Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Follow Me! August 17, 2013

Filed under: Recommended Websites — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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I haven’t had any time lately to write new blog posts (since my son is on vacation in August I can’t seem to find more than 10 minutes by myself, and I need more time than that to write a blog post), but I am still updating the Ask an Esthetician’s Facebook page and pinning on Pinterest (my Skincare board should interest followers of this blog).  Find me on Pinterest under “Hanah Tetro”.

So please bear with me and follow me these other ways until I can be back to more regular blogging.

I hope everyone is having a great summer!  Don’t forget your sunscreen 🙂

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Website Recommendation: The Beauty Brains February 3, 2011

I am not sure why it took me so long to come across this website since its contents go along so well with many of the issues I have addressed in my blog.  Anyhow, now that I have discovered it I want to share the information about this website with my readers.

So The Beauty Brains is written by a group of cosmetic chemists who help their readers cut through advertising confusion and explain if skincare and hair products will really work.  According to the website their purpose is:

We’re here to help you cut through the confusing, misleading and sometimes false information that the beauty companies bombard you with. Our goal is to explain cosmetic science to you in a way that’s entertaining and easy to understand. We believe the more information you have, the better you’ll be able to find products that you like at a price you can afford. So, you can listen to the advertising. Or advice from a friend. Or what your stylist tells you. But if you want to really understand cosmetic products in an unbiased, scientific way, Ask The Beauty Brains. You’ll get answers from a team of scientists who have no sales pitch and nothing for you to buy.


You can submit questions to the site in order to receive their expert answers.  Additionally, the authors of the website have published an online book called:  How to Save Money on Beauty Products that does a great job of debunking so much of the hype, misleading advertising, and myths that are out there about skincare and hair products.  A lot of the information in the book I mentioned in my recent post Buyer Beware, but the book goes into greater detail than I did and has interesting examples to illustrate their points.

Further reading:  I wrote this post about sources for skincare information a long time ago, but my recommendations still stand.  All the sources listed in the post are good reads for more information about skincare issues and products.


Paula “The Cosmetics Cop” Begoun: Friend or Foe to the Skincare Consumer? February 23, 2010

If you are interested in cosmetic and skincare products you have probably come across Paula Begoun’s best-selling books and even visited her website.  In my estimation, Begoun is the best known and most prolific consumer advocate working today who concentrates solely on critiquing and evaluating the cosmetic and skincare industry.  Begoun and her staff are constantly turning our product reviews (of make-up, hair, and skincare products), answering questions from consumers, and researching ingredients.  In addition, Begoun even has her own line of skincare and make-up products (more about that later).

Paula Begoun has written numerous books of which the best known was are Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me and The Beauty Bible.  I own the older editions of both books; new editions of both books (8th and 3rd respectively) have just been published.  You can find all of Begoun’s books at your local chain bookstore.  If you spend some time on Begoun’s website and sign-up for her weekly email updates it is obvious that many, many people admire her and turn to her for seemingly unbiased advice about the cosmetic and skincare industry and its products.  For all of Begoun’s positive work I still have some issues with her reviews and some of her statements about skincare.  I’ll elaborate below.

The Good

The cosmetic and skincare industry certainly needs a reality check, and I applaud Begoun for devoting her career to being a consumer advocate, to helping educate the public, and to helping people make better choices when it comes to buying skincare and make-up products.  The cosmetic and skincare industry is based upon hype, false hopes and promises, unattainable beauty, youth, and even in some cases out right lies.  It is great that Begoun and her staff try to cut through all the lies and illusions in order to help the public make educated choices about what make-up and skincare products to buy and how to take care of their skin.   Another hallmark of Begoun’s work is how well researched it is.  She always cites her sources (which I greatly appreciate) and it obvious that she and her workers are really looking into subjects from numerous perspectives before publishing their opinions.

The Beauty Bible has a great chapter all about why sun protection is so important.  In addition the book explains very well how to see through all the hype of the cosmetic industry so that you base your consumer decisions on facts instead of marketing claims.  There is mostly thoughtful information in the book about how to care for all the different skin types.  I even thought that the discussion about animal testing, at the back of the book, was interesting and a worthwhile addition to the book.  This book can be a good resource for information about skincare.

Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me contains tens of thousands of product reviews.  It is exhausting just to look at.  Begoun conveniently labels and rates her reviews with faces – smiley faces for great products, neutral faces for so-so products, and faces with frowns for products she doesn’t like.  If she considers the products a good buy there is a check next to the review.  Prices and  a brief explanation about why the rating that was given to the review are included.  Product companies are listed alphabetically so it is easy to find the review you are looking for.  The book includes skincare tips, ingredient explanations, and an explanation of how the product evaluations were done.  Certainly this book is the most exhaustive collection of product reviews currently available.

As someone who likes to play with make-up but is very far from being a make-up artist, I greatly appreciate Begoun’s make-up product reviews.  I find those reviews helpful so that I can spend my money on the right products to get the results that I want.  I appreciate her research about skincare ingredients, and I do find myself looking up what she has to say about different ingredients before making my final decision on how I feel about the ingredient.  I think her research, which is well done, is a definite help to anyone who wants to be better educated about skincare ingredients and formulations.

The Bad

At times I have been confounded by Begoun’s skincare advice and upset that such a wide audience of people was receiving this advice.  Begoun actually began her career as a make-up artist.  When she refused to sell products she didn’t believe were effective her career as a consumer advocate began.  It should be pointed out that Begoun never trained as an esthetician and certainly has never had any medical training.  She is an extremely well-educated, but self-educated, lay person who has made an interest in cosmetics into a very successful career.  I certainly don’t believe that just because Begoun is not a licensed esthetician or a physician that her advice is no good, quite to the contrary at times.  But I do think there is a big difference between someone who examines skin up close on a daily basis (and touches it) and their knowledge compared to someone who deals with all these issues in a simply theoretical way.  There is a huge difference between talking about skin versus caring, looking at, and touching it.  Certainly when it comes Begoun’s reviews of products I find that the lack of actually using and trying the products versus just looking at ingredients in order to evaluate the product is a big issue.  I disagree with some of Begoun’s product reviews for that reason.  Some products she pans I have used with great success and recommend them to my clients.  I haven’t done a scientific study about this but I would say that her product reviews lean toward being generally neutral to negative.  Now is that more a reflection on her exacting standards or on the sad state of cosmetic and skincare industry?  I don’t have an answer for that.

Begoun is extremely opinionated on every cosmetic and skincare topic and product.  I guess you need to be to that way in her line of work, but I find her attitude a bit off-putting at times.  I generally think that you need to stay open-minded when it comes to skincare issues.  There are always new products and research to discover.  You need to able to bend a bit in order to stay abreast with the latest findings.

Begoun has declared war on fragrance in cosmetic and skincare products.  Yes, it is true that fragrance can cause irritation and people with sensitive skin should look for products that are fragrance free but should all fragrance be banned from make-up and skincare products?  I don’t think so.  But when I read Begoun’s The Beauty Bible I think I figured out why she is so against fragrance.  Begoun suffered from severe eczema for many years, and so I believe that her hatred of fragrance is purely personal.  I wish her own personal issues wouldn’t loom so large over her reviews.

Another bit of advice that Begoun gives just annoys me.  She writes the following in The Beauty Bible (page 190, 2nd edition):

“If you have dry skin, dry, wrinkled skin, or dry areas (like on the cheeks or around the eyes), you need a moisturizer; otherwise you don’t.  It’s that simple.  If you don’t have dry skin or you have normal to oily skin, you can obtain many of the benefits moisturizers contain (antioxidants, anti-irritants, water-binding agents, natural moisturizing factors) in a well-formulated toner.  Avoiding using a cream-, lotion-, or serum-style moisturizer when you don’t have dry skin can help prevent breakouts and feeling greasy and shiny through your makeup by midday, and encourage your skin to do its natural exfoliation.”

I couldn’t disagree more!!!   Even if you have breakouts you definitely could feel that you want to use a moisturizer.  It is very wrong to tell people that if they use a moisturizer they can cause breakouts.  I know few people who don’t need a moisturizer.  As a matter of fact, many dermatologists even say that a lot of the skin redness and irritation that they see on patients could simply to relieved by using a good moisturizer.  I have never been able to figure out why Begoun continues to give the above advice.

Begoun began her career as a make-up artist so it was strange for me to read her come out against experimenting with eyeshadow color in her chapter about make-up.  Since make-up washes off it is a great medium to experiment with and cosmetic companies certainly offer plenty of color options with which to do so.  I feel that once again this is a personal preference of Begoun’s passed off as fact.  I wish she would encourage “free thinking” when it comes to make-up colors.

The Ugly

As I have already mentioned Begoun has her line of skincare products called Paula’s Choice.  Full disclosure – I use one of her sunscreens and love it.  I also have a client of mine using one of her BHA lotions nightly with great results.  Yet I do have an issue with a consumer advocate having her own products particularly because Begoun shamelessly self-promotes.  In Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me she even goes so far as to review her own products!  Not surprisingly she gives all her products her highest rating.  I found that ridiculous, self-serving, unnecessary, and even slightly unethical.  I turn to Begoun for unbiased reviews; I don’t need her to review her own products as well.

And lastly, none of Begoun’s books have indexes.  Is it too much to ask for a book that is so full of information to have an index???  I don’t think so.  I find myself wasting lots of time trying to find information in The Beauty Bible because of the lack of an index.  I also find the format of “the best product summary” in Don’t Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me to be hard to read.

Bottom Line:  I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to stand by it – Paula Begoun is doing important and needed work as a consumer advocate but don’t take her word as the final word on cosmetic and skincare products.  Use her as a reference and do your own research as well.

For another perspective  on Paula Begoun read Caroline Hirons excellent post with her take on the good and bad when it comes to Paula Begoun.


Ridiculous iPhone App? February 17, 2010

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 4:45 pm
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I don’t have an iPhone.  I don’t have any kind of smart phone even though my husband and numerous friends have repeatedly recommended that I get one.  I don’t have one not because I am opposed to smart phones; I don’t have because I am afraid if I have one I’ll never put it down.  I fear that my time sucking habit of internet surfing will simply over take my life if I have a smart phone so in lieu of just gaining some much needed self-control I  decided to just have a simple cellphone instead.  For now all I can do with my phone is make and receive phone calls and texts.

Having said all of that, of course I am still well aware of all the different apps that are available to smart phone users.  When the app craze began I even tried to recruit my husband, a former computer programmer, to write an app so we would make lots of money and live without financial worries ever again.  Alas that never happened because of my lack of a cool app idea, not for lack of will.  Nevertheless I still am interested in new apps and was very intrigued when I saw the following article today on WebMD:  Can You Treat Acne with an iPhone App? AcneApp Promises to Clear Skin With Light Therapy; Dermatologists Express DoubtsMy first thought was – is this a joke?  Really – treat your acne with your phone??!! 

The idea behind this app is that your phone gives off blue light (which fights acne) and then red light as well (which helps heal the skin).  The use of light therapy to treat acne is not a new idea, and there are even numerous hand-held devices that you can use at home that claim to help heal acne.  Light therapy, when administered at a physician’s office using medical grade machines, can be part of a treatment option to help alleviate acne.  The home devices are an expensive option that rarely works.  The main reason these home gadgets don’t work is that the light intensity in these devices isn’t strong enough to do anything.  The light intensity must be kept low because these devices are sold for home use and as such must be consumer safe.

I think this iPhone app is nothing but a gimmick full of false hope.  This level of blue light will not heal your acne.  Get on a good anti-acne home care regime that is tailored to your specific type of breakouts and see a professional for light therapy if you choose that option.   Use your smart phone for calls, texts, the internet, etc., etc. but leave caring for your acne to a professional.

Sources and More Information:



High-Tech Skincare Help February 5, 2010

Back in November The New York Times reported that the Dutch company Philips, who are known for their electronics, appliances, lighting, and healthcare products, introduced a machine that could analyze a person’s skin almost instantly.  Called Crystalize the machine uses high-tech video cameras to take extreme close-up photos of a person’s skin.  Then the machine’s software analyzes the photos while looking for the following skincare issues:  skin type, redness, sun damage, and smoothness.  Once the analysis is complete you are given a list of recommended products for your skin type, in a variety of price ranges.  The service costs $90, and according to The New York Times article it is currently only available at Studio BeautyMix which is located in the Fred Segal department store in Santa Monica, CA.  I looked at the Studio BeautyMix website but didn’t see any mention of the service on there.  Philips  will not be selling skincare products or be receiving money from companies whose products are sold in the same location as Crystalize.  After getting your skin analyzed you can go online and share your thoughts and feelings about skincare and your skin on the Crystalize website.

Of course I went and looked up the Crystalize website which I must say I found confusing.  The website certainly tries to sell you on the machine but doesn’t mention where you can find it.  There are testimonials from people who have used Crystalize, but it isn’t clear to me how wide spread the use of the product is.  It did intrigue me to see that Dr. Doris Day is featured on the website, giving her expert endorsement of the product.  Dr. Day is a prominent New York City dermatologist who is widely quoted in the media.  I’ve read one of her books and found it interesting and informative (though I hated the format of the book).  Dr. Day has one blog entry on the Crystalize website but nothing else.  All in all the website seems very under developed.  I even tried to leave a comment and couldn’t find how to do it.  Do you have to be invited in order to leave comments?  It was really confusing and I am usually not this confounded by websites.

Crystalize is definitely an intriguing product.  If it works as it says it does then it really could eliminate a lot of confusion for consumers.  Plus it would take away the problem of wondering if the person at the skincare product counter really knows what they are talking about or is simply trying to sell you something in order to make their commission.  I just wish the Crystalize website was more complete and provided a lot more useful information like where to find it for starters!  Isn’t that a marketing 101 issue – tell people where they can find your product?

Sources and More Information


Recommended Reading for Information About Acne February 2, 2010

I wanted to recommend a few great resources for information about acne.  I’ve read the books that I am recommending here, and I have explored the websites I am recommending.  Acne is a chronic disease of the sebaceous glands and has a multitude of causes.  Treating acne can often be very difficult, and each person who suffers from acne has to find the right products and techniques that work for them.  For those reasons I am recommending both books and websites here since they explore all the different facets of acne – from causes to the many treatment options.


I found AcneNet through the American Academy of Dermatology’s website.  The AcneNet website is easy to navigate and covers every aspect of acne from causes, to treatments, and even the social impact of acne (a very important topic in my opinion).  The “articles” section of the website has articles about specific issues as they relate to acne – like pregnancy and acne – and is a great resource. was started by a guy who suffered from acne for years.  After much experimentation he decided to share what he had learned about clearing up his own acne.  Not only is this website a great place to learn all about acne, acne treatments, and acne products, but it is also a thriving online community for people to share their thoughts and feelings about acne and acne treatments.  This website is a great resource for people seeking information about acne.


There are so many books about acne so I thought I would highlight just two that I think are excellent.

Healing Adult Acne: Your Guide to Clear Skin And Self-Confidence is by Richard G. Fried who is both a dermatologist and a psychologist.  Why did I like this book so much?  I loved the fact that Dr. Fried combined both scientific facts about acne with a psychological discourse in this book.  I found the chapter about finding your acne triggers to be wonderful.  Dr. Fried includes charts and quizes in the chapter that help the reader really think about what could be causing their acne.  If you can figure out what triggers your acne – stress, medication, food, etc. – than you can do a much better job at clearing up your skin.  I like the fact that this book was aimed at adults whose acne is caused by different issues than the acne teenagers suffers from.  The book is quite comprehensive in exploring treatments, but also really talks about the emotional impact of acne on one’s life and how you can have a happy life even with acne.  Many books and articles about acne fail to really address the psychological side of acne and this book certainly makes up for that oversight.

Breaking Out: A Woman’s Guide to Coping with Acne at Any Age by Lydia Preston.  I am not sure why this book is specifically aimed at women since it is a great guide to the causes of acne and to all the different treatment options that are available.  Preston is a journalist whose research skills really shine through in this work.  I would say that this book is a great read for someone who wants a comprehensive background about acne.  Since the book came out in 2004 there have been some new advances in acne treatments, but nevertheless the book gives you plenty of information and will teach you a lot too.  The book is clearly written and very useful.

If you have a favorite resource for information about acne please feel free to share it!


Skin Cancer Affects All of Us January 30, 2010


I wanted to write a short post today that would tie into some of the information I mentioned in my post yesterday about winter skincare.  One of the things I discussed in the post yesterday was the importance of using sunscreen (spf 30) all year-long.  Though I would like to devote a longer post in the future about skin cancer and how to prevent it I thought in the meantime I would post some very important information about skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation :

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one million skin cancers are diagnosed annually.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
  • If those statistics aren’t enough to make you sit up and take notice (and put on sunscreen) perhaps reading this article from Self magazine about skin cancer survivors will do the trick: Diagnosis Skin CancerWomen are continually updated with information about the fight against breast cancer.  I wish as much attention would be given to skin cancer.

    Sunscreen Tips:

    First of all, please remember that there is no such thing as a healthy tan.  When your skin gets darker after being in the sun that is actually your skin’s way of protecting itself from damage.  If you love the way you look after getting a tan use make-up (or get a spray tan) in order to achieve that “glow”.

    Use a moisturizer that has spf 30 or higher or a sunscreen with spf 30 or higher.  Be sure to use at least a teaspoon size of either (or both) of those products on your face in order to get enough protection.  Apply sunscreen AFTER your moisturizer (if you aren’t using a moisturizer with spf) and BEFORE applying your make-up.  Reapply your sunscreen every two hours if you are outdoors or in a sunny room in-doors.  If you are in an enclosed space all day reapply your sunscreen before going out to lunch or leaving your office for the day.  (See my post about brush-on sunscreens)  Don’t rely on make-up with spf to give you enough protection.  It is always better to use a separate sunscreen in addition to your make-up to get enough protection.

    Don’t neglect the rest of your body.  Any part of your skin that is exposed, even if it is incidental sun exposure (walking to your car, etc.), needs to be protected from the sun with sunscreen.  You can use a body lotion with sunscreen like Eucerin.

    And remember – anyone can get skin cancer!  Skin color, where you live, and your lifestyle choices may lower your risk of skin cancer, but they will not prevent it.  Use sunscreen daily!

    Recommended Website:

    Once again I’ll recommend The Skin Cancer Foundation’s website.  It is an excellent resource for all your questions about this disease.

    And lastly, what is the single most recommended anti-aging product?  Sunscreen!  So while you are protecting yourself from skin cancer by using sunscreen you are also preventing wrinkles and fine lines.   Do you need any more reasons to use sunscreen?

    Also please read:  Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers a National Epidemic  Skin IncMarch 2010



    I’ve noticed a growing interest in this post in the last few weeks so I thought I would add a few more things to the post.  I’ve written extensively about sun protection in this blog.  I think three of my more relevant posts about sun protection are:

    Also please see my post – May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month – for more links to my posts about skin cancer.


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