Monday, July 24, 2017

Witch Hazel: Good for skin?

A client asked me if witch hazel was OK to use as her toner. I asked what her experience was when she used it, and she said it really dried her skin out. She would have to quickly put her moisturizer on afterwards because her skin felt so dried out. Her experience is also her answer. Drying out the surface skin is not an ideal outcome, so I wouldn’t recommend using witch hazel. As you know, drying the skin out is counterproductive and not conducive to healthy skin.

The type of witch hazel you find (very inexpensively) at any grocery or drug store is actually witch hazel water. It has been distilled and stripped of all the benefits of the natural herb. I do not recommend using witch hazel water on your skin as a toner. Although it is primarily water, it contains as much as 15% ethanol alcohol, which is the bad type of alcohol.

The herb witch hazel can be very beneficial. The extracts from the leaves and bark of the hamamelis virginiana plant have anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. So, as an ingredient in a skin care product, witch hazel is probably going to be OK, but I don’t recommend using it straight on your face as a toner.

For more information, see:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Hair Removal Options: Laser hair removal

Please first read Thoughts about Hair Removal Options for some important preliminary information.

Laser hair removal is yet another technique to get rid of unwanted hair. Laser technology is changing rapidly; what is available today will surely be improved as time goes by. For instance, until recently this laser technique wasn’t effective on light-colored hair. Now, with advances in this technology, light hair can be removed.

During this procedure, a laser emits a pulse of light that is absorbed by melanin (the pigment in your skin) deep within the hair shaft, effectively destroying the follicle, making hair growth cease.

Because heat given off by the laser is coming in contact with your skin, there is a chance of scarring. Be sure you are going to a qualified laser hair removal technician (whether a doctor or a hair removal specialist), otherwise you may be left with undesirable side effects. And as I always recommend: ask questions! If you don’t feel satisfied with the answers, I’d find someone else to do this procedure.

There are not universal results from laser hair removal. Some people have great results (see emails below), while others are left disappointed, expecting to have no hair left after as much as a year of hair removal sessions. Some people go through just a few sessions and are completely satisfied. No hair removal system is truly permanent, but surely you will have less hair than when you started, and hopefully even better results than that. 

Laser hair removal is the best thing I’ve ever done! I have my chin, bikini, and armpits lasered. I recommend this to everyone I know. After just two appointments my skin is so much softer, and I hardly have to shave anything. (I purchased a package of six sessions per area.) I have to take some ibuprofen one hour before I go because the “zaps” [from the laser] can sting. However, there are no side effectsat least not for me.
I had the hair lasered from my legs and under my arms. I am thrilled with the results! I would definitely recommend getting it done. For me, it wasn’t painful at all, and there were no side effects. Granted, 100% of the hair isn’t gone, but what’s left is hardly visible.

For more information, see:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sun-Damaged Skin explained

What is sun-damaged skin? Sun-damaged skin isn’t so much a skin type as it is the outcome of long-term overexposure to the sun. This sort of skin usually comes on a type of person—the outdoors type.

Sun-damaged skin is characterized by rough, dried-out skin with a lot of deep wrinkles. The epidermis or outer skin tends to be thickened (a natural, protective response to sun exposure), and there is usually significant loss of elasticity or “firmness” to the skin. Your skin becomes what is technically termed flaccid. Deep, often premature wrinkles are present along with noticeable capillary damage. Many times sun-damaged skin has a leathered look and almost always is sporting a continuous tan.

Sometimes sun-damaged skin isn’t currently tan. Although excessive sun exposure may have stopped, prematurely wrinkled and flaccid skin may have already occurred from damage acquired years ago. This is what cumulative, long-term damage can mean. Long after you have stayed out of the sun, the effects of overexposure still creep into your life, showing up not only in the form of lines, wrinkles, and loose skin, but also with the potential for skin cancer or precancerous growths as well.

Why is it sun damaged? The one and only explanation for sun-damaged skin is sun. Continual, long-term exposure is what causes sun-damaged skin. And depending on your skin and how sensitive you are to UV rays, sun damage can occur with less than long-term exposure.

What to use on sun-damaged skin. You want to treat the oil or lack of oil in your skin first and foremost. If you have truly sun-damaged skin, there isn’t anything—short of invasive procedures—to reduce or eliminate the damage. Is your skin oily? Couperose? Sensitive? Deciding what other skin conditions you have, coupled with sun damage, will be the determining factors for what is best to use on your skin.

There are no quick fixes for a lifetime spent in the sun. You can help to stop further damage by avoiding direct sunlight and always wearing sunscreen and a hat. Just remember, it’s never too late to start taking care of your skin—no matter what condition it is in.

For more information, see:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Plastic Surgery—do your homework

What is plastic surgery?

Plastic or cosmetic surgery is defined as an operation that reconstructs an aspect of your body into a new and different form. The term plastic comes from the Greek word plastikos meaning to mold or give form to. Cosmetic surgery is elective, nonessential surgery. These are operations you choose to undergo to correct, add to, or reduce aspects of yourself that you are dissatisfied with.

There are two main things I have to say about cosmetic surgery. First, get more than one opinion. Many books recommend getting at least three opinions before you let someone cut on your face (or body). Next, I highly recommend consulting a nutritionist, even if your plastic surgeon doesn’t suggest you do so, to get a good vitamin and mineral program started before you have surgery. This will give you a better chance of recovery and possibly lessen scarring.

I have seen a lot of plastic surgery in my practice. Many clients ask who I would recommend as a good plastic surgeon. I explain it is not only the choice of surgeon that affects the outcome of surgery; it is first and foremost your body and how well it repairs itself. Do you tend to scar easily, or do you recover from wounds rapidly without noticeable scarring? Everyone’s body heals differently. How healthy you are and how you heal will greatly affect how good your surgery will look.

Finding a skilled surgeon (an artist) is the second part to the “best outcome” equation. Get referrals from friends and go to several doctors before you decide on “the one.” Make sure the doctors you see are members of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This is not to be confused with the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.

According to Arthur W. Perry, M.D., in his book Are You Considering Cosmetic Surgery, “The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is a self-designated board. Its membership is open to doctors who practice cosmetic surgery but do not necessarily have the qualifications for membership in the American Board of Plastic Surgery.” There are many doctors performing plastic surgery who are not members of this prestigious society. I have heard over and over again that this is the first criteria you want to look for in a doctor for cosmetic surgery. (Perry’s book is older, but a good one nonetheless.)

For most procedures you will be under general anesthesia. My recommendation would be to make sure your body is in tip-top shape so you will be strong and healthy and have the best chance for optimum recovery. This area of pre-op and post-op nutrition is rarely if ever addressed. Sometimes in life you have to take matters into your own hands. In this instance, I recommend you do so. Why not go the extra mile if it could mean a better experience and recovery from surgery?

Deciding to have plastic surgery isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, it is simply personal preference. As I’ve written in many of my anti-aging/aging with grace articles, if you continually notice a so-called flaw—day after day—it inevitably begs to be changed. Many times this is the case with wanting plastic surgery. You see something “wrong” with your face and feel compelled to change it. Plastic surgery will certainly do the job. Please pleasedo your homework!

Just as a side note: Whenever you need to have a cancerous growth removed from your face, I recommend going to a plastic surgeon. They will almost always do a better job aesthetically with any incisions that need to be made and therefore your chances of having a “good” scar on your face improves dramatically.  

For more information, see:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hair products and skin irritation

I have noticed that certain hair products seem to irritate my skin. Do you recommend a certain type of conditioner? I have really long hair so I have to use lots of product in it every day. I try to keep it off my face, but I noticed recently that a new conditioner I was trying has aggravated my face. Any recommendations?

One recommendation is to really rinse the conditioner out of your hair before you leave the shower. I realize you are using it to soften and probably detangle your hair, but just the excess product left on your hair might be a big contributor to your problems.

If you are using something that you know is aggravating your skin, of course stop using it. If you can, go back to products that didn’t bother your skin, even though they might not be as effective for your hair. It may be a trade-off; you’ll have to decide which you’d rather have, clear skin or more manageable hair.

For more information, see:

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sun & Your Skin

Skin changes. There are many reactions that are caused when sunlight hits your outer skin. Melanocytes are excited into action, which in turn produces melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its individual color or tan. Sunlight causes freckles, the color in some moles, and potentially mild to severe sunburn. Finally, DNA can be altered and may form malignancies later on.

Melanin absorbs UV light and is produced by your body in an attempt to protect itself from radiation. A tan is the body’s way of responding to sun damage. When you see people walking around with a nice golden tan, they are literally exemplifying the body’s magnificent response to danger. If you have a tan, you have sun damage. The two are one and the same. Black skin, however, is naturally protected (in part) from the sun due to the high amounts of melanin inherent in the skin. So if you’re African-American or another dark skin type, you have not incurred damage; you are simply blessed with a built-in sunscreen from the melanin naturally (genetically) present in your skin.

A sunburn, quite simply, is caused by overexposure to the sun. It appears as inflammation followed by swelling of the outer, epidermal tissue. As the skin becomes inflamed, epidermal cells are killed prematurely. Later, this outer skin will flake off and peel. Symptoms of a sunburn include redness, swelling, and pain upon touching the effected areas. Usually these symptoms manifest anywhere from 1 to 24 hours after overexposure. Depending on its severity, the sunburn will fade after several days, leaving behind skin that is sometimes tan and quite often peeling. The type of sunburn you most likely receive from sun exposure is classified as a first-degree burn. If blisters are associated with severe swelling, it is a second-degree burn.

Sun exposure causes cumulative damage. This is what a lot of people just don’t understand. You start accumulating “sun-time” from birth, whenever and however long you are exposed to the sun’s rays. This includes walking to and from your car as well as basking in the sun at the beach. The sun doesn’t differentiate one kind of exposure from the other. All exposure counts in terms of sun-time. Skin cancers can take many years to form under the surface. If you were sunbathing at 18 years old, it may take 10 to 20 years for that damage to show up.

I have sent many clients to the dermatologist to have a mole or a funny-looking spot checked out. I am noticing more and more odd places on people’s skin each year. The rate at which I send people to get their skin looked at seems to be accelerating. Maybe only one in 20 clients comes back with a diagnosis of skin cancer or a precancerous growth, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. If you get facials, hopefully your aesthetician is keeping a watchful eye out for your skin, your moles (new or existing), and any changes that may occur.

For more information, see:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Help for healing a sunburn

Yes, that is me about 10 years ago :+0
Regarding this photo of sunburned me: It just goes to show you that even when you know better, you don’t always do better. I was on a long hike. I had a long-sleeved shirt to throw on, and for whatever the reason(s), I didn’t. And I paid the priceobviously. But I did take a photo to show you that even the smartest people can do dumb things!

The burn. So now you’ve done it. Your friends are calling you The Lobster because you fried your skin in the sun. While they’re chuckling at you, you are really in pain. It’s like lying on a stove top with the burners on. You’re a piece of toast that stayed a bit too long in the toaster. You’re overdone.

Sunburn can bring with it some serious side effects. Because you have just damaged a large section of skin, your body has been signaled to flood the area with fluids to help begin the repairing process. This will cause slight to acute swelling or edema. It will make your skin feel tight and even more painful as the fluids stretch out your burned and sensitive skin. I want to emphasize the importance of the following advice. It has saved me and many clients from a lot of pain. I hope you never get burned, but if it happens I hope the following information can help.

If you have been overexposed (at all) to the sun, start putting aloe vera gel all over the effected area immediately and continually. Aloe vera is 99% water, 1% protein. The water helps to replace the fluids that have been lost through sun exposure; the protein helps to rebuild damaged tissue. Aloe is a contact healer, meaning it starts to heal on contact. In cases of severe burns, aloe vera will not be enough, and you will want to seek medical treatment. But for the average, milder type of sunburn, aloe vera gel can do wonders. Don’t wait until you’ve become a lobster before getting this product at the store, and don’t forget to take it with you on vacations. Even hiking in the cool mountains can cause sunburn if your skin is overexposed.

Aloe vera products and pure 100% gel can usually be found at most health food stores. There are gels on the market with ingredients like allantoin (a soothing agent extracted from the herb, comfrey) and cucumber extract. These ingredients are both beneficial in calming sunburned skin. Aloe vera gel is not terribly expensive, and it keeps for an eternity if refrigerated. It has many uses, but it is especially good for sunburns. I recommend a gel that is at least 95% aloe vera. Anything less will have too many other ingredients in it you don’t want. However, 100% aloe is best and is now easy to find just about anywhere.

If you are burned, you’ll need to start applying aloe immediately and frequently. Because it’s a gel, it will dry fairly quickly, and you will probably go through quite a bit of it.  As soon as it drys, I would reapply it. Or at least reapply it every 15 to 20 minutes for the first few hours and every hour after that for the first 24 hours. I have recommended this course of action to many clients over the years as well as using it for my own overexposure. If you keep applying aloe gel, it can have a remarkable effect on a sunburn.

For added healing and soothing properties, add several drops of lavender essential oil to the aloe gel, then simply smooth over your skin. Lavender will help take the burn out of the area as well as helping the affected skin to heal.

For more information, see  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Sun Exposure & Skin Cancer

I was standing at the counter of my dermatologist’s office, paying the bill for a mole check. Next to me was an older gentleman, probably around 65 or 70 years old. I assumed he had skin cancer because he was having Mohs’ Surgery, which removes malignant (cancerous) growths. After a few minutes, another gentleman walked through the door who I guessed had skin cancer too because half of his face was covered with a bandage, and he didn’t have an appropriate bulge for a nose.

These two gentlemen apparently knew each other, as they said, “Hey, Charlie,” and “Hi, Jack.” The image I got was of two golfing buddies who had spent their youth throughout adulthood out in the sun, unconscious of the disastrous effects of all that (probably unprotected) sun exposure. And now, years later, here they are as older men, both at the dermatologist’s office, and both having cancers removed from their faces. This is a sad story, but more disheartening because it is a common one.

“I never get in the sun.” Usually I hear this in my treatment room when I’m asking a client about sun exposure. Many times I’m asking because I see the signs of overexposure. True, I may see sun damage on a client’s skin long after he or she has stopped baking in the sun. But to say you never get in the sun is untrue.

Each and every time you walk outside you are getting sun. Sun exposure is accumulated from birth, so every hour, every minute, every second is adding up on your sun exposure report card. Why am I being so adamant about this seemingly picky detail? Because if you are not aware of how much sun you are getting, you are not going to be as careful as you need to be.

Hyperpigmentation is a big reason for being truthful about the incidental sun you’re getting, but may not be acknowledging. Hyperpigmentation comes in the form of dark spots on your face (or anywhere) that some people describe as blotchiness or uneven coloring.

As harmless as it may seem, even small amounts of sun exposure do add up. And that is why when a client is bewildered because dark spots have appeared on her face while she claims to “not have been in the sun,” I go into my speech saying the only place you are not getting sun is inside (four walls and a ceiling), away from a window.

Obviously hyperpigmentation is not the only problem sun exposure produces. The most obvious and sometimes fatal condition is, of course, skin cancer. You (we) must start now or continue to aggressively protect your face and body from sun exposure.

Even sunscreens are no match for the powerful rays of the sun. They are helpful but not foolproof, and are truly only meant to keep your skin from burning in the sun. Wear hats whenever possible, sunscreen always, and enjoy being out in the sun—protected. Don’t become one of these gentlemen at the being of this section. Protect your skin now and always!

For more information, see:

Friday, June 30, 2017

More Help for Breakouts—Q & A

I am 27 years old and have fair to medium skin tone. I have combination skin; oily in the t-zone with frequent breakouts on the chin, around my nose, and between the cheek and mouth area, especially around my cycle or when I’m under stress. I have mild breakouts, but they never seem to cease.

I have tried numerous products along with making visits to dermatologists and even switching to a birth control pill that claims to help with acne breakouts. I am guilty of picking at those annoying little bumps and using alcohol. I have also used topical products such as benzoyl peroxide and products that contain salicylic acid.

My skin seems to have become less oily this year, but it still keeps breaking out! Since reading your book I have stopped wearing foundation, except to cover blemishes. I have stopped going to the tanning salon, started to drink lots more water, have been trying to limit the amount of sugar I consume in my diet, and have become better regimented about cleaning my face twice a day.
In addition, I am concerned about all of the various products and medications that I have used, and cost is important to me at this time. I would like to continue to make skin care a top priority.

I am including this email because I want to break it down and see if I can clear up some important points as well as give you some solutions to your problem skin.

I am 27 years old and have fair to medium skin tone. I have combination skin; oily in the t-zone with frequent breakouts on the chin, around my nose, and between the cheek and mouth area, especially around my cycle or when I’m under stress. This is a pretty standard description that I hear. She has light to medium skin color, normal to oily skin, with occasional breakouts during or around her period and usually under stress as well.

I have mild breakouts, but they never seem to cease. That the breakouts are never-ceasing says to me that there is something she is doing (ingesting or using) that is continually feeding the breakouts, as mild as they might be.

I have tried numerous products along with making visits to dermatologists and even switching to a birth control pill that claims to help with acne breakouts. Ortho Tri-Cyclen® is the birth control pill that is advertised to help with acne. For some women this pill (or any birth control pill) may help with breakouts, and for others it can cause problem skin.

I am guilty of picking at those annoying little bumps and using alcohol. I have also used topical products such as benzoyl peroxide and products that contain salicylic acid.
Picking, especially if done incorrectly, is not a good thing. Alcohol will not help the problem in the long run—or really even in the short term. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid aren’t the best things to use on blemishes and can be too harsh—depending on what kind of products they are in.

My skin seems to have become less oily this year, but it still keeps breaking out! Since reading your book I have stopped wearing foundation, except to cover blemishes. I have stopped going to the tanning salon, started to drink lots more water, have been trying to limit the amount of sugar I consume in my diet, and have become better regimented about cleaning my face twice a day. It sounds like she didn’t have a very good or consistent routine, both in her skin care program and also in her diet and lifestyle habits. She made a few common mistakes. She used “acne control” products that are so prevalent out in the marketplace, along with not drinking very much water, eating a lot of sugary foods, and not being consistent with washing her face on a daily basis.

In a word: NO!
And then there was the tanning salon. If you listen to the owners or people who work at these establishments, you will think this form of UV exposure is the safest thing in the world. Because of her acceptance of the safety of tanning beds, I am going to question what else she may be doing that is contributing to her skin problems that she also may think is OK. All in all, if she just does the “right” things and cuts out all the other stuff she has been doing, my guess is her skin will reflect this better care, which up until now it had not been receiving.

In addition, I am concerned about all of the various products and medications that I have used and cost is important to me at this time. I would like to continue to make skin care a top priority. I agree on all counts. There are so many products to choose from out on the market, along with prescriptions available from doctors. I encourage you to become a responsible consumer; know what you are taking and its effects on your skin and body.

If you find products that work for you, money may become secondary. If you can stick with something that makes a difference, you will save money by not needing to experiment anymore. I think making skin care a top priority is a great choice. It sounds like change from the past is what she needs in order to have clearer skin in the future.

For more information, see: