Author Archives: hannahsowdinc

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.

 

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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!

Skin care for a hangover…

With the holiday season quickly approaching (or did it start last night??), now is the time to think about how to look good on the outside when one too many cocktails left you feeling bad on the inside.

The most important factor is hydration. Drink water!

I like to add an electrolyte boost like Emergencee. Have a few large glasses of water before you start drinking coffee to get your system moving.

If your face is puffy, ice is your friend.

Fill your bathroom sink or a large bowl with cold water, add some ice cubes, pin your hair back and dunk you face for a few seconds.
Repeat.
Repeat one more time if you can stand it (of if you’re still asleep!).

Hydrate your skin. Use a serum under your moisturizer, you will be more dry than usual. Alcohol depletes the water from the fat layer of your skin.

Use extra eye cream. I love Yonka Phyto Contour for the stimulating effect the rosemary has on puffy eyes.

Wear a light layer of makeup but don’t overdo it, you may feel you’re hiding but it can just bring more attention to your tired face!

Thalassotherapy

I’ve always been intrigued by thalassotherapy and the concept of “taking the waters” to improve ones overall health.

Facilities in California mostly center around thermal mineral hot springs like Harbin or Esalen. In European countries they are more varied, sometimes using mineral rich water from hot springs, sometimes from the ocean or a river.

While planning a recent trip to Bavaria, I discovered the rich bathing culture of Vienna so I insisted we add a few days to our trip and check it out!

The baths in Vienna are centered around Kurpark Oberlaa in the South East section of the city not far from the River Danube. The park is home to underground hot springs of sulphureous water that has proved to have health benefits for bathing and drinking.

There are numerous public and private baths open year round in the park. We chose to spend the day at Therme Wein which offers spa and fitness facilities in addition to the baths.

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The facility is one of the largest I’ve seen, they have multiple indoor pools, outdoor pools, family friendly areas, saunas and a salt room. We actually got lost a few times since most of the signs aren’t in English!

The basic premise of thalassotherapy is a circuit of water jets you can use to “massage” various body parts in a pool of warm mineral water. There are hot pools meant just for soaking and cold pools to plunge between circuits.

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Admission is based on time and starts at 3 hours, this may sound like a long time but when you have so many options, time flies!

After soaking in several pools for two hours, we had classic Swedish massages which is the perfect complement to thalassotherapy.

When pairing massage with thalassotherapy, the treatments tend to include long Swedish strokes to increase circulation instead of targeted deep tissue work.

I highly recommend taking an opportunity to enjoy an European style bath house if you get the chance!

The IS Clinical Fire and Ice Facial

Hannah Sowd Skin Care is excited to offer the Fire Ice and Ice Facial by IS Clinical!

This intensive clinical facial is designed to rapidly and safely resurface the skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, smoothing, softening, and encouraging cellular renewal.

The centerpiece of this remarkable treatment system is a combination of two therapeutic masques. The extremely powerful INTENSIVE RESURFACING MASQUE is clinically formulated with: sugar cane extract (a source of glycolic acid) citric acid, apple extract, retinol, niacinamide, and potent antioxidants – including green tea extract.

The second masque is the REJUVENATING MASQUE, which is a soothing, hydrating treatment formulated with hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, green tea extract, licorice extract, grape seed extract, and rosemary extract.

The incredible facial masques are complemented by a unique combination of serums and crèmes. Awakening your senses, this phenomenal system incorporates both active and soothing formulas, which evoke aromas of warm cinnamon spice and brisk cool peppermint.

Available with the addition of an ultrasound treatment for added anti-aging benefit.

Book online at www.hannahsowdinc.wpengine.com.

How can I fix my broken capillaries?

Q: How can I fix my broken capillaries?

A: Broken capillaries are a very common side effect of sun damage and aging. People with thin skin are more prone to getting them.

The only true method for getting rid of broken capillaries is laser treatments. There are many creams on the market that claim to remove them but nothing has been proven.

Laser treatments for broken capillaries are relatively quick and not very painful. They may leave a bruise for a few days after so plan accordingly. Consult a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to determine how many sessions will be necessary to get the results you desire.

Like most skin issues, broken capillaries are easier to prevent than they are to correct.

Use a sunblock with a high percentage of physical block all year and avoiding extreme temperatures. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum since this also dilates the capillaries which will weaken them over time.

Spa Treatments and Cancer

Back in the 90’s when I first began my career in the spa and wellness industry, the rule of thumb was no spa treatments for clients with active cancer. Some people even recommended waiting as long as 5 years after being cleared of cancer to receive massage.

Massage stimulates the lymphatic system and was thought to have a hand in potentially spreading the cancer. Skin care treatments could damage tissue made fragile by harsh chemotherapy treatments and active ingredients could react in unknown ways.

This mindset began to change as some doctors realized modalities like reflexology and acupuncture can help ease the pain and nausea associated with cancer fighting treatments like chemotherapy.

Additionally, skin care companies began manufacturing products not only safe to use during chemotherapy but beneficial.

The relaxation aspect of a day at the spa is also very important when going thru such a difficult illness.

Before going to a spa, have a conversation with your doctor about your current condition and get recommendations about treatments to have and what to avoid.

When scheduling appointments, be up front with the spa and your therapists. Many spas have therapists training in oncology massage and esthetics.

While researching this post, I came across a message board where women with breast cancer were discussing being turned away from a spa when trying to get a massage and one women said she had simply stopped telling her massage therapists. This is never a good option! You deserve to work with a therapist who is trained an comfortable with what is going on in your body.

24 Hour Skin Care Diary

Curious about what I use on my skin?

Here is my 24 Hour Skin Care Diary: a typical day in the life of my skin.

day copyMy morning face routine is simple: vitamin therapy fortifying cleanser, Youth Serum and Suntegrity.

I love all three of these multi-functional products, products that have more than one function means fewer steps in the morning!

Vitamin therapy fortifying cleanser gets rid of any traces of eye makeup I may have missed the night before and it cleanses without over drying my combination skin. I can actually wash my eyes with it to remove makeup, it’s that gentle.

Youth Serum provides both immediate smoothing and long term anti-aging benefits which makes it the perfect choice under makeup.

Suntegrity is a 3-in-1 SPF/moisturizer/makeup primer so after I layer this on my skin look smooth and luminous. I almost feel like I don’t need makeup…almost.

I’ve been adding a bit of firming peptide eye therapy because my eye area has been extra dry with the crazy weather we are having in San Francisco.

body copyFor my body I use Malin + Goetz Lime Body Wash in the shower, it’s gentle and I love the lime scent (plus it makes an excellent bubble bath when you have time to indulge!), followed by body therapy antioxidant lotion. To prevent dry heels and elbows this stuff is magic, I apply it 3-4 times a week.

On work days I keep my makeup simple. Suntegrity 5-in-1 tinted SPF provides just enough coverage and color (and additional SPF protection). Mascara is my thing and right now I’m obsessed with Full, Fat Lashes by Charlotte Tilbury. I add a little eyeliner, blush and lip gloss from NARS and I’m good for the day.

I do my evening skin care routine as soon as I know I am in for the night.

If I get home from work and start hanging out, watching TV or reading a book…I end up too tired to do my full routine so I’ll skimp on something. I’ve been much better about my evening skin care routine since I started doing it as soon as I get home.

night copyI love IS Clinical Cleansing Complex in the evening. It removes my makeup as well as the dirt from the day, I always cleanse twice: once to remove the dirt and makeup, once to cleanse the skin.

Right now I’m using Malin and Goetz Resurfacing Glycolic Pads to exfoliate most nights. The 10% glycolic acid keep my combination skin free from acne and blackheads.

If I’m feeling dry, I’ll add moisture therapy on top of the glycolic acid once it’s dry.

I got some IS Clinical Youth Eye Complex as a gift so I’ve been using that at night, it’s rich and hydrating but doesn’t irritate my sensitive eyes.

I like IS Clinical Youth Complex on nights I don’t use the glycolic pads.

That’s an typical day in the life of my skin as I approach my 42nd birthday, what are you using on your skin?

Do I need to clean my makeup brushes?

YES.

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This poll is shocking! Makeup brushes can harbor bacteria and dirt which are transferred onto the skin and eyes when you use them.

Makeup brushes that you use everyday should be cleaned every 3-4 weeks.

Rinse your brushes in lukewarm water to remove residual makeup. Focus on the actual bristles and avoid the base of the brush as much as possible since this can weaken the glue over time.

Squirt a small amount of your facial cleanser in the palm of your hand and gently swirl the brush tip in the cleanser to work up a lather.

Rinse the brush tip under running water.

Lay your brushes flat on a cloth to dry, reshape the bristles as necessary.

I wash my brushes in the morning after I’ve used them so they will be dry by the following morning. If they are still damp, a quick pass with the hair dryer does the trick!