Monday, July 28, 2008

Topical Retinol for Skin: Improving Wrinkles and Collagen Production

Liver is a good source of retinol, the animal form of vitamin A. (Photo by ulterior epicure)

Since the CE ferulic acid experiment will take quite a while to finish, I'm going to try using a topical vitamin A product as well. I will only be using it on the left side of my face, so that if there are positive results, I'm able to attribute them to the correct product.

I've chosen a retinol-A cream from Young Again, since it was quite cheap compared to the alternatives and is supposed to be less irritating than tretinoin, which is the acid and most effective form of vitamin A. If retinol proves ineffective, I'm going to try the real deal.

The 2 oz (about 57 grams) jar contains 600,000 IU of retinol. Considering that 1 International Unit is equivalent to 0.3 micrograms of retinol, one jar should contain 600,000 * 0.3 mcg = 180,000 mcg = 180 mg of retinol. This would mean that 180 mg / 57,000 mg = 0,3 % of the cream is retinol, making it a 0,3 % retinol cream. I'm not sure whether this is enough to be effective, but the strongest creams I could find all had 600,000 IU per 2 oz.

At least one study suggests that topical retinol improves fine wrinkles and increases collagen production without the irritating effect of tretinoin.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

MSM + Chondroitin + Glucosamine: A Sulfur Cocktail for Hair and Nails

MSM is usually recommended for degenerative joint disease. (Photo by hradcanska)

As my experiment with biotin produced no results, it's time to move on to the next supplement for hair and nail growth. This time I'm testing a combination of MSM (or methylsulfonylmethane), chondroitin and glucosamine. It comes in powder form and is made by a brand called Phenomenal®, for which very little information is available (I ordered it from eBay). This of course raises suspicions, but if you know more about the manufacturer, leave a comment.

MSM is one of those supplements you hear lots of good things about, but unfortunately many of those good things are purely anecdotal and not backed up by scientific studies. It is often marketed as a treatment for osteoarthritis and is sometimes combined with glucosamine and chondroitin, though it is questionable whether this will help its efficiency. At least one study has concluded that MSM may in fact be effective in improving symptoms of osteoarthritis, however.

Some people claim taking MSM has boosted the growth of their scalp and body hair and nails. The only study I could find on the subject was done by Ronald M. Lawrence, who is also the co-author of the book 'The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain'. In the study, they fed 21 patients either 3,000 mg of MSM or a placebo. The patients taking MSM reported increased hair growth, brilliance and thickness, and improvement in nail strength, thickness and appearance after only 6 weeks. The sample size seems quite small, and the results haven't been reproduced elsewhere, so I'm not entirely convinced yet.

The suggested daily amount on the bottle is one teaspoon which, according to the label on the side of the bottle, will give me 1,000 mg of MSM, 600 mg of glucosamine and 400 mg of chondroitin. I'm going to start with that amount and see what happens.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Biotin Supplements for Hair & Nails - Experiment Conclusion

Apparently biotin only works for some nails. (Photo by nothing)

It's now been a month since I started taking 5 mg of biotin daily to see whether it would have an effect on hair and nail growth. Unfortunately, it didn't.

I'm sure I will continue to read positive claims about taking biotin supplements by some people, but I suspect that either these people have actually been deficient in biotin (which is rare but not impossible) before the supplementation, are attributing the benefits of something else (another supplement, for example) to biotin, or are simply imagining the results.

The last option is probably very common and an easy mistake to make without properly measuring things like nail growth speed, hair shaft thickness etc. The only tool I had was my subjective evaluation, so this was hardly a controlled clinical study. However, people are more likely to see results when there are none than the other way around, which means that when I don't even see any subjective results, there probably aren't objective results either.

Thankfully, biotin supplements are pretty cheap, so you may want to try them for yourself, but before I see some actual studies on biotin's effectiveness, I won't be spending any more money on it.

For more information on hair growth, see these posts:

Mixture of 5-Aminolevulinic Acid and Iron Increases Hair Growth in Mice
3 Quick Ways to Find Out Whether Your Hair Growth Product is Working
Green Tea Extract Grows Hair in Vitro, May Work in Vivo
Vitamin E Tocotrienols May Grow Hair in Humans

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Coenzyme Q10 for Energy & General Health - Results after One Week

Does coenzyme Q10 help with energy levels and exercise? You tell me. (Photo by Aki Jinn)

So far, I haven't noticed anything different after taking 200 mg of CoQ10 daily for about a week. I've read some anecdotal evidence of CoQ10 boosting energy levels and the immune system, but I can't say the same. My throat still hurts, and yesterday having taken a capsule I went to the gym and working out felt pretty much the same as always.

I ran across an interesting study that claims CoQ10 might be effective in treating periodontitis. I have a mild gingival recession going on one of my upper teeth, which I would like to treat, but I haven't found an effective way to do so. My dentist said it's normal and that oral fluoride would help, but I'm skeptical of its effectiveness and also a little concerned about using fluoride at all.

I opened one of the gel capsules to see what the contents looked like, and what came out was an orange substance that resembles palm oil. In addition to CoQ10, the capsules contain soybean oil, gelatin, glycerin, titanium dioxide, riboflavin, water, yellow beeswax, soy lecithin, d-alpha tocopherol and polysorbate 80. Quite a lot of stuff. I don't know whether just rubbing it on my gums will do anything (hell, it might even be harmful), but this could make an interesting experiment.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Topical Vitamin C, Vitamin E & Ferulic Acid: Antioxidants for Skin Protection

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic acid
This is the product I will be testing.

Since I've already ventured into the strange world of homemade topicals, I thought I might as well begin testing existing products on the market. If they work, great, and if they don't, at least you'll save the money you might've otherwise spent on them.

I've chosen CE Ferulic acid from SkinCeuticals as my first target, as it seems to have some science behind it and at a price range of $80-$130 per 30 ml (or 1 fluid ounce), is not exactly the cheapest thing you can find. The following quote is from their website:
C E Ferulic® is a revolutionary antioxidant combination that delivers advanced protection against photoaging - neutralizing free radicals, helping build collagen, and providing unmatched antioxidant protection. More protection means more youthful looking skin and better defense against environmental aging.
The name of the product comes from the vitamins C and E, which it contains in the form of L-ascorbic acid and alpha-tocopherol. SkinCeuticals claims the ferulic acid doubles the benefits of these vitamins. This claim may have some merit, as the researches of this study concluded that adding ferulic acid to a topical solution of ascorbic acid and alpha-tocopherol improved the chemical stability of the vitamins and doubled their photoprotective effect. In an earlier study they concluded that vitamins C and E together were superior to using either one on its own.

Topical vitamin C is known to be beneficial to the skin and is often added to skin care products. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and can thus help reduce skin damage caused by free radicals. It is also essential for the synthesis of collagen. The first problem with some of the products is that vitamin C is relatively unstable and oxidizes easily. The oxidized form of vitamin C is unhelpful and may even increase the damage to your skin. The second problem is that a lot of products contain too little vitamin C to be effective.

Vitamin E, an inexpensive antioxidant, is found in a lot of products as well, but whether it is beneficial or not seems unclear. For example, this study suggests that not only is there no benefit from topical vitamin E to skin scars but that it may even be detrimental. Unfortunately, it doesn't say in the abstract which form of vitamin E they used. In another study, mice that received a topical application of alpha-tocopheryl acetate or alpha-tocopheryl succinate (which are more stable at room temperature than some other forms of vitamin E) actually had higher rates of cancer from photoexposure. On the other hand, the researches do mention that dl-alpha-tocopherol prevents skin cancer in mice. Thus, the form of vitamin E used is critical.

Ferulic acid is phenolic phytochemical and a known antioxidant. It is found on the leaves and seeds of many plants and in things like cereals, coffee, apple, orange and pineapple. Consumed orally, it helps to prevent damage caused by ultraviolet light and may be beneficial in the health of sperm and fertility. Topically, it has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in mouse skin.

I'm applying this stuff on my face and on the backs of my hands to see what happens.

For more information on skin care, see these posts:

Topical Vitamin C, Vitamin E & Ferulic Acid - Experiment Conclusion
1,000-8,000 mg of MSM Has No Effect on Hair & Nails - Experiment Conclusion
How to Get Natural Sun Protection by Eating the Right Foods
Biotin Supplements for Hair & Nails - Experiment Conclusion

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Coenzyme Q10 for Energy & General Health

200 mg coenzyme Q10
This is the brand and quantity I will be using.

In this experiment, I will be taking 200 mg of coenzyme Q10 daily to see whether it has any noticeable effects.

CoQ10, often touted as a heart health supplement, is present in most human cells and is responsible for the production of the body's own energy. It is a potent free radical scavenger and has been reported to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. In rats it has been shown to protect from age-related DNA double-strand breaks and increase lifespan when combined with a diet rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Unfortunately, there is no mention in the study whether CoQ10 is effective in other kinds of diets as well.

The 200 mg capsule from Natrol is the strongest form I could find on eBay. I haven't come across any adverse effects from taking that amount daily, so that's what I'm going for. One bottle has 45 gel capsules, and I've got two bottles, so if everything goes smoothly, this experiment should last about four months (this includes the days I forget or am unable to take a capsule for some reason).

For more information on coenzyme Q10, see these posts:

Coenzyme Q10 for Energy & General Health - Results after One Week
Coenzyme Q10, Exercise and Oxidative Stress
The Role of Coenzyme Q10 in Oral Health
How to Choose Between Different Forms of Coenzyme Q10: Ubiquinone vs. Ubiquinol

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Topical Tea Tree Oil for Hair Growth - Results after One Month

The oil from tea trees is said to have antiandogenic properties. (Photo by girlnagun)

So far, I've seen no results from my tea tree oil experiment - that is, the one where I rub tea tree oil mixed with sesame oil on one of my legs to see whether it's antiandrogenic.

I must admit there have been some days I haven't applied this secret formula on my leg, but still, the results have been disappointing. I'm not sure how good a carrier oil sesame seed oil really is, so yesterday I mixed tea tree oil with some melted cocoa butter and used that instead.

I also added some korean red ginseng extract, which has been shown to increase hair growth in mice. There's also a patent claim that says it's effective in promoting function of cell activity. It is suggested in the patent claim that these two combined might bring improved results.

The stuff they used in the mouse study and the stuff I ordered is an alcoholic extract, however, so I'm not sure how it really mixes with the cocoa butter. It seemed to dissolve alright, but I'm no chemist, so who knows. I took a risk and applied it to a part of my scalp as well.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Biotin Supplements for Hair & Nails - Results after Two Weeks

You'd have to eat 500 hardboiled eggs to get 5 mg of biotin. (Photo by woodleywonderworks)

So far, there's been no change in my hair and nails after supplementing with 5 mg biotin daily. I think any difference in hair growth would be difficult to spot this soon, but neither nail strength nor nail growth have shown any change either.

My nails have always been quite brittle and short - perhaps in part due to the fact that I used to bite them - so anything that makes them stronger would be most welcome. On the other hand, it makes experiments like this easy, as any positive change would be noticeable.

I think I'll finish the bottle but I'm not expecting much.

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