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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Advanced Steps for Cleansing

If you want to have extra help when you’re cleansing (especially if you have breakout), try adding clay mask to your cleanser. After you have squirted or pumped your cleanser into the palm of your hand, take your clay mask and mix some into the cleanser. I would use two parts cleanser to one part clay. This will give you a little deeper cleanse, along with a slight exfoliating action. Due to clay’s earth nature, it does have a semi-granular texture. So if you have a lot of infection to your breakout, don’t use this or just be sure not to rub too hard. You never want to break open your blemishes, unless you are purposely extracting them.

Another recommendation is to add equal parts of a facial scrub with your cleanser. I typically use this mixture when I’m cleansing my face in the shower. I do this primarily for the circulatory benefits, but if you are sensitive to scrubs, try this suggestion. By adding some scrub of choice to your cleanser (only a liquid or milky kind), you can get a little bit of exfoliating without irritating your skin.

Also see:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Why You Don’t Want To Use A Magnifying Mirror

At the end of Chapter One of Timeless Skin I wrote:

I strongly recommend not using a magnifying mirror when it comes to looking at your face. Unless you require one to apply makeup, there is no need to make yourself crazy with this unrealistic view of your skin. No one looking at your skin can see what shows up through magnification. Not even you!

Recently a new client, Diane, called me about her problem skin, wondering if I could help her. We spoke for a few minutes, and she booked a facial. She came in without makeup, and I noticed her skin looked to be in pretty good shape although she reiterated her concern for “all the breakouts” she was experiencing. At first glance I thought perhaps she had gotten a little too much sun over her lifetime, but all in all, she didn’t have a lot of problems that I could see. Later I would look at her skin under magnification. That would tell me the real story.

I filled out a questionnaire and proceeded with the facial. I asked what her top concerns were regarding her skin and she replied, “I want to stop all the breakouts and stop my skin from aging.” I stepped up onto my soapbox about the aging process, basically explaining to her my philosophy that “you will age!” And yes, certain things can be done to keep the process from speeding up, but certainly nothing can ultimately be done to literally stop the aging process from happening.

As I examined her skin, I wasn’t finding the breakout she complained about. I could see some residual spots clearing from previous infections, but her skin looked good to me with just a few areas that needed clearing. She simply had normal skin with a few spots here and there, but nothing major. The first red flag presented itself.

I questioned her about her diet and found out she didn’t eat well. Normally she ate lots of fast foods and was a consumer of large amounts of sugar. (She did have a few places on her nose that looked to me like sugar spots—tiny infections with sebum in the middle, but she was lucky her skin wasn’t a mess due to her diet.) I thought to myself, “Something is wrong here; we are not seeing eye to eye.” This is not to say that a client’s view of his or her skin is always the same as my own opinion. But with Diane, she really had a very critical view of her skin, and I wasn’t able to concur.

When I look at a client’s skin, I am comparing what I see to thousands of clients who have come before. And in Diane’s case, I not only wouldn’t classify her skin as the worst I’ve seen, but she wouldn’t even make the list of clients with problem skin. I was beginning to realize her problem was something other than with her skin.

Later in the facial she started asking me what she could do about “all the hair on her face.” What hair? She meant the normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill peach fuzz we all have on our faces. “You need to leave it alone,” I said.

Then it hit me: She has a magnifying mirror. I asked her if she used one and sure enough, I was right. Everything looked huge through her magnifying mirror—her pores, the hair on her face, any small blemish that might be present—everything! No wonder she had a skewed view of her skin. Nothing looks normal under magnification! She had been looking at her skin from the point of view of almost seven times its normal size.

She said she needed to use the mirror to tweeze her brows. I asked Diane if she could restrain herself and only use the magnifying mirror to shape her brows and not look at her skin. She said she would try. It would take discipline, but I have faith that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I wanted to tell Diane’s story to illustrate how you can drive yourself crazy by looking at yourself enlarged. What would it be like if we magnified our voices seven times the normal volume or magnified pain seven times? Don’t magnify your perfectly good skin seven times larger by looking at it through a magnifying mirror! Otherwise you are simply and completely setting yourself up for failure, disappointment, and ultimately for taking steps to solve a problem you probably don’t even have.

Trust me, don’t use magnifying mirrors for anything other than applying makeup (if you can’t see very well), shaping your eyebrows*, or for some other positive reason. And if you do have problems with your skin, looking through a magnifying mirror certainly isn’t going to help clear it up. Looking at your lifestyle habits and making better choices will be a surer way to bring about long-term, permanent change.

*Using a magnifying mirror to shape your eyebrows can be equally disastrous for your skin if you don’t use restraint. Once again, no one can see the stray hair of your brows unless he or she is standing extremely close to your face. What usually happens is you will see hair that no one else can see, perhaps hair that isn’t even ready to be tweezed. You go after it, can’t get it, and then have to get it. Due to your diligence you break the skin, causing a tear, which will cause a scab to form. You may have gotten that stray hair, but now you have a very obvious scab or scabs on your brows. You have just given attention to something you were trying to conceal.

To read more on waxing and tweezing, see:

For more skin care no-nos, see:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Just Say NO to a Lip Wax!

If you havent ever had your upper lip waxed—dont! The reason I dont recommend a first-time lip wax is simply because you will be starting a never-ending process. You could be creating thicker, darker hair in an area that may actually be just fine as it is. Contrary to what you may have heard (that the hair doesnt grow in darker after waxing), in my experience with what Ive seen with my clients is that it does.

What I have found throughout the years working on thousands of female clients is that they have a defective view of the hair that exists above their lips. Granted, some women do have a true moustache that contains thick, dark hair that may need to be removed. But for the most part, many women just think they need to have a lip wax, when in actuality they have no real noticeable dark hair on their upper lip. Unfortunately this is sometimes encouraged by fellow aestheticians.

I used to offer waxing at my salons. Why? I knew people (mostly women) were going to get waxing procedures done. At least in my salons I would have done the best job I could to ensure every client would have a proper waxing experience. Call it quality control. I didn’t personally execute the service myself, but my employees did. They were, however, discouraged from waxing someone for the first time, especially a lip wax. The reason I instructed my employees to never do a first-time lip wax is simply because I didnt want to be contributing to their aforementioned never-ending process.

Now, I no longer have employees and I havent personally given waxing services since working at a spa, which was my second skin care job in 1986. So not only do I not recommend waxing, I am no longer qualified to give this service. Truthfully, I didnt like waxing simply because I was and am more interested in helping people take care of their skin, from the inside out, so removing hair wasnt going to be a service I provided when I opened my own business. I do, of course, have referrals for anyone who wants to get waxing services (here in Boulder).

For more information, see:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Aestheticians/Pros: PLEASE READ THIS!

For a while now I have been posting articles for the layperson here on ageless beauty, timeless skin, and I hope this information is and continues to be helpful for you in keeping your skin healthy and balanced.

Many aestheticians also read this blog, and originally I was going to post articles here to help professionals from my 30 years of experience. I changed my mind and created a new blog: Help for Aestheticians: Starting a business. There I will be posting many articles for skin care pros.

Most of the articles will be about how to run a successful business—or how I have, anyway. There are many ideas that can help almost any business looking to increase their client base along with ideas to build client relationships.

For any of you interested in seeing how I have run my business, read away! Some of the posts may actually be interesting to you, although I wrote them for professionals who I hope will get good ideas to help them in their businesses and their careers in skin care.

Also, I won’t be posting articles from the professional blog on my FB page like I do from this blogsite. You’ll have to visit the new blog in order to read any new or existing articles. Click on the title to be taken to Help for Aestheticians: Starting a business. Enjoy!

For more articles, see:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Microdermabrasion—What’s all the fuss about?

What is microdermabrasion? There is a lot written about this anti-aging procedure. Let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about.

There are no lasers or chemicals used in microdermabrasion. The procedure entails a small tube that sprays a jet of fine crystals (resembling sand) onto the skin’s surface, which helps remove dead and damaged cells. It is said to be painless and does not require anesthesia of any kind. It’s sometimes called a “lunchtime peel,” meaning you can go in on your lunch break and come out without looking too red or swollen.

Many clients (myself included) didn’t find the procedure to be 100% painless. And when I did some experiments, getting microdermabrasion facials on just one side of my face (I’m the eternal experimenter!), the side that was abraded was very sensitive—even to the touch—for several days.

Microdermabrasion helps regenerate new cell growth. It is said to stimulate collagen production and increase blood supply to the skin. With repeated treatments, you may notice some of your fine lines and wrinkles have diminished. Pigmentation irregularities, such as hyperpigmentation or chloasma, are said to show signs of improvement. (Remember, as long as you are prone to chloasma, it will continue to appear no matter what. This means that even if you have erased the dark spots with this or any other procedure or product, given time and sun exposure, you will be right back where you started from.)
Realistically, this could read: EXFOLIATE for younger, smoother skin.
Microdermabrasion is FDA approved and is usually performed by a licensed aesthetician. Keep in mind that not all aestheticians are skilled technicians, but everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon to make more money. Well, almost everyone—so there may be unqualified people offering microdermabrasion.

I would be very careful to find someone who has gone through proper training in this procedure. Just like searching for a good aesthetician, you want to ask a lot of questions and find someone who really knows what she’s talking about—not just someone who wants to take your money, promising you 20-year-old skin. 

Like with facials using glycolic acid, you are encouraged to get a series of microdermabrasion sessions along with using special products from the salon. Once again, if microdermabrasion is simply a mild topical exfoliation, I believe you could accomplish the same results by exfoliating more regularly at home as well as getting regular facial treatments.

If you had facials as often as they have you come in for microdermabrasion treatments, surely you would see a noticeable change for the better in your skin. On the other hand, if this procedure goes deep enough to affect significant changes in your pigmentation or even your wrinkles, it scares me to think of the consequences of microdermabrasion being performed by mere aestheticians.


Although the skin is resilient, it is still a delicate organ. I don’t believe in disrupting the outer dead skin with invasive or even semi-invasive procedures, but of all the current skin removal techniques, this particular one seems the least harmful.

I have not seen improvements in my clients’ pigmentation spots with this procedure, nor do I believe it truly stimulates collagen production. Microdermabrasion will improve the texture of your skin, as will any exfoliating process. Be aware, however, that microdermabrasion is pricey. In fact when my clients ask about microdermabrasion, I tell them to get it themselves and see what they think, but that I know for sure—for me—it is simply expensive exfoliation.

For more information, see:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Shelf Life of Products

What is the shelf life of products?

Every product is different, and every shelf life is different, so the answer to this question varies and is based on several factors. First, has the product been opened? Depending on how they are sealed, unopened skin care products have (or should have) a long shelf life. But at the same time, you don’t want products that have been on the shelf forever. Opened, it is really anyone’s guess how long a product will last without losing its potency. Second, has the product been exposed to heat or sunlight? This can dramatically decrease the life of a product.

Products in tubes tend to have a lower rate of bacterial infestation than products that come in jars. With jars, you are usually putting your bare fingers in each time to get out product, which may allow a lot of bacteria to enter the cream or lotion. Even though many companies provide a spatula or some type of applicator, I don’t know if anyone really uses them. In general, your opened skin care products should last at least six months to a year or even more.

Sunscreen is different. I recommend throwing any sun product away after a year. Why? I want the potency of these sun protective products to be at their peak. There is no way for the consumer to test sun products to make sure they are still potent and therefore actively helping with UV radiation. Why take the risk?

Also, if I find a sunscreen in my car and it’s not summer, I automatically toss it. Summer is over and who knows how many days this product has spent in a hot car. Buy new sun products at the beginning of spring or summer. This way you will ensure fresher ingredients in these all-important products. If you wear sunscreen on your face on a daily basis, it won’t be an issue as to whether the product is potent or not. You will naturally be going through a tube or jar of sunscreen within at least six months time.

Do be sure to keep any and all products away from direct sunlight, which can cause damage to anything if given enough time. In Sunscreen: Toss it out! (see below), I write about marking/dating your sunscreens so you know how old they are.

How can I tell if my products have “gone bad?” How long do products last?

Just like food, organic ingredients in skin care products do go bad and will let you know by emitting an unpleasant odor. The more organic and natural the ingredients are in a product, the more likely it will go bad at some point. This also depends on the preservatives used (all products contain preservatives) and if your product has been exposed to heat or direct sunlight over a period of time. So if a product smells funny, rancid, or in any other way “bad,” I wouldn’t use it anymore.

Ingredients sometimes separate (for instance creating a runny consistency), and this may be a sign that your product has gone bad. If the texture has changed from its original state (if it is now runny when it wasn’t before, or if it has hardened when it wasn’t before), it is probably time to toss it in the garbage.

The shelf life of products vary, and there is no ironclad answer as to how long a particular product will last before going bad. If products have a seal and this seal hasn’t been broken, they could last several years on the shelf without altering the ingredients. This is not always true, but I have had experience with taking products home and forgetting I had them. Then, when I moved to a new home, for instance, I found them again, unopened, and started to use them even though they were a few years old. I had no problems and the products seemed (and smelled) as though they were from a brand new shipment.

Less organic, more synthetic products (inert or inactive) could last indefinitely on the shelf. They don’t have many bacteria-forming ingredients that could cause potential damage to the product.

Obviously we all want the freshest, newest batch of products to use on our skin. But the shelf life of most products (unopened) is probably longer than you would imagine. As a general rule of thumb: Let your nose be your guide.

For more information, see:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

HEADSPACE: Get your meditation on


I love foreign accents, quiet time, and innovation. Those are just some of the reasons I love Headspace. (www.headspace.com)

Headspace was co-foundeded by Rich Pierson and British-accented Andy Puddicombe and is a very easy way to start a meditation practiceor continue your practice in a different way. The following was taken directly from Wikipedia:

Andy Puddicombe (born 23 September 1972) is the founder of Headspace; an award-winning digital health platform that provides guided meditation sessions for its users. A former Buddhist monk with a degree in Circus Arts. According to The Times, he is also considered the “international poster boy for the modern mindfulness movement.” As both author and public speaker, Puddicombe is known for his simple, accessible and secular approach, which has led to over 1 million users of the Headspace platform. The New York Times claims “Puddicombe is doing for meditation what Jamie Oliver has done for food.”

I have meditated on and off throughout my life. A few years back I was regular, putting on my headphones and “sitting” in meditation for 20-30 minutes a day. For whatever reason, I stopped practicinguntil recently. A wonderful client of mine mentioned Andy and that she had started using his meditation app. I did some research to see what this was all about. I was intrigued since I truly wanted to resume a meditation practice.

One of the biggest draws for me was this is guided meditation, where someone (Andy in this case) talks you through the time spent “sitting.” Also, Headspace sessions start with 10 minutes a day. Seriouslywho doesn’t legitimately have ten minutes somewhere in the day to help improve their health and well-being?

I love listening to Andy’s voice; as I mentioned, I love an accent and his is wonderful. I love how he pronounces body (boudy). But seriously, that is not why I am doing this. I know from personal experience how much calmer and more grounded I feel after doing even a few minutes (perhaps 10?) a day of sitting, getting quietmeditating. It does and will make a positive difference in your life. Even if you’re not a “meditator” or don’t really understand what meditation is, give this a try and you may be surprised how good it makes you feel.

Headspace offers a 10-day free trial. Give it a go and see if you can find 10 minutes a day to get some headspace. Give your mind a rest and take some stress out of your day. Go aheadtake a few minutes out for yourself: you’re worth it!
I want to add that I am not being paid to share this information. I’m not receiving any benefits from any clicks you make from this blog page nor from mentioning Headspace or Andy Puddicombe. I simply want to share something with you that has brought more goodness into my life.

For more anti-stress ideas, see:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Oily Skin explained

What is oily skin? This is a condition where the sebaceous glands are producing too much oil. The passageway from the oil gland to the skin’s surface is via the hair follicle. Along this route, if too much oil is being produced, a traffic jam or backup will occur. This backup produces any number of problems: blackheads (comedos or open pores), whiteheads (milia or closed pores), pustules (debris inside a closed pore is infected with pus), and potentially acne (infected cysts deep within the skin).

Why is it oily? Your skin can be oily for a number of reasons.
  • Of course, you may be predisposed genetically to having oily skin (one or both parents had oily and/or problem skin). 
  • Diet plays a big role in how much oil is being produced.
  • Climate (temperature) will affect your oil gland activity.
  • Heat stimulates glandular activity, so a hot summer’s day can cause your skin to be oily.
  • Puberty and the onset of hormonal surges can cause oily skin to appear.
  • Even the beginning of menopause can bring about fluctuations in the oil glands that can cause more oil to be produced for a period of time.
  • Soap, because of its stripping action, can signal your glands to compensate by pumping out more oil.
In general, your skin is oily because your sebaceous or oil glands are producing too much oil. The excess oil will just sit on the surface of your skin, making your face look and feel oily as well as causing a buildup of oil and debris in your pores.

What to use on oily skin. Keeping oily skin clean is of the utmost importance. What you are cleansing it with is equally important. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t want to “dry out” oily skin. Drying it out sounds logical, but this method is ineffective and won’t clear up problems. However, you do want to keep the surface cleaned out. This is done through using non-alkaline cleansers on a twice-daily basis (morning and evening). For a deep and thorough cleansing, use a clay mask once or several times per week. Finally, exfoliating actively with a gommage or scrub will help keep the dead skin buildup to a minimum. It is dead skin and oil that clog the pores, so keeping the skin clean and well exfoliated will help curb congestion.

For more information, see:


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Where to look for a great facial

Finding a good professional facial involves two key elements. First, you need to find a qualified and experienced aesthetician (a person licensed to perform facials). Then you want to find someone who uses quality products. Both the aesthetician and the product need to be good for the facial to be worth your time and money. You may have to go through some trial and error before you find the perfect facial for you.

The easiest way to find someone who is good at her craft is through a friend’s referral. You want suggestions from someone who has had a lot of facials, a person whose opinion you respect. If your friends don’t get them, ask if someone they know can steer you to a good place for a facial. If you’ve just moved to a new town, ask everyone you meet for a referral, and if the same name keeps coming up, you can start there. (Prior to my books being published, my entire business was built from referrals. It’s the best advertising there is.) If you can’t get a referral, do an Internet search and start calling salons.

When a client moves out of town, I call around to salons in her area to gather information that will help me determine where she might find a good facial. I recommend doing this yourself if you don’t know where to go. Believe it or not, these initial calls will tell you a lot. Keep in mind, you’re looking for a professional. Ask to speak to the aesthetician if she’s available. If not, you’ll have to settle for whoever can answer your questions. Here’s what to ask: 

1. What type of business is it? Is it a full-service salon with hair, nails, and massage, or exclusively skin care? Is it a salon with several aestheticians or an individual running her own business? The individual business owner is more likely to provide the most private environment. She may, however, be leasing space within a large salon, so if size matters to you, be sure and ask. Large salons tend to be less private, with many people coming in and out of them all day long. Some people like more privacy; others enjoy the energy of a busy salon. 

2. Which products does the salon use? If you’re not familiar with the products they use, don’t worry. Eventually you’ll have firsthand experience with different product lines and can make an educated decision about their effectiveness with your particular skin. If you know the products they use, you may or may not need to ask further questions.
Are samples available? I rarely sell products to a first-time client. Not that I won’t, but I prefer to send my client home with samples so she can determine, in the privacy and comfort of her own home, if they are worth the investment. High-quality, effective products will sell themselves without high-pressure sales tactics. If you can’t sample the product (and even if you can), be clear about the salon’s return policy before you decide to buy. 

3. How long has the aesthetician worked there? Is she new? Has she worked in five different places in the past two years? If she’s worked there a long time, at least you know she’s stable and probably has a large and satisfied clientele. If you are just going for an occasional facial, these particular questions aren’t going to be very important to you. But if you are looking for a salon or an aesthetician to get regular facials from, keep this in mind: you are looking to build a relationship. The aesthetician’s personality, her knowledge about skin care, her reliability, stability, etc., are all going to be important qualities to look for. If she tends to move around a lot, and you like her facials, you may find yourself moving around with her. This may not necessarily be a negative, although it could get quite inconvenient for you. 

4. How long has she been an aesthetician? The first few years after skin care school are when your education truly begins. Right after school and without practical experience, you simply don’t know as much as you will in later years. A novice aesthetician is not what you are looking for. Does she use the product herself? You’d be surprised how many people don’t use the products they sell. That’s a very bad sign. The skill of the aesthetician plus her commitment to a quality product are what make a facial great. 

5. How long is the facial? The person you speak to may ask you, “Which one?” I’ll tell you right now I’m not a fan of “menus” when it comes to facials, yet most salons will have one. In my own business, I have one facial that includes everything possible for each individual’s skin to be its best. I do not add costly steps while “en route,” nor do I believe the client should be deciding what her skin needs. It’s not a restaurant where you order what you want; it’s a treatment based on a professional analysis of what’s going on with your skin. The aesthetician should decide the course of treatment for the client, not the other way around. Facials usually last from one to one and a half hours. Anything less than an hour may not be enough time to have quality work done. In recent years I have added a one-hour facial that I provide for those who are stretching to afford a facial and for younger, teenage clients. It is simply a pared-down version of the original.

6. Does the salon use machines? Here are some of the machines and other items that might be used in a facial: steam, brush machine, the vacuum, galvanic current, high-frequency, oxygen facials, comedone extractors, and lancets. See Machines used in facials—are they necessary? for detailed information about all the different machines that you may encounter in a facial.

7. What about extractions? I am wary of a place that doesn’t provide this service. I’ve heard more than one story of clients in desperate need of extractions who find themselves in a salon that refuses to do them. Conversely, I know many clients who truly needed few or no extractions and were “mashed” needlessly. Once again, the skill of the aesthetician comes into play. But an aesthetician or a salon with a “no extractions” policy is saying that they are unwilling to treat all skin conditions. They will not be able to give you what you potentially need. If you know you need extractions, asking this question will quickly eliminate any salon that refuses to do them. If you positively don’t need extractions, or you simply abhor extractions and don’t want them done, then going to a salon that doesn’t provide that service won’t be a problem for you.

8. How much does the facial cost? Prices vary, so you’ll want to call around and know the going rate for facials in your area, so there are no surprises. If one facial is a lot more expensive than the next, you’ll want to find out why. Price is another area where menus come into play. And again, this is another reason I don’t like them. I believe each person should get a whole and complete facial dictated by his or her individual needs. One facial may cost less than another, but perhaps you won’t get everything your skin needs for the lesser price.

Is the price all-inclusive or can extras be added? Unfortunately I have heard many stories of clients who went in to get a $90 facial and came out paying $130 or more. Ouch! There is a little trick you’ll want to watch out for, and it goes something like this: you go into the salon you’ve chosen expecting a $90 facial. But as the aesthetician works on you, she keeps mentioning how dehydrated you are or repeatedly noting some other problem. “You need deep exfoliation,” she says. And you agree. Then when you get your bill, you may be surprised to find you agreed to an extra $20 or $30 service! Make sure to ask if the facial includes everything or if exfoliation, masks, ampoules, etc., are an extra charge. If some of these are not included, you still may want to add them, but certainly you want to know the cost beforehand. A facial, in my opinion, should include everything needed for that client during each treatment without extra charges being tacked on.

9. What will my skin look like afterwards? Your skin should look radiant. It should be clean, clear, and healthy-looking. Unless you have problem skin that requires a lot of extraction, your skin should not be red, irritated, or feel greasy with excess cream needing to be wiped off. Your skin should look and feel great.

10. Will makeup be applied after the facial? There are two reasons you don’t want to apply makeup after a facial. First and foremost, your skin has just been thoroughly cleansed. The last thing you want to do is cover it up with makeup. Second, it is a signal you’ll no doubt be in for a big sales pitch. You’re a captive audience when someone is applying makeup to you, and it can cause even the strongest resister to cave in. Let your skin have a break from makeup for a while. Perhaps the salon wants to use makeup to hide the work they did in the facial. Remember, your skin should look great afterwards. Why cover it up? You may be going out right after a facial and need to apply some makeup. Go ahead, but don’t make it an after-facial habit.
For more helpful articles, see:

Monday, February 9, 2015

An Exfoliation Quick Tip for a Quick Pick-Me-Up

Exfoliating prior to a special occasion will have a twofold benefit for your skin.
  • First, it will remove dead cells, making the surface smoother and helping your makeup go on better.
  • It will also stimulate circulation, making your skin look luminous.
Dont hesitate—exfoliate!

For a few more tips, see:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Retin-A—some basic info

What is Retin-A? 

Tretinoin is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A, related to a class of chemicals called retinoids. Most people are acquainted with the brand names Retin-A® and Renova®, so I will use these more familiar names when talking about tretinoin.

Retin-A helps dissolve the bonds connecting your skin cells together. This increases cell turnover and can help to unplug the pores. Because of this dissolving action, Retin-A will help make the skin feel smoother as well as counteract the formation of blemishes. In contrast, in many people it also causes mild to severe irritation that leads to peeling or flaking skin. Your skin may feel smooth, but it may also look red and scaly. Retin-A is basically an irritant, and your skin responds as such.

Many studies have been performed
on the attributes and possible side effects of Retin-A, several touting its ability to stimulate collagen production. It is also said to encourage the development of new blood vessels. It is the blood that feeds and nourishes the skin, so if indeed Retin-A increases the amount of vessels feeding the skin, this would be a big plus. It is my experience, however, that Retin-A causes a weakening of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in most skin that can then cause couperose. This is one of Retin-A’s biggest negatives.

Retin-A can help to even out pigmentation irregularities and may alter how melanin (the dark pigment in your skin) is distributed. Paradoxically, Retin-A makes your skin much more sensitive to the sun (photosensitive). In fact, when using Retin-A, you need to be very careful about receiving direct sunlight. Retin-A makes your skin very susceptible even to limited sun exposure.


If you ask me, all the negatives far outweigh any positives Retin-A may offer. I have seen enough adverse reactions in my clients’ skin that I cannot be enticed to endorse this anti-aging miracle. Some of my clients see appreciable results; others negligible results, if any. In the skin of clients who love their results, usually I see deep redness and an odd texture to the skin. Because this product causes so many reactions in the majority of its users, I am amazed it is still used to fight wrinkles. Once again, the results are not long-term unless usage is continuous.

I believe Retin-A can quite often be effective for what it was originally  intended to treat—acne. I am not, however, a big believer in Retin-A for helping your wrinkles disappear. Since it was developed to treat younger, acne-prone skin, most older, mature skins find it very irritating. Renova was invented to address this very problem. It is essentially Retin-A in a more emollient cream form. Supposedly Renova is more soothing and less irritating. It tends to have a lower percentage of retinoids as well.

Retin-A and Renova are dispensed by prescription only, although you can easily find over-the-counter products that contain retinol in varying strengths. Retin-A, in my opinion, is in the same boat with other miracles cures. Unless you have acne, I would stay away from Retin-A. And if you do have acne, Retin-A may or may not be the answer to your skin care problems. I always encourage my clients to give things a tryyou never know. But if this or any other treatment causes more harm than goodjust stop using it!

For more information on trends and fads in skin care, see:


Friday, February 6, 2015

Alcohol in Products: The good and the bad

Ethanol is not a “good” alcohol
Why is alcohol [in products] bad for my skin?

Alcohol, the bad kind, basically dries everything on the surface of your skin. In theory, this may sound appropriate, especially if you have an oilier skin type. But in practice, stripping away all the oil from your skin can cause your oil glands to produce more oil to compensate for the loss. Add to that the moisture (water) evaporation alcohol causes, and you could be causing the very things you are trying to avoid. Namely, oily skin that feels dry and looks flaky, which is actually dehydration.

Some of my skin care products contain alcohol, mostly cetyl and cetearyl alcohol. Does this mean I can’t use them?

I hear from people who are worried that alcohol is an ingredient in a product they are using. There are many alcohols that are OK as ingredients, as well as many that are not good. I had a woman call me who had read my book and was worried because she saw that Cetaphil® cleanser contained alcohol. This particular product has cetyl alcohol (an emulsifier) and stearyl alcohol (a waxy filler); these are both acceptable kinds of alcohol.

This is important: Not all alcohol is bad. To clarify the difference, here is a list of many of the alcohols, good and bad, that are used in skin care products. Some of them are seldom used, but many are very common. Bad alcohols are marked with a “B” before their names; if they are good or acceptable types of alcohol, they are marked with a  “G.” This list was compiled from Ruth Winter’s A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, What’s in Your Cosmetics? by Aubrey Hampton, and Milady’s Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary by Natalia Michalun. Used with permission.
  • G/B—abietyl alcohol; abietic acid; sylvic acid. A texturizer for soaps derived from pine rosin. May cause allergic reactions.
  • G—acetylated lanolin alcohol. An emulsifier, emollient, and skin softening agent.
  • B—alcohol; ethyl alcohol; ethanol. Although this alcohol has antiseptic and degreasing abilities, don’t use it! It is drying, absorbing the water on the surface of your skin.
  • G—batyl alcohol. A stabilizer that is derived from glycerin.
  • G—behenyl alcohol. A thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer; increases viscosity.
  • B—benzyl alcohol. Derived from pure alcohol.
  • B—butyl alcohol. Sometimes listed as n-butyl alcohol. This is in the same league as other bad alcohols like ethyl and isopropyl.
  • G—caprylic alcohol. Occurs naturally in many essential oils (lavender, lemon, lime). A surfactant, or wetting agent.
  • G—cetearyl alcohol. A mixture of cetyl and stearyl alcohols, it is an emollient, thickener, and emulsifying wax.
  • G—cetyl alcohol. An emollient, emulsifier, and thickener. This is in a lot of skin care products.
  • B—cinnamic alcohol. A common allergen used as a fragrance ingredient.
  • G—coconut alcohol. Sometimes called coconut fatty alcohol; an emollient and lathering agent.
  • G—decyl alcohol. Derived from coconut oil or synthetically; it is an emollient, emulsifier, and antifoam agent.
  • B—denatured alcohol. See methanol.
  • B—ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Known as rubbing alcohol, it is a topical antiseptic, astringent, anti-bacterial. Avoid this alcohol!
  • B—isopropyl alcohol. Another rubbing alcohol. Made from propylene, which is a petroleum derivative. It is antibacterial, but is the bad kind of alcohol.
  • G—lanolin alcohol. An emulsifier and emollient.
  • G—lauryl alcohol. Used primarily in perfumes, this coconut oil derivative is used as a stabilizer, a skin conditioner, and for its sudsing abilities. May contribute to clogging the pores (comedogenic).
  • B—methanol; methyl alcohol; wood alcohol. This is basically denatured alcohol—the bad kind. It is flammable and toxic.
  • G—myristyl alcohol; myristyl betaine; myristyloctadecanol. An emollient, emulsifier, and foaming agent.
  • G/B—oleyl alcohol. An emollient and antifoam agent; it may be irritating to the skin.
  • B—propyl alcohol. Comes from crude oil; has a drying effect on skin.
  • B—rubbing alcohol. This is just another name for isopropyl alcohol and ethanol, which are the bad kinds of alcohol. Irritating and poisonous if ingested.
  • G—stearyl alcohol. Derived from sperm whale oil or synthetically produced from stearic acid; a lubricant.
  • B—wood alcohol (see methanol).
Know your product alcohols
To reiterate, the most commonly used “bad” alcohols are ethyl, isopropyl, and SD alcohol. These are used quite frequently in products for problem or oily skin. No matter where they are used, you want to a void these three plus any of the other alcohols listed above as “bad.” It’s important to know the good and the bad concerning alcohol(s) in your skin care products.

For more information on products and ingredients, see:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Will my puffy eyes ever go away? Help!

What causes puffy eyes? Basically it is edema (fluid retention) in the fat tissue above the bones encircling your eyes that causes puffy eyes. Those pockets fill up with fluid causing puffiness, probably due to inflammation. Inflammation comes from many different things: food allergies, alcohol consumption, smoking, sugar, among others.

How can I treat my puffy eyes? Prevention or avoiding the causes of puffiness are the first steps to alleviating puffy eyes. But since we live in the real world, I’ll give you a few things you can do to treat the puffiness you may be experiencing.

First, if you wake up in the morning with puffy eyes, before jolting out of bed, take it slow. Sit up in bed supported by your pillows with your back straight. Just sit there for a few minutes and give your body a chance to adjust to this more vertical position. If you get up quickly, the fluids that have settled around your eyes don’t have a chance to drain from this area, or at least not as efficiently as they would if you sit up and let them drain first. 

Using something cool on the eyes will help to reduce some of the puffiness. Do not use ice or anything extremely cold—you can damage the capillaries. But ice with a heavy cloth over it or some of the gel packs available for the eyes would be OK. You just don’t want to use anything ice cold directly on your skin; cool is acceptable.

There are eye creams on the market that address puffy eyes. They contain specific ingredients meant to help with the drainage around the eye area. Rosemary, for instance, has a constricting action, which can help to ease puffiness that results from fluid retention. (See An effective treatment for puffy eyes using Yonka’s Phyto Contour for a morning puffy eye routine that might help with mild or even severe puffiness you may be experiencing.) Be aware that no matter what a product claims to do, it’s doubtful anything is going to “cure” or totally eliminate the puffiness around your eyes—especially if it is genetic.

Cosmetic surgery is the only way to truly get rid of the fat pockets underneath your eyes. If you are through having to deal with excessive puffy eyes, you may want to consult with a few plastic surgeons and see what your options are. If you contend with puffiness every day and you are eating foods that are inflammation-inducing, I highly recommend starting with your diet before you consider going under the knife. It is the harder road, but truly it is the one that your body will benefit most from in the long run.

Keep in mind, foods that are causing puffy eyes are creating an inflammatory response in more than just your eye area. Sugar, among other foods, causes inflammation—not just in the form of puffy eyes, but body-wide. Always look to your diet (what you are consuming) as probable causes of inflammation and therefore puffiness. (Tomatoes, shrimp, and drinking alcohol are other known causes of puffy eyes in many people.)

Preparation H®. I’m sure many of you have heard about a “miracle” treatment for puffiness around the eyes: Preparation H, the hemorrhoid cream. I have read about this in a few books and magazine articles, and I’m frequently asked if it works, so I had to find out for myself what the truth is.

I went to the store and looked at all the different ointments and creams meant to shrink the pain and itching of hemorrhoids. There are a few brands available, Preparation H being the most well-known. Like many medications, there are generic brands that have virtually identical ingredients for less money. In order to do a “controlled” study, I purchased the Preparation H brand, but any of them would have worked the same I’m sure.

The ingredients listed in the cream as “active” are glycerin (12%), petrolatum (18%), phenylephrine HCI (0.25%), and shark liver oil (3.0%). Glycerin is one of the main components of most creams due to its water-binding abilities. It is a humectant and therefore attracts moisture (water) to itself. How this is going to help with puffiness I can’t imagine. Petrolatum, which is just Vaseline or petroleum jelly, is another ingredient that helps to make the cream smooth and spreadable. How this particular ingredient helps with puffiness is also a mystery to me. If you were to put Vaseline around your eyes, it would probably cause puffiness due to its ability to retain moisture. I also wonder what the active component is in this very inert (inactive) substance. Petrolatum is also going to clog your pores.

I could not find phenylephrine HCI, but found phenylephrine HCL in my ingredient book lists. Also known as hydrochloride, it is used in some nasal decongestants to contract blood vessels or in medications to take the red out of the eyes. This would be consistent with a cream meant to shrink tissue, in this case, hemorrhoids. Shark liver oil is loaded with vitamin A and is used to lubricate many creams and lotions. Out of all these “active” ingredients, the only one that seems to be acting on reducing inflammation is phenylephrine HCI. The inactive ingredients listed on the package are mostly fillers, lanolins, and preservatives; they are nothing special, and certainly nothing harmful.

Like many of you, I wake up in the morning with moderate puffiness under my eyes. Throughout the day, the puffiness naturally diminishes, if only due to gravity and the fluids draining from the eye area. I used the preparation under only one eye so I could see if there was a difference between my two undereyes. After using Preparation H (under one eye) for two full weeks, I can honestly and unequivocally say that this product didn’t do a thing for my undereye puffiness. I just didn’t see any appreciable difference. I would even ask those people I saw in that time frame, and they couldn’t see a measurable difference between my two eyes.

I went back to the store and purchased the ointment and the gel, thinking maybe I had used the wrong form of Preparation H. Neither of these made any difference either, further cementing my belief that Preparation H should be used as it was originally intended and not for puffy eyes.

Perhaps in a situation like a makeup artist working on a talk show guest or a model in a runway show, the Preparation H does work wonders. But my experience using it didn’t prove to be as beneficial. Try it for yourself. See if using this hemorrhoid cream around your eye area helps to reduce puffiness you may experience. Personally I’ll stick to eye treatment creams meant to help puffiness.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Canker Sores—ouch!

When clients come in who admit to eating sugar but have no outward signs of excess sugar consumption (like breakouts, for instance), I will not only ask if they get frequent headaches, which many times is a side effect of excess sugar, but also do they get canker sores inside their mouth or on their tongue? Your body simply cannot throw off sugar into thin air. The toxic residue from this “white devil” has to be eliminated somehow, some way, somewhere.

I believe these inner-mouth sores (sometimes called ulcers or technically aphthous ulcers) are actually similar to blemishes—like a zit inside your mouth. Why? Once again, from my own life experience, these sores arise in relation to the amount of sugar I have consumed. I am not saying that every canker sore’s appearance is due to sugar. I am simply trying to give you my own personal experience with these problem spots and why I have discovered they occur. You may find other offenders and have a different experience than I have had.

Other causes may be vitamin deficiency, stress, or even a poorly functioning immune system. Since sugar depletes both vitamins in your body and immune function, sugar could very well be the culprit. Also, eating too much citrus can cause problems inside your mouth as well as little sores on the corners of your mouth. Some people think wheat or even dairy products could be to blame.

Be sure to notice why you think the sores are there. Sometimes I will get them but cannot find where I have had obvious sugar in my diet. Then, after really analyzing everything I’ve eaten, I usually can find a cause. It may be something as benign as a new brand of crackers or even a pasta dish I ate at a restaurant that probably had added sugar in.

Regardless of why they have appeared, canker sores are painful little beasts. There are several remedies I have found to be effective for relieving the pain of these irritated sores as well as helping them to go away faster. I don’t have a lot of time or a lot of special ingredients in my home. I want to reach for something, apply it, and be done with it. So the following are simple and easy treatments to help the pain and suffering of canker sores.

Try rinsing your mouth with tepid salt water. Mix 2-3 teaspoons of table salt, or better yet, sea salt in a glass of warm water. Stir the salt until it dissolves, then swish in your mouth, paying attention to the location of the canker sore(s). Keep swishing for about 15-20 seconds, then spit and repeat. Salt water helps to reduce the swelling and irritation in these open sores. Do this several times a day for several days until the pain begins to subside, letting you know healing is starting to occur.

A less time-consuming treatment is to simply apply a drop of peppermint essential oil to the spots. Do this with a Q-tip. Otherwise, if you use a finger, you run the risk of accidentally putting that same finger with peppermint oil on it in or near your eyes later on. (I have done this in the past—use a Q-tip!) I recommend getting the oil on one end of the Q-tip first; then get a grip on your lip or mouth. Take the other, dry side of the Q-tip and place gently on the sore to dry it off. Next, put the peppermint on the area. Then, keep holding onto the skin to keep the area just treated from getting wet. Why? Because closing your mouth will cause the essential oil to mix with your saliva, rendering the treatment less effective. Keep the area open for 10-20 seconds so you can keep the treatment oil on the spot—alone—before it gets mixed into your mouth. Peppermint is powerful so do be careful when using it. One side benefit will be fresh—very fresh breath!

Clove oil can be an effective numbing agent for canker sores. Also used on toothaches, this essential oil has a strong analgesic (pain relieving) action. It, unlike peppermint, tastes horrible!

Something else you could use to treat canker sores is aloe vera juice. Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory as well as antibacterial properties, which makes it a soothing yet effective treatment for canker sores. This remedy can be found at most health food stores and is fairly inexpensive. (Use aloe juice not the gel, like you’d use for a sunburn.) Simply gargle (swish in your mouth) with the aloe, concentrating on getting the juice where your sores are. Try to keep swishing for 20 seconds or so, spit and repeat—two or three times, several times a day. If you work outside the home, take some aloe juice with you so you can swish during the day.
The Healing Properties of Aloe Vera

Another remedy I used as a child and sometimes still reach for today if a canker sore appears is Campho-phenique®. This is a “pain relieving antiseptic liquid” that can be found in any drug or grocery store. It contains 10.8% camphor and 4.7% phenol along with eucalyptus oil in a light mineral oil base. Although the package says it is for insect bites, scrapes, and minor burns, ever since I was a kid this is what I used on my canker sores. It tastes horrible (see ingredients), but it will numb the area as well as help the healing process. Use the same application technique that I recommend above for peppermint oil. Don’t get this or any product in your eyes; read the directions and warnings on the label.

Whatever treatment you decide to use, don’t forget to look to your diet and stress level to see if there are things you can do to help your body relax and defend against breakdown. Treating the symptom only does little to treat the system as a whole—your body.

A note of caution: If you have an oral lesion that you think is a canker sore but doesn’t heal after 2 weeks time, it could be a sign of trouble. Even left untreated, an inner-mouth canker sore will usually heal completely within that 2-week time frame. Please see your doctor if your supposed canker sore persists.

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