Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Product Review: Dr. Spiller Pure Skincare Solutions February 20, 2013

Alpenrausch Organic

Months and months ago I was contacted by Melissa from Dr. Spiller skincare products asking me if I would be interested in trying some of the products from their organic line.  Even though I was in the process of moving back to Israel Melissa still graciously mailed all the products to my new home.  Not only that I also received full size products and an entire product brochure with ingredient breakdown.  I was impressed!  (Truth be told though I have been writing this blog for a little over three years I have very rarely received free products to try.  If I am contacted about receiving free products I always let the person know that I can’t guarantee that I will review their product, and if I do review the product I can’t guarantee it will be a positive review)

Before I get to my product review let me be very upfront about a few things – I see no reason to purchase organic skincare or beauty products as opposed to “conventional” products, I have no problem with parabens in skincare products (truth be told the Dr. Spiller line doesn’t talk about parabens, but I thought I would just throw that out there anyhow since the topic of organic skincare and parabens usually go hand in hand), and I don’t buy into the organic or natural skincare products are better for you nonsense.  (You can read more here and here for my opinions about these topics)  I am more interested in the feel, smell, and above all efficiency of a skincare product.  Does the product do what it says it will?  Yet in regards to the organic claim I was happy to see that Dr. Spiller did not just slap that label on their products without being able to back it up.  It turns out that their products meet strict standards for organic skincare products.  The fact that the products are full of natural ingredients is heavily promoted by the company, but in my view the proof is in the pudding.  If the product doesn’t feel good or make your skin look good then who cares what it has in it.

Here are the products that Melissa sent me to try:

First off take a look at the product information on the website.  Very thorough!  Not only is there a detailed explanation given for each of the main ingredients the product’s pH is stated along with the amount of lipids in the product and the base ingredient are listed as well.  I am all for as much consumer transparency as possible in skincare products so I was happy to see how much information was provided on the website.

After receiving the products I realized that some of them were not ideal for my very oily, acne prone skin, but I tried everything anyhow for the sake of this review.  After trying everything at least once I held onto the cleanser and passed the rest of the products along to my friend Vanessa.  I chose Vanessa as my tester because she has sensitive skin and has had numerous reactions to skincare products in the past.  Since this line is supposed to be good for sensitive skin I thought Vanessa would be the ideal candidate to try out the products.  So what was the verdict in regards to Vanessa’s sensitive skin and these products?  Vanessa experienced no irritation or side effects from using these products so indeed it seems that they really are ideal for those with sensitive or sensitized skin.

As I wrote above I kept the foaming cleanser for myself since I use a mild cleanser daily.  I liked that the cleanser came out as a foam (that was fun), it has lasted me a good four months with twice daily use, and was indeed gentle though a little drying in the winter.

Vanessa actually hasn’t gotten around to trying the toner.  From my use of it I really don’t have much to say.  It was a pleasant toner, and my skin felt fine after using it.  I didn’t notice anything either good or bad after using it.

The soft peeling for me was pleasant, but I am a fan (and my skin needs) of a much stronger exfoliant.  Vanessa, on the other hand, was very happy with this mild exfoliant.  She found it gentle with a good consistency and nice fragrance.  Thumbs up from her on this product.

Both Vanessa and I found the protecting care cream way to thick.  The consistency was almost like an ointment and not a cream.  We both thought it was much too dense and hard to spread on our skin.  This definitely was not the right cream for my oily skin even though my skin is really dehydrated.  Despite my skin dehydration this product was too thick for my skin.  Vanessa did not like the smell of the cream, and she felt it didn’t make her skin soft enough.  If this cream was not as thick I think it would appeal to more people.

The reviving eye care cream was gentle around the eye area and did not cause irritation.  Neither Vanessa or I saw a difference in how our eye area looked after using this cream, but we both found it pleasant and nice.

The last product we both tried was the cooling mineral mask which is really meant more for my skin type than Vanessa’s.  Needless to say we both found the mask strange because after applying the mask it dries and becomes EXTREMELY tight on your face.  So tight it is uncomfortable.  I left it on for the full 15 minutes as instructed, but I did not enjoy those 15 minutes.  My skin did feel soft afterwards but what I had to go through to get to temporarily softer skin wasn’t really worth it.  Vanessa did not like the mask at all.

Bottom Line:  If you have sensitive skin and/or are looking for an organic skincare line with natural ingredients than Dr. Spiller is for you.  I particularly appreciate the fact that these product meet high standards for organic products instead of just slapping a label on the product and that the website shares a plethora of information with the consumer about the products.  Though the products are not cheap they last a long time so you definitely get your money’s worth.

Image from Dr. Spiller website


Products I’ve Been Trying July 9, 2012

Lately I’ve had an opportunity  to try some new skincare products and make-up.  I thought I would share with my readers what I’ve been trying.

Through this blog I was approached by Sue Nelson from L’bri Pure and Natural skincare who asked if I wanted to their products.  She was nice enough to send me sample sizes of products for both normal to oily skin that I could try and normal to dry products for my friend Sarah to try.  A few things about this line – all the products are aloe vera based* as opposed to water based like most skincare products (check your products and you’ll see that the first ingredient in most skincare products is water), are paraben free (if that is important to you), contain no artificial colors or fragrances, and no mineral oil or waxes.  It does not say anywhere in the literature or website that the products are organic so keep that in mind if that is important to you.

I tried the deep pore cleanser, the deep pore freshener, the oil-free moisture lotion, and the facial masque.  I was also sent a sample of the rejuvenating facial peel, but I can’t comment on it too much because I didn’t bother to read the directions before trying it and completely misused it all up.  My bad.  I have to say that I liked the feel of all the products.  The mask left my face very smooth and soft, but it also tightened to an extreme extent.  I happen to be claustrophobic so having a product on my face that was tight didn’t make me happy one bit, but I was pleased with the end result.  I especially liked the oil free moisturizer because it managed to be rich and creamy but also light on the skin.  A lot of moisturizers for oily skin can feel too light so I liked how this one moisturizer felt and worked.  I think the normal to oily skin products I tried are good for just that – someone with a little more than normal amount of oil in their skin.  I don’t think that these products would work well for someone with active acne breakouts at all.

My friend Sarah raved about the products she tried saying that they she liked the way they felt on her skin and how her skin looked and felt after using them.  She particularly liked the facial masque (the same one that I tried) and gave the line a thumbs up.

In all, if you are looking for a natural skincare line you might want to give L’bri a try.  Of the products I tried my favorites were the oil free moisturizer and the facial masque.

As an aside, if you are wondering why aloe is good for the skin this is what Paula Begoun has to say about aloe in her online cosmetic ingredient dictionary:

In pure form, aloe vera’s benefits on skin are probably its lack of occlusion and the refreshing sensation it provides. Aloe serves as a water-binding agent for skin due to its polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate) and sterol content. (An example of a sterol that’s beneficial for skin is cholesterol) Although research has shown aloe also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial qualities, no study has proven it to be superior to other ingredients with similar properties, including vitamin C, green tea, pomegranate, and many other antioxidants (Source:

*There are other skincare lines that are aloe based liked Lexli.

Another skincare line I’ve been trying products from and absolutely love is called Tecniche.  I was introduced to this line when I took my oncology esthetics class through Touch for Cancer.  As part of the class we were given full size products to use on the cancer patients we worked with and to try ourselves.  This line is extremely gentle so it can be used by anyone with compromised skin, and it is organic and paraben free.  The line’s tagline is:  “savvy science for healing sensitive skin”.  The philosophy behind the skincare line is explained this way:

Tecniche™ Savvy Science products are the gentlest anti-age cosmeceutical products in the skincare industry, uniting the once-separate branches of cosmeceutical/anti-age and sensitive/healing.

Tecniche™ products are designed specifically for the short- and long-term care of sensitive skin. In the short-term, your skin will be comforted, softened and balanced. In the long-term, the gentle introduction of cosmeceutical-strength ingredients will strengthen and revitalize your skin for a beautiful future.

I certainly do not have sensitive skin, but I’ve loved all the products I tried from this line.  I was so pleased with everything I got during my class that I went and set-up an account with Tecniche so I could buy more products.  So far I’ve tried and loved:

  • Plantae Foaming Wash – creamy and non stripping this cleanser leaves my skin feeling fabulous
  • Jojoba Polish and Jadease Mask worked great during facials and client’s skin was soft and had a great glow to it afterwards (which is always something you want to achieve with facials)
  • The DNA Care Natural SPF 30 is thicker than the sunscreens I usually use but it absorbs nicely and quickly into the skin
  • Joy Mist is a great way to set your mineral make-up and an excellent toner

I’ve bought but still have to try the SupremeC Serum, the Taheebo Nail Balmand Incredible Enzymes.  I was delighted to find Tecniche’s Unscented Massage Oil which I think is amazing.  My regular 100% jojoba oil just wasn’t cutting during facial massages because of all the extremely dehydrated skin I see here in Chicago.  The Tecniche massage oil has been a fabulous addition to my facials.  I highly recommend it to all my fellow estheticians.

I was surprised by how much I’ve loved this line.  I’ve tried a lot of different skincare products over the years so I was very skeptical when I was given this line to try.  But now I love it.  Really!  You can purchase Tecniche through a licensed professional.  It is a great line for all skin types but particularly for compromised skin (like people with cancer) or those with sensitive skin.  One last thing, the other estheticians in my oncology esthetics class also really loved the Tecniche products we all got to try.

I got a chance to try a few Youngblood Cosmetics through my job.  I like my make-up to look natural and Youngblood certainly fulfilled that goal.  I tried liquid foundation, the loose powder foundation, and the moisture tint.  Though I liked all the products the moisture tint was my favorite.  The shadow and blush that I tried went on smoothly and looked fresh and natural.  The primer was excellent as well.  But of all the products I tried my favorite has to be the ultimate concealer.  It worked on my undereye circles, my red spots, and blemishes.  It blended seamlessly into my skin.  A fabulous find!  There are a lot of mineral make-up lines available, but this is definitely one that I can get behind and recommend.  (It was also started my an esthetician; I always like to hear fellow esthetician success stories)

Have you been trying any new products lately?  If yes, please share below.


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

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 6:15 am
Tags: , , , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources and Further Reading:


Fragrance in Skincare Products – Bad for Your Skin? November 23, 2010


Anyone who has read my blog since I started it might have noticed that I have a love-hate relationship with Paula Begoun.  See my previous post for more details.

If you read Paula Begoun’s books, beauty bulletins, or product reviews you will find one thing pops up over and over – Begoun thinks that fragrance in skincare products is wrong for the most part and even bad, very bad.  As a matter of fact in a recent beauty bulletin of hers Begoun makes the following statements about fragrance in skincare products:

Whether the fragrance in the product is natural or synthetic, it is almost always a problem for skin.

The way most fragrance ingredients impart scent is through a volatile reaction, which almost always causes irritation and some amount of inflammation. Research has established that fragrances in skin-care products are among the most common cause of sensitizing and allergic reactions.

You might be thinking, well my skin doesn’t look irritated or inflamed so the fragrance must not be a problem. In reality, skin on the surface often keeps the fact that it’s being irritated a secret with no reaction at all. Below the surface, irritating ingredients can cause collagen to breakdown, get in the way of skin’s ability to fight environmental damage, and hamper skin’s ability to heal. All of this can be taking place in the lower layers of skin without any obvious signs on the surface! The irritant reaction you don’t see or feel is nonetheless hurting your skin’s ability to reduce wrinkles, firm skin, or look younger!

For those with sensitive skin, especially when the problem is rosacea or acne, fragrance can be seriously irritating and that will show up on the surface. Fragrance of any kind (including natural fragrant oils) should be avoided at all costs.


Now the statement that Begoun makes about fragrance being irritating to those with sensitive skin or skin conditions such as rosacea is certainly true.  When I volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Look Good Feel Better program which provides free skincare and make-up lessons to women undergoing cancer treatment I always mention to the participants that while they are having treatment they need to avoid products with fragrance in them since fragrance may be irritating to their skin.  Certainly there is scientific proof that fragrance is a common allergen (and I should point out so are some preservatives) that can cause the protective outermost layer of the skin to break down and weaken thus leading to skin looking red and feeling itchy.  Additionally, then the skin stops protecting as it should.

As for Begoun’s statement that fragrance in skincare products leads to skin aging I wanted to investigate this further.  I have a small library of skincare books at home so I looked in three of the books I have by leading dermatologists and could find no back-up proof at all for Begoun’s statements about fragrance aging the skin.  All the dermatologists agree that people with sensitive skin should avoid products (including laundry soaps and fabric softeners) with fragrance, but I couldn’t find one word in any of my books about fragrance in skincare products leading to skin aging.  Now I should point out that even Begoun doesn’t think that every fragrance is evil.  She clearly states in her article what fragrance ingredients should be avoided.  I found it strange that in this article about how fragrance can damage the skin Begoun does not quote her sources.  One of the reasons I like Paula Begoun and her team is the fact that they always reveal their sources so you know where they are getting their information from.

So in my opinion, yes, if your skin is sensitive or sensitized (because of treatment you may be undergoing) it is important to avoid fragrance in skincare products and even in laundry detergents.  But buyer beware.  While it might seem easy to find such products because all you need to do is look for the words “fragrance free” or “for sensitive skin” on the label of the product please be aware that these are terms that are not regulated by any sort of organization or by the government.  It is best to check the labels yourself and that is when Begoun’s list of fragrance ingredients to avoid comes in handy.

The books I looked in were as follows:


If someone can quote a source or shed some light on the issue of fragrance causing skin aging please comment below.  Thanks!


Sensitive Skin – Causes and Treatments February 4, 2010

It isn’t uncommon for people to describe their skin as “sensitive” and “easily irritated”.  Actually all skin can become sensitive and irritated.  Perhaps our skin should come with a warning label:  “handle with care – easily damaged”.

Doctors believe that only about 2% of women have skin that can be diagnosed as “sensitive”.  Anyone else who believes they have a sensitive skin type is simply misdiagnosing themselves.  (Perhaps some people who claim to have sensitive skin think that by saying so they are bestowing a unique or special status on their skin as a way to make themselves feel different and special)   Further adding to the confusion over the term “sensitive skin” and what that truly means is the fact that products can be labeled “for sensitive skin” and “hypoallergenic” when there is absolutely no regulation over these terms.  As the FDA points out on its website:

There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term “hypoallergenic.” The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. Manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA.

The term “hypoallergenic” may have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has very little meaning.

Most people who define their skin as sensitive probably do so because once (or even twice) they had an allergic reaction to a topical skincare product; their skin to become red, irritated, and even itchy.  But for skin to truly be labeled sensitive it has to show an inability to tolerate most cosmetic, while otherwise being healthy.   If one truly has sensitive skin the use of cosmetics, or the wrong skincare products, will cause the skin to itch, burn, sting, and feel tight as opposed to causing redness and breakouts.  And once again this is very rare.

If you have ever experienced a reaction to a cosmetic or skincare product that caused you to breakout or turn red than you probably experienced a temporary allergic reaction to an ingredient in the product, perhaps the fragrance. In addition, skin can become temporarily sensitive or sensitized from a long list of things that include:

  • over cleaning and over scrubbing
  • using skincare products that are too strong or harsh
  • over exfoliating
  • receiving treatments that are too harsh treatments for your skin (such as a chemical peel)
  • irritating skincare ingredients in products
  • environmental pollutants or irritants
  • hot water
  • sun exposure 

When you overload your skin with products you break down the stratum corneum, the very top layer of the epidermis that acts as a protective covering for the skin, to the point of causing irritation.  This triggers the body’s immune response in order to heal the damage and inflammation will follow.  For example perhaps you use a glycolic cleanser and then a moisturizer with AHA every night.  All those acids are meant to remove dead skin cells from the stratum corneum so in essence you end up giving yourself a chemical peel every night.  If you skin is prone to irritation the continued combination of those products will remove too much of the barrier you need on the top of your skin.  Once too much of that protective cover is removed environmental irritants will start to further breakdown your stratum corneum, and the result is dry, red, flaky skin.  If the irritation continues over time the skin’s immune and healing response will be impaired.  Lastly, if you are prone to acne you can cause more breakouts if your skin becomes sensitized since more bacteria can cross the skin’s protective barrier once it is compromised.

Once you find that your skin has become sensitized it is important to figure out what triggered the irritation.  Sometimes this is very easy.  You started using a new product and almost immediately your skin became irritated, red, and itched and so it obvious what caused the irritation.  But other times it is much harder to figure out what caused the irritation.  In that case perhaps a more drastic course of action is needed.  In her book Simple Skin Beauty dermatologist Ellen Marmur suggests putting your skin on a “detox” plan in order to figure out what caused the irritation or allergic reaction in the first place.  She suggests stopping to use all products, all at once.  On the plan you are allowed to use sunscreen, a gentle cleanser, and a moisturizer that contains no acids, antioxidants, or retinoids for an entire month.  This allows your skin to regain its natural balance as it goes through a complete growth cycle (which takes 28 days).  After the month is over you can start adding back one product at a time, one per week,  into your routine so that if your skin reacts you will know what caused it.

If your skin has shown sensitivity in the past you might want to avoid heavily fragranced products and harsh exfoliants (like scrubs).  Look at the ingredients in your products in order to assess the amount of acids (AHA) and retinoids in them.  Don’t just trust labels on products.  As I already mentioned above the terms “for sensitive skin” and “hypoallergenic” that you see on cosmetic labels and skincare products are meaningless.  Perhaps you will want to limit yourself to one lotion, serum, or moisturizer with those added ingredients.  In order to boost your skin’s protective barrier it is important to use a good moisturizer and sunscreen.  For immediate relief from irritation you can temporarily use a OTC cortisone cream like Cortaid.

Lastly, it is important for everyone, even if you have never had an adverse reaction from cosmetics or skincare products, to excerise some caution when it comes to your skin.  All skin needs some TLC in order to look its best so remember to treat it gently.

Sources and Further Reading:



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