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Is There Real Science Behind the Latest Beauty Fads?

By Dr. David Sayah

Since the dawn of time, men and women have tried a number of products and treatments to either fit in with the existing beauty trends or improve their appearance. In the modern-day, plastic surgery is the standard approach for looking your best. Yet, that hasn’t stopped a few new and odd-sounding options from springing up here and there. Could there be any real science behind these bizarre beauty treatments?

Beauty through the Ages
Different beauty products have been tried and discarded throughout history. Cleopatra popularized the trend of reddened lips using a combination of red clay, iodine, henna and seaweed. This look was topped off with dark kohl-lined eyes, a style that’s continued to today with modern eyeliner.

By the Elizabethan Age, pale skin was the epitome of beauty. According to some sources, this arose because Queen Elizabeth herself wore heavy white makeup to disguise her smallpox scars. Highborn women emulated her look by combining a poisonous mixture of lead powder and vinegar to smooth over their faces, décolletage and hands. The medieval practice of bloodletting with leeches was another option for gaining a more “natural” pallor.

A Modern Approach
These days, women are far more likely to visit their cosmetic surgeon than bleed themselves with leeches, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few curiosities in modern beauty treatments as well. In a world based on science rather than medieval medicine, could it be that some of these treatments have their basis in measurable results?

As an example, one of the latest ingredients in high-end cosmetics is bee venom. The manufacturers of bee venom-based creams and serums claim that the venom promotes collagen production, removes fine lines and wrinkles, and plumps the skin due to the influx of blood to the area. The “bee sting facial” is marketed as the natural alternative to BOTOX® injections.

Bee sting therapy has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years by acupuncturists for a number of ailments, many of whom continue performing these treatments today. Within the United States, the idea of treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis and arthritis using bee stings is gaining popularity. The primary active component of bee venom is a powerful anti-inflammatory that is purported to be many times stronger than hydrocortisone; scientifically, then, it’s not impossible that those suffering from arthritic joints could experience some symptomatic relief from bee stings.

Bee venom is not entirely untested in the cosmetic arena, either. In a clinical trial, each of the 14 participants indicated that bee venom cream minimized wrinkles and improved their skin texture. Whether that data holds up in larger studies remains to be seen.

Trusted Results
Although there may be some scientific basis to certain beauty fads, the fact remains that cosmetic surgery procedures remain the only safe, effective, FDA-approved and predictable solution available to minimize the signs of aging. Nonsurgical options like BOTOX® work to smooth away lines and wrinkles, while dermal fillers are ideal for restoring volume loss to the nasolabial folds or to fill in facial scars. Chemical peels and facials soothe and repair sun-damaged skin to minimize the early signs of aging and restore a youthful glow.

Although it’s always tempting to try the latest thing, take time to research before booking an untried “cutting edge” beauty treatment. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean that it delivers real results.