Cortisone- How Long Can I Use It? by Deb Chase

Question and Answer about Retin ACortisone gels and creams are another one of those treatment options that we love to hate.  When used properly under supervision from a health  care professional, cortisone can dramatically clear-up a wide range of skin  problems including, eczema, poison ivy or a red rash from who knows what.

All cortisone products are not equal.  In the US there are actually seven  grades of strength.  The mildest  is known as hydrocortisone  which is even available without a prescription.   Betamethasone ( prescription only)   is considered a moderate cortisone and is 100X more  powerful than hydrocortisone.   Clobesterol, the strongest form of cortisone  is a whopping 600X more powerful than hydrocortisone and reserved  for severe problems. The form of cortisone can also impact on the health of the skin.  Cortisone gels and ointments have the greatest potency while creams and lotions have the lowest absorption.

How Does Cortisone Clear the Skin?

Cortisone decreases irritation by surpressing the release of inflammatory compounds such as interlukin and tumour necrosis factor ( TNF) that trigger skin problems. These bad boys also can cause fever, asthma symptoms and arthritis pain which is why oral cortisone is prescribed for these common health issues.

How Long Can I Use Cortisone?

How long you can safely use cortisone  depends on the type of cortisone, the strength of the product and what it is used for.  According to Dr Gary Goldenberg of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, a mid level cortisone such a prescription hydrocortisone can be used safely for 1-2 weeks.  Triluma which is a mixture of  cortisone, Retin A and  hydroquinone can be used in a three month on, three month off  pattern.   However with long term skin problems like eczema, cortisone are used for longer  periods of time.   To get the benefits without problems, doctors  may recommend using costisone in a long term on and off bursts.  For example, you may be told each week  to use  cortisone for 3 days straight and then  stop using it for the next four days

When Cortisone Turns Nasty

Cortisone treatments are effective because they have a major impact on basic body dynamics. Its really not surprising that anything that can cause such a sea change in how our body functions, can cause a list of signifcant problems.  Cortisone degrades  both collagen and elastin  rapidly aging and thinning the skin.  On the body it can cause stretch marks which are notoriously hard to erase.  Cortisone can also cause  blood vessels to leak leading to  deep purple bruises .   Oddly enough when used on the face can actually provoke  a red rash around the mouth.  On other parts of the body, cortisone creams can cause  severe dryness.  Not good.

Bottom line on cortisone:  As a group, cortisone products can  offer quick relief to both mild and severe  skin problems.  But they can turn nasty, very  nasty.  To avoid  significant and  sometimes permanent problems, always  follow  directions  carefully.  Be sure to follow up with your physician and never use cortisone longer than recommended.


Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion Flash logoThis week the fabulous Kari of Fab Over Forty is hosting Fashion Flash.    And now that we  can count  on more than one day of sunshine at a time, our bloggers are deep into spring.  For example, Fabulous After 40 shares three styles of spring dresses for women over 40,  Aging  Backwards has great spring cleaning tips and Positive Living  Advocate Barbara Hannah Grufferman  chats with a dating coach  for advice about  dating over 50.  At No-Nonsense Beauty Blog  I look at ways to layer different skin care products (including sunscreen, antioxidants and serums), to make sure you  get the very  best results.

Fashion Flash Book ReviewFashion Flash Book Review:  Toss the Gloss by Andrea Robinson

Crowd sourcing  information  on everything  from how to do a smoky eye to how to build a chicken coop  has become   the  current standard  for acquiring  knowledge and skills.  I  like   the girl friend to girl friend feeling of sharing   best practices, but I am thrilled when I get the chance to hear how its done from a world class expert.  And Andrea Robinson  certainly  has  amazing credentials.  Something of a legend in the  beauty industry, she has been chief marketing officer of Estee lauder, President  of Tom Ford Beauty,  Beauty Editor at Vogue and President  at Ralph Lauren Fragrances.

But  these are  just titles and what sets Robinson apart  from  other  beauty executives  is her creation of the ” The Nakeds” for Revlon,   the revolutionary line   of neutral cosmetics that forever  changed the way we  used make-up.  Until the  “Nakeds”  make-up colors were harsh.  Rouge was bright  pink, eyeshadow was blue, and lipsticks were  basically orange,  pink and red.  The subtle soft  make-up on fashion shoots and films  were only available  in the hands of skillled make-up artists.  Robinson changed all that with a line of almost thirty  neutral  products that included foundation, powder, eye hadow, blush and lipstick.  When they arrived in the 1990, they were bigger than  the Hunger Games are today.

With  this background, its  not surprising that  her first book, Toss the Gloss is packed with  detailed, always useful information.  Like  all great experts (  eg Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Mahmet Oz)  she drills down  into a subject to provide comprehensive advice that  is  always on point.  For example she  has an  entire  20 page chapter devoted just  to  make-up foundations.   In addition to explaining the   pros and cons for different types ( eg  anti-acne, oil free, self adjusting,  luminizing,  cream, stick  and whipped)  she provides numerous  lists of  recommendations  from both drugstore and designer  brands.    Robinson does the same for  all  types   of make-up including blush, eye shadow, liners, lipsticks and  highlighers.

In addition to which types we should buy, she  offers clear and understandable  diagrams on better ways to apply make-up.  IMO her seven step guide  for a lip pencil is alone woth the price of the book.  This book is so valuable  that I downloaded another  copy for my I Pad so that I can take it with me when I hit  Sephora.

One last thought:  Toss the Gloss  was published by Seal Press.  This house is committed to producing  books for women  that cover a wide range of issues.  When I see a book from Seal , I know its going to be  both relevant and well done.

Help! I’m Peeling From Retin A by Deb Chase

acne questionsQuestion: I followed  your advice and  started using Retin A  for signs of age — and now my skin is peeling.Does  this mean  its not good for my skin and I should stop using it?

Answer: Oh no, don’t give up  just yet!  The peeling you see is the shedding of the top dead layer of skin cells that are clogging the pores and slowing down skin growth.   This is a  major benefit of Retin A and actually a sign that its  doing a good job.  However if the flaking is excessive and unsightly, we need to look at  how you are using Retin A.  Remember you need to avoid other sources of exfoliation including, scrubbing grains, complex brushes, alcohol based toners and all alpha hydroxy products.   You need to use a super mild, fragrance free cleanser, like Cetaphil  and wait  at least 30 minutes between washing your face and applying Retin A. At night you should top the Retin A with a turbo-powered mositurizer that is rich is ceramides and hyaluronic acid ( CeraVePM).  During the day, protect the skin with a 30–50 SPF like my favorite  Physical Fusion UV Defense ( Skinceuticals).

Since you are already concerned about flaking, we can tweek the standard regimen to get things under control. Start  by using Retin A only every other day.  Rather than  applying it to bare  skin, put your moisturizer on first  and then apply the Retin A. Alternatively you can mix a drop of Retin A with a slightly larger  blob of moisturizer for easy and even appliction. When the skin starts to calm down, you can slowly  start adding back application days  Try adding one additional day every week to ten days to allow the skin to adjust.

Flaking, Retin A and Acne

When  using Retin A for acne, its super important  not to sabotage the  benefits to avoid  annoying flaking.  Doctors usually  recommend a stronger cleanser like Neutrogena Acne Wash ( with salicylic acid)  for an acne regimen.  If the skin is just too red and flaky you can temporarily use  a milder cleanser like Cetaphil.   Be extra careful that you avoid  oil based moisturizers which will undue all the good works of Retin A.  The flaking  is a sign that the pores will be free of breakout provoking material and that’s a good thing.

Is Marijuana the Key to Beautiful Skin? by Deb Chase

marijuana plantQuestion: My friend from Holland says that  marijuana is great for the skin.  Is  that true?   How does it work?

Answer: You had me at marijuana.  While its true that marijuana ( which is legal in Holland)  contains effective antioxidants in the form of cannabinoids, that is not the whole story…..

Smoking marijuana is like smoking traditional tobacco  and  has the same harmful impact  on the heart, lungs and skin.  Some experts even say that it is more dangerous since it is drawn deeper into the longs and held in the airways for greater impact.  Smoke is smoke whether it is more a barbeque grill,  tobacco cigarette or a  hand rolled joint.  All forms of smoke contain carcinogens that raise the risk of many  forms of cancer, especaially  breast and lung cancer.

When it comes to  using  marijuana on the skin, the story is equally disappointing.   Like traditional cigarettes, marijuana smoke  depresses the production of collagen  which will accelerate the formation of lines and wrinkles.

Health Benefits of Marijuana

All kidding aside  researchers have shown that there are potential health benefits of  the THC chemicals found in marijuana.  Cannibinoids  in marijuana are highly effective anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.   Delivered in a vaporizer, marijuana  is used  to successfully relieve nausea  during chemotherapy.   But there is no evidence that adding marijuna to  skin care prodcuts would offer any  unique benefits.  While it has admirable  antioxidant properties, so do green tea, vitamin C, soy and oatmeal.   These easily available ( and universally legal) antioxidants deliver visible results in  affordable serums, moisturizers and masks.   Added to your diet, these antioxidant  rich foods have shown genuine health benefits.   For example a  simple  cardboard carton of oatmeal  can lower  cholesterol, reduce inflammation on the skin and internal organs  and  absorb excess oil on the skin.   In other words eating a bowl of oatmeal  or drinking a glass of OJ   is a easy ( and  law abiding ) approach to   antioxidant delivery.




Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion Flash logoThis week Jodell of Black Cat Plus is hosting Fashion Flash!   This amazing site  covers   plus size fashions,  celebrities and social issues with strong, fresh postive voice.  Our other Fashion Flashers  are inspired this week sharing their best posts  on fashion, health, fitness and beauty.  Our selections this week include  eye -opening photos of extreme plastic surgery from Diva Debbi,  classy  yet  casual black and white styles from Fabulous After Forty, color drenched summer styles from Prime Beauty and homemade  health and beauty  products from The best of Everything After 50.   And I share a confession in No-Nonsense Beauty Blog — I am an exercise drop-out.  There I said it.

Fashion FLash Book ReviewFashion Flash Book Review: Younger By the Day by Victoria Moran

Younger By the Day is an inspiring book of 365 essays of daily  ideas, tips and affirmations.  The author,  Victoria Moran  gently  helps you focus on the present to put away the past  and look forward to tomorrow. In short it is a guide to make the  most of everyday. For example in the week of April 7  the essays  include linking a big heavy handbag  with unnecessary burdens, tips on getting a better nights sleep,  the health benefit  of   fresh juice ( including recipes)  and the ten commandments of wearing makeup over 40.  In upcoming months  include essays on choosing positive friends ( May12), music therapy ( May 25),  benefits of  massage therapy ( June 27), the  nightly check-in ( June 9)  and when you’re just  not doing so great ( July 14).

Victoria Moran is never trite or preachy.   She is like a wise   funny friend  who  celebrates your wins, laughs at your jokes, and who has your back when things go south.  Younger By The Day is the first book I’ve read by Victoria Moran.  I liked it so  much I was thrilled to  discover she is the author of 10 related books.  I’ve ordered ” Creating  a Charmed Life” and Fit from Within from Amazon.  I am so ready to dive in.





Is Retin A Different From a Peel ? By Deb Chase

Question on PeelsQuestion:  I can buy a peel  at my local CVS  drug store but I need a prescription  from a doctor to get Retin A.  They seem to promise the same  results.  How are they diffeent?

Answer:  What an interesting question and a bit  more complicated than it seems.  In general principles, both  Retin A and peels exfoliate the top layer of dead dry skin cells.  This stimulates cell renewal and promotes fresher and smoother skin. The natural life cycle of the skin is designed to shed  this layer of surface  skin.  But factors such as acne, sun damage and aging can inhibit this process.  The result  will be dull rough skin that is troubled with  breakouts, wrinkles and  discoloration.

Exfoliation with peels or Retin A stimulate the growth of healthy collagen, lighten or remove brown patches and help the skin hold onto  moisture. On the surface exfoliation smooths the skin, shrinks pores, and  reduces both  fine lines  and acne scars. Good stuff.

A Peel For Every Skin

There are more than  half a dozen basic types of peels including those using lactic  acid, beta- hydroxy acid, glycolic acid and blended peels.   You can buy  mild peels off a pharmacy shelf   while stronger peels are available  at spas and physicians.  Just to make things more complicated 10% Retin A is also used as a peel.  (  By comparison,  nightly  Retin A treatment products have concentrations that  range from .025% – .1%).

Retin A treatment creams act slowly over time  to provide long lasting benefis.  Most of the  superfical peels act immediately to change the surface.  However the impact is usually cosmetic rther than long lasting.  Medium and deep peels have a more dramatic change with significant redness, peeling and a longer haling process.

I’m a big fan of both peels and Retin A.  Keep in mind that you need to stop using Retin A  two days before and three  days after  superficial peels.  Coming up will be a No-Nonsense Guide to the six different types of  peels that will explain  their benefits and costs and how to choose the best one for your own skin needs.


Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion Flash logoThis week our newest Fashion Flash member Diva Debbi  is hosting Fashion Flash for the first time.   She is such a talented  fashion stylist with an incredilbe eye for creating   the perfect outfit for every occasion.  Make sure to roam thru her site  and check out her amazing Polyvore  pages.  Our other bloggers have  been  extra busy this week including:

* Fab Over Forty shares  fit ball exercises.

* Aging Backwards   explains  why eating geens can whiten your teeth

* Prime Beauty  shares a  must have new eyeshadow palette from Tarte ( I love that brand)

* Fabulous After 40 nails it again  demonstrating how to wear those floaty, sheer pastels that are now front and center in the stores.

* And at No-Nonsense Beauty Blog I am offering a free guide to Retin A.  This is the ONLY product that  the FDA allows to claim anti-aging  benefits  and  this guide explains how to get the benefits you deserve.

Click thru DivaDebbi this week  to see these and the other must read  Fashion Flash blogs including The Best of Everything After Fifty, Black Cat Plus  and Moving Free With Mirabai.

Fashion FLash Book Review- Eye CandyFashion Flash Book Review: Eye Candy by Linda Mason

Linda Mason is one of the most  popular make-up artiss in New York. Not only can she create perfect  looks for every age and face, she is also a wonderful  teacher.  Her book, Make-Up: The Art of Beauty is one of my favorites   and I was so happy to find   she had written another book  just on eye  make-up.   Eye Candy offers   a range of  everyday looks and  as well as an array  of bold options when you want to  make a statement.  The   book  has  four features  that  have made it into my current  favorite style guide.  Eye Candy starts with photos and descriptions of  the different brushes I will  need and I finally  understand the difference between them. To  help  me pick the right products,   the top   right hand  corner of the  page  has a little swatch of the exact color and consistancy  that  is needed  for each look.  This makes it easy ( and foolproof) to get EXACTLY the shadow  I will use to duplicate the make-up  on the page.  In addition to crystal clear  instructions, she has both a line drawing of the eye make-up and a photograph  of what it looks like IRL.  I took Eye Candy into Sephora and began assembling  a few   product groups.   I selected one  daytime look  called “the Audrey Hepburn” and one evening called “Knockout”  and I will be showing   the results in  a follow -up post.

Can Women of Color Use Lasers? by Deb Chase

Women of ColorQuestion: Can a South Asian women use Forever Beautiful  laser to get rid of dark patches?
Answer: According to Carissa, the amazing esthetician who works with Dr Z.Paul Lorenc, the short answer is— no.  The heat of  this  milder laser  could trigger new darkened areas and leave the skin with  irregular pigmentation.  To clarify  and brighten South Asian  skin  Carissa uses a two step  process.  First she pre-treats the skin with  for a few weeks with hydroquinone to put the melanin producing cells into sleep mode.   Then she exposes the skin to  a  Q switch YAG laser which was developed originally to remove black pigment in a tattoo.  The proceedure needs to be done very very carefully  and after treatment  sunscreens are essential.  To keep the skin smooth and clear  a 50SPF sunscreen should be  used  in both sunny and cloudy weather and reapplied during the day.

Irregular skin tones can develop in South Asian skin from bug bits, pregnancy, heat, acne and sun exposure. Some experts believe that dark patches can occur as part of normal aging, much the way lighter skin tones develop lines and wrinkles.  Not  to be a broken record, but  maaging  unwanted pigmentation starts and ends with a consistant sunscreen routinue.

Skin of color  from all parts of the globe need to be especailly carefully   to avoid more hyperpigmentation when treating the skin.  Irritation seems to be  melanin producing cells into over drive and  treatments to erase darkened areas can  trigger more  dark spots and patches. I am working on a free   four page  guide to treating  this problem  to explain the major causes and offer more than a dozen therapies.



Hydroquinone- How Long Can I Use It? by Deb Chase

Hydroquinone for  hyperpigmentationQuestion: My doctor gave me a prescription for hydroquinone ( 4%) cream.  Its helping control my post pregnancy dark splotches, but I’ve heard bad things about  it.  How long can I safely use it?

Answer:  Hydroquinone is one of those medications that we love to hate.  It has been around for decades and is actually  the ONLY ingredient that has been approved by the  FDA for skin lightening.  According to Mount Sinai dermatologist  Dr Gary Goldenberg, you can safely use  hydroquinone for  up to three months at a time. Even if its working, you need to take a three month drug holiday after the initial treatment.  If you want to return to this popular skin lightener, you’re back to a three month on and three month off schedule. However if  it hasn’t worked in the first three months, its probably  never  going to help your skin and its time to try something else.

How Does Hydroquinone Work?

Hydroquinone blocks production of melanin by blocking the production of an enzyme that is necessary for  the production of the   dark pigment. It does not  break down existing pigment but prevents new melanin from forming.  During the three month treatment period the existing darkened skin  cells  are  shed naturally  and the hydroquinone prevents new melanin from developing  in the fresh new  skin cells.

Getting the Best Results From Hydroquinone

Before starting hydoquinone  treatment, its important to know  how your skin will react to treatment.  To find out if your skin is sensitive, dab a small amount on the inner surface of your forearm. If no itching or redness develops in 24 hours then you are good to go.  To speed up the benefits,  some experts recommend using a gylcolic cleanser or mositurizer to  help  speed up turnover  of  pigmented skin cells.

You can find 2% Hydroquinone gel/cream on drug store  shelves, but the 4% concentration is  available only  by prescription.  Your doctor can also prescribe  hydroquinone that is combined with other skin brighteners.  For example Glyquin contains 4% hydroquinone with 10% glycolic acid.  Triluma is a triple threat  skin lightener with hydroquinone to stop melanin production, Retin A to speed up cell turnover and  a mild steroid to keeps thing calm.

Problems with Hydroquinone

There is a dark side to hydroquinone ( no pun intended).  Dr Goldenberg warns that prolonged use  has been associated with  the development of blue-black pigmentation (called ochronosis) that is  very hard to manage.  This is usually seen in Africa and might be due to the presence of other ingredients in the  local skin lightening  forumlations  such as phenol and mercury.  There are also reports of cancer appearing in animals  treated with hydroquinone, but  no studies have show this connection in humans.

One final thought:  You MUST apply a 30-50 SPF sun screen when using hydroquinone.  This ingredients acts by blocking new melanin production and if the skin is constantly exposed to new UV rays,  there will be no improvement.   Skin  cells have long memories,  and  just  one unprotected sun filled  day can trigger new melanin production and more pigmentation. Trust me  this does happen.  I undid   three months of Triluma treatment with a morning on the beach.

Its Fashion FLash Monday!

Fashion Flash logoThis week  Jodell of Black Cat Plus is hosting Fashion Flash. Our bloggers are really feeling spring as they  offer their favorite fashion, fitness  and beauty tips. For example Prime Beauty shares the goodies from her favorite subscription beauty   service; Moving Free with Mirabai  has the skinny on new weight loss apps; and I  have uploaded  my new must-have skin care products.  And  don’t miss  the brilliant post from Fabulous After 40 on how to wear those “moody florals”– large bright flowers on a black backgroud.  I was ready to pass on this look them by until   I read this post.   That very day I went out and bought a pair of skinny dark floral pants and paired it with a new black  silk cardie.  It worked perfectly for my personal style and yet was a cutting edge look.   Now I just have to wait until the last blizzard passes.

Fashion Flash Book ReviewFashion Flash Book Review: A Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron was something of a legend in New York.  As a writer she moved back and forth between print and film, writing   personal and  affecting stories that seemd to span generations and genders.  In an era where the supernatural seems to the the norm and violence and graphic sex  seem to be an obligatory  part of any  media, Nora Ephron  had a unique voice.  She took a  long hard look at  life and love  that  you remembered long after you closed her books or  the credits came on  after  the movie.

When I started to   do posts on my neck makeover, I decided to reread  her book.  Ten yers later it is still as relevant  as it was  when it was first published  ten years ago.  In addition to  now famous  neck essay, Ephron  tackled   the stages of parenting,  New York real estate horror stories,   designer handbags and of course her real passion- food.   While  many of the stories are New York centric  her tone and  world view  resonated    around the world.  If you read  it before, pick it up again and read it now  whenyou are ten yers older.  If its  new to you, get ready for a treat.