Category Archives: Acne

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 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.

The Top Five Moisturizers for Oily Skin

The top five moisturizers for oily skin!

Oily and combination skin types need hydration as much as dry skin. You need to layer a moisturizer under your SPF on a daily basis so why not use one that provide a matte finish, gives an antioxidant boost or oxygenates tired skin?

B5 Moisture Matte from DermaQuest $75

This lightweight gel serum significantly reduces shine in minutes, while providing oil-free hydration. A must if you want to reduce the appearance of pore-size and desire a matte finish.

IS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion $90

iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion smoothes and hydrates skin with pharmaceutical-grade botanicals, peptides, marine extracts and antioxidants. The lightweight texture quickly absorbs into skin and acts as makeup primer to create the perfect canvas.

daily therapy: vitamin c and e complex $67

sowd:therapy for skin daily therapy is a lightweight moisturizer for oily or combination skin or it can be used as a base layer under a rich moisturizer for dry skin. It combines three forms of concentrated, time-released Vitamin C to firm skin, even skin tone, and discourage clogged pores.

take a deep breath oil-free oxygenating gel cream $37

take a deep breath oil-free, oxygenating moisturizer restores and refreshes a dull skin. with exclusive clean-air technologyTM, skin receives the oxygen delivery it needs to breathe freely, while a patented blend of antioxidants and anti-pollutants helps neutralize damaging free radicals.

Cactus & Kale Oil Free Recovery Lotion $14

Pacifica’s Cactus & Kale Oil-Free Stress Recovery Lotion breathes vitality back into dehydrated, tired and stressed skin. Factors such as blemishes, sun, polluted environments and daily emotional stress tend to aggravate and make skin appear dull and can even make it more sensitive. Good for all skin types, even blemish prone.

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

What’s Your Skin Type?

Have you ever wondered how skin type is determined?

The amount of oil you produce is one of the major factors.

Dry

Dry skin types will benefit from washing with cool or warm (not hot) water using a cream based cleanser and treating with a serum followed by a creamy moisturizer. Serums have a thinner consistency and are more readily absorbed into the skin to deliver moisture to the lower layers, the moisturizer is designed to lock hydration in place.

PRO TIP: A common mistake is to assume dry skin does not need to be exfoliated. Exfoliating with an enzyme mask 1-2 times per week helps remove dead skin build up and allow products to penetrate better.

Normal

If you are lucky enough to fall into the normal category, chances are it won’t last forever! A gentle cleanser and moisturizer twice a day as well as an SPF during the day will keep your skin in great shape. As you age or experience hormonal changes, you can add to this routine to deal with the changes more easily since you have already established a routine.

PRO TIP: Do you fall asleep without washing your face? Get in the habit of washing your face right when you get home from work/gym/happy hour, BEFORE you sit down on the sofa to watch TV. Your skin will thank you!

Combination

Combination skin is a very common, oil in the T-zone yet dry on the cheeks. Use a gentle, foaming cleanser to get rid of the oil build up in the T-zone without over drying the cheeks. A treatment moisturizer with vitamin C will help prevent the excess oil from oxidizing in the pores and causing blackheads while keeping the cheeks from getting flaky.

PRO TIP: Use a white clay mask once a week to balance the skin, it will absorb excess oil from the oily areas and gently exfoliate dead skin from the dry patches.

Oily

Oily skin may be the most frustrating of all the skin types but the excess oil keep skin from getting wrinkles for much longer. Activated charcoal face wash helps absorb excess oil without over drying the skin, you can leave the cleanser on like a mask for 1-2 minutes for extra oil fighting power. Follow with a light antioxidant serum plus SPF during the day.

PRO TIP: Use blotting papers throughout the day to absorb excess oil without disturbing your makeup and SPF.

How do I get rid of acne scars?

Having acne is bad enough but the scars it leaves behind can linger for much longer than the breakouts themselves.

Acne scars fall into two major categories:

1. Discoloration; usually red spots or hyperpigmentation. Both red spots and hyperpigmetation are the skins response to inflammation from the acne lesion.

2. Uneven texture of varying degrees; this can be a combination of raised areas and indentations, severe indentations are often called “ice pick scars”.

In this post, I will focus on treatment options for the second category of acne scars, the uneven texture left behind from severe breakouts.

First and foremost, establish a skincare routine to keep new breakouts under control before you spend time and money to treat acne scars.

For most scars, crystal microdermabrasion is a very effective treatment. The minimal downtime and affordable cost make it accessible however it is important to remember a series a treatments will be required.

Depending on the depth of the scars 6-12 sessions may be necessary to achieve the desired results. These treatments are be done weekly or bi-weekly.

Chemical peels, like Jessners Peel or  TCA peel are also very effective for smoothing texture and lightening hyperpigmentation.

The most effective results I’ve had treating acne scars used a combination of crystal microdermabrasion and chemical peels done on a weekly or bi-weekly basis combined with the proper home care routine.

It’s important to be patient, clearing acne scars can take 6 months or longer, but the end result is worth it!

Do I need a chemical peel?

Most people can benefit from some type of chemical peel.

Chemical peels are the preferred treatment to address many skin conditions like acne, fine lines, wrinkles, scars, hyperpigmentation and melasma.

There are many types of chemicals peels to choose from, the trick is finding the right one for your skin and your concerns.

When it comes to chemical peels the more results you want to see, the more downtime you will have after the treatment! There is no magic solution that will erase years of damage without a period of redness and flaking after the application. Sometimes a series of lighter chemical peels will achieve similar results to one more aggressive peel, this may be a better option for sensitive skin types.

Schedule a consultation with your skin care professional to determine what is the best option for you.

Anti Acne Tip

Are your hands clean when you apply your skin care products?

Applying face cream (and even acne medication!) while you still have residue from hair products or body lotion on your hands can create a pore clogging environment on your face.

Wash your hand thoroughly before you apply your face products, or apply them before you apply your hair and body products.

Clean hands = clean skin = clean pores!

The Best Home Facial Routine for Oily and Combination Skin

1. Cleanse your skin using a light gel cleanser. Make sure to remove all traces of eye makeup, dirt and sunscreen during this initial cleanse.

2. Cleanse your skin a second time to clean the skin. You can use the same gel cleanser or a more nourishing cleanser if you have combination skin.

3. While the skin is still damp, apply a thin layer of an enzyme exfoliating mask. Relax for 3-5 minutes, take this time to chill out and make yourself a cup of tea. Take the leftover hot water and dampen a washcloth for your face. Place the warm washcloth over your face (with the mask still on) for a few minutes and let the heat expand the pores and help the enzyme work. Remove the enzyme mask with the washcloth, then rinse with clean water. If your skin is oily, apply an exfoliating toner with a cotton pad.

photo 1

4. Apply a thin layer of a white clay balancing mask on clean, dry skin. You can use a facial brush if you like the feeling (and the look of an evenly applied mask). Allow the mask to sit for 8-10 minutes. Take this time to relax, lie on the floor in Savasana (like the Panda) take some deep breaths, have another cup of tea or soak your feet in a mineral salt bath.

5. Using the washcloth if necessary, remove the clay mask then rinse the skin well. Apply an eye cream around the delicate eye area then a  treatment moisturizer or SPF moisturizer depending on the time of day.

6. Enjoy your fresh, clean complexion! This home facial routine should be done once a week for best results.

Adult Acne

“Adult acne” or acne, as I call it, is very frustrating!

We grow up thinking  pimples are something that affect us as teenagers and we will eventually grow out of it when we become adults. This is often not the case, especially for women.

Hormone fluctuations brought on by stress or our monthly cycle can bring on a breakout like I’ve illustrated in the “selfie” above! I have access to amazing products and am vigilant about doing everything “right” yet once in awhile, the left side of my chin still gets the best of me.

What can we do about it?

Regular Cleansing Facials are the first step. Schedule them the week before you normally experience a hormonal breakout. The timing different for everyone, sometimes it the week before your cycle, sometimes it’s the week of your cycle. Pay attention and book a preemptive session with your esthetician to get your pores cleaned and possibly a glycolic peel to combat excess bacteria.

Minimize your stress level. Figure out what you need to do to relax on a regular basis: take a yoga class, go for a walk, meditate, sit with a cup of tea and a good book. These activities help to lower your cortisol levels which in turn lower your stress hormones and will decrease you chances of having a stress related break out.

Relax, it’s good for your skin!

How do I care for my skin after a chemical peel?

Professional Chemical Peels are a great way to improve many skin issues with very little downtime.

When having a medium depth, self neutralizing chemical peel (like a Jessners Peel or a light TCA peel) the skin barrier is compromised. How you care for your skin during the week after the treatment can greatly affect the results.

Immediately after the treatment, your skin may be red and feel tight. Make sure your skin care therapist applies sunscreen before you leave the studio and reapply sunscreen as necessary throughout the day. Most peels need to be left on the skin for 5 hours or longer after the application so don’t wash your face or do any activity that makes you sweat.

The flaking generally begins 36-48 hours after the application of the peel. Be very gentle with you skin during this time. Use a gentle cleanser followed by a rich moisturizer and lots of sunscreen.

The flaking generally lasts 3-5 days depending on the depth of the peel and the condition of your skin. Most importantly, DO NOT pick at the flaking skin! When washing your face, use a gentle circular motion with your hands (no washcloth or face brush) to help the dead skin slough.

If you have a lot of clogged pores, you may experience a breakout during the flaking process. Do not use any products designed to dry the skin: salicylic acid, glycolic acid etc. Treat your skin very gently, the breakouts should clear up quickly as the skin cells turn over.

Do not use any products containing Retin A, retinol, AHA, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid or any other acid during the healing phase. Reintroduce these products when you feel your skin has fully healed, everyone is different but two weeks post-peel is a good guideline.

Plan to have your chemical peel 2-4 weeks prior to a major event to allow your skin to fully heal. I recommend medium depth chemical peels 2-4 times a year for most of my clients concerned with acne and anti-aging.

“I have bumps on my forehead that won’t go away!”

Q: I have bumps on my forehead and no matter how much I exfoliate, they won’t go away. Help!

A: The forehead is part of the T-zone, a region of the face that produces more oil. This excess oil can get trapped under a layer of dry skin and produce bumps. These bumps may never form into pimples or blackheads but can be just as annoying!

Cleanse you face twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Use a foaming cleanser with salicylic acid followed by a toner with glycolic acid.

Twice a week use a clay mask on the affected area to help to absorb the excess oil.

Have a professional cleansing facial that includes extractions every 4-6 weeks.

This routine will keep the skin exfoliated and diminish the appearance of the bumps.

Oily skin is a chronic condition that usually gets better with age but managing it requires consistency and patience.

Have a question? Email me at hannahsowd@hannahsowd.com

Does food affect your skin?

Growing up, many of us were told not to eat greasy foods like French fries and pizza because they cause acne. Is there any truth to this theory?

Unless you have a specific allergy, a reasonable quantity of any food is not going to bring on a reaction in your skin.

That being said, a binge of junk food and alcohol that lasts a few days (or a long weekend!) can affect your skin, but when you resume your normal habits, your skin will regain balance.

Like all your organs, your skin thrives from a healthy diet. Good fats from avocado and nuts, antioxidants from berries and citrus, proteins from dark leafy greens, legumes and lean meats all support the health of your skin.

Adequate water intake, limited caffeine and sugar are an integral part as well. Recent studies show the negative affects of simple sugars on your skin, mostly in the way of free radical damage and inflammation. Limit your intake of processed foods and sugars for optimal health of your body and your skin!

“Do I need to use a toner?”

Q: Do I need to use a toner?

A: First, I want to clarify the difference between an astringent and a toner. An astringent contains mild exfoliating ingredients and leaves the skin feeling tingly after its applied. A toner is mild, usually  without alcohol, and designed to balance the PH level or soothe the skin. Excessively oily or acne prone skin can benefit from an astringent with active ingredients designed to remove oil and treat acne like salicylic acid.

Dry or combinations skin types can skip the toner. If your feel your face is still dirty after cleansing, wash it again. Just like shampoo directions: lather, rinse, repeat. We always cleanse the skin twice during professional treatments; the first cleanse removes dirt and makeup, the second cleanse cleans the skin. If you like the feeling a mist on your face or the smell of a particular toner (which can be lovely!) then by all means, use one! However, I don’t think they are necessary
for the health of your skin.

And more importantly, skipping the toner allows you more time to spend applying important products like eye cream!

Can going off “the pill” cause acne?

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!

Skin Care For The Body

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!

Is coffee really bad for your skin?

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.

Why do I break out after I get a facial?

One of the most common excuses for NOT getting regular facials is breaking out a few days after the treatment.
There are a few reasons why a facial can bring on an eruption of pimples.

Human skin is made up of 3 primary layers, sebum (oil) production occurs in the middle layer (the dermis) so the eruptions that surface after a facial originated long before the treatment occurred. Unfortunately, this is often part of the purging process associated with starting a new skin care regime.

That being said, there are many ways for an esthetician to minimize this risk.

Using a product or device to minimize bacteria during or after the extraction process is helpful. I incorporate the high frequency current into all of my treatments which treats existing breakouts and minimizes the chance of future eruptions.

If your skin is very “bumpy”, that indicates the presence of comedones or clogged pores. Smoothing out the texture of the skin is a process that includes regular professional treatments and consistent home care. You may have to deal with a few eruptions along the way, but the end result is worth it!

How often do I need a facial?

Do you wait until you get a gift certificate to think about skin care? If so, chances are you need facials more often!

Consistency is key. For general maintenance of healthy skin, I recommend a Cleansing Facial every 4-6 weeks. Having your pores cleaned on a regular basis allows them to shrink and become less noticeable.

New skin cells replace the old ones every 28-32 days, when treating a condition like acne scars, it is beneficial to have a professional treatment twice during this cycle. I recommend a series of 6 sessions of Microdermabrasion spaced 2 weeks apart for maximum results, then follow up treatments ever 3 months.

This same model works well with glycolic peels for acne prone skin.

If money or time is an issue, figure out a frequency that fits your budget and stick with it; even if it’s 2-4 times a year. Quarterly facials are more beneficial than four monthly sessions in a row then a large gap until your next treatment.

Find an esthetician that you like and stick with him or her! There is an added benefit to visits with someone who knows the history of your skin especially through hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause. And it’s nice to have someone you know pamper you after a rough day!