The Ingredient Chronicles: Retinol

retinol skin care ingredientOne of the ingredients I love in my personal routine is retinol. It is always present. I recommend it for many different skin concerns. Let’s take a deeper look and see what it does.

Retinol and Retin-A, or the class of ingredients called retinoids or retinoic acid, are Vitamin A derivatives. These ingredients work primarily as exfoliants. They are special because they exfoliate the surface of the skin as well as the interior of the pore, unlike salicylic acid, which works just in the pore or glycolic, which works mostly on the surface. Because of the way they exfoliate, they are especially good at getting rid of deep clogs and textural acne.

Retinol is the over-the-counter version of retinoic acid. Retin-A is the prescription form of retinoic acid. However, don’t take this to mean that Retin-A is better than retinol. Some skin types may find that they can tolerate the lower doses in an OTC retinol product.

Retinoids have many benefits aside from just their amazing pore-cleaning abilities. Retinoids are the only FDA-approved anti-aging ingredient. It was being studied for acne prevention when people started noticing that their wrinkles were going away. When you have damage to the skin, the skin responds by creating scar tissue. Scar tissue is essentially collagen that has grown back irregularly, like you see in wrinkles or in acne scars. Healthy collagen is spiraled like a slinky, and it lines up in straight lines. Damaged collagen has grown back over- or under-spiraled, and it starts to bundle together and collapse on itself. Retinoids work on these irregularities by breaking down the damaged collagen and encouraging the growth of healthy, properly spiraled, perfectly aligned collagen. So retinoids are great for decreasing the depth of wrinkle and repairing acne scars.

Retinoids also help to control melanin production, which makes them great to repair the uneven pigmentation that many people see after years in the sun. For acne sufferers, especially those with deeper complexions (think: olive skin tones and deeper), it can fade the marks that remain long after blemishes have healed.

But here come the cautions. Retin-A is aggressive. Many people experience flaking, redness, and sensitivities while they are using it. Retinol (the OTC version) may be easier to tolerate for these skin types. It takes longer to see results than the prescription strength products, but avoiding the adverse side effects may be worth it.  Retinoids are also contraindicated for waxing, since it sensitizes and may cause lifting of the skin (read: a big patch of no skin… not the brow look you were going for!) Retinoids are absolutely contraindicated for pregnancy.

Retinol should always be used as part of your nighttime routine. It can cause photosensitivity, so you need to be diligent about applying a sunscreen every day (even if you get minimal sun exposure). Dermatologists usually recommend using the product every day, but more sensitive types might not tolerate that much. Stop using your retinoids if you’re going on a big beach vacation or if you’re planning on getting or have just gotten a deep chemical peel.

I really believe that everyone can find a retinoid that works for them, but you may need to try some variations to your routine or the way you use the product to minimize the adverse side effects. Here are some tips for dealing with the irritation that retinoids may sometimes cause.

  • Try using it less frequently. Try it twice a week, and slowly work your way up to more frequent usage. Once you start to see the results you want, you may want to dial your usage back again.
  • Apply a light moisturizer before the prescription. The moisturizer will act as a buffer between your skin and the prescription, slowing down the absorption. That can actually make a huge difference in the level of irritation.
  • Use a gentle enzyme mask to dissolve away the flakiness. This will help you control your urge to pick and keep your skin hydrated and smooth.
  • Try a soothing hydrating mask. Dry skin types can definitely use this help. Even acne prone skin types need this boost. Masking more frequently can help to give your skin that extra hydration and soothing that it needs.

Retinol and Retin-A are my hero ingredients. You can’t beat the multiple benefits that you get from one product. But it is an ingredient where less is definitely more, so find the balance your skin needs.

 

 

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The Cinderella Effect

cosmetic effect of skin carePeople ask me all kinds of questions about skin care products. There are a few questions that people should ask, but don’t.

People never think to ask about the Cinderella Effect.

The Cinderella Effect is a product that has instant, visible results to the eye or to the touch, but that disappear as soon as you wash the product off. These products often give an immediate smoothing effect, making pores and fine lines seemingly disappear. The skin may feel incredibly smooth. Some products even provide an instant lifting and firming effect.

This effect isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a nice addition to a product. Who doesn’t need a little help with smoothing and firming? The important thing to ask is, do I also get a long-term effect with this product as well? Make sure to look for your active ingredients to verify that the product is doing more than just temporarily filling in.

If you feel a product and the skin looks and feels smoother instantly, check the label. Is there an ingredient ending in -cone on the label, like silicone or dimethicone? If so, you know that there is a Cinderella effect going on. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other good, effective ingredients, but don’t get swept away with an instant smoothing or lifting when you are looking for a long-term maintenance or repair.

Some products may use polymers that tighten as they dry to create a lifting a firming effect. These products can be tougher to detect in an ingredients list. Make sure to ask questions about how a firming product works.

Skin care products with a Cinderella effect can be fun to have as a part of your routine. They can be great day-to-day, or they can give you that boost you want for a special occasion. I always want my readers to understand exactly what you are getting in terms of results from your skin care products. Don’t be wooed by the immediate benefits, unless that is what you are looking for and know that you are buying. Always remember to ask about the long-term effects as well, to be certain that you’re getting the results you want. [Tweet this!]

 

 

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Just The FAQs: Do I Have To Wash My Face At Night?

You’ve got a lot on your plate. You’re tired when you get home. You start to unwind and, before you know it, you’re falling asleep and can do i have to wash my face at nightbarely stumble to bed. So starts the great nightly debate: To wash or not to wash?

Here are a few reasons why the answer is a resounding yes, you must wash your face!

  • It prevents break outs. If you wear makeup, you must remove it. Even light powders can trap excess oil and dirt on your skin, creating a favorable environment for bacteria. Washing removes this bacteria and lets you start fresh with clean skin … and avoid future breakouts. And no, makeup removing wipes don’t count. Even they can leave residue on your skin.
  • It prevents aging. Even if you don’t wear makeup, your skin still needs to be cleaned of excess oil, sweat, and pollution. [Tweet this!] Pollution is a big factor here. All those free radicals in the air land on your skin and wreak havoc. Your cells oxide and thus hasten the aging process. Cleansing can neutralize some of these adverse affects.
  • It prepares the skin for your fancy creams and serums. If you’ve invested any money or effort at all into your skin care routine, you want to apply those products to fresh skin. Removing all make up, dirt, and sweat reveals the healthy skin underneath. Applying your products to this skin means that they will absorb better, meaning you’ll get the results you’re looking for.
  • It reminds you to use the aforementioned fancy creams and serums. Skin care doesn’t stop acne or prevent aging if it only sits in a drawer. [Tweet this!] It must be applied to the skin regularly in order to see results. If you remember to start your routine, you’re more likely to finish it. And your future self will thank you for her radiant glow.
  • It helps you sleep better. Research has shown that having a bedtime ritual relaxes you and can yield a better night’s sleep. Train your brain that when you start your skin care routine, you’re getting ready for a peaceful night’s sleep. The habit will help your mind to unwind faster, meaning that you’ll be getting better beauty sleep while your skin repairs.
  • It guarantees you a few quiet minutes to care for yourself. You spend all day taking care of other people. Don’t you deserve five quiet minutes to invest in the future of your skin? [Tweet this!]

No one is perfect. I’ve inadvertently fallen asleep with makeup on before as well. I’ve used makeup removing wipes in a pinch. But I promise that building this habit is worth it. I’ve offered tips on maximizing your skin care time before, so check them out if you haven’t. And check out one of my personal favorite cleansers as well! On days when you’re really not feeling motivated, remind yourself that you are worth the five minutes that it takes to care  for your skin and yourself.

 

 

Speak your mind! Do you wash up every single night? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!

What Is A Chemical Peel?

what is a chemical peelChemical peels sound scary. With the growing trend towards natural products, people hear the word “chemical” and feel like they’ll be using a bunch of unhealthy, unnatural ingredients on their skin that will cause their skin to be red, irritated, and flaky. But chemical peels are a great skin treatment to revitalize a dull complexion, control acne, and jump start an anti-aging program.

First, let’s talk about exactly what a chemical peel is. A chemical peel is essentially a way to exfoliate or remove dead skin. There are two kinds of exfoliation: chemical and mechanical. Mechanical exfoliation is using a texture to remove dead skin cells. Think: scrubs, Buf-Puf sponges, and microdermabrasion. Chemical exfoliation is using an ingredient to cause a reaction on the skin and release dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliation includes enzyme, which works only on dead skin cells, and acid, which releases both dead skin cells and those near death. Acid exfoliation takes living skin cells to stimulate the skin’s natural healing responses and trigger faster cell turnover.

Acid exfoliation sounds scary, but it’s effective and often more gentle than mechanical exfoliation. Your skin is already acidic, and the peel will cause the pH of the skin to drop further, which will release the skin cells. The factor that dictates how many layers of skin you remove is how much the pH of the skin drops. For example, a glycolic moisturizer may only have a pH of 4.0 (compared to your skin’s natural pH of 4.4-4.5), while a peel that you buy at Sephora may have a pH of 3.0. A peel that you may get a dermatologist’s office may go as low as 1.0 or 0.7. The lower the pH of the peel goes, the deeper the exfoliation. That is to say, the deeper the exfoliation, the more you will start to look like Samantha from Sex and the City did after her disastrous peel right before a big event.

Chemical peels don’t have to be full of synthetic chemicals, either. Many of the most common exfoliants can be derived naturally. Enzyme masks generally use extracts from papaya and pineapple to gently dissolve away skin. Acid peels are generally derived from food sources. Glycolic can be from sugar, lactic from milk, citric from citrus fruit, and so on. Check your ingredients list and ask questions if you’ve decided that natural ingredients are important for you.

Peels are my favorite way to get a fast glow. You can remove excess dead skin, nourish, and stimulate new growth all in one swipe. [Tweet this!] In fact, because professionals can access stronger, more effective products, I think springing for the add-on peel in a facial is a great way to take advantage of something you can’t get at home. Use them if your complexion is looking tired, if you’re suffering from acne, or if your anti-aging treatments seem to have plateaued.

 

 

Speak your mind!  Have you ever tried a chemical peel, or are you nervous to try? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!

5 Commandments for Life Long Good Skin

5 commandments for a lifetime of good skinAfter a long discussion about the best products, my client asked me to name the one thing you absolutely have to do to have great skin for life. I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. Instead, I have the five things that you must do to maintain your skin for life.

  • Wear SPF every day. Start young. UV damage causes 80% of aging, including collagen damage, pigmentation, and potential skin cancer. Obviously the best way to avoid the problem of aging is to protect yourself from the biggest cause of it. I am not anti-sun. I am pro-SPF. [Tweet this!]
  • Wash your face nightly. All day long, your skin protects your insides from pollution, dirt, and grime.  We wear makeup, we sweat, and we get oily. Do yourself a favor and wash all that junk off your face before your skin goes into its most reparative state. Bonus points for giving it peptides and antioxidants to use at night.
  • Quit smoking. I know, smokers hate to hear about all the bad things that smoking does. But if lung cancer doesn’t give you a good enough reason to quit, maybe the increased frequency of blackheads and sallow complexion will.
  • Get enough moisture. Maintaining proper moisture levels keeps the skin soft and supple. Hydrated skin always looks younger than dry, weathered skin. Stave off wrinkles longer by selecting a moisturizer with plenty of antioxidants.
  • Exfoliate regularly, but gently. Exfoliation helps to stimulate cell turnover and remove dulling dead skin cells. I prefer enzyme and acid peels because they provide the most complete exfoliation, as well as cellular regeneration and hydration.

I can make a million recommendations to help you get the best skin of your life. But everything boils down to whether you’re taking care of it, not how expensive your moisturizer is. What goes inside is as important as what goes on the outside, so make sure you take care of your skin from the inside out if you want to maintain your skin for life.

 

 

Speak your mind! Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!

The Gym for Your Skin

strength training work outWe live in a “more is more” world. And it’s hard, even for me sometimes, to remember that when it comes to skin care, often less is more.

Cristina Carlino, founder of Philosophy skin care, used to compare using the Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder to yoga and the Philosophy Help He retinol treatment to cardio. I’ve always loved this comparison. I’ve adopted it and expanded it to help my clients understand how to balance their routines with just enough work and rest for your skin.

Retinoids (retinol serums, prescription Retin-A) and AHA peels are like a strength training routine. You can’t work the same muscles every day. You have to take rest days to allow time for muscles to rebuild. You’ll weaken the skin if you use a retinoid every day, just like you’d weaken your bicep and cause yourself an injury if you worked it out every day. You have to have rest days so you can build back stronger and better.

I generally advocate limited usage of AHAs and retinoids for this reason. I like to take time off from these ingredients now and then, or use them just a few times a week. This way, you allow your skin to rebuild on the off days, thus strengthening your skin.

I love ingredients like vitamin C to repair and restore, but you can use anything designed to be anti-inflammatory on your days off. Just as you might take a restorative yoga class after a tough workout or get a massage after a long run, try something designed to reduce redness or calm irritation.

This method of rotating products can make your skin care routine feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. You can still use a simple three-step routine; just swap your products on designated nights. Stick with a schedule so that you don’t have to think about it. It takes a while to build the habit, but with a little practice, you’ll have it. And your skin will thank you for it later!

 

 

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.

 

The Anti-Aging Myth

I feel like I’ve heard it all when it comes to anti-aging. It’s often my clients’ number one concern, even if they’re just 25. I’ve seen every manner of claim from skincare products and marketing companies. But, in my opinion, most anti-aging products miss the mark…and not because they make claims that may or may not be true.

There are many factors that contribute to a more “seasoned” appearance. In my mind, many of these concerns are often overlooked when people shop for an anti-aging product. If you don’t address all of the factors that make you look older than your age (or, maybe just not younger than your age), you will still look older!

Texture

The texture of your skin is the number one reason that people look older to my esthetic eye. It’s the first thing I notice when I assess a client’s skin. Does the texture appear rough? Uneven? The good news is that this is the easiest problem to fix! Look for an exfoliating mask with glycolic or lactic acid that you can use 2-3 times per week, or a serum with the same ingredients, but in a lower percentage that you can use daily. Another option, depending on the extent of the texture and other concerns, may be retinoic acid. Retin-A can only be prescribed by your dermatologist, so be sure to use it according to his or her direction. Retinol is a lower percentage of the same ingredient and can be found over-the-counter. Retinoic acid can often cause irritation, so be sure to minimize your usage if you experience redness, flaking, or sensitivity.

Pigmentation

Ah, the concern that is near and dear to my own heart! People often think my freckles are cute, but to me, they are merging together into large brown spots and muddling my complexion. Research has shown that people will guess that someone who has uneven color to their skin is older than someone who has more fine lines! With this tidbit of information, I feel that every single person of every single color should have some form of pigment control in their arsenal, starting the minute that you begin a skincare routine. This can come in the form of a vitamin C serum (look for ascorbic acid or tetrahexadecyl ascorbate- my favorite form) or in a botanical brightener (try ingredients like arbutin, mulberry extract, or bearberry extract, to name a few). If pigmentation is already a concern for you, use one of each!

Ruddiness

Ruddiness is diffuse redness that is always present. This is often a sign of advanced sun damage, and often comes coupled with pigmentation. Here, look for anti-inflammatory ingredients like vitamin C (yes, again), aloe, green or white tea, and azulene. Make sure that your routine is gentle, using enzyme peels instead of scrubs, which can aggravate redness.

The true secret to having better, younger looking skin is targeting your routine to address specific concerns. Anti-aging products cover a broad range of concerns, so try targeting your concern with a serum and hopefully you will see better results. Fine lines may not be your biggest worry!