Sunday, July 28, 2013

Brows, Botox & Blepharoplasty OH MY!

One of my clients (Client A) recently came to me with a concern: Her left brow is peaked and arched much more significantly than than the other, which has a softer angle. Since this particular client has a round face, the softer angled, less-peaked brow suits her facial balance better. 

I first assessed her basic natural shape by brushing the brows upward and trimming the tips (you must trim in order to avoid "messy", unruly brows).  Once the hairs were in place, it was easy to see her natural shape, which ---like most of us--- had holes and gaps where hair should be, and perhaps once was. She did not have many strays, but the high arch on her left brow was a challenge. The key was to manipulate the shape with the use of brow powders. By de-emphasizing the top portion of her arch, and emphasizing her lower arch (as shown in red):

I then filled-in the "bald spots" and gaps with a combination of two brow-powder shades (you should use more than one shade to blend and create natural variations in color). Use an angled brow brush to apply the brow pigment. I prefer powder versus pencil because the ladder can look harsh and un-natural. Powders achieve a softer affect and are a fabulous must-have. Here's another example of a pigment transformation:

For this client (Client B) I obviously tweezed away the strays, then shaped and trimmed these brows. But look at the intensity of the shaded brow versus the one that's not: its like night and day. Quick Tip: Always highlight your brow bone (and eyelid) with a light shade....shimmery or not. Adding a highlight to the brow bone will only emphasize your brows, as well as your eyes, and open-up your face. This client went from Bla to VavaVoom!!

I chose NOT to tweeze more than necessary on Client A's brows for two reasons: she's used to fuller brows (although I would have preferred to thin them out just a bit). Also, brow hair may or may NOT grow back upon tweezing.  Therefore, when deciding to change the shape of your brow, keep in mind, particularly for women over 40 like my client, (our biology changes as we age, and hormones affect the hair-growth cycles), that this precious hair may never grow back. 

My client's gaps were prominent, so shading made a significant impact (as shown below). The red is where she needed shading to balance-out her brows. Note the blue arrow. This "tail" end of the brow is important (think of a tadpole: it has a head and a tail....a brow should simulate this).  As we age, the skin stretches and goes south, including the delicate skin surrounding the eye!  Brow hairs tend to grow downward in the tail area, so it is important to tweeze hairs in this areas, which lie just below the tail.  Do not remove the tail entirely, you just want to manipulate it enough to give it a slight lift.  Lastly, I shaded-in a tip to extend her tail (literally shading right onto the skin) to simulate the lift most women need. A little brow tweak like this can take 10 years off of your appearance.  It should be noted that the brow pigments you choose should be 1-2 shades darker than the hair on your head....always err on the lighter side. 

What I achieved with this client was purely cosmetic; make-up and tweezing are great, however, your end-result is limited. To truly lower that peaked brow, this client needs Botox. When injected (by a doctor or certified medical professional), Botox creates temporary paralysis of the muscle in which it's injected into. In this client's case, Botox would relax the brow and forehead muscle, taming that higher brow and keeping it level with its more behaved sister. Botox can be life changing for many, however, it is costly and temporary, therefore if you are considering this injectable, consult with your friends regarding any recommendations they may have pertaining to doctors they recommend. I am NOT an advocate of "group deals" for invasive procedures (such as injectables or laser treatments), UNLESS you have referrals from folks you know, attesting to the fabulousness of the doctor or professional.  
Case in point: This client wanted to remove the vellus hair from her face, so she had laser hair removal from a professional (who was not recommended to her) that she found on the internet. The technician went laser-crazy on my client's face and  accidentally removed IMPORTANT AND ESSENTIAL hairs from her brow-tail....THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!  My client later found out that this particular technician had very little experience with laser treatments on the face. THIS HAIR HAS NOT, AND NEVER WILL, GROW BACK!  Do your homework people!  Ask questions, visit facilities, and speak to patients whom have had these procedures done. Obtain referrals and recommendations from friends and professionals you trust. 

A final recommendation I have for this client is to inquire about eyelid surgery aka Blepharoplasty. As I mentioned earlier, when we age, the thin skin surrounding our eye stretches and looses it's firmness, like a elastic band after multiple uses. A "lift" of the eyelid skin can open-up the eye...and coupled with Botox, can truly transform your eyes in a miraculously youthful way. It's about maintaining what you've got. You change the tires on your car and get regular tune-ups and oil changes right?  What about the walls of your house? What happens when the paint chips?  You scrape away the old paint, and apply a fresh coat of new, right?  Your skin, your face, your body, your hair, your teeth, your nails ALL require perpetual maintenance and TLC. Take care of YOU, because a better you means a better friend, a better mom, a better lover, a better employee....take care of the magnificence of you because YOU deserve it  :)

--Ciao for now  xo

Saturday, July 27, 2013

CC Creams: my secret weapon for luminescent skin

Tinted Moisturizers seem antiquated to me now, as I am OBSESSED with CC Creams.  CC meaning "Color Corrector"  cream, is a tinted moisturizer (TM) kicked-up a notch; they offer more coverage than TM's. What I love about CC's versus TM's are their ability to provide great coverage, yet still leave you with a light luminescent glow. Lighter than their "full coverage foundation" cousin, CC's are moisturizing (because their job is to hydrate whilst providing coverage), provide a dewy glow (versus the heavy, caked-on look that can result with a heavy foundation) and BEST of all, provide SPF protection. 

Almost every major cosmetic line carries. CC cream, so peruse the make-up counter and ask the beauty specialist for a take-home sample. Department store lighting isn't always accurate at determining color tones, so always test your color at home. 
I wake-up and sing every morning because of this CC from Clinique. It offers a BROAD spectrum SPF 30 ("broad spectrum" important buzz word), is fragrance free, comes in 9 shades and hides most of my uneven skin tone. For stubborn hyper-pigmentation marks, you may need to use a corrector cream  (I swear by Laura Mercier's). However, Clinique's CC cream works gloriously, leaving skin dewy and radiant. I use two shades to personalize my color....a great option to match your own skin tone perfectly. 

This CC cream from Pür works great as well. It's creamy, offers excellent coverage and has a broad spectrum 30 SPF. I've been using Pür's pressed mineral powder for years, so I wasn't surprised that their CC cream was equally fabulous.  

I always recommend a light dusting of translucent powder to set your CC into the skin, as well as diminish the glow just a bit.....too much dew ain't good either!
I recommend using pressed powered, rather than loose, but use a fluffy sable-hair powder brush to apply. This method offers a light, controlled application. Just make sure to keep your make-up brushes clean, and wash them weekly with a mild detergent. 

Finish-off your luminescent glow with a dusting of bronzing powder (I love Chanel) and a dab of a creamy pink blush (from Bobbie Brown) on the apples of your cheeks. You're skin will be hydrated, appear flawless and glow with luminosity. Isn't that the holy grail? 

--Ciao for now :)

Kissably Soft Lips

It PAINS me to see so many women (and men) sporting dry, flakey lips....why people?!!  If you can care less about the importance of lip exfoliation then stop reading and keep picking and biting away at those pesky flakes on your lips. But why, in heaven's name, wouldn't you want kissably-soft, deliciously-plump lips??  Why wouldn't you?

Your lips need to be exfoliated regularly, just like the rest of your epidermis. Lips have unique skin....thin and vulnerable to sun and moisture. If you've ever had your lipstick "peel" off of your flaking lips, you  understand this need to exfoliate.  

MAKE YOUR OWN SCRUB: Over the counter lip scrubs are plentiful (many lines carry them). You can, however,  easily create an at-home version by mixing some white-granulated or fine brown sugar with olive oil or honey....mix the two ingredients in a small container, until you achieve a pasty consistency. Pucker your lips, and buff the scrub into wet lips for about 30 seconds, using circular motions. Rinse lips and pat dry, then apply a lip balm such as Rosebud Salve (see photo below). If you'd like, add lemon-oil extract for flavor. You really don't even have to wash this scrub's edible!  Your pout will feel smooth and revitalized with a pretty pink flush.  I recommend doing  this twice per week or as needed. 

This lip balm is so versatile, I even use it to moisture my dry cuticles and elbows. 

SUNSCREEN FOR LIPS: Always always ALWAYS use a lip balm, lipgloss or lipstick with an SPF (during the day).  As mentioned earlier, lips are extremely vulnerable to the sun and elements. What I like to do is to prep my lips with CC cream containing SPF 30. You'll find that many cosmetic companies have added SPF to their lip cosmetics. SPF 15 is fine (it's better than nothing), but a higher SPF is encouraged. 

USE A TOOTHBRUSH or WASHCLOTH: Another quick way to exfoliate your lips is to brush your wet lips in circular motions, with your toothbrush, after you've brushed your teeth. I prefer using a lip scrub, but a toothbrush (or even a moist terry wash cloth) is better than nothing.  After all, teeth get brushed and faces get washed on a daily basis, therefore, this method is convenient for those who aren't fussy with their regime. 

NATURAL EXTRACTS: You may notice lip colors on the market with the words "lip plumper" or "peppermint" on the label. Natural additives such as mint, ginger, cinnamon or cayenne pepper make effective, natural (and affordable) lip plumpers. These ingredients create a chemical reaction, causing the blood to rise to the lip surface, creating tingly heat. This affect creates a temporary swelling of the lips by dilating the blood vessels of the lips, hence the plumping affect. If you're looking for a more permanent lip plumper, I would recommend you consult with a cosmetic medical professional, as there are several injectables on the market used simulate  a permanent or semi-permanent bee-stung pout. But unless you have non-existent lips, I would encourage you to work with what you've got. 


1. Salt & Cinnamon Lip Plumper and Scrub:  Add 1 tsp. Cinnamon, 1TBSP Olive Oil and 1 TBSP of Fine Sea Salt. Mix ingredients well. Apply to dry lips in a circular motion for 10 seconds. Leave on lips for 2-5 minutes and you'll have kissably smooth AND plumped-up lips!

2. Ginger, Mint & Pepper Plumper:
2 tsp of Coconut Oil, 1/2 tsp of Powdered Ginger, 1/2 tsp of Cayenne Pepper and a drop or two of 
Peppemint Oil. 

Coconut oil is solidified right out of the container (I prefer the "refined from mature coconuts" version, because it is fragrance free).
Allow the solid to sit at room temperature overnight, or heat on the stove top for just a few minutes to "melt". This oil has a very low melting point, so it doesn't take much for it to soften (use low heat. I prefer not to liquefy it, but rather, to create a softened, cloudy-white cream).  Add the other ingredients to the oil and mix with a wooden stick. Place in an airtight container and apply your plumper using a lip brush or a cotton swab, as the ingredients may irritate your finger tips. Moreover, since these ingredients are irritating by nature, I recommend testing products like these on inconspicuous areas of your skin and, of course, avoid eye contact. The juxtaposition between the heat of the pepper/ginger versus the coolness of the peppermint makes for a pleasant experience, I think. As I mentioned, coconut oil has a low melting point, therefore if you wish to toss your home-made plumber into your purse, I would recommend adding a bit of beeswax to the mixture. This will help solidify the end product rather than melt-away in your purse. 

IMPORTANT NOTE:  I eluded to the skin on your lips being is. It is very important to note that when using any lip plumper (store bought or homemade) that you apply these products carefully and keep them within your vermillion line (the outter line that defines your lip). Lip-skin differs from epidermal skin and you never know how it's going to react to irritating products. A haphazard 
lip-plumper application can lead to 
hyper-pigmentation on the upper and/or lower lip skin. So, stay within the vermillion line!!

Additional Ingredients:
Experimenting with natural ingredients is particularly great for those who have allergies to cosmetics. Try using petroleum jelly as a base, mixed with beeswax to solidify (1 part jelly to 2 parts wax). Adding some natural cocoa butter works well too. Add any of the aforementioned plumping additives and sweeten with honey if desired. Add Alkanet Root powder to create a you've created a plumping tinted lipgloss!  Alkanet Root is plant-based, so it's a great natural color-additive. It will leave your balm with a pink, red or burgundy tint, depending on the amount added. I recommend adding 2 TBSP for every 2 TBSP of oil (such as coconut).  

Happy lip smacking!
--Ciao for now :)

Bye Bye Dry Hair

A simple, easy and inexpensive way to deep condition your hair is to use 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Yes the bottle located in your kitchen pantry!  I'm a product junky and have tried countless salon-quality conditioners. Summer hair gets dry from sun and chlorine, so it's important to care for your locks as consciously as your skin. 

Liberally apply the olive oil into DRY hair and massage-in well, focusing on dry patches and dry ends. Place your hair up into a bun and  allow it to marinate in the oil for 15-20 minutes. For an extra punch of infusion, wrap your hair in kitchen-plastic wrap. Wash and condition your hair as usual; don't worry, the shampoo will wash-out the scent of salad dressing!

Your hair will be rendered soft and shiny, manageable and bouncy. An easy fix for a common South Florida beauty concern. 

Other uses for Olive Oil: 
1. Massage into dry cuticles. 
2. Rub into dry elbows and heels. 
3. Mix with a bit of sugar for a quick lip scrub. 
4. Mix with a bit if sugar or sea salt for a quick body scrub. 
5. Mix with balsamic to make salad dressing.....duh!

--Ciao for now   :)

Friday, July 26, 2013


Are you wondering why your skin isn't responding to your expensive serums and creams?  Is soft, smooth  skin an urban myth?  Unless you're a newborn babe with virgin skin, you may have to add a few tweaks to your skin care regime.  If you seem cursed with epidermal-sandpaper, it may be result of not exfoliating as often as you should. You should exfoliate your facial skin about twice per week (actinic skin should consult with their Dermatologist for the recommended amount). Body-skin should be exfoliated 2-3 times per week, using a combination

Think of your skin as a screen door. If the screen is clogged and the tiny holes are blocked, NOTHING will penetrate....nothing, nada, yilch! The same logic applies with skin. The epidermis is constantly renewing itself, turning over millions of new skin cells each day. If not properly sloughed away, these cells will accumulate and build-up onto the skin and prevent your precious serums, creams and sunscreen from penetrating and doing their job properly. 

Here's the low-down on slough: There are 3 types of exfoliators....."Mechanical" (scrubs), "Chemical" (acids such as Papaya Enzymes (an AHA) or BHA'a such as Salicylic Acid, and "Manual" (sonic-type machines or soft-stone scrubbers used during pedicure treatments).  Determine your concerns or problem areas, and assess which scrub will work best for that specific area.

MECHANICAL EXFOLIATORS:  When using granular scrubs on your face and neck, make sure the exfoliating beads are spherical and not jagged as in scrubs containing crushed apricot pits as their mechanical ingredient, for example. If the scrub feels scratchy, it will damage your facial skin by causing micro-abrasions. The skin on the face differs from, say, the skin on your arms or legs, so feel free to use these more abrasive scrubs on your limbs (in moderation), but not your face. If you have acne, nix the granular scrubs all together, they will cause irritation.  Beta Hydroxy chemical exfoliants, such as Salicylic acid, work best best for actinic skin *

Good-old baking soda is an exfoliating WONDER! Combine the soda with your favorite mild cleanser (I like Cetaphil) until you have a pasty consistency (add a few drops of water, if needed, to thin out a bit). Massage the mixture into wet skin, in circular motions, for THREE minutes. Soda granules are sherical and make an excellent exfoliant...your skin will be soft and sloughed.  HOWEVER, baking soda is alkaline, therefore it is important to use TONER upon exfoliating with the soda.  A toner will bring skin back towards the acidic (*acid skin is healthy skin).   
This facial scrub from Clinique is one of my favorites. The granules are spherical so they gently slough away dead skin cells to reveal your new skin. 

Have you ever felt tiny hard bumps on the backs of your arms or lower back?  These "chicken skin" bumps (Keratosis Polaris...KP) affect 40% of adults. This condition occurs when the hair follicles (pores) get plugged with keratin and dead skin cells. Exfoliation is the best way to slough away these bumps, particularly granular scrubs, which are great for combating KP. I recommend using a daily Alpha Hydroxy body wash (chemical exfoliant) for daily proactive maintenance against Keratosis Polaris. 

I love love LOVE this body wash from Mario Badescu. It contains a fruit enzyme/Alpha Hydroxy acid, and smells great!  I'm a bit frugal (and prefer a granular exfoliant on my legs), so I limit my use to back, arms and décolletage. It really keeps my skin super soft and KP free!

If you're not inclined to make your own home-made body scrub then this sugar scrub from Tree Hut works beautifully. It's not too oily yet moisturizes with essential oils. It's deliciously granular, smells great, leaves the skin on my legs feeling fantastically smooth and invigorated....and best of all: it's made in the good ole USA and costs under $10.  I like this one :)

CHEMICAL EXFOLIATORS:  Cleansers with Alpha Hydroxy (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy (BHA) acids are fabulous exfoliators. The difference between the two is their solubility. AHA'a do not penetrate the skin as deeply as BHA's because they're water-soluble. BHA's are oil-soluble and therefore penetrate deeper into the skin.  When you apply an AHA onto the skin, it breaks down the "glue" that holds your skin cells together (inter-cellular cement), the acid actually melts this glue away, resulting in the shedding of dead skin cells (this is why we peel or flake after an AHA acid peel for instance).  BHA's dissolve the actual dead skin cell itself, rather than the inter-cellular cement, therefore not as much peeling will result.  Both acids are equally effective; one is not better than the other! AHA's are great for sloughing away those surface dead-skin layers, while BHA's work best to clean out clogged pores. Both acids can be found in serums, chemical peels and of course, cleansers. 

When massaged into wet skin, the acids in these products chemically melt away dead skin cells, leaving skin soft and smooth. The advantage of acid exfoliators is that they're not abrasive. However, both chemical and mechanical exfoliators can be irritating to those with sensitive skin (note the pH levels), as well as those who are product-sensitive.  I recommend testing these products on inconspicuous areas first, such as the skin on the inner arm.

This AHA serum from European Wax Center is great for preventing bikini in-growns.....YES ladies, all skin should be treated equally. Bikini-area-skin is vulnerable to in-growns and keratin build-up, therefore, should be treated with AHA or granular scrubs a few times per week. A daily AHA serum will keep this area smooth, soft and bump-free!

MANUAL EXFOLIATORS: Have you ever played footsies under the covers with your betrothed?  What about sandals...ever wear those?  If you've answers yes to any of these questions, then I would assume, and truly hope, that you use a pumice stone, on your feet, on a DAILY use.  Most women I speak to reserve their pumice use for their bi-monthly pedicures....THIS IS A NO-NO PEOPLE!  Take care of those tootsies and heels...keep a stone in the shower or tub, and use a scrub each time you bathe. If you make a habit out of it and have your stone handy, you'll ALWAYS have touchably smooth divine!  :)

I CANNOT live without these Mr Pumice stones. They are the best manual exfoliators, in my opinion. Buy a few at a time and replace every 3 months or so, as they will eventually wear away. 

This mechanical foot exfoliator by Clarisonic sloughs away 10 times more dead skin then a pumice stone alone! It's pricey, but a worthy investment if you crave uber-soft tootsies like me :)

* see my blog on Skin-Care 101 and Keep Skin Acidic

Happy kissably-soft skin to you all  xoxo

---Ciao for now  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Acne 101

I get questions about acne everyday. When a client asks me for my opinion about either their child's acne or their own skin, before I offer them advice I first probe for lifestyle information. Acne doesn't discriminate against age, although teens are more vulnerable due to increased hormones and over-active sebaceous activity. There are two main components to acne: It requires bacteria to grow and sugar to survive. Avoiding bacterial contact with face is a KEY component in maintaining healthy skin; read-on and you'll find out how. 

"Propionibacteria acnes" (or "P-acnes") is the bacteria responsible for acne breakouts. A simple tweak in your lifestyle (such as using a tissue to dry your face) can improve the look of your skin exponentially. Why a tissue? Because drying your face with a clean tissue, will ensure that bacteria will not contaminate the face. Even a freshly laundered towel will harbor some bacteria, so seemingly insignificant actions, like using a tissue to pay dry, can be a game changer for skin. 

Be conscious of your diet and sugar in-take. I'm talking about white, refined sugar as seen in junk foods or cupcakes. I'm also talking about hydrogenated foods, processed foods and foods with a high glycemic levels....they ALL cause inflammation in the skin and compromise skin-health. Enjoy sweets in moderation, but be aware that sugar allows acne to thrive.

(This photo is an example of Grade 4 Cystic acne).

ACNE COMES IN FOUR FLAVORS:  The severity of ACNE is based on it's grade: Grade I, Grade II, Grade III and Grade IVGRADE I Acne is the mildest forrm, consisting mainly of sporadic blackheads and whiteheads. It is non-inflammatory, typically seen in the form of blackheads and minor legions, and can be treated easily with OTC topical treatments. GRADE II  is moderate acne and, as opposed to Grade I, slightly inflamed lesions appear as a result of follicular build-up. Grade II can be treated at home with OTC products such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide lotion. The presence of black and whiteheads are more abundant than in Grade I, and slight inflammation may now occur. This type of acne should be treated daily, as a proactive measure to avoid progression into Grade III.  GRADE III acne is considered severe acne.  Much more inflammation is present at this stage, as well as an abundance of papules and pustules.  It is not uncommon for Grade III acne to involve other body areas, such as neck, chest, shoulders and upper back lesions.  How do you treat acne at this stage? Consult with a Dermatologist! The treatment protocol is usually a combination of topical as well as systemic therapies, which are available only by prescription. If not properly treated, Grade III can quickly progress into Grade IV acne. GRADE IV acne is the most severe form of acne, also known as "cystic acne". Grade IV will manifest itself by displaying numerous papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.  A great deal of inflammation is associated with Grade IV acne and will usually spread beyond the face, and onto the entire back, chest, shoulders and upper arm region.  Cystic acne will almost always develop scarring, so an aggressive treatment protocol by your Dermatologist can be expected. This acne will usually consist of strong systemic medications, as well as topical prescription treatments. If your doctor prescribes "Accutane" (actual drug name is "Isotretioin") do not be afraid. Although the brand "Accutane" is no longer in existence, it is still referred to by this name. Regardless of what you call it, one or two rounds of Accutane, monitored by your Board Certified Dermatologist, can be an acne game changer and can make an enormous impact on actinic skin. If you do not consult with a Dermatologist to get this cystic acne managed, the acne-causing bacteria will eat away at the collegen in the skin, leading to mild-severe scarring. 

Control your sugar in-take, keep your skin clean by CLEANSING twice per day (morning and night), and TONING twice per day (preferably using a salicylic acid toner) after cleansing. Moreover, proactively treat your acne legions with Benzoyl Peroxide. 

Toning, after washing, is a key step in skin care because it balances the skin's pH. Healthy skin is ACIDIC, around 5.5 on the scale. Cleansers, even the mild versions, leave the skin with a higher alkalinity than you'd want, so toning the skin is an easy yet essential step. 

Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide BOTH kill the P-acnes bacteria, therefore, when the bacteria disappears, so does the acne. The added bonus of Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid is that they infuse the follicle with oxygen, this is key. Acne is anaerobic and cannot survive in oxygen, therefore, keeping the follicles flushed (so that oxygen can flow in and out freely), and keeping the skin acidic, is setting the skin up for success. 

(This photo is an example of Grade 3 acne which requires the care of a Dermatologist)

Knowing that acne cannot survive in oxygen is KEY information. Imagine a clean test tube, where oxygen is flowing in and out freely. Now imagine that same glass tube filled with dirt, oil, dead skin cells and debris. Your hair follicle is like this tube. If you maintain clean, flushed-out follicles, oxygen will be able to penetrate and acne will not be able to bloom. How do you keep the follicle flushed? Easy peezy: cleanse, tone, moisturize (CTM) 2x per day and exfoliate 2-3x per week, depending on skin type (I prefer "acid exfoliators" such as Glycolic or Salicylic Acid for skin with acne. Granular scrubs can be irritating, so try to avoid these).  Skin is NOT one size fits all, so I suggest you consult with a licensed skin care expert or a Board Certified Dermatologist to design the proper protocol for your skin.

Using Retinoids is a skin game-changer and will absolutely keep those test tubes clean. Retinoids (such as the nAme brand "Retin-A") is "Retinoic Acid" and actually changes the DNA of skin cells. They stimulate the production of new skin and turn over the old cells. Retinoids are strong and by prescription only, but are what I would consider skin's "miricle cream". Most people stop using Retinoids once they experience irritation and peeling, however, once the skin adapts and gets used to the Retinoid, it will absolutely see a significant change. A pea size amount is all one needs for the face, so when using a Retinoid, make sure that you never overdo it. Starting slow with a 1-2 day per week application, then eventually building up (slowly) to a daily protocol will change your skin.

SALICYLIC ACID:  Products containing Salicylic Acid (a Beta Hydroxy Acid,  BHA) is great for treating mild acne. It melts away the mortar that keeps the skin cells glued together, resulting in skin that is smooth and turned-over. Salicylic can be found in cleansers, serums, toners and lotions. The main benefit of Salicylic Acid (aside from it's exfoliating benefits) is the fact that it infuses the follicle with oxygen (remember that clear test tube?). Since acne is anaerobic, it cannot survive on oxygenated skin, so Salicylic is an essential protocol. 

CONSULT WITH A DERMATOLOGIST: Acne consists of four levels: Grade 1 - Grade 4. The first two levels are mild to moderate acne, which is my target audience for this blog post. Many times mild acne, Grade 1 in particular, is hormonal and can be managed easily. Level 3 and 4 acne must be seen by a Dermatologist, this is beyond the skin-care-scope of an Esthetician because this type of acne must be controlled with with oral meds, topical meds, or sometimes a combination of both. Cystic acne that is not addressed by a doctor can result in permanent scarring.
Another tweak that will improve your skin's health is to NOT touch your face throughout the day and to dry your face with a clean tissue after cleansing, morning and night. I prefer generic tissues because they are not as fibrous as their fancy name-brand counterparts.  Using a bacteria-free tissue, can SIGNIFICANTLY help to clear up acne simply by preventing contamination. Just make sure to handle skin gently, never pull or tug, and blot skin dry, rather than wipe.

An additional issue I'd like to point out is the importance of keeping your make-up brushes clean. Do you wear foundation? How is it applied? Are you using the same grungy latex sponge you bought in 1997?  Do you wear blush?  What about facial powder?  How do you apply these products onto your skin?  Are you using a makeup brush to apply your cosmetics? Do you keep these brushes clean?  Did you even know that you needed to keep them clean? We've already discussed how simple tweaks in your lifestyle can positively affect your skin. The same theory holds true for make-brushes. You should clean your dry brushes at least once per week (dry brushes are used for powders, blush and eyeshadow) and wash your WET brushes every day. A wet brush is used for foundation, concealer, contouring creams or any other non-dry cosmetic. A wet brush will quickly harbor bacteria, so the simple act of washing them (using basic hand soap) is another skin game-changer.  If you like to use a latex sponge to apply foundation, use a NEW one for each application! Latex sponges are one time use, so toss those bacteria traps once you're done with them!  As for pressed powder, I never, EVER recommend using those little round cotton applicators that are provided with the compact.  Always use a fluffy, natural  hair brush to apply powder to the face, even pressed powder. If you like to travel with your compact in your purse, purchase a retractable travel powder brush that can be washed weekly.  

A simple way to clean your brushes: Rinse the brush (hair facing down) under warm water, apply a gentle cleanser or baby shampoo into the palm of your hand. Forming a cup with your palm, swirl the brush in your palm so that the dirt, oil and make-up within the hairs loosen. Rinse and repeat this process. Using a tissue, gently squeeze the water out of the brush, then lay the brush on a slight incline (bristles facing down) to dry. That's it. You should do this at least once per week for dry brushes and everyday for wet brushes. 

For more on skin health, visit my blog posts:  Skin-Care 101, Quick Tip: use a TISSUE to dry your face! and EXFOLIATE! Or follow me on all social media platforms (@Beauty and Brow Girl) for weekly skin care and beauty tips. 

  --CIAO for now  xoxo

Monday, July 22, 2013

Skin-Care 101

The most frequently asked questions I get, pertaining to skin, are about acne and fine lines.  These are two completely separate topics, so for the purpose of this dialog let's discuss healthy, ACNE-FREE skin.

Remember this: "CTM"....Cleanse.  Tone.  Moisturize.  Regardless of skin type, regardless of age, healthy skin begins with CTM.  Always cleanse, MORNING and NIGHT.....ALWAYS.   The one thing you need to force yourself to do is to ALWAYS cleanse your skin before you go to sleep.  Besides the obvious dirt and make-up settling onto your skin (throughout the day), there are also bacteria and environmental elements that have set-up camp on your skin, waiting, just waiting for you to neglect those poor vulnerable little follicles and create havoc on your skin!

Healthy skin is clean skin; Healthy skin is acidic skin; Healthy skin is oxygenated skin!
  • Clean Skin:   Always use a mild cleanser...always. Look for the words "mild", "gentle" or "milky" when purchasing a facial cleanser.  Foamy, soapy cleansers are drying to the skin and strip away essential oils. If you have oily skin, look for a cleanser that caters to your skin type (note: T-zone oil is not considered "oily" skin. People with excessive oily skin usually have the same issue with their hair getting oily quickly). The biggest misconception for those of you who have oily or actinic skin is to "dry" your skin with a harsh cleanser.....this is a no-no.  First of all, if you have hyper-active sebaceous glands which produce excessive oil, you may want to consult with a Dermatologist. The same theory applies if you have cystic acne....this can only be properly controlled with the assistance of a doctor.  But for purposes of this dialog, I will assume that you have "normal to oily"  "oily", "dry" skin and/or slightly to moderately actinic skin (light, mild or medium break-outs).  As far as cleansers go, I like Cetaphil.  It's mild and not too foamy, but more importantly it gently cleanses the dirt, oil and make-up from your skin.

IMPORTANT TIP: Never use a towel to dry your face after it has been washed!  Unless you're using a freshly laundered towel, which has been washed in bleach, each time you wash your face (twice per day), use a piece of cotton or a tissue. A hand towel can harbor millions of disease-causing microbes such as E. Coli and Salmonella. By avoiding hand towels (especially those that have been used to dry one's bacteria-clad hands), you are avoiding the re-distribution of bacteria onto your skin, which is THE MOST important step in achieving healthy skin. Acne REQUIRES bacteria in order to grow. It occurs when bacteria gets trapped within the hair follicle, preventing oxygen from penetrating.  This is why I NEVER recommend touching your face throughout the day 
unless you have an itch!   

  • Healthy Skin: Acne cannot survive on acidic skin;  Bacteria cannot survive on acid.  You've heard of products which are "pH Balanced"?  The goal in using a mild cleanser is to clean your skin with the least amount of alkalinity possible.  For this reason you should only use cleansers made specifically for the face.  You would never wash your face with a dish washing liquid or laundry detergent right?  Even "body washes" are high in alkalinity.  Harsh cleansers like these are alkaline and will throw-off the balance of your skin.  To reiterate: healthy skin is acidic. There is a pH scale that begins at number 1 (very "acid", such as vinegar and lemon) and goes up to 14 (very "alkaline").  A bar of soap or baking soda, for example are a 9.5 on this scale (alkaline), but water --a neutral substance-- is a 7.  Healthy skin would be considered a 5.5 on the pH scale, therefore always use a mild facial cleanser (which are typically at around a 7).  How do you get your skin to a 5.5 then?  Well, that's where the "T" in CTM comes in to play!  You need to tone after you cleanse to get your skin on the acid side.  Another advantage of toning is that it will remove excess dirt or make-up left behind by the cleanser.  Never use harsh "astringents" especially alcohol based products.  Use a gentle, alcohol free "toner" after cleansing, this will get your skin at a pH closer to that healthy acid level. Now you're ready to moisturize.....
  • Hydrate your Skin:  Regardless of skin type, you must moisturize your skin.  If you have oily skin, use an "oil free" moisturizer.  If you have dry skin, use a heavier moisturizing cream made for dryer skin types.  The point is, everyone needs to hydrate their skin.  Hydrated skin is healthy skin.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  The eye area is delicate, this is the thinnest skin on the body and the first place to show signs of aging.  Treat this skin tenderly and use eye-specific products such as "eye creams" and "eye serums" to nourish and hydrate this delicate area.  Never use a regular facial cream on the eye area, again, use only eye-specific products. Since your CTM skin care regime with be performed twice per day, it is important to note that your daily moisturizer or cream needs to differ from day to night.  Your day cream or lotion should contain a "broad spectrum" SPF (I like 30 as a minimum).  Never use an SPF cream at night before bed....why add the extra additives onto your skin while sleeping?
Once you get into the habit of a CTM ritual TWICE per day, you'll see the difference in your skin.  Little tweaks in your regime such as *using a tissue rather than a used hand towel can have a major impact towards the health of your skin.  Lastly, healthy skin also comes from within your body, therefore, aside from a healthy vitamin, fiber and nutrient-rich diet, you should drink plenty of water.  It is not uncommon to have "oily-dehydrated" skin. Therefore, water consumption should work in conjunction with your CTM ritual....for OPTIMUM skin health.     
* see my blog on Quick Tip: Use a Tissue to Dry Your Face

---Ciao for now :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Brow 101

I'm obsessed with the precision and importance of eyebrows. The juxtaposition between brow and face is crucial to a woman's (AND A MAN'S) facial balance.  Did you know that eyebrows are the most important part of the face?  Did you know that brows frame the face and create facial symmetry? Did you also know that the only way to truly manipulate the shape of the eyebrow is to pluck pluck pluck, one little hair at a time.  To truly achieve the perfect eyebrow, one must look in the mirror, access the goods, and have a plan of action!  And please, no matter what you do......avoid waxing! 

The ideal brow, in my opinion, is a "Freida Kahlo" brow! It's easy to tweeze away, and remove unwanted hairs, however, be careful not to wax or over-tweeze! Although you can "add" hair with the use of pigments, creating a beautiful shape using your own hair-base is the ideal scenario. 

Don't get me wrong, I am wax-obsessed, I cannot live without it!  I get certain bits waxed every 7-10 days (yes I'm a bit neurotic about it).  However, when it comes to the delicate skin surrounding the eye....the thinnest skin on the must take note that repetitive pulling of this skin (as in waxing) will eventually stretch out the delicate elasticity within the skin, and wrinkle over time (think of a rubber band that gets stretched-out and eventually looses its tightness). Let's be proactive with the aging process people! No pulling of this skin gentle!!  Moreover, (and more importantly) waxing can remove essential and important hairs that would have otherwise been part of your brow line.  Every person is born with a unique and distinctive brow shape...however, this shape is usually camouflaged by pesky stray hairs surrounding it's true form.  Think of a garden filled with must pull the weeds to achieve a beautiful garden.....pull the weeds NOT the flowers!!  Many times, women over-tweeze, over-wax, over-thread, over-pluck, and over time their eyebrow hairs do not grow back. Let me repeat that: Eventually, eyebrow hairs do NOT grow back!  As an Electrologist, I understand the biology of hair and guess what, these hairs change and fade-out over time due to age, stress, lifestyle, diet, medication and hormones. Therefore, it is my goal to EMPOWER girls and women alike (and yes, men too).....Learn how to maintain your brows, on your own, and you'll forever have facial harmony and balance  :)

Here's what you'll need, to get started:  A light-up 2-way mirror with magnification (my favorite beauty tool....ya gotta see what you're doin'!), small manicure scissors, a tweezer, a brow brush (to brush the hairs up and/or down), brow pigments or brown eyeshadow (to shade-in the bald spots), an angled eyebrow pigment brush (to apply the shadow to shade in the sparse areas) and a light colored eyeshadow.  Using the angled brush, fill your brows in with pigment.  This process will allow you to "see" the shape of your brow before you tweeze.  I prefer a shadow versus pencil to shade-in the brow because shadow pigments are less harsh looking than a waxy pencil, but if you feel more comfortable using a pencil, have at it.  

This client has a delicate arch, which needed trimming, subtle shaping, as well as shading (using brow pigments). The erythema you see is a result of her freshly tweezed brows, so please note: If you have an event to attend, tweeze your brows at least a two hours prior, to allow the redness to subside. 

Don't try to create a shape that's not your own.  You may love the delicate arch of Angelina Jolie's brows, however, your brows may naturally be bolder and more angular, so you may look off balance with such delicate brows.  Don't re-invent the wheel people! with the God given brow you were born with!  Remember when you were a child and you colored with crayons in coloring books or connected the dots?  Well, it's the same process with brows.  Once you start to shade-in your natural shape, you'll start to see your own natural form emerge. At this time, you can start to tweeze the surrounding strays away. Applying a light, shimmery highlight to the brow bone, will help you to see those hard-to-spot vellus hairs.  Also, the light shadow will emphasize the shape of the brow.  Wherever you have a shadow, you place a highlight...the eyebrow is the ultimate shadow on the face, so you always juxtapose it with a highlight underneath.  Brush the brow hairs upward with your brow brush and gently hold these hairs-up, firmly in place, with your index finger.  Keep the hairs "sticking-up" and in place.  With your scissors, trim the tips of these hairs so that they are all perfectly uniform and straight.....think of a white picket fence, no hair should be longer than the next, perfectly uniform.  But be careful not to trim too much, you don't want to create bald spots!  Trim just the tips, then if you need to trim more after that, you can.  Next, brush the hairs downward and repeat the finger-hold and trim process (you won't need to trim as many hairs from this downward position).  Trimming brow hairs is essential to alleviate un-ruley brows.  There are brow waxes and gels on the market to keep brows "in place".....why spend the money on these products?  You can create a uniform, trim, neat brow just by trimmimg.  Using a fluffy powder brush, brush your brows upward, sweeping the freshly plucked hairs away.

If you're reading this and have over-plucked brows that are too thin (see photo) and have been butchered by an inexperienced brow-shaper, don't fret.  The growth cycle of a brow is approximately 3-6 months give or take (sometimes longer).  

Over-tweezed brows can be fixed! Leave them alone for a few weeks, tweeze the obvious strays, and create a shape using brow pigments (using an eyebrow stencil if needed).

Leave your brows alone and let them grow-in for a few weeks (at least 2-3).  In the mean time, while you're letting them grow-out, tweeze the "obvious" strays away (such as the hairs in between your brows and the hairs on the brow-bone).  After about 4-6 months, the growth you see in your light-up mirror will pretty much be the hairs you've got.  If you're not satisfied with the thickness and shape, or if you're kicking yourself because of the tweeezing frenzies you've had over the years which have left permanent gaps in your brows, forget about it.  What's done is done! Brow gaps can be fixed. Pigments can do wonders with filling-in gaps and holes where the hair is absent.  Also, as a Permanent Make-Up artist, I've permanently shaded brows for those who just don't want to shade them in (or don't know how to).  So there are options.  But, the perfect brow starts with education.  Understanding your brow, your biology and your facial balance.  Do you like a rounded brow or an angular brow?  Do you like a high arch or one that's more subtle.  It is easy to achieve any look (working with what you've got that is) once you've empowered yourself with the basics and understand what works best for your face.  Death and taxes can't be fixed.......the perfect eyebrow that works for you is certainly attainable.      

--Ciao for now :)