Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Support Stricter Tanning Bed Regulations – It’s Very Easy! November 30, 2010

I recently received my monthly email update from The Skin Cancer Foundation which contained a request to help increase tanning bed regulation by sending an email to your Congressional representative about a bill that is going before Congress this month.  It turns out it is super easy to help get this cause the recognition and support it desperately needs. 



Why You Should Support Stricter Tanning Bed Regulations


According to The Skin Cancer Foundation :

Indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.  Yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently regulates tanning beds the same way as gauze, bandages, and tongue depressors.

Tanning bed users have 2.5 times the risk of squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times the risk of basal cell carcinoma. These nonmelanoma skin cancers (NMSC) are the two most common skin cancers, and both can be highly disfiguring if not caught and treated in a timely manner. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, affects over a million Americans annually. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) can metastasize if not caught early; approximately 2,500 people in the US die every year from SCC. People with a history of NMSC face twice the risk of developing other malignancies, like lung, colon, and breast cancer.

The tanning industry relies on two misleading arguments: first, that since melanoma is mainly caused by sunburn, “controlled” tanning helps prevent melanoma by building up the protective pigment melanin; second, that UV exposure makes the skin produce vitamin D, which helps prevent breast, prostate and colon cancer, as well as other diseases.

Medical experts refute these arguments. They point out that our diet (especially vitamin D-rich foods such as dairy products and salmon) generally provides all the vitamin D we need. Furthermore, tanning to increase melanin is counterproductive. Tanning, like burning, causes genetic damage to skin cells. “You can’t protect the skin by damaging it,” said James M. Spencer, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “Tanning not only increases the risk for melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, but accelerates skin aging.”

There have been several attempts made to regulate the industry, by physician groups as well as state and national congresspeople and the World Health Organization, with limited success. The FDA is weighing stricter controls over tanning devices, but has not yet instituted any changes. The tanning industry has fought all of these measures. “Tanning manufacturers and salon owners keep lobbying the FDA and state agencies to soften regulations, claiming that tanning is healthful,” said Dr. Spencer.


The Bill Before Congress


The bill that is going before Congress at the end of the month asks the FDA to look at the classification of tanning beds and reclassify them as dangerous to consumers.   That’s it.  So far there is no bill that calls for a ban on tanning beds.

What You Can Do


Simply fill out this online form on The Skin Cancer Foundation website.  It literally takes 30 seconds to do this.  After you’ve filled in your information the site automatically fills in the name of your representative.  Then you send the email.  Very, very simple.  I even received a reply from my congresswoman that her office had received my email the same evening that I sent my email letter.


Please share this information with friends and family.  It can save lives!


For more information about the dangers of indoor tanning please see this page on The Skin Cancer Foundation website.



Fragrance in Skincare Products – Bad for Your Skin? November 23, 2010


Anyone who has read my blog since I started it might have noticed that I have a love-hate relationship with Paula Begoun.  See my previous post for more details.

If you read Paula Begoun’s books, beauty bulletins, or product reviews you will find one thing pops up over and over – Begoun thinks that fragrance in skincare products is wrong for the most part and even bad, very bad.  As a matter of fact in a recent beauty bulletin of hers Begoun makes the following statements about fragrance in skincare products:

Whether the fragrance in the product is natural or synthetic, it is almost always a problem for skin.

The way most fragrance ingredients impart scent is through a volatile reaction, which almost always causes irritation and some amount of inflammation. Research has established that fragrances in skin-care products are among the most common cause of sensitizing and allergic reactions.

You might be thinking, well my skin doesn’t look irritated or inflamed so the fragrance must not be a problem. In reality, skin on the surface often keeps the fact that it’s being irritated a secret with no reaction at all. Below the surface, irritating ingredients can cause collagen to breakdown, get in the way of skin’s ability to fight environmental damage, and hamper skin’s ability to heal. All of this can be taking place in the lower layers of skin without any obvious signs on the surface! The irritant reaction you don’t see or feel is nonetheless hurting your skin’s ability to reduce wrinkles, firm skin, or look younger!

For those with sensitive skin, especially when the problem is rosacea or acne, fragrance can be seriously irritating and that will show up on the surface. Fragrance of any kind (including natural fragrant oils) should be avoided at all costs.


Now the statement that Begoun makes about fragrance being irritating to those with sensitive skin or skin conditions such as rosacea is certainly true.  When I volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program which provides free skincare and make-up lessons to women undergoing cancer treatment I always mention to the participants that while they are having treatment they need to avoid products with fragrance in them since fragrance may be irritating to their skin.  Certainly there is scientific proof that fragrance is a common allergen (and I should point out so are some preservatives) that can cause the protective outermost layer of the skin to break down and weaken thus leading to skin looking red and feeling itchy.  Additionally, then the skin stops protecting as it should.

As for Begoun’s statement that fragrance in skincare products leads to skin aging I wanted to investigate this further.  I have a small library of skincare books at home so I looked in three of the books I have by leading dermatologists and could find no back-up proof at all for Begoun’s statements about fragrance aging the skin.  All the dermatologists agree that people with sensitive skin should avoid products (including laundry soaps and fabric softeners) with fragrance, but I couldn’t find one word in any of my books about fragrance in skincare products leading to skin aging.  Now I should point out that even Begoun doesn’t think that every fragrance is evil.  She clearly states in her article what fragrance ingredients should be avoided.  I found it strange that in this article about how fragrance can damage the skin Begoun does not quote her sources.  One of the reasons I like Paula Begoun and her team is the fact that they always reveal their sources so you know where they are getting their information from.

So in my opinion, yes, if your skin is sensitive or sensitized (because of treatment you may be undergoing) it is important to avoid fragrance in skincare products and even in laundry detergents.  But buyer beware.  While it might seem easy to find such products because all you need to do is look for the words “fragrance free” or “for sensitive skin” on the label of the product please be aware that these are terms that are not regulated by any sort of organization or by the government.  It is best to check the labels yourself and that is when Begoun’s list of fragrance ingredients to avoid comes in handy.

The books I looked in were as follows:


If someone can quote a source or shed some light on the issue of fragrance causing skin aging please comment below.  Thanks!


For My Fellow Estheticians: Our Professional Behavior/Code November 17, 2010

Awhile back I wrote a post about why you should go to an esthetician and how to find a good esthetician.  Prompted by two things I’ve read lately I’ve been thinking about the same subject just with a bit of spin on it.  I started thinking about an esthetician’s behavior while doing his or her job and if there are tried and true standards for how we estheticians should behave on the job.  Though I envisioned this post as a starting off point of discussion for my fellow estheticians, I know that a few other estheticians read this blog, I would love to hear from anyone who has an opinion of this topic.

The first thing that I read that prompted me to think about this topic was a little blurb in the December issue of Lucky magazine.  Now while anyone who regularly reads this blog knows I love Lucky for its fashion advice and loathe its skincare advice I did find the following tip interesting (it was #7 in the article 10 Essential Beauty Tips):

The hairstylist/aesthetician/manicurist who spends her time trashing the job the last person did on you is the hairstylist/aesthetician/manicurist you to replace, stat.  Truly talented people focus on bringing out the best in you, not telling you what’s wrong with you.

Now this is actually beauty advice I can get behind and agree with.  In my opinion, one of the important parts of being a good esthetician is to focus on both the positive and on the client in front of you.  So part of behaving in a professional manner as esthetician is to remain upbeat and to give clients a truly personalized experience.  Even if you think the last esthetician your client saw gave them terrible or incorrect advice you have to be extremely diplomatic about how you present your opinion.

Shortly after reading the above point in Lucky I came across the following article in Les Nouvelles Esthétiques and Spa:  Establish Your Professional Status by Nondy Llewellyn.  In the article the author outlines her view on how an esthetician should behave in order to be successful and also what types of knowledge and steps an esthetician should have or do in order to be a success.  Included in the article is a list of the characteristics of excellent estheticians:

  • Has neat appearance with manicured nails and minimal jewelry
  • Adheres to OSHA, EPA, Universal Precautions, city and state guidelines
  • Wears gloves during services
  • Uses appropriate and professional language
  • Has a spa voice that is pleasant and considerate of quiet surroundings
  • Does not discuss inappropriate subject matter and is sincere
  • Constantly learning and seeking advanced education
  • Stays current with technology and trends
  • Has business cards

I think some of the points above are excellent in particular the ones about following safety and state guidelines, constantly learning, and keeping up-to-date with technology and trends.  I do believe that a professional, neat appearance is a must though I think there should be a lot of leeway about what that means exactly since different spa settings have different ideas of what is appropriate.  I truly believe that individuals should be allowed to express their personality through their clothes, jewelry, hairstyle, etc.  in when they work in a spa setting.

From personal experience I do sometimes find it tough not to veer into inappropriate topics of conversation with my clients.   Two topics that should always be off-limits in a conversation with clients – religion and politics. Believe me – I’ve learned the hard way.  Recently I even had a client tell me something about a recent historical event that I thought was so outrageous I couldn’t believe she thought what she was saying was true.  I quickly changed the topic of discussion and reminded myself again – be careful about what you talk about with clients.

I also struggle with maintaining my spa voice.  Once I start an animated conversation with a client my voice can rise without me even realizing that this is happening.  I have to constantly remind myself to keep my voice down.

I loved the fact that the author of the article mentioned that estheticians need to be sincere.  I think that is of the utmost importance along with being honest.  Don’t oversell anything to your clients – treatment results, product efficiency.  I like to always remember the following:  under sell, over deliver.  And try not to be pushy.  Some estheticians have a quota for the amount of products that they have to sell monthly which puts a lot of pressure of them.  Professional esthetics publications are filled with articles about how to improve your selling ability.  This doesn’t come naturally to a lot us, me included, and can cause an esthetician a lot anxiety.  The experts always tell estheticians – recommend don’t sell – but so many people can see you as pushy anyhow.  It is hard to find that balance, in my opinion.  But your clients will trust you more in the end if you are honest and sincere with them.  You might not sell a lot of extra products or treatments at the beginning, but once you win a client’s trust you will have an easier time selling.  Of course all of that is easier said than done – believe me, I struggle with the above issues a lot.

The one thing I would quibble with in the above list in the statement that estheticians have to always wear gloves.  Of course I always wear gloves while performing waxing services and while doing extractions, but otherwise during a facial I don’t wear gloves.  I constantly disinfect my hands with hand sanitizer throughout a facial.  I think the facial, particularly the massage part of the facial, is much more enjoyable for the client when you do not use gloves.

One more point – we all have bad days and can have a crisis that happens to us outside of work (or unfortunately sometimes at work).  But we can never let that influence how we treat our clients or even let our clients see that we are unhappy.  Estheticians have to check their bad feelings and bad days at the door.  If we want our clients to return to us remaining upbeat and positive is key.  So is being friendly to whomever walks through the door, even to our most annoying client.

I also think estheticians need a few more qualities in order to be successful -namely compassion and empathy.  For example you could have a client who comes in complaining of acne, but their skin really isn’t too bad.   So while you know just how much worse acne can really be, you still need to sympathetic and empathetic towards that client who thinks that their acne is the worse acne ever.  It doesn’t matter what we really think of the condition of their skin.  If they think it is terrible than we need to treat their skin thusly or at the very least never verbally contradict them.  It can be a real balancing act.

That’s are my two cents on the subject.  I would love to hear from my readers about this topic!


Also – some people might enjoy reading this New York Times article.  It relates, though remotely, to the topic above:  Beauty House Calls in the Wee Hours


Dos and Don’ts for Winter Skincare November 15, 2010

Last winter I wrote a post called Winter Skincare Tips which I think still has great tips for winter skincare.  In this post I would like to expand on the subject of winter skincare a bit after having just read yet another great skincare article in The New York Times Change in Season and Regime.

Winter is a great time to start laser hair or tattoo removal treatments.  During the summer months your skin is likely to be tan to one degree or another.  If either laser hair or tattoo removal treatments are performed on tanned skin you run the risk of a burn or hyperpigmentation.  Plus any area that you are having laser hair or tattoo removal done on needs to be kept out of the sun.  As the days shorten and get colder it is much easier to keep the skin being treated out of the sun as you cover up and stay indoors.   The same logic goes for facial laser treatments as well.  It is imperative to stay out of the sun after facial resurfacing so doing those types of treatments over the winter makes that recovery easier as well.

Winter is also the ideal time to get sclerotherapy or vein treatments done since you will look worse before you look better after such treatments.  In the winter it is easier, of course, to hide the areas you had treated before they are completely healed.

And don’t forget to exfoliate your body over the winter.  By gently exfoliating your body during your shower and moisturizing immediately after you shower you can easily ward off itchy, dry winter skin.  Dead skin cells accumulate on the top layer of our skin during the winter.  As skin cell turnover slows the skin might begin to feel itchy as water evaporates off your body so by exfoliating gently and moisturizing you can stop this process from happening.  While there are numerous body exfoliating scrubs on the market you can make your own at home by combining table sugar with olive oil.  It works and is cost effective though it is a bit messy.

Do get a humidifer for your home.  It can make both you and your skin feel better during the winter.

Do use your sunscreen!  Sunscreen is a must year round.


Further reading:


The Healing Touch November 10, 2010

Quite some time ago I wrote a post called Why You Should Get a Facial ASAP.  In the post I mentioned how important the massage part of the facial was for both your skin and your physical and mental wellbeing.  Recently I was reading my copy of Skin Inc. magazine and came across a piece written by Jane Wurwand called Healing the Industry, the World and Ourselves about the power of skincare and how “professional skin care is a healing force, in more than one sense.”  Personally I read Skin Inc. in order to stay informed about the latest trends, treatments, and innovations in the esthetic world and normally don’t find much personal inspiration in the pages of the magazine.  So I was pleasantly surprised to read Wurwand’s piece.

Before I go into greater detail about the article I’ll briefly explain who Wurwand is.  Jane Wurwand is the founder and owner of the skincare brand Dermalogica which if it isn’t already is on its way to becoming a household name.  Not only does Wurwand develop products for Dermalogica she also oversees the training of skin therapists in 28 countries through the International Dermal Institute which is a center for post-graduate esthetics education.  She has extensive experience both as an esthetician, educator, and leader in the esthetics field so I certainly take what she has to say seriously.

I found quite a few inspirational things in Wurwand’s article:

Through this skin care profession that we love, we can change the world, one person at a time; maybe even save the world, one skin at a time.

No thinking person will deny the fact that the world is in need of healing. But, where to begin? The question and the task are more than merely daunting. The skin, far more so than the eyes, is the window to the soul, or certainly, to the being of a person. Genetics, environment, nutrition, hormonal activity; every aspect of health, every nuance of experience and mood present themselves in the living epidermis.

So my suggestion is that, rather than starting world-healing on the macro level, the micro level needs to be taken care of first. Begin with the skin. My experience of the past three decades suggests that professional skin care is a healing force, in more than one sense.

A client’s skin tells the spa professional a great deal about her world. Consider how the relationship between the spa professional and the client begins; they lay their living skin upon the client’s naked skin—naked hands upon the naked face. This sort of social touching is essential to civilization, in my opinion. It is nonsexual and nonthreatening, but today, is virtually illegal in the industrialized world. For example, any workplace attorney will tell you that a casual touch on the job can land you in court. The most essential component of humanity—touching—has been all but eradicated from a person’s daily identity.

When the skin is touched, the brain responds. Presuming that the touch is favorable, a cascade of feel-good chemicals rushes through the neurons. Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin flood the brain, balancing out cortisol levels—that twitchy, nasty stress hormone. Most powerful in this outpouring is the soothing, grounding brain chemical called oxytocin, the antithesis of cortisol.

Considering that the spa profession is mainly made up of women—female therapists caring for female clients—triggering oxytocin may be much of the reason that women continue to seek out beauty services, regardless of the economy or other circumstances. This is evident in Afghanistan, Rwanda and other places where salons and beauty schools fearlessly spring up out of the rubble of war. Women need, want and demand the reassurance of touch from other women, and this touch is the beginning of the rebuilding of community.

Health and beauty services are some of the few contexts in which touching between strangers is still socially acceptable. Some in the spa community believe that, for hygienic reasons, skin care treatments should be given wearing disposable latex gloves, as though one were working at a chicken-processing factory. This would nearly defeat the purpose.


Is it naive to think that facials and haircuts can change the world?  I don’t think so at all and that is why I liked the fact that Wurwand pointed out that both a positive, soothing touch and interactions between two human beings can help change the world on a micro level.  By being empathetic and caring estheticians can help provide their clients with a sanctuary from the real world even if it is only for an hour.  Such positive interactions can only benefit all those involved and yes, that might just help heal the world a little bit.


What’s In Your Mascara? November 8, 2010

Ever wonder what the ingredients in your make-up actually do?  Ever wonder how your mascara is able to lengthen, thicken, and/or darken your lashes?  Ok – well maybe you never did wonder, but I’m here to explain anyhow.  I was looking through the latest issue of Wired magazine and came across the following article: What’s Inside: CoverGirl LashBlast Luxe Black Royale Mascara.  The article breaks down the key ingredients in this mascara and explains what each ingredient is meant to do.  Personally I found it very interesting so I thought I would share with my readers:

Disteardimonium Hectorite
This molecule is like a squid with a nitrogen body and fatty alcohol tentacles. Hectorite, a powdery volcanic clay, coats the tentacles, giving them bulk and a positive charge. Since hair has a negative charge, the molecule sticks to lashes, making them seem thicker.

Propylene carbonate
A “safe” and environmentally friendly solvent, this keeps the other ingredients from separating. It’s a polar molecule, meaning that each end of it has a different electrical charge that attracts and repels different materials. But it is also aprotic, meaning it can’t release protons, which could react with those other components in the mascara.

Iron(III) oxide
Don’t wear mascara to a cranial MRI! There is so much of this dark black metallic pigment here (as much as 10 percent by weight) that its ferromagnetic properties can screw up the images, creating a splotch over your eye that the doctor will interpret as melanoma. Why is it here? Think “shiny.”

Dry, brittle lashes can break off, taking up to nine months to grow back. The jury is out as to whether panthenol makes hair grow, but everyone agrees that lashes can at least be conditioned and moisturized by this precursor to vitamin B5, making them less susceptible to snapping in two.

Paraffin and carnauba wax
Paraffin comes from a refinery, carnauba comes from the Brazilian rain forest, but both help carry the various pigments as well as artificially lengthen and thicken the eyelashes.

This stuff is a thickener and emulsifier and also lowers the surface tension of the mascara, allowing it to adhere to the brush and the lashes.

Ammonium acrylates copolymer
Listed as “practically nonirritating” when tested on the eyeballs of live rabbits, this emulsifier and pigment disperser gives a nice glossy coating to the eyelash and enhances flexibility under the weight of all that iron oxide.

Bismuth oxychloride
Another pigment with strange magnetic properties. Thanks to variations in the thickness of the oxide layer, this compound creates that shimmery pearlescent look on each eyelash. (This effect used to come from guanine, which is probably how the “bat poop in mascara” rumor got started.)

Dichromium trioxide
A dark-green pigment with odd paramagnetic effects like its cousin, CrO2, a coating for audiotape. Highly resistant to heat, light, and chemicals, this stuff could theoretically be formulated to make your eyelashes reflect infrared light — just like the best military camouflage.


I hope everyone found this interesting.  Personally I’ll be looking at my mascara differently from now on.


Bathe Everyday – Over Dry Your Skin? November 3, 2010


Cleanliness is next to godliness, right?  Well it turns out that not everyone thinks so.  There seems to be somewhat of a movement, a small one I gather, of people who are foregoing not only daily showers but the use of deodorant as well.  I found this out by reading an article, The Great Unwashed, in The New York Times recently.  People give a variety of reasons for making these lifestyle choices: a need to conserve water, potential health risks attributed to mass market deodorants (it should be pointed out that these concerns have been dismissed by experts time and again, see the actual article for more details), the feeling that one just doesn’t smell or is dirty, and that bathing daily contributes to skin conditions such as eczema.  Of course the part of the article that really caught my attention was the part about how bathing daily may over dry or hurt your skin:

Of late, researchers have discovered that just as the gut contains good bacteria that help it run more efficiently, so does our skin brim with beneficial germs that we might not want to wash down the drain. “Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics,” said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at the University of California, San Diego, and “they produce their own antibiotics that kills off bad bacteria.”

Some people have long complained that showering too much makes their skin drier or more prone to flare-ups of, say, eczema, and Dr. Gallo said that scientists are just beginning to understand why. “It’s not just removing the lipids and oils on your skin that’s drying it out,” he said. It could be “removing some of the good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of skin.”


Now there is definitely something to the fact that daily bathing, especially in the winter, might dry your skin.  As the temperature drops so does the moisture level in the air all of which contributes to drier skin.  I probably don’t even need to point that out – you can feel it.  So if your skin becomes dry, perhaps even flaky and itchy, during the winter should you stop bathing daily?  I’ll leave that decision up to you, but I certainly don’t think that you need it.  Be sure to use a shower wash that contains moisturizing ingredients and make sure the water in the shower isn’t scalding hot.  Hot and very hot water can dry out the skin.  Consider limiting the time you spend in the shower too since spending too much time in the shower can also dry out your skin (and that helps conserve water as well if that is important to you).  NEVER use bar soap to wash your face or body!  Bar soap is highly alkaline so it is very drying.  Immediately after exiting the shower and drying off (and try not to rub your body too strongly with your towel, be gentle) apply a rich moisturizer (my favorite, as I’ve already mentioned in this blog many times, is Trader Joe’s A Midsummer Night’s Cream Extra Dry Formula.  I’m still searching for the perfect hand cream.  If I ever find it I’ll be sure to write about it) all over your body but not your face.  Treating your face is a totally different story.  See below for a tip of treating dry skin on your face during the winter. 

If you find that your face feels very dry or extra dry in the winter forego washing it in the morning (but in the morning only, still wash your face at night).  Instead use a soft washcloth moistened in warm water all over your face in the morning or better yet use a toner that contains moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid (if the toner has antioxidants in it too even better).  For more information about toners please see my earlier post:  Toner:  What Is It?  Do You Need One?The posts includes some product recommendations as well.

And for more tips on taking care of your skin during the winter please see my post:  Winter Skincare Tips or Don’t Put Away Your Sunscreen.


How to Properly Remove Make-Up November 1, 2010

Ok – so even if you don’t always follow this advice everyone knows how important it is to thoroughly remove your make-up and properly cleanse your face at the end of the day.  I already wrote a post about how to properly wash your face – Is There a Correct Way to Wash Your Face?  – and recommended some make-up removers as part of that post.  Truthfully, I am still searching for the perfect eye make-up remover since I normally wear both waterproof eyeliner and mascara and they are very tough to remove.

If you want to make sure that your face is properly clean before applying your bedtime serums and moisturizers you need to do a double cleanse.  First you need to thoroughly remove your make-up and then you need to wash with your cleanser of choice. 

So what are the best products for make-up removal?  I am very partial to cleansing oils.  Oil dissolves oil so these products are great at removing make-up and will not dry out your skin.  An added bonus, and take this from me as someone who has been breaking out for 20 plus years, they will not clog your pores.  You apply the cleansing oil to dry skin, massage into skin, wet your face, and rinse.

Two of my favorite cleansing oils are:


Jane Iredale has an intriguing make-up removal product, the Magic Mitt, that claims to remove all make-up when just water is applied to the mitt.  I haven’t tried the product, but I would be very interested in getting feedback on it from someone who has.


Eye Make-Up Removal


I do find that even when I use my cleansing oil I need to go back over my eyes with an eye make-up remover to properly remove all my eye make-up (like I stated above I use waterproof eye make-up which is difficult to remove).  It is important to be gentle when removing eye make-up.  If you yank, pull, or tug too hard or too much on the area around your eyes you risk damaging the elastin fibers in that area and causing premature sagging there.  So the next time you remove your eye make-up observe yourself in the mirror and see if you are being too harsh when removing your make-up.  Then adjust your routine accordingly.  You can dip a q-tip in your eye make-up remover in order to make sure that you get rid of every last remnent of make-up in that area.


Sources and Further Reading



%d bloggers like this: