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Archive for February, 2010

Since I wrote No-Nonsense Beauty Book, I  followed the anti-aging skin care rules– I used scrubbing grains to exfoliate  the skin surface, slathered on sunscreen, and avoided the two biggest beauty killers, namely smoking and excess alcohol.  It seemed to work  for years — and then it didn’t .  While I  didn’t develop fine lines, crows feet and  brown patches, I suddenly looked pretty old.  My skin was pale  and sagged along the jawline.  I felt a bit betrayed.  I spent all those years limiting my time at the beach and passing on that second glass of  wine.  And now   there were clear signs of facial aging.    What I learned was that   pale and droopy skin are two characteristic signs of  internal aging.    This means that the decline in hormones as well as a slowdown of blood flow and cell growth, all signs of natural aging, were driving  the changes in my skin.  My pattern of aging — pallor but no freckles and folds rather than wrinkles–  are typical of a 55+ women who avoided sun exposure.  So my precautions were not  totally useless.

External aging is due to exposure to the sun and environmentl pollution.  Also known as photoaging, sun -damaged skin is thicker, with enlarged pores and a coarse texture.  The surface is wrinkled with numerous brown patches and spots.  When not tanned,  the skin  is sallow and dotted with small red lines (burst blood vessels)  Not infrequently there are plenty of brown spots, some of which can develop into a skin cancer.  If you spent  many happy hours in the sun and/or in a tanning bed, this type of damage can appear by age 40.    

  The years are not kind to  sun damaged skin.  When your biological clock passes 55, hormonal changes arrive, bringing with  them deep lines, folds and wrinkles.  That’s the bad news.  The good news?  There are now really effective anti-aging  tools  to restore health and beauty to even the most damged skin.  You won’t look 25 again, but don’t worry, you’ll be very happy with the result.  The challenge is picking the right tools.

Close-Up:  MMPi ( matrix metalloproteinases)

What a mouthful!  This is a cosmetic ingredient with a complicated back story.  MMPs are a group of enzymes in the body that clean-up cell debris.  They destroy  old damaged collagen and elastin to encourage new production of healthy tissue. In the body they are controlled by  enzymes  that inhibit their production.  These are known as MMPi with the “i”   meaning inhibit  However, certain factors such as sunlight and pollution  can over stimulate   production of these clean-up enzymes. The result?   Destruction of healthy collagen and elastin.  Are you still with me here?  The idea here is that    adding MMPi’s to an anti-aging product  can prevent natural destruction of the skin to protect the strength and elasticity of the skin.   Laboratory studies  have shown this to work, but many experts want to see more research.

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Until I started this blog, I had pretty much ignored my neck.  I was happy that it held up my head and didn’t hurt. While I was vaguely aware that it was rough and wrinkly, I was pretty much focused on my dark under-eye circles and vertical smile lines.  After about a month on Retin A, I realized that there was a significant  amount of difference between my face and my neck.  The skin on my face looked smoother, pinker and  firmer.  On the other hand my neck, has horizontal lines, loose skin tone and was just plain pale.  The difference is so strong that it looks like I am wearing make-up on my face and my neck is dirty. ( See photo)

I was therefore thrilled  when Dr Marmur,  my  dermatologist, told me that I could apply Retin A to my neck and chest area.   I had assumed that since the skin is so thin on the neck that Retin A would be too irritating.  I was wrong.   Even when the weather turned cold and snowy my neck was  happy to have its nightly dose of Retin A.  Lets see how long it takes to make my neck wrinkle-free or at least show some improvement.

Close-Up: Kinetins

Kinetins are plant hormones that are vital to plant health.  It prevents yellowing of leaves and the rotting of fruit.  Almost all of the research with kinetins have been with plants.  The few studies with human skin were sponsored by the company that holds the patants to Kinetins.   However results were pretty promising, showing that kinetins applied twice a day reduced some signs of sun aging.  These included skin coarseness, dark patches and spider veins. If you are under 50 and have spent  many happy hours in the sun, anti-aging skin products with  kinetins may improve your skin quality.  Look for products that contain .1% kinetin concentration.  Another good fact– kinetins are non-irritating  and can be used  with Retin A  and AHA’s ( fruit acids)

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The New Beauty Budget

Lets be honest here — an effective anti-aging plan is not cheap: Retin A is $300/tube.  Laser hair removal a painful $800.  Laser removal of freckles –$325.  Still to come  will be a bit of Botox ( $300) and  fillers for  my lines ( $800).   Rather than  dip into my savings to pay for these items, I decided to create a  personal beauty bank.  Here’s how it works. 

I looked over my usual expenses to see where I could cut back and save the money for my anti-aging plan and this is what I found–

* one less  dinner out each month@$100/dinner= $1200/year

* 3 less lattes/week @ $5/lattes= $780/year

* 2 less taxis/week@$10/taxi= $1040/year

* Bring lunch from home 2X/week@ $10/lunch=$1040/year

Add it all up and I can potentially   save  just over $4000/year!!.  Following my  new budget guidelines,  in less than nine months I was able to save  about $2700, more than enough for all my beauty goals.   Funny thing about saving this money, once I achieved my financial goals, I had no desire to go back to my former spending  habits.  I love the idea of a personal beauty bank and will continue to  add to it.

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For the past week or so, it appeared to me that I looked “better”.  To my eyes, my skin seemed to have a healthier color, the smile lines seemed less deep and the skin texture smoother and fresher.  But it can be so hard to judge yourself.  But when I compared  my before and after pictures, the improvements  were real.  Photo 1 is my face before I did anything to it.  Photo 2 is after almost three weeks on Retin A. In the second photo my skin is clearly pinker and the texture  looked firmer and younger.  When I started with Retin A,  I read in Natural Beauty by Bobbie Brown  that I could see  real changes within a week to 10 days– and I did. 

I did have to do some real work  to earn these benefits.  Retin A is powerful and I had to adjust my routine to deal with  cold, dry air or sudden skin redness.  Its not something you can apply and ignore.  When  my skin looked dry and/or irritated, it was a signal to take a Retin A holiday  and double down with a heavy duty moisturizer. 

Retin A means  choosing  companion skin care products very carefully.  Not ony did I need to look for ingredients like sunscreen and hyaluronic acid, I needed to avoid poential irritants such as scrubbing grains, vitamin C,  alpha hydroxy acids,  and retinoids.  These are helpful ingredients, but  can be too irritating when combined with Retin A.

I am really pleased with my new improved complexion– but to quote Winston Churchill, this is not the end.  This is not even the beginning of the end.  It is the end of the beginning.  Next on my list–  a date with a laser to fry my freckles.

Close-Up: Copper Peptides

Studies have shown that copper peptides can promote burn and wound healing by stimulating growth of elastin and collagen.  We also know that as we grow older  the level of copper in our skin cells  naturally declines.  In fact, the amount of copper peptides falls about 30%  between the ages of 30-60.  This has led people  to believe that copper peptides have anti-aging properties.  There are a few industry supported studies  which show that copper  peptides can improve fine wrinkling, reduce dark patches and improve skin thickness.  This is not definative, but certainly promising.  Copper  peptides are affordable and  non-irritating and can be used successfully  with  Retin A regimens.  I’m going to try  them for the  nights when  my skin is too dry for a dab of Retin A.

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It’s a double insult.  I buy a  skin care product  and it doesn’t work.  My beauty problems are still there and I’m  out beween $20 and $100 for something I will never use again.  So, I was really psyched to find a growing number of products now come with a  money back guarantee. Pro-X  from Olay states on the package  and in ads that” satisfaction guarenteed or your money back” .   Bath and Body Works covers all their products with money back guarantee. Nice!  I’m making a list of products and/or brands that come with such a promise.  If you have come across any, let me know.

Close-Up: Niacinamide

A form of  vitamin B, niacinamide appears to  offer solid anti-aging benefits.  Studies have shown it can act as an exfoliator, to take off top dead cells and  encourage new skin growth– much  like fruit acids.  In a study of 50 women who used a 5% niacinamide cream for three months, analysis  of their skin showed  a reduction in fine lines and dark age spots.  Even better, women in the study reported  improved skin tone and color.   Niacinamide is often used in products designed to lighten dark spots and under eye shadows.  As is often the case with anti-aging ingredients,  it can be difficult  to know  how much   niacinamide is in the product.  One clue– the higher  it is listed on the label, the higher the  concentration  in the formulation.

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NYCsnowstormThe cold  and snowy weather continues to cause problems for my  Retin A  treated skin.  Apparently it is the low humidity in the air that’s driving the red patches, tightness and flaking.  I’m going to cut back Retin A useage to 2-3x  per week and drench my skin with a  heavy  moisturizer  in the morning and evening. In addition I’m going to address environmental humidity both inside and outside.  At night I’m going  to plug in my humidifier to compensate for radiator dry air.  To humidify myself I’m  going to try to remember to drink  at least a quart of  water a day.  In warm weather I seem to  have a glass of ice tea surgically attached to my hand.  When it gets cold, my daily liquid intake  drops to several cups of tea  and coffee.

If  these adjustments don’t help, I  have two other options:

1) Twice a week I can apply Retin A, leave it on for 30 minutes, rinse it off and top with moisturizer.

2.  Stop using Retin A  entirely until spring

I think I really see  a difference with Retin A and I don’t want to lose  what ground I have gained.

Close-Up– Peptides 

Peptides are fragments of proteins.  They don’t directly affect the skin, but rather trigger activities in the cells that help them stay young.  Research has shown that peptides can encourage growth of collagen and improve blood circulation in the skin– all good when it comes to anti-aging.  But outside the laboratory, the jury is still out deciding if  beauty products with peptide can deliver  on their promises.  There’s also concern about the ability of  peptide  to get through the skins layers or even how much peptide  is in a product.   I’m going to try  a peptide- rich  moisturizer with a money-back guarantee.  Definately a win-win situation.  If  it works, my skin  will look better.  If it doesn’t, I’ll get my money back.

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To move forward  with my anti-aging  make-over I need to partner with a dermatologist.  When I asked Dr Laser about different options, his answer for everything  was a TCA peel.  This is an expensive and extensive treatment that leaves you bright red and swollen for weeks.  It usually reserved for  heavily lined skin with widespread sun damage.  Since I hate pain and have just seven, count ’em seven sunspots, I felt that TCA  was overkill.

I found a great new partner in a  young dermatologist with impressive academic credentials and who is pretty enough to model.  She looks like she is in her late twenties and actually just turned age 40.  This is a dermatologist who clearly walks the walk.  My original game plan was to (1) use Retin A  to refine the surface,(2) laser my freckles and then(3)  plump up smile lines with a filler like Juvederm.  My new  doctor liked the  steps but suggested that we deal with the freckles now.  She explained that  the lasers work best on darker spots and Retin A tended to  lighten freckles.  So, in a few weeks   my freckles will be history.   

Close-up:  Caffeine

Extracted from coffee beans, caffeine  may offer some pretty heavy duty beauty benefits.  Studies have shown that it can repair sun damaged skin, reduce inflammation and shrink swollen blood vessels.  It is this feature  which makes caffeine helpful for reducing puffy eyes.  Tea also  has significant amounts of  caffeine which is why a cold wet tea bag is a time honored treatment for under-eye bags.

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