Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Check This Out: What I’ve Been Reading January 30, 2014

Lately I’ve read quite a number of interesting skincare related articles so I thought I would share them with my readers.

First up I wanted to talk about a website not an article, actually.  Caroline Hirons is a well-known esthetician in the UK.  I had actually looked at her website quite some time ago, but I recently rediscovered it through a tip from my loyal reader Rae (be sure to check out Rae’s blog Scatterbraintures!).  There is a lot of skincare information on this website.  I recommend reading the “cheat sheets”  (found on the right side of the home page) for solid, practical skincare advice.  If you do not live in England, I don’t, her product recommendations are not very relevant unfortunately.  While I do think that most of the skincare information that Hirons shares is great, there two things in particular that I disagree with her on.  The first is that Hirons keeps bashing products that contain mineral oil.  I wrote a long post in my blog about how mineral oil isn’t bad for the skin. If you haven’t already read my post (Why Does Mineral Oil Have Such A Bad Reputation?) please give it a look in order to get another perspective on this controversial skincare ingredient.  Secondly, Hirons seems to be a mission against foam cleansers (she claims they are needlessly drying and strip the skin).  I happen to disagree with this opinion as well.  I currently use a foam cleanser and do not find it drying at all.  So as with all skincare advice though I really do think that Hirons has mostly great skincare advice to share, be sure to keep an open mind and don’t think that everything she writes is true.

Now on to the articles I want to share:

If you’ve read any interesting skincare related articles lately please share links below!

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Back to Basics: How to Cleanse Your Face January 22, 2014

This is the first post in what will be an occasional series for this blog – back to basics.  Sometimes it’s just important to review and discuss those daily skincare steps that we may take for granted.  I’ll kick things off with talking about how to properly cleanse your face.  I’ve addressed this issue before in my blog; see “my related posts” below for my other posts on this subject.  This particular post was inspired by something I read in the book Heal Your Skin by Dr. Ava Shamban (see my review of the book here).

Properly cleansing your face is an essential step for everyone, not just for those people who take their skincare routines seriously.  Clean skin is something to everyone needs and benefits from.  Think about the first steps of any facial – it’s always a double cleanse.

I’ll start with Dr. Shamban’s advice since her book inspired this new series (page 32):

How to Wash Your Face

This section may seem obvious, but a good technique for skin cleansing is just as important as your choice of cleanser.  To wash your face:

1.  Pull your hair back so that it’s easier to clean your whole face and neck.  This way you won’t transfer hair products to your clean skin.

2.  Wet your face by splashing it gently with room temperature water.

3.  Put a dollop of cleanser about the size of a medium (14 mm) to large (18 mm) pearl into the palm of your hand.  Rub your palms together to spread the cleanser evenly.  Gently massage the cleanser into your face, avoiding the eye area.  Be sure to apply the cleanser about a quarter inch into your hairline to remove built-up hair products and to address any acne that may be present in these areas.  Don’t forget to cleanse under your chin and the back of your neck.

4.  Rinse thoroughly by splashing your face or by using a clean, wet washcloth.

5.  Pat – don’t rub – your skin dry with a clean cotton towel.  If your skin is particularly dry or sensitive, leave your skin damp.  Applying moisturizer to skin that’s slightly wet improves absorption of active ingredients and seals in moisture.

In the evening, remove your makeup before cleansing.  Use a premoistened pad or a disposable wipe formulated for gentle makeup removal and tailored to your skin type.  Don’t leave behind any waterproof mascara that might irritate your eyes.  And remember, when you are in the shower, wash your face last – after you have rinsed off any shampoo or conditioner.

Though Dr. Shamban recommends using a disposable wipe or premoistened pad for make-up removal I suggest using either the gentle cleanser of your choice (which you then have on hand to wash your face with in the morning since most people just need a gentle cleanser in the morning) or an oil cleanser such as this or this or this or this.  I always find that I have spend a little of extra time removing my eye make-up; I use 100% pure jojoba oil to remove eye make-up.  (For more information about jojoba oil please see my post)

Make sure you have a separate towel just for your face.  This is particular crucial for those people who have issues with acne, and try to wash your face towel frequently.

It’s very important to remember to double cleanse your face in the evening; as a matter of fact it is essential if you use make-up and wear sunscreen (and I hope all my readers are using sunscreen everyday).  Skin Inc. explains the importance of cleansing twice in the PM:

The problem is that consumers are using heavier oil-based moisturizers and more water-resistant makeup and sunscreens that are not adequately removed with water-based cleansers. Combine this with how quickly average individuals cleanse their skin and too many people are walking around with dirty skin.

For this reason, always recommend a second cleansing to thoroughly remove oils from the skin. As a matter of fact, even if the skin is cleansed twice with a water-soluble cleanser, there still may be some oil-soluble substances that remain.

… When a cleanser is applied to the skin, surface active agents provide the primary cleansing action. During the initial cleansing process, the surfactants are emulsifying the fat or lipid grime, such as sebum, makeup, environmental hydrocarbons and sunscreens, allowing them to be solubilized in the rinse water. Meanwhile, the water-based portion of the cleanser solubilizes the water-soluble debris, namely sweat and some environmental pollutants. Considering the amount of material that potentially collects on the skin, it’s not surprising that this initial cleansing will only remove superficial debris and is not adequate for a thorough cleansing.

Just a splash of warm water and a single pass with a sudsy gel or milky cleanser—even a good one—is not enough. In fact, a light oil-based solvent should be used on the skin first as an initial step. This should not be mineral oil, although in generations past mineral oil and oily cold creams did perform the task of dissolving makeup. Today, there are nongreasy, microprocessed oils that do not require an alcohol-based toner to remove them. The methodology here: Like attracts like. Oils applied to the skin attract the oils produced by the skin for an ideal, nonaggressive cleansing. Water added to the mix allows the combined, released oils to be rinsed away.

(From Keep It Clean)

Lastly, don’t skimp of the time you take to wash your face.  Be sure to massage your cleanser into your face for at least 30 seconds, even up a minute if you have the time and patience.

Bottom Line:  Proper cleansing is the backbone of any good hygiene and skincare routine and doesn’t take a long time to execute.  Make proper facial cleansing a priority and your skin will thank you.

Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

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Martha Stewart’s Beauty Routine January 15, 2014

Need I Say More?  Actually Yes, I Need To

Martha Stewart was generous enough to share, in great detail, her daily beauty routine with The New York Times*.  And it is quite a daily beauty routine!  Stewart is a beauty product junkie, and not just any beauty product junkie – a high-end beauty product junkie.  Since she can afford it – more power to her in my opinion, but I digress.  While Stewart also explains her make-up, fragrance, hair, fitness, and diet regimes I’ll focus on her skincare routine in this post.  Let’s start with a few highlights:

I get up a couple hours before I’m supposed to leave in the morning and I’ll put on a mask. …  I’ll do this about five days a week and I don’t repeat the same mask two days in a row. I’ve always done this – well basically since I discovered masks.

Stewart lists four different masks that she uses on a regular basis (just not two days in a row, of course).  I’ll address the fact that Stewart is a product junkie later on in this post because right now I want to address the issue if you need to rotate your skincare products as frequently as Stewart does.  Martha Stewart never outright states that you shouldn’t use the same skincare product each day; I found that idea implied by her beauty routine.  So the answer  to the question if you really need to change your skincare products so often is a resounding no!  I actually wrote about this very issue in my blog almost three years ago in a post entitled How Often Do You Need to Change Your Skincare Products?  In the post I explained:

You need to change your skincare products when something changes with your skin or if you want to treat a specific issue.  For example if you’ve never used or needed a moisturizer before but now you feel that your skin is dry and/or dehydrated you can add a moisturizer to your skincare routine.  Most people might find that they need to change their products as the seasons change. …

Also as the seasons change you’ll find that you need different formulations for your favorite products – instead of a creamy moisturizer you might want to switch to a gel or serum formulation.  You’ll need to change your skincare products/routine as you age since you’ll want to add products with antioxidants, peptides, and other anti-aging ingredients to your routine.  While you are pregnant and nursing you’ll need to stop using certain products like prescription tretinoin creams.

Still not convinced?  Watch this video from WebMD.

Stewart switches between a anti-aging, a hydrating, and a gommage mask (which is a fancy way of saying a mask that helps exfoliate).  Now are all these masks necessary?  Can’t she just use an anti-aging serum, a moisturizer, and a separate exfoliant?  Adding a hydrating mask to your skincare routine in the winter is a good idea for someone who suffers from extra dry, flaky skin during colder months.  Anti-aging masks are a waste of money in my opinion; invest in a good anti-aging serum with retinol for daily use instead.  I believe that Stewart is mask addicted and intervention might be needed.

Moving along.  Stewart tells The New York Times:

I slather myself with serums.

Serums are wonderful.  Once you find the right one you can treat a myriad of skincare issues with it.  Do you need to slather yourself with serums which are usually quite expensive?  Personally I think not.  (For more information about serums please see my post What’s A Serum?)

And now we’ve reached the part of the article that drove me crazy.  Stewart might be a lifestyle guru, but thank goodness she is neither an esthetician or a dermatologist because the next thing she says in the article is just downright wrong:

I use the same products on my body as I use on my face.  I don’t think there’s really any difference between the two, so the more moisturizers and serums you use, the better off you are.

Oy!  Where do I begin?  Once again Stewart is flaunting her product junkie tendency, but more sinister in my mind is her proclamation that our face and body skin are the same and do not need different products.  This is simply not true.  For example, the skin on our face is always exposed to the elements making it more sensitive to environmental factors such as sun and temperature and thus usually in need of extra TLC, the skin on our faces has more sebaceous glands than the skin on our body, and the skin on our face usually shows the signs of aging much sooner than the skin on our bodies because of its exposure to the elements.  Someone, not Martha Stewart of course, may have oily skin on their face but dry skin on their arms and legs and obviously would then different products for those different areas of their body.  As further explanation please read  The Beauty Brains explanation,  in their book Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm? (page 53), why you can’t use hand lotion on your face or vis-a-versa:

Three Reasons Why Moisturizers For The Hands and Face Should Be Different

Kay’s question: Is there a difference between moisturizers for your hands and for your face?  Also, is there a reason to use specially formulated antiwrinkle creams rather than ordinary moisturizers that you would use on your hands?

This is one of those cases where there really is some science behind the marketing hype.  Here’s why facial lotions should be different than hand lotions:

1.  Skin on the hands and face is different.

Skin is very thin on your face and thicker on your hands.  Also, your hands don’t (usually) develop acne or blackheads.  Therefore, they need to be treated differently.

2.  Drying Conditions are different for hands and face.

You may wash your hands in harsh soap many times a day; you may wash your face only once or twice a day with a gentle cleanser.  Hands are in and our of dishwater or laundry water; your face is not.  The cumulative effect is that your hands can be much dryer, even cracked and bleeding, and therefore they need stronger moisturization.

3.  The hands and face have different cosmetic needs.

You might want to tighten the little crow’s-feet wrinkles around your eyes, but this isn’t the case on your hands.

The Bottom Line:

For the reasons cited above and more, you need to use products designed to suit your skin’s different needs.  Hand lotions should be heavier barrier creams to protect hands from harsh conditions.  Facial moisturizers should be lightweight, noncomedogenic and many have film-forming agents that tighten skin to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  While hand and face products may share some of the same basic ingredients, the functions they need to perform are significantly different.  Using the right product on the right skin will give you better results.

I hope I’ve sufficiently explained why you need different products for your face and body; as for Stewart’s comment that the more moisturizers and serums you use the better off you are – I have to say that is just silly.  At a certain point your skin simply cannot “absorb” product after product.  The products, instead of performing their function, will sit on top of your skin making make-up application impossible.  Overkill is overkill.  You need the right products for your skin not a crazy number of products.

And now for the good advice from Stewart’s beauty routine.  Stewart uses a hot towel and oils to remove her make-up (she uses either an expensive oil based cleanser or simply Johnson’s baby oil).  This is actually a great way to remove make-up.  I’ve tried a lot of oil based cleansers and still haven’t found a favorite though I do love to use jojoba oil nightly to remove my eye make-up.  Additionally, Stewart is a strong advocate for daily use of sunscreen and proper sun protection when outdoors.  I am glad that she promoted both in this article.  She constantly hydrates while on a plane which is wonderful (for more information about how to care for your skin while traveling see my post: Airplane Travel and Your Skin: How to Care For Your Skin Inflight).  Lastly, Stewart gets monthly facials and how can I argue with that?

And now back to the product junkie point I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  I’ve called myself a product whore or junkie in this blog before but Martha Stewart puts me to shame.  I’ve met more than my share of product junkies since becoming an esthetician as such I have concluded that being a product junkie is definitely a psychological issue not a skincare issue.  Basically it comes down to: “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” feeling.  In my opinion, beauty product junkies always feel that they are missing out if they aren’t trying the newest and greatest products.  I completely understand why someone would want to try the newest products on the skincare market and would chase after trends in skincare.  But please remember the best ingredients for your skin are those with a proven track record, such as retinol and vitamins, and those ingredients have been used successfully in skincare products for years and years.  While skincare products proliferate and the ones you haven’t tried appear shiny and bright take a moment to think: do I really need this?  Does my skin really need this?  Does my skin really look that bad?.  And just because a celebrity or a glossy fashion magazine recommends a product doesn’t mean it is any better than what you are already using.

What more can I say?  Some of Martha Stewart’s skincare routine is excellent but a lot of it is just plain overkill and over the top.  There is no need to go crazy when it comes to your skincare routine or buy multiple soaps or serums.  And please, please remember your face and body DO need different products.

Further Reading:

It turns out I was not the only one intrigued by The New York Times Martha Stewart article.  Here are what some other sources had to say about the article:

*The Gloss points out that Stewart already shared her beauty routine with Allure last year where even more products are listed (spoiler: Stewart is also obsessed with soaps).  The New York Times piece just seems to expand on the lunacy of her beauty regime.  I am hard pressed to understand how she finds the time, while running her lifestyle empire, to devote so much effort her skin.  The routines she details in both publications are that extensive.  (By the way, for an interesting article on how Stewart’s empire is faring read this Vanity Fair article.)

And I have to share two more very “interesting” quotes from the article:

I don’t get clogged pores.

You can be the most beautiful person on earth, and if you don’t have a fitness or diet routine, you won’t be beautiful.

And now I really have nothing else to say.

Image from www.homemadeintheheartland.com

 

Winter Skincare Secrets January 6, 2014

I grew-up near Chicago, and though now I live in a much milder climate I have certainly not forgotten those Midwestern winters (and honestly I don’t miss them at all).  Even if you live in a place that doesn’t have winters as harsh as Chicago your skin can still go through a number of unpleasant changes during the colder months of the year.  Luckily with a few easy tweaks to your skincare routine you can make it through the winter with happy, healthy skin.

Change Your Facial Cleanser But Keep Exfoliating

If your skin starts to feel extra dry during the winter one of the first things you should do is look at your facial cleanser.  Now it the time to switch to a gentle, cream based cleanser.  This type of cleanser is even fine for those people with oily or acne prone skin though people with this skin type might want to use a cleanser like this once a day in the morning as opposed to twice a day.  Or if you really can’t give up your regular facial cleanser use a moisturizing toner afterwards in order to help balance out the drying effects of your cleanser.  (I like Epionce Balancing Toner).

Don’t stop exfoliating – just exfoliate less or with a gentler product.  Don’t use harsh scrubs in the winter to exfoliate.  Instead use scrubs with round beads not nut particles which can scratch and damage your skin. Or use a cleanser or serum with gentle acids in it like lactic acid.  Lactic acid not only exfoliates but brings moisture back to the skin as well.  When dead skin cells build up on epidermis (the outer layer of your skin) your moisturizer cannot penetrate and work as well as it should.  As long as you gently remove those dead skin cells you are helping your skin and not hurting it during the winter.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

I cannot emphasize enough how important using moisturizer is during the winter.  I’ve seen cracked, bleeding hands too many times to count.  I can spot dry hands from a mile away (I’m only exaggerating slightly).  Step up your moisturizing routine during the winter.  First of all, don’t shower or soak in very hot water.  I know this is a hard one, but hot water actually dehydrates your skin.  Moisturize your body immediately after bathing when your skin is still a little bit damp (damp not wet).  Switch from a lotion moisturizer to a cream based moisturizer.  This is both true for the moisturizer you use on your face and on your body.  Use a thicker and heavier moisturizer such as a body butter with shea butter or cocoa butter (look here for some suggestions for moisturizers to try) for your body.  Put small containers of moisturizer by all your sinks so you can immediately moisturize after washing your hands.  Use gloves when cleaning your house and washing the dishes.  Be sure to have a small container of moisturizer with spf in it in your bag so you can even moisturize on the go.  Gently exfoliate your body as well.  I recommend dry brushing.  Lastly, use a humidifier at home in order to add moisture back to the air around you.  Just using a humidifier at home can make a huge difference for many people’s skin.

My favorite thing that I have read about moisturizing in a long time is a post by Lab Muffin about how to layer your moisturizers for utmost effectiveness.  Follow this advice; it will help you immensely if you are suffering from day winter skin.

Chapped Lips

Many people suffer from chapped, even bleeding lips throughout the winter.  According to Natural Health Magazine this happens because:

“Our lips are very susceptible to drying out because they’re a thin layer of skin that’s exposed to the elements all the time,” says Diane Berson, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell University Medical College in New York City. “They’re also made up of mucous membranes, which dry out easily.”

(From Lip Service)

So what can you do to prevent or heal chapped lips?  Actually a lot.  Once again according to Natural Health Magazine:

To get your lips back in kissable form, you need to first rid them of dry, flaky skin. After brushing your teeth at night before bed, try gently rubbing your lips with your toothbrush or a damp washcloth, then slather on a thick layer of lip balm to leave on while you sleep.

Look for a balm that contains moisturizing oils to heal your lips along with wax to protect them from further damage. If you’re going to be outside, pick a formulation with an SPF to minimize the impact of the sun.

Additionally, Dr. Jessica Wu recommends:

  • Use a thick ointment instead of a stick lip balm. Ointments help heal cracked skin, while sticks can be waxy and ,when dragged across delicate lips, can make them more irritated. Try Aquaphor (available at drugstores), Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1, or Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25. Some of my patients prefer to use sweet almond oil or coconut oil, which are safe enough to eat.
  • Apply a thick layer before going to bed, especially if you wear a dental appliance at night. Some people who wear a night guard or retainer end up breathing though their mouths, which dries out the lips.
  • Avoid matte and long-wearing lipsticks, which have a drying effect. Instead, rub a thin layer of ointment over your lips when you get up in the morning. Let it soak in, apply another layer, then apply a moisturizing lipstick or gloss. I like Chanel Rouge Coco Shine, Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick, and Butter London Lippy Tinted Balm.
  • Avoid licking your lips. While it will temporarily moisten your lips, repeated lip licking will end up drying them out even more as the saliva evaporates. Also avoid picking or peeling off dead skin, since this can slow healing.
  • If the chapping persists more than a few weeks, or if you see blisters or oozing, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Nonhealing scabs or crusts can be a sign of an actinic keratosis, a potentially precancerous growth, while oozing can indicate an infection.

A Few More Tips

Keep using your sunscreen!  Our skin can still get sunburned and damaged even from weak winter rays.  Keep using your sunscreen and reapply throughout the day as usual.

Eat a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Foods such as salmon and nuts contain this fatty acid (DHA) which helps to restore moisture to your skin from the inside out.

Sources and Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

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