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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7 Things You Should Never Say To Your Esthetician

I am, generally speaking, a really nice person. I’m fairly patient. I see the good in everyone, to my own 7 things to never say to your esthetician before a facial detriment.

I’m an even nicer esthetician.

I am not an esthetician who will make you feel badly for using drugstore products. I won’t make you feel badly about not washing every single night. I won’t even make you feel guilty if your last facial was over 10 years ago.

But there are some things that my clients tell me that just drive me nuts. So here are a few things you should never say to your esthetician.

  • My skin is just so sensitive. Sensitive is such a vague word. I need specifics. Are you prone to redness? Do you have a lot of allergies? Are you prone to breakouts? What has happened in the past that makes you choose the word sensitive now? Don’t tell me that you’re sensitive; give me details about your past reactions.
  • I’m just using a hodge podge of random skin care products. We all mix and match. I don’t stick with just one line either. But when I ask you what you’re using, I’m looking for name brands, where you purchase, or active ingredients. I need to know what you’re using so I know what kind of products your skin will tolerate. It also helps me figure out why you might be having problems. The more information you provide, the better I can help you.
  • I just saw my plastic surgeon for Botox/ Restylane/ Juvederm/ other injectables this week. All injectables have a waiting period before you can manipulate the skin as I will during massage and extractions. The last thing I want to do is screw up a $1000 worth of filler. Come back after 7-10 days, or better yet, schedule your facial before your visit to the plastic surgeon.
  • I’m just using stuff my dermatologist gave me, but I can’t remember what it is. I’m not trying to go against the recommendations of your dermatologist, but I still need to know what you’re using. Dermatologists often sell or prescribe products with aggressive ingredients. I need to know what you’re using so I can make sure that I don’t overstimulate your skin.
  • I’m using really good stuff. I trust that you think what you’re using is good. You wouldn’t spend your hard-earned dollars on it if you didn’t believe that. But what does good mean to you? Brand name? Expensive? Dermatologist recommended? Recommended by another esthetician? I still need to know what you’re using to prevent an adverse reaction. And “good” skin care doesn’t guarantee it’s good for you. [Tweet this!]
  • I don’t need extractions. Everyone needs extractions. And in addition to that, you’re spending a lot of money to see me. Don’t you want to take advantage of that time and let me do what you shouldn’t be doing at home anyway?
  • I’m allergic to (insert common ingredient here) and this is the first time I’ve told anyone. I take allergies seriously, as I take all adverse reactions. But if you don’t tell me about an allergy until after I start your facial, the time I spend reading ingredients on every single bottle is now coming out of your massage time. [Tweet this!] If you have an allergy, call ahead and let me look at ingredients before you come in. It will allow the treatment flow better for both of us.

I really care about my clients and their skin conditions. I want to make sure that your experience is amazing from start to finish. If you have one single concern about your skin, I want to make sure we find a solution that works for you. It’s why I write this blog. But you have to let me help you, and you help me by giving me as much information as you can.

 

 

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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!

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!

Battle of the White Jackets: Dermatologists versus Estheticians

dermatologist speaks to patient about skin Dermatologists and estheticians both treat the skin. But we each treat the skin differently. As an esthetician, my license allows me to only treat the epidermis, or the outermost layer of the skin. I treat the layer of skin that you see. Doctors can treat anything from the epidermis down to the deepest layers of the skin. They treat the layers that support the visible layer of the skin.

Dermatologists cure medical conditions, while estheticians focus on the beautification of the skin. [Tweet this!]

I can help you control chronic conditions like eczema, acne, or rosacea, but I cannot prescribe medicine if that’s what you need. I can help you build a routine around a prescription. People can tolerate different levels of prescription meds, and I can help you to balance your routine around your new treatment. I can offer alternatives if your prescriptions are causing your skin to be sensitized, or experiencing excessive redness, flaking, or tenderness. I can help fill in the holes in your routine if you’re still not seeing theesthetician applies aloe mask in a facial results you want.

I don’t see this as an either/or kind of question, but lots of dermatologists seem to. To be fair, there are many dermatologists that respect what estheticians do. There are plenty of dermatologists that recommend great products. But there are times that the recommendations some dermatologists make are aggressive and over-drying. I have seen dermatologists put patients on a daily Retin-A and a glycolic pad (nevermind that AHAs and retinoids break each other down, making both ingredients ineffective) or Retin-A without a moisturizer. I believe that if you are on an aggressive product like a prescription, you may need to go more gentle with other aspects like cleanser or moisturizer. I feel some dermatologists neglect to help their patients with the entire picture.

So what does this mean to you? If you have a chronic condition or a funny mole, see a dermatologist. If you are concerned about a dull complexion or just not looking your best, see an esthetician. Ultimately, we can all work together to get you your best glow.

 

 

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How to Get a Great Facial

 

How to get the most out of your facial and your money and the spa

Where else can you relax for an hour and improve your complexion all at the same time? As the esthetician, it’s my job to do the worrying about your skin, but you have an important role too… especially if you want to get the best results for your time and money.

  • Make sure to arrive a few minutes early. Having those few extra minutes can not only give you time to check in and fill out any necessary paperwork, but it also gives you a few minutes to breathe and escape the stress of the day. Plus, if you’re ready when I am ready (and I run on time as much as I possibly can), you will actually end up with more hands on time and a better facial all around.
  • Know what you are using on your skin. I build my treatment around you and your skin concerns. If you are using aggressive products or prescriptions regularly, it affects the decisions I make about products I use in the facial and how I should best treat your skin. I also look at how you’re treating your skin at home to figure out if you’re using products that will address your concerns, as well as the things that I notice on your skin. Your skin is like a puzzle, and how you are treating it every day is a huge piece that I need in order to solve any problems.
  • Speak up if you are uncomfortable. I have plenty of ways to make sure that you are more comfortable. I can add or remove blankets. I can redirect steam so that it’s not as intense. I can adapt my massage pressure to work through tender spots. I watch closely for visual cues, but ultimately, I am not psychic. Of course, extractions may not be the most pleasant part, but I can adapt my pressure to make it a little easier to bear. I also need to know if something is stinging, burning, or itching your skin to prevent irritations and adverse reactions. Make sure to let me know.
  • Ask questions if you have them. Curious about what I’m using? Why I chose it? Why your skin is doing something weird? Ask away. This is your time to get my undivided attention. If you want to get the best results for your skin, you have to use the right products. This is a great time to find out what those might be.
  • Relax and zone out if you want. You don’t have to feel obligated to talk to me. I understand if this hour is the only nap time you get. I don’t mind if you snore. If you stop talking, I promise I will stop too.
  • But, if I ask you a specific question about your skin, please answer. If I’m concerned about a reaction, I may need to ask you questions. Not answering my questions may lead to an adverse reactions, post treatment irritation, or any number of undesirables that neither of us want.

I decided to go for my esthetics license because I loved getting facials so much. I’d still prefer a facial over any other spa treatment! But now that I’m on the other side, I know absolutely that the most important part of any spa treatment is communication. My ultimate goal is to help you reach yours… whether that’s clearing out your blackheads, rediscovering your glow, or even just getting an hour break.

 

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.

 

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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Just the FAQs: Do I Need Extractions?

When I ask if someone would like extractions in their facial, sometimes my clients ask, “Is that when you pick my skin?” Proper extractions are not quite the same thing as picking. Extractions are the gentle removal of clogs and blackheads. When I do extractions, I do many things beforehand to prime the skin and soften the clogs, so that I can get as much debris out of the pore as possible while causing minimal damage to the surrounding skin. It’s not just about popping a whitehead and hoping for the best. And, from years of experience, I generally know whether a clog is ready to come out or if it needs a little help from some products at home.

Estheticians who do not believe in extractions generally argue that extractions damage the surround tissue and that the skin should be Extractions during a facialallowed to function on its own. I am in favor of extractions, because I believe that the skin’s functions naturally lead to clogs, and that it needs help moving them along. I also believe that good preparation and careful extractions do not have to cause damage to the surrounding skin.

So do you really need them in a facial? I say yes.

  • A clog in the skin is one step closer to a blemish. All acne starts with a clog that then becomes infected with bacteria. So if you are concerned about acne (and who isn’t?), you certainly want to remove clogs that make it more likely for you to break out.
  • Glowing skin is even toned. If you are trying to get your best glow going, you don’t need blackheads marring an otherwise clear surface.
  • Pores, like trash bags, stretch when there is something inside of them. Having a blackhead makes the pore appear larger. Cleaning the pores out allows them to shrink to their original size.
  • Blackheads and clogs can cause an uneven texture. Skin that glows is smooth, so extractions get us closer to that goal.

The worst part about extractions is, yes, they can be uncomfortable. Clogs have a tendency to accumulate in sensitive areas, like the folds of the nose. It often takes some directed pressure to get the pore fully cleared, and it’s not always enjoyable. And even good extractions may leave your skin pink in some areas. But they should not be torturous. You should find an esthetician who will work with you on your pain tolerance and desired level of extractions. I like to check in with my clients to see where they are at. Some days you may be more sensitive than others or have a lower pain tolerance.  You might have an important event and we should be less aggressive. I always try to work within my clients’ limits. Extractions may be uncomfortable, but they should not ruin the entire experience.

Facials are great because, as an esthetician, I can do lots of things to get your skin radiant. Extractions are just one part, but they are a big part of that process. Even if it’s not your favorite time in the facial, try not to skip the extractions. And remember you can help your esthetician out!  Using products at home that help to minimize blackheads can make a huge difference in the ease of the extractions. And of course, when you get extractions regularly, it becomes easier each time. So it helps to be consistent!

 

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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