Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Ridiculous iPhone Apps? Part 2 March 30, 2010

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 7:50 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I had written earlier in this blog about iPhone apps that claim to help treat acne.  See my post Ridiculous iPhone App?  for more details.  In my previous post I pointed out that claiming an iPhone app can help clear acne with the use of light therapy was silly and down right misleading.

Much to my great surprise I came across the following blog post from Dr. Leslie Baumann (The Skin Guru on Yahoo! Health, whose blog I have mentioned already numerous times in my blog) actually telling her readers that such apps are worth a try???!!!  I found this advice quite amazing in light of all the advice from other physicians that such apps do not work, provide acne sufferers with false hope, and can even be harmful. 

Here is Dr. Baumann’s post:

Wouldn’t it be great if you could erase acne and wrinkles while chatting on the phone? Well, two new iPhone apps promise to do just that!AcneApp and Atomic Red both harness the iPhone’s light emitting diode (LED) screen to emit wavelengths that can benefit skin. The principle is the same as that behind the red and blue light therapy offered in your dermatologist’s office–albeit on a much less powerful scale–which has been shown to kill acne-causing bacteria, reduce inflammation, and treat wrinkles by boosting collagen production.

AcneApp uses alternating pulses of blue and red light and is purported to have anti-aging in addition to pimple-fighting properties, while Atomic Red promises to ease muscle and joint pain as well as firm sagging skin (a third app, Atomic Blue, is intended to treat seasonal affective disorder).

While I think this is a genius idea, I doubt the iPhone is powerful enough to have much efficacy. But for $1.99 per app, it sure is worth a try!

These could be fun and perhaps slightly effective self-treatments for periods between in-office light treatments from a board certified dermatologist. Such treatments cost around $75 per visit, are painless, and require no downtime; in my experience, they are more effective as an acne treatment than for anti-aging (there are other lasers, such as the Pearl and Fraxel, that work far better on wrinkles and sagging skin). The number of treatments required will vary depending on severity of your acne.


Once again, I am extremely surprised that a dermatologist would actually semi endorse such an iPhone app and even encourage her readers to give it a try.  Please read my earlier post to understand why most doctors disagree with the use of such iPhone apps.


Quit Bashing Estheticians! March 26, 2010

I’ve mentioned before in this blog how Dr. Leslie Baumann, a very well-known Miami based dermatologist who writes a blog I like a lot (The Skin Guru on Yahoo! Health) continually bashes estheticians.  And certainly Paula Begoun, the Cosmetics Cop who I wrote about in a previous blog entry, has little love for estheticians as well.  So yesterday when I received my weekly email newsletter from Paula Begoun’s website I immediately paid attention since the main part of the newsletter was devoted to the following topic:  “Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Get a Facial“.  I’ll excerpt the relevant part of the newsletter here:

Whether or not you get a facial depends on many factors but primarily it is all about the aesthetician and the claims made about the procedures they offer. Often facials are nothing more than a series of masks and fancy machines that provide no benefit for skin other than feeling relaxing and knowing you’re being pampered. Claims of getting rid of wrinkles, de-stressing, healing, oxygenating, detoxifying, and curing acne abound, yet almost without exception those services are a waste of time and money. However, there are services a well-trained aesthetician can provide that make facials a helpful adjunct to your at-home skin-care routine. Here’s what you need to know.

5 Reasons to Get a Facial

  • A well-trained, licensed aesthetician can introduce you to a sensible skin-care routine (hint: it should NEVER be an expensive routine and to be 100% sure you’re getting the best products you need to check The Cosmetics Cop Team’s review on or you will be guaranteed to hurt your skin and budget).
  • If you have blackheads or blemishes, especially stubborn ones, an aesthetician can extract them for instant relief
  • In medically-supervised spas, an aesthetician can perform a chemical peel for improved skin tone, coloration, and texture
  • A well-trained aesthetician can perform calibrated microdermabrasion that bests the type of manual exfoliation possible at home
  • Facials can be a welcome respite from the stresses of daily life, provided the products being used are appropriate for your skin type and concerns

5 Reasons to Avoid Facials

  • If you have acne facials can make them worse if the esthetician doesn’t know what they are doing. Facials can make matters worse due to such treatments as steaming and over-aggressive squeezing that encourage inflammation and redness. And almost all spa brands for acne are poorly formulated.
  • If you have a skin disorder such as rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis. A typical facial cannot address these conditions and will almost always make them worse.
  • If you’re overly susceptible to hype and too-good-to-be-true claims, which run rampant in most spas don’t get a facial. Applying a series of masks isn’t going to purify or detoxify your skin or get rid of your wrinkles or pores.  
  • If the aesthetician doesn’t seem highly trained (ask some basic skin care questions to help determine this) or the spa doesn’t appear scrupulously clean.

If you expect galvanic or microcurrent devices are going to work miracles for your skin. They don’t work in this manner, and there’s no published research to the contrary. 

Much to my great surprise I actually agree with most of what Paula Begoun wrote about facials.  As much as I hate to admit it there are a few bad estheticians out there, but I will temper that statement by also saying that poorly trained estheticians are definitely the exception and not the rule.  The other estheticians that I know are dedicated and educated and really care about providing their clients with great service and advice.   Yes, many spas do make slightly outrageous claims about both their products and services.  Personally I believe in under promising and over delivering.  I want my clients to be happy with the service they received and the results.  Otherwise, why would they come see me again?

As for the final statement about galvanic and microcurrent devices not working I think there is a lot more room for debate on that issue than Begoun hints at.  There is a reason those machines have been used for as long as they have.  The issue is not as black and white as she makes it out to be.

I think one of the main components of getting a facial is enjoying the atmosphere of the spa you are at and having a positive interaction with your esthetician.  Those two components are subjective to say the least and guidelines just won’t help determine how you feel.  Above all, when getting a facial you need to feel relaxed, comfortable, and well taken care of.


Should You Try Proactiv? March 25, 2010

Filed under: Acne,Ingredients — askanesthetician @ 9:41 am
Tags: , , , , ,

You’ve probably seen a Proactiv commercial more than once.  Heavy with celebrity endorsements the commercials also feature “real people” and their before and after photos.  Certainly the results from using Proactiv, as shown on the commercials, look amazing.  So if you have acne should you try Proactiv?

Proactiv isn’t so much an anti-acne treatment system but a phenomenal marketing success.  Developed by two dermatologists, Proactiv was the first company to package and sell its anti-acne products together thus creating the anti-acne “system” craze.  Now every company, drugstore, department store, and speciality skincare company, sells their anti-acne products in a kit or system in order to compete with Proactiv and its runaway success. 

The basic three step product system from Proactiv contains two active anti-acne ingredients: benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid.  The cleanser has 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and so does the third step in the system – the repairing treatment.  The second step is the revitalizing toner which contains glycolic acid, though it isn’t specified in what percentage.  These are the basic Proactiv products but there are numerous more products that you can buy as well.  Among the other products there are creams with salicylic acid, a mask with sulfur, and a skin lightening lotion with 2% hydroquinone.  Now all these products contain ingredients that are great for fighting acne, but really there is nothing special about Proactiv.  Furthermore, people with more sensitive skin will most likely get irritated from using the recommended number of products (or steps) from Proactiv.  I don’t think that this is a bad treatment system for teenagers, but not adults, suffering from acne though I do find it strange that the starter kit of three products contains a toner with glycolic acid and not salicylic acid.  I believe that the two most effective anti-acne ingredients in skincare products are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.  I find that glycolic acid can be very irritating for many people especially if it is used on a daily basis, as recommended by the Proactiv system.  Salicylic acid is both oil soluble so it can really dislodge embedded oil in clogged pores and anti-inflammatory so it can help calm the skin as well.  Glycolic acid has neither of those attributes.  For those reasons alone I don’t think Proactiv is an ideal solution for many, many people with acne.

There are so many different causes of acne so each individual needs to figure out their own acne triggers.  Figuring out your acne triggers will help you figure out which acne fighting products and solutions out there, and there are numerous options, are best for you.  (See my previous post What Causes Acne? for many more details about acne triggers)   There are so many options out there for fighting acne – why limit yourself to the options offered by Proactiv?

Also note that Proactiv is marketed at those with slight to moderate acne – not cystic acne.  Cystic acne needs to be treated by a doctor with prescription medications.   Furthermore, many people find that Proactiv helps their skin become clear initially and then it stops working.  This could be because of the high reliance on benzoyl peroxide in the Proactiv products.  Because of this phenomena people mistakenly believe that benzoyl peroxide loses its effectiveness over time.  This is not the case.  What happens is that benzoyl peroxide does all it can do for your skin so it appears as if it stopped working.  If that happens to you you’ll need to add another anti-acne ingredient or product to your routine in order to clear up your breakouts.

There is certainly no lack of interest in Proactiv, and people love to share their experiences and opinions about the product.  Check out the sites listed below to hear what other people have to say about the products.

Further Reading, Discussions, and Opinions about Proactiv



Is There Anything That Can Be Done About Large Pores? March 24, 2010


I am sure it will come as no surprise to anyone to find out that I obsess over my skin.  I am particularly distressed at the fact that I have very large and visible pores on my checks.  We have a tyrannical societal expectations that people should have flawless, blemish free skin that looks lit from within and also has invisible pores.  Well that only occurs with the help of make-up and photo shop.  But nevertheless what is a person to do who has large pores?

Large pores are usually a matter of genetics so it is almost next to impossible to shrink the size of your pores.  But pores can become enlarged if they are clogged with dead skin cells and oil.  Keeping your pores unclogged can reduce their size slightly.  Most likely you’ll need to find a few ways to disguise the appearance of your large pores with make-up.

In order to make sure that your pores are unclogged and thus not enlarged by dead skin cells and oil you need to exfoliate.  See my early post All About Exfoliation for tips on how to exfoliate. 

But if genetics are to blame for your large pores, as they are in my case, make-up is really the only solution you have.  Currently I use a mineral powder in the morning before leaving the house.  I reapply my sunscreen with a mineral sunscreen throughout the day so that not only gives me sun protection but also cuts down on shine and gives my skin a more smooth appearance.  Consider using primer before applying your make-up since primer will create a smooth surface on which to apply your make-up, and then your make-up shouldn’t get stuck in your pores.

I keep hearing about two other powders that help reduce the appearance of large pores but haven’t tried them myself yet:


Sources and Further Information



TV Review: “The Price of Beauty” – Jessica Simpson’s New Show March 23, 2010


Jessica Simpson has a new show on VH1 called The Price of BeautyFor the show Jessica and her two best friends Ken Paves (described as her fashion stylist, hair stylist, and make-up artist – yes all three.  I wonder – does he get paid for all three?) and CaCee (described as someone who always “makes you laugh” – pray tell how can I find a way to travel the world simply because I make someone laugh?) travel around the world to find out about different cultures’ ideas about beauty.  I don’t think the idea for the show is too original, and frankly, for me, the premise was only slightly interesting.  What interested me more was the fact that Jessica Simpson was hosting the show.  Before I saw the show (and I made sure to watch two episodes before writing this post) I thought of Simpson as silly and ditzy and not much else.  I was not a fan of her music, and I only once watched half an episode of her successful reality show with ex-husband Nick Lachey Newlyweds.  Currently Simpson’s life is regular tabloid and gossip website fodder, and her weight and fashion choices, particularly her poor fashion choices, are both widely publicized and critiqued.  People love to  judge her, and I guess I started to feel bad for her.  Of course, why should I have any sympathy for someone who really became famous because of a reality she chose to be on and who, while ridiculed and constantly judged, is also very successful (her accessories and clothes line is wildly popular, and I have to say I think the products are very cute though I don’t own any myself).  Yet I do have sympathy for Jessica Simpson because why should your poor choice of jeans make you the laughing-stock of an entire nation?  And I also wonder – how does one keep up their self-esteem when under constant media scrutiny?  So I was pleased to see Simpson address these very issues in her show.  In the show, for me, Simpson came across as, yes, ditzy and silly but also sweet, empathetic, and even introspective. 

Simpson states in the first episode of the show that she sees the show as a personal journey in order for her to find out what other women consider beautiful so she can help define that term for herself.  The two episodes of the show that I saw where set in Thailand and Paris.  Each half an hour show was a mix of both very serious and more frivolous topics.  For instance in Thailand Simpson and her friends meet a woman who basically burned the skin on her face off trying to lighten her skin color.  The woman’s face is now disfigured and her life is ruined.  In Paris they meet a former model who became severely anorexic trying to meet the insane weight requirements expected of her by the French fashion industry.  Also in Thailand Jessica, Ken, and CaCee meet women from the Karen Tribe who wear up to 20 pounds of gold rings around their necks (see the photo above) in order to try to understand a beauty ritual and a concept of beauty that is foreign to them.  And in Paris the three friends get wine and grape spa treatments at the Caudalie Spa in Paris. 

I do wonder who the show’s target audience is meant to be.  Since the show is on VH1 which is home to reality shows with brain-dead morons (see Tool Academy) or washed up former “celebrities” (see Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which I will admit I watch and like, or Celebrity Fit Club) I don’t think this show entirely fits in with the rest of the network’s programming.  Perhaps it would have been better suited for MTV and a younger demographic? 

If you are watching this show for big insights – both personal and cultural – I advise you to look elsewhere.  But I do think the simple and important message – accept yourself and love yourself no matter how you look – comes through loud and clear.  I actually admire Jessica Simpson for being able to show such a vulnerable side of herself on camera.  Would I watch the show again?  Probably not.  I’ll stick to my Bravo reality shows thank you very much.  But did I suffer while watching the two episodes I watched?  Definitely not.  Perhaps the show could have been better made, but I do think it is important that Simpson is trying to show girls and women that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and permutations.

And speaking of beauty coming in all shapes, colors, and sizes I also watched two episodes of VH1’s new makeover show Transform Me.  Makeover shows are really a dime a dozen, but I still love them.  The twist about this show is that it hosted by three beautiful transgender women.  Who would know more about transformations than three women who were born men?  Equal parts camp and sass the three makeover mavens in the show actually did a great job at transforming the women who needed their help.  But now that my curiosity at the show has been satisfied I don’t think I’ll keep watching.  Anyhow, I am still desperately waiting for Trinny and Susannah, the original hosts of BBC’s What Not To Wear and my all time favorite makeover queens, to have a new show.  Trinny and Susannah – I love you both!  Please have a new show soon!

Check out this page on the website for more information about Jessica Simpson and her new show.  Even enter to win a spa trip.


Help for Puffy Eyes March 21, 2010

Last week I covered the issue of dark undereye circles in my blog so I thought it was a good idea to now address puffy eyes.

Puffy eyes are caused by a build-up of lymph under the eyes (or poor lymph flow in the same area), alcohol, salty foods, allergies, crying, and aging.

If your puffy eyes are caused by poor lymph flow or a build up of lymph giving yourself a gentle massage in that area should help the problem.  As you apply your eye cream (or any cream under the eyes) gently move your fingers from the outer corner of your eye to the inner corner.  Also exercise can help decrease puffy eyes.  If you continually wake-up in the morning with puffy eyes, fluid build-up is probably to blame.  Sleep with an extra pillow under your head in order to prevent fluid build-up.

Look for eye cream products with chamomile, cucumber, or caffeine in them.  Cucumber and chamomile are anti-inflammatory, and caffeine constricts blood vessels and drains fluid.  Putting wet chamomile tea bags or cold slices of cucumber on your eyes should help reduce puffiness.

If your puffiness is caused by aging see a cosmetic dermatologist or a plastic surgeon to hear about solutions.  Fillers can be used in that area to reduce puffiness, and of course there are always surgical procedures as well.

If salty foods and alcohol are to blame for your puffy eyes than be sure to drink plenty of water to flush out your system.

Puffy eyes caused by allergies can be treated with an antihistamine.

And please don’t use Preparation H under your eyes.  You can have an allergic reaction.  Stick to tea bags instead.


Sources and Further Reading



Attitudes about Aging March 20, 2010

I was once told by someone that I need not worry about finding clients for my esthetic services because there are “always vain people out there”.  Of course I would beg to differ with this point on many levels, first and foremost since I think that most people who seek esthetic services are just trying to look their best and that doesn’t mean that they are vain.  I see part of my job as an esthetician as a way to help people look and feel their best.  Just getting your eyebrows waxed and shaped can change a person’s appearance entirely.  Why not invest in making your skin look great?  Is that really so vain?

This whole idea of who seeks esthetic services and why ties into an article I read this week in The New York Times.  The article is entitled Appreciating Your Value as You Age, and it is an interview with Drs.Vivian Diller and Jill Muir-Sukenick who just wrote a book called Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change.  (This post is about the article in The New York Times, not the book since I haven’t read the book yet)  Drs. Diller and Muir-Sukenick are now psychotherapists but both used to model so they have an interesting perspective on the whole idea of how women perceive aging.  (There is also a brief interview with the authors in the April issue of Allure but I couldn’t find the interview online)

Instead of paraphrasing the article I will instead just quote a part of it:

After decades of counseling patients, Dr. Vivian Diller and Dr. Jill Muir-Sukenick say that dread about growing older can spur an existential crisis of sorts. Such dread isn’t about vanity per se, but has more to do with a loss of potential and questioning one’s place in the world. It can lead to depression, alcohol abuse or sleep disorders, they say.

Yet, therapy isn’t usually on the short list of solutions for those bothered by an aesthetic “problem.” A lunchtime laser treatment or a $180 face cream is.

Dr. Diller, 56, and Dr. Muir-Sukenick, 57, are here to tell American women — no matter how stellar their accomplishments — that it’s not superficial to admit that aging is upsetting. They encourage their readers to figure out what’s driving them to have daydreams about a refined face-lift rather than scheduling one.

At a time when cosmetic surgery is increasingly seen as a casual endeavor, and anti-aging injections as inevitable, “Face It” gives women practical steps to parse how they feel about this beauty paradox. “Should women simply grow old naturally, since their looks don’t define them, or should they fight the signs of aging, since beauty and youth are their currency and power?” the authors ask in their book.

I think this quote from the article perfectly captures the paradox women in this country find themselves in.  We hope that our looks will not define us, but we also know that how we look is important.  Women are under more pressure than ever to not look their age.  Certainly as an esthetician I can help people look their best at any age, but sometimes the issue is more than that.  What do they define as looking their best?  If a client is not bothered by her wrinkles than suggesting laser facial resurfacing isn’t a good idea.  But giving that same client a relaxing, thorough facial so she leaves with a smile and glowing skin is a great idea. 

I think it is great that the Drs. Diller and Muir-Sukenick advocate introspection before injections but also recognize the true price of aging.  Having to redefine yourself as you age is a struggle for many, many women, and I am glad to see that someone is addressing these issues.


Book Review: Simple Skin Beauty by Ellen Marmur, MD March 18, 2010



Simply put – this is an overall great book.  If you want to have only one book at home to refer to for skincare questions I would suggest getting this one.  (And of course keep reading my blog – wink, wink)

Once I began reading this book I found myself referring to it again and again in for both my blog and for my own knowledge.  The book is extremely thorough when it comes to addressing skincare issues – both cosmetic and health issues.  The book is clearly written in a personal and friendly manner making it an easy read  (I guess credit for the writing style should go to the co-author Gina Way). 

Dr. Ellen Marmur has pretty impeccable credentials so that does make it easy to trust what is written in the book.  There is A LOT of information contained in the book so you’ll definitely learn something new.  One of the goals of the book is to educate the reader, and the book certainly delivers on that count.


The Good Parts


The book explains in easy to understand terms just exactly how our skin works.  There are only a few illustrations in the book but all are a good addition, helping to supplement the text.  Dr. Marmur clearly explains exactly what a dermatologist does and what to expect during a visit to the dermatologist (chapter 6).  Perhaps for some people this chapter might seem a bit simplistic, but I was happy it was included in the book.  There is also a lot of explanation in the book about how a dermatologist can help you take care of your skin. 

One overall message in the book is that you deserve to feel good about how you look but there is no need to go overboard in the pursuit of beautiful skin.  To that end quite a bit of the book is devoted to understanding skincare products, skincare ingredients, skincare product formulations, and daily skincare routines.  Dr. Marmur doesn’t recommend very many products in the book; instead she tries to teach her readers how to read product labels so that they can decide if a product works for them or not.  She doesn’t give her readers “the easy way out” when it comes to finding skincare products, but she certainly does give the reader the tools to be better educated and informed about skincare products.  I also found it interesting that she suggests going a skin “detox” if you find that your skin is red or irritated.  I hadn’t really read about anyone else suggesting such a drastic tactic, and I found it intriguing.

Like many other books about skincare this book contains a chapter about the importance of sun protection.  It is a good chapter filled with lots of important information and advice.  Other good parts of the book include advice about common skincare conditions and concerns(acne, eczema, etc.) and good explanations about medical skincare treatments (chemical peels, lasers, and injectables).  It helps that Dr. Marmur has lots of experience to share with her readers and to back up the information she is presenting.


Room for Improvement


Though obviously I liked this book a great deal there were a few things that bothered me.  The format of the book is quite “jumpy” – for lack of a better word.  In between the regular text there are asides – true story type of explanations meant to enhance the text.  There are also lots of “questions”.  I don’t know if these are real questions or ones created for the book and certainly while they enhance the text a great deal the fact that everything is not integrated entirely is a bit off-putting.  In order to read everything in the book you find yourself “leaving” the text and looking at another part of the page.  Once you finish reading the aside you return to the text.  I wish there could have been a better way of organizing the information in the book.

From pages 103 to 111 there is a jumbled and confusing discussion about natural and organic skincare products and being environmentally conscious.  I was surprised that this part of the book was so poorly written and organized since certainly Dr. Marmur must have come across numerous questions from her patients about organic and natural products, and this part of the book does very little to clear up confusion over these issues.  Instead of clearly stating facts about the issue there is instead a long treatise about taking care of the environment.  Since the whole issue of natural and organic skincare products is controversial and misleading (see my post The Natural, Green, Organic Skincare Fallacy for more information) I wish Dr. Marmur had been more forceful and clear in this section of her book.

I found it interesting that Dr. Marmur repeatedly wrote in her book that she wore little to no make-up since the cover photo of the book shows her with TONS of make-up, particularly eye make-up.  I thought this was very ironic.  Why couldn’t she be photographed looking more like she claims she does on a daily basis?


This Book Made Me Think About How To Wash My Face


Dr. Marmur is one of many dermatologists who suggests “washing” your face only with water.  When I had read this before it was completely confusing  and even strange advice to me, but once I read Dr. Marmur’s explanation about why you should do this I began to rethink my previous held ideas.  Now I see that rinsing one’s face only with water in the morning, and I emphasis only in the morning, is actually a good idea for some people.  (For more information about how to wash your face see my post Is There A Correct Way To Wash Your Face?)


If You Read Only One Chapter in this Book


If you only want to skim this book be sure to read the chapter about skin cancer (chapter 7).  It is by far the most thorough discussion on skin cancer in any book I have read by a dermatologist (and yes, I have read quite a few).  The information about skin cancer – its causes and treatments –  was enlightening and thought-provoking, even scary.  A definite must read especially for people who don’t think they need sunscreen on a daily basis or who, god forbid, actually still use tanning beds.


Bottom Line


Simple Skin Beauty is a book well worth reading.


Can You Banish Dark Undereye Circles? March 17, 2010

There are a few questions that I am frequently asked and one of them is – what can I do about my dark undereye circles?  I wish there was a magical cure for dark undereye circles, I have them myself, but there isn’t.  Undereye circles are caused by a few different reasons and so there is more than one solution for the problem.  Below I’ve listed the different reasons for dark undereye circles and possible solutions.


Dark Undereye Circles Caused by Hyperpigmentation


This hyperpigmentation, or darkening of the skin, is a genetic trait.  The skin around and under the eye area is actually darker than the rest of your skin, and you were born this way.  I can personally vouch for since my two year-old son inherited this genetic trait, and I noticed it pretty much immediately after he was born.  The area becomes darker as you age.  In order to double-check that this is the cause of your dark circles gently pull the skin away from the hollow under the eye, making the area flat and eliminating any shadows.  If the darkness is still there the skin is pigmented – in other words the skin there is naturally a darker color.  Since this is a genetic trait it isn’t so easy to get rid of.  One solution is to invest in a good undereye concealer.  I’ll recommend a few at the end of this post.  If you want to try to permanently get rid of the dark color of your skin you can try laser treatments and chemical peels that target hyperpigmentation.  Or you can get use a skin lightener in that area; this will take some time to work.  You can get a prescription hyperpigmentation cream or go with a OTC one.  See my previous post Help for Hyperpigmentation for more information about the subject of hyperpigmentation in general and issues concerning hydroquinone.

Home Product You Can TryMurad’s Lighten and Brighten Eye Treatment contains 1.5% hydroquinone


Dark Undereye Circles Caused by Thin Skin


This can also be a heredity trait or it can be caused by aging.  As we age collagen and elastin breakdown and our skin sags and thins.  The thin undereye area skin rests on dark muscle or dark blood vessels and this creates the dark circle under your eye.  A good solution to this cause of dark undereye circles are injectable fillers such as Restylane or Juvederm.  A good cosmetic dermatologist can help you decide which filler is best for you.


Dark Undereye Circles Caused by Poor Circulation


There is a hereditary trait that causes blood flow to slow down in the undereye area of the body and then you have a dark area to contend with.  Some people have had success in treating this type of dark undereye circles with retinol.  Allure magazine recommends Quintessence Clarifying Under Eye Serum Capsules for this problem.  I’ve never tried the product, but I thought I would pass along the recommendation.


Dark Undereye Circles Caused by Tiny Blood Vessels


This is yet another genetic feature (gotta love genetics, right?).  If this is the cause of your dark undereye circles you can actually remove the blood vessels with laser treatments.  Be warned that new blood vessels may grow even after treatment.


Dark Undereye Circles Caused by Shadows


These shadows are frustrating because there is nothing you can do about them.  Believe me when I say this because my dark undereye circles are caused by shadows.  To see if this is the cause of your dark undereye circles stand in front of a mirror and tilt your head upward.  If the circles disappear your problem is shadow.  The shadow occurs when you have a deeply set bone structure so your brow bone causes a shadow under your eye.  Or as you age both the cheek and orbital bones dissolve creating a shadow.  The solution for this cause of undereye circles?  A good concealer.


Other Causes of Undereye Circles


Yes, not getting enough sleep can cause dark undereye circles because the body wasn’t able to properly drain fluid in that area.  Basically you get congestion in the veins under your eyes.  Drinking can dehydrate the skin making circles more prominent.  Allergies can worsen the appearance of dark undereye circles but that issue can be taken care of with an antihistamine pill.  And this might sound like a no-brainer – but don’t forget your make-up.  Eye make-up that runs during the day or if you rub your eyes during the day, can collect under your eye area and make it seem like you have dark undereye circles.


Does Vitamin K Work for Undereye Circles?


There isn’t much real scientific evidence that Vitamin K, when applied topically, will diminish darkness on skin associated with blood vessels.  It is true that Vitamin K, inside the body, helps blood clot but as of yet there is no evidence that it can do the same when applied topically. 

For more information about research about Vitamin K see Paula Begoun’s articleVitamin K



Products to Consider Trying:


Eye Creams:  Not sound too much like a broken record but the area under your eyes needs sun protection just as much as the rest of your body.  Your dark undereye circles can actually get worse from sun exposure.  My favorite daytime eye cream is Dermalogica Total Eye Care.  It has a great texture, a slight color to it, and spf 15.  The container is small but you don’t need much.  It lasts a long time. 


Undereye Concealers:

Sometimes the only thing you can do about your dark undereye circles is cover them up.  Luckily there are a lot of great products out there that can help you do just that.  Yes, none of these come cheap but they are well worth the investment since getting rid of your undereye circles, just like having well-groomed eyebrows, can greatly enhance your entire appearance.


 Sources and Further Reading:



All About Exfoliation March 14, 2010

Everyone needs to exfoliate, and you’ll be delighted with the results if you do.

Why Should You Exfoliate?

First off, the term exfoliation refers to the removal, either by peeling, rubbing, or sloughing off, of dead skin cells on the outer layer of the epidermis -the stratum corneum.  The exfoliant is the product is that helps you with this process.  The benefits of exfoliation are numerous and include:

  • Smoother skin
  • Helps unclog pores – an essential benefit for anyone with acne
  • Improves the skin’s ability to retain moisture
  • Allows for better product penetration
  • Easier make-up application – no caking of your make-up
  • More even toned skin

If you suffer from breakouts exfoliation is a key step in your home skincare routine.  As I discussed in my earlier post How Acne Forms acne begins to form when your pores are clogged with dead skin cells and oil.  People who suffer from acne need to help their bodies slough off the dead skin cells so that they don’t clog the pore and so oil doesn’t get stuck in the pore as well.  Regular exfoliation is the key to keeping your pores unclogged.

As we age our cell renewal factor or cell turnover rate slows down.  The cell turnover rate is the process by which our skin produces new skin cells which travel from the lowest layer of the epidermis to the top layer and then shed off the skin.  Think about this – a baby’s cell turnover rate is 14 days, a teenager’s is 21-28 days, a middle age person’s 28 to 42 days, and someone who is in their 50s or older the rate is between 42 to 84 days.  That means that as we age the top layer of the skin, the one we see, touch, and even agonize over, becomes dull.  We lose our “glow”.  And think about this – if the top layer of your skin is really lots and lots and lots of dead skin cells (between 15 to 20 layers) how much of the antioxidant and retinol serums you are applying actually are getting through and doing what they are supposed to be doing?  We can help keep the top layer of skin from getting too thick with dead skin cells by exfoliating. 

Can You Over Exfoliate?

Actually you can over exfoliate.  As I’ve already mentioned exfoliation is an essential step in any skincare regime but it should be done gently.  If you over exfoliate you are actually causing your skin more harm than good.  By removing too much of the top layer of your skin you are opening yourself up to redness, irritation, dryness, and even infections.  So moderation is key.  Our skin needs that top layer to stay intact since it plays a very important role in protecting our skin.  We don’t want to remove it; we just want to keep it thin.

Also remember that using too many products with exfoliating ingredients will cause irritation and redness.  Unless you are a teenager with acne doubling up on products with AHA like glycolic acid will probably prove too irritating for your skin.

How Do You Exfoliate?

There are numerous ways to exfoliate and how you choose to exfoliate will depend on your age and lifestyle.  Since as we age our cell turnover rate slows down dramatically you can exfoliate more often and with stronger ingredients as you get older.  If you suffer from acne you might find that you also need to be exfoliate more than twice a week.  For people in their 20s and 30s with normal skin a twice weekly facial scrub might be all they need to keep their skin even toned and glowing.


Mechanical exfoliants are scrubs that rub dead skin cells off your body.  The beads in the scrubs that do the exfoliating can be made from crushed nutshells, oatmeal, or tiny synthetic beads.  Start by using the scrub only once or twice a week in the evening. 


Mechanical Scrubs to Consider Trying:

Exfoliating Lotions/Serums generally have beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid) or alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, citric, or malic acid – to name a few) in them and are applied in the evening after cleansing.  Depending on your skin needs you could apply the products every evening or only a few times a week.  You need to be the judge of what is best for your skin so you can get the great benefits of exfoliation without unneeded irritation.


Lotion/Serum Exfoliants to Consider Trying:

  • Paula’s Choice – I can only vouch for the BHA lotion.  It works great.  A good thing about Paula’s Choice is that you can buy samples for very little money so you can try her products without much of a monetary investment.

Cleansers and Moisturizers with AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHA (beta hydroxy acids) are yet another way to exfoliate.  Using a product like this eliminates the need to buy a separate product just for exfoliation which is important for some people.  Just remember that these products can be strong – they are meant to exfoliate after all – so you might only want to use them a few times a week.  Everyone’s skin is different so some experimentation might be necessary to find the right balance for yourself.  See my post Amped Up Cleansers for more information about cleansers with added ingredients.


Cleansers and Moisturizers with AHA and BHA to consider using:


At-Home Peels should not be confused with professional peels since any product that is marketed for home use will be buffered so as not to cause irritation and/or peeling to the user.  You actually want to see peeling after receiving a professional peel.  Nevertheless this is yet another option for superficial exfoliation at home.


At-Home Peel Product to Consider Using:


Exfoliating Masks might not be a great choice for everyone, but they are another exfoliation option worth considering.  You can simply apply the mask before entering the shower and wash it off at the end of your shower. 


Exfoliating Masks to Consider Using:


Professional Exfoliation Treatments to Consider

Both microdermabrasions treatments and chemical peels are a wonderful way to exfoliate and treat the skin.  Be sure to get those treatments from a trained professional.  A series of treatments is usually needed to see more dramatic results, but even one microdermabrasion treatment or a chemical peel will leave your skin smoother, more even toned, refreshed, and glowing.


Though Mae West said “too much of a good thing is wonderful”, and I think she is right when it comes to chocolate cake, french fries, and cheese it certainly doesn’t apply when it comes to exfoliation.  Remember that exfoliating will make your skin more vulnerable to the sun’s rays so be extra vigilant about using sunscreen and reapplying throughout the day.  If you are using a retinol product be sure to go easy on the exfoliating in order not to irritate your skin. 

All things in moderation would be a better motto for exfoliation.  Find the right exfoliating product for your skin and stick to it.  Your appearance will thank you.


Sources and Further Reading:


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