Question: How Can Good Products Produce Bad Results?

Question on PeelsQuestion:   I’ve been using  a 1% retinol serum, 15% vitamin C serum for my face and another 5% vitamin c serum for my eyes for two weeks and now my skin  is a mess!  It’s red, peeling, super dry and  wrinkled.  It even hurts   when I wash my face and put on sunscreen.   I’m so scared and don’t know what to do.

Answer:   These are  strong and genuinely  effective  formulations, but you overdid it a bit.  According to the wizard of Park Avenue, Dr Albert Lefkovits, stop using all  current products.  He recommends soothing the skin  with a milk compress.  Soak a  man’s hankerchief  in a mixture of   1/4 cup milk and 1/4 room temperature  cup water, wring it out  a bit and apply it to  face and neck.  Wash your face with a  super gentle cleanser like Cetaphil or Dove  soap.

At night try  a mild moisturizer like Ponds cold cream or Aquaphor.  If redness persists  apply .05% cortisone cream available at a pharmacy without a prescription.   In the daytime, use  a  mineral based sunscreen like SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion.  If the skin does not calm down within a week, you should  check in  with a doctor.  There  might  be something  besides  an irritation reaction going on.

When your skin recovers, you can start slowly  resuming the  same products .  Use the retinol every other day and the vitamin c eye  serum only at night.   In the daytime, use the vitamin C serum every other day  and top it with a mineral based  sunscreen.   Gradually work up to using retinol every night and vitamin C serum every  day, but never  at the same time.  At the first sign of irritation, cut back to  using  products several times a week rather than  every day.

I  suspect that some   manufacturers formulate weak  products because they want to avoid this type  of situation.  I can totally  understand that approach , but I believe that  better consumer information would  prevent this type of skin melt down.  If the sales literature gave more extensive info, these episodes could be avoided.  Better  information will allow us to  use effective products to get maximum results– very much the fundamental mission statement   of No-Nonsense Beauty Blog.

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.       




Question & Answer– Am I a Retin A Failure?

Question:  You’ve totally sold me on the benefits of tretinoin but it just doesn’t work for me.  I used Retin A Micro  and  followed your guidelines– washed with  a mild soap, waited 30 minutes after washing, and used it 3X/week– but my skin is constantly  irritated and flaky.  What else can I do to deal with too many years in the sun?

Answer: Before you declare defeat, keep in mind that Retin A is a brand name( like Kleenex or Xerox) and there are different formulations that could be a better choice for  you.  Retin A  Micro is a gel that is actually approved for acne, not anti-aging.   It works well for thicker, oilier skin ( like  mine) but finer, drier skin types  may over react.

To get the benefits of tretinoin without irritation, Dr Heidi Waldorf of Mount Sinai Medical Center recommends Refissa ” This is a full strength .05% formulation in a true emollient base.  This provides the  maximum anti-aging benefits with less dryness and redness.”

Dr Waldorf, director of  Laser and Cosmetic Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, recommends washing your skin at night with a rich cleansing like Cereve Hydrating Cleanser, followed by  application of  a pea sized dab on  your face and another dab on your hands, neck, and chest.  Rub in well.  Follow immediately with a bland moisturizer  like CereVePM.  In the morning wash with gentle cleanser and top with a a rich sunscreen like  Anthelios SX.  Start using it 2-3X/week and gradually work up every night application.  Don’t worry if you can only use it twice a week during dry winter months– you can still get benefits. 

As with other forms of tretinoin, its important to avoid excessive use of exfoliating scrubs, astringents, toners and to stop the retinoid a few days before and after waxing or electrolysis.

Unlike Retin A, Refissa is actually approved by the FDA to reverse signs of aging and sun damage.   You should start to see benefits after two months of diligent use.  After a year, use it 2-3X/week for maintenance.

Q and A– Diluting Retin A?

Question:  I’m concerned that  that Retin A Micro .o4% will irritate my skin.  Can I mix it with  my moisturizer before  applying it?

Answer:    I’ve received this type of comment  so frequently I think it deserves a post of its own.  Mixing  Retin A ( aka tretinoin) with a moisturizer immediately reduces its concentration and  impast on the skin.  If you take a pea size dab of  .04% tretinoin with an equal dab of moisturizer, the concentration is now .02%– lower than any other prescription grade  tretinoin.  If there is more moisturizer than tretinoin, then the concentration is even lower  and the action on the skin will be very limited.  Then there is the issue of cost.  Retin A  Micro .04% runs about $300/tube.  If you dilute it to .02%  you will get more  for  your beauty dollar if you buy  .1% Retinol from Skinceuticals which clocks in at $100.

There are tried  and true  methods of reducing  risk of   redness and flaking with tretinoin products.  Start by choosing  a mild cleanser like Cetaphil and  wait  at least 30 minutes between washing your face and applying  tretinoin.  Ease into a tretinoin regimen  by applying it every other night for several weeks gradually working up to an every night routinue.  If redness develops, stick  with using it only three times a week.  Make sure  you avoid  other products that could cause irritation  including microdermabrasion, glycolic acid peels, exfoliating pads or grains and alcohol based toners.  At night  use a  moisturizer like CerVe PM ( which is brimming with ceramides and hyaluronic acid) over tretinoin to prevent irritation.   Commit to using  at least a 30SPF sunscreen  each and every  morning.  Tretinoin increases sensitivity to the sun  and you can get red and flaky even from sunlight through a window.  It will take at least  six weeks to produce a noticable difference.  Don’t be impatient and stick with the program.  I believe that tretinoin is the foundation of a stong anti-aging plan.  What ever else you do, tretinoin will  supply a daily  boost to skin cell growth that refines the surface and boosts collagen production-  all good things.

One final thought.  I also  hear from women  who apply their tretinoin OVER a moisturizer.  Please don’t do that.  Tretinoin is  one of a handful of ingredients that can actually pass throught he layers of the skin to  provide  real benefits to the lower, living layer of the skin.  Applying a moisturizer just blocks access to the skin and inhibits all the good that tretinoin can do.

Retin A and Acne– What Cleansers and Moisturizers Can I Use?

I got a great  email from a 16 year old  who  is using Retin A micro  for acne control.  Like most of us, she got the prescription with little or no advice about   how to use it.  She wanted to know what  scrubbing grains, toners and moisturizer I would recommend.  She was concerned about the redness and peeling and wanted to avoid these problems with additional  skin  care products

Retin A  was actually originally  developed and approved for acne  management.  This vitamin A derivative helps the skin to empty  pores clogged with debris, shuts down overactive oil glands and helps skin turnover to reduce discolorations from old acne eruptions.   This process includes flaking off old dry keratin that is contributing to blocked pores and breakouts. Some peeling and flaking is necessary and actually good.  However   you need to keep it under control to avoid too much redness and irritation.

The  solution  is to allow  Retin A to do what it does best. Twice a day use an extremely gentle  oil-free cleanser such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser and apply with damp cotton pads. Rinse off with handfuls of lukewarm water. Even a washcloth can be too rough in the first months of Retin A treatment   Start by using Retin A every other night and gradually, over three weeks, work up to an every night routinue.

In the early months of using Retin A  its very import ant to avoid additional irritants such as scrubbing grains or pads, toners and even alpha hydroxy acids ingredients  such as glycolic acid.  It certainly takes  a leap of faith to abandon these tried and true acne aids and simply   trust Retin A to clear your skin– but  that’s the best way to succeed.  These products and ingredients  are  simply too irritating to be used at the beginning of Retin A therapy and can make the skin so red and sore that  people abandon Retin A treatment.

Using a moisturizer  to control the peeling  can actually  lead to additional breakouts.  If your skin becomes too irritated and flaky,  use a tiny dab of oil-free moisturizer and take a two day Retin A holiday.  In the morning make sure  to use an light fragrance-free oil  sunscreen such as  Aveeno Ultra Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 30.  Retin A  increases sensitivity to sun damage and its ESSENTIAL to use a sunscreen each and every day– even when its cloudy.

After six months, you skin will  become comfortable, even bored with Retin A.   At this point you can amp  up the impact by adding exfoliators such as 3M Buf Puf Pads or  my beloved Clarisonic cleanser.  Toners and peels with glycolic acid can   provide additional  benefits  for acne-prone skin.   But if irritation and flaking  reappear,  cut back on the extras and focus on Retin A.

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.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

This weeks hosts are Fashion Flash founders The Glam  Gals of  Fabulous After 40.  I love to read their blog at the start  of each season to give me a cheat sheet on how a women over 40 can master  trends.  They decode the new ideas and then  explain how to use them in real time.  For example, plaids are  going to be  huge this year, but a grandma in a plaid mini skirt in not my idea of chic.  You’ve got to read Fabulous Over Forty to see  what smart ideas they have  for plaid.

And when you’ve clicked through all the great Fashion Flash  sites, please stop on Fab Over Fifty to grab a ticket for Beauty Bash.  Held on Oct 1&2 at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th St, this is an incredible  health and beauty  expo that celebrates women over 40.  On Sunday Oct 2, at 10:30  I will be doing a presentation with Kari of Fabulous Over Forty called “Top Ten Skin Care and Make-up Tips.”  I will be explaining the twelve signs of aging and how to deal with  them easily and affordably.  I’ll also be giving out samples of,  IMO, the two most important  anti-aging  items  we should have on hand.  If you can’t make the presentation, I will be at  a booth with Kari handing out the No-Nonsense Guide to Retin A and will have  more samples.  Please come by to say hello!  If you go to  the Beauty Bash site  and enter the code FOF20, you will get a 20% discount on the ticket price!

Q&A– Am I too young to worry about aging?

Question:  Although I am only in  my late twenties I’ve done everthing I shouldn’t to my skin.  I’ve smoked since I was 15, used baby oil to  bake in the sun ( love the smell) and  never pass up a plate of  hot  fries or a cold beer.  What can I do  not to look 40  before I turn 30?

Answer: LOL. Great question and I hope my answer doesn’t sound too preachy. Up to age 60 about 80% of skin aging is due to lifestyle choices.  Diet, sun exposure, tobacco and alcohol add decades to your skin age.  That’s the bad news.  The good news?  You are young enough to erase this damge and prevent new problems.

Given that you probably have sun damage  I would  jumpstart skin care with an IPL treatment.  ( You can see the great before and after pix of my BFF Judith) To keep the anti-aging process on track, I would use Retin A three times a week.   Give the baby oil to a baby and protect your skin with a 30 SPF moisturizer. You’ve recognized  your own bad beauty habits and I’m betting  that you are ready to walk the walk to healthier choices.  Good luck!