Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Brown Skin Requires TLC

How do women of color get that clear, flawless, smooth-as-silk perpetual glow WITHOUT makeup. We crave it, we want it, yet find it a challenge to manage our special skin. Darker skin types require some extra thought with regard to care. Women of color, particularly women with brown skin, produce more melanin than lighter skin-types which make the skin vulnerable to hyper-pigmentation, as well as stubborn dark marks. Achieving beautiful, clear skin is a matter of consistent rituals, using simple products that work for your specific type. What does that mean exactly? It means that skin is NOT one size fits all, and skin of color is temperamental and requires thoughtful attention. Let's begin with my 4 basics: 

1. Understand what your skin needs based on its type. 2. Be consistent with your rituals. 3. Protect and feed your skin everyday and 4. Choose the best products that work for you, within your means.


When I talk about the "skin", I'm always referring to the face, neck and chest. Skin needs daily  maintenance in order to perform at its optimal level. "Daily" meaning consistent. A twice per day cleanse, tone, moisturize ritual is the foundation of beautiful skin, however, it isn't enough. Yes, it's essential to cleanse and tone, however, for a renewed, stimulated, healthy glow, the skin must be "open" to receive nourishment. Think of a baby bird opening it's beak to receive food, the same theory applies with skin. If it isn't prepped prior to applying a nourishing product (such as a serum), that product will simply sit on the face rather than penetrate into the skin, big difference. 

Let's talk about the art of cleansing. When you stand in front of the sink to cleanse your face, your skin should be free of make up. I recommend using cotton soaked in your favorite remover (I'm partial to the silicone-based liquid removers) to gently dissolve eye makeup, lipstick and foundation. Some of my clients like to use pre-packaged makeup removal wipes, it's doesn't matter. The point is, remove your makeup first. Now your skin is ready to be cleansed. Unless you have severely oily or acne-prone skin, you should be using a mild/milky cleanser, with minimal foam, to gently clean the skin (a more foamy version is fine for severely oily skin). When I recommend this process to my clients, they complain that mild cleansers like "Cetaphil" are reminiscent of lotion on their face, and they don't like the feel of it. For the most part, women are accustomed to the feel of that foaming action produced by the ubiquitous bar of soap sitting next to the sink. Remember, "foaming" means "drying" and the last thing you want to do is to compromise your skin's balance by stripping away its protective barrier known as the "Acid Mantel". Lightly wet the skin after your makeup has been removed, and gently massage in the cleanser with clean fingertips. Your goal is to invigorate the skin, bring blood flow to the surface, loosen up and dissolve any surface dirt, oil and residual makeup. During this process you are also feeling for any rough patches that may need to be addressed with an exfoliator. Rotary facial cleaning devices work well, but I'm a firm believer in old-school methods, and my finger tips have helped me to achieve amazing skin since the 7th grade.


Consistency doesn't mean "once in a while", it means every single day. I have so many clients who neglect to wash their face after a long night out on the town, or go to bed with their makeup on; these habits are the worst thing you can do to your skin, and a guaranteed way to get your face on the lack-luster list. Cleansing and toning the skin, morning and night, is "good skin 101", so establish consistent habits to get you on track. A simple game-changing tip that I often give is to dry the face with a tissue after cleansing. Bacteria is the mortal enemy of skin. The reason why skin care rituals, like cleansing, are so important is to wash away the build up of surface bacteria that has set-up camp on your skin throughout the day. If you use a towel to dry your face after you have spent so much time and effort properly cleansing it, you are negating your efforts by re-introducing bacteria back onto the skin. Never use a towel to dry the face, especially your bath towel. A simple tissue box, resting on your counter, is all you need to blot your skin dry and ensure that your actions are sanitary. 

Exfoliation is the secret to that coveted facial glow. For normal and combination skin, I recommend exfoliating twice per week (three times for oiler skin types). My two favorite facial exfoliators are: granular and acid. Many well known over the counter brands offer both options, just choose the line that you're most comfortable with. If choosing a granular scrub, make sure that the grains are spherical in nature, and stay away from those "crushed apricot seed" versions. Scrubs which are jagged in nature can injure the skin and cause micro-damage. You want to make sure that the scrubbing grains are round without any rough edges. Believe it or not, a micro-abrasion caused by an apricot scrub can cause brown skin to form patchy dark spots that are quite the challenge to get rid of. Why? Because cells known as "Melanocytes" which carry dye known as "Melanin" to the surface of the skin, in response to an injury, rush to the upper layers of the skin and establish permanent residence. Think of it as a permanent bandaid that won't peel off! Whether your injury is a sunburn, a scratch or an insect bite, those Melanocytes don't care about esthetics. They don't care that you will be left with brown or black marks on your skin, they only care about protecting the skin from injury and they are on-call 24/7. Therefore, it is essential that you choose wisely here. What's my favorite go-to scrub? Mix a drop of your favorite cleanser with a teaspoon of baking soda and add a drop of water if needed. Massage into wet skin for a solid minute, rinse clean and feel how soft your skin is. Note that baking soda is alkaline, so it is important that you follow up with a toner afterwards. Toning the skin, after cleansing, gets it pH balanced towards the acidic side: Remember, acidic skin means healthy skin. Soap and cleansers are alkaline, therefore the simple act of toning after washing will leave your skin balanced and that's what the goal is. 

My exfoliator of choice are the acid versions: Glycolic, Lactic or Salicylic. Alpha and Beta Hydroxy acid exfoliators like these dissolve dead skin and debris without abrasives. Salicylic acid is an amazing protocol for those prone to acne, as this exfoliator has the added benefit of infusing oxygen into the follicle (oxygen kills acne bacteria). If using an acid wash, gently massage it info the skin, after cleansing, and leave it on for a minute before rinsing. I also recommend body washes containing glycolic acid, to keep skin smooth and silky, from head to toe. 


What I'm about to explain to you is the single most important thing that women with brown skin MUST do to keep their skin protected and spot-free: Use a daily Vitamin-C Serum and apply a daily SPF lotion to the face. Cleansing and toning in the morning isn't enough. Before you apply your daily moisturizer with sunscreen, find a good Vitamin-C serum to apply daily. This is where you want to invest in a good quality product. Vitamin-C is a natural anti-oxidant, and will protect the skin from sun damage, as well as damage from the external environmental elements. What if I tell you that pollution can cause your skin to age. External pollution and UV radiation creep their way into the skin cells and change its DNA, you don't want that. A simple protocol of a daily topical anti-oxidant acts like a shield on the skin, protecting it from these "free radicals" I just mentioned. An added bonus of topical Vitamin-C, is that it fades dark spots known as hyper-pigmentation. A pea size amount is all the face needs before applying your daily moisturizer containing broad spectrum SPF; I recommend at least 30; sun protection will protect your skin from damaging UV rays. There is nothing I crave more than sitting on a beach and feeling the warm sun on my skin, however, I rather keep my skin looking amazing, youthful and cancer-free for as long as I can. UV rays break down collagen in the skin, it breaks down the skin's elastin (which means loss of firmness), it causes hyper-pigmentation (dark spots), and it make us vulnerable for skin cancers. Remember, Bob Marley died from metastatic melanoma between his toes, therefore brown skin types do NOT get a free pass when exposing our skin to the sun. But what if you're not a beach lover? Let me ask you this: Do you ever sit by a window, or drive in a car, or walk down the street? Of course you do! Sun exposure is all around us, even in the winter, even through glass, especially in higher elevations and especially during the summer months. Whether we're sitting by the pool or walking across the street, we are constantly being exposed to damaging UV radiation. Moreover, if you've ever gotten a bug bite, a pimple or a scratch on the face that has turned dark brown or even black, then you need to know that a simple daily protocol of a Vitamin-C serum and a broad spectrum SPF sunscreen may have prevented those marks. It's never to late to start a great regime, so forget about the bad habits of the past and move forward with these simple tips. 


I customize daily protocols for my clients every day. If I have a client who is a skincare virgin, and is leaning-in to good care habits, I send her straight to the drugstore. Coco Chanel once said, "it is not about money, its about understanding". Although she was talking about fashion, skincare is exactly the same. A simple over the counter, drug store cleanser and toner is all you need for an effective twice-per-day routine; I'm even partial to the drug store daily moisturizers with SPF. Where you want to invest your money is in a good Vitamin-C serum, a healing night serum and a nourishing P.M. moisturizer. I talked about an important daytime protocol that protects the skin, however, night time requires repair and nourishment as well. After you cleanse (dry with a tissue) and tone before bed, apply a repair serum to the skin. Every woman over the age of 26 should be using a Retinol or a Retinoid in my opinion. We can discuss the amazing benefits of these at at later time, but it is important for you to understand that a repair serum takes you from ok skin to amazing skin. A serum with growth factors are also a skin-game changer. I typically tell my clients to start with an over the counter Retinol, twice per week, then use a growth factor serum on your days off. After the product is absorbed into the skin, apply a nourishing skin oil or night cream, as well as an eye cream. I can go on and on about specifics and brands and protocols, but the main message that I want to leave you here with today, is to find a skin care program that is realistic for you and stick to it every single day. Even if you start by cleansing and toning morning and night, it's a start. It's about establishing habits, leaning into skin care and reaping the rewards of fabulous skin that glows without the use of makeup. 

Ciao for now xo

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Retinoids / Retinols

I love this question, it's an important one. In my opinion, every woman over 28 should be using a Retinol, then eventually graduate to a Retinoid ("Retinoids" are by prescription & are pure Retinoic Acid. A "Retinol" is OTC, not as strong but eventually converts into Retinoic Acid in the skin). If you're just starting a skin care program, begin by purchasing your skin care products in the DRUGSTORE. If you're a skin care virgin, I always advise my clients to start out slow & economical. Brands like Olay, Neutrogena, ROC, L'Oreal (to name a few) have really good anti-aging programs containing Retinols. These companies have spent time & research into their product line and they work really well at getting your skin on the right track. Eventually, however, you'll want to graduate to more concentrated lines, but a drug store protocol is what I recommend you stay with until you've gotten into the groove with your day and night skin care regime.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Mastering the Art of Self Image is POWER

I was bullied as a young child. I grew up in Jersey and attended a school where I was the only LEBANESE-CUBAN girl around. Being Middle Eastern and Hispanic gave me a tanned complexion, but that's not the only reason I was teased. I had and still faintly have a red splotch between my eyebrows. As a child, the kids would call me "dot head" as a derogatory term for being Indian. It's ironic because I believe that Indian women are some of the most stunning I've ever seen; I should've taken it as a compliment. But why would it matter if I were Indian anyhow? Who cares about a facial birthmark, it didn't effect my intelligence?  Why was "lighter skin" without a red mark on it so appealing at the time and what was wrong with being naturally tan? The answer is this: Society determines what is visually appealing and  perception begins at a very young age. I was always acutely aware of image, particularly after having others point my "imperfections" out to me so young (kids are truly mean). I quickly learned how my face was wired. I have been using the same winged-eyeliner technique since 8th grade as I learned how to manipulate my facial features with the use of makeup. I taught myself how to shape my brow, I mastered the art of evening out my skin tone, how to care for my skin, how to emphasize my cheek bones...all with the use of makeup. What I learned was how to become the BEST version of myself. I recently heard an interview on the radio about self image and how (this notion of) "INNER BEAUTY" supersedes the physical exterior. That's very poetic, but I disagree. Indeed, one needs to be kind & considerate & gracious. HOWEVER, we are judged, we are considered & we are INITIALLY valued by our appearance. The key to self empowerment (I believe) is through the art of "mastering ones self image". We live in a time that is so fantastic for women and men alike. Treatments & procedures & makeup & beauty-resources are available to us for the sake of tweaking those imperfections that cause us agony. Controversial topic? Indeed it is, but no less realistic. Just ask this Middle Eastern-Hispanic girl with the splotch on her forehead and I'll tell you image means everything.

CIAO for now xo


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sebaceous Hyperplasia: Pearl-Like Lesions on the Face

WHAT IS IT? I see clients with this ALL THE TIME, and have no clue what they are. "Sebaceous Hyperplasia" are small, harmless lesions that can be found anywhere on the body where oil is produced (yes, including genitalia). They can typically be found on the face, usually the forehead, and are nothing more than a nuisance. I often have clients ask me about them and mention that "when they squeeze them, clear liquid comes out". Do not squeeze them! They are not pustules or milia, but rather inflammation of the sebaceous glands due to an over abundance of oil production. 

That "clear liquid" is sebum, our body's home-made skin lubricant and skin protectant. These lesions can stand alone, like an island in the Pacific, or can be part of a cluster. They resemble small pimples, but are typically the same color of the skin or have a yellow hue to them; they can even be pearl-like in tone. Their shape is either roundish or fleurette-like with uneven boarders. 

Their main identifiable trait is the small hole located in the center of the lesion. This is a chronic condition but is completely harmless. There is probably a genetic component to those who are bothered by them, but if you'd like to see them gone, you need to take action and manage them. So how do you get rid of them? You have to visit your Board Certified Dermatologist to have them removed....easy peezy. But be forewarned: the lesions will inevitably RETURN. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

STYLE ME PRETTY: Beauty Advice for the Bride to Be

After over 20 years of consulting with brides prior to their big day, there is one common denominator that has remained constant: all brides want to look stunning yet maintain the integrity of who they truly are. I get it. Brides want to look flawless and impossibly gorgeous, yet they do not want to be transformed into someone they (or their families) do not recognize. 


As a beauty and make-up teacher, I often instruct young women on how to create a flawless make-up application, as well as how to identify the specific angles of their face. Understanding how to emphasize your best features are very empowering! Therefore, before you hire someone to make you over on your big day, you must first have a good understanding of what (specifically) needs to be achieved in order to transform you into the best version of yourself. Here are my top 5 beauty tips to ensure that the blushing bride looks fresh and flawless on her wedding day.....and beyond:


1. TAKE A MAKE-UP CLASS: Learn the contours of your face and understand how to manipulate your facial features by the use of shadow and light. Even if you hire a pro to apply your makeup, you should have a clear understanding of how to create your wedding-day-look for your honeymoon and well into your anniversary years. 


2. HIRE A PRO: So you've taken a make-up class and your knowledge of glam-ready is in check. However, the last thing you want to do on your special day is your own hair and make-up. Therefore, find a recommended stylist and artist that will make house calls, and create at least two trial make-up looks prior to the big day. Make sure that the specifics of your look are documented and that all products and colors are noted. You want to ensure that any allergies or reactions, to any of the products used for your look, are identified well in advance. For example, you may decide to sport false lashes on your wedding day, but how will you react to the lash adhesive?


3. GET YOUR SKIN IN CHECK: As an Aesthetician and a beauty writer, I am constantly amazed over the technology available to achieve flawless skin (not to mention all the amazing skin-changing serums and creams on the market). However, skin needs time to adapt to new products and treatments, so make sure that you start a skin-care plan at least six months prior to the wedding. Whether it's a monthly-facial protocol, injectable fillers, a chemical peel, a series of radio frequency treatments or an Ultherapy session (just to name a few), have a customized skin care plan to treat the specific needs of your skin.


4. IT'S NOT ONLY ABOUT THE FACE: My clients come to me with questions about their skin concerns all the time, and the one question that is the most common pertains to hyper-pigmentation (AKA: sun spots). If you plan on bearing your arms and décolletage, make sure that this skin is smooth and spot-free. A protocol of glycolic acid twice per week may be all you need for that rough and patchy arm skin (can you say Keratosis Polaris?). Moreover, there are topical creams as well as amazing laser treatments that your Dermatologist can recommend to aggressively erase the hyper-pigmentation. The point is, be aware of every inch of your body. You may not bare your legs at the ceremony, but what about the shorts you plan on wearing on the honeymoon? 


5. EYEBROWS ARE THE PILLARS OF THE FACE: No feature on the face packs as much visual punch as the eyebrows. As a brow specialist, I see clients every day in brow-911 mode caused by years of over removal. The hair growth cycle of eyebrows is about 3-6 months. Which means that if you need a brow-growth plan to get those arches wedding day ready, start soon. I often recommend systemic supplements coupled with topical growth serums to get damaged brows back on track. An important point to note is that there is no such thing as "brow trends"; the eyebrows are part of the face. Every face has a specific brow anatomy which needs to be carefully identified and mapped out in order to maintain its integrity. In my opinion, hand tweezing is the only way to truly manipulate the shape of the eyebrow. Learn the anatomy of your arches by visiting an experienced brow-pro who can educate you and assist you in maintaining this very important, high-impact feature. 


Your wedding day will be one of the most memorable days of your life, so it is important to plan out even the minutest details like what lipstick color to choose.Understanding how to care for skin or how to contour your face is information that will last you well into your Silver Anniversary. Confidence is empowering, so when you know that you've created the best version of yourself, nothing can put a damper on your special day!

CIAO for now xoxo

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Apply RETINOLS to the NECK

NECK-CARE TIP: I always tell my clients that a woman over age 28 should be using an OTC Retinol or a Retinoid, period. But an anti-aging regiment should NOT stop at the jawline. "The Face" begins at the hairline and goes down to the décolletage, including the NECK. The neck's skin is unique and requires special care. This skin is significantly THINNER than that of the rest of the body and does not contain as many hair follicles as compared to the face, which means that this skin is not receiving as much naturally produced moisture. If a client is on a prescription Retinoid (like Retin-A), I always recommend that she use an OTC Retinol for the neck only. Retinoids, can be irritating and drying to the neck...but my PRIMARY concern is the sun exposure to this area. Retinoids make the skin vulnerable to the sun, so a broad spectrum SPF (minimum 30) is essential. Most women (and men alike) neglect to apply sunscreen to the neck & décolletage during their morning routine & only apply protection to the face. Using an OTC Retinol on the neck will ensure that you're maximizing your at-home skin care regime whilst protecting this delicate and oh-so-important part of the body. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

UNDERSTANDING is the Key To Delaying the Process of AGING

Taking care of one's self is a matter of attending SCHOOL, and my institution is called the school of PERPETUAL MAINTENANCE. What classes do I recommend? ALL OF THEM. Here are the facts: aging, fine lines, loss of elasticity, loss of collagen, loss of volume, arm hair, sparse eyebrows, yada yada yada.... are INEVITABLE. The key to slowing down the inescapable evolution of self-image is education. It's about understanding what it is that one needs to do to become the best version of one's self...within your means AND within the realm of realistic expectations. Botox, fillers, retinoids, antioxidants, glycolics, cleansing, toning, teeth whitening, arm-hair removal, laser hair removal, exercise, anal bleaching....(the list goes on & on) ALL part of the school. The question is, do you wish to attend or not?