Retinoids are the longest studied anti-aging compound and have been used for decades due to their incredible ability to recondition the skin. If you want a product that can do it all in one – combat fine lines, fade discoloration, clear acne, and give the skin the rosy glow we all love – a retinoid is the answer. However, with so much greatness comes a sacrifice. As an esthetician, one of the most common things people tell me during a consultation is that they’ve tried a retinoid at some point, but gave up using it because the side effects were too irritating. They give up before the product can really show it’s effects. I’ve been motivated to write a blog and share what I know about retinoids and more importantly, how to use them while avoiding the initial side effects. Here’s your guide to understanding retinoids!
Retinoids are chemical compound derivatives of Vitamin A. The body requires it via diet to boost immunity, vision and cell growth. On the other hand, the skin benefits the most by vitamin A topically. Giana Angelo, Ph.D. states “the skin is a major retinoid-responsive tissue,” with proteins and vitamin A receptors that mediate cellular transactions. For any topical retinoid to be effective, it needs to be taken up by the cells in active retinoic acid form. Weaker retinoids will need to make several cellular conversions before becoming bio-available, or useful, to the skin whereas stronger ones are used immediately.
Check out the chart of retinoids listed below + their benefits:
|Retinyl Palmitate||OTC; Natural; Weakest (barely penetrates the skin)|
|Retinaldehyde, Retinal||OTC; Natural|
|Vitamin A Propionate, Tretinoin (Retin-A)||OTC/Rx; Natural|
|Isotretinoin (Accutane)||Rx; Synthetic; Strongest (oral medication)|
Why we love retinoids…
- Powerful antioxidant
- Speeds up cell turnover
- Stimulates fibroblasts (cells in the dermis responsible for regenerating collagen & elastin)
- Reconditions the skin on a cellular level
- Diminishes fine lines/wrinkles
- Lightens hyperpigmentation
- Thickens and plumps the dermis, providing excellent structural support
- Thins out the epidermis, ideal for retention hyperkeratosis (acne)
- Reduces oil production
- Peels away current breakouts & helps prevent future ones
- Increases moisture retention
Depending on where you choose to buy your products; over-the-counter (OTC), from an esthetician or a dermatologist, this will likely affect the results you’ll get due to the differences in strength, molecular size, and formulation.
Drugstore (OTC) products usually contain retinyl palmitate, retinol acetate or retinaldehyde. These are about 20 times weaker than prescription strength retinoids. They work much slower on the skin due to their large molecular size and have few to no side effects. The weaker the retinoid, the more conversions it will take to be in retinoic acid form and the less likely it is that you’ll be getting a therapeutic amount necessary for skin reconditioning. Anyone with sensitive skin is best starting off with this strength until their skin is acclimated.
Estheticians fall into the gray area between carrying OTC and similar-to Rx retinoids, aka “medical grade.” There’s a lot of variation depending on the esthetician and the line they’ve chosen to work with. Some carry retinoids with a low strength because they like a more progressive approach, whereas other estheticians carry ones that can be as aggressive as Retin-A.
Prescription strength retinoids, like Retin-A, contain pure retinoic acid. These work instantly on the skin but cause the most irritation such as redness, peeling, or breakouts. Prescription strength retinoids are absorbed immediately because there are no conversions to be made since they’re already retinoic acid. These strengths are only recommended if you’ve used retinoids before and have built up a high tolerance.
Watch my video below to see how you should be applying:
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
It takes about 12 weeks of consistent use for retinoic acid to produce noticeable changes in the skin (I’ve seen this happen in a much shorter time span), but give it some time before you decide to off it. I recommend starting with a lower strength only 1-2 nights per week, then slowly increasing usage until you’re happy with the results. You can also increase the strength if you feel your skin can handle it. Talk with a professional and see which one would be best for you!
Sometimes the skin seems to get worse before it gets better. Vitamin A reconditions the skin – it shocks the cells, causing abrupt metabolic changes which is why it can get so dry at first. Congestion from the deeper layers of the skin begin growing out to the surface and all of the sudden it seems the retinoid is breaking you out. This is all normal. It’s your skins way of purging out the toxins and will calm down when the deeper impactions are gone. Depending on how long and the grade of acne, it may only take a few weeks to purge, or in worse cases it may take months before you see the clear skin underneath. If discoloration is your issue, dark spots will seem to get darker at first as they grow out towards the surface. They slowly get shed off the skin and diminish with the help of a melanin suppressant.
I recommend applying retinoid products at night as this provides the most benefits while the skin is regenerating. Dr. Zeichner, dermatologist from New York explains, “the skin undergoes daily circadian rhythms in which specific activities occur at night, and others occur during the day. Cell turnover is significantly higher at night, so applying your retinol before bed may make it work even better by stimulating collagen production when the cells are most active.” #Beautysleep
A WORD ABOUT VITAMIN A PROPIONATE
Some medical grade retinoids are considered as strong and effective as prescription strength Tretinoin (Retin-A) but without all the possible skin irritation! I recently switched to Vivant Skincare’s own patented Vitamin A Propionate and I’ve already seen a dramatic change in my own skin as well as my clients! I originally chose to carry Vivant Skincare because I truly believe and trust in this brand. Dr. James Fulton, dermatologist, self-titled “acne-ologist,” and creator of Vivant Skincare, co-developed Retin-A with Dr. Albert Kligman in the 60’s. Fulton also created benzoyl peroxide and was a pioneer in the world of dermatology.
“Dr. Fulton pressed on with a goal of harnessing the multiple benefits of vitamin A acid in a form that was both effective and easily tolerated by skin. The result was his patented Vitamin A Propionate, which provides all the efficacy of Retin A® without the excess irritation.
Vitamin A Propionate differs from other forms of vitamin A acid derivatives in its molecular structure. Vitamin A palmitate and other forms of over the counter retinols, have a large molecular structure, which makes them unable to penetrate skin and effectively treat photo-aging or acne.
Vitamin A Propionate’s smaller molecular structure gives it its superior ability to accelerate cell proliferation and the growth of collagen and elastin.
In the natural cycle, skin cells are formed and shed off every thirty days. Vitamin A Propionate accelerates that important renewal cycle to between 10 and 14 days. The upper layers of dead skin are shed off more quickly and the build-up of new debris is minimized. New skin is revealed. Collagen production is stimulated. The dermis is increased as cells plump. Ultimately, the cell layers on the surface of the skin are reduced from 14 layers of compacted oil and dead cell debris to eight or nine resiliently elastic layers that give skin a healthy, youthful glow.
Designed to provide the least amount of irritation with the greatest efficacy, Vitamin A Propionate has proven to be consistently more effective than any other non-prescription retinoid available in clearing and controlling acne and reversing the signs of photo-aging.” – Vivant Skincare
If you have cystic acne, oily skin, or get breakouts mainly along the chin and jawline, you might be struggling with a hormonal imbalance. I’m going to share my insight with you based on my own research, experience in working with skin, and give tips on how to better understand what your body is telling you. This way you have the tools to heal your body from the inside out. Acne is 100% treatable without antibiotics or Accutane, and I’m going to show you how!
Acne is caused by three main factors, 1. Genetics, 2. Stress, and 3. Diet. Disruptions in the endocrine system [glands that regulate hormones throughout the body] can be triggered by stress and poor nutrition. The skins oil glands are highly sensitive to hormone disruption, especially androgens and estrogen. When hormones are off-balance the skin is affected by:
- Thicker epidermis, aka ‘retention hyperkeratosis’
- Pores become clogged
- Sebaceous glands become large and produce excess oil
- Unfriendly p. acne bacteria thrive
Signs of High Estrogen
+Breakouts are primarily along jawline/chin
+Flares up around the time of your period
+One side of the face can be more inflamed, and that’s an indication of which ovary is producing too much estrogen. It can change sides each month just as the ovaries do each menstrual cycle.
Common Reasons for High Estrogen
-Liver disfunction: Aromatase, an enzyme in the liver, stops working properly and converts the body’s testosterone into estrogen. This causes excess estrogen buildup in the body and can affect both men and women.
-High blood pressure medications
-Alcohol (highly estrogenic)
-Estrogenic foods: soy, sugar, conventional meat and dairy, BPA plastic, Teflon pans
Heal the Body With:
+Eat more organic cruciferous veggies: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage
+DIM supplement – a super concentrated phytochemical and natural metabolite of compounds found in cruciferous vegetables. See what I recommend: Nutricost Supplement
+Stinging nettle root. See what I recommend: Solaray Supplement or tea
+More SELF LOVE!
Signs of High Androgens; aka Testosterone
+Oily skin & large pores due to enlarged sebaceous glands
+Facial hairs along jawline/chin
+Thick, resistant skin
Common Reasons for High Androgens
-Insulin Resistance, Learn more
An enzyme, 5a-Reductase, stops working properly due to vitamin A deficiency and converts testosterone into DHT (a hormone 10x stronger than regular testosterone!) This is why Accutane works so well – because you flush the body with extremely high levels of vitamin A, it blocks the enzymes producing DHT and in turn, stops cystic acne. You can do this just as effectively, naturally!
Heal the Body With:
+Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil – highest levels of vitamins A + D. See what I recommend: Rosita Supplements
+Vitamin B5 supplement – works synergistically with vitamin A and reduces acne. Source Naturals Supplement
+Zinc – lowers insulin, calms inflammation. Solaray Supplement
+More SELF LOVE!
It’s possible to have both an androgen and estrogen imbalance at the same time! Other factors that effect hormones:
-Birth control, especially switching on/off
Skincare Products I Recommend for Hormonal Acne
When hormones are out of balance, the epidermis grows thicker and more resistant. Skin cells grow faster than they can shed, and so excessive dead skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin, contributing to congestion and inflammation. The key with treating acne topically is to 1. speed up cell turnover by exfoliating often, and 2. kill acne-causing bacteria with a product like benzoyl peroxide. I also suggest ICING your skin as often as possible. This reduces inflammation, redness and shortens the lifespan of cystic acne.
Shop The ModernÜ online store! Here’s what I recommend for oily, acne-prone skin:
Cleanser: Vivant Skincare Mandelic Acid Wash
Corrective: PCA Acne Cream
Moisturizer: PCA Clearskin
Sunscreen: PCA Weightless
Ask if these products are right for you! Email me at email@example.com
NOTE: these are instructions I give to my clients and pertain to my specific type of medium-deep chemical peels. Please follow the instructions your skincare therapist gives you following a peel.
4 hours after the peel:
Wash your face gently with a simple cleanser and tepid water, pat dry, then apply moisturizer. Drink 40 oz of water.
- Treat your skin extra gently – no aggressive rubbing, pulling or scrubbing as this can cause post-inflammation. Use very light touch when massaging any type of product into the skin.
- Do wear zinc sunscreen; re-apply every 2 hours
- Limit your time outdoors to keep your skin protected
- Use products with soothing ingredients like aloe, aquaphor, oat, hyaluronic
Keep your skincare routine simple. Follow this regimen for the first 7 days:
1. Oil cleanse with either jojoba, coconut or olive oil. Then, while the oil is still on the skin, use your regular cleanser and massage them both in gently. Rinse with tepid water and pat dry.
2. Ice your skin – remember to keep it moving and not hold it in one place as this can cause burning
3. If the area begins to feel itchy or irritated, use the CliniCalm 1% cream in your post-procedure kit. This is a 1% hydrocortisone cream to help calm itchiness, redness and irritation. You can find it over-the-counter as well. DO NOT USE MORE THAN 7 CONSECUTIVE DAYS IN A ROW. If it burns, do not use it.
4. Apply a moisturizer AM + PM. You can use the cream in your post-procedure kit. A great over-the-counter post-peel moisturizer I recommend is the Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion. The ingredients such as oat helps soothe irritation and dimethicone creates a protective seal over the skin which helps lock in hydration
5. Apply a broad spectrum SPF 30+ and reapply throughout the day, rain or shine
6. Spot treat extra dry spots with a thin layer of Aquaphor
- Don’t pick or pull at flaking skin! The intention is to lift away damaged, dead cells to reveal younger, healthy cells. Picking off dead skin prematurely also pulls off new healthy skin and can result in scarring and redness. Leave it alone!
- No washcloths, facial scrubs or cleansing brushes. You’ll end up with scabs all over your face which can lead to scarring and post-inflammation hyperpigmentation
- Do not over-do it on the moisturizer. Let the peel do it’s process of shedding and keep in mind that letting the skin be slightly on the dry side allows you to get the most out of the peel.
- Do not waste using your amazing, expensive skincare products during this time as your skin will not be able to readily absorb them until all the peeling is done. Use what is in your post-procedure kit, or opt for something over-the-counter. I recommend products from Aveeno or CeraVe.
- Don’t use acids, enzymes, benzoyl peroxide, retinol or hydroquinone
- No heavy sweating, exercise, saunas, or steam rooms for 48 hours
After 7 days, you can go back to your regular skincare routine. It’s very important to use antioxidants and brighteners after to stop any possible post-inflammatory pigmentation from developing
Have you noticed dark, uneven patches on your face or body? Skin discoloration is often the result of excess melanin production – the pigment that gives skin it’s color. Many factors like UV exposure, pollution, hormones and acne can induce hyperpigmentation that becomes hard to remove once it surfaces. If you have already done your research, you might’ve noticed there’s a lot of contradictory information out there. Especially when it comes to hydroquinone, an ingredient that’s been used for over 50 years. As one of the most effective skin bleaching agents on the market, I find it interesting it also happens to be one of the most controversial skincare products. But is it really as scary as we’ve been told? The truth comes down to this: when hydroquinone is formulated properly and used by the consumer correctly, it’s not a harmful ingredient at all. I’ll explain.
What is Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone (HQ) can be synthetically made or naturally found in wheat, berries, coffee and tea. It acts as a pigment-producing inhibitor and antioxidant in the skin. It works amazingly well at brightening and lightening stubborn skin disorders like melasma, hypermentation and dark spots.
How it works
HQ works by halting the production of melanin within skin cells by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase, an enzyme needed to make melanin. Slowly melanocytes (cells) stop producing pigment and the skin begins to lighten. As long as lightening agents are applied, you’ll continue inhibiting tyrosinase and hence, reduce uneven pigmentation. When you discontinue using hydroquinone, the skin’s natural supply of tyrosinase will begin producing melanin again.
The History – Why is it controversial?
Hydroquinone products were first banned in South Africa when concentrations of 20% and higher were being used everyday to lighten the skin. This began causing a disorder called Exogenous Ochronosis, which causes the skin to scar and turn a shade of blue. High amounts of mercury iodine and other illegal contaminants were found in those products, likely to be the main cause of the side effects seen. Once researchers discovered this information, the ban was lifted. While some parts of Europe, such as France, still follow suit with the ban, other countries like Spain allow over-the-counter and prescription products to be sold at a standard 2% or 4%.
The Claims vs. Facts
1. Claim: Hydroquinone causes too many negative side effects
Fact: Ochronosis is a very rare side effect that has only been seen in individuals with darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick 4+), who are using high concentrations for years at a time. Most cases reported were also found to be from products sold at illegal markets, containing mercury and glucocorticoids. There’s been very few reported cases of hydroquinone causing this when purchased from a regulated market.
My advice: Always choose 100% quality formulated skincare if you choose to use hydroquinone. Do not order products from Amazon, Craigslist, E-Bay etc. The product could be tampered with and it’s not worth taking the chance of using something potentially dangerous.
Hydroquinone should be used in segments to avoid rebound pigmentation. I instruct my clients to use HQ consistently for 4-5 month cycles, and then alternate with natural brighteners like kojic acid, azelic acid, licorice root, vitamin C. Doing this greatly lowers the chance of possible side effects! Check with an esthetician or dermatologist before you buy medicated products. Everyone’s skin is different and some cannot tolerate HQ.
2. Claim: HQ causes skin sensitivity such as redness and increased risk of sun damage
Fact: Yes, HQ can be harsh on the skin, especially when used in prescription concentrations of 4%, 6%, 8% and 10%. The trick to avoiding topical irritation is to introduce it slowly and remember that less is more.
My advice: Start out with an over-the-counter strength of 2%. I have seen incredible results with low percentages used correctly over time! Begin by using it just a few days per week, applying a pea-size amount with a light, thin coat all over. Avoid the eye, nose and mouth corners. Never spot-treat with HQ – the best results come from lightening evenly. As your skin adjusts to the product, slowly increase it’s usage until you’re using it every night. And of course, sunscreen is a must every morning!
3. Claim: HQ causes cancer in rodents.
Fact: When you read past the headline, you’ll find the rodents were given heavy doses of hydroquinone daily and they developed cancer. In a 2006 review in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Jacob Levitt, M.D. reports that topical applications of hydroquinone in standard product concentrations are not carcinogenic to humans. According to Dr. Levitt, use of hydroquinone in mouse studies led to an actual decrease in cancerous liver tumors, suggesting protective effects of hydroquinone. According to Dr. David J. Goldberg, a clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine reports, “Over 100 scientific articles confirm it is a safe topical for humans; no independent studies prove the opposite.”
My advice: HQ is not intended to be a forever product, nor is it intended to be used in high doses daily. It’s temporary use is to get your skin to where you want it, and then switch to natural, plant-derived brighteners for long-term skin health.
4. Claim: HQ is cytotoxic
Fact: When HQ slowly reacts with oxygen, it forms chemicals like hydroxybenzoquinone which can kill melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin. This can make the skin appear discolored or stained. You can avoid this by keeping your HQ products refrigerated for the best preservation. If you notice the product turning a yellow color, throw it out. Do not use HQ with other oxygen-containing ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide.
Bottom line: Use what you feel most comfortable with and know that there are many options when it comes to treating discoloration!
Did Ü know, cosmetics happen to be the skin’s worst pollutants? In my experience of working with acne, I’ve witnessed the aggravating affects cosmetics have on the skin. A client can be doing everything right, using medicated products and following a perfect regimen, yet continuously break out. These are usually the clients who wear heavy primers, concealers and cream foundations all day at work or school. Silicones are used in most of these products and act as a barrier on the skin, trapping in heavy oils, sweat and impacted dead cells. Even if these clients wash their face the moment they get home, the accumulation of wearing it all day is enough to cause serious damage. Some ingredients are so irritating, that with long-term use they can cause consistent breakouts in someone who is otherwise not acne-prone. About 60 million people in the U.S. struggle with acne, half of which are caused solely by comedogenic ingredients found in skincare, makeup and hair products. Comedogenic refers to a substance’s ability to penetrate down into the pore and cause the formation of comedones.
Who gets it?
If you are genetically acne-prone or had acne as a teenager, you’ll be more susceptible to the harmful ingredients hiding in your makeup. However, many women are developing this type of acne who are otherwise not susceptible.
How does it start?
It can take about six months for acne to appear from a particular product. Depending on your skin type, it can happen much sooner. Cosmetic acne becomes noticeable as several, small elevated bumps on the cheeks, chin and sometimes forehead emerge. Once dead cells and leftover product builds up in the pores, inflammation begins. Whiteheads can turn into red painful pustules. Pus-filled nodules are a clue the problem is being caused from external factors as opposed to physiological ones. Anyone struggling with this knows it’s a vicious cycle. The more you break out, the more you want to cover it up with makeup. This just leads to more breakouts and more cover up. Many women fall into a trap of constantly buying and trying different brands of makeup, hoping a new product will solve the problem but it usually makes things worse.
Why is this stuff in cosmetics?
Cosmetic companies can get away with it due to a lack of regulation. The FDA Cosmetic Act was last written in 1938. That’s forty years before anyone knew what comedogenic ingredients were. Toxicology was barely known then. But, even with comedogenic ingredients being well noted by now, it makes you wonder why they keep using them in formulations. Here’s why: comedogenic ingredients only negatively affect 30% of all users. Cosmetic companies will remove ingredients found to cause allergic reactions in as few as 0.5% of their customers. But, acne sufferers, who happen to belong to a larger percentage of the affected population, are not protected by these companies.
Cosmetic chemists have traditionally tried to mimic our own skin’s natural oil (sebum) in product formulations. But the ideas we have about oils being good for our skin are misleading. Oil is not necessary for moisturizing the skin. For example, kids don’t produce sebum, yet have perfectly hydrated skin. Sebum doesn’t prevent wrinkles, sun causes them. Sebum’s chemical components such as wax esters and fatty acids can wreck havoc on the skin, hence why so many people who have oily skin are also acne-prone. Yet many cosmetics contain fatty acids and esters, such as myristic acid and isopropyl myristate commonly used in primers, concealers and foundations.These products are among the worst offenders for acne sufferers.
- Creams tend to be used the most because they go on so smoothly and give great coverage. The silkiness in these products is due to heavy lanolin oils.
- The more expensive the product, the more likely it is to be pore-clogging. This is usually due to the manufacturer being able to afford most luxurious, expensive oils in their formulations which happen to be extremely comedogenic.
- Cheaper, discount formulations tend to be better for the skin because they tend to contain more water.
- Oil-free claims on makeup labels is simply not true. They might contain no animal, vegetable or mineral oils, but will contain synthetic oil. How do companies get away with this? There’s no laws to prevent it from happening. Cosmetic companies can reason that certain chemicals are made synthetically, rather than with natural oils. So it’s not technically “oil.” Other terms like “hypo-allergenic,” “non-greasy” and “natural,” are all meaningless terms as well. Stick to water-based and glycerin-based products, such as these.
Americans collectively spend $20 billion each year on cosmetics alone. Skincare in particular, is the fastest growing segment of that market. The beauty industry spends $2 billion annually on convincing you to buy their products. That’s a lot of money! My best advice: Be a smart consumer. Don’t buy into marketing tactics that make big claims. Become informed and protect your skin. I created a chart below as a guideline for what comedogenic ingredients to look out for next time you’re shopping for new products. Searching for ingredient labels on makeup can be hard to find and will take some extra digging as cosmetic companies can be secretive about their formulations! I’ve found this website to be helpful also: EWG.org.
Sources: Fulton, James E. Acne RX: What Acne Really Is and How to Eliminate Its Devastating Effects! The Author, 2001.
I recently learned how to perform microcurrent – heard of it? To be honest, I always thought esthetician modalities were just spa “fluff” and didn’t actually work, so I was never interested in using them at my practice. But after learning more about the science behind it, I have to admit this is an incredible tool that I feel is totally overlooked!
Microcurrent therapy, aka ‘bio-stimulation,’ uses an electrical current that mirrors the same natural current of the body. It’s the energy currency we use for muscle movement, nerve impulses, ionic exchange, nutrient intake, detoxification and cell-to-cell communication. Microcurrent triggers chemical reactions at a cellular level to provide many health and cosmetic benefits. It’s been clinically shown to accelerate the healing of bone tissue, wound recovery, pain reduction, assist in muscle rehabilitation, correct TMJ, tendon repair, and lymphedema. It can even be used to treat Bells Palsy – a medical condition that causes facial paralysis on one side. Treatment increases blood circulation by 39% and removes toxic fluid buildup by manually draining to the lymphatic system. As we age, cells become less active and their ability to maintain these functions declines. Injury and disease create inflammation which blocks pathways of cell communication and speeds up overall health decline.
Besides the health effects of the machine, microcurrent is best known for it’s cosmetic usage. Over time, facial muscles get accustomed to certain expressions and tend to get stuck in those positions causing the skin to wrinkle. An example of this is the “elevens” we get due to furrowing between the brows. On the opposite end, when muscles are not used often they begin to atrophy, leading to sagging. You’ll notice this loss of definition most around the neck, chin and jaw line. Microcurrent therapy works by creating muscle memory to stay sculpted, toned and tightened. It can also be used for post surgical facelift to treat blood stasis, scarring, and numbness. ATP (the energy of every cell) production increases by 500%, giving the cells a boost to carry out more work and energize the muscle. It also boosts collagen by 14% and elastin by 48%! It can be a great non-invasive, natural alternative to Botox.
How Does it Work?
Wands are used to physically move the muscle into the desired position. Getting in done in a series re-trains the 30+ facial muscles to maintain the new contour. Microcurrent allows the muscles the necessary energy (ATP) to keep their tension in this new contour. The treatment itself is super relaxing! It feels like a facial massage and most clients fall asleep during. Treatment varies depending on each person, but generally a series of 10-15 treatments done twice weekly is required for full correction. There’s no downtime and you can see the results immediately! After completing a series, clients can come in once a month to keep it up.
Individuals with the following should not receive treatment:
- Cardiac Problems
- Metal Implants
Photo sources from Google.
It’s been a rough week watching the Northern California fires burn down most of my beautiful hometown, Santa Rosa. I feel horrible being in Los Angeles and not being there to console family and friends who have lost everything. It’s been very uplifting though, from afar, to see the Sonoma County community come together and help each other through this dark time.
With so many fires going on at once, I felt it was an appropriate time to write about air pollution and it’s effects you might be unaware of. Right now in Santa Rosa, the air toxin level is unhealthy. If you’re wondering whether or not fire smoke, soot or ash damages your skin, the answer is yes and it doesn’t take long after exposure. You’re more likely to see breakouts occur and wrinkles to become more pronounced. Smoke damages collagen, the structural protein that keeps the skin tight, lifted and firm. It also causes the pores to buildup with tiny particles and cause irritation.
The outer layer of skin contains lipids, which are fats that bind cells together. In air conditions like this, free radicals wreck havoc by oxidizing these lipids which causes inflammation, DNA destruction and a compromised skin barrier. When the barrier is damaged, skin cells can’t function optimally and so becomes vulnerable to microbes, UV radiation, allergies and other toxins. The epidermal layers become weak and easily flake off. This can leave your skin feeling extremely dry.
The best thing you can do for your skin right now:
- Apply topical antioxidants, like vitamin C and E. My personal favorite is Vivant Skincare’s Spin Trap Antioxidant Serum. Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals and supports collagen. Other ingredients in this serum like niacinamide (vitamin B3) are perfect for calming inflammation. This is also a great base under a moisturizer for those of you feeling extra dry.
- Wash with a non-stripping cleanser, and take your time sudsing up every pore! I recommend the Vivant Skincare Green Tea Antioxidant Cleanser. It’s perfect for all skin types, is gentle, and packed with antioxidants.
- Moisturizer. Moisturizer. Moisturizer.
- Drink TONS of water to keep cells and tissue healthy.
This article was written and posted by Vivant Skincare, and I loved it so I had to share! Read on ladies and gents 😉
In a world where vaginal steaming is promoted as a beneficial detox, and marketers lure you with promises of organic ingredients planted and harvested by hand in harmony with the moon cycles (an actual claim), it’s easy to get seduced by terms like organic, natural, and botanical. But exactly what do those words mean? And what do moon cycles have to do with product efficacy?
NATURAL AND ORGANIC AREN’T ALWAYS NATURAL AND ORGANIC
The interest in healthy living has prompted manufacturers to shift their labeling and marketing to reflect a natural and green approach in formulation. But there are a few things you should keep in mind when looking at the labels.
“Natural” is a marketing term, not a standard. The FDA has no regulation regarding this word so it gets applied liberally and has little real meaning.
Most products labeled “natural” contain a number of synthetic ingredients that are there to stabilize, thicken, preserve, and add color or fragrance.
The terms “naturally-derived,” or “plant-based” refer to ingredients that are man made (synthesized) using natural sources.
The term “organic” is regulated by the FDA, however, the label does not require the product be 100% organic. It only requires a percentage of the ingredients to be organic. (That percentage varies by state.)
SYNTHETIC DOESN’T MEAN BAD
Nature offers an incredible wealth of therapeutic substances. There’s no argument there. For centuries, people have relied on botanical extracts, essential oils and minerals for curing ills, improving health and enhancing beauty. However, the benefits of these substances may be outweighed by a variety of factors when using them straight from nature. They can have impurities. Their beneficial constituents often occur at too small an amount to have a real impact. And growing or environmental conditions can create inconsistency. Additionally, some natural substances can be irritating or cause allergic reactions.
Through science, we’re able to study, isolate and improve upon natural elements. Synthetic versions of plant oils, extracts and minerals created in a lab eliminate impurities and inconsistencies, concentrate active elements, reduce irritants, and provide sustainability.
New York Times beauty blog Skin Deep reporter Natasha Singer consulted Dr. Linda M. Katz, the director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, on the topic. Dr. Katz had this to say: “Consumers should not necessarily assume that an ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ ingredient or product would possess greater inherent safety than another chemically identical version of the same ingredient. In fact, ‘natural’ ingredients may be harder to preserve against microbial contamination and growth than synthetic raw materials.”
EVERYTHING IS CHEMISTRY
The debate over natural vs. synthetic often comes down to an argument that goes something like: if it didn’t come from the earth, it doesn’t belong in/on my body. The problem with that argument is that everything comes from the earth, even chemicals. We’re going to get a little science-y for a minute.
Remember Chem 101? All matter is made up of atoms, molecules and sub-atomic bits and bobs like protons and neutrons. Even your body is a mass of chemical elements and compounds. Items you use every day are chemicals. Sodium bicarbonate, for instance, a white powder composed of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions. You know it as baking soda. It’s also used to ignite fireworks, to neutralize acids, to speed the effects of local anesthetics, to kill cockroaches, clean your toilet, and brush your teeth. It’s a chemical compound. And it’s 100% natural.
Some terms in an ingredient list may sound ominous because they are unfamiliar, but often these are simply scientific names for natural chemicals. Ascorbic acid is vitamin C. Tocopherols are forms of vitamin E. Oligopeptides occur naturally in the body and are building blocks of collagen. Copper-chlorophyllin is an antioxidant derived from chlorophyll, the element crucial to plant photosynthesis. It stimulates cell regeneration. Sodium PCA (pyrrolidone carboxylic acid), another substance that occurs naturally in the body, is a humectant that repels aggressors like pollution and UV radiation.
And where would skin care be without retinoids, the gold standard of treatment for acne and aging skin? These transformative regenerists are derived from natural vitamin A and enhanced in the lab through science.
IT COMES DOWN TO EFFICACY
What makes a product better or worse is not whether it’s natural, synthetic, or a combination, but whether it contains the appropriate percentage of ingredients that have a defined mechanism of action and produce specific evidence-based results. In other words, whether or not it actually works. If it doesn’t pass that test, you are paying for glorified aromatherapy.
Today’s blog is featuring an interview with modern #bossbabe Milah, owner of Milah’s Mobile Spa here in LA. For over a year, I’ve been following her work on Instagram and have found intrigue in her success as a mobile esthetician. Being new to running a business in a highly competitive market, I’m finding that the more connecting I do with others, the less alone I feel in my failures, successes and listening to advice from other women making it on their own has been so encouraging. I was curious about Milah’s story and wanted to hear her tips and advice on surviving and thriving in the beauty world. I’ve got 21 questions for ya.
1. How long have you been an esthetician and what inspired you to become one?
Four years. Honestly, I had been a cocktail waitress for seven years and was super over it, but I do really like people. Someone mentioned it at one point, but I didn’t give it much thought. Later on I had a friend who had a lash studio and didn’t want to do it anymore, so she wanted to train me. It seemed like a great opportunity to do something different and be able do my own thing/be my own boss, so that was my main motivation. And when I think about it, I’ve always been into beauty so it just made sense.
2. Give a brief timeline of your career so far as an esthetician.
When I went to school I already knew I wanted to do lashes since I had done some training previously with my friend. I just needed the license, and ever since I’ve been doing mobile services. It works for me. I’d like to have my own place at some point, but not right now.
3. What made you choose mobile services as your primary business operation?
I wanted to work for myself, there’s a low overhead, and I don’t have to pay rent! I’ve mastered the set up and breakdown. I appreciate creating my own schedule because I can make time for my baby and other things I have to do.
4. What kind of treatments do you offer? Has that changed over time?
I do lash extensions, facials, waxing, and teeth whitening. This year I started microblading and I took a class that cost me $3,500 to learn. The first thing the teacher said was: “ladies, this business is like drug dealing.”
5. Are there certain times or seasons that it gets slow/busy for you? How do you handle the ups and downs?
Not really. Honestly, lashes are so addicting, once people get them they’re hooked. So there’s really no slow or busy season with what I do. It’s consistent for the most part.
6. What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
I like to travel. I was in New York for two months, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic in April. That’s also the nice part of being my own boss – I have the option to do that and take time off. When I go other places I have homies I can crash with and I try to book clientele wherever I am. I also like to dance, cook and eat!
7. What are the biggest hurdles you’ve had to cross so far in building your business?
Just sticking to it and staying committed to myself/my business.
8. What keeps you motivated?
I never want to work for someone else again (hahaha)!
9. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Every boss chick that I know – whether it’s friends, clients, other business owners, or just women doing their thing. That’s inspiring to me.
10. How did you build a successful customer base?
Because I worked in the hospitality industry as long as I did, I really understand the value of connecting with your clients and treating people how you want to be treated. I pride myself in building relationships and being as helpful/easy as possible. And of course, providing quality work. I haven’t invested hardly any money ever, it’s mostly all been word of mouth and Instagram.
11. When did you feel secure in your business – financially and mentally.
I feel insecure about it still sometimes, like I can always be doing more. The thing about social media too, is you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people and their work. It can fuck you up or boost your motivation depending on how you look at it… it’s good and bad.
12. What sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?
Because of how my business is set up, I really try to stay true to last minute, late night calls, even when I’m tired. It’s a niche. You can’t walk up to a spa the night before your morning flight for last minute lashes. The other night I was out to dinner for a friends birthday and I get a call about this random Instagram model with like, three million followers needing lash extensions tonight. And I’m like its 11 o’clock at night… but I’m going! And I left her birthday party. I’ve gotten random phone calls that ended up being great money. For example, I got to this house at 1 am in Hollywood and was there working until 4am. Seven hundred dollars later, it’s worth it. So I guess my sacrifice is sleep!
13. Have you had moments of self-doubt or fear, and if so, how do you come out of it?
I struggle with that. Some mornings I’m one hundred percent into it and other days I feel in a funk. A lot of this industry is very ‘Hollywood,’ which I feel I am not. I can think of a few times I’ve come in contact with someone who was pretty well known that I had the potential to work on, but I didn’t want to be too in their face and give them my card. That’s the difference between you and the next esthetician over there – she doesn’t give a fuck. She will get that client because she doesn’t care about being in their face because she doesn’t care what they think. You just have to be confident in what you do. If I bring my fear into every situation, that will show in my work and clients can feel that.
14. What are some mistakes you’ve made along the way and how did you learn from them?
It’s all trial and error. You have to set boundaries because people will take advantage of you. With what we do too, we’re working on peoples faces which is so personal! With lashes, people can get reactions sometimes and that can be scary. You have to be on top of people signing waivers because it covers you and your license. I’m constantly learning and trying to be better.
15. What has been your most satisfying career moment so far?
Just being able to help women feel more confident, beautiful and empowered. I have a lot of clients who are new moms, or they’re pregnant and it’s much easier for me to be able to go to their houses to provide my services. It makes their life easier and they feel beautiful after.
16. What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Lashes are easy marketing, because your work is so visible.
Me: Totally. That’s what I’m finding with skincare, is that it’s not that instantaneous result that people recognize upon just meeting another person. They aren’t able to see the progression of their skin clearing and so in that aspect, it’s harder.
17. Describe your typical day.
Mostly I focus on just organizing and scheduling my clients in a way that correlates with LA traffic (hahaha).
19. What are three pieces of advice you would give to newly licensed estheticians just starting out?
Work, work, work!!! Stay committed, focused and find your lane. Practice makes perfect and keep learning. I cannot emphasize that more.
20. How do you handle the lows when you have them?
I’m so lazy! It’s horrible. That’s personally my biggest problem in working for myself. I’m really beating myself up about it currently. I could be doing so much more but I get too lax.
Me: I can relate to that, and I think that’s the hardest aspect of being in business for yourself is you really have to be motivated. That’s what I’m learning the most right now too. I have to be ON every minute, of every day. If I’m not doing that I feel like it’s going to fall apart.
Milah: Yeah, and when you work for other people you do commit those full eight hours to that person. Then you go into your own business and when you slack off it’s like, am I not as equally committed to myself?!
21. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Wake up and breathe, think, smell your business and be confident in what you do.