Category Archives: Professional Treatments

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!

What I learned from my “Botox Vacation”

Full disclosure, I’m a fan of injectable neurotoxins. In the hands of the right doctor, they are a great tool to for people who want to look youthful.

I had my first Botox treatment at 35 years old. The vertical line on my forehead had been there long as I could remember, getting more pronounced with each passing year. The prospect of softening it was intriguing.

The procedure itself didn’t feel as invasive as I expected. It took about 10 minutes and the result was subtle. I was so happy with the results, I continued to have injections every 5-6 months.

I’ve paired Botox with other anti-aging treatments (chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and LED treatments) and I’m generally happy with my face a decade later.

Then I had two Botox treatments in a row where the results changed dramatically. My eyes looked heavier and my forehead too frozen. I discussed it with my dermatologist but the corrections he made didn’t really help.

Unsure of what to do, I took a “Botox vacation” and let my face go back to its natural state.

I was curious; had a decade of paralyzing my forehead muscles affected their movement? Was Botox really “preventative” like some doctors said? Would my forehead be smoother than it was before?

My “Botox vacation” lasted a nine months. During that time, all the movement returned to my forehead; I’m happy to know my muscles still work! The heaviness left my eyelids as the Botox wore off but the vertical line on my forehead also returned.

Does my forehead look better now than it would have if I didn’t get all the injections over the past decade? Not necessarily.

I decided to see a new dermatologist and he used a different injection pattern to lift my brow while still softening the vertical line. I’m happy with the results and will probably get back on my regular injection schedule but it’s also nice to know what my face looks like without a little help!

How Do I Treat My Melasma?

Melasma is a very common concern among the clients I see in my studio.

Often called “the mask of pregnancy”, the discolored patches of skin are triggered by hormonal activity and sunlight.

The first step in any treatment plan is to determine what triggers your skin discoloration.

If hormonal fluctuations cause the discoloration, it is considered melasma.

If the discoloration is from acne inflammation, it is considered hyper-pigmentation. A treatment plan for hyper-pigmentation will include products and treatments to keep the acne under control, as well as treat the pigment left behind.

Adequate, daily, sun protection is a part of the treatment plan for discoloration. The sun is a trigger for any melanin disorder, regardless of the trigger. SPF with a physical ingredient is more effective at controlling pigment than SPF with a chemical ingredient.

Treating melasma is a two step process. First, remove the existing pigmented skin and second, prevent new pigment from forming.

Melasma pigment is removed with varying degrees of exfoliation using microdermabrasion, chemical peels or lasers. The best treatment for you depends on your skin tone, your lifestyle, the amount of downtime you are comfortable with, and the amount of money you are willing to spend.

Melasma is controlled with religious sunscreen application, regular exfoliation, topical vitamin c and a rotation of hydroquinone and botanical skin lightening creams. A consult with a skin care professional will determine the best routine for your skin and your lifestyle.

Lifestyle is an important consideration for melasma treatments. You can erase all the pigment spots you currently have only to see them return after an hour unprotected in the sun. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, please consider a more moderate approach.

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

Do Skin Care Gadgets Work?

Skin care gadgets are popping up everywhere, but do they work?

Derma-rollers, skin tightening devices, and LED masks; you can purchase many devices to treat yourself in the comfort of your home but how do they compare to professional treatments?

Any device approved for sale to the public isn’t going to be as powerful as the professional version. Yes, even the ones sold on Amazon labeled “professional”. To obtain a professional machine, you must show the manufacturer your license and receive proper training.

Instructions on most home-use devices will tell you daily use is required to see results. This is important. Ask yourself “Will I devote 15 minutes every day to this machine?” before making the investment.

It’s better to spend your hard-earned money on a few professional treatments instead of a closet full of expensive gadgets you don’t use!

Home-use devices like facial cleansing brushes, skin tightening devices and LED masks can be beneficial if you use them properly (and daily!).

Avoid home-use microdermabrasion machines and microneedling. When you pierce the surface of the skin, there is a risk of scarring and infection. These are treatments best left to the professionals.

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

LED Light Therapy

LED therapy uses therapeutic light wavelengths to treat the skin. The technology has been scientifically proven to stimulate fibroblasts that increase collagen and elastin production as well as kill acne causing bacteria.

Over 40 years of research shows LED has powerful therapeutic benefits on living tissue. In the 1960s, it was noted that certain single wavelengths had therapeutic effects on treatment tissues through a process called photo-stimulation.

Cancer researchers discovered a single red frequency combined with a topical cream kills certain types of skin cancer cells. The skin tissue regenerated and the appearance of the skin also improved with these treatments. The red LED light alone produced positive results in the treatment of rosacea, aging skin, and sun damaged skin.

NASA found LED light waves helped to stimulate cell growth which promoted healing in weightless environments.

LED light therapy is a cleared by the FDA as a cosmetic procedure. It is painless, safe, and effective to help reverse the signs of sun damage and aging as well as heal acne lesions and rosacea,

Red LED light encourages collagen production and increases blood flow to the skin therefore increasing cellular metabolism and strengthening the capillary walls.

Blue LED light is effective for treating acne. In clinical studies, blue light has shown to generate singlet oxygen which attacks the bacteria which is the root cause of most acne flare ups.

Fusion Peel

Is the Fusion Peel right for you? Springtime is a popular time of year for chemical peels but make sure you know what to expect before you take the leap.

The Fusion Peel is a blend of acids and fruit enzymes that remove the outermost layers of dead skin with minimal discomfort and irritation while providing maximum results. This peel is suitable for all skin types, including more sensitive skin that is may be less tolerant to chemical peels.

This medium strength chemical peel combines TCA, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Resorcinol, Ascorbic Acid, Papaya Fruit Extract, Pineapple Extract, and Pumpkin Seed Extract. The unique blend of acids makes the Fusion Peel safe for all skin.

The Fusion Peel will produce light peeling, similar to the peeling you would get after a mild sunburn. The peeling will normally start 4 to 5 days after the treatment and last up to 7 days.

Once the peeling has stopped, your skin tone will be more even, sun damage will be lighter and pores will be smoother. A series of treatments will help you tighten your skin as well.

The amount of peeling you experience depends on the amount of dead skin you have. If you exfoliate regularly the peeling may be light, if not it may be more intense.

Book your Fusion Peel now!

Bridal Skin Care

Wedding preparation can be overwhelming, it’s important not to overlook your bridal skin care routine. Makeup can conceal many flaws but bumpy, clogged pores will show thru any foundation.

Start at least 6 months before your big day.

If you’re having regular skin care treatments, 6 months is enough time to ramp up for a wedding. If you’re starting from scratch, give yourself 8-12 months.

Have a consultation with your esthetician to determine the combination of treatments required to achieve your skin care goals. This may include chemicals peels with several days of downtime after each session so plan accordingly.

Schedule consultations with the people you hire for hair and makeup (of course!) as well as anyone you plan to hire for eyelash extensions, spray tan, nail services etc. The week before your wedding is not the time to experiment with a treatment you’ve never received before.

Make a budget and commit to your routine.

Get a price for your professional treatments up front, many spas offer a discount if you pre-pay for all your services in advance. Factor in the cost of the home care products your will need to boost the results of the professional treatments. Wedding costs add up quickly and you don’t want to be forced to skimp on your skin as a result!

Don’t forget your back and chest.

Consider the cut of your dress and plan to treat any area that will be exposed. Back or chest acne may require several treatments to go away completely. If the skin on your body is generally good, have a body scrub the week before your wedding to remove dead skin.

Plan your treatments the week-of in the correct order.

  • 4-5 days before: Massage, body wrap, hair color, eyelash extensions
  • 3 days before: body scrub, manicure + pedicure, facial
  • 2 days before: spray tan

Relax and enjoy your big day!

The most important step of all.

 

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!

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!

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.

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.

Can I use Coconut Oil After a Chemical Peel?

This question comes up often in the search topics that lead people to my blog so I thought I would address it directly.

The short answer is no, coconut oil is one of the most comedogenic oils which means it is very likely to clog the pores on your face.

While healing from a chemical peel, the skin is very sensitive. It is important to use a gentle cleanser and high quality moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated without clogging the pores.

Using a comedogenic product to heal the skin after a chemical peel can clog the pores and cause an acne breakout which is often the cycle we are trying to end by doing the peel in the first place.

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!

How to Prepare for a Chemical Peel

1. Schedule a consultation with your skin care professional to determine the best chemical peel for your skin type and the results you want to achieve.

2.Schedule the peel when you have enough downtime to allow for any flaking and peeling that may occur in the days following the treatment.

2. Follow the pre-peel skin care routine prescribed to you. This usually includes retinol creams, Retin A or Hydroquinone products to start the renewal process and increase the benefits of the chemical peel.

3. Stay out of the sun! Wear at least an SPF 30 every day.

4. Stop all exfoliating products 3 days prior to your chemical peel appointment.

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.

What’s the difference between crystal and diamond Microdermabrasion?

Traditional Crystal Microdermabrasion uses a wand to spray crystals and gently sand the skin to eliminate imperfections. Since the early 2000’s the Diamond Tip method of Microdermabrasion has been gaining popularity. What is the difference?

Diamond Tip Microdermabrasion uses a hand piece with rough tip that gently resurfaces the skin. The different tips have different levels of grit, like sandpaper, to be used on different areas of the face. The treatment is often paired with a light chemical peel during the same session to achieve better results.

Crystal Microdermabrasion uses a disposable tip but the level of suction and amount of crystals used can be adjusted. The treatment is generally done alone or paired with a soothing mask since is it more aggressive than the diamond tip version.  Crystal Microdermbrasion is more effective at elimination acne scars and fine lines. It does leave behind crystals, (or “sparkles” as one of my clients calls them!) so it requires a bit more clean up.

The two types of machines vary greatly in price, Diamond Tip machines are less than half as expensive as their Crystal cousins which may explain their growing popularity. Don’t hesitate to ask what machine an esthetician or spa uses for their treatment before you book a session!

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.