Personal Care Products


Disclosure: I received the gently used Grid and new-in-package MobiPoint Massage Ball as conference swag, directly from TriggerPoint Therapy, one of the sponsors of Sweat Pink’s BlogFest at IDEA World 2019. (I’m only giving them away because I already had my own!) I wasn’t asked to write a blog post, host a giveaway, or anything else for that matter. All opinions and words are my own.

What Have You Heard about Foam Rolling?

Pictures of The Grid
The Grid (left), The Grid Vibe Plus (right), and the travel Grid

If you haven’t heard about “foam rolling,” you’ve probably been living under a rock. There’s WAY more to the world of self-myofacial release (SMFR or MFR) than the foamy logs you see at the Relax the Back store or in your yoga/pilates studio. Essentially, SMFR is a type of self-massage that often involves specialized tools, including various kinds of stick-rollers, log/tube-shaped rollers, balls, and other tools. SMFR techniques manipulate and massage the muscles and surrounding tissues, increasing blood flow and elasticity. In my experience, while there is sometimes a bit of “owww, that’s a tight spot,” the end result is a bit like the end result of a massage: everything feels better.

I first encountered the Grid at an SCW Mania event nearly ten years ago, back when TP Therapy was a small company based in Austin, TX. (It is now owned by Implus, the American parent company of SKLZ, Harbinger, Balega, RockTape, FuelBelt, Sofsole, Spenco, and more.) Their trainers–including Cassidy Phillips, the founder and CEO–taught several practical SMFR sessions. Cassidy taught us a little bit about fascia, the connective tissue that helps form the structure of the human body; it’s like a scaffolding around the bones that helps keep other body tissues and organs in their place. Think of it as a stretchy mesh: if you pull on one corner and wad it up, the rest of the mesh stretches out to accommodate. Fascia does something similar in the body (which is why when your left low back gets tight, you might find your right upper back, or some other seemingly unrelated body part, is also upset). Cassidy also explained that human muscle tissue is just like any other animal muscle tissue; when it is fully hydrated and moving well it is like a tender steak, but when it is partially dehydrated and has knots or spots of uneven tension it is more like beef jerky. (That image has stuck with me, and I’m a more hydrated-human because of it.)

Before I get into why I love The Grid, let’s take a step back. If you’ve tried SMFR you probably agree that it feels good (well, after it stops hurting like hell), and maybe you’ve read some other blogger yammer on about how fantastic it is. That’s all well and good, but fancy tea tastes good and no matter how many bloggers say so it isn’t going to “detox” you (at least not any more than your liver and kidneys already do). So…is foam rolling worthwhile, or is it some woo-woo goop-esque trend?

What Science Says

If you’re a science geek, you probably already know about PubMed. If you are an athlete interested in exercise science, or a person interested in the latest nutrition research, or a blogger who doles out advice on anything related to the human body (including products and ingredients) you really ought to bookmark it. PubMed is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is part of the National Institute of Health. PubMed largely includes abstracts of peer-reviewed articles, though a few articles are available for free. The articles include clinical trials, epidemiology reviews, case studies, and more. You can choose to view the results by “best match” or “most recent”

Pro tip: if you don’t want to pay for access to an article, but you really want to read it, you have two free options. One, reach out to the authors of the paper. Many authors are happy that someone wants to read their research, and would be thrilled to send you a copy of the publication. Two, seek out access via a college or university library. If you attended a college or university, start there. Many allow their alumni to use the library resources for free or super cheap. If you didn’t, you can try a nearby college or university. Many have a non-student library card that you can obtain for a fee, and that may include access to electronic resources.

A PubMed search for “foam rolling” returned 83 results! (The more scientific “self myofascial release” returned 100. There is some overlap, of course.) Some of the articles are very general, while others are almost nauseatingly specific, such as Behara B, and Jacobson BH’s “Acute Effects of Deep Tissue Foam Rolling and Dynamic Stretching on Muscular Strength, Power, and Flexibility in Division I Linemen.” J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Apr;31(4):888-892. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001051.

A Little of the Bad News

There are several articles that cast doubt on what you’ve likely heard about foam rolling.

At least one review concludes that the term “self-myofascial release” is misleading, because there isn’t enough evidence to support the idea that foam rolling and similar practices actually release myofascial restrictions. Behm, DG and Wilke, J. Do Self-Myofascial Release Devices Release Myofascia? Rolling Mechanisms: A Narrative Review. Sports Med. 2019 Aug;49(8):1173-1181. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01149-y.  It strikes me that this is a fair conclusion, since the research on foam rolling and similar practices is still pretty young, and it’s entirely possible that any results achieved are from something other than myofascial release, maybe improved blood circulation, or something about how your breathing changes while you are doing it–we don’t know. (But we might, soon!)

Bundle of TP tools
TP Performance Collection (minus the Baller Block–trust me, you want that too) and MB5 Massage Ball

Another study concluded that adding SMFR to static stretching did not have an effect on hamstring stiffness, as a group that did only static stretching achieved the same results. Mortin, RW et al. Self-Myofascial Release: No Improvement of Functional Outcomes in ‘Tight’ Hamstrings. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2016 Jul;11(5):658-63. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2015-0399. Epub 2015 Nov 9.

Remember that in order to make sense of any study’s result, you need to take a look at who the participants were (students, professionals, weekend warriors?), what the researchers looked at (how did they measure results? what did they consider or fail to consider?), and the testing protocol (what did the participants actually do? was there a control group?). The results of a small study of college tennis players, for example, may not apply to a Gen Xer who only does Crossfit.

A Little of the Good News

I love the way I feel in my body after a good session with The Grid, so I almost don’t care if there is any science to support it. Since I’m recommending it to you though, I think it would be irresponsible to talk about how great I think it is if in reality it’s a sham like detoxing foot pads or alkaline water. Here are a few studies that found foam rolling or SMFR beneficial–these are the ones I found interesting, but you can go find more on PubMed. The term “key finding” is mine (as some abstracts use “results,” others use “conclusions,” and I like a tidy organization to my references).

Several studies concluded that the protocol they studied led to an improved range of motion:

  • Su H, et al. Acute Effects of Foam Rolling, Static Stretching, and Dynamic Stretching During Warm-ups on Muscular Flexibility and Strength in Young Adults. J Sport Rehabil. 2017 Nov;26(6):469-477. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2016-0102. Epub 2016 Oct 13. Key finding: flexibility test scores improved significantly more after foam rolling a compared with static and dynamic stretching.
  • Mohr AR, et al. Effect of foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip-flexion range of motion. J Sport Rehabil. 2014 Nov;23(4):296-9. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2013-0025. Epub 2014 Jan 21. Key finding: Regardless of the treatment, all subjects had increased range of motion (regardless of treatment: static stretching, foam rolling and static stretching, or only foam rolling). Use of a foam roller followed by static-stretching increased range of motion more than static stretching alone.
  • Bushell JE, et al. Clinical Relevance of Foam Rolling on Hip Extension Angle in a Functional Lunge Position. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Sep;29(9):2397-403. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000888.
    Key finding: repeated foam rolling is beneficial, both objectively and subjectively, for increasing range of motion immediately preceding a dynamic activity.

Several studies concluded that the protocol they studied led to improvement in recovery, including delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS, or the soreness you get a day or two after your workout):

  • Pearcey GE, et al. Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. J Athl Train. 2015 Jan;50(1):5-13. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-50.1.01. Epub 2014 Nov 21.
    Key finding: Foam rolling effectively reduced DOMS and associated decrements in most dynamic performance measures.
  • Rey E, et al. Effects of Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool in Professional Soccer Players. J Strength Cond Res. 2019 Aug;33(8):2194-2201. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002277. Key finding: soccer coaches and trainers working with high-level players should use a structured recovery session of 15-20 minutes using foam rolling at the end of a training session to enhance recovery.

Some studies looked at specific health conditions or effects, rather than muscular performance. A few of the ones I found nifty:

  • Improvement of Fibromyalgia. Ceca, D et al. Benefits of a self-myofascial release program on health-related quality of life in people with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017 Jul-Aug;57(7-8):993-1002. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.17.07025-6. Epub 2017 Jan 31.
    Key finding: regular, structured practice of SMFR can improve health-related quality of life for people with fibromyalgia.
  • Reduction of Arterial Stiffness. Okamoto T, et al. Acute effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller on arterial function. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):69-73. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31829480f5. Key finding: SMFR with a foam roller reduces arterial stiffness and improves vascular endothelial function.

In short, while the jury is still out on some claims about foam rolling, there is also some evidence–at least regarding the population and specific protocols studied–that foam rolling provides a benefit. I mean beyond feeling good when you’re done.

Back To The Grid

Comparison of The Grid and The Grid Vibe
Above, my well-worn The Grid (yours will be nicer); The Grid Vibe Plus is a bit more slender

Unlike the long foam rollers I’d known before, the Grid has a hollow hard-plastic core. (While there is a smaller travel Grid available–think as if you took a slice of the roller–the original Grid is great for travel, as you can stuff a lot of clothing in there inside your suitcase.) On the outside, the Grid is textured in an un-even grid-like pattern: small squares are high and firm, like fingertips or a thumb tip; long and narrow rectangles are more like fingers; and larger rectangular flat areas are like palms. Positioning the Grid so that a particular surface hits the targeted area changes how it feels on your body. Rolling through all of the different zones feels delicious to me! In my first class, we learned techniques to roll out the peroneals, IT band, quads, anterior tibialis, and more.

Also unlike the long foam rollers I’d known before, the Grid is very sturdy. (I’ve had my personal Grid since that first SCW Mania, I’ve toted it around the country, and you’d be hard pressed to tell.) The fact that it is hollow means you can also incorporate it into exercises apart from SMFR. For example, you can hold the sides (palms on top, fingers tucked inside the hollow center) and plank. This adds an extra dose of instability to your plank, as any shift of your body weight forward or back will cause the Grid to roll. Another example exercise is the lunge. Standing with your front foot on the Grid and your back leg in an extended lunge, keep your torso upright and your front leg steady while you drop you back knee to a right angle. Another example is the plank-to-pike exercise: start in a plank with your toes on the Grid, transition to a pike with the soles of your feet on the Grid. Quite possibly my favorite is the wall squat using the Grid between your back and the wall.

Your Only Tool Is a Hammer…Is Everything a Nail?

One of the things that impressed me was that the staff at the TriggerPoint booth were more interested in showing you how to use their tools than selling you the tools. SMFR isn’t something you just do here and there to make a workout smoother, or to recover from a workout. In order to create and maintain results, any SMFR program requires repetition–just like exercise. The TriggerPoint website includes a library of videos on how to use their products (which back in the day we bought on DVD). After using it in a workshop targeted towards runners, I purchased a tools kit (similar to what is now called the TP Performance Collection) that came with a booklet outlining a total body program (including a dry-erase calendar to plan your program); I also bought The Ultimate 6 for Runners–a similar booklet that targets the soleus, qaudcriceps, psoas, piriformis, pectorales, and thoracic spine. I particularly like the booklets. They are spiral bound to lay flat, and have plenty of photographs in addition to the text description.

Today, the TP Therapy products in my SMFR tool kit also include the Grid Vibe (thinner than the Grid, but OMG the vibration is brilliant!), MB5 large foam massage ball, MobiPoint massage ball, and the Nano X foot roller (the extra-dense version of the Nano foot roller). Recently TP Therapy released a new tool, the MB Vibe, which is similar to the MB5 but also has vibration to it. (I cannot wait to get my hands on one!)

Win Your Own!

I have ONE prize pack to give away. It includes The Grid, the original TP Therapy product, in orange; and the MobiPoint Massage Ball (a sweet treat for runner feet!). Apologies to my friends elsewhere, but postage is spendy these days and so I have to limit this giveaway to U.S. residents only. Void where prohibited.

Start by leaving a comment and tell me about your experiencce: Have you tried foam rolling or another form of self myofacial release? Which tools do you use? What’s your favorite exercise? How often do you roll?

Then work your way through the steps in the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: in accordance with the FTC guidelines for influencers, as well as my own promise to be honest and up front with readers, I disclose that White Cedar Naturals provided me with a bottle of White Cedar Naturals’ full spectrum hemp oil in exchange for my honest review. White Cedar Naturals had absolutely no control or input on the contents of this review; 100% of the opinions and research are my own.

The market for hemp-derived CBD in the United States was an estimated $591 million in 2018, and the Financial Post predicts it will be worth $22 billion by 2022. As with other innovative markets–organic products, supplements–the majority of companies benefit handsomely from consumer misunderstanding. There is A TON of misinformation out there about CBD. If you have shied away from trying CBD products because (1) “they are drugs!” or (2) it’s just too crazy confusing with all the conflicting advertising, labels, and shifty bloggers, this review is for you.

Warning! At the outset, it is very important for anyone subject to testing for drugs or banned substances–whether that’s because you are a competitive athlete or hold a job with the U.S. federal government–that many brands of CBD, as well as other hemp-derived products, are not subject to third-party testing for THC content. Look for products that are NSF International Certified for Sport or bear the Informed-Sport certification, and use your influence as a consumer to demand more companies participate. Further, as with ANY herb, tea, OTC drug, or grapefruit juice, CBD can interfere with some medications. It is very important that you keep your medical care providers apprised of y our CBD usage (take them the package(s) for the product(s) you use). As a side note, known side-effects of CBD consumption include diarrhea, changes in appetite, and fatigue.

What is CBD and isn’t it just for stoners?

CBD is the abbreviation for the phytocannabinoid named cannabidiol. It is a naturally occurring compound that is part of the cannabis family of plants. Cannabis has three classifications: cannabis indica, cannabis sativa, and cannabis ruderalis. (You can see sketches and read more HERE.) Humans have been selectively breeding cannabis plants for centuries, just like humans used selective breeding to create big ears of corn from plants that originally had just a few kernels per stem. The variety of cannabis bred to maximize the content of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (a different phytocannabinoid), is known as marijuana. THC is a psychoactive substance, and consuming it results in a “high.” Marijuana plants also have some naturally occurring CBD in them.

Hemp—often referred to as industrial hemp—is a variety of cannabis sativa. Hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into fibers, and historically hemp has been used in paper, textiles, rope, and clothing. Hemp has much lower concentrations of THC than marijuana—you don’t get “high” from smoking hemp because the THC concentration is 0.3% or less (marijuana has a THC concentration of 15% to 40% depending on the strain)—and much higher concentrations of cannabidiol, or CBD. Hemp is a very versatile plant. In addition to spinning the fibers, you can eat the hemp seeds. (I’m a huge fan of Manitoba Harvest in case anyone asks. Hemp seeds are an excellent source of nutritional fiber, protein, and healthy fat and they are delicious on salads and yogurt parfaits. Bonus: no known allergans. Tilray just acquired Manitoba Harvest for $419 million, proving the hemp market is a cash cow.) Hemp seeds are also used for animal feed and bird seed. Parts of the plant can be used for biofuel. Hemp oil from the seeds is used in oil-based paints, as a moisturizer for creams, and for cooking.

Hemp seeds
Unshelled hemp seeds

CBD is NON-psychoactive. It is also NOT addictive. The Wikipedia entry has all the nerdy good stuff on it, from the chemical structure to the currently known pharmacology. Running Shoes Guru has already outlined the preliminary benefits and linked to the research.

Can CBD really do so many things? Is it a scam?

You’ve probably read at least one article claiming that CBD is The Answer for anxiety, depression, insomnia, muscle pain, acne, and more. (If not, seriously, go look at the Running Shoes Guru article already.) If you’re like me, the claim that one compound can help with such a wide variety of conditions makes your inner skeptic start asking questions, like “How can that be?” The answer, as of 2019, is that the mechanism by which CBD operates in the body is not (yet) well understood.

CBD is one of hundreds of plant compounds called phytocannabinoids (“phyto” for plant-based). The human body also produces cannabinoid compounds. These are called endocannabinoids (“endo” is short for “endogenous” which means “having an internal cause or origin”). The human body has a regulatory system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS for short), which I did not learn about in my high school or college biology classes for the simple reason that it hadn’t been discovered yet! The ECS is made up of receptors found in the nervous system throughout the body, endocannabinoids produced by the body, and enzymes that break down cannabinoids. This system helps to maintain balance within the body in many ways. Among other things, the endocannabinoid system has an effect on motor learning and memory, appetite, the stress response, and pain sensation. There is some evidence that CBD has an effect on certain types of cancer cells (when pure CBD is applied directly to the cells) and epilepsy.

CBD can hook up with some of the types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Depending on what it interacts with and how, CBD can have a variety of effects in the body. This article has a chart (scroll down to Figure 2) that explains what CBD does and how it does it. Some scientists hypothesize that endocannabinoid deficiency is the root cause of multiple diseases, including fibromyalgia. Despite the blooming market for CBD products, we still don’t fully understand how the human endocannabinoid system works.

It is Legal? Yes, but also Maybe No.

When Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which included a provision making industrial hemp legal, the entire CBD industry let out a cheer: hemp-derived CBD is legal! Unfortunately, that’s not exactly true. It might seem odd if you work outside the world of highly-regulated industries (wait, hemp is legal but a component of hemp is not?). If you are sincerely interested in the nitty-gritty, I highly recommend you follow the status reports issued by the American Herbal Products Association. Without getting too far into the weeds, here are the highlights following the 2018 Farm Bill:

  • The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not have authority over hemp, cultivation of hemp, or hemp products (which includes plants, plant parts, and plant derivatives). This is because the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the “controlled substances” list (and that’s what the DEA controls).
  • Each state has the opportunity to assert primary regulatory authority over hemp. (Remember how the federal government only gets the powers enumerated in the Constitution, and the rest are reserved to the States? This is a little bit like that.) To take primary control, each state has to submit a “hemp plan” to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). If a state does not submit a “hemp plan,” that state’s hemp is regulated by USDA.
  • Hemp is no longer a controlled substance under federal law, which means hemp ingredients MAY be used in food, dietary supplements, cosmetics, and personal care products sold across state lines…but not necessarily right now. (See below.) You still can’t sell marijuana across state lines, and that includes CBD derived from marijuana. (I’m just the messenger–don’t tell me that makes no sense.)
  • Hemp ingredients are subject to the same regulations as other herbal ingredients. Those regulations include rules about production facilities, labels, “serious adverse effect” reports, and more.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken the position that CBD cannot be added to foods sold over state lines, and that CBD can’t be a dietary supplement. Sound wrong, since hemp is legal now? It’s because the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) has a rule that any article being investigated or approved as a drug is forbidden from being marketed as a supplement or added to any food, and there are several CBD-based drugs under investigation with the FDA by a company called GW Pharmaceuticals plc. (In Jun 2018 the FDA approved the first CBD medication, Epidiolex, for the treatment of seizures associated with rare/severe forms of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.)
  • Ironic, right? The fact that there is evidence CBD has health benefits means it can’t be used in OTC health products yet? Slow your roll. The FDA is trying to find a way to both permit CBD in food and supplements, while preserving the financial incentives for companies to study potential pharmaceutical use. The most likely solution is to put a limit on the concentration or dosage of CBD in non-pharmaceuticals.
  • The FDA does have the power to use its rule-making authority to allow CBD use in food and supplements, it has to actually act to make that happen. Right now, don’t hold your breath…though some legislators have noted that the FDA really ought to do something, given that CBD products are readily available despite the lack of rules.
  • AHPA noted “Immediately following the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA Commissioner issued a statement noting that the legislation preserves FDA’s current authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, and indicated that such ingredients–including hemp and hemp derivatives, such as CBD–will be treated as the agency treats any other FDA-regulated products.”

FDA Commissioner Gottlieb resigned a few months after the 2018 Farm Bill passed. As a result, a great deal remains up in the air. There is a significant possibility the new commissioner may have completely different priorities, and ignore Commissions Gottlieb’s stated intent to reform DSHEA (the act regulating supplements) and act on the hemp provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Hemp Hearts are shelled hemp seeds–no CBD content implied

Further, the nebulous state of the law on CBD products means there is no uniform labeling language used on all products. The hazy state of the law has led some companies to label their products as “hemp extract” instead of “CBD.” This has the benefit, potentially, of not being regulated as a “CBD” product (definitely a benefit in states where CBD is state-regulated and illegal) but the downside of not clearly stating the component parts (e.g. how much CBD, how much other phytocannabinoids, how much plant terpenes?), as well as making it difficult to compare products across brands.

If you’re interested in hemp, you might want to keep an eye on the various hemp industry groups’ websites, or join their mailing lists. In addition to the AHPA, there is also the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, which is championing the U.S. Hemp Authority Certification; the Hemp Industries Association; and for basic education, keep on eye on the annual Hemp History Week.

By the way, if you’re not in the United States? The law is probably more clear. CBD is legal in the UK, Europe, Canada, and Japan

Limits on Self-Experimentation.

Before I launch into my review of White Cedar Naturals and my experience with the product, I think it is important to acknowledge that self-experimentation has limits. The placebo effect–basically the idea that your brain can convince your body that a fake treatment is real–exists and is recognized by all serious medical authorities, including Harvard Medical School. This is why “double blind” studies–whee neither the participant nor the researcher know which study participants receive the investigational medicine and which receive a placebo–are the gold standard for peer-reviewed research. In taking a product for a test-drive, there is no way to conduct such a study, and no way to separate my potential expectations from my experiences.

In general, prior to trying any hemp-derived product I was cautious. I read as much as I could find in both general advertising from CBD companies, as well as the published peer-reviewed research on PubMed. Because many compounds remain active in the body long after they are taken–that’s part of how many anti-depressants work, which is why they have an “on ramp” and “off ramp” dosage for starting and stopping–I conducted my first experiments on the weekend, and made sure I did not have to operate heavy machinery or drive. (Just about every medication I have taken says not to drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how it affects you, so that just seemed like a smart thing to do.)

Photo courtesy of White Cedar Naturals

Introducing White Cedar Naturals

When I was first approached by White Cedar Naturals they had a website, but the only way to purchase products was via their Amazon store. I read every word on the website, as well as the studies linked in support of product claims. While I wasn’t particularly impressed with the initial website–remember, I’m both a skeptic and the daughter of an English teacher–I provided detailed, extensive feedback to the representative who reached out to me. That feedback ranged from “you’re missing a comma here” to “the summary of that study is misleading, because it implies that it applies to taking hemp extract orally but the study was conducted by putting CBD directly onto tumor cells.” I was extremely impressed when 100% of my feedback was incorporated into the updated (much prettier!) website. The updated website has much clearer, more accurate language (in my opinion).

I liked that the hemp plants used by White Cedar Naturals are sourced from specific farms in Kentucky, from a specific breed of plant (“Cherry”). While I have no facts regarding how this affects quality or efficacy, to me it shows that the company cares about the source ingredients (as opposed to buying whatever is cheapest on the market). Like the majority of companies, White Cedar Naturals does not disclose who does its third-party testing but it does state that all products are tested. (Third-party testing is testing done outside of the company by an independent lab.)

I also liked the idea that the White Cedar Naturals oils are made from both cold-pressed raw hemp extract (from the entire plant) and cold-pressed hemp seed oil. While I have found absolutely no scientific support for this, in my mind I compare it to apples: drinking apple juice does not give a body the same nutrition as eating the whole apple, or eating applesauce; juice has none of the fiber, and may be missing other unstudied plant components.

Finally, I really like that the White Cedar Naturals website has a solid FAQ aimed at the non-expert consumer. You can check that out here.

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My Personal Experimentation and Opinion

This is MY experience. I am not a doctor or a medical professional. I cannot predict how your body will react, nor do I attempt to do so.

Prior to trying White Cedar Naturals full spectrum hemp extract (the 300mg product) I had tried only one other CBD oil. Frankly, it tasted like the smell of old gym socks and I gulped that product down while trying to avoid it touching my tongue. The package of the White Cedar Naturals oil described it as “cinnamint” flavor, and directed me to hold the oil under my tongue before swallowing. (Sublingual–under the tongue–absorption is recommended for a variety of products, including the vitamin B12 supplement I take. The idea is that some component of the product dissolves or is warmed or otherwise made available to absorption into the bloodstream via the tissues under your tongue. If you look under your tongue, you can see the network of blood vessels there.) Much to my surprise, the cinnamint flavor is quite pleasant. A little mint, a little cinnamon. Not too pungent. Not too tingly. Most important: no old gym socks flavor.

The first Friday night I tried White Cedar Naturals, I tried two droppers-full. I wasn’t feeling particularly agitated or sleepless, but was hoping the hemp extract would allow me to fall asleep (and more important: STAY asleep!) and have a solid sleep that night. I did. I can’t be sure that was due solely to the hemp extract (you can’t conduct a double-blind study on yourself), but honestly for that kind of sleep I don’t care if it was a placebo!

I also conducted the next several trials on weekend nights. (Just in case. Always better to be cautious.) In my experience, one dropper post-workout helped my muscles relax a wee bit more post-workout during the warm shower. In my experience, two droppers is about right for an average night for sleeping soundly. I did try three droppers on a few nights when I was feeling agitated, overstimulated, or too “wide awake” to sleep, and that seemed to work fine. Each time when I awoke the next morning I felt well-rested, had no memory of disrupted sleep, and did not feel groggy or have any of the slowness that I associate with sleep-aid medications. I felt absolutely zero effects that I would describe as a “high.” Instead I felt just a little more relaxed, and slept quite well.

If you are looking for a solid hemp extract product from a company that cares about the quality of its products, White Cedar Naturals is worth your attention and is a solid candidate for your first hemp-derived product.  White Cedar Naturals has a  90-day 100% satisfaction guarantee, and (based solely on my own experience) is very responsive to questions. (To me, that’s a virtue. If you can’t be bothered to give me satisfactory answers to my genuine questions, you don’t deserve my money or my patronage.) I’m excited to try their chocolates!

For more sane resources on CBD and hemp:

I also highly recommend searching PubMed (which comprises more than 29 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books) for published, peer-reviewed studies on CBD and hemp extract, especially if you are trying to evaluate the evidence to support a product’s claim that “CBD can help with condition X.”

Disclosure: I received a complimentary bottle of 2Toms Sport Shield for Her (and a few single use packets too!) because I am a BibRave Pro. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at! It’s a great way to choose between conflicting races, to help runners find the best races, and the help race directors improve each year.

Blisters are a built-in self-defense mechanism: you get them because your body is trying to protect you. Just like a million years of dripping water can carve a canyon, unchecked friction could rub your skin off. As friction works on your skin, the layers of skin tear apart from each other, creating space where there shouldn’t be any; your body creates a little pillow of fluid to fill the space as plasma or serum leaks out from the damaged cells. In outdated British slang, a “blister” is also an annoying person. Take precautions! Don’t annoy your skin!

These are my blister-free toes. I like keeping them that way.
These are my blister-free toes. I like keeping them that way.

Since friction is the cause of blisters on your feet while you’re running, the obvious solution is to eliminate the friction. So stop running! (Kidding!!) Depending on your feet and the distance you are running you may not be able to completely eliminate the friction. If that’s the case, your goal is to reduce the friction as much as possible.

Runners’ blister prevention starts with shoes that fit properly, and socks that are NOT cotton and have wicking properties to take sweat away from your body. (Damp skin is more susceptible to blistering.) I’ve found that different shoes require different socks, so I now have quite the selection of running socks. Running form is a secondary factor for some people; if you grip with your toes while you run, you’re highly likely to get blisters (eventually callouses) on the tips of your toes. For shorter runs, all I need to stay blister-free is my run shoes, running socks, and a reminder to relax my toes when I go faster.

(By the way, in case you’re wondering: blisters are annoying, but can also lead to very serious problems. Blisters can become infected with all sorts of bacteria, including MRSA. Trust me, 1.5 ounces of Sport Shield is less expensive than whatever it costs to treat an infection.)

These are my funky-shaped toes. Still, no blisters here!
These are my funky-shaped toes. Still, no blisters here!

Once I’m running longer than 10k, it’s time to up the ante. That’s because the longer the run, the more heat the body generates, and the more sweat the body uses to cool down.  Increased heat and moisture make blisters more likely. (Runner’s World points out that this is why many runners only have blisters during races.) How you hydrate during a race can also affect blister formation by affecting fluid retention. Extremely minor friction that doesn’t bug me at a mile or five could be very painful at mile 12 or 21. (Think back to that dripping water: a day probably won’t do much. Duration matters.) In addition, a longer run means more pounding on the feet, and a greater likelihood that the feet will swell up in response. My pinkie toes are pretty much triangular and slide almost entirely underneath the next toe neighbor, resulting in a bottom-of-the-toe blister that, when aggravated, can all but encapsulate that toe. Here’s where blister prevention products come in.

Prior to taking up running, my blister-prevent regimen for long walks consisted of petroleum jelly and a lot of bandaids. It was messy and inefficient. Then I started running, and was introduced to wax-based anti-chafing products like Body Glide. While I prefer those over Vaseline, I find that on cold race-mornings it can be hard to spread on, leaving me with lumps of product in some spots and not much in others. I’d never tried a liquid anti-chafing product until BibRave introduced me to 2Toms Sport Shield.

Sport Shield comes in a roller-top bottle like liquid deodorant. Sport Shield for Her, the product I tried, comes in a 1.5 ounce package, so I can easily pop it into my carry-on bag when I fly out for a race without TSA assuming I’m a terrorist. It is also available in single use packets (though I found the towellette in the single packet was good for more than one use).

Bye-Bye Blisters, Hello 2Toms!
Bye-Bye Blisters, Hello 2Toms!

The main ingredients are dimethicone and shea butter. Dimethicone is a silicone-based polymer (“polymer” just means big molecule that has several–poly–smaller units stuck together) with an oil-like feel to it. It creates a protective barrier on top of the skin, both preventing moisture that is already inside the skin from getting out, and reducing friction. Dimethicone spreads easily, which is why it is used in many types of body lotions, shampoos, and other products. It is FDA approved for use in body care products, and limited use in food products; the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database lists it as a low-risk ingredient, with all of the concerns basically related to what might, maybe, possibly happen if you eat too much of it. (Note to readers: Skin Shield isn’t food. It is an anti-friction, anti-chafing, anti-blister product you apply externally to the areas where you experience friction. The instruction specifically state it is for external use only, don’t swallow it–this isn’t a lipcare product–and don’t use it on broken skin.)

The main concern most skincare consultants seem to have about dimethicone is that using it daily–like in a body lotion–can cause your skin to become more dry because it does not sink into your skin, but sits on top of it. In Sport Shield, that effect is neutralized by shea butter. Shea butter is fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree. It is used in lots of moisturizing products like The Body Shop’s shea body butter, and in Alaffia skincare products. It melts at body temperature, sinks right into the skin, and binds with water to keep it in the skin. (Note to readers: some shea butter is edible. This product is not edible.) The other ingredients in Sport Shield for Her are also known for their skin-soothing and moisturizing properties: calendula extract, green tea extract, horsetail plant extract, aloe vera extract, Vitamin E. By the way, Sport Shield for Her is vegan–NO animal products! (The Sport Shield product–not Sport Shield for Her–is made of dimethicone, aloe vera extract, and Vitamin E. So if you’re opposed to plant extracts, or dislike shea butter, just order the dude version.)

Sport Shield delivers the goods. In my experience, the combination of dimethicone and shea butter is perfect. The shea butter keeps my skin hydrated, while the dimethicone forms a protective layer on top to prevent friction. I liked the roll-on format, as it spread thinly and evenly over my skin without any effort and I didn’t have to get my hands messy. It is unscented, or at least I didn’t detect any smell at all.

Gratuitous cat pic. Nothing to do with the review.
Gratuitous cat pic. Nothing to do with the review.

Here’s how it held up to the claims on the label:

  • “Provides 24 hour protection against rubbing & friction.” Honestly, I didn’t do anything for 24 hours during this test, but I generally don’t! It lasted through runs up to half marathon length–the longest I ran during my test drive–without any problems. Check.
  • “Sweatproof & waterproof.” It didn’t seem to wear off or rub off, even as my feet got hot and sweaty. Check. (It does wash right off with soap and water.)
  • “Creates an invisible, silky smooth protective barrier.” Once on, it’s invisible. I suppose if you look really hard you can see the difference between an area I applied it to and one that I didn’t, but I really don’t want anyone that close to me while I’m running. Check.
  • “Non-staining, non-toxic.” I mainly run in white socks. They stayed white (save for the dirt from running on unpaved surfaces)–no visible stains. My skin didn’t show any reaction (it might if you are allergic to any of the ingredients). I didn’t find any credible, science-based information anywhere stating the ingredients are toxic. Check.

Added bonus: a little really does go a long way. This bottle will last months, if not all year. By the way, there is a 100% 2Toms Guarantee. If you don’t like it, just send the unused portion and a receipt back to 2Toms, and they will issue a refund. Plus you can score a sweet 20% discount using code 2Toms20 to buy 2Toms products. The discount is good through the end of April 2016.

2Toms also makes other products, though I only tried this one. In addition to preventing blisters on my feet, I also used the product to prevent pantyhose chafing. (If you are a woman with legs of a certain length, there are no pantyhose in the universe that fit properly.) It worked well, and I went chafe-free through my day in court. Faith Fitness Fun tried out Sport Shield on some non-feet body parts. Run Wifey Run did a video review of Butt Shield, which could be a great stocking stuffer for the cyclist or triathlete in your life.

Assuming I figured out the HTML bits, here’s a video by 2Toms on how to prevent chafing:

P.S. For a ridiculously detailed guide to blisters–more than you ever need to know–check out Blister Prevention. If you have a blister in a weird location that doesn’t respond to anything you’ve tried to prevent it, the answer is probably there. (Yes, there is an entire guide to blisters by the location where they form.)

Disclosure: I received a free Zensah thigh sleeve to review because I am a BibRave Pro. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at! The giveaway at the end of this post is not sponsored by Zensah.

UPDATE: I forgot to add that YOU can score 20% off Zensah products through 9/22 with code ZSBIBCHAT20!

Unlike the Zensah calf sleeves, the Zensah thigh sleeve comes as a single, not as a pair. On some level this made immediate sense to me. If you’re going to wear compression on both thighs, wouldn’t you just grab compression shorts or tights? Since runners often wear single-sided compression (just one calf) to protect a recovering injury, packing the thigh sleeve one to a pack instead of two seems logical, though I guess you could buy two and wear both.

Zensah thigh compression sleeve
Zensah thigh compression sleeve

The packaging depicts two runners, each wearing a thigh sleeve. (The calf products are featured on a similar graphic element on their packaging and on the website.) I’m not sure it’s possible for the average runner to actually run wearing the thigh sleeve. This is for two reasons.  One, the top of the sleeve tends to roll down, peeling off of the thigh. Two, because it is a compression product, the top of the sleeve produces the thigh version of the “muffin top.” Since I am an average (yet tall and not waif-like) woman, I don’t have the mythical “thigh gap” (and don’t want one, as it would look unhealthy); I run wearing shorts to prevent thigh chafing, and use Body Glide when I have shorter shorts. When the sleeve top rolls down, it exposes the interior exposed elastic, which then grips onto the opposing thigh. Further, the muffin-topping action produces increased chafing. (This isn’t unique to this product–I had the same problem back when I wore a Body Media device, which has an elastic band that goes around the upper arm.)

Initially I wanted to get a picture of the thigh sleeve on my body, so you’d be able to see exactly what I mean. Given the location of the product, however, it is very hard to do so without getting some rather dicey real estate into the photo. (Also, let’s face it, none of you want to see my thigh-muffin.) Instead, I give you a photo of the sleeve, and one with the top rolling down a bit, so you can at least better picture what I mean.

Thigh compression sleeve, flat
Thigh compression sleeve, flat

If you have the very-low-body-fat-percentage type of build of a professional runner, you may not run into these issues. In fact, I think this product was designed with exactly that body type in mind. (I can’t confirm this, but it is my suspicion based on my experience of it.) I thought of this since I had an almost comical attempt to get the sleeve on and into place. I wondered if I had ordered the wrong size (double checked the chart and nope, per my thigh measurement I should have used the L/XL). If you click over to the Zensah website (link above) you can see that the models have somewhat chiseled legs (not a lot of body fat). This also means the thigh sleeve is probably not an option for heavy-set, larger-bodied runners.

That said, so far all of the reviews by customers on the website are positive, and the sleeve has performed as expected for them. As with any type of wearable, your mileage may vary based on the size and shape of your body.

Thigh compressions sleeve, top rolling down
Thigh compressions sleeve, top    rolling down

If you wear tights over the top of the sleeve, you may not experience these issues. Note that I haven’t tried this–it’s been hot and humid everywhere I’ve been since I got the sleeve to test–but it seems like it should work, though I imagine reassembling yourself after using a porta potty would be difficult. I’m going to give it a shot once the weather cools a bit.

I’m planning to buy 2.5″ thick elastic–the kind I used to strap over my Irish “hard” shoes to ensure a snug fit through the arch–and add it to the top of the sleeve, under the gripping elastic. That kind of elastic yields to no man or woman or thigh. While I haven’t had a chance to do this yet, and the average runner reading this likely doesn’t have the sewing background I do, I think it will help the sleeve work better for my thight.

Another fix would be to use a quality stretch kinesio tape (like Go Tape) to secure the top of the sleeve in place after putting it on. Since taping could potentially cause a restriction, like putting a rubber band over the muscle, I would not recommend running with the sleeve taped in this way.

A bunch of other BibRave Pro team members also tried out the Zensah thigh compression sleeve. Read what they thought about it:

Overall, I think this product has promise, but in its current incarnation it doesn’t work for me without some kind of intervention (e.g. my planned elastic fix, tape, tights, etc.). On the upside, the Pro team gave some feedback to Zensah, and they seem genuinely interested in improving the product. Still, I really like the calf sleeves better, especially because I now own two pair that are the white with red and blue. So when I inevitably lose one, I’ll still have a pair!

Speaking of sleeves, I won a pair of Zensah calf sleeves at the Berkeley Adventure Run at Road Runner Sports a little while ago. Sadly, I forgot to check the size and they are size S/M (I need M/L). Since I feel like a doofus trying to exchange an item I won over a month ago, I’m going to give it away here instead.

wednesday linkup

Important notes! This giveaway is NOT sponsored by Zensah in any way. (They just happen to have made the prize.) The prize is a set of black Zensah calf sleeves in size S/M. I will mail it to the winner–be patient! I have a crazy work month ahead of me, so the trip to the post office might not happen instantly.

Also, this giveaway is linked to the #WinAllThePrizes Wednesday Giveaway Roundup. Check out the rest of the goods at Running with SD Mom and Erica Finds… to enter to win all sorts of blogger giveaways.




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Disclosure: I received an Addaday Pro Massage Roller because I am a BibRave Pro. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at!

Photo Credit: Addaday

Kelly Starrett wrote, “All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves.” This is one of my favorite quotes because it is empowering–I don’t need another person to take basic care of my body. Starrett knows what he’s talking about, too–he has a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, started one of the very first CrossFit boxes, founded MobilityWOD, and has trained thousands of athletes in technique and body maintenance. He’s published two fantastically delicious books on taking care of soft tissue.

“All human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves” sounds pretty awesome, but if you’ve ever tried to give yourself a massage, or work out a deep muscle knot, you know it is a bit trickier than it sounds. It’s hard to hit the right spots with consistent pressure when your arms don’t bend that way. Enter the Addaday Pro Massage Roller: multiple ways to reach those muscles with just the right stuff. The right tool really makes a difference–just ask Erica at Another Half…Please?

The Pro model has five knobby things Addaday calls “gears.” Each of them moves independently, so you can move the tool in more ways than you could if they were connected. Each of the four bigger gears is like an orb with scoops taken out of it. This design does several things. The website touts that it won’t grab hair, but I think they’re discussing leg hair there. What I noticed is that unlike a flat massage ball, the shape of these balls made my muscles feel kneaded, not just pressed on.

If you have no idea what you’d do with this tool, Addaday’s got you covered. (Though Chadd over at Running for the Average Joe found the tool pretty self-explanatory.) The website has several very helpful videos with demonstrations of the various techniques in the Quick Tutorials part of the education section. When my Pro first arrived I watched all the videos and copied the techniques. If my muscles could talk, they would say, “nomnomnom!”

The Addaday Pro is lightweight and portable, but also sturdy. During the time I’ve been testing it, I’ve taken it across the country (yes, it is permitted in carry-on luggage–though some TSA people did ask me what it is, since they were curious). The compact size is definitely a plus, especially if you’re working in a tight space like Laura over at Presently Running, need to roll in your car (no, not kidding–click here), or if you have a trip to Portugal planned, like Christine at Dr. Runner.

Carry-on approved!
Carry-on approved!

By the way, if you do carry your Addaday Pro like this, attached to your backpack, watch out for your hair. Yes, the gears don’t grab hair; but the spaces in between the gears are super into ponytails. (Especially if you have long, baby-fine, straight hair like mine, apparently. Ouch!)

Most of you reading this are probably runners, and are now thinking of this as a running tool (yes, it is great to roll out your glutes and your IT band, and that little red knob is great on the bottom skinny part of your calf muscles). But look back to Dr. Starrett’s quote; it’s not about athletes, it says “all human beings.”  You think athletes are hard on their bodies? Try driving a desk for a living!

So I’ve also taken my Addaday to work. Sometimes my poor body has to endure a week of sitting at those awful hotel conference tables, in chairs designed to stack well (and not designed to care for a human body). While I constantly hydrate, and take advantage of the breaks to stretch and move, there’s nothing like a post-workday self-massage with the Addaday Pro.

Addaday reporting for work
Addaday reporting for work

The portability of this tool makes it extra useful. Don’t take my word for it, check out what Tom had to say over at Runs and Places. You can check out some other reviews by BibRave Pros Darlin’ Rae, The Caffeinated Runner, The Sunny Side, and See Jess Run.

I have a stable of self-myofascial release tools, including a Tiger Tail, Knotty Tiger, Curve Ball, The Grid, The Nano, The Roll 8, and the full set of Yoga TuneUp/The Roll Model tools. Each of them has their own special place in my routine–er, when I am not being lazy and I get them out and do my mobility work–so I was skeptical about the weird-looking Addaday Pro. I’m really thankful I had the opportunity to test it out, as it has been especially helpful during my travels during the past month. If you’re in the market for a tool, try this one!


Part of my goal with this blog is to help YOU lead your best life. To me, that includes finding out what makes your body work well, and how to keep yourself healthy and uninjured. This is the first in a series of posts on injury prevention.

Most yoga injuries are not caused by a sudden fall or snap. Instead, they are caused by hundreds or thousands of repetitions of movements or poses with poor alignment. Eventually, that leads to pain. The American Chronic Pain Association estimates that one in three Americans suffers from some kind of chronic pain.  My own experience, as well as reading up on the research, indicates that two very specific things within your control have an impact on whether you end up in pain: (1) daily and habitual posture, and (2) repetitive motions or activities. Calvin’s mom was onto something when she told him not to make those faces all the time.

Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s the media inundated every office with warnings about repetitive stress injury (RSI). Suddenly offices were awash with ergonomic gizmos, and consultants made a killing (as did some injured workers); carpal tunnel syndrome caused by constantly scanning thousands of coupons and groceries became a potential motive for murder on TV. Unfortunately, a large percentage of us spend most of our work hours seated, and encouraged to sit (not move).  Also unfortunately, the vast majority of us are going to work with less than ideal furniture, chair and desk combos, or other body-unfriendly equipment. I can’t really blame the employers, as it’s expensive to replace office furniture, and impossible to create a uniform, professional look when everyone “needs” a different chair. As a result, I think lots of people think about how to move (e.g. where to put the mouse so  your wrist doesn’t get smushed) but not many think about how to sit and how often to get up and take breaks.

Even though I teach yoga and recognize poor postural habits as the majority of my students’ woes, I have to admit I am just as guilty as they are of sins against posture: the laptop hunch, the computer lean, and the iPhone fold sneak into my office practices every day. During the months of September and October, a company called BackJoy sponsored the #PainFreePledge and I agreed to test their signature product, the SitSmart Posture Plus, to see if it could help me adopt better sitting habits at work. (I’m a little behind on this post, but I spent a bunch of time out of my office and I wanted to make sure I had used the SitSmart enough to give it a knowledgeable review.)

BackJoy launched the #PainFreePledge with the following suggested actions:

1.) Understand the cause of your back pain, don’t just treat the condition.
2.) Keep a pain journal.
3.) Use natural alternatives when it comes to treating/preventing back pain (no meds)!
4.) Avoid skinny jeans for the month (or too tight of clothes).
5.) Do a spine-strengthening stretch.
6.) Eat anti-inflammatory foods (nuts, seeds, fish).
7.) Try to avoid carrying a purse, heavy backpack or child in one arm.
8.) Be aware of your sitting posture/don’t cross your legs!
9.) Don’t sleep on your stomach.
10.) Move more!

Each of these little actions has the potential to make a big impact–I know, because I worked on #7 and #9, and both improved how I move and feel. For the #PainFreePledge I pledged to pay attention to how I sit, and specifically when I tend to cross my legs (#8). I didn’t really think about it much, but over time the default at my desk had become “sit on top of left foot, lurch forward over keyboard.”  Not ideal.  Please note that I’ve got a fantastically expensive office chair (one of those Herman Miller Aeron chairs).  It adjusts up and down, it adjusts the tilt of the backrest, it adjusts the tilt of the sitting surface. It’s not a bad chair at all but it IS very, very easy to take on a slouchy posture while sitting in it–especially if (like me) you have the tendency to cross one ankle over your leg or (worse!) sit on top of one foot. That might be a function of how my desk and chair interact, but it is NOT good for me.

The SitSmart is a foam and plastic gadget that goes on your chair. Unlike many better posture devices, this one does not go behind your back, but under your butt.  It is not a lumbar support, but more of a…butt rest. The SitSmart works by keeping your buttocks from rolling underneath you which, in turn, prevents your pelvis from tilting backwards (which leads to your low back reversing the natural curve–rolling out backwards instead of maintaining the neutral-posture curve into your body–and your upper back becoming more rounded).  The illustration below should help you visualize it.

Backjoy with and without

After about a month of sitting on the SitSmart, not only is it quite comfortable, but I feel “off” sitting in my chair without it. After two months of paying attention to my seated posture in a variety of settings, I believe it is helping me to maintain better body memory of my posture even when I am not sitting in my office chair.  I notice immediately when I slouch, or when my pelvis starts to tip backwards or I begin to slouch. (I spent a lot of time sitting in hotel conference chairs, which are clearly designed to be the least comfortable.  Or maybe the design is purely about stacking them, with no thought at all to comfort.) I didn’t expect to feel as much of a difference as I do.  I’m going to continue to use BackJoy’s SitSmart in my office.  Since I’m preparing to do some crazy running as part of the MS Run the US relay in 2015, I might just have to check out some of BackJoy’s other products, like the PostureWear Elite shirt and sports bra.

BackJoy’s #PainFreePledge is over, but it is never too late for you to develop more body-friendly habits.  Change your posture, change your life!

I have one red BackJoy to give away. (If you really, really want the yellow one I’ve been sitting on, I’ll let you have that one instead.)
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Follow the BackJoy page on facebook for tips and practices, and join in their sponsored twitter chats with #GiveBackJoy.


American Chronic Pain Association

BackJoy on Facebook

The BackJoy Website and Store Locator

One of the benefits of being a Women’s Health magazine Action Hero is that from time to time I get assignments to test drive various products. I was excited to try Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid; it was Don’t Go To The Makeup Counter Without Me!, Paula’s Choice founder Paula Begoun’s book, that first taught me about cosmetic ingredients and how to best allocate my makeup and skin care dollars. The book, now in the ninth edition, led Paula to create her own line of skincare products. As the Paula states on the website, “In 1995, at the request of thousands of my readers, I decided to use my years of research on skin-care ingredients to create my own skin-care line, Paula’s Choice. I use only proven ingredients that can truly make your skin look younger and radiant as well as reduce wrinkles, lessen or eliminate acne, and work perfectly for those with sensitive skin. All my products are 100% guaranteed.” 100% guaranteed?  Bring it!

Photo from 4 oz. bottle, $26. Smaller size and sample also available.

The Skin Perfecting liquid—which is clinically tested to be non-irritating, has no added dye or fragrance, and is not tested on animals—seemed like it could be a great product for me. I’ll admit I was skeptical about the claims, as I am for every product I try. I come by this skepticism from years of disappointing skin care products. As a teenager the popular media (and particularly advertising aimed at women) gave me the false impression that some time when I was older, my skin would stop spewing oil like a well of Texas crude, and I wouldn’t have to worry about “aging skin” until I was, you know, OLD. So I dutifully tried every NEW! AND IMPROVED! product for oily skin, problem skin, combination skin, sensitive skin. As my 20s passed, I wondered if there was a way to get a pore transplant (because if that existed and I could put just half of my facial pores on my legs, I’d never have to buy body butter again). For those of you who haven’t yet lived through those decades, you can keep wishing for even just ONE day between zits and wrinkles—but it’s probably not coming. (Unless you were born with perfect skin, in which case I kinda hate you…but hey, I’m going to get carded until I’m at least 55.)

Since I started using the Clarisonic Mia and a rotating menu of cleansers and moisturizers (for various climates and seasons) I’ve narrowed my skin problems to: (1) the bumps under my eyes (hoping they won’t inflate and begin colonizing more territory, as they have with some of my relatives), and (2) my nose (which on bad days looks like I am part Dalmation, no matter what kind of anti-acne lotion and potion I slather on, so thank the gods for CC cream!). Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting liquid makes three claims on the label, under the heading “what it does”: (1) Creates radiant, even-toned skin; (2) Reduces redness & builds collagen; and (3) Unclogs & diminishes enlarged pores.

I planned to spend at least a month using the product before I wrote this review (which I did), but after just a few days I checked in with the other Action Heroes to let them know this stuff is the bomb! In just a few days, my nose went from spotty to nearly clear (I decided to forego the before and after shots, because there are certain pictures I just don’t need to put on the internet!). The product is a very thin liquid, almost like water, that the bottle dispenses in drops. To use it, you clean and dry your skin, and then apply the liquid with a cotton ball. I’ve been applying it twice a day, or just once a day if my skin felt dry or I’d applied another product (like the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion or Anti-Acne Serum, which I use on blemishes). Women’s Health sent me a full-sized 4 oz. bottle. While I can’t tell exactly how full it is now–the bottle isn’t translucent–it still feels about 3/4 full (or more), and sounds nearly full when I shake it.  I estimate this bottle will last another 2-3 months at my current rate of usage.

Back to the product claims. Again, holy cow, no more nose spots! Given my skin’s youthful propensities, I was already pretty radiant and have always had mostly even-toned skin, so I can’t speak to the first claim (other than to say my skin is still quite even-toned). I did notice a reduction in redness, in that when any part of my face got irritated or broke out, the redness seemed to disappear more rapidly.

As for the “builds collagen” claim, this jury is out. I’m not sure how I would be able to observe this personally, so I don’t have an observation to share. While my search of PubMed turned up at least one article reviewing three studies of sodium salicylate and anti-aging benefits, it seems sodium salicylate is the sodium salt of salicylic acid (and therefore not identical to the compound in this product). (See PubMed citation below.) According to the Paula’s Choice website (which breaks out ingredients for each of their products): “It is also well documented that salicylic acid can improve skin thickness, barrier functions, and collagen production (Sources:Dermatology, 1999, volume 199, number 1, pages 50–53; and Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, volume 175, issue 1, pages 76–82).”

While I can’t substantiate the collagen claim via my own limited research, I did find information that salicylic acid is a pore-declogger, in conformity with the “unclogs & diminishes pores” claim as well as my personal experience. Wikipedia cites three sources for the proposition that “Salicylic acid works as a keratolytic, comedolytic, and bacteriostatic agent, causing the cells of the epidermis to shed more readily, opening clogged pores and neutralizing bacteria within, preventing pores from clogging up again by constricting pore diameter, and allowing room for new cell growth.” (See citations below.)

My bottom line: if clogged pores or adult blackheads are one of your skincare concerns, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting liquid is worth a test-drive. (The website has a sample size available for less than $1 and right now there is a free shipping deal, so you might as well try a bunch of samples–my next move!–or at least go for the small bottle so you can use it for at least a week before making a decision. If you order a full-sized product, you can choose 5 samples for free.) Note that if you are allergic to aspirin, you should not use products with salicylic acid. If you use any products with salicylic acid, you should wear SPF as that ingredient can make your skin more sun-sensitive.

Have you tried Paula’s Choice? I just ordered the Skin Balancing Cleanser!  If you’re thinking about giving it a shot, click here (affiliate link) to check out the entire Paula’s Choice line: Order at least $15, and you will get $10 off!


PubMed citation: Merinville E1, Byrne AJ, Rawlings AV, Muggleton AJ, Laloeuf AC (September 2010). “Three clinical studies showing the anti-aging benefits of sodium salicylate in human skin.”J Cosmet Dermatol. 9(3):174-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2010.00506.x.

Wikipedia citations: Madan RK, Levitt J (April 2014). “A review of toxicity from topical salicylic acid preparations”. J Am Acad Dermatol 70 (4): 788–92. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2013.12.005. PMID 24472429;
“Salicylic Acid.”; and Bosund, I., I. Erichsen, and N. Molin. “The Bacteriostatic Action of Benzoic and Salicylic Acids.. VI. Influence of Amino Acids and Related Substances on the Growth Inhibition.” Physiologia Plantarum 13.4 (1960): 800-11.