How To Beat Chapped Lips (And A DIY Remedy)

remedy for chapped lipsDry, chapped lips are uncomfortable and sometimes painful, and once the weather starts to change, everyone suffers. No one likes the look of flaky, dry skin all over your mouth. So I have a few tips to help you keep your lips soft and smooth if you get stuck under the mistletoe.

I have struggled with chronic dry lips for years, and even year round. Once the cooler temps hit, my lips would dry up and it seemed like there would be nothing that would solve my problem. Even while I was working at Sephora and had access to every lip balm in the world, I still couldn’t find anything that would solve my chronic chapped lips (called cheilitis, for those skin care nerds out there). My lips would be raw from my lower lip to my nose. So what’s a girl to do?

Here’s what I finally figured out.

Stop using products with sodium lauryl sulfate. Or, even better, all sulfates. Many products are touting their sulfate-free status these days, giving the impression that sulfates are evil ingredients. They are not, but they are heavy surfactants (cleansing agents) that can irritate delicate skin. If your skin is already irritated, it can make that irritation worse. Think of it like salt – not bad on popcorn or potato chips, even necessary, but boy does it sting if you get it in an open wound. Some people may have a higher sensitivity to sulfates and the sulfates themselves may cause the irritation. This was my problem. I stopped using a toothpaste with sulfates and my severely chapped lips disappeared within a week. Check your toothpaste and face wash for sulfates and switch it up if necessary. I switched to Sensodyne, which is easy to find at any drugstore. You’re looking for ingredients that have the word “sulfate” in them: sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate.

Consider allergic reactions. The lips are thinner and more delicate than the skin on the rest of the body, so I’ve encountered plenty of people who have lip-specific allergies. Try to use one lip balm for a few weeks and see if the condition subsides. If it doesn’t, try a different one, with a different set of ingredients. Once you’ve used a few, you should be able to figure out from the ingredients if you have an allergy. Look at the ingredients list on all the lip balms and try to find the common ingredients.

Severe chapped lips (think lips that crack and bleed, chapping, and irritation beyond your lip line) may actually be caused by a medical condition. Anyone who’s ever taken Accutane knows that it can cause some serious chapping. What I didn’t know? People who are prone to fever blisters and canker sores can also suffer from chronic chapped lips. If that’s you, get to a doctor. You’ll probably want a diagnosis and a prescription in order to get relief. Check out this article from Dr. Audrey Kunin who breaks down hidden causes of chapped lips on Dr. Oz’s website.

Try my DIY lip scrub. It’s so easy, and I even made a video for you. Remember, you can’t scrub away an irritation, so if your lips are swollen, inflamed, hurting, tender to the touch, don’t scrub. Use a product like Aquaphor for the time being, and if the irritation doesn’t subside within a week, you may want to see a doc.

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Are You Missing Out?

anti agin skin careSomeone asked me a great question today. She was concerned that treating her rosacea was getting in the way of treating her fine lines and wrinkles. When I tell people to target their concerns, I mean that you need to address what you’d like to change about your skin, but what I really mean is that you need to treat what is actually happening with your skin.

First, let’s take a broad view of how the skin ages. It’s more complicated than skin care companies make it seem. We’ll keep it simple for this purpose. Skin cells divide in the base layer and rise to the surface, flattening and essentially dying as they go. We exfoliate the top layers off, which sends a message to the bottom layers to divide more often. As we age, the DNA of these cells starts to become damaged, and the skin cells replicate the damaged DNA. The key to anti-aging comes in when we look at the reasons why the DNA becomes damaged in the first the place. And the answer to this question is inflammation.

Inflammation is one of those words that we hear all the time. Famous doctors like Dr. Perricone, Dr. Weil, and Dr. Oz talk about it all the time. But it’s a word that gets thrown around so much that most of us don’t think about it much more. Something claims to be anti-inflammatory, and it sounds great. If inflammation is bad, obviously anti-inflammatories are good. But if we think about it for a second, just in relation to the skin, inflammation prevents the cells from replicating the way they are supposed to. Take this one step further, and we see that long-term, inflammation can lead to lots of damaged DNA replicating itself over and over. Chronic, systemic inflammation is the root of almost all aging.

My theory is always that taking care of your skin the way it needs to be taken care of is always the best anti-aging. Skin issues such as rosacea, eczema, and acne are all the result of inflammation. So if inflammation causes aging, reducing inflammation is itself anti-aging. Maintaining skin health is the best way to prevent wrinkles because you allow the skin to heal and protect itself.


What I’m Loving Now: Jane Iredale Sugar and Butter Lip Duo

natural lip exfoliant and lip plumper all in oneChapped winter lips have gotten me down, so I was happy to rediscover one of my favorite lip products, the Jane Iredale Sugar and Butter lip duo. I found it in the bottom of a drawer, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t used it since last year. This lip duo features a lip exfoliator on one side, which has organic brown sugar partnered with beneficial botanical oils to exfoliate dead skin and moisturize at the same time. I love sugar exfoliants because they don’t leave nasty tasting synthetic ingredients all over, and sugar dissolves easily for a quick, on the go dead skin removal. The flip side is a hydrating lip butter, with a little extra shimmer and plumper as a bonus. I love the way my lips look when I use this… it’s my barely there lip look. The plumper helps to boost the look of your natural lip color, as well as giving a little fullness that often lacks in the cold winter months. This is best for ladies who don’t crave a dramatic lip look but want to add a little finish with a natural sheen and glow. I am obsessed with lip products, and I hate most of the exfoliants I’ve tried. This little gem has been a welcome change.

What are you relying on to save your lips this winter?



 Think this product would work for you? I earn a commission and you help to support this blog if you use the affiliate links provided. But your trust is important to me, and I’d never recommend something that I haven’t used or didn’t like. Read my disclaimer.

Deep Down Cleaning At Home

Sometimes a change of season makes us crave a little detoxification. Since it is common to experience an increase in breakouts as the weather cools off, you might want to amp up your exfoliation at home and dig a little deeper in your pores at home. Remember that nothing replaces manual extractions in a facial, but here are some tricks to get a little home detox going.

DermaDoctor Wrinkle Revenge 1 CleanserTry a glycolic acid or salicylic acid wash at home a few times a week. Salicylic is best for blackheads, but it may be too much for drier skin types. Since we’re trying to soften the skin and get a little extra exfoliation, glycolic washes are great, quick things to do at home. My favorites include the DermaDoctor Wrinkle Revenge Cleanser, which is a great creamy, non-drying glycolic cleanser in various strengths (start with Wrinkle Revenge 1 if you’ve never used a glycolic wash). Another great option is the Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel. It includes a little salicylic acid, so it is better from more combination skin types.


I like to amp up my at-home cleanse with the Clarisonic Cleansing Brush a couple of times a week. Ultrasound cleansing or sonic cleansing uses sound waves to break up the debris on the surface of the skin more quickly and more effectively than regular cleansers. Plus the oscillations of the brush stimulate the micro-circulation in the uppermost layers of the skin which also boosts your natural glow.


Get some extra exfoliation with an at home peel. Whereas I strongly believe that at-home Juice Beauty Green Apple Peelpeels can’t replace the professional strength ones that I offer in my clinical practice, it is a great way to get more effective exfoliation at home. Do an at-home peel once a week and follow with a clay mask to mimic some of the results of a professional deep cleansing that I do in my treatments. Some fun ones to try? I’ve always loved the Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel. It’s an extremely effective peel as well as being organic. I also love the Sircuit Cosmeceuticals Youth Accelerator Pumpkin Peel. I work with this line currently, and it is my go-to enzyme peel for people with congested skin.

Rodan + Fields Anti-Age Daily Cleansing MaskFollow your peel with a detoxifying clay mask a couple of times a week. I have been using the Rodan and Fields Anti-Age Daily Cleansing Mask a few times a week to help draw impurities out of the skin in this especially sweaty, oily time of year. It is a clay-based cleanser that can double as a mask, making it a quick detox for super busy people. Another mask to try is the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask, a fun peel-off mask that detoxifies while it brightens, though it definitely requires more time to work effectively.


Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your skin doesn’t need to be deeply cleansed often. Some natural oils on your skin are not bad; in fact, it is even healthy! So don’t mistake a stripped down, tight feeling for a deep cleanse. But incorporating some of these ideas and products into your regular routine a few times a week can help control breakouts, keep cell turnover rate high, and boost your daily glow.


Winning the Fight Against Blackheads

Once people start to understand how blackheads are formed, and what must be done to get rid of them, the next question I hear is which product is the best. These are a few things that I look for when I am evaluating the effectiveness of a product.

  • Serums are more effective than cleansers. In general, I prefer serums because they stay on the skin longer, while cleansers ultimately wash off. In the case of blackheads, you need something that can really penetrate the pore, and serums can do that. Also, serums are easier to zone treat (just treating the area where the problem occurs), and you can stop using it if you experience too much drying.
  • Ingredients are key. Salicylic acid is the best ingredient to fight blackheads, but the addition of glycolic acid can really bump up the effectiveness. These two are most important, and after that, the product just gets better if it has other acids like lactic or azelaic (which can often help with pigmentation).
  • The product should have a light, spreadable texture and be free of clogging ingredients like mineral oil or petrolatum.

And here are some of my favorites products that fit this description.


blackhead fighterActive Serum by iS Clinical features sugar cane extract (glycolic), bilberry extract (lactic), and willow bark extract (salicylic). It also features arbutin and kojic acid, which can help to brighten the skin. It works on blackheads and the appearance of pores. Because of the salicylic, it also helps with acne. Use this product all over for help with texture and brightening as well.



Ain’t Misbehavin Intensive Medicated Blackhead Treatment by DERMAdoctor is a treatment designed specifically for blackheads. It uses salicylic acid, glycolic acid, azelaic acid, and a myriad of other great ingredients to work on stubborn clogs. Use it as a zone treatment to minimize blackheads and breakouts.


blackheadsBlemish Clearing Serum by Juice Beauty is technically an acne treatment, but its use of salicylic and glycolic also makes it a great blackhead fighter. I love the price of this one. It really spreads, making it a great value. Plus, Juice Beauty utilizes as many certified organic ingredients as possible, which makes it a great choice for someone looking for something natural and paraben-free. Use it as a zone treatment or all over, depending on your concerns.


All of these products are great options to help to minimize the appearance of pores and diminish the occurrence of blackheads. There are always others out there to try, but be sure to check the ingredients list to make sure you’re buying something that is effective. And remember that good skin care starts at home, so make sure to invest wisely products that address your concerns the best.



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The Epic Battle of the Blackhead

People who come in for facials generally have a myriad of concerns about their skin, but one of the concerns I hear the most regularly is blackheads.  People want to know why they get themWoman insepcting her blackheads and pores in the mirror. and what they can do about them. Blackheads are made of sebum and dead skin cells. The oil and skin cells lodge inside the pore and harden, clogging the pore. As the clog sits in the skin, it oxidizes, which causes the darkened color that appears black in the skin. It’s a totally natural process, and just about everyone gets blackheads somewhere at some point. They generally occur most frequently in the T-zone, although they can show up anywhere. People often assume that because they have blackheads that they must have oily skin. But this is a common misconception that often leads to treating blackheads in a way that can actually make them worse. Often, dry skin gets an especially stubborn kind of blackhead that is even more difficult to remove. If you think back to how the blackhead is formed, it starts to make sense. In oily skin, the oil is thinner and more liquid, and even when it clogs, the clog can still be pliable, and the skin surrounding the blackhead is often more forgiving.  A clog that is in dry skin, where the oil starts out being very thick and solid, is not as easy to manipulate, and the surrounding skin is more solid and less forgiving. Determined to live a life without blackheads? There are several ways to address them.

  • A professional facial is the best place to start. Manual extractions are the only way to truly remove clogs. [Tweet this!] Everything else controls them (meaning you’ll get fewer blackheads or the ones you have may be less noticeable).
  • Use a serum with salicylic acid. This is a great method of control and maintenance. It also makes my job easier when you come for a facial, because the clogs are primed and ready to go.
  • Keep your skin hydrated and supple. Proper moisture levels keep the clogs and the surrounding skin soft, meaning that when I start to work, I can get a better, more thorough, less uncomfortable extraction.

Skin clear of blackheads is something that must be constantly maintained. You cannot have blackheads extracted one time and expect to never get them again. Forming blackheads is one of the skin’s natural processes, and some people are more prone to this process than others. Regular facials with manual extractions are necessary to maintain a skin free of clogs, though what is “regular” may vary from person to person.

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Patch Up Your Allergies

Skin allergiesOver dinner with a friend this week, our chitchat segued into a conversation about her skin. She complained to me about her sensitive skin and frequent rashes. Then she said something that struck me…the doctor said she wasn’t allergic to anything. I told her that she was clearly allergic to something, but she argued with me, saying that all her tests were negative. I explained to her that allergy patch testing can be helpful, but that it often turns up negative results even though you might still have allergies.

A woman gets skin allergy patch test for contact dermatitis at the dermatologist
Patch Testing

The process can be tedious, taking several days of doctor’s visits.  You’ll have your first appointment on a Monday or Tuesday. At this appointment, they will place small amounts of common allergens on your skin and cover them with sticky patches. They will do this until the majority of the skin on your back is covered, generally testing for 30-100 of the most common allergens, everything from common fragrance ingredients to preservatives to medications. You will return to the office to have the patches read 24-72 hours later, and possibly even another 24 hours after that, depending on the results of the first reading. You cannot get the patches wet during this time, making it difficult (though not impossible) to shower or work out. You may also develop rashes on your back that can cause discomfort and itching.

If you and your doctor have decided to proceed with patch testing, make sure you understand what your results mean. So remember that the test only checks a limited number of the most common allergens. The good news is that you’ve narrowed the field of possibilities that are likely to cause problems. The bad news is that you still come in contact with thousands of other ingredients to which you could be allergic. Also remember that it checks for common allergens, not common ingredients. This means that if you’re allergic to an ingredient that is in a lot of products, but you’re the only one allergic to it, this test may not give you all the information you need. You may find out that you are allergic to some ingredients, but you may still have more allergies to other ingredients not covered in the test. Finally, I have had many clients who were allergic to something on just one part of their face, like lips or even just around the eyes. Facial skin is typically thinner and more reactive, so testing for something on your back may not necessarily uncover all allergies. If you figure out that something irritates the skin on your face, I would avoid all contact with it no matter what.

I feel like patch testing is a great way to gather information, but it’s important to understand what you’re testing for and why it may not always work. The more you know about your allergies and what your skin can tolerate, the better you will be able to find skin care that works for you. But remember that it is often only one of the many methods that you may need to use in order to isolate your allergies. Be sure to consult your dermatologist if you are having chronic problems with contact dermatitis. A patch test may be the perfect place to start your search, and your doctor can guide you.

More questions about allergies and patch testing? Email me questions or leave a comment below!

Sunny Summer Days

This past Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer. Now everyone can look forward to months of beaches and BBQs and fun in the sun. Summer can also mean dramatic changes in your skin that can often wreak havoc. Read on for some ideas on avoiding trouble and cruising through summer with a glow.

Changes of season are a great time to revisit your skincare routine.  Everyone experiences changes in their skin, and routines need to be tweaked accordingly. As temperatures rise, you may find that your oiliness increases as well. More oiliness calls for lighter textures and, for some, moderate use of oil controlling ingredients. You may find that adding a wash with salicylic acid will help to combat excessive shine and more frequent breakouts. Look for a wash with 2% salicylic acid. Use it daily for oily-all-over skin types, and try it three times a week for T-zone-oily skin types. Remember that overuse of salicylic acid can dry, so dial it back a little if you start to dry out.

Increases in oiliness can also often lead to more clogged pores, which can in turn lead to seasonal breakouts. These breakouts are easily controlled. Again, increasing your use of salicylic acid can help, adding either a wash or a light acne control serum. Remember that you still need to hydrate and protect your skin, so don’t skip your moisturizer for fear of making breakouts worse. Instead, switch to a light-weight hydrator, or use a hydrating serum under your sunscreen.

Warmer days often encourage extra sun exposure too, so it is also the time to increase your daily SPF protection. I generally recommend switching to a dedicated SPF and putting your moisturizer with SPF aside until fall. Make sure you amp up to an SPF 30 as well, as you need that extra coverage. You may find that dusting on a mineral SPF powder can give you a mid-day touch up, protecting your skin while blotting some excess shine. I’ve talked about sunscreens more in depth in other posts.

Pigmentation is also a concern in summer months. Diligent use of sunscreen is your best defense against those pesky brown spots. You can add a botanical brightening serum underneath your moisturizer. I usually do this morning and night in order to get a boost in repair, as well as proactively protecting against more damage. I recommend putting your prescriptions or products containing hydroquinone away for the summer since misuse of more aggressive products can actually lead to more damage.

Summer skin problems don’t have to stop your fun. [Tweet this!] A few simple changes to your routine can help keep your skin under control and glowing through the fall!



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Out, Acne Spot

Acne… The bane on your existence. I often hear women complain that they thought they would have grown out of their acne as they’ve gotten older, but many women suffer long past the teenage years.

Unfortunately, only men typically outgrow acne. Women grow into acne more than they grow out of it, since the hormone that causes acne for women generally starts up a little later. Some women find that birth control pills can be very helpful in controlling breakouts. This is a very personal decision for many reasons, and it is a conversation that you should have with your doctor.

Acne often deals women a double blow, since most acne products contain potentially drying ingredients such as retinol or salicylic acid. It is a common misconception that, if you have acne, you also have oily skin. You absolutely can be dry and have acne. In fact, I find most women over 25 to be drier. So, how do you balance acne control and dry skin?

  • Pick an acne control serum, and use a cleanser and moisturizer that is appropriate for your skin type. [Tweet this!] Do not use acne control in every step of your routine as you are sure to dry yourself out. If you just have one step with acne control, you can drop it out of your routine more easily should you start to dry out.
  • Don’t be afraid to moisturize. If you are already dry, you need to replenish that moisture, as over-drying your skin can actually cause more irritation, tighter clogged pores, and potentially more breakouts. Look for a light-weight moisturizer. Amazingly, it can even have a little oil, as long as it is a natural oil like jojoba, sunflower, or grapeseed oil. Avoid mineral oil, since it is occlusive and can make clogging worse.
  • Pay attention to your skin. If you start to dry or flake, you need to back off your acne control. Take a few days off altogether or just use a spot treatment. Let your skin repair itself. Try a gentle hydrating or soothing mask to replenish and help your skin to heal.
  • Don’t panic if you have one breakout. Blemishes are annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. Everyone breaks out once in a while. Monthly breakouts are unfortunately common; if you are breaking out weekly or more, then you should take action beyond just a spot treatment. Pick one with a little salicylic acid in it, and be sure not to pick.

Acne can be frustrating and persistent. Ask for help from an esthetician or other skin care professional if you are not getting relief. There are many options for treating acne, and it often takes one-on-one help to sort through them.



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A Pea in the Pod

It’s always so exciting to hear that one of my clients has gotten pregnant. It also always leads to a host of questions and concerns about skin care.  Here is some advice to consider if you’ve discovered that the stork will be visiting you soon.

Expect your skin to change, and be prepared to change with it. Some dry skin types will suddenly have oily skin, while oily skins may experience dryness for the first time in their lives. Don’t be afraid to change your products accordingly! Dry skin can switch to a creamier moisturizer or add a botanical oil under a current moisturizer.  Oily skin should switch to an oil-free, light-weight product. Some of these changes may last months after you deliver!

Stay miles away from retinol and Retin-A, benzoyl peroxide, and hydroquinone. Salicylic acid is hit-or-miss; I find that half of my clients doctors tell them to avoid it, and the other half say it’s okay. Definitely ask your doctor what he or she recommends, and follow those instructions.

Break outs are unfortunately very common during pregnancy, and as you may have noticed above, we just eliminated almost all of the acne-fighting ingredients. So how do you treat acne? Pure tea tree oil is generally okay, and since it is antimicrobial and antiseptic, it can provide a little relief by way of killing the bacteria that causes acne. Generally, AHAs like glycolic are considered okay. You may try a glycolic cleanser followed by a little tea tree oil under your moisturizer. Double check all of these ingredients with your doctor just to be sure.

Melasma, or hormonally-induced pigmentation, is also unfortunately very common during pregnancy. Try using a botanical brightener or lightening product. Look for serums that contain ingredients like arbutin, bearberry extract, or licorice extract. I highly recommend to start using a brightening product as soon as you realize you’re pregnant, since pigmentation is easier to avoid than it is to correct. And again, avoid hydroquinone like the plague.

I will also say that you should check all of my advice with your OB/GYN; as always, my advice is not intended to replace that of your healthcare provider. And most of all, remember to take care of you in this special time. Best wishes for a healthy delivery!