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
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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.


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