Beauty Tool Box Update

medicine cabinetWhen a product delivers  for me I tend  to stay with it until its discontinued.   While loyalty is admirable, its better to understand that skin  needs can change  and so should our  products.  Here are six new favorites to bring my basic tool  box to 20 I can’t live without products.

1. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($8.00)

When my skin developed strange red splotches and spots, I needed to crank up my skin cleaning routinue.  This 2.5% salicylic gel  leaves my skin clean, but not tight.  If my skin feels especially oily, I spurt a dab of  this gel on my Clarisonic brush head  and buff away.

2. SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 ( $32)

With my newly irritable skin I could no longer use my favorite  sun screens.  Every thing I tried  provoked breakouts.  At one point my  only option seemed a big hat  in summer and a ski mask in winter.  When I interviewed laser expert Dr  Tina Alster on post- laser  care, she urged me to try  this zinc based sunblock.  It is as good as promised.  On my skin it looks like a nicely formulated foundation, gives me a 50 SPF and never, ever causes  spots and splotches.  Great call.

3.  Susan Posnick Brush-On Block ($30)

I top my sunblock with a bronzer and blush so after two hours I’m not going to wash off my face and reapply a liquid sunscreen.  Enter Brush On Block SPF30.  This tinted zinc sunblock powder is packaged in a brush topped tube that floats on so easily  I don’t even need a mirror to apply it.  In summer, I can  just  pull it out  of my bag and brush it on as I walk down a sunny street.

4. Jane Iredale Corrective Colors ( $24)

You know a product is a keeper when you go out to buy another one when you see  its running out.  This defines my relationship to Color Correctives.   Many concealers do a nice job dealing with problem areas ( ie under eye circles), but Color Correctives  seem to last  all day. 

5. Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment ( $6.00)

This small tube delivers 2.5% of benzoyl peroxide acne  fighting power.  Benzoyl peroxide blocks the breakout process by  killing the bacteria in the pores that   can trigger breakouts.  Used with the  Neutrogena salicylic acid  fortified  cleanser, it attacks acne on two fronts.  Salicylic acid  strips away the skin that is blocking the pores and the benzoyl peroxide deals with the acne provoking bacteria.  Its like the Batman and Robin of acne care.

6. Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs ($ 12)

During the dead of winter, I don’t even think about the skin  on my legs.  Hidden by boots, tights or pants,  my legs are   on their own.  But with  skirt and dress weather  just around the corner,  I know I will be dealing with  ghostly  white legs that don’t even match the rest of my skin.  Given what I  now  know about skin cancer and melanoma, toasting my  legs in a tanning booth is out of the question.  After  many self tanning failures that left my legs splotchy  and my bathroom a mess, I discovered  Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs.  Its  quick, inexpensive and  works beautifully.  I used to use it just in winter, but now that  fashion  has turned its back on pantie hose, I spray it on all year round.

Do I Really Need to Use A Sunscreen in Winter?

Q&A2Question: I am a 45 year old South Asian women. I now live near Chicago  and the weather is  usually  grey and very cold.  My cousin says I still need to use a sunscreen and I think its unnecesary  at this time of year.  Who is right?

Answer: Umm, I tend to stay out of family arguments, but  in this case I have to say your cousin is right.  The UV rays are  hitting our skin all year  round.  While  your melanin rich complexion  provides protection from sun aging and skin cancers,  even weak UV rays  can  provoke  unwanted patches of darker pigmentation known as hyperpigmentation or melasma.    Brown spots and splotches  are an increasing problem  for  skin  of color.  Rather than spend a good part of your beauty dollar on  products that promise to  brighten and even out the skin tones,  prevent hyperpigmentation by investing   in a sunscreen with at least a 30SPF.  In summer a 50SPF is  even better.

Virtually every dermatologist  I  speak to makes sun protection for everyone  their main focus– and they dream of the day when its as automatic  as brushing  your teeth.  Because its so essential for skin health and beauty, its key is choosing the right sunscreen for your skin.  If you have dry skin, a good sunscreen can   boost  hydration.  However if you have oily  or acne prone skin,   the wrong sunscreen can increase  skin problems.  For  best results,  look for  oil free forumulation that provide physical sun protection with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.  The chemical sunscreens like avobenzone and Mexoryl are effective  but can be irritating– and this irritation can provoke moremelasma and hyperpigmentation  in women of color.  Not what you are looking for.

Use the sunscreen every day  on your face, neck and hands.    There has been  alot of discussion about how much  goo you should put on.  I’ve tried out the   often quoted recommendation of one tablespoon  per face and the results were both funny and disturbing.    To keep up sun protection during the day, use a mineral based powder  like Brush on Block ( $30, free shipping.

Its Fashion Flash Monday!

This week Staness of Menopause Makeover is the host of Fashion Flash.  What makes  her site unique is the blend of nutrition and health issues specifically for women over 40.  Her personal touch makes it fun and easy to read, and her hard hitting health research make it a site you can trust.  I also  have to admit I’m almost addicted to her recipe for turkey chili.  When the weather turns  cold as it thas this week in NYC, I scramble for the ingredients to make  up a big pot.

Fab Over Forty has another  must read article in  Fashion Flash–  IMO the best article I’ve seen on cellulite creams.  It explains what creams and machine can and cannot do and how they  make changes albeit temporary, in your skin.  I learned that  many creams contain caffeine which temporarily change skin contours.  Cellulite machine provide lipomassage  which reduce  fat cell volume   and increase  blood and lymph circirculation.  Now that I  know  how it works I’m curious to see  how it works on me.

When you’ve finished clicking through Fashion FLash, I  recommend checking out a new edition of  a book  that should be in  your beauty library.   ” A Consumer’s Guide of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter  has a pretty dry title, but the info inside is amazing. From  Acai to  Menthol to Zinc Oxide, this book explains where the ingredients came from, how it is used and if its safe and or effective.   I used an early edition of this book to help we write No-Nonsense Beauty Book in the 80′s and I’m so psyched that  the author has continued to update it.  When a  new product or claim comes out, its the first place I look to see if  its based on science or science fiction.   Its available in paperback ($7-18)  on Amazon and  its a great beauty investment.

Best Facial Ever

I’m always looking for the ideal facial.  Not infrequently, I leave the facial looking a bit splotchy and/or greasy  And the next moring  I wake up with… breakouts. But I still kept looking.  I wanted something that would  make my skin  look fresh, poreless with a  pink, not red glow.  And this summer I found it at the office of Park Avenue cosmetic surgeon, Dr Paul Lorenc. Famous for inventing the endoscopic browlift, Dr Lorenc is a  physician who believes in combining non-invasive anti-aging  tools like the Hydrafacial with surgical options.

 The Hydrafacial is considered the third generation of  microdermabrasion.   It  has about seven steps, each  one offering different but related benefits.  The Hydrafacial combines  a unique type of   tip with an array of products.  The spiral tip ( see pix) rotates on the skin as the suction  pulls up dead skin and  empties the pores.  After the skin  with wiped with a gentle cleanser, the first pass  uses  lactic acid to loosen  the top dead layer  of skin.  Next pass gets serious with a  15% glycolic acid combined with  2% salicylic acid to stimulate better skin growth and reduce brown spots. 

Then came the part of  facial we love to hate–extraction.   I tend to  get clogged pores on my  nose, and what the Hydrafacial is missed  was  now  eliminated by Carissa, Dr Lorenc’s beautiful  technician.    And then the Hydrafacial continued with  more exfoliation with a diamond tip for additional  cleansing and smoothing.   

Now that the skin  is cleansed of the top layer of dead cells and the pores emptied of old oil and dirt, the Hydrafacial applies  a peptide complex that has been shown to improve skin elasticity and reduce lines. This is followed by a serum of  antioxidants and  the super moisturizer hyaluronic acid.  Because the skin and pores have been cleared of debris, these anti-agers can be better absorbed by the skin.    

Carissa offered me an additional moisturizer ( which I passed on) and a zinc based sunscreen which I applied  happily.  Microdermabrasion, because it exposes fresh new skin,  is especially vulnerable to sun damage right after treatment. The whole procedure took about 45 minutes.  My skin looked beautiful– poreless, radiant, and  wrinkle free.  No splotches, no breakouts, just gorgeous.  On my  way home, I could not help catching glances of myself in store widows and mirrors. 

The Hydrafacial costs between $150 -275, depending on the number of steps.  Doctors recommend a series of 4-6 treatments, but with a single treatment I saw great results that persisted for weeks.  This is the “big night”  facial that I was looking for when my daughters got married.  Its also the facial of choice for those high school reunions type of situations when you want to rock the room.

 

Friday Question and Answers

Question:  Help!  I’ve got a painful sunburn.

Answer:   Despite our best intentions, sunburns  happen.  Its all to easy to forget to reapply  sunscreen  during the day and by the time  the sun goes down,  you’re red and achy.  To deal with the sunburn I suggest   assembling a little sunburn emergency kit in advance.  You need just five affordable and easy to find items:

1.  Aspirin

2.  A real live Aloe Vera plant

3.  A  jar of Shea butter

4. A box of  Quacker’s Oatmeal

5.  Green tea bags

Here’s the drill:   When you realize that you’re fried, take two aspirin.  This will reduce  the inflammation which is  the root of the pain and damge  to your skin.  Then fill a tub with lukewarm water and swish  a handful of oatmeal into the water.  Get in and soak for 20 minutes.  Oatmeal is one of the best  anti-inflammatory remedies we have and the water will draw out some of the heat.  Out of the tub, dry off gently and smooth on  some shea butter.  In the morning, cut open a leaf of  Aloe plant and spread the fresh gel onto your skin.  Be careful with commercial Aloe gels which may contain alcohol that can irritate your skin and increse dyhydration.

During the day make sure to eat plenty of fruit and drink water.  Cold water absorbs better than warm water and iced green tea will also provide much needed anti-oxidants to counteract the free radical storm of a sunburn.  To avoid further irritation use a 30-50SPF sunscreen  for sensitive skin.  These are physical sunscreens with zinc oxides rather  than chemical  protection which may be irritating to tender burned skin. If you’re going  outside, wear a broad brimmed hat for extra protection.

Anti- Aging Beauty Questions

With the return of  warm sunny days,  I’m getting a flood of great sunscreen questions.  Since 90% of  skin aging  is due to sun exposure, UV protection is just about the smartest thing we can do to avoid  wrinkles and dark spots.  But it can be harder than  just grabing a tube of goo and dabbing it on.

Question 1: Help! I know  I should use sunscreen, but they makes my skin break out.

I know about that  first hand. Its so unfair.  If you have oily or acne-prone skin, some sunscreen formulations can provoke breakouts, even in women over 40.  You should start by looking for oil-free formulations. Check the labels and avoid ingredients like beeswax, petroleum, parafin  and shea butter.  But oil  isn’t the only problem.  Breakouts over 40 are  the result of inflammation, rather than the hormone/bacteria axis, so  other non-oily ingredients  can provoke problems.  If you find sunscreens   are causing blemishes, check  your sunscreen for   silicones, alkyl benzoate, acrylate polymers and  the palmitates.  These are often used in creams and lotions and  are generally  good, safe ingredients.  But if you have a tendancy to breakout, these can be irritating.  I recommend buying sunscreens at  CVS, Sephora  or Bath and Body Works where they give you  a complete refund  if  the product doesn’t work for  you– and  breakouts certainly fall under that criteria. 

Question 2:  If  I use a moisturizer with a 15 SPF and  sunscreen with a 15 SPF, does that equal 30 SPF ?

If only that were true.  No matter how  manydifferent products you pile  on, generally your total SPF is  just the highest number you are using.  In this case, your total SPF is still 15.  However there are some  powders and mineral foundations contain  zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which are great UVB blockers.  Its hard to measure, but  in theory they can provide increased  protection.

Sunscreen in Real Time

Now that  sun filled days are here, I am wondering  how much sunscreen do I really need to use.  Many expert recommend one tablespoon for the face and  a total of two tablespoons for  both face and body.   To test  it out, I  measured out one tablespoon  of sunblock and dumped it on a small plate.  Then I went to work, dabbing it  on my checks, nose, and chin. I avoided my bang covered forehead.   At first, things went fine.  My skin seemed very happy  with the  extra moisture  of the sunscreen.  But as I applied more and more, it started to pile up on the surface until it looked like frosting — or clown make-up.

One of my biggest concerns when using sunscreen has been wearing make-up over it.  Not infrequetly, foundation, powder or blush would turn dark and orangy when applied over sunscreen treated skin.  Looking at this photo, I can’t imagine where I would actually put the make-up.  Clearly this one tablespoon idea is not something that too many experts  have personally  tried out. 

Other experts  are suggesting a teaspoon or nickel size  blob of sunblack for the face. Moving on, I measured out one teaspoon of sunscreen and started  to put it on my face.  Starting near my eyes, I applied the cream to the sides of my nose and smoothed it over my chin and cheeks– and there it  sat.  And sat.  Rather than looking like frosting, it was more like mime make-up–  a hard look to  carry off.  I decided to see how long it would take to absorb.  After about 30 minutes, I still  looked a bit shiny but no longer like a mime wanna be.  I tissued off the excess and brushed on some mineral make-up.   It turned a bit darker,  but not something anyone else would notice. 

Maybe I’ve got a smaller than average face or my skin is not dry enough to absorb that much product, but one tablespoon for the face is ridonkulous.  One teaspoon  seems reasonable, if I  allow 30 minutes for absorption.  How much sunscreen do you use on your face?  Any appliction tips?  I’ve worked hard  to erase years of  sun aging and  I want to keep those gains.  Any  suggestions?

True or False –Use Sunscreens When Its Cloudy

It has been overcast  and drizzly all week, yet  I dutifully applied my morning  sunscreen.  I have repeatedly read that 40% of UV rays come through even when its grey and cloudy.  But I began to wonder…is this true?  Or is it like the one tablespoon of sunscreen for the face thing. 

Wednesday was  particularly  humid andcloudy– a bad  hair  day, but perfect  to test the idea.  I strapped on a UV Sunsense wristband  and  walked outside.  Within seconds, the  ban turned  purple– not the bright, lurid, purple I see in the full sun, but a true  full purple color.  Clearly there were UV enough UV rays out there to activate the band.  After one hour walking to Bloomingdales, it stayed the same color.  By comparison, on a sunny day,  it had faded to lavender– a sign to reapply  sunscreen.

Another hour passed as I walked to Otarian, a great vegetarian fast food  place.  As I sat down  to my  vegetable biryani, I could see that my band  had stayed the same true purple.  When I used the band in the sun, after two hours  the band had faded  to a plae yellow, a signal  that my body  had enough sun for the day.

Did I learn anything?  I did see that there are certainly  UV rays coming through the clouds, but far less than when its sunny.  My take away here–  I will continue to use sunscreen when its overcast, but I won’t rush to re-apply it.

A Reality-Based Sunscreen

I am still uneasy over the disconnect between sunscreen recommendations  and what  can actually fit on a human face.  So when I caught a review of  Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Sunblock SPF70 on 15 Minute Beauty Fanatic, I was intrigued.  This products hits all the marks– it is waterproof, oil-free, PABA free, broad spectrum and contains Helioplex, an ingredient that helps sunscreens do their job.  But what  put Ultra Light Face Shield on my radar?  The instructions said to use only a few drops on the plam of  the hand and spread on the face.  Drops!  Not the  large clumps  that are suggested for most other products. 

This sunscreen goes on smoothly and is absorbed quickly.  As  an extra bonus, it does not leave that  dreaded white sheen on my face.  It is however about twice the price of other Neutrogena sunblocks.  I am going to test it out today with my UV wristbands to see  how it compares with my regular product. Neutrogena  Ultra Sheer Liquid might just become my new go to daily sunscreen.

For  extensive and thoughtful sunscreen product reviews click on Savvy Skin on my blog roll.   Written by a  beauty blogger who works in  spa and lives in Las Vegas, she brings unique sun sense credentials to the topic.  She  discusses both the pros and cons of each product to help you make decide if  it would work  for  for you.

Is Sunscreen Really Needed Indoors?

Since I started  my anti-aging program seven months ago, I have diligently applied sunscreen, even when I am working at home.   I have heard that UV rays can come thru glass windows and damage unprotected skin .This sunny  morning  I wondered  if this recommendation was like the silly one tablespoon of sunscreen for the face  thing.

I strapped on a UV SunSense wristband, dabbed  my usual 30SPF sunscreen on the strip and started to cook breakfast.  The band turned a light lavender immediately, but not the lurid purple  it became when I tried the strip outdoors.  (FYI  I have a sunny apartment so this will be  a fairly valid test).

After an hour, the entire strip  was turning a darker lavender.  (At this point outside it had been actually fading, indicating it was time to reapply sunscreen. )   Another hour  passed and the strip stayed about the same color.  Within two hours it never became  deep  purple, never faded to pink.  While the changes on the strip indicate  that  some UV rays are coming thru  the window, its far less than  are hitting the skin outside.

The take away here is to apply sunscreen in the morning as usual, but there is no need to reapply every two hours while still inside.

Next test:  I’m going to try out my new SPF70 Sunscreen with the UV SunSense Wristbands and comapre  it to strips treated with the 30 SPF.  I really love these things. They’ve replaced the Keurig as my new favorite toy.