Author Archives: hannahsowdinc

Sadly Drinking Alcohol Does Accelerate Skin Aging

I’m a proponent of a balanced lifestyle. I want to believe I can treat and hydrate my way out the negative effects of occasional alcohol consumption.

Am I fooling myself? Probably.

We know drinking alcohol dehydrates our body and makes the skin less elastic. Alcohol also increases blood vessel dilation which leads to redness, puffy eyes, and inflammation.

The older I get, the longer these after effects (and the pounding headache…) seem to hang around.

Sadly, there’s evidence to show the impact doesn’t stop there. Alcohol consumption accelerates the aging process of the skin and there’s no way around it.

Effect of alcohol use. Regression analyses suggested a relationship between alcohol use and aging severity that was statistically significant for under-eye puffiness, mid-face volume loss, and blood vessels on the cheeks.”

Under-eye puffiness, mid-face volume loss, and blood vessels on the cheeks? Ugh. Regular alcohol consumption affects much more than just the hydration levels of our skin.

Corrective treatments for volume loss of the face and broken blood vessels require expensive, invasive procedures like dermal fillers and lasers.

It’s time to rethink my alcohol consumption!

“I tried a sample of a skincare product, it didn’t “work”.”

Skincare samples are cute and fun, everyone loves getting free samples.

Skincare samples generally hold 2-5 applications of a product. If your skin needs exfoliation sometimes a product can deliver “wow” results from a single application but using most products a handful of times will not determine the longterm results.

The best way to determine if a product will work for your skin is using it on a regular basis for 30-60 days or two full skin cell cycles.

So what is the point of skincare samples?

Samples are a great way to experience the texture and scent of a product. They are wonderful if you have allergies or if you prefer a certain sensation in your skincare routine.

When a moisturizer feels too heavy or light, a cleanser too rich or foamy, we may form a mental block when it comes to our skincare routine.

Your skincare routine should make you happy!

Don’t force yourself to use a product because you think it’s “good for you” if you don’t like the way it feels. The skincare market is saturated with options and sample sizes are a good way to find what will please your senses.

Want a 3 Day Turnaround Kit of product samples created just for you? Have an Online Skin Care Consult with Hannah!

Should I Use The Same Brand For My Entire Skin Care Routine?

The short answer? You don’t have too.

If a skin care product is formulated correctly, it should work well in a variety of situations.

Any skin care product that is dependent on what comes before or after in the application process should be sold as a kit.

When building your skincare routine, pay attention to the active ingredients in each product instead of the brand.

Your daily routine should include a retinol for evening, a vitamin c serum (or other antioxidant) for day, and a good physical SPF. These can be from the same brand of three different brands that each work well for your skin.

The idea that products need to work as a team was very popular in the 80’s and 90’s, it’s nothing more than a dated sales pitch!

Is Your Skin Suddenly Dry?

After 6+ months of wearing a protective face mask and dealing with breakouts, your skin feels dry and dehydrated. What’s going on?

I’ve heard this complaint from numerous clients over the past week so I’ll share my thoughts.

The skin loses moisture as we transition to fall/winter so part of the change is normal seasonal fluctuations.

Here in the Bay Area, we are experiencing extremely windy weather conditions which saps moisture from the surface of the skin.

Face masks made from cotton will absorb moisture, including from the surface of your skin.

What can I do for my seasonal dry skin?

  1. Switch to a silk face mask.
  2. (If you can safely) remove your mask for 15 minutes every 4 hours to give your skin a break.
  3. Check your water intake. When wearing a protective face mask, we are less inclined to sip water throughout the day. 
  4. Wear your physical SPF! This can help prevent excessive moisture loss and protect the skin from wind and cold.
  5. Add a serum under your moisturizer.
  6. Make sure your diet includes enough healthy fats like nuts and avocados.
  7. Use a gentle exfoliant once a week to remove dead, dry skin and allow moisture to absorb.

Do you have questions about your skincare routine? Have a Virtual Skin Care Consult with Hannah.

How Often Should I Exfoliate?

Your exfoliation routine depends on your skin type, your environment, and the product you are using.

Oily and acne prone skin requires more frequent and aggressive exfoliation but it’s not a step to be skipped if your skin is dry.

The skin cell cycle slows as we age and regular exfoliation is the best way to assistant sluggish cells. Exfoliation allows new skin skin cells to flourish and can encourage collagen production.

Oily and acne prone skin can benefit from daily exfoliation to keep pore buildup to a minimum. Dry skin needs a gentle exfolation 1-2 times a week, depending on external factors like the weather.

What Exfoliating Product Should I Use?

There are three main categories of exfoliating products: physical, chemical, and enzyme.

Physical exfoliants use rough particles and friction to remove dead skin. These products are wonderful to exfoliate skin on the body. They often come in the form of salt, sugar, or pumice scrubs.

Physical exfoliants are not appropriate for most skin types to use on the face. The rough pieces can cause micro tears in the skin and the amount of friction necessary to remove dead skin leaves many skin types unnecessarily red and irritated.

Chemical and enzyme exfoliating products are better suited for the face.

Enzyme exfoliants are appropriate for most skin types. Enzymes are made from fruits acids and work on the surface of the skin. They gently digest dead skin cells and promote glowing skin. Enzyme products require several minutes to do their magic and can be assisted by steam from the shower.

You can safely use an enzyme exfoliant several times a week. It will assist with clogged pores, dry skin, blackheads, and rough patches.

You can use an enzyme exfoliant weekly and a chemical exfoliant nightly, especially if your skin is oily and you are prone to clogged pore.

Chemical exfoliants work below the skins surface to promote new skin cell turnover and collagen production. These products include ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, retinol, and lactic acid.

Chemical exfoliation is very popular and effective. Start slow and build your tolerance to this type of product, it is possible to compromise your skin barrier with too much chemical exfoliation.

Add one chemical exfoliating product to your night time routine. You may need to begin with every other night to build tolerance. Commit to using the product for 90 days to asses the results. Make sure you are getting enough hydration and sun protection during the day.

Do you have questions about how often you should be exfoliating? Have a Virtual Skin Care Consult with Hannah.

The Virtual Skin Care Consult

This year hasn’t gone as planned (and I don’t think I’m alone!). I’ve had to pivot my business plan so many times I’ve lost count.

One thing is certain, I miss seeing clients.

Since the future of face to face services is uncertain, I created a Virtual Skin Care Consult.

A Virtual Skin Care Consult gives us an opportunity to discuss your skin care needs “live”, I can see what is going on with your skin at the moment and give you real time feedback.

Every consult begins with an online intake form. If you are a brand new client you will complete a new set of of forms, if we have worked together in the past you will provide an update for me.

When I receive your intake information, I do a careful assessment before we schedule time to meet. The virtual meeting takes place via FaceTime, Google Meet, or Skype. The consult takes about 45 minutes, depending on what we need to discuss.

Each consult is different, we talk about what you need right now. We can discuss a specific issue or work on an entirely new skincare routine. It’s your time so we can work on whatever you need.

I enjoy the virtual consults so much! I’ve established relationships with new clients thousands of miles away and gotten a peek into the lives of local clients quarantined at home.

To schedule a Virtual Skin Care Consultant click here or shoot me an email with any questions.

The Eye Kit

2020 is taking a toll on all of us in different ways yet one complaint I hear across the board is “How can I improve the skin around my eyes?”.

More stress and screen time takes a toll. Proper hydration and sleep are important but topical products will also help.

I created The Eye Kit with multiple tools to improve the eye area. Each kit contains one Mesolyft Eye Roller, a box of five Patchology Illumuating Eye Gels and one full size Firming Peptide Eye Therapy

How to use The Eye Kit:

With your evening skincare routine:

After cleansing use the MesoLyft Eye Roller on clean skin as directed.

With your morning skincare routine:

After cleansing, apply Firming Peptide Eye Therapy to the eye area using a gentle tapping motion.

Once a week:

Apply one set of Patchology Illuminating Eye Gels on clean skin for 15 minutes. Remove the gels and apply Firming Peptide Eye Therapy.

Questions about your skin? Have a Virtual Skin Care Consult with Hannah.

Self Care When You Can’t Get A Massage

Prior to quarantine, I had a professional massage every 3-4 weeks. March 13 was my last massage appointment so I’ve been creative with ways to keep my body relaxed.

This year gave us new challenges, we have fewer outside resources and more stress from the unknown.

In addition to my daily routine of exercise, hydration, and meditation I try to add one or two things that help my muscles relax.

I have a warm bath with Epsom salts 2-3 times a week. This is no substitute for a mineral soak at the Korean Spa but it helps me wind down at the end of the day.

I use my heated neck pillow almost daily, the warm weight keeps my neck and shoulders more relaxed. Sometimes I use it when I’m sitting at my desk and it helps prevent my shoulders from creeping up towards my ears.

I learned about the RoFlex PRO from my Run Club and I love it for self massage of my arms and legs. There’s a bit of a learning curve but once you figure out how it works best for your body, it’s a handy tool to keep around. I’m on my computer more these days and my forearms have felt the change, this tool has helped!

Even when getting regular massage, nothing beats a good session with a foam roller. This is a good comprehensive video to help you get started.

It may be awhile before personal services resume so we decided to invest in a TheraGun. I find it super effective and worth the money, especially if you have a partner to use it on the hard to reach areas. It provides targeted, deep pressure, almost as good as a human!

I look forward to having a professional massage when it’s safe but until then, I’ll keep up my self care routine at home.

Wash Your Face

When was the last time you washed your face? Not just a rinse in the shower but a full 2 minute lather with facial cleanser?

Days, weeks, and months blend together during this extended quarantine and sometimes our routines get lost. 

Our lives look different now versus 6 months ago; work from home, school from home, PPE in public and at work.

Have you purchased a new bottle of cleanser since the pandemic started? If the answer is no, you’re not washing your face enough.

No matter where you spend your day and what you have on your face, your skin continues to shed cells and produce oil. Regular cleansing is the first step to keeping your skin balanced and healthy.

Wash your face:

  • when you wake up in the morning
  • after wearing PPE for an extended period of time 
  • before and after exercise 
  • before going to bed at night

Find a cleanser you love. It should leave your skin feeling clean but not dry or tight. If you like the feel of a cleansing brush or other tool, use it once a day in the evening.

Take the opportunity to massage your face for a few minutes while cleansing. Massage stimulates blood flow and lymphatic drainage to increase the health of your skin. Make it a ritual!

Do you have questions about cleansing or your skin care routine in general? Schedule a virtual consult with Hannah.

Skin Care For Runners

Distance runners each have a unique skin type, but certain aspects of skin care can apply across the board. Exposure to the elements for long periods of time take a toll on the skin so proper care is important.

Wash your face.

Wash your face morning and night as well as before and after your run.

Yes, I just told you to wash your face 3-4 times on the days you run. And yes, you need to wash your face in the morning before you roll out the door in your running shoes.

Overnight your skin has been busy shedding cells and producing oil. You also (hopefully) have a nice layer of moisturizer or treatment cream on from your evening routine. Start with a clean slate before you get sweaty.

Running in the afternoon? Your skin gets dirty from walking around the city even without makeup. Look at your car windshield after an hour of driving. Or when working from home, look at the windowsill of your open window…

A quick cleanse before you slap on sunscreen and sweat thru a run does a lot to keep your pores clean and your skin healthy.

Find a gentle cleanser that removes dirt and oil but doesn’t over dry your skin. If your cleanser leaves you feeling “squeaky clean”, it’s too aggressive.

Use a physical SPF.

A physical SPF (sometimes labeled “mineral”) is one that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Every other SPF ingredient in a chemical SPF.

Physical SPF forms an invisible barrier on the skin to reflect the rays of the sun and keep the surface of the skin cool. It helps prevent sun induced pigmentation as well as protect from skin cancer and aging. This layer of protection also helps minimize skin irritation from wind and cold.

Chemical SPF absorbs the rays of the sun which can heat the surface of the skin. It may cause the skin to flush and doesn’t protect against sun induced pigmentation. Chemical SPF is the sunscreen that burns when it gets in your eyes!

The majority of SPF products marketed for “sport” are water resistant for up to 80 minutes. No SPF is waterproof. A general guideline is reapply every hour if you are outdoors and sweating.

Choose an SPF of 30 or higher and check the percentage of active ingredients to determine the strength. The back of the tube will list the active ingredients separate from the full ingredient list, a good SPF will have at least 10% combined zinc and titanium dioxide.

Double your protection with shade elements like a hat or visor when you will be out for longer than an hour. My running buff works as a face mask AND prevents the back of my neck from sunburn!

Schedule a yearly mole check with your dermatologist. This should cover your entire body and scalp, be sure to point out any moles you think may have changed during the year. Be honest about your sun exposure and sunscreen compliance.

Two of my favorite sunscreens for running are:

Neutrogena SheerZinc Face Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
iS Clinical Eclipse SPF 50+

Use a gentle exfoliant.

In addition to your daily cleansing routine, exfoliating once or twice a week will help keep your pores clean and your complexion healthy. I like an enzyme or clay mask (or both) for active outdoor clients.

Enzyme exfoliation is gentle yet effective. The active ingredients loosen dead cells and soften rough spots without sensitizing the skin to the sun. These products generally can be used several times a week with no adverse effects.

Clay masks are also a good form of gentle exfoliation and balancing for combination or oily skin.

I’m not a fan of physical exfoliation for the face (scrubs or face washes with beads). In order to remove dead skin, you have to be quite aggressive with the product which can irritate sensitive skin and cause redness or even micro tears.

Chemical exfoliation (like glycolic acid or Retin A) is very popular and useful for a variety of conditions but it can sensitize the skin to the elements. If you spend more than a few hours a week outdoors, consult a professional before you incorporate it into your routine.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate…

Sweating is a funny thing. Initially it encourages our skin to produce more oil but after an extended period of time the skin will lose moisture.

Your skin may feel oily some days but it you still need a good moisturizer with antioxidants to replace lost hydration and help heal the skin barrier.

Nighttime is the best opportunity to replenish your skin. A heavy moisturizer during the day can mix with sweat and lead to clogged pores. 

Topical skin care works to seal in moisture and heal the skin barrier. No amount of topical product can hydrate your skin of you aren’t getting enough water, replacement electrolytes, and healthy fat in your diet.

Have questions about your skin? Book a Virtual Skin Care Consult with Hannah.

Hannah Sowd Skin Care COVID-19 Studio Procedures

The COVID-19 pandemic affects how we interact for the foreseeable future and my goal is to create a safe environment for everyone at Hannah Sowd Skin Care.

As of November 29, 2020 I made the difficult decision to suspend in-person appointments until San Francisco is no longer in the Purple Tier.

Every client must complete the COVID-19 Treatment Consent Form before each appointment. This form is linked in your Genbook confirmation email as well as on the Services page of

The reception area at 1640 Bush is closed in accordance with CA State Department of Public Health recommendations. If you are more than 5 minutes early for your appointment, please text or call to insure the space is free for your arrival.

Please come alone to your appointment. We can no longer accommodate guests at the studio during your appointment.

Your temperature will be checked with a contactless forehead thermometer upon arrival. A temperature of 99.5 or greater is considered a fever and your appointment will be rescheduled.

You must arrive at the studio wearing a face mask and keep it on for the entirety of your visit. If your treatment requires removal of your mask, you will be requested to remove your mask at the appropriate time.

If you are receiving a skin care treatment on your face, consider bringing a clean face mask to wear after your session.

Please wash your hands before we begin your appointment.

Do not come to your appointment if you have lost you sense of taste or smell, you have a cough, runny nose, fever, or chills.

Do not come to your appointment if you may have been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Reschedule your appointment if you have been on a commercial airline flight 14 days prior to your treatment time.

Contact me ASAP if you are not feeling well and cannot make your appointment, I am working fewer days and seeing fewer clients each day so every time slot is valuable.

A HEPA air filter with UVC sterilization has been added to the treatment room as a safety precaution. Increased sanitation measures have been implemented throughout the studio to help keep everyone safe.

My Services have been updated in accordance with the latest information available. Certain treatments have been removed because they cannot be performed safely. Other treatments will be modified for increased safety of both client and therapist.

Thank you for being patient and supportive!

Is Your Face Mask Causing Acne?

The CDC recommends wearing a face covering in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but what about the skin underneath?

Spring is here and outdoor temperatures are rising. My face is sweating more than normal while running errands with a mask and I have a crop of pimples on my chin as a result.

My goal is to keep my skin clear and protect myself (and those around me) so I took a look at my daily skin care routine.

I wash my face morning and night but not when I return from running errands outside (contrary to my own advice). My skin gets dry easily so I added pore therapy exfoliating toner to my routine when I remove my mask instead of a full cleanse.

I swapped my current products for a lighter SPF and day lotion, plus added a spot treatment for my chin. I continued masking on a weekly basis alternating between oil absorbing clay and a hydrating treatment option.

I incorporated a blue LED treatment three times a week to kill the bacteria. This is a good option for spot treating acne at home.

I also washed my mask. At the moment, I rely on one cloth mask with a charcoal filter left over from the California wildfires but I have 2 more on the way. The goal is to rotate 3 masks, keeping them clean on the inside and out.

When I return to work at my studio, I will be wearing a face mask for 8+ hours a day. I plan to keep up the above routine as well as incorporate more exfoliation and hydration.

How has your skin responded to wearing a mask?

Do I Need To Wash My Face If I Don’t Leave My House?

I paused before applying SPF this morning, about to take my dog for her morning walk. When was the last time I washed my face?

Only three days into a weeks long “shelter in place” mandate for San Francisco county and my skin care routine is already suffering.

How should you care for your skin during this uncertain time?

Continue your normal daily routine whether you are working from home or providing an essential service out in the world. Your skin produces sebum, sheds dead cells, and collects dirt either way.

Are you spending more time in front of a computer, tablet, or phone screen? For most of us working from home, screen time has increased so adjust your topical antioxidants accordingly.

When you return home after being outside for any reason, wash your hands then wash your face. A clean face can help keep germs away from your nose and mouth.

Wash your hands before you apply any product to your face, even if you have been at home all day. If your facial skin becomes dry from extra cleansing, switch to a cream cleanser.

Extra washing will dehydrate the skin on your hands so add a rich hand cream to your routine both morning and night. Apply a protective ointment like Aquaphor to your cuticles.

Make sure your water intake is adequate. Changes to our normal routine make it easy to forget to stay hydrated.

Running low on skin care products? The online store is open for business.

Need a new skincare routine? Have an Online Skin Care Consult with Hannah.

FIVE Simple Anti-Aging Tips

ONE: Clean your face morning and night. Find a cleansing routine that works for your skin type and do it twice a day. Don’t sleep with a dirty face!

TWO: Wear SPF every day. This is no joke. Use a physical SPF year round, no matter the climate. All the fancy night creams won’t save your skin if you don’t use daily SPF.

THREE: Use an antioxidant during the day. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, boost the effectiveness of your SPF, and fight free radical damage. Use an antioxidant serum or lotion under your SPF every day.

FOUR: Use retinol at night. Retinol comes in many strengths and formulas, find one that works for you. It will keep acne and wrinkles at bay.

FIVE: Drink water. Drink half your body weight in ounces every day, more if you have caffeine or alcohol. No skin care product or makeup can help if your system is dehydrated.

The term “anti-aging” conjures thoughts of expensive creams and invasive procedures. The sum of your daily routine also has a profound affect on how you age. Commit to a consistent, daily routine for your best skin now and in the future.

Will Sleeping In Makeup Ruin My Skin?

Dolly Parton famously admits to sleeping with a full face of makeup just in case of a midnight emergency but it’s generally considered a bad idea.

Most dermatologists agree, sleeping in your makeup is one of the worst things you can do for your skin.

Why is it so bad to sleep with makeup on?

Foundation and concealer are occlusive so they can block pores and lead to acne. These products are designed to be worn for a limited amount of time then removed to give the skin a chance to recover.

Bacteria, dirt, and pollution can get trapped under makeup and do serious damage to skin, including cause a possible infection.

Sleeping in makeup (or with dirty skin in general) can also accelerate the aging process. Clean skin has the opportunity to renew itself while you sleep, dirt and bacteria get in the way of this process.

Take the time to wash your face before bed. It’s a simple way to get healthier skin, fewer breakouts, and more youthful skin in the long run.

Is Your Pillowcase Affecting Your Skin?

One third of our lifetime is spent sleeping so it makes sense to consider the surface where we lie our carefully treated skin!

Nighttime skin care routines involve cleansing then carefully applying skin care products, but what happens for the next 8 hours?

How does your sleeping surface affect your skin?

Skin continues to produce oil while you sleep. Cotton fabric absorbs oil. Whatever is on your hair (hair products, oil, dirt etc.) ends up on you pillowcase and eventually on your face.

Change your pillowcase at least once a week.

Do I need a silk pillowcase?

A small clinical trial showed a reduction in breakouts when participants with acne slept on a silk pillowcase. Silk absorbs less oil and dirt than cotton and also reduces friction on your skin and hair.

If you are acne prone, a silk pillowcase could help. The bottom line is, silk or cotton, make sure your sleeping surface is clean for the healthiest skin possible.

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.