Choosing A Microdermabrasion Device

microdermabrasion  is the key to beautiful skinHome  microdermabrasion is  IMO one of the great skin care developments in the last  ten  years.  Its well known that men appear to age more slowly than women– and  some experts believe  that it  may be due to their daily shave.  When  men scrape off a fresh crop of bristles each morning, they also take off the top layer of dead dry skin cells, stale  oil,  and ground-in dirt.  Lifting this top layer signals the lower level  to start producing a new supply of healthy young cells.  But we can defy  gender  and get the same benefits by using a home microdermabrasion device to  gently and throughly exfoliate the skin.  The rotating head and cleanser will take off the top layer of dead cells that muddy  the complexion and slow down cell growth.  These tools can range from less than $20  to almost $250– and I tried six  widely available models.

1. Clarisonic  Pro Microdermabrasion ( $225)

Clrisonic is the gold standard for  a home microdermabrasion tool.  The Clarisonic Pro is sold with two brushes and samples of different cleansers.   The cleaning cycle is two  minutes with beeps that prompts you to move to different parts of the face. The back and forth  oscillating motion enhances the basic brushing action of the Clarisonic bristles.  The recharger means that  the unit will  always mean  the unit will be ready to use.   It can even  be used in the shower and  you can buy a slightly larger brush for the body.

My only reservation for the Clarisonic is the price.  The Pro model kit is $225 and the travel model is $119.

2. DDF Revolve ($100)

This device is small, but mighty.  Each kit comes with a foam head, a soft brush head and a small tube of exfoliating cleanser.  It left my skin clean and fresh, albeit a bit tight.  There is no timer and no way  to replace the batteries so when they are dead you will need to buy another machine.  However I have used my DDF several times a  week for more than two years and its still going strong.  I LOVE the cleansing grains, but the only way  to get more is in a kit that contains a 2.5 ounce tube as well as two replacement heads for $50.  When I ran out of cleanser, my heads were still in good shape.  Bummer.

3. Oil of Olay Professional PROX ( $33)

When I opend the box, I took a double take.  It  looked EXACTLY  like the DDF Revolve but the batteries were easily replaceable.  The Oil of Olay PRO X has only  one brush head and a very small tube of exfoliating cleanser.  The brush was slightly rougher than DDF, but it molded effortlessly around the nose  giving those pores a through cleansing.  If you have dry or sensitive skin, I would use the cleansing grains once a week and a mild cleanser  the rest of the time.

Instructions are a bit different for this device.  Instead of wetting the face and applying  the cleanser to the brush head, the PRO X cleanser is applied directly to the damp face and then worked into the face with the rotating brush.

Replacing the cleanser and brush is super easy and affordable. A six ounce tube ( $20) and two brush heads ( 2 for $12) are available in the Olay section of most pharmacies.

4. CVS Facial Cleansing Power Brush ( $19)

Another DDF Revolve lookalike at  just  1/5 the cost.  The starter kit comes with two brushes and two AA batteries. The device has one button that controls high/low speeds and a second button that changes the direction of the brush. The device moves easily around the face and effortlessly clears out clogged pores on the nose.  There is no special cleanser which leaves you to use your favorites. I love this tool! It is a great little device at a great price.  Its  the one I toss into my suitcase when I’m traveling.

5. Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System ( $20)

This hand held device uses disposable pads to polish and exfoliate the skin.  The kit includes two AA batteries and 12 disposable pads which are designed to last a month. Additional pads are available in most pharmacies where the device is sold ( 24 for $16).  The vibrations felt intense as I worked the head around  my face. The flat hard head made it difficult to get around the nose, but my skin felt very clean and fresh– maybe too fresh.   My  skin felt a little too  tight  and my skin tends to be oily.  While Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System is aimed at anti-aging issues, it might be too intense for thin, fine drier skin.   I was not surprised  that directions on the box recommended using the device only 3X/wk. By comparison, other types  of devices including Neutrogena Sonic and CVS Power Brush suggest using their exfoliating  tool every day. My skin needs daily, gentle exfoliation and 3X/week just doesn’t  work for  me. Since Neutrogena only uses their disposable pads you can’t control  the  impact by using a gentle cleanser.

6. Neutrogena Wave Sonic Power Cleanser ( $19)

This little pink tool fits  neatly in the palm of your hand.  A disposable foaming  pad on the top gently rotates on the skin. Although the pad  contains salicylic acid, my skin felt less tight than with other devices.  The box also contains two AA batteries and 14 foaming pads — a two week supply. The head rotates rather than vibrates and can be used in the shower.   However the  hard head makes it rather difficult to clean ut the pores on the nose.  There are two types of replacement pads.  For  normal and dry skin there are the original foaming pads ( $30 for $9) and exfoliating pads for  oily/acne troubled skin ( 30 pads for $9).

One final thought:  When I do a review of a group of products, usually some are better than others. But  in this selection of  microdermabrasion tools, they were all  well designed and  delivered great results. Like  most beauty  bloggers  I tend extra  products to friends and family.  But I fell in love with each and everyone of these  age busters and  kept all of them.They are that good.

Facials and Retin A– Good Idea or Bad Idea?

Question and Answer logoQuestion:  I used to have facials  several times a year.  Now that I am using  Retin A,   can I continue  my favorite  indulgence?

Answer:  I  love facials and I love Retin A, but together they may  pose problems.  If you are using Retin A, you need to weigh three issues:

1.How long you have been on Retin A ?

2. How is your skin reacting to Retin A?

3. What kind of facial do you want to use?

If you have just started on Retin A ( less than three months),   the short answer is no.  Retin A  is irritating on purpose and adding  a facial  early in the process can be asking for trouble.  Your skin could easily react with redness and peeling  that would require  stopping Retin A  for at least a month. 

If you are able to tolorate  Retin A every night,  and the benefits seem to be leveling off, a good facial can jump start new radiance.  But if you can only tolorate Retin A every other night, again a traditional facial  might be too much of a good thing.

There are facials and then  there are FACIALS.  I love the Hydrafacial that combines, suction microdermabrasion, glycolic peel,  anti-aging serum infusions and extractions to produce a turely gorgeous glow.  However its an intense process and   you should take a  Retin A holiday that starts 4 days before the Hydrofacial and  3 days afterwards.  A less intensive facial with  just  microdermabrasion and glycolic peel  can also be a wonderful way to  prep the skin for Retin A.   If you are a Retin A newbie,  this facial combo  will  take off   a layer of dead skin cells that are coating the surface and clogging pores.  It will allow Retin A  better access to the skin and speed up renewal process.   Just do it no less than  4 days prior to starting Retin A.

I also like facials that use   different types of  face  masks.  While some  are  designated hydrating and others as cleansing,  all masks  share  the  same benefits- they take off  that pesky top layer that makes the skin look dull and  unhealthy.  And while they  sit on the skin they allow the skin to build up  healthy water levels that  help reduce  lines and creases.   Nice.       




Winter Issue of No-Nonsense Beauty Blog Newsletter

winter newsletterJust published– the winter issue of the No-Nonsense Beauty Blog  Newsletter.  I was one of the founding editors of the Berkeley Wellness Newsletter and  I love the newsletter format  for sharing current research  and consumer information.  In this, the  second issue of the No-Nonsense Newsletter, I explore ways that  ways that Retin A can help brittle nails and the surprising facts about diet and heart disease in women.  Hint– its very different  from men.

Skin Care Consumer Reports

In my consumer comparison section, I road test  and rate five different  home microdermabrasion devices that range from  $19.95 to $225.  And I’ll share my new favorite that  just a fraction of the cost of  Clarisonic. Its no secret that I love Clarisonic ( who doesn’t), but the price is another story.  With  the fiscal cliff  now in full view,  I want to  look good at the lowest possible price.  I rated  the devices for  five features– intensity, availability,  cleansers, ease of use and  last but not least price.   Some did an excellent  job but had refill issues.  Others worked well on the cheeks but were less successful  around the nose and chin.   After you read  my compare and contrast, I’d love to hear about your  experiences with microdermabrasion tools.  I believe  that effective exfoliation is the foundation of great skin care and  these  home devices are key  to a clear fresh complexion.

To get your copy,  just click  at  the box on the right hand column and  the newsletter will arrive in your email by tomorrow.   In future issues, I will also be working with experts to answer you  skin care questions. To get  advice from the best and the brightest,  send your questions to

Microdermabrasion or Botox– Which is Better?

Question–  In a few months I’m turning 50.  After half a century, my skin is looking tired and I want to give myself a birthday present.  Which would be better, microdermabrasion or Botox?  You seem to really like both of them.

Answer– Happy birthday!  I do like both  microdermsabrasion and Botox, but  they are very different  anti-aging tools and  deal with different  problems.  Microdermabrasion  takes of the top dead layer  of skin cells to leave the skin smoother, brighter and softer.  In addition, removing these old cells actually stimulates the lower levels to grow.  Researchers have noticed that  mens’ skin seems to age more slowly than women’s– and they believe that part of the reason is the daily  shave which encourages the growth of  fresh new skin every day.

Botox injections at  problem areas  can erase fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes and  forehead.   It can change contours of the face, while microdermabrasion changes the texture and color of the surface of the skin.  The two tools actually work very well together– microdermabrasion  to improve the texture and color of the skin and Botox  to deal with contours that are a half a century old. 

Your question actually gets to the heart of my anti-aging journey–  which tools and techniques  work and how to combine them to get the best possible results.  I decided to start on the dark spots and splotches  from sun damage- first with Retin A and then with microdermabrasion.  When the skin’s surface looked smooth and fresh,  I added Botox to erase the lines at the sides of  my mouth and around my eyes.  You can see these results  on  the No-Nonsense Beauty BLog Facebook Page.  Just click on the Facebook  icon.

Microdermabrasion, as  much as I love the immediate results, lasts only a few days.  For long lasting  results, I suggest starting with a low dose   nightly Retin A  cream.  You should see very nice results within six weeks.  The skin will  look fresher and clearer.  Then  try the Botox to deal with the after effects  fifty years of laughing and talking.  And here’s to  another wonderful fifty years.

Microdermabrasion– Five Top Questions

1.  How does microdermabrasion work?

Microdermabrasion  removes the  top dead dry  layer of the skin a process that benefits different types of skin issues. For oily skin,  it  “de-roofs”  blocked pores  to remove  blackheads and reduce break-outs.  For dry aging skin, microdermabrasion makes the skin look fresh and glowing.  Many experts believe that  removing the top dead layer  of skin signals the skin to grow healthy firm skin. 

2.  Is there a difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion?

A big difference.  Dermabrasion is actually considered surgery.  It is  painful and local anesthesia is needed as  a laser removes most of the epiderrmis.  Afterwards the skin is raw, red and a bit bloody for at least a week.  Full healing can take months, but a successful dermabrasion  can lighten dark patches, remove fine lines and erase acne scars.

Microdermabrasion is not nearly so intense.  It is considered a procedure ( rather than surgery) and can be done in an office by a doctor or their assistants.  The full court press microdermabrasion  uses a combination of  suction and metallic crystals.  There are at least a dozen different brands of microdermabrasion devices including Parisian Peel and the Hydra- Facial– my personal favorite.

Here’s how it works:

During an office based microdermabrasion the machine wand blasts the skin with aluminium  crystals or a diamond tipped head.  The attached suction device  pulls the skin to provide  better access as welll as captures the loosened skin cells. Many  microdermabrasion machines also infuse skin care products ( peptide or vitamin C serums) into the treated skin.Microdermabrasion improves the quality  of the skin’s surface.  There is no healing time and you leave the office looking  fresh and radiant.

3. Can I use Retin A with microdermabrasion?

To avoid unnecessary redness, irritation and peeling, you should stop using Retin A  48 hours before and after microdermabrasion. If your skin is dry and/or sensitive you might also want  to avoid other potential irritants including vitamin C, glycolic acid  or scrubbing grains.

4. Who should not use microdermabrasion?

As  good as it is, microdermabrasion can be a problem  if you have certain types of underlying skin care problems.   If you have active rosacea or acne, psoriasis, eczema, open sores or herpes, microdermabrasion can makes these problems worse.  If you tend to develop darkened or discolored patches ( hyperpigmentation) from irritation,  microdermabrasion  may  provoke new pigmentation rather than remove it.

5. Do  home microdermabrasion kits really work?

Most of the home microdermabrasion kits are traditional exfoliators using  scrubbing grains or brushes to remove dry dead  surface skin. Some like the DDF Micropolishing System use a rotary pad with polishing crystals- closely related to the effective office based procedure, but do  not have the suction action of a physicians  microdermabrasion system.  However they are a great budget beauty option.  Most are around $50 $100 for  the kit  while   microdermabrasion with a dermatologist  runs $150-300 per session.

How Good is The Clarisonic Skin Cleanser?

I have been intrigued by the Clarisonic Skin Cleanser, but was put off by its $250 price tag. Its not that I didn’t think I was worth the money– I didn’t know if the machine was that special. At a health and beauty trade show ( HBA) this year, the Clarisonic was offered at a special show price and I was in. When I finally got around to trying it, it was after I had used a wide range of skin care tools. After lasers, IPL, Pelleve and glycolic peels, I was doubtful that a little home machine could make much of a difference. I was wrong.

 Clarisonic cleansed and polished my skin– but was gentle enough so that I could use Retin A an hour later. It can be used twice a day and each time my skin looks better.  It made my skin look poreless with a rosy radiance.  So good in fact that I  now often skip  my foundation that would conceal  my new  natural healthy glow.

The Clarisonic works on a unique principle.  The brushes on the head move very rapidly in opposite directions. According to the manufacturer, this rapid movement  actually helps the pores empty themselves of oil, dead  cells and dirt– making  it a tool that works  for all skin types.   I am guessing that by emptying the pores, they are no longer stretched out with  junk and now are closed and invisable.  The glow  probably comes from the removal of the top layer of dead skin cells, that reveal  fresher, newer skin.

 The kit that I got came with  three different types of “un” or very lightly scented cleansers– a non-foaming formulation for sensitive skin,  a gel cleanser for normal/oily skin and a creamy one for dry skin.  I liked them all.  The Clarisonic can be used with other cleansers and I tried the machine with an old favorite.  It worked fine, but I liked the way  the Clarisonic cleansers worked better with the  brush head.    I was so pleased with  the way it worked on my  face, I wondered  if  it would work on my body.  Turns out  that there is bigger brush for the body. Nice.

To use,  simply wet your face and the  brush head with warm water and apply a bit of cleanser to the soft bristles.  Then you press the on button  and apply to the face in small circular motions.  There are a series of beeps and lights that tell you when to move to another part of the face.  At first it seemed a little OCD to me, but after a few days, it felt perfectly natural.

There are so many  beauty  products out there  that over-promise and under -deliver.  It was  so nice to get my hands on a device that  actually made a beautiful difference.  Clarisonic Skin Cleanser– Worth. Every. Penny.

Anti-Aging Skin Care- The Fabulous Fourteen

When I started exploring anti-aging options a few months go, I had  just three go-to products.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care — I just didn’t know what my skin  truely needed. Too many times  I would be vulnerable  to  great sales pitch and find that the expensive “miracle cream”  either did nothing or  made my face break-out.  Now that I am testing out wrinkling fighting tools and techniques, I had to try out  an endless buffet of skin care products.  Trial and lots of error  has resulted in a group of cleansers, moisturizers and sunscreens that deliever on their  promises.  I call them my “Fabulous Fourteen” and today I have uploaded that list in the blog tab ” Beauty Tool Kit”.  I explain  how to use  them, how they  work and  how much they cost.  I have only one face and can’t try out everything, so I would love to hear about your go-to products.

Is Water the Secret to Beautiful Skin?

Its hard to pick up a newpaper or magazine without reading of another celebrity  who credits her  good looks to-wait for it- drinking  plenty of water.  For example Kim Kardashian   has admitted to  extensive laser hair removal (” hey, I’m Armeanian”) and  posted  photos of her post- Botox bruises.  Yet in an interview she credits her luminous skin and incredible body  to drinking water.

Now I have nothing against water but its not the fountain  of youth.  I drink it every day and in fact I  especially like Poland Spring water  which is from a real  spring and not  just filtered  reservoir water.  And I can understand that iconic beauties don’t want to reveal their use of Botox, fillers, lasers or even IPL.  But why  can’t they  share some  real beauty advice that is safe and affordable such as   Retin A, glycolic peels or microdermabrasion.  Something more honest than water.