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!]

 

 

Like this post? Get skin tips and tricks delivered directly to your inbox by signing up for the newsletter!

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!

 

 

Like this post? Want more? Sign up for the newsletter or like the Facebook and stay in touch!

>

4 Mistakes Even Beauty Experts Make

I’m on a mission to get good skin care information out there. It’s the main reason I started writing this blog. So I get frustrated when I hear the same beauty myths persisting. Here are a few things that I hear even beauty experts get wrong.  mistakes even beauty experts make

  • Drinking enough water will cure chapped lips and dry skin. [Tweet this!] There are many benefits of drinking water, but sorry, this just isn’t one of them. I hear people say this over and over, and I feel like Debbie Downer every time I say that it won’t. It’s the Salad Dressing Theory. Oil and water are not interchangeable. Drinking more water cannot replenish a lack of oil.
  • Your skin needs to breathe. Your skin doesn’t have lungs. [Tweet this!] Your skin can’t even absorb gases from the outside environment. In fact, it’s hard enough to get your skin to absorb solid nutrients. I even cracked open my super skin nerd text-book Physiology of the Skin for scientific confirmation on this one, and sure enough, Dr. Pugliese has many things to say. First he states that “the skin uses very little oxygen since 90% of the metabolic process in the skin is anaerobic, or does not require oxygen.” He also states that “oxygen is a gas, and gas will diffuse into other gases before it will dissolve into anything else.” Basically, your skin isn’t absorbing the air because the air can’t penetrate the skin. It’s not breathing. And no amount of makeup or lotion will change that your skin doesn’t breathe.
  • Fair skin is sensitive skin. I’ve had dozens of estheticians insist that I am sensitive, simply because my skin is light. The color of the skin doesn’t dictate sensitivities. Fair skin has a tendency to be thinner, but even that doesn’t mean that doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be more sensitive. I go back to my soapbox about what sensitive skin even means. I define sensitive skin as someone who has frequent reactions or many allergies. Skin of all colors can be allergic to an ingredient. Skin of all colors can have an adverse reaction to a product or get an irritation.
  • Products with alcohol will dry out your skin. We need to split hairs here. If you’re looking at a toner with SD alcohol or denatured alcohol in it, yes, it will probably dry you out. If you’re oily or acne prone, you might need that drying or extra help killing bacteria. If you’re dry, it may not be a good idea. If you are looking at a cream, chances are that product has cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, or stearyl alcohol in it. These forms of alcohol are all fatty alcohols, meaning that they are actually moisturizing. I don’t know enough about chemistry to be able to explain why these different ingredients are still all alcohols (chemistry experts, chime in!), but I promise you that fatty alcohols are important in a moisturizer and won’t dry you out.

Have you ever heard any skin care myths that you know aren’t true, but you hear everywhere? Shout out in the comments and tell me what they are!

Like this post? Get skin tips and tricks delivered directly to your inbox by signing up for the newsletter!

The Law of Diminishing Skin Care Returns

My job is super fun. I get to spend the whole day talking and thinking about skin care and skin care products. I get to recommend skin care products that I like. I get free skin care products to try and judge (which is a great way to get judgy feelings out of my system, since I try hard not to judge people).

But sometimes my job is disappointing. I feel hopeful when I look at a new product. I can’t wait to see my skin magically transformhave you stopped seeing a difference in your skin care products? when I apply it. And I feel frustrated when that skin care is just okay. I am disappointed. I want instant results too!

I’ve been trying a new skin care line for work. I want to tell me boss that’s it’s amazing and that we should buy it immediately. But even though I like many of the products, I was a little disappointed. Couldn’t my skin glow just a bit more? Couldn’t it look a bit better?

Then I realized that I am a victim of the Law of Diminishing Skin Care Returns. If you’ve ever studied economics, you’re familiar with the original law. Applied to skin care, it means that when you use lots of good product, you don’t notice as much when you add another good product. Essentially, if your skin is already in great shape, it becomes harder to get a dramatic result. [Tweet this!]

Let’s look at a real life example. If you are using a bar soap, and you change to a cleanser that is less stripping, you’ll automatically see an improvement in your skin. You’ll notice your hydration will improve and your texture will soften. If you add a well formulated moisturizer, you’ll see even more changes. Now add a serum, and maybe you’ll decrease breakouts or improve your glow. But every product you add will change your skin less and less. The better the condition of your skin, the less you’ll notice the improvements. If you change from one moisturizer with great ingredients to another with different great ingredients, you may not notice the difference. Does this mean your skin care isn’t working? No, it’s still working… you just can’t see as much a change because your skin already looks great.

It’s hard to gauge good skin care if your skin is already healthy and glowing. We become immune to the changes in the mirror, and we naturally focus on our flaws. It’s easy to see this small line or that brown spot when the rest of your skin is smooth and glowing. Take one giant step back from the mirror, cut yourself a break, and remember that if your skin already looks amazing… miracle products become harder and harder to find.

Like this post? Want more? Sign up for the newsletter or like the Facebook and stay in touch!

>

Just The FAQs: Will That Make Me Break Out?

can products cause acneThis particular question is always a hot topic. People are always quick to blame their skin care for the problems they’re having. The truth of the matter is, sometimes breakouts just happen. Sometimes it happens at the same time you change your skin care routine. I can’t tell you if something will make you break out without also looking at the rest of your routine and your skin type. I don’t often find that one single product is the only reason.

Acne can be complicated by many things, but it always comes down to three factors: excessive oil, a build up of dead skin cells, and bacteria. There may be underlying causes that influence one of these factors, like diet, hormones, or stress. Knowing this, there are only a few ways that a product can cause acne. I will say that some skin care can affect breakouts, but it is not nearly as common as people think. Here are a few cases where a product can cause acne.

  • Adding excessive oil to the skin. If you are already very oily, and you start using a product that has oils or occlusive ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, or even shea butter, you will break out. Because your skin doesn’t need more oil, the occlusives block the pores, therefore leading to more clogs. Add a little bacteria to the party, and you have a breakout.
  • Purging the skin. Whether skin really purges is a point of debate, even among skin care professionals. I believe it happens in very specific instances, and not every time you change your skin care. It might happen if your skin is already clogged and you start using something that contains retinol or salicylic acid. These ingredients break down debris in the pores, and you may experience some breakouts. Ultimately, you are reducing the likelihood a breakouts long-term since you are keeping the pores clear. Short-term, it’s no fun.
  • Causing allergic reactions. Acne is not a common allergic reaction. Most allergic reactions look like itchy red skin, rashy red bumps, or flakiness. Allergic reactions do cause inflammation though, and if you have conditions that are favorable for breakouts, it may make it more likely. Inflammation constricts a clogged pore, creating the anaerobic environment that bacteria thrives in. And voilà! Pimple.

In order to know if something would make you break out, you have to look at your skin care routine as whole, and how often you’re currently breaking out. [Tweet this!] Are you acne-prone, but not well controlled? Most people have a natural tendency to break out. It’s just what the skin likes to do. People tell me that they can only use a certain product or they break out. My reaction to this is that they need to be on an acne control regimen that will keep the pores clear and prevent breakouts long-term, because their skin is naturally prone to clog. I once read a quote from Dr. Dennis Gross, founder of MD Skincare, and he stated that it takes six weeks to form a breakout. If that’s true, then it can’t be the product you started using last week.

Have you ever stopped using a product because you felt it made you break out? After reading this, do you still think it was the product?

 

 

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

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.

Just the FAQs: Can My Skin Care Stop Working?

skin care productsI love this beauty urban legend. And it’s one of my favorite myths to bust. Here are a few reasons why you can’t become “immune” to your current routine.

You get used to your results. If you are using something that works, it will continue to work. Unfortunately, we just get used to seeing the glow in the mirror. Just like any other part of your body, your skin uses nutrients and discards waste. Once a nutrient is depleted, you need to feed your skin again. It doesn’t use a nutrient once and never need it again. If you take a vitamin C supplement, your body uses what it needs and discards the excess. Next week, you’ll need more.

  • Your skin’s needs may change. Let’s revisit the vitamin C analogy. If you are sick, your body may need more help to repair. Then you need more vitamin c than before because of what’s happening, not because you got used to the amount of vitamin c you were taking in. Circumstances changed; your needs changed. Your skin functions the same way. If you are stressed out, your skin may be depleted of more vitamins than usual, increasing your need for more. It’s not that your skin is used to the products. Your needs are different.
  • Your products have expired. Yes, in this case, they probably have stopped working. Expired product means less effective ingredients. Less effective ingredients mean less noticeable results. But this doesn’t mean that a new bottle won’t work as the first one you purchased.
  • We get bored and a shiny new product beckons from the pages of Allure. Even though I know that skin care doesn’t “stop working,” it’s always fun to try something new… and that’s okay! It’s good to do something different to mix up a routine, but be careful of shocking your skin too much or too often. But I encourage you to dig deeper if this is the case. Make sure that in your restlessness, you don’t throw out a product that really works for you in lieu of something less suited.

So never fear, you don’t have to give up a favorite product. You don’t need to switch up your skin care routine for fear of becoming “immune” to it. But if you’re not seeing the results you want, try a smaller tweak and keep your favorites on hand.

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.

 

Just the FAQs: Do Pore Strips Work?

girl uses pore strip to get rid of blackheadsThere are few questions that surprise me. What surprises me about this particular question is how often I hear it from the guys that come in for facials. I’ve even answered this question from guys while watching football.

The short answer is, no, pore strips don’t work. [Tweet this!] But if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I don’t have a short answer for anything in skin care.

Pore strips are used by wetting a strip of fabric with a special adhesive and applying it to the nose. It then forms a bond with any blackheads. When you remove the strip, the blackheads are supposed to be pulled out of the skin and removed with the strip.

Blackheads are created by a build up of excess oil and sebum that collect in the pore. The surface oxidizes and turns dark. I’ve talked about how blackheads are formed in more depth in other posts.

So why doesn’t a pore strip work?blackhead cross section

  • The surface of the blackhead is not usually flush with the surrounding skin, as you can see in this illustration. The pore strip cannot adhere to the blackhead if it is actually below the skin. Therefore, it can’t be pulled out.
  • Even though blackheads seem like they would be pretty solid, most are not. Most blackheads are oily in texture, so even if you can remove the top oxidized portion of the blackhead, the pore still contains the rest of the oil and sebum. This means that in a matter of days, you will just have a new blackhead.
  • If the blackhead is in fact a solid blackhead that could adhere to a pore strip, I promise you that it is not going to come out by yanking something off your nose. In a facial, I use enzyme masks, steam, and special solutions to dissolve blackheads and make the surrounding skin more pliable, and I still have to work pretty hard to dislodge them.

Some people will argue with me and tell me that they see something on the other side of the pore strip after they’ve removed it, but most of that will be hair. And even if you did get a clog, there is still more debris in the pore. Mostly I think that pore strips just irritate skin and make it more sensitized. The only way to truly get pores clear is to get manual extractions in a facial. Save the money you’d spend and invest in a facial or a good, pore detoxing product.

 

 

 

Like this post? Get skin tips and tricks delivered directly to your inbox by signing up for the newsletter!