Many of my clients have transitioned off oral contraceptives over the years and the majority of them have some level of skin reaction. This article does a great job of explaining the possible physiological reasons for the skin reaction. Keep in mind, the acne created from the shift in hormone levels is temporary and can be keep under control with some simple changes to your routine. Consult your favorite skin care specialist for recommendations!
Not only does facial exercise increase skin health, it feels really good. I love this routine by Leda Lum (subscribe to her YouTube channel for great skin care videos):
Adequate water intake helps your brain function, maintains energy levels, regulates body temperature, aids in digestion, and ultimately keeps your body healthy but does it hydrate your skin?
“Humans aren’t like plants. Our skin doesn’t perk up when we consume water,” says Katie Rodan, a dermatologist in the San Francisco Bay area and a coauthor of Write Your Skin a Prescription for Change. When you drink water, It goes through the intestines, gets absorbed into your bloodstream, and is filtered by kidneys then finally, it hydrates the cells (including the skin cells).
Your skin type is largely determined by your genes, natural moisture levels fluctuate depending on to what your skin’s protective lipid barrier is exposed. This lipid layer helps keep moisture in while keeping germs and irritants out. When this lipid layer is compromised, skin can become dry, red and itchy. Minimizing your exposure to depleting elements like harsh winds, dry heat, high altitude, sun, alcohol, long baths and soaps containing sulfates can prevent the loss of natural oils.
“Diet can play a role in strengthening your skin’s ability to maintain moisture,” says Leslie Baumann, a professor of dermatology at the University of Miami, in Florida. Foods rich in the essential fatty acids found in walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, and olive oil can help skin cells stay hydrated. A study by the Institute of Experimental Dermatology, in Germany, also revealed that women who took flaxseed- or borage-oil supplements (2.2 grams a day) for 12 weeks experienced a significant increase in skin moisture and a reduction in roughness. A healthy diet with three to five servings a week of fatty acids will suffice for the average person.
A good moisturizer can instantly improve the look and feel of dry skin, apply it twice a day to help heal serious dehydration. The two key ingredients to look for are stearic acid (a fatty acid), and emollient ceramides. A quarter-size dollop of lotion will do much more for your skin than drinking a quart of water.
Why am I writing about Bridal Skin Care in December when wedding season isn’t until June?
Pre-wedding skin care prep can take 3-4 months and the goal is to be ready at least a month before the big day. You want to look your best for all the events!
If you aren’t getting professional treatments regularly, schedule a consult with several skin care specialists in your area. Ask around for recommendations or consult review sites like Yelp or Genbook. Be upfront with your concerns about your skin, your time and your finances. Make sure to ask about home care products you will be expected to purchase for optimal results.
When you decide on a specialist, consider booking all your appointments up front. Your schedule will get busy and skin care treatments work best when you stick to regime. Ask about a discount if you pay for all the treatments in advance.
I usually recommend a series of 6 sessions of microdermabrasion spaced 2-3 weeks apart and a home care routine using retinol, vitamin C and a lightening product if pigmentation is a concern. One or two chemical peels may be added if the goal is to get rid of dark pigment patches. These peels can have 4-6 days of downtime so they need to be scheduled accordingly.
Pre-wedding nerves can bring on a breakout even if you aren’t prone to them. Now is a good time to build a relationship with a dermatologist. A week of preventative antibiotics and a just-in-case appointment for a last minute cortisone injection can save you from waking up with a giant pimple on your big day. You also may be able to get a prescription for Retin A or other topical creams that will help get your skin under control. Be sure to let your esthetician know about any prescription skin care creams you are using.
If you are considering injectables, give them a trial run 6 months before your big day and get a touch up at least 4 weeks before. Botox takes 2 weeks to set and fillers can cause bruising or swelling (even if you haven’t had these reactions in the past).
And above all, relax and have fun on your big day; happiness brings it’s own natural glow!
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking a class from one of my favorite teachers, Rebecca James Gadberry. The class, titled “The Epigenome: Where the Environment and Genes Meet”, turned me on to one of the most potentially exciting discoveries in the future of anti-aging.
I remember hearing about the Human Genome Project back in the early ’00’s and reading articles like this one but it took awhile to sink in: this science has the potential to extend our lives and the lives of our children while allowing us to look better, feel better and function at a higher level than before.
Here is a video that puts the concept of Epigenetics in simple terms (side note: the scientists in the video support intelligent design versus evolution, I don’t think that’s relevant to the concept).
Simply put, the genome cells are identical and require an epigenome to direct their activity. The epigenome places tags on the DNA structure to allow or prevent certain aspects to express themselves. These tags control how one cell multiplies, when cells make or don’t make protein and the quality of this protein, when and how well the DNA damage is repaired, how quickly or slowly you age and how disease forms in the body.
Studies have shown these tags respond to positive stimulation (exercise, healthy food, meditation, massage) as well as negative stimulation (processed foods, smoking, prolonged sun exposure). Essentially, we have the power to overcome at least a portion of the map that our DNA has determined for us.
One study showed people with long term meditation practices to have 1000 inactive stress related receptors which was 50% more than the control group. After just 8 weeks of daily meditation, the control group showed an improvement of over 400 additional inactive stress receptors.
This is such a broad and fascinating topic. For years I have been telling people that good skin requires more that topical products, lifestyle plays an integral part. Now I have the science to back it up!
Many people are concerned about what they put in as well as on their bodies. I often hear clients say “I want to skin care products with ingredients I recognize.”
Reading skin care product labels is like deciphering a secret code. Ingredients are required to be listed according to the official dictionary for cosmetic ingredients known as the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI), which was established bythe Personal Care Products Council in the 1970s.
For some ingredients it is easy to figure out what the common name is and in other cases it is downright impossible. This website provides a handy breakdown of the current INCI categories so you can look up ingredients you may not recognize.
There are over 17,000 names in the current dictionary. Here are some examples, along with their INCI names, as well as clues to figuring out what the ingredient is:
Licorice root extract = Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract
Grapefruit oil = Citrus Grandis Peel Oil: think of “Grand Citrus” or “Large Citrus.
Rose hip seed oil = Rosa Canina Fruit Oil: rose hip seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the fruit of the Dog Rose shrub. Dog Rose-Canine-Canina.
Oat bran = Avena Sativa Kernel Extract: where the brand name “Aveeno®” comes from!
Bearberry = Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract
Once you start to recognize some of the common ingredients, shopping for skin care products will become easier.
For an esthetician, I am NOT a naturally inclined makeup person!
Healthy skin has it’s own glow that shouldn’t be covered up but I love the idea of a tinted moisturizer to even things out. I haven’t found one that makes me feel like I am getting enough sun protection so I make my own. I take a good sized dollop of my favorite sunscreen and mix it with a small amount of foundation.
I apply the mixture like lotion, all over my face then follow with a light dusting of mineral powder to reduce the shine. It evens out my skin tone while providing adequate sun protection for a day in the city and not making me look overly “made-up”.
I admit to having a bit of an eyelash fetish so mascara is an important part of my daily routine. Clinque High Impact Mascara is my current fav, in black of course (I don’t understand the point of brown mascara!).
I apply mascara to the top side of my top lashes, then the underside of my top lashes and touch up and areas I’ve missed. Coating both sides gives a much bolder look than just coating the under side.
What are your favorite makeup tips? Please share them in the comments below!
You spent hours on your Halloween makeup, had a great night trick or treating (or drinking) and by the time you get home you just want to fall into bed (or pass out).
Take an extra few minutes to remove your makeup and you will thank me in the morning!
First, hold a warm wash cloth over your entire face for a few minutes. This will remove excess surface debris and allow you to see where you need to focus your efforts.
Second, cold cream is your friend! So is pure jojoba oil. Both will remove most oil based makeup easily. Allow the product to sit on your skin for a few minutes to break down the makeup instead of rubbing which will just cause excess irritation.
Use an eye makeup remover or more jojoba oil on a cotton pad to remove eye makeup. Hold the cotton pad over your eye for a few minutes to emulsify eye lash adhesive before pulling your lashes off.
The next morning (after your head clears from the fog; either sugar or alcohol induced), wash your face again, use a Clarisonic brush if you have one, and remove any traces of eye makeup. Apply a gentle clay mask and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse and hydrate well.
You will probably need a heavier moisturizer for the next few days, costume makeup can dehydrate the skin.
Use the mask every other day for the next week if you are breaking out or have more blackheads than usual.
Now is a great time for professional facial.
A few months ago, I did an interview for a blog about female business owners so I decided to republish it here. Enjoy!
1.) Who are you (with age if comfortable)?
My name is Hannah Sowd, I’m a 39 year old skin care guru.
2.) What’s your business?
Hannah Sowd Skin Care in San Francisco, CA.
I’ve been a licensed esthetician and massage therapist for 17 years. I started this business in 2008 and launched my line of skin care products sōwd:therapy for skin in 2011.
3.) When did you decide to take the plunge and “create the life you want”?
I started my current business out of necessity. After living in Los Angeles for 10 years and working for The Spa at The Four Seasons Hotel, I moved to San Francisco and I couldn’t find a position that didn’t feel like a step backwards. I feel strongly about being able to customize my treatments which doesn’t always fit into the parameters of a spa environment.
I began renting a room in a shared studio space 2 days a week while I worked at a dermatology office 4 days a week (I worked 6 days a week for over 2 years). As my business grew, I was able to launch my product line and move into my own studio space. I started very small, using the limited resources I had available to establish a base clientele. I am grateful to my loyal clients that stuck with me even when I was working out of a shared studio space on a sketchy block in San Francisco!
I didn’t “take the plunge” financially speaking until I moved into my current studio space. I had very specific ideas about the space I wanted to create and the services I wanted to offer so I borrowed a small amount of money to make that happen. Knowing I had a core group of followers gave me confidence to take it to the next level.
4.) Why do you love it?
I love the lifestyle, sometimes I forget where my “business” ends and my “self” begins; I am my brand! I am constantly thinking of new ways to promote my services, to streamline my process and keep my business technology up to date. At the moment, I’m obsessed with the idea of having an app: book appointments, order products, email me skin care questions and read my blog all in one place.
I love the relationship I have with my clients. I interact with such a wide variety of people on a daily basis. I enjoy a sneak peek into lives that are very different from mine; teenagers with prom drama, brides with wedding jitters, retirees planning the vacation of a lifetime. And they all come back to their next session with great stories!
I love being able to keep my own hours and the variety that comes with each day. I may have to work on Saturdays but I can often sneak out during the week for an afternoon yoga class or a matinee showing of a new movie. It’s a great way to avoid the crowds!
I love the creative aspect of my business; I have one of my paintings hanging in my studio, 3 years ago I learned about HTML and built my own website, I get to shop for the softest sheets and coziest comforters for my treatment table. Those parts are actually fun for me!
5.) What’s one piece of advice you have for anyone thinking of taking the leap?
Be prepared to work like you’ve never worked before! If you think the work day ends at 5pm and you should have holidays off, owning a business might not be for you.
Be proactive and seek the help of professionals; I wouldn’t be where I am today without my business consultant, my financial advisor and my accountant. Create a business plan so growth is sustainable, a solid framework is very important. If a task takes 2 hours of your time and can be outsourced for minimal cost (like laundry or data entry) do it. Spent your time doing tasks vital to the growth of your business, don’t drain your energy on the small stuff.
And it will cost you more than you think, guaranteed!
A few months ago, I wrote about red bumps on the upper arms which spurred more questions about skin care for the body.
Skin on the body has fewer oil glands than skin on the face so it requires different care.
Some general rules when it comes to skin care for the body:
* use warm water, not hot, when you shower or bathe
* use an unscented, moisturizing body wash or gentle bar soap
* apply unscented moisturizing cream to the skin while still damp for maximum effectiveness
* use a body lotion with SPF 15 or higher on any areas that will be exposed during the day
A prominent concern among my clients is acne on the chest and the back. Often, these breakouts are deep cysts that require systemic treatment like antibiotics.
If they are more surface breakouts, try the following tips:
* shower after working out, sitting around in sweaty workout clothes will aggravate the acne
* wash your body AFTER rinsing conditioner from you hair, heavy conditioners can clog pores
* use a 10% benzoyl peroxide body wash in the shower once a day to kill bacteria and lessen break outs
Do you have concerns about the skin on your body? Post your questions in the comments section and I will answer them!
Eye lashes are a major focus in the cosmetic industry and this trend shows no sign of going away. There are many ways to enhance the lash line, following are some of the popular options.
Eyelash Enhancing Serums:
The active ingredient in most of these products is prostaglandin which extends the growth phase of the eye lash resulting in longer, thicker lashes. Latisse uses a higher concentration which is why it is classified as a prescription, many over the counter products (like my current fav LiLash) use the same ingredient in non-prescription strength doses. These products require daily use for the first 3-4 months to see maximum results, then you can taper off to 3-4 times per week to keep your fabulous lashes. Latisse claims to darken lashes as well but I used it for over a year and noticed no darkening. These products can also be used to enhance eye brow growth.
Semi-permanent mascara is a professionally applied mascara designed to last 10-14 days. The application process takes about 30 minutes and can be tailored to your specifications regarding length, thickness etc. The mascara is waterproof which makes it an excellent choice for vacations and special events.
Tinting or dying the eyelashes is a great option for people with light colored eyelashes. The process takes about 20 minutes and lasts for 2-3 weeks. Tinting enhances the color of the lashes but doesn’t affect length or thickness.
Eye lash extensions:
(pictured above, compliments of my fabulous friend Akiko)
Lash extensions are semi-permanent false eyelashes. An extension is added to each individual lash to create a customized look. The process can take up to 2 hours for a full set, less for touch-ups or partial sets. With proper care, they can last up to 3 weeks before a touch up session is needed.
I love this article about diet and skin care by Dr. Cynthia Bailey. Dr. Bailey offers a well thought out, balanced approach to skin care and I highly recommend her blog!
First off, I should admit, I am a coffee junkie. Not only do I love it; the taste, the smell, the ritual; most days I can’t function without it. I start the day with 1-2 cups of French Press then continue with an afternoon latte.
I know skin care professionals that force their clients to cut back or eliminate coffee from their diet for the sake of their skin but I am not one of them! A few weeks ago, I started to wonder, is coffee really bad for your skin? I know caffeine causes dehydration, I try to work an additional 8 ounces of water into my day for each cup of coffee I consume to balance this effect. When applied topically, coffee berries are a potent antioxidant and beneficial for healthy skin. Caffeine dehydrates skin cells by energizing them, causing them to release sodium, potassium and water, which makes skin appear smoother so it is often use in cellulite treatments and eye creams.
Ground coffee beans can be added to an oil base to make a natural body scrub that also reduces the appearance of cellulite. Try this simple scrub at home with your leftover coffee grounds:
Coffee Body Scrub
- 2 cups leftover coffee grounds
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Jojoba Oil
Mix all items together in a bowl.
Apply liberally to your body while bathing or showering concentrating on rough patches and bumpy skin. Rinse well.
Recent research has shown coffee might have skin cancer-preventing properties; an experiment performed on mice showed that, when combined with exercise, caffeine boosted the mice’s natural defenses against UV rays by an unbelievable 400%. The evidence examined in this particular experiment is a process called apoptosis, by which the body gets rid of damaged and cancerous cells by killing them off. Researchers in Seattle performed a similar experiment, on cultured human skin cells; after placing the cells in a caffeine bath and exposing them to UV rays, they found that the caffeine killed the cells that had been damaged. There’s a very real possibility that caffeine in coffee might prevent the spread of skin cancer by killing damaged cells before they have a chance to become cancerous.
Caffeine does have a negative effect on severe acne, increasing the swelling and severity of cysts. The physiological reaction is described in detail here but even this article goes on to say that moderate coffee consumption as part of a balanced diet is not going to cause acne.
Here’s what Dr Weil recently said on the subject of coffee consumption.
All things considered, I refuse to give up my coffee habit, it isn’t harming my skin and may, in fact, be keeping me healthier in the long run.
Everyone’s skin tone is unique, from light to dark and everywhere in between, we are a blend of our biological parents. Of course, these differences affect our choice of makeup, but should they influence our choice of skin care?
In 1975 Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, a dermatologist at Harvard Medical School, developed a scale to classify a person’s complexion based on tolerance to sunlight. Dr. Fitzpatrick studied skin pigmentation and did pioneering work in treatments of many skin ailments. Today, we use the Fitzpatrick Scale to determine whether or not a patient is suited for various professional treatments.
The Fitzpatrick Scale uses the skin’s reaction to 10 to 45 minutes of sun exposure to classify skin type.
- Type 1 burns easily and never tans
- Type 2 burns easily and tans minimally
- Type 3 burns moderately and tans gradually
- Type 4 burns minimally and tans easily
- Type 5 rarely burns and tans easily
- Type 6 deeply pigmented skin that never burns
The Fitzpatrick scale is a widely used system of classification and is crucial when performing treatments like chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Darker skin is more likely to experience post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation if treated too aggressively without proper preparation.
Once we classify the skin type on the Fitzpatrick scale, we look at other factors like skin density (thickness), oil production and laxity.
As a general rule, Melanin increases skin density and thicker skin tends to be more prone to oiliness yet I have found many of my darkest skinned clients sensitive to aggressive exfoliation.
I recommend a gentle cleanser without sulfates for my Asian and African American clients. The goal is to clean the skin without stripping healthy oils. Gentle exfoliation is also important, weekly use of a white clay mask will help remove dead skin cells while calming reactive skin.
A broad spectrum SPF is very important, even for the darkest of skin tones. UVA rays are present from sunup to sundown, 365 days a year, all around the globe; these rays are the primary cause of premature aging.
Many of my darker skinned clients are concerned with dark patches, increased melanin makes the skin prone to dark spot or hyper-pigmentation. These dark spots are a direct result of inflammation caused by acne or sun exposure and commonly occur during pregnancy or in women that use hormonal birth control.
Prevention is key. Daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen will help prevent new spots from forming and existing spots from getting darker. Add a Vitamin C Serum under your SPF to boost it’s effectiveness as well as provide a gentle brightening action.
Nightly use of a Retinol or prescription Retin A will remove mild pigmentation. The combination of Vitamin C Serum during the day and Retinol Serum at night is effective for most mild cases of pigmentation.
If your pigment spots are more severe, you can employ a regimen of professional chemical peels and hydroquinone based products to even your skin tone. Consult with a professional before your start a more aggressive regimen, some lighteners can actually have the opposite effect when not used properly on darker skin tones.
Gluten-free diets are increasing in popularity. In the US, 1 in 133 people are intolerant to gluten, which is also know as celiac disease.
What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and millet.
There is controversy about whether individuals with celiac disease need to avoid topical skin care products containing these wheat proteins. Oral consumption of gluten can cause eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis which is sometimes called “gluten rash”. Some people worry about cross contamination i.e. using a hand lotion with wheat proteins then preparing food.
If gluten in your skin care is a concern, avoid ingredients like barley, wheat, and triticum. Oats and oatmeal do not contain wheat protein but are usually processed in a facility where cross contamination is possible.
Wheat germ oil is commonly used in skin care products but the wheat protein has been removed so it shouldn’t cause a reaction.
It is best to avoid lip balms(and any products that may be ingested) that contain wheat proteins.
Do you have any personal experience with gluten intolerance and skin care? Please feel free to share!
Q: Can I mix skin care products from different brands or do I need to use the same brand for all my skin care products?
A: Yes. If you like a product and it works for you, use it. They only person that will tell you different if the person trying to sell you a their entire line of products!
That being said, be careful of using multiple products that have similar ingredients. the most common example of this is using more than one product to exfoliate and ending up with irritated skin.
Q: I hear a lot about Retin A and skin creams with retinol…should I be using one? And what’s the difference?
A: There are a variety of skin care products on the market that incorporate Vitamin A derivatives, commonly called retinols or retinoids. These products benefit the skin in multiple ways but most importantly they increase skin cell turnover. This increased cell activity helps prevent blackheads, smooths fine lines, lessens the appearance of wrinkles, and lightens pigment spot from age or acne.
Tretinoin (the generic name for Retin A) is a prescription retinoid. Tretinoin is sold under several brand names: Retin A, Retin A Micro, Renova, Atralin to name a few. These products require a prescription so your dermatologist will determine which one is best for you based on your skin type.
Many over the counter products contain retinol. Nightly Therapy is one of my best selling products, it contains time released retinol and is safe to use around the eyes.
Most people can benefit from incorporating a retinol into their skin care routine. Retinols should always be used at night since sunlight breaks down the active ingredients. SPF must be worn during the day because the increased skin cell turnover will leave your skin less protected.
If your have no breakouts and very few fine lines, use a light retinol once or twice a week at night to exfoliate and help prevent the signs of aging.
If you have acne, visit a dermatologist and get a prescription for tretinion.
If you are fighting more pronounced signs of aging, use a retinol every night. Layer it under your moisturizer if your skin is dry.
Retinols are a great tool for increased skin health!
With all the hormonal changes your body goes thru during pregnancy and breast feeding, your skin can feel like it’s on a roller coaster ride.
Many over the counter and prescription acne treatments aren’t safe to use during pregnancy and breast feeding. Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, tretinoin (Retin A, Tazarac etc.) and retinol are NOT recommended for use when you are pregnant or breast feeding.Glycolic acid based products are the best way to control excess oil and keep acne to a minimum without affecting your growing fetus or tainting breast milk.
Professional glycolic peels and cleansing facials with extractions also help keep the skin balanced and healthy during this time.
Melasma is a common concern during pregnancy. The excess hormonal activity can trigger what is commonly called the “mask of pregnancy”, large patches of dark skin on the cheeks, forehead or jawline. Most discoloration fades within 6 months but the process can be helped along with glycolic acid peels and microdermabrasion.
Jessners Peels are very helpful in removing hormonal pigmentation but should not be done while you are pregnant or breast feeding.
Q: I have red bumps on my upper arms. They get worse during the winter and got really bad when I was pregnant. It’s embarrassing to wear sleeveless tops! What can I do to treat them? Help!
A: Red bumps that appear on the upper arms are known in the medical community as keratosis pilaris. It is a very common problem, often due to genetic factors and can be easily kept under control. The bumps arise from excess keratin production which can clog the hair follicle. Use a gentle cleanser and a glycolic body lotion on the affected area to keep the skin smooth and clear.
If the problem persists or worsens, make an appointment to see your dermatologist.
Does your idea of a fun weekend include a Saturday morning ocean swim followed by a short hike and mountain biking on Sunday?
Outdoor activities require specific skin care considerations.
I cannot stress sun protection enough. And I mean thick, white, water-resistant sunscreen that you would never wear on a day to day basis. Yes, it may clog your pores but it will also help prevent a myriad of skin conditions ranging from unsightly Melasma to serious skin cancers. I like the Suntegrity Face Sunscreen for the face and Neutrogena SPF 70 for the body.
Both of these products utilize a physical sunscreen ingredient. A physical block (like titanium dioxide) contains particles that do exactly that, physically block the sun light. This also helps protect your skin from other elements like wind and cold.
Before you get dressed in the morning, apply SPF lotion to your face and entire body. This will ensure you don’t miss crucial areas on the edges of your active wear. Use a full 2 ounces to cover your body and a blob the size if a quarter for your face, neck and ears.
Re-apply often; immediately after an water-based activity or every 1-2 hours. I like spray sunscreens for re-applying on the body, it’s easier if you are wearing cycling gloves, have dirty hands etc. SPF sticks are helpful to for re-application to the face.
Wear a hat with sun protection, sun glasses with adequate coverage, long sleeves, and a high neckline when you can. If you have short hair, thin hair (or no hair!) don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your scalp.
After you activity, your first order of business is to clean your face. Keep facial cleansing cloths in your bag for a quick wipe before you head home.
Once you are able to give your face a good washing, use a gentle cleanser to cleanse twice. Lather, rinse, repeat. This will ensure your skin is clean without over drying.