • Retinol (Vitamin A) has been used for its anti ageing effects
  • is an exfoliating and cell communicating ingredient
  • skin cells contain retinoid receptors that help regulate certain functions so retinoids work on a molecular level
  • skin may peel, flake and be dry, which is common within first weeks of use
  • long term use has been shown to improve photo-damaged skin  (Randhawa et al. 2015)
  • thinning of the uppermost skin (stratum corneum), but thickening of the epidermis (Mukherjee et al.) 
  • has been popular for acne-prone skin

Photoby visit~fingerlakes licensed under CC by 2.0

When I first started these posts, I had already been using a few exfoliating products, and was on the verge of quitting all together. I didn't think stripping away the first layers of your skin consistently (while your skin has the ability to regenerate on its own) was the smartest idea. After writing this post, and reading through journals and studies, I'm on the fence. 

If you haven't already,

Part IV coming soon!

PhotoBeau Monde Spa in Victor in the Finger Lakes

Biography (In order of reference)

Van Scott, Eugene J., and Ruey J. Yu. 'Hyperkeratinization, Corneocyte Cohesion, And Alpha Hydroxy Acids'. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 11.5 (1984): 867-879. Web. 

Ditre, Chérie M. et al. 'Effects Of Α-Hydroxy Acids On Photoaged Skin: Apilot Clinical, Histologic, And Ultrastructural Study'. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 34.2 (1996): 187-195. Web.

Bernstein, Eric F. et al. 'Glycolic Acid Treatment Increases Type I Collagen Mrna And Hyaluronic Acid Content Of Human Skin'. Dermatologic Surgery 27.5 (2001): 429-433. Web.

Usuki A, et al. 'The Inhibitory Effect Of Glycolic Acid And Lactic Acid On Melanin Synthesis In Melanoma Cells. - Pubmed - NCBI'. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.

Kaidbey, Kays et al. 'Topical Glycolic Acid Enhances Photodamage By Ultraviolet Light'. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology and Photomedicine 19.1 (2003): 21-27. Web.

Mammone T, et al. 'Salicylic Acid Protects The Skin From UV Damage. - Pubmed - NCBI'. N.p., 2015. Web. 

Smith, W.P. et al. 'Topical Proteolytic Enzymes Affect Epidermal And Dermal Properties'. International Journal of Cosmetic Science 29.1 (2007): 15-21. Web.

Randhawa, M et al. 'One-Year Topical Stabilized Retinol Treatment Improves Photodamaged Skin In A Double-Blind, Vehicle-Controlled Trial.'. Journal of drugs in dermatology 14.3 (2015): n. pag. Print.

Mukherjee, Siddharth et al. 'Retinoids In The Treatment Of Skin Aging: An Overview Of Clinical Efficacy And Safety'. Clinical Interventions in Aging 1.4 (2006): 327-348. Web.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

10 things you're eating that contain Titanium Dioxide

Earlier this year, I remember reading about Dunkin' Donuts deciding to remove titanium dioxide from their donuts. It was after pressure from consumers and As You Sow, a non-profit organisation that promotes corporate social responsibility.
This was in America, interestingly this ingredients isn't included in the UK version of their powdered donut recipe. Which is nice. But, to be fair, it was food grade you guys.

Just to be clear, in a nutshell, the issue was that the food contained titanium dioxide nano particles, the safety of which has not been tested for human consumption and requires no food labelling requirements in the US.
My issue was that food actually contained titanium dioxide, which is actually used widely as an:
  • anti-caking agent
  • whitener
  • thickener, and
  • to add texture

This chemical can be found in paper, plastics, paint, rubber, automotive products, roofing materials etc. Okay, that makes sense. But does this?

Titanium dioxide can also be found in:

  • white chocolate
  • marshmallows
  • vanilla pudding 
  • chewing gum
  • frosting
  • lemon curd
  • a popular soy milk I used to drink years ago
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • in skimmed milk, which without the fat is actually a slight blue...
  • sauces

Obviously not all companies and manufacturers use titanium dioxide in their chocolate, gum, milk et cetera

 Photoby Ginny licensed under CC BY SA 2.0 

I thought it was interesting that TiO2 is usually listed in ingredient lists as E121 or 121, as a colour (how clever), so it's use usually goes undetected and is widely accepted.

Here are some non-food products containing titanium dioxide:
  • vitamins, as a filler
  • toothpaste, to add an abrasive texture
  • face mask I actually used and reviewed on the blog
  • tattoo pigment
  • sunscreen, as an active UV absorbing ingredient

This is just one additive out of the many that are used to make our food look or feel a certain way. It's purely used for aesthetic reasons; to make product look more appealing, thicker, whiter... profitable.

When did we stop eating actual food made from natural ingredients, and start eating their strange food-like counterparts?

Is it not weird that we would paint our walls with something that contains the same ingredient as the hot chocolate with marshmallows we would have later that night?

I'd say titanium dioxide is mild in comparison to the downright grotesque concoctions passing as colours and additives today.

Photo^ "devil's food cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese frosting"


Alex Weir, Natalie von Goetz. 'Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles In Food And Personal Care Products'. Environmental science & technology 46.4 (2012): 2242.

Goff, Douglas (2010). "Dairy Chemistry and Physics"Dairy Science and Technology. University of Guelph

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

My current go-to breakfast | July 2015

Today, I thought I would share something I am currently loving. It's winter here in Melbourne and the mornings are freezing. I think a lot of people think Australia has mild winters, (or no winters!) oh, how wrong you are! Especially where I live, I'm convinced there are Antarctic winds whipping around every time I step outside. Well, to be fair, it doesn't snow, unless you climb the few mountains up north, so, I guess there is some truth to the stereotype.

I always crave something warm in the mornings to wake me up. I like porridge in various ways, but this is definitely my favourite. It's pretty standard, but this combination is satisfying and holds me over until lunch time. It is also hassle free and defrosts my icy brain. I can not do overnight oats these days.

  • Oatmeal: I use Uncle Toby's Quick Oats, and although they are somewhat instant, they aren't as fine as most "instant oats". I feel like extremely ground up oatmeal isn't very satisfying, and usually loaded with sugar. I cook about half a cup on the stove, with ... 
  • Soy Milk: I use Pure Harvest Organic Soy milk
    • Tip: if you're looking for a good soy milk, make sure you check the ingredient list. Look for "whole soybeans" as opposed to "soy protein isolate"
  • Ripe Banana: full of vitamins and potassium, and I find bananas more filling than other fruit, when having porridge
  • Honey: I just happened to have a tub I picked up from the side of the road (yes, really) near the Yarra Ranges coming back home from a road trip. The honey comes from Cathedral Valley farm up in North/Central Victoria. And it's licensed road-side trading if you're wondering! Best honey I've had.
  • Cinnamon: I love cinnamon in everything. 
    • Tip: make sure it's Ceylon cinnamon not Cassia

Just something I thought I'd share for those of you who are interested in a quick and nutritious breakfast. Shredded coconut is also a great addition.

What is your favourite breakfast?

xo, Amali

Monday, 6 July 2015

Tea for Skin: Ginger Tea (1)

Here's to the start of a new segment where I share the teas I enjoy drinking! Ginger tea is is one of my favourite drinks, it's refreshing and has a nice sweetly spicy taste. It has been used for thousands of years as medicine in Indian, Arabic and Asian traditions, as well as a spice in cooking. 

"tea" Photo by Markus licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Instead of using tea bags, I use the real thing. What you're really using is the ginger root (well, really the rhizome). I usually add one teaspoon of crushed ginger to hot water. You could also make iced tea. The above photo is Iced Korean Ginger Tea.

Not only is it delicious; ginger also provides a plethora of skin and health benefits:

Inflammation is part of the bodies immune response to adverse stimuli, whether it's diet (sugar, wheat, dairy), pathogens, or damaged cells. If you have acne, a cold or a fever, this could aid in feeling better and having clearer skin. I can get a few spots at that time of the month , so this is around the time I like to indulge in a double dose! 

Antioxidants fight increased oxidative stress, which is the result of free radicals. Oxidative stress plays an essential role in ageing, heart disease, cancer, etc. Ginger has been shown to include properties to scavenge free radicals.

Helps to manage glucose levels^ and diabetes^ 
University of Sydney researchers found that extracts from Australian grown Buderim Ginger, which rich in gingerols (active ingredient in all fresh ginger), may facilitate the management of high blood sugar levels. While this is great for diabetics and people with insulin resistance, it could also be great for skin.
Glycation is when a lipid (fat) or protein molecule bonds with a sugar molecule, which is in a nutshell, damages the functioning of molecules. Which is bad. Especially for skin (which is made of of proteins and fats). As it can be induced by diet, perhaps reducing sugar levels, can help.

Reduces nausea and morning sickness^
A warm cup of ginger tea, can aid in reducing nausea, whether from fever, motion sickness or food poisoning. One study showed that ginger can just be as effective as metoclopramide, which is a heartburn medication. Many women with morning sickness also use ginger to reduce their symptoms.

Menstrual pain and cramps^
I can personally attest to the benefits ginger has to cramps, as I indulge in a few cups if I feel like I will have strong cramps. Although the study (see below) carried out their experiment with women using ginger pills, results showed that it was very effective for relieving the intensity and duration of pain.

Improves blood circulation and lowers blood pressure^
Gingerol is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure (Ghayur and Gilani, 2005).

Fights cancers
There have been a few studies about ginger having anti-cancer properties, some tested on rats, in vitro (petri dish) and less on humans. See study references below.

Other ways I like to eat/drink ginger:
  • Iced tea
  • In a smoothie or juice
  • In soups
  • Crystallised ginger, some people may find this strange, but I love it, you can find it at Asian groceries
  • Use it in your cooking!

"Ginger Buds" Photo by Dwight Sipler licensed under CC BY 2.0

Bibliography (in order of use)
Grzanna, Reinhard, Lars Lindmark, and Carmelita G. Frondoza. 'Ginger—An Herbal Medicinal Product With Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions'. Journal of Medicinal Food 8.2 (2005): 125-132. Web.

Mashhadi, Nafiseh Shokri et al. 'Anti-Oxidative And Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Ginger In Health And Physical Activity: Review Of Current Evidence'. International Journal of Preventive Medicine 4.Suppl 1 (2013): S36. 

Tahereh Arablou, Naheed Aryaeian, Majid Valizadeh, Faranak Sharifi, Aghafatemeh Hosseini, Mahmoud Djalali,. 'Ginger Supplementation Is An Effective Treatment For Type 2 Diabetes.'. N.p., 2015., (2014). Ginger and Diabetes - Effect on Glycemic Control, Cataracts & Insulin Secretion. [online] Available at: 

Mahluji S, Ostadrahimi A, Mobasseri M, Ebrahimzade Attari V, Payahoo L. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Zingiber Officinale in Type 2 Diabetic Patients.Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 2013;3(2):273-276. doi:10.5681/apb.2013.044.,. 'FPIN's Clinical Inquiries: Ginger For The Treatment Of Nausea And Vomiting In Pregnancy - American Family Physician'. N.p., 2015. Web. 

Ernst, E., and M. H. Pittler. 'Efficacy Of Ginger For Nausea And Vomiting: A Systematic Review Of Randomized Clinical Trials'. British Journal of Anaesthesia 84.3 (2000): 367-371. Web.

Rahnama, P., Montazeri, A., Huseini, H., Kianbakht, S. and Naseri, M. (2012). Effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo randomized trial. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 12(1), p.92.

Jeong, C., Bode, A., Pugliese, A., Cho, Y., Kim, H., Shim, J., Jeon, Y., Li, H., Jiang, H. and Dong, Z. (2009). [6]-Gingerol suppresses colon cancer growth by targeting leukotriene A4 hydrolase. Cancer research, 69(13), pp.5584--5591.

Habib, Shafina Hanim Mohd et al. 'Ginger Extract (Zingiber Officinale) Has Anti-Cancer And Anti-Inflammatory Effects On Ethionine-Induced Hepatoma Rats'. Clinics 63.6 (2008): n. pag. Web.

*I am not a medial profession, just a tea-guzzling, medical-journal-reading nerd

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Chemical Exfoliation | Part II | A History

Sloughing away dead skin cells can be traced back to the Ancient Egyptians; the beautiful Cleopatra is famously known to have bathed in milk. According to legend, it wasn't cows' milk, but donkeys' milk; and it was probably sour. Being fermented, it would have contained lactic acid, an ingredient used in today's skincare products. 

"spa in DVNby Dennis Wong licenced under CC BY 2.0

During the mid 1800s in Vienna, skin peeling techniques were developed by dermatologist Ferdinand von Hebra, where he treated freckles and melasma (Nikalji et al., 2012). Mixtures of rather heavy duty (by today's standards) oils and acids, including hydrochloric (!) were used to peel the skin. 

By the late 1800s, phenol was used to lighten the epidermis and by the early 1900s, phenol peels were first employed to remedy acne scarring, and treat wrinkles. A croton oil-phenol mixture, formulated by "skinners" was offered in exclusive Hollywood beauty salons, outside of physicians offices, until the 1960s (Hetter, 2000) when physicians themselves began to learn of this 'insiders secret' and pursued legal action. TCA (Trichloroacetic acid) peeling made an appearance in the 60s, results were not as harsh as phenol and carried less risk. TCA peels are still offered today. 

It was 1974 when Van Scott and Yu first researched the effects that alpha-hydroxy acids had on the skin. AHAs became accessible as peeling treatments in late 1980s and the 1990s. From then on, chemical exfoliation, in terms of peeling, rose in popularity, especially during the nineties, and while today's procedures have progressed from then, (Samantha's chemical peel on Sex and the City comes to mind) it has also become more readily available through over the counter products.

Nowadays, peeling the skin seems to have become the answer to all skin conditions from acne to anti-ageing. I think the last few years have been particularly interesting with almost immediate access to products promising 'perfect skin'. Once a somewhat exclusive indulgence, companies have pounced at the opportunity to capitalise on the current "results now" obsession. The times have changed since Cleopatra summoned servants to milk however many donkeys it took to fill her bath....

"Santorini's donkey" by Klearchos Kapoutsis licenced under CC BY 2.0

If you missed part I, read here: Part I | Am I damaging my skin

Brody, Harold J. et al. 'A History Of Chemical Peeling'. Dermatologic Surgery 26.5 (2000): 405-409. 

Nikalji, Nanma et al. 'Complications Of Medium Depth And Deep Chemical Peels'. J Cutan Aesthet Surg 5.4 (2012): 254. 

Hetter, Gregory P. 'An Examination Of The Phenol-Croton Oil Peel: Part II. The Lay Peelers And Their Croton Oil Formulas'. Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery 105.1 (2000): 240-248. 

Van Scott, Eugene J. 'Control Of Keratinization With A-Hydroxy Acids And Related Compounds'. Arch Dermatol 110.4 (1974): 586. 

Van Scott, Eugene J., and Ruey J. Yu. 'Hyperkeratinization, Corneocyte Cohesion, And Alpha Hydroxy Acids'. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 11.5 (1984): 867-879. Web.
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