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Birchbox Launches Birchbox Man

Xconomy reports that Birchbox, the discovery commerce e-tailer that delivers beauty goodies to your doorstep, is branching out this week with the launch of Birchbox Man, a comparable service for the man in your life. The boxes contain guy-friendly grooming and lifestyle products.

Subscribers will receive four or five deluxe samples and products from top men’s grooming and lifestyle brands for $20 per month, the company said in a press release. At launch, Birchbox has partnered with such retailers as Billy Jealousy, Costume National, Kérastase, and Kiehl’s.

The company wants to offer men a balance between grooming and lifestyle products, to keep guys talking. “There might be a hesitance to talk about an amazing pomade,” Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp tells Xconomy, “but we could imagine them saying, ‘Aren’t these cool headphones?’ or, ‘Check out this great pocket square.'”

Beauchamp also says that men, and the women who buy gifts and grooming products for them, have in the past requested a guy-friendly version of Birchbox; the company responded this past November by offering a limited edition box delivered to men for the holidays. “We recognized there was pent-up demand,” says Beauchamp. “When we looked at who was buying, 50 percent of the buyers were men buying for themselves.”

That led Birchbox to further explore consumer interest in a subscription service for men, followed by the launch of Birchbox Man.

To coincide with the launch, the company is also unveiling the Birchbox Man online store. Featuring more than 80 products, the store’s offerings range from RumbaTime watches and Marvis toothpaste to Anthony Logistics for Men deodorant and Kérastase Pâte Capital Paste, to Field Notes notebooks and BAGGU backpacks and duck bags.

In addition, a dedicated Birchbox Man content team will produce editorial content, from how-to videos to product spotlights, so that subscribers can keep up on the latest trends and learn more about the items they receive each month.

Since its launch in September 2010, Birchbox has built a monthly subscriber base of more than 100,000, growing at a monthly rate of more than 20 percent over the past year, the company said. In addition, 40 percent of subscribers have gone on to purchase full-sized products from the Birchbox online shop within their first year as a subscriber. To date, Birchbox has partnered with more than 200 high-end beauty and lifestyle retailers.

Vogue Launches Health Initiative This Summer

London’s Daily Telegraph reported last week that Condé Nast International, publisher of such fashion and beauty bibles as Vogue, Glamour, and Allure, has announced a Health Initiative, an agreement among the editors of Vogue‘s 19 international editions intended to “encourage a healthier approach to body image within the industry,” the company said.

The initiative will launch with features commissioned by each editor in the June issues of 18 editions of Vogue; Vogue Japan will launch the initiative in its July issue. For example, British Vogue will run a feature in its June issue that examines women’s attitudes about nutrition and polls models including Stella Tennant, Lily Cole, and Adriana Lima on the subject.

The paper also said that as part of the initiative, the editors have signed a six-point agreement to promote a healthy body image in their magazines and within the wider fashion industry:

1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image

2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows, and campaigns.

3. We will help to structure mentoring programs where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.

4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.

5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.

6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.

Concern about the welfare of models and the high prevalence of eating disorders within the modeling industry has been an issue for some time. The initiative builds on the guidelines already drawn up by the Council of Fashion Designers of America with the support of American Vogue in the U.S. and the British Fashion Council with the help of British Vogue in the UK.

New York Yankees to Debut New Fragrances

Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees, which date to 1903, are one of the oldest and most recognizable brands in professional sports. Now Yankee fans have a fragrance they can call their own. New York Yankees men’s cologne and New York Yankees for Her perfume launches at Macy’s in mid-April, says Tom Butkiewicz, CEO of The Cloudbreak Group, which partnered with the Firmenich fragrance house, the Yankees, and Major League Baseball to develop and market the fragrances.

“[The Yankees are] not just a sports team, they are a lifestyle,” Butkiewicz tells Daily Glow. He goes on to say that the emotional ties to the team transcend age, religion, race, and gender: the tagline for the fragrances is “Past. Present. Forever.”

The men’s fragrance is described in a statement as capturing a sporty, confident attitude; it opens with a blend of bergamot, coriander, and blue sage; leads into a heart of ivy leaves, orange flower, and geranium; and ends with a drydown of patchouli, sandalwood, and suede.”

The women’s scent, which is described as alluring and flirty, capturing a playful spirit, has opening notes comprising a blend of guava, plum, and apricot nectar; a heart of strawberry blossom and tiare flower; and a drydown of sandalwood, vanilla, and musk.

Initially, the fragrances will be available at Macy’s stores and macys.com. Shortly thereafter, they will debut at Lord & Taylor and lordandtaylor.com. The stores will be located “in the area that we feel will have the most impact with the team’s target consumer,” says Butkiewicz, primarily in the North Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic regions. However, rollouts to Latin America and Puerto Rico are planned.

The fragrances will also be available at Yankee Stadium, the team’s Clubhouse stores, yankees.com, and the website www.nyyankeesfragrance.com. Both scents will be available in 1.7 oz. and 3.4 oz. sizes for $49 and $62, respectively.

Social media is a particularly important tool for marketing these fragrances, Butkiewicz says. “We are linking into the team’s Facebook page, which has almost six million followers, and the Macy’s page, which has almost five million followers.”

The print campaign will comprise advertising for the entire month of April on the 4 train, which goes up to Yankee Stadium. In addition, there will be a billboard in the bullpen that is 7 feet by 25 feet with images of the bottles and the URL for nyyankeesfragrance.com on it.

Fragrance Day at the Stadium is scheduled for June 7th and will feature a promotional give away.

Although several Yankee players, whom Butkiewicz declined to name, will be making an appearance at a launch event in Yonkers, NY, on April 26th, no one player will serve as the fragrances’ spokesperson. “Ironically, what we found in focus group testing is that there is not a single player that resonates with the strength of the brand,” Butkiewicz explains. Everyone seems to have a personal favorite.

No MLB team has ever had its own fragrance, Butkiewicz says. No one has previously put any marketing or development into something like this.

Autologous Stem Cell Therapy Repairs Cardiac Muscle Damage After Heart Attack

Most people know that I am a big fan of funding the development of stem cell therapies. So when I came across this recent study in The Lancet, I had to talk to Eduardo Marbán, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, Calif., to learn more. Marbán and his colleagues wanted to see if they could replace heart muscle that was damaged by a heart attack with healthy, living cardiac muscle tissue using heart-derived stem cells, and they were successful.

According to Marbán this has never been accomplished before. “People have been trying for about 11 years to use cells of various kinds to treat patients that have sustained damage to the heart muscle from heart attacks,” he said, and there has been some success, but an increase in living heart muscle has never been accomplished.

Marbán and his team found that one year after receiving stem cell therapy, scar size was reduced from 24 percent to 12 percent of the heart in patients treated with stem cells, while patients in the control group, who did not receive stem cells, did not experience a reduction in their heart attack scars.

The study is called the CArdiosphere-Derived aUtologous Stem CElls to reverse ventricUlar dySfunction (CADUCEUS) trial. The researchers started with very small samples taken from a patient’s own heart during a minimally invasive biopsy, using a catheter and a technique that was originally developed to monitor transplant patients for rejection, but had never been used to make a therapeutic agent.

The scientists took the biopsied tissue to the lab and, using methods that they developed, were able to multiply the cells in a petri dish. When they got to the right dosage, either 12.5M or 25M depending on patient assignment, they would call the patient back and readminister the cells via the same coronary artery that had been blocked in the heart attack, using another minimally invasive catheter procedure.

Of the 25 patients enrolled in the study, 8 were randomly assigned to receive standard of care, and comprised the control group, and the others were assigned to receive the experimental stem cell therapy. “The reason we did a randomized study was to be certain that the effects that we were seeing were the result of the therapy, as opposed to just the natural history of the disease,” Marbán said.

He went on to say that he and his colleagues were very encouraged by these phase 1 results. They plan to further study this technique with a view to satisfying the regulatory agencies, particularly the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The next phase, a 200 patient trial, will be a phase 2 study to further develop this therapy.

Looking Down the Road

“Right now, I think it is safe to say that no cell therapy product will imminently be available worldwide for a fee,” Marbán said. He continued by saying that he thinks that this study will have the effect of increasing the number of clinical trials. “I think that others, encouraged by this work, will look to apply either these same cells, or some other cell type, to treat not only heart attack patients, but patients with other kinds of heart disease.”

Marbán also said that the current study may increase the pace of development for cellular therapies that are already in the pipeline. “I think that if we look five years down the road, at least one, if not two or three cell therapy products will be available. I think that cell therapies are going to make a big difference, particularly in reversing injury, rather than in preventing it.”

Am I Pretty? Am I Ugly?: An Unsettling Trend on YouTube

A disturbing trend has been sweeping the Internet: teens and tweens, mostly girls, have been posting videos on YouTube asking viewers to weigh in on their looks. The Huffington Postand the New York Daily News have both run articles recently about this phenomenon of so-called Am I Pretty? and Am I Ugly? videos.

So that you know what I am talking about, examples of these videos are here and here. Not being particularly YouTube savvy, I had to go on there and search under Am I Pretty and Am I Ugly?

It is hard to say how this trend started, Joshua Klapow, an associate professor of public health at the University of Alabama Birmingham, told me. He went on to say that this is a natural extension of what teens and tweens do: “There is a natural tendency for tweens and teens to seek out acceptance and popularity, and be somewhat impulsive.” 

Teens WILL experiment. Unfortunately, Klapow explained, they are now doing so in a very public, very potent medium. Before, kids passed notes in class or talked on the playground. The problem is that a note is not going to reach as many people, the record of it is not your face or your voice, and you are going to get anonymous responses the way that you would on YouTube, Klapow said.

It is the comments that are particularly destructive, because they are often cruel. People comment on YouTube and say negative things, because they can do it anonymously, said Alan Kazdin, the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University.  

What Can Parents Do?

Kazdin told me that first, parents should set up time periods in which teens and tweens are involved in activities, such as sports or music, in which they are not vulnerable to such destructive influences.

Both Kazdin and Klapow also suggest sitting down to watch some of these videos with your child. The trick is not to lecture about the evils of the Internet or YouTube. Klapow recommends starting the conversation by saying something like, “Help me understand why you think someone would do something like this,” or “Help me understand what the person was looking for.” Ask the child if he or she feels that way.

This is a great opportunity for parents to find out what their teen is thinking. “You will be amazed at how willing your teen is to open up and educate you about what they are an expert in, which is being a teen,” Klapow said.

If your child posts a video like that, you need to take the video down and talk with them about it. Klapow suggests saying to them, “Help me understand why you wanted to do this. What was it you were looking for?”

Comedian Margaret Cho posted a blog on the Huffington Post about these videos. I agree with what she says. True beauty comes from inside, and how you feel about yourself. NOT what others think of you. Focus doing on the things you love to do, and what makes you happy, and you will truly be beautiful.

 

New Study Shows How BPA Is Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers in Spain have found that even small doses of bisphenol-A (BPA), which is found in many consumer products, can cause a spike in insulin levels by acting as an estrogen. Repeated exposure to high levels of insulin can cause the body to gradually become desensitized to it, which may lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. The researchers recently published their findings in the journal PLoS ONE.

They observed that bisphenol-A at a 1 nM (0.000000001 Molar) concentration acts on estrogen receptor β (ERβ) and induces a rapid release of insulin from mouse beta cells (β-cells), Angel Nadal, corresponding author of the study, tells me in an e-mail. Nadal, a professor of physiology at the Universidad Miguel Hernández in Spain, mentions that 1 nM is consistent with the usual concentration of BPA found in human serum.

What makes this work significant, says Bruce Blumberg, a professor of cell and developmental biology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California Irvine who was not involved in Nadal’s study, is that the scientists were able to determine that bisphenol-A causes type 2 diabetes in mice by acting on ERβ. No one had been able to identify this mechanism before.

Nadal and his team simultaneously carried out the same experiment on cells from so-called “wild-type” or normal mice with ERβ, and on cells from mice that lacked ERβ. They found that BPA affected insulin levels in β-cells from wild-type mice, but not those from mice whose cells lacked ERβ. This evidence makes the detrimental effects of BPA, and its link to type 2 diabetes, much more difficult to argue with, Blumberg tells me.

The Huffington Post recently discussed the implications of these new findings.

The investigators also found that the same 1 nM concentration of bisphenol-A causes the release of higher levels of insulin in human β-cells and pancreatic islets of Langerhans compared to those released in mice.

For his part, Nadal said, “What surprised me was that such a low dose of bisphenol-A had such a strong effect on human β-cells.”

What Can I Do About BPA Exposure?

Unfortunately, though you can minimize BPA exposure, it is difficult to reduce exposure to zero, says Blumberg. He mentions that most people believe that you take in the chemical orally, for example, via water bottles. But he says, exposure is also possible by contact through the skin. For example, Blumberg mentioned that thermal paper, on which cash register receipts are printed, contains BPA.

In addition to water bottles, other examples of bisphenol-A-containing consumer goods include polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, and baby bottles. Bisphenol-A can be released from plastic after being exposed to high temperatures or acidic or basic media, Nadal says, so we should avoid these products as much as possible.

However, he points out that air, dust, and water are other possible sources of exposure. “In my opinion, stricter standards about safe levels of BPA exposure are necessary,” he says.

The Healing Power of Honey: Who Knew?

I love those quirky, fun, sort of out-there articles in science, so I thought I’d blog about the about the healing power of honey.

According to scientists at Cardiff Metropolitan University in the U.K., Manuka honey can heal chronic (non-healing) wounds and kill Streptococcus pyrogenes, a bacterium normally found on the skin, but also associated with chronic wounds. The scientists published their work in a recent issue of the journal Microbiology.

The findings of the current study are good news, considering bacterial resistance to conventional antibiotics is on the rise. Although honey has long been acknowledged to have antibacterial properties, its mechanism of action is not fully understood by modern scientists. Until researchers gain a greater understanding of how honey kills S. pyrogenes and other bacteria that cause wounds to persist, they cannot fully exploit its antimicrobial properties.

The Welsh team found that Manuka honey, derived from nectar collected by bees foraging on the manuka tree in Australia and New Zealand, prevents the formation of clumps of S. pyrogenes bacteria in petri dishes in the lab and the binding of S. pyrogenes to the fibronectin in wound tissue.

“Molecules on the surface of the bacteria latch onto human fibronectin, anchoring the bacteria to the cell. This allows infection to proceed and biofilms to develop,” Sarah Maddocks, an associate lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University School of Health Sciences and lead author of the study explained in a statement. “We found that honey reduced the expression of these bacterial surface proteins, inhibiting binding to human fibronectin, therefore making biofilm formation less likely.”

The team in Dr. Maddocks’s lab continues to look at the antibacterial properties of honey against other bacteria associated with chronic wounds, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Manuka honey has been proven effective at eradicating these bacteria.

“There is an urgent need to find innovative and effective ways of controlling wound infections that are unlikely to contribute to increased antimicrobial resistance. No incidences of honey-resistant bacteria have been reported to date, or seem likely,” Maddocks said. She went on to say that topical antibacterial agents are less expensive than systemic antibiotics, and could be used concomitantly with systemic antibiotics in the future. To put this in perspective, chronic wounds account for almost 4% of health care expenses in the developed world, so the development of new topical antibiotics is important.

And FYI…my friend Sue hurt her pinky in a door, and put honey on it. She claims it is a total miracle worker, and her pinky is almost healed!