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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Skincare

In Elemental. More on Medium.

Illustration: Matija Medved for Elemental

The truth about the new class of hair care products

In 2006, Sachajuan, the cult Stockholm hair care brand, debuted a scalp shampoo, expecting it to be a niche product. But in recent years, the shampoo — made with a scalp-tingling peppermint and packaged in an apothecary-like bottle to evoke medicine for hair — has become the brand’s top seller, says co-founder Sacha Mitic. Little wonder, then, that Sachajuan subsequently released a scalp treatment, a scalp conditioner, and, last month, a scalp scrub and scalp brush, the latter of which sold out almost instantly.

“It’s very important to clean the scalp,” says Mitic, who has also been a hairdresser since…


Why first-time tretinoin use is on the rise

Photo: Fiordaliso/Getty Images

The first week he started tretinoin, Jordyn Alexander-Johnson ended up with a chemical burn. “I wasn’t using any moisturizer,” he says. Big mistake. Using tretinoin — a form of vitamin A that’s known for its effectiveness in treating acne and reducing signs of aging — is drying and requires that you almost bathe in moisturizer after. And then roll around in sunscreen.

After a two-week break, the 30-year-old Dallas resident tried again, this time with the elaborate skincare routine that tretinoin demands. …


How to take care of your skin during Covid-19

Photo: Boy_Anupong/Getty Images

Experiencing your worst wave of breakouts since junior high? It’s not you — it’s Covid-19. The combination of skyrocketing levels of stress, occlusive protective masks, and upended routines can have negative consequences for skin, dermatologists say.

What’s Causing Acne Right Now

Pandemic-related or not, stress is a major contributor to acne. It creates a domino effect: Our bodies respond to stress by producing more cortisol, aka the stress hormone, which in turn increases the levels of androgen, which ramps up oil production in skin. “Bacteria on the skin feeds on this oil,” explains Sonia Batra, MD, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, CA. …


In this extremely digital time, pricey blue light skin care products promise to protect against ‘digital aging’

A bluish image of a blank Macbook computer screen.
A bluish image of a blank Macbook computer screen.
Photo: Anton Eine/EyeEm/Getty Images

In the Covid-19 era, with its tech-heavy home office setups, nightly video calls, and hours of boredom-induced social media scrolling and Netflix binges, it should come as no surprise that screen time is through the roof. In March, it was reported that smartphone use was up by 70% worldwide, while laptop usage saw a 40% increase.

The health effects of blue light — the type of light emitted from digital screens — has been a hot topic for years. Research has already shown that blue light can disrupt sleep patterns. It is also — although somewhat questionably — linked to…


Good in a pinch, they don’t beat soap and water and likely may not live up to marketing claims

A photo of a person squirting hand sanitizer out of a bottle onto their hands.
A photo of a person squirting hand sanitizer out of a bottle onto their hands.
Photo: Jananya Sriphairot/EyeEm/Getty Images

John Newsam rarely uses hand sanitizers. “Perhaps once every month or two,” he says. “And pretty much only when using a portaloo, when soap and water are not available.” Newsam is CEO of Tioga Research, which studies new formulas for everything from skin care products to topical drugs. With a PhD in chemistry from Oxford University, he knows that a good scrubbing with soap and water is the preferred method for ridding his hands of a wide range of infectious germs.

In a pinch, hand sanitizers are deemed useful by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but…


Illustration: Matija Medved

Optimize Me

The skin microbiome is having a moment

Optimize Me is an Elemental column exploring (and fact-checking) the weirdest self-improvement trends. It comes out every Tuesday.

Do you really need to shower every day or at all? And could showering actually be bad for your skin? Scientists and skin care companies are becoming increasingly aware of the billions of bacteria that live in and on our skin and the potential roles they play there, including eating our natural oils and sweat. Modern hygiene habits may be wiping out these good bugs, leaving us greasier, flakier, and at a greater risk of skin infections than if we just left…


The exhausted person’s guide to skin care

Photo: CiydemImages/Getty Images

Makeup wipes are high on the list of bestselling beauty and personal care products on Amazon — that’s before lip balm, makeup brushes, and teeth-whitening kits. Made from materials such as cotton, wood pulp, and polyester, these disposable cleaning cloths usually contain ingredients similar to those found in face cleansers. Similar to cleansers, makeup wipes contain ingredients like surfactants, which are compounds that help remove excessive oil, dirt, and makeup. The wipes may also contain humectants — compounds that help draw water to the surface of the skin — as well as emollients, which form a protective film to trap…


Researchers are trying to find out if moisturizing your skin could have systemic health benefits

Photo: Peopleimages/Getty Images

To prevent chronic disease, eat well, sleep seven to nine hours a night, exercise… and perhaps you should also moisturize your skin. Yes, moisturize. According to ongoing research at the University of California, San Francisco, certain moisturizers could be unexpected allies in the prevention of chronic disease after middle age.

To understand the mechanism of this potential protective effect, we have to look at the relatively recent concept of “inflammaging” (a combination of inflammation and aging). As people get older, they experience an increase in the levels of certain molecules, called pro-inflammatory cytokines, which amplify inflammation in the body. This…


One of the most popular skin care products also contains one of the most controversial ingredients

Photo illustration (Source: Hulton Archive/Handout/Getty)

In theory, an eight-and-a-half ounce beauty product that retails for over $100 should encapsulate the epitome of luxury skincare. Instead, Biologique Recherche’s Lotion P50 has been said to smell like everything from expired milk to formaldehyde to straight-up trash. Writer Jill Kargman even once described the product’s stench as similar to “something you’d pour in your car engine.”

With a decidedly unpleasant scent and extremely basic packaging, Lotion P50 certainly doesn’t have the normal makings of a cult-favorite beauty product. And yet, it has amassed an intense fan base over recent years. Beauty blogs are saturated with prophetic testimonials about…


New science underlines how to find one that actually soothes

Credit: Image Source/Still Factory/Getty Images

Certain moisturizers might be doing more harm than good for people with sensitive skin, according to new research by dermatology professor Dr. Peter Elias and his team at the University of California, San Francisco.

Moisturizers are supposed to work by forming a film over the skin to trap water inside, by sponging water from the environment into the skin or by filling in the spaces between the cells in the skin surface with certain lipids. All of these are strategies meant to increase the skin’s water content.

For people who don’t have sensitive skin, chances are that any drugstore moisturizer…

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Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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