Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Here are the top 5 things that I have discovered about myself over the years:

1. I no longer give a flip what people think of me. I am a recovering people-pleaser. I used to do myself a real disservice by being a "yes" person. Each time I said yes to something that made me cringe on the inside, I would be showing myself disrespect. As I get older, I say "no" more often and do not let any guilt eat at me. Life is too short to say NO to yourself by saying YES to everything else.

2. I FEEL and look better and am healthier at 40 than at 30. Ten years ago, I turned 30 suffering with pretty severe depression. My dad had just died at age 56 of pancreatic cancer, I had two under age 2 and was EXHAUSTED. I was overweight and eating to make myself feel better. I was not in a good place. I've shed the weight (literally and figuratively) and feel younger at 40 than I did in my twenties. It's all about loving and respecting myself (and my family) enough to be kind to my body.

3. I have always been my toughest critic. I am really hard on myself. I am working on this. No matter what I do, it is not quite good enough in my eyes. This one is a real work in progress. Stop back when I turn 50 and hopefully this will be a thing of the past.

4. Gosh darn it, though, I like me. I do. I think I am--as my big brother used to say--pretty SWELL. I like to make others feel good. I like to help people. Sure I am quirky, but like a fine wine or a block of cheddar, I get better with age. I am a much more accepting person, more forgiving. I no longer go through life holding onto things-- like they say in Frozen, you have to "let it go." I am more patient. Being a mom has helped with that.

5. Nothing is more important in this life than the people you surround yourself with. I know this. If people suck the life out of you, don't associate with them. Simple enough. My children, my husband, my family, my crazy group of friends who have become my other family-- they make my life complete. If you have people you can talk to, laugh with, whose shoulders you can cry on -- if you have people who truly bring you joy, then you are lucky. I am so fortunate. No amount of money, number of bylines or kudos or things of that nature could EVER measure up to what truly makes one rich -- family and friends. I realize that each day. My life is rich.

I have been enjoying some time off with my family the past couple weeks. I will resume regular posting after Labor Day!

Myths and Truths About Preservatives

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

We've talked about "bad" ingredients in your skincare and beauty products before at length over the past 8 years here at The Beauty Blogger. You know the ones-- DMDM Hydantoin, Parabens, BHT, Formaldehyde, and about a dozen other ingredients I do not like to see in personal care products.

Today, I am taking a different approach. IS all-natural the BEST way to go in every situation?

The above product is one I received here for blog review. Upon opening, it had an "off" odor and mold.

The ingredients I would like to talk about today:

  • MOLD

I have been concerned about the ingredients in skincare products for years now. I have been writing about the issue for more than 8. For me, natural beauty is not just eco-friendly beauty products or sustainable packaging, but also SAFER ingredients. I am also the first to admit that my opinions have changed a bit as far as ingredients go. I used to rely wholeheartedly on the EWG's Skin Deep Guide, but years later, I have a different view point.  The EWG, in many ways, presents an alarmist point of view and doesn't get down to the nitty gritty and say that their rankings are all black or white--they do not say that there is a HUGE difference in an ingredient used at 100% concentration vs. 0.05% concentration. And, yes, there is a HUGE difference.

Admittedly, I have relied too much over the years on the EWG. One cannot rely solely on the EWG, just as people need to accept that effects can be cumulative, so caution and research are needed.

A couple years back, I was even thinking of changing my mind on using products preserved with phenoxyethanol as part of the ingredient makeup.  I was introduced to a brand with a natural "preservative" derived from a rare tree bark that may have broad spectrum protection. I was skeptical, but kept a truly open mind. I was avidly using these products and then, wham--3 months later, I opened my jar of furry, mold covered face mask. My face cream soon had beige lumps and an odor. 

I was willing to take a gamble and have an open mind.  And I was wrong.  My original feelings on broad spectrum preservation were only validated after experiencing rancid items, mold, and skin irritation. The real problem is not "parabens may cause cancer" or "propylene glycol is the same thing as anti-freeze" (it is not, by the way).

The real danger, I believe, is from what we KNOW FOR A FACT to happen: that improperly preserved products cause mold.  They can lead to serious bacterial infections. They may cause staph. We know this for sure. 

A few months ago, I received skincare products for review from a direct sales company with NON-TOXIC in its name. Within 3 months, half of them had developed visible mold. This line contains a plethora of products lacking effective preservation.

For the record, I am not in favor of products with parabens. They are too questionable for me.  But if it came down to it and I was offered a completely natural, homemade unpreserved skincare product and a mass produced cream with parabens and could ONLY choose one or the other, I would choose the one with parabens. And I do not say this lightly.

More research is needed.  I am hoping that we will know with absolute certainty whether parabens will cause cancer (right now, it looks like they do not, based on perr reviewed scientific studies) or whether formaldehyde releasers will make you grow three heads. Until that time, what we DO know, is that there is great risk with improperly preserved products. I have been very critical over the years of certain synthetic ingredients--but have always spoken about the need for preservation and product safety. 

More and more websites are popping up with stories of the latest "dangerous" or "toxic" beauty ingredient. What worries me, though, is that while everyone is happy to jump on the natural products bandwagon, they are not considering the possibility that they will be, with CERTAINTY, putting themselves at risk of having mold, bacteria, yeast, etc. in their products if they are using preservative-free ones.  This is not a better option than the alternative.

These are preservatives *I* trust to protect the the products I buy. I am not saying these are guaranteed to be 100% safe. No one can say that. There is not enough conclusive evidence to say that these ingredients will always be deemed safe, but that is the beauty of research & science. The below preservatives WILL protect your products from the nasties, but are healthier alternatives to parabens.

  • Phenoxyethanol when used with more natural preservatve boosters such as Ethylhexylglycerin a
  • Gluconoactone and Sodium Benzoate (Geogard)
  • Glucose Oxidase/Lactoperoxidase
  • Japanese Honeysuckle Extract (although, this is an ingredient not without controversy)

The biggest threat to your well being is buying products which are NOT properly preserved. I'd like to look at some preservation myths today.

MYTH #1: Grapefruit Seed Extract is an all natural preservative.

GSE is not all natural.  People often confuse Grapefruit Essential Oil with Grapefruit Seed Extract. The essential oil is all natural and is great for aromatherapy. Actually, the name Grapefruit Seed Extract is misleading. One would assume that GSE is pulverized grapefruit seeds. It is anything but. What is Grapefruit Seed Extract then? GSE actually comes from chemically-altered grapefruit seeds which have been treated with Ammonium Chloride via a chemical process. 

Does GSE preserve products in any way? Not really. Some people believe GSE may be mildly preservative, but research has consistently shown that it is ineffective and that it is actually the tainted chemical components used to preserve the GSE itself--including triclosanbenzethonium chloride, and methylparaben-that are doing the tiny bit of preservation.  In other words, a paraben-free business may be using GSE which actually might have parabens in it. Kind of defeats the purpose, no?

MYTH #2: Vitamin E and Rosemary Oleoresin Extract are all-natural preservatives.

Wrong again. These 2 ingredients are antioxidants. Antioxidants are good. They help fight free radicals.

When used in a product, it can help to protect your more sensitive oils from oxidizing and becoming rancid. It is NOT a preservative. I used to use ROE in my eye balm and sleep balm back when I was formulating --not to preserve (as there is no water & oil mixture to require a preservative) -- but to protect the oils.

MYTH #3: Herbal tinctures and extracts are natural preservatives.

When you see an ingredients listing and a product description indicating that the product is all-natural and preserved only with herbal blends, extracts, and tinctures, this is very misleading. What is not being revealed on the ingredients list is that it is only a "preservative" because some tinctures and extracts are preserved in butylene and propylene glycol. In other words, that "natural" ingredient used to "preserve" your product actually contains about 50-75% synthetic ingredients. Butylene and propylene glycol aren't evil either, by the way. They still won't preserve effectively.

MYTH #4: Grain alcohol is a safe, natural preservative.

No! Grain alcohol (ethyl alcohol) is NOT an effective preservative. While it is antibacterial, it would need to be used at a level of around 70% in the product to be effective. I don't know about you, but if I put a product with mainly alcohol on my skin, it would be drier than the Arizona desert in the summer time. Even if you would venture to try using it on your skin at such a high level, it will not protect against mold, fungus, and yeast.

Too much of a good thing?

Full disclosure-- I am not a filler fan. I hate needles. I believe in anti-aging skincare. I have very mixed feelings on the lengths people will go to in order to look younger. That said, I am not here to judge. It's YOUR face. If you want fillers, go for it!

Botox. Restylane. Juvederm. Chances are you have likely heard of these fillers.  Many of you have considered these treatments yourself. Perhaps you have already had them done.  Did you know, though, that injectable treatments can make your face look older?

Think about some of the Hollywood celebs who have had too much of a good thing--some of those ladies have had so much Botox that they can’t even move their eyebrows.

We seem to be in a never ending quest for the fountain of youth.  Injectable treatments can help turn back the clock, even if only temporarily.  Going to the dermatologist for fillers can be done quickly, often over the lunch hour.  The results are usually positive.  Those frown lines soften and you look more awake.  

Unfortunately, many women are unaware that getting regular injectable treatments such as Botox can make their skin look older. How can clinically proven anti-aging treatments like Botox make you look older?  Let’s look at the causes.

Muscle Atrophy

When we do not use muscles for an extended period of time, they begin to atrophy.  They lose strength. Muscle mass is diminished.  Have you ever broken a bone before and noticed a difference in the appearance of the broken area after the cast is removed?

A few years back, I broke my left leg.  I had a cast for several weeks.  Despite having regular physical therapy sessions while in my cast, the muscles were no longer being used the same way.  I wasn’t walking, running, or jumping.  When my cast was removed, my left leg was thinner than the right.  My left calf muscle lost its tone. There was a definite reduction in muscle mass.

When injectable fillers are used, the ingredients paralyze the facial muscles.  That is the reason people are often unable to furrow their brows or show expressiveness in their face.  The facial muscles are not being used.  If injectable treatments are performed repeatedly, these muscles may begin to atrophy. The result?  Skin sagging and loss of firmness-- the very things you are trying to avoid by having the injectables in the first place.

Patient addiction

I hate to use the word addiction because it seems so strong, but it really can apply to some people who have in-office procedures to combat the effects of aging. It can happen to any of us.  Have you ever had a skin care product you just loved, but the package insert said to use it only twice weekly?

I remember back in college, I had a facial scrub I adored. It made my skin feel squeaky clean and fresh.  The back of the bottle said to use it two to three times a week. I told myself that since it worked so well three times a week, the results would be even more spectacular if I used the product six times a week. So I did. I quickly learned overusing a product can have a negative effect. I soon began to experience red, irritated skin. Pores became clogged. My skin started to break out.  

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  The same applies to injectables. Many people love the results they experience after having these treatments done. They look more youthful.  They have an increase in self confidence.  What ends up happening is that these patients will often decide to have treatments done more frequently, believing that “more is better”.  When it comes to injectable treatments, though, less is more.

Repeated treatments at a frequent rate can make the facial features look unnatural--almost distorted.  When this happens, a much older looking face is likely.

How to avoid looking older with injectable treatments

  • Is your doctor heavy-handed with the injectables? Is he or she trying to get you to have more areas done or at a greater frequency? Find a new doctor. You want to be sure your doctor is well trained in performing these injections. If something doesn’t feel right to you, there is no harm in finding a doctor you are comfortable with.

  • Resist the urge to overdo it. Stick with the maintenance schedule recommended by your dermatologist. Having treatments done too often will only result in an unnatural look, which makes your face look much older.

Tell me about your experience with injectable treatments.  How often do you go in for maintenance?  Are you happy with your results? I want to know!

New issue of CosmoBiz

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I have a new article in the August issue of CosmoBiz Salon, and it talks about taking care of our skin as we get older.

Take a look at the digital version:

Stay tuned, as I will have several articles in the magazine's September issue on the topics of hair, skin, makeup & nails. It is a fabulous magazine based in the Washington, DC metro area. It is truly a beauty-only magazine, which is right up my alley!

Have more sex, look younger?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Today we’re talking about the 5 greatest skincare sins.  Are you guilty of them?  Let’s find out!

1. You eat too much sugar.

Sugar causes the skin’s collagen and elastin fibers to break down. In fact, I recently wrote about glycation if you'd like to take a look. The result? Lines and wrinkles creep up more quickly. Before you take another bit of that Kit Kat or swallow another handful of M & M’s, head for your fridge and and grab some berries instead.  Not only are berries rich in antioxidants, they are also a sweet substitute for less healthy sugars.

2. You go to bed with your makeup on.

Big mistake, my friends. We all have had those nights. Perhaps you’ve been out too long with friends or maybe you’re just plain exhausted. Going to bed without thoroughly washing your face and removing your makeup is one of the worst things you can do for your skin.

Why? When you don’t remove your makeup, you are creating a breeding ground for bacterial growth. Your pores will get clogged and you’ll eventually end up with a zit or two (or three). Your skin will also look older. No one wants that to happen.  I didn’t even mention the possibility of infection caused by leaving on mascara all night that may get into your eyes. Just don’t do it. Take a couple of moments and remember to remove all that makeup. Let your skin breathe.  Your skin will thank you!

3. You’re not wearing suncreen.

The bulk of skin aging is caused by sun UV damage. Since we know that the sun will make your skin look older, why not commit to using sunscreen each and every day. You cannot control your genes, but this is one type of aging you actually have a say in. Plus, broad spectrum sunscreen can help prevent cancer. Don’t you think that this is reason enough to start wearing it?

4. You’re not having enough sex.

This is not a joke. Now in no way am I saying to run off and pick some random person off the street for this task, but did you know that research proves that having sex improves your skin?  Dr. David Weeks, of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, actually conducted a study for more than a decade just on this subject.  The results?  Women who were having sex regularly looked 7 years younger than the others in the study group. Have sex.  Look younger. What’s not to love about that?

5. You fill up on flour.

White flour is one of the leading dietary causes of acne.  The bulk of cookies, cakes, pastas, and cereals are high on the glycemic index.  In other words, these are the “bad carbs.” White flours are notorious for causing breakouts and inflammation.  If you are prone to skin swelling and acne, it may just be because of the white flour in your diet.

Are you guilty of the above 5 skin saboteurs? Whether it’s not getting enough nookie or getting too much sun, making simple lifestlye and dietary changes may dramatically improve the condition of your skin.

How to eliminate blackheads

Monday, August 3, 2015

Let's discuss open comedones today.

Say what? Okay, let's call it their nickname: Blackheads.

What are blackheads?

Blackheads and whiteheads are actually very similar. 

Both are what are called comedones, or a collection of dead skin cells, bacteria, debris and sebum (oil) that are now stuck in the hair follicles. Speaking of this -- you will hear people say the word pores nine times out of ten. I even say it. The terms are interchangeable. The medical term for pores is hair follicles.

Whiteheads are closed comedones. This means that the opening of the hair follicle is closed. With blackheads, though, the opening of the hair follicle is opened.

With the hair follicle being opened, the oil that is built up is exposed to oxygen and oxidizes. This changes the color to a dark brown. Contrary to popular belief, the black we see is not dirt. It is simply a result of that oxidation. The most common place for blackheads is on our noses, forehead and chin. They can appear anywhere on the body -- chest and back are other common places for blackheads to make an appearance.

How do you get rid of blackheads?

Exfoliation is the number one way to get rid of blackheads. There are two types of exfoliation --mechanical and chemical. Scrubs, washcloths, brushes, etc. are mechanical (or physical) exfoliants. These are not generally recommended for acne, as they are often irritating.

Chemical exfoliation uses ingredients such as Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids or even fruit enzymes. They often come in serums and peels. These are best for acne. Let's talk about the differences in these ingredients.

Alpha hydroxy acids are ingredients such as Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. AHAs are best for dry skin and sun damaged skin. They exfoliate only the top layer of the skin. They can also help improve moisturization.

  • My favorite glycolic peel is the Exuviance Performace Peel AP 25, which is a blend of glycolic and mandelic acids. This was created by the dermatologists who developed the glycolic peel (Drs. Yu and VanScott), so you can trust its efficacy!

Beta Hydroxy acid (such as Salicylic Acid) is the recommended exfoliant for oily skin, acne prone skin and oily skin Rosacea. It is anti-inflammatory and has anti-bacterial properties. More importantly, BHAs are THE ONLY chemical exfoliants that are oil soluble. All others are water soluble. This means that BHAs can penetrate the oil and unclog the hair follicles, whereas AHAs and mechanical exfoliants only can slough off that top layer.They do not get into the pore.

For blackheads, exfoliating with Beta Hydroxy Acid is a must. Of course, your skin's surface may see a superficial improvement using an AHA. It will look smoother and brighter. BHAs, though, can cut through the built up sebum and actually clean the hair follicles.

  • Perfectly Posh Spotless comes in a convenient 2% salicylic acid peel pad. I use these faithfully.

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