Liz Talks Podcast, Episode 9: at-home skincare devices, red light, and BOTOX!

…did I mention I’m going to talk about Botox?

TRANSCRIPT

Skincare devices, treatments, and BOTOX!

This is episode 9, topic: Skincare devices, treatments, and BOTOX!

In case you missed it, episode 8 was a super fun interview with the one and only Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo, where we talked 

  • Our shared Paleo history
  • Her NEW cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go!
  • Her NEW spice blends
  • Parenting teens!

Today, I’ll talk about one of my favorite topics across the last decade or more – SKINCARE! But instead of products, which I’ll talk about in a future episode, I’m going to talk DEVICES. I’ll talk about:

  • The 3 at-home devices I’m using now, whether they’re worth it, and their pros and cons 
  • Red Light for the skin
  • …aaand BOTOX! Which isn’t a device, but it’s a frequently asked question and I’m all about it!

So this promises to be lots of fun.

[now, before we begin, a quick note:]

Number one, I am a little croaky today, and my podcast voice is on vacation right now! I’ve done a LOT of talking lately, plus I’m at the tail end of a cold, so my voice is just shot. Please forgive me! 

Second, Please, KEEP SHARING this podcast! Keep sending the bat signal to the folks out there who are like us and would find this podcast helpful, comforting, useful, or at the very least, marginally entertaining. You can screenshot your podcast app and share it to social, or simply tell a friend! It makes ALL the difference.

On to the show!

I’m excited to talk with you today, first, about skincare DEVICES. Now, I haven’t talked much about devices before. Much of what I’ve talked about over the years has been more about topical products.

For those who have been with me a long time, you might remember my Skintervention Guide, later renamed Purely Primal Skincare Guide. 

This guide was divided into 3 parts: nutrition for better skin, digestive health for better skin, and finally, part 3, topical care. 

Even though I feel like most of the information in that guide still holds up, I took it off the market several years ago with plans to rework quite a bit of the topical content and add nuance to the other sections. I also wanted to bring it back in a different, more interactive and multimedia form. As I’ve watched and waited, though, I’ve watched the entire skincare market shift so profoundly in the span of just 5 years, not to mention my own skin – when I wrote it, I wasn’t even 30 yet; now I’m a few years from 40 and the game has just CHANGED!

An example to illustrate. When I wrote the guide, I wrote about the oil cleansing method. At this point in time, there was ONE website that talked about it and I was still sending people to the cooking aisle of the grocery store because skincare oils were so hard to come by! Now, not only are skincare oils EVERYWHERE, but there are hundreds of companies that have their own oil cleansing blends! It’s incredible. 

At the time, my late-twenties skin responded well to almost anything. Adding oil to cleanse and treat was an easy step that made my good skin better. As years went by, though, I sort of missed the idea of “performance” skincare. I was learning more and more about active ingredients, EGCG, ceramides, niacinamide, vitamin C, all these amazing, safe compounds that do amazing things for the skin. That repair damage, that improve tone and texture, that balance oil production…and at the time, I felt there was a HUGE hole in the market. I wanted to find active ingredients in safe bases. There wasn’t a lot of that around! I wanted to start my own skincare line, but it was really an abstract idea. Entrepreneurship isn’t my default, and eventually I landed on Beautycounter, because at the time they were really the only ones taking these amazing active ingredients and putting them in products that were formulated safely.

Well, as the market does, over the last 5 years, the market has moved toward safety in dramatic fashion. It’s been incredible to see! So, now, I feel like I have a great suite of products that work well. So I’ve turned my interest to both DEVICES and TREATMENTS that are safe.

Today I’ll talk about some at-home technologies, but I also look forward to talking about medical aesthetic treatments in a future podcast.One of the things I’ve loved learning about over the last few years are about things like peels, lasers, and other technology that can improve the skin safely. For lack of a better word, these are “biohacks.” They’re harnessing certain forces and compounds that we know accelerate results with no long-term harms. And I love that. Peels are for a product podcast and lasers are for a medical aesthetic podcast, but today I’ll talk about a few types of at-home technology.

Now, something I’d like to devote at least a moment to. 

Pondering the “aging gracefully” question. I completely hear – and don’t disagree – with the idea that some of what we do in the name of beauty is actually an act of self-loathing. I agree that there is an undercurrent of belief that we lose beauty and worth as we age, and we should fight that tooth and nail. I believe that we should love and accept ourselves as we are, to embrace aging not as a curse but as a blessing. I get that. 

At the same time, I reject the unfair influences that the environment, which is full of pollutants and irritants over which I have no say, have on my skin! (I also reject sleep-frowning, which I’ll talk about when I talk about Botox.) 

Additionally, much of what we can do with skincare actually helps keep skin healthy and less vulnerable to damage that can lead to medical issues in the future; and it’s sort of analogous to something like working out. I love my body, so I want to take care of it with physical activity. I love my skin, so much so that I want to take care of it the best I can. There IS an association between youth and health, so if I can use these tools to not just LOOK healthy, but BE healthy, I’m into it!

And I’ll also say: the less time we spend agonizing about any of this, the better. I spend maybe 5 minutes in front of the mirror on a given day, and the largest time investment from these devices is the red light, which is around 10 minutes, a few days a week, and I usually meditate or do some deep breathing while I do that. I don’t sit there analyzing, obsessing, and judging myself. I do my thing to take care of myself and I move on. If I were in a less balanced state of mind, I’d re-evaluate!

So let’s talk about the 3 skincare devices I’m playing with right now. Note that NONE of these brands are sponsors, none of them know I’m talking about this today, I paid out of pocket for all of this stuff, nobody’s pulling any strings here but me. 

Here we go!

First up:

The NuFace Fix, a microcurrent device.

I had been curious about microcurrents for awhile, but I never intended to purchase one for myself as I felt I wanted to see more research first. However, my lovely endermologie technician gifted me the Nuface Fix, and I was excited to try it! It’s the smallest of the NuFace units, so keep that in mind.

At-home Microcurrent devices (note that there are also medical aesthetic microcurrent treatments that can’t be done at home) are supposed to encapsulate the benefits of microcurrent at a smaller scale, but it largely depends on the output of electricity that determines what your treatment will do. So, microcurrent devices are basically TENS units, and deliver a low-level of electricity into the skin. This is said to do everything from promote collagen synthesis, boost circulation and lymph flow, and reduce fine lines. OK. 

What interested me the most though, was a rat study that showed an increase in ATP with microcurrent, ATP being a driving force behind basically the functions of our cells. Promote ATP, and you should get just enhanced cellular function, whether that’s respiration, waste disposal, protein synthesis, what have you. What I DON’T know is whether this really translates in humans to the degree it did in rats, but I’m always interested in making my skin cells work better.

These are also said to “tone” facial muscles, which doesn’t exactly make sense to me; it’s also said to support lymph flow, but I also think that gua sha is the best tool for that.

To use these devices, you have to use a conductive gel. NuFace makes one, but I also found what is promoted as a safe, “clean” gel for these devices at Well Wythn in Kansas City. I’ve tried both gels, and get the same results. Overall, the time spent doing this and the fact that it must be done every day for temporary results, is more of an investment than I want to make. That said, Here’s what I do notice about the device. I DO notice, for at least the hours after using the NuFace Fix, that my skin looks healthier. It’s made for fine lines around the mouth and I believe eyes, and after using it those areas look plump and bright. So I’ll use it before date night and when I want to just lay it all on.

So, microcurrent Pros: Gives skin a boost of brightness and juiciness, encourages circulation, probably promotes ATP in human skin which would have broad-spectrum benefits when used daily.

Cons: Boring to use, would love to see more research around microcurrent levels and specific results in humans. 

Who might want to use it: women in their 30s who want to have that added something. It’s not going to change many of the more pronounced effects of skin aging. Once you start to desire a little bit more lifting and firming, it’s probably time for either a medspa-quality tool or other products or services!

Next up is a tool I’m a little perplexed by, since it’s such a different idea – but it has my attention and has for a few months: the Droplette.

The droplette is a fist-sized, handheld device that uses a mechanical technology to enable an ampule’s worth of their products to penetrate the skin more deeply than topical products alone. They explain it in detail on their website, and you’d have to be an engineer to understand it and that’s not my area of expertise. I mean, I’m still chasing down turds in airplane bathrooms, so don’t ask me about fluid dynamics. 

The idea is: most topical products only penetrate SO MUCH. And this is true! The droplette is intended to take certain skincare actives – I use the hyaluronic acid product, because I LOVE hyaluronic acid – and make them much smaller, to enable them to penetrate the skin more deeply so that they work better. 

There are a LOT of ways that products enhance their penetration, and many of those ways involve chemicals that might be questionable. 

Now, it’s winter. And in the winter, I am DESPERATE for anything to keep my skin from being completely zapped. This is what interested me most: a leveled-up hyaluronic acid delivery system. And I DO Think it works VERY well. My skin has felt much more supple this winter than winters past, and I do get compliments on it here and there. They also have a retinol product and a glycolic acid product, I believe, but I wanted to start with hyaluronic acid for my winter needs.

Pros: the Droplette really does deliver the product effectively. It has been a great tool for fighting my normally VERY dry winter skin. If the technology is legit – and I have no reason to doubt that – it’s a VERY cool concept, and I hope it catches on and continues to improve. The current iteration is sleek.

Cons: Okay, some of these might also be considered ‘pros” depending on who you are. First, there IS some loss of product as mist into the air. I’ll add a video to my Instagram soon to show the process. Droplette says they have accounted for this in the amount of product they give you in each capsule. Which leads me to another con: you have to use their product capsules. They actually make a good argument for this, which is that the technology itself would not necessarily be safe for just ANY skincare product given its enhanced penetration. I definitely buy that, and I understand it’s an important part of ensuring the customer experience. Okay, another con: the capsules are single-use and made of plastic. To address this, they have a recycling program. If you don’t use their recycling program, the capsules are a waste, but that said, we also throw away our large bottles of skincare, so I don’t know how the material usage stacks up, but I imagine it’s close. Unfortunately, recycling isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s better than trash.

Who might want to use it: Anyone who is wondering if their retinol, glycolic, or hyaluronic acid regimen could pack a bigger punch. If you DON’T want to use this device, I highly recommend the hyaluronic acid from Agent Nateur. It’s the best I’ve ever used, also contains rose hydrosol, and you can use it with a powdered vitamin C that’s just wonderful. This is something I wanted to do with my never-happened skincare line: provide a mix-as-you-use vitamin C to maintain its potency. So I think this is brilliant. 

And, full disclosure, I still use that product for the vitamin C. I also still use Beautycounter’s Countermatch Intense moisture serum, which also contains hyaluronic acid, because it’s just SO good. So I’m loading up on the stuff right now – but I do think the Droplette has made a big difference.

This final product is hands-down my favorite. It’s the 

Omnilux red light mask

I am SUCH a believer in red light and photobiomodulation, and have been for years. This was something I recommended way back in the day to increase sperm count for some baby making and beyond program clients. I’ve gotten all my products, until this Omnilux product, from redlightman.com. I have a full body light and multiple red and infrared light units. Red light is this broad-spectrum, helps basically everything technology and if you wonder if red light could help you with (fill in the blank), the answer is probably YES. Redlightman.com has a lot of the research there for you to peruse, plus a whole write-up on calculating how much you need of what wavelength for your goals.

Red light doesn’t just reduce inflammation, it also causes the cells to produce ATP, the same thing that microcurrent devices can do – but the way it’s applied, and the other benefits of red light, make this my favorite way to achieve that end, above and beyond microcurrent. Red light just ROCKS.

So while I have these devices from redlight man, I’m also very lazy. So I purchased the Omnilux red light mask, which is basically a flexible mask (not like a skincare mask that you wash off, but a mask that you wear to scare children on halloween) with red light … diodes? … that are positioned right next to your skin. There’s a timed switch and you just strap it on a few days each week, up to maybe 5 days, and the mask uses the appropriate wavelength for red light to see all these benefits. And I can just strap it on my face for 10 minutes while I do some deep breathing and be done. 

So here are the Pros: red light is possibly the best-researched, most promising, most multi-use technology out there for improving overall health and function in a broad-spectrum way. It’s literally good for EVERYTHING, and the research is pretty clear about that!

Cons: The omnilux mask is expensive and goofy looking! BUT, given the impact of red light and the way it penetrates and the far-reaching benefits, and the fact that this isn’t a product that you’ll eventually run out of, it’s hands-down the best investment I can imagine.

Who might want to use it: Everyone could benefit from red light! It doesn’t have to be this mask – again, I’ve gotten my other devices from redlightman.com. 

So, again, my skincare needs will probably change and even intensify over time, as they have over the last decade since I first published my skincare guide. I’m generally happy with my skin, but I don’t rule out more intense treatments over the next decade, like CO2 resurfacing, stronger peels, or more powerful lasers. For now, this is part of what I do for my 38-year-old skin.

Now, you’ve probably been sitting through this whole podcast just waiting for me to talk about BOTOX!

Ahh, botox. SO controversial! I’ll tell you my Botox story. 

When I was about 24, long before I ever knew I’d ever have a blog, when I was basically running on beer and 2 hours of sleep each night (just kidding) I started noticing that I was waking up with these deep lines between my eyes. The “11s” and it bothered me because I knew I was frowning as I slept, but I couldn’t do anything about it because of the whole BEING UNCONSCIOUS thing. And I wanted to stop sleep frowning! So I very meekly called my dermatologist, who was the one who’d prescribed all my acne medications for my horrible skin, and asked if people ever did botox “preventively.” She said yes, so I did it! And I probably did it 3 or 4 times between then and when I discovered the idea of natural, safe skincare.

And when I discovered natural, safe skincare, I was DONE with Botox. From before I wrote my skincare guide until literally last month, I had NOT gotten Botox. In fact, I feel like those early treatments actually sort of trained my face OUT of frowning at night – I had completely stopped doing that!

Until a few months ago, I started to notice I was sleep frowning again. And again, I do not like this idea of unconscious frowning. So I chose to get Botox again. And let me tell you. I love it the effects of it! BUT. I knew that I needed to have the research for you all today, and I admit, having had botox before, I took for granted the safety profile and jumped into it without doing the due diligence I’d usually do with something like this. I had actually heard a practitioner call Botox a “biohack” recently, and I thought that was interesting! But still, I wanted to know more. so I asked my friend, Amanda torres, who is a neuroscientist and researcher, what she knew. And here’s what she told me:

She looked into both the historical use of botox, and the adverse events, which is what we really need to know. Now, I didnt think about adverse events or toxicity at 24. If I was just looking into it now, and DIDN’T know from that experience 14 years ago that i tolerated it well, I’d probably have been much more cautious. Because this is literally the most lethal toxin known to man. Literally botulinum neurotoxins are the most potent toxins known. Amanda let me know that Botulinum toxin A (BTA) is the most potent, one million-fold more toxic than cobra toxin. 2 kg of botulinum toxin could kill the entire population of humans on the planet! 

  • Botox was first used therapeutically to treat muscle hyperactivity disorders in the early 80s but wasn’t licensed by the FDA until December 1989, to treat muscle disorders like  strabismus and hemifacial spasm.
  • It was First used cosmetically in the 90s, became commercially available in…we think 2002 for (glabellar lines 2002?)
  • So what these do, among other things, are to block release of acetylcholine, which is as an excitatory neurotransmitter at the neuromuscular junction with skeletal muscle (i.e. it leads to muscle contraction). As we all know, it keeps the muscle from contracting and making wrinkles starting 5 to 15 days after injection and lasting around 3 to 6 months – and I’ll make a comment on that 3 to 6 month thing in a bit.

Now, this compound has a BLACK BOX WARNING! There are known risks, and this is the most severe type of safety warning, in short, “all botulinum toxin products may spread from the area of injection to produce symptoms consistent with botulinum toxin effects [that is, botulism]. Now, it does seem that the risk of use is lowest with cosmetic use, and higher with medical indications that the toxin is also used for. In short, the risk of serious adverse events in cosmetic use does appear to be relatively low. The biggest severe adverse event risk is probably eyelid drooping. 

There are also other forms of botox, including Juveau and Dysport. They’re not necessarily interchangeable, and Something I didn’t know is that Jeuveau is made from donated human plasma and with that, there is always a risk of viral contamination. The risk is likely very low, and Donated plasma is tested and treated to reduce the risk of contamination, but there is still a small possibility it could transmit disease. And this is something we don’t often think about, I certainly didn’t. 

Now, my hope was that this decade-plus-later round of botox would render me good for a long time, just as it did previously. UNFORTUNATELY…this doens’t seem to be the case. And here’s where it gets interesting, and where I want to hear from folks out there who get it. 

I am hearing, from multiple people who have no relationship to one another, that THE BOTOX HAS GONE BAD. (Just kidding) I’m hearing though that all forms of botox are simply not lasting as long. I’ve heard this about botox, dysport, AND juveau. Now, I did a little noodling on this, and I know that Gender and age have a direct effect on efficacy. I also know from Amanda that the body can create antibodies to it that diminish its effectiveness. But based on the people I’ve heard from, not only should gender and age not be having an impact, but also frequency of use. This might be a large cluster of coincidences, but today I noticed that I’m able to eke out a little frown again! So I’m fascinated by this and will report back what I hear.

Now, I’m not sure what my plan is here. I am not sure more frequent injections of this toxin is in the cards for me – I DO like to have some expression in my face, just not the frowny/angry type! I love my laugh lines and don’t inject those, for example, but there comes a point where there is a diminishing rate of returns, right? I’ll let you all know.

Now, i’ve already kept you well over the normal time, so no Weekly Overshare this week! 

I hope you enjoyed episode 9! I’ll keep it short and sweet here at the end – please share this podcast with everyone you have ever met in your life. Just kidding! But please do keep listening and sharing. I appreciate you!

That’s it for episode 9 – I’ll see you next week!

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