Articles, Instagram

What happens when you fast?

“Fasting” diets are all the rage.  Even time-restricted eating, where you eat only during a four to eight hour window every day, is now popularly called “intermittent fasting.”  There is also the 5:2 Fast Diet, where you eat normally for five days a week and eat only 500 calories for women or 600 calories for men on two “fasting” days–any two, which are usually not consecutive.  Another form of short-term fasting is the every-other-day fast, where, predictably, you eat only every other day.

These types of eating restriction have their places.  “Intermittent fasting” improves insulin resistance, inflammation markers, and has a positive impact on weight control for people who tend to graze.  The 5:2 Fast Diet and every-other-day fasting are both easy weight loss plans for many people, and the 5:2 Fast Diet is able to be transformed without too much difficulty into a permanent lifestyle change without much overhead, and overweight people get all the benefits of weight loss from them.

However, none of these are a prolonged fast.  A prolonged fast must be at least three days in duration if a complete water fast and at least four days if there are small amounts of food consumed.  A prolonged fast can be dangerous for some people–especially a water-only fast–and so should only be undertaken under the guidance of a doctor.  That said, prolonged fasts of three to seven days have benefits that intermittent and single-day fasts can’t match.


Our bodies were shaped in a time when food shortages were common.  They not only add fat against times of need, but they also keep around senescent (old) and injured cells and organelles that aren’t functioning very well, as well as letting various fragments of fats, sugars, and proteins hang about–just like you let things slide to the back of the fridge when new, yummier food is in constant supply.  When you cut off the supply of new food, though, the body immediately starts rummaging around for things to consume–just like you!  Eventually, if no food comes in, it reduces the body to the equivalent of  eating grass and leather shoes, and eventually you die.  But in between, when there is just a short-term food shortage, the body dips into its version of the pantry and freezer and eats some of its stores there by burning fat, and it also goes into the back of the fridge, where senescent cells are the wilted spinach and intermediate-glycation molecules are the fuzzy furry thing that used to be a take out dinner, and the body recycles into food anything that’s edible and trashes things that aren’t.  After a few days, the fridge, freezer, and pantry are neat and clean, with the remaining supplies nicely organized at you’ve gone through everything–and you can start bringing in new food again.  This process is called autophagy.

Though this is a metaphor, it’s an amazingly accurate one!  The scary, fuzzy things in the back of our body’s fridge don’t just sit there, getting gross.  They cause actual, real damage.  Without periodic prolonged fasts, our body just doesn’t know what to do with this cellular clutter, and it becomes a heavy contributor to several poor health and aging processes.

This clutter is such an issue that Valter Longo, the Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California, has focused most of his research on the topic over the past several years in his efforts to counter Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes through the controlled stress of short-term prolonged fasting and its ability to alter cellular expression.  A large percentage of the benefits of fasting that are cited here are found in his body of research that you can read on PubMed.

Prolonged fasts of three days to a week not only decrease body fat: they also selectively decrease the damaging visceral fat to a greater degree, and they preserve both muscle mass and bone density.  They aren’t a particularly good weight loss technique because the net loss after any three-day water-only fast is going to be in the range of one to two pounds of fat in people who are not class II obese and above, but they help maintain an ideal body composition in slimmer people as well as fight and sometimes reverse insulin resistance and type II diabetes in larger people.  Prolonged fasts have a far better impact on type II diabetes and insulin resistance than normal-paced weight loss, and the effects of fasting are responsible for the reversal of diabetes often found in the first stage of recovery after gastric bypass surgery, when patients are eating an extremely low calorie diet for several weeks.  You can have the same effects with fasting alone, no surgery needed!

Beyond the level of mere fat loss, prolonged fasts improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and decrease the levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF).  Though bodybuilders are constantly wanting to increase their levels of IGF, when IGF is high without exercise, it is closely linked to aging and inflammation.  Your baseline IGF should be very low and should only increase in response to physical activity.  Prolonged fasts also dramatically lower CRP and other inflammation markers.  It also increases the number of naive T-cells by replacing excess and broken memory T-cells, which is important for a healthily active immune system–rather than a bunch of T-cells trying to hunt down a specific pathogen that may not even exist in your body, naive T-cells are able to respond fluidly to any intruder and then to call for help to identify and kill it.

Prolonged fasts of three to seven days also put you deep into short-term nutritional ketosis.  While long-term ketosis has a number of serious drawbacks, including impairing neurological function and creating tissue-level insulin resistance that is very hard to reverse, short-term ketosis is extremely beneficial as the switchover kills some malfunctioning cells and organelles and decreases IGF, among other things.

We also have every reason to believe, based on animal studies, that regular bouts of fasting will lower your chances of dementia, cancer, and atherosclerosis.  Finally, perhaps most excitingly, prolonged fasts in humans have been shown to increase stem cell regeneration.

For all of these reasons, I’ve been undertaking periodic prolonged fasts for a little more than the last year, roughly one every two to three months.  I would like to do a fast once every two months, regularly, but fasting is psychologically challenging–surprisingly, more to start than to maintain for periods of less than five days!  Laziness gets to us all.

Valter Longo has developed an easier, safer protocol than complete water fasting called the Fast Mimicking Diet.  In this diet, the fast is prolonged over five days, with an induction day of 1090 calories that is 10% protein, 56% fat, and 34% carbohydrates and four fast-mimicking days that are 725 calories delivered as 9% protein, 44% fat, and 47% carbohydrates.  This patented diet plan is delivered through mail-order meals with the company ProLon that Dr. Longo founded after his research began bearing such good fruits.  Here are results from his later studies about the effects of his patented diet on various markers of health:

Photo credit: Prolon
Photo credit: Prolon

You can order directly from ProLon or go through a doctor.  (I am not affiliated with Dr. Longo or ProLon and have never spoken with him, but I’ve admired Dr. Longo’s work for more than a decade.)  From personal experience, I don’t recommend cooking while you are fasting!  If you don’t use ProLon for your Fast-Mimicking Diet imitation, you should prepare any meals ahead of time.

I usually take a similar approach.  On my very first try, I worked out a meal plan using CRON-O-meter online for free that followed the macronutrient proportions of the Fast Mimicking Diet.  Honestly, though, I was pretty miserable on this diet.  I was starving all the time, and I was also preparing meals while starving.  Not a good combination.

For me, personally, eating less was the answer.  Instead of 725 calories, I eat less than 400, staying well below the maximum calorie count of every macronutrient in the actual Fast-Mimicking Diet plan.  Basically, I grab a few cashews whenever I get really hungry and eat them slowly.  When I do this, I end up not really being hungry at all after the first day of a four days of very low calorie consumption.  I also still drink tea and zero-calorie electrolyte water.  During the first two cycles of fasting, I was absolutely exhausted late in the first extremely low-calorie day as my body went into nutritional ketosis, but now I tend to get a long burst of energy, which doesn’t do much for my sleep!

I have also done a four-and-a-half-day water-only fast when I was having some severe neurological symptoms and my neurologist was stumped about what to do.  By the fourth day of water-only fasting, I was having a much harder time than I do on one day of light eating plus four days under 400 calories. On the fifth day, I gave up about five hours short of the mark when the house was full of the smell of delicious food!  My neurological symptoms stopped on the second day of my water fast, and they only came back to a much lesser extent about six weeks later, and with a second, gentler mimicking-style fast, they disappeared again, only to reappear about two months later, even less severe than before.  Since the last, third fast, they’ve been gone for nearly half a year.  I cannot say for certain whether the fasting was the cause, but I took this route based on studies of fasting in multiple sclerosis patients with similar symptoms, and I did not regret it.

On a psychological note, I find that a fast also shakes me out of any bad food habits and restores a healthier, more respectful relationship with food.  There are many people who have a near-terror of being hungry and use food as the most reliable source of comfort.  For them, a fast could be even more psychologically beneficial, as they would face and conquer their fear and dependency.

I have found that fasting is something that has some immediately noticeable short-term positive effects, which are enough for me to continue even without the long-term promises of better health.

You should never fast if you are pregnant.  Therefore, the ideal time to start a fast when you are trying to conceive is during menstruation.  In addition, you should not do any kind of strenuous activity while you are fasting, because that can put your electrolytes out of balance, which can make you very ill or, in rare cases, result in death.  Always consult with your doctor before starting a fast.

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, and this is not personal medical advice.


Color-shifting sequin pillow: How cool is this?

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From Instagram?  Here’s the link you wanted!

I was shopping for an upcoming trip, and I saw this pillow (here are a bunch on Amazon)!

pillow text

Looks pretty glam, right?  But it’s way cooler than it seems.  It has two-colored sequins sewn onto the pillow at one end so that you can flip the sequins over with a brush of your hand.

I saw it and the price (which was pretty low) and immediately knew I was going to buy it!  But it turns out these are much cheaper on Amazon.   Take a look at them here!

My kids have spent hours playing with this pillow.  My husband initially said, “Why did you buy that thing?” but an hour later, I caught him playing with it, too!  Check it out.  All three of my kids, four to fourteen, announced that this pillow would make an awesome birthday present.

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Articles, Skincare

Hype or legit? Dr. Oz’s advice on how to “fake a facelift” and look ten years younger.

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Dr. Oz was once a highly respected cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia professor.  His show still capitalizes on this reputation and the excellent bedside manner that he projects through the television.

However, Dr. Oz is now a primarily a talk show host and a celebrity.  His programming is heavily driven by producers, not by medical research. The quality of guests that are invited onto the show varys wildly, and so does the quality of advice that the show’s research assistants script for him to present.  When this is combined with the public’s insatiable desire for new and easy solutions for complicated or difficult problems, sometimes a fad is born that can’t possibly live up to the hype.  This has resulted in a lot of scepticism from the medical community about the quality of advice on the Dr. Oz Show.

In one show in particular, Dr. Oz promised the ability to “fake and facelift” and “drop a decade” through a combination of supplements, creams, and serums.  How good was his advice?

Advice: Topical Vitamin C

Rating:  A+

The use of a topical vitamin C serum is excellent advice with a great deal of evidence backing it up.  First, Dr. Oz specifically recommends specifically looking for the form ascorbic acid (also written L-ascorbic acid).  This is fantastic!  Vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, which Dr. Oz recommends, is a very potent antioxidant–so powerful that it is now the gold standard to which other potential antioxidants are compared.  Beyond that, though, ascorbic acid has been shown to reduce sun damage when it is applied before sun exposure, and it reduces post-inflammatory erythema (redness from inflammation and acne) and skin discoloration, which includes post-acne dark marks on the skin that many people call scars.  There is also some research that suggests that ascorbic acid may enhance collagen production and fibroblast growth factor expression–and there is even some direct research on its ability to reduce wrinkles if delivered into the skin.

Dr. Oz suggested that you would see changes in 2 to 4 weeks using vitamin C.  While this is certainly possible, and I have seen changes in my skin that fast with the really well-formulated serum that I created for myself, it is more realistic to expect noticeable changes in 8 to 12 weeks.

There are a number of forms of vitamin C that are found in skincare products.  Aside from acorbic acid, other forms include retinyl palmitate, L-ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate.  The gold standard is ascorbic acid because it has the most research behind it, though there is research on some of the other forms that does not exist for ascorbic acid–such as a trial showing that sodium ascorbyl phosphate 5% is very effective in the treatment of acne.  (It should be said that I have personally noticed a similar effectiveness with ascorbic acid.)  Tetrahexydecyl ascorbate might even be better than ascorbic acid at least in some ways, but it does not yet have much research behind it.  For now, ascorbic acid has the most evidence behind its effectiveness at both preventing and reversing the signs of aging.

The problem with ascorbic acid lies in the fact that it oxidizes very quickly when it’s dissolved and comes into contact with air, and therefore, it needs to be in a solution that is either anhydrous (meaning without water) or stabilized in other ways, and if it is not anhydrous, it should be in oxygen-free packaging, such as a tube or vacuum pump.  The anhydrous solutions have another problem because unless the ascorbic acid is dissolved in water on the skin, it will not penetrate.  And the various ways in which ascorbic acid can be stabilized will have different durations of effectiveness. When ascorbic acid is combined with other vitamins, especially vitamin E and alpha-lipoic acid, it has been shown to be far more effective.  Finally, penetration enhancers can greatly increase the ability of ascorbic acid to effect the deeper layers of the skin.  The pH also matters–ascorbic acid needs to be quite acidic for it to penetrate the skin well.

All of this means that the level of effectiveness of an ascorbic acid serum depends only somewhat on how much ascorbic acid there is in the serum.  Look for a formula that lists it near the front of the list of ingredients, but don’t pick a 30% serum over a 10% serum based on the ascorbic acid content alone!  If the serum is well-formulated with good penetration enhancers, even 25% would be far too strong for almost anyone’s skin.  Dr. Oz suggested 3 to 10%.  I would counter that 10% to 15%, perhaps as high as 20%, of a well-formulated ascorbic acid serum would be preferable to anything below 10%.  Above 20%, again, is perfectly comfortable if the formula just isn’t very good.  However, it would create a very strong burning sensation if it was that high if the formula is excellent.

Dr. Oz also wisely suggests to use a vitamin C serum in the morning (when it can do the most to counteract sun damage) after cleansing and exfoliation and before moisturizer and sunblock.  This is exactly when and where I would recommend it, as well.  A morning routine should consist of cleansing, then any toners and/or essences, then a vitamin C serum.  After the vitamin C serum has time to dry, spot-treat any trouble spots, like around the eyes or an active pimple, and then add moisturizer, and finally put sunblock on the top.

Some people confuse the phototoxicity that comes from a component of many citrus fruits with something to do with vitamin C.  Phototoxicity in citrus comes from furocoumarin derivatives.  These are naturally occurring chemicals that have nothing to do with vitamin C.  Vitamin C is not phototoxic, and it doesn’t cause photosensitivity.

Products to Consider

Product:  The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%


Price:  $

Rating: ★★

Buy it at

Review:  The Ordinary has a line of products that are extraordinarily cheap and have very few but selectively powerful active ingredients.  The price is the main benefit.  The drawback, though, is that many of their products not only have few actives but also that many of the formulations are poor.  This means that their high concentration active might not do as much as a better formulation with far, far less of the active included.

Such is the case with their vitamin C suspension. The Ordinary gets around the issues with the oxidation of the L-ascorbic acid by presenting it in an anhydrous liquid–that is, a liquid without water.  In this form, though, the ascorbic acid cannot dissolve.  The formula is gritty, which makes it very difficult to apply under makeup, and it will have poor skin penetration.  A better alternative is to buy pure L-ascorbic powder and add it to your daily moisturizer right before applying it every morning.  This would be even cheaper, smoother, far more effective, and you wouldn’t have an extra liquid product in your application process.

Product:  Timeless Vitamin C Plus E Plus Ferulic Acid Serum

Timeless C + E + Ferulic Acid Serum

Price:  $$

Rating:  ★★★

Buy it on Amazon

Review:  This is a close approximation or even an exact dupe of the more expensive SkinCeuticals original formula.  It has a good, simple formula, with hyaluronic acid as a humectant-type moisturizer, ferulic acid as a stabilizer, and vitamin E to increase the effectiveness of the ascorbic acid.  It also has  ethoxydiglycol, a mild penetration enhancer.  It’s a solid formula for a phenomenal price.  The main problem with the formula is the dropper application.  Because this is not in an airless bottle, the vitamin C will still slowly oxidize, despite stabilization.  If you’re on a very tight budget, choose this and keep it in the refrigerator!

Product: philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder


Price: $$$

Rating: ★

Buy it at Amazon

Buy it at Sephora

Review:  Many cosmetics companies are now selling ascorbic acid separately to mix into your daily powder.  There is no reason to get branded ascorbic acid unless it comes in a bundle, in which case you’re mostly paying for the formulation of the base, which, if well formulated, should dramatically increase the effectiveness of the ascorbic acid.  If the vitamin C powder is meant to be used with any serum or moisturizer, get the serum or moisturizer you want with plenty of actives and add in ascorbic acid from a wholesale company.  This powder by philosophy is spectacularly extortionate for what it is.

Product:  Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin C 10%


Price: $$$$

Rating:  ?

Buy it at Sephora

Review:  Clinque gets around the problem of oxidation by having the vitamin C added right before use.  The percentage is on the low side, so supplementing this with a extra powder is advisable.  The airless packaging is excellent.  The recommendation to add the serum to your moisturizer potentially raises the pH and dramatically reduces the serum’s effectiveness.  I would recommend adding it in a single layer first, allowing it to dry, and then adding more.  It is especially troubling that this recommendation would be made at all.  I have not been able to yet locate the other ingredients.  When I do, I will update this review.

Product:  Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare C+ Collagen Brighten and Firm Vitamin C Serum


Price:  $$$$

Rating:  ★★★★ as a serum, but ★★ as a vitamin C serum

Buy it at Sephora

Review:  Dr Dennis Gross deals with the issue of stabilization by using mostly 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, which is more stable than L-ascorbic acid.  It may work as well, or it may not.  There is no research on this type of ascorbic acid.  The formula does not contain vitamin E, which is a strange choice given the weight of research about how much better vitamin C works with vitamin E, but it does contain CoQ10, which is excellent, and niacinamide, lactic acid, carnitine, hydrolyzed soy protein, turmeric extract, phytic acid, and several additional beneficial botanicals.  Everything but the lactic acid is likely present in good amounts, too.  It also contains superoxide dismutase, which may be especially helpful for acne-prone people.  Overall, this is an excellent serum, but it may not be an excellent vitamin C serum.

Product:  philosophy Time in a Bottle 100% In-Control


Price: $$$$

Rating: ★

Buy it at Amazon

Buy it at Sephora

Review:  You have to get thirteen ingredients deep to find the first ingredient that isn’t a cheap, non-active moisturizing or thickening ingredient, and the first vitamin C derivative is much farther down the list, with ascorbic acid toward the bottom if the long and complicated and mostly unimpressive list.  To put things in perspective, there is likely 1.5% or less of the thickener xanthan gum, which is about a sixth of the way down the list of ingredients; less than 1% of the preservative disodium EDTA, which is only a third of the way down the list; and less than .5% of the preservative BHT, which is about halfway down the list. While a few actives do need to be added in extremely small concentrations, this is not true of the ingredients in this product.  Sadly, philosophy is engaging in heavy fairy-dusting–including minuscule amounts of actives and selling bottles of mostly fluffy moisturizer as if they were extremely powerful.

Product:  Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum


Price: $$$$

Rating:  ★★★★★

Buy it at Amazon

Buy it at Sephora

Review:  I have mad respect for this fairly new company.  All of their formulas seem intelligent and honest.  This formula not only contains an ideal 15% L-ascorbic acid, but it also contains ferulic acid for stability and vitamin E to increase its effectiveness.  There are all kinds of other goodies inside, including a peptide, tea extract, lactobacillus extract, licorice extract, hydrolyzed proteins, and a laundry list of very respectable botanicals–all in an airless bottle!  I highly recommend this formula.

Product:  SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum


Price: $$$$$

Rating:  ★★★

Buy it at Amazon

Review:  The granddaddy of all vitamin C serums, the SkinCueticals C E Ferulic Acid serum is the first of its kind. Ferulic acid to stabilize, vitamin E to increase effectiveness, and a mild penetration enhancer plus hyaluronic acid for humectant-type moisturization.  The dropper applicator will allow for oxidation, though, even with the stabilizing effect of the ferulic acid, so preferably store this in the refrigerator.  The only issue with it is that there are now better and/or cheaper products.  Drunk Elephant is is both, while Timeless is pretty much the same thing but cheaper.

Advice:  Oral Phytoceramides

Rating:  D-

Phytoceramides are a particular type of lipid that come from plants (which is where the phyto- comes from).  Ceramides in the skin are part of the lipid component of the outer layer of skin crucial for preventing water loss and maintaining a healthy epidermal barrier, along with cholesterol and saturated fatty acids.  This is a source of a lot of confusion, because there is no evidence that phytoceramides that you eat can somehow get into your skin–despite Dr. Oz’s claims.  Instead, the ceramides in your skin are manufactured locally, and mammalian ceramides are chemically different from phytoceramides from yeast and plants, despite the claims of many supplement companies.

That said, there is some very limited evidence provided by exactly one study that oral phytoceramides might reduce skin wrinkling.  The main difficulty with this study is that phytoceramides were just one component of a complicated protocol.  Another study showed some statistically significant but generally unimpressive improved hydration of the skin from phytoceramides.

If phytoceramides do work to improve skin, it would probably be through their action as PPAR ligands, which would increase insulin sensitivity and therefore make it easier to retain and build fat in facial skin.  (They also might increase bone density, which is good because some PPAR agonists may impair bone building.)  Other PPAR-gamma agonists have been examined for their potential to reverse the wasting that occurs in the faces and limbs of people who are on standard HIV treatment, so the possibility that phytoceramides can support a youthful skin appearance is suggested by this.

However, there has been a fair amount of research that suggests that oral phytoceramides can cause cell death, too.  The research has centered on synthetic phytoceramides because they can be manufactured to be water soluble, but there is still strong reason to worry that natural phytoceramides might cause similar issues.  Because they are much less bioavailable, they would be much less dangerous.  Any amount you might normally get from your diet, for example, would be perfectly safe.  But this might be because dietary phytoceramides are generally inert, not very available for your body’s use.  Because natural phytoceramides are found in low levels in foods that we eat, phytoceramides are FDA approved for consumption, but they have not been proven safe in the concentrations that are normally used in supplements, and they also aren’t approved by the FDA to improve skin or to treat any other condition.  Astonishingly, one of the doctors on the Dr. Oz Show appeared to be familiar with the research about how phytoceramides can kill cells because he talked about how they might “fight cancer.”  While it is true that there is interest in phytoceramides for killing cancer cells, he failed to note that the studies found that they were able to kill all kinds of cells, which might include cancer cells, too.

There is not sufficient evidence to conclude that phytoceramides would actually improve the skin in any meaningful way and plenty of reason to worry that they might harm your health, if they were.  Therefore, at best they are over-hyped, and at worst, they are flat dangerous.  This is a swing and a miss for Dr. Oz.

Products to Consider

I don’t consider it ethical to recommend phytoceramides!

Advice:  Sonic Brush

Rating:  B+

Dr. Oz recommended facial brushes, preferably sonic facial brushes, for daily mechanical exfoliation.  He specifically recommended the Clarisonic brand but suggested rotating rather than sonic brushes for those a budget.  Rotating facial brushes spin, while sonic brushes like Clarisonic vibrate back and forth.

Both types of brush are mechanical exfoliators, which means that they clear away flakes from the outer surface of the skin.  While chemical exfoliation usually involves alpha-hydroxy or beta-hydroxy acids, mechanical exfoliation can include anything that physically removes skin through friction or abrasion.  Types include not just rotating brushes but any kind of loofah, face scrub, washcloth, or microdermabrasion.

That said, ultrasonic brushes are my favorite type of facial mechanical exfoliators, too.  To use them correctly, you let the brush do the work and apply no pressure to the brush head beyond what you need to make contact with the skin.  You should never scrub your face with a rotating or sonic brush!  When used properly, without any additional force, these brushes are incredibly gentle on the skin while effectively cleaning away all traces of makeup, moisturizer, loose skin, and dirt, and they get farther into pores than other types of mechanical cleansing without creating damage to the skin.  Their gentleness and effectiveness in cleansing sets brushes apart from other types of mechanical exfoliation–they really prep skin for skincare and makeup better than anything else that can be used on a daily basis.  They are especially useful if you use intensive treatments that can create peels or flakiness.

I recommend using them with a regular cleanser.  Many exfoliating face washes can cause scratches, while those with softer plastic microspheres are more gentle but hardly more effective than a regular cleanser and are problematical for the environment–and certainly not recommended for septic systems.  One study found that a plain old washcloth is more effective than facial scrubs for cleaning skin.  They really don’t add much to an already very effective rotating or ultrasonic brush.

These brushes anecdotally improve acne in most people.  However, in some, they make acne worse.  These people should either use a simple, pure soap like Ivory to clean the brush head after every use and then make sure that the brush head dried thoroughly between uses.  This may require rotating between two different brushes.  One brush manufacturer makes a rotating brush with a UV sterilizing base for this problem, which is another alternative.

Sonic brushes promise better cleaning power than regular rotating brushes.  Does the hype hold up to the evidence?  Most studies of sonic or ultrasonic brushes versus oscillating/rotating brushes involve dental care rather than facial care.  In a number of different studies, various sonic toothbrushes do not do better at cleaning than an oscillating/rotating brush that is not sonic.  But of course, gentleness would be much more important when it comes to skin than when toothbrushing, and this is a comparison of one company’s flagship product with various other products.  They certainly wouldn’t publish any negative results.

Proctor and Gamble did the only decent studies on ultrasonic and regular rotating brushes.  They produce the inexpensive Olay Pro-X brush, which is rotating.  They compared makeup removal and stratum corneum (outer skin) exfoliation and found no difference between brush types, while the brushes were better than hands, an exfoliating scrub, or a washcloth.  They also compared their rotating brush to hand cleansing when comparing barrier function and stratum corneum hydration (which both relate to gentleness) and facial bacteria population and found more benefits to using a brush.  Interestingly, they didn’t compare a sonic brush in these studies.  The cynic in me has a strong suspicion that this is because they felt the sonic brush would perform better in a statistically significant manner than their rotating brush when it came to these parameters.  However, I have no proof of this.

There is not any published evidence that Clarisonic is the best cleansing brush.  But there are a few clear advantages that do not relate directly to measurable data.  First, the Clarisonic comes with far more options and heads than any other system.  You can choose the heads with the right amount of stiffness for your face or body and even a pedicure system for your feet and a foundation applicator.  The oscillating motion of the Clarisonic also splashes less during use than rotating brushes according to many people, though I haven’t really had a problem with this with any brush, perhaps because dampen my brushes while they are spinning and don’t find the need for a large amount of cleanser on my face.

I give Dr. Oz’s recommendation a B+ because sonic and rotating brushes both definitely give you an excellent and gentle clean that prepares the skin for product and gives you a young, healthy glow.  However, there really isn’t evidence that sonic brushes do this better than rotating brushes, and these brushes have not been shown in any study ever to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, or sagging, which are the the major contributors to the appearance of aging skin beyond dullness.


In general, this show was a bit of a mixed bag.  There was one great piece of anti-aging advice, one poor piece of advice, and one piece of advice that is great for skincare but not necessarily helpful specifically for anti-aging!

What did you think about the show or Dr. Oz’s recommendations?

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