Author Archives: hannahsowdinc

Does Drinking Alcohol Impact Your Skin?

There’s always a reason to celebrate with a festive cocktail or a glass of wine but how does drinking alcohol affect your skin?

First, drinking alcohol is a diuretic so it dehydrates your entire system. Your body pulls moisture from every available source, including your skin. The morning after drinking your pores look larger and your wrinkles are more prominent due to lack of moisture.

In addition to dehydration, drinking alcohol causes inflammation and a histamine reaction in the body. The most obvious sign of this reaction is feeling puffy the morning after drinking. A histamine reaction can also lead to an acne flareup, redness, or rash on various parts of the body depending on a persons sensitivity.

Drinking alcohol more than once or twice a week, doesn’t allow the body time to recover between assaults so the inflammation can lead to weakened skin structure and premature aging.

Can I have an alcoholic beverage and not affect my skin?

Think of alcoholic drinks in the same category as dessert; they are for indulging once in awhile, not on a daily basis.

When you decide to indulge, consider a low alcohol option and stay away from sugary mixers.

Drink an extra glass of water for each alcoholic drink. Not only will the extra water soften the blow to your system, alternating beverages slows your alcohol consumption when you are out with friends.

No matter how many alcoholic drinks you consume, do not skip your nighttime skincare routine! Do what you can to fake a full night of sleep the next day.

The Environmental Impact of Skin Care

You want nice skin but you also care about the planet, how can you balance your concerns?

Several large companies have recently made commitments to cut back on post consumer waste by using recycled plastic, refillable bottles, and less outer packaging. This is a huge step in the right direction!

Some small tips can go a long way when it comes to environmental impact from personal care products:

Looks for items with the least amount of packaging. Excessive wrapping can look pretty and make it feel like you are getting a “gift” but most of it ends up in the landfill.

Shop locally. Not only do you support your neighbors and community, but you lessen the environmental impact of shipping and packing materials.

Use up all the products you have. If a cream is too rich for your face, use it on your body. Don’t throw away perfectly good products!

Streamline your routine to 2-3 products per season. Rotate your products as necessary when a bottle is empty. 5-6 open products run the risk of expiring before you can use them all.

Recycle your empty packages! This may seem obvious but if there’s no recycling bin in the bathroom it’s an easy one to miss.

Donate unused items. Skin care can be an impulse buy and return policies can be strict. Check with your local homeless shelter, many of them welcome donations of unused (or gently used) personal care products.

When Should I Start Using Anti-Aging Skin Care?

“When should I start using anti-aging skin care? I want to prevent aging before it happens!”

I hear this from my clients often and the answer is simple, you probably ARE using anti-aging skincare.

Sunscreen is the most important step to maintaining youthful skin and this is a product we should use every day at every age.

Most exfoliants and antioxidants (like retinol and vitamin C) may have been recommended to help with issues like acne and pigmentation but in the long run, also help with signs of aging.

If you are seeing fewer breakouts and more fine lines, check your routine for drying ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These are both great to use as spot treatment for the occasional pimple but not in a cleanser or cream since their job is to absorb oil.

Check your moisturizer, do you need a heavier product? You may want to consider layering a serum and a mid-weight lotion to get the power of anti-aging actives without clogging your pores.

Ingredients like hyaluronic acid provide intense moisture without being heavy.

Leave the super heavy creams for your grandma (or your ski vacation). Your face doesn’t need to feel like an oil slick to keep wrinkles at bay.

RUHAKU Organic Japanese Skin Care

RUHAKU is the first organic anti-aging skincare brand from Okinawa, using the unique anti-oxidant powers of the Gettou leaves.

“Gettou is a herb classified in zingiberaceae that grows up to 2-3 meters height even in a harsh soil with strong UV radiation.

Large and lush green leaves of Gettou have antiseptic and antibacterial effects. In Okinawa, they have been used for wrapping foods and insect repellent.

The Gettou that grows in the strong sunlight and sea breeze has a strong antioxidant effect.”

RUHAKU is the latest addition to the offerings at Hannah Sowd Skin Care, for more information visit our online shop.

“I have an office job, do I need to use SPF every day?”

“I work inside all day in front of a computer, do I really need to an SPF in my daily skin care routine?”

One word answer: YES.

Do you commute to and from work when the sun is shining? Do you leave your office for lunch or to grab coffee? Do you have a window in your office?

You are exposed to UVA and UVB rays even when you aren’t actively in the sun.

Here in San Francisco weather can be unpredictable. I once got a mild sunburn on the back of my neck while eating lunch in Union Square.

Additionally, when you use a physical SPF (like you know you should) you protect your skin from HEV light emitting from the technology around you.

Find a sunscreen product you like, layer it over an antioxidant serum for maximum protection, and make it part of your daily routine.

Pre-Holiday Skin Care

Summer is over and your natural glow is starting to fade, what’s the best way to prepare for the holidays?

First and foremost, it’s time to exfoliate. Chances are, you spent time outside and out of your normal environment in the past three months. Plus, (hopefully) you used more SPF!

Now is a great time to schedule a chemical peel or a Microdermabrasion Facial. Slough off the top layer of dead skin, clean out your pores, and start new for fall.

Take some time to revisit your home care routine, maybe add a brightening product to the mix. Botanical brightening products help bring back your natural glow without using of harsh bleaching ingredients.

Lastly, the temperature outside is cooling and days are getting shorter but daily physical SPF is still as important as ever.

How To Be A Good Client

We all want a great skin care treatment but what can you do to enhance your session?

Let’s assume you have the basics covered: show up to your appointment a few minutes early, cancel or reschedule at least 24 hours in advance etc.

Here are a few tips to help you have the best treatment possible:

  1. Bring your current skin care regime (or photos of the products) to your first session. Knowledge of the ingredients you are currently using might influence the treatment you receive.
  2. Have an open mind and communicate your concerns. You scheduled a treatment with a professional so trust their opinion. However, feel free to ask questions and inquire about the process along the way.
  3. If you want to see a change in your skin, commit to the suggested treatment plan and provide feedback as necessary. If you are in love with a certain product and don’t want to switch, be honest! If you need a skin care regime at a lower price point, be honest! If you don’t communicate your needs, you will not see the results you want.
  4. Be honest about how much time and money you want to commit to your skin care routine. Skin is a living organ that requires maintenance. For best results, establish a plan that fits your lifestyle!

How To Apply Physical SPF

There’s no question, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide the best protection for your skin and are healthiest for the environment.

Sunscreen products that contain these ingredients are usually labeled “mineral” or “physical”. Check the active ingredient list on the back of the label, it will contain zinc or titanium (or both).

Here are a few tips for applying physical SPF:

Apply physical SPF on clean skin or over a serum only. Layering too many products can feel uncomfortable. If you need extra moisture, consider an SPF with moisturizer.

Use a nickel sized dollop of SPF to cover your entire face. The length of the top portion of your pinky finger is about the correct amount.

Apply the product to your hands, rub them together to warm the product then spread it all over your face, neck and ears. Use outward feathering strokes to blend it in. Do not dab the product on the face like concealer then attempt to blend it in.

Wait 2-3 minutes after applying. Brush your teeth. Do your hair. Some physical SPF products appear a little white initially but then it disappears.

What Is The Skin Barrier?

And why is the skin barrier important?

The skin barrier is the outermost layer of our skin and has two main functions.

First, it keeps out harmful substances and second, it keeps in necessary elements like water and electrolytes. This layer of skin also produces antimicrobial proteins, lipids, and peptides to create an invisible protective shield.

The skin barrier is largely responsible for the general health of our skin. When the skin barrier is compromised, you may experience inflammation, redness, breakouts, rashes, dryness, tightness, and generally sensitive skin.

How do you fix a compromised skin barrier?

Look at the exfoliating products in your skin care routine. Any product that contains a physical scrub, a chemical exfoliant (retinol, glycolic, AHA, BHA, salicylic acid) or an enzyme exfoliant can compromise your skin barrier.

How often are you exfoliating? Over exfoliation is the number one cause of a compromised skin barrier

Is your cleanser a cream or a gel? Gel cleansers can be more drying, especially if they contain exfoliating ingredients like glycolic acid or AHA’s. If your skin barrier is compromised, use a cream cleanser.

Are you nourishing your skin with antioxidants? Use a serum or cream with calming, nourishing ingredients twice a day to help your skin rebuild the lipid barrier.

A compromised skin barrier is often a temporary condition but you need to identify the cause and change your habits. The right skin care products and treatments will heal the skin barrier and eliminate sensitivity.

What is Light Therapy?

Light therapy is commonly referred to as LED which stands for Light Emitting Diode. The three most common types of LED therapy are blue, red, and near-infared.

Blue LED’s are designed to kill acne bacteria and clear existing breakouts at the surface level of the skin.

Red LED‘s will penetrate deeper to increase collagen and elastin production in the dermis.

Near-infared LED‘s penetrate the deepest and focus on increasing circulation while reducing inflammation in the tissue.

There is an LED for every skin condition which makes it the perfect addition to your next treatment!

How to Care For Your Neck and Decolletage

The skin from your jawline to your collarbone is exposed to the elements for hours every day. Do you include it in your skin care routine?

What is the best way to care for this delicate area?

The skin on the neck and chest has fewer oil glands than the skin on the face which makes it more sensitive. When considering products for this area, focus on hydration and protection.

Cleanse the area with a nourishing cream cleanser. Follow with a hydrating cream with calming ingredients. Focus on anti-aging formulas with ingredients like peptides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid.

Do a patch test before using products that contain retinol or glycolic acid on your neck. If your skin responds well, use them 1-2 times per week but follow with a hydrating cream.

Use a physical SPF every day regardless of exposure and time of year. I apply my SPF to my face, neck, and chest before getting dressed ensure maximum coverage.

Professional treatments like chemical peels and microdermabrasion are a great way to treat fine lines and pigmentation on the chest and neck. More intense treatments like Ultherapy are required to treat skin laxity in this area.

How To Get The Most From Your Skin Care Products

You’ve found skin care products that work for your skin but are you using them correctly?

Consider the following for each product in your skin care routine:

  1. Time of day: Should I use this product in the morning or at night? Products that contain ingredients like Retinol should only be used at night whereas antioxidants like vitamin c are most effective during the day under your SPF.
  2. Frequency of use: Is this product meant to be used daily? Weekly? Skin care products need a schedule to be effective. Figure out a streamlined morning routine, a slightly more complicated evening routine, and a weekly “skin care hour” (I like Sunday evenings) so you make sure to use all your products on a regular basis.
  3. Order of application: Where does this product fit with the others in my routine? Apply products from lightest in texture to heaviest, always end with SPF or night cream.
  4. Amount of product: Am I using too much/too little product to achieve the desired results? Active ingredients are dose dependent, make sure you are using the recommended amount of product with each application. Most skin care products are sold in packages designed to last 2-4 months of daily use. If you have an open bottle of serum for over year are you really using it correctly?

The Top Five Eye Creams

It’s never to early to start taking care of your eye area. Here are my top picks for eye products:

DermaQuest EyeBrite $64

DermaQuest EyeBrite awakens tired eyes for a refreshed appearance. Vitamin C lightens dark under eye circles while peptides banish puffiness and Madonna lily stem cells firm and tone to soften lines. Antioxidants and amino acids nourish, hydrate and protect the delicate area from environmental stresses.

iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex $98

Peptides and antioxidants prevent signs of aging while keeping skin moist, smooth, and protected all day long. Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (including crow’s feet). Visibly diminishes dark under-eye circles while delivering immediate and long-term improvements.

sowd therapy for skin firming peptide eye therapy $41

Eye Therapy combines plant extracts and peptides in a nourishing formula to firm and protect the delicate eye area.

Alchimie Forever Rejuvenating Eye Balm $45

This lightweight anti-aging eye cream instantly penetrates to restore youthful vitality to this delicate area while protecting it against the effects of environmental stress. Jojoba and cocoa butter add a boost of much–needed moisture, increasing firmness and elasticity. European blueberries and the vitamin K in alfalfa act synergistically to reduce the appearance of dark under-eye circles, while natural antioxidants derived from grape seeds combat the effects of free radicals.

iS Clinical C Eye Serum Advance + $58

C EYE SERUM ADVANCE+ is a cutting-edge formulation that effectively combines our scientifically-advanced L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) with copper tripeptide growth factor for enhanced age-defying properties. This powerful yet gentle formula is designed to help diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and under-eye puffiness and dark circles.

The Wedding Countdown

Looking your best for your wedding (or any big event) is important but how do you fit all your appointments in the week before? And in what order?

I get this question a lot from my bridal clients so I’m putting it in a blog!

Six months to a year out from your date: start your skin care routine. This gives you plenty of time to customize your plan with a professional. More aggressive treatments like chemical peels require downtime and planning.

Six months before your big day: have a trial run with your hair and makeup artist as well as other professionals. This includes nails, spray tan, waxing, lash extensions etc. Find the business where you will have these services performed AND the technician who will perform them. Leave as little to chance as possible!

Four weeks before your big day: have your last corrective facial treatment with microdermabrasion or a peel, hair cut/color, Botox and fillers.

Five-seven days before your big day: have a massage, a body wrap, body scrub, or any other body treatments.

Three-five days before your big day: schedule lash extensions, waxing, LED facial.

The day before your big day: schedule manicure and pedicure then spray tan.

A few general items to remember:

Book as early as possible! Talented technicians in all trades get busy so the earlier you plan, the better for both of you. I have brides that book 6 months of treatments up front and it works great for both of us.

Certain treatments take time to work. Botox takes two weeks to see full results. A chemical peel can take about a month to see the best results. Have consultations with professionals so you know what to expect on what timeline. This is not a time to experiment with something new!


Can You Exercise Your Way To Younger Skin?

The basics of anti-aging skin care have been proven: retinol, vitamin c and sunscreen every day. But what about exercise?

The New York Times examines a Canadian study that shows regular exercise changes the actual structure of the skin, not just the appearance.

“They found that after age 40, the men and women who exercised frequently had markedly thinner, healthier stratum corneums and thicker dermis layers in their skin. Their skin was much closer in composition to that of the 20- and 30-year-olds than to that of others of their age, even if they were past age 65.”

Sounds amazing, let’s all get to the gym!

Here are a few tips to get the most skin benefits from your workout:

  1. Drink an extra 8oz. of water for every hour of exercise.
  2. Remove your makeup before you workout.
  3. If you are prone to acne on your chest and back, wear sweat wicking fabrics and shower as soon as possible after your workout.
  4. Wear water resistant SPF AND a hat if you workout outdoors. UVA rays are present whenever there is sunlight.

Pick an exercise you enjoy. There are so many options when it comes to moving your body; if it makes you happy your stress level will decrease and your complexion will benefit!

Are You Protecting Your Most Sensitive Skin?

Your most sensitive skin, the lips and eyes, are often missed during the sunscreen application process.

When using a physical sunscreen (like you know you should!) the product can feel heavy on delicate areas of the face. If you are still using a chemical sunscreen, it can sting when too close to the eye area.

Sunscreen products made specifically to protect and treat the eyes and lips are worth the extra effort.

Look for high percentages of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, it can be one active ingredient or a combination of the two. Physical sunscreen ingredients don’t have the “sunscreen” odor and won’t sting if you get them in your eyes on accident.

For lips I love Suntegrity Lip CPR when I want some color and Tizo lip balm for every day use.

Colorscience Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy is a great eye product with physical SPF and a little color. Skinceuticals Physical Eye UV Defense is also good. Both are designed to treat the delicate skin around the eye while protecting it from the sun.

Products that contain SPF generally aren’t as moisturizing as those without. If you find the SPF eye cream isn’t giving you enough moisture, consider layering an eye serum underneath.

Take advantage of your evening routine as a time to get some extra moisture and use an eye cream without SPF.

San Francisco Wellness Referrals

I frequently mention other practitioners or businesses during sessions with my clients so I decided to create an online list for easy reference.

Dermatologist: Dr. MacGregor is my personal go to for both medical and cosmetic dermatology.

Chiropractor: Darryl Hobbs offers a wide range of chiropractic and health services.

Fitness: I like full body, functional fitness classes that focus on safety. My current favorites are Burn and Basecamp.

Body Scrub: If you want baby soft skin, trust the ladies at Pearl Day Spa. It’s a traditional Korean Spa so the environment might be a little different but then end result is amazing!

Hair Salon: Hector personally trains all the stylists at his salon so you can’t go wrong for a cut or a color. Hector Estrada Salon

Need a facial in Seattle? Go see my friends at Dermaspace.

Do I need a Tool for Washing my Face?

There are many tools on the market for face washing; brushes, cloths, even rubber devices that claim to be superior. Are any of these gadgets necessary to get clean skin?

The answer depends on your skin type and what you are trying to cleanse at the end of the day; makeup, excess oil, debris, layers of sunscreen.

If you have normal or combination skin and don’t wear a lot of makeup, your cleanser and your hands will get your skin clean on a daily basis. Add an enzyme mask once or twice a week for happy pores!

If you need an extra boost in your daily cleansing routine, consider your habits. Are you willing to keep a gadget charged (or replace the batteries on a regular basis)? Can you commit to changing brush heads when they wear out? All gadgets require maintenance to work properly so investigate before you invest!

The most basic way to get an extra hand cleansing your face is a simple washcloth. Have a few on hand so you can launder them regularly to keep bacteria from growing.

Be gentle when using any tool. Use soft brush heads and light pressure. Applying too much pressure can lead to broken capillaries and other long term damage.

Most importantly, wash your face twice a day!

The Seasons and Skin Hydration

Does your oily skin feel dry in winter? You are not alone. The seasons affect moisture levels in all skin types.

Seasonal changes are more noticeable in cold climates but warm, humid, climates also have fluctuations in moisture levels.

Trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) is the official name for loss of water through the skin to the surrounding atmosphere via the evaporation process. TEWL is a process which can take us by surprise, substantial dehydration sometimes occurs before a person realizes what is happening.

TEWL is affected by environmental factors such as humidity, temperature, the time of year and the moisture content of the skin. Your first line of defense is to stay properly hydrated internally.

Our skin is most dehydrated from December through March. Seasonal changes during April, May and June help the skin re-hydrate. The cycle of moisture loss begins again in July and continues until our skin is at its most dehydrated in December.

Knowing how the season will affect moisture levels in our skin allows us to plan our skin care accordingly. When the dry months begin, add a hydrating serum under your treatment cream at night.