Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Why Is Hyperpigmentation So Hard To Get Rid Of? June 23, 2016

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One of the more difficult skincare problems to solve is hyperpigmentation or dark spots on your skin.  This is also a very prevalent skincare issue that affects people of all skin tones.   Just where do these frustrating spots come from and how can you get rid of them for good? In this post I want to give you some insight into what causes hyperpigmentation in the first place and how to combat it effectively.

How Does Hyperpigmentation Form?

There are a few different types of hyperpigmentation or dark (brown) spots that can form on the skin.  You can get hyperpigmentation from the sun, from hormones, or as a result of an injury to the skin.  This last type of hyperpigmentation includes the marks that show up on the skin after a pimple heals.  (Please keep in mind that while many people call the red or brown marks that are left on the skin after a breakout heals “acne scars” they are definitely not scars but rather hyperpigmentation)   Certain ethnicities are more prone to hyperpigmentation than others.  Interestingly enough the treatment for hyperpigmentation is the same no matter its source.

I’ve been having an internal debate how technical I should be in explaining how hyperpigmentation forms because it is easy to get very lost among the scientific terms and processes that occur in the skin.  I also feel that such an explanation can be a bit overwhelming for non-science people (I include myself in that category).

I decided to take a middle of the road approach in my explanation.  Here it goes.  Your epidermis (the top layer of your skin) contains melanocytes which produce melanin. Melanin determines your skin color and tone. Everyone has the same number of melanocyctes in their skin; your skin color is determined by the amount of melanin activated in the skin.  Melanin is also the pigment that protects your skin from UV rays.  So when your skin experiences excessive sun exposure or prolonged sun exposure year after year, day after day more melanin is produced in order to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.  A tan is actually a sign of your skin’s “self defense” mechanism kicking into gear.  Sorry to say but with every tan you get you’ve done damage to your skin. Dark spots from the sun can show up in a cluster on one area of your face, perhaps on the side of your face that is exposed to a window in your office or while driving, and can take years to appear after the initial damage has been done to your skin.  Many times as an esthetician I find it hard to convince people to use sunscreen on a daily basis simply because the damage daily sun exposure is doing to their skin is not evident at first.  It can be hard to for people to realize that they need sunscreen everyday when the damage they will see from the sun will only show up 10, 20 years later.  So please remember to apply sunscreen daily in order to prevent hyperpigmentation in the future.

Melasma is the hormonal hyperpigmentation.  Many women develop this type of hyperpigmentation during and after a pregnancy or from using birth control pills.  The hormonal changes that are going on in your body due to pregnancy or the use of birth control pills cause this type of hyperpigmentation to form though exactly what doctors are still not entirely sure.  Sun exposure can make melasma worse. Some lucky women may find that their dark spots fade a bit after giving birth, but for many women this type of hyperpigmentation is an unhappy side effect from a happy life event.

Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the red, brown, or even yellow marks that are left on the skin after an injury to the skin or after a breakout has healed. Once again as a defense mechanism, in this case a defense against skin inflammation, the body produces extra melanin.  If there is one positive from this type of hyperpigmentation it is usually the easiest kind to get rid of.

Treatment

First of all it is important to keep something in mind when treating hyperpigmentation – there are no quick fixes for this skin care problem.  You need time, patience, and the daily use of skin care products in order to get rid of hyperpigmentation.  If you have had a dark spot on your face for 6 years you cannot expect it to disappear in just a month.  When I say patience I really mean it.  You need to religiously use the right skin care products at home in order to eventually see results months down the road.  Once hyperpigmentation occurs, with the exception of red marks (and some types of brown marks) left on the skin after breakouts heal, your dark spots have no real desire to go anywhere.  If anyone promises you a miracle cure for hyperpigmentation run in the opposite direction.  Also please don’t put lemon juice all over your face and go out in the sun expecting to fade dark spots.  No matter how many times this skincare hack appears in your Pinterest feed you need to ignore it.  You’ll just end up making your skin more sensitive or even causing burns instead of helping your skin if you follow this “tip”.

One of the reasons hyperpigmentation is so hard to get rid of is because you actually have to treat your skin in two different ways at the same time in order to lighten dark spots.  Though the skincare industry is constantly changing and innovating at the moment the accepted way to treat hyperpigmentation is to shutdown or suppress the production of new melanin, prevent the transfer of new melanin to the melanocyctes, and remove the existing dark spots.  This requires a combination of products to achieve; there is currently no one product on the market that can do all three of these things.  Usually hyperpigmentation is treated with one product that supresses melanin production and another product that brings excess melanin to the surface of the skin and then helps it flake off.

In the United States one of the more prevalent skincare ingredients used to treat hyperpigmentation effectively is hydroquinone.  Hydroquinone is controversial for a few different reasons and has been replaced by a host of other ingredients to brighten dark spots because of the controversy surrounding it.  In order to better understand the controversy about hydroquinone I suggest reading Dr. Leslie Baumann’s article that I have listed below in “sources and further reading”.  There is a lot of misinformation circulating about hydroquinone so be sure to educate yourself on this topic before buying into the anti-hydroquinone hype.

Other skincare ingredients that can help treat hyperpigmentation are:  Vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice, arbutin, and azelaic acid.   A product with one or more of these ingredients is best paired with a retinol (or prescription Retin-A) for best results.  You can also use a product that brightens dark spots in conjunction with an AHA exfoliator though keep in mind a strong exfoliator can actually make hyperpigmentation worse or even cause hyperpigmentation for people with sensitive.  When in doubt see a professional in order to create the perfect skincare regime for your skin.  And above all, apply a generous amount of sunscreen each and everyday!  Use at least SPF 30 and make sure your sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays.  Don’t think that your make-up with SPF is giving you enough sun protection because you’ll never apply enough make-up in order to reach the amount of SPF listed on the product.  So be sure to always apply a sunscreen first and then your moisturizer and make-up.

Other Treatment Options

If you have the money for more expensive in-office treatments getting laser treatments from a dermatologist should produce faster results than using just home care products to treat your hyperpigmentation.  Of course you’ll get the best results from a laser treatment if you take proper care of your skin both before and after the treatment.  Follow the advice the doctor or their esthetician gives you; if they don’t give you any before and after advice go to another office.

You can also see an esthetician or dermatologist for a series of chemical peels that coupled with the correct home care regime can help get rid of hyperpigmentation once again faster than if you were just using products at home.  Just as you need a good home care skincare regime before and after a laser treatment in order to get the best results you need to do the same with a chemical peel.

Sources and Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

 

 

Winter Skincare Round-Up December 14, 2014

 

Winter can bring about a lot of unpleasant skin changes – dry and itchy skin, red and irritated skin, cracked hands, chapped lips.  Fun, right?  As always I want to help my readers best care for their skin under any weather conditions, but instead of writing a new post about winter skin care I’m going to share my older posts on the topic.  Looking back at my previous posts I realized I had covered so many issues related to winter skincare that, at the moment, there wasn’t something new to add.

Happy reading and wishing you beautiful and healthy skin during the winter!

 

Photo from wallalay.com

 

How to Read a Skincare Ingredient Label And Is That Information Enough In Order To Judge A Skincare Product? June 12, 2014

 

 

Understanding the ingredients listed in the ingredient list of a skincare product and figuring out if those ingredients are actually effective for your skin is an important skill for skincare consumers to have. But interpreting a skincare ingredient label is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  You need to not only have some basic skincare product formulation knowledge but also be able to recognize different ingredients and their function in skincare products in order to understand what you are reading and if the product will be right for your skin and will do what it claims to do.  I’ve addressed this topic in the past here in my blog, but lately I’ve come across a few interesting articles on the subject and thought it was time to revisit this issue much more in-depth than I did before.

The Basics and Some Examples

So let’s start with some basics about skincare labels that everyone should know.  In his Skin Inc. article Ingredient Labels Explained Robert Manzo writes:

There are basic rules that product manufacturers must comply with in order to list ingredients on their products.

  • Standardized names. Ingredient names must comply with the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) format. The ingredient names are standardized in this format so that all products can be compared to each other easily and for safety reasons.
  • Descending order. Ingredients must be listed in descending order of concentration to 1%. Ingredients below 1% can be listed in any order

How does this come together for the consumer?  Lab Muffin recently published yet another excellent post called How to Read an Ingredients List: Face Moisturisers in which she takes actual moisturizer labels and explains the ingredients for her readers.  For instance:

When looking at most product ingredients lists, the ingredients will be in order from the highest concentration to the lowest. Typically, when deciding if a moisturiser will suit your skin type, you don’t need to look past the first 6 ingredients or so, since they make up the majority of the product, and will be responsible for the moisturising action. It’s a different story when you’re looking at more potent ingredients that target specific concerns (e.g. anti-aging, exfoliants, antibacterials, lightening), but those tend to be useful regardless of skin type.

With this in mind, I’ll be classifying the top 6 ingredients in each of these facial moisturisers, as well as commenting on some of the notable ingredients further down in the list. If there’s no comment next to the ingredient, I’ve probably explained it in a product further up.

To recap, the main categories of moisturiser are:

Occlusives – block water from evaporating from the skin, especially good for dry and dehydrated skin
Emollients – smooth skin and help repair
Humectants – draw moisture to the skin, effective even at lower percentages.

Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Soothing Moisturising Cream

Aqua (water) – The base for most face creams, and the definition of moisture.
Cetearyl alcohol (emollient) – A blend of cetyl and stearyl alcohols, two fatty alcohols that are nothing like drinking alcohol (that is, ethyl alcohol), but are great for smoothing skin down as well as making sure the oily and watery parts of the moisturiser don’t separate (it’s an emulsifier). It can be derived from coconut oil.
Rosa canina fruit oil (emollient) – This is the technical name for rose hip oil from a specific species of rose. It mainly contains oleic and linoleic acids, which are excellent for repairing skin, as well as antioxidants.
Safflower seed oil (emollient/occlusive) – This also contains many linoleic acids and antioxidants.
Caprylic/capric triglyceride (emollient/occlusive) – This also comes from coconut oil, and smooths skin as well as blocks evaporation.
Jojoba seed oil (emollient) – This stuff is a lot like natural sebum.

Glycerin and honey are a little further down in the list, and there’s aloe vera extract as well – these humectants together would probably add noticeable humectant action to the mix (glycerin is typically used in moisturisers at 2-7%, otherwise it feels sticky).

Overall: Lots of emollients, a small amount of occlusives and some humectants. It’s suitable for all skin due to all the skin-repairing emollients, but drier skins might need some more occlusives on top.

Or for example how to interpret a serum label:

Generally, serums are used to deliver active ingredients to skin in higher concentrations in order to generate a specific skin response. Typical serums address skin-specific issues, such as hyperpigmentation, lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, texture, tone, pore size, acne, redness and irritation.

Understanding ingredient listings in serums is often difficult. Active ingredient names can take the form of Latin names for botanically sourced compounds, and more generic INCI names may be used, such as yeast extract, which can mean a multitude of biologically active ingredients. Quite long chemical names are often found.

Understanding the dose of active ingredients is also difficult by trying to interpret ingredient listings. If a particularly active ingredient is very biologically active, it may be dosed in the formula in part-per-million levels and be very low in the ingredient listing, but still be quite effective. Examples of these are epigenetic factors, epidermal growth factors and vascular growth factors.

Serum realities

1. There are more than 16,000 listings in the INCI dictionary. No one can know all the cosmetic ingredients at any given time. If you are unsure what dose and what active ingredient is in particular serum, request that the manufacturer supply that detailed information.

2. Watch out for serum claims and their target biology. For example, if you have a serum that claims it can improve collagen and elastin by stimulating skin, the ingredient would need to penetrate to the dermal tissue. If you need to lighten skin, ingredients must penetrate no more than to the epidermal-dermal junction, where color-producing cells exist. If you want to exfoliate, the serum should not penetrate far below the stratum corneum.

(From Ingredient Labels Explained)

 Putting It Together

Now that you have some basic knowledge about how skincare labels work is this really enough information in order to know if a product is right for your skin or not?  Sorry to complicate things for you, but even the most savvy consumer can get tripped up by a skincare ingredient label.  Renee Rouleau gives a great example in her blog post Can You Judge a Skin Care Product by an Ingredient Label?:

With so much awareness on skin care ingredients (the good, the bad and the ugly), consumers now more than ever are getting educated on what’s used in formulas, so they can make the best choices for their skin when it comes to choosing products to apply to their face. But by looking at an ingredient list on the back of a bottle or jar, can you really determine if it will deliver good results or not on your skin?

The answer is no. You might look at the ingredient list and form assumptions about the ingredients you may have read about or heard of. For example, if you’re prone to breakouts you might see shea butter or sunflower oil listed, and assume it will be greasy and pore clogging. These assumptions can be invalid, because the results a product delivers are based on the percentages of the ingredient used in a product—and this, you’ll never know from looking at the list on the back of a bottle.

Here’s another example of a time when one of my products, Daily Protection SPF 30, was reviewed by a fairly well-known ingredient expert who has written many books on helping you choose the best products when you go to the cosmetics counter. She had requested the ingredient list of my sunscreen to review, yet didn’t request the actual product. When the review was published, she gave it a really good review however, she said based on the moisturizing agents used in the formula, it was best suited for dry and very dry skin types. Really? Our Daily Protection SPF 30 is recommended for oily, acne-prone skin, because it is so light, and dries to a matte finish on the skin. As a matter of fact, when we get a customer return for this product, it’s usually a dry skin client saying it was too drying on their skin. Our oily skin clients absolutely love it because it disappears completely and leaves no residue. This is definitely not a sunscreen moisturizer for dry and very dry skin types, yet an ingredient label reviewed by an ingredient expert couldn’t tell this. (No disrespect to the expert, this is simply my experience.)

(Obviously Rouleau is writing about Paula Begoun here)

So Where Does That Leave You?

It is important to learn about ingredients and how skincare products are formulated in order to be an educated skincare consumer.  The more you know the better choices you can make for your skin, and you can save yourself time and money from buying the wrong products.  Part of that education is learning to read a skincare label instead of just blindly believing the manufacturers’ hype and marketing campaign.  But don’t let the skincare label be your be all or end all in order to know if a skincare product is right for you.  Try products first before rebuffing them.  Ask for samples and find online reviews from people who have actually tried the product before rejecting a product based just on reading the ingredient list or taking advice from someone who reviews products only according to their ingredient list.  Two websites that I like for product reviews combine both information about the products’ ingredients and actually try the products themselves before writing a review.  Those websites are FutureDerm and Lab Muffin.

One last thing – ever wondered what all those symbols (letters, numbers, and pictures) are on your beauty product container?  Into the Gloss has a guide that explains them all.

Image from http://www.rainshadowlabs.com

 

All the Rage: Konjac Sponges February 26, 2014

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Chances are you’ve probably already heard of or even tried a konjac sponge.  I’m a little late to the game in explaining and reviewing these cleansing sponges.  But better late than never, correct?

What Is A Konjac Sponge and How Do You Use It?

Dr. Jessica Wu explains what a konjac sponge is and how to use it:

What is a konjac sponge? A konjac sponge is made of plant starch that’s extracted from a type of potato plant. The sponge absorb a lot of water, so it has a unique texture, kind of like a thick piece of squishy felt. It’s more nubby than a dish sponge, but softer than a loofah and has a finer texture than a washcloth so it’s safe to use on your face. Because of its bouncy, rubbery texture, it makes a rich lather and requires less cleanser that you would normally need. It dries quickly, so it’s more hygienic than a washcloth. Plus they are affordable (I get mine for less than $2 each), so you can change them frequently without having to worry about ruining your washcloths with makeup.

How do konjac sponges help your skin? They dislodge dirt, oil, makeup, and impurities to deep clean your skin, so they’re helpful for those with acne and large pores. They can help slough off dead, dry skin flakes that are a sign of sun damage. They can also help remove stubborn, water resistant sunscreen.

How do you use a konjac sponge? First, soak your sponge in warm water for at least five minutes to soften the fibers and avoid injuring your skin. Splash your face with warm water and squeeze a few drops of cleanser onto the sponge. Massage in a circular motion, concentrating on trouble areas and avoiding areas with healing pimples, infections, or abrasions. Rinse face with warm water and pat dry. Thoroughly rinse the sponge with warm water, squeeze out excess, and let air dry.

Personal Experience

First off, what Dr. Wu writes above about the sponge only costing about $2 is completely correct.  Buy your konjac sponge on eBay; most sellers also offer free shipping.  I bought a regular konjac sponge via eBay though the next time I buy one I’ll be trying a charcoal one since charcoal has acne fighting properties.  I did not find that I had to soak my sponge in warm water for five minutes in order to soften it; it took me about a minute to soften the sponge in the shower.  It is definitely true that you need less cleanser when using a konjac sponge; a little bit of your cleanser will foam up brilliantly on the sponge.  For me the most interesting thing about the konjac sponge was how much the texture changed once it was wet.  Dry the sponge is rough and hard, but once you’ve soaked it the sponge becomes incredibly soft.  I liked using the sponge and the price can’t be beat, but I didn’t see a difference in the appearance of my skin when using the sponge.  I think for someone like me who has tough, acne prone skin konjac sponges are a lovely addition to my skincare routine but not a necessity.  I do think that a konjac sponge can be an excellent way for someone with sensitive skin to exfoliate their skin without any irritation.  Plus, these sponges are just fun (and cheap).  I will definitely be buying another one and recommending them to clients with sensitive skin or to clients who are exfoliation phobic (unfortunately I meet a lot of those) since by using a konjac sponge you can definitely gently exfoliate while you cleanse.

Sources and Further Reading:

Photo from Refinery29

 

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:

Image from http://www.tipsbucket.com

 

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:

Image from ohioinsurance.org

 

 
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