Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Stylish Sun Protective Clothing: Not an Oxymoron June 30, 2011

As summer kicks into high gear I want to remind my readers that a great way to protect yourself from the sun is to wear clothes with built- in sun protection or UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor).  What exactly is UPF and why do you want clothes that have it?  The website SunSational Style explains:

Both SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) are standards used to measure sunburn protection from UVA and UVB sun rays. SPF, the standard used to measure the effectiveness of sunscreens, has been around for many years. The UPF system is relatively new and was created specially for sun protective fabrics.
SPF, is a gauge of how much time a person can be exposed to the sun before getting burned. For example, if you burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen and you apply a liberal dose of sunscreen with a SPF 30, you should be protected from a sunburn for 300 minutes (this will vary based on exposure to water and sweat).
UPF rating indicates how much of the sun’s UV radiation is absorbed by the fabric. For example, a fabric with a UPF rating of 50 only allows 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation to pass through it. This means that this fabric will reduce your skin’s UV radiation exposure by 50 times (98% UV block) in areas where the skin is protected by the fabric. A normal light t-shirt may only provide a UPF 5 sun protection whereas a light-weight sun protective shirt would block 98% of the sun’s harmful rays and keep your skin cooler.
Unlike sunscreens, the UPF sun protection does not wash off or lessen in it’s effectiveness so you can remain confident in your protection all day long. Another advantage of the UPF standard is that both UVB and UVA are measured.
That’s great and all, but here’s the problem, and I’ll be blunt, most clothes with UPF are ugly in my opinion.  Luckily lately a few companies have been producing stylish clothes that also protect you from the sun.  Here are a few companies of those companies:
  • Mott 50  (This company has been getting quite a fair share of press for its clothes)
  • Athleta   –  these are clothes for the more athleticly minded women
  • ExOfficio – more run of the mill clothes but they definitely have a few nice pieces
  • Coolibar – great basics with UPF protection
  • Roxy – swim and surf wear with UPF protection for the whole family

There is one more way to get clothes with built in sun protection – wash it in with SunGuard.  This is a really cheap and easy way to get UPF protection into all your clothes for your entire family.  Throw this powder in with your wash and viola! all the clothes come out with UPF 30 that lasts up to 20 washes.  I’ve done this for my family, and it makes me feel good to know that we all have extra protection from the sun this summer.

For more information on sun protective clothing please see this article – Clothing: Our First Line of Defense – from The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Have a sun safe July 4th weekend!


Test Your Sun Safety Knowledge June 27, 2011

The other day I took a sun safety quiz on WebMD and was surprised to find that I didn’t get every question correct.  Just goes to show you – you can always learn something new even if you are an esthetician obsessed with sun protection.  For example now I know that any color lenses in sunglasses are good for providing sun protection; I always thought that you needed dark lenses to get the most protection.

I urge everyone to click on the link above and take the sun safety quiz.  I promise it will be interesting, you’ll learn something new, and it will be well worth your time.

AND help support The Skin Cancer Foundation by taking a 5 question quiz on Facebook:

Throughout the summer, every person who takes the short “Sun Certification” quiz on will receive a “Sun Certified” badge to display on their own Facebook wall, and $1 will be donated to The Skin Cancer Foundation’s sun education initiative. Take the quiz and share the link with your friends and family!

Here’s to a sun safe summer!


Bronzers and Self-Tanners: Getting a Safe Glow June 23, 2011

Any kind of tan a sign of damage to your skin.  There is no such thing as a safe tan – period.  So what do you do if you want a glow or a tan during the summer or even year round?  Time to break out the bronzer and self tanner.   Last year I wrote a post, The Only Way to Tan: Fake It, with lots of references on how to get a great fake tan.  This year I’m updating that information so that hopefully everyone can find a great self-tanning or bronzer product for themselves.


If you want to start off faking your tan a little bit at a time try a bronzer.  When you use bronzer on your face you control how much product is applied so you can decide just how sun-kissed you want to look.  Bronzer comes in a few different formulas.  Though powder bronzer is great for someone with normal to oily skin since it helps to create a matte finish it really powder bronzer can be used on any skin type since it blends so easily.  You can use powder bronzer on your temples, cheeks, and bridge of the nose; also blend a little down your neck and onto your chest.  Remember to blend well with a big fluffy powder brush so it looks natural.  Cream bronzer is good for someone with normal to dry skin since it leaves the skin with a luminescence that might be too much for skin that already has a shine to it.  Because of the bit of shine that cream bronzer usually has don’t put it on the bridge of your nose.  Instead stick to applying it to your temples and cheekbones.  Finally if you choose a gel or serum bronzer these formulas are light enough to be applied all over your face and down your neck. 

The above illustration is a perfect example of how you can look with the proper application of bronzer.  Here are two simple lessons to help you master applying bronzer:  Blushing Bronze: All-Over Glow Technique and  Blushing Bronze: Burn Technique.  Allure also offers up: How to Avoid the Biggest Bronzer Mistakes, Get the Perfect Glow, and even a video on how to apply bronzer with fabulous tips.




I’ll admit that I am can be intimidated by most self-tanners.  I pretty much only feel comfortable letting a professional give me a spray tan or with using a gradual self-tanner like Jergens.  But I am here to say that in this respect – please don’t be like me.  There are so many self-tanning products on the market – everyone should give self-tanning a try at least once.  Proper self-tanning does require a few extra steps such as making sure you’ve properly exfoliated (make your own exfoliator by mixing household sugar and olive oil) and moisturized before applying the product.  Plus you need to make sure that you apply the product everywhere you want it, including the tops on your feet for example, but not places you don’t, like your palms.  (Read Cat’s post YES, YOU PROBABLY COULD BE BETTER-LOOKING: This Self-Tanner Changed My Life!  from xoJane for some self-tanner tips)

Now that you’ve decided to take the self-tanning plunge which product should you choose.  For that decision I suggest turning to my favorite beauty magazine Allure and their article The Top 8 Idiot-Proof Self Tanners for help.

One of the newest ways to apply self-tanner at home is with an airbrush system; you become your own spray tan tech.  This is quick and clean way to apply your self-tanner for a natural glow.  I’ve heard of two systems: Luminess Tan and Temptu Summer Skin.  If anyone has tried either of these system I would love to hear how the experience was.


So once again – there is no such thing as a safe tan but there is also no reason to remain pale all through the summer if you don’t want to.  Get out your bronzer and blend away or slather yourself down with self-tanner!  Just remember get a safe glow this summer.


Sun Protection 101 June 21, 2011


Today is June 21st, officially the first day of summer, so it is only appropriate that I write about proper sun protection today.  Over the past few months I’ve actually been gathering online articles and information about sun protection to share with my readers so that everyone can have a sun safe summer.

Below is a list of great resources (online articles and videos) to teach you everything you need to know about proper sun protection:


Here’s to sun safe summer everyone!


33 Years In the Making: The FDA Unveils New Sunscreen Regulations June 15, 2011

It only took 33 years but the FDA is finally finalizing new and improved rules to regulate the labeling and sale of sunscreens in the United States.  Here are the highlights of these new rules:

  • Broad Spectrum designation. Sunscreens that pass FDA’s broad spectrum test procedure, which measures a product’s UVA protection relative to its UVB protection, may be labeled as “Broad Spectrum SPF [value]” on the front label. For Broad Spectrum sunscreens, SPF values also indicate the amount or magnitude of overall protection. Broad Spectrum SPF products with SPF values higher than 15 provide greater protection and may claim additional uses, as described in the next bullet.
  • Use claims. Only Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures. Non-Broad Spectrum sunscreens and Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value between 2 and 14 can only claim to help prevent sunburn.
  • “Waterproof, “sweatproof” or “sunblock” claims. Manufacturers cannot label sunscreens as “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” or identify their products as “sunblocks,” because these claims overstate their effectiveness. Sunscreens also cannot claim to provide sun protection for more than 2 hours without reapplication or to provide protection immediately after application (for example– “instant protection”) without submitting data to support these claims and obtaining FDA approval.
  • Water resistance claims. Water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Sunscreens that are not water resistant must include a direction instructing consumers to use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.
  • Drug Facts. All sunscreens must include standard “Drug Facts” information on the back and/or side of the container.

The above changes will become law in a year.  Interestingly one important change has, for the moment, been left out of the new rules:

The proposed rule, if finalized, would limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labels to “50 +” because there is not sufficient data to show that products with SPF values higher than 50 provide greater protection for users than products with SPF values of 50.

 Additionally, the FDA is going to study spray sunscreens to determine what level of protection they provide and if they could be toxic if inhaled.  The FDA is also going to reexamine 17 sunscreen ingredients.

Though this has been a long time coming I applaud the FDA’s new rules though I would love for there to be a ban on SPF 50 or higher when the new rules go into effect in a year.


Sources and Further Reading:


Do You Have Porexia? June 13, 2011

Thank goodness forThe New York Times because sometimes they just publish the perfect article.  Case in point – the article entitled Do My Pores Look Big to You?.*   One of the biggest complaints estheticians hear from their clients is that the client wants to minimize the appearance of their facial pores.  It turns out that this obsession with one’s facial pores actually has a name – porexia.  The article explains:

Some fret about fine lines and sun spots; others are fixated on pores. High-definition television has arguably upped the ante. Consider the celebrity with glistening teeth and yogic arms, but a jarringly pock-marked nose in close-ups. Viewers think, “If her pores look like that, what do mine look like?” said Dr. Mary Lupo, a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine.

Like home renovators who overhaul the kitchen only to then find fault with the master bath, some dermatology patients feel that, once their wrinkles are relaxed and their brown spots treated, their pores stand out. Such is the level of worry that doctors have nicknamed the condition “porexia.”

“There’s a level of obsessiveness,” Dr. Lupo said. “Instead of looking at the global picture, they overfocus on an individual component of the picture.”

It’s not just women who are concerned about large, perpetually clogged pores. Tony Silla, an owner of the Face Place and the head aesthetician at its Los Angeles flagship, said men vent about the craterlike look of enlarged pores more now than when he got into the business 16 years ago. “They don’t want their nose to look like their grandfather’s nose,” he said.

Now for those of you who might have porexia or for those who will admit that they suffer from this condition here are a few things to keep in mind:

Pore size is mostly genetically determined and grows with age, despite the conventional wisdom that only teenagers are swiping their noses with Stridex. The more collagen lost, the looser the pores’ natural support structure becomes, making them great nets for dead skin cells. “Loosening that girdle over time” makes them look bigger, said Dr. Amy Derick, a dermatologist in Barrington, Ill.

And most importantly remember the following:

No matter what marketers might lead the gullible to believe, pores cannot be shrunk permanently. But they can look smaller, temporarily.

Don’t get disheartened by the above statement.  First off there are tons of products on the market that will help minimize the appearance of your facial pores, but before you go investing in such products I want you to ask yourself  the following question:  are my pores really that big or am I obsessing about them needlessly?  There is a reason that I selected the photo above to illustrate this post.  Unless your eye sight is poor please throw out your magnifying mirror – those mirror just make people obsess needlessly about their appearance.  If your pores appear big because you examine them nightly in your magnifying mirror keep in mind that your facial pores probably aren’t large at all.  If you can’t see your facial pores without a magnifying mirror don’t go looking for them.  You’ll only find them because you looked for them.  Keep in mind that no one’s skin can look like the skin on models in cosmetic ads and fashion magazines.  I call those photos – “the tyranny of perfect skin”.  Rarely, rarely does anyone’s skin look like that in real life – including the model’s skin.  They airbrush the hell out of those photos.  I find that many people think they have large pores when they do not so please take a moment to really assess the appearance of your skin.

OK –  so what can you do to minimize the appearance of large pores if you really do have them?  Here are a number of suggestions:

Dr. Fredric Brandt, a dermatologist in Manhattan and Coral Gables, Fla. [says] “Keeping pores cleaned out is going to make them look a lot smaller,” he said.  …

But like exercise, physical exfoliation even once or twice a week can seem an unpleasant task. “Most people surprisingly don’t exfoliate,” Mr. Silla said. “It’s laziness.”

Even the lazy, though, can use a cleanser with salicylic acid or glycolic acid routinely, or get a prescription for a tretinoin like Atralin or Renova, if it doesn’t irritate their skin (causing redness and flakes on top of the pore problem).

Dr. Rendon added that there is another reason to fear sun damage: “It leads to bigger-looking pores,” she said. She recommends daily, year-round use of a sunscreen. If the damage is already done, treatments that aim to stimulate collagen — for instance, intense pulsed light (IPL) and certain lasers or peels — can improve the appearance of pores for 4 to 12 months at most, Dr. Lupo said.

But “it will require constant maintenance,” she warned. Alas: “We have no permanent solution to make pores appear smaller.”

And don’t forget the power of a good make-up primer and powder.  Both will temporarily help minimize the appearance of large pores.  For tips on how make-up can disguise your large pores see my post Large Pores – Can You Shrink Them?.

 Further Reading:

*I’ve actually written about this subject in my past in my blog (see my post Large Pores – Can You Shrink Them?) which included much of the same information that is in The New York Times article, but I loved The New York Times article so much I wanted to write a post about.


To Inject or Not to Inject, To Avoid the Knife or Not – That is the Question June 9, 2011

Dominique Browning wrote an article in The New York Times called The Case for Laugh Lines which makes well quite the case that women should accept their bodies, mostly their faces, as they age instead of getting injections and plastic surgery.  Though she admits that a little work isn’t bad Browning writes that she is upset and sick of seeing friends completely change their appearance with injections and plastic surgery until they also get rid of all of their ability to express any emotion.

Browning writes in her essay:

We’ve gone too far. I’m becoming very, very scared.

We’ve reached a stage where cosmetic surgery is so readily available that in certain circles it is expected of women and men to avail themselves of these age-deniers. (You cannot call them youth-enhancers when you are no longer young.) If you choose not to partake of the benefits of needle and knife, you are judged to be making a statement. You are taking a position against the current standards of beauty.

We have triggered a weird, collective, late-onset body dysmorphia. What’s worse is that our anxieties about aging have trickled into our children’s generation, so that the mantra about cosmetic procedures even among some 30-year-olds is “intervention early and often.”   …

Too many people have had procedures that have gone awry. They look strange, and tragic. Is this inevitable? You do one thing, the effects begin to fade, you do another, and so on. You get puffy. You get rigid. Or you slide. And I wonder. Has no one said “stop”? Has no one, particularly the one wielding the needle, gently advised against further work? It used to be an unusual sight to spot cosmetic surgery addicts, but it has become astonishingly common.  …

Many people assume that in saying no to knife and needle, you are making a feminist statement; such is the lackluster aura that hangs over that label. Feminism has nothing to do with it. Feminists worry why women still make only 77 cents to every dollar a man makes, not whether women are going broke on Botox.

Though least you assume that Browning wants everyone to embrace a natural look completely she explains:

This is not an essay about why I am categorically against cosmetic surgeries. I am as supportive as the next gal if a certain someone feels so bad about her neck that she won’t leave home, or if another is so heavy-lidded that every time he blinks he misses half the picture. Plastic surgeons have done wondrous things.

As for the proliferation of smaller cosmetic procedures? The ones your dentist offers to do while he’s in the vicinity of your mouth anyway? The injections of fillers to plump up lips, smooth wrinkles, pad out laugh lines? At this point, it’s a wonder that the salesclerk at Barneys isn’t offering to shoot up your face while you’re trying on hats.

Again, I’m not against it. Well, maybe Botox. I’m the one to call for a rant when my friends are teetering at the brink of succumbing to the needle. I mean, who wants to inject a poison so lethal that it paralyzes nerves, sending tiny muscles to atrophy?


I work for a plastic surgeon so I would be a huge hypocrite to say that I don’t think women should get plastic surgery or have injections, but I completely agree with Browning about how and how much of that work should be done.  I liked when Browning wrote the following:

My current rule of thumb, when confronted with an enhanced face, is that if I find myself vaguely wondering whether there was work, the alteration was well done.

I completely agree with Browning’s statement above.  I truly believe in plastic surgery and facial injections if they make you feel better about yourself and help you look like a more refreshed version of yourself.  There is no need to freeze your face, just like there is no need to turn yourself into someone else.  As plastic surgery and injections become more and more easily available and affordable are we all going to end up looking like The Real Housewives of Orange County?  I certainly hope not.  (Also check out the latest issue of New Beauty to see the scary photos of over-injected celebrities)

 In my opinion it never hurts to get a little cosmetic help from a doctor in order to look and thus feel your best.  But avoid going overboard – there is nothing wrong with still being able to show your emotions!

Further Reading:


Food in Beauty Products: How Fruits and Veggies Help Your Skin June 6, 2011

This post was inspired by two articles that I read in the February 2011 issue of Day Spa magazine (unfortunately I cannot find the articles online).  Not surprisingly since the issue of the magazine was for February both wine and chocolate were featured in the articles.

This got me thinking about how different fruits and vegetables help our skin when applied topically.  According to the Allure article Feed Your Face:

Hippocrates wrote that we should let food be our medicine. More than 2,000 years later, scientists now believe this wisdom extends to what we see in the mirror. Increasingly, women can treat fine lines, sunburn, dullness, and splotches with ingredients usually found on our plates. “Dietary substances known to be good for the complexion are sometimes better applied topically than ingested,” says David H. McDaniel, director for the Institute of Anti-Aging Research and an assistant professor of clinical dermatology and plastic surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “You can get higher concentrations in the skin this way.” Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as adding a little pureed pineapple to a scrub because it’s been shown to even skin tone, or pomegranate because it’s a potent antioxidant. “Effectiveness is not based in the ingredient alone—extracts must be specially formulated so that they get into the skin,” says Leslie Baumann, director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute.

 So let me highlight a few fruits and vegetables and explain their benefits:

  • Grape seed based products and treatments are anti-aging powerhouses because of the antioxidants and polyphenols in grapes.  According to the article in Day Spa magazine: “chemical compounds belonging to a group of substances found in plants, polyphenols include tannins, lignins, resveratol and flavonoids.  Rich in antioxidants, they’ve also been found to contain similar properties to some anticancer drugs.  When applied topically, they act as free radical scavengers, defending the skin, promoting tissue elasticity and ultimately achieving a more youthful appearance.”  Not only can you find numerous skincare products with grape or wine extracts amongst their ingredients many spas offer vinotherapy or spa treatments utilizing wine and/or grapes.  This spa niche was pioneered in Bordeaux, France (where else, of course?) at the Caudalie spa which opened in 1993.  Find grape seed in Eminence Organic Skin care products, and Murad products among many others.
  • Chocolate:  I have a confession to make – I love chocolate; I eat it every day actually.  So it makes perfect sense to me to buy a skincare product with chocolate in it or get a spa treatment that utilizes chocolate.  So what benefits does chocolate have for our skin?  According to the article in Day Spa magazine: “the antioxidant-rich seeds of the cacao tree work wonders on the senses, and tighten, firm, and hydrate the dermis.”  All antioxidants fight free radical damage, reduce skin inflammation, and are soothing for the skin.  If you can get all those benefits from chocolate what could be more wonderful?  Try it in Rhonda Allison chocolate antioxidant mask, and  Biotone cocoa comfort massage lotion among other products.
  • Oatmeal is a great ingredient for sensitive skin since it is anti-inflammatory, calms irritation, and even hydrates.  Aveeno is a mass market brand that has oatmeal in its products.
  • Cooking oil – According to the Allure articles:      “Dietary oils contain copious lipids, some of which skin cells need to remain healthy,” says Baumann. Their primary role is to restore the skin’s protective barrier, especially when it’s dry—but medical research has revealed other benefits as well. Safflower oil contains oleic and linoleic acids with anti-inflammatory properties. And olive oil has polyphenolic compounds that may protect against inflammation and may also prevent the onset of UV-induced skin cancers.  PRODUCTS: Borba HD-Illuminating Hydrator, Eau Thermale Avène Trixera+ Seléctiose Emollient Cream, and Trish McEvoy Dry Skin Normalizer have safflower oil; Korres Natural Products Olive and Rye Day Cream and PerriconeMD Cosmeceuticals Protective Hydrator SPF 15 contain olive oil.”
  • Pumpkin is a great exfoliant since it contains enzymes that help eat away (I know not the greatest image to have in mind but it works) at dead skin cells leaving you with a smoother and softer complexion.  Pumpkin also contains the antioxidants bioflanovoids and Vitamin A that protect the skin.  Find it is GloTherapeutics Glopumpkin enzyme scrub.

 I’ve written in the past about how great green tea is for our skin both when we drink it and when we apply it topically.  See my post Ingredient Spotlight: Green Tea for lots more information.

The list above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring how fruits, vegetables, and other foods can benefit our skin when applies topically.  The Allure article highlights more foods if you are interested in continuing your reading.


Remember Sassy Magazine? Check out this Website June 2, 2011

If you recognize the magazine cover above then maybe you were something like me growing up.  I’ve written in this blog several times about my great love for glossy fashion magazines, but it took one article in The New York Times (Jane Pratt, Unbound and Ready for the Web) to remind me of the most significant glossy magazine from my teenage years.  The article describes the long-gone but not forgotten Sassy as “the anti-Seventeen”, and I can’t think of a better description myself for this now defunct magazine.  My magazine obsession began with Teen and Seventeen, but I could never relate to the girls in those magazines.  I looked nothing like them, wasn’t cool or popular, and had terrible skin.  When I found Sassy I found a magazine for girls like me.  The magazine really felt like it was written for intelligent teenagers who didn’t want to be like everyone else, who were happy being themselves, and didn’t mind being a little quirky.  Sassy introduced me to music, movies, and books that weren’t necessarily mainstream but were cool.  The fashion was funky and fresh.  Damn!  Why did I throw my old issues away???  After reading The New York Times article I spent an afternoon feeling really nostalgic for both Sassy and even a little bit for that time in my life which is crazy since you would have to pay me millions (or even billions) to relive those years.  Suffice it to say, Sassy had quite the impact on my life.  I mean they put Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love on the cover of their magazine (long before Love cleaned herself up briefly).

So the article in The New York Times is all about Jane Pratt, the founding editor of Sassy and later of Jane (personally I never liked Jane as much as Sassy though I wanted to).  It turns out that Pratt has recently launched a new lifestyle website – xoJane.  Just like the magazines Pratt edited in the past this website has an edge.  Some of the content is not for the faint of heart.  I liked the fact that The New York Times article described it as “the anti-iVillage”.   Well I just had to check it.  I concentrated on reading the articles in the beauty section which are written in a cheeky, irrelevant, intimate tone.  If you want scientific facts about skincare and make-up look elsewhere (like this blog, of course), but if you want to feel like you are getting beauty advice from your slightly bawdy yet very cool girlfriend be sure to check out the articles on this site.  I also liked the fact that the authors of the articles really responded to reader comments though I was a bit shocked by how rude some of the reader comments were.

I really wish teenage girls today had a magazine like Sassy.  Just remember – just because you don’t look like the girls in Seventeen or Teen Vogue doesn’t mean that you aren’t cool.  All the clichés are true – believe in yourself, don’t let others define you, and college is much better than high school.  Now if only I had saved those Sassy magazines.

Update:  It turns out that there is a revival of Sassy in the works.  Read all about it.


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