Trialing different skin care products is a part of life. At certain times when I have more money, I don't worry about those products that were a complete waste of money. I just chock it up to 'life lessons' and try something else.

How skin care product reviews and ratings can help
When I am on a tight budget, I don't like trialing too much as it can quickly become expensive and draining.
Skin care product ratings for effectiveness and value for money can be helpful. Reading reviews can save time, effort and money.  Surveys can be particularly informative because the overall results provide percentage of satisfied persons,which can really help to come to a decision about what to try next. Alternatively, reading individual reviews one by one can be entertaining; but it can be hard to come up with one overall conclusion.

Cheap versus expensive face skin care
I like natural skin care, and if I can save money I am always satisfied. I have even read a book on how to have radiant beautiful skin using food by the author Hanan. I tried a few of the food recipes for skin care recently. I liked putting orange juice on a cotton ball as a cleanser, and found it to be cheaper than my current brands of skin care (which also contains heaps of vitamin C by the way, but is a bit more expensive). But I did find it inconvenient to walk to the fridge in the morning rather than be able to store it directly in my bathroom. And, as I like to drink the orange juice, I sometimes ran out before bedtime. And whilst my hair felt soft after leaving mashed banana on it for 30 minutes, I did have to clean bits of banana from my lounge where I was watching TV during this beauty regimen, and I also had a lot of trouble getting all the banana out of my hair. I still found some dried pieces in my hair 1 and 2 days later. So I am back to using offical beauty and skin care products. I am happy with my skin care products, and as you may know from my business page, I am selling two different skin care ranges (I personally mix and match from these). But everyone is different and I would like to learn what is out there, who is happy, what is good value, and how everyone thinks about value for money when it comes to skin care.

Skin care product ratings for effectiveness and value for money: A survey
Please share with people about skin care that works and is good value. Please fill out the survey by clicking the link below:

After you have completed the survey you can see the survey results immediately here:

Have a great day, from Sydney Australia

Good day! Today is a very sunny day. I have done some online shopping today and am awaiting my package of essential oils, can't wait. As always, being scientifically-trained and working in a scientific environment, I have to express my excitement about this kind of thing at home or by blogging, as, well there just isn't much evidence for the efficacy of essential oils! Today I am excited though, because on Monday I will get a shipment including clove oil and Easy Air essential oils. What do I hope will happen?:

1. I hope that putting clove oil drops on the back of my tongue will help me eat less! There are sites that recommend what oils to try for specific health concerns, do an internet search and you will find many. I decided on clove, after checking out a few links (EE, PTSD, aromatic science, the Cochrane Collaboration, and protocolled). There is also a mobile app MDO pro that I bought for $13. All three sites listed clove as one option that may work. I was inspired that this might help me change my habit of reaching out for food so often for comfort or cravings (same behaviour that drives other bad habits like smoking).

Look, am not easily swayed my marketing and I watch my money. That is why my own research into weight loss led me to the simplest way to lose weight:  which is to calculate your daily energy requirement (can do here at this free Australian government website) in KJ or calories (divide KJ by 4.2 to convert to calories). From experience, I advise if you are overweight to put in your ideal weight, and also select sedentary lifestyle unless you are an athlete (don't know why, but any other category spits out too many calories, as I found through trial and error). If you eat that amount of food (look on labels to figure out how many calories you are eating, or look on free calorie count websites like calorieking.com.au - there are many), you should lose weight. Have a scale at home and at the office to remember to check your weight regularly. If you are not losing weight, then just reduce your intake by another 100 calories until you are losing the weight you want. However, this doesn't always work in practice so easily. Or it may work at certain times of your life, and not so well at other time when you are busy (like me currently) or your life has issues. I know how to lose weight easily, and as I write this I am reminded how easily I did it in the past, but this time, due to my circumstances, I am just looking for help because I can't seem to stop those extra snacks that are actually adding up to 900 calories per day more than I know I should be eating! I should be eating 1700 calories per day, and I am eating 2600. Horrendous. I truly hope the clove essential oil will have some effect.

2. Me, my hubby and my daughter have been coughing for over 2 weeks, a dry hacking post-viral cough after we caught colds. I hope the laurel leaf, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, revensara etc blend will finally get rid of the coughing.  We are using asthma puffers, gargling with salt and betadine, resting, drinking water, but this cold strain this year is tougher than usual, so I am trying something extra. Here's hoping.

I am a scientist, and I know the evidence-based literature -  I know there is not a lot of proven evidence for using essential oils. But, I was heartened today by one review in the Cochrane Library that contains some evidence, from a trial of 61 patients, that lavender oil: Aromatic lavender essential oil applied by acupressure may reduce subjective pain intensity and improve lateral spine flexion and walking time compared to untreated participants (low quality evidence). No significant adverse events were noted in the included trials. For the full review  Click Here.  And I know that a lot of people use essential oils for headaches, migraines, citing that these oils often help them stay well and deal with these health concerns quickly. This is a huge industry, as can be see in any report of the health and wellness industries. So despite the lack of evidence, why do people use essential oils, and those who use them, what makes you feel that oils are definitely worth the money. I would love to hear your comments and stories!

Have a good day. I believe in a world that is improving, and where people smile a lot and feel really well!

PictureScreen shot of the Cochrane Library
The Evidence For Vitamins And Supplements

Any decision about whether to spend money on vitamins and supplements, generally would be  based on how well the product works. That means that I wanted to see what the evidence is.

I thought it would be easy for me to decide if vitamins, probiotics, anti-oxidant food supplements like acai berry juices, resveratrol, and other supplements to aid general wellbeing are worth spending money on. After all I have been doing scientific literatures since I did an epidemiology degree and all throughout my 20 year career as a public health researcher.

I went straight to the Cochrane Library of evidence-based systematic reviews (see screen shot to the left; click on the image to be directed to the Cochrane website). That would give me the answer I thought, it is the trusted authority for evidence-based information after all. I clicked on the topic "Complementary and alternative medicine" (see screen shot) and was excited about all the reviews posted in the Cochrane Library about probiotics, Echinacea, the effect of prayer etc. in fact there are 626 reviews about 'complementary medicines' in the Cochrane library on today's date 25 Apr 2015!!! (when you are on the results page, you need to scroll down the menu at the left of the screen to the 'stage' menu; you need to select reviews, and unselect protocols and anything else listed in that menu). My excitement was short-lived. As I clicked on the reviews of interest, and read them, most of the reviews concluded that there is insufficient evidence to recommend use.

Sure there were a few exceptions. An anti-oxidant supplement was found to enable 60% of asthmatic children to stop using their anti-asthma inhaler, compared to only 10% in the control group. This anti-oxidant product tested was a type of pine-tree extract. In another study in ADHD children, it was found that use of the supplement lowered the level of oxidative damage by a small statistically-significant amount. Echinacea supplement was found to reduce the number of occurrences and the duration of colds slightly. But the study designs were not considered high quality. Well-designed, adequately powered trials are needed to establish the value of this treatment.

Similar conclusion for probiotics: Probiotics were better than placebo in reducing the number of children who experienced an upper chest infection, and also reduced the average length of and infection,  reduced the need for antibiotics use, and reduced the number of cold-related school absences. This indicates that probiotics may be more beneficial than placebo for preventing acute URTIs. However, the quality of the evidence was low or very low.

Likewise, nasal saline irrigation possibly has benefits for relieving the symptoms of upper chest infections. However, the studies were generally too small and were not considered reliable enough.

Use of supplement to treat eczema was not supported: "There is no convincing evidence of the benefit of dietary supplements in eczema, and they cannot be recommended for the public or for clinical practice at present. Whilst some may argue that at least supplements do not do any harm, high doses of vitamin D may give rise to serious medical problems."

But I was specifically interested in the fish oil data in the review about natural medicines for treatment of eczema. Why? Because I had spent 1.5 years stressing over my then 18-month old daughter's eczema. I spent money on calendula cream, naturopathic pilules from my local health food shop, strawberry flavoured fish oil (which did not taste like strawberry and my daughter refused to take), Moo Goo cream, and the corticosteroid creams prescribed by my GP (two kinds, one with only steroids, and another with steroid plus an anti-fungal agent), all with teeny-tiny results (not one of those treatments led to any significant improvement in her eczema, which was all over the creases of both elbows, both armpits and behind one knee; the treatments kept it from getting worse and kept flares to a mild level, but certainly nothing cleared it up). I was then recommended an orange-flavoured yummy fish oil gel that kids only need to take every other day. It was cheap and I tasted a sample myself to make sure I would not waste my money again on something a child would not eat, and it was delicious. Behold, my daughter's eczema cleared up completely within 4 weeks, and even when we got lazy and stopped buying wheat-free food, it has not come back at all. That was over 9 months ago and I have long forgotten the stress of that year and a half. We have moved on with our lives! So, of course I expected the Cochrane Review about fish oil supplements for eczema to show that it works! I read the details in the Cochrane Collaboration excema review (by the way, there are contact details on the Cochrane collaboration site for you to get help reading and interpreting these reviews).   This is what it said:

"The three studies looking at fish oil versus placebo found no significant differences for any of the primary outcomes. However, pooled analysis of two of the studies found that fish oil significantly improved the effect on daily living compared to placebo (our secondary outcome looking at quality of life). This analysis also found a significant difference in area affected at the end of treatment as assessed by the physician (one of our tertiary outcomes). One study evaluated itch at the end of the study and found that fish oil significantly improved itch compared to the placebo group. The largest of the fish oil supplementation studies did not show any benefit over placebo."

How to decide if vitamins and supplements are worth the money

Hmm, super convincing evidence is not available. Even for fish oil to treat childhood eczema is uncertain. If I didn't know for sure that fish oil completely cleared my daughter's eczema, as a consumer I would be confused whether I should spend my money on fish oil. I am glad I did use it before I read that Cochrane Collaboration review actually. The evidence for natural therapies is still, after 30 years of research, uncertain. Why? Why are studies in this area of research so unhelpful? Why do you still take supplements, if you do, despite some evidence that multi-vitamins may not do much for your wellbeing? I have so many questions and thoughts whether supplements are worth the money and why, I would love to hear other people's comments. And I certainly will be writing a lot more blogs about specific studies and findings in this area over years to come.

Tips for Trial and Error Of Vitamins and Supplements 

Given the uncertain evidence about supplements for most ailments, I believe that a process and clear approach for trying supplements is the best way for any consumer looking for supplements and vitamins to improve your health. These are my tips:

1. Generally try a product for about 4 weeks (unless experiencing adverse effects; always speak to a health practitioner and read labels so that you know what to look for). But choose a timeframe that makes sense in relation to the specific ailment. Six (6) weeks is probably better long-term problems like sinusitis and facial wrinkles, whereas 1 week is long enough to decide if a cough or flu is improving.

2. If you are not experiencing noticeable improvements in your ailment within 4 weeks, move on, until you find what you are looking for.

3. Write down notes about your health or beauty problem before you start a new product, and document how this changes on a daily basis, either in a note pad or in your smart phone, or any other way that is really convenient for you.

4. Always ask about the refund policy. It makes sense to buy a product that provides a money-back guarantee if the product doesn't meet the consumer's expectations. Full money back guarantees are not that common, but I was surprised to find a number of companies that do offer this, and I am more willing to try products from vitamin and supplements manufacturers who do offer this.

5. Get ideas about what product to try for a specific ailment from your doctors, facebook, discussion groups and from forums. But take everything with a grain of salt. Evaluate products you have heard of yourself, by considering whether the product concept makes sense for your health concern and the product and company information. I have learned that doctors are simply not aware of all the options available from pharmacies, health food stores and other online stores, and regular people's experiences on discussion boards and forums may or may not be reflective of how a product will work for you.

6. Learn to review the scientific literature yourself if you are at all interested in looking a the scientific studies about vitamins and supplements. Although often the studies don't provide concrete answers, they do provide some information that is useful, including what kind of benefits some of the study participants experienced, and also side effects information.

And you can be comforted that, even when scientific studies don't provide clear answers, science itself is more and more turning to what is called "N of 1" experiments. This means that two different treatments are tried in one patient, in a controlled experimental setting (this means that the researchers go to efforts to make sure that the effects of each products are cleared out of the system before trying the next product, and often the patient tries both treatments two or more times, alternating in sequence). This kind of experimental trial is even being used for cancer medicines and other scientifically-developed medicines and device. As a consumer, you can learn valuable information about what products do and don't work for you, and what products you do and don't consider good value, by trying certain vitamins and supplements in sequence, and making notes on what benefits and side effects you feel.

I love the idea of feeling unbelievably happy and well, living in a world where everyone smiles a lot, and feels really healthy. I even read that by 2040, there will be many people over the age of 100 years old, more than this world has ever seen. Surely supplements will be partly the reason for this? Who knows! Again, I would love to hear comments, and watch this blog for more info about this. Please feel free to contact me at rwbnorthshore@gmail.com if you need any help navigating the scientific literature yourself.


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