Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Settling In and Breaking Out

I've taken a hiatus from this blog because as all 7 of my followers know, we moved. We said "good-bye" to "Keeping Austin Weird" and "hello" to the Bloomington/Normal area of Illinois. Get it? Weird to Normal? OK, ok, I thought it was funny.

A little geographical background: Bloomington and Normal are two separate cities, but are connected to create a population of approximately 125,000. They may be right next to each other, but I feel like each community has its own flavor. Normal is where Illinois State University is located, so it has a collegiate vibe. There are several local coffee shops, a vegan restaurant and a historic movie theater that's recently been restored. It feels a bit like South Austin - where Bloomington feels more like Round Rock. State Farm is headquartered in Bloomington so it's more business-oriented than Normal. I've been to some great restaurants and walked our dogs in a couple of beautiful parks. I've also hit up Anne Taylor Loft which makes me VERY happy.

All in all, I feel like we're settling in well. With all the change we've gone through in recent weeks, it's been reflected in my skin. My forehead started to break out about a week after we found out we were moving and it hasn't gotten any better. I went from having clear skin to getting pimples almost overnight. And then, once I got to Bloomington my skin became very flaky, dry and itchy. I literally woke up one morning itching my eyebrows like a mad woman. My point in all this is that stress and our environment can wreck havoc on skin.

My breakouts are mostly on my forehead. And problems with this area may often be associated with our digestion and bladder. Considerations can include poor digestion, insufficient water intake and a possible history of bladder problems. Other traditional considerations are not thoroughly rinsing shampoo from the hairline, comedogenic ingredients in hair products or improper removal of make-up or cleanser. I haven't changed my hair products and I'm very anal about washing my face and rinsing it well. So perhaps it's the first set of considerations. Or, maybe it's just good ol' fashioned stress and a new environment. But to be sure, I increased my water intake and made sure I upped my fiber count. TMI? Probably, but it's my blog.

I also started giving myself a weekly PCA Skin Oxygenating Trio treatment. This treatment drives oxygen deep into my pores and breaks up the dirt and sebum that gets trapped. The combo of dirt and sebum can ferment and cause bacteria that gets trapped in a pore, causing a pustule (a pimple with pus and bacteria). In addition to cleansing my face morning and night, and masking once a week, I've been diligent about exfoliating at least twice a week. Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells and stimulates new cell growth. I also tone, moisturize and use SPF (in the morning).

I've been using Burt's Bees Targeted Spot Treatment on my pimples because it has Salicylic Acid, a Beta Hydroxy Acid that can dry out our pores, helping to unplug them. Salicylic acid can also have a calming, anti-inflammatory effect on pimples.

Additionally, I've been trying to get 8-hours of sleep and work out regularly. Our skin is a reflection of what's going on in our bodies and I think I'm just out of whack. I suppose packing up your life and moving it to another location will do that. My breakouts may be a wake-up call that I need to be more diligent about my overall health. I'm hoping it gets better as we settle in to our new home and new life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Know Your Ingredients

Yesterday was an amazing day. We had a speaker from Eminence Organics (Warning: their website is crappy, but linking you to it is the responsible thing to do) and she spent over four hours explaining this line's philosophy and sharing product knowledge. Eminence began in Hungary and they use all organic and natural ingredients. No parabens or harsh chemicals. The ingredients are so natural that you can even eat their products (if you are really hungry). The best part is, they boast results. Results AND organic ingredients? Could this be true? I'm not sure yet, but I'm looking into it because this is the most excited I've ever been about a product line to date. I cook with as many organic ingredients as possible. I scrub my sinks and showers with plant based cleaners. Why wouldn't I want to wash my face with natural ingredients? Well, I've always been told that these "natural" products don't produce the results we want. Eminence is saying you can have it both ways. I purchased a couple of products (including a physical sunscreen) and will see how I like those. Updates to come.

The speaker's number one piece of advice was to "know your ingredients." It gives you power. Understanding the ingredients in products will help me to decipher the effective ingredients from the fillers. And that makes sense to me.

If you have a product you want me to research, please send me the name of it and I'll make it this week's exercise. Many companies print the ingredients on the back of their box, so what do you do when you get home and remove the product from it's packaging? You toss the box. You have no idea what the ingredients are unless you can find them online. If you have the ingredients, send them my way. If not, just give me the name of the product and I'll see if I can find out the ingredients on my own.

If no one e-mails me, I'll know I'm typing to the cyberspace gods. If you have 5 minutes, please respond and give me a homework assignment. I can't believe I'm actually asking for homework, but I really want to get better at knowing my ingredients.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sunscreens accelerating cancer? I really freakin' hope not.

Remember how I said sorting through all the available information out there is confusing? Well, I just read an article about a recently published report stating that many sunscreens on the market may actually be accelerating cancer. Are you kidding me? I just got done preaching the benefits of sunscreen. I still think lathering on the SPF is necessary, but I think you should read the article and proceed with caution. I'll also do my best to summarize the findings on this blog.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report stating that only 8% of the 500 products on the market are considered safe and effective to use. That's 39 of 500 sunscreens. Scary. You can read the press release which does a nice job explaining their findings. It also links you to other important information.

The EWG states that there are exaggerated Sun Protection Factor (SPF) claims out there. EG: SPF 100. Plus, some sunscreens include the ingredients oxybenzone and Vitamin A - now thought to be potentially harmful.

Oxybenzone helps to absorb UVA and UVB rays, ultimately protecting you from the sun's rays. However, it's a is a synthetic form of estrogen and has a hormone-disrupting compound that penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. Not good. Not good at all.

What's even scarier is that the FDA is investigating whether a form of Vitamin A, retinyl palmitate (found in 41% of sunscreens) can cause accelerated growth of skin tumors and lesions. The concern is that when it's applied to the skin and then exposed to sunlight, it may be increasing skin damage and elevating our cancer risk. The problem is that Vitamin A is known for it's anti-aging properties, so many companies add it to their products.

People are ticked off at the FDA because sunscreen regulations have never been finalized and it's been an ongoing battle since 1978. New regulations may not be issued for another year and a half, so protect yourself. Find sunscreens that don't include Vitamin A or Oxybenzone. Your best bet is a physical sunscreen which contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These ingredients work as physical blockers that reflect UV rays and prevent them from striking the skin's surface. For more information about specific brands, you should take a look at the EWG's 2010 sunscreen guide. You can look up your sunscreen to see how potentially harmful it may be as well as see which products they recommend.

I looked up Dermalogica's Solar Booster SPF 30, which is my favorite sunscreen and it was ranked as a 7 on a scale of 10 (10 being the most harmful). It's not my favorite anymore. It's in the "red" category because it contains both potentially harmful ingredients I mention above. I just bought a brand new bottle and am going to try to return it and try something else.

Here are some tips:
  • Don't solely rely on sunscreen to protect you from the sun. Wear hats, protective clothing, and take cover in the shade as much as possible. Don't forget to protect your eyes and wear sunglasses
  • Choose sunscreens that contain the minerals zinc or titanium. Again, here's a list of the EWG's top sunscreens
  • Avoid sunscreens with Vitamin A and Oxybenzone. We don't know for sure that Vitamin A is a problem, but I plan to avoid it until the findings are confirmed. You may want to consider it too
  • Don't buy those sprays or powders because they're easier to ingest than creams
  • I think anything higher than SPF 30 has too many chemicals and doesn't provide much more sun protection
  • Remember than sunburns still increase the risk of skin cancer, so don't avoid sunscreen all together. Just be smart about what you choose
I hope this information is helpful. I'm going to be doing more research and will keep you posted on what I find. Contact me on this blog with any questions in the meantime.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quick Skin Fact

Hello! Things are pretty busy at school these days. I'm studying for an anatomy and physiology test, plus working on clients. Last weekend I went to an International Skin Conference in Dallas and this weekend I'm going to a PCA chemical peel class in San Antonio. It's all fascinating, but can actually be a bit overwhelming. It seems that every company, esthetician and doctor have their own philosophy about what works and what doesn't. I'm trying to wade through it all and decide for myself.

I really need to study for this upcoming test, but wanted to post a skin fact I learned at the conference last weekend:

When you blush, the lining of your stomach also turns red. Your cheeks and stomach lining have the same type of blood vessels - cutaneous resistance vessels - that get rosy in reaction to increased blood pressure.

This tidbit really echoed what I took away from the conference. The physical things we can see on our skin can be a reflection of something going on in our bodies. Take this into consideration as you examine your face in the morning. Could it be related if you're constipated AND you're breaking out? It's something to consider. The more I learn about our skin, the more I realize we need to treat our entire bodies because it's all obviously connected.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Picking Products

I often get asked, "Which products are the most important to use?" I don't really have a standard answer because each person is different and everyone's skin has its own unique need. Plus, we all have different budgets and time allowances - and this affects which products we use.

When I give a facial, here's what's usually involved:
  • Two cleanses
  • Exfoliation
  • Massage with aromatherapy and massage oil
  • Mask
  • Toner
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen
Most people aren't going to go through all these steps everyday - nor is it necessary. At the very minimum, I recommend a good cleanser, a gentle exfoliant, a moisturizer and a sunscreen to use on a daily basis. Whatever products you decide to use, make sure they're right for your skin type (which I think is half the battle). For example, if you have oily skin with lots of breakouts or blackheads, you may want to find a cleanser with salicylic acid. You wouldn't use anything with salicylic acid if you're a dry skin type. 

Splish Splash
I recommend washing your face two times, twice a day. Yes, I said TWO times, twice a day. Washing your face the first time gets off all the dirt and debris we've accumulated overnight and throughout the day. The second cleanse actually reaches your real skin. It's like washing your hair. Think about the instructions on your shampoo bottle. It probably says something like, "Wash. Rinse. Repeat." The first wash removes the dirt and oil from your hair and the second wash actually cleans your hair. It's the same for your skin. Also, remember to wash your face with upward strokes. Don't help gravity by pulling down or you'll be sorry later on when you have saggy skin. 

Our skin produces over 1 million dead skin cells every 40 minutes. Think about that. It's disgusting. That's why exfoliation is so important. You may not need to exfoliate daily, but you should definitely exfoliate at least twice a week. Use something gentle like Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant (which you CAN use everyday if you'd like). People often think of St. Ives Apricot Scrub when they think of exfoliating, but I think it's too abrasive for your face so please don't use it. Plus, it uses ingredients that are comedogenic which mean they're likely to clog your pores.

Exfoliation deserves its very own blog post because it's so important, but one more interesting reason to exfoliate is because it helps loosen up dirt and oil (sebum) that gets trapped in the pores. That dirt and oil is what causes blackheads. Exfoliation will oxygenate the pores and keep your skin clear and healthy. That being said, don't over exfoliate. If you experience redness or agitation, decrease the amount of times you're exfoliating and see if that helps. 

Lotion Potion
Moisturizing is important no matter your skin type. You just have to find the right kind of moisturizer. I have a client who wasn't moisturizing because she had oily skin and thought it would make her even more oily. As a result, she became an oily AND acneic skin type. Her body started producing more oil because her skin needed extra hydration. Once I got her using the right kind of moisturizer, her skin cleared up because it wasn't over producing oil. In her case, she used Dermalogica's Active Moist. You should use your moisturizer once a day at the least (nighttime) but you can apply it under your sunscreen if you feel you need extra hydration during the day. 

Out Came the Sun
My final product recommendation is sunscreen. Preferably SPF 30. I went into the nitty gritty details on my blog post from Tuesday, April 27, 2010, Fun in the Sun? Wear Sunscreen. It outlines what type of sunscreen to use, why it's so important and how often you should reapply.

There are other types of products you can add to your regimen such as serums, masks and toners. I personally use Vitamin C and Retexturizing Activator serums from SkinCeuticals for extra hydration. You just have to find the products that work best for your skin and be patient. I can help you identify products that are right for your skin type and get you on a regimen. Feel free to message me on this blog or call me at 402-699-3481 to schedule a consultation.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fun in the sun? Wear sunscreen.

Summer is quickly approaching and our winter hibernation period is almost over. Finally! In honor of summer, I thought my first official blog entry could be about sunscreen. There are SO many misconceptions and questions, so I’m going to try to clear up some of that confusion.

Most of us increase our sunscreen use May – August, but if you haven’t heard by now, you should wear sunscreen ALL YEAR LONG!

You need to understand WHY it’s so important and what the sun can do to our skin. Soooo, let's start with the basics. There are three different types of ultraviolet rays:

UVA and UVB are the rays that can harm our skin.
  • UVA rays are most frequently used in tanning beds, so it shouldn’t surprise you that they affect the lower layers of the skin and destroy the collagen and elastin fibers, which keep our skin firm and tight. You can remember UVA rays are responsible for Aging.
  • UVB rays are the rays that we’re the most frequently exposed to from the sun. They affect the top layers of the skin and are responsible for Burning.
  • UVC rays are beyond the ozone and have little effect on the exposure that the skin receives.

How do you avoid UV exposure?
Wearing your favorite baseball cap to protect yourself is helpful, but it’s not enough. Over 50% of the sun’s rays can be reflected off the cement, sand or water and will be absorbed by your skin.

To best protect yourself, wear sunscreen. I recommend looking for a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. SPF refers to the amount of time an individual can be exposed to the sun before you experience redness from the burning rays.

If you apply your sunscreen correctly, a SPF 15 filters out 93% of UVB rays while SPF 30 filters out 97% and SPF 50 filters out 98%. The protection between SPF 30 and 50 is minimal, but there are more chemicals in SPF 50, which is why I think SPF 30 is all you really need.

How often should I reapply?
Sunscreen breaks down in the sun, so you need to reapply. There are a couple of things you’ll need to know to figure out how often you should slather on the sunscreen:
  1. You can assume your skin will start to burn in 10 minutes in the afternoon sun without any sun protection. For some people, it’s sooner. For some, it’s less, but 10 minutes is a good round number to use.
  2. You should also know that you need to apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside to allow it time to bond with your skin.

Knowing this information will help with the formula I’m going to give you to determine how long your SPF will last. Take your SPF number and multiply it by 10 (the time it takes to burn without sun protection). The result of this number will tell you how long your skin will be protected before needing to reapply. You’ll also need to take into consideration the 30 minutes of activation time to get your final number. Here’s the formula using SPF 15 and 30:

SPF 15: 
15 x 10 minutes = 150 minutes
Subtract 30 minutes of activation time
Total: 120 minutes (You have about 2 hours before you need to reapply)

SPF 30:
30 x 10 minutes = 300 minutes
Subtract 30 minutes of activation time
Total: 270 minutes (You have about 4.5 hours before re-application is necessary)

You obviously need to reapply after activities such as swimming and anything that causes you to sweat.

What type of sunscreen should you wear?
Make sure your sunscreen has avobenzone, oxybenzone, mexoryl, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Always wear a lip balm with an SPF 15 or higher – remember that your lips can burn just like the rest of your skin. Reapply often.

There are two different types of sunscreens called blockers (AKA Physical sunscreen) and absorbers (Chemical sunscreen): 
  • Common ingredients in blockers include Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. They work as physical blockers that reflect UV rays and prevent them from striking the skin’s surface.
  • Absorbers include chemicals such as Octyl Methoxycinnamate, Octyl Dimethyl PABA, Octyl Salicylate, Oxybenzone, Octocrylene and Parsol 1979. These ingredients chemically absorb the UV radiation striking the skin and break it up.

It doesn’t matter to me whether you use blockers or absorbers. Some people will have better results with one or the other. Some people say that blockers use fewer chemicals than absorbers, so it’s a more “natural” route to take.

How much sunscreen should you use?
For complete coverage, the experts recommend a shot glass-size amount (one ounce) for the entire body and a pea-size amount for the face. Use a little extra for your neck and chest too.

Layering several products with different SPF ratings doesn’t increase protection. You are only protected to the extent of the higher rating of one product. A foundation with a SPF of 10, moisturizer with a SPF of 15 and a sunscreen with a SPF of 20 doesn’t yield a SPF rating of 45.

Why should you use sunscreen?
Skin cancer is obviously the number one reason to use sunscreen. If that’s not enough to scare you, then vanity is a good reason too.

There’s a great tool estheticians use called a Wood’s Lamp, which utilizes violet rays or black light to analyze the skin and highlight various facial skin conditions such as sun damage (AKA hyperpigmentation). This is what my skin looks like on a regular basis with no makeup:

Below is what my skin looks like under a Wood’s Lamp. See all the brown spots around my nose and beneath my eye? All that will surface in the next 5 – 10 years. Think I’ve gotten better about wearing sunscreen? Absolutely.

If you need some sunscreen recommendations, here is a "Real Simple" article titled, A Dermatologist Picks Skin-Protecting Products.

Dermalogica’s Solar Booster SPF 30 is my personal favorite sunscreen for my face. It doesn’t make my skin too oily nor does it make it too dry. You can purchase this from Baldwin Beauty School (where I’m enrolled) and it retails for $43 plus tax.

If you want to see what your skin looks like under the Wood's Lamp or have any questions, call me at 402.699.3481 and book an appointment for a $30 facial (which includes a skin analysis). In the meantime, remember to wear a SPF 30 before going out in the sun.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My mantra: Here goes nothing

Welcome to my first blog post. After 7 years in the advertising industry, I decided to become an esthetician, so I ripped off the band-aid, quit my job and enrolled in beauty school. Some days I think I'm completely crazy and other days I know I made the right decision. As of April, I'm about halfway done with school and started this blog as a way to document my experiences and answer people's skincare questions. I can only hope my posts will help someone achieve that "glow" we all want. I figure my background in marketing will mesh well with my future career as an esthetician and this blog is just one way of combining the two. So, as I've been saying to myself for the past few months, "Here goes nothing."