Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Spa Etiquette October 10, 2011

Filed under: Spa Services — askanesthetician @ 6:03 am
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Some time ago I wrote a post about how to get the most out of your facial which gave tips on what to do before, during, and after a facial in order to enjoy your experience.  Recently I came across an article in Allure called Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Spa * but were afraid to ask which answers lots of questions on what to expect and how to behave in a spa.

The article clearly states how important it is to speak up both before and during a spa treatment in order to get the best possible service.  It is totally within your rights as the recipient of a treatment to say something when you aren’t enjoying your treatment.  Do keep in mind that certain services – waxing and facial extractions chief among them – are never pleasurable.  One common thing I hear from people, especially people who rarely have facials, is that they had a facial and did not like the steam during the treatment but were too polite to say anything.  Though steam is great for opening up the pores allowing for easier extractions and it also helps to soften the skin, a facial can definitely be performed without steam.  So if you just don’t like the way steam feels on your face or if the steam is too strong be sure to let your esthetician know.  Spa professionals are not mind readers.  The more feedback you can give before and during a treatment is helpful to the person performing the treatment.  After all we want you to return for another treatment and to recommend us to your friends so the more enjoyable your experience is the more likely you are to do both of the above.

The article also discusses tipping.  Unless otherwise stated that tipping is against spa policy, believe me your spa technician is going to appreciate a tip.  Even if you have gotten a facial from an esthetician at a doctor’s office you still can and should tip.  How much you tip is, of course, up to you but it is a good idea to tip between 15% to 20% of the cost of your service.  A kind word, a thank you, or positive feedback is always appreciated as well.  If you were really happy with your service think about writing a review for the spa, mentioning by name the person who gave you the service, on Yelp! or another online review site.  Of course, if you were treated badly or had a poor experience, you can also write about that on one of the internet review sites.  Getting the word out about your esthetician or massage therapist is always appreciated.  Spas thrive on good word of mouth.  One last word about tips – technicians appreciate tips in cash so that they don’t have to wait to receive their money.

Arriving on time or calling if you are running late, being polite, and being relaxed are all hallmarks of a great spa guest.  When you come in for a treatment it is a great opportunity to forget your troubles.  If someone falls asleep during a treatment with me I actually take it as a compliment.  Remember that a spa treatment is a treat and enjoy it!


Make-Up for the Make-Up Phobic September 29, 2011

Filed under: beauty,make-up — askanesthetician @ 7:49 am
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I rarely, if ever, meet a woman who doesn’t need make-up.  But I do regularly meet women who either refuse to believe that they will look better with make-up or say that they do not have neither the time or inclination to apply make-up.  Make-up doesn’t need to be complicated to look good, and with so many make-up products out there even the most make-up phobic person can find some easy and quick products to use that will make them look great.

So if you are make-up phobic or a make-up hater consider how the following products are all easy to use and are all going to make you look much better, yet natural.  Just one note about natural looking make-up – these tips are not meant to help you achieve a “no make-up, make-up look”.  The “no make-up, make-up look” takes a lot of products and a real time committment to achieve.  These tips are meant for those people who currently leave the house with a bare face.

Everyone needs a good concealer:  Even if your skin generally looks smooth and even toned there is going to be a time when you’ll need to cover-up dark undereye circles, blemishes, redness, and hyperpigmentation.  For that reason I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a concealer at home in order to correct skin imperfections.  I refuse to leave the house without undereye concealer.  Sometimes you can use the same product under your eyes as you can on your face, other times you need separate products.

There is a foundation out there for everyone:  If you really feel like you don’t want to apply make-up in the morning consider this – a flawless looking complexion goes a long way in making you polished and put together.  You don’t even need foundation all over your face everyday.  You can place foundation (and blend well) in the spots where you feel you need it most.  No one truly has a flawless looking complexion – that is why foundation was invented.  Pressed powder foundation, applied quickly with a fluffy brush, is the perfect foundation for almost everyone in particular those people with acne or those with normal to oily skin.  Pressed mineral foundation powder goes on lightly and smoothly and gives you an airbrushed looked.  For those who skin is on the drier side try a tinted moisturizer which is a great 2 in 1 product – you get the moisture your skin needs while easily evening out your skin tone.  The result is very natural.

Make sure your Brows Look Great:  I cannot emphasize enough the power of a well-groomed brow enough.  Everyone has a different idea of how their brows should look – thin or thick, high arch or low arch – in the long run it matters less than making sure your brows look great.  This also means for many people filling in their brows with brow powder or brow pencil (or both).  Try it for a few days – you’ll notice that as soon as your brows look good you look more polished instantly.

Use Some Eye Make-Up:  Mastering eye make-up can be complicated.  I’ll admit that I am still working on mastering liquid eyeliner.  It’s my Achilles heel.  Great looking eye make-up doesn’t need to be complicated.  Consider just curling your eyelashes and applying some mascara.  Instantly you look better.  There is no need to apply three different shades of eye shadow everyday.  Find a shade of eyeshadow that is slightly lighter than your lid color.  Apply that eye shadow from your lash line all the way to your brows in order to brighten and highlight your eyes.  Or apply that shade from your lash line to just above your crease.  Use a little black or brown eyeliner on your top lash line.  The more you practice this quick eye make-up look the faster you’ll be able to apply it and get out the door.  To make your eye make-up last longer use a lid primer first or simply dab a very little bit of foundation on your lids to smooth and help the product last longer.

Apply a Little Blush:  For most people adding a little, subtle color to their cheeks makes them look healthy and vibrant.  No need to go crazy with the blush.  Simply smile at yourself in the mirror – start applying blush on the apples of your cheeks and sweep up toward your hairline.  Blend into your hairline.  The application of blush makes a positive difference in most people’s appearance especially for those people who are on the pale side.

When All Else Fails Apply Lipgloss:  Lip color is transformative and uplifting.  It is no surprise that as countries sink into economic or political crisis the sales of lipstick never suffer.  You can layer your lip products for longer lasting results – a lip balm to smooth, a lip pencil outline or all over your lips to help lip color adhere better and not feather, and then lipstick on top.  Or you can simply buy a tinted lip balm, preferably one with spf.  Another great thing about lip gloss is that you don’t need a mirror to reapply it.  Applying lip gloss is easy to do and gives you great results.

Consider Multipurpose Make-up:  Some make-up can do double duty – for instance products meant for both cheeks and lips like Nars The Multiple or GloMinerals Lip and Cheek Stains (to mention just two out of many available products).  Or get a primer (like this Smashbox one) that also corrects skin imperfections.

Once you are ready for more lessons and extra daily make-up steps be sure to check out Allure‘s online make-up video how-tos.

And check out Prevention’s tips for natural looking make-up.


Food in Beauty Products: How Fruits and Veggies Help Your Skin June 6, 2011

This post was inspired by two articles that I read in the February 2011 issue of Day Spa magazine (unfortunately I cannot find the articles online).  Not surprisingly since the issue of the magazine was for February both wine and chocolate were featured in the articles.

This got me thinking about how different fruits and vegetables help our skin when applied topically.  According to the Allure article Feed Your Face:

Hippocrates wrote that we should let food be our medicine. More than 2,000 years later, scientists now believe this wisdom extends to what we see in the mirror. Increasingly, women can treat fine lines, sunburn, dullness, and splotches with ingredients usually found on our plates. “Dietary substances known to be good for the complexion are sometimes better applied topically than ingested,” says David H. McDaniel, director for the Institute of Anti-Aging Research and an assistant professor of clinical dermatology and plastic surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “You can get higher concentrations in the skin this way.” Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as adding a little pureed pineapple to a scrub because it’s been shown to even skin tone, or pomegranate because it’s a potent antioxidant. “Effectiveness is not based in the ingredient alone—extracts must be specially formulated so that they get into the skin,” says Leslie Baumann, director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute.

 So let me highlight a few fruits and vegetables and explain their benefits:

  • Grape seed based products and treatments are anti-aging powerhouses because of the antioxidants and polyphenols in grapes.  According to the article in Day Spa magazine: “chemical compounds belonging to a group of substances found in plants, polyphenols include tannins, lignins, resveratol and flavonoids.  Rich in antioxidants, they’ve also been found to contain similar properties to some anticancer drugs.  When applied topically, they act as free radical scavengers, defending the skin, promoting tissue elasticity and ultimately achieving a more youthful appearance.”  Not only can you find numerous skincare products with grape or wine extracts amongst their ingredients many spas offer vinotherapy or spa treatments utilizing wine and/or grapes.  This spa niche was pioneered in Bordeaux, France (where else, of course?) at the Caudalie spa which opened in 1993.  Find grape seed in Eminence Organic Skin care products, and Murad products among many others.
  • Chocolate:  I have a confession to make – I love chocolate; I eat it every day actually.  So it makes perfect sense to me to buy a skincare product with chocolate in it or get a spa treatment that utilizes chocolate.  So what benefits does chocolate have for our skin?  According to the article in Day Spa magazine: “the antioxidant-rich seeds of the cacao tree work wonders on the senses, and tighten, firm, and hydrate the dermis.”  All antioxidants fight free radical damage, reduce skin inflammation, and are soothing for the skin.  If you can get all those benefits from chocolate what could be more wonderful?  Try it in Rhonda Allison chocolate antioxidant mask, and  Biotone cocoa comfort massage lotion among other products.
  • Oatmeal is a great ingredient for sensitive skin since it is anti-inflammatory, calms irritation, and even hydrates.  Aveeno is a mass market brand that has oatmeal in its products.
  • Cooking oil – According to the Allure articles:      “Dietary oils contain copious lipids, some of which skin cells need to remain healthy,” says Baumann. Their primary role is to restore the skin’s protective barrier, especially when it’s dry—but medical research has revealed other benefits as well. Safflower oil contains oleic and linoleic acids with anti-inflammatory properties. And olive oil has polyphenolic compounds that may protect against inflammation and may also prevent the onset of UV-induced skin cancers.  PRODUCTS: Borba HD-Illuminating Hydrator, Eau Thermale Avène Trixera+ Seléctiose Emollient Cream, and Trish McEvoy Dry Skin Normalizer have safflower oil; Korres Natural Products Olive and Rye Day Cream and PerriconeMD Cosmeceuticals Protective Hydrator SPF 15 contain olive oil.”
  • Pumpkin is a great exfoliant since it contains enzymes that help eat away (I know not the greatest image to have in mind but it works) at dead skin cells leaving you with a smoother and softer complexion.  Pumpkin also contains the antioxidants bioflanovoids and Vitamin A that protect the skin.  Find it is GloTherapeutics Glopumpkin enzyme scrub.

 I’ve written in the past about how great green tea is for our skin both when we drink it and when we apply it topically.  See my post Ingredient Spotlight: Green Tea for lots more information.

The list above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring how fruits, vegetables, and other foods can benefit our skin when applies topically.  The Allure article highlights more foods if you are interested in continuing your reading.


Raiding the Pantry: Making Your Own Beauty Products April 7, 2011

One my biggest beauty misadventures occurred a very long time ago and involved a bottle of olive oil.  I have thick, unruly, frizzy hair, and I was looking to condition and tame my hair.  Somewhere I read that if I applied olive oil to my hair, left it on for about 10 minutes or so, I would be left with soft and cooperative hair once I rinsed it off.  So I borrowed our family’s olive oil from the kitchen, poured A LOT of olive oil all over my hair, wrapped my hair up for 10 minutes or so, and waited.  Then I tried to rinse the olive oil out.  That proved to be very difficult.  In the end I had to shampoo my hair at least twice if not three times so that I wasn’t left with an oily, greasy mess of hair.  Did my hair become softer?  Frankly, I can’t remember.  All I remember is my hair being insanely oily and greasy and that it seemed to take me forever to get that oil out.

After that misadventure with using food as a beauty aid I have pretty much steered clear of the kitchen when it came to skin and hair care.  Only recently have I taken a tiny step back into that arena by trying to exfoliate my face with milk (more on that later).  I’ve also exfoliated my body with used coffee grinds (very effective and very messy) and a homemade concoction of sugar and olive oil (effective, cheap, and less messy than the coffee grinds), but otherwise I’ve never tried facial masks made of avocados or put mashed up fruit on my face in order to exfoliate.  Of course that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give these ideas a whirl.

Ok so if you want to raid your fridge, medicine cabinet, and pantry in order to treat your skin here are some ideas from the March 2011 issue of Allure:

  • For puffy eyes: Ice, tea bags, or cucumbers –  A washcloth soaked in ice water helps shrink swelling.  Tea bags are even better: Caffeine constricts blood vessels to counteract redness, and the tannic acid in the tea can temporarily tighten skin.  Chilled cucumber slices have soothing properties, too.
  • For dull hair: Beer – The ridges and chipped cuticles that make hair look damaged and dull can be filled in by protein in beer, giving hair the ability to reflect more light.  Rinsing with a thick, dark beer, such as Guinness Extra Stout, works best.  Cheers.
  • For zits: Aspirin and Visine – Acne-fighting salicylic acid is the compound from which aspirin is derived; a paste made from a crushed tablet and a few drops of water can help heal a spot.  To lessen redness, douse a cotton swab with Visine, pop it in the fridge until cold, and hold it on the blemish for a few minutes.
  • For redness: Milk – The proteins and fats in whole milk can calm irritated or sunburned skin – just make sure to follow a compress or cold powdered-milk bath with moisturizer.  Otherwise, the skin get right and dry as the liquid evaporates.
  • For rough skin:  Olive oil or vegetable shortening – cooking oils soften parched skin – ideal for chapped hands, feet, or elbows.  Slather on a thick coat of Crisco or olive oil before bed, then put on cotton gloves and socks to avoid messing up your iPad or sheets.  Let it soak in overnight.

My take on the advice from Allure:  Avoid the Visine entirely since it is too harsh to apply to skin.  A cold q-tip applied for a minute or so to a breakout should help take down some of the redness or just get out your green concealer (I always have a green concealer from Physician’s Formula on hand to counteract red marks and breakouts).  The milk treatment could work, but rinse off the milk before applying moisturizer.  And lastly, if you slather yourself with Crisco you will smell disgusting and be super greasy.  Use jojoba oil instead or just straight up petroleum jelly.

Earlier in this post I referred to trying to exfoliate with milk.  I got this idea from Dr. Ellen Marmur’s book Simple Skin Beauty.  On page 94 of her book Dr. Marmur writes about how exfoliate your skin if you have rosacea:

Scrubbing can aggravate rosacea or a painfully dry complexion.  And because acids work by temporarily lowering the natural pH balance of the skin, they can be very irritating for someone with sensitivity.  The gentlest option is lactic acid, which is probably the cheapest and easiest exfoliant around.  Just soak a washcloth in plain whole milk, then rest the damp cloth on your face, neck, and upper chest for a minute or two.  (You can dunk the cloth again and repeat, but don’t overdo it and cause inflammation.  Four minutes on your skin is more than enough to see results.)  Essentially, you’re getting a light chemical peel, but the fatty proteins in the milk act as a moisturizing buffer to the lactic acid.  Milk also has anti-inflammatory and humectant properties that help to sooth and moisturize skin simultaneously.  Talk about a perfect (and organic) beauty food!

After I recommended this exfoliation technique to a client who has rosacea I figured I had to give it a try myself.  I poured whole milk into a bowl, dunked my washcloth in the milk, and spread it all over my face as I watched TV.  Ok well I think first I put it on my forehead and then on the lower half of my face so that I could actually see the program I was watching on TV.  I definitely left the washcloth on for more than two minutes; I think I left it on for about 5 or 7 minutes.  Afterwards my face felt very, very tight so  I rinsed my face in warm water.  Then I felt my face – it felt very smooth.  But I have to admit that besides leaving my face very smooth I didn’t really see a difference in my complexion.  On the other hand, I have oily, acne-prone skin so I wasn’t exactly the person Dr. Marmur was referring to when making this tip.  If you are looking for a new, gentle, and cost-effective way to exfoliate I definitely would give the milk exfoliation a try.

Some of the most popular food ingredients that you can use to make homemade beauty products like facial masks:

  • Honey which is a humectant
  • Avocado and olive oil which are emollients or moisturizers
  • Cucumbers and oatmeal which are anti-inflammatory
  • Milk (as already mentioned above) and yogurt which gently exfoliate

Of course in order to combine these ingredients into effective facial masks you’ll probably want a recipe.  Both and your local chain bookstore have plenty of DIY beauty books.  But whatever you do just make sure you are using the right ingredients for your skin type and condition.  For instance since I have oily, acne-prone skin (as I already mentioned above) I wouldn’t want to use a mask with avocado or olive oil but I could probably try a mask with honey if I was feeling a bit dry.

I would love to get some feedback from my readers about your own home experimentations with food or other household items made into beauty products.  If you’ve got the food lying around, and aren’t planning on eating it, I see no reason not to give it a try.

Further Reading:

  • The Skin Care Book: Simple Herbal Recipes by Kathlyn Quatrochi.  This is a little gem of a book that I found at my local library.  It has lots of interesting sounding recipes though be aware that buying the ingredients for the recipes could add up and you will certainly need to set aside time in order to make the recipes.  I haven’t tried any myself (and clearly I will be staying away from the olive oil hair mask recipe), but if anyone has tried these recipes please post a comment below.
  • In her book Feed Your Face Dr. Jessica Wu has devoted an entire chapter to homemade beauty remedies – Chapter 11:  Food on Your Face.
  • My Facial is Tastier than Yours – The New York Times from Nov. 18, 2008.  A fun article about a group of people trying homemade masks and body treatments.  I was particularly interested in the fact that the author had a very similar olive oil hair mask misadventure like I did.  The article includes recipes for the masks and body treatments.
  • 3 At-Home Recipes for Natural Skin Care – Prevention magazine

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