The New No-Nonsense Beauty Tool Kit

Beauty Tool KitIts been two years since I published my first Beauty Tool Kit on No-Nonsense Beauty Blog.   Over time, both my skin and the products  have certainly changed.   As a beauty  junkie, I have to admit it was challenging to pick my  must-haves for a curated collection of skin care  tools, rather  than a large  plastic tub of interesting but not essential  cleansers, moisturizers  and  masks.

This  tool kit of 25 products   meet the needs  of my skin profile — over age 50, sensitive and slightly oily.  I look  first for the least expensive but high quality formulations.  My skin care needs also vary  by season as well as ongoing treatments.  For example, if  I treat my skin to a peel, I will use my mildest cleanser  and an effective moisturizer.  In the  summer, my skin needs a stronger cleanser and I reach for a cleanser fortified with salicylic acid.

Applying a daily sunscreen is now as  much part of  my daily routinue as brushing my teet and combing my  hair. Unprotected  sun exposure increases skin cancer risks as well as wrinkles.  But to be honest, my immediate concern is freckles which were cute in my twenties but now  just make my skin look old and muddy.

No-Nonsense Mix of Prescription and Over the Counter  Products

If  I am going to  shell out  serious money for skin care, I want to have extensive reseach behind the claims.  When I  pay  for Retin A Micro or Renova I know that these formulas deliver as promised. I balance  these costs with effective, affordable cleansers and  moisturizers that clock in  at $10 for a 2 month supply.

No-Nonsense Skin Polishers– The Essential Extras

If sun screens are the most important skin care tool, then skin polishers and peels are  my favorite.  Sunscreens  take  care of the long  run, but  skin polishers satisfy my need for immediate gratification with instant results.  I’ve listed  my favorites including a new type of mask that  works for all skin types.

If you try out  any of the products I my tool kit, I would love to hear how they  worked for you.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion-Flash-logoThis  week  it  my turn to  host Fashion Flash!  I am so proud to be part of this group of smart, determined women  who share the  best and latest information in fitness, fashion, health and beauty:

* Josephine of Chic At Any Age shows  how to stay chic and on trend by wearing a “blanket wrap”.

* Fashion blogger Pam Lutell of Over 50, Feeling 40 shares a great new book Style Evolution by Kendall Farr.

* Feeling stressed? Me to! As the holidays approach stress starts to build. Mirabai of Moving Free with Mirabai suggests  some easy exercises to get that stress burden off you  back.

* Besides Ebola, the next biggest media topic this week was the change in Renee Zellweger’s face.  DivaDebbi weighed in last year on the Renee controversy and revisits it again.

* “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”.  Remember those lyrics?  They’re  Diana Flahive’s mantra for her second life and you”ll find  the unique way she got there on Second Lives Club.

* Positive Living advocate Barbara Hannah Grufferman of Best of Everything After 50  thinks that nothing else can put the finishing touch on an outfit than a fabulous pair of glasses!

* Black eyeliner can  look so harsh on older eyes.  Cindy of Prime Beauty  has some interesting alternatives to show you in her top 10 picks for colored  eyeliners.

* According to Kari of Fab Over Forty, exfoliating and moisturizing  are important factors for aging skin and she shows you why  L’Oreal’s Age Perfect Cell Renewal is a budget friendly skincare  line that delivers both.

* RIght on the heels of the  flu season Jackie of Aging Backwards has tips to help you stay healthy.

* Meanie of Society Wellness Pumpkin Chili recipe that rocks! You can also tweek it to suit your taste and lifestyle. In additional to sharing an insanely delicious recipe, Melanie explains the importance of choosing grass fed beef.

Fashion Flash Book Review:  Moosewood New ClassicsFashion Flash Book Review:  Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

My last book for Vegetarian Awarensss Month is from the Moosewood Collective, one of the first   mainstream  plant based restaurants.  Moosewood New Classics recipes  have   the same combination of originality and accessibility of the other books. Most of the recipes are  easy to do and use affordable, widely available ingredients.

I am always looking for new interesting breakfasts and there are over a  dozen  morning recipes  including  oatmeal topped with date glaze,  cherry scones and three savory tofu scrambles.  There  is a different pancake  for every day of the week  which you can top with plum butter  or ginger peach  compote.

Its no secret I’m a soup junkie and Moosewood definately  feeds my habit.  It offers  a trio of  just about the best vegetable stocks including a gingery  Asian stock that rocked my world.  The fennel leek soup with chunks of carrot  and  feathery fragrant dill is  so good and hearty  that it alone is worth buying the book.

Like any true foodie, I jump to the chance to try out iconic restaurants on my travels. On a trip to upstate  New York,  I detoured 50 miles  to grab lunch at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York.   I was a little disappointed  with the limited menu and my veggie couscous  was fairly  bland and a bit mushy.   Maybe  the   glory days of the landmark restaurant  is past, but  the brilliance and charm of the   Moosewood Collective  lives on  in their cookbooks.




A New Tool to Fight Acne

Acne Acne– it affects more than 90% men and women, but there is   small comfort in numbers when you wake up with new  bright red bump on your face.  And while  acne affects so  many of us, we seem to  react  differently to standard acne plans.   Because  what works  for  you  may not work for  me, I  was so  happy to learn of  an effective  new tool in our anti-acne arsenal.

IlluMask is a light therapy  mask that is backed up with solid science.  The face shaped mask is studded  with mostly blue  LED lights. FDA approved, it targets acne in two ways:

1. It reduces the production of inflammtory  chemicals called porphorins. At its core, acne  is an inflammatory process and any way we can reduce inflammation will interfere with the appearance of new pimples.

2. It kills the acne causing  bacteria.  Certain bacteria in the pores are very irritating and trigger  oil production and a  flood of  inflammatory chemicls

IlluMask for Different types of Acne

acne before IlluMaskFor mild acne, the mask  can be used alone without the need  for additional medication. According to cosmetic surgeon  Dr  Z Paul Lorenc who has studied the device, the skin is simply washed with a  mild cleanser like Cetaphil  and used for 15 minutes a night for 30 days. Studies  report  a decline of 75-100 percent of lesions.acne after treatment For moderate to severe acne it can be used in addition to  an established routine that includes Retin A, salicylic acid and antibiotics.  IlluMask can also be very helpful for acne during pregnancy.  Many  effective  acne  care ingredients incuding Retin A, salicylic acid, and antibiotics  are not safe   for the  unborn baby.  Chemical-free  blue  light can  help you clear  up  the skin  during those critical nine months without any risk of birth defects.

Blue light acne therapy  has been around for several years. It is available from a dermatologist, but are very expensive and rarely covered by insurance.   Other blue light home devices have a very small treatment area. You will need to hold it in different areas for 5-10 miutes and move it around your face.  Not easy. IlluMask covers the entire face and a nightly treatment is  just 15 minutes.   And I saved the best part for last– Its  just $29.95, lasts for 30 days and is available at Wal-Mart, Ulta and  Target and online from Amazon.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion-Flash-logoThis week Barbara of Best of Everything After 50 is hosting Fashion Flash. Last week  she was on Dr Phil and this week ( Tuesday)  she  will on  the Doctors talking about   bladder  issues that is  one of the  silent issues  that  many women face as they get older.  She is also  spokeperson for the national Osteoporosis  Foundation and her series of exercises  on Youtube  are so important  for good bone health She is a courageous and positive voice for women over 50 and I am so proud that she is  part of Fashion Flash.

Fashion Flash Book Review:  Face Value by  Hema Sundaram, MD

Some of the most serious questions  on skin care  that come to  my blog are from South Asian  men and women.  Many deal with the appearance of dark paches that spread and darken as time goes by. Even more troubling, the standard acne and anti-aging treatment often  make South Asian skin  problems  even worse. I am always looking for experts  that can help me answer the sometimes frantic questions.

When I found Face Value by  South Asian dermatologist Hema Sundaram, I hoped I had found a great source of much needed information. Browsing thru the book I was intrigued  by  her case studies and the original  way she created individual treatment plans.  I flipped through the book  looking for before and after photos to  support her claims of success.  I discovered there were no photos,  no illustrations, no graphic of any kind.  For a beauty book, this is a serious problem.

I was even more disappointed that there was not a single reference  to the unique skin care needs to men and  women with darker skin tones.   I t seems like every dermatologist in NYC has published a book that covers  pretty much the same material.  It’s unfortunate that  this author  did not use her unique cultural perspective  to provide an original and much needed book.

I have  covered a number of skin  problems for women of color  including the  safe use of lasers,  the value of arbutin for skin lightening and  these best way to use Retin A for acne. In the next few weeks I will be archiving them in a new tab  so the info will  be quickly available.  When it comes  to beauty, the truth is out there.


What the Heck is Niacinamide?

Question and Answer logoQuestion:  What is  niacinamide and what can it do for  my skin?   I bought a moisturizer that promised to lighten dark patches.  Then I  read about another product that claimed niacinamide improves acne AND  smooths  fine lines.  Can niacinamide do all of these things?  None of them?

Answer:  Niacinamide  aka nicotinic acid is a form of vitamin B3 (aka niacin).  This vitamin is  essential for healthy skin, nerves and digestion.  Lack of niacin can lead to skin inflammation and nerve damage and over time severe lack of nacin  will lead to pellegra.

On the surface of the skin, niacinamide has a wide range of benefits.  There are   good clinical studies that show nicinamide can reduce inflammation of acne.  In fact a  study  showed that a 4-5% niacinamide gel is as effective as clindamycin in reducing acne– and without the concern  of developing bacterial resistance. Nice.

But wait there is more. Niacinamide also inhibits melanin production. Over time, is can effectively reduce splotches of melasma and sun damage.Niacinamide also does indeed promote cell growth and repair that leads to firmer, smoother skin.

And I have saved the best for last– niacinamide stimulates the production of both ceramides and  hyaluronic acid.  These two super natural moisturizes decline as we get older– a  major cause of increased dryness.  Net result?  Niacinamide can certainly claim  to be a great moisturizer.

Niacinamide– THe Big “But”

On paper, niacinamide seems like your skin’s new best friend.  But there is a problem.  You need a 4-5% formulation and  at that level  it can be irritating and turn your skin quite red.   Many commercial  products avoid the issue by using only a very small amount of  niacinamide– which unfortunately  produces very small results.

One brand, Nia24 has modified the niacinamide molecule to reduce irritation yet maintain benefits.   Nia 24  products have 4-5% niacinamide and provide both  impressive clinical studies to back up their claims  and  before and after photos.   Nia24 is  available online and is often sold by dermatologists and plastic surgeons.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

Fashion-Flash-logoThis week Mirabai  of Moving Free with Mirabai is hosting Fashion Flash.  These days it seems that all a trainer needs is a  lap top and a smart phone–  no credentials, no experience, no  references needed.  This is why I  have so  much  confidence and  admiration  for Mirabai.  She has more than  four degrees and 20 years of experience.  And what I think  makes her extra special is that  she  still bubbles with   a passion and enthusiasm  for  health and exercise  programs.  Mirabai  has created  fitness programs for children, heart patients, word class athletes, and  new mommies.  She knows   how every bone, muscle and ligaments  works and her science based  yet entertaining  approach  always  works, never hurts.  Check out her site for great advice and videos.  You’ll  thank me.

Fashion Flash book reviewFashion Flash  Book Review: Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville

October is National Vegetarian  Month and I have been reviewing  vegetarian cookbooks for  both taste and ease.  I started  with the classic Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by the justly famous  Deborah Madison.  She was the founding  chef of the ground breaking  Greens restaurant in San Fransisco. The style and cuisine at Greens  took  vegetarian restaurants  where they had never been before.  The vegetables and  herbs were organically in their own  Green Gulch Farm

When I found  Field of Greens, by another Greens  chef, I was  thrilled.   The range of recipes   was  breathtaking–butternut squash soup  with apple confit, linguine with  orange-saffron butter and corn cakes with smoked cheese and chilies.  As a frustrated farmer, I was so grateful  for the real time gardening tips that accompanied   numerous recipes.

The recipes are glorious but   much more complicated  than in the earlier book by Deborah Madison.  Most recipes  in Field of Greens have at least 18  different ingredients and  many have as  many as 35 . Not only  does this make each recipe time consumming, they are pricey. ( By contrast,  the recipes  from Vegearian Cooking for Everyone usually need  6 ingredients including salt, pepper and olive oil). For example,  Somerville uses leeks rather than onions.  Since leeks are   at least 4X more expensive than onions,  this raises the cost of  each course.   In addition to  more ingredients,   many of the recipes  call for complicaed pre-recipes to complete  a dish.  For example,  squash  turnovers  call for homemade dough and corn soup  calls for  homemade corn stock.  The recipes are wonderful, but this is definately not  for weekday meals.

Fashion and Beauty Support Breast Cancer Awareness

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month  and the fashion and beauty community is  providing  support in literally hundreds of events and initiatives:

Caner fundraiser from HalsbrookHalsbrook Fund-Raising Pop-Up Store for Cancer Center

In  recent years,  shopping ceased to be fun for me.    Stores seemed to be  packed with clothing that  fit neither my  life nor  my  body.  I could  not find  comfortable, flattering   suits, dresses or shoes that  projected  who I was and what  I did.  Where once I would   stagger home with bags of great  picks,  I often returned home  empty handed.

When I discoverd, it was like the mothership calling me  home.  My newest favorite online retailer, Halsbrook   has a beautiful  selection of clothing  for women over  40.  It takes  you from the beach to the boardroom with  age appropriate style that is sophisticated but never dull.   And to help me pull it all together,  Halsbrook offers  over  two dozen  style plans for  a wide range of  places and activities.

This  type of style  can carry a significant  price tag.  Not to worry.  This week, a Halsbrook pop-up sale to benefit  Memorial Sloan Kettering, will offers racks of clothing  at  up to 70% of their original prices.   The sale will include  St John  coats, dresses from Carolina Herrera and Peter Som, St James striped tees and Armani jackets.

It was dizzying , but I kept my head and came home with a  cashmere swing sweater in camel, an oversized  link necklace  and  a multi colored  Palua Ka evening bag(  just $59). I had admired these beauties  on the website and now they live with me.

The pop-up sale will run Friday and Saturday   at the Society  Boutique at 1440 Third Avenue ( between 81st and 82nd street) For more  information, please call 212-535-1250.  And if you miss  the Halsbrook  pop-up,  check out the always temping sale section on

Skin care during cancer treatmentSkin Care  During Cancer Treatment

When Merilyn Konnerth  could not find products to soothe  her radiation and  chemo  treated skin, she teamed up with her pharmacist  father to create her own.  Called  Skin in Treatment,  it eliminates  all irritating ingredients ( eg glycolic acid and alcohol) and relies on natural oils and antioxidants.  She  is now a finalist in the Martha Stewart Made in America Contest.  This event is designed to support local artisans and homemade products.  There are 25   categories and Merilyn is a finalist  in the beauty category.  She is inspiring and her products  are wonderful.  Please  take a moment and  click  VOTE before October 15  to send  her some love and support.




Don’t Miss Fall Fashion Event

POSH Fall Fashion SaleLast May I hit the famous POSH sale that offers designer clothing at a fraction of their original price tag.  Its an astonishing fundraiser for the Lighthouse Guild that  has raised millions since it started over 40 years ago.  My haul included a totally Audrey silk  flowered Nina Ricci  dress  ($75) and a six foot beaver scarf by Prada ( $90).  I thought I was going to have to wait a year for another sale but I was  wrong.  This week, POSH will host  its three  day Fall Fashion Sale from October  10-12. Admission is FREE and it will be  held at their east side campus at 110 East 60th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues. For more info  call 212-821-9300.

I had a chance to preview the sale  and on  just one rack I  found a red  Heidi  Weisel pantsuit  ($60), a navy Stella McCartney dress ( $75) and a  simply perfect navy Armani suit  ($120). There is also a large selection of equally wonderful men’s clothes that included a cache of Hermes ties.  I can’t wait to go  and I hope to see you there!POSH sale includes men