Category Archives: Retail Products

What is the difference between chemical and physical sunscreen?

There are two categories of sunscreen ingredients, physical and chemical.

Physical sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide protect the skin by reflecting the light rays.

Figure-1-Diagram-showing-how-physical-and-chemical-sunscreens-actChemical sunscreen ingredients like avebenzone and oxybenzone absorb the light rays to protect the skin from damage.

Physical sunscreens do a better job of protecting the skin from sun damage and chemical sunscreens allow products to have a lighter feel and be water resistant. Many popular brands use a combination of physical and chemical sunscreen ingredients to produce the most user friendly product.

As an esthetician who works with a lot of clients suffering from hyper-pigmentation or melasma (often called “sun spots”), I am a fan of physical sunscreens. There is less opportunity for allergic reactions and they are safer for acne prone/sensitive skin as well.


Plant Stem Cells and Anti-aging Skin Care Products

You may have seen skin care products on the market that contain stem cells derived from either plant or animal sources. While stem cells derived from animal or human sources remain controversial, plant stem cells are proven as a safe and effective way to energize skin cells and reverse many signs of aging.

Plant stem cells are undifferentiated cells which carry the entire DNA gene expression of the plant and can morph, or differentiate, into any cell type to help the plant regenerate. This ability makes them invaluable for cosmetic applications since they can address multiple concerns.

These cells can be cultured in a laboratory setting where the concentration of phenylpropanoids—active substances created in response to injury or trauma—is multiplied in these cells by 1,000 times or more. As the stem cells are cultured in this manner, their chemical purity is also enhanced allowing for more influence in safety, control and standardization. When the finished product is applied topically, it works to trigger self-renewal in human skin.

The Mung Bean sprout, or Vigna Radiata, contains all the important substances for regeneration and protection of stressed skin making it’s stem cells particularly effective for skin care applications. The next generation of products from sōwd:therapy for skin will contain this potent extract, coming soon!

Daily Therapy: Vitamin C Complex

Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins for the body both inside and out. It contains antioxidant properties which protect our skin against free radical damage from various environmental sources.

Unfortunately, vitamin C cannot be stored in the body long term so to it must be ingested and applied topically on a daily basis.

Daily Therapy Vitamin C Complex is the backbone of any anti-aging skin care routine. It contains three unique forms of targeted vitamin C in a time released formula for optimal effectiveness.

With daily use, skin tone will become more even and pores will become less clogged. The skin begins to appear more youthful and radiant. Fine lines and wrinkles will become less noticeable and new damage will be discouraged.

It can be incorporated into your morning or evening skin care routine depending on what other products you are using but always apply Daily Therapy on clean skin.

For oily or combination skin, Daily Therapy may be used as a moisturizer but if your skin craves more moisture, follow with Moisture Therapy During the day, always follow with a SPF of at least 15.

Pore Therapy Exfolating Toner

Pore Therapy Exfoliating Toner is the newest addition to the sowd:therapy for skin line of products.

This freshening toner utilizes a unique combination of glycolic, salicylic and lactic acids to minimize pores, smooth texture, reduce oily shine and combat discoloration.

It is a great addition to your daily routine if you have oily or combination skin and can be used as needed if you experience periodic acne like me.

After washing your face, apply Pore Therapy to a cotton pad and smooth over your skin. Do not rinse, follow with your favorite moisturizer. It can be used morning or evening, or both if you have very oily skin

The combination of active ingredients is not recommended for sensitive skin however since it does not contain alcohol, Pore Therapy is less drying than traditional astringents.

Like the rest of the sowd: therapy for skin products, it does not contain parabens, fragrance or artificial color.

Always use a minimum of SPF 15 when using this or any other exfoliating product since you will be more sensitive to sun exposure.


What’s NOT in sōwd:therapy for skin

If you’ve tried my brand, sōwd:therapy for skin, you’ve seen a lot of information about the ingredients you won’t find in the bottles.

Some items on the list are popular buzzwords in the skin care industry and things like not testing on animals need no explanation, but have you ever wondered why we are all really avoiding parabens?

Parabens: Parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. This ingredient, often found in cosmetics, enters the bloodstream and mimics estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells.

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: Formaldehyde is considered a known human carcinogen by many organizations, including the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Ingredients tested on animals: There’s no need for animals to suffer when formulating safe skin care products.

Bovine sourced ingredients: Ingredients like collagen, elastin, gelatin, colostrum and placenta extract are often sourced from cows. Effective, humane alternatives are available.

Sodium Lauryl or Laureth Sulfates: These lathering agents were initially sold as industrial strength detergents primarily used for heavy duty cleaners and degreasers. They strip the skin of the acid mantle leaving it vulnerable to damage. The rich bubbles they create are attractive to the consumer and the low cost is attractive to the manufacturer.

Phthalates: Two decades of research suggest that phthalates disrupt hormonal systems, which can cause harm during critical periods of fetus development.

Thankfully, with the right combination of nature and modern science, we CAN have effective, non-toxic products that improve our skin!

Beauty Product Buyers Remorse!

It happens to the best of us; in the relaxed haze of an island vacation (or the sleepy haze of a late night infomercial) we purchase a slew of skin care products that are all wrong for our skin.

The first step is always check the return policy, many companies will allow returns or exchanges of the unused portion within 30 days of purchase.

If your stuck with the product, don’t fret. There are creative ways to make use of items not suited for our complexion!

Creams that are too heavy for the face are wonderful to use on the body. The night cream that clogged the pores on you face will do wonders for your dry cuticles and hands. Same goes for oil based serums.

Retinol, AHA, and glycolic products that prove too strong for your face will smooth your rough elbows and heels in no time. Same goes for harsh facial scrubs.

Creamy cleanser too creamy for your oily skin? Most cream cleansers can do double duty as an eye makeup remover.

Foaming cleanser drying out your combination skin? Use it as a body wash, especially good for areas like the chest and back which might be prone to break outs.

Resist the urge to stow these items away in your beauty closet, they will just sit there until they expire and you’ll waste them entirely. Get creative!

Eye Lash Growth Serum

Q: Do eyelash growth serums work? What is the difference between prescription and over the counter products?

A: These serums contain ingredients which extend the anagen or growth period of the natural cycle of eye lash growth as well as conditioners to improve the look of the lashes. They have been proven to be very effective when used consistently.

Bimatoprost is the only ingredient proven effective by lab studies and currently, Allergan (the makes of Latisse) has exclusive rights to its use. It was originally used in glaucoma medication to relieve pressure in the eyes and a side effect was longer, thicker eye lashes. It has been proven safe to use for everyone except those with a history of glaucoma.

Latisse claims to make the eye lashes darker over time but I have not personally seen this result nor have any of my clients. Some people do experience irritation or a darkening of the skin along the lash line.

Consistency is key, you must use the serum daily for 90 days to achieve the maximum results then a few times a week for maintenance.

The over the counter products you see on the market are “lash conditioners” or “lash enhancers” and because of Allergan’s patent, they cannot contain bimatoprost. They might make your lashes healthier but not necessarily longer. Many popular companies have been forced to reformulate their products over the past few years, make sure to check the ingredients and read the label so you know what your are purchasing!

Makeup for men?

Recently, I realized half of my tinted moisturizer sales were to my male clients.

Men want to put their best face forward even if it means having some help. More companies are actually creating makeup lines for men but venturing into this realm can be daunting.

As with anything new, start simple. The new breed of tinted moisturizers are great (often called BB cream or CC cream), they provide light coverage to even skin tone and decrease shine while providing all the benefits of an SPF and moisturizer. My personal favorite is Suntegrity.

If you have a pimple or any area where you need more coverage, use a concealer. This is a product with more pigment designed to camouflage imperfections. It is not meant to be used in large areas.

A light application of tinted face powder will provide some coverage and reduce shine. Be careful not to get heavy handed since excess powder can cake in the creases of your face during the day.

Consult a professional if you have a difficult time finding a color that matches your skin tone.

When applying any tinted product, avoid the beard area if you have stubble. The product will get caught in the hairs.

Avoid wearing any tinted product when you are working out, it will run and discolor your shirt collar and towels.

Wash your face with a product designed to dissolve makeup in the evening.

Makeup can be fun, embrace it!

“Should I replace my products all at once?”

Q: Should I replace my products all at once? Or integrate them slowly? Also, do I need to use the same brand for my entire skincare routine?

A: It depends on your skin and your skin care goals.

When our skin changes radically due to environment or hormones, more than one new product may be necessary and it is okay to incorporate more than one product into your new routine.

If you are adding a new product for increased anti-aging benefit, changing only one product at a time can give you a better idea of the results you are getting (or if your skin is reacting badly).

You do not need to use the same brand of skin care products for your entire routine and the only person that will tell you otherwise is an eager salesperson!

“I can’t afford expensive skin care products, help!”

Q: What can a person on a budget do for better skin??

A: More expensive products generally contain a higher level of effective ingredients. In some cases, a potent $60 night cream will last you 3-4 months. A more diluted $30 version might last 6-8 weeks so the overall investment is similar. If you find a product that is out of your price range but you really love what it does for your skin, consider using it every other night (or day). While this isn’t ideal, you will still get most of the benefits of the active ingredients. On the opposite days, substitute with a less expensive, neutral moisturizer like Cereve.

Here are a few of my favorite products that can be found at the drugstore and paired with more active products for optimal results:

Cereve Cleanser: both the Hydrating  and Foaming Cleanser are great and inexpensive. For a long time, Cetaphil was considered the best drugstore cleanser but I think Cereve makes a better product. Their formulas protect and enhance the skin barrier with ceramides. Cereve PM, provides a nice amount of hydration without clogging the pores.

Aveeno makes a quality line of light SPF lotions for day use. The Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 is a favorite among my male clients.

Vitamin C is my favorite antioxidant ingredient and most people benefit from using it on their skin.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good,
low cost alternative in this category.

Vitamin C requires advanced technology to stay stable in a lotion or serum, if the molecule isn’t stabilized, the vitamin C oxidizes when it is exposed to air. Vitamin C serum is one place where I recommend you splurge!

If you are in your 20’s make sure you are using an eye cream at least once a day, Neutrogena makes some nice ones. If you need a product that will correct some of the signs of aging, look for an eye cream with peptides that works on a deeper level. If puffiness is your issue, I’ve never found anything better than Yon-Ka Phyto Contour.

Find a routine that fits your time and budget and stick with it!! It’s better to use products you can afford on a daily basis than slack off when you run out of the fancy stuff and can’t afford to replace it.

Diamonds, gold…and skin care?

Do expensive ingredients really mean better skin?

The past ten years have seen an increase in luxury items being added to skin care and spa treatments with the promise of a better complexion. Caviar cream, 24 carat gold body wraps and most recently, black diamond skin serum.

Many of these ingredients provide a temporary benefit. I’ve worked with a line of caviar products that do a wonderful job of plumping the skin before a major event, great for a “red carpet facial”.  Likewise, diamond particles fill in fine lines and wrinkles as well as reflect light which gives the skin a youthful glow when the product is applied.

However, there are no long term studies that suggest these type of ingredients penetrate the outer layers of the skin or do much for the long term health of the skin.

If you have a special occasion or feel like indulging, go for it! If you’d like more bang for your buck, use proven ingredients like antioxidants, peptides and retinols.

What’s wrong with organic skin care?

Nothing! I think many organic products are lovely.

However, there are several reasons my products are not certified organic.

Skin care products can be divided into two categories: maintenance and corrective. Maintenance products help to maintain the current condition of your skin while corrective products correct issues like acne, melasma, and the effects of aging.

The majority of my work centers around corrective skin care. My clients want to improve, not just maintain, their skin.

Corrective products need to contain high performance ingredients to be effective. High performance ingredients are dose dependent so they must use chemically standardized plant extracts.

These ingredients do not meet the guidelines set forth by the FDA to be considered “organic” however, they are not “toxic” either.

Vitamin C is a perfect example. It is readily available in citrus fruit yet the potency of juice from an orange can vary greatly. Recreating a the l-ascorbic acid molecule in a lab allows the manufacturer to guarantee the effectiveness of the dose each and every time. This lab created molecule is identical to that found in nature while still being chemically standardized. The color, pH, odor, solid content, viscosity and levels of specific performance related chemicals are consistent. This assures you get results from your skin care products!

That being said, there are some toxic ingredients to look out for when choosing your skin care products. Parabens have been linked to certain types of cancer, sulfates can be drying and harsh to the surface of the skin. Many inexpensive, widely used preservatives contain formaldehyde.

“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!

Antioxidants: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Antioxidants are the trendy skin care ingredient right now. Here’s a simple breakdown to determine if they are something you should be adding to your routine.

Everyone. Especially those over the age of 30, smokers, and sun worshipers.

Superfruits like Goji berries, Acai berries, coffee berries, white and greens teas and COQ10 are examples of ingredients that neutralize free radical damage. Damage from free radicals is the common denominator is most skin issues.

Every day. Use an antioxidant product under your SPF to enhance it’s protective properties and at night under your moisturizer to repair cellular damage while you sleep.

On your face, neck and decollete.

To neutralize environmental damage from free radicals, reduce inflammation,  calm acne, moisturize the skin and prevent wrinkles.

What’s in your skin care products?

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.

Makeup Tips

For an esthetician, I am NOT a naturally inclined makeup person!

Over the yeaphoto 2 copyrs I have picked up a few useful makeup tips that I often share with my clients so I thought I’d share them with you.

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 photo 1mascara!).

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!

Ethnic Skin Care

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 Skin Care?

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.

All of my products are gluten free and I recommend Intense Moisture Therapy to sooth eczema rashes.

Do you have any personal experience with gluten intolerance and skin care? Please feel free to share!

Do I need to use the same brand for all my skin care?

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.

What’s the difference between Retin A and Retinol? And should I be using one?

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!