Archive for January, 2010

When I left  the office of Dr Laser ( as I will call him) , he gave me a prescription for Retin A Micro and one piece of advice. ” Don’t use a washcloth or scrubbing grains”.  From the research I had done for my beauty books, I knew that  picking the right  products to use with Retin A  was  essential  to achieving the best results without quitting due to  dryness and irritation.   I made a list  of  four key products:

* Cleanser

* Eye Makeup Remover

* Sunscreen/ Moisturizer

* Nighttime Moisturizer

So I took my prescription  for Retin A Micro to the drugstore and was met with sticker shock.  It was $300/tube.  I debated with myself for a few minutes, then gave  it in to be filled.  Practically every dermatologist recommends a form of Retin A as the foundation of anti-aging skin care.  I thought about all the beauty products that I had used that never worked, all the shoes I bought that hurt too much to wear, not to mention over-priced meals at atrendy restaurants.  It  took away some of the pain of a $300 price tag. 

With the purchase of the pricy  Retin A, I wanted to build the rest of my beauty tool kit with affordable, effective products.  I needed just four, but they all had very specific criteria.

1.  The Ideal Cleanser — Given that Retin A can be so irritating, I needed a very very gentle cleanser.  This means  no scrubbing grains, no exfoliators ( eg alpha hydroxy acids), no retinol and  no washcloth.  I walked through the aisles of Duane Reade reading labels of products on seemingly endless  shelves.  I settled on an oldie but goodie– Cetaphil Gentle  Skin Cleanser (for all skin types).  This product has been around for years, but it met my criteria.  At  just $9/8oz, it took some of the sting out of the $300 Retin A.  I tossed in  a tube of disposable cotton pads to substitute for a washcloth.

2.  Eye Makeup Remover —I used to use a   washcloth to take off my mascara, but  since these are now  banned form  my beauty routinue, I needed another approach.  A friend suggested  Almay oil-free eye makeup remover.  On the  jar ( $5.99 ) Almay states that it is the #1 eye makeup remover.  I don’t know who made  this judgement, but it cerainly is an excellent product.  It  took off my mascara easily and was totally non-irritating. Even better it  did not  leave a blurry film on my eyes that had happened with other much more expensive eye makeup removers. So far, so good.

3. Sunscreen/Moisturizer —  Much of our skin aging is due to sun exposure, and just using a daily sunscreen has shown to protect the skin from aging UV rays.  Because Retin A  can be so drying, I also wanted  my sunscreen to double as a moisturizer.  Keep in mind that Retin A makes the skin  more vulnerable to sun damage, so this sunscreen/moisturizer  needed an SPF of  at least 15, and 30 would be even better.  One more criteria is also a deal breaker– it had to be non-greasy since  I will wear  make-up over it.   I will  also need to avoid ingredients that could be irritating ( eg AHA’s like glycolic acid  or retinol and vitamin C).  I found several products that fit the bill and  in the interest of research, I bought three of them for less than $50.

* Aveeno  Ultra Calming Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30 ( $17.39 for 2.5 oz)– This fragance-free product contains  feverfew, an herb  known for its soothing properties.  It is perfect for my purposes

  L’oreal Skin Genesis Multi-layer Cell Strengthening Daily Moisturizer, SPF 15 ($17.80 for 1.7 oz)– I choose this product because it contained hyaluronic acid which is a powerful natural skin moisturizer.  In fact, one molecule of hyaluronic acid  can hold 1000x its weight in water.  Hyaluronic Acid  is an expensive compound, and it seemed that this product was the only drugstore brand that contained this water-attracting agent.    

* Cetaphil UVA/UVB SPF 50 ( ($13.99 for 1.7oz) — This turbo powered sunscreen  will be great for the summer months. 

4.  Nighttime Moisturizer — On this drugstore field trip I could not find what I was looking for — a heavier moisturizer that was free of irritaing ingredients such as retinol or AHA’s . I decided to use Skin Genesis that I had bought as a daytime moisturizer.  I loved that it had hyaluronic acid and decided that its sunscreen at night would not  be a problem.

I’m always looking for  new products that  meet my criteria.  Let me know what has worked for you.

Next post:  Starting with Retin A

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Most dermatologists regard Retin A  as the foundation of anti-aging skin care.  However, it can be an irritating formulation and if you want to use laser for some problem, you need to stop using Retin A for about a week.  I decided to start  my beauty plan with laser hair removal on my lip and chin before embarking on a Retin A regimen.  I was  impatient to start  with Retin A but  even the tighest and freshest complextion would be  challenged by face fuzz.  ( look at my chin in first photo). 

For the proceedure, I went to a Park Avenue dermatologist  who is also head of a department of at at New York  Medical Center.  His  approach was a series of three  treatments for $800, given about one month apart.  When he examined my face he was pleased to find  that I had very few white hair since  lasers work best on darker hair. 

As per  his instructions, when I made the appointment, I dabbed on a numbing cream one hour before  my visit and then  every 15 minutes  until he fired up the laser.  In his treatment room, he gave me a pair of red plastic goggles and went to work.  Let me completely  honest here and share with you  that the burn of the laser really hurt.  I have read that the laser feels like the snap of a rubber band.  Actually to me   it felt like someone kicked me  in the chin… many  many times.  At one point he stopped to remark that I probably did not use enough numbing cream and it should be applied heavily.  Now  he tells me.

When he finished ( it probably was just  a minute or two) my chin was a reddened and  a little sore. I left the office holding a prescription for Retin A in one hand and cradling my chin in the other.  That evening, I was delighted to see  that the facial hairs could be wiped away with a tissue.  I dotted on a bit of steroid cream to reduce irritation.  By morning my skin was smooth and comfortable.   (see photo 2).  As an added bonus, the skin looked  firmer since the laser created a bit of swelling.  Lasers also stimulate collagen production  and that extra volume of collagen that was produced would  add a bit extra tone.  Nice!

If you had similar experience with laser hair removal I would love to  hear about your experience.

Next post:  Building An Anti-Aging Toolkit

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So here I am with no make-up on in a photo taken early in the morning.  There’s good news and bad news about my aging issues.  The good news is that  I don’t  have all 12 of the dirty dozen.  The bad news?  I’v got  seven of them.

1.  Pallor— that greenish skin tone is not the fault of my camera or your   computer screen.  My skin is sallow and pale.  I’m one of those people that actually use up  cakes of bronzer and blush, scraping my brush down to get out every last bit of color.

Solution:  My skin is pale because  my circulation has slowed.  One of the great benefits of Retin A  is that it stimulates blood flow.  I’ve been told  that I should see a pinker tone in a week to ten days.  We’ll see.

2. Age Spots — I’ve got seven noticable brown spots, some of them raised and bumpy. 

Solution:  I can try  to lighten them with bleaching creams, but this can take 4-6 months and may not work.  I’m impatient for results, so I am going to zap them with a laser. 

3. Facial Hair– There is nothing sexy about facial hair.  Its  just another gift of age. 

Solution:  I’m going to treat it with another type of laser.  There is a cream called Vaniqua that is said to reduce facial hair growth, but at   my age I want results like yesterday.

4. Smile Lines — I like to think that these lines showed I laughed  alot over the years.  Everyone  has them  when they smile.  Its just as we get older that they remain  even when we are very, very somber.

Solution: While Retin A may build up a bit of collagen to make laugh lines somewhat softer, to make  a major difference, I’m going to need fillers like Juvaderm or Restylene. These will be injected directly into the lines to compensate  for the loss of fat pads which  are driving these deep lines.

5.  Under Eye Shadows– These sooty shadows make me look sad and tired even when I’m happy and relaxed.

Solution: I’m going to try  Tri-luma which is a combination of Retin A, hydroquinone ( which is a skin bleaching agent) and a steroid to calm things down.   There are other tools such  as lasers and fillers, but I’m scared of doing stuff around my eyes. 

6.  Discolored Teeth– You can’t see my teeth in this picture, but take my word for it, they are definately yellow.  I don’t smoke and red wine gives a headache.  However I  love strong tea and coffe which certainly can darken a smile. 

Solution:  I had  Zoom lightening  about 10 years ago, but didn’t keep up with the  weekly touch-ups.  I’m going back to my dentist for a custom tray to  lighten up the tooth surfaces.

7.  Sagging Jaw Line— The softening of the jaw line is due to equal parts of fat pad loss and weakened collagen.  Its typical of the aging process especially in people who don’t have too much sun damage.

Solution:  Until recently, the only  real solution for this type of sagging was a true face lift.  That not on the table, so I’m really happy that   a softened jaw line can be treated with fillers and Botox. Its going to be one of the last things I am going to do.

Next:  The longest journey starts with  the first step.  In my case, its a date with a laser.

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So now we are getting down to the last four signs of aging. 

 Aging Skin Sign #9: Wrinkles and Lines

Worry lines, laugh lines, smokers wrinkles, marioniette lines.  We’ve got them  cute names for these wrinkles, but they’re really not  that funny when you to have to look at them every morning in the mirror.  They all develop when the collagen and elastin fibers  in the skin no longer have strength and flexibility.    Sunlight is the major culprit here as UV rays fry these stretchable skin fibers.  Free radicals  from smoking, alcohol and stress are also thought to  contribute to collagen destruction.  When these fibers can  no longer adjust to movement, lines and wrinkles develop  much  the way that after  time a pair of slim jeans start to wrinkle at the knees.

There are countless products out there  which   claim to  encourage collagen  growth and  some of them actually work! 

Aging Skin Sign #10: Under Eye Bags

Allergies are often the  cause of under -eye baggy skin.  When allergies strike, the area fills up with fluid, stretching out the delicate undereye tissue. Over time, the skin becomes permanently loose and stretched out.  If you get allergies every spring, its possible to develop  under-eye bags in your thirties.  As years go by,  even if  you don’t have allergies, sun damage and normal wear and tear will damage collagen fibers that result in  loose under eye skin.  Like dark circles, under-eye bags  can be challenging to fix.  If you are under 40,  controlling allergies cn make a big difference in under-eye  tissue.  If you are older, the skin has permanently distended and effective treatment  can  call for lasers or surgery.    That might sound scary, but I’m glad I have  a true perspective of the problem.

Aging Skin Sign#11:  Rough Texture

Enlarged pores and rough pebbly texture make the skin look older and  less attractive.  However its not part of natural aging, and if you protect your  skin from the sun,  rough texture should be other peoples problem.  If you do have this problem, I’m  delighted to tell you that it responds beautifully to easy treatments.  This type of  thickened skin has quite a few wrinkles, all of which can be repaired.  I have seen friends concerned about their lines, and are not really aware of the impact  their rough skin texture has on their appearance.  Its  both important to your appearance and  simple to deal with.

Aging Skin Sign# 12:  Dry Skin

Last, but not least, we end with dry skin.  This skin feels tight, itchy, chapped and often looks flaky and reddened. It looks and feels dry because the normal moisture levels are too low.  The water levels  in the skin are heavily  controlled   by  two factors– natural moisturing factors  which  apparently decline as we get older and hormonal factors which control  oil production in the skin.  The natural skin oils  on  acts like plastic wrap to  help the skin hold moisture.   As the hormonal levels decline, ( isn’t monopause  the  gift that just keeps on giving),  there is less oil to seal in  moisture.   A well-designed  daytime moisturizer should offer you both water -attracting compounds and a sunscreen  in an emolliant base.  This will help you retain a nice  healthy water balance as well as protect you from the aging rays of the sun.

Please remember that while dry skin  can make  your  skin look more lined, dry skin does NOT cause lines and wrinkles.   A good moisturizer will soothe chapped, flaky skin and make fine lines look less apparent.– much the way soaking  a raisin in hot water will plump up the surface.   But the jury is still out whether ingredients  like collagen or vitamin E can  affect skin aging.  A good moisturizer is essential for skin beauty, but it has its limitations. 

It’s easy to relieve dry skin.  Modern moisturizer formulations will provide all day relief.  When a daytime moisturizer is pumped up with a 30SPF sunscreen you are actually preventing lines, wrinkles and under eye shadows.   

Next time:  A close-up of my face that shows personal aging problems and a master plan  to  deal with them.

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Four More Signs of Aging

Asking Skin Sign#5: Crows Feet

Very few women need to be told what crows feet are.  These tiny lines that radiate at the outside corners of the eye, are often  the first wrinkles to appear.  They are not so much a sign of aging, but of life.  Every time you ope n or close your eyes, smile, squint or laugh, these areas  are stretched and pulled.  As early as age 30 the skin starts to weary and these little lines appear.  In sunny states such as Arizona and Texas, crow’s feet can develop by age 15 due to constant squinting in bright sunlight.  Several great treatment options can erase crow’s feet  in  less than an hour.  Much easier to treat then under eye circles.

Aging Skin Sign#6: Under Eye Circles

Dark  under eye shadows that make us look tired, old and sometimes sad.  Three different factors can cause under-eye circles and its possible to  have all three problems working at one.  Increased melanin production is the most frequent culprit– and one of the easist  to treat.  There are a wide range of  skin lightening agents with varying degrees of effectivness.  Under eye shadows  can also be due to leakage of  very tiny blood vessels under the very thin under-eye tissues.  The hemoglobin in the blood appears as  dusky blue shadow.  Treatment options look at shrinking these blood vessels, and/or dissolving these accumulations of hemoglobin.   Happily  some skin brighteners that work on melanin also  work on  hemoglobin.  Finally dark circles can appear  as another sign of fat pad loss.  This time, the fat pad loss under the eye, hollows out the  area, creating physical shadows.  Best way to tell  what is causing shadows is to pull gently  the under eye skin out a bit.  If the skin still looks darker, then its melanin or  hemoglobin, rather than fat pad loss, causing the problems. 

I’m not going  to  lie to you, dark circles are not that easy  to deal with.  There  is a roomful of products that promise to beighten the area, but just don’t work.  There are prescription products that take a while to  work, but they are not always successful.  Laser treatments can  vaporize darkened tissue, but  I find that kind of scary.  Injectable fillers  can be injected into the shadows  to plump  up shadowy hollows. The bottom line is that  dark circles can be treated but they take time, patience and sometimes a bit of money. 

Aging Sign#7: Facial Hair

Along with wisdom and maturity, age  can bring facial hair, primarily on the upper lip and chin.  Sprouting hair after 40 is due to age – related changes that also cause skin dryness and – in the the nobody said that life is fair category – hair loss on the head and eyebrows. 

Darker facial hair is more obvious, but  a heavy blonde peach fuzz  is not a turn-on either.  Permanent hir removal  has come a long way. In addition to laser treatments, there is a cream called Vaniqua.   Lasers can dramatically reduce and eventually eliminate hair growth.  Vaniqua needs  six to eight weeks to work and must be continued  to keep hair growth under control

Aging Skin Sign #8: Sagging Skin

Loose skin can happen  to so  many parts of the face.  Its often starts as a softening of the jaw line– always an instant ager.  Skin also sags around the cheeks,under the eyes, and under the chin.  This problem is just another sign of the one-two punch of weakened collagen and fat pad loss.  In the past, droopy  skin could only be repaired with a full face lift.  Not only was this invasive and expensive ($15,000)  the results were not that appealing.  While pulling up skin makes the face look smoother and tighter, it did not  restore a youthful shape. The net result was an oddly tight severe look.  Today there are  medical treatments at a fraction of the cost of surgery, which  give prettier, more  natural results.  


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There is good news and bad news about facial aging.  The  bad news  is that there are  actually twelve different signs of aging in the face.  The good news?  There are solutions for all of them.  To break it down, I’m using a picture of a thirty something woman who is blissfully unaware of the  changes to come.  I want to  point out where these changes will appear and discuss what causes them.  In  a few weeks, I’m going  to put up my own photo to point out my age related changes  and then photograph the results as I try different  techniques and products.

Aging  Sign #1:  Pallor ( aka pale skin)

Our model  has a natural healthy skin tone.  As she grows older, the skin tones will grow pale, sallow and shallow, all due primarily to a slowdown in circulation.  What we see as a fresh pink color is actually a reflection of healthy red blood pulsing under the skin.  The slower the blood flow, the less fresh  healthy blood there is to cast  off  a pinkish glow.  Pale skin can happen to us at any age.  When we are sick and tired, our blood supply  is shifted to essential organs like the brain and heart.  When we feel better, a natural pink color returns.  ( Darker skin tones don’t have this problem, which is  one of the reasons  these skins can look so much younger than their real age).  While its a natural part of aging to experience  a slowdown in blood supply, cigarette smoking, sun exposure and too much partying can speed up the destruction of the veins and arteries.  We also know that aerobic exercise  such as running or biking  reves up circulation  and  helps you look pinker and healthier.  Until you reach your 60’s, healthy skin color is really a lifestyle choice.  After that you need some help.  I’m happy to say that pallor, at any age, is actually one of the easiest problems to fix.

Aging Sign#2:  Freckles and brown spots

On a spunky five year old, freckles are adorable sprinkled across the face.  On a fifty year old, not so much.  These discolorations are just clumps of melanin pigment that appears after too much sun exposure.  They can  make the skin look dull and splotchy.  These bad boys  can appear anywhere, and the more sun you get, the mosre brown spots are produced.  Even if you don’t lay out on a beach , just the reflected sunlight into a sunny room, can provoke a few on the nose and cheeks.  When they become raised and lumpy, they are called senile keratoses — not my favorite reminders of the passing of time.  I would like to rename  them to something like “Summer Spots”.  Whatever they are called they are really easy to eliminate.

Aging Signs#3:  What’s So Funny About Smile Lines

Smile lines are just what they sound like– creases in the cheeks that appear in the area where you smile.  Even children get smile lines when they giggle.  When  they stop smiling, their face is smooth again.But  as time goes by, these smile lines remain on the face even when you are frowning.  Smile lines develop as collagen fibers become weak and frayed and are no longer able  to bounce back after movement.  Loss of fat  under the skin also play a big role in the appearance of smile lines.  Getting back to beautiful babies, they have full fat pads  which produce the typical  rounded  baby face.  As we get older, we lose this baby fat to develop cheeck bones and flattering facial planes.  As the years continue to pass, you continue to lose fat pads, but the skin stays the same size.  The result? Not enough fat to fill out the skin, resulting in lines and sags.  In fact, smile lines are  one of the first lines  to develop from fat pad loss.  Even just a few years ago the only way to deal with smile lines was a full face lift.  So happy to say that they can be treated with a quick trip to  a dermatologist.

Aging Sign#4:  Discolored Teeth

Darkened and yellowed teeth are not caused  by aging, but by living.  After decades of double lattes and goblets of red wine tooth, enamel  becomes discolored.  Smoking is also a particularly powerful tooth stainer.  Even heavy smokers in their thirties can have yellowed and brownish teeth.  Just brightening your smile will make you look younger and prettier.   Keep in mind that  teeth shift as time passes.  Not only can teeth look yellowed, but they can become oddly spaced and crooked.  Lightening the teeth seem to make a smile look better even without costly braces.  I think that the really good news is that tooth whitening is one of the easiest anti-aging tools we have.

Next time:  Aging Skin Signs, Part 2

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