Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What Pollution Does To Your Skin

When we talk about pollution, normally we're talking about the assault from urban environments. After the devastating fires in Northern California, a lot of you were asking me about the effects of the poor air quality on the skin. Although we were not in the fire zone here in San Francisco, our air quality in the bay area was rated hazardous for well over a week. (I wore a mask for the worst of it, and I still had a sore throat and a mild sinus headache for days.) Apologies for not having the time to address this with a post at the time, but I still want to do a quick post now to cover some of the impacts of pollution on the skin, and what you can do to protect yourself going forward.

When we are in a polluted environment, free-radical damage can manifest itself in many ways:
  • Irritation/Inflammation - Sensitive skin is activated, rosacea and eczema can flare.
  • Barrier Damage - When not functioning properly, the skin does not hold onto moisture as it should resulting in dryness, irritation and slower than normal healing times.
  • Breakouts - Combine barrier damage and inflammation with particulates in the air (small enough to get into your pores), and the stage is set for breaking out if you're acne prone.
  • Long-Term Damage - Over time, free-radical damage breaks down healthy skin function and premature signs of aging appear (think smoker's skin).
So what to do?
  • Topical Antioxidants - I wrote a whole post about how topical antioxidants can interrupt the inflammation cascade and prevent damage here.
  • Sunscreen - Don't skip this crucial step so your skin will not be fighting additional free radical damage from UV rays.
  • Limit Exposure - Pay attention to the air quality reports, they affect more than just your lungs. Adjust extended periods of time outside accordingly.
  • See Your Skin Therapist - If you're still struggling and your skin seems off, a barrier-repair treatment rich in antioxidants and skin soothing ingredients can get you back on track.

All of us in the Bay Area know someone who has been personally affected by the tragic wildfires in Northern California. The impact will continue for years to come. If you can make a donation, please do so here. If you're a local, head up north and support a community business!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Do You Need A Toner?

Do you use a toner every day? Have you been told it's an essential step in your skincare routine? I've had a number of clients asking me this question lately, so let's cut through the hype/marketing and figure out if you really need to be using a toner.

A little history: Back in the day, when cold cream was the norm for removing makeup, toner played an important role. The cream could not be tissued off completely, and a toner (involving alcohol or witch hazel) was necessary as a second step to remove the film left by the heavy cream.

The marketing hype: Today you still hear about the absolute necessity of a toner in order to "restore the pH balance of the skin" before the application of other products. The skin's pH (potential of hydrogen) refers to the alkalinity or acidity of the skin's surface. If the skin's barrier is too alkaline, it can result in sensitivity, dryness, even a dermatitis-like reaction in some skins. Product penetration can be hampered by the film left by super-alkaline cleansers as well (think bar soap). My issue with this claim? Often this is marketing jargon used simply to sell more product - read why below.

What they're used for now: Obviously the game has changed in terms of cleansing. There are a million options from creams to mousses to foams that rinse completely and do not dramatically affect the pH of the skin. It doesn't make sense to me to use a bar soap or cleanser that's so harsh, you now have to apply the second product just to nullify the negative effects of the first. Toners play a different role now. They are used as a backup or second cleanse. (The recent micellar water trend is essentially a cleansing toner.) They also serve as a way to get performance ingredients into the skin in a liquid form. Here are some examples:
  • Treatment toners for acne-prone skin can deliver a bonus hit of pore-penetrating resurfacers like salicylic acid into the skin
  • Dehydrated skin can receive a liquid dose of hydration under moisturizer or sunscreen
  • Antioxidants can support skin in environments with pollution or high ozone levels, like airplane cabins or urban environments
Precautions: Be careful about formulations. There are still A LOT of toners out there with high levels of SD alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Unless in a dose-specific treatment toner for very oily, or acne-prone skin, I never recommend alcohol in a toner. Why? It can strip surface lipids, dry you out, and cause irritation. Be careful not to confuse the drying alcohols with fatty alcohols like stearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol which serve as emollients or thickeners in many formulations. I can't tell you how many times I've pulled clients off a drying, alcohol-laden toner and had a myriad of problems disappear.

The verdict:  So, do you need to use a toner? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Do you have one of the conditions listed above? I personally include a face lotion/toner in my programs for acne-prone and clogged-dehydrated skin as I've found them truly beneficial. If you're not dealing with one of those conditions, there are plenty of other products that can deliver performance ingredients.
  • Who's suggesting it? Is the same toner suggested to every person regardless of skin type and condition? (Red flag!) What about time and budget? I really do believe in customizing your home care routine, and a program that works is the one that you do.
  • Do you like using one? Some people just love toners and face lotions, and as long as it's well-formulated for your skin type and condition, knock yourself out.
I hope this helps you navigate the waters (pun intended)! As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions through this blog or at

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

5 Reasons To Wash Your Face (Seriously)

I know what you're thinking. Why the heck am I writing a post about reasons to wash your face? If you missed it, I posted a week or so back on social media about the Cereve study in which they found 60% of men and 48% of women admitted to often not washing their face before bed.  Needless to say, I was a bit shocked. If you're in that group here are 5 reasons to wash your face.
  1. Pollution, dirt, makeup, and sweat
    This is an easy one. Your face gets dirty and sweaty throughout the day. Particulates in the air stick to your makeup and sunscreen. Leaving this on your face invites inflammation (aging) and potential breakouts.
  2. Keep bacteria and oil-production in check
    This is a continuation of number one. If you suffer from breakouts, acne, skin sensitivity, or rosacea, it's important to cleanse away excess oil and keep bacteria in check that can contribute to acne and rosacea flares.
  3. Allow performance ingredients to work while you rest
    Now that you've cleansed the day off of your skin, you can apply skin condition specific products that won't be broken down by UV light or free-radical damage. Use The Pillowcase, and you won't lose them into your pillow case either.
  4. Ritual is a good thing
    Adequate rest is good for your whole body, skin included. A nightly before-bed routine can help signal the body it's time to relax and repair. An evening ritual is an especially helpful way to trigger a relaxation response and prepare both body and mind for bed.
  5. Demodex mites 
    Still not convinced? Maybe these little buggers will help. Two forms of the Demodex mite (folliculorum and brevis) live on humans. While their presence is totally normal, overpopulation can cause various problems. Some theories hold them responsible for rosacea flares, and they can cause infections in eyelids. Did I mention they eat oil and love mascara?😳

Another interesting finding in the survey was that 65% of people don't know what to look for in a face wash. I answered that question in a Cleansing Q&A post I did awhile back. You can find it here.

If you're finding yourself exhausted at the end of the day and often falling asleep without cleansing try this tip I've been suggesting for years: Wash your face when you get home for the day. Nobody said it had to happen after 10 pm. A face that's cleansed and treated with skin appropriate products at 6 pm is in much better shape than the one that skipped it for the day.

There you go. Now go wash your face.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Technology Spotlight: Ultrasonic Technology

Photo Credit: Bio-Therapeutic

Over the last 2-3 years, ultrasonic technology has exploded both in the professional and home skin care markets. I'll be discussing how the technology is used in the skin therapist's office and at home.

Let's break down what it does:

Ultrasonic Technology

Technically speaking: Ultrasonic technology utilizes sound waves with a frequency above 20,000Hz, or above the range detectable by the human ear. These waves are created by a conversion of energy called the piezoelectric effect and travel through the end of the device to the skin. The frequencies used are in a therapeutic range, and not to be confused with diagnostic ultrasound waves that operate at a different frequency.

Translation: In home care cleansing tools, this vibration is passed into the skin, allowing for a deeper cleanse and mild exfoliation as well. Used in a professional setting, both cleansing and exfoliation techniques utilize this technology, which then allows for better penetration of the subsequent products.

Contraindications: Very limited and traditional in scope: pregnancy, professionally resurfaced or ablated skin, very sensitive skin

Bottom Line: If you've had a custom service with me any time recently, you know I love this technology. It's easy to incorporate into a treatment, can be used on almost anyone, and leaves the skin incredibly soft. I am currently taking pre-orders for a home care ultrasonic cleansing tool that I am absolutely in love with. You can read more about that here.  I'll be sure to use it on you during your next treatment!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

You Got A Sunburn. Now What?

Wait. Before I start, do you hear that? Listen carefully.
Yep, that's the sound of your skin therapist weeping. Nothing makes her cry like that gorgeous skin of yours getting a sunburn.

If it has happened (I know you feel bad), here's what to do.

    That redness is an inflammation response. Your skin is trying to warn you that damage has occurred. And no, you cannot put sunscreen over a sunburn and go back out. That ship has sailed.
  • Soothe it.
    A cool shower will remove any chlorine, salt, or residual products that may be irritating to a compromised skin. Cool compresses and soothing ingredients like aloe vera, sea whip, and colloidal oatmeal can calm things down.
  • Protect and re-establish the barrier.
    Keep the skin moist and well hydrated with products formulated to replenish lost barrier lipids and accelerate healing. My go-to products? Rapid Repair, underneath Calming Bio-Lipid Repair Fluid or Creme.
  • Simplify your routine.
    You're going to want to shelve all of your resurfacers for the next 10-14 days. No scrubs, retinol, alpha or beta hydroxy acids or any prescription strength resurfacing products. You can resume when your skin is completely healed with no signs of redness or inflammation.
  • No picking.
    If your sunburn peels, it's important to let your skin exfoliate on its own. Picking off pieces can further injure the delicate skin underneath and cause scarring. The same goes for any small blisters, leave them be. And of course, in the case of a really severe sunburn, see your doctor for medical advice.
Now, how do you avoid this in the future? Your sun protection deteriorates when in contact with UV radiation. So reapplication is key, every 2 hours or after swimming or toweling off. It's best to seek shade during the hours of 10-2 when rays are the strongest and remember that reflective surfaces like water and snow intensify the effects of the sun. Enjoy the sun safely this summer and keep your skin (and skin therapist) happy! :)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Technology Spotlight: High Frequency

"What is this thing doing again?"

When I get a question like this a few times in the treatment room, I know it's time to write a post! I've decided to add some technology spotlights, along with the ingredient spotlight posts I've been doing in the past. This anti-bacterial hero has been around for some time, and with good reason!

High Frequency

Technically speaking: High Frequency is an application of alternating current (also known as Tesla current) to the skin. Application of an electrode filled with argon gas kills bacteria by creating ozone on the surface of the skin. Using an electrode filled with neon will warm the skin surface, increase blood flow and assist in product penetration.

Translation: This technology works great after extractions (usually over gauze) on a clogged or acne-prone skin to assist in neutralizing the bacteria that helps breakouts to thrive. It can also be beneficial to a sluggish or more mature skin that can use some increased blood flow and serum absorption.

Contraindications: This technology is not for use on pregnant women, people with epilepsy, or clients with large metal implants or pacemakers. (This technology has not been found to be unsafe for pregnant women, but we always err on the side of caution with technology as we lack the data to know for sure.)

Bottom Line: A great way to boost the effectiveness of any facial treatment! I love high frequency because it's mostly sub-sensory (minimal sensation), although some do smell a bit of the ozone. It's fantastic post-extraction with skin appropriate serums. I also use it post-wax, with a custom-blended calming/spot treatment serum for those prone to breaking out after waxing.

If there is a particular type of technology you'd like more information on? Email me at or comment below!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Do You Really Need A Separate Daily Moisturizer And Sunscreen?

Simple answer? No.

As usual, I have a few caveats but I'll get to them in a moment. This is quite simple for once!
Here's the deal, we have the technology these days to combine the properties of a sunscreen and a moisturizer in one product. Formulations have become more advanced and nuanced than ever before.

This is fine to do if you follow these rules:
  • Using the right product for your skin type/condition is essential: non-comedogenic for acne-prone, elegant feel for makeup wearers, lipid-based for a drier skin etc.
  • Use enough. No "dabbing". A line down the first 2 fingers of your hand is enough for your face and neck.
  • Super-dry barrier-damaged skin? In this case, you will need an additional product to get things under control.
Finally, that doesn't mean you don't need a moisturizer. You still need to hydrate/moisturize at night after your skin appropriate serums or other treatment products.

Meet the above criteria? Then go ahead and skip that extra moisturizer in the morning! (Never thought I'd say that did you?)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Action Ingredient Spotlight: Antioxidants

An alternate name for this post could be "Antioxidants: What do they actually do?" A very common industry buzz-word, and often a confusing class of ingredients in skin care. Let's demystify antioxidants.

Technically speaking...
In skin care, an antioxidant is an action ingredient added to topical formulations to prevent free radicals from binding to the cell membrane and causing damage or destruction. Free radicals are unstable atoms that are attracted to fats and lipids in our skin that will stabilize them. There are many types of free radicals including reactive oxygen species, reactive carbonyl species, and reactive nitrogen species. While coming from many different sources in our environment, all start a cascade of damage in the skin. Different antioxidants work on different free radicals, neutralizing them before the damage occurs, or interrupting the cascade of damage at a certain point.

Want to avoid lines, wrinkles, irritation, dryness, acne flares, sun damage, pigmentation and loss of collagen and elastin? Antioxidants prevent damage across a wide spectrum. When your skin is not dealing with the assault, it can focus on repair, something it does exceptionally well. In addition, some antioxidants can also stimulate the production of things we do want (like collagen) so your antioxidants can be both preventative AND reparative. In a well-formulated product, there is NO downside.

Who's it for?
Everyone. Yes, you heard that correctly. It is as important in a routine I recommend to a fresh-faced 24-year-old, a client struggling with adult acne or a mature or sun-damaged skin. I love antioxidants because they're supportive of a function the skin already performs. Some say that our skin handles over 99% of the free radical attack it receives all on its own. Think about the skin damage we see from that tiny fraction of a percent that goes unchecked! That will get you slathering it on.

Different options
There is a multitude of product choices that either feature or include antioxidants.
Some things to remember:
  • Know your skin and your environment. If you have pigmentation or blackheads, a non-irritating C&E complex may be the best choice. Travel frequently, or live in an urban area?  A better choice for you may be an antioxidant complex including ingredients like ergothioneine and white and green tea. They help to neutralize the effects of pollution and the damaging ozone in plane cabins.
  • Look for antioxidants in your sunscreen. Some sunscreens contain ingredients that while preventing free radical damage from UV, may throw off other free radical activity in the process. A well-formulated sunscreen will contain antioxidants to neutralize this potential effect.
  • No one antioxidant does it all. There is regularly a "new" latest and greatest antioxidant introduced, but often it's just marketing hype. Your best bet is a complex with multiple antioxidants to cover all the free radicals mother nature (and humans) have in store for you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Have Skin Goals? Here Are 3 Ways To Set Yourself Up For Success in 2017

Every year in January, conversations turn to resolutions and goals. Have some for your skin? Whether you want to commit to a simple, healthy skin routine or go for some serious changes, here are a few quick goal-setting tips to move you towards your best skin in 2017.

What would you like to change about your skin? Do you know how you would answer? (Hint: "everything" is probably not the best answer.) Your skin therapist can help you design a roadmap to prioritize what to tackle first.

For example, you may want to get on an anti-aging protocol but also address dry irritated skin. Dry irritated skin will age faster, but if the barrier damage or irritation isn't addressed and repaired first, performance ingredients could have trouble penetrating, be irritating, or the results unimpressive.

Another example is acne and pigmentation. It's important to address the breakout first and then worry about any scarring or pigmentation. Treating the dark spots, without treating the cause can become a frustrating cycle.

Getting the picture? The good news is, there are plenty of multifunctional products that do more than one thing at a time, but prioritizing what needs to be tackled first will give you the most noticeable impact.

Know yourself (and your budget).
How much time do you have for your AM and PM skin care routine? Some protocols will require more diligence than others. Only have 2 minutes max in the evening? You'll want to rethink that 5-step routine or that home care device that will require a time commitment over 6-8 weeks to start seeing a result. The same goes for your budget. Your skin therapist can help you spend money where it counts, find you a realistic home care routine, and get the most bang for your buck.

Be realistic and use your resources (that'd be me!)
Change takes time. While some differences can be seen in 2-3 weeks, noticeable, significant changes can take 2-4 months. So ask! It is also important to remember that there are limitations to what can be achieved with products and in the treatment room. There are things that can only be addressed in a dermatologist's or plastic surgeon's office. Your skin therapist should know the difference, and have a trusted referral for you in these cases.

A final thought: it's always easier to maintain a healthy skin than to reverse and repair. Like how your skin is doing? Ask the best way to maintain it!