Prevention is the key

Honestly is is a lot easier to prevent problems in skin than to correct them. I suppose this is true for almost everything in life. However, we cannot always know everything in advance.  I guess that is where learning and/or experience comes in.

You only need to get one pre-cancer skin cancer scare before you take this more seriously.  It is quite serious, and you need to know that. But if melanoma doesn’t scare you, wrinkles might. The very easy and helpful answer to both of these potential problems is… SUNSCREEN.  Yes, every day. Yes, even when it’s cloudy. Yes even if you are just going to the store and back.

I have so much more to say on this topic with my preferences for which types and why, but for now just know the single best thing you can do for your face preventatively is wear some sunscreen every day.  These days it’s quite easy b/c many skin care cremes come with spf 15 or 30 already in them. Also, many foundations also have an SPF in them.

No excuses. Wear it.  Trust me. You will thank me at your 20th or 30th High School Reunion. Sun.


Anti-Aging Cremes

Blah. My least favorite topic. Many women come to me asking for an anti-aging moisturizer. Moisturizers simply moisturize. While there is some truth to a supple skin will age a little slower than dry skin, most are not going to “anti-age” you.

It is quite a racket. I walked through Sephora with my mom the other day trying to find her a decent one. I read the ingredients of dozens of these cremes and could find nothing to support the anti-aging claims in the ingredient deck. I am wary. I feel the same way about Department store moisturizers. Epic claims and no real results given what is on deck.

I think the FDA is cracking down on advertising like this, because it is patently unfair to promise things in advertising without real support to back it up. I used to be very cautious to speak about this b/c people can become very attached to their brand name they have used for eons. I am not here to judge anyone (except for any company making big claims that cannot deliver). But what fires me up is how much people are spending on Chanel, Lancome, Clinque etc without knowing better. Even more painful is hearing how much a jar of even drug store cremes are! Oil of Olay is not cheap either these days, nor for that matter are the MLMS of Rodan Fields or Mary Kay (I think they are still around!).

When I figured out how much women were spending on not so good cremes I started to advocate for my clients and friends on what is worth it or not. Granted there are some that are exceptional, but it takes quite a bit of wading through the BS to figure out which ones are worth it.  But very few are in my opinion.

You want something anti-aging? Opt for a daily moisturizer with SPF. Free radicals from the sun cause much of premature aging, and prevention from that is the #1 think you can do to avoid 1 million of units of botox later. A few good ones are Image Prevention Plus spf 30, and Skin Ceuticals sheer physical sunblock. For kids? Badger sunscreen (which you can get a whole foods I think)  wins awards year after year.

What’s your opinion on this? Do you use an anti-aging creme? Are you using a daily spf?  Have a product for me to research for you to give an opinion on? Feel free to ask questions in the comment section!Wooden mortar with herbs and cosmetic cream



Serums. What are they and do you need them?

It is okay to admit if you have no idea what a serum is and what they are for. Before I got into the skin care business I had no idea either.

Serum’s are an extra step in skin care that goes after cleansing and before moisturizer. It is usually lighter weight than a moisturizer.  In skin care the rule of thumb is thinnest to thickest when it comes to layering products. Serum’s usually have less ingredients than moisturizer and hence are more strong and targeted at delivering power ingredients.

Usually a serum is a step I suggest to up your game so to speak in skin care because most people already cleanse and moisture. Cleansing gets of dirt, oils and moisturizers, well, moisturize.  Serums are where you get to start really being good at taking care of your skin proactively.

I suggest a Vitamin C serum during the day.  Skin Ceuticals has practically cornered the market with the best science for delivering Vit C to the skin so if you can afford it I highly suggest you drop your cash there, if you want to spend some well spent money.

At night one could use a retinol if they want to start reversing lines and wrinkles but that is not for the beginner, and requires a whole other blog entry.

I really like serums with hyaluronic acid, which is why I make one with it.  Hyaluronic holds 1000 times the weight of a water molecule.  It is silky and the skin drinks it right up and plumps the skin from within.  So it doesn’t sit on top of the skin, rather it penetrates into the skin.  It is a very different feeling from a moisturizer and yet does a better job at hydration the skin.

Girl applying eye serumSo the answer is yes, you need a serum, and it is the one place you cannot skimp in skin care if you want to improve your skin.

Scrubs and Exfoliants

The skin you can touch on your face is already dead. That’s normal. By the time it reaches the top layer (stratum corneum) it is dead. So the very top layer of the skin can be exfoliated from time to time to refresh the skin’s appearance. It is wise to not overdo it, but some people under-do it or never exfoliate. In that case the skin can appear dull or lackluster. Also moisturizer just ends up sitting on top of the skin and never penetrating and helping you. So it is prudent to exfoliate a bit.

In line with most my thinking though, less is more. Do not exfoliate daily. Once a week is sufficient. You can use a scrub with jojoba beads once or twice a week. (the mini plastic bead scrubs are destroying the environment and slowly being banned, so if you have that stuff it is time to switch).  Please throw away St. Ives if you are still using that jagged stuff, it is too much and causes microtears in the skin.  Use it on your arms or legs or butt but not your face please!

In esthetics scrubs are called “manual exfoliants”. And there are also “chemical exfoliants” such as alpha and beta hydroxys. They have a place in good skin care but we will get to peels and such later.

My favorite gentle scrub is Natropathica’s “Oat facial polish”. It’s pricey but so beautiful in so many ways. Oat beta glucan is quite healing and soothing and anti-inflammatory and those jojoba beads pop giving your skin deep hydration with getting rid of dead skin.

Next up is Serums.. WTF are they? Do I need one?

Smiling woman with cleans the skin coffee skrub

Toners. Do you need them???

What is the point of that liquidy annoying step?  Is it just something we all think we are supposed to do?

Beautiful young woman removing her make up.

My opinion? Honestly? Yup. Skip it. Most toners have a base alcohol or witch hazel that is too stripping and filled with stuff you don’t need to do. Again those of us who grew up in the 80’s loved our “sea breeze” and that menthol stingy tight feeling of clean. Again, we don’t need this and it is upsetting to the skin balance.  As my first Russian mentor who came from a “4-generation-of-estheticians” family, (picture Red from Orange is the New Black) would say in her thick accent “Toners? Hmph. Waste of time.”

My second mentor (Slovenian) tried to convinced me cleansers and toners are like husband and wife and they should always be together. Meh. I ultimately do not agree. Although no disrespect meant to her, because she is fabulous and I learned a ton of other valuable things about European skin care from her. But, sometimes husbands and wives need to break up and some people are gay and some folks do not need a mate. I tend to agree with my first mentor (Disclaimer: I am a little Russian too by background, so the attitude might fit better with me) toners are a waste of time. Unless you are mindfully picking one that is a great addition to your routine and you know what it is for.  There are hydrating toners, pH balancing toners, and nutrient rich toners which are a bonus step that you could opt to use. But if you get a pH balanced cleanser there  is no urgent need. Although, it is nice to have a bottle of witch hazel on hand for an occasional wipe down of greasy skin or spot treat a breakout on the cheap!

The entire reason for toner is because of what I mentioned in the first installment about how cleaning actually throws off the skin’s natural pH balance. So It really depends on what cleanser you are using of you need a toner or not.  But usually this is also a step you can save time and money on.

Next up… Exfoliation.  And yes it is important, but the how much and how often matters…

Skin Care 101

Let’s talk cleansing

Most American women over cleanse and under moisturize. European women are not overly obsessed with cleaning the way we are. And the way we over cleanse with harsh waters and harsh temperatures (and some people overly scrub) our skin does it a disservice. Yes, we do need to get the grit, grime, make-up, sweat, bacteria and build up of our days so cleansing is necessary. But how and with what and how often we cleanse our faces matter.

On a scale of 1-14, skin has an average Ph Balance of 5.5. (Interestingly that is the average pH balance of skin for Americans. In Europe the pH is slightly lower because they are less obsessed with being squeaky clean). It is slightly acidic by design. It is known as the Acid Mantle. It protects us.

“The skin’s barrier, which is known as the acid mantle, is responsible for keeping in lipids and moisture while blocking germs, pollution, toxins, and bacteria,” explains Patricia Wexler, M.D., a New York City dermatologist. “…

When it’s too alkaline, skin becomes dry and sensitive; you may even get eczema. You may also experience inflammation, which inhibits the skin’s ability to ward off matrix metalloproteinases [MMPs], the enzymes that destroy collagen and cause wrinkles and sagging.”

The skin will vary in balance depending on a number of variables.  My point is that we must be mindful to not overly cleanse or strip the skin without replenishing that barrier or alkalinity.

Most soaps are alkaline (a 7-10 or so on the pH scale)  and thus throw off that protective barrier and leave your skin dry, and vulnerable to skin problems.  So I suggest finding a cleanser that is pH balanced (my preference is milky ones) and/or if you MUST use a more intense foamy or squeaky clean feeling face soap, then you will NEED a toner to rebalance the pH and restore your skin to function properly.  Left alone the skin will return to a normal pH balance eventually. But people who mess around with acidity versus alkalinity too much without understanding the results may encounter skin problems they might be creating.

I love feeling squeaky clean too, (I am American after all), but I have trained myself to not go crazy on clean with the skin on my face at least.   Every now and again I will use cleansers that gimme that tight clean feeling, knowing it will return to normal again after toner, barrier repair and time.  So if you do that on occasion it is fine, don’t worry.  But if it’s part of what you do daily, I suggest scaling way back.  It may take your skin a little time to return to its balance and not over cleansing might shock you and your skin for a little bit but I promise it will return and feel better for it.

Your skin is an organ not a piece of plastic that isn’t behaving how you want.  It’s health depends on your thinking about it as you would any other organ.  It is self sustaining in many ways, which is why i say less is more. Now if you have acne, my recommended course of action is slightly different but starting with doing less to your skin is also what I tell these people. But most of my clients are skin savvy people who over-do it. I realize that not everyone reading this blog will be like that.

Some people reading this might not be doing anything to their faces at all, which has either worked for or against them depending on genetics. To those people I would simply teach the other neat things skin care can do for them once they learn about it. But this part about scale back will land on them as, hmmm, ok I guess I don’t need to much more but this is just step one. So If that is you, keep reading we will get to how you under skin care-ing people can start caring more.

Not all Estheticians will agree with me, in fact I recently read a blog of a very good esthetician who is BIG on the cleansing and teaches people how to clean. I guess that’s where the Clarisonic comes in for me. That brush will do a phenomenal job so i don’t have to work so hard at it myself. And it isn’t that we have such dirty faces that causes aging and wrinkles after all. I was trained by European mentors and I saw first hand over the years by watching skin (mine and hundred of others) benefit from European wisdom. That being said, if you wear foundation and/or have acne I do recommend two cleanses. One to get off the make up, and another to get off the daily grime.

If you can splurge I do highly suggest investing in a Clarisonic skin brush. (And no the other cheaper brushes at Walgreens or Macy’s are not a suitable alternative to the Clarisonic.) With such an item you can get a super deep cleanse without having to worry too much if you skipped a day, but again always go gentle with cleanser type of products. I suggest using a Clarisonic brush with a gentle cleanser once or twice a week at least.

Some types of skin do need “harsher” cleansers but those should be used in moderation (ie a few times a week) and always followed by serum or moisturizer.

My favorite professional daily cleansers you find at spas or on-line are

  1. Image Ormedic for sensitive skin
  2. Image Ageless for anti-aging
  3. Eminence Stone Crop

Since I do love cleansers that have more “oomph” on occasion I DO have in my arsenal other favorites that are around and are pH balanced:

My favorite more powerful ones are

  1. Image Ageless (pH balanced)
  2. Rhonda Allison Pumpkin Cleanser
  3. Inventive Organics Environmental Cleanser
  4. Clear Cell by Image (for acne)

I do think face cleansers are one place you can save money in a skin care routine.   Save your cash if you must for power products. If you would rather drug store shop than Spa or department store product shop you can get away with a simple cleanser like:

  1. Cetaphil
  2. Cerave
  3. Yes to carrots

If you have acne consider alternating a gentle milk cleanser one day and an acne cleanser the following day. I will write more specific blog entries for the other steps and for special skin conditions and how to treat those.

Next up: Toners…Do you need one????

First things first…

I am no different than most of you. I do not want to spend a ton of money on expensive creams and/or false promises. I also do not want a 7 step skin care routine morning and evening.  I want good affordable result oriented skin care products. And I want to use only a few products. I will spend good money on at least one or two good products if I know it will produce the results I want. But just like a consumer, I would not want to waste money and feel duped by claims that do not deliver.

What I have learned through many years of being an Esthetician, is what products I do need and want, and which kinds of products are just fluff and/or flash in the pan trends. And trust me, there is a lot of bullshit out there. I know it can be frustrating and confusing for the consumer. But after studying cosmetic formulation and ingredients for years I notice that most of the trends that come and go in skin care do not stick around. You never need to spend 100.00 bucks or more on a moisturizer. That La Mer creme that someone spends 250 hundred bucks is a nice cream, but probably worth about 15 bucks. Estheticians facepalm whenever they hear that brand. You just bought expensive marketing and imaginary status.

I can teach you the shortcuts I have learned and the ways to keep your skin looking healthy and young even if you suck at skin care (or simply do not know the first thing about it) and don’t want to (or just cannot) spend a ton of money.  Some things really are worth investing in when it comes to your skin and most things are not.

The truth is… It’s an industry. It is an industry that makes money off of people’s insecurities a lot and that pisses me off. You already are perfectly beautiful in my opinion. Aging is natural and normal in my opinion. So if you cannot accept those basic things, either this is the wrong blog for you, or the right one if you aspire to feel that way.

While aging is normal and imperfections are what they are (human), I can relate to wishing things looked a little different. We all have at least a modicum of vanity. A modicum of vanity is fine! I call that healthy narcissism.  It is unhealthy when it becomes an obsession or a way to try to fix the outsides so we don’t have to deal with our insides. And by that I mean psychologically. I have a psychology background so always (for me) the mind is involved in any skin/body/psyche manifestation.  As far as food/nutrition is concerned that is not my forte so you won’t get that advice here. We all know what we are supposed to do there and I will let someone else lecture you about that stuff if you need it. I simply have no interest in speaking to that. I mean no disrespect to the skin/gut/mind connection and the professionals that address that, I am just saying that is not what I talk about, it is not what I was trained to talk about so I do not.

So I will finish by saying, make some peace with how you look today no matter what condition you are in because, quite frankly, it all begins with a little self love and acceptance before any REAL lasting change happens. In my next blog entry I plan to start to go over the basics of skin care for those of you who simply were never taught, want a different perspective, or a refresher course.