Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Teen Skincare May 10, 2012

My teenage years were the worst years for my skin.  I had terrible acne that only went away after I used Accutane for three months, and I still have acne scars on my cheeks that serve as a daily reminder of those years.  That acne eventually, years and years later, lead me to become an esthetician since I wanted to learn more about how to care for my own skin, and I wanted to be able to help others care for their skin as well.  Because of how I looked during my teen years I have a soft spot for teenagers and their skin struggles.  The teen years is the perfect time to begin learning to care for your skin, and there is no need for this care to be complicated or time-consuming.

First off, easy does it.  I find that many teenagers think that if a little bit of a skincare product or skincare ingredient is good, then a lot is even better.  That just leads to dry, irritated, and flaky skin.  A lot of the time – less is really more.  The other thing to point out is that there is no need to make every breakout a catastrophe.  I know this is really hard when you are in high school, but if there is any way to put the appearance of a pimple or two into perspective than try to do that.  Perfect skin in really unattainable – believe me.  I know one person, and this includes all my friends, clients, and acquaintances, who I would say has perfect skin.  It just doesn’t exist and that is why they invented make-up.  So try to keep the doom and gloom over how your skin looks in check.

Instead get the basics under your belt:

  • Remember that daily cleansing of your skin is essential even if you are tired at night.  Sleeping with a dirty face just contributes to breakouts and overall dull skin.  Which cleanser is right for your skin depends on if your skin is oily, combination, dry, or breakout prone.  When in doubt consult someone in the know like an esthetician.  If you really can’t be bothered to wash your face at night at the very least use a make-up remover wipe to cleanse your face a bit before going to sleep.
  • Apply a treatment serum/lotion if you need one.  Most teens will need an anti-acne serum or lotion at one point or another.  This doesn’t mean that you need to slather your face with the treatment lotion two or three times a day.  For some teens once a day is probably enough while others may need to treat their skin twice a day.
  • Give new products time to work!  I cannot emphasize this enough – you need to try your new products for about three months before determining if they really are helping your skin.  Constantly switching skincare products is no help to your skin.
  • Be compliant with your skincare regime.  Having great skincare products that just sit in your bathroom is no help for anyone.  They only work, and work best, when you used them daily and as directed.
  • If you can’t figure out what products are best for your skin I would suggest going to get a facial and asking the esthetician to make recommendations.  You don’t need to buy everything or anything she recommends, but at least you can get some knowledgable advice instead of fumbling around in the dark.
  • Don’t pick!  And don’t let someone else pick at your skin either!  Picking only makes breakouts last longer, heal slower, and can leave scars.  Hand off your face!
  • Start using daily sun protection.  I always prefer that everyone has a separate sunscreen that isn’t combined with any other product like a moisturizer or make-up, but better that you have spf in something than in nothing.
  • Don’t go it alone – if you feel like you’ve tried everything and your skin still isn’t looking the way you want it to go see a dermatologist for help and advice.  Doctors can give you prescription products if necessary.
  • Eat a healthy diet and find ways to have fun and relax.  I know that being a teenager is stressful so finding ways to release that stress is actually helpful for your skin as well.
And remember – be kind to yourself.  A lot of teen skin issues are caused by hormonal fluctuations that eventually calm down with time and age.  This too shall pass just like you will finally be done with high school one day too.

Sources and Further Reading:

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Pore Strips – Ok to Use? November 3, 2011

Filed under: Acne,Skincare products — askanesthetician @ 5:49 am
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Pore strips are irresistible if you have blackheads on your nose.  Simply apply to your nose, press, and remove.  Viola!  Your blackheads are gone.  But is this really the best solution for removing blackheads?

According to FutureDerm pore strips are among 4 common beauty products to stop using Now:

The pore strip was my original skin sin: I applied it to my face, thinking I would have clear pores. One box of pore strips later, and I have been succumbed to a lifetime of needing to clean out my pores.

The reason?  Pore strips contain a hairspray-like substance on one side. It sticks to the material within your pores, but when you rip the strip off, it stretches the pore. Over time, this leads to enlarged pores, in which material collects, leaving you with a nose filled with blackheads

Paula Begoun has even harsher words for pore strips (pages 256-257 in The Beauty Bible, 2nd edition):

 Pore strips in all their varying incarnations are meant to remove blackheads.  You place a piece of cloth with a sticky substance on it over your face, as you might do with a Band-Aid, wait a bit for it to dry, and then rip it off.  Along with some amount of skin, blackheads are supposed to stick to it and come right out of your nose.  There is nothing miraculous about these products, nor do they work all that well.  The main ingredient on these strips is a hairspray-type ingredient.  If the instructions are followed closely you can see some benefit in removing the very surface of a blackhead.  In fact, you may at first be very impressed with what comes off your nose.

Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of the problem deep in the pores.  What has me most concerned about pore strips is they are accompanied by a strong warning not to use them over any area other than the intended area (nose, chin, or forehead) and not to use them over inflamed, swollen, sunburned, or excessively dry skin.  It also states that if the strip is too painful to remove, you should wet it and then carefully remove it.  What a warning!

On the flip side listen to what Dr. Jessica Wu has to say about pore strips in her book Feed Your Face (page 71):

 Go Ahead, Try It

Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips, the popular “blackhead removers” that look a bit like nose bandages, do work.  When you pull off the strip, you’re removing the top layers of dead skin cells as well as oxidized (“black”) oil.  They won’t prevent blackheads because they have nothing to do with your skin’s oil production, but they can temporarily make your pores look smaller.

So whose advice should you follow?  Personally I would recommend staying clear of pore strips.  They are a temporary fix at best so it is better to invest in a salicylic acid product or a retinoid for a long-term solution.  For more tips on how to get rid of blackheads see my post (aptly titled) How to Get Rid of Blackheads.

Further Reading:



Make-Up for Acne Prone Skin October 3, 2011

Filed under: Acne,make-up — askanesthetician @ 5:46 am
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One of the most prevalent side effects of chronic acne is low esteem.  It is hard to feel confident about facing the outside world when you feel that you don’t look your best.  For that reason applying make-up to conceal breakouts is important in order for you to both look your best and feel your best.

In her book Feed Your Face Dr. Jessica Wu gives a few reasons to wear make-up if you are acne prone (page 29):

Breakouts are typically caused by bacteria, hormonal fluctuations, and the foods you eat – not by Laura Mercier.  In face, some makeup can even be good for you.  Certain cosmetics can provide SPF protection, which is great for those of us who sometimes forget to put on sunscreen.  (You know who you are.)  Wearing makeup may also remind you not to touch your face as often, cutting down on the transfer of germs from your hands.  And as long as you’re choosing the right makeup for your skin, it shouldn’t make you break out.  If you have oily skin, large pores, or acne-prone skin, look for a water-based makeup that is noncomedogenic.

I’ve had acne for a long time (20 plus years) and am continually finding myself in the position of having to cover up pimples and the red marks left on my face after a pimple has faded.  For these pimples and marks my best friend is a green concealer that helps counteract the redness.  Since red and green are opposite colors on the color wheel when green is applied to red it cancels it out.  Two products to try are Physicians Formula Conceal Rx in soft green (a little bit goes a long way) and GloMinerals Corrective Camouflage Kit.  After applying the green concealer apply a flesh toned concealer on top.  It usually works well to pat concealer on blemishes instead of rubbing or even using a concealer brush, but how you apply your concealer is really up to you.

Using a powder foundation that gives sheer, yet full coverage is a great option for acne prone skin.  Be sure that the make-up is labeled “oil free”, “non-comedogenic”, “ok for oily skin”,  “ok for acne skin”, or some combination of words like that.  Apply with a fluffy brush until you get the coverage that you want.  You could also use liquid foundation if that is what you prefer.

There are lots of make-up products out there that promise to not only conceal your blemishes but to heal them as well with the addition of ingredients like tea tree oil, salicylic acid, or sulfur.  It is best not to expect a huge change in how your acne looks when using make-up like this since the percentage of these ingredients in this type of make-up is negligible and will probably not do anything for your breakouts.  It is best to look for anti-acne ingredients in your skincare products as opposed to your make-up.  Buy make-up because of the lasting coverage, the ease of use, and color match instead of all the extras it promises.

For in-depth tips on using make-up for color correction see Beauty Etc.’s Come Color Correct.

More tips:


Caring For Your Sensitive, Acne Prone Skin September 26, 2011

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 6:15 am
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Someone who has both sensitive skin and suffers from acne faces a dilemma when it comes to finding effective anti-acne treatments since most anti-acne products can be quite harsh on the skin.  So what options does someone have who needs a soothing, yet effective acne treatments?

Two of the most effective ingredients for treating acne are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide both of which can be quite drying on the skin.  Depending on how severe your acne is, for instance if you just have a few breakouts at a time or just clogged pores, using one of these ingredients but not the other would work for you.  Now anti-acne ingredients can be sensitizing and make your skin sting or turn red, but for most people these side effects are temporary.  Once your skin gets used to the products those side effects go away.  Keep in mind that if the redness, stinging, and uncomfortable dryness continues for a prolonged period, months for example, than you definitely have to modify your routine.

I am a strong believer in using salicylic acid cleansers for acne prone skin since salicylic acid unclogs pores, helping to prevent breakouts, reduces inflammation, and keeping your skin smooth.  One way to use a salicylic acid cleanser is to have it on hand to use a few times a week instead of every day.  Or if your skin can handle it try using the salicylic acid cleanser in the evening and a gentle cleanser in the morning.  Additionally, another way to try salicylic acid is with a lotion like Paula’s Choice Exfoliating 1% BHA Lotion.  Depending on how your skin reacts you could use the lotion a few times a week.

As for benzoyl peroxide there a few ways to use it.  First off try using the lowest possible dosage you can find like Neutrogena’s On the Spot Lotion which is 2.5% benzoyl peroxide.  If even that is too irritating try building up your use of benzoyl peroxide by applying your benzoyl peroxide product of choice for 15 minutes in the evening after cleansing.  Then wipe off the product.  Do this for a few nights, and then build up to using benzoyl peroxide for two hours before wiping it off for three nights.  If you find you can tolerate the benzoyl peroxide after the third night then try using it overnight.

Make sure you have a soothing moisturizer on hand in order to help calm any irritation.  Since you are acne prone don’t go for a super heavy product instead look for products that are labeled “oil free”, “won’t clog pores”, and “non-comedegenic”.  Hyaluronic acid moisturizers are a good choice people with oily skin since they tend to be light.

If salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are too irritating for your sensitive skin look for ingredients like tea tree oil and sulfur to treat your breakouts with hopefully less irritation.  Ingredients to look for that sooth and reduce inflammation include aloe vera, chamomile, cucumber, green tea, feverfew, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, and zinc.  Look for these ingredients in cleansers and moisturizers.  Since you always need to use sunscreen your sensitive skin may benefit from a mineral sunscreen, a sunscreen whose main ingredients are titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, as opposed to a chemical sunscreen.

If your acne is persistent and your skin can tolerate it consider using an OTC retinol.  OTC retinol causes less irritation than prescription Retin-As.  There are also gentle prescription Retin-A formulations like Refissa that some people with sensitive skin may be able to tolerate without much irritation or with minimal irritation when you first use them.

Lastly, avoid using steam on your face or a hot washcloth.  Even put ice on your face is not a good idea since rapid temperature changes will just cause you more inflammation which is something people prone to blemishes never want.

There are products out there meant for sensitive skin, aging skin with acne, and sensitive skin with acne.  They are worth considering trying.  If you can get your hands on samples before purchasing an entire product that is the way to go.

Most of all – don’t give up!  It might take some time to find the right balance of products and ingredients to treat your sensitive, acne prone skin, but you will succeed in the end.

Sources and Further Reading:


Dos and Don’ts for Acne Sufferers September 8, 2011

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 5:41 am
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One of my favorite sections of Glamour magazine is the “Dos and Dont’s” section where the magazine editors show you the right and wrong ways to wear trendy fashions as illustrated by real women.  (Glamour even wrote a whole book about dos and don’ts)  I’ve used this idea of dos and don’ts in my blog before (I wrote a post called Dos and Don’ts of Winter Skincare), but since I love the format so much I decided to use it again in another context.

Caring for your skin when you have acne can be very perplexing.  First off, there are so many different anti-acne products for sale (at stores, online, and through infomercials) that it can be extremely puzzling to understand what to buy and how to use it.  Secondly, everywhere you turn someone seems to be giving advice about how to prevent and heal acne, and a lot of that advice can be contradictory.  All of the advice can add up to even more confusion.  And lastly, figuring out what combination of anti-acne products work best for you in order to cure your acne can be a long and arduous task.  Now having said all that there are some very basic things that all acne sufferers should do or not do in order to keep their acne under control.  So lets jump in!

Do wear sunscreen!  Everyone needs wear sunscreen daily.  There are plenty of sunscreens that won’t clog your pores or feel heavy and greasy on your face.  Two of my favorites are:  GloTherapeutics Oil Free Spf 40+ and La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid.

Do wear makeup if you want!  Look for makeup that is labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedegenic” which means it won’t clog pores.  Mineral makeup can be particularly good for acne prone skin.

Do use moisturizer!  It simply isn’t true that if your skin is acne prone you can’t use moisturizer.  When you use strong anti-acne products your skin dries out and cries out for moisture.  As with makeup be sure to look for “oil free” moisturizers or products that say they are meant for oily skin.  Some of my favorite moisturizers for normal to oily skin are:  GloTherapeutics Oil Free Moisturizer, PCA Skin Clearskin moisturizer, and Skinceuticals Daily Moisture.

Do seek professional help!  There is no need to battle your breakouts alone particularly if you have tried different home care products and you are still plagued by acne.  Visit a dermatologist for a consultation and go for a facial in order to get advice from a qualified esthetician.  Seeking professional help will make sure that your breakouts go away and stay away.  A doctor or esthetician can also perform facial peels which will help your acne heal.  Peels are wonderful for acne prone skin (for all skin types actually).

Do wash your pillowcase weekly and clean your phones with anti-bacterial wipes regularly!  Acne causing bacteria can linger on your phone (which you press up to your face daily) and pillowcase and just cause more breakouts in the end.  Be sure to keep both of these clean on a weekly basis in order to prevent new breakouts.

Do figure out your acne triggers!  Each of our skin reacts differently to a large number of acne causing factors.  Figuring out if stress or diet is causing your acne is something that only you can determine.  Look at Chapter 3: Targeting Your Acne Triggers from the book Healing Adult Acne by Richard G. Fried, MD, PhD for help in determining your specific acne triggers.

Do educate yourself!  Two of the best resources out there on acne are online and free.  Check out: and AcneNet

Don’t follow someone else’s anti-acne regime!  Each of us is unique and so is our skin.  Don’t be swayed by celebrity endorsements, TV informercials, magazine ads, and TV ads in order to try a new anti-acne product.

Don’t give up!  I’ve suffered from acne for over 20 years.  I know just how frustrating and depressing it can be look in the mirror when you have acne.  The good news is that there are so many great products and resources out there for people with acne.  Keep your spirits up – you will find a solution for your acne!

Further reading:  Coping with Acne:  Your Care Plan WebMD


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.


What is Sebum? It’s More Interesting Than You Think April 21, 2011

If you suffer from oily skin, shiny skin, or acne you’ve probably given the amount of oil or sebum your body produces some thought.  Probably that thought is: “Why does my body produce so much oil and how can I stop it?”.  Well before you try to entirely rid your skin of oil keep a few things in mind. 

According to the Skin Type Solutions  blog:

In simplest terms, sebum is just oil secreted by your skin’s sebaceous glands. Sebum is actually Latin for “fat,” which makes sense, and every square inch of your skin—with the exception of the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet—has it.

Most of us tend to focus on the negative side of sebum, such as its ability to make your face look shiny, and its connection with acne. But the presence of sebum is actually good for your skin since it protects the skin from losing moisture. Yet another good thing about sebum is that it contains a lot of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects the skin from aging as well as cancer. (The skin on the lips does not make sebum, which is why this area is more prone to skin cancer.)

Dermatologists are intrigued by the components of sebum, which seems to be determined by your individual genetic makeup. Upon taking a closer look, researchers have found sebum contains triglycerides, diglycerides, fatty acids, wax esters, squalane and cholesterol—why is why cosmetic chemists incorporate some of these ingredients in anti-aging creams. It was once believed that squalane levels in the sebum contributed to acne, but again, no definitive link has been made. Squalane is often added to skin creams so those with oily and acne-prone skins should avoid this ingredient to be on the safe side.


If you have acne then you have to deal with the excessive production of sebum by your body which contributes to breakouts.   According to the book Breaking Out (page 20):

People who are prone to acne tend to produce higher-than-average amounts of sebum.  This gives them oily skin – seborrhea, as it is called.  Seborrhea has no direct link with what you eat; the fats and oil in your diet are broken down by the digestive system, and there is no pathway from there to the skin.

Nor is sebum production influenced by anything you apply to your skin.  No matter how dry or tight they may make your face feel, astringent soaps, lotions, or cosmetics that mop up oil on the skin’s surface cannot retard sebum output.  Nor, contrary to popular belief, do they stimulate the sebaceous glands to overcompensate by stepping up oil production to lubricate the dried-out surface.  Sebum output is strictly under the domination of hormones that are indifferent to cleansers, toners, and other topical oil-control treatments.

The connection between hormones and sebum does not necessarily mean that if you have excess oil on your face, your body is producing an overabundance of testosterone, or that your skin boasts an excess follicle-stimulating DHT.  It is instead, typically, a sign that your sebaceous follicles are super-sensitive to these hormones and that they overreact to them, sending out the gush of shine-creating oil that is the most common feature of acne-prone skin.


So perhaps the next time you look at your oily face try to turn a negative into a positive and remember that the sebum in your skin can be beneficial.  But if your shiny face is bothering you, and I sympathize greatly since my face can look like an oil slick by the afternoon, follow my tips in my post Shine Free: How to Deal with Excessively Oily or Shiny Skin  for solutions.


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