Why Cetaphil Isn’t As Awesome As It Seems

cetaphil gentle skin cleanserMany of my clients are surprised when they find out that I don’t love Cetaphil. I mean, it can’t be all bad if your dermatologist recommended it, right?

I generally don’t get worked up over cleansers, simply because they rinse off. Of all the steps in your skin care routine, I’m more concerned about the stuff that stays on your face, like serums and moisturizers. I always tell my clients that as long as it’s getting you clean, not irritating your skin, and not drying your skin out, I’m fine with it. But let’s take a quick look at the ingredients in the cleanser that claims to be “gentle and non-irritating.”

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Water, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearyl alcohol, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.

(from cetaphil.com)

Breaking down the ingredients list is pretty easy. There’s not a lot here. First we see water, which is standard for most cosmetic formulas. Cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol are both fatty alcohols, used for emulsifying and moisturizing.

The next ingredient that catches my attention is sodium lauryl sulfate. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant, meaning it releases oil and dirt from the skin and creates that foamy texture we love so much. The problem is that SLS can be stripping for dry skins (which may explain the inclusion of cetyl and stearyl alcohol to neutralize the stripping effects), and it can also be an irritant. I’ve talked about SLS before, and my number one recommendation for irritated skin is stop using products that contain SLS. So why would you include this in a product that claims to be gentle?

The final ingredients are preservatives, which are three different parabens: methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. While I am not someone who is concerned about parabens as a toxic ingredient, and I believe they are generally safe to use, I do know that parabens are an allergen for a percentage of the population. Because of this, I generally recommend that my clients with hyper-allergic skin avoid products with parabens.

The truth about Cetaphil is that dermatologists recommend it for two reasons. The first reason is that it doesn’t have any of the obvious irritants in it like synthetic fragrances or dyes. But the primary reason your derm may have told you to use Cetaphil is that the makers of Cetaphil ship thousands of samples to dermatologists across the land, making that recommendation easy. Amazingly, dermatologists know more about disorders of the skin than they do about products (generally speaking, of course there are exceptions), and they often have neither the time or the desire to shop the drugstore shelves to figure out what cleanser is best for every skin type and concern you may have. Also, most dermatologists (especially male derms) don’t consider a cleanser’s ability to remove makeup in their recommendation.

My beef with Cetaphil is pretty basic. First, I take issue with any line claiming to be gentle while using the harshest surfactant out there. Second, before I became an esthetician, I tried Cetaphil. I found it drying, and it stung my eyes. Additionally, I think it does a terrible job removing makeup. I hate to use a makeup remover and a cleanser; I want one product to do the whole job. So for me, Cetaphil never cut it. If you absolutely love it, and it’s not irritating your skin, I don’t have a problem with my clients using it. But keep these things in mind, and if you find yourself suffering from dryness or irritation, you may want to swap your cleanser.

 

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

What I’m Loving Now: Deep Moisture for Dry Skin

Colder temperatures make me crave creamier moisturizers. But finding a moisturizer that’s got enough weight to get the deep moisture that you need and not clog your skin up can often be a challenge. Here are a few of my winter favorites for dry skin.

Nia24 Intensive Recovery Complex

I’ve been trying out some new products recently, and the Nia24 Intensive Recovery Complex has really captured my heart. Quick absorbing but still deeply moisturizing, this cream gives long-term moisture. Nia24 boasts a form of niacin that penetrates deeper into the skin, so in addition to rich moisture, you also get brighter, healthier skin in the long run. The Pro-Niacin complex also helps to thicken the top layers of the skin, giving you a heartier, more resilient complexion.

 

Sircuit Skin Cosmeceuticals Cloud 9

The intensely moisturizing Sircuit Skin Cloud 9+ cream has been one of my standbys for my own dry skin the last few years. It leaves a protective barrier on to defend your skin against the elements. It also features antioxidants and other botanical ingredients to protect against aging and restore at the same time.

 

 

 

Philosophy When Hope Is Not Enough Replenishing Cream

I’ve always liked many of the products in the Philosophy skin care line. For many years, this moisturizer, the Philosophy When Hope Is Not Enough replenishing cream. It has a buttery texture that melts into skin, protecting dry, chapped skin from the elements and restoring suppleness.

 

 

Korres Greek Yoghurt Moisturizing Face Cream

One of my favorite moisturizers, the Korres Greek Yoghurt Moisturizing Face Cream, recently got a texture makeover, and is now richer and even more moisturizing. It still has a light, whipped texture, so it’s a great cream for people who are on the oilier side of the skin type spectrum. The yoghurt in the cream is reparative and soothing, so that makes this particular product a great choice for irritated or inflamed skin, such as skin types that suffer from eczema or psoriasis.

 
Boscia Tsubaki Beauty OilFacial oils are all the rage, and it’s one of my favorite ways to tweak a skin care routine that’s just not quite enough moisture for dry skin. You don’t need to purchase an entirely new routine; just amp up your current moisture by layering an oil under your favorite lighter summer ones. Your skin absorbs layers better, so using several light products may actually work best for you. My current favorite oil is the Boscia Tsubaki Beauty Oil, which has a lovely light texture and tons of antioxidants for brightening and extra protection.

 

 

Have you tried any of my winter favorites? What products do you rely on when temperatures drop? Tell me in the comments below!

 

See a product here that you think 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.

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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What Kind of Acne Do You Have?

Do you have acne? I was traumatized when I was diagnosed with acne in college; it felt like the end of the world. I didn’t think my skin was “bad enough” to be called acne, yet there I was in the dermatologist’s office complaining of breakouts I couldn’t control. Now that I work in skin care, I simply see the word as a way to define how often someone breaks out. If you’re breaking out several times a month, or you have more than a couple of breakouts at a time, I consider that acne.

But do you know that there are kinds of acne that don’t break out? The tricky part about acne comes in when someone isn’t having breakouts, but they have what I call textural acne, or bumpy acne. Often, these little bumps don’t come to a head and pop, the way a normal pimple might. Nevertheless, I still consider this acne, even if my client doesn’t.

Let’s look at the kinds of acne that you can get.

Pustular Acne  acne

This is the more inflammatory, infected acne. This acne will generally come up as a localized bump and turn red. It will eventually develop a white head, pop, and then start to heal. This kind of acne is generally cause by a bacterial infection in the skin, and is treated with topical antibiotics.

 

acneTextural Acne

This acne you can feel. Some bumps may be large enough to see. The bumps are either milia, or bumps that are under the surface and don’t go anywhere, or blackheads. Textural acne needs to be addressed because it is often a precursor to pustular acne. It is best treated with retinol.

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is the one that hurts. These bumps show up under the skin. They can cause soreness and will often hang around for a long period of time, sometimes even weeks. They often don’t come to a head. Do not try to pop these! Chronic cystic acne will probably require a trip to see the dermatologist, as the infection is deeper than just the surface of the skin.

A Combination of Several Kinds

Most people with severe acne have both textural and pustular acne happening at the same time. The problem is that bumpy acne can become pustular acne easily, since bumpy acne is a prime environment for bacteria, which will inevitably become a pimple.

Each form of acne needs to be treated in a specific way. Pustular acne needs to be treated in a way that kills bacteria, usually with benzoyl peroxide or clindamycin. Textural acne generally requires something to unclog pores, like salicylic acid or retinol. Cystic acne is very difficult to treat topically, but you may find relief if you apply ice to reduce inflammation and numb soreness.

I like to focus my treatment efforts on textural acne first. This takes longer and requires more patience, but if you can unclog the skin, you ultimately will prevent pustular acne by eliminating the environment that produces the pustular acne in the first place.

It’s hard to treat multiple kinds of acne at once, unless your skin is super durable or oily. Acne treatments can be incredibly drying, and using a combination of several products can lead to inflammation, flakiness, and irritation. You may find that juggling your acne treatments with a gentle cleanser and moisturizer provides enough balance. Or maybe you’ll need to use one treatment on one day and another on another day. You’ll need to find the balance that is right for you. Check with your doctor for options if you’re using prescriptions and having trouble.

 

 

 

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The Salad Dressing Theory

difference between oil and water in the skinI often hear people tell me that their skin is dry because they haven’t been drinking enough water. In fact, I’ve even had other estheticians reprimand me for not drinking enough water to cure my own dry skin. This persistent myth drives me crazy because it’s not even scientifically possible.

First, let’s define the terms. Dehydrated skin lacks water. Dry skin lacks oil. Any skin type can be dehydrated. In fact, most skin types are dehydrated because so many things we do strip water from our bodies. Since the skin is the first line of defense, even dry air can steal water from your skin.

Now let’s talk about my salad dressing theory. Oil and water don’t mix in your skin, just like they don’t mix in a vinaigrette. You have to shake a salad dressing to get both flavors. It’s the same in the skin; one cannot replace the other. Healthy, balanced skin has just enough of each.

Drinking water is good for you for many reasons. Not one of those reasons is because it moisturizes your dry skin. Since dry skin lacks oil, the only thing that solves the problem of dry skin is adding an oil. I like healthy, botanical oils like jojoba or argan oil. If you want to eat your way to moisturized skin, try avocados, flax seed, or nuts. Drinking water actually won’t hydrate your skin either. It’s virtually impossible to drink enough to hydrate from the inside. The best way to solve a dehydration problem is to add a hydrating serum to your daily routine.

Oily skin doesn’t necessarily need a moisturizer; it has more than enough oil, by definition. It needs a hydrator. This is exactly what an oil-free moisturizer is since there are no oils to moisturize. I do think that oily skin can benefit from a lotion simply because it helps to seal the water into the skin, but truly oily skin can just use a serum and be fine. Dry skin needs to be moisturized, which is how we add the proper oils to skin. Since dry skins are often dehydrated, these skin types may want to use a hydrating serum as well.

It’s important that you understand the difference between these terms so that you can be sure to treat your skin appropriately. You can’t solve your dryness with water. This isn’t a pass to skip water drinking completely, but, as always, remember to treat your skin for what is actually wrong to get the best results.

Thinking Out of the Box

woman jumping out of skin care boxSkin care companies have put you in a box for years, and I’m here to break you free.

People often confuse skin types with skin concerns. Skin types only indicate how much oil you produce. It’s a sliding scale with very oily skin on one side and extremely dry skin on the other. The center of the scale is balanced skin, or skin that produces just enough oil to be moisturized on its own. Many things can affect your oil production, like seasonal changes, hormonal changes, and medications. Make sure to flex your routine to match what’s actually going on with your skin.

Skin concerns are the specific things you want to change about your skin, like acne, pigmentation, or fine lines. Many people will tell me that their skin type is sensitive, but this is actually more of a concern. No matter what your skin type, you can absolutely treat whatever concern you have in a way that works for you.

Oily skin types generally want to stick with lighter textures. Oil free lotions can be helpful in the summer, but in the winter, be careful of not getting enough moisture. I find lots of oily skin types overestimate their oiliness and get a little dried out in the cooler months. Look for a lotion that is still lightweight but has some botanical oils in it, like jojoba, sunflower, or argan oils. Treat your concerns with serums. Most serums are lightweight enough to not create any more oiliness on the skin, and you can get them to treat any concern you have.

Balanced skin types have the most options of all the skin types, but you are also the ones that need to pay the most attention to external factors. You may find that having a few options for your routine allows you more flexibility. In general, you want to stick with medium weight textures. You may like layering a few serums to help address your concerns and keeping your moisturizer lighter. In cooler months, you may like a bit of a heavier moisturizer. If you’re prone to break outs, keep the moisturizer light and layer the serums to get the right amount of hydration.

Dry skin types can’t get enough moisture. You love a creamy, buttery texture. I’m a dry skin type, and in the winter, creams just can’t be rich enough. But dry skin types need to watch out for going overboard. Creams that are too heavy can lay on the surface of the skin, not only clogging the pores but also preventing moisture from penetrating the deeper layers of the skin. Dry skin types want to embrace layers, maybe using a hydrating serum before a deeper moisturizer. Your skin has more opportunity to absorb many light layers than one super thick layer.

I generally recommend that you pick a cleanser and moisturizer for your skin type and looking for a serum to address your concerns. All skin types can benefit from using a hydrating serum, even just as needed, to help build in additional moisture that is easy for the skin to absorb.

Do you treat for its type, or your concerns?

Falling Back

Fall is in the air in New York for sure, and as the leaves change…so should your skin care routine. These are a few quick tips for managing seasonal changes in your skin.

New fall season requires changes to skin care routineAs the weather cools off, skin has a tendency to dry. Be sure to add some extra moisture to your routine. Look for a moisturizer that has some healthy fats in it, like natural botanical oils such as jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil, or avocado oil. You can even stretch your summer moisturizer into the fall months by using some simple, inexpensive jojoba oil underneath it as a serum. Be sure, as always, to avoid mineral oil and petrolatum. Sometimes, switching to a milky cleanser also helps to alleviate dryness, even if you only use it a few times a week.

Many people, myself included, are seeing an increase in their breakouts. Adding an acne control serum can quickly curb breakouts. Look for ingredients like salicylic acid or willow bark extract. Don’t forget to moisturize afterward though! Your skin is likely to be drier right now, and the added acne control can then make dryness worse. Use a skin-type appropriate moisturizer. Sometimes an exfoliating mask can sometimes help to bring your skin back in line. Look for ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acid. And again, remember to moisturize afterward!

Fall is also time for seasonal allergies. Those prone to hay fever may see an increase in dry, itchy skin or eczema. Here again, I find that a healthy botanical oil is very helpful either used on its own or a few drops spiked into your regular moisturizer (for face or body). Sometimes a little hydrocortisone cream can help in small patches. If itchiness persists, definitely see your doctor for a prescription.

Seasonal facials can be a great way to manage a lot of these little changes. A professional exfoliation, extractions, and mask can often give your out-of-balance skin just the help it needs in order to get back on track, as well as giving you a little quality time to check in with an expert on your current skin care routine.

The key to managing your skin during a seasonal change is simply paying attention and being adaptable. Your skin will need different things at different times, so you must be willing to tweak your routine in order to respond. Feeling dry? Maybe amp up your moisturizer for a few days. Breaking out? Add some acne control for a week just in your problem areas. It’s okay to change your skin care routine based on what your skin needs at the time. [Tweet this!] Your skin is always changing, and your skin care routine should adapt as well.

 

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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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Winterize Your Skin

Tips to protect your skin against the winter weather.We are two major snowstorms into winter and suffering from massively cold weather on the East Coast, and my skin has been feeling the hurt. The freezing, icy wind is blistering my cheeks and my apartment provides no relief, with dry heat that is stripping moisture out of my skin, making my complexion dull and my eczema flair. If you’re in a similar position with your skin, here are my tips to cope.

  • Don’t be afraid to moisturize. Look for creamier, more emollient moisturizers. Some key ingredients to look for are glycerin, shea butter, and natural oils like jojoba or sunflower oil. Moisturizers that leave a little barrier on the surface skin (often called occlusive moisturizers by pros) are best for being out in the elements because it will protect from wind and cold. Avoid ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, and paraffin.
  • Use a Vitamin C serum to repair and rebuild weather-damaged skin. Vitamin C is anti-inflammatory, which will help to calm redness and irritation caused by aggressive weather. Look for ingredients like L-ascorbic acid or Vitamin C Ester. Use it in the morning for extra antioxidant protection.
  • Keep exfoliating, but make it gentle. Dry, dead skin cells can accumulate on the surface of the skin, leading to uneven texture and making it more difficult for your moisturizer to penetrate. Stick with exfoliating masks using lactic acid or fruit enzymes, which both exfoliate and hydrate at the same time. Your best-case scenario product also has plenty of antioxidants as well.
  • Try a mask for an extra punch. Moisturizing masks can provide a boost in moisture levels and extra skin soothing ingredients to calm irritated, parched skin. Try one right after your shower to seal the extra hydration into your skin.
  • Remember your sunscreen. Yes, you still need it. As long as there is light, you need to wear sun protection. Try a sunscreen with zinc oxide for the added benefits of skin soothing and redness reducing.
  • Eat more guacamole.  [Tweet this!] Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats and can help to moisturize your skin from the inside. Plus, it’s tasty.

Hopefully, a few tips to tweak your routine will help you survive the remaining winter days. We can all count down to spring together.

 

Speak your mind! How do you cope when the cold weather wreaks havoc on your skin? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!