Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Recovery Program: Part I

I’m posting this article early so in case you need help before the holidays are over, you’ll have some tips to get you through. Part II will post just after the new year, helping you with skin problems and breakout you may experience over the holidays. In this “recovery program,” I’ll give you information to help you stay hydrated inside and out during and after the holidays.

Did you go to a few too many holiday parties? Stay out late, drink too much, eat too many sweet or rich foods, and did you even go to bed with your makeup on? Not to mention the in-laws spending the holidays with you, getting all the presents bought and wrapped, and to top it offlooking good throughout the process! Or maybe you caught a cold or came down with the flu. Well, if you can relate to any of the above, you’re not alone. The holidays are usually a time of letting go of your normal routine and letting yourself indulge in all the heavenly treats this time of year brings. And if you went a little overboard or just stayed the course and still suffered some stress getting through the holidays, no doubt your skin is showing the signs of neglect, and I have some tips on how to put your face back on the road to recovery.

Dehydration is the most common side effect encountered at this time of year. As I discuss in my book, Timeless Skin: Healthy Skin For A Lifetime, dehydration can be caused by many factors.        
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic and leaches water out of your body leaving all of your organs, including your skin, without adequate hydration. (See Holiday Hangover Helpers.)
  • Simply not drinking enough water can be detrimental to your skin. Water is essential at a cellular level. Without enough water, your body has a tougher time releasing toxins and all of your organs (including your skin) have to work harder to keep up their normal functions. (See Drink More Water!)
  • Indoor heat is a leading cause of surface dehydration. It dries out the air inside your home, leaving your skin (every inch of itface and body) feeling itchy and scaly and looking as rough as an alligator’s skin.
  • Even the cold, dry air outside can cause your skin to feel like it needs to vacation in a rain forest.
  • If you got sick this winter, your skin probably paid the price. Sometimes medication can cause dehydration. And usually when you’re sick, your daily routines don’t get accomplished including your daily skin care routine. (See Help for a winter (or anytime) cold.)
There are two easy solutions for surface dehydration: Exfoliating and using a hydrating mask. Exfoliation is the number one problem solver when it comes to dehydration. Getting rid of the surface dead cell buildup will allow your skin to retain moisture more efficiently; smooth out the rough texture associated with dehydration; give your skin a healthy glow, due to the circulatory benefits of exfoliating; and better enable you to have clear skin, since it’s dead skin and oil that clog the pores.

Using either a scrub or a soft gel peel (gommage) will immediately lift off surface dead cell buildup and reveal healthy, vibrant skin underneath. Applying a hydrating mask will quickly and easily add moisture to your skin. (Don’t have a hydrating mask? Simply apply a thick layer of your favorite day or nighttime moisturizer.) Leave it on your face for 10-15 minutes then remove the mask and enjoy softer, smoother skin instantly! Create your own at-home facial by exfoliating, using a mask, then hopping into a warm tub full of bubbles and letting the stress release from your body.

Incorporating some or all of these suggestions will help your skin look and feel more hydrated during and after the holidays and keep it looking good all year round. Stayed tuned for Part II of this Recovery Program!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Enlarged Pores 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. Please read Using dry skin products on oily skin—STOP THE INSANITY!

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. (See Mature Skin explained.)

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. (See The Extras.)

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. (See clay masks.) 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!

Stay tuned for more information in upcoming post: More questions about Enlarged Pores.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What are AHAs?

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. 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.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

True-Dry Skin explained

What is true-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.

There are many articles on this blog pertaining to true-dry skin and what to use to keep your skin feeling hydrated. Look at dry skin issues and moisturizingface for starters.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Removing eye makeup: Part II

Removing mascara. In terms of saving the undereye skin from harm, the following is my best recommendation for removing 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), 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 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
  • Once you have done both eyes, simply do your regular evening Basics 1-2-3 routine, remembering to include eye cream
This 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.

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 skin—everywhere—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) 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.

Something else to note: At the end of one of my skin care talks, one of the ladies in the audience brought up a great point that I wanted to pass along to you. Recently she realized that as she was putting on her mascara she was wrinkling her forehead due to the angle of looking in the mirror and using the mascara wand. She then took into account how many years she had been applying mascara and thought this may be one reason she had so many lines and wrinkles on her forehead. 

Remember, all wrinkles are formed through expression, and raising your eyebrows to apply mascara causes expression lines that usually show up on the forehead. So use this as a reminder to try and find a way to apply your mascara or any makeup you may wear that does not reinforce or even create lines and wrinkles.

 See Removing eye makeup: Part I for more tips.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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. In the morning, when you first get up, 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, and 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!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hair Removal Alternatives: Bleaching

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

Bleaching, of course, is not removing hair physically, but I’m  including it in the posts on hair removal because it can remove hair visually. And sometimes this is all that is needed.

The most common reason (and my recommendation) for using a bleaching cream is for dark hair on the upper lip area. With bleach, all you are doing is lightening the hair, not removing it; so the hair doesn’t change (get darker, thicker) due to this application. Other than a reaction to the bleaching cream itself, there aren’t really any negative effects of using this method to remove dark colored hair. In short, bleaching is the least harmful way to take care of unwanted hair on the upper lip.

Jolen® is a brand of facial hair bleaching cream that has been around for years. There are other brands on the market as well. Full directions will be on the box or bottle of bleaching cream. Just be sure to read and follow those instructions to the letter. Also, since you are working with bleach, be careful not to get it on anything, especially clothes you care about.

Bleaching your upper lip is a painless and simple way to get rid of dark hair. I recommend doing a patch test first before using any bleaching cream. You never know if you will have a reaction, and you certainly don’t want to find out after you’ve applied bleach to your entire upper lip area. 

I recently had a facial, and the aesthetician told me not to wax or bleach my upper lip for a few days. What do you think—is that true? 

I agree with your aesthetician. Waxing causes irritation for almost everyone. If the facial contained strong acid peels or a lot of active ingredients, your skin might be too sensitive to use chemicals like bleach. So, since the skin is susceptible to irritation in that area, although it may not cause a problem, play it safe and don’t bleach either directly before or after a facial. And definitely don’t get waxed there for a few days.

If I see a client who is asking about getting her upper lip waxed for the first time to remove unwanted hair, I always recommend she try bleaching the area first. If she can achieve the results she's looking for by simply bleaching, that is a good thing.

I also recommend not obsessing about this or any other area of your body. It is very possible that whatever you “see” no one else can or does. Be kind!