Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Long Overdue: Product Recommendations February 7, 2017


I am embarrassed to say how long ago I tried the products I am going to mention in this post so it’s probably just best I don’t address that issue.  Instead please find my reviews below of a few products I have tried and liked.  Some of the products were sent to me for review, others I purchased on my own.  Let’s begin, in no particular order.

  • No7 Refreshing Toner:  This product I purchased out of desperation.  Two long airplane trips in a row left my skin extremely dry and parched.   I tried to think of something I could do to bring extra moisture back to my skin in addition to my regular moisturizer. This toner did a great job at bringing much needed moisture to my skin.  I recommend this product for someone looking for an easy yet effective way to get more skin hydration.
  • Neutrogena sent me a number of products to try.  Unfortunately most were strong, anti-acne products that weren’t right at all for my skin.  The only product I tried, and loved, was the Neutrogena Cooldry Sport Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 70.  This sunscreen felt great on my skin.  It goes on totally weightlessly, absorbs quickly, and didn’t leave any sticky residue behind.  I highly recommend this sunscreen for use on your body.  It isn’t meant for your face.
  • The kind folks at Meg21 approached me about trying their products many moons ago. This company has an intriguing approach to anti-aging skincare – the main thrust of their message is that glycation is ruining our skin.  “Toxic sugars” (their words not mine) are breaking down the collagen in our skin thus aging it.  Their products contain an ingredient called supplamine that inhibits glycation in the skin thus keeping your skin looking young for longer.  The company was kind enough to send me full size products to try along with a few samples.  Overall I really liked the texture, ease of application, and how the products felt on my skin.  The packaging for their moisturizers is great.  Unlike a lot of moisturizers that are in containers with tops that come all the way off which then exposes the product to the air, these moisturizers were packaged in containers that had a top that did not come off. Instead you pressed down on the top in order to release the amount of product that you wanted to use.  This way none of the moisturizer was ever exposed to the air.  I tried the antioxidant serum (I can’t live without using an antioxidant serum each and every morning), the cleanser, Smooth Radiance Face Treatment, and the Smooth Radiance Advanced Formula. Though I definitely liked the way all the products felt on my skin I did not use them for long enough to be able to tell you if my skin looked any younger or fresher.  I will say though that the science behind the products is definitely intriguing.  If you are looking for a new and innovative way to fight skin aging these products are definitely worth trying.


Winter Skincare Secrets January 6, 2014

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

Change Your Facial Cleanser But Keep Exfoliating

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

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

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

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

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

Chapped Lips

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

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

(From Lip Service)

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

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

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

Additionally, Dr. Jessica Wu recommends:

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

A Few More Tips

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

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

Sources and Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

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Why It Is Important to Use Moisturizer During the Summer June 26, 2013

When advising clients about a home skincare regime I tell those who have combination or oily skin that moisturizer isn’t a must for them.  They should go by how their skin feels before applying a moisturizer.  Of course, if you have oily skin and are using stronger anti-acne or anti-oil products such as Retin-A or products with salicylic acid you may always need a moisturizer, twice a day, in order to bring balance back to your skin.  I also let clients know that during the summer a separate moisturizer and sunscreen may be unnecessary for them since their sunscreen might be moisturizing enough when the weather is hot (and depending on where you live humid too).  I actually like to recommend the use of a moisturizing toner during the summer for those with oily skin (see my post Let’s Talk About Toners – Again for more information).

Recently I read an article in the June, 2013 edition of Le Nouvelles Esthetiques and Spa that made me rethink the importance of moisturizer even during the summer.  The article Multiple Ways to Hydrate the Skin by Dr. Jennifer Linder (from PCA Skin) explains:

Proper hydration of the skin is often a conversation reserved for the cold and dry months of winter. Attention to skin moisture levels, however, is an essential topic of discussion year-round when seeking to achieve clear, glowing skin. For many reasons, hydrating the skin properly is equally important during the summer. By understanding the elements that influence hydration, as well as the interplay between water and oils, it is possible to maintain balanced, hydrated skin regardless of the season.

Elements that reduce hydration levels

In the intense heat of the summer, moisture is released from the skin at a high rate in order to cool the body internally. This moisture loss becomes even more pronounced if one regularly engages in sports or high impact exercise. Additionally, there is a tendency to shower more frequently and wash the face more often to remove sweat and oil buildup. If the moisture is not replaced (both internally and externally), the skin may appear dull over time, become susceptible to impaired barrier function or get stuck in a cycle of oil overproduction, leading to breakouts.
During the summer months, increased UV exposure can also lead to a reduction in skin hydration. Dry heat (evaporation) and humidity (increased sweating) deplete cutaneous moisture. While ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are at their strongest during the summer, ultraviolet A (UVA) rays remain constant throughout the year, making sun avoidance and protection a must during every season. During the summer months, people are typically outside more often for extended periods of time, therefore increasing direct and prolonged exposure to UV radiation that can set in motion a number of reactions that are harmful to the skin. The higher output of UVB rays increases free radical production that damages the cellular proteins and fats that make up and support the layers of the skin. Overexposure to UV rays can result in burning, cracking and peeling, which destabilizes the skin’s delicate moisture retention mechanisms, often causing permanent damage to the affected areas. To combat this, it is important to practice sun avoidance between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wear wide-brimmed hats and protective clothing, and use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, making sure to reapply it every two hours.

Water versus oil hydration

Many believe that moisturizing the skin becomes less important during the hotter and typically more humid months of the summer. This is not the case, however; regardless of the season, all skin types need moisture. Both oil and water serve important roles in cellular regeneration and moisture retention, and maintaining a balance between the two—as well as understanding the differences between them—is necessary to achieve clear, hydrated and healthy skin.


The most important tasks of water in relation to skin hydration occur internally. The skin is the body’s largest organ, which requires adequate water intake to not only maintain moisture and elasticity, but to flush out harmful elements, regenerate and expel dead skin cells as well. The uppermost layer of the skin is known as the stratum corneum (SC). This protective layer is made up in part of dead skin cells, which act as a barrier to the elements while keeping the much needed moisture inside. Lack of proper hydration reduces the ability of the SC to turn over new cells, allowing old, lifeless skin cells to become mixed with perspiration and bacteria; the result in most cases is cellular inflammation, acne and dull skin.
Additionally, although the skin may appear to be hydrated and moist in the summer due to the production of sweat, it can actually be dehydrated from excessive water loss caused by perspiration. If water consumption is inadequate, the skin is the first organ water is taken from to increase the supply to critical organs and bodily systems. Also, the increased amounts of salt and uric acid deposited on the skin from sweat can be damaging if it is not gently and consistently removed. Insufficient water moisture in the skin also leads to an unwelcome increase in sebum production. This, in combination with increased sweat, is a recipe for breakouts. To maintain sufficient moisture, it is critical to increase water intake during the summer, as well as maintain regular moisturizer use. For those who are prone to oily skin, choose a product that primarily focuses on increasing water moisture without heavy oils.


We have largely been trained to shy away from using oil on the skin for fear of clogged pores and acne. Oil, however, is an essential component of healthy skin, and using the right oils—even during the summer—can help maintain homeostasis and flexibility within the skin.
It is crucial to ensure that patients understand the importance of maintaining cutaneous oil balance. In most cases, the oil glands naturally produce enough oil to lubricate the skin without causing breakouts; however, this process is easily disturbed. Scrubbing the face excessively or using harsh cleansers and exfoliators will strip the skin below its necessary oil threshold. In response to this imbalance, the skin will actually produce more oil to compensate for the loss. However, the patient often views this as an “oily skin problem,” and perpetually seeks to strip the oil away. Thus, the production of oils is continuously increased, and the skin seems to be unmanageable. Interestingly, studies have indicated that acneic skin is deficient in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which is partly responsible for the overproduction of sebum. By supplementing acneic skin with beneficial oils that are high in EFAs, sebum production can be kept in balance.

Humectants and occlusives

A humectant is a substance that attracts water, and can often hold many times its own weight in moisture within the skin. A humectant can pull water from the air, but in topical skin care the humectants are typically drawing moisture up from the dermis into the epidermis.
Common humectants include glycerin and honey, in addition to higher attraction humectants such as sorbitol, lactic acid, sodium PCA and urea. Hyaluronic acid is a particularly powerful humectant, in that it can attract and hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. The strategic use of humectants can have profound effects on the condition of your patients’ skin.
Oil is classified as an “occlusive,” meaning that it acts to lock moisture into the skin. Oils that are beneficial to the skin may be used after bathing to lock in the moisture from the water while the pores are still open. Additionally, moisturizing products that contain light oils, such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil (with compositions very similar to human sebum), are a good choice during the summer months, as they hold moisture within the skin without creating a greasy feel or clogging pores.
Ideally, a moisturizer should contain both humectants to draw moisture into the skin and occlusive ingredients that seal the necessary moisture within the skin. These principles apply to products designed for oily and breakout-prone skin, as well as those with dry skin. It is typically the occlusive agent that varies. For dry skin, a product might use shea butter to occlude, while a product for breakout-prone skin may instead employ niacinamide or jojoba oil to perform the same function, but without the emollience.

Since reading this article I’ve made sure to keep up with the moisturizing step in my home skincare regime.  I found the article persausive enough to remember the importance of moisturizer throughout the year, no matter the weather.  This is information that I will be sharing with my clients as well.

My Related Posts:

Further Reading:

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Creating a Skincare Routine: Nighttime December 15, 2011

Your nighttime skincare routine doesn’t need to be complicated, just make sure to keep a few things in mind when planning out your steps.  Before you go to bed make sure your skin is thoroughly cleansed and take the opportunity to treat your skin for any ongoing skincare issues.  This treatment could be an anti-aging treatment or a hyperpigmentation treatment; it just depends on what your skin needs.

First and foremost, you MUST cleanse your skin and remove your make-up before going to bed.  I cannot emphasize enough how important this step is to making sure your skin is healthy and beautiful.  If you wear make-up be sure to do a double cleanse in the evening.  Make-up can be very stubborn to remove so when you wash your face twice you can be sure you’ve removed everything.  Your first cleanse could be with a make-up wipe or a gentle cleanser and your second cleanse, if you need it, could be with a salicylic or glycolic acid cleanser.

Before bed is also the right time to exfoliate.  How your exfoliate is up to you; you can use a scrub, a serum, or a cleanser with added acids to it.  Exfoliate at least twice a week.  Some people can even exfoliate every night.

Next treat your skin.  If uneven skin tone and dark spots are your main skincare issue apply a serum that will help fade spots.  If fine lines and wrinkles are your main concern use a prescription Retin-A or OTC retinol to smooth skin.  If you suffer from breakouts apply benzoyl peroxide at night.

Moisturize if your face feels tight and/or dry.  Not everyone needs a moisturizer at night (or during the day).  Go by how your skin feels in order to determine if you need a moisturizer.  There is no needs to buy a specific moisturize labeled “nighttime” if you already have a moisturizer that you like.  Howver, if your daytime moisturizer has spf in it I would certainly save that for daytime use only.  Not that the sunscreen will hurt your face at night, but for the simple reason that you are wasting product meant for daytime by applying it at night.

Consider sleeping on your back.  It is actually true that sleeping on your side or stomach can lead to deeper wrinkles.  A satin pillowcase may also help keeps wrinkles at bay.  If you wake-up in the morning with puffy eyes or bags underneath your eyes sleep with your head slightly propped up in order to allow fluid to properly drain instead of pooling underneath your eyes and giving you bags.

And in order to look your best in the morning make sure you get enough beauty sleep.  Getting plenty of sleep really can make a difference in your appearance.

Sources and Further Reading:

Related Blog Posts:


Way Over-Priced Moisturizers – Who Buys This Stuff and Why? November 17, 2011

Filed under: Skincare products — askanesthetician @ 6:50 am
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I read the article “Complexion Perfection: The Statement Piece of the Season May Be Your Moisturizer” from the November issue of Vogue with mounting horror.  The article gives the reader a rundown of the newest and most expensive facial moisturizers on the market.   By expensive I mean $490 for one ounce of a product (Guerlian’s Orchidee Imperiale Longevity Concentrate).

Let me give you an example:

… when scientists at Chanel heard about Vanilla planifolia, a plant coveted by local women in Madagascar, they headed straight for the northern tip of the island to study its winding vines, which grow along the trunks of the region’s cocoa tree.  Realizing the potential of its antioxidant-packed vanilla fruit to address multiple signs of aging – fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and dullness – they set up high-tech greenhouses and began cultivating their own plants.  Today, each podlike fruit grows to precisely fourteen centimeters before it’s picked and rushed to the lab in the South of France, where technicians extract only the single most antioxidant-rich molecules from the mix – and slip them into Chanel’s Sublimage range of products, including La Creme ($390) and, this fall, the new Masque Regenerant Fondamental ($190).  …

La Prairie’s new Cellular Power Charge Night ($475) dispenses freshly oxygenated retinol from a silver dual-chambered pump reminiscent of the look of one of Balenciaga’s sleek geometric cuffs.

You might be asking yourself, as I did, how can one justify spending that much money on a moisturizer and who actually buys this stuff?  I can’t answer the second question, but the article does quote Manhattan esthetician Eileen Harcourt as saying:

Listen your skin is your best accessory.  You wear it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It’s not a bag you can retire to the back of the closet when it starts to look banged up.

Now though I happen to agree wholeheartedly with the quote above, I could never ever use that as a justification to recommend that someone buy a $400 moisturizer or anti-aging serum.  There is absolutely no reason to spend that much money on a skincare product!  When a non-prescription product is priced at more than $150 I start to get suspicious about what you are truly paying for.  Now some cutting edge skincare ingredients, like growth factors and peptides, drive the price of a product up dramatically you always have to look at your ingredient list to make sure that the ingredients that are meant to make a real difference in how your skin looks and feels are present in the product in a large enough percentage in order to justify you buying the product in the first place.  Don’t run after the newest and flashiest products.  Skincare companies constantly have to come out with new products in order to look like they are making great innovations irregardless if that is true or not.

Interestingly the article makes its own comparison to a cheaper product that also totes amazing benefits for the skin:

When developing their Anew Genics Treatment Cream, the scientists at Avon zeroed in on research performed at the University of Calabria, in Italy, that uncovered a highly active youth gene in the area’s unusually long-lived population.  “It’s not that some people have a youth gene and some people don’t,” explains Glen Anderson, Ph.D., the company’s executive director of global R&D.  “These genes are present in every cell of every human being.  The point is that some people are predisposed to a higher expression of them.”  Linked directly to the mitochondria (the “energy power plants” of the cell), the genes are ultimately responsible for everything from the generation of healthy collagen to the production of hyaluronic acid.  Seeking to increase their activity in the skin, Anderson’s lab screened thousands of molecules before settling on the two now formulated in each jar of Genics.  And according to test subjects, it worked: Just three days of use revealed smoother, more radiant skin.  The price: $38.

So definitely give a lot of thought to the purchase of a skincare product that costs more than $150.  Consider your motivation behind the purchase – is there really proof to back-up the claims the manufacturer is making about the product or are you just chasing the newest thing on the market?

Further Reading:

Related Posts:


The Lowdown on Facial Moisturizers May 23, 2011

And How to Choose the Right Moisturizer for Your Skin

A while ago I published a post called Moisturizer Myths  which explained, among other things, the fact that a moisturizer will not get rid of your wrinkles.  Now that I have published that post I decided that it would be helpful to explain how to find the right moisturizer for your skin type.

Right off the bat I want to state that it is actually relatively easy to find a good moisturizer without breaking the bank.  The keys to finding the right moisturizer for your skin is to figure out which formulation is best for you and to find the right ingredients that will benefit your skin the most.

Why a Moisturizer?

In her book The Mind-Beauty Connection Dr. Amy Wechsler makes some great points about moisturizers (pages 31 and 32):

Moisturizers are like aspirin: minimiracles that we take for granted.  While they won’t have an effect on wrinkles per se, they do help protect skin from dryness, chapping, and weathering, and keep it smooth, soft, and healthy.  And a good moisturizer will do more for you than drinking twenty glasses of water per day.  Drinking water does not necessarily make skin moist.  If you’re truly dehydrated your skin can turn dull and peaked, but it’s the moisturizer applied directly to the skin that will keep water from evaporating and give your skin a healthy, dewy appearance.  …It’s important to note that even though moisturizers won’t necessarily affect how the skin functions at the cellular level (that is, they won’t change the production level of collagen and repair of tissue damage), they are an excellent way to keep the skin hydrated, replenishing the natural moisture elements in the upper layers and bolstering the barrier function of the skin.  Yes, that smooth, dewy appearance is temporary but if you moisturize frequently you keep that glow turned on.

Moisturizer Formulations

If your skin is dry:  look for a cream or lotion moisturizer that is oil based.  A rich, creamy formulation is perfect for your skin.

If your skin is oily or acne-prone:  if your skin is feeling tight you can definitely moisturize oily and/or acne-prone skin.  Look for light-weight lotions, gels, serums, or even hydrating mists that are water-based.  Make sure the formulation is oil-free and says either “won’t clog pores” or “non-comedogenic” on the label.

If you have sensitive skin:  look for a water-based lotions and creams that are labeled “fragrance-free”, “for sensitive skin”, or even “hypoallergenic”.  Try to get a moisturizer that doesn’t contain a ton of ingredients.


Moisturizer Ingredients

No matter what your skin type your moisturizer should contain antioxidants.  The number of antioxidants out there is becoming mind-boggling, and I truly don’t believe that one is better than another.  What is important is to apply antioxidants to your skin either in your moisturizer or in an antioxidant serum or both.

All moisturizers contain two types of hydrating ingredients: humectants and emollients.  Humectants attract water to our skin while emollients seal moisture in our skin by forming a protective barrier.  Emollients act as a lubricant on the surface of the skin keeping the skin soft and smooth.  Humectants increase water content in the skin stopping the evaporation of water from the surface of the skin; they can feel more heavy and greasy.

Additionally other moisturizer ingredients are ceramides and collagen.  Once again I’ll quote Dr. Wechsler (pages 31 and 32 in her book):

Ceramides are lipids naturally found in the skin’s top layer of the epidermis, alongside other fats such as cholesterol and fatty acids.  Their chief role is to keep moisturize in the skin, and they have been used to treat eczema, as studies show that people with eczema have significantly fewer ceramides in their skin.  Collagen can help give the illusion of smoothness, but don’t be fooled into thinking that rubbing a collagen-containing moisturizer on your face will suddenly help your skin’s natural collagen.  Large collagen molecules cannot penetrate the skin’s deep layers, so they remain on the surface and do not have an effect on how the skin performs.

Humectant Ingredients Include:

  • glycerin
  • hyaluronic acid (for more information about hyaluronic acid see my post all about this ingredient)
  • propylene glycol
  • butylene glycol
  • sodium PCA
  • sorbitol
  • allantoin

Emollient Ingredients include:

  • shea butter
  • mineral oil
  • lanolin
  • petrolatum
  • paraffin
  • beeswax
  • squalene
  • coconut, jojoba, and sesame oils
  • cetyl alcohol

More good moisturizer ingredients to look for:

  • aloe vera
  • apricot kernal oil
  • borage seed oil
  • canola oil
  • cholesterol
  • cocoa butter (this isn’t good for acne prone skin)
  • colloidal oatmeal
  • dexpanthenol
  • dimethicone
  • evening primrose oil
  • glycerin
  • macadamia nut oil
  • olive oil
  • safflower oil
  • stearic acid and other fatty acids

How to Find the Right Moisturizer for You

There are tons of good moisturizers out there.  Finding the right one is just a matter of personal preference and budget.  Some of my favorite moisturizers come from Skinceuticals, PCA Skin, Dermalogica, and Glotherapeutics.  Some good budget buys are Neutrogena, Aveeno, and Eucerin.  But really that is just scratching the surface of what is out there.  For even more recommendations see Paula Begoun’s Beautypedia or read The Skin Type Solution by Dr. Leslie Baumann.

Does Your Daytime Moisturizer Have to Have Sunscreen In It?

Anyone who reads this blog with any consistency knows that I am a sunscreen fanatic so my answer to the above question my surprise you.  I actually don’t think that your daytime moisturizer needs to have a sunscreen in it.  I always want everyone to have a separate facial sunscreen that it at least spf 30.  I believe this for a few reasons.  First off, I am never convinced that people use enough of their moisturizer in the morning to actually get adequate sun protection.  As the seasons change and the weather gets warmer many people don’t need to use moisturizer as much and this is exactly when you need that facial sun protection more than ever.  If you are going to apply too much a one thing to your face let that be sunscreen.  You probably won’t want to reapply your moisturizer throughout the day, but you’ll need to reapply your sunscreen.  For those reasons I always advise people to have a separate moisturizer and sunscreen.  Also if your moisturizer doesn’t have sunscreen in it you can use the same one morning and night.  So in case you were wondering – no you don’t need a different morning and evening moisturizer.  If you want both a daytime and nighttime moisturizer go for it, but it isn’t a necessity.  If you still want to get a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen be sure the moisturizer has at least spf 30 and is a broad spectrum sunscreen which means it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.

Sources and Further Reading:


Moisturizer Myths January 31, 2011


I think there are a few big myths about moisturizers that most people seem to believe.  One is that moisturizer can get rid of wrinkles.  Another myth about moisturizer is that it is a vital anti-aging tool.  Yet another myth about moisturizer is that you need one every day, twice a day. 

So what exactly does your moisturizer do?  And what can’t your moisturizer do?

First let’s debunk the idea that a moisturizer will get rid of wrinkles.  That is simply impossible.  What a moisturizer can do is temporarily plump up wrinkles and make them appear less obvious.  But a moisturizer cannot bring about a true change in regards to your wrinkles – you need plastic surgery, laser treatments, or Retin-A to truly erase wrinkles.   But if you want your skin to temporarily appear smoother and for your wrinkles to be less obvious than a moisturizer can help you temporarily achieve that goal.

So if you want to stay looking young as long as possible do you need a moisturizer as part of your anti-aging arsenal?  Not necessarily.  You need to use a moisturizer if you feel that your skin is dry (lacking oil) or dehydrated (lacking water).  Not everyone needs a moisturizer.  You might find that you need a moisturizer during the winter but not during the summer.  A moisturizer is not a must have skincare product like a great cleanser or an antioxidant serum. 

What is a good way to tell if you need a moisturizer or not?  Wash your face and then wait about 10 to 15  minutes.  During those 10 to 15 minutes do not put anything on your face.  After you’ve waited think about how your face feels – is it tight or dry feeling?  Then you need a moisturizer.  If you notice flakes on your face after the waiting period than you need to gently exfoliate and then use a moisturizer.

Now that you know what your moisturizer cannot do – what does a good moisturizer actually do?  Actually what a moisturizer does is very straightforward.  A moisturizer will keep the skin hydrated, help the skin’s barrier function work properly which means it keeps moisture in but bacteria and other undesirable elements out, and helps keep the natural moisturizing elements in the upper layers of the skin replenished.  And do remember that you don’t need to go overboard when applying moisturizer.  Use about a penny size worth of moisturizer on your face and neck to begin with.  If you feel you need more moisturizer than add it a little bit more at a time until you feel that your skin is well hydrated.  And one last tip on applying moisturizer – if at all possible apply moisturizer to your skin while it is slightly damp.  That way your skin locks in the water and that adds to the hydration your skin is getting.


Ingredient Spotlight: Hyaluronic Acid January 13, 2011

During the winter most people are looking to restore the moisture content in their skin and finding the right moisturizer for your skin type will help you do that.  One great skincare ingredient to look for in a moisturizer is hyaluronic acid. 

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant skincare ingredient which means it draws water to the skin and increases the water content of the epidermis (or outer most layer of the skin).  If you are in a humid environment, picture yourself on a tropical island, than a humectant like hyaluronic acid can actually draw water from the atmosphere around you to your skin.  The great thing about hyaluronic acid is that it holds 1,000 times its weight in water.  Think of it as a super sponge.  So when applied topically hyaluronic acid has a two-fold purpose – it increases your skin’s moisture content and helps prevent moisture loss as well.

Everyone’s skin naturally contains hyaluronic acid.  It is found in the reticular layer of the skin or the deepest layer of the dermis (the dermis is located under the epidermis or the top layer of our skin).  The reticular layer contains collagen and elastin, and hyaluronic acid is found between these fibers helping to give your skin its volume and snap.  Babies skin in full of hyaluronic acid which explains why a baby has such soft and moist skin.  As we age the amount of hyaluronic acid in our skin diminishes; we simply produce less of it.  (This is why hyaluronic acid fillers like Restylane and Juvederm are so popular and effective.  I decided not to address the topic of hyaluronic acid fillers in this post since I wanted to concentrate on the subject hyaluronic acid in topical skincare products in this post instead) 

Don’t forget – applying hyaluronic acid topically will not replace what your skin has lost as it ages.  When applied topically hyaluronic acid simply acts as a great moisturizing agent – nothing more.  Only hyaluronic acid fillers can temporarily replace what has been lost as you age. 

Have I convinced you yet that hyaluronic acid is a great topical skincare ingredient?  Well before you run out to buy a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid in it there are a few more things to consider.  Hyaluronic acid is extremely expensive, it is more than a 1,000 times expensive as glycerin for example, so most topical skincare products don’t contain enough of it in order to be effective over the long-term according to dermatologist Jeannette Graf (in an article in Allure from December, 2010).  According to the Allure article the most effective skincare formulas with hyaluronic acid in them use a dehydrated form of hyaluronic acid packaged into microspheres which apparently makes it easier for this ingredient to be absorbed into the skin.

One more thing to consider – according to dermatologist Leslie Baumann in a low humidity environment, like a plane for instance, using a cream with a high concentration of hyaluronic acid could be counterproductive since in such an environment the hyaluronic acid actually draws water from the skin and dries out the skin.  According to Dr. Baumann, and so far I’ve only seen her say this, when hyaluronic acid isn’t getting enough moisture from the surrounding environment it will take moisture out the skin. 


Bottom Line:  Hyaluronic acid is a great skincare ingredient to look for in your moisturizer.  Perhaps if you are in a desert or a plane you might want to consider actually using a moisturizer without a high concentration of hyaluronic acid but that is really an individual choice. 



  • The Skin Type Solution by Dr. Leslie Baumann – pages 23 and 50
  • The Mind-Beauty Connection by Dr. Amy Wechsler – pages 31, 42, and 270
  • Hyaluronic Acid – article from Elle magazine from a few years ago (can’t say the exact date and can’t find it online – sorry!)
  • Best Face Forward Allure, December 2008
  • Anti-Aging Know-it-alls Allure, December 2010
  • Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians, 9th edition – page 157


Products with Hyaluronic Acid:

The article in Allure, Anti-Aging Know-it-Alls, recommends more products with hyaluronic acid in them.


Toner: What Is It? Do You Need One? February 27, 2010

I suspect that I am not the only person you spent a good deal of her high school years drying her face out with the use of toner.  I used a drying, alcohol based toner because I believed that this was a very necessary step in my skincare regime in order to prevent acne.  Luckily I finally realized that the use of an alcohol based toner was unnecessary in order to prevent acne.  It took me some more time to learn that not all toners are created equal and that there are some products labeled “toner” that actually can do some good things for your skin.  Let me explain.

What is Toner?

Toners are a liquid skincare product that is applied to the skin after cleansing, just before moisturizing.  Their use is advertised as a way to remove residue or make-up left behind after cleansing, restore the skin’s natural pH level after cleansing, to close pores, and to even hydrate and treat the skin.  There are actually three different types of toners:

  • Freshners have either no alcohol content or up to 4% alcohol content.  The use of this product is meant for dry, mature, or sensitive skin since too much alcohol will dry out and damage those skin types. 
  • Toners  have an alcohol content for between 4 to 15% and are meant to be used by those with normal to combination skin.
  • Astringents have a very high alcohol content – up to 35% – and are meant for oily skin.  They are meant to remove excess oil from the skin, but because of their high alcohol content most people will find them too drying.  This product is rarely needed since it can do more harm than good.


Do You Need A Toner?


When you don’t need a toner:    I don’t think that you need a toner every night in order to make sure that you have removed all your make-up or cleanser.  Using  a good make-up remover and the proper cleanser is definitely more than enough in order to make sure that your make-up is all off (the only place you might feel the need to go over again would be the eye area since waterproof eye make-up can be hard to remove).  If after washing your face you feel that you still have cleanser on your face than switch your cleanser.  A properly formulated facial cleanser will certainly wash off your face easily without leaving residue behind.  

The claim that toners will close your pores is a silly claim.  First of all, there is no need to seal your pores shut.  Toners will give you a temporary tightening effect but why do you need that anyhow? 

The issue of your skin’s pH level being disrupted because of cleansing is really only a problem if you use soap, which is very alkaline, to wash your face.  If you use a facial wash or cleanser you won’t have to deal with the issue of your skin’s pH being disrupted.

When you could consider using a toner:  There are lots of toners available that can actually hydrate the skin and even leave behind a number of beneficial antioxidants.  These types of toner are good for use during the summer when your skin feels more oily and you don’t feel that you need to moisturize (your skin isn’t actually producing more oil during the summer; it just feels that way because of the increased humidity in the air).   In addition, there are some people who don’t feel the need to use a lot of moisturizer ever so using a toner could be a great way to add some moisture to the skin and get some antioxidant benefits as well.

If you have combination skin (oily T-zone, normal skin everywhere else) you might consider using a toner with witch hazel extract, lactic acid, or salicylic acid just on your T-zone.  But don’t go overboard since too much toner with the above mentioned ingredients can be drying.  Use them on as needed basis and no more than once a day.

Some toners have ingredients that can actually soothe the skin and reduce inflammation so using a product like that if you have sensitive skin might be a good option.

Lastly, in a previous post I mentioned that some people who have very dry or irritated skin may want to forgo washing their face in the morning.  If you don’t feel comfortable just splashing your face with warm water in the morning consider using a gentle, alcohol free toner in the morning instead of your facial wash.  You will very gently clean your skin that way and also hydrate at the same time.






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