Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pregancy and Skin Care

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

What is Waxing?

Waxing is a popular hair removal technique. Your success rate with waxing will depend on the wax used (there are hot waxes, cold waxes, and some with special ingredients), the aesthetician providing the service (some people have more skill at waxing than others), and how your skin is attended to after the procedure (after waxing, a cream or salve that helps to soothe the skin should be applied). Hair regrowth is individual, but waxing should keep the hair away anywhere from three to six weeks.

Waxing is one of the least expensive ways to remove hair, but it is not a permanent removal, nor is it without side effects for some people. It is possible to have a reaction to certain ingredients in the wax itself, or the skin may become overly irritated due to the process. Welts can form, sometimes blisters, and although these are rare occurrences, they can happen.

Wax is applied to the area and a cheesecloth or cellophane strip is laid on top of the wax. Pressure is applied, and then in one quick movement, the cloth is ripped off the skin, taking with it a lot of hair pulled out from the root. As you may have guessed, or perhaps you have experienced this yourself, waxing is a painful procedure.

The hair needs to be long enough for the wax to grab hold of it. If you are waxing on an ongoing basis, this is not much of a concern; the hair grows in at different rates instead of all at once, making it less noticeable as you are growing it out. But if you’re waxing for the first time, letting your hair grow out can be tedious.

I am not a fan of waxing. When I was an employee at a spa, I had to wax—or at least so my employer thought. I was so against waxing that I would try to talk a waxing client out of getting the procedure, especially facial waxing, and instead opt for an actual facial that had a host of benefits for their skin. Although facials and hair removal are mutually exclusive, I made the spa more money giving a more expensive service, so if I was ever found out, how could they complain? And I was providing the client with solid information about how to take care of his or her skin, which in my eyes was a much more beneficial thing to do.

Because waxing can be lucrative for an aesthetician (employed or self-employed), this may lead her to encourage waxing even when it is clearly not needed. If you have been a victim of this practice and have only had one or two lip waxes, you are probably OK. But if you continue to wax, your hair may start to grow in darker and different than it was before. So please, take caution. Don’t just go with the flow and agree to a service you are not sure about getting. And don’t wax your lip simply because you think you should.

As with anything I may talk about, there are always exceptions. And with any of my recommendations or suggestions, they are only my opinions and may not fit into your lifestyle or needs. You will be the ultimate decision maker about what you do with your face, your skin, your looks. But waxing—especially your entire face—is something I strongly recommend not doing. (See future post: Waxing your whole face?)

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

MYTH: Food doesn't affect skin

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

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What is Rosacea?

The National Rosacea Society defines rosacea, pronounced rose-ay-shah, as “a disease affecting the skin of the face—mostly where people flush. Rosacea usually starts with redness on the cheeks and can slowly worsen to include one or more additional symptoms and parts of the face, including the eyes. Because changes are gradual, it may be hard to recognize rosacea in its early stages. Unfortunately, many people mistake rosacea for a sunburn, a complexion change, or acne and do not see a doctor.”
It is considered to be a chronic condition that if left untreated, tends to worsen over time. At the beginning of the disease, rosacea may come and go in cycles with occasional flare-ups and then improvement as though it has gone into remission. Over time, if given a chance (by not avoiding your triggers), the symptoms can worsen, causing possible permanent redness and swelling, namely in the cheek area.
The cause of rosacea is unknown, and there are several reasons floating around as to why it occurs. I believe it is first and foremost a vascular condition. Other opinions are that skin mites cause rosacea. These mites are said to find a home in the capillaries of the face, nest and then proliferate and cause swelling, redness, and the bumpy skin associated with rosacea. That skin mites exist is a fact. That they are found in large numbers in the affected skin of rosacea patients is also true. That these mites are the cause of rosacea is where I disagree. I believe that through vascular changes occurring first, the conditions are ripe for these mites to exist and proliferate.

Watch for more posts on rosacea and how to find relief from this sometimes frustrating skin condition.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Help For Breakouts

Why does skin break out? 

Quite simply, hormones cause breakouts. Hormonal imbalances can occur at any time in life. As puberty starts, the hormones are activated. For women, our monthly cycles can cause breakouts; pregnancy causes great hormonal changes and can either improve your complexion or cause mild to severe breakout; and perimenopause brings yet another change in a woman's hormone levels. Men, too, have fluctuations in their hormones, which can affect how clear or broken out their skin is. Diet is a huge consideration when looking for the cause(s) of breakout, and stress should not be overlooked as being a factor in skin troubles. There are several beneficial things you can do for breakouts that will help them go away without causing damage to your skin.

A clay mask is my number one at-home treatment for breakout. It has a calming effect and helps to temporarily lift redness from the skin. Clay draws to itself, helping to encourage movement of the debris in an embedded pore. Clay has antiseptic properties, which helps to keep bacteria away.

Clay can be used in two ways: as a mask, covering the entire face and left on for 15 minutes once or twice a week, or dotted on the blemishes at night before bed and left on while you sleep. If the spot is small to medium without a lot of infection, this dotting method can really reduce its size overnight. For deeper cysts and large infected areas, clay can still do wonders, but not miracles.

Essential oil of geranium is my next wonder treatment for breakout. After you have completed your Basic 1-2-3 routine (cleanse, tone, hydrate), dot geranium oil directly on any infected (red) blemishes. Please note: DO NOT get geranium or any pure essential oil in or around your eyes!

[Throughout the years I've been seeing clients, more and more I have been recommending lavender essential oil over geranium. This change is solely due to aromatics. Simply put, many people just can't take the smell of geranium oil! Lavender has a wonderful aromatic and is generally accepted by most noses.]

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

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

Combining a clay mask with geranium oil is the most effective, overnight treatment for blemishes. After you've completed your evening 1-2-3 program, dot some clay mask on any problem spots and let it dry for a minute or so. Then take your geranium oil and dab a bit on top of the clay and leave it overnight. In the morning you should see some reduction in size along with diminished redness of the blemish. Continue this dotting method for several consecutive nights or until the blemish is gone.

Breakout is one instance when essential oils and clay are ideal. Even though you may have to contend with red spots already present on your face, these products will go a long way to help expedite the healing process. There is no fast and easy way to get rid of blemishes. They weren't created instantaneously, and they will not disappear overnight. Give a clay mask and essential oils a try, and see if they don't work better for your skin than the blemish-control products you've been using.

PLEASE READ How to use a Clay Mask. There is important information you'll want to know before using your clay mask! Just click on the above post's title to be taken to that page.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to use a Clay Mask

Although almost every container of clay mask will instruct you to apply the clay to your face and let it dry on your skin. The following may be news to you but believe me—you do NOT want to let a clay mask dry and harden on your skin! Here are my instructions for utilizing a clay mask for the optimal benefit of your skin:

On clean, dry skin, apply a thick layer of clay mask over your entire face, even under the eye area. (Clay can help with puffiness due to its antiinflammatory properties.) Thick layer means thick enough so you can’t see your skin underneath. A thin application will quickly dry on your skin. Unless your neck is broken out, you don’t need to apply clay there. Instead, you can apply a hydrating mask or a thick layer of your moisturizer to include your neck in this treatment. Don’t forget to get some clay directly under your chin as well as that place between your jawbone and earlobe. I normally apply the clay right up on my earlobe. This whole little area tends to collect debris, and sometimes blackheads will form. Using a clay mask in these hard-to-reach areas will lessen the chance of congestion. Leave the mask on for 15 minutes or so. If you don’t have 15 minutes but you really need the benefits of clay, keep it on for 5 to 10 minutes. Using it even for short amounts of time is better than not using it at all.

Never let a clay mask dry on your face. In fact, you don’t really want anything to dry on the skin's surface—this will simply dry out the surface of your skin, which is never a good thing. It’s like taking one step forward, two steps back. Clay doesn’t need to dry in order to draw impurities to itself. There are actually cleansing fasts that require you to ingest certain types of clay. Obviously the whole time the clay is in your body, it remains moist yet it still draws out toxins while it’s going through your system. Here, you’re just applying clay to your face, but the principle is the same. Clay does not need to dry on the skin in order to draw out superficial debris. This may contradict how you have always been told to use a clay mask, but hopefully this new information makes sense to you.

After your time is up, rinse the clay off with tepid water, pat your skin dry, use your toner, and moisturize. When it comes time to rinse the mask off, you’ll be glad you kept it moist. A dried-on, hardened clay mask is very difficult to remove.

How to keep the mask moist. As I stated earlier, you want to keep the clay mask moist the entire time it’s on your face. At your local beauty supply or grocery store, purchase an empty spray bottle. Fill it with clean, filtered water. Immediately after you’ve applied the mask, spray your face thoroughly with the water. After five minutes or so, you’ll feel the mask starting to dry (especially around the periphery where the mask is most thin), so grab your bottle and spray your face again. During the 15 minutes you have the mask on, you will probably spray 3 or 4 times—whatever it takes to keep the clay moist. 

Using clay is an integral part of keeping your skin clean and clear, as well as helping to stimulate blood circulation. For more of the benefits of using a clay mask, CLICK HERE to be taken to blog post Why use a Clay Mask?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bumpy Arms? Read this!

Keratosis Pilaris

Recently several clients have been asking about mysterious yet recurring bumps on the backs of their upper arms. This is mostly likely keratosis pilaris, a common skin condition that you also may have experienced at some time—or even now! The following is taken straight from the pages of my 2nd book, Skin Care A to Z, so read on to find out more about helping to rid your arms of this annoying bumpiness. You can always purchase either (or both!) of my books at my website: CLICK HERE

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

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

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

I have evidently inherited keratosis pilaris (little red bumps on the back of my arms and on the front of my thighs) from my parents and grandparents. When I try to moisturize (because most of the literature mentions that it is a dry skin-related issue) it just causes more bumps. I am tired of my skin looking this way. The dermatologists either give me Tazorac® gel* and a greasy lotion, or they just tell me to live with it! Meanwhile I am embarrassed to wear a sleeveless shirt, and now I am nervous about wearing shorts. All of my reading seems to suggest that I must use some form of Retin-A, which is extremely hard on my skin. I would appreciate any insight you can provide. It seems like there must be something out there that can help!
*Tazorac is the brand name for tazarotene, a retinoid product.

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

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

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

So, right off the bat I think this client’s problem is too much dairy, along with too much sugar or sugar substitutes in her sodas. If these are both her downfalls, she has a somewhat long road ahead of her if she indeed wants to get rid of the bumps on her arms and legs. One way to find out if dairy is the offending substance is to eliminate it from your diet—completely—and see what happens. Understand that even though you may take something out of your diet, it may take time for your body to rid itself of the culprit. If the condition clears up during this sabbatical, you may have found the cause of your problems. However, to be sure, I recommend reintroducing dairy, for instance, and see if the bumps recur. You may be able to get away with eating some of the offending substance, but not to the degree you did in the past. If you monitor the situation, you can control it.

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

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

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