Archive for June, 2010

How much sunscreen  do you use on your face?  A dab or two on your cheeks and forehead?  A nickel-sized blob?  I have often read that experts recommend  using one tablespoon on the face and two tablespoons for the body.  Last week while I was making Linzer cookies, I was measuring out butter and one tablespoon looked like a pretty big lump to apply to  my face.  It got me thinking.  I know that butter is 100% fat so perhaps a creamy lotion would absorb more easily.  I squeezed out a tablespoon of my favorite sunscreen and dumped it on a saucer.  As you can see from the photo, its quite an impressive puddle of cream.

In the name of science ( and beauty)  I applied  it to my face– and that’s when things started to become silly.  On Friday you’ll see what happens when I tried to apply the standard sunscreen recommendation of one tablespoon.


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Check it out!  Eight days after my lunch date with an IPL laser, my skin looks wonderful, even without make-up.  Its smooth, with a youthful type of radience and even  rosy skin tone.  Gone are the enlarged pores and it even seems firmer.  I really love the results and they were worth the healing time.  However IPL is  not something that should  be done right before a big event like  a wedding or a highschool reunion.  I would schedule it  at least two weeks before a special day  for a maximum glow. Although the recommendations are to resume normal skin care ( eg Retin A,  chemical sunscreens) within three days, I had a few  red spots so I waited a week.  I  just started back on my Retin A   and had no problems.  Same thing with my broad spectrum Aveeno sunscreen.

IPL is usually given in a series of 3-6 treatments, three weeks apart.  I  have been on Retin A for months and removed my larger freckles with a bad boy Yag laser.  One treatment made a big difference, but if you have alot of freckles and areas of discoloration, you’re going to need the full series of treatments.  This can  run into real money, but  it can produce great results with less drama than  a deep peel or full  face laser. 

One final word of advice.  The outcome of an IPL laser depends heavily on the skill and experience of  your doctor. They  have to know  which wave length to choose for each  problem and then how long to use it.   My derm, Dr Marmur,  is Chief of Dermatological Surgery at Mount Sinai and actually teaches other doctors  how  to do  IPL and other anti-aging techniques.   She is also a beautiful 40 year old women with four children who looks 27… in other words she not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.  Ask friends  for recommendations, check credentials and look in guidebooks like Top Doctors to find  the most skilled physcians in your area.

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By Day 4   I decided to use a Buff Puff to remove the freckle debris.  I can see clear signs of improvement in the skin. 

It looks poreless and feels very soft.  There are a few red areas of irritation which I can easily cover  with a dab of concealer. IPL is recommended for early signs of aging and I can now see why.  I  have been using Retin-A for more than five months and  a YAG laser to burn off larger freckles.  The  heavy  lifting done, the IPL laser was able to gently but effectively refine  my skin.

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 The next morning I was happy to see the red splotches were gone, but now there were a shower of tiny brown spots on my nose and cheeks.  These are exploded freckles and  areas of discoloration. ( See photo) 

I know this means that my skin will  have a pinker more even color, but at this point its disconcerting.  They are supposed to fall off in a day or two.

While the after effects of the IPL laser is far less severe than a traditional laser, I wonder if the concept of  “lunchtime laser” has been ovesold.  I don’t know where you work, but I think my colleagues and clients would notice my new spots and splotches.  Next time  I am going to have  this type of anti-aging  procedure on a Friday afternoon.  I’ll stock up of DVD’s, get the latest Patricia Cornwall book , fill up a basket of  food from Eli’s  and take it easy over the weekend.  By Monday, I’ll be a little fatter, but my skin will be glorious.

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I’m really happy with my Retin-A treatd skin but I’ve become greedy.  I asked my anti-aging  guru, Dr Marmur  of Mount Sinai, for micro-dermabrasion and she suggested  the IPL laser — aka “the lunchtime laser”.  Unlike the industrial strength CO2 laser, the IPL is non-ablative which means  that it does not remove whole layers of skin.  This makes healing much easier and faster.

Using bursts of  light of  different wave lengths, the IPL laser can remove freckles, brown patches, redness,  and enlarged pores.  As an extra bonus, IPL produces a bit of tightening for a  more youthful contour.  It is especially effective  for  signs of sun aging  when you’re in  your 30’s and 40’s.

I was told  to stop using Retin- A  three days before the procedure.  One hour  before my appointment, I applied lidocaine cream to numb the area.  Remembering my first painful laser exerience, I literally frosted my face with the numbing cream.   Dr Marmur  covered my eyes with paste -on shields and went to work.  It didn’t hurt!   In fact it was significantly less uncomfortable than the laser that another  doctor used for my first hair removal.

The session lasted about 20 minutes and this is what I looked  like a few moments after I got off the examining table. 

 A little dazed and slightly blotchy, my skin felt a bit sore, like a mild sunburn.  I was told to use my usual mild Cetaphil cleanser and avoid Retin- A for at least another 3 days.   For sun protection I was to use a sunscreen for sensitive skin that contained   a  physical sunblock like titanium dioxide.  I choose Neutrogena for Sensitive Skin SPF 40.

A few hours later, my face started to feel hot and irritated.  In the mirror I could see strange , pink, rectangular blotches on my cheeks.  Dr M told me this  was a histamine reaction, a sign that I was going to have  great results ( and she was right again). She prescribed a mild steroid cream and within an hour  the blothches were gone.

Next post:  Let the healing begin.

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 Waterproof/ Water-resistant- Unlike fragrance-free or alcohol free which are pretty  self explanatory, waterproof/water resistant is a bit more complex.  Even  an industrial strength sunscreen will not be able to deliver on its promise if its washed off by perspiration or a dip in a pool.  So waterproof/water resistant ( and its cousin sweatproof) means that  this sunscreen  will have  some staying power on the skin.  However its ability to withstand moisture is not permanent- which is why  the usual recommendation is to reapply sunscreen every few hours.

Bottom Line:  waterproof/water resistant is  an important feature if you’re using sunscreen  around a pool or beach or in hot weather. When its cool and dry, water resistance is not a key factor– but remember as  long as there is sunlight, even in winter, you need a daily sunscreen.

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#6. SPF — This is the big Kahuna of sunscreen terms.  Seeing   “SPF”  on a package gives  you confidence in a product- maybe too much confidence.

Here’s how it works:  SPF stands for “sun protection factor”.  An SPF 15 means that you can stay in the sun 15X longer without burning.  If you start burning after 10 minutes  of sun exposure, then a 15 SPF  means you can spend 10 x 15 =150 minutes in the sun without burning.   But this sounds better than it is.

Many factors affect how much sun protection you actually have in real time– how much you use, if you’re near water or sands which reflects light,  as well as heat, humidity and time of year.  To me the most interesting things I learned is an SPF 30 is not twice  as good a 15 SPF.  Who knew?

I think that the best way to view an SPF is as proof that this product has actually been tested  and has shown to offer an acceptable level of sun protection.   Most doctors recommend an SPF 30 as a minimum for daily facial  and body use.  If you are spending at least  an hour outside in the sun, this rises to an 40-50 SPF.  The  jusy is still out on how well  higher ( 60-100 SPF) deliver.

Finally keep in mind that sunscreens  are not cumulative.  For example, if you use a moisturizer with a 15 SPF and a 15 SPF  foundation,your acting SPF is still 15, not 30.  Your total  SPF  is only as high as your highest SPF. For more information on sunscreens, click on 15 Minute Beauty Fanatic on my blogroll.  This beauty blog has currently is posting a great series on sunscreens including reviews  of specific  suncare products.   

Let the summer games begin.

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