“Recent studies show” is a phrase we see often. It could be said in reference to ingredient or product efficacy, to human behaviors, or even to environmental factors. The phrase is usually taken at face value and typically, no further explanation is asked of it. But what happens when you dive a little deeper into these studies? What do they really say? Is the company or person referencing the study explaining the totality of the hypothesis and the end result? Can they name the study and the author? Listen in as we investigate further, exploring various experiences and the surprising outcomes of demanding “show me the receipts!”
- Copper peptide “ah-ha! moment” study: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4508379/
- FACT (…or not?): Bell-shaped dose for internal use (not topical): www.researchgate.net/publication/273352080_Overcoming_the_Bell-Shaped_Dose-Response_of_Cannabidiol_by_Using_Cannabis_Extract_Enriched_in_Cannabidiol
- Ethan Russo entourage: “You don’t need THC, but you need terpenes!”: https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
About Emily Morgan
Emily is a licensed esthetician in Massachusetts and Colorado, having graduated with a 4.0 GPA with additional certifications in microdermabrasion, spray tanning, and eyelash extensions (her specialty). She currently works as the Membership Program Manager at Associated Skin Care Professionals, where she works to provide helpful resources and tools for estheticians to help them grow and thrive in their esthetic careers.
About Ella Cressman:
Ella Cressman is a licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, business owner, and absolute ingredient junkie! As an educator, she enjoys empowering other estheticians and industry professionals to understand skin care from an ingredient standpoint rather than a product-specific view.
She has spent many hours researching ingredients, understanding how and where they are sourced, as well as phytochemistry, histological access, and complementary compounds for intentional skin benefits. In addition to running a skin care practice, Cressman founded a comprehensive consulting group, the HHP Collective, and has consulted for several skin care lines, including several successful CBD brands.
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0:00:49.8 Ella Cressman: You are listening to ASCP Esty Talk, where we share insider tips, industry resources and education for estheticians at every stage of the journey. Let's talk, because ASCP knows it's all about you.
0:01:06.0 EC: Hi, hello and welcome to ASCP Esty Talk. This is the Ingredient Decked Out series, where we explore the fascinating world of ingredients and how they work within the skin. I'm Ella Cressman, a licensed esthetician, owner of the HHP Collective and a complete and a total ingredient junkie. And today, I'm super happy that with me, I have someone you all know, Emily Morgan. She is an esthetician in not one, but two states, Colorado and Massachusetts, and she has advanced certifications in all things, which makes her an amazing resource for her current position as the membership program manager for Associated Skin Care Professionals, where she works there to provide helpful resources and tools for estheticians to help them grow and thrive in their esthetic careers. Hi Emily.
0:01:57.1 Emily Morgan: Hello Ella. I'm so happy to be here on this end of the podcast.
0:02:01.8 EC: Awesome. Yes, Emily also is a host of ASCP Esty Talk, so you have to check her out, and we're flipping it around today. I wanted to have her here because she's awesome. And many of you have talked to her. So you know what I'm talking about, but also, I wanted to have a little kiki with you. I wanna talk to you about something that is crazy and I think needs to be more... A bigger light shined on it, and that is something we hear all the time. Recent studies show or a recent study showed this, a recent study showed that.
0:02:37.3 EM: Quote-unquote.
0:02:37.5 EC: Quote-unquote, "A recent study... " and what happens is that is something for some reason, this paralyzes us in agreement. We're like, "Oh, that's... Well, if the recent study showed us, then by gosh, it must be true." I want to explain... Emily something happened to me a little bit ago and it was alarming to me. So before we get into that, can I ask, have you ever thought a recent study showed, and it was a wow moment for you? Have you seen that? Have you heard that?
0:03:12.2 EM: Yes, I've definitely... Of course, if we're on social media, we always see in the comment section, you know, "Oh, well, a recent study show... " or, "Oh, well, I read this article that said, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." And it's just... You always have to fact-check. And so, I had just recently learned in a study about copper peptides or copper tripeptides, and how fantastic they are for the skin. And this was just so funny, because I was totally caught off guard and I'll tell you why, 'cause it's kind of a funny story.
0:03:42.2 EM: So this study, which I will link below in our show notes so that if anyone is interested in learning more about copper tripeptides, definitely look into this study, 'cause it's really cool. But basically goes on to say that these copper tripeptides, they have really remarkable DNA repair properties. And I was just kind of stunned, because I would have had no idea. If you asked me before I'd found this out, I would have been like, I'm not putting anything with copper on my face, just no. And the whole reason I even went there, TMI maybe, but we're gonna go there anyways, I have a copper contraceptive. So I literally associate copper with destroying things. [chuckle]
0:04:29.8 EC: Oh.
0:04:30.4 EM: And if I hadn't have educated myself, I just would have assumed like, "Oh, copper just has a negative effect on my skin, when in fact, it's actually the opposite. Of course, contraceptive and skin care formulas are just two wildly different things obviously, but still I had that underlining assumption that I had a preconceived idea in my head. And so, I was just totally caught off-guard when I found that out, but it was kind of also a cool moment, that was like, "Oh, my brain was going in this direction," which really makes no sense, but maybe it kinda makes sense. And by educating myself like I learned something totally new, which was just such a cool moment.
0:05:14.0 EC: I am so proud of you for taking the initiative to first of all go, "Wait a minute," 'cause that sounds like that's what happened. When you saw this, you were like, "Wait a minute," and then you took the next step of, "Let me make sure this is true." That association that you had was definitely negative and far, far apart. So you have skin efficacy over here and not allowing pregnancy over there. And sometimes that distance between a preconceived notion and actuality is a little bit not as gapped, shall we say? So that leaves us, as consumers, a little bit more susceptible to gullibility. We go like, "Oh, okay. Well, that makes sense."
0:05:57.0 EM: I feel like there's also a certain uncomfortability there, right? I mean, you have to come to face yourself and say, "Hey, what I was originally thinking was wrong, and here's the truth, and I have to come to terms with that." And that's not always the most comfortable thing to do for a person to face that and kinda confront that.
0:06:18.6 EC: Funny you should say that. That's very interesting. So many of you that know me, know that I am very into the cannabis scene.
0:06:28.5 EM: Oh, you are?
0:06:29.6 EC: Yeah, I'm not partaking right now, just in case anyone was curious. But I live in Colorado, and early on, I got into the topical side or the histological benefit side. And I have seen this industry grow like crazy. Paralleled, I'm also a certified organic formulator in skin care, so that's my method of understanding ingredients, which is why I'm a total and complete ingredient junkie. My research approach has always been histological function, and how does it work in the skin, and that a question for any ingredient. I also understand that science is a race with no finish line. There is always going to be something else coming out. But in the '60s, you had these doctors saying smoking was okay, smoking during pregnancy was okay, and in these endorsements. In the '80s, we had the food pyramid as it was designed with the base being grains and then top being fat or... Then that changed. It changes, it evolves as you understand things. So I get that part, yet I am perusing for information on Instagram.
0:07:36.1 EC: So what I came across was this post by this lovely woman, and she writes in all capital letters, "FACT: FULL-SPECTRUM CBD INCLUDES THE MYRIAD COMPOUNDS FROM THE WHOLE PLANT CANNABIS THAT WORKS IN SYNERGY FOR THE MAXIMUM DESIRED EFFECT." I'm like, "Oh, really?" Malcolm Gladwell, he's a well-known author. He describes an expert being someone who has 10,000 hours of study or work in a particular subject. By that definition, I am definitely an expert in cannabis. But understanding science evolves, and I say, "Oh, that's piquing me 'cause that is not my understanding as an absolute," as a, capital letter, FACT. So it goes on, "One of the recent studies in Israel showed that CBD isolate, CBD with nothing else, did not work as effectively as a whole plant extract." It's like juicing, you drink the juice, but you leave the major vitamins and fiber behind.
0:08:38.0 EC: And I said, "Well, that is curious," but I'm interested. So I reached out and I left a comment: "What is the name and author of that study? Because I'd like to understand it." And I was so shocked by her response. And again, I'm trying to give her grace because you don't need to tear anyone down, especially on social media. I'm trying to understand. This was her response, I'm gonna need you to sit down, is she said, "Just Google this title, it is a downloadable PDF: Overcome the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol." That was her response to her post, and so...
0:09:17.9 EM: Which I mean, may be a little short, but I would still be like, "Okay, alright, fine, I will Google it. I'll check out this PDF. Let's see what this thing is about."
0:09:27.3 EC: Let's do it. So I did. Let me read to you what that says.
0:09:30.3 EM: Hey, guys, stop. Let's take a quick break.
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0:10:06.5 EC: Let's get back to the conversation. It's talking about... It's an article, and I will put the link in the bio on the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacy from January 2015. And it says: "Cannabidiol, a major constituent of cannabis, has been shown as a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety." It goes on to say: "However, when given either intraperitoneally or orally, meaning through the mouth or through the digestive system, as a purified product, a bell-shaped dose-response was observed, which limits its clinical use." So this isn't talking about topically, this is talking about taking it internally. What it means, the bell-shaped means you start low and you get to this one point of the perfect amount for you, a dose, is what they call it. And then that's the maximum efficacy. So for some people, it could be 2 mg; some people can be 10 mg, but if they go beyond that, it reduces in efficacy. So there's two theories here being represented, and both of them are in response to anti-inflammatory inside of the body, for internal use, through the mouth or through the digestive system. So this would be a sublingual tincture or a tablet or a gummy.
0:11:20.5 EM: Right, not a cleanser or a moisturizer, it's not...
0:11:24.4 EC: Or a serum.
0:11:25.1 EM: Or a serum.
0:11:26.2 EC: And this is talking about inflammatory conditions internal, not a skin inflammation, or what we want to have happen in the skin. So it goes on to say: "In this present study, we have studied in mice, the anti-inflammatory and non-conceptive activities of standard plant extracts." So what this is, this very well could be true, that there is a synergy of the cannabinoids and terpenes and all the amazing properties from this whole plant extract, that make it more effective. Very, very, very possible that it's true. The research has not gotten there yet. So to refer to this is, in my opinion, a little bit premature, but also it could be potentially damaging because now, you have people completely turned off from other opportunities in using an isolate, for example.
0:12:19.3 EC: So speaking of, there's another study, and this goes, too, when you're looking at studies, you're looking at in vitro versus in vivo. And do we know the difference between them? So we have in vitro studies, which are usually how it goes, you do preliminary in vitro. And those are studies done outside of a living organism, that's the definition. So this could be on skin cells in a Petri dish, this could be on inflammation of all different kind of processes. Oftentimes, with these research efforts or these teams or depending on different... You have in vivo, which means they're going to do within a living thing. And those in vivo, those initial in vivo, unfortunately, are lab rats.
0:13:00.9 EC: So, I went back to the drawing board to understand. In the cannabis space, and I say this, 'cause we're gonna talk about another ingredient too, this is just one that is important to me because not a lot of people know a lot of things about it. And so we need to make sure we're not turning anyone off. They're not saying an absolute, this won't work, an absolute, this will work, because what if someone gets a full spectrum product that is formulated in a way that doesn't allow for access into the skin or that's formulated in a way that causes an adverse reaction, but it's full spectrum, so it's what's best, that's what a recent study said. Well, that's just not good, because it tarnishes the whole intention of a really cool ingredient possibility. There is, however, the godfather of the entourage effect argument. So there's something in the cannabis world, there's this entourage effect, which means all of these components work better than just one single isolated molecule. Very well could be.
0:14:00.3 EC: However, the godfather of that, and those studies, the man leading the charge is Dr. Ethan Russo, and he's written several articles on the entourage effect specifically. And a lot of them with skin potential, in fact, in one of his studies, he said, "The greatest opportunity for dermatological advancement is cannabidiol and limonene for acne." Another study called Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phyto cannabinoid-terpenoid Entourage Effects. What a mouthful, but it's just very, very long. Again, we'll put the link in the bio and if you're bored on a Sunday, it's a great read. It's not. But in there is a section on cannabis and acne, and what it's talking about is specifically cannabidiol CBD, and it's sebaceous regulation property, so how it slows oil production. And then it's talking about the synergy of CBD and terpenes, and it mentions some specific terpenes and how that synergy is what a promising therapeutic approach that poses minimal risk in comparison to Isotretinoin. So people are taking these little snippets, these marketing efforts, they're taking snippets of studies and they're doing this "if, then." If that works here, then it has to work there, which again, could be, but when you're saying it with such authority, it is reckless in my opinion.
0:15:22.8 EM: And maybe spreading misinformation, it's just... To this person's point, it's... Sure, maybe part of that is true, but FACT, in all caps, when applied topically, you can't say stuff like that when you don't have that information. You have some that's relevant to a specific situation, and that's it. It's almost like you're not quite wrong, but you're not quite right. And especially if you're an esthetician and your audience is clients, people that are maybe a little more less informed than you are, it's almost just like... You have to do your due diligence.
0:16:04.1 EC: And that's another great point we've been talking about cannabis this whole time, which is one of my passions, but we can look at another ingredient, another industry darling, is Vitamin C. And I'll tell you, so I've worked in all aspects of this industry, so I tease that I know where all the bodies are buried. But what I'll explain is one of my favorite ingredients, and I say that about all of them. It's like picking your favorite child. One of my favorite ingredients is Vitamin C, where you know that there's a lot of possibilities there, different forms. We know vitamin C is incredibly unstable in a lot of forms, but one form, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is the lipid soluble, the most stable of them, and it's also the most expensive, by the way. So when you are formulating, it's the most expensive. Commonly referred to as BV-OSC, that's the trade name, which is another cool thing, so BV-OSC is the brand name of the certain type of lipid soluble vitamin C.
0:17:00.9 EC: Now, recent studies show... [chuckle] The reason that this one is so cool is because it has an intense brightening effect, a melanogenesis that happens, and that the initial study was on just BV-OSC alone or just lipid soluble vitamin C alone, that at 15%, it was shown to have reduced melanin production by 40%. So some companies took that and they put 15% in their product and they're like, "Look, we've got this awesome ingredient, which is very expensive, but we've got it in there at the percentage recommended by the study." And others took it at 2% and said, "Look what we've got in our product, we have this powerful brightening," where at that point, it might act as an antioxidant, but it's not gonna have the brightening property. So it was misleading.
0:17:49.4 EC: So understanding that, and we can put that link in there too, there's another study that came out after, that BV-OSC at 7%, and ascorbic acid at 3% combined had a significant brightening property. I think it was 30%. We can go back and look, but the point is, from that is that some sales rep might walk into your office or reach out to you and say, "We have this product with this ingredient and studies show this." And don't be afraid to ask, "Where are the receipts?" [chuckle] Because if they are good, they will provide something either study or they'll provide you with a white paper. So, are you familiar with white papers?
0:18:32.0 EM: I am not. I'd like to know a little bit more about what a white paper is. A scientific study?
0:18:39.4 EC: Basically.
0:18:40.9 EM: Okay.
0:18:40.9 EC: Basically a scientific study. The common way to refer to it, or the best analogy that I can give is it's a study that's performed, a paid study, so it's not a independent study or something. It's a paid study to see, does this work? So you have companies who have a paid study on an ingredient, and then you have other, and then they get their white papers to, "See, I showed ya, I told ya, that's what was gonna happen." Those are the receipts from them, and then you have other companies who get white papers on products, "See, I told you this was gonna work the way it was gonna work." Now, that process is very expensive, it's not cheap, but it's a good way to put your money where your mouth is. So a white paper on ingredients is sufficient if you're... 'cause not all companies, a lot of the companies that are paying to get white papers on their products are these large conglomerates and we're not really dealing with it there.
0:19:31.4 EM: Well, quick question about white papers then, since they are paid studies by these brands or companies, is there a level of... I don't know, almost like doctored a little bit, so that these companies are hearing what they wanna hear, and now they get these white papers from those study that they paid for, or is it still pretty non-biased?
0:19:54.5 EC: I think that's a great question, and you gotta think there is that, definitely the opportunity. I think the reputation of the people doing these studies is more important than the money, but I think that there could be, especially when you're looking at a product that has white papers. When you're looking at an ingredient that has white papers, it's more of a preliminary to introduction to market. For example, a lot of ingredient suppliers, they may go in on it, "Hey, we've got this." Let's just take an example of white clay. "We wanna prove that this white clay works. You guys wanna go in on this study with us?" "Yeah, no problem." And now they collectively can say it works, see. Different from... I don't wanna use a company name, but let's just say Neutrogena. Sorry, Neutrogena. Or, let's say...
0:20:42.8 EM: This episode not sponsored by Neutrogena.
0:20:45.4 EC: Let's say Ella Cress skin care serum. Okay, that would be the serum that I made up, so that has the more potential to be swayed. With those studies though, there's always that disclaimer. Again, science is a race with no finish line. There's always a nine out of 10, this 40% or 60% or 70% of people saw a difference, and when you get into reading white papers, you could see that is what... This is what happens, this is our theory of what happens, this is the proof that we were right. So they're actually a fun read. Sometimes hard, just like reading these studies, it's really hard because a lot of them start out with a synopsis. This is what we think, this is our analysis, this is our summary, and then it goes into all this boring language or really hard to follow language. And for some people that are used to this, it could take an hour to read, where myself, sometimes it takes me days 'cause I have to go back and re-read or look something up to understand. So, but anyways, back to white papers. They're like a simplified version of these studies. It's very basic. They have pictures. So you know, that means it's for real.
0:21:49.0 EM: I like pictures with my studies.
0:21:49.8 EC: There's your proof. I saw it in a picture. I don't even need to read it.
0:21:54.0 EM: This picture proves, this recent study with pictures proves... And now, is there a way that you would recommend asking for this type of information in a way that might not come off as accusatory or just simply like you're looking for more information, 'cause clearly going back to this comment that you read, you were looking for additional information. And it's clear that the person that posted the all caps FACT, you know that she was a little curt and who knows if she took offense to it. She still gave you the information, but is there a certain way that we can ask for this information that wouldn't be perceived as you just being a snot and trying to be like, "Oh, well, prove it then."
0:22:41.6 EC: I think you have to ask any of those questions with an open mind and with a tone full of grace, and you have to be intentional in going, "Oh, it does? That's really cool. Do you have something on that?" And not every ingredient will have White Papers, but if they're saying recent studies show or there's a study that shows, ask them for that. You don't have to say, "Show me the study on Safflower oil in my body oil," because if it works, if it hydrates you, that's great. But if they're coming out, especially new ingredients, and we talked quite at length about cannabis in particular. Especially in cannabis, if they're coming at you with a definitive opinion and not a flexible one, then prove why that's your stance, your company's stance.
0:23:20.4 EC: Most of these are gonna come from your sales reps, and as a former sales reps, a reluctant sales rep, I was asked that. "Do you have white papers on that?" So it's not uncommon to be asked that, and so, "Yes, we do. I do have white papers on that." Not on the product, but I'd definitely have white papers on the ingredients, and then the rest of it was anecdotal because at the end of the day, that's what really matters. What happens in your skin or in your client's skin, how do they respond? In summary, don't be scared. Ask for them receipts. No problem, if you're curious.
0:23:53.7 EM: You're only gonna be educating yourself and becoming a more informed esthetician, so it's for your best benefit, and if there's anything that makes you stop and question something, listen to that intuition and dig a little deeper and find out more. It's fascinating, the things that you'll find. I will say that from personal experience.
0:24:15.3 EC: Absolutely. And you know what else on another subject you can find like opposing studies too, which is something else that's fun. So some of these companies, especially in the cannabis space, are seeking out those that support their company, so it's very interesting, but your reputation as a professional skin care person or your skin and wanting to understand it is your right to ask. Well, thank you so much you guys. Recent studies show that we love you very much and we're excited for you to tune into our next episode. Until then, I'm Ella Cressman and we are signing off and happy Estys.
0:24:52.4 EM: Thank you, bye everyone.
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