The “N” Words: Naked, Natural, Neutral, Nude…

The “N-words” have taken America, and the beauty world, by storm over the past few years.  Although some of the looks for this fall involve some very bold choices, we’re still seeing a ton of the N-Trend and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

What exactly do all of these buzz words mean, anyway?  Let’s talk about it:

 

Naked-

Naked was originally used, in beauty terms, interchangeably with nude and natural.  It meant, “looking-like-I’m-wearing-no-makeup-even-if-I-spent-2-hours-putting-three-pounds-of-makeup-on-my-face”.  However- with the dawn of the Urban Decay Naked Palette, and its subsequent products and palettes, (all bearing the “Naked” moniker), it has taken on a whole new meaning.  Naked now bears more of a hybrid meaning between neutral and sexy.  Naked is the New Neutral!

 

Natural-

As I alluded to previously, natural usually means that someone wears very little makeup, or wants to look as though they are wearing very little makeup.  ’tis a very fine line we walk when speaking of a natural look.  If you happen to be utilizing the services of a makeup artist or a retail beauty consultant, it is best to specify exactly what you mean, in relation to the term “natural”.  If what you really mean is, “I am fairly low-maintenance when it comes to my beauty routine and I’d like to keep it that way.”, then that’s exactly what you should say.  If, however, you mean that you want to look like the best version of yourself, while using a neutral palette- that’s what you should tell your artist or consultant.

 

Neutral- 

Neutral is probably the most straight forward of the “N Words”, kind of.  Neutral mostly means the same in the makeup world that it does in the clothing world.  Generally, neutral is earth tones and “colorless” shades.  Brown, beige, black, gray, ivory, etc..  Something to keep in mind, however, is that there are “new neutrals” in beauty, just as in fashion.  “Huh?”  Right- NEW neutrals usually mean the traditional metallics: Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

 

Nude-

Last, but not least, we come to Nude.  Again, once used as a synonym for some of the other “N Words”, Nude has kind of taken on its own definition.  I think of nude as most closely related to natural.  So: “I’m going to wear some lipstick.  I don’t want something bold, I’d like to wear a nude lip (ie: the same color as my own lips, just a shade darker.  Shiny, but not shimmery)”.  To many, however, nude means something closer to neutral or muted out.  For instance: “I’m going to wear some lipstick.  I’m making a bold choice and going for a nude lip (ie: I want my lips the same color as my skin, maybe even matte)”.  I know, it’s kind of confusing.  It’s kind of like how life is a part of dying, and dying is a part of life.  Or something.  Anyway, when I worked in the beauty retail industry and someone said “…blah, blah, nude lip.”,  I just always asked, “What does nude mean to you, basically the same color as YOUR lips, or a muted out, almost colorless lip?”.

Hope this helps!

What’s your favorite look from all of the N Words?  Do you have a favorite naked, nude, or neutral product?  Tell us all about it in the comments!

 

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Wrap it Up! What’s a body wrap and why would I want one?

So, body wraps have been available on the treatment menus at spas for a long time.  Lately, there have been a number of “at home” mail-order club types of wrap businesses cropping up as well.  Here, I’m going to be referring to the body wraps that are offered as a service in a spa.

Most body wrap services consist of the same basic components: Some type of prewrap exfoliation, application of a detoxifying or moisturizing substance, wrapping of the body, absorption time, rinse off.

Exfoliation: Exfoliation is the process of encouraging the dead, dry outer layers of skin cells to shed away from the body.  There are two methods of exfoliation, physical and chemical.  In a body wrap service, physical exfoliation is most commonly employed.  Usually the esthetician or massage therapist will use dry brushing or a salt or sugar scrub.  Exfoliating the top layers of skin away, makes the newer, more moisturized, cells the new outer covering of the skin so now the skin feels softer.  Exfoliation also allows for better penetration of any products that are applied to the skin.

Application: This is where things can vary greatly from service to service.  The three main types of wrap are Seaweed, Mud, and Herbal.  There are, of course, other types available out in the wide spa world, however they are not nearly as common.  A seaweed wrap is designed to detoxify and moisturize at the same time.  Many people also report a firming effect after having a seaweed wrap.  I can attest that I had a seaweed wrap recently and found that I didn’t need to apply lotion for four days afterward.  I am usually a put-lotion-on-as-soon-as-I-get-out-of-the-shower-every-single-day kinda girl, so this was impressive to me.  Mud wraps are primarily for detoxification and firming.  There are some mud wraps that have other ingredients (ie: paraffin) blended into the mix to provide some moisturizing, as well. Herbal wraps are used for a variety of results, depending on the specific blend of herbs incorporated into the mix.  Seaweed and mud wraps are both usually applied directly to the client’s skin via a large brush, or massaged on by the spa professional’s hands.  Herbal wraps are often applied by wrapping muslin strips that have been soaked in an herbal infusion around the client’s body.

Wrapping: Ah, where the name of the service comes from!  The next step is the wrapping of the client.  This is usually a layered process, plastic is almost always the first layer, then a thermal blanket, towels or sheets, and a blanket.  This layered wrapping method allows the body’s heat to be intensified to enhance absorption of the ingredients in the wrap.  The warmth also encourages sweating, which results in some water (weight) loss and elimination of waste from the body.

Absorption Time: This varies a great deal from spa to spa.  In some spas, you are just left alone to nap or rest.  Other spas offer enhancements such as scalp and facial massage.

After 20 to 30 minutes, the massage therapist or esthetician will unwrap you, and either rinse you off via a vichy shower, there on the table, or will guide you to a shower.  Some spas have their professionals apply moisturizer to the client after the rinsing.  Many do not, however, as the wrap itself has provided a great deal of moisture.

That’s pretty much all there is to it!  A very relaxing service, indeed, especially if you are sleep deprived.  It’s a good idea to wear a swimsuit to your wrap appointment.  You may be provided disposable undergarments, but the are usually One Size Fits Most.  Towels, robes, and footwear should be provided for your use by the spa.

 

Have you ever had a body wrap?  What did you think?  What were your results?

I Thought I Learned the Alphabet in Preschool- The Lowdown on BB Creams and Beyond

So, you thought you knew your ABC’s and then all these “Letter Creams” started popping up all over the place!  BB creams, CC creams, AtoZ creams, and now there’s even a brand reverting back and calling stuff AA creams.  Is anyone befuddled and bemused by all this alphabet addle?  Let’s see if I can help you out a little.

We’ll start at the beginning, BB Creams:

BB Cream was first introduced to the world by Dr Christine Schrammek, a German dermatologist.  In the 1960’s, she formulated a product for her patients to use after surgery and other inflammatory procedures to tone down redness, clear blemishes, hydrate, and protect the skin all at once.  This was called Blemish Balm.  The product eventually made it’s way into the Korean and Japanese markets in the 1980’s where it was touted as a celebrity beauty secret and became an instant hit.  Because Korean and Japanese consumers value bright, clear, porcelain skin, brighteners and bleaching agents were also added into the newer formulations that were rapidly becoming available from other manufacturers.  Sephora picked up on the trend early, (2011), and started offering Dr. Jart on its website and it sold like crazy.  Other retailers soon followed the trend, and not long after that, American manufacturers began offering their own formulations of BB Creams.

Here, in the States, BB Cream currently stands for “Beauty Balm”.  These are basically formulations that offer some type of skin benefit (antioxidants, for example) along with SPF, and often a bit of pigment.  They are usually more lightweight, not as highly pigmented, and not quite as moisturizing as a tinted moisturizer.

CC Creams:

CC Creams tend to be more reflective of the Asian formulations of BB Creams.  “CC” stands for “color correction”.  This can come in two forms, formulations that offer an evening out of skin tone by acting in or on the skin to lighten hyperpigmentation and formulations that even out skin tone temporarily through the use of light diffusers, pigment, or both.

DD to Z Creams:

Now, many companies are jumping into the alphabet soup by offering things like DD Cream (Julep’s Dynamic Do-All Makeup) and AtoZ Cream (philosophy’s newest incarnation of hope in a jar).  We are now starting to see similar products for hair and body which are also carrying alphabet-based monikers.

Do YOU Need it?:

This is pretty easy- if you like the idea of cutting a few steps out of your morning beauty routine, but still basically reaping the benefits you always had, then try out one of these new A – Z creams and see what you think.  Make sure to read the packaging thoroughly to see what the particular brand you’re checking out is claiming to offer and to see that the ingredients list supports those claims.  If you’re pretty sure you want to try one, but you’re still feeling overwhelmed by all of the options, try a large specialty retailer where you can ask for help in narrowing down your choices.

Good Luck!

Have you tried a BB or CC cream?  Love it or hate it?  Tell us all about it in the comments section!

Beauty and the Bump

Pregnant Belly

 Nursing

In honor of the Babies, Babies Everywhere phenomenon that seems to be occurring right now, I thought we’d explore this topic.  Not that Kate Middleton (aka Duchess Catherine of Cambridge) or Kim Kardashian are following my blog!  (Though, ya never know!)

What can and can’t I do and use during pregnancy?  This was one of the most common inquiries I heard when I worked in a retail environment.  Well, there are actually quite a few things that are a part of many women’s beauty routines that should be avoided when pregnant and nursing.  Nursing?!  Yeah.  Nursing is great for our babies, but only when we’re totally committed to making sure the milk we’re making is pure natural goodness!  A lot of things we put on our faces (or elsewhere on our bodies) can end up in our breast milk, as well as our placenta.

Different docs will give you different advice.  This can be very confusing for a lot of people.  That is one of the reasons I’m writing about this topic.  I tend to be a “Better safe than sorry” kind of gal, so when I was pregnant with my kiddos, I always followed the most conservative advice at the time.

Now, just so nobody sues me: I am NOT a doctor.  This is NOT medical advice.  If you have any questions about my advice, or your doctor tells you something different than what I’m saying, your doctor ALWAYS wins.  Consult your physician if you are unsure about which products, procedures, and ingredients you should avoid during pregnancy.

That being said, I have been pregnant, I am a licensed esthetician, I have worked for a dermatologist (who started out as a Family Practice doctor).  So- Here is WHAT to avoid, and WHY (in my opinion):

RETINOIDS

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives, or precursors to vitamin A.  This includes Retinol, Retinal, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinoin, Adapaline, and many others.  Oral retinoids are absolutely known to cause birth defects and miscarriage.  If you are taking an oral retinoid, you are quite unlikely to also be pregnant.  This is because women who are using these drugs (which are prescription only, in the USA) are required to use hormonal contraception to avoid pregnancy and should have been well educated by their doctor (or doctor’s staff) on the dangers of using oral retinoids during pregnancy and nursing. Here is a list of commonly known birth defects (according to the March of Dimes), resulting from oral prescription retinoids:

  • Hydrocephaly (enlargement of the fluid-filled spaces in the brain)
  • Microcephaly (small head and brain)
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Ear and eye abnormalities
  • Cleft palate and other facial abnormalities
  • Heart defects

If you are using a prescription topical retinoid, you’ve probably also been instructed against using it during pregnancy or nursing by your doctor or pharmacist.  Over the counter retinoids are much less concentrated than prescription strength ones, however, they should still be avoided.  If you discover that your moisturizer has some form of a retinoid, and you didn’t realize it and have been using it during your pregnancy- don’t freak out.  Just stop using it and let your OB know at your next appointment.  This does not require a special appointment or phone call, just mention it when you’re there for one of your regular check ups.

SALICYLIC ACID

Salicylic acid is sourced (naturally) from willow bark.  Know what else comes from willow bark?  Aspirin.  You’re not supposed to use aspirin during pregnancy.  Aspirin use during pregnancy is thought to cause different problems at different points.  Issues from miscarriage and birth defects to delayed labor, placental complications, and heart and lung problems for the baby have been reported.  Nobody is 100% sure if topical application of salicylic acid, aspirin, or willow bark results in the ingredient crossing the placenta and into the baby’s system.  Because no one has decided with certainty the degree of risk with topical use, it is probably best not to use it.  I can tell you that estheticians are regularly advised that salicylic acid and willow bark are contraindicated (not to be used) during work with pregnant and breastfeeding women.

BENZOYL PEROXIDE

Benzoyl Peroxide is considered safe because of the way it is metabolized.  If benzoyl peroxide were to make it in to the blood stream, it should be completely destroyed by the body before it could reach any other organs (including placenta).  Now, if you are nursing, and you happen to be applying the product that contains the benzoyl peroxide below your neck, I would stop doing that until your baby is weaned.

SULFUR

Sulfur has not been assigned a pregnancy category by the FDA.  Sulfur has also not undergone animal testing.  This is one of those situations where it could be safe, but do you want to be the one to discover that it wasn’t?  Also, sulfur is really stinky, like rotten eggs.  Stinky things and pregnant ladies don’t usually mix well.

HYDROQUINONE

Absolutely do NOT use hydroquinone while pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or nursing.  Hydroquinone is an ingredient used to lighten hyper pigmentation.  It works by telling your body to stop doing something that it wants to do.  That, in and of itself, is enough to make me leery of anyone using it during pregnancy.  Hydroquinone is FDA category C- it has produced stillbirths and birth defects in animals.  There is nothing conclusive in studies during pregnancy for humans, but I really highly recommend avoiding this ingredient during these magical times.

CHEMICAL PEELS and MICRODERMABRASION

Chemical peels are procedures done by doctors and skin care professionals.  The reason that doctors and pros are the administrators of these procedures is that things can go wrong- VERY WRONG- very quickly when they are not done correctly or someone just happens to have an adverse reaction.  Chemical peels involve layering highly concentrated acid solutions onto the skin to break down the bonds between the skin cells in order for them to easily, and quickly, slough off.  Due to the high level concentrations, the chance that they are absorbed into the blood stream is much higher than with over the counter products.  You’d be hard pressed to find a practitioner who would provide you with a chemical peel during pregnancy, I hope that you aren’t looking for one.  If you are looking for one, I hope you don’t find one!

Microderm Image         Chem Peel Pic

It may seem strange that microderm is recommended as a procedure to avoid during pregnancy.  I certainly thought so when one of my pregnant clients wanted to try it to deal with her hormonally, over-oily, comedone-covered face and the derm I was working for said, “No Way!”.  Her reasoning was that because this procedure is so active on the skin, gets the blood moving, and induces a mild inflammatory reaction to get the body’s defenses kicked in to gear (some of the same reasons certain areas of the body can’t be massaged during pregnancy), it’s not a good idea for a pregnant woman to partake.  Made sense to me.  Hope it makes sense to you.

Questions?  Topics you’d like to see covered?  Please, let me know in the comments!

Lovely Lashes

Long, thick, luxurious lashes have long been valued by many cultures. Lashes seem to really be having a moment right now, though. So, what if you weren’t blessed with fabulous fringe? How can you compete in our currently superfluous cils obsessed society? Well, there are a number of options. Some are very temporary, and very affordable. Others are longer lasting and make a bigger dent in the pocket book. I’ll try to cover them all.

LongLashEye

Mascara: This is probably the most temporary and the most affordable option for most people. While there have been mascaras sold to the tune of almost $600, and even one sold for $14,000,000(!), says mostexpensive.com; your average price range on a decent tube of mascara is going to run about $7 to $24. The benefits of mascara are that it’s affordable and temporary. The drawbacks of mascara are that it’s temporary, may run or smudge, must be removed daily, can lead to brittle lashes, and can be irritating to the eyes for some. So, how do you choose the best one for you? If you ask 3 different beauty professionals, “What’s the most important attribute of a mascara, the formula or the applicator?”, you’re probably going to get 3 different answers. I’m of the school that it’s a combination of the two. I used to say that it was 50/50, now I think the contribution made by each of these two components depends on the brand of mascara and the look you’re trying to achieve. (Are there ever any easy answers?) To get the look you most desire, walk into a place like Sephora and tell one of the employees about the look you want to achieve, and how much you want to spend. They’ll at least help you narrow down your options, if not find your dream mascara. They’ll also be able to offer you tips on the best way to put it on. *Note: Waterproof mascara is NOT meant for everyday wear. It is made to NOT COME OFF. Please reserve your use of waterproof mascara for special occasions.

Lash Tinting: Lash tinting ranks (surprisingly) fairly low on the eye embellishment price scale. Less temporary than mascara, and not the commitment of lash extensions. Lash tinting should only be done by a licensed esthetician, and only with products made specifically for the eye area (this applies to tinting the brows, as well). Hair color is NOT SAFE for use in the eye area, so- unless you’ve just been itchin’ to find out what life is like as a person with blindness, make sure your procedure is done by an expert who is using the right stuff. The procedure takes about 10-15 minutes and results last about 4-6 weeks. Drawbacks include fitting the appointment into your schedule, possible tinting of the skin on the eyelid (this only lasts about 24 hours, if it happens), possible irritation or allergic reaction, and fairly temporary results that fade over time. Benefits would be that it is fairly temporary with results that fade over time, you may not have to use mascara, it doesn’t need to be removed every day, and won’t make lashes break or fall out.

False Lashes: Falsies are fun! They allow for anything from a subtle change to a dramatic difference. False lashes can be quite affordable, $1 for a set of e.l.f. strips. Extremely expensive, $10,000 for a set of diamond studded strips from Shu Uemura, and anywhere in between. Applying false lashes can be a bit of a trick. Some people prefer “individuals”, and some people really like strips. I put “individuals” into quotes because they are technically a small bunch of (2-5) lashes bonded together. I find it easier to apply the “individuals” to myself and strips to other people. If you’re a bit unsure of the best way to apply, you can always call a makeup artist, stop into a salon or makeup retailer, enlist the help of your best friend, or watch one of the zillions of web tutorials out there. I will say, black eyeliner is almost a requirement for wearing false lashes convincingly. Some people find that it’s easier to use tweezers or a lash applicator tool (yes, that’s a real thing). Another tip is to curl your own lashes (gently) before applying the false ones, then apply the falsies. Next, curl your lashes and the false lashes together. Apply mascara as the last step. Drawbacks: Allergic reaction, lashes falling off at an inopportune time, loss of natural lashes with removal, difficulty with application. Benefits: Affordable (usually), low commitment, choice in level of drama.

e.l.f.

Lash Extensions: Once reserved for movie stars and the other rich and famous peeps, lash extensions have hit the (relatively) main stream. Lash extensions are applied by a licensed technician who has received specific education and training in the techniques of applying, caring for, and removing lash extensions. This is NOT something you can do yourself. Lash extensions involve applying a single false lash to a single existing eyelash with a PERMANENT adhesive. The process usually takes about 2 hours for the first application, and 45 minutes for touchups. If you are quoted times that are much longer than this, it’s a good clue that your technician is a newbie or that the product being used is not the highest quality. High quality lash extensions are made of silk, nylon, or mink. Plastic extensions are heavy and not very flexible, read: hard to apply and don’t stay on well. The cost of an initial extension application can range greatly by region. Anything from $180-$250 is fairly common. Drawbacks: Expense, time commitment, decreased choice in eye makeup and removers (only water-based mascaras and oil-free removers are compatible), possible allergic reaction or irritation. Benefits: Very convincing results, most people no longer need mascara, length of time between applications.

extensionapplication

Growth Enhancers: Most of us have heard of Latisse, the prescription product that makes your lashes grow. Many of us have heard of at least one type of over the counter serum that portends to increase lash growth or, at least, minimize breakage and fall out. Do all of these things work? Are they worth the potential side effects? I have experience with both Latisse and several of the OTC products. Latisse definitely works. It extends the growth cycle of the lashes within the follicle. Latisse can be irritating to the eyes and/or the skin around the eye. Latisse also produces the most intense side effects such as darkening of the eyelid or skin below the eye. If you can fit Latisse into your budget (it ranges right around $100 per bottle), and you don’t experience undesirable side effects, then it’s a nice and effective option. User tip for Latisse, don’t use the little applicator brushes that come with the bottle. Use a thin angle brush to apply the solution as close as possible to the base of your lashes. This will allow for more precise application and decrease the chance for over application on the eyelid. Over the counter enhancers can be hit or miss. Most of these work by “conditioning” the lashes to provide and optimal environment for growth and prevent breakage and premature fall out. Some of the OTC products contain derivatives of the active ingredient in Latisse and seem to produce similar results for most users. Drawbacks: Cost, possible side effects, possibility of using a product that doesn’t produce much of a result. Benefits: Your own, real lashes- longer and thicker!

LatisseLiLash

So, those are the basics of lash enhancement. I hope this handy dandy little guide makes it easier for you to narrow down your choices. As always, if you have questions or comments- leave them below!

Super Skin: How to Get There

Taking care of your skin appropriately does not have to be expensive.  It does, however, have requirements such as knowledge, discipline, and commitment.  The first step in a great skin care routine is understanding your skin.  Do you have any allergies or sensitivities?  Do you get oily- if so, where and when?  Do you break out- if so, where and when?  Do you have dry patches- if so, where and when?  Are you prone to redness?  There are a lot of considerations involved in picking the right products for the perfect skin care regimen.  The fact that there are so many considerations is the reason I’m making the recommendation that I’m about to make to you.  (How ya like that foreshadowing?!)

Go get some help.

If I could come along with everyone to give individualized guidance, I totally would.  I, however, have other commitments that limit my availability for such adventures.  Start by asking a few trusted friends which skin care brands they’re fans of, and why.  Also ask if they have a dermatologist or esthetician that they love and trust.  If you’re a little on the shy side, then just snoop around a little next time you’re in the bathroom of the three people you know with the best skin.  Now, there are those few random people who have made a deal with the devil and get to have nearly perfect skin, despite the fact that they only wash their face twice a week, in the shower, with bar soap, and never use sunscreen.  For the most part, though, I think you will find a bounty of products in the bathrooms of those fair ladies (or gentlemen).  Make a mental note of what you see.  As soon as you have a chance, write it down.

The next step is to go and see an esthetician, cosmetic dermatologist, or head straight to your favorite retailer of epidermal accoutrements.  Answer their questions honestly (especially the ones about smoking, tanning beds, and sunscreen!) and succinctly.  Let them get a good look at your CLEAN face.  Yes, for real.  DON’T WEAR MAKEUP when you journey out on this mission.  Then, listen to their recommendations.  Write down what they say, or ask them to write it down for you.  If what they are telling you seems out of your price range, say so.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, you can get decent skin care at the drugstore (or WalMart, or Target, or…).  Some things are definitely worth paying for (see my previous post, To Spend or To Splurge…), and other items, such as cleanser and sunscreen, can be bought on the cheap if you’re dealing with budgetary limits.

Now, despite what you’re told by the person who is giving you guidance in the store or their office, here are the items you truly need for a successful surface system:

  • A gentle cleanser
  • A serum or other treatment product
  • A moisturizer that addresses the specific needs of your skin
  • SUNSCREEN
  • An exfoliator
  • Ideally, you would also have a Clarisonic.  

What’s a Clarisonic?  It’s the best most amazing tool you could have in your bathroom!  It is also a sonic cleansing brush that works with the same technology as the Sonicare Toothbrush.  A Clarisonic will make a hugely positive difference in how well your products work, how clean your skin and pores get when you wash your face, and how your skin looks- EVEN if you don’t change anything else in your skin care routine!  It is an investment, but one that’s totally worth every penny.  And, no, Clarisonic does not pay me to say any of this stuff- I just really believe in this tool.  Other brands/types of skincare cleansing tools do not come close to being equal when it comes to effectiveness and gentleness.

Every morning, you will cleanse your face (with your hands, or your Clarisonic) with warm (NOT hot and NOT COLD) water.  Then, you will put on a serum/treatment that contains vitamins C and E.  Your next step depends on what type of sunscreen you have.  If your sunscreen is primarily a chemical sunscreen, you will put it on at this point, and then apply your moisturizer. If your sunscreen is primarily a physical sunscreen, you will put your moisturizer on and follow it with your sunscreen.

Every night, you will cleanse your face (with your hands, or your Clarisonic) with warm water.  Then, apply any spot treatments you may be using (i.e.: acne treatments, lighteners). Follow with a serum or treatment that contains a retinoid (Renova, retinol, retinal palmitate, vitamin A…).  Next, apply moisturizer.  All done.

If you are only using your Clarisonic once per day (that’s my usualM.O.), then use it at night.  Most people cannot tolerate a retinoid on a daily basis.  If you’ve never used one before, make sure you start off slowly.  I usually recommend two nights between applications to begin with.  After two weeks, if the two night spacing is being tolerated well, then go to one night between each application.  After two weeks, start applying nightly.  If, at any time, excessive redness, peeling, dry patches, or sensitivity occurs while using a retinoid, pull back.

It should also be noted that EVERYONE should be using SPF 30 on their face EVERY DAY.  Rain, shine, sleet, snow, clouds… Whatever the weather, without sunscreen you will leather!  What?  That’s right, the best thing you can do to avoid wrinkles, age spots, and roughness (oh- and CANCER), is to wear sunscreen 365 days a year (or 366 days during a Leap Year).  If you are using a retinoid, you have to wear sunscreen every day.  Let me repeat that: IF YOU ARE USING A RETINOID, YOU HAVE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY.  You will actually cause more damage, short term and long term, if you use a retinoid and don’t use a sunscreen than if you had never used either.

Two times per week (three times if you’re really oily or over 45), you should be using some sort of exfoliator.  Talk to a skin care professional regarding which type of exfoliator is best for you.

Once per month, you should have a facial with an esthetician.  If you can’t make a monthly facial work for your budget and/or schedule, then get them quarterly.  While facials are very relaxing, they provide numerous other benefits to your skin and overall wellbeing.  Estheticians can do things for you and your skin that you can’t do for yourself at home.  Plus, having someone else pay close attention to your skin on a regular basis can be quite helpful in evaluating what’s working, what isn’t, and deciding which changes need to occur.

Once, or twice, per year you should visit a dermatologist.

Do you need a mask?  Nope, but they’re nice if it fits in with your budget and schedule.

Do you need a toner or astringent?  Nope.  Toners were originally developed to take off whatever cleanser or soap didn’t get cleaned off and also to balance the skin’s pH level.  Until the last couple of decades, most soaps and cleansers were very alkaline.  The skin’s natural pH is slightly acidic (right around a 5).  So, toners/astringents were very acidic solutions that helped get things back to where they should be, pH wise.  There have been major advancements in our understanding of skin and in the science of skin care.  Most cleansers are now pH balanced, or slightly acidic, so all those overly drying toners and astringents are no longer necessary.

What about a makeup remover?  Do you wear makeup?  You do?  Oh, then you need a makeup remover.  Cleansers are SKIN cleansers, they’re meant to clean your SKIN.  That means that you need the makeup out of the way first.

But, my cleanser says it removes makeup!  Oh- OK, then cleanse twice.  ;o)  TWICE?  Yep, that’s what I said.

That’s it.  Those are the necessities.  Special circumstances, other questions?  Ask in the comments.  (Or, you can also talk to your trusted hometown esthetician or dermatologist)

To Splurge or to Save, That is the Question…

In the world of beauty products, one can find just about any item at just about any price point. Why is that? What’s the big difference between a face cream or sunscreen that costs $7.99 and one that costs $79.99? Why does anyone spend all that money if they don’t need to? And, if the one that’s $79.99 works so much better, then why would anyone bother with the cheap stuff? Well, I will attempt to answer some of these burning questions right now. This isn’t going to be an ad, or a product recommendation, just a guide for when it makes sense to spend the big bucks versus where it’s OK to pinch those pennies.

There are a few basic reasons certain products cost more than others. The main ones are: Packaging and/or advertising, research, ingredients or delivery science.

PACKAGING/ADVERTISING– When a company wants to grab the attention of consumers, they will often spend beaucoup bucks on a pretty package that jumps out and screams, “I’m elegant, I’m amazing! Buy me, buy me!”. Sometimes, a company will pay a well known model, actor, or other celebrity who is universally considered beautiful or trustworthy to hock their product. The costs of such attention getting tactics are passed down to the consumer.

RESEARCH– The beauty industry is constantly changing and tempting consumers with the newest, best thing. Due to government regulations, and the insistence of the average product junkie that products do what they say they will, cosmetic companies must continually spend money on research and testing. Again- this cost is passed on to the customer who is shelling out their hard earned dollars to see a flawless face looking back at them from their bathroom mirror.

INGREDIENTS and DELIVERY SCIENCE– Skin is a complicated system. It’s the largest organ in our body, and everyone’s behaves differently. What’s more, most people have more than one issue they are trying to resolve in one go, when it comes to caring for their skin. This makes things a bit difficult for companies who want to stay relevant in the ever changing world of cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. Today’s average buyer of skin care and makeup is not so average, anymore. Women flock to the store with a list of ingredients they do and don’t want in their products, a budget from which they are not willing to stray, and a time constraint imposed upon the shopping experience or the routine they will employ when it comes to daily use. We ladies are more educated than ever before when it comes to what does what, why, and how. There are also more men who care about the face they’re presenting to society than in decades past. All of this means that the companies who produce these tools for beautification and anti aging must stand out, keep up with the trends, and stay current on the science. There has to be a point of difference if people are going to be expected to cough up major cash on these items. The most effective place for a company to focus when standing out from the crowd is ingredients. When a cosmetics company can offer a product with a new, or proprietary, ingredient, that is when they can truly grab the attention of the purchasing public. The other way to achieve this is by using standard ingredients in a new way to make them more efficacious. It costs a lot of money, however, to figure out how to make an ingredient more potent but less irritating, for example. It can also be quite expensive to use only organic ingredients, or the essence of a flower that only blooms on the north side of a mountain, at moonlight, between May and September. Sourcing ingredients that are hard to come by, or must be treated in a certain way, gets fairly costly. I think these reasons are the best reasons, or at least the most justifiable, for a finished product to cost more.

So, now that we know why some things cost more than others, how do we decide? How do we know what’s worth shelling out on, and what isn’t? Well, here ya go:

In my humble (but professional!) opinion, it makes sense to spend money on a sonic cleansing system (aka: Clarisonic), serums, and moisturizers, when it comes to skin care. When it comes to makeup, then splurge on foundation items. The other place to spend on makeup, is that one thing you’re absolutely in love with or the area that’s most important to you to hide or embellish. Now, read on for the why behind the what.

I’ve always said, the best foundation is good skin. I now know many other beauty pros who have also made this their mantra. The best way to get good skin is to get your skin really clean and to use certain ingredients (vitamins c and e, and some form of vitamin a- retinol, retinal palmitate…, and SUNSCREEN) to treat any issues or prevent further issues. Making sure the skin is truly clean is one way to make sure those special ingredients are working as hard as they possibly can, by removing all barriers to success! So, I absolutely believe that everyone should have a Clarisonic and use it to cleanse at least daily. (OK, so ONE product endorsement- only because it really is the best of what’s available) Your skin will be 6-7 times cleaner than you can get it by washing with just your hands. This will allow for better product absorption and cleaner, clearer, skin. If you change nothing about your skincare routine, other than adding in a Clairsonic, you will see better skin.


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OK- if I think it’s so important to have clean skin, why didn’t I put cleansers on the splurge list? Well, because, cleansers get washed down the drain. For the most part, the ingredients in a cleanser don’t stay on your skin to work for you all day and night. This is not to say that some cleansers aren’t better than others, or that certain cleansers aren’t worth their higher price point. This is to say, cleanser is not your number one dollar priority when it comes to skin care. As long as your cleanser gets your skin clean, without irritating or drying it, you’re good. BTW- soap is NOT cleanser!! DO NOT use soap or shower gel on your face!

Serums. Serums are concentrated formulations of active ingredients. CONCENTRATED formulations of ACTIVE ingredients. Once you understand the basic definition of a serum, it should be a no brainer as to why you would splurge on one. In case it still isn’t blatantly obvious to you, I will explain a bit more. A serum is the workhorse of your beauty routine. A serum contains ingredients that actually do things in and on your skin, in an amount that actually DOES something! It’s the first thing that goes on your face after you’ve washed it. Serums are also known as “treatments”.

Moisturizers, ah, moisturizer! Yes, you do need one. Oily? Don’t care, YOU NEED A GOOD MOISTURIZER! You know how when you’re tired and hungry (OR THIRSTY), you can’t focus really well and it’s way harder to do whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing? Yeah, well, that’s how it is for our skin cells when they don’t have enough hydration. They can’t focus and do their jobs. They don’t communicate well with each other. This is where a good moisturizer comes in to play. Moisturizers allow our skin cells to be working within an optimal environment. Some moisturizers are very basic, and some practically work miracles with almost as high a concentration of active ingredients as a serum. Look for a moisturizer that does not contain mineral oil, and feels good to your skin. Try to avoid added artificial fragrance (listed: fragrance, parfum, or perfume in the ingredient listing) as it is the number one skin irritant. If you have no idea which type of moisturizer would be good for you, go to a store that sells multiple brands of skincare and ask for some assistance. Ask to try things in a range of price points and ask what the differences are between the different products you are being shown. Make sure to try them out, preferably on your face. You can find an inexpensive moisturizer with some good active ingredients (i.e.: vitamin c, vitamin e, soy, etc) but the stability, concentration, and effectiveness of these ingredients is called into question when the product they’re in is cheap. In other words, there might be some vitamin c in there, but is it actually getting in to your skin and doing anything?

Foundation items are liquid foundations, powder foundations, bb creams, tinted moisturizers, and concealers. These are the products that most easily and quickly allow us all to fake it. “Who, me? I sleep like a baby for eight hours every night!”, says your under eye concealer. “Don’t hate me for my flawless complexion.”, quips your bb cream. These products are also the ones that are a dead give away when you’ve gotten them all wrong. The color, the texture, and the coverage level need to be right. Don’t be afraid to go get some help with this area, bring a friend, visit a counter, or step into a Sephora.

If you’ve always wanted long, thick lashes, go ahead and spend $33.00 on the mascara that gives them to you! Love this lip color, and it just stays and stays- ALL DAY LONG!! Great, get it. If you can’t live without it, don’t. If it’s the thing you like best about yourself, or the thing that you’re always concerned about, then spend a little extra to make it better.

Woo- this was a long one! Hope it helps. If you have questions, please ask them in the comments section.