Category: AHAs & BHA's


Aestheticians sometimes call their use of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) when doing facials – chemical peels; but they are not peeling the skin, they are resurfacing. Whats the difference? There are 3 levels or strengths of AHAs available:

1. Cosmetic-you can get these at the drug or department store – see The Isles of Beauty

2. Cosmeceuticals-available to licensed skincare specialists.

3. Pharmaceuticals-doctors use these or write a prescription for them.

AHA’s work mainly as  exfoliants. They cause the cells of the skin in the upper layers to become “unglued,” allowing the dead skin cells to slough off and making room for regrowth of new skin deeper down.

AHA’s also stimulate the production of collagen and elastin and improve wrinkling, roughness, and mottled pigmentation or sun damaged skin.

Some examples of AHA’s are: Glycolic – sugarcane, Lactic – sour milk products, Citric – citrus fruits, Malic – apples and pears, Tartaric – grapes.

For home use, I love: Glyco-A Gel by Tu’el

There is also a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) called salicylic. All  the acids have different strengths and purposes. So, what’s the difference between the BHA & AHA’s? Two words: lipid solubility, aka a substance’s ability to dissolve in oil. AHA’s are water soluble, and BHA dissolves in oil. So…oily skin likes BHA and normal to dry skin like AHA’s.

Try: 5% Salicylic Acid Clarifying Pads by DermaQuest Skin Therapy.

Side Effects of these acids include; irritation, sun sensitivity, redness, and itching.

Rosacea is a skin disease that responds favorably to some forms of resurfacing, but because this condition is often red, irritable and swollen,a patch test on the inside of the arm to check for allergic response or sensitivity is recommended. The capillary walls are near the surface of the skin in this condition (hence the redness and veiny appearance) so the skin needs extra protection. The skin is also thin, so toughening it up and thickening it with AHAs can be helpful.

AHA & BHA products may reverse some of the damage caused by the sun, but at the same time they make the skin more susceptible to sun damage. When using resurfacers use a good sunscreen – see Sunscreen 101 , that contains UVA and UVB protection.

My favorite: Oil Free Essential Protection SPF 30 by Tu’el

See you at the spa!

Advertisements

Getting great skin is like raising a child; you need equal doses of discipline and TLC.

For skin, discipline means exfoliation. This is important because your skin is constantly shedding dead layers and building new cells deep in the dermal layer. The older you get, the slower this regenerative process becomes. There are three types of exfoliation that you can do at home, and professionally as well:

1.) Massage – Unless your skin is acne prone or very sensitive, massaging with the products you use to “nurture” your skin (think moisturizers, serums and Cleansing Oils!), is a form of exfoliation.

The proper technique for facial massage is as follows:

Forehead… Begin in the middle of the forehead making small circular movements out towards the temples. Repeat 5 times.

Eyes… From your temples, glide your index fingers over your brow and circle your eye sockets. The pressure should be very light. Repeat twice.

Nose… Slide your fingers down each side of your nose to the tip and up again. Repeat 5 times. End at the top of the mouth.

Mouth… Use your index and middle fingers and start at the chin, gently massage in a circular and upward motion around the mouth and lips. Bring the massage motion to the top of the mouth, under the nostrils. Repeat 5 times.

Cheeks… In a circular motion, massage outward from your chin to your earlobes, from the corners of your mouth to the middle of your ears and from your nostrils to your temples. Repeat twice, covering the whole area of the cheek.

Chin… Begin on your right where the jaw meets your ear. Using your thumb and index finger, gently slide across the jaw to your chin. Massage back to the starting point with circular motions. Repeat on the left side. Repeat 3 times each side.

Neck… Beginning at the back of the neck, massage upwards to the head with small circular motions. Repeat 5 times. Come around to the front of the neck and gently stroke upwards from the collarbone to the base of the chin. Repeat 3 times.

2.) Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) –

AHAs have been used for thousands of years, Cleopatra was said to have bathed in sour milk (lactic acid) to improve her skin tone.

They are typically derived from food products. Don’t let the word acid throw you off.  They are classified scientifically as acids, because of their ability to penetrate the skin. They dissolve the “glue” that holds the superficial layers of the skin together.

You’ll find AHAs in the Isles of Beauty, in skincare clinics or prescribed by doctors in the form of moisturizers, cleansers, serums and masks. You can use them at home or have professional treatments.

I like Tu’els Glyco-A Gel and Crystal C Serum; they have multiple AHA’s to exfoliate, brighten, strengthen, as well as calm the complexion.

3. Scrubs – This family of exfoliants clean up dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. I like Tu’el Peeling Cream a manual microdermabrasion product. Be careful with this family of products though; use sparingly and massage lightly – more is not better.

Exfoliation can be done up to 5 times per week, or until the skin manifests the desired effects. Use different forms of exfoliation, give your skin “time off” and don’t use the same products for prolonged periods – results diminish.

All exfoliants stimulate new cell growth deep in the skin, but they also create free radicals and break the skin down.

A word of caution – don’t use resurfacers or get peels unless you are willing to use an appropriate sunscreen religiously,as well as a nurturing regime to combat the challenges resurfacing presents to the skin.

Most of this post is applicable for “normal skin”. People with clinical grade acne, history of melanoma, extreme sensitivity, any skin disease like rosacea, or those who are under the care of a physician should consult a professional and proceed with caution.

Moisturizers, antioxidant serums, soothing masks, and peptides are a few of the nurturing products that are necessary when you are serious about caring for your skin.

Get a plan for loving the skin your in.

See you at the spa!

 

Going bare ‘down there’ is an increasingly popular option for women these days, but things can get seriously ugly if you don’t take care of your sensitive nether regions in the weeks post-wax.

The bumps after waxing within 24 hours are called folliculitis or inflammation of one or more hair follicles. Common symptoms of folliculitis include a rash, itching, or pimples. There may also be ingrown hairs that grow – either way, the treatment is similar.

So, how do you take care of the skin before and after a Brazilian wax?

Pre-wax pointers

  • Your appointment shouldn’t be any closer than a couple of days before or after your period.
  • Don’t use any lotions in your bikini area before waxing.
  • You need 1/8″  hair growth for the wax to hold onto, no more – no less.
  • Take your favorite pain reliever/anti-inflammatory 30- 45 minutes before your appointment.
  • Prepare an after-care kit from the list below ahead of time, so you can begin caring for your waxed bikini area right away.
  • You may not be a good waxing candidate if you have very sensitive skin, herpes, genital warts, an STD or any other skin condition or contagious disease. Regardless, the technician should be gloved and a thorough pre-wax interview and education should be done.

Waxing after-care

24-48 hours after

  • Don’t take a hot bath (shower is OK).
  • No tanning beds, saunas or steam rooms.
  • Use a cold compress to soothe the area.
  • Sexual activity should be avoided. Friction on the skin can cause it to become inflamed.
  • Don’t use products with harsh chemicals, perfumes, or dyes.
  • Apply only gentle moisturizers.
  • Keep hands away from touching freshly waxed skin, as this can encourage irritation or small pimples.
  • Avoid using a bar soap; it leaves a film on the body that could cause ingrown hairs.
  • Use tea tree, lavender oil, antibiotic ointment or hydrocortisone cream.
  • Wear loose cotton undies.

48 hours +

  • Exfoliate using a mold resistant material like Ayate (made in Mexico from the fiber of the agave plant) so you don’t introduce bacteria.
  • Use an acne medication or AHA lotion.
  • Try to gently tweeze out ingrown hairs.

What to do if “problems” occurs:

  • Resist the temptation to pick.  If ingrown hairs are not remedied with gentle tweezing, the use of regular exfoliation and the correct products, then it is a good idea to go back to see your waxing specialist who should be trained to extract stubborn hairs.
  • Call your health care provider if symptoms last longer than 2 or 3 days or  if the infection spreads. If the area is infected,  a doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic lotion or a systemic antibiotic if it is severe.
  • There are other reasons for bumps and redness, that may be unrelated to the waxing like warts, STDs, herpes, fungal infection etc. Practice safe sex, just in case it is communicable.

See you at the spa!

The Isles of Beauty

In my post Skin Discipline I talk about exfoliation and the use of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. These food based “extracts” or AHA & BHA’s can clear, brighten and make your skin look amazing – now you can do it at home.

I lovingly refer to all the places you can buy “cosmetic level” products (as opposed to cosmecueticals that licensed aesthticians use) as the “Isles of Beauty.” You know, drug stores, department stores, and “MLM party plans”.

OK, snobby, elitist, perfectionistic? Guilty! I have 3 reasons for this bias:

1. Generally, lots of money goes into the marketing of these products (a.k.a the “retail machine”), and not as much $$ into the bottle.

2. There is little to no skincare education or monitoring of results provided to the consumer.

3. All these venues have products that are limited in the strengths, potencies and ingredients the FDA allows them to sell.

That said, I know, dear gentle readers, that some of you have never had a facial or seen an aesthetician.  I also realize that in tough economic times priorities may shift. So as an ode to you, here is a list of stuff you can buy from the “Isles of Beauty”.

Try BHA products like…
Stridex Triple Action Acne Pads with Salicylic Acid
Stridex Essential Care Triple Action Acne Pads with Salicylic Acid, Regular Strength
Clean & Clear Blackhead Clearing Daily Cleansing Pads
L’Oreal Pure Zone Tightening Astringent
Biore Triple Action Astringent
Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment
And AHA products like…
Alpha Hydrox Oil-Free Formula
Aqua Glycolic Toner
Kiss My Face Peaches & Creme Moisturizer with 8% Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion Night
Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Ageless Firming Night Cream

See you at the spa!


So, you’ve heard me say before that you have the skin you’ve inherited until about 30, and then  you have the skin you deserve after that. Which means, beautiful skin doesn’t happen naturally (just like the body!). So, what are the top 5 things to guarantee a great complexion?

1.) Find an esthetician that you can visit at least seasonally. Facials are a real boost to the health of the skin and a good way to get professional feedback on how your skin is doing and what it needs more or less of. Your esthetician will also get you hooked up with the best products to use for your skin.  Remember: Your skin is always changing, so what you use should change as well. There are seasonal changes that all skin types experience, and personal changes and stressors that are unique to you. Even if your skin is so problematic that you need a doctors help, that’s no excuse to neglect caring for it at home.

2.) Use great products even if this is a low priority or you have limited resources, there are some key product that really are a must. Let me tell you about a few of my secret weapons:

Facial sunscreen – USE THIS DAILY! In other words, don’t let UV Radiation hit your face without protection (UVA penetrates glass), and keep some in your purse (pocket) for prolonged exposure. In case you’re wondering, the numbers on the bottle don’t mean much; the use of them is unregulated. What does mean something is “full spectrum coverage.” Zinc Oxide is the key ingredient for achieving that.  Not to give you a science lesson, but Zinc Oxide is what lifeguards used to wear before they developed a clear formula.  (Remember that thick white stuff that covered their t-zones?) It’s an important ingredient because it is natural. You don’t have to get it full strength (bit much) but try to get a sunscreen with Zinc Oxide as an active ingredient.

Moisturizer with Sodium Hyaluronate – Sodium Hyaluronate is a polysaccharide  found in the extracellular matrix of our connective tissue.  It is a tissue lubricant that holds over 100 times it’s weight in water.  (Ok. That was REALLY a science lesson.) As we age, this ingrediant needs to be supplemented. Bottom line? Don’t use a moisturizer without Sodium Hyaluronate as one of the top ingredients. The product I recommend is Advance by Serum from DermaQuest. It contains  40% Hyaluronic Acid. Don’t worry!  It doesn’t act like an acid (burn), it is called an acid because of its molecular size and thus, its ability to penetrate the surface of the skin.

Use a foundation everyday – Before mineral makeup came on the scene I could not get my staff (at the Spa in MN), to put makeup on women after a facial, because they didn’t want to “clog the pores”. Mineral makeup doesn’t clog pores, but not all mineral makeup is created equal. I  carry Youngblood Mineral Makeup,which also has an SPF value.  Some of the minerals reflect UV, some absorb it. When wearing mineral makeup, getting a good match is key. Using it daily is also important because the enviroment stresses the skin and mineral makeup soothes and protects it. It calms redness, conceals “spots”, and evens skin tone. It is also not a comedigenic (acne feeding) makeup.

Note: Get a small concealer brush to apply minerals under and on top of the eye area before using shadow. It adds extra  UV protection and conceals redness and dark circles.

So now that you know about some great products to care for your skin, what are the remaining three ways to guarantee a great complexion?

3.) Eat right

4.) Exercise

5.) Drink plenty of water

See you at the spa!

Photo courtesy of Google Images.

%d bloggers like this: