Love Your Skin, Love Yourself is Now Available!

Love Your Skin, Love Yourself is Now Available!

love your skin amazonI’ve been getting my exercise in for the past several days just from doing my happy dance because my book, Love Your Skin, Love Yourself: Achieve Beauty, Health, and Vitality from the Inside Out and Outside In is now available on Amazon! It’s in paperback now, but the Kindle version is on its way very soon, and the e-book will be available on iBooks, Nook, and other e-outlets in the next coming months.

I’m feeling many emotions right now…part of this doesn’t seem quite real yet since the entire experience of writing, editing, designing, proofing, and having the book published was such a whirlwind of emotions and activity that I wasn’t at all prepared for. I’m incredibly excited…so excited that I couldn’t keep the book’s availability quiet until my virtual launch event on 9/3/13 as I had initially planned.

Other than my family and close friends, my email subscribers were the first to know the book was available, then I leaked it (oops) on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Maybe for my next book I’ll be a bit more relaxed and will have more patience, but for my first there was no way I wasn’t going to shout it from the rooftops!

Love Your Skin got its first 5 star review!

I’m so honored that my book’s very first review on amazon was five stars. Kristen writes:

“Finally a book that addresses true challenges, from a very real person. Not only will this help you see yourself in a whole new light, you will be able to literally change your outlook on many levels and discover your true self, becoming your healthiest ‘you’ ever! What a gift!! Beautifully and truthfully written. Love this book!”

I am filled with joy and gratitude to Kristen and to everyone else who has purchased and will purchase my book…and of course to everyone who inspired and supported me before and during the entire process.

Love Your Skin, Love Yourself is available right HERE…get your copy today and please leave a review after you’ve rRachael Pontilloead the book!

So many events in my life would not have been possible without gratitude…once I stopped obsessing about things I wanted that I didn’t have and started focusing on being truly grateful for the incredible blessings I already have…THAT’s when the magic started to happen. So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for being here.



Product Spotlight: True Beauty Box

Product Spotlight: True Beauty Box

What’s more fun than getting a mysterious package in the mail (with a pink bow) containing all natural, safe, makeup and skincare products that have been handpicked just for you? Not much. 
Choosing to ignore the glossy magazine ads and appealing TV commercials that advertise the most popular and recognizable cosmetic brands in the world is tough enough in itself. Especially since these advertised products are often affordable and easily accessible. So why do people choose to go out of their way and look for smaller, less accessible, sometimes more expensive brands that are not represented by a famous supermodel or actress? 
The reason is safety. 
The majority of nationally advertised, commercially available cosmetic brands are ridden with potentially harmful ingredients like parabens, synthetic fragrances, sodium and ammonium lauryl/laureth sulfates, coal tar dyes, phthalates, formaldehyde-releasing agents, etc. These products are mass produced in such high quantities that high quantities of chemicals are needed to preserve shelf life, and also to keep manufacturing costs down since they are cheap. 
Here’s a little challenge for you…
Take a product you own that you’ve seen advertised on TV and search for it on the EWG’s Skin Deep Database. It can be makeup, skincare, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen…any cosmetic or personal care product. Warning: you may not like what you see. Look at the safety rating and read about the different risks associated with the ingredients in the product’s formulation. It really is astounding. 
So that’s why I, as well as many others, choose to find safer alternatives either online or in natural/healthy stores. It’s always a risk because many of these safer alternatives are pricey and no one’s ever heard of them, so a customer doesn’t have the benefit of word-of-mouth referrals. Product reviews online can help…or not.
True Beauty Box makes it easier to find great natural products.
True Beauty Box, from Love True Natural, is a monthly subscription-based program that really does all the work for us. They have their own team of aestheticians and other beauty experts that try out the products to make sure they actually work, and who have already researched the ingredients for safety. They share the same safety standards as I do: 
  • No petroleum based ingredients
  • No synthetic preservatives
  • No synthetic emulsifiers
  • No synthetic fragrances
  • No synthetic colors
  • No animal testing
There are three different True Beauty Box options: Flirt ($30), Veganista ($30), and Indulge($40) that all contain full-sized products from high quality natural brands such as Benecos, Lavera, True Natural, and more. Shipping is free too, which is a great perk.
Each month, your products are selected for you based on your Beauty Profile Quiz results. This short quiz helps Love True Natural understand your personal style as well as other preferences, and gives your profile. Of course this step is optional-you are free to choose your own as well. True Beauty Box subscribers also receive a discount off of individual product purchases from the website.
My True Beauty Box
The fabulous people at Love True Natural sent me the Flirt box, which contained two liquid foundation samples from Lavera (shades 1 and 2), in addition to a full sized brown eyeliner, black Maximum Length Mascara, Mokka Natural Baked Eyeshadow, and Coral Natural Baked Blush from Benecos; and a sample of Green People’s Gentle Cleanse and Makeup Remover.
About the products:
I have to admit that I am typically not a liquid foundationkind of girl—I prefer mineral powder foundation. But…I really liked this liquid from Lavera. I liked it so much that I could possibly be tempted to buy a full sized bottle. I liked it because it applied very evenly (I used a synthetic foundation brush to apply it) and blended into my skin tone very well. It also covered unevenness very well without looking masky—you could still see my actual skin. 
I was actually able to use this foundation without needing any concealer (I did finish it with one of my translucent setting powders), and it looked great and stayed fresh all day. I was a bit concerned because it contains olive and coconut oils. Although each has its own inherent nourishing, antimicrobial and healing properties, they are both known to clog pores. I fortunately did not have that problem with this product. It could be because I prepped my skin with my own apothecary skincare products which contain high amounts of natural oils, waxes, and butters that do not clog the skin—maybe those oils acted as a buffer to prevent the others from clogging my skin? I don’t know. All I know is that I love this liquid foundation and plan to purchase it next time I need foundation.
The Benecos and Green People products:
I liked these products very much too. The Mokka eyeshadowwas very light on me, which was great for a daytime color wash or could easily be used as a gradient in an evening smoky eye with the brown eyeliner. I also really liked the eyeliner. The ingredients are some of the “cleanest” I’ve ever seen in an eyeliner, it glided on smoothly, and stayed on all day. 
The blush looks really pretty on—the shade is very flattering on me—but I have to say that it was a little hard to get the product onto the brush since it is baked so hard. Once it is on though, it looks great and stays on well.
The mascara is also one of the cleanest mascara formulations I’ve ever seen. It isn’t a volumizing formula, but two coats do give nice definition and it stays on until you take it off. I found it very easy to remove with the Gentle Cleanse & Makeup Remover from Green People.
I give the True Beauty Box, and Love True Natural, as well as the products I tried in the Flirt Box the Holistically Haute™ Thumbs up. I think the service and customization options are a great idea and as an aesthetician and makeup artist myself I was impressed by the quality and lasting power of the products. I think the price is a great deal and love that you can change up your box choice every month and that you can cancel at any time. This makes a great gift for someone you care about, as well as for yourself—and we all deserve a treat!
For more information about True Beauty Box service and any of their products or brands, visit Love True Natural.
Product Spotlight: Sia Botanics

Product Spotlight: Sia Botanics

One of the most fun parts of my work is trying out and reviewing various different products and services on Holistically Haute™. I am very fortunate that I receive many offers for free products to review, but I do have to turn many of them down. Sometimes the reason is that the product contains too many chemical ingredients or the company otherwise does not fit within my philosophy, and other times it is because I’ve already reviewed a very similar product. So, when deciding which ones to try out and review, I’m always looking for something unique—you know I love natural ingredients, so usually a cool botanical ingredient I either already love or just haven’t yet heard of will catch my eye.

Sia Botanics caught my eye.

I’ve already seen their products in two of my local Whole Foods Market stores, but was not too familiar with the products before being contacted by their representative. When I learned that Sia Botanics specializes in ethically-sourced ingredients sourced from Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, like the prickly pear, I was interested in trying them. The products are also cruelty-free and vegan, and are all free of parabens, sulfates, artificial dyes and fragrances, and petrochemicals—this definitely fits in with my philosophy. They are also easily accessible in Whole Foods as well as online, and are moderately priced.

Why the Sonoran Desert, you ask?

I am always interested in learning more about plant ingredients that naturally thrive in some of nature’s tougher environments. Remember when I wrote about plant stem cells in skincare? Those plants, that particular species of apple, the edelweiss (“every morning you greet me…”—sorry, I’ve got a song for everything ;), and the other plants they culture for those stem cells are chosen for their ridiculous amount of resiliency in nature—what a great way to strengthen, nourish, and protect the skin.
The Sonoran Desert is an equally extreme, unfriendly, and harsh climate; so ingredients sourced from there would logically have similar protective, nourishing, and fortifying effects.
Prickly pears
I was attracted immediately to the Desert Aloe and Jojoba Collection, because those are two of my favorite ingredients to use in formulation. They provide hydration, protection, lubrication, vitamins and minerals, are very soothing, and are well tolerated by all skin types.
I also wanted to try the Prickly Pear Collection, because the prickly pear is just cool looking and you don’t see it in too many skincare formulations.
The distinctive Sonoran Desert ingredients in Sia’s formulations work synergistically with antioxidants to protect and boost the skin’s natural ability to fight off free radicals and environmental pollutants, and  help restore the skin to its most healthy and natural state.

The products:

Sia Botanics was very generous and sent me both the Desert Aloe and Jojoba Collection as well as the Prickly Pear Collection. I chose to personally try the entire Prickly Pear Collection, which includes the Cleanser, Toner, Daily Moisturizer, Rescue Cream, and Serum. From the Desert Aloe and Jojoba Collection, I also personally tried the Scrub and the Moisture Mask. I decided to enlist the help of one of my friends, Jennifer (you remember her from my holistic nails post), who has very dry skin (which this collection is indicated for) and I can always trust her to be brutally honest. Jennifer tried the Cream Cleanser and Cream for me.

The Prickly Pear Collection

I chose to try the Prickly Pear Collection not just because I was intrigued by the prickly pear (apparently it contains the highest level of betelains—powerful antioxidants—of any plant on Earth), but also because it is meant to rejuvenate mature skin. Not that I’m all that “mature” at age 35—but at this point I’m starting to focus more on preserving the quality of skin I have now while at the same time preventing fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. I do have to admit I really don’t love the term “mature skin”, and I’m pretty sure people who are more “mature” than I am probably don’t love it either.

Here’s what I liked:

  • The Cleanser is very rich without being heavy and it removes makeup well.
  • I love the Toner—it is light and fresh and leaves the skin feeling tone but not tight or dehydrated.
  • I liked the Serum too—it absorbs quickly, does not leave a filmy or greasy residue, and leaves the skin feeling firm.
  • The Rescue Cream is very rich—a little goes a long way.
  • The fragrance is very natural and pleasant but is also very subtle.
  • The Daily Moisturizer uses the natural non-nano mineral sunscreen ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide instead of chemical sunscreens.

Here’s what I didn’t love:

  • The Daily Moisturizer is very thick and opaque and is hard to blend in, especially around the hairline and eyebrows. While this is the nature of mineral sunscreens in general, I have seen many mineral sunscreens with the same level of sun protection that are much easier to blend in.
  • While I liked the feel of the Rescue Cream, I did notice more clogged pores in my t-zone after a couple of days of using it. There is coconut oil in this cream, which is a wonderful, nourishing ingredient—but it is known to clog pores so it might not be best for oilier, combination skin types (mature or not). I didn’t actually get any breakouts from it, which is a good thing—but definitely clogged pores.
  • I also would have liked to see an eye cream in this collection.

The Desert Aloe and Jojoba Collection

I will start with the products I personally tried from this collection: the Scrub and the Moisture Mask.
Most of you know I’m not a huge fan of scrubs for use on the face in general—I feel they are too harsh and can cause damage to the underlying tissue if misused. However, gentle use once in awhile is OK as long as you properly care for the skin on a daily basis. This scrub is fairly gentle—the pumice particles are very small and the jojoba beads are smooth, so I think that cautious and infrequent use on the face is OK. I think it makes a great body scrub—especially for dry areas on elbows, knees, and the bottoms of the feet—this can be done much more regularly since those areas of the skin are much tougher and less delicate than the skin on the face.
I really did like the Moisture Mask. I like to alternate between absorbing clay masks and hydrating masks and packs and this one was great for hydration. It made my skin feel very soft, smooth, and supple. Besides the aloe and jojoba, it also includes hyaluronic acid, which is the strongest humectant ingredient we have; as well as one of my favorite healing and regenerating essential oils, Frankincense.

Onto the products Jennifer tried:

Here’s what Jennifer had to say about the Cream Cleanser:

“The cleanser is ok. When it comes out it seems fine, but then when I apply it to my face it seems very thin, and almost watery. I feel like I can’t use enough. I know it’s not supposed to lather, and that’s fine. But I have used other cream cleansers that didn’t lather, and didn’t feel that way about them. It didn’t really impress me much.”

Here’s her review of the Cream:

“I liked the moisturizer a lot. It is very rich and creamy, and I have noticed that whenever I touch my face throughout the day, I can feel it. I can feel it more where the skin is thinner, like around my temples, but I can feel it on my cheeks a bit, too. But all in all, I will say that out of all of the moisturizers I have used, this one definitely makes my skin not feel dry even after using it. So I would definitely use the moisturizer again.”

After further use, Jennifer did mention that she found the earthy scent of the products to be a bit overpowering. We went through the ingredients and saw that both contain Neem oil. Neem is a fantastic Ayurvedic herb with many healing, as well as antimicrobial properties—but it can be a little stinky. Some people don’t mind it, but it can be a little off-putting to others. I actually used to use Neem in my Holistically Haute™ Apothecary products, but I stopped because the smell was really hard to cover up with essential oils. So for those who like a very earthy scent, and who don’t mind Neem, these products would work well, but I can see how they might not be appealing to everyone.

Thank you Jennifer for your honest review!

When choosing skincare products, all of the choices can be overwhelming—sometimes the natural products can be even more overwhelming because it seems like every product label touts some different “miracle” ingredient. I can tell you that overall I did quite like the products from Sia Botanics, and my skin looked and felt great using them. Based on my experience, as well as the nutrient-rich formulations and company philosophy, I give Sia Botanics the Holistically Haute™ Thumbs Up.

For more information and to purchase Sia Botanics products, please visit their website.

*All Sia Botanics product images and the aloe and jojoba oil image are from the Sia Botanics website.
Product Spotlight: Organic Color Systems

Product Spotlight: Organic Color Systems

When it comes to my hair, I tend to be very low maintenance. I’ve tried getting haircuts in the past that require styling, and they never stick. I just don’t have the time or the interest to spend the time in the morning, or the money on products to style my hair on a regular basis—and I also get very frustrated that the majority of the styling products on the market are chemically-based.
This frustration follows me to the hair salon when I get my hair trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks (at least I’m good at keeping up with that!). Since I’m only getting my hair trimmed straight across on the bottom, I don’t go to an expensive salon. All the products they use and sell are the most commonly advertised and hence, most popular ones—all of which are almost 100% full of chemical ingredients. I used to just grin and bear it—after all it was just one shampoo, right? But then I started getting rashes and a flaky scalp whenever I’d get a shampoo there so I knew it had to stop. I began going to the salon with a wet head after washing my hair at home with my own natural products.
I realize that higher-end salons might carry some organic and more naturally-based products (although many still do not), but I won’t pay triple the price for a trim just to have a shampoo that won’t irritate my scalp.

A glimmer of hope…

I recently received an inquiry from Organic Color Systems to see if I’d be interested in trying out some of their hair care products to review. After reviewing their website and telling them about my hair condition/goals, their experts selected Power Build shampoo and conditioner from their Organic Care Systems® range, as well as the Scalp Spa Rejuvenating Hair & Scalp Treatment and Retreat Split Ends Treatment from their Simply Organic® range. I was very excited, because even though I have a few natural hair care products I really like, I do feel the need to switch it up from time to time to avoid buildup. I also have found it challenging to find natural hair care products at health food stores that actually work for my hair. Many of them contain heavy emollients that weigh down hair that is fine and straight like mine—or they don’t condition enough at all and leave my hair dry and prone to breakage. The idea of products containing almost all natural and organic ingredients that actually do what they are supposed to do was very appealing to me.

My experience with the products:

These four products are from two different brands, so I thought I would start with the Power Build shampoo and conditioner by themselves first. I really liked how the shampoo cleansed but did not make my hair or scalp feel dry or tight (and I didn’t get any reaction from the ingredients). Since my hair is long, it does tend to lose volume from the weight of it and go flat on top, but I did notice a clear improvement in overall volume. I was a little less excited about the Power Build conditioner—I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t feel like it provided enough conditioning on its own for my hair. I could still comb through it, and it still looked fine, but I still felt like another product was necessary to smooth the frizzies and baby hairs and protect from split ends.
Enter the Retreat Split Ends Treatment. At first I thought this would be a leave in product because it comes in a small 4 oz bottle. However, this product is meant to be massaged throughout freshly washed hair, left on for 5 minutes, and then rinsed thoroughly. I did this, and it rinsed out very cleanly. I would use this in place of the conditioner on a regular basis—it has become one of my favorite products.
I also really like the Scalp Spa Rejuvenating Hair & Scalp Treatment. This product also came in a 4 oz bottle. After shampooing, you massage it really well into the scalp, leave it on for 5 minutes, and rinse thoroughly. Since the timing is the same as the Retreat Split Ends Treatment, I shampooed my hair with the Power Build, applied the Scalp Spa and Retreat, and left it on for 5 minutes in the shower. I rinsed it all out at the same time, and my hair combed through easily. I don’t blow dry my hair—I actually wash it at night and let it dry as I sleep. After using these products, my hair came out perfectly smooth, thick, full, and very shiny—as if I had used a blow dryer and a leave-in conditioner and shine enhancer.
Another interesting thing I noticed is that the pigment of my hair seemed to be richer. My hair is naturally brown (my mother calls it “chestnut”), and I don’t dye it. Sometimes, when the weather gets dry (like it’s been for the last several months) it begins to lighten and turn a little brassy. Since I have been using these products the color seems to be a bit deeper and warmer with more dimension—kind of how it looked when I was a kid.
I noticed that the labels on Power Build products state that they protect the hair from UV damage and help to reduce color fade, but I assumed that pertained to color from dye—not natural pigment. I decided to ask the company about this. Their response: “The Power Build is great for adding protein and moisture to the inner structure of the hair. There is a component found in hair called Tyrosine that is responsible for regulating the melanin (the natural pigment). Tyrosine is an amino acid that is a building block of protein, and as the hair is almost 91% protein, it’s very important that the Tyrosine levels not be depleted (this happens a lot with ammoniated hair color). In short, it is very possible the protein and nourishing ingredients in our Power Build product is working to help the natural Tyrosine levels in your hair.” So that’s an added benefit!

The ingredients:

The Power Build products contain many organic ingredients, with Soil Association Organic Standard and ECOCERT certifications. It does still does contain some chemical functional ingredients but there are no parabens, sodium/ammonium lauryl/laureth sulfates, or formaldehyde-releasing agents. They do, however, contain synthetic fragrances, PEGs, and DEA in addition to some other chemical ingredients that might not be right for everyone. There are more natural and organic ingredients than synthetics in the products, and the company values transparency and discloses all ingredients and their sources to anyone with concerns. The products do not contain any animal ingredients and are not tested on animals.
The Simply Organic products contain far less synthetic ingredients, and are rich with organic botanical extracts and oils. They are also vegan and cruelty-free. In terms of the ingredients and formulation I have to say I prefer the Simply Organic products over the Power Build and will be ordering more products from this range in the future.
To learn more about the organic hair products offered by Organic Color Systems visit their website and fill out the form to find an Organic Color Systems salon near you.
Product Spotlight: NeoCell™ Collagen and Hyaluronic Acid

Product Spotlight: NeoCell™ Collagen and Hyaluronic Acid

NeoCellI get lots of emails from different companies asking me to try out and then review their products on Holistically Haute™. They are 99% of the time skincare products, which is fine since I do write about skincare quite frequently and as an aesthetician it obviously is one of my specialties, but it is nice to change it up every now and then. When I got a request from a representative of NeoCell™to try out some of their internal collagen and hyaluronic acid (HA) supplements I was excited and immediately agreed to give them a go. Collagen and HA are found in every part of the body, but are very important for healthy and youthful skin. I have used both topically, and both are very popular topical skincare ingredients in both over-the-counter (OTC) and professional-grade products, but these ingredients do come with some challenges when used in topical formulations: mostly due to a large molecular size making the products unable to penetrate the skin. I could see how an internal supplement, however, could do a lot of good.
I was sent a 7 oz container of NeoCell’s Super Collagen powdered supplement, as well as a 16 oz jar of their Hyaluronic Acid Blueberry Liquid supplement to try. The company said that people generally start to see results in about 3 weeks or so when the products are taken as directed. So I did just that.

What are collagen and hyaluronic acid?

Collagen is one of the most important proteins found in the body. It is very strong and pliable, and supports our bones, joints, and connective tissues including the skin. Collagen makes up about 70% of the dermis (deeper layer of the skin), and is produced there by cells called fibroblasts. As we age, these cells produce less and less collagen (and elastin, another important protein fiber which supports the skin), and the collagen within the dermis begins to deplete causing the dermis to thin out. This is part of the skin’s aging process. Factors such as poor lifestyle choices like smoking, excessive UV exposure, toxic build-up, poor diet, dehydration, and stress actually speed up the degradation of the collagen in the skin, causing premature aging; but also in the body, causing joint pain, and brittle hair and nails. Conversely, making healthful diet and lifestyle choices can help preserve the collagen we have and encourage our bodies to keep producing this essential protein fiber. NeoCell’s Collagen supplement is indicated to:
  • “Thicken fine hair, adds body and can slow hair loss
  • Correct split, rigid and weak nails
  • Strengthen and nourish ligaments, tendons and bones
  • Provide specific amino acids (hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine) necessary to replenish our body’s collagen supply”
Hyaluronic acid is another protein that is abundant in our skin and bodies at birth, and degrades as we age. It is unique, however, for its humectant properties; meaning its ability to draw and retain water. It is quite possibly the most powerful humectant due to its capacity to hold 1,000 times its own molecular weight in water. This is what makes it such a hot commodity in skincare formulations: not only does it provide extreme hydration to the skin, but it also helps to push other active ingredients deeper into the skin while allowing the skin to breathe at the same time (unlike certain emollients and heavy occlusives). HA is also quite a popular internal supplement these days and is often marketed as a benefit to joint health with similar indications as glucosamine chondroitin/sulfate supplements.  In addition to providing lubrication to every cell in the body, HA:
  • “Has been found to assist in the regulation of cell turnover in the skin
  • Stimulates DNA synthesis and fibroblast cell division for healthy skin and cartilage maintenance
  • Serves as an antioxidant to free-radicals generated by UV radiation
  • Has analgesic effects and aides in skin hydration and wrinkle reduction”
  • Has also been shown to improve eye health.

What makes NeoCell’s Collagen and HA supplements different from others on the market?

nav_01Collagen and HA are two of the biggest buzzwords not just in skincare products but also as internal supplements. They are found everywhere from the drug store to the health food store, even in some high end department stores. Like skincare products, it is hard to know what makes one product with similar ingredient stand out from the others. I always go back to quality and quantity, and recommend that people check their ingredient labels to see where on the label the advertised active ingredients fall. If they are found in the first 3 to 5 ingredients on the list, you can be sure that the product contains a high concentration of those ingredients. However, if it is somewhere in the middle or at the end of a long list, you can be sure that there is probably just enough of the advertised ingredient for the manufacturer to be able to legally advertise it on the product labels and in their marketing. This practice is referred to as “angel dusting” and I find it to be very deceptive.
In the NeoCell products I tried, collagen and HA are the number one ingredients on their respective product labels. Furthermore, unlike other supplements on the market, the collagen and HA are naturally derived (from animal sources). Other supplements out there use the synthesized or bacteria-fermented versions of them which are not as potent.
blueberriesNow, even as an internal supplement, collagen is typically too large a molecule to be absorbed and utilized by the body. So I did a little checking (pestering) with the company’s chemists and found that “NeoCell uses a special enzymatic hydrolyzation process to lyse, or cut, the collagen into smaller molecular weight particles so they are bioavailable and bioactive to the body.”
The HA Blueberry Liquid formula also contains concentrates of very high antioxidant foods such as agave, pomegranate, blueberry, cranberry, elderberry, and green tea; as well as liquid ionic minerals.
Both products are free of gluten, soy, wheat, lactose, starch, yeast, and artificial flavors. All Neocell products are GMP-certified as well. This means that the company’s manufacturing practices have been audited and approved by third party auditors and have been certified for compliance and for meeting high quality standards. This is an important thing to look for on the label of your supplements. Since supplements are not regulated by the FDA (not that the FDA is perfect), there are unfortunately many companies out there that are not manufacturing and marketing their products ethically or following any quality control standards but their own. NeoCell has the GMP-Certified seal.

Does NeoCell work?

Even though I was impressed by the company’s attention to detail and willingness to disclose information, I was still skeptical about whether the products would work or not since I have tried other similar supplements (long before I really knew what to look for in a supplement, so I have no idea how good the quality was) in the past with no noticeable results.
I’ve also mentioned before that with me, it’s hard to tell if something is working because I already use a lot of great skincare products and high quality supplements; plus I am really strict with my water intake and eating really healthy foods. All that being said, I did notice some positive changes in my hair, skin, nails, and eyes shortly after taking the products.
After I lost my weight, I was a bit dismayed to see that my skin felt thinner and less supple due to the loss of fat in my face. Of course it was a good thing, but still a bit annoying nonetheless. I changed my skincare regimen up a bit and started seeing some improvement, but after taking these supplements, I have to say my skin feels much like it did when I had more fat in my face…supple, soft, and plump. You know my stubborn forehead lines that I tend to obsess over? They have softened significantly. On my body my skin is retaining moisture much better as well throughout the day, and my nails are much thicker, more flexible, and have been growing like weeds. My hair has also been growing more and is even shinier than it was before.
thumbs upI also noticed an improvement in my eye health. I have chronically dry eyes, which I’ve gone through quite a bit of trial and error in treating. I finally found a great naturopathic remedy for it (after other measures had failed), which worked really well, but then allergy season hit and my eyes became dry and irritated again. I have to say that since I started taking these supplements my eyes have felt hydrated and my contact lenses don’t get that sticky, dried out feeling by the end of the day.
**4/1/17 Edited to add–this post was written in 2012 and I no longer have an affiliation with this company or the products. I do not represent these products, or work with the company. The information in this article is based on the formulations that existed at the time it was written. If you have questions or concerns about the products, please direct them to the company itself.**

The Human Side of Cosmetic Stem Cell Technology

The Human Side of Cosmetic Stem Cell Technology

Mesenchymal stem cell

Mesenchymal stem cell

When choosing skin care products, it is very easy to become confused by the buzzwords and “miracle ingredients” that headline all the advertisements. Antioxidants, peptides, stem cells, growth factors…it’s enough to make your head spin. It seems that each category of ingredients has even more confusing sub-categories.

Take stem cells for instance. In skin care do we want plant stem cells or human derived stem cells? Adult or embryonic? Do we even want the stem cells themselves or do we want their growth factors? Wouldn’t it be ever so helpful if we had the opportunity to hear from one of the doctors and formulators who is on the forefront of stem cell technology and research for cosmetic use? Fortunately, I was recently given this opportunity.

Ben Johnson, MD is the founder and formulator of Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare. He has been been delivering medical strength skin care products using only natural and chirally correct ingredients since 1997. The Osmosis line is one of the few companies that has products aimed at repairing and rejuvenating skin at the cellular level in the dermis (deepest layer of the skin) where the majority of the skin’s aging occurs.

The product Stem Factor is one of the few skin care products on the market composed primarily of adult human-derived stem cell growth factors and growth media. While there are other growth factor products out there, Osmosis’ technology is continuously on the cutting edge. Dr. Johnson was kind enough to take a few (OK more than a few) moments out of his work to speak with me about Stem Factor, growth factors, and the technology behind it all.

Rachael Pontillo: Why growth factors instead of stem cells?


Fibroblast growth factor: encourages production of new collagen and elastin.

Fibroblast growth factor: encourages production of new collagen and elastin.

Ben Johnson, MD: Growth factors are preferred over plant stem cells and even human stem cells because they assign specific functions to the cells. If we apply, or even inject undifferentiated stem cells (regardless of their potency) into the skin, there is no way to know what type of cells they will become. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t benefit the skin; they would break down into proteins and amino acids which would provide nourishment and a slight improvement to the condition of the skin; but the growth factors have demonstrated greater improvement. Furthermore, human-derived growth factors are safer than human-derived stem cells because there is no risk of infection or rejection associated with them.

RP: Where do growth factors come from?

BJMD: They are cultured from a growth media containing mesenchymal (adult) stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS), and fibroblast stem cells. The adult stem cells are taken from the subcutaneous fat of healthy adult donors who have been screened rigorously. These stem cells can differentiate into many different types of cells, produce hundreds of growth factors, and are very good at multiplying. When these stem cells divide they secrete these growth factors. The stem cells themselves are not used in Stem Factor, just the growth factors. The stem cells remain in the culture where they continue to divide and secrete more growth factors.


RP: How is the technology behind Stem Factor different from other growth factor products on the market?

BJMD: There are other skin care lines out there that also culture growth factors from mesenchymal stem cells. Osmosis is different because the cells are taken from the subcutaneous fat layer, located just beneath the dermis; not from organs or tissues unrelated to the skin. After these stem cells are harvested, the most productive ones are identified and separated from the others. Only these selected stem cells are used to culture the growth factors. Some of these stem cells are then converted to IPS (to increase potency), while others are converted to fibroblast stem cells. This compilation of stem cell media produces a larger variety of growth factors, as well as a higher percentage of growth factors. Additionally, these growth factors are grown in 3D which makes them more stable and more potent than other methods.

stemfactor_30ml-lStem Factor was formulated using a very balanced and safe approach. It contains 150 different growth factors that have been identified to affect positive changes in the skin. By applying all of these different growth factors, there is a better chance of penetration and once they are in they not only encourage the growth of new cells, but also the removal or repair of damaged cells. Each person’s individual body chemistry and skin condition determines which growth factors it uses. The body will only use those growth factors it needs.How do growth factors benefit the skin?

This is an area where more research is needed. It is known that growth factors produce the following positive effects in the skin


  • Improves visible signs of aging by encouraging formation of new fibroblasts (which produce the anti-aging proteins collagen and elastin), increasing circulation, helping the skin’s ability to heal itself, and encouraging more absorption and utilization antioxidants.
  • Improves acne by increasing the skin’s wound repair function, reducing scarring, repairing existing damage, and increasing the skin’s nutrition and ability to fight off bacteria.
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation by repairing damaged melanocytes (cells that produce melanin pigment), increasing the cell turnover rate, and repairing UV damage.
  • Helps treat rosacea by replacing depleted growth factors, reducing scarring, and restoring the skin’s barrier function.

However, more research is still needed to determine why and how else these growth factors affect the skin’s physiology, how often they are naturally produced by the body, and how long they remain active in the body.

RP: Don’t growth factors need preservatives?

BJMD: The growth factors are fairly stable if they are not stored in an environment warmer than 70 degrees or too humid. If you live in a hot, humid climate it would be a good idea to refrigerate the product to prevent premature degradation. In a regular environment, growth factors are stable for 18 months to 2 years. After that about 75 percent of the growth factors will break down into proteins. Again, proteins still provide some benefit to the skin but not as much as the intact growth factors. Osmosis products are free of chemical preservatives and are manufactured in small batches to ensure quality and freshness.

Growth factors and other large molecules often penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin via hair follicles.

Growth factors and other large molecules often penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin via hair follicles.

RP: How do topically applied growth factors reach the cellular level?

BJMD: Growth factors are fairly large molecules. They can only penetrate the epidermis (outermost layers of the skin) via the hair follicles. This presents quite a challenge in itself because the follicles produce oil and perspiration and can become clogged with dead skin cells and other debris. On their own, only about one to two percent of the growth factors would penetrate the skin’s barrier. Osmosis’ unique liposomal delivery system increases the rate of penetration into the dermis by 600 to 1000 percent.

RP: Could a growth factor enter the skin/body and produce cancer?

BJMD: Theoretically there is a potential for growth factors to encourage existing cancer cells to grow. There was research that suggested that certain growth factors caused divison in cancerous/pre-cancerous cells leading to growth of the cancer. Osmosis has removed these particular growth factors from Stem Factor.

There are also growth factors that produce interferons and tumor necrosis cells; both of which fight cancer. So conversely, there is a theoretic potential for growth factors to prevent skin cancer as well.

As with anything, if there is any doubt or concern, customers should consult with their healthcare providers before using this technology.

I encourage readers to visit the Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare website and the Osmosis YouTube channel and check out Dr. Johnson’s videos about Stem Factor and his other products and technologies. I also highly recommend his book Transform Your Skin Naturally which discusses more of Dr. Johnson’s philosophies regarding anti-aging from a very unique and holistic perspective.

I have been following Dr. Johnson’s research for some time now, and he is constantly thinking outside the box and coming up with new advances. I’m a huge fan, and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

*Article first published as The Human Side of Cosmetic Stem Cell Technology on Blogcritics.

**Image 1 by Robert M. Hunt (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Image 2 by Nevit Dilmen [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons. Image 3 by Wong, D.J. and Chang, H.Y. Skin tissue engineering (March 31, 2009), StemBook, ed. The Stem Cell Research Community, StemBook, doi/10.3824/stembook.1.44.1, [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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