Saturday, March 1, 2014

Demystifying chemical peels. Yes, they're worth it!

What is a chemical peel?
Quite simply, it's a chemical solution that causes dead skin cells to slough off. Different chemicals exfoliate in slightly different ways, but the end result is exfoliation (removal of dead skin cells). That's HOW a chemical peel works, the WHY is actually a little more long-term. The lack of dead skin cells sends a signal to the body to create more fresh, new cells and collagen (firming, filling protein in the skin). The resulting "healing phase" after a peel is nothing short of miraculous. The body is very good at repairing itself, and after a chemical peel the skin really steps up it's game.

Does it hurt?

Why yes, it does. The sensation during a chemical peel can range from mild itching to an intense sizzle. It depends on your pain threshold, the strength & chemical profile of the chosen peel, and possibly the amount of layers used. Estheticians will generally either fan you while the peel is on (to cool the skin & distract you) or give you a handheld mini-fan so you can angle it where you need it. The skin may feel a little tender and warm after the peel, but most of the sizzle happens while the chemicals are on the skin. 
The only exception: arginine or retinoic acid peels. They feel easy-breezy, like applying a lotion.

How long will I peel for?

It varies, but in general you'll start to see visible flaking 2-3 days post-peel. The peeling can last anywhere from 1-10 days. It can be a mild flaking or it can look a little like you're molting, or like you put glue on your face and let it dry. 

That sounds terrible. Why would anyone do that?

Because the end result is usually a VERY noticeable improvement in tone, texture, and glow. If you've had a Brazilian wax, then this should be a piece of cake. If you've given birth, this should be a piece of cake. It's sort of like getting a sunburn on purpose, only your skin looks BETTER afterwards, instead of worse ;) 
Peels can:

  • Lighten pigmentation
  • Reduce sun damage
  • Reduce wrinkles
  • Reduce acne
  • Reduce scarring
  • Refine pores
  • Reduce clogged pores
  • Make your skin look younger and smoother

Will I turn red?

It's possible. I do lots of chemical peels, and some people do get quite red afterwards. It doesn't generally last more than an hour or three. The day of your peel should be a mellow, indoorsy sort of day. Plan for that, and you'll be in good shape. If you plan to hit up a hot yoga class or run a marathon after your peel, you will live to regret it. Redness will be mightily increased if you overheat your skin, or get sweaty within the first few of days after your peel.

I googled chemical peels and got really scared!
I have googled a ton of things and gotten really scared. Google is a scary place. As an aside, many of the people who post those photos did the peel themselves. A well-trained esthetician should be very knowledgeable about the chemicals they use. If anything out of the ordinary should happen, they are a great resource so you're not freaked out & alone. They're your coach, team mate, and cheerleader! Finding the right peel is essential for ethnic skin that tends to pigment after a breakout or abrasion. Be sure to have a thorough pre-peel consultation if that sounds like you.

What should I do to prepare for a peel?

  • If you're using Accutane, stop taking it & wait 6 months before getting a peel, and get permission from your dermatologist. 
  • If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, wait till after. 
  • If you're using topical prescriptions, you'll need to stop using them 2-4 weeks before your peel (double check with your esthetician or dermatologist). 
  • If you have ever had a cold sore, start taking anti-viral medication at least 1 week prior to your peel, and continue it for at least 1 week after.
  • If you're taking oral antibiotics, keep in mind they can cause serious sun sensitivity, so get permission from your dermatologist before getting a peel.
  • Wait at least a week before & 2 weeks after your peel to get facial waxing. 
  • You'll also want to skip Benzoyl Peroxide for 1 week before your peel & after.
  • Don't get IPL or laser hair removal for 2-4 weeks before & after your peel.
  • Wait 2-4 months after your peel to get ablative laser treatments.
  • If you have any allergies, check with the esthetician to make sure the chemical peel doesn't have the offending ingredients in it. Common issues: citrus (citric acid, ascorbic acid), aspirin (salicylic acid), mushrooms (kojic acid), almonds (mandelic acid), milk (lactic acid).
  • Discontinue AHA, BHA or retinol-containing over-the-counter products 1 week prior to your peel. 

How do I care for my skin after the peel?
For the first couple of days:

  • Avoid getting sweaty or overheated. No cardio, sauna, hot tub, hot yoga, etc.
  • Avoid the sun. I mean it. Act like you're allergic to the sun. Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours during the day.
  • If your skin feels tender & sunburned, do a cold compress or keep a spray bottle of water in the refrigerator and mist as needed.
  • Use a gentle unscented cleanser (with no AHA, BHA, Benzoyl Peroxide or retinol), and an SPF during daylight hours. It's best not to use moisturizer unless you really need it during this period.
Once the visible peeling starts:
  • When the peeling begins, add in a gentle healing balm (Aquaphor ointment, Emu Oil, or an esthetician-prescribed balm). I always provide a growth factor peptide product to stimulate the healing process, at this point you'll use whatever your esthetician recommends (it varies).
  • Continue to avoid the sun. Keep that SPF handy and reapply it every 2 hours during the day.
  • Don't pick! Don't scrub or use a washcloth or Clarisonic! As tempting as it will be, don't remove that skin. Glue it down with your healing balm and let it come off at it's own pace. Don't force it. Some of that skin is still attached, and removing it can result in scarring.
  • If you get a "purge" breakout after a peel, get in touch with your esthetician. They can usually fit you in for a quick cleanup appointment to help clear that up. Purging can be good! Usually it's very superficial and heals quickly.
After the visible peeling has completely ended, you can pretty much go back to your regular routine (unless it involved prescription medications, ask your esthetician for advice). If your skin dries out, gets red or starts flaking again at that point, go back to your post-peel balm for another few days to a week. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Suggested skin resolutions for a vibrant, healthy 2014

Happy new year! It's January, resolution time! It's high time you made some powerful changes to your skin care routine. I've put together a short list of very simple things you can do to drastically improve your skin. 
  • Get a medium depth peel quarterly. A medium depth peel is great for all that ails your skin, repairing scar tissue and sun damage, wrinkles, acne, enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, melasma... Basically anything! This year, try getting a medium-depth peel quarterly. You'll look AWESOME by the time 2015 rolls around. My go-to medium depth peel for acne is the Rhonda Allison Quick Fix, for aging skin I love the DN-AGE, and melasma/uneven skin tone is no match for the Kojic Clay TCA. Book an appointment here :)
  • Figure out what is up with your sensitive skin. It's not your skin, it's (almost always) your tummy! Or possibly an inflammatory condition (arthritis, an IUD, something else?). If you have inflamed skin, read some of my previous posts about rosacea, and be a detective! When did it start? What makes it worse? Inflammation is terrible for your skin, but it's generally systemic, and it's terrible for your whole body. This is the year to figure it out and fix it! Talk to a good naturopath, and think about getting a blood allergy test.
I hope you have a wonderful 2014! Let's make it the year of vibrant, healthy skin. Come in and see me for a facial soon. :) xo- Ally

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It's September! Cue Earth Wind & Fire song... and great tips for fall/winter skin care :)

Oh, how I love that chill in the air! It means we can finally put on our cute boots and a scarf. It means hot drinks, cozy blankets, and dry skin. Wait, what? That's right. Our skin tends to dry out real quick when we crank up the heat indoors. It also means it's a fantastic time to commit to that peel series you've been avoiding all summer.

Let's talk about some basic fall/winter skin tips.
  • Get a humidifier. If you find that your skin gets rough, your lips get chapped, your hair gets static-charged, and your legs look like Ashy Larry, you would definitely benefit from a humidifier. If you are a Luddite, you can always put a big pot of water on the stove and simmer it for an hour or two. You could even add a drop of your favorite essential oil or some dried lavender flowers to make it smell yummy.
  • Oil is your friend. One Love Organics makes a wonderful oil serum, Love Springs Eternal. A drop mixed in to your moisturizer super charges it, and a drop on damp hair makes it shiny & tamed.
  • Eat the rainbow. No, not Skittles. Aim for orange squash and carrots, green brussels sprouts and broccoli rabe, purple beets and cabbage. Get your phytonutrients this winter! Almost anything can be sprinkled with olive oil, salt, and pepper and then roasted in the oven to delicious effect (or juiced). Your skin will thank you for it.
  • Take Vitamin D. This one is my favorite.  Trust me, you will need it. Another thing that makes the winter feel better? LED phototherapy. It's like a nice power nap on a tropical beach. A beach that makes your skin look & feel amazing.
  • Make this recipe for refrigerator oatmeal. If you don't do dairy, sub with your favorite faux milk/yogurt. 
  • It's time for a facial. When the seasons change so dramatically, our skin could use a point in the right direction. Schedule a re:fine if you like microdermabrasion, or a re:hydrate if you need extra moisture.
Click here to browse the Rhonda Allison peels. Time for that series! See you soon, and happy September :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Melasma. Why it happens & how to fix it at home.

Melasma, if you have it, is quite a pain in the ass. It's like an age spot on crack, only it doesn't care old you are. It's like someone painted a brown picture of Texas on your forehead/cheeks/lip/chin. The main problem with eradicating melasma, it's not an instant-gratification thing. Even with laser, it's a crapshoot. It can take months to years to really see the even & perfectly clear skin you had before you knew how good you had it. It's hard to find a formula that really works, and you have to be super vigilant about remembering to apply it. Melasma is a chronic condition, at best. Any sunny day can mean rebound pigmentation. Buckle up, sunscreen is about to become your religion.

In case you can't tell, my fellow melasma sufferers, I am one of your tribe. Mine showed up after I decided to switch birth control pills, and it got worse after a careless summer in the sun. Now it's a bit of a rollercoaster. Sometimes it's quite dark (after sun exposure) and then it lightens after a constant regimen of peeling, lightening serum, LED phototherapy and sunscreen.

What causes melasma?

  • Melasma is triggered by hormonal changes. It's almost as if a certain hormone cocktail causes a bit of a sun allergy. It's so common during pregnancy that it's often called "pregnancy mask". Birth control pills can cause it, and hormone replacement medications. 
  • THE SUN. If you add a dose of sun exposure to that certain hormone cocktail, you've got a disaster on your hands. If you have melasma, SPF is your new BFF. A wide-brimmed hat is also pretty helpful.
  • It also seems to be hereditary. If you have it, train your kids to wear SPF at an early age. Mainly the lady folk, only 10% of people with melasma are men.
Home care how-to:
  • Obviously, a daily dose SPF. With melasma it's not about aiming for SPF 100, aim for broad spectrum coverage. If you see the term "PA+++" on the bottle, that is a dead giveaway that it's great for melasma. Here are my favorites in no particular order:
          Coola PlantUV Face SPF 30 Unscented Moisturizer
          La Roche Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Tinted Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid
          Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 PA+++
          Supergoop! Daily Correct SPF 35 CC Cream

  • Melanin supressing active home care product(s) to actively lighten pigment. The main ingredient generally prescribed by dermatologists, hydroquinone, has been banned in many European countries because it is a suspected (or known, depending on who you talk to) carcinogen. Can we all agree that we'd rather have melasma than cancer? Read the labels and avoid hydroquinone, please! My favorite lightening ingredients are Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Arbutin, and the amazing 4-n-butylresorcinol. There are tons of HQ-free lighteners out there, and many that contain exfoliating agents or retinoids to boost efficacy. Be aware that if you're using one with a retinoid or an exfoliating acid it will affect the outcome of any professional treatments (corrective peels, laser, microdermabrasion) because it will thin the skin. Here are my favorite non-HQ lighteners:
  • A topical antioxidant support product. My favorite active antioxidant topical is Vitamin C (specifically L-Ascorbic Acid). Other good antioxidants for lightening? Alpha Lipoic Acid (also called Thiotic Acid) and Idebenone. I find that the L-Ascorbic acid form of Vitamin C is the most effective topical, so it's the main ingredient in all of the following:
          SeSderma Ferulac Mist
          Hylunia Beyond Complex C 
  • Exfoliate! It will stimulate cell turnover. For best results with melasma, a daily leave-on product works best. A combo lightener/exfoliator could be great (like iS Clinical White Lightening Complex or SeSderma Hydroquin Whitening Gel) or just a straight up retinoid or AHA. You'll have to talk with your esthetician (ahem... me?) about how far in advance of your clinical corrective peel to stop using your exfoliant. Here are a couple great ones:

The most important thing you can do to keep melasma from getting worse is absolute, crazy hyper-vigilance with the SPF. The most important thing you can do to lighten existing melasma is choose one of product from each section above, and use it every day. It will be frustrating, because it will take time and be gradual... But it's worth it! Don't forget to talk to your esthetician about what treatments they have to hasten the process (e.g. corrective peels, LED phototherapy, IPL)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Acne: a four letter word

If you have acne prone skin you know exactly what I mean by "four letter word", and you've probably found yourself in front of the mirror uttering plenty of four letter words on occasion. Acne is incredibly frustrating, hard to treat, and hard on your self esteem. There are different grades of acne- but what do they have in common? Inflammation (with the exception of Grade I, which is fairly responsive to OTC treatments) . Redness, swelling, and pain. They have other stuff in common, too. Bacteria, hormonal imbalance, stress, and excess sebum production. But let's just take this one thing at a time. Inflammation first.

Why do some people tend towards inflammation? The tendency comes from within, most specifically the digestive system. "Hey miss know-it-all, what does my tummy have to do with my skin?" you might ask. Well let me explain. It's a matter of modern diet: refined sugar and carbohydrates, allergenic foods like milk and wheat, and a shift in EFA levels (the most common modern EFA is Omega 6, which is pro-inflammatory). So here's what you do: stop eating refined sugar, cut way back on the simple carbs, the milk & wheat, and the omega-6 rich oils. That is easier said than done... But it's worth it for more than just acne, reducing inflammation is really important for overall health.
Garden of Life Omega-Zyme Ultra Ultimate Digestive Enzyme Blend, Capsules, 90-Count Bottle
Supplements you can take to support your digestive health:

Garden of Life Omega-Zyme Ultra Ultimate Digestive Enzyme Blend, Capsules, 90-Count Bottle
Planetary Formulas Triphala Internal Cleanser, 16 oz (454 g)Take with meals to help your body make the most of the foods you eat, and combat inflammation.

Planetary Formulas Triphala Internal Cleanser, 16 oz (454 g)
Eclectic Institute Inc Turmeric, 50 CapsThis stuff is a digestive system toner- strengthening & toning the walls of your intestines. To make this into a tea pour boiling water into a mug, gently place about a teaspoon of triphala powder into the mug and allow it to settle. Don't stir this unless you really like bitter, awful tasting tea. Let it steep for 10-15 minutes and then drink it. It's best before bed, it'll keep you regular in the morning.

Eclectic Institute Inc Turmeric, 50 Caps
Turmeric is amazing for inflammation. I think everyone should take it.

Eclectic Institute - Milk Thistle Seed Meal, 600 mg, 120 veggie capsAnother internal organ worth talking about is the liver. The liver is the body's main detoxifying organ, it filters the blood and makes bile (bile sends toxins to the intestines where they can bind to fiber & be excreted... unless you don't eat enough fiber). I'm having a hard time really explaining the wonder-organ that is the liver so check out this website for a really detailed education. The most important thing you can do for your liver is take Milk Thistle. You can also eat some yummy  vegetables like beets, carrots, burdock, and artichoke. My favorite Milk Thistle supplement is the freeze dried capsules from Eclectic Institute

Friday, July 6, 2012

Who needs Brad Pitt when you could have this bath mitt?

It rhymes, that's the only thing about it that makes sense. Don't overthink.

I bought this bath mitt on a recent trip to Bliss Spa in NYC. I have had my eye on the strange-ish products the Supracor company makes for a long time now. It's unique technology, and I've always wondered if it lived up to the claims (and the price tag). The cells are shaped like honeycombs. They are naturally antibacterial, hollow, and they flex in a way that stimulates the lymphatic system. That means bye bye, cellulite.

When I brought it to the counter at Bliss, the cashier nodded knowingly and said they were incredibly popular and hard to keep on the shelves. That's all it took to get my imaginary tail wagging with excitement. I couldn't wait to get that sucker unwrapped and into my shower. It's a glove, just put it on and give it a swipe with bar soap or a small dollop of body wash and rub a dub. Verdict? This thing creates the nicest, gentle-yet-effective scrubby sensation I've ever experienced. It's an odd feeling, as the cells shift back and forth and sort of jump over the skin. It's odd in the nicest way possible. I love reaching for it every morning. It elevates the mundane task of showering to an absolute joy.

I tried using it with a coffee body scrub once, and I have to say that it was a total fail. I say scrub first, mitt later. My mitt smelled like coffee for a month after. No bueno.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Summer Summertime!

Here in Portland at the end of June, temperatures are climbing up to the low seventies. So, of course, it's time for everyone to don a pair of short shorts and forget to wear their sunscreen. Not this year, lovelies! I won't allow it. I just read that almost 90% of aging is caused by sun damage. So instead of spending a fortune on anti-aging creams, you could basically HALT the aging process if you just applied ya damn sunscreen (or sunblock, as I tend to prefer). So you don't like sunscreen (or sunblock, you get the idea... and I'll explain the difference later)? I am about to tear all of your weak arguments to shreds and convert you to a better way of thinking. 

Ya heard me loud and clear, the sun is the biggest factor in extrinsic aging. The best, most effective anti-aging product by far is just plain old sunscreen. Now obviously, not all sunscreens are created equally. I hate most. They make my eyes itch, my face break out, and I hate that characteristic greasy feel and stinky sunscreen smell. But aside from all the things that make me naturally want to avoid sunscreen like the Black Plague, there is a big difference between an effective sunscreen and an ineffective one. SPF is a measurement of UVB rays, the burning rays. What's more important for anti-aging is the measurement of UVA rays (the aging rays, that break down collagen and create age spots). That is not easily measured, and largely ignored in the USA. 

Instead of trying to give you the complicated guidelines on how to choose a good sunscreen, I put together a list of AWESOME sunscreens (and blocks) for your shopping pleasure. And now for the big explanation of sunscreen vs. sunblock: sunblock is a physical barrier against the sun, reflecting the rays like a mirror. Sunscreen is a chemical, or blend of chemicals, that is absorbed into the skin and then works to scatter or absorb UV rays. I find that a good zinc oxide (non-nano) sunblock is the best way to go, but there are some excellent chemical formulas out there. 

Now it's time for me to bust up your sunscreen fear/hate.

Myth #1: Sunscreen makes me break out.
Argument: You just haven't found the one that works for you. I know it seems easier to just give up, but sunscreen is worth it. Who wants skin cancer or wrinkles? Try one of these SPFs for acne-prone skin.

Incredibly light and non-greasy, with a red algae extract that effectively calms skin inflamed skin. I love how light and airy this formula is. It's feather light and it doesn't leave a white cast on any skin tone.

This is a great option for acne prone skin as a daily moisturizer/SPF. It has never, ever caused breakouts in any of my clients. 
A long time favorite, Epicuren's Zinc Oxide is a great formula for all skin types, with a truly love-able texture. It works perfectly for dry skin as an over-moisturizer SPF, and for oily skin it's enough.

Myth #2: I need a moisturizer with sunscreen because I'm [lazy, in a hurry, busy, under the impression that anything less is as outdated as an 8-track player]. 
Argument: Sunscreen has an expiration date. It's a short one. It lasts mmmmaybe a few hours and then it's time to reapply. It's not like putting on a shirt, it's like putting on a disappearing shirt. It doesn't protect you all day. That is wishful thinking. But, as we now know that the sun is so profoundly responsible for the aging process, it's WORTH every moment of hassle that it takes to just reapply the darn stuff. Some of the ones I've mentioned above have a bit of moisture included, but that just means you have to keep some cleansing cloths handy and wipe your face down & then reapply a fresh layer every few hours. It's okay. Knowing is half the battle. And the battle is a sneaky one, where you wake up one day and all of the sudden you look old.

Dry of skin? The aforementioned sun protectors can be applied over the top of your favorite rich balm, and if you don't have a favorite rich balm then you really should try this, this, or this.

Myth #3: I'm too sensitive for sunscreen. It makes my eyes burn. 
Argument: Yes, maybe you are. But how do you know if you haven't tried ALL of them? A simple inside of the elbow patch test can help weed out actual allergies. I find that zinc sunblocks work very well for sensitive skin in general, but some of the chemical ones are a great fit. Probably best to avoid PABA and Octyl Methoxycinnamate. Everyone's skin is different. Here's one that my super sensitive, rosacea clients swear by. Also: don't put SPF too close to your eyes, or put down a barrier cream of some sort before applying SPF to the eye area if you're sensitive.

Now get out there and enjoy the sun while it lasts! Wear a wide brimmed hat and drink plenty of water. :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spring cleaning: inside and out.

It's spring! 
Which means that everything is in bloom except your dry, rough winter skin. If you've been scouring all the dark corners of your house and forgetting to do the same for your skin, it's time to adjust your priorities. Your skin is an organ. It's the only one we can see easily. It's an immediate reflection of your inner health. If you're not eating well, it shows up in your skin. If your liver is stressed from overindulgence, chances are you look puffy and haggard. If you're living a life of constant stress, I know you look in the mirror and see the evidence looking back at you. What to do? Cleanse. I don't mean a diet... I don't mean drinking only water for days on end.

Be nice to your kidneys. Eat some wilted dandelion greens, or make tea with fresh dandelion greens. Make a simple miso soup, and add Dulse & Shiitakes to strengthen and support kidney function. 

Be nice to your liver. Steep Burdock root in hot water to make a tea, ice it and add a little cucumber and a handful of Borage flowers. Grab some carrot beet ginger juice. Eat kale, arugula, and cabbage. Take a Milk Thistle supplement. Most importantly, your kidneys and liver need plenty of water. Drink it.

Cut back on the sugar and the dairy, at least for a few weeks. It'll give your digestive system a much needed break. That will reduce inflammation, leaving your skin all vibrant & glowing. Increase your intake of fresh fruits and fish.

Now we can't let your insides have all the fun, can we? Spring is the perfect time to add in a hydrating mask once a week to boost the glow factor. Leave a hydrating mask on for as long as you want. A couple hours or overnight is optimal.
My faves: 

Get some oxygen on that skin to brighten it up and stimulate cell metabolism.
This stuff is really & truly the best... but it's hard to come by... unless you come by my studio ;)
Sesderma Oxyses is pretty damn amazing, too.

Now is the time to grab a new bottle of SPF. It probably didn't last through the winter, and the sun is coming out again. Might as well grab your sunglasses, too. Protect your eyesight! If you are like me and have a hard time rolling out of bed, get a tinted SPF moisturizer. This stuff is rad. Prefer a non-tinted one? I really like this one.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today's tips brought to you by the number eleven!

1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water & take a Lecithin supplement. Coffee isn't water, neither is soda. 

2. Don't be afraid of oil. Oil is necessary, it's beneficial, it will keep your skin glowing all winter long. 
My faves: Osmosis Immerse, Aromatherapy Associates Intensive Skin Treatment Oil, Decleor Angelique Aromessence.

3. Make time for a mask. You know how awesome your skin looks & feels after a facial? You can have that anytime. 
If you're dry go for a cream mask like YonKa Masque No. 1. Oily skin needs to get OSEA's Red Algae Mask. Sensitive? Try Ilike's Linden and Marigold Rejuvenating Treatment. Acne responds well to Cosmedix Clear Clarifying Mask.

4. Take advantage of the bounty of orange foods (squash, carrots, etc.) this winter. Beta Carotene is a fantastic antioxidant, fighting signs of aging from the inside out. Beta Carotene is also important for wound healing and calming inflammation, so it's a must for acne. Here's a simple recipe for carrot ginger soup.

5. NOW is the best time to get a dramatically effective deep peel. At my studio, re:surface skin, I have peels for acne, for aging, and for uneven skin tone. I find that a series gives the best WOW factor, so be prepared to do one every couple weeks, up to 6 treatments. And then be prepared for the compliments!

6. Up your vitamin D intake. The sun is MIA but it's easy to take a supplement, and Costco has gummy vitamin D

7. Winter is hard on body skin, be sure to scrub your body regularly with an oil-based exfoliant, and instead of slathering on a thick cream, try a body oil like Extra Virgin Coconut oil. Apply the oil while your skin is still damp from the shower.
Favorite scrubs: Mediterranean Spa Fig Salt Cream, 100 Percent Pure Meyer Lemon Body Scrub, Bella Lucce South Seas Body Buff for a super deep smoothing scrub or Avocado Ootanga Body Scrub for a super gentle nourishing scrub.

8. Get plenty of beauty sleep! It's so dark here, you know you want to cozy up and go to bed early. Don't resist! Plenty of sleep makes you pretty (or handsome, if that's your thing).  I find that a heated mattress pad helps me sleep like a baby. If you're slightly more sleep-challenged, get some Natural Calm and some Theanine Serene and prepare to sleep like a pro.

9. Take an bath. It's warm, relaxing, and it can be very detoxifying if you add a handful of dried seaweed. I like Wakame or Dulse. If you want a more cosmetically elegant bathing ritual (and less mess) I've been using the OSEA Green Marine Detox Bath and it is the Rolls Royce of bath salts.

10. Make your daily routine into a ritual that you look forward to. Enjoy the hell out of putting on your lotions & potions... Because it doesn't work if you forget to put it on. I created a vanity, when I get home and change out of my work clothes, I can't wait to wash my face and put on all my goodies. It's such a nice thing to do for yourself!

11. If you're breaking out: instead of buying out the entire drugstore, call me and we can chat about it. Together we'll come up with a customized, affordable plan. If you're not in Portland, find an local esthetician that specializes in acne treatment. There's nothing like having a professional on your side.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why a dry skin?

Here's something that I have a pretty hard time relating to personally. I've never experienced dry skin, unless it was caused by a topical prescription for controlling acne. Dry skin can be a huge hassle. Makeup doesn't sit well, it tends to look flaky and muddy as it sinks into flaky patches. It generally tends to age prematurely as the elasticity is affected by parched, dehydrated skin. It can feel itchy and uncomfortable, always tight.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Do you have a thyroid condition? If not, have you been tested? Even if you're in the low end of the normal range, it can still affect the moisture levels in your skin. If you do have a thyroid condition, make sure you're taking thyroid medication. If you're at the low end of what's considered "normal" then you should definitely be taking this stuff, it can work miracles on skin and energy levels and overall metabolism.
  2. Are you getting enough EFAs? Essential fatty acids are pretty important for skin health, among other things. My favorite EFA for females: Krill oil. It helps regulate PMS and those pesky monthly breakouts. For men: get this one. Everyone should be taking a Primrose oil supplement, too.
  3. Drinking lots of water? If you are drinking plenty of plain water, yay! If it's a soda, tea, or has fresh lemon in it, consider switching to plain old water. Maybe pop a few EmergenC packets in your water now & then for electrolytes (which boost hydration levels).
  4. Here are a few supplements to take: Lecithin. Is. Awesome. Take it. You can take MSM to help build important skin proteins. Another good one: Mixed Carotenoids which is a great bioavailable vitamin A, which can help keep skin cells turning over at a brisk rate. My personal favorite is BioSil, which tastes pretty darn bad but it's incredible for rebuilding skin and connective tissues. If you're going to brave it, buy some empty gelatin capsules and drop the recommended dose into the capsule and take it immediately (so it doesn't melt). That makes a world of difference, and it only adds a second to your daily routine.
There are some topical ingredients that will mean the difference between dry and spry. That's really a pretty tragic attempt at rhyming. Ugh. Moving on to the good stuff! Hyaluronic Acid is an absolute miracle for dry skin. It's not an exfoliating acid or an irritating acid, it's just a thirst-quenching humectant (a humectant is a substance that draws moisture from the air to your skin) that holds a thousand times it's weight in water. It works best in serum form, slip a bit of Hyaluronic Acid serum under your moisturizer and it will make your skin smoother, more supple, and um... less dry. Yeah I'm really a wordsmith tonight.  So what else is there? Squalane, Ceramides, and Phospholipids. 

One particular product worth talking about for dry skin is the Hydramucine Optimal Cream from GM Collin. The pomegranate extract that they use is a pretty awesome way to stimulate hydration from the inside out. Another one I love, but it's sort of incredibly greasy, is the Calendula Sensitive Healing Cream from Nahla. And one last one that is another notch up the greasy ladder is Weleda Skin Food cream, which can transform the most Sahara-like skin into the most cuddly. 

One last tip: invest in a good humidifier and turn that sucker on every night before bed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Turning Acne inside out.

Acne can be controlled, but it can't be cured. Once you've found some good products to use (see my last post), it's still important to figure out how to control the causes. Inflammation is a big one. Getting a food allergy blood test may seem frivolous, but when you have persistent acne it probably is a better investment than trying out every new product under the sun that promises to cure your acne immediately and permanently. So if you can afford it, or save up for it, definitely DO IT. Knowing what you're sensitive to/allergic to can be a huge help in controlling acne from the inside out. Most inflammation in the body comes from the digestive tract. Not putting things that irritate you in your tummy goes a really long ways on the road towards clear skin.

Futurebiotics AcneAdvance -- 90 Vegetarian TabletsSugar. Yeah, sugar is pretty inflammatory. So maybe lay off the Haagen Dazs and Snickers? It certainly couldn't hurt. Also- alcohol taxes your liver, so maybe cut back on that a little bit. Adding a liver support supplement (my favorite is milk thistle) is very good for optimizing the detoxifying power of your liver. Another awesome supplement for acne is zinc. Make sure if you're taking a zinc formula on an ongoing basis you choose one that includes copper, because otherwise it will deplete your body's copper reserves and that's no bueno. My favorite supplement for acne is Acne Advance which has zinc and copper and other liver support stuff all rolled into one. It works.

Another thing you can do to heal acne from the inside out is just a plain old multivitamin to increase your skin's wound healing ability. My favorite is Spectrient, it is full of good stuff that your body can absorb easily, it gives a rad energy boost and mood boost. Love that stuff. Also, a simple cleanse is good. I think steamed veggies and carrot beet cucumber juice would be amazing for a week or so, and take this stuff, too.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Acne. The skin condition that just won't die.

You know what I mean, acne prone people. Just when you find a regimen that seems to work, and finally your skin clears up and you feel confident and pretty and you start leave the house without makeup... it comes back. With a vengeance. Acne is a chronic condition, and it can't be cured. There are products that work, but they never seem to work forever. And no matter what you put on your skin, it seems like stress, hormones, and several other factors come into play.

Before we explore some products that are tried and true, and some options for controlling acne from the inside out, let's talk about a game plan. You'll need to switch your regimen up now & then. I know that sounds scary, because certain products will flare up your acne and others will just not do a thing to control it. But it's necessary to stay ahead of acne by keeping it on it's toes. You can have 2-3 cleansers that you cycle through. You can have 2-3 treatment products, and you can probably imagine what I'm going to say about moisturizers, toners, etc. It's okay to have a few products that you rotate. When you run out of one cleanser, you pick up one of the other two from your tried and true list. This doesn't mean always trying a new/different product. It means you test a few out to see which ones seem to work for you and the ones that work, you rotate them.

Here are some good cleansers:
I find it's best to rotate an exfoliating cleanser with a milder, anti-inflammatory cleanser. For exfoliating and deep cleansing, I love all of these:

OSEA - Ocean Cleansing MuddOsea Ocean Cleansing Mudd, which is an awesome mini-mask and leaves pores squeaky clean without drying or irritating. It isn't exfoliating like the next two, but it's very purifying nonetheless. It foams up a tiny bit, and assassinates acne with powerfully detoxifying red algae. This would be great to use with a Clarisonic brush about once a week.

MD Forte Facial Cleanser IAnother favorite is Hylunia Salicylic Cleansing Gel, a super hydrating and soothing cleansing gel armed with the standard 2% Salicylic Acid to treat acne. It's a foaming cleansing gel, but not the least bit drying or irritating like a certain Neutrogena cleanser which shall remain nameless. It works best used 2-3 times per week.

Another great exfoliating cleanser is MD Forte Facial Cleanser I. It's similar in texture to Cetaphil, sort of lotion-y and non-foaming. It's a gentle glycolic acid cleanser, glycolic is not for the very sensitive but it gives incredible results for treating acne. Used on sturdy skin, it works best 3-4 days per week alternated with a gentle cleanser.

You'll need to use a mild, non-exfoliating cleanser on a regular basis. Here are a few that calm inflammation and help speed the healing process.

My absolute favorite for combination, sensitive, acne prone skin is Hylunia Facial Cleansing Lotion. It looks like a gel, but doesn't foam, and it's full of hydrators and healing, calming ingredients. I think it leaves the skin feeling very clean but not tight or squeaky.

iS Clinical Cream Cleanser 6 ozDrier/dehydrated skin will benefit from iS Clinical Cream Cleanser which is a richer, calming cleanser. Cleansing creams work best when applied to dry skin and then removed with water or a washcloth.

dermalogica dermal clay cleanser 16.9 fl oz (500 ml)
For really oily skin, I love Dermalogica's Dermal Clay cleanser. This is basically like cleansing with a clay mask, it's not for everyone, but it's great for controlling very oily, congested skin.

OSEA - Ocean Cleanser

For aging skin & adult acne, I prefer Osea's Ocean Cleanser which is mildly foaming, with tons of b vitamis and firming algae. It smells amazing!

Verbena Calming Hydrosol TonerSo now you have cleansing options, let's talk about toners. It's best to avoid grain alcohol and SD alcohol. They strip the skin, irritating it & causing inflammation and dehydration.

My favorite toner for acne is Hylunia's Colloidal Silver and Lavender Floral Water. The lavender heals inflammation and acne scarring, the silver kills bacteria without irritating. It's great as a post-gym grime remover. This is best for sensitive, inflamed acne.

Being True Essential Clarifying Tonic is a minty fresh face rinse for sensitive & acne prone skin. I like it as a morning cleanser, instead of using a real cleanser I just wet a cotton round and wipe my face clean prior to applying treatment/moisturizer/SPF. This works best for sturdy skin with active acne.

Nahla Verbena Calming Hydrosol Toner is amazing for sensitive, dry skin and aging skin. It's soothing and brightening.

RenewAs treatment products go, I prefer retinoids above all else, but it's still best to have other options for when your skin gets immune to them. First off, my FAVORITE new (new to me, anyways) serum for acne: Osmosis Clarify. Liposome delivered retinaldehyde is the absolute best retinoid on the market. I've tried prescriptions (any retinoid prescription, except accutane, I have tried it) and I have tried OTC retinoids of all types and this blows them all out of the water. It doesn't overdry or irritate my skin but it clears up my acne in record time and it's extremely affordable for such an amazingly effective treatment. I mix Skin Nutrition powder with it, it's an amino acid healing blend. My skin has never been prettier or clearer. I recommend it for anyone with acne.

Osmosis also makes several retinaldehyde serums for rosacea treatment and for age management. If you have aging skin & acne, try the Renew serum with the Acne Blend powder added. If you have rosacea, try Calm and mix in the Skin Nutrition powder.

For moisturizer, I love these:
IS Clinical Hydra Cool Serum 1 oz
iS Clinical SPF 25 Treatment SunscreeniS Clinical Hydra Cool is a light, gooey blue hydrating gel formula. Perfect for very oily skin, humid climates and summertime, and under a moisturizer for added hydration in winter/dry climates. It's super cooling, calming, soothing, and healing.

For very sensitive, inflamed skin that is dehydrated: you need Hylunia Facial Day Lotion. It has SPF, Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate and calm, and it's light as a feather. I love it!

Men, combination/oily types, and the cream-phobics will love iS Clinical SPF 25 Treatment Sunscreen. It's moisturizing enough, but matte and not at all sticky or greasy. It will not break you out at all. It's awesome.