Q & A: Cosmetic use of caviar, the term hypoallergenic and at-home skincare devices

July 1, 2008

The popularity of microdermabrasion procedures in the physician's office and in spa settings has led the skincare industry to develop its own version of the technique. Most of the home microdermabrasion devices do not physically remove skin scales as aggressively as the professional devices - for safety reasons - but produce a consumer-perceivable, tactile, skin-smoothing effect.

Key Points

Q: How do home microdermabrasion devices work?

A: The popularity of microdermabrasion procedures in the physician's office and in spa settings has led the skincare industry to develop its own version of the technique. Most of the home microdermabrasion devices do not physically remove skin scales as aggressively as the professional devices - for safety reasons - but produce a consumer-perceivable, tactile, skin-smoothing effect.

Microdermabrasion creams produce the mildest skin removal, and contain small particles in a creamy vehicle for facial application. The particles are dispersed in the cream and gently massaged into the face, using a timed regimen specified in the packaging instructions.

A second at-home microdermabrasion method uses mechanized brushes. The brush head can either rotate 360 degrees or vibrate back and forth. A particle cream, similar to that previously described, is applied to the brush head and applied to the face.

The brushing of the skin surface, combined with use of the particulate-containing cream, offers a more aggressive microdermabrasion than the hand massage technique. The amount of skin scale removed is influenced by the pressure with which the device is pressed into the face.

The newest method of delivering home microdermabrasion is with a vibrating pad. The pads are stuck to Velcro on the head of the device and replaced with each microdermabrasion session. Pads can be selected in a variety of textures for sensitive skin to more aggressive corneocyte removal. It is likely that the popularity of home microdermabrasion will continue as new devices enter the marketplace annually.

Q: What is a hypoallergenic fragrance?

A: The term "hypoallergenic fragrance" is marketing lingo at its best. A hypoallergenic fragrance is a scent with reduced allergic potential. It does not eliminate the possibility of an allergic reaction. Almost all of the perfumes that contained frequent allergens, such as musk ambrette and balsam of Peru, have replaced these natural allergenic ingredients with less-expensive, less-allergenic synthetic fragrances. The best definition of a hypoallergenic fragrance is a mixture that does not contain any of the frequently identified contact allergens.

Q: What is the value of caviar in expensive hair conditioners?

A: Hair conditioners commonly contain protein, which can be derived from caviar. The protein is heated and denatured into small peptides that can diffuse into the damaged hair shaft, temporarily mending split ends and increasing hair strength by 5 percent to 7 percent. Hydrolyzed animal protein is commonly used in less-expensive hair conditioners for this purpose.

Caviar is certainly a more expensive protein source, but, once heated, it is broken down into the same peptide fragments as hydrolyzed animal protein. The efficacy of protein in a hair conditioner is more related to the size of the peptides than to their original source.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a clinical associate professor of dermatology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, N.C., and primary investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C. Questions may be submitted via e-mail to zdraelos@northstate.net