Don’t fear daily sunscreen!






“Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.” Hermann Hesse

This is probably my most given answer to the most asked question: What helps to prevent skin aging? There is only little so effective but accessible to the public and for every income bracket than sunscreen. Really, you can ask every professional dermatologist on this planet, a good sunscreen is the best protection against skin aging. Some scientists even photographed twins side by side, with one twin being more exposed to the sun than the other, the one with higher sun exposure looked visibly aged compared to the other (see here). I will stop preaching now but I feel like this is the only true advice I can give to the many, many people asking me for skincare advice. Of course a little Sunday Riley, SK-II and MD Perricone make your skincare routine a bit sweeter but sunscreen literally is the bread and butter if you fear wrinkles. It gives me the creeps when I see raw, vegan, ‘chemistry-is-bad’ moms rubbing their baby in coconut oil and letting them roast in the australian sun. Be conscious! So to break down the topic I split it up to the 5 most given objections I received against daily sunscreen:

A good daily sunscreen is expensive:
If approximately 10 USD for a decent daily sunscreen, which protects you from wrinkles and skin cancer, is not worth to you I don’t know what to say. Better prevention than cure, right? I think Shiseido Senka (link on the right bar) is very affordable and does a good job. Also, if you live in Europe you can look out for the next Lidl Supermarket near you, I found out they have a very nice Anti-Aging creme with effective sunscreen for 3 EUR! No joke. Get it.

But there is no sun in my country, so I don’t need sunscreen to safe my skin from aging:
Photostress is everywhere you have sunlight and skin damage accumulates over time which is called Photoaging. It is still the biggest skin aging factor next to chronicle aging and while the other is inevitable you can take photoaging in your own hands and protect yourself. (1, 2, 3).

I don’t understand the long chemistry name labels on most sunscreen products, so I don’t use them:
Okay, I hear that alot. This is a look at the INCIS of my daily spf-creme favorites (see right bar for exact product) and what you mostly find in other, similar sunscreen:

Paula’s Choice
active sunscreen agent: Zinc Oxide
The only thing you should fear in Zinc Oxide sunscreens is the white cast and that’s where the other ‘long-named’ chemistry compounds come into play: to help to perfectly contribute it all over your face. And most of the other long-chained inorganic compounds won’t even do a thing but be a) occlusive b) like a sebum sponge or c) an antioxidant imbedded matrix. I like this sunscreen because it’s so feathery, lightweight and semi-matte.

active sunscreen agent: Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate and Octocrylene
Sunscreens like this are always a combination of UVA- and UVB-protecting chemical agents. They protect you by converting UV radiation to heat. Nowadays it is still the most effective sunscreen compared to amount of application and whitecast comfort and I find this one gives me a nice strobe glow and moisture. Yes, there are controversies and concerns with chemical sunscreen agents like Avobenzone and Homosalate, which are claimed by some to act as endocrine disruptors (stuff that messes with your hormone system). Paula’s Choice has a good list of all agents like the ones mentioned above, if you are concerned, too (see here) and wrote an extensive article with emphasis on cancer protection or cancer cause by sunscreen (read here). And while there is little evidence it is more harmful than helpful (it is still the most effective sunscreen for every wavelength) I would rather use this as a daily moisturizer than to take a swim in the oceans, because recent research suggests it causes decline of coral reefs, which makes sunscreen agents like this not your first choice when step into the ocean.

Shiseido Senka
active sunscreen agent: Octinoxate, Parsol XS, Ensulizole, Uvinul A Plus
Octinoxate and Parsol XS (Avobenzone) can be put in the same category as Aveeno’s mentioned above. Ensulizole is a UVB-protecting agent that needs to be combined with an UVA-protecting one like Avobenzone and usually finds a spot in formulations that should give a matte skin appearance. And that’s what I like about Shiseido Senka and all other japanese daily sunscreens, full of mattifying polymeric compounds like cyclomethicones and crosspolymers, they give such a matte finish they make you look like a porcelain doll.

All natural sunscreen is giving me a white cast and daily sunscreen is to oily for my face:
Particles for good natural (physical) sunscreen like ones with Zinc Oxide are nowadays usually very small, so it looks a bit white when you make flash pictures with your camera but not in everyday life. Don’t worry, if you already think about harmful nano particles, the ones here are still too big to do any harm. And also modern daily sunscreens have little to do with your remembrance of oily faces in the summer when you applied body sunscreen on your face. Unless you do exactly that you can be sure Zinc Oxide based sunscreens come in a mattifying medium like silicones or powdery textures.

I want a deep, dark tan. I cannot get a good tan without the sun:
Check out my take on the perfect self tanner application (click here). None of the Victoria Secret angels sizzle in the sun to get a tan, they rather have a visit by an Airbrush specialist who applies self tanner all over their body. Do they look orange? No. Because new self tanners have a smart blend and give you a nice glow. Many come with tint, so you know where you applied them. Yes, there are ‘natural’, organic options (check out LUSH’s sesame suntan, which is full of juglon-rich Walnut extract). No, you won’t suffer Vitamin D deficiency if you maintain a healthy diet. Be smart and fake tan if you prefer darker skin! Old ladies who where sunbathing their whole lifetime remind me of my velour minnetonka boots. Just don’t.

Pheew, what a long read. Sorry for the rant undertone. I hope many of you start to use sunscreen more frequently, if not already. Stay safe and be smart, Ea Birkkam.

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today: monochromatic beach + sunscreen favorites


the chemistry of religious fragrances



read more:

story fragrances:
serge lutens
teo cabanel
d.s & durga

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?” 2 Corinthians 2:15, Bible

Did you know the world’s first considered chemist was a female perfume maker from mesopotamia? The close link to the limbic system (brain location of emotions and memory functions) gives a hint on where to look for the cradle of perfumery because in this combination the sense of smell (also called Olfaction) is a shortcut link to our emotional past and future. Practical uses of pleasent odors in form of personal fragrances can be traced back almost simultaneously to the beginning of religion around 3200-3300 BCE, that’s about 5300 years from now! Frankincense, calamus, cedarwood and myrtle were used as offerings for the old mesopotamian gods and until now I think everyone who has visited a church (or mekka) associates frankinscense with sacrality and divinity. Since each religion has its own fragrances I break it down to my two favorites this time: frankincense and calamus.

Frankincense (or Olibanum) is the resin of the Boswellia tree. Especially used as an incense it has always fascinated me. Frankincense Oil is indeed a quite complex fragrance (esp. It is a mixture of hundred different olfaction-important chemical compounds. The exact composition of fragrant relevant chemicals depends on weather, region and time of harvest and the amount of harvests that have already taken place before. The most abundant molecules found in frankincense resin are boswellic acids. Boswellic acid has a similar structure to hormones like testosterone. Apart from that there are variable terpenes present like alpha- and beta-pinene and limonene, that give frankincense its signature smell. Numerous pharmacological uses like antriathritic, anti-inflammatory and according to latest research it can be considered as an anti-depressant. Even the euphoric feeling during acts of worship is a result of its chemical structure, which I find quite interesting.

Calamus (or Sweet Flag) is a plant called Acorus Calamus with a thick root that occurs in the edges of streams or other half-aquatic areas. Its Oil has like frankincense hundreds of compounds, but the most important ones to mention are phenylpropanes, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenoids. The oil of tetraploid Calamus is high in the carcinogenic beta-asarone, so it should be used with caution and in moderation. The medicinal usage has evolved quite independently thousands of years ago in ancient egypt, china, rome and greek. The oil of sweet flag is said to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiamebic properties and it’s therefore used as a natural antibiotic. It was used as a allegedly strong aphrodisiac in early Europe and China which stands quite in contrast with the other use of early North America, New Guinea to induce abortion (read more more). There are manuscripts that suggest it is an important constituent of various religious Temple Oils and anointments and this, I would say, was the beginning of the olfactoric use (for the alchemists and esoterics upon us it was used in the infamous Abramelin Oil, too, which became especially important via Aleister Crowley). I particularly like the scent because it smells like the sacral sister of cinnamon. Very woody-balmy!

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to fragrance chemistry and I will do an entry like this more often in future. It was part of my final coursework in school so it has a special place in my heart. It is hard to control my wish right now to shop a few new resinous fragrances like 03. Apr. 1968 Rundholz with frankincense or Etat Libre d’Orange Dangerous Complicity with Calamus. As you might have noticed I am a fan of niche fragrances like this. Best, Ea

today: worship – white silk, black leather


Fulvic Acid


black waters:
black mp

fuvlic acid skincare:

trace minerals

“Man and man’s earth are unexhausted and undiscovered. Wake and listen! Verily, the earth shall yet be a source of recovery. Remain faithful to the earth, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The trend of  holistic ingredients in sleek, minimalistic packaging is quite imminent. I already perceived this tendency when I clicked through moonjuice’s online store (which I mentioned the post before) and various inspirational minimalism blogs. A prime example is black bottled water. The first time I encountered a picture of a bottle of BLK I really thought someone photoshopped it but in fact for about 4USD you can find it on Amazon. Why is the water black and what is its benefit?

The answer lies in the black humic minerals which are added to the water. Predominantly mentioned as the magic ingredient is Fulvic acid. BLK claims it ‘alkalizes’ the body and supplies it with electrolytes (click). Fulvic acid, next to humic acid, is one of two kinds of natural acidic organic polymers. Until now it cannot be easily synthesized and mostly it is being extracted out of organic matter like humus found in soil, sediment, or aquatic environments. Due to its chemical composition it has the ability to form strong complexes with metals like copper, iron, and aluminium (1, 2, 3) and is therefore a precursor of organic water pollutants that are considered harmful (see 1, 2, 3). Fulvic acid is also present in ancient alternative medicine: Sometimes called Shilajit, Mumijo, Mumie, black-tar or vegetable asphalt (I am sure there are many more names) is a black solid and it is considered to be a potent fortifier and adaptogen in e.g. ayurveda and traditional chinese medicine. Traditionally there are a mulititude of topical uses of Shilajit and it’s supposed to cure infected wounds and ease inflammations. I found four useful reviews supporting the ascribed effect (1, 2, 3, 4). Ingested it is said to be neuroprotective, cognition-enhancing and preventing Alzheimer’s disease (1, 2, 3, 4) and helpful against gastric infections (1, 2, 3, 4) and chronic fatigue syndrome (1, 2). If you think BLK is your only option of black water I listed some alternative brands on the right bar. There is still a lot of research required to figure how Fulvic Acid truly contributes to the human health and most studies you can find are very preliminary. Anyways, I’ll order a bottle just out of curiosity, Ea


today: Cerium, Yttrium und Neodymium


Elysium, the Longevity Pill


Elysium Health

similar supplements:
Anima Mundi
Beauty Dust

“There’s no such thing as ageing gracefully. I don’t meet people who want to get Alzheimer’s disease, or who want to get cancer or arthritis or any of the other things that afflict the elderly. Ageing is bad for you, and we better just actually accept that.” Aubrey de Grey

Oh, how nice it would be to live a little longer with the same pace and inquisitiveness but a youthful body! If you followed the past entries of my blog you know I am very curious about life extension research. Many care about their appearance and rather invest in anti-aging skincare than in nurturing supplements, but I start to get more and more the feeling that 2015 is going to be the year really where promising ‘longevity products’ will hit the shelves big time, either from botanical apothecaries (for holistic minds amongst us) or creations from a lab. Last week I came across two new ones: Into the Gloss just posted a link about (already sold out) Beauty Dust, a botanical apothecary version of an Anti-Aging Supplement (link) and MIT Technology Review‘s blog shared a link of Elysium, the longevity pill for 50USD/month (link). I leave it to your fantasy if Beauty dust with e.g. finely grounded pearls, Lo Han Guo and Rehmannia does anything supporting for your beauty and vitality (though I like the cute product design) but Elysium is probably one of the most promising longevity supplements so far. According to MIT Technology review Elysium comes with the nice backup of five Nobel Prize winners advising it including neuroscientist Eric Kandel, biologist Thomas Südhof, origin-of-life theorist Jack Szostak, and the 2013 laureate in chemistry Martin Karplus (read here).

But what is in the blue soft capsule that carries the name of the greek perception of the afterlife? 62-year old MIT biologist Leonard Guarente brought the Silicon Valley based startup to life and he is “convinced that the process of aging can be slowed by tweaking the body’s metabolism”. According to Guarente it’s not easy to prove the longevity effect on certain animal-test approved supplements in humans, too. So he takes the “unconventional route of packaging cutting-edge lab research as so-called nutraceuticals, which don’t require clinical trials or approval by the FDA” (read all here). Elysium’s only supplement so far is called ‘Base’ and has a supposedly potent mix of natural substances that can be found in blueberries (pterostilbene) and milk (nicotinamide riboside). They explain it as following: “it targets two critical components of human metabolism: the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) and a class of proteins known as sirtuins. It targets these specific biological components through a novel NAD+ precursor, known as nicotinamide riboside (NR), and a sirtuin activating polyphenol by the name of pterostilbene.”(read on here). Well, it is not very clear if Elysium will give you a little additional years, but you are for sure funding a promising life-extension research facility. Elysium is going to sales next week and if you want to be the first one to crowdfund a longevity pill you can do it here. Best and definitely packing for a bottle of Elysium’s Basis, Ea Birkkam

today: a tribute to the lab coat






“I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine.” Primo Levi

Sometimes you meet an interesting chemical compound in an entirely different background than you might expect. This happened to me when I encountered the beautifully symmetric molecule Perfluorodecalin for the second time in my life. I’ve heard of it for the first time in science fiction movies like The Abyss and in oldschool anime Neon Evangelion Genesis where they showed mammals, deep-sea divers and anime protagonists in underwater respiratory-systems (watch here and here). I must admit back then I thought they made the liquid-breathing thing entirely up but as I found out it actually has its roots in real science! After the movies I didn’t hear from PFD and other Perfluorochemical molecules enough to take notice of it and forgot about it. Until last week, which was the time I decided to check out new makeup and skincare like Sunday Riley’s Effortless Tinted Primer and La Prairie’s Cellular Power Charge Night(499 USD!). So there it was, right in their ingredients: Perfluorodecalin (or’Rejuvenox’). What was it doing there?

Perfluorodecalin is a derivative of decalin in which all of the hydrogen atoms are replaced by fluorine atoms. Your alert bell might ring when you hear poisonous fluorine but in Perfluorodecalin it is both chemically and biologically inert (not reacting). It is stable up to 400°C and finds its use in nanomedicinal applications as a carrier for molecular imaging agents and drugs (check 1, 2, 3). According to Sunday Riley it keeps the Effortless primer “drenched in oxygen.” As a magic ingredient that sits in between the silicone base of the primer and can dissolve and deliver oxygen to the skin. There are alot of claims like anti-aging, acne-reducing effects on side of Sunday Riley and La Prairie takes it even further with pretensions from Dr. Daniel Stangl, lead researcher of La Prairie. He stated in an interview with Vogue Germany that the barrier function of skin is lower during the nighttime and the skin is more permeable to active ingredients then. ‘Cellular Power Charge Night’ supposedly uses this knowledge to implant Retinol for the formation of collagen and elastin fibers aswell as Perfluorodecalin, the ‘oxygen booster’ (read here). If you’re serious about some promising evidence or wary words about PFD check out following sites (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). I couldn’t find anything satisfying about the retinol-enhancing properties and independent, clinical trials about claims like this. Only studies which vaguely implify wound healing properties. Anyways, you can be sure everytime words like ‘oxygenize’, ‘oxygen-loaded’ and ‘oxygen’ in general pop up on the product it is very likely to contain fluorocarbon. To blast pure oxygen alone in your skincare product with no reasonable ‘nanocarrier’ like PFD would be witless, if you heard about ROS (reactive oxygen species) which might emerge, you would know it could support the damage of our mitochondria and therefore interrupt a healthy cell function. If I missed something important, got something wrong (I hope I didn’t) or if you found studies worthy of mention feel free to put them in the comment section! Packing up for a trip to Amsterdam, Ea Birkkam

today: the skiing minimalist


the science of aging part 1: why we age



flame painter

interesting books:

“Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.” Rainer Maria Rilke

It doesn’t matter if you are a biochemistry student, hollywood starlet or just an open mind: the question of why we aren’t immortal unites us. Let’s all thank the so-called ‘biogerontologists’, scientists who diligently search for an answer to this question. When you’re young you may think it is way too early to think about age at all but at the latest when you reach the twenty mark you are very likely to start to get conscious on this topic. Because that’s when the cosmetic industry reminds us that our collagen production decreases and we need to preserve what’s still left with sunscreen, innovative skincare etc. The average population thinks about starting a family and some might experience physiological changes which make them feel old. I spent the last years trying to understand what we already know about aging but it’s not very easy. Cell Biology is still a striving and exciting branch of science and you can be sure by the end of this sentence a few smart heads have already found another major piece of the puzzle, important enough to be mentioned here. To clear things up: I am not ‘anti’ aging in particular but I’ve always been a fan of preserving what you have and taking good care of it. At the end of this series on ‘aging’ I will focus on protective skin active ingredients, which are scientifically proven to keep skin young. Let’s start with the first theories made by early biogerontologists on why we age:

Rate-of-living theory
There are various popular theories about why we age and most of them add together to one explanation. 1908 Max Rubners introduced his “rate-of-living theory” after he observed the body temperature in relation to their body size of mammals and birds. He proposed that a slow metabolism increases an animal’s longevity and observation was that larger animals outlived smaller animals, and the metabolic rates of larger animals were slower per rate. Twenty years later Raymond Pearl expanded his theory with experiments on fruit flies (drosophila) which have shown that a decrease of environmental temperature go along with a increase of lifespan. But there was still one problem: it was not applicable between all species (source 1, 2, 3).

Mitochondrial theory of aging
1958 Denham Harman, a research chemist of Shell’s reaction kinetics department who was studying free radical reactions in petroleum products, completed a part of Pearl’s theory. He developed the idea of radical induced damages like replication- and translator errors, aswell as radiation and toxic substance induced changes can induce the senescence or death of a cell. All his studies showed that antioxidants increased the average lifespan, none really showed an increase in maximum life span. Decades of research later his conclusion was that mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells, were not affected by antioxidants that came from the outside. So he deduced that mitochondria determine lifespan. A new theory was born: the “mitochondrial theory of aging” (source 1, 2)

Telomere theory of aging and Hayflick limit
At the end of last century another theory popped up: the telomere theory of aging. Researchers found out that the cause for the shortening of chromosomal ends (telomers) in proliferated cells was the disability of dna-strings ends, for mechanical reasons, to be fully doubled after each replication round. To prevent genetic damage, cells developed telomers, repetitive nucleotid sequences. According to Leonard Hayflick, with each round of dna replication and increasing age they shorten until finally the prior protected part of the dna is damaged, which weakens the stability of chromosomes altogether and leads to apoptose- the cell death. Basically it means you can tell by the length of the telomere how often the cell can replicate until it suddenly stops. Hayflick demonstrated normal human cells in vitro divide about 52 times until they automatically enter the senescence phase. Telomere shortening happens mainly with proliferating cells, while for example stemcells and cancerous cells produce an enzyme called telomerase which prolongs the telormers again after a replication round (Source 1, 2, 3, 4).

Negligible Senescence in nature and SENS
In the last years several genes and their proteins entered the limelight of gerontology; lots of them regulate stress resistance and repair of dna-damage, with transport functions or antioxidant effects. It appeared to be that aging is a programmed species- and cell specific process. Imagine a car that wears out over time. It isn’t very different. So if you think like there’s nothing you could do about the aging process you should look how Aubrey de Grey feels about it. Some might think the Cambridge researcher with a tremendous beard is more of a dreamer than a scientist but I like his fervor. He basically breaks down the types of Aging Damage to 7 and there is a TED video that shows his enthusiasm quite well and is actually very funny (see here). Read more here 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

I really hope this small biogerontology journey didn’t confuse you too much and made you as excited about this topic as I am. It’s crazy how many researchers work together to encipher the mystery of aging and are looking for the molecular fountain of youth. Consider this a humble overview! Next week we’ll see some examples of the ‘immortality gene’ in animals like the hydra. Best, Ea Birkkam


today: Eve from Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)


biochem poetry – how synthetic dna can make your words immortal



dna bases

favorite videos this week:
-fluorine and caesium

“The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them” William Bragg

Have you ever thought about writing a message that can never be destroyed and lives on even after you are dead? Just recently I came across a very interesting way to make it possible and it might shed a different light on the whole GMO haterade: encoding a text on a synthetic DNA strand. It may sound very Sci-Fi but it’s not even a new approach and has a practical background: to keep synthetic genome apart from a natural one, scientists must use something like a “watermark” on their creations, similar to microchip watermarks they are inscriptions on unused portions (read more). To use this kind of procedure as a medium for your poem or something literal that is important to you excites my torn-between-science-and-art heart.

As far as my web research goes the first one who successfully encoded text parts into a strand of DNA was Eduardo Kac. Yes, that’s the same guy who commissioned a french lab for the creation of Alba, a GFP Bunny that glows in the dark. He used the first lines of the bible’s genesis in the synthetic DNA strand, implanted it into a microbe and stressed the microbe out with UVGI, a biotechnological disinfection method that uses UV light to kill (or stress) microorganisms. This procedure caused mutations in the text as the microbe reproduced and multiplied and, voilà, he has just offended religious conservatives off from his laboratory bench. I’m amused he used something so controversial in his work. There is a multitude of ironic or fun messages that can be implanted, like german-based specialist for plant reproduction Icon Genetics’ idea to make a little transgenic plant recite Virgil’s Georgics every time it reproduces. It says “Nec vero terrae ferre omnes omnia possunt” (“Neither can every soil bear every fruit”) which they must have thought fits just perfectly into sweet little mouse-ear cress. Pak Chung Wong, a computer scientist, had the idea to encode something less controversial than the bible into the genome of tough (cold, dehydration, vacuum, radiation and acid resistent) bacteria Deinoccocus radiodurans: the lyrics of the Disney soundtrack for 1964 World’s Fair called “It’s a Small World (After All)”, how cute is that? You can also make your bacteria do poem on its own, like canadian experimental artist Christian Bök‘s project The Xenotext (click). An article at explains his approach “A short stanza enciphered into a strand of DNA and injected into an ‘unkillable’ bacterium, Bök’s poem is designed to trigger the micro-organism to create a corresponding protein that, when decoded, is a verse created by the organism. In other words, the harmless bacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans will be a poetic bug.” But as every intervention that reaches out into our most precious root of identity we must handle genetically modified organisms and especially bacteria/viruses with responsibility and professionalism. But the thought of having a meadow flower create a rap text that makes more sense than Kanye West Lyrics makes me grin for at least a week. Amused and up for festive silver garments, Ea

today: synthetic biology


science of raspberries and DIY antioxidant facial treatment




my instagram

similar antioxidant facecare:

“In the natural sciences, and particularly in chemistry, generalities must come after the detailed knowledge of each fact and not before it.” Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac

Exfoliation is the foundation of a good skincare routine. The removal of the oldest skin cells enables the regulation of your sebum flow and therefore prevents acne and blemishes (read here). Basically you have two options: mechanical and chemical exfoliation. Most people know scrub or peeling in form of grains or a simple loofah (mechanical scrub) and I get increasingly often asked about the chemical alternative. Well-established chemical exfoliating agents are AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy-Acid) and BHA (Beta-Hydroxy-Acid) often in formulation strengths from 1 per cent to 10. Once applied they react with the upper layer of the epidermis and disintegrate the binding properties of the lipids that hold the dead skin cells together which allows the stratum corneum to be exfoliated, exposing live skin cells. So if you seek a dermatologist for an acne or juvenescent treatment, this is their go-to therapy. If you ask me for a cheap alternative I have a simple DIY recipe: fresh raspberries.

Not only is a raspberry (e.g. Rubus idaeus) a delicious treat, but also a little biochemical powerhouse which shows a notible amount of vitally important vitamins and potent antioxidants. I must admit, I knew about the vitamin C and antioxidants like anthocyanins but they additionally contain a nice blend of ellagitannins (hydrolyzable tannins, you might have heard about tannins from wine tastings), antioxidant flavonols and other phenols like ellagic acid (see pretty, symmetric molecule above). Research about topical application of vitamin C points out its photoprotective and signs-of-aging reducing properties (read here and here). The antioxidative characteristics of ellagitannins, flavonols and phenols are also well-studied and you find a great amount of interesting reviews and articles on this topic (like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Something a little less probed may be the efficacy of Raspberry ketones, which presumably stimulate hair growth and skin elasticity by increasing skin cell-produced growth factors like IGF-1 and EGF (epidermal growth factor; read here) next to anti-obese action (click). I already saw supplements sold in US drugstores with big promises on this topic but personally I would not make an effort to search for the next chance to buy pure raspberry ketone powder or consider fresh raspberries the general holy grail of skincare, but a homemade facial treatment with approximately 2 Rubus idaeus every now and then (instructional video here) did improve my complexion quite comparable to regular chemical exfoliation products. It’s not as potent as a dermatologist’s solution but minimalistic, low-budget and refreshing. Given the nutritional facts I mentioned above, you should have great joy to eat the rest of the raspberry basket, too. Like every natural treatment I would advice a patch test first, maybe you are a little sensitive to the acids! Hope you have as great skin results with this treatment as I do, Ea Birkkam


today: berry sorbet


molecular switch manicure



shop thermal polish:

my instagram

“The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural… The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.”
Wassily Kandinsky

Last week I witnessed two young girls infront of the local drugstore’s nail polish rack. They were cautiously discussing the ‘magic’ behind new nail polishes that change color with different temperature. Neither of them really knew how it worked and it made me a little contemplative. Is astonishment a product of inconceivability or enlightenment over the unknown? Are you a person that prefers the answer or do you like to keep things mysterious to yourself? There is a great chance you have already come across at least one object that amazes with colour-changing properties (e.g. ‘mood rings’, optical glasses that darken in the sun, fun mugs that reveal hidden messages when hot water poured in etc.) and for those of you who want to know the basic science of common color-changing products I try to explain it easily:

The trick behind the girls’ beautiful color-changing nail polishes is the use of thermochromic dyes. Chromism is described by a process that induces a (sometimes reversible) change in the colors of compounds. Thermochromatic dyes react to the temperature they are exposed to and can be based on either Leuco dyes (see example here), where molecules can acquire two forms, a colorless and colorful one, and Thermochromatic liquid crystals. Here the color-change comes from the molecules’ ability to leave different spaces between their alignment and layers. With different sizes of the ‘voids’ the light passing through the crystals is perceived as a different spectral color. Same changes of ‘arrangement’ in your dye can be achieved by photo exposure (photochromism, e.g. the uv-tinted optical glasses). A very different but exciting way to achieve a change of color is by the help of solvent polarity (solvatochromism). This will make your nail polish change colors with the contact of something polar, like water. I can get all excited with the aesthetic uses of molecular switches, there are already highly interesting approaches to use them in future (check here, here, here and here). Having a molecular switch manicure, Ea Birkkam


today: monochromatic seasonal transition





great minimalist blog from paris:
klean perspective

retinol skincare:

“Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations.” Stephen Hawking

I heard this question way too often: What works against wrinkles you already have? My current answer is retinoic acid and its derivates retinol and pro-retinols. Every other ingredient you find in common beauty products is not able to perform nearly as potent against implications of photoaging and acne as retinoids do: They are able to stimulate the production of Hyaluronic Acid and skin’s structural protein collagen. As we get old the production of both exhausts and only retinoic acid both stimulates their production again and stops the depletion (read here and here). Retinoids are way more antioxidant than Vit E (see here and here) and what I like most about retinoic acid is the supreme effectiveness of treating acne (see here). Prescription-free retinol, the alcohol form of retinoic acid (and pro-retinols like retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, and retinyl linoleate) were said to be less effective than retinoic acid but newest developments go in the direction of encapsulation of retinol in some kind of microsphere to save it from oxidation but benefit from its low skin-irritant properties (read 1 2 3).

If you want to use your retinoid right the key to a successful performance is to know how to use your panacea:
-Start off slowly. Apply your product only once in 3-4 days or else in the acclimatization phase your skin peels off, itches and turns red.
-Retinoids never in combination with AHA/BHA since they make your retinoid less effective. Preferably use your chemical peeling a day before and not on the same day with retinoids.
-Avoid when pregnant or breastfeeding since they are teratogen, and therefore can cause birth defects. There are studies with rats which have shown increases in fetal skull deformations.
-Please stay out of the sun and if you are not already using one (which I sincerely hope you do) get at least a high quality SPF 30 sunscreen for everyday. Retinoids act less effective with exposure to oxygen and light (read here).

If you stopped reading halfway, here is an interview with famous dermatologist Dr. Murad explaining retinoids a little easier. Need a little help finding the best non-prescription retinoid product? Paula’s Choice’s Team did their homework and created a beautiful, long listing of the best products. With kind regards, Ea Birkkam


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