Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

How to be a Savvy Skincare Product Consumer January 23, 2010

How can you be a savvy skincare product consumer?  I think the answer is actually pretty straightforward – don’t believe the hype and know your ingredients.  Of course following through with those two rules is easier said than done.

It is hard not to get caught up in the hype over skincare products.  We all want to look our best, and when we see an ad for the newest cream, lotion, or serum, accompanied by a beautiful photo, rational thinking quickly disappear.  If you have some sort of chronic skin issue like acne, redness, or fine wrinkles you can be especially vulnerable to the lures of cosmetic advertising.   It is important to remember that cosmetic advertisements purposely use promising but vague language and plenty of pseudo-scientific jargon to lure in customers, and it is actually legal for them to do so. 

Yes, it is actually perfectly legal for cosmetic companies to advertise their products using the above mentioned vague and pseudo-scientific language since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require cosmetic companies to prove their claims.  The only restriction the FDA places on cosmetic companies is that they cannot claim that their products can bring about a permanent change to the skin, but even this prohibition is easy to get around if you are creative.  Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulate advertising, but, once again, if you use vague enough language you can pretty much say anything you like about your product.  As such cosmetic ad are filled with phrases like “appears to”, “looks like”, and “may experience”.  Additionally, the results of “studies” that you see listed in advertisements?  As bogus as they come.  Don’t believe a word!

Ok – so you can’t believe a word of what is written in an advertisement for the newest cosmetic product and the photo in the ad is so photoshopped it barely looks like a person anymore – what are you supposed to do now?  The simple answer to that is – learn how to read labels.  You have to learn about ingredients and know the chemical names of ingredients.  It is also very important to note that ingredients are listed on skincare products in descending order – from the largest quantity to the smallest.  That means if you want to buy a serum with a high concentration of Vitamin C in order to fight free radical damage and to perhaps increase collagen production in your skin don’t buy the product where Vitamin C is found at the end of the list of ingredients.  In order to know that you have an effective amount of an ingredient in a product remember that the ingredients that make up the majority of the product will be between the first 5 to 8 ingredients listed on the label. 

Not believing the hype and learning about ingredients will help you be on your way to being a more educated consumer.  Yet there are so many products out there and even when you are armed with a good amount of information and the right attitude you can still be overwhelmed and confused.  I believe one way to remedy that situation is to always read about new research, ingredients, and products.  I know that not everyone is interested in this subject as much as I am so luckily there are lots of different resources out there, depending on your level of interest.

Recommended Reading

Sometime soon I will devote a whole post to Paula Begoun because I have so much to say about her and her work but in the meantime I will recommend a chapter of her book The Original Beauty Bible “Understanding the Hype” where she goes into much greater detail than I have about cosmetic company advertising, beauty myths, and the psychology of cosmetic consumerism.  Begoun also has a short article on her website addressing this subject.  Paula Begoun calls herself “the cosmetic cop” and though she is neither an esthetician or a doctor or a chemist she has set herself up as a consumer advocate and skincare expert.  I certainly don’t agree with all of Begoun’s skincare tips or even all her product evaluations, but her work is important because she is basically one of the only cosmetic consumer advocates out there.  Begoun is also important because she has been able to reach a large audience and many, many people take her advice as truth.  I actually follow her research and even use some of her Paula’s Choice products.  On her website you can access an ingredient dictionary and sign-up for her weekly e-newsletters that cover a wealth of skincare issues.  But please don’t take her word as the final word on skincare issues!  Though Begoun’s opinions are generally well researched they are still her opinions.  Keep educating yourself.

In an earlier blog post from January 14th I listed a number of websites and magazines that normally offer sound and interesting skincare advice and information.  Reading any of those will certainly increase your knowledge about skincare products and ingredients.

Other Ways to Find Good Skincare Products

 Get a facial and have the esthetician recommend products.  Go for a consultation with a dermatologist and ask for advice.  If you have a friend who has beautiful skin you could ask them what products they use.  Of course there is a risk in doing that since your friend’s skin might be nothing like yours.  If you are thinking of buying a specific product look at the reviews for that product on,, or  Seeing what other consumers have to say about a product can really help you make up your mind about whether to buy something or not.  Certain companies do sell sample sizes of their products.  That is always a great way to try a product without making a great financial committment. 

Bottom Line:

Before purchasing the newest cream, lotion, or serum take a little time to do some research.  Both your skin and bank account will thank you.


How To Be A Skincare Recessionista January 18, 2010

I love a bargain.  Long before almost everyone in this country tried to find ways to save a few bucks on everything I was shopping sales and clearances – in stores and online.  The sight of a sign that reads “half off”, “clearance”, or “sale” immediately attracts my attention.  I clip coupons, and I look for deals.

Anyone who wants to take good care of their skin has faced the dilemma more than once of seeing a product they have wanted to try but then not bought because of the price.  Truthfully, I can’t say that I cut corners when it comes to the products I use on my skin, but I have found both a number of products and a few ways to save on skincare while still being able to try new products and watch my bank account balance.

Low Cost Skincare Products that Work

  • Save money on your cleanser.  Try Cetaphil cleanser.  If you have children at home use this on them too.  There is no need to buy a separate cleanser marketed for children – Cetaphil will do a great job.
  • I use Trader Joe’s Moisturizing Cream – Extra Dry Formula on my body (not my face) after showering.  It is a wonderful, unscented moisturizer that costs about $5 for 16 fluid ounces.  Highly recommended!
  • You already know that you have to use sunscreen each and everyday, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money to find a good one.  Try Neutrogena Ultra Sheer or Neutrogena Age Shield.
  • Make your own body scrub so that you can exfoliate your legs, arms, and stomach.  Take household sugar and mix with olive oil.  Add fragrance if you want.  It’s that easy.  You can also use coffee grinds as a body scrub.  I know it might sound a bit weird, but it works.  One warning – the coffee grinds scrub can be messy in the shower.
  • Try using Aquaphor Healing Ointment as your lip balm.  It is very moisturizing, and since you can buy it in a small tube it is easily portable.
  • e.l.f. Cosmetics are incredibly cheap; most cost just a $1!  The brand has a very wide range of products and color options.  You can order online through their website, and Target now sells a few e.l.f. products as well.  I bought the e.l.f. beauty encyclopedia eye at Target for $5.  It includes 14 eyeshadows.  If you love to experiment with your make-up but don’t want to break the bank to do it you should definitely check out this make-up.  By the way, sign-up for their email updates and coupons.  I get at least one email coupon a day from them.
  • I don’t use skincare or make-up products that have been tested on animals.  That also means that I only use make-up brushes with synthetic bristles.  I found Eco Tools brushes, which are cheap and widely available, to be great.

Deals, Deals, Deals – In stores and Online

Most stores and websites offer free membership programs that are a shame to pass up.  Once you sign up you’ll get coupons both online and in the mail, free products or samples, and discount offers.  Here is a sampling of some of the deals that are out there.

  • and Sephora stores.  It is free to sign-up to be part of their “beauty insider” program.  Once you accumulate 100 points you get free products.  Even if you don’t spend a dime but are just a member of the program you will get a birthday gift.  Last year I received three mini lip glosses that I love.  Sephora constantly has sales and deals that are definitely worth checking out.  Sephora also has their own line of make-up that is lower priced than the premium brands sold in the stores and online.  I use the Sephora brand waterproof eyeliner and really like it.  Sephora always has special kits and packages of premium cosmetics that could save you money.
  • and Ulta stores.  Ulta has the same sort of deal as Sephora – their own Ulta card that is free to sign-up for, their own line of in-house, lower priced make-up, and special deals and kits of premium cosmetics.  I get a coupon in the mail at least once a month from Ulta.  I also find lots of interesting products on clearance in Ulta stores.  Last week I almost bought a Smashbox make-up kit with about four products for all of $6.50 until I talked myself out of it.  And remember to save your receipt.  If you take a brief online survey after making a purchase at Ulta you are entered into a drawing to win a $500 gift card.
  • And speaking of Smashbox their website offers deals that are not found in stores.  For instance their “let’s do lunch” special where on Tuesday and Thursday between 9 am and 2 pm you’ll get a free gift with purchase.
  • I’ve already mentioned New Beauty magazine in this blog but be sure to sign-up for their daily product giveaways online.
  • Both Allure and Lucky magazines are constantly giving away free products.  It is always worth it to see what they are giving away.  You never know – you may be the winner!
  • I’ve signed up for email updates and newsletters and now receive all sorts of discount offers via email.  I’ve tried a few new products because of these deals.  For instance, I received an email from saying that if you bought any Perricone MD product you would receive a free full size of that brand’s firming neck cream.  I had always wanted to try a Perricone MD product, but I never could afford it.  So I bought the cheapest Perricone MD product at, an eye serum for $20, and received a full size neck firming cream as well for free.  Unfortunately, I can’t say that I thought either product was anything special, but hey I satisfied my curiosity.  Recently I also bought some Peter Thomas Roth products at 75% off through once I received an email notification about the sale.
  • Sign-up for in your city.  You’ll get daily emails about deals in your area.  The Chicago groupon always seems to have deals on spas and salons.  Plus if you recommend that friends check out you’ll get a $10 credit the first time one of your friends buys a coupon.  I have a $40 groupon credit currently because of that deal.
  • If you like the make-up brands DuWop, Too Faced, and Stila check out the website which sells those brands and a few others at discounted prices.  The cosmetics are the real thing; they are just discontinued products or overstocks.

One last word – if you are on Facebook become a fan of any the above mentioned sites in order to see deals.

And have fun shopping!  There are always deals out there!


Recommended Reading: Great Sources for Skincare Information January 14, 2010

I like to keep up with latest news and innovations as it pertains to skincare.  Luckily there are plenty of readily available resources for doing so.


New Beauty bills itself as “the world’s most unique beauty magazine”, and it certainly lives up to its name.  This glossy, photo filled magazine, which you can easily find at Barnes and Noble, does not have articles in the traditional sense.  Instead it divides topics into categories and provides basic, important, and interesting information about each topic supplemented with lots of product recommendations.  At first you might think that this non-traditional way of presenting information wouldn’t teach you anything, but at second glance you realize that you received a great introduction to all the topics presented.  I like that some of the products presented have both a review by a “normal” person and by an “expert” – doctor, esthetician, etc.  Though subjects vary in each issue there is always information about skincare, cosmetic surgery, cosmetic dentistry, hair, cosmetics, and fitness/diet.  I always learn something new when reading New Beauty.  One thing does bother me about New Beauty, lots of different products are presented in the magazine with a text that reads like the marketing or PR release about the product.  So though New Beauty can be a great source for learning about what new products are out there I would do a little more research on the products that are presented without a review before buying them.  Bottom Line:  A fun read that teaches you a lot along the way.

Allure  I’ve been a fan of Allure for a very long time.  If you love make-up this is definitely the magazine for you.  But if you are more interested in skincare than make-up Allure has plenty to offer.  I like the fact that they generally consult dermatologists when reviewing new skincare products and that their articles about skincare, and they always have multiple articles about skincare in an issue, are well researched and clearly presented.  For instance just in the January issue there were articles about how to care for chapped lips, dry hands, and sensitive skin.  In addition there is always a section in the magazine about skincare research and new ingredients.  Bottom Line: If you are interested in skincare and like or love make-up Allure is the perfect magazine for you.

Skin Inc. is a must read for skincare professionals.  It may be of interest to the non-professional since there are always articles about skincare ingredients and spa treatments.  Bottom Line:  Be sure to read this if you are part of esthetics industry or thinking of becoming an esthetician.  If you don’t fit into either of those categories look at the website before subscribing.  Note – this publication is not available in stores.


New York Times – Thursday Fashion and Style Section – Skin Deep articles.  The topic of the articles in this weekly section vary tremendously but always somehow relate to the beauty/skincare industry.  For example this week the article is about Mark, the less expensive Avon make-up brand.  Last week there were three short articles about products and books.   Bottom Line:  Always worth a read.  Though topics vary they are always interesting.

The Skin Guru on Yahoo! by Dr. Leslie Baumann.  Written by a very well-known dermatologist this blog is always interesting and informative.  Dr. Baumann is always on target with the latest skincare concerns and innovations.  I just have one problem with Dr. Baumann – she doesn’t like estheticians and makes her opinion very well-known.  That upsets me since I truly believe that the work estheticians do only complements and helps the work of dermatologists.  Of course I also believe that estheticians have an important role in educating and helping the public when it comes to proper skincare, especially sun protection.  Since Dr. Baumann is so well-known I wish she would temper her negative message about estheticians.  Nevertheless I enjoy her blog a great deal.  Bottom Line:  If you are interested in skincare this is a must read.  is written by a medical student.  The posts are interesting and topical.  Bottom Line:  Well worth a read if you are interested in skincare.

This is just a sample of sources for great skincare information.  In another post a will recommend some of my favorite websites.

Please feel free to recommend some of your favorite skincare resources.


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