Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Adventures in Self Tanning June 28, 2012

When winter finally ends in Chicago and I start wearing shorts and skirts I am always struck by how pale my legs or arms are.  Plus I have lots of prominent veins and capillaries on my legs that I really need to have professionally taken care of sooner than later, but in the meantime I am just trying to mask some of this unattractive feature.  This summer I decided that I should give Jergens Natural Glow for the body another try since now they had come out with a version with SPF 20.  I thought – perfect I’ll get my sun protection and a little color all at once.

I don’t want to look deeply tan or even medium dark – I just want a warmth to my skin instead of looking pasty white.  Of course, I knew that my skin should be exfoliated before application and that I should rub the lotion really well into my skin in order for the color, which appears after a few days, to look natural.  After reading the directions I realized I also needed to let the lotion dry thoroughly before I could get dressed.  This was difficult for me since I am always late and in a hurry in the morning, but because I didn’t want to get stains on my clothes I sucked it up and stood around my bathroom in my underwear and bra until I felt like the lotion was dry.  The lotion has, in my opinion, a strong scent which to me smells like artificial coconuts.  It isn’t my favorite smell, but I can live with it.

When I began using Jergens about two months ago, and even though I rubbed it in very well, it did not look good.  I had orange streaks on my feet, dark patches on my knees and elbows, and my hands were ghostly white since I wash them so much the self-tanner didn’t stay on them.  I tried to exfoliate the dark patches so that they looked more normal and gave up.  I just decided that stop using the lotion and live with my pale skin since I was so self-conscious about the results.

Less than a week ago I figured that I should just use up the self-tanner instead of chucking it.  And this time – wow!  great results!  No streaks this time, no ghostly white hands, and no dark elbows and knees.  The problem is I can’t figure out what I did differently this time from the time before.  Really.  Why did I get so-so, even bad results two months ago and nice, natural looking results this past week?  I wish I knew why.

I just finished the bottle this morning, and I don’t know if I am going to buy another one.  The smell bugs me, and I am afraid that my good results now were a fluke instead of what is going to go on all the time.

Please share your self-tanning tips and tricks below.  Remember – the only type of safe tan is a fake tan!

Extra Tips and Product Recommendations:

Image from jergens.com

 

Always Judging June 25, 2012

 

Ever feel like the whole world is full of haters?  I think we all have days that make us just want to hide in the house and stay away from all other people (and lets be honest the internet as well).   And to be perfectly honest – when we aren’t feeling like someone is judging us we are probably judging someone else.  I realize that more and more especially if I stop during the day and evaluate what I have been thinking.  Without even realizing it I’m at it again – judging someone.

I think we judge others simply because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  I think it is human nature to judge, unfortunately.  And breaking that habit is very, very, very hard.

The actress Ashley Judd recently made headlines not for her new TV show but for her appearance while promoting that show.  Judd’s face appeared significantly more puffy than it had in the past, and many people and media outlets rushed to judge and conjecture why she looked that way.  To say that the people were mean and judgmental would be a vast understatement.  The comments were cruel and derogatory.

Judd decided to address the storm of criticism directed at her appearance, and she did so in a op-ed piece in The Daily Beast.  Here are some of my favorite parts from Judd’s article:

The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.

I hope the sharing of my thoughts can generate a new conversation: Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged “all knowing” stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment? How can we as individuals in our private lives make adjustments that support us in shedding unconscious actions, internalized beliefs, and fears about our worthiness, that perpetuate such meanness? What can we do as families, as groups of friends? Is what girls and women can do different from what boys and men can do? What does this have to do with how women are treated in the workplace?

I ask especially how we can leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women. It doesn’t actually matter if we are aging naturally, or resorting to surgical assistance. We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others—and in my case, to the actual public.

As much as I liked Judd’s article I was equally impressed by Linda Wells, editor-in-chief of Allure, who take on the controversy.  I’ve written numerous times in the past in this blog how much I like Wells’ take on all things beauty, and she actually made me like her more after reading her June letter to the editor:

[Judd] humanized the issue of beauty criticism, saying that it not only hurts but also demeans and reduces us all to our least interesting, least powerful aspects.

She’s right.  And when she asks, “What is the gloating about?” I might say, “How much time do you have?”  Judd was talking about nasty comments she received for something she didn’t do, but I also object to the stigma attached when a woman decides – for her own reasons, which don’t necessarily include self-loathing or “internalized patriarchy” – that she would like to get Botox or wrinkle-filling injections or lipo or a face-lift.  Those are perfectly legitimate options, too.  And if Judd or any other woman chooses to undergo these treatments, there should be no shame in that.  Being a natural beauty is excellent – and lucky.  Attaching a moral judgement to a cosmetic treatment is as unfair and ridiculous as carping about someone who colors her hair.  It wasn’t so long ago that women who wore lipstick or rouge were accused of moral turpitude.  The argument hasn’t changed.

 

What can we learn from all of this?  Perhaps to give ourselves and others a break.  Try for one day or even one hour to judge less.

 

For a great blog post about how to deal with haters see Rae from Scatterbraintures post:  Haters Can Cause Premature Aging – If You Let Them.   Check it out for her great advice on how not to let haters bring you down.

 

Image from wilmu.edu

 

Beach and Pool Survival Guide June 21, 2012

June 21st is officially the first day of summer.  Kids are out of the school, and it is time to hit the beach or the pool (or both).

Here are some tips to make sure you that you have a sun safe and skin healthy time outside this summer:

  • Apply sunscreen before you leave the house
  • Use at least SPF 30 but 40 or 50 are even better
  • Apply a VERY generous amount of sunscreen to all exposed areas of your body.  Don’t forget your ears, backs of your hands, and feet.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or right after swimming or excessive sweating
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses
  • Seek shade
  • Drink lots of water
  • Consider wearing clothes and bathing suits with UPF protection.  But don’t rely solely on the clothes for sun protection, use sunscreen too.
  • Do NOT burn!
If you are a parent make it a priority to not only protect your child from the sun but to also model sun safe behavior for them as well.
One other group that needs special consideration when it comes to sun protection are teens.  If someone has an idea of how to get through to teens about how to be sun safe I would love to hear it.  Though I have never had skin cancer (knock on wood) I really believe that the sun damage that I am now seeing on my face in my late 30s I developed as a teen.  I wish I had known then how to protect my skin from the sun.  Sometimes I try to convince teens (and adults) to use sunscreen by appealing to their vanity.  Hey – whatever works, right?
For more tips look at this information from The Skin Cancer Foundation:

 

 

Also – check out You Asked! Beach Bag Essentials from WebMD.

 

 

David Hockney painting image from http://rainfall8.wordpress.com/

 

June is Acne Awareness Month June 18, 2012

Anyone who has read the About section of my blog knows that I have suffered from acne most of my life.  My acne lead to an obsession with my skin and that obsession eventually lead me to become an esthetician.  As I write this post I have a large pimple of on my temple and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation on my chin.  Even though I am 37 my acne struggles are far from over.

Since June is Acne Awareness Month I thought I would gather my acne related posts in one place for my readers.  For good reason this subject continues to interest me, and I will definitely continue to write about it in the future.

My acne related posts:

 

 

Image from gotta-look-good.com

 

Should You Avoid Spray On Sunscreens? June 14, 2012

Filed under: sun protection — askanesthetician @ 5:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I spend a lot of time thinking about sun protection.  Anyone who knows me personally or professionally knows that.  So of course when I saw the following post from The Beauty Brains I got to thinking:

Rebecca requests…On a recent trip to the beach I was unfortunate enough to sit down wind of someone applying a spray on sunscreen. I think less than half of what she sprayed actually hit her body because most of it was blown away by the breeze and landed on me!  I could feel it and even see a fine film covering my  sunglasses. I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world a spray on product can provide effective sun protection. Do the spray products use different ingredients than the lotions?

The Left Brain responds:

Formulating a spray-on sunscreen does present different challenges than creating a lotion product.

Spray-on savvy

To start with, even thin emulsions are difficult to spray because they don’t atomize well and they can clog the valve. So, most spray products are solutions of UV absorbers in ethanol. That means only alcohol soluble ingredients like Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Oxybenzone can be used.   Physical sunblocks, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are not alcohol soluble so they can’t be sprayed from this type of product.  In addition, to help ensure that the sunscreen coats the skin evenly, film forming ingredients like Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer are added. These film formers helps keep prevent the alcohol solution from pooling in nooks and crannies of your skin.

Of course none of this matters if too much overspray occurs. If the spray doesn’t hit your skin it’s obviously wasted.  While they are appealing because of ease of application you may be getting less deposition than you realize, especially if you’re applying them on a windy day. Considering how important uniform sunscreen application is for the prevention of sunburn (and potentially skin cancer), I think it’s a bit risky to rely on this kind of spray application.

Perhaps that’s why sprays are not “officially” approved as sunscreens even though they are sold as such. According to an article by Stanley B Levy, MD published Medscape, as of April 11, 2012, “The FDA Final Monograph has not approved sprays as a dosage form pending further considerations and testing.”

Spray-on= $$

Furthermore, all that wasted over spray makes spray-on sunscreens potentially more expensive to use. And when you factor in the cost of ethanol (which is a more expensive  solvent than water) and the aluminum can and the valve hardware (which are more expensive than a plastic lotion bottle), you may end up paying a lot more for the convenience of not getting lotion all over your hands. I think I’ll stick with lotions.

Though I am far from a fan of the EWG this organization also urges people to avoid the use of spray sunscreens because:

Aerosol spray sunscreen packages will soon be required to display FDA-mandated warnings such as “use in a well ventilated area” and “intentional misuse… can be harmful or fatal.” These cautions highlight growing concerns that sprays pose serious inhalation risks. Spray sunscreens also make it too easy to miss a spot, leaving bare skin exposed to harmful rays.

As mentioned in the above quote from the EWG, the FDA is concerned about what people are inhaling when spray sunscreens are used:

For sunscreen spray products, the agency requested additional data to establish effectiveness and to determine whether they present a safety concern if inhaled unintentionally.  These requests arose because sprays are applied differently from other sunscreen dosage forms, such as lotions and sticks.

(From FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens)

Bottom Line:  Spray on sunscreens are a god sent for people with children who can’t and won’t sit still long enough for you to apply the proper amount of sunscreen to their skin.  Yet even with the best intentions you still run the risk of really not getting adequate sun protection when using these sunscreens.   If you can use cream and lotion sunscreens instead.

 

 

Image from http://www.scientificamerican.com

 

Can Chemical Peels Prevent Certain Skin Cancers? June 11, 2012

Chemical peels are a great way to rejuvenate the skin and an excellent way to treat many skin conditions like acne and hyperpigmentation.  But it turns out that chemical peels can do even more than that – some peels might help prevent further development of superficial skin cancers.

According to Morag Currin in her book Oncology Esthetics *(page 134):

Superficial chemical exfoliations and peels are recommended for treatment of skin conditions that primarily affect the epidermis such as actinic keratosis and superficial skin cancers.  There is a usually a decrease in the incidence of superficial skin cancers after resurfacing procedures.

Chemical exfoliation and peels are not the only treatment for skin cancers, however, any resurfacing procedures (the deeper the better) may actually decrease the chance of developing superficial skin cancers and precancerous lesions.

Strong chemical peels may kill very early skin cancer cells since the treatment removes the top layer of sun damaged skin, which can include precancerous cells as well as sun-damaged cells, and give the skin a rough, blemished and discolored appearance.

Renee Rouleau concurs on the same subject in a recent blog post of hers:

Exfoliation by using facial scrubsacid serums and professional chemical peels are all popular treatments for shedding dead skin cells to improve the look and feel of your skin. But the latest research now shows another benefit of exfoliation: the reduction of  the number of actinic keratosis–skin lesions that can develop into squamous cell cancer. For home use, physicians recommend glycolic acid serums in formulas up to 20%.

So remember – the next time you are considering a chemical peel as a way to treat your skin remember that there are added medical benefits to getting that peel.

My Related Posts:

*  I recently completed Currin’s 3 day intensive course on oncology esthetics and highly recommend it to all my fellow estheticians who are interested in working with cancer patients.  I learned so much!

Image from myadvancedderm.com

 

Is an Alkaline Diet Good for Your Skin? June 7, 2012

I recently wrote a post that asked the question – is a vegan or vegetarian diet bad for your skin? – and concluded that no, neither of those diets are bad for your skin but sugar is.   Since I try to keep up with the latest information about all things skincare related I recently read an article in MedEsthetics magazine profiling dermatologist Jeanette Graf, MD.  In the article Dr. Graf talks about the skin benefits to following an alkaline diet:

Jeannette Graf, MD, is a well-known researcher and expert injector in the medical aesthetics arena, but more recently she has focused her career on creating great skin from the inside out.  Her theories are based on research that suggests that eating more alkaline-producing foods (versus acid-producing foods) offers optimal internal health, leading to glowing, healthy skin.  She recommends a 3:1 ratio of alkaline-producing foods to acid-producing foods when preparing meals.

Alkaline-Producing                                         Acid-Producing

Olive oil                                                                        Alcohol

Citrus fruits                                                                 Soft Drinks

Berries                                                                           Red Meat

Vegetables                                                                   Salmon

Sea Salts                                                                        White sugar

(page 49)

Furthermore, Dr. Graf explains how she became interested in the whole idea of an alkaline diet as a diet that would positively impact the skin (pages 49-50):

[Dr. Graf] came across a Noble Prize-winning study by Dr. Otto Warburg.  The study involved culturing cancer cells and normal cells in two different environments – one group he grew in a high oxygen, alkaline medium; the other he grew in a high acid, low oxygen medium.  “What he found was in the conditions with the high acid, low oxygen, the cancer cells grew like crazy and the normal cells could not survive,” says Dr. Graf.  “But in the alkaline medium with high oxygen, the normal cells grew beautifully and thrived, whereas the cancer cells could not survive.  That said to me, we need to be alkaline.”

Alkalinity is the basis of Dr. Graf’s book and also a key component of her practice.  “Internal to external is major for me and I talk about diet to everyone, because I want them to be alkaline.  I’ll even take out pH strips and test them,” she says.  “Every patient who comes into my office gets a lecture on what she should and shouldn’t eat.  We should be treating diet like a medication, and having a great lifestyle is all part of it.  And we heave to lead by example and start incorporating it into our practice.  Fortunately, I think we’re starting to see more of that.”

Once I read this information I realized that I read something similar in Kate Somerville’s book Complexion Perfection! .  In Chapter 4: Beauty and the Buffet, Somerville relates a story about her father-in-law Dave Somerville and how he started following an alkaline diet after receiving a cancer diagnosis (pages 44- 45):

Four different doctors presented treatment options such as surgery and radiation, but Dave decided to go with a different approach.  He’d always been interested in nutrition and alternative health, and when a friend recommended a naturopathic doctor in San Diego, he found what he was looking for: a doctor who “laughs at cancer.”  I was nervous; in fact I honestly thought at first that it was a mistake.  Yet this is where I first learned how dramatically nutrition can impact the skin.

Dave’s treatment regimen focused on organic foods, a range of immunity-boosting supplements, and drinking nothing but purified water – lots of it.  Most important, he maintained an alkaline environment in his body, the basis of his naturopathic doctor’s protocol.  Dave ate foods that alkalized his body and minimized those that acidified it, helping maintain his body in a healthy pH range and reducing disease-causing acid waste in his system.  The theory (one not supported by the traditional medical community) is that cancer cells don’t grow in alkaline environment.

My father-in-law was completely committed to this program, and in less than a year’s time, his cancer disappeared.  Total recovery. I know this sounds unbelievable, but the strategy miraculously worked for him.  I’m telling you this story here in this book because of the other changes I saw – changes in his skin.  I couldn’t believe it, but I actually saw brown spots and sun damage disappear from Dave’s face, in the same way that the cancer vanished.  From a clinician’s perspective, I thought, This is impossible.  I’d never seen anything like it in my life.  Generally, when people in my line of work see sun spots and pigment issues, we treat them with topical peels, usually aggressively, and topical products.  I was blown away, because Dave’s skin glowed.  I mean, it literally glowed.  To this day, he stays very close to the parameters of the diet, and looks a decade younger than his actual years.

To be sure, the choices my father-in-law made were fairly extreme, and he was absolutely dedicated to the strategy.  However, I cannot deny the impact that this diet had on his health and his appearance.

If you are thinking of switching to a more alkaline diet what exactly should you eat?  And how does this diet actually work?  According to the WebMD article Alkaline Diet: What to Know Before You Try It:

The theory of the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can help maintain the body’s ideal pH balance to improve overall health. But the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet.

For instance, your diet may affect the pH level of your urine. But what you eat does not determine your blood’s pH level.

What’s in the Alkaline Diet

The alkaline diet is mostly vegetarian. In addition to fresh vegetables and some fresh fruits, alkaline-promoting foods include soy products and some nuts, grains, and legumes.

Web sites promoting the alkaline diet discourage eating acid-promoting foods, which include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, processed foods, white sugar, white flour, and caffeine.

The alkaline diet is basically healthy, says Marjorie Nolan, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman.

“It’s a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of water, avoiding processed foods, coffee, and alcohol, which are all recommendations for a generally healthy diet anyway,” Nolan says. “But our body regulates our pH between 7.35 and 7.45 no matter how we eat.”

Potential Benefits

Diets that include a lot of animal protein can lower urine pH and raise the risk forkidney stones. So eating a diet rich in vegetables, as with an alkaline diet, can raise urine pH and lower the risk for kidney stones, says John Asplin, MD, a kidney specialist who is a fellow of the American Society of Nephrology.

Researchers have speculated that an alkaline diet might slow bone loss and muscle waste, increase growth hormone, make certain chronic diseases less likely, and ease low back pain. However, that hasn’t been proven.

There is also no concrete evidence that an alkaline or vegetarian diet can prevent cancer. Some studies have shown that vegetarians have lower rates of cancer, particularly colon cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. But vegetarians often have other healthy habits, such as exercise and abstaining from drinking and smoking, so it is difficult to determine the effects of diet alone.

“Clinical studies have proved without a doubt that people who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and hydrate properly do have lower rates of cancer and other diseases,” Nolan tells WebMD, “but it probably has nothing to do with blood pH.”

Because there is no evidence that diet can significantly change blood pH, a highly irregular blood pH is a sign of a larger problem — perhaps kidney failure — not a dietary issue.

People with kidney disease or medical issues that require monitoring by a doctor, such as severe diabetes, should not attempt this diet without medical supervision.

“If someone’s blood sugar is not being monitored properly — especially if they’re on insulin if they’re type 1 or they’re a severe type 2 diabetic — you’re potentiallyrunning the risk of your blood sugar dropping too low after a meal if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Nolan says.

It all comes down to balance, Asplin says. The alkaline diet could potentially over-restrict protein and calcium.

“Vegetarians can be completely healthy in their diets as long as they make sure to get adequate supplies of essential components to a diet. But it is also true that many Americans over-consume protein and get much more than they actually need,” Asplin says.

If you do want to follow a more alkaline diet here are some tips from the Live Strong website:

Which foods fall into the alkaline category is not always obvious. For example, a lemon, which you would probably consider acidic, becomes alkaline when digested and hence falls into the alkaline category. Choosing alkaline foods may at first, therefore, require research. The alkaline diet closely resembles a vegan diet, in that you arrange your meals around plant-based foods rather than meat, the reverse of the typical Western diet. To ensure that you absorb important nutrients, plan to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Foods to Include

Alkaline foods should comprise about 75 to 80 percent of your diet. The foods to include in an alkaline diet menu include most vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and whole grains. To determine what foods belong to the long list of alkaline vegetables, the Macrobiotics Cooking with Linda Wemhoff site suggests choosing leafy, round root and sea vegetables. In the extensive alkaline fruit category, she recommends tropical- and temperate-climate fruits. Everyday Diet recommends flax, sesame and sunflower, among other seeds, and spelt and sprouted grains. Fresh water, herbal teas, almond milk and wine are considered examples of alkaline beverages.

Foods to Avoid

Acidic foods should comprise no more than 20 to 15 percent of your diet. Foods to avoid on the alkaline diet are meats, dairy, shellfish, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, processed foods, refined grains and sugars, and artificial and chemical products. In addition, the Health and Rejuvenation Research Center advises avoiding preserves, canned fruits and dried sulfured fruits and various vegetables and beans, including asparagus tips and garbanzo beans. Limit alcoholic beverages and coffee.

Bottom Line:  If this diet interests you I suggest reading more about it.  You can find numerous books about an alkaline diet on amazon.   Most of the sources I read suggested trying to consume 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic for your overall health.  In the long run I could see how a diet like this would benefit both your skin and your health.

Sources and Further Reading:

Doing research for this post turned out to be very informative and interesting.  I learned a lot!  If you have the time check out the sources below for a lot more information about the alkaline diet.

Image from www.alkalinesister.com

 

 
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