Author Archives: hannahsowdinc

Do I Need To Wear SPF In The Winter?

In a word, yes.

UVA rays are present whenever there is sunlight. What are UVA rays?

The easiest way to remember is:

UVA rays = the part of sunlight that Ages your skin

UVB rays = the part of sunlight that Burns your skin

Winter sunlight may not be strong enough to burn your skin (or give you a tan) but it still affects your skin.

UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays and cumulative exposure does contribute to the development of certain types of skin cancer.

Additionally, if you are using a physical SPF (like you should be!),  it will work as a physical barrier against the wind and cold.

Find an SPF product you like and commit to wearing it 365 days a year!

The Top Five Sunscreens for All Skin Types

I’m a fan of a physical sunscreen. It works to prevent melasma and is better for the environment.

Here are my top five favorite sunscreens for all skin types.

iS Clinical Eclipse SPF50+ $44

Eclipse SPF 50+ is an ultra-sheer, lightweight formula that absorbs quickly for a non-greasy matte finish. Formulated specifically for daily use and extended outdoor activities. 
Eclipse SPF 50+ is a unique fusion of scientifically advanced physical sunscreens, transparent Titanium Dioxide and micronized Zinc Oxide, coupled with pure Vitamin E. This antioxidant-rich blend provides superior water-resistant broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.

Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen and Primer $45

A rich, non-greasy, “chem-free” face sunscreen that offers Broad Spectrum Protection against damaging UVA & UVB rays. Infused with youth promoting antioxidants, this 3 in 1 product functions as a face moisturizer, sunscreen and make-up primer. Red algae, aloe vera, jojoba, sunflower, pomegranate, cucumber, and green tea provide the face with additional sun defense and hydration. Large doses of uncoated, non-nano zinc-oxide protect the skin while providing anti-inflammatory properties that help with rosacea, acne, and melasma.

Super Goop Smooth and Poreless 100% Mineral Matte Screen $38

A 100% mineral primer in one translucent formula that blurs pores and mattifies skin. Wear underneath makeup for more coverage during the week, or on its own for less coverage during the weekend – and either way, you can rest assured that you’re getting SPF 40 protection. Major bonus points for the fact that butterfly bush extract helps guard your skin from blue light too.

Cerave Face Sunscreen $11

CeraVe Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50 provides broad spectrum, lightweight sun protection plus 3 essential ceramides to help restore skin’s protective barrier. Water resistant for up to 40 minutes.

Dermaquest Youth Protection $50

DermaQuest Youth Protection SPF 30 blocks the sun’s harmful UV rays while simultaneously combatting signs of aging for a protected, more youthful complexion. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide deflect and shield skin from UVA/UVB rays while shea butter and jojoba moisturize. Lines and wrinkles lighten as antioxidants absorb to nourish your facial features.

DIY Coconut Sugar Body Scrub

Two close girlfriends had baby showers this summer and I set up a DIY body scrub station as a party favor at both parties.

This gave me the opportunity to play around with a lot of fun ingredients and make new combinations for yummy DIY body scrubs!

I’ve always favored sugar over salt as an exfoliating agent and found that adding finely shredded coconut is effective and aromatic.

Here is one of my new favorite combinations:

Makes about 4oz.

5 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons rose petals (I buy dried rose petals and run them through a food processor)
4 Tablespoons avocado oil
5-6 drops geranium essential oil

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Can be kept in the refrigerator if you don’t plan on using it up within 4-6 months. Not recommended for use on the face.

Preparing For A Chemical Peel

A professional chemical peel is part of many skin care rountines; they are effective when getting ready for a big event like a wedding or to soften the signs of aging.

A chemical peel you receive from your esthetician falls into one of two categories:

  1. Superficial peels are left on the skin for 2-6 minutes then neutralized with water or a neutralizing agent. These are often part of a facial treatment and a popular example is glycolic acid.
  2. Medium depth peels are more aggressive and self-neutralizing. They may produce several days of shedding skin and a popular chemical peel is this category is the Jessner Peel.

Medium depth, self-neutralizing chemical peels are very effective for a variety of concerns. Hyper-pigmentation, acne, acne scars, fine lines, wrinkles, and skin laxity can all be improved with peels from this category. 

Your esthetician will determine which blend of acid is best for your skin type and concerns. There are many chemical peels available, most use combinations of TCA, retinol. salicyic, lactic, and mandelic acids.

If you are prone to cold sores or know you have oral herpes, take preventive medication for 2 days before having a medium depth chemical peel. Some peels can initiate a flare up.

During the treatment, multiple layers of solution will be applied to your skin with time for each layer to dry between applications. Your esthetician will use a fan to cool your skin and minimize discomfort.

Your skin will be protected with sunscreen after the chemical peel is applied. You cannot wash your face or sweat for at least 5 hours so schedule your appointment accordingly. You may have a chemical peel in the evening and safely sleep with the solution on your face. Thoroughly wash it off the following morning before showering or working out, you don’t want the solution to run into your eyes!

Over the next 36-48 hours, your skin will feel tight and smooth, maybe a little warm. The tight skin begins to shed around the mouth first since your facial movement helps loosen the dead skin. The shedding continues to the cheeks, forehead, and hairline over the next few days.

Schedule your chemical peel when you have no important events for the following 10-14 days.

Some skin types take longer to start the shedding process, some have a “second shed” (day of light but visible dryness) after the major shedding is finished. Skin can be unpredictable so give yourself ample time to heal before any important events.

While your skin is shedding, use gentle, hydrating products. Cream cleanser, calming moisturizer, and physical sunscreen is all you need.

Don’t use products with active ingredients for at least 14 days after your chemical peel. 

Contact your esthetician if you have any questions or your skin has a bad reaction. Allergies aren’t common but they do happen!

Do you have questions about your skin and what products you should be using? Have an Online Skin Care Consult with Hannah!

Skin Care Advice For My Younger Self

Looking back a few decades, what skin care advice would I give my 25-year old self?

If I could turn back time, I would:

  1. Be more diligent about sun protection. I lived in Los Angeles for 10 years and applied SPF daily but could have done more to protect my skin. I rarely wore hats or long sleeves when hiking outdoors and, looking back at old photos, my skin was consistently a few shades darker. I’ve reversed most of the visible damage but keep my fingers crossed when my dermatologist is checking my scalp every year!
  2. Start taking care of my neck and chest in my earlier. I recently saw a photo from my 33rd birthday, the skin on my jawline and neck was so taut! At the time I was focused on keeping my acne from flaring up, I didn’t consider much below my chin.
  3. Stop picking my acne. It’s simple. But so tempting. A pimple picked lasts twice as long as a pimple left alone. Not to mention the scars.

And now for the good news!

Here are a few things I’ve been consistent with and feel like it’s paid off:

  1. Start using eye cream at a young age. You don’t need to start as a teenager like I did but ingredients in eye cream do a lot more to prevent than correct. Start before you have visible damage and be diligent to get results.
  2. Commit to Retin A and Retinol…for life. To control my acne as a teenager, I used Retin A when it was new to the market. I suffered thru initial redness and flaking but it helped my acne and the residual marks. When I got into the skin care industry, I learned about the different types of Vitamin A derivatives both prescription and over the counter. This ingredient has proven over time to be the gold standard in both acne management and anti-aging.
  3. Crystal Micrdermabrasion treatments are key. I credit crystal micrdermabrasion with clearing up residual acne scars and getting my large pores under control. I got certified in the treatment in the late 90’s (when it was new to the United States) and had as many sessions as my skin could handle. All these years later, if you want resurfacing with no downtime, it’s still the best option.

The Top Five Cleansers For Combination Skin

Most of us have combination skin, at least during part of the year. A cleanser that really gets off the dirt, oil, and makeup without over drying is so important. Here are my top five favorites:

iS Clinical Cleansing Complex $42

This gentle yet effective face cleanser works to remove dirt, impurities, and excess oil while still maintaining the skin’s essential natural oils. Ideal for men or women of all skin types, this gel formula contains glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and vitamins E and A to maintain a healthy clear complexion.

sowd therapy for skin Vitamin Therapy $38

Vitamin Therapy uses soy and avocado oils to gently cleanse the skin and remove makeup without harsh sulfates. The addition of vitamins A, C, and E leave the skin fortified and ready for hydration. Vitamin Therapy is gentle enough to remove eye makeup. Suitable for normal, dry and combination skin types.

Osea Ocean Cleanser $44

This mineral-rich Organic Seaweed gel cleanser effectively removes excess oil and surface impurities from skin while maintaining a hydrated, healthy looking complexion. Vegan Lactic Acid (derived from beets) gently exfoliates to visibly minimize pores. Hints of Lime, Cypress, Juniper and Jasmine essential oils energize skin and awaken the senses. Organic Seaweed deeply hydrates, leaving skin feeling balanced, refreshed and radiant.

Dermaquest SkinBrite Cleanser $33

Equipped with naturally derived ingredients rich in antioxidants, the SkinBrite Facial Cleanser combines the revitalizing properties of Shitake Mushroom, Green Tea Extract, Panthenol (Vitamin B5) and Vitamins C & E to gently even out and brighten dull skin tone while soothing and protecting the delicate properties of the skin.

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser $14

Developed with dermatologists, CeraVe Foaming Cleanser’s gently foams to deeply cleanse without disrupting the skin barrier. This refreshing gel, with 3 essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid, effectively removes excess oil, dirt, and makeup. Fragrance free formula is suitable for sensitive skin.

 

How to Soothe End-Of-Summer-Skin

The end of summer is close, it’s been fun but your skin isn’t looking or feeling it’s best.

Even if you have oily skin, you’re probably dehydrated. Travel, alcohol, and warm weather all suck precious moisture from our skin.

This is the one time of year you don’t have to be acne prone to have clogged pores. All of the above plus extra sunscreen will make sure of that.

Now is a great time to have a deep cleansing and hydrating facial. Treatments like microdermabrasion and LED light therapy are perfect for End-Of-Summer-Skin. Hold off on deeper chemical peels and hydroquinone-based lightening products until after Labor Day.

If the heat has triggered your melasma, now is a great time to start using a hydroquinone-free lightening product. These products will start to gently even your skin tone without photo-sensitivity. Save the stronger products and treatments for the fall and winter months.

Your home care routine should include a gentle enzyme exfoliation 1-3 times a week (depending on your skin type) followed by a hydrating mask.

Antioxidant serum and physical sunscreen are important year round. If you live in a humid climate, you may want to swap these products for lighter versions during the warmer months.

Do you have questions about your skin and what products you should be using? Have an Online Skin Care Consult with Hannah!

The Sacred Spring at Glanum

Even when on vacation, I can’t help but check out all things spa and wellness related! I love the history of bath houses and thalassotherapy.

The Glanum archeological site near St Rémy de Provence, France is home to the remains of a healing sacred spring as well as ancient Roman Baths so I had to have a look.

The Sacred Spring was an underground cave with water flow and an additional tunnel that channeled wind. The wind created a noise that caused the people in 200 BC to considered it “devine”. They decided the “devine water” must have healing powers so an alter was built around the cave.

Over the years, this alter became more elaborate, eventually with stairs leading down to the water and treatment areas surrounding it.

Roman solders would travel from all over to receive treatments with the “devine water” for gout and other illnesses. They often stayed at Glanum for months and it was customary to leave a gift of a carved stone pillar in exchange for treatment. These pillars often included engravings of legs which led historians to figure out the water was used to treat disorders of the legs.

Next to the Sacred Spring, there are stone slabs (ancient massage tables) thought to have been used for massage and water treatments. The indent near the top held oil for the treatment.

Around 75BC Glanum became a popular destination for its Roman Bath house. The bath house was for rest and relaxation, not just healing purposes like the spring. Men used a mixture of sand and olive oil to exfoliate their skin before soaking in the pools of water.

The history is fascinating and the site is beautiful. I recommend checking it out if you’re in the area!

The Best Skin Care Routine for New Mothers

As a new mother, the best skin care routine can be the last thing on your mind. Feeding your baby and getting enough sleep take priority!

When life gets busy for any reason, products that do double (or triple) duty are key.

While breast feeding, continue to avoid all the topical ingredients you steered clear of during your pregnancy.

It is not uncommon for a new batch of hormonal acne to crop up after giving birth. Your skin may also be sensitive during this time so find gentle products that balance oil production.

During the first few weeks (or months), keep it simple. Cleanse your face twice a day, use an SPF moisturizer during the day and a simple moisturizer at night. Set a realistic goal for yourself and build up to your old routine when you have more time and energy.

I love vitamin therapy: fortifying cleanser for most skin types. It removes makeup (including eye makeup) and rinses clean. The cream formula is gentle yet it won’t clog pores.

Suntergrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen is my favorite all in one daytime moisturizer plus SPF. It has antioxidants and zinc oxide which help prevent pregnancy related melasma from getting worse. There is a tinted version if you like a little color.

After cleansing at night, I recommend a simple hydrating cream to calm the skin that won’t clog the pores. moisture therapy: calming repair cream is good for most skin types and can be layered with a serum if you have more time.

Once your baby is sleeping thru the night and you have more than 60 seconds for skin care, add a vitamin C serum and exfoliate 1-2 times a week with glycolic acid. These products with begin to diminish any lingering discoloration from melasma or acne and brighten the skin.

Three Ingredients For Younger Skin

Antioxidants

The skin requires a healthy dose of antioxidants every day to prevent new damage and reverse prior skin damage. Layer your antioxidant serum under your SPF for added sun protection.

Retinol

Retinol helps increase skin cell turnover which in turn encourages collagen production. The end result is smoother, brighter skin with less breakouts and clogged pores.

Sunscreen

Everyone needs sun protection, end of story. If you don’t spend much time in the sun, an SPF 15 in your daily lotion is fine, if you get more exposure bump it up to SPF 30.

Patchology Energizing Eye Patches

During the winter in San Francisco, the weather is very unpredictable. It can be cold and wet one day then in the 70’s and dry the next. For me, this means the skin around my eyes gets very dry and sometimes even flaky.

 

IMG_4995
Patchology Energizing Eye Patches paired with  Malin + Goetz Detox Mask

 

I’m always on the hunt for something to keep my eye area smooth and hydrated so when I found Patchology Energizing Eye Patches I decided to give them a test run.

The kit includes 1 set of patches, an activating gel, and cleansing wipes (each set of patches can be used 4 times). The gel is applied to the patch to activate the internal galvanic current. The patches must be left on for at least 20 minutes to see results (but they can be left on for as long as 45 minutes).

I made the most of my 20 minutes and applied Malin + Goetz Detox Face Mask to the rest of my face while the patches worked their magic!

The end result was a smoother, firmer, more hydrated under eye area. I’ve continued to use the patches once a week and noticed a profound difference after a month. I’m hooked!

Glossier Boy Brow Review

I have light blonde eyebrows so when the trend swings back to full, dark defined brows, I get sad. I don’t like spending too much time on my daily makeup routine so I tint my brows once a month which helps a lot.

Recently, I discovered Boy Brow by Glossier and it makes me so happy!

It’s advertised as “a creamy wax formula inspired by traditional hair pomade” and that’s pretty accurate. It adds color and depth while helping the hair stay in place.

left brow has Boy Brow and right brow is naked!
one brow with Boy Brow and one is naked!

The product is thick but the applicator brush is a tiny mascara-like wand so it’s easy to apply where you want it and not get where you don’t.

My brows are “done” in about 90 seconds!

My Cryotherapy Experience

I’ve heard so much about the benefits of full body cryotherapy treatments, I had to give it a try for myself!

 

Safety first! Gotta wear fleece gloves.
Safety first! Gotta wear fleece gloves.

There aren’t any cryotherapy salons in the city yet so I checked out Renew Cryotherapy in Walnut Creek (edit: since I wrote this, CryoSF has opened on Union Street). I was able to walk in without an appointment in the early afternoon on a week day, probably not a good idea on a weekend or evening.

The staff is super friendly and explained the entire sequence before the session which I find helpful. I don’t like being cold but I do have chronic knee pain and was experiencing some muscle soreness from a ballet class so I was hopeful I would feel better after the treatment.

They are prepared to deal with newbies and were more than happy to answer all my questions (and snap my photo in the machine, the things I do for this blog!).

First you enter a dressing room and strip down to your underwear. They provide clean socks and booties plus fleece gloves with disposable liners to protect your hands and feet. Wearing a robe, you meet the technician by the machine.

 

The booties remind me of SCUBA gear!
The booties look like SCUBA gear!

You enter the machine wearing your robe and the technician checks the height to make sure your head will stay out of the tank the entire treatment time, inhaling the gas caused the fatal accident that got so much press a few months ago.

The entire treatment lasts three minutes, the technician instructs you to turn every 15 seconds to cool your body evenly and stay mentally aware/checked in which made me feel safe. My treatment was a level one, I think it gets colder with each level? I forgot to ask!

 

Why am I so happy yo be so cold?
Why am I so happy to be so cold?

Honestly the first two minutes were not bad. Half way thru the third minute I started to wonder why the hell I was paying money to stand in a freezing cold chamber with a person telling me to turn in circles. When the count down to the last ten seconds started, I was ready to get out!

Afterwards, I felt great! The soreness in my back and shoulder was gone my knee was less stiff. I slept very soundly that night and continued to feel great the next day.

With any treatment the sessions need to be done on a regular basis to see lasting results. I’m not sure it will replace my regular massage and acupuncture routine for overall wellness but I will end up in the tank again!

The Korean Spa Experience: Spa Palace Los Angeles

I love Korean spa day (in San Francisco we only have one, Imperial) so I jump at the chance to explore the variety Koreatown in Los Angeles has to offer.

When I lived in LA, I frequented Olympic Women’s Spa and Natura, both are on the smaller side and offer the basic amenities like Imperial.

On recent visits to Koreatown, I’ve noticed a trend toward the traditional jjimjilbangs; giant complexes that are open 24 hours, have a restaurant, are family friendly and include a fitness center in addition to many spa amenities (a large section of which are co-ed).

In Korea, families go to the spa together and some people actually stay over night sleeping on the heated floor in the communal area.

On the recommendation of a friend, I tried Spa Palace, one of the newest in the area. I visited on a Monday during the day and the large facility was quite empty.

I booked a traditional body scrub/oil massage combo when I checked in ($80 for 70 minute treatment, includes use of the entire facility).

The Korean Body Scrub isn’t for the faint of heart, it can be described as invigorating or painful depending on your preference! I have one 5-6 times a year to get rid of dead skin build up, I’m a fan of intense exfoliation.

You are issued one large towel, one small towel and a “uniform”(shorts and tee shirt) to wear in the co-ed areas. Since I was traveling, I didn’t have my own robe or flip flops but I would recommend them to anyone planning a visit.

The women’s facility was very large, I was given a locker in the “VIP Area” which had its own sink and amenities. The women’s spa area was thru a door at one end while a hallway at the opposite other end led to the co-ed “jjimjilbang”.

The layout is a little confusing so I didn’t hesitate to flag down a spa attendant and ask questions. The facility is large and it wasn’t crowded so it wasn’t abundantly clear what was women only and what was co-ed.

The women’s spa area is equipped with the basic steam, dry sauna, 2 hot tubs and cold plunge in addition to “western” and Korean showers. The room is BIG! One of the biggest I’ve seen.

The co-ed area has a Himalayan Salt Room, a warm (not hot) sauna with salt bricks lining the walls and salt rocks on floor. I like to use pink Himalayan salt in my bath so I guess this may have a similar effect on the body.

Next door is the Ice Room which I would describe as cool, it isn’t as jarring to the body as the cold plunge in the spa area. It’s a nice break between the other warm rooms!

The Gold Sauna was quite warm, almost as hot as a traditional sauna. I have no idea if sitting in a warm room lined with gold does anything but it was pretty!

The Loess Forest Sauna was comfortable and smelled nice, the floor was covered with clay “marbles” (presumably made from loess soil) so you can lie down and they conform to the shape of your body.

The center of the communal area has a giant heated marble floor for napping, a large screen TV and a cafe.

I had a lovely afternoon checking out all the different amenities Spa Palace has to offer. I will be back on my next visit to Los Angeles!

In-Flight Skin Care Tips

women with dark hair looking out the window of an airplane

What’s the best routine for your skin while in an airplane?

 

The night before

 

Wash with your normal cleanser and exfoliate with an enzyme mask. Apply a balancing clay mask or a hydrating gel mask depending on your skin type.

Drink a lot of water.

 

The day of

 

Layer a hydrating serum under your moisturizer on clean skin before the flight. Skip the foundation and concealer, apply a light layer of tinted moisturizer if you need some coverage.

Drink a lot of water.

 

During the flight

 

For flights 5 hours or under, reapply your moisturizer at least once (wash your hands first!). Continue to drink water and skip the alcohol.

For flights over 5 hours, clean your skin with a cotton ball and toner mid-flight then reapply your hydrating serum and moisturizer. Drink more water.

 

After the flight

 

Repeat the enzyme mask + hydrating or balancing mask routine and continuing using the hydrating serum under your moisturizer.

Always pack travel sizes of your regular products when traveling. A foreign climate is not the time to introduce a new product to your routine.

And have a glass of water!

Why are plastic micro beads banned in the United States?

President Obama recently signed a bill that banned the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products, this is great news for the environment!

How do plastic microbeads affect the environment?

This animation from The Story of Stuff illustrates it quite well. In short, the beads are too small to be filtered out of the water system and clog the gills of fish in the ocean or in the case of the smaller beads, become food for the fish and end up as part of our sushi platters.

What does this mean for skincare?

For many of us, nothing.

I’m not a fan of mechanical scrubs for exfoliation so I don’t retail any products that contain plastic microbeads. I prefer an enzyme or chemical product to exfoliate the skin.

Many companies are reformulating their mechanical scrubs to contain organic material. The downside to organic material is the pieces aren’t as uniform as plastic so they have a greater chance of causing micro tears to the skin.

How often do I need a facial?

How often do I need a facial?

Facials feel great and most of us would get them all the time if we had plenty of free time and money!

How often should we get facials for optimal health of our skin?

A  skin cell cycle lasts between 28-35 days depending on our age, this cycle slows as we get older.

This is why getting a professional facial every 4-8 weeks is great for most people with normal or combination skin. The treatment will help slough off dead skin and take care of the new skin that is revealed.

If you have excessively oily or acne prone skin, a professional treatment every 2-4 weeks will help control breakouts and/or oil production.

When treating acne scars or pigmentation, professional treatments every 2-3 weeks can be very effective since the skin is treated twice in the same cycle.

Consult your esthetician to set up the best treatment plan for your skin!

Age Therapy: Refining Complex

The latest addition to the sowd:therapy for skin product line, Age Therapy Refining Complex is a treatment moisturizer suitable for all skin types. The medium weight complex can be used alone or layered over a serum for drier skin types.

The unique blend of active ingredients including muti-action niacinamide, will visibly firm, smooth and re-energize the skin while protecting it against daily environmental assaults.

Regular use will soften the skin while minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

After two weeks of use smoothness was improved by 33% and sagging reduced by 16%.

After four weeks of use wrinkles diminished by 33%, hydration increased by 44% and firmness improved by 25%.

After 12 weeks of use firmness increase by 55%, skin clarity by 35%, fine lines and wrinkles reduces by 55%.

Is your bathroom a skin care graveyard?

Do you open you medicine cabinet and get overwhelmed by the sight of all the bottles and tubes of skin care products you’ve collected over the years?

Good products are pricey and they aren’t doing your skin any good sitting on a shelf so take some time to get organized!

First, check expiration dates and throw out anything that is clearly expired. Many items aren’t marked with an exact expiration date, toss it if it the package has been open for two years or longer.

Second, make a pile of items you tried but don’t like for some reason. It could be texture or smell but if you don’t like them, you are less inclined to use them. Gift this pile to some lucky friends.

Third, establish what products you DO like and work well for your skin.

Set up your bathroom accordingly. I keep my morning cleanser and my enzyme exfoliant in the shower since that’s where I use them. The cleanser I use in the evening goes near the bathroom sink etc.

Once you’ve cleared through the clutter, you can figure out if there are any holes in your routine and you might actually have an excuse to go shopping!