Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photo: Getty Images
This column first ran in Valerie Monroe’s newsletter, How Not to F*ck Up Your Face, which you can subscribe to on Substack.
Three readers write in about very different curiosities.
Q: Does cleansing my face with oils at night remove the self-tanner I apply in the morning?
A: I’ve wondered about the efficacy of self-tanner on the face, too, what with all the washing and seruming and oiling and exfoliating. So I emailed Perry Romanowski, cosmetic chemist and cheerful co-host of podcast The Beauty Brains. “The color change in your skin from a self-tanner is the result of a chemical reaction between the skin’s protein and the dihydroxyacetone (DHA) in the self-tanner,” Romanowski said. Because the color stays bound to the skin (until it falls off through exfoliation), it’s unlikely that a cleansing oil will remove a significant amount of the self-tanner’s effect, he added. My educated guess is that a peel, a glycolic, or other kinds of acid pads that accelerate exfoliation would probably also accelerate the loss of your chemically induced glow.
Q: I adore your articles. Have you written about oral rapamycin yet? Or its topical use? I’d love to know what you think about it.
A: You know what I adore? HNTFUYF readers who keep me curious, informed—and feeling loved.
I’d never heard of rapamycin, so I went hunting for studies. What I found at first was exciting—longer life! Healthier skin!—but then it became clear that the studies all involved our little mice friends and even littler friends the fruit flies. Good on them, those youthful weeny critters, but not great news for us.
HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf, M.D., confirmed my conclusion: “Rapamycin’s use is based on ‘hyperfunction theory,’ which suggests that aging is caused by overstimulation of cellular functions that cause organ damage,” she said. “In this scenario, rapamycin may prevent diseases (and aging) but not cure them. And it would have to be administered during development—in other words, at birth—to be most effective.” More potentially disturbing news: Studies in which mice were given rapamycin treatment immediately after birth showed an increase in their lifespan—but stunted normal development. The mice were significantly smaller, as were their organs, said Waldorf.
Would you give up a few inches and your big, beautiful heart to live a few more years?
Rapamycin given to mice in mid- and late-life also improved lifespan, but it hasn’t been established at what point to start and with how much. (The results are similar in fruit flies — the later the treatment, the less lifespan extension.) Interestingly, the results were best in females.
Waldorf notes there are studies underway in humans evaluating different doses. “Personally, I’d wait until those results are in before evaluating the risks and benefits,” she said. As for topical rapamycin, though it’s been shown to help treat facial angiofibromas (firm vascular growths associated with a genetic disorder), there’s only one small, well-designed study in humans showing it to reduce markers of skin aging. Waldorf’s conclusion: It’s promising, but more research is needed to confirm the results and determine concentrations needed for efficacy. So, as Thomas Chandler Haliburton wrote in his 1855 book, Nature and Human Nature, let’s … “stick a pin in that.”
Q: I’m always on the lookout for needle- and surgery-free treatments (I love my fraxel laser results), and I’m curious to know what you think of Emface.
A: Emface! Why didn’t the marketers of this device come up with a more seductive name? I guess they were aiming for continuity—because the company that produces Emface also makes Emsculpt (for abs and glutes) and Emsella (for the pelvic floor. Um, Emcellar?).
Emface uses a combination of radiofrequency for collagen stimulation and high-intensity facial electromagnetic stimulation for muscle stimulation, said Waldorf. The technology for muscle stimulation is different for the face than for the body, she added, but the goal’s the same: to promote increased muscle tone. Though your face may feel tighter after each treatment, it takes about three months and four-to-six treatments to see results. It isn’t yet clear how long the effects last; Waldorf assumes some maintenance is required.
She also points out that as with all noninvasive procedures, the benefits will depend on how much Emface targets your concerns and their underlying anatomical causes. Super-saggers won’t see a difference; radiofrequency is generally more effective at stimulating collagen in younger, less photodamaged skin. So if you’re on the fence about whether to throw your cash at Emface, it’d be wise, said Waldorf, to visit a physician, who can determine which of the many noninvasive options is the best match for you.
But before you do anything: Please give yourself the opportunity to fall in love, or at least in like, with your face. Try this.
Valerie Monroe was beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the monthly “Ask Val” column for nearly 16 years. Now she writes the weekly newsletter How Not to F*ck Up Your Face. Her goal continues to be to shift our thinking in the beauty arena from self-criticism to self-compassion and to learn how to be loving witnesses to ourselves and one another as we age.