Archive for September, 2012

Question: I’ve seen ads for make-up that claim its dimethicone free.  What is dimethicone and why should I care if  its in my skin care products?  Can  it damage my  skin or cause environmental  problems?

Answer:  Dimethicone is a type of silicone. It is an especially large molecule that stays on the surface of the skin and  form a protective barrier.  Dimethicone is used in practically every type of toiletry including  moisturizers, sunscreens, eye cream, eye make-up shampoo and  diaper ointment.

The FDA has approved dimethicone  as safe and effective for personal care products.  Dimehticone is not on lists of chemicals which are suspected to cause health problems.  In addition, its not been found in human cells  or urine, indicating that it stays on the skin’s surface. Even the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which finds a problem with practically everything, have nothing bad to say about dimethicone- no info on cancer risk, reproductive toxicity,  allrgies,  or contamination to the environment.

Dimethicone seems  to be helpful  for seriously unhappy skin.  Its a frequent ingredient in diaper ointments  and creams for psoriasis and eczema.  Its inherent safety  makes it a popular ingredient in  eye  make-up and  toiletries for babies. The only red flag may be  for acne troubled skin. Its ability to form a water tight shield that  may, in some people block  pores and  increase breakouts.  But this is pretty hypothetical and not based on  published studies or even anecdotal  repots. 

There are definately problem ingredients in  some personal care  products.  Mineral oil, alcohol, steroids  and menthol can provoke different  issues  in different skin  profiles.  But dimethicone is not on that list.  It can be a dangerous world  today, but dimethicone is not  part of the problem.

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Costs seem to explode when daily skin care meets anti-aging.    Brand name tretinoin ( eg Retin A) clocks in  at $300 for a tube that lasts  six months.   Generic Retin A drops to about $200.  Upscale anti-aging  brands with  effective levels of retinol are lower at about $100, but still a  significant bit of change.  And then there are the luxury department store brands  like La Mer and Perricone  that will cost more than $300 a  jar– and thats   just for one product in the recommended routinue.

There are  anti-aging products  that don’t   cost much, but they  don’t do much either.  The challenge is to find affordable   anti-aging  forumlations that  deliver  real results.   I believe that   when a  low cost  cream or mask  doesn’t  deliver,  you are still wasting your  money, albeit less of it.

Glycolic Acid– cheap and effective

The search for  acessible anti-aging skin care starts with  deciding what you want from them.  As the  years go by skin growth slows down, dark spots pop-up  and   our  healthy glow  is replaced with  a sallow, dull skin tone and textrue.  That’s the bad news.  The good news?  Glycolic acid and vitamin C, either singly or in combination  were born to deal with skin aging.  These  two super age busters  are also among the most inexpensive ingredients used in  skin care  products.

Glycolic acid will remove the top layer of dead skin cells and stale  oil and encourage  the growth of healthy hew collagen.   Within a  month of use,  pores will shrink and  rough dull  surface  will be replaced  with a fresh healthy glow.  Think of glycolic acid as “Retin A  light”.   It will  produce real results without irritation– and at about 80% lower cost. Two of my favorite glycolic acid rejuvenation  products are:

Alpha Hydrox Enhanced Lotion ( 10% glycolic) $12- for dry skin

It contains active levels of glycolic acid but forumlated for thin,  dry skin.  Available in pharmacy chains like Duane Reade and online.

Alpha Hydrox AHA wipes ( 14%) $17 for  normal and oily skin

 These wipes are super easy to use  and can be added to  almost any cleansing routinue.   They will  help control breakouts  while stimulating  healthy skin formation. 

Vitamin C– an oldie but goodie

Vitamin C  is  one of the most studied AND effective anti-aging ingredients– and available for literally pennies a day.   Vitamin C  works in three ways– it is essential for  the growth and repair of  healthy collagen, can lighten  dark spots and splotches AND is a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin from UV rays.  But  vitamin A is uber  fragile and takes  careful hadling to avoid oxidation.  When this happens, the vitamin C loses much of its power and potency. 

There are a few  wonderful commercial vitamin C  products  ( eg Cellex C and Ski Ceuticals)  that will deliver  full strength benefits.  But they are expensive and if  you want to stretch your beauty dollar, you can make a  truely effective vitamin C serum without  special ingredients or equipment.

DIY Vitamin C Seum

I tried  six different formulas before  adopting  this  one from Gorgeously Green by  Sophie Uliano.  I could find all the ingredients at a local health food store and  had all the tools I needed in my kitchen.  While DIY  products are so tempting, some formulas  can involve ordering special chemicals and tools, eg scales and thermometers.  These add up and the bottom line here is to save money.

Budget Busting Vitamin C Serum

Ingredients:  2 teaspoons, water (  boiled and cooled), 2 teaspooons vitamin C powder in the form of L-ascorbic acid ( $10 for 4 oz.)  , 2 teaspoons vegetable glycerin ( $10 for 4 oz.), dark brown bottle with eye dropper.  These ingredients  will last three months at the cost of  $1.60 a week.  Seriously.

Directions:  In a little bowl, mix the water and vitamin C until the powder is dissolved. Mix in the glycerin.  Using the eye dropper, transfer  the mixture  to the dark brown bottle. It will stay active for a week.  If you have any leftover, discard it and  mix up a fresh batch.

To  use, shake the bottle well and  put two  drops on fingertips.  Rub in a bit on the  hands then apply to the face.  Repeat  for neck and chest.  And that’s it.  You might feel a  sight tingling that will fade in a moment.  Unlike glycolic acid which  show almost  immediate results, vitamin C takes  time to see benefits.  The changes are  internal but in a few months  you should notice  fewer dark patches and  a radiance that only comes from treating your skin correctly.

In the summer I like to use vitamin C serum under my mineral sunscreen.  In other seasons, I alternate glycolic acid wipes with vitamin C serum  as my bedtime routinue.   Let me know  how you  like to use this home made age buster.

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This week, Geri of Fab Over 50 is hosting Fashion Flash.    Her second Beauty Bash event will be on September 29  at the Metropolitan Pavillion in NYC.  One of my favorite make-up artists Sandy Linter will be back and I look forward to getting  a new evening look.   The  fun  and  info will continue in New Jersey  and New York for an entire   Beauty Bash week.  Check out   Fab Over 50 website  to read about the experts  you will meet at Beauty Bash  and the events  for the continuing fabulous week.   Use the code NYPost to  get $30 off the $75 ticket. 

Just published, Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible  is  my new favorite fashion guide.  But rather than just another make-over book, it is an entertaining exploration of what we wore  though  history.  I have to admit that I am a history wonk.  I’ve even  been busted   reading  a book on the history of salt.   Traditional history in school books  deal with wars, kings and politicians and are written by the winners.   I believe that we can get a much  more honest picture  of  what actually happened by looking at how people lived– what they ate,  how they  furnished their homes and  especially   what they wore.  For example, Gunn points out that the Romans shortened the Greek toga because the streets of room were so dirty.   Another  Fashion factoid from Mr Gunn?    Blue jeans became popular in the 1849 California Gold Rush  when men needed  pants rugged enough to work in a mine.  My favorite tidbit–   The raglan sleeve  was created for Lord Raglan  who lost an arm at the battle of Waterloo and needed a jacket that was easier to  pull on.  ( I love this stuff)

This beautifully illustrated book is  more than   just a  history book.  It relates  fashion  history  to  current styles  and offers  Gunn’s advice is always  on point.   The  book is peppered  with his  never boring and often hilarious  personal anecdotes.

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 You see them everywhere.  On supermarket shelves,   near  a deli check-out and in cafeterias  everywhere, bananas are so common we tend to take them for granted.     Bannanas  just  don’t get the love they deserve.   One medium  banana  has  about 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and  what  surprised me, zero grams of fat.  One nana  does clock in at 23 grams of carbs,  about twice  in an average fruit.  Bananas  are lower in water than  other fruits which  concentrates  the carb content.

But what elevates  bananas to nutruitional  superstars  is the potassium payload– almost 400 mg  per serrving.   Potassium is essential for regulating heart rate and blodd pressure.  Age, exercise and  and some medications  can deplete  potassium leading to irregular heart beats , increased blood pressure,  and even stroke. Keep in mind that any factor that  protects circulation protects the growth and repair  of wrinkle busting collagen.   As a potassium delivery system,  bananas  deserve to be part of anti anging  diet.

Most stores carry   just  the standard 6-8 inch yellow banana.   Tropical markets   are stocked with intriguing varieties including red bananas, 3 inch finger   bananas and  pale green plantains. Packed into a lunch box or tucked into a backpack, millions of bananas  are  an integral and healthy part of  lunchtime.  Bananas are also brilliant in cream pies, fritters, shakes  and cream  cheese  topped cakes. I have to admit that  at one time one of my favorite desserts  was bananas sauteed in butter and brown sugar and poured over  vanilla ice cream.  That  was then, this  is now.   When I was diagnosed with diabetes, this   banana walnut bread was the first recipe I mastered for my new life.

Banana Walnut Bread (adapted  from  Sweet Ideas Recipes Cookbook by Equal)


1/2 cup skin milk, 2 eggs, 4 tabespoons of margerine, softened, 24 packets of Equal sweetener, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 large bananas, mashed, 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking  powder, 1/3 coarsely chopped walnuts


Beat milk, eggs, margerine, Equal and vanilla  in a large bowl with an electric mixer  for 30 seconds;  add bananas and beat for one minute at a high speed; Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and baking  powder, mixing just until blended; Stir in walnuts.  Spread mixture in evenly in greased 8x4x2 lof pan; Bake in preheated 350 F oven until  bread is golden and toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean– about 60 minutes.  Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes; remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

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One  of  my pet peeves are  fashion layouts that show you how to  use  the same  pair of shoes in three different  outfits– but  each outfit then requires  more than  $1000 in additional   clothing and accessories.  Money  is  money and  if you are trying to  cut fashion  or beauty costs,   the choices  need to  be genuinely  affordable AND effective.  To bottomline it, I’m not going to use supermarket bar soap to buy a $300  moisturizer.

With   the steady stream  of bad economic news and at  least one friend   laid off every week, I decided to get serious about  cutting skin care costs but without compromising  results.  So here is the first section of my anti-aging  budget beauty guide.  My goal: to   deliver  cleansing, exfoliation  renewal and protection  at less than one dollar a day. 


I believe that  great skin care starts with  great  cleansing.  A product is on the skin for such a short period of time that  fancy ingredients  will not have  time to act.  You want a product that cuts through  dirt and make-up but  does not irritate or dry out the skin.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser– ( $12.99)

This simple  yet effective daily wash  is on every  doctors must use  list.  Fragrance free, soap-free,  it throughly washes  the skin without stripping off to  much oil or moisture.


Removing  the  top  layer of dead skin cells, stale oil and just plain dirt is  a fundamental way of stimulating healthy skin growth.  I’m a huge fan of the  cleaning dynamics of Clarisonic.  The price, about $200, not  so much.   I’ve been looking for less expensive alternatives and discovered a  real  gem. 

CVS Facial Cleansing Power Brush ( $18.99)–

  I was  really surprised  how  well this  modest cleanser compared to Clarisonic. The soft brush  head did  a wonderful job of clarifying the skin and can be  used successfully   to deal with both acne  and anti-aging skin issues.  Battery operated, it can be used everywhere and its now the tool  I toss into my suitcase. You will need to manually change the direction of the brushes with a button and  there is no timer, but for 1/10 the price of a Clarisonic, it really stretches my beauty dollar.

Next week:  The best buys in rejuvenation.  This is where prices  can become  frightening.  I went back to the basic science of skin aging   and came up with options that are truely effective  at  less than $20.

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This week the host of Fashion Flash is Mirabai of  Moving Free With Mirabai.  Hands  down, Mirabai is the best credentialed  exercise guru  you will ever meet.   And wherever you are in life, she has developed an exercise program for you.  She has programs to combat childhood obesity,  get moms back in shape, loose weight, improve  heart function, and restore strength and flexibility to both prevent and manage osteoporosis.  In short there is a reason that  she is one of the most  popular exercise  experts on QVC. I am so thrilled that she is part of Fashion FLash.  And if you  have specific questions on  all things exercise email her at mirabai@movingfee.com.   I do and her  advice  is always just what I need.

I was looking for  new books for  my granddaughters last  week when I spotted a pink polka dot  and gingham book  at Strand Bookstore.  But rather than another princess story, it was a small but  very helpful  skin care book by a Miami- based dermatologist.   Six Weeks to Sensational Skin ( Rodale)  by Loretta Ciraldo, MD.  Packed with helpful  tips and info, it  drills down into the basic tools and  really explains  how to care for  our skin on  a daily basis.  She starts out with two very simple  bits of advice that are new to me.  Use  uber mild detergent for your bed  linens ( she recommends All CLear  detergent) and a 400 thread count  pillowcase.  Dr Ciraldo  points  out that  we mash  our faces in  pillows for 8 hours a night and  rough fabric and  harsh detergent  takes it toll  on  our skin. 

Clearly written, Six Weeks to Sensational Skin kept surprising me.  Her  detailed info includes:

* How cholesterol lowering drugs like Lipitor  can  increase skin dryness

*Why  hydrolyzed  proteins stop the over production of  the enzyme  that destroys collagen

*How soy protein blocks  production of enzymes that destroys elastin

* Vitamin C  increases sunscreen effectiveness

I especially likes the emphasis on  affordable daily  skin  care routines that will   result in healthier  skin.  While she touches on  the office  based techniques, the majority of the book  is focused on the totally affordable basics that  will deliver results over the long term.  Her own  daily routinue uses more than 12  products and is daunting, but in  laying out the details she demonstrates  the order of treatments.  This  book earned a spot on my  crowded  beauty bookshlf.

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The yellow and rust colors of fall  have  made me hungry  for the sweet, fleshy meat of  winter squash.  Butternut, crook neck, turban and acorn  are shaped differently  but offer very similar  nutritional payloads.  The deep orange color is packed, I mean packed with vitamin A and beta-carotene.   One half cup of  cooked squash   can have 100-200% of  the RDA for  this essential  vitamin as well as 25% of the RDA of vitamin C.  Fat free and salt free, one half cup has 120 calories and 12 grams of carbs.   By comparison, the same amount of a white potato has about 60 calories  and the same amount of carbs.

Given the slightly stringy/gritty texture of winter squash I expected squash to  be a good source of fiber.  I was wrong.  In fact one cup of winter squash  has less than a single gram of fiber.  Squash  also has a Glycemic Index (GI) of 70.  Since   current recommendations are to stay with foods with  a GI below 50, winter squash should not be an everyday  menu item.   To keep the GI from going higher, avoid adding  ingredients like brown sugar,honey or dried fruit to a squash  recipe.

Winter squash is super verrsitile. It  can be roast  in its shell or in peeled cubes, steamed, sauteed, mashed,  or made into soups, ravioli or spreads.  Just keep in mind that it has about twice the calories of a white potato.  Given that squash is not nearly as healthy as it looks, I like to cook it simply to avoid adding calories or carbs.  I’ve found that roasted peeled squash  helps me keep to a healthy portion  size, while a roasted half  has more carbs and calories than an entire meal.  I like  to use  squash to brighten up a meal but serve it only about  twice a month. 

Roast Butternut Squash

Ingredients: 1  whole butternut squash, 1 tablespoon of  olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon,

Steps:  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Peel the squash, take out the seeds and cut the squash into 2 inch cubes.  Toss with cinnamon and oil  and place on a baking sheet. Make sure the cubes are  in a single layer and  not touching.  Roast  for 25 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

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