Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ageless Beauty—Part I

Written in the late ’90s when I was in my late 30s, the following is as true for me today as it was when I wrote it and included it at the end of Timeless Skin—the last (and my favorite) chapter of my first book. Because it is a long piece, I have divided it into two articles. Also, the first few paragraphs are found in a previous post, MYTH: Aging is bad.

Although each part of this book is valuable, this last chapter is in many ways the most important. Discussing care of your skin from the outside is pretty straightforward. When you adopt a particular suggestion, there will be a probable outcome. But skin care in regard to aging is not purely topical. I cannot separate the importance of taking care of your skin from the inside (both inside your body and your mind) and topical care. Talking about healing from deep within becomes a bit complex, and that is what this chapter is all about.

I truly believe aging is not the terrible thing it is represented to be in the consciousness of this country. Aging is inevitable, and it is the most natural process in life—one to be heralded, not condemned. A pervasive perception in our society today is that there is something inherently wrong with getting older. Yes, it can be disheartening to see the lines start to form or get deeper. Slowing down, losing your 20/20 vision, and waking up to stiff joints are not what you would choose for yourself. Although degenerating is the part of the process that is perhaps the hardest to take, what about what you gain with age?

The big question is “What is wrong with aging?” If you spend your whole life fighting the aging process, are you really living? What are you comparing old to? How will you grow old? Do you know older people who seem young? People who haven’t caved in to some society-driven illusion of how “old is bad.” The adage about wine getting better with time—isn’t this true for people as well?

Aging with grace is what I’m striving for in my own life, and it is what I discuss with my clients. You can struggle with what is happening and put up a big fight, but the bottom line is the aging of your body will occur anyway. There are no miracles to be found in a jar of cream, nor is there a Fountain of Youth at the doctor’s office. You are your own living miracle, and how your body functions is the daily affirmation, the absolute proof. The Fountain of Youth is inside you.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? I’d like to think you see a beautiful soul living each day to the fullest, doing the best you can in any given situation. In other words, you see your humanness. I have a feeling, however, some of you see something completely different. Maybe you see someone you wish you weren’t. Perhaps you are comparing yourself to your skinny neighbor or your friends with flawless skin. When you look in the mirror, do you see your true self or only someone in comparison to someone else?

It’s a simple matter of “compare and despair.” If you are constantly comparing yourself to other people (who, by the way, are comparing themselves to their ideal), you will never be happy or satisfied with the way you look. How could you possibly compare? They are “ideal,” “perfect,” “without flaws.” It’s as though there is something wrong with feeling OK about the way you look!

How you see yourself is relative. It’s relative to how you feel. It’s relative to what you want to look like in comparison to what you do look like. When have you ever looked in the mirror on a day you felt horrible and said, “I look great today!”? Probably never! But conversely, haven’t you looked in the mirror on a day when everything was going your way and said, “Hey, I look pretty good!”? Well, these days can occur back to back, one after the other. One day you’re up; the next you’re down. And so too is how you see yourself. But physically, your body (your face) doesn’t change overnight. Rarely do significant changes occur, even over a short period of time. It’s all in your attitude and how you feel that gets projected onto the image you see in the mirror.

The funny thing about worrying over how we look is that everyone else (almost everyone) has similar feelings about themselves. A client came to me years ago, distraught about a “huge” pimple on her face. (Huge to her was not huge to me.) She was going to a black tie affair and was so worried about what everyone would think about her blemish. As I worked on her skin, I reminded her that more than likely everyone would be worried about themselves, totally missing her “big zit.” Perhaps they might have spilled something on their clothes on the way to the party or couldn’t get their hair to do the right thing. It would be doubtful that other people would be focusing on something wrong with my client. More than likely, they would be worried about something in their own appearances.
Call me crazy, but in my perfect world people aren’t worried about what they look like so much as who they are. How you present yourself to the world is measured (in my mind) by your character. The question I ask myself is, “Am I a good person?” not “Am I good-looking?”

I think if we lived in a world without mirrors we would think differently about who we are. We wouldn’t be able to look in the mirror and pick ourselves apart, condemning what nature or our parents gave us. We would accept our looks because we wouldn’t be able to compare them to anyone else’s. And certainly there would be no comparisons to supermodels gracing the pages of fashion magazines and TV commercials.

What you get out of life tends to be measured by what you put into it. (In physics it’s known as the law of cause and effect.) Regarding aging, genetics start things off. But if you are blessed with good genes and consistently don’t take care of your body, history will eventually tell the real story by your state of health. This is true for your skin as well. If you do all the right things, you will most likely receive the payoff. The tough realization is youth will not come from a single bottle, a magic potion, and in my opinion not even through cosmetic surgery.

What causes you to age is not just the natural degeneration of your cells, but your inner thoughts as well. Choosing how you age, acknowledging your inner beauty, accepting the process, and deciding to age with grace are internal factors that can have a positive impact on how you feel about aging (on the inside), which affects how you will age (on the outside).

For a few more articles on the aging process, see:

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

    Sugar in your precious Frappuccinos!

    Chapter thirteen [in Timeless Skin] was helpful as were the articles I read on your website. While I don’t eat a lot of refined sugar, I do frequently eat a salad that, among other things, has carrots and raisins. I have come to see that raisins have a ton of sugar. Also, I get a Frappuccino® three or four times a week.

    It’s not the raisins that are the biggest problem, it’s the coffee drinks! If this reader is able to just give up the Frappuccinoscompletelyshe will see a huge difference in her skin.

    I don’t eat a lot of refined sugar. This illustrates once again that many times we neglect to see the obvious, blatant sugar in our diets. (Is it denial?) Of course it is the high-sugar content coffee drink that is the most egregious offender in this client’s diet thus her problem skin. Caffeine is addictive, so is sugar. Because of this, removing this three to four times a week habit will not be easy, but if clear and healthy skin is her main goal, it is possible!

    Raisins (and carrots, too) are high in sugar. If you are eating a lot of raisins and have problem skin, try reducing or eliminating the raisins from your diet for a week or two and see if your skin clears a little—or a lot. The same goes for carrots. However, dont do this in lieu of cutting out obvious sugar in your diet such as Frappuccinos. This client recently gave me some feedback:

    Since the last email, I have been monitoring my sugar intake. I have eliminated the Frappuccinos, much to my chagrin, and I am definitely seeing some positive changes. I also eliminated the raisins. Not only is my skin prettier, but my mood seems to fluctuate less. 

    You don’t have to give up your Starbuck’s (or whatever coffee company) completely. There are many other coffee drinks you can choose from, cappuchinos and lattes for instance, that dont contain sugar. If you are trying to cut down in general or because sugar in your diet is affecting your skin, just steer clear of any with sweeteners or syrups added to them, and of course don’t you add sugar to any coffee drinks you order.

    I had this article prescheduled for a later date, but after posting Sugar Addicted? Try a three-day sugar fast I had a lot of people asking about sugar in food, etc. So I thought Id post this as a reminder that even though you know something you love has sugar in it, it may have even more than you imagine if you really take a good look.

    From starbucks.com:
    Caramel Frappuccino® roast coffee blended with caramel syrup, milk, and ice, topped with whipped cream and a swirl of caramel sauce:
    • Tall 12 oz: Sugars 45g (300 calories, by the way)
    • Grande 16 oz: Sugars 64g (410 calories)
    • Venti Iced 24 oz: Sugars 81g (510 calories)

    According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of “added” sugars women should consume in a day is 25 grams or about 6 teaspoons. For men, 37.5 grams, which equals about 9 teaspoons. Here is what “added sugar means, as defined on the AHA website: “Sugars in your diet can be naturally occurring or added. Naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars are sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table. 

    No one needs a calculator to see how high the sugar content is in even a “small Frappuccino. Although I am in favor of having “bad foods and desserts once in a while, having something like this sweet treat on a daily or even several-times-a-week basis can end up not being a treat at allfor your skin or other organs in your body, to say nothing about your blood sugar (diabetes, anyone?). I personally think 25 grams a day, if you are super sensitive to sugar, is a bit high. But use that as a guideline and see how many more grams of added sugar you are ingesting on a daily basis. (Sorry to be the bearer of sad news!)

    For more information, see:

    Sunday, December 28, 2014

    Sugar Addicted? Try a 3-day sugar fast

    If you feel you just can’t stop eating sugar, although the following recommendation may seem counterintuitive, try a three-day sugar fast. Try taking all of the sugar out of your diet—everything—for three days. Not only will you need to avoid candy, cookies, ice cream, and all of the obvious things laden with sugar, but also sauces, juice, or breads with sugar in them. After 72 hours go back to how you were eating before—if you want to. It’s your choice. By doing this you will exercise your ability to choose your actions as well as get the sugar out of your system, even if only for a few days.

    In that three-day period, depending on your normal sugar intake, you may go through some withdrawals. These can range anywhere from simple cravings to mild or severe headaches, irritability (needing that 3 p.m. “sugar rush”), or generally feeling tired. The severity of the symptoms will be indicative of your level of addiction. Your body isn’t used to being denied its daily drug supply, and it will rebel.

    Hold on to the commitment you’ve made for at least three days—no sugar. But do eat well. Fruit (not juice or dried fruit, which are too high in concentrated sugars) is welcome and a good idea. Because of its sweet nature, fruit—especially the citrus varieties—may appease your sugar cravings a bit. Oranges, apples, kiwis, grapefruit, whatever—as long as you don’t overdo it. You should eat as you normally do, but just avoid sugar. You may be surprised how many foods you regularly, casually eat contain sugar. This will be a good test.

    Notice how intake or abstinence affects your skin. If you start your fast with a lot of breakout, even within a three-day period you should see some improvement. But do remember, it doesn’t take very long for breakout to occur; it takes a lot longer for it to clear up. Still, on a 3-day sugar fast you could definitely see positive changes in your skin.

    If three days go by and you have no problem staying away from sugar, go for ten days. Start out with the smaller goal and see how it goes. If you can, go on to the longer ten day time period.

    Getting off sugar is hard. Sugar is physically addicting, and kicking the habit is akin to going off a drug. Because sugar looks innocent enough and is so readily available, it appears to be harmless—it isn’t. It is a toxin in your body. Becoming aware of hidden (as well as obvious) sugar in your diet and laying off the white stuff for three to ten days will help you see its effect on your body and hopefully your skin.

    Clients ask me if I’ve completely eliminated sugar from my diet. The answer is “no.” In my 20s, at the very beginning of my sugar discovery, I completely took sugar out my diet, give or take a few lapses. Then through my 30s and 40s I would eat it on rare occasions. Now in my 50s I probably eat sugar more often than I have in decades. My skin isn’t as sensitive—I don’t break out now from eating sugar—because I have passed over the menopause fence. Still, sugar makes me feel jittery (I’m prone to hypoglycemia) so I do limit my intake.

    In my younger years, I really worked on not giving in to all the cravings. I knew for a fact my skin would break out anywhere from an hour afterwards to the next day after eating sugar. Back then, when a craving reared its ugly head, I would just say no. It wasn’t always easy, but I would get stronger through exercising my will. Sometimes I gave in knowing I would probably break out. Now, because it gives me low blood sugar and often times makes me feel nauseous, I still limit my intake; it usually isn’t worth it. And sugar, let’s face it, just isn’t that good for us! (Why do sugary foods taste so darn good?)

    For some of you sugar may not be affecting your skin adversely; for others, I know you can relate to sugar causing some (or all) of your skin problems. Taking a break, with a sugar fast for instance, is a great way to see how you are affected—mentally and emotionally, not just physically—by this very powerful, sweet substance.

    Alcohol stays in the body for up to 3 days (depending on the amount consumed), so if you’re up for it try knocking off your nightly glass of wine as well as sugar just to give your body a break. However, as I told a client regarding this fast, don’t do too many things at once. Better to be a success at one rather than a disaster at doing both.

    Good luck to you on your sugar-free journey! 

    For more information, see:

    Friday, December 26, 2014

    Timeless Skin—The Introduction

    For those of you unfamiliar with my first book, Timeless Skin, I thought I’d post the Introduction to introduce you to what the book is about. This first effort was truly a labor of love. I learned a lot and had a lot of help along the way.


    I am dedicating Timeless Skin to my clients—those I have seen through the years and those of you I have yet to meet. Few books have been written by those of us working with skin on a day-to-day basis, so I wanted to write about my experience with skin as a licensed aesthetician (someone who gives facials) and to give practical information to help keep your skin healthy—inside and out.

    I have tried to tell you everything I share with my clients in an easy-to-follow and instructional format. I realize some of this information will contradict what you have always heard to be true, and that’s OK. I have developed my own particular style and philosophy of caring for skin that I believe you will find informative and indeed beneficial.

    Everyone who comes to see me has individual needs, yet there are common denominators in treating all skin conditions. I believe you will be able to glean pieces of information and put together a skin care program that works for you. Read through the whole book, and then keep it handy as a reference guide, looking things up as needed.

    I did not necessarily separate information for different races, genders, or even ages since I treat all individuals as unique, no matter who they are. Also, there are a few instances where I refer to an individual as “she” or “her.” This is not to exclude any men who are reading this book. These words were simply used to avoid the use of he/she and him/her.

    I hope that after reading Timeless Skin, you will start to question the sometimes overwhelming abundance of information on skin care so that you can discern truth from fiction. My goal is to break down the seemingly impenetrable structure that makes up our Fountain of Youth mythology, presenting instead information that leads you down a path to reality. The truth usually makes good sense, and it is my hope that this book gives you the freedom to pay less attention to all the hype and to help your skin be its best—for a lifetime.

    I hope you enjoy reading Timeless Skin as much as I enjoyed writing it.

    BE WELL.

    For more information, see:

    Wednesday, December 24, 2014

    Are you a “Bath Person”?

    I am definitely a bath person. There is nothing I love more than soaking in a hot tub of water. Many days in the coldest winter months, if I can’t get warm inside my home, I’ll take a bath simply to get my core body temperate up. Sometimes I use products, sometimes I don’t. But taking baths, for me, is a part of my life that I truly enjoy—often.

    For an inexpensive bubble bath, you can use bath gel in place of more expensive bubble bath products. Bath gels contain ingredients that will foam up just like a bubble bath product but for a fraction of the cost. My health food store sells its own brand of bath and shower gel for under $3 for a 12 ounce bottle. You may get six to eight baths with this, compared to many bubble bath products that cost ten times as much. However, I do have an array of actual bubble products; each one with different scents and actions. I’ll use bath gel in a pinch or if I’m traveling without a true bubble bath product.

    If you find you’re sensitive to foaming bath products, get one made for young children. Why? Because the ingredients in these infant bath products should be more gentle for more sensitive baby skin. Try one and see if you have a better tolerance to this gentler product so you can relax and enjoy a bubbly bath.

    I never use bubble bath products that are alkaline—and neither should you. Here is another good use for your pH test papers. Many bubble bath products have alkaline ingredients in them; these ingredients help produce the foaming action, similar to bar soap. Some of these ingredients include sodium laureth-13 carboxylate and disodium laureth sulfosuccinate. If your bath water becomes alkaline, this not only will cause your body’s skin to get dry and flaky (just like your facial skin will with alkaline soap), but women have the added worry of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs) from sitting in an alkaline bubble bath.

    I can remember as a kid loving my Mr. Bubble® baths. Even now when I see the box at the store, it triggers happy memories for me. But I also remember having chronic UTIs, no doubt caused at least in part from my wonderful Mr. Bubble. I tested Mr. Bubble and a few other commonly found bubble bath products. The results were as I expected: they all turned the pH papers dark purple. In other words, the test showed they were alkaline.

    The above mentioned shower gel I have used as bubble bath is acidic. I checked the label, and it has few ingredients (that’s a good sign) and although it contains sodium laureth sulfate, which is a very common soap-like ingredient derived from coconut, it did not contain either of the alkaline ingredients listed above. Test your bath products to ensure the skin over your entire body is being pampered with the proper products. Then draw a bath and relax!

    Aveeno® has two bath products for dry skin. One is called “Daily Moisturizing Bath with 43% Natural Colloidal Oatmeal.” (Colloidal means crushed.) It is meant to help give soothing relief for dry, itchy skin. It is also fragrance-free. The second product is “Soothing Bath Treatment with 100% Natural Colloidal Oatmeal” (there are no other ingredients). Oatmeal helps relieve itchy, irritated skin due to poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac rashes, insect bites, eczema, prickly heat, chicken pox, hives, and sunburn. Both products are powders and come in individual packets. The average cost is close to one dollar per bath, and eight packets come in each box.

    In the winter I use these products a lot. The oatmeal really helps to moisturize the skin, thus taking the itch of dry, winter skin away. Be sure to clean the tub after the water has drained out. These as well as most bath products leave a slippery substance in the tub, so be careful!

    Why is it beneficial to soak in Epson salts? Is there anything else that is good to put in my bath that is relaxing and will help sore muscles?

    Epson salts are high in magnesium. This mineral is a well-known muscle relaxer. Adding these mineral salts to your bath can really help relieve sore, aching muscles. Even if you are just tired after a long day, soaking in a hot (not too hot) salt bath can help to revive your body and relax your mind.

    Many companies make mineral salt bath products. Many of them are predominately Epson salts along with other ingredients. You can get plain Epson salt very inexpensively at the grocery or drug store, then add some essential oils to your bath. This will give you the benefits of the salts and the essential oils, which are therapeutic and wonderfully aromatic, without spending a lot of money.

    Adding essential oils to your bath can have a wonderful effect not only on your body but on your psyche as well. Lavender is relaxing; birch and juniper are both good for soothing aching muscles; and any of the mints (wintergreen, peppermint, spearmint) are invigorating and energizing. Usually, 10-15 drops of assorted oils is what you would add to your bath water.

    Note: Essential oils are lighter than water, so they may float on the surface of your bath water. When you are soaking in the tub, wherever your skin meets the water you may get a concentration of essential oils. I recommend once you have stepped into the tub to then splash the water around, helping to disperse the oils. If you are using strong oils like birch or peppermint, you really need to use this splashing technique or you may end up causing skin irritation. I usually add the drops as I’m filling the tub. This seems to disperse the oils. Even using 15 drops of peppermint hasn’t irritated my skin.

    Even if you don’t consider yourself a “bath person,” try a relaxing soak now and then. Perhaps you will become a convert! For a great (and my favorite) bath product plus a few more helpful articles, see:
    This is my kind of bubble bath!

    Monday, December 22, 2014

    Do I really need to clean my face?

    Cleansing is the most important step in your daily program. If you don’t get your skin clean, everything else you do will be less effective. It’s like putting wax on your car without thoroughly washing it first. The skin needs to remain clean to maintain the integrity of the pores, and using a cleanser is the best way to achieve this.

    If you don’t cleanse, you’re doing your skin a huge disservice. You could be setting up an environment for clogged and therefore enlarged pores as well as amassing a thick, dead skin buildup that can also contribute to congestion. Just imagine not brushing your teeth for a few days, and you’ll see what I mean. For more information on cleansing, see these articles:

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

    WHAT causes enlarged pores? Plus Q & A

    Enlarged pores are a big concern for a lot of people. I have to say that when a client comes in complaining of enlarged pores, once I see her skin under the magnifying light, many times I don’t consider the pores enlarged at all. This is a very subjective matter. But assuming you truly do have enlarged pores, there are some things you can do to keep their appearance less noticeable and other things not to do in order to avoid future enlargement.
    What causes large pores?

    It’s pretty simple, really. Time and debris are what causes enlargement of the pores. Genetics do play a part, and some people are seemingly born with large pores. But generally pores enlarge over time and due to how oily your skin has been in your life. The more oil that is lodged inside the pores, the larger the pores can become. Not all oily skinned people have large pores, but generally if you have larger pores, at some point in your life you probably had oily skin.

    I have purchased a few moisturizing creams that contain elastin and collagen. The creams are great for most of my face, but I have always had enlarged pores on my nose with lots of blackheads and an oily forehead. So far these products have not helped that problem at all. What can I do to decrease those pores and get rid of the blackheads?

    This client is definitely using creams that are too heavy for her skin. The symptoms of an oily forehead and lots of blackheads are the indicators. The enlargement she already has will probably not really change, but if she keeps her pores clean, they can appear smaller.

    Usually creams with elastin and collagen are made for a drier skin type, sometimes what is termed mature skin. That term, to me, is relatively meaningless. It is the oil content that I am most concerned about when classifying someone’s skin. Mature (older) people can still have oily skin.

    If she has problems with blackheads on her nose and an oily forehead, she doesn’t have true-dry skin. Her skin is producing enough and in some cases too much oil naturally. She doesn’t need to use heavy creams—even on the rest of her skin. Just changing her moisturizer could mean an end to the problems she is experiencing.

    To answer this client’s questions, she should stop using those heavier creams and instead find something that is for combination or normal to oily skin. To decrease the pores and to help get rid of the blackheads, I suggest a clay-based mask, and regular exfoliation to keep the dead skin to a minimum.
    Can skin care products help at all in making the pores less obvious, and if so, which products?

    Keeping the skin clean and debris-free will make the biggest (and most realistic) difference in how big your pores look. If you have a lot of congestion (dead skin, oil, perhaps even makeup) sitting in your pores, not only will this be apparent visually, but this congestion will also further the very problem you are trying to fix: enlarged pores. Congestion or clogged pores is the biggest cause of enlargement in the first place.

    Using a clay mask regularly is a good way to super clean your pores, along with achieving other benefits as well. Exfoliation (getting rid of the dead cells on the surface of the skin) will greatly decrease the amount of debris nestled in the pores. And just making sure to get your skin clean (especially makeup-free) every day, morning and night, is an important routine. If you are not getting your skin clean with your daily cleanser, you may be causing cumulative congestion that can cause enlargement down the road.

    Men are more prone to enlargement than woman. At least this is what I have found to be true. Men tend to take minimal care of their skin; they are prone to oily skin, and their skin is thicker in most cases than a woman’s skin. Thicker skin tends to produce enlarged pores more so than a thinner skin. Although men overall may have more enlarged pores, their apathy about what their skin looks like makes this a non-issue in most cases!

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    What are AHAs? Miracle ingredients or not?

    Exfoliating is the most important thing you can do for your skin. Getting rid of the mounting dead cell layers will go a long way to restoring and maintaining healthy skin. Exfoliation gives your skin more clarity, cleaner pores, and a much smoother texture. Alpha hydroxy acids are one way to achieve this well-exfoliated surface.

    Alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs, dissolve the intercellular cement that binds your skin cells together. These acids essentially loosen the glue between the cells, allowing them to slough off more readily. This creates smoother skin, steps up circulation, and can lessen the lines caused from dehydration. I’m referring to superficial lines—not deep wrinkles. The results vary, but in general you should experience an improvement in the texture of your skin with the use of AHAs. They really can make the surface of your skin incredibly smooth, which helps with the dehydrated (dry) feeling that is so common. You may also experience less debris clogging your pores after using AHA products. I have seen this type of improvement in some of my clients with chronic congestion problems.

    Alpha hydroxy acids are sometimes termed fruit acids since several of the acids come from fruit sources. There are many different kinds of AHAs available for use in skin care products. Some of these acids are glycolic, derived from sugarcane; lactic, from sour milk and other sources such as bilberry or passion fruit; tartaric, from grapes and aged wine; and citric, from citrus fruits such as lemon and orange.

    AHAs are what I term passive exfoliators. Just by the mere fact that they are sitting on your skin, they are helping to decompose cells, leading to a smoother texture. But it is my belief you still need to actively exfoliate (with a gommage or scrub) on a regular basis to get the optimum effects from passive exfoliation. In doing so, you help to eliminate much more of the buildup that the AHAs have broken down.

    For example, let’s say you pour paint thinner (AHAs) on a sidewalk (your skin) covered with paint (dead skin cells). The paint thinner dissolves and breaks up a lot of the paint, but until you get a hose and really blast the sidewalk with a powerful stream of water (an active exfoliator), the decomposed paint just sits there. Putting AHAs on your skin helps to decompose skin cells, but until you actively exfoliate, you are only doing half the job—and only receiving half the results.

    If you are prone to couperose (capillary damage) or if you have sensitive skin, be careful with AHAs. And if you have rosacea, AHAs are definitely out! Their acidic nature makes them an irritant, which can cause a mild to strong burning sensation on skin that is sensitive. I have found AHAs also heighten redness in my clients with couperose. In some cases where the AHAs are really helping to unclog pores, the payoff is greater than the slight redness it may be causing. Just be aware AHAs can cause further damage to the fragile capillaries. If you continue to feel a stinging or burning sensation when using AHAs, I’d take the hint and stop using them. As prevalent as alpha hydroxy acids are, they are not for everyone. Listen to the clues your skin is giving you.

    Something else that is a point of concern is the use of “mono acids” (meaning one). Glycolic is probably the most commonly used mono alpha hydroxy acid. When you continue to use an acidic compound over a long period of time (especially in high strengths) thinking that if a little is good then more is even better, it can be too severe for your skin to tolerate. Your skin can become irritated, which in turn can cause edema (water retention or puffiness). This reaction can cause a negative breakdown of healthy tissue, not just the decomposing of surface dead cells. There are companies who recognize this dilemma and are putting out multiacid AHA products. Using multiple acid formulas is preferable to mono acid products because you are utilizing acid compounds from several sources instead of just one. In the long run, the skin will react better to this variety.

    How strong is too strong? Lower-strength (3% or less) AHA compounds do not present a threat to the health of your skin and can be used daily without concern. When using high-strength AHAs (10% or more), it is much better to use them on a semiregular basis rather than using them every day. Again, high-strength products can become too much of a good thing.

    Many AHAs on the market—especially glycolics—are synthetic. One of the large chemical companies here in the U.S. produces most commercial-grade glycolic. The technology was first developed for glycolic acid to be produced from sugarcane, its organic source. Then synthetics were substituted. My personal preference is organic over synthetic. You get the whole synergistic effect of the natural extract instead of an imitation. If the AHAs in a product come from organic sources, most likely they will state that on the ingredient list.

    Another thing you may have heard about is BHAs, or beta hydroxy acids. The basic difference between AHAs and BHAs is this: AHAs dissolve intercellular cement—the gluelike substance that binds cells together. BHAs break down the cells themselves. Betas dissolve dead tissue with a protein-dissolving action similar to enzymes, like papaya and bromaline (from pineapple). Salicylic acid, for instance, is a beta hydroxy acid derived from willow bark.

    Compared to many of the trends and fads on the market today that are of no benefit, I think AHAs and BHAs are actually beneficial. They’re not for everybody, but they can give you good results without incurring too much, if any, damage. The premise behind many of the products and procedures in skin care is to exfoliate the skin, and alpha hydroxy acids deliver. They aren’t the be-all and end-all, and they certainly don’t take the place of actively exfoliating and deep cleaning your skin, but AHAs can smooth your complexion and help keep your pores from clogging as well as providing your skin with a healthy, radiant appearance.

    For more information, see:

    Monday, December 15, 2014

    What is causing your breakouts?

    What causes breakout?

    That is the $64,000 question! There are numerous things that cause breakouts and reasons why breakouts occur. The short list is: 
    • a genetic predisposition
    • allergies
    • diet
    • hormonal fluctuations (including puberty, a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy and breast feeding, menopause, hormone imbalances that can occur in either sex)
    • intolerances to either products or environment 
    • stress
    • sweating 

    So, basically the answer is life in general!

    What is causing your breakout? I am going to help you answer this question, and so together we can try to figure out what is causing your problem skin. You may not find out the answers immediately, but the following questions and their answers will at least begin to give you a better picture of the possible causes of your breakout. At my salon, by utilizing this list of questions when interviewing clients about their problem skin, we can begin to narrow down potential culprits and help find some answers that have proved helpful in determining what is causing breakout.

    To start with, I always like to find out some background on your skin’s condition. In other words, how would you describe your problems? 
    • Are you plagued with only blackheads, or do you have whiteheads instead, or both? 
    • If you have whiteheads, is there any redness in the area, or are they simply bumps under skin that look white or yellowish? 
    • If there is redness, they are technically small pustules. The redness indicates infection, and that means there is bacterial contamination. A true whitehead is just sebum (oil) trapped beneath several layers of dead skin (albeit thin, see-through skin).
    • What about cysts? Do you experience small to large bumps under the skin that don’t form an obvious pus-filled head?
    • Are they just red and often painful bumps? 
    And then there are the breakouts that are what most people mean when they say “breakout.”
    • These are pustules that are small, medium, or large bumps that are not only red but have a clear and defined puss-filled head as well.
    Next, I would ask where is the breakout located? 
    • Is it always contained within a certain area, or does it migrate—changing places and not usually coming back in the same place all the time? 
    • If it is in one or two places always, is it on both sides of the face or usually only one side?
    • What about size? Is the breakout usually limited to small spots, or do they always appear as big places on your face?
    If you continue to get breakout in the same place on your face, it may be due to contact with something. Telephones and cell phones, equipment like sports helmets or pads, even pillows you sleep on can cause a sort of contact breakout. If the places are symmetrical on both sides of your face, this is usually a sign of hormonal breakout.

    My questioning the size of the breakout is really just to let me know how deep your blemishes are. Almost always, the bigger the spot, the deeper the infection. Or, if we are talking about blackheads, if they are large, this indicates the pores have been clogged for a long time. Large blackheads don’t generally form quickly. The same is true with whiteheads. They enlarge over time, so the bigger they are, the longer they have been forming.

    For more information, see:

    Sunday, December 14, 2014

    True-Dry Skin explained

    What is true-dry skin? True-dry skin is a term I coined to make a separation between what many people call “dry skin” and truly oil-dry skin. True-dry skin is a condition where your sebaceous (oil) glands are not producing enough oil to lubricate your outer skin. The outer skin is kept moisturized by both water at the surface (and from the air) as well as sebum being excreted from your oil glands. Simply put, true-dry skin does not produce enough oil to keep the outer skin moist.

    Why is it dry? The causes can be genetic (one or both parents had true-dry skin), or age-related (many people experience a slow-down in oil production as they age), or for women, menopause. However, many women think just because they are getting older, they will automatically have drier skin, but this is not necessarily the case. Sebaceous activity is not solely determined by age. A women in her late 50s may still be producing adequate amounts of oil, while a 25-year-old can have true-dry skin. Climate can also affect the oil glands. Dry, desert climates can cause the glands to stop or slow down oil production, just as hot climates can cause overstimulation and oilier skin.

    What to use on dry skin. True-dry skin needs to be artificially lubricated with moisturizing creams. Since the oil glands are not producing enough oil to keep the skin soft, supple, and well hydrated, you want to keep high-quality moisturizers (for dry skin) on at all times. True-dry skin needs exfoliation as well since any dead cell buildup will make the skin feel even drier. The bottom line is that true-dry skin always needs a lipid or oil-based cream to make up for the lack of natural oil production.

    For additional information on true-dry skin as well as surface dehydration, see:

    Friday, December 12, 2014

    Removing eye makeup: Part II—the best way to remove mascara

    In terms of saving the undereye skin from harm, the following is my best recommendation for how to remove your mascara. Granted, this is how I remove mascara in my treatment room during a facial, it is not that simple to do on your own. I personally haven’t worn mascara (or any makeup) since I was 30 (23 years ago!), but when I did I actually used this technique to remove my mascara. It’s not the only way, but it is one way to remove mascara without disrupting the delicate undereye tissue. You’ll need cotton pads (the flat kind work best vs. a cotton ball), a few Q-tips, water, and a little patience. Once you get the hang of it, taking your mascara off this way won’t seem so arduous. Good luck!
    • First, wet a cotton pad and squeeze any excess water out
    • Fold the pad in half
    • Then wet both ends of a Q-tip
    • Place the flatened cotton under your bottom lashes, with the straight line of the fold directly up against your eyelashes
    • Take the Q-tip and with one eye closed (this is where it gets a bit difficult to DIY), gently rub the Q-tip on your upper lashes. The mascara will go directly to the cotton pad, and this will not disrupt the delicate skin around your eyes.
    • Another possibility is to place either a cotton pad or a towelette folded under your lower lashes and use another towelette in the same way you’d use a Q-tip—gently going over the lashes to remove mascara. This might be easier considering you really don’t have your eyes to guide you and the towelette offers a bigger surface to work with than a Q-tip
    • Once you have done both eyes, simply do your regular evening Basics 1-2-3 routine, remembering to include eye cream

    I would do all the makeup removal and taking off of mascara before you clean your skin. That way you can go over your eye area with the cleanser, getting off any residual makeup bits and getting your entire face super clean. Whenever you wear makeup, it’s best to cleanse twice: the first time to get the makeup off, the second time to get your skin clean.

    If you wear waterproof mascara, it will require oil to remove it, not simply water. Using the above instructions, you’d put an oil (like baby oil or even your favorite mascara remover) on the Q-tip instead of water. This technique might actually keep you from getting oil in your eyes as you remove the mascara. Give it a try and see.

    This technique surely isn’t the easiest way to remove makeup from your eyelashes, but if asked what is the least harmful way to do it, this is how I would suggest removing mascara. If you are constantly tugging your delicate undereye tissue, possibly rubbing your eyes inadvertently during the day, squinting, along with exposure to the sun, this tissue may show signs of aging faster.

    For more information, see:

    Wednesday, December 10, 2014

    Are you forgetting something? THE FORGOTTEN PLACES—face & body

    Narda Lebo illustration from Timeless Skin
    As an aesthetician, my main focus is the skin on the face. Throughout my career I have also stressed the importance of treating your neck tissue the same as your face. I also talk about the tops of the hands, an area that receives a lot of sun throughout our lives. But there are other areas that I call The Forgotten Places that you will want to pay attention to.

    Along with the neck and hands, these sometimes neglected places consist of the décolleté (the area above the breasts or chest and below the neck), the ears, the eyes (eye area), the elbows, and balding heads. The skin all over our body ages, not just on the face, so read the articles (listed below with links) to learn more about what to do for these all important yet forgotten places.

    When caring for The Forgotten Places, there are three main things you’ll want to keep in mind. They apply to your body as a whole, but in the forgotten places blog posts, you’ll be concentrating on those places you tend to forget. These three steps include using sunscreen, exfoliating on a regular basis, and using a moisturizer or hydrating cream. If you start caring for The Forgotten Places now by incorporating these three steps, you can enjoy healthy, well cared for skin all over.

    Sunscreen. One reason these places look forgotten is because they receive quite a bit of sun. Sun damage brings with it loose, sagging skin along with pigmentation spots (also called age, sun, and liver spots), and the potential for cancer. Start now (it’s never too late) and remember to include The Forgotten Places when you’re applying sunscreen to your face and body.

    Exfoliation. Because exfoliation is so essential to the overall health of your skin, it is important to exfoliate thoroughly and often in most of The Forgotten Places. Getting rid of the dead skin buildup will enliven your skin, making it feel smoother and look healthier.

    Hydration. Finally, extra care needs to be given to The Forgotten Places to ensure they get adequate hydration, day in and day out. Keeping the skin well-moisturized makes it feel soft and supple, keeping dry and flaky skin away.

    Your skin is alive and responds to care. Any attention you give The Forgotten Places will be remembered and reflected in the healthy look and feel of these different spots. With just a few short minutes per day, you can help to extend the life of these areas and enjoy healthy skin—everywhere.

    Here are all The Forgotten Places that are currently posted:
    For further information, see:

    Tips to help you Drink More Water!

    Drinking enough water can sometimes feel like a daunting task day in and day out. Before I give you water drinking tips, I want to offer you a different way to look at water in the foods you eat. Let me illustrate this point with an example. When I asked a client of mine if she drank much water she said, “I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.” Although these foods do contain a good deal of water, it still takes water to digest them. Fruits and vegetables are high water-content foods and are fairly easy to digest but still don’t count toward your eight glasses a day.

    Concentrates such as sugar, salt, pasta, bread, and even meats take a lot of water to digest. These foods are low in water-content, and your body requires a lot of water to assimilate and break them down. Everything except water requires water in order to be digested in the body. Coffee, tea, and even sodas don’t count as water intake. These, too, require water to be digested. In fact, caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics and actually leach water from your body. Sodas contain water but loads of chemicals as well, so it takes a lot of water to flush these toxins out of your system. Drinking clean, filtered water is the only water that counts toward your daily intake. Remember, the normal recommendation is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day. Most people don’t get enough water, so I’m including a few tips that may help to remind you to drink more water.

    Visual stimulants or timing cues can be helpful reminders to consume water. Using drinking glasses you like will help to stimulate your reflex to drink water. Recently I purchased some great eight ounce drinking glasses. They are short, so it seems like I don’t have to drink a lot of water. It’s a visual thing. I love these glasses, and I actually like going into my kitchen and grabbing one, filling it with clean, filtered water, and drinking one or two glasses. (I’m not a sipper. I drink a whole glass at a time.) I always keep an empty glass on my kitchen counter to remind me to fill it up, then I down another eight ounces of the clear stuff.

    There are countless ways to get yourself to drink more water:
    • When you first get up in the morning, try drinking one or two glasses. It will put some water immediately into your system and hopefully get you started on a day filled with water consumption
    • When you arrive at work, drink a glass
    • Before you leave for the day drink another one
    • Eleven a.m., 3 p.m.—one glass each. In just doing that, you’ve gotten several glasses in without much effort
    • On the commute to and from work, drink bottled water you keep in the car (or your bag, briefcase, backpack, etc.)

    Wherever and whatever works for you, find creative ways to get more water into your system. It’s a constant battle, but visual stimulants and timing cues can help ensure you drink enough water every day. It’s all for your long-term health, so it’s worth it!

    For more information, see: