Saturday, August 30, 2014

Accutane: What is it and what does it do?

Since this section is about a prescription drug, I want to reiterate that I am not a doctor. If you have a medical condition that requires a doctor’s attention, seek his or her professional advice! I am not licensed to prescribe medications nor am I recommending bypassing getting a dermatologist’s opinion for your acne problems or any other medical condition you may have.

What I do recommend without exception is that you fully arm yourself with knowledge on the pros and cons of your particular problem areas and their solutions. I prefer taking a more wholistic approach to treating skin problems, but whether you do or not is fully your decision and responsibility. All views in this entire blog and in my books are mine alone. It is up to you to decide the course of action to take in any given situation.

Throughout my career, numerous people have asked me about Accutane. It is a somewhat mysterious medication with a reputation for “curing” cystic acne. But is this true? I encourage you to read through other sections in this blog to get a broader view on how you can treat and possibly stop problem skin from happening. The more you understand, the better equipped you will be to fight the good fight.

My goal is to give you some background about Accutane, a few of my clients’ personal experiences, and my own thoughts concerning the use and misuse of this potentially harmful drug. I know Accutane has helped many people rid themselves of stubborn cases of acne, but I also feel too many people too much of the time reach for the quickfix solution and neglect going deeper to the root of the problem. Like any medication, Accutane has its place in the world. I just want you to fully understand the ramifications of taking a drug to “cure” your acne problems. I will be posting more information on Accutane in the future, so keep checking in!

What is Accutane? Accutane, or isotretinoin, is a derivative of vitamin A and is used for the most stubborn cases of acne. It is made and registered trade marked by Roche Laboratories. Unlike Retin-A® (retinoic acid), which is a topical product you apply to the skin, Accutane is taken internally (orally) in pill form. It comes in 10mg, 20mg, and 40mg capsules.

What does Accutane do? Accutane causes your sebaceous or oil glands to shrink. This naturally causes a reduction in the amount of oil the glands are able to produce. Smaller oil glands, less oil production. Problem solved, right?

Hardly. This brings me onto my soapbox—well, one of my soapboxes, anyway. Shrinking the oil glands, resulting in less oil production, sounds good on the surface. And the ‘surface’ is exactly as far as this treatment really goes. Like other so-called cures for acne, Accutane treats the symptom, not the actual cause of the problem. Symptom: too much sebaceous activity. Solution: stop sebaceous activity through drug interaction. And in the meantime, you cause a host of events to occur. Yes, the drug causes a physiological action in your body (shrinking glands), but it does nothing to address why the glands are overactive in the first place.

I believe without a shadow of doubt that you are what you eat. Therefore, the following, contained in a handout from the drug company that produces Accutane, leaves me shaking my head. It says, “Acne is not caused by a poor diet.” How can it possibly be true that if you eat a diet filled with fast-food hamburgers, French fries and sugar-laden sodas, all of which I consider to be part of a poor diet, you won’t run the risk of your entire elimination system (which includes your skin) being affected? Diet is not always the sole cause of problems, and certainly not with acne in particular, but to suggest that how you are nourishing your body doesn’t affect your body, inside and out, is absurd to me.

For some people, oil production can, will, and does increase after a given time following Accutane treatments. The oil glands probably don’t produce the same amount of oil after treatment, but some people still have skin problems after using this drug. It is not necessarily a once-and-for-all treatment. This is especially true if your lifestyle habits (namely diet) have not been altered since taking Accutane. Granted, other factors may be present, like a hormone imbalance or genetics, but diet cannot be ruled out as a major contributor to your breakouts.

It’s interesting to me that in all the literature I have read about Accutane, the consequences to the liver are barely touched on. I think more attention should be paid to the liver and the potential damage Accutane can cause. Only about 15% of patients develop liver problems, and those problems are usually curable and temporary. But do patients really understand what their liver will go through while taking this drug?

I will leave you with this question: Why do you have acne? After reading information here and in my skin care books, I hope you will have more answers to this pivotal question.

For more articles on Accutane, see:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Problem skin profile: Stephanie—breakouts, stress, moving to a new city & more!

Although this is a client profile from my Dallas days, it’s still a good example of how the different stressors in our lives can play a large part in our state of health, inside and out.

Stephanie moved from San Francisco to Dallas in August. She moved from the sea to a land-locked city where there is a lot of air pollution and humidity. There is not a lot of air circulation in Dallas (certainly not the kind of ocean breeze that the West Coast receives) helping to keep the city air cleaner. Not only was her physical environment different, but emotionally she was going through withdrawals, having left the Northern California coast for a city far from the ocean.

Dallas TX on a bad day
Stephanie was starting a new life in all ways. It is said that the five life events that cause the most stress are marriage or divorce, giving birth, death of a loved one, starting a new job, and moving to a new city. I’d like to add to the list being laid off or fired and going through a chronic illness—either your own or a loved one’s. Whatever the cause, stress creates all kinds of changes in your body (and mind), so stress cannot be dismissed as being a major factor in problem skin.

When Stephanie showed up at one of my seminars, her skin was a mess. She had widespread breakout in the form of pustules (pimples) and papules (hard cysts under the skin) as well as blackheads and dehydration. According to Stephanie, in California her skin was perfect; she rarely had breakouts and never experienced the kind of skin problems that she had now.

Because of the blemishes, Stephanie was doing something that is very common with people experiencing breakout. It is also something that, unfortunately, usually causes more problems. She was putting all kinds of drying agents on her face, from Clearasil® to oxy products, in hopes of getting rid of the spots. She was even using products for dry skin because the other things were drying her skin out. Her thinking was common: treat the breakout topically with products on the market for problem skin. And in essence, she had the right idea. But specifically, she was using the wrong products.

When stress is the biggest factor in a new breakout, until your body adjusts or until the stress is eliminated (which sometimes never happens), the breakouts will probably continue. Breakouts caused by diet are a lot easier to solve than the stress-induced kind. You simply eliminate the cause (certain aggravating foods), and the breakout will diminish in time. If only it were this simple to eliminate stress! And breakouts due to environment are also a big challenge to fix. So Stephanie was facing two of the more difficult types of breakouts to get rid of: stress-induced and environmental.

Clearing up breakouts that are caused by moving to a new city with different water, weather, and air quality will usually come with time. Your body will eventually adjust and hopefully the breakouts will cease or at least diminish. The same is true for stress breakouts. As soon as your body can adjust and when the stress (hopefully) ends or evens out, your skin should adjust back to being normal. How long the body will take to adjust is the big question. When it comes to patience with ourselves and especially our bodies, many times we fail. Unfortunately, we are usually impatient when it comes to allowing our bodies time to adjust to adverse conditions, like illness or injury, moving, or dealing with new and bigger than normal stress.

The program I put Stephanie on consisted of moisturizer for problem skin (not dry skin), gommaging with a gel-peel exfoliator, and clay masking every other day for the first week or two, then 1-2 times each week thereafter. I told her to drink lots of water, take stress reduction classes like yoga or Pilates, cut out sugar (but allow some indulgences), and get facials if she could afford them.

Once Stephanie started using products meant to clear problems in a healing vs. drying way, her skin responded favorably and eventually normalized. And although her skin did clear up, I don’t think Stephanie will ever get used to living away from the ocean.

For more information, see:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Starting your career in skin care

I am an inexperienced licensed esthetician from Florida, and I just moved to the area. I am looking for advice on secondary training and starting my own skin care business. I have experience in the beauty business as an owner of a retail/spa but new to the actual esthetician work myself. Do you have any advice?

Here are my two cents, for what it
’s worth: I highly recommend, as an “inexperienced aesthetician,” that you find a skin care job at a good salon or spa. The first few years after skin care school are when your education truly begins. Right after school and without practical experience, you are not an ideal candidate to open a business. If I were a client, I would want an aesthetician with at least a few years on the job before I would be willing to give her a chance—after all, this is a pricy service and no one is looking for a novice. You must work on many faces before you really know your stuff.

Find a quality salon and work there for a few years in the security of being paid to learn vs. starting out on your own with all the responsibilities of running your own business and learning about skin care. I have had my own salon(s) for over 20 yearsworking for nearly ten years at the beginning of my career for other peopleand I so don’t recommend starting out the way you are thinking about. Your ego may be disagreeing with me right now, but you asked so I am giving you my opinion.

Best wishes on your quest for a successful skin care career.

I never heard back from this woman. I’m sure she wanted to hear something different, but what I said is what I truly believe.

If you are an aesthetician or plan on becoming one, please visit my blog Help for Aestheticians: Starting a business. There you will find lots of information written just for you.

For more information, see:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

YONKA Problem Skin Helpers + more

I have used Yonka products personally since 1985 and professionally since 1986. I am therefore fairly experienced in the ins and outs of Yonka skin care, and I also know how wonderfully it works for all kinds of skin.

Below I have listed products in the Yonka line that can help your skin if and when it is breaking out. If you have chronic breakouts or even just occasional spots (aka: “zits”), there are many Yonka products available to you—along with some non-Yonka skin care helpers.

EMULSION PURE. Used as a compress on a specific blemish or over your entire face as an extra-strength toner, this concentrate of thyme, lavender, cypress, geranium, and rosemary essential oils starts the healing process by helping to calm infections and reduce inflammation. 

To use PURE as a compress:
  • Take a piece of cotton 2-3x the size of the spot (i.e.: use a small piece)
  • Soak cotton in PURE
  • Compress (press) onto the blemish
  • Keep it there at least 5 minutes, no more than 10 minutes
  • Keeping the compress on for longer than 10 minutes might cause sensitivity in that area

You can compress while watching TV, reading, or talking on the phone; whenever you have 5 minutes to sit still and give the compress time to do its magic.

To use PURE as a toner: 
  • After cleansing
  • Splash over face and neck or use cotton soaked in PURE
  • Then apply your moisturizer

You can also mix PURE into your cremes. Like with Juvenil (below), if you have ongoing problems widespread throughout your face, adding some Pure into your cremes just gives you one more chance to get the antibacterial properties infused into your skin and any infection that is present.

For more detailed information, see:

CREME 15 is a wonderful nighttime treatment cream for problem skin. Burdock regulates sebaceous (oil) secretions and St. John’s Wort acts as an anti-inflammatory, helping to soothe the skin. Even if you don’t have problems, and have normal to oily skin, this cream can help keep spots from occurring and lessen their lifespan. Used at night as your moisturizer, this antiseptic cream helps to balance and normalize the skin. For some clients with severe problems, I have them use this product morning and night. If Creme 15 isn’t moisturizing enough for you (especially in winter or dryer climates like Colorado), Yonka’s Hydra+ (formerly Hydralia) can be added to give this or any creme a hydrating boost.

For more information, see:

JUVENIL. This calendula, ichthiol, and bleu chamomile-based brown liquid is another tool to help calm and heal your problem skin. Best used for widespread breakout, Juvenil can also be used on individual problem spots. Apply Juvenil to entire face or wherever infected breakout is occurring. Applying this product on simple blackheads or non-infected whiteheads is just wasting product (and money).

The ingredients are different than Pure, although the action is similar. Calendula is soothing and anti-inflammatory, and chamomile helps to heal and calm, while ichthiol is antiseptic and antibacterial. The medicinal aromatic of this concentrate reassures you that action is being taken against your blemishes. Juvenil can also be mixed into your cremes. (Juvenil can stain clothing—so be careful!)

For more information, see: 

GOMMAGE is a gel exfoliant that is one of the most important products in your skin care routine. Gentle and effective for all skin types, I can’t stress enough how important this product is to the health of your skin. If you aren’t using it because you don’t know how or can’t get it to work properly, please read my instructions (link below), and let’s clear up the confusion! Gommage should be a part of your weekly routine, and if you have problem skin, you should use it several times per week.

Also see:

YONKA CLAY MASK is a great at-home treatment for breakout. Clay absorbs oil and draws impurities to the surface while calming and reducing inflammation. It can be used several ways: 
  • As a mask, covering the entire face and left on for 15 minutes, once to several times per week (remember to keep the mask moist by spraying with water or toner)
  • Or dotted on the blemish at night before bed and left on while you sleep. If the spot is medium to small without a lot of infection, this dotting method can really reduce its size overnight.

For an extra-strength cleanser, mix equal parts clay mask with your cleansing milk, gel, or wash creme and cleanse as you normally do: apply/massage/rinse.

For more details, see:

GERANIUM or LAVENDER essential oil (found in most health food stores) is my favorite nighttime spot treatment for occasional blemishes. Essential oils are not “oily” oils; they are antiseptic and antibacterial liquid extracts from plants and flowers. After your Basics 1-2-3 Program (cleanse, tone, hydrate), dot a small amount of geranium directly on spots only, and leave on overnight. (Please note: do not apply geranium or any pure essential oils in or around your eyes!) Unlike having clay mask dots on your face, you can dab essential oils on your spots and, aside from the natural aromatics, no one will be the wiser. You can use geranium during the day, just beware of sun exposure: Pure essential oils can cause photo (sun) sensitivity like hyperpigmentation. Some people don’t like the geranium aromatic, so you can try lavender essential oil, which is pretty widely-accepted by most noses.

Combining a clay mask with geranium oil is an effective, overnight treatment for blemishes. After you’ve completed your evening 1-2-3 program, dot clay mask on any problem spot and let it dry for a minute or so. Then dab a bit of geranium on top of the clay, and leave overnight. In the morning you should see some reduction in size, along with diminished redness of the blemish.

For important information, see:

When a client comes into my office with problem skin, I go through a series of questions about diet and lifestyle geared to help me pinpoint the cause of the breakouts. If sugar consumption and other dietary concerns are not factors in their problems, many times a hormone imbalance is to blame. That is when I suggest  acupuncture.

ACUPUNCTURE can be highly effective for clearing up problem skin. It helps to ensure that the body’s vital energy force (known as “chi”) is flowing freely, which helps to balance the hormones by improving circulation. Hormones, believe it or not, can actually become toxins in the body when metabolized improperly. When it comes to skin care, blockage in the detoxification pathways can result in toxins being expelled through the skin.

I try to get acupuncture on a monthly basis. I do this, not because I have health issues or problem skin, but as a preventive measure to ensure my body stays in a balanced state. Acupuncture has been around for over 2000 years. How can I ignore the potential benefits of something that has survived this long? I can’t! And I welcome you to explore this ancient healing technique, not only to help balance your skin problems, but also to ensure the health of your entire body—on a regular basis.

When I initially started receiving regular treatments before I hit 50 and menopause, I noticed a normalizing of my monthly cycle. The duration of my periods was shorter, cramping was less severe, and I just felt more in balance. These changes were subtle, but I knew acupuncture was helping my body on many different levels. In America, if a change isn’t hitting us over the head, we think it couldn’t possibly be occurring. This is strictly a Western way of thinking, I assure you. FYI: Most people find acupuncture very meditative and relaxing. I know I do! 

For more information, see: 

Finally, Chapter 5 in my book, Timeless Skin: Healthy Skin for a Lifetime, is chock-full of useful information for helping problem skin. I humbly encourage you to purchase a copy if you don’t yet own one. The information contained in the entire book is crucial to understanding how to take good care of your skin. Skin Care A to Z, my second effort in a dictionary format, has many “chapters” on helping with skin issues such as Problem Skin and Breakouts. These books make great reference material for you now and in the future as different skin conditions show up. Most of the content in the books are separated into articles here on this blog. No matter how you prefer to get it, read and use the information for your skins benefit.

Also see:

Problems with your skin are generally signs of internal imbalance. Treating these problems topically will help, but it will not keep the blemishes from appearing. You must also go after the cause (hormones, diet, stress). This course may take longer and seem more challenging because it doesn’t simply involve applying an ointment or taking a pill. Causal healing requires commitment, in some cases abstinence, along with a true desire to change. When things aren’t working (you’re still breaking out), it’s time for a change.

Keep in mind, your blemishes weren’t created instantaneously and they probably won’t disappear overnight. Give these products a try and see how they work better for your skin than the blemish-control products you may have used in the past. And if nothing seems to be working, give acupuncture a try. And above all else: Listen to your body—it really is telling you what you need to know.

For more information, see:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Clay Mask Quick Tip #1: clay in the shower

If you’re short on time and need to mask, five minutes before your morning shower apply a clay mask. Jump into the shower, and the mask will stay moist from the steam. You can also splash a bit of water on your face to keep the mask from drying. Remove it at the end of your shower, then after you’ve dried off, use your toner and moisturizer plus eye cream.

For more information on clay masks, see:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pregancy and Skin Care

There are many variables that can take place with your skin during and after pregnancy. Some women don’t experience any changes in their skin, while others go on a seemingly unending roller coaster ride with problem skin and breakout. There is no cure if you are one of the roller coaster riders, but there are steps you can take to help keep your skin looking its best throughout and after your pregnancy. If you’re planning more than one child, once you have given birth the first time and are experienced in all the intricacies of pregnancy, your second time around will seem easier. You’ll know from experience any changes occurring will usually fade away after the birth has taken place. Your body really does get back to normal—given a few inevitable transformations.

Not only can breakout be a problem while pregnant, but your skin can become photosensitive (sensitive to the sun) as well. What does this mean? The terms chloasma, mask of pregnancy, and hyperpigmentation are all used to describe a kind of discoloration of the skin that can take place from sun exposure received while pregnant. If you are one of the unlucky women who become sensitive to the sun during this time, I will eventually put a link to another blog post that will help you to understand the precautions you’ll want to take to help keep hyperpigmentation from taking over your face.

A second concern for the new mother-to-be is the formation of stretch marks. If you are prone to this type of scarring, there is nothing short of not stretching your skin that will stop stretch marks from appearing. Whether you will get them or not is up to your genes and how much weight you gain. Although you probably can’t stop them from occurring, there are treatments and creams available that can help keep your skin feeling cared for.

A third concern for expectant mothers is having heavy, tired legs. When you are pregnant and carrying a heavier load than usual, it makes sense that your body—your legs—will feel this added weight. Incorporating stimulating treatments to invigorate tired legs can help alleviate some of the burden. These tips will be discussed later in a later blog post. I will put a link here when it is ready.

All in all, the bundle of joy you are carrying around with you is the grand prize in the scheme of things. Anything your body goes through in this creative process is merely a side effect to the miracle that is taking place. But there are many things you can do in your daily routine that will have a positive effect on some of the negatives of childbearing. Well take a look at some of these treatments in future posts. Now—breathe!

For more information, see:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts about Hair Removal Options

One of the leading health magazines called, asking me to contribute to an article for “painless at-home hair removal.” The first words out of my mouth to the interviewer were, “There is no such thing!” Truly, there really are very few painless ways to get rid of unwanted hair. But there are several ways of removing hair that vary on the pain scale and are readily available to you. Some of these methods can be done in the privacy of your home, while others require going to either a salon or doctor’s office.

You have hair covering your entire body—for several purposes. Not only does it help keep dirt and debris away from your skin, but hair also helps combat water loss and keeps you insulated, protecting you against extremes of hot and cold. The hair on your body plays a sensory role as well. The movement that occurs with the hair on top of your skin helps to detect the slightest change in temperature and touch.

If you think about it, hair protects you against all kinds of daily offenders you probably never consider.
  • The hair on your head protects your scalp against the harsh burning rays of the sun.
  • Hair, which is made from keratin (a durable protein that also makes up the outer skin and nails), has a high sulfur content, giving it heat-retaining properties.
  • Did you know that up to 60% of heat loss comes from your head? So hair can keep you warmer on a cold winter’s day.
  • Eyebrows can help keep sweat from reaching your eyes, and eyelashes keep dirt, debris, and foreign objects away from the delicate eye tissue.
  • Hair in your ears also keeps foreign offenders such as dirt and bugs away from the inner ear, due in part to the waxy substance this hair is coated with.
  • Finally, nose hair filters out all kinds of debris from the air like dirt, pollen, and germs.

The bottom line is hair has an important function and should be looked at as an asset, rather than a liability. With that said, and although you may be able to live with some hair, there is still the problem of unsightly or objectionable hair that remains to be dealt with. In (several) upcoming posts, I will discuss different tools and techniques available for removing unwelcome hair. One approach may be better suited to a certain part of the body than another, so read through all the entries to find the best removal process for you.

There are a few things I want to define before going further in order to bypass any confusion about the words being used.
  • Depilation removes part of the hair from the surface of the skin. Depilation methods include shaving, trimming, and depilatory creams. Depilation has the shortest regrowth time; usually within a day or two you will start seeing hair reappearing on the surface of your skin.
  • Epilation takes the entire hair or root from the hair follicle. Techniques for epilation include tweezing, waxing, sugaring, threading, and rotary epilators. Hair reappearance after epilation takes anywhere from several days to several weeks. Both depilation and epilation are considered temporary ways to remove unwanted hair.
  • Permanent (or close to permanent) methods I will discuss are electrolysis and laser hair removal. The recurrence of hair growth with these more permanent procedures varies a great deal. It can take up to a year of treatments to keep the hair from returning, and even then there are no guarantees. More often than not, however, these techniques can permanently get rid of unwanted hair.

Finally, when I mention the upper lip or upper lip area, I am referring to the area where a man’s moustache would grow, the skin and hair above the upper lip. Using the term upper lip just requires fewer words, but I am not referring to the actual upper lip of the mouth. For instance, a woman  getting a lip wax is obviously not waxing the actual lip, but the hair above it. 

In conclusion, although there are many routes to hair removal, you must be careful to find the technique that is not only right for you, but for the area you are removing hair from. Not all techniques are right for all body parts. If you ever have a reaction from removing hair from your body and/or face, reassess your options and consider using a different procedure.

Here are all the articles in this Hair Removal Options series. Click on any title to be taken to that page:
For ALL articles regarding hair removal, see:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

MYTH: Food doesn’t affect skin

Food doesn’t affect skin? Food does affect your skin. There are plenty of books and many doctors who will disagree with me on this issue. However, I have seen too much evidence to believe otherwise. It just doesn’t make sense that what you eat doesn’t affect everything about you, including your skin. It’s like saying I can fill up my car’s gas tank with orange juice, and this won’t affect how it runs. A car requires a certain type of fuel to run efficiently, and so does your body. If you put low-quality foods into your system, sooner or later your system (your body) will rebel.

When someone comes to see me with breakout, the first questions I ask concern their diet (daily intake of food). This includes questions about sugar intake as well. I have found over and over that poor diet and excess consumption of sugar (along with other factors) equals skin trouble. This is not to say someone with problem skin couldn’t be eating well but have a hormone imbalance that is causing problems. I’ve seen that too. But more often than not, diet plays a key role in how clear (or broken out) your skin is.

There are many articles on this blog pertaining to healthy eating equaling healthy skin. Here are a few to get you started:

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    What is Rosacea?

    The National Rosacea Society defines rosacea, pronounced rose-ay-shah, as “a disease affecting the skin of the face—mostly where people flush. Rosacea usually starts with redness on the cheeks and can slowly worsen to include one or more additional symptoms and parts of the face, including the eyes. Because changes are gradual, it may be hard to recognize rosacea in its early stages. Unfortunately, many people mistake rosacea for a sunburn, a complexion change, or acne and do not see a doctor.

    It is considered to be a chronic condition that if left untreated, tends to worsen over time. At the beginning of the disease, rosacea may come and go in cycles with occasional flare-ups and then improvement as though it has gone into remission. Over time, if given a chance (by not avoiding your triggers), the symptoms can worsen, causing possible permanent redness and swelling, namely in the cheek area.

    The cause of rosacea is unknown, and there are several reasons floating around as to why it occurs. I believe it is first and foremost a vascular condition. Other opinions are that skin mites cause rosacea. These mites are said to find a home in the capillaries of the face, nest and then proliferate and cause swelling, redness, and the bumpy skin associated with rosacea. That skin mites exist is a fact. That they are found in large numbers in the affected skin of rosacea patients is also true. That these mites are the cause of rosacea is where I disagree. I believe that through vascular changes occurring first, the conditions are ripe for these mites to exist and proliferate.

    Please read up and discover how to find relief from this sometimes frustrating skin condition. For more information, see:

    Friday, August 15, 2014

    Help for Breakouts

    Why does skin break out? 

    Quite simply, hormones cause breakouts. Hormonal imbalances can occur at any time in life. As puberty starts, the hormones are activated. For women, our monthly cycles can cause breakouts; pregnancy causes great hormonal changes and can either improve your complexion or cause mild to severe breakout; and perimenopause brings yet another change in a woman’s hormone levels. Men, too, have fluctuations in their hormones, which can affect how clear or broken out their skin is. Diet is a huge consideration when looking for the cause(s) of breakout, and stress should not be overlooked as being a factor in skin troubles. There are several beneficial things you can do for breakouts that will help them go away without causing damage to your skin.
    • A clay mask is my number one at-home treatment for breakout. It has a calming effect and helps to temporarily lift redness from the skin. Clay draws to itself, helping to encourage movement of the debris in an embedded pore. Clay has antiseptic properties, which helps to keep bacteria away.
    Clay can be used in two ways: as a mask, covering the entire face and left on for 15 minutes once or twice a week, or dotted on the blemishes at night before bed and left on while you sleep. If the spot is small to medium without a lot of infection, this dotting method can really reduce its size overnight. For deeper cysts and large infected areas, clay can still do wonders, but not miracles.
    • Essential oil of geranium is my next wonder treatment for breakout. Throughout the years I’ve been seeing clients, more and more I have been recommending lavender essential oil over geranium. This change is solely due to aromatics. Simply put, many people just can’t take the smell of geranium oil! Lavender has a wonderful aromatic and is generally accepted by most noses.
    • After you have completed your Basics 1-2-3 routine (cleanse, tone, hydrate), dot geranium or lavender oil directly on any infected (red) blemishes. Please note: Do not get geranium, lavender, or any pure essential oil in or around your eyes! 

    Essential oils are not “oily” oils; they are more gaseous and vaporous. They have a thin viscosity and do not feel oily. By their very nature, essential oils are antiseptic, antibacterial, and in many cases soothing, which makes them perfect for infections.

    Essential oil of geranium is especially good for problem skin. It has antiseptic and astringent properties as well as a balancing action on oil production. Geranium also helps to stop bleeding and promote healing of injured areas. Lavender has many equally wonderful properties and many clients still have great success with this essential oil. 

    She has the right idea, however she’s used way too much clay!
    Combining a clay mask with geranium oil is the most effective, overnight treatment for blemishes. 
    • After you’ve completed your evening 1-2-3 program, dot some clay mask on any problem spots and let it dry for a minute or so. 
    • Then take your geranium oil and dab a bit on top of the clay and leave it overnight. 

    In the morning you should see some reduction in size along with diminished redness of the blemish. Continue this dotting method for several consecutive nights or until the blemish is gone.

    Breakout is one instance when essential oils and clay are ideal. Even though you may have to contend with red spots already present on your face, these products will go a long way to help expedite the healing process. 

    There is no fast and easy way to get rid of blemishes. They weren’t created instantaneously, and they will not disappear overnight. Give a clay mask and essential oils a try, and see if they don’t work better for your skin than the blemish-control products you’ve been using.

    For more information, see

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    MYTH: Facials make your skin break out

    You’ll sometimes hear how getting a facial helps bring the impurities in your skin to the surface. Therefore if you experience breakout after a facial, it’s actually a good thing. Well, I disagree.

    True, once in a while getting a facial may speed up the elimination of one or two small places on your face. But facials really should clear up your skin, not cause breakout. Perhaps you are having a reaction to the products used. Maybe the aesthetician extracted too many places, which caused irritation and inflammation.

    But if you had an effective facial treatment, it is my belief that your skin should reflect this by looking clean, clear, and free from new breakout. Anything more than a small place or two every once in a while after a facial is indicative of a problem with the facial or the products, not with your skin.

    For more myths, see:

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Bumps on your arms? It could be keratosis pilaris

    Recently several clients have been asking about mysterious yet recurring bumps on the backs of their upper arms. This is mostly likely keratosis pilaris, a common skin condition that you also may have experienced at some point—or even now. Read the following client emails and my responses to find out more about helping to rid your arms of this annoying bumpiness.

    What causes these small bumps on the outsides of my upper arms? I also find bumps on my rear and my upper thighs, again on the outsides.

    This is probably a condition called keratosis pilaris, which is an inflammatory disorder characterized by an accumulation of cells surrounding the hair follicles, as well as a rough texture to the skin. It usually occurs on the outsides of the upper arms, thighs, and even the buttocks.

    If you are experiencing these bumps on your arms (or legs), this is a case where I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a retinoid product or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) cream or lotion to help this problem. Why? Because I wouldn’t be concerned that the acids would be irritating the delicate capillaries that are found on your face. The desquamation (exfoliation) ability of these types of products might work very well on the bumps. One caveat: I would use an inexpensive brand because you don’t need to use an expensive cream on the backs of your arms, thighs, and buttocks. Save your money for your face. Use one of these products consistently, and see if it helps the bumps go away.

    I have evidently inherited keratosis pilaris (little red bumps on the back of my arms and on the front of my thighs) from my parents and grandparents. When I try to moisturize, because most of the literature mentions that it is a dry skin-related issue, it just causes more bumps. I am tired of my skin looking this way.

    The dermatologists either give me Tazorac® gel* and a greasy lotion, or they just tell me to live with it! Meanwhile I am embarrassed to wear a sleeveless shirt, and now I am nervous about wearing shorts. All of my reading seems to suggest that I must use some form of Retin-A, which is extremely hard on my skin. I would appreciate any insight you can provide. It seems like there must be something out there that can help!
    *Tazorac is the brand name for tazarotene, a retinoid product.

    As with many skin conditions, keratosis pilaris is not one, in my opinion, that can be helped completely from the outside in. From my own experience with this skin problem, I believe it is related more to diet than being just a “dry skin-related issue.” I believe your body can get rid of this condition once you understand what may be causing it. I don’t usually live by the “get over it” theory of skin care. I have faith and hope for you! My first question would be how is your diet? Tell me what is bad in your diet—especially if you eat or drink it consistently. The response to my question was:

    I was afraid you were going to ask me about my diet! I am certainly not as healthy as I should be. My two downfalls are anything with cheese, and sodas. Although I try to drink water, I am afraid I don’t come close to what I should be drinking on a daily basis.

    My personal experience is that when I eat certain things in excess, the bumps will appear. After I stop eating these foods, eventually the bumps will disappear. I find milk and dairy products cause keratosis pilaris, as well as sugary foods. Dairy products can not only cause bumps like keratosis pilaris, but I have also seen an excess of dairy consumption to lead to milia (whiteheads) on the face.

    So, right off the bat I think this client’s problem is too much dairy, along with too much sugar or sugar substitutes in her sodas. If these are both her downfalls, she has a somewhat long road ahead of her if she indeed wants to get rid of the bumps on her arms and legs.

    One way to find out if dairy is the offending substance is to eliminate it from your diet—completely—and see what happens. Understand that even though you may take something out of your diet, it may take time for your body to rid itself of the culprit. If the condition clears up during this sabbatical, you may have found the cause of your problems. However, to be sure, I recommend reintroducing dairy, for instance, and see if the bumps recur. You may be able to get away with eating some of the offending substance, but not to the degree you did in the past. If you monitor the situation, you can control it.

    Without trying the elimination experiment, you won’t ever know if something you are ingesting is literally feeding the problem. Simply applying topical medications does little at the source to stop the problem from occurring. Using retinoid or AHA creams may help the immediate problem, however, so do try these (as long as they don’t irritate your skin). But to avoid future problems, look to your diet and do the elimination experiment. This will give you the long-term information you are looking for.

    Last summer I purchased some AHAs from you for the bumps on the backs of my arms. The AHAs definitely helped, but nothing seemed to totally eliminate the bumps. I never had this problem until we moved to Chicago. Recently my husband and I moved to L.A., and the bumps were much better but not completely gone. Since the water here has a lot of chlorine in it, I bought a chlorine filter for my shower head. Within a couple of weeks, the bumps had almost disappeared! I thought if you have clients who struggle with this problem you could pass this information along to them. I just purchased a cheap filter attachment at the hardware store, unscrewed the shower head and attached it myself in about two minutes.

    My belief is that keratosis pilaris shows up due to dietary excesses more than for any other reason. However, as this client found out, it can also be caused by other factors. I’m a big believer in doing what works—whatever that may be. So give the water filter suggestion a try. Chlorine is so bad for skin and hair, having a filter on your shower head is a good idea whether you have keratosis pilaris or not.

    For more information, see: