Hi again – big fan of yours here! While I understand you’re super busy, I’d love to see you post more. Even small, miniscule tidbits (maybe you should get on that twitter bandwagon). Lots of q’s for ya!

…your thoughts on the benefits of astaxanthin (taken orally or applied topically) for hyperpigmentation?, which sunscreens do you use (do you use any Canadian brands?), steps non-cosmetic-chemists should take to be more informed, and what your skin care routine is like. Sorry for the barrage!

Hi battleofhe-s, thanks again for the questions!

I’m going to try to post more often, at least weekly. I’ve also setup a Twitter account at @kindofstephen.

There’s only a few (maybe only one) studies that have shown astaxanthin is beneficial for hyperpigmentation, and only topically. It’s believed that astaxanthin helps reduce some processes induced in the skin by UVB exposure. However, most pigmentation of the skin is caused by UVA exposure. I’d still prefer a person use a well formulated sunscreen that offers similar UVA and UVB protection. Orally, carotenes like astaxanthin and beta carotene can tint the skin yellow/orange which may provide a masking effect. They can also provide a UVB protective effect when taken orally, but again does not replace a sunscreen. Astaxanthin is quite expensive, and beta carotene functions similarly (as does lycopene) and can be found in supplements and foods like sweet potato, carrots, dark leafy vegetables. An insane amount can be found in a Southeast Asian fruit called gac, but I’ve never been able to find it 🙁

I actually use a Canadian sunscreen! From L’Oreal’s brand Ombrelle. Ombrelle was originally independent, but was acquired by L’Oreal at some point in the 90s – I believe. Anyways, Ombrelle uses many next-generation sunscreens like Mexoryl XL and Mexoryl SX. I use the Ombrelle Kids Water Resistant Lotion SPF 60. Ombrelle Complete Lotion SPF 60 is also a great one. The sunscreens are thick and aren’t great for humid days due to the high glycerin content, but I’ve learned to manage. I do have a Bioderma Photoderm MAX Spray SPF 50+ that I will spray into my hands then apply to my face for days where I really don’t want to look shiny at all. I’m not sure if it’s available locally in Canada though, I ordered mine online (or have friends bring it back from Europe).

Look for high levels of drometrizole trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL) and terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid (Mexoryl SX) in L’Oreal brands (as they have it patented) and bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine (Bemotrizinol, Tinosorb S, or Escalol S) and bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol (Bisoctrizole or Tinosorb M).

Brands available in Canada that have next-generation sunscreens include Bioderma, Avene, La Roche Posay, and Vichy.

Ombrelle is still the most economical one I’ve found and you can often find $3 CAD coupons online.

I think the best thing a non-chemist can do to help understand all the information available now is to take a MOOC. A first year undergraduate course in organic chemistry will help you understand the reactions, structures, and nomenclature that can often be daunting or confusing. The University of Berkeley also has a great anatomy course that covers the integumentary system available on iTunes (Lectures 43 and 44).

I currently use a micellar water (diluted low-foam surfactant solution) to cleanse my face, and an oil based (oil and surfactant solution) to cleanse my body. Then sunscreen. I also use prescription retinoids, but rotate that with 10% vitamin C and 4% niacinamide – as I am prone to hyperpigmentation.

I’m also constantly testing out new ingredients and formulations, which often means that my skin can be irritated. This is why I try to keep my regular routine quite simple!

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