The Skin Care Puzzle

skin care puzzleMy job in life is to help people with their skin. Usually this means I’m helping them with a skin care problem. No matter where I am, at the spa or at the bar, I can’t stop until I’ve figured it out. Once someone’s given me a problem to solve, I start collecting information.

People are sometimes surprised at the number of questions I ask, and even what kind of information I’m looking for. But, like a detective, I am piecing together a puzzle. And everything you tell me is another piece of the puzzle. If I can gather enough pieces, I can see the whole picture.

So what kind of information do I need to figure out how your puzzle pieces fit together? I look at all kinds of details. I want to know what you’re currently using, from your cleanser to your prescriptions. Even oral prescriptions for conditions unrelated to the skin can affect how your skin behaves.

I especially need to know about what kind of exfoliants you’re using at home, and how often. Exfoliation is the puzzle piece that is often difficult to get just right. Not exfoliating often enough leads to dull skin, clogged pores, and flakiness. Exfoliating too often can lead to redness, irritation, and more flakiness.

I also want to know about your diet. What you eat or don’t eat can absolutely affect your skin. I’ve noticed that people on low-fat diets can be very dry. Your dairy intake can also affect your acne. If your stress levels lead you to eat lots of sweets, your skin ca be affected. Or you may simply eat fewer healthy foods, also affecting your skin.

Given this huge list of variables, it’s often hard to tell if a product is working well for you. If you are using an anti-acne regimen, but your stress levels are causing you to break out, you will still break out. We might be able to control them more, and diminish the frequency or the severity. Maybe your acne serum will work if it’s partnered with a different cleanser. It can be hit-or-miss to find just the right combo, but the more pieces of the puzzle we have, the faster we can put it together.

People look at skin care products as the end all, when in actuality, it’s only one piece of a very large puzzle. [Tweet this!] All the pieces must fit together to get you beautiful, glowing skin.

 

 

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Just The FAQs: What Should I Do About My Huge Pores?

People obsess over their pores. Absolutely. Obsess. Let’s first establish that everything is huge when you are two inches away from a 10x magnifying mirror. Next, let’s establish that you have the poreswhat can i do about huge pores you’re born with. Now that we’re clear on that, let’s talk about what we can do about them.

  • Clean them out. Pores are like garbage bags. You can cram them full of plenty of trash and they will continue to expand. Plus, dark spots like blackheads make pores more visible. So make sure your routine features something to keep them clean regularly and get your facials, since manual extractions are still the most effective to remove blackheads.
  • Exfoliate them. If you dug a hole in the ground, and you threw the dirt up on the sides of that hole, it’d look deeper, right? The same is true of your skin. Dead skin cells don’t always flake off the way they should, which leads to a build-up called hyperkeratinization. This common condition makes pores look larger than they are. The best way to address this is with some form of exfoliation. Pore minimizing products that feature alpha hydroxy acids will help the most here, so look for ingredients like glycolic or lactic acid.
  • Temporarily tighten them. Many pore minimizing products contain ingredients that can temporarily tighten the opening of the pore. In  this case, you are not changing the part of the pore that is below the surface of the skin; you are only affecting the opening at the surface. Some of these products work by causing a small amount of inflammation at the surface, while others work with a cool temperature to simply constrict the opening. This is not be confused with closing the pores. Astringents and clay masks are two such products that may help with this, although the results may last only a few hours.
  • Camouflage them. The marriage of skin care and cosmetics is a wonderful thing, especially when you can rely on a cosmetic product to hide the pores. There are literally thousands of options out there. Look for ingredients like silicone or dimethicone. These products lay on the surface of the skin and keep the makeup from sinking into pores and fine lines. Remember that this is a temporary fix and will wash off at the end of the evening. And don’t worry about pore clogging. Silicone and dimethicone actually can’t penetrate the skin and will form a permeable layer on the surface. These ingredients can be beneficial to many skin types for more reasons than just decreasing the appearance of the pores.

Always remember that you can minimize the appearance of the pores, but you cannot get rid of them. Also, take two giant steps away from that magnifying mirror. Try some of these tips and give yourself a little break on this one.

 

 

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The Kitchen Sponge Theory

My teacher in esthetics school made a huge impression on me. She had many sassy little sayings that have stuck with me. One of them was a way to correct us when we would erroneously ask if something would “open” or “close” a pore. She would always snap back: Pores don’t have doors. [Tweet this!]

It is true. They don’t open and shut. In a facial, when we open up your pores, what we actually mean is that we’re softening the skin. Toners don’t close your pores… they constrict them. Large pores aren’t open, they are visible.

I like to offer a slightly different theory with more explanation. Technically it seems like the pores have opened or closed. kitchen sponge theoryBut there is a distinction here that, if you understand it, you will automatically understand  how to treat other skin care problems.  I like to explain with what I call the Kitchen Sponge Theory.

Imagine that your skin is like a dish sponge. When that dish sponge is dry, it is hard. It doesn’t bend at all. It’d be easy to break. When you first run that sponge under water, the water rolls off. It doesn’t absorb. But if you hold the sponge under water, it starts to absorb it. The sponge softens. It becomes flexible. It bends easily. It absorbs more water.

This change is essentially what we mean when we say that pores open. We are actually making the surrounding tissue more pliable to remove blackheads easily. That sponge bends easily after it’s been run under water, just like steam, oils, and enzymes all soften the skin and the debris within the pore. The skin is more supple and allows me to extract clogs without causing damage. Products absorb better, allowing nutrients to penetrate deeper into the skin. In contrast, toners can constrict pores. They generally do this because the colder temperature constricts the skin and makes the pores less noticeable. (Hint: they’d go back to their original shape eventually.) There are other ways to make the pores appear smaller as well, such as regular exfoliation. Remember that you can change the appearance of your pores, but not the size!

It may seem like I’m splitting hairs. Who really cares if the pores open or if the skin softens? My first response is that the more we understand how the skin functions, the better we can treat it. If you understand the texture of the skin, you’ll understand why it clogs in the first place. Then you’ll understand why you have to go through a process if you want to properly pick (but don’t, because you should come see me for a facial). My next reason is that if you understand this, you won’t fall for tricky sales people who want to sell you ineffective products to “close your pores.” You read this blog. You know better now!

 

 

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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!

How To Save Your Skin From Stress

tips to stop your stress from showing on your faceNo matter how perfect your skin care routine is, we all hit points in life when we look less than radiant. Often it’s stress that zaps your glow. And the last thing you need when you’re feeling run down and tired from stress is looking like you’re run down and tired.

Stressed skin usually looks dull, and a dull complexion needs three things: exfoliation, hydration, and nourishment. [Tweet this!] Stress causes your body to deplete its vitamin stores, and your skin loses its nutrients first. It’s also more likely to break out as cortisol changes oil production. Here are some of my cheats to revitalize skin that needs extra help.

  • Mask, mask, mask. Facial masks can do just about anything you need for your skin. Fresh Rose Face Mask When my skin is looking dull and tired, I let a mask soak into my skin, even if I just squeeze in a few minutes in the shower. Whether I’m getting an extra shot of vitamins, a bit of exfoliation, or even a dose of hydration, my skin loves the help. Some to try? I love the Fresh Rose Face Mask for hydrating and revitalizing. Another favorite is the Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel for extra exfoliation.

 

  • Brighten with a multi-vitamin serum or moisturizer. If you’re not alreadyiS Clinical Poly Vitamin Serum using a serum that lists vitamin C or niacinamide among its ingredients, get one now. Since your dull complexion is telling you that you’re lacking nutrients, make sure to add as many as you can. Some of my go-to skin care products are the iS Clinical Poly Vitamin Serum, which covers all of your needs with a blend of glycolic acid, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, or the Astara Antioxidant Light Moisturizer, which infuses tons of botanicals and nutrients into one lightweight product.

 

  • Grab a green juice. Finding time to eat healthy can be a challenge, and stress just makes me want to eat brownies. Maybe I’m the only one? Sometimes it’s easier to drink my veggies on the go. Greens have tons of phytonutrients and vitamins, and giving your body this boost will also help your skin get the nourishment it needs.

How do you save your skin when stress takes its toll?

Just the FAQs: If I Get A Chemical Peel, Will I Look Like Samantha From Sex and the City Did?

Samantha gets a chemical peelThe episode of Sex and the City where Samantha decides to get a “freshening” peel just days before Carrie’s book launch party is probably one of the most iconic moments in skin care. Not only did it put chemical peels on the map, it struck fear in the hearts of women everywhere, leading them to ask estheticians, even ten years later, “If I get a chemical peel, am I going to look like Samantha did when she got one?”

I love to recommend peels. Chemical exfoliation is my preferred way to get rid of dead skin cells. But without a doubt, people are nervous when they hear the word peel. Visions of red, flaking skin flash through their minds, and who wants to look like that? So what should you expect if you get a peel? The answer is, as always, it really depends.

First, it depends on who’s giving you the peel. The law governs who can do what peel in what strength. My license doesn’t even allow me to do a peel that would give you the severe redness and flaking that you see in this episode. Barring an adverse reaction, the most I can do without a doctor’s supervision is cause a bit of flakiness and flushing for a few days. If you’re at a dermatologist’s office, you are more likely to get a peel with “downtime,” or, a peel that will make you want to hide under a black veil for a few days.

Next, it depends on the strength of the peel. This is the tricky part to predict. Someone who is used to exfoliating (a regular glycolic or retinol user) will probably be more tolerant of stronger peels. Someone who’s recently used a prescription though, may find that their skin reacts more noticeably. Generally I recommend that if you’re going to get a peel, you should stop all prescriptions for seven days beforehand.

Samantha hides her chemical peel under a veilMild flaking is not the end of the world. It just means that your skin is healing. Remember that we break the skin down in order to build back stronger, and flaking is just a sign that stronger skin is growing. I will camouflage flaking with a great primer with lots of dimethicone, an ingredient that conceals texture by laying on the surface and filling in. Try Smashbox Photo Finish Primer if you need some help.

As a reader of this blog, you are obviously a savvy consumer. And savvy consumers ask lots of questions. Before agreeing to a peel, you need to ask about it. Specifically, how much flaking should I expect? How red will I be, and for how long? What home care should I use in the following days? How much pain can I expect?

The only mistake that Samantha made here was making her “impulse purchase” without thoroughly considering the side effects. Her skin probably looked great after ten days. Chemicals peels need to be thought about for an extra minute or two, but they are nothing to be afraid of.

 

 

 

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

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.

Just The FAQs: Do I Need a Deep Cleansing Facial?

Often when I ask a new client what their primary reason for getting a facial is, they respond that they need a deep cleansing. The deep cleansing facial is a Deep cleansing facialpopular treatment on most spa menus.  But I think the concept of deep cleansing is unnecessary and even a little misleading. Usually what we’re doing is more exfoliation to get deeper into the pores. Unfortunately, what most people think of as a deep cleanse generally leaves the skin stripped of natural oils, which can cause more problems than it solves.

Here’s what you should look for if you want to book a deep cleansing facial.

  • In order to be effective, there needs to be some sort of boost in the exfoliation phase of the facial. The added exfoliation removes more dead skin and softens clogs, going a little deeper than what you can do at home. This freshens the complexion and makes extractions easier. If you are booking a deep cleansing facial, make sure it includes a bump in the exfoliator, above what is offered in the basic facial. If it’s a regular facial, you may want to spring for the add-on peel.
  • We need to do extractions. Some specific deep cleansing facials have extra time added for extractions, but it is not necessary in my opinion. But let me stress, you cannot have a successful deep cleansing facial without extractions. [Tweet this!] Otherwise, I’m not doing anything for you that you can’t do at home. If someone is charging you for a deep cleansing facial and they are not doing extractions, they are stealing your money.

So do you need a deep cleansing facial? The people who do are generally very oily and/or acne-prone, and they need a more aggressive method for getting the debris out of the pores. Look at your nose in the mirror. Do you have lots of visible blackheads? Is the texture of your skin bumpy? Are you oily within an hour of washing your face? If any of your answers are yes, you may want to consider a deep cleanse.

Before you book a deep cleansing facial, ask yourself what you really need. Take a close look at the description on the spa menu. Compare the description of the deep cleansing facial to the one for the regular, or basic facial. If they are charging you more, what are they adding? If they don’t have a specific deep cleansing facial, ask your esthetician. You can still get that deep clean feel without the fancy name. Upgrade your peel. Extra extractions can be helpful for a small percentage of the population, but most people just don’t need that much time. In fact, sometimes it can even reach a point of being detrimental. Ask if you are unsure of how much time you’ll need. If you’re concerned about oil and debris on the surface of the skin, you need to look at your daily cleanser, not a facial. And, if you’re concerned about blackheads, maybe there are ways to tweak your home care routine to better address your concerns.

 

 

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The Other Side of Me: In the Treatment Room

I love my time in the treatment room, and I was recently featured on the Spa Week blog in a video to demonstrate the Sircuit Cosmeceuticals Smart Peels that Exhale Spa will be featuring during Spa Week. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a little glimpse into the hands-on side of my skin care life.

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Read on for the full article! And if you’re in New York, come see me for your own personalized treatment.

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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