Archive for February, 2012

When I started my anti-aging  explorations, I really wasn’t thinking about my neck.  It was  just there to hold up my  head and someplace to hang a great necklace.  As I could see changes  on my face from Retin A, I could see a clear difference in the skin quality between my cheeks and my neck.  Dr Marmur, my uber dermatologist, told me that I could use Retin A on my neck, but it would take at least a year to show genuine results.  She also reminded me to use sunscreen on my neck, something I had NEVER done.   It just didn’t occur to me. 

After several months on Retin A without  the big results I saw on my face, we decided to remove  the big freckles and age spots with   lasers and cauterization.  When she finished, my neck looked like it had been attacked by a flock of  vampire bats.   I wore scarves for several months, even when the weather was warm and sunny.  When they healed I was meticulous about  using sunscreenon my newly clear neck skin.  I have continued  using Retin A and while the changes  are not as dramatic as on the face, I can see improvements.  The chicken skin bumps are smaller, the color a bit better and  the general texture is smoother. 

The  easy to do treatments for the neck are limited. Botox can relax the vertical lines that are  are more prominent as the years go by.  Fillers can be used on the horizontal lines that  deepen over time.  IPL  and microdermabrasion are not options for the neck and  most real changes would need to be done surgically.  Procedures to pull and titghten neck skin, the so-called “Madonna Lift”, is the current operation of choice.  If  you look at recent pix of  the performer’s  neck, it has the smooth taut lines of  a women in her twenties.  It’s a beautiful example of cosmetic surgery gone right, but its not on my to-do list.  I make my living with my brains, not beauty– and instead of going to a cosmetic surgeon, for now  I’m just going to opt  for Dr Hermes.


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Its Fashion Flash Monday and this week the host is Kari of Fab Over Forty.  This great site has some of the best make-up videos on the web.  Recently  she uploaded a smokey eye tutorial where I finally learned  the ultimate  way to apply mascara.  I never knew  that the goal  is to  get definition at the roots of the lashes.   Following these instructions made my eyes pop!  Kari also has an extensive review of  spring make-up colors and which  work best  when you’re over 40. 

And if you ever  thought about starting  your own  beauty line, you should read  Lessons of a Lipstick Queen by Poppy King.  When she was  still a teenager in Australia, King  came up with a lipstick line that  had interesting colors in a matte formulation.  Through creative marketing and sheer determination, King built her lipstick into a multimillion-dollar brand.  She shares her journey, offering advice and tips to other would-be entrepreneurs.  For example she offers advice on the best ways to get  finanacing  and do’s and don’ts of working with the media and how to be successful at cold calling.  King  is especially effective when  she  deals with the inner critic and insecurities that  accompany any enterrprise.  She shares  her own anecdotes of self doubts and discoveries  in a way that offers both guidence and comfort.

But perhaps the  most important part of the book  looks at how to bounce back  when  plan A fails.  After several years of great success, King ran into problems with her partners, and  her once vibrant  company began to collapse.  King reinvented herself, came to the US and went to work as VP for creative marketing  for Prescriptives, a  line for Estee Lauder.  Most business books focus on the upward journey and  how to  build a brand.  Lessons of a Lipstick Queen  looks at both sides of a journey and how  to keep going.

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Question—  In a few months I’m turning 50.  After half a century, my skin is looking tired and I want to give myself a birthday present.  Which would be better, microdermabrasion or Botox?  You seem to really like both of them.

Answer— Happy birthday!  I do like both  microdermsabrasion and Botox, but  they are very different  anti-aging tools and  deal with different  problems.  Microdermabrasion  takes of the top dead layer  of skin cells to leave the skin smoother, brighter and softer.  In addition, removing these old cells actually stimulates the lower levels to grow.  Researchers have noticed that  mens’ skin seems to age more slowly than women’s– and they believe that part of the reason is the daily  shave which encourages the growth of  fresh new skin every day.

Botox injections at  problem areas  can erase fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes and  forehead.   It can change contours of the face, while microdermabrasion changes the texture and color of the surface of the skin.  The two tools actually work very well together– microdermabrasion  to improve the texture and color of the skin and Botox  to deal with contours that are a half a century old. 

Your question actually gets to the heart of my anti-aging journey–  which tools and techniques  work and how to combine them to get the best possible results.  I decided to start on the dark spots and splotches  from sun damage- first with Retin A and then with microdermabrasion.  When the skin’s surface looked smooth and fresh,  I added Botox to erase the lines at the sides of  my mouth and around my eyes.  You can see these results  on  the No-Nonsense Beauty BLog Facebook Page.  Just click on the Facebook  icon.

Microdermabrasion, as  much as I love the immediate results, lasts only a few days.  For long lasting  results, I suggest starting with a low dose   nightly Retin A  cream.  You should see very nice results within six weeks.  The skin will  look fresher and clearer.  Then  try the Botox to deal with the after effects  fifty years of laughing and talking.  And here’s to  another wonderful fifty years.

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When I  first saw this video I was mesmerized like a deer caught in the headlights.  I never saw a workout like this using  just the weight of the arms to define contours.  But  when you look at Gweneth Paltrow’s  arms  as well as the arms of  the developer of this technique, Tracy Anderson, this is  what I  want– smooth, firm, non-lumpy arms.  It looks hard and I got tired  just watching the clip.  But after  seeing it a few times, I put it on full screen and was able to follow along albeit  slower and  not for the whole thing.  Its quite a work-out, but fun and  interesting– a whole lot more entertaining than hositing weights.  But I don’t know if this type of exercise should be done everyday.  Maybe  every other day? 

As a matter of principle I don’t take celebrity health and beauty advice.  I would rather get  my info from people who were trained and licensed, rather than just good looking.  But the video got me thinking– what are the credentials I should look for  in a  person offering fitness advice.  When it comes to skin care there are  just a few avenues– dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, esthetician all have established training programs, a few associations  and state wide  qualifying exams. But when it comes to  fitness the field is much  more crowded.

There are literally dozens of  organizations  including National Board of Fitness Examiners(NBFE), Fitnation, Academy of Applied Personal Training Education ( AAPTE), and National Personal Trainer Academy (IPTA).  Some like the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) are online programs   while others like Hofstra University have a campus based  training program.  And most of them have their own exam for certification. 

And then there are the qualifications for participating in the program.  College grad?  High school diploma?  Just strong?   Exercise programs should be based on basic anatomy to  yeild good results and avoid injuries.  Do you know  which fitness credentials to look for in a trainer or program?

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This week  Staness of Menopause Makeover is hosting Fashion Flash.  Each  time  I  click on this site, I wish  it had  been there when I went through menopause.  It can be a hard and isolating  journey.  From the first day you realize that turtlenecks are no longer an option to  scary medical reports,  menopause  is a time when you need a smart, caring friend– and Menopause Makeover is  just that.   Staness  offers great  emotional  support and  state of the art  scientific  developments in an upbeat and supportive way.  The site is packed with  accurate, balanced advice as well as some of the best healthy recipes on the web.

Strand Bookstore in NYC  is  three  floors of  new and used books, all at discount.  Wandering through the aisles last week, I picked up a little biography of Max Factor, the Russian immigrant   who  many  have called the father of modern make-up. 

Max Factor was already  famous in the  in Hollywood as a wig maker  when new technologies  demanded new types of makeup for the stars.  As the silent black and  white films evolved into color ‘talkies”, producers realized that a new type of foundation was needed.  Existing greasepaint products left a sheen on the skin that reflected nearby colors.  For example, if an actress was standing near green trees, her skin would take on a green hue.  Because it was so unflattering many stars including Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Carole Lombard refused to work in Technicolor.  Bette Davis was even suspended from Warner Brothers for turning down  the studios first color  film.  ( I love this stuff).

The man who developed  Technicolor personally asked Max Factor to come up with a solution.  After several years of intensive research, Factor and his sons developed  a foundation that while transparant and matte, was able to hide blenishes and imperfections. It was  called Pancake because it was packed like a little flat cake in a little pan.  Within a very short time ,  Max Factor pancake became both  the standard makeup for film and a top selling foundation for women around the world.  Driven by a real need, the beauty industry  came up with a unique and effective product.

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Sweet and juicy, grapefruits have long been a diet staple. But more than just low in calories, grapefruits pack an impressive nutritional payload. They are rich in pectin, a type of fiber known for lowering cholesterol. This citrus fruit is also high in potassium essential for normal blood pressure and vitamin C which the vitamin linked to fewer wrinkles. In fact 1/2 a grapefruit supplys almost 70% of our daily vitamion C needs– at just 30 calories. Usually differnt types of a fruit  or vegetable have pretty much the same nutritional content.  But grapefruits are different.  P ink or red grapefruits ( usually from Texas)   are also rich  in beta carotene– a precursor to skin- friendly vitamin A.    The white grapefruit ( common in Florida)   which tastes  pretty much the same,  has very little beta carotene.

Problem with Grapefruits?

Grapefruits  have an unusual impact  on  common medications– they make them stronger.  Apparently, grapefruits contain compounds that inhibit drug metabolism which makes it  more available to the body.  This impact  seems to affect  some people  more than others so  its hard to know if  its something you should worry about.    The list  of drugs which are boosted by grapefruits is  long, including Lipitor  to lower cholesterol, Synthroid thyroid supplements, codeine for pain, Prilosec for acid reflux and Zoloft for depression.  This impact can last for  up to 72 hours.  Since grapefruit juice seems to be much more of a problem than the actual fruit,   current recommendations are to avoid taking  medication with the juice.   If you take  several of  these meds, ask  your doctor  if grapefruits can pose a problem.

Grapefruits  also  have a reputation as a fat-burner. It only it was true. There are no special enzymes in these orbs that will  use up calories  calorie  or increase  fat loss.   But they offer enough real nutritional benefits to make them an awesome fruit choice in winter when they are in season.

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Finally an exercise video that excites  a couch potato like  me. LA based trainer Jackie Warner has a workout DVD ( One-On One Training with Jackie) that includes a 2o minute upper body workout. After watching it curled up in a chair, I actually got up, grabbed  my 3 pound handweights and joined in.   It starts with a short  but targeted warm-up rather than a looong  warm-ups seen in other exercise programs.   The Warner warm-up  focused on the upper body, stretching  and activating the arms and shoulders.

Warner clearly explains which exercise does what.  The movements are straight forward and even I could follow along.    Rather than the traditional 3 sets of 10 reps,  Warner does each exercise for about a minute — about a total of 45-60 reps.  Its the same number as in standard sets but done continulously for increased intensity.   The pace is fast enough  to be interesting, but  measured enough   to allow me to smoothly finish  each  movement.   There were enough reps in each series to allow me to pick  them up  and get in a true muscle burning  work-out. 

The 20 minute workout included several cardio intervals and one series of pushups.  I skipped both.  My muscles were already burning from the weight training and I wanted to save myself  to concentrate on the arms.   Maybe as the weeks go by, I’ll add  cardio and push-ups, but right now I’m not up to them.

Warner has a clearly defined goal for fitness– a v shaped body with  strong broad shoulders that narrows down to hard abs and a small  waist.  All parts of her exercise program  are designed to work together to  produce this contour.    I like the idea of a comprehensive goal to a workout rather than a seemingly random  series of exercises.The upper body  workout ended as well as it had begun.   The cool down was a short  stretching session that soothed my quivering muscles. 

But will it work?

Last month I took a sobering series of before pix of my not so perfect arms and plan to take another set of pix after a month of doing this 20 minute workout every day. This week I measured  the circumference of my upper arm and will take another measurement at the end of the month long exercise program.  Some experts have said that exercise will shrink and firm the arms while other claim that they will increase in bulk.  We’ll see  who is right.

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