Product Review: The Ordinary

So recently I heard about this new cult product from Deciem called The Ordinary that sells serums with active ingredients for less than $10. I was dying to try it, but since my skin had been breaking out from an acne rosacea flare up, I was wary about putting anything new on my face.  I’d been having decent luck with CeraVe and Vaseline, but my cheeks kept breaking out after I thought they’d healed. In my experience going overboard on products when you have rosacea is bad news. Then I heard they had a product with the ingredient azaleic acid in it, which is a rare unicorn of an ingredient…one that works with rosacea instead of against it. I was still a little leery because this kick ass ingredient comes in a base of silicones, which can sometimes cause break outs. I’m not very sensitive to silicones on my skin though, so I figured I’d give it a shot. If it didn’t work, I’d only be out $8. I bought that and the Hyaluronic Acid with B5 to help with barrier repair.

Exercising self control by taking a pic before putting it on

When I got my package I was dying to slather it all over my face, but wanted to be cautious. I put on the HA (water based products first, always) and really liked the consistency. It’s slightly viscous, but not greasy, and sinks into the skin well. I gently patted the Azaleic onto one cheek, the one with the worst breakouts, and stared at it for a bit, waiting for it to work. No really, I did this. Then I remembered that products don’t work like that, so I walked away. I put some on again before bed, following up with CeraVe, but leaving off the Vaseline because I wanted to see how it would work on its own. Woke up the next day with my skin feeling softer and looking less irritated.

Fast forward to seven days later, and my skin was completely healed. And I mean completely. There was still some hyperpigmentation left over, but the break outs were gone. I had started using the Azaleic on my whole face by day three and was shocked at how fast it worked. I’ve been using it for the last month and my skin is clear, glowy and more resilient, so I’ve added other products from the Ordinary, plus Deciem’s other line Hylamide. I’ll go into those products later, but first lets talk about these two ingredients and why they’re so good.


Simple, clean design for your hoard…I mean, collection

I’ve written about HA before, an ingredient that—say it with me!—holds a thousand times its own weight in water. What makes this brand different from others besides the price? The HA, which is a naturally occurring substance found in your body to keep your joints healthy, has varying sizes of molecules, which explains why all HA doesn’t feel the same. The lower the molecule, the better for it to penetrate the skin and provide the hydration and anti-aging benefits it is known for. Products that have a HA with larger molecules can plump up the skin, but can ultimately make it feel drier, and probably also explains the tacky feel so many products have. So yes, it’s now not enough for you to look at products that have HA…you now have to inquire about the molecular weight as well.

Azaleic acid is something you might not have heard of before, probably because it’s an ingredient you can usually only get from a dermatologist. The Ordinary is the only line in the US that sells it to the public. This is a shame because it’s a powerhouse, great from acneic skin, but gentle enough for sensitive rosacea types. Studies have shown that it matches AHAs/BHAs and retinols for clearing up the skin, but without the irritating side effects.

As with any product, YMMV. If your skin doesn’t like silicones, it might still react to the base that the Azaleic is in. There are other options if you want to try this ingredient. If you have a dermatologist, you can talk to him/her about it, or check out Curology, which hooks you up with a dermatologist through an app so you don’t have to go anywhere. But even if you try the Ordinary and don’t care for it, you’re only out $10.

Have you tried the Ordinary yet? What were the results? If not, what active ingredients are you using right now that you’re in love with? Leave me a comment!


CeraVe and Vaseline Are Saving My Skin

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted in this blog, but I’m finally back! Since I last posted I left my job at the waxing boutique, and started working at a spa again. I had to re-learn how to give a facial and figure out how to wax brows while the client is lying in a bed instead of sitting upright, but it’s been a few months now and I’m extremely happy. My previous job made me a better esthetician, but I missed working with skincare and helping people by either brainstorming solutions to problems or taking away their stress.

Unfortunately my old nemesis, acne rosacea, reared its head. I used to have it really bad on my cheeks every winter when I worked at my downtown spa job, but it went away when I quit and started working at the waxing boutique. I haven’t had a break out in years, but suddenly I’m working in a spa again and it’s back. Rosacea is a tricky beast and for me it’s very temperature sensitive. My skin doesn’t like the dry, cold air in winter, but it was fine for the last seven years, so I think that the culprit is running the steamer in my room multiple times a day so I’m constantly moving from hot steam to dry air. In any case, it’s a bummer, and all of my fancy products were just making it worse. I had to put aside my peptide serum, my vitamin C serum, my retinol and my fancy moisturizer. I know from experience that less is more when it comes to rosacea, so I bought the tub of CeraVe cream that’s meant for the body and slathered it on my face.


And it worked for the most part. The break outs on my cheeks started to heal. They were still noticeably dry, but at least that was clearing things up while heavy moisture just made it worse. Let’s talk about CeraVe for a minute. In my last blog post I sang the praises of Cetaphil, but if you want to step up your game while still using a product that’s great for sensitive skin, CeraVe is for you. What’s in it that makes it so great?

First, it has ceramides. Ceramides are long chains of fatty acids that help to retain water, which helps to replenish the skin’s natural barrier. Next it has hyaluronic acid, which as I parrot to clients all the time, “holds 1,000 times it’s own weight in water.” The New York Times describes it as a “clear, sugary goo that is found naturally in the body”, mostly in your joints and your eyeballs. It helps to plump up your cells and basically gives your skin a drink of water. Estheticians have been recommending this ingredient for years for anyone with dry skin, and especially in conjunction with more hardcore ingredients like retinols or AHA/BHAs so that the skin isn’t completely stripped of moisture. And finally it has niacinamide, which is an ingredient I want to explore in depth in a future blog post, but it’s vitamin b3, and works as an anti-inflammatory to help calm down redness, breakouts, even psoriasis. With ingredients like these, my skin instantly began to clear up.

However, it still wasn’t enough. My skin looked better, but it was still dry and the break outs weren’t completely gone. This was frustrating because trying to add anything stronger wouldn’t work, so what’s a girl to do? Then I read in the comments of an article to try Vaseline. The idea of smearing greasy petrolatum all over my face sounded like it was the opposite of what I wanted, but when you’re desperate you’ll try anything. So I did the research and guess what? It’s a thing.


So when I put my CeraVe on at night, it tends to dissolve while I sleep. It’s still there, but some of it is evaporating into the air. By applying an occlusive like Vaseline, Aquaphor or the CeraVe ointment, I’m locking the moisture into my skin, creating a barrier so it can’t get out, so it stays in my skin doing it’s job like it’s supposed to. Most of us are afraid of applying petrolatum jelly to the face because it’s so greasy we assume it’s going to break us out, but mineral oil isn’t comedogenic, so all it does is protect.

I had some Vaseline in my medicine cabinet already, but I didn’t want something I’d already put my germy fingers in, so I opted for a small squeeze tube of the CeraVe ointment. I applied it to my face after my moisturizer and it worked like a charm. It’s been a week and my skin is completely healed, including hyperpigmentation spots left over from previous break outs. I’m started to get brave about using my other products again, but only on my t-zone, jawline and neck, not my cheeks.

Have you ever used Vaseline as a night cream? Is your skin rebelling since winter hit? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Treating Sensitive Skin With Reliable Sources

In my mid to late 20s, my skin suddenly became excruciatingly sensitive. This coincided with me getting my esthetics license and becoming a newbie esthetician. I was usually fine in the summer, when humidity saved me, but during the dry, freezing winters we have in Chicago, my skin would rebel and my cheeks would burst into angry red bumps, especially if I tried any product that it didn’t like. And it didn’t like anything.

“Try bisabolol!” B. Kamins said. “It’s made from chamomile and will calm and soothe your redness.” Nope.

“Try rose oil!” Dr. Hauschka said. “It promotes healing!” Nope.

“Try red hogweed, ginger and bisabolol together, not separate, evening primrose oil, avocado and sunflower seed,” said Dermalogica. So much nope! (Seriously, Dermalogica, stop putting every ingredient for sensitive skin in one product! It does the opposite of what you want it to do!)

I also tried dieting it back to health. Raw food, vegan cleanses, eliminate yeast, eliminate dairy, etc. Nothing helped. One night I was telling my mom that I was trying to cut back on dairy to heal my angry skin. Since my mother is already convinced that I’m starving myself to death by not eating red meat, she yelled at me, stomped to the bathroom, and came back with a sample size of her Cetaphil cream.

“Mom, I’m not using Cetaphil!” I protested. “I’m an esthetician. I have access to the best products in the world.” But I took the cream home and used it anyway, just to prove to her that she was wrong.

My skin cleared up in less than a week.

My husband calls it “Your Mom Was Right Cream”

Cetaphil had exactly what my skin needed, which was nothing. No fancy ingredients, no antioxidants, no herbs, no fragrance, just simple emollients and humectants to give me moisture without any irritants. I used it for years in the winter, then would switch to fancy anti-aging products in the summer when my skin could take it. My skin has gone through many different phases throughout my life, from oily/acneic to dry and sensitive to full on rosacea, and now it’s settled into normal/combination, and I can safely use whatever products I want on it, even in the winter. I’m enjoying it while it lasts because my 40th birthday is looming on the horizon, and I know what’s coming up next.

Knowing how much I relied on Cetaphil back in the day, a fellow esthetician sent this article my way last week, and I have things to say about it:

“There’s nothing healthy about this face-washing prescription,” the article claims.

Why? Because it’s not natural! It’s made out of (gasp!) chemicals! It has dreaded parabens in it! Obviously it’s going to give us all cancer and we’re all going to die!!!

That’s not hyperbole either. Here’s a quote from someone named Spirit Demerson: “Cetaphil does not contain even one single beneficial ingredient and what it does contain is the equivalent of toxic sludge. Whether you think it’s keeping your skin healthy or not, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and research has proven almost all of the few ingredients in it are carcinogenic. I know it’s hard to imagine that washing your face can give you cancer but it’s worth consideration.”

Toxic sludge, huh? I guess it must be true, because research has proven it! But…where’s the link to the research?

Despite all the fear over parabens causing cancer, study after study has been done, and there hasn’t been a single link between the two. According to the FDA “The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) reviewed the safety of methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben in 1984 and concluded they were safe for use in cosmetic products at levels up to 25%. Typically parabens are used at levels ranging from 0.01 to 0.3%.” Also, “FDA is aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer. Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen.”

A teensy drop of parabens can preserve a product indefinitely. Take away the parabens, and you have to instead use tons of other preservatives in order to keep your moisturizer from growing mold in your steamy bathroom. Since doing research using reliable sources instead of “natural” blogs written by people with no expertise whatsoever, I’m more likely to use products with parabens than without.

Another great source for checking out ingredients is TOXNET. Here’s what they have to say about propylene glycol: Propylene glycol (PG) is not acutely toxic…PG is essentially nonirritating to the skin and mildly irritating to the eyes. Numerous studies support that PG is not a skin sensitizer.”

“There’s nothing in Cetaphil that nurtures skin. No antioxidants that help fight free radical damage; not a dribble of omega-rich plant seed oils that fortify the skin barrier; and not a drop of skin-calming botanicals,” says Well + Good. Yes, precisely! It has nothing. And that’s exactly what sensitive skin needs. If you have sensitive, rosacea-prone skin, get your antioxidants to fight free radical damage and your omega-rich plant seed oils to fortify the skin barrier from your food, but stick with soothing your skin with gentle, nothing-in-them creams such as Cetaphil, Cerave, and in extreme cases, straight up Aquaphor.

Using What You’ve Got

Those of us who like skincare like trying out new things. I love reading beauty blogs and learning about different tricks to try. Unfortunately, sometimes the tricks don’t work out. This post is about what to do when the new product you just got isn’t working, but it’s too late (or you’re too lazy) to return it.

This happened to me recently when I bought a rosehip oil. Rosehips are the fruit of the rose, and are an antioxidant powerhouse. You can drink it as a tea, take it in a vitamin for your daily recommended dose of vitamin C, or smear it all over yourself with the oil. A lot of people who do the oil cleansing method swear by it. Since it was the middle of a freezing Chicago winter, I decided to pick up a bottle from Whole Foods.

rosehip oil

Unfortunately, I don’t think the oil cleansing method is for me. It left me feeling greasy, and my skin broke out. Womp womp. So there I was, stuck with a bottle of fancy oil that I wasn’t going to return (lazy). It sat on my bathroom sink, taking up space for awhile. Then one day, I had a stroke of genius. I would add a pump of oil to my body lotion!

Pro tip: buy fancy body lotions at Marshalls, where it's half the price

Pro tip: buy fancy body lotions at Marshalls, where it’s half the price

My legs get dry and itchy in the winter, so the oil was a perfect supplement to the body lotion to really kick up the moisture. A few times a week I’ll mix in some Amlactin to the Bliss/rosehip concoction, and my legs will feel smooth as a baby. It’s such a great combo that I’ll probably repurchase the oil after it runs out just for that.

There are plenty of other ways you can use up product that didn’t work out the way it was intended to. The BFF cleanser I got from Posh last week is now a body scrub. Maybe you got a body lotion and it’s too greasy? Put it on your feet and wear it with cotton socks to bed. How about a face moisturizer that’s too rich? Now it’s a hand cream. Got any serums or retinols that are too harsh? Mix them into a mask to dilute the power of the serum, but kick the mask up a notch. Is your hair conditioner not living up to it’s promises? Turn it into a shaving cream. Or maybe you have a face mask that’s gathering dust because you never have time to sit around with a mask on your face? Mix it into your cleanser when you wash your face (no seriously, do this! You’ll thank me!).

Have you ever tried using up product in different ways? Let me know in the comments!

Getting Posh In Here

I’m back! It’s been months since I’ve posted, but I never intended to give up on this blog. In the fall my hours increased to full time at my job. (Speaking of which, if you live on the north side of Chicago, or near the Evanston area, message me and let’s talk eyebrows!) This limited my time for trying new products and writing about them, but spring is inspiring me to get back to it. I’m hoping for once a week posts. Encourage me by leaving comments, asking questions, and sharing my posts.

What really inspired me to get back to blogging was my friend Lisa, who has started selling the line Perfectly Posh. And yes, it’s one of those lines where sellers get people to throw parties in hopes that the party goers buy their products. Generally, I’ve stayed away from that business model since someone from Arbonne tried pressuring me into selling them and I didn’t wanna. Lisa was kind enough to offer me samples and asked for my honest opinion about the line, so I took her up on it. So here’s my take on Perfectly Posh, the good and the bad.

The minute I opened up the envelope from Lisa and squee’d over the samples and full size products she sent me, I thought, “Oh, it’s like Lush!” And yes, Perfectly Posh is definitely modelling their brand after Lush…all natural, handmade, delicious smelling, cheeky names, and it even has the same newspaper featuring all their products. This isn’t necessarily me saying that PP is a rip off…skincare lines bite off each other all the time, and if you’re going to emulate a brand, Lush is a good one. If you’re a Lush fan, you’ll probably really dig Posh. I grabbed my samples and jumped in the shower with them immediately.

Mmm...yummy samples

Mmm…yummy samples

BFF, Best Face Forever: Unfortunately, the first product I tried was this exfoliating cleanser, and it didn’t agree with me. Posh uses a lot of essential oils in place of fragrance, which is a good thing, except when the oil is peppermint. Whyyyy do skin lines insist on putting peppermint in cleansers? I’m not as sensitive as I used to be, but the moment I started scrubbing with this product, it started burning. I rinsed it off as quickly as I could. I used the rest of it to exfoliate my arms and legs. Peppermint feels good as a body wash, and maybe some people with stronger/oilier skin types would think this cleanser is “refreshing”, but if you’re the least bit sensitive, I would steer clear of it.

Gender Bender Chunk: I didn’t care for BFF, but I loved the soap samples. Gender Bender is a charcoal soap, and longtime readers of this blog might remember that I love charcoal cleansers. My back had been breaking out since it’s gotten warmer out, and Gender Bender cleared it right up. Even better, it doesn’t have the strong, almost smoky scent that most charcoal soaps have. This was definitely a winner.

Mint For Each Other: What is irritating on the face is heaven for the body. I’ve been using Gender Bender on my back, and Mint For Each Other, scented with peppermint and rosemary, everywhere else (um, almost everywhere, if you get what I mean). It has a great lather and I was even able to use it for shaving.

The Stripper DTox Body Mud: Stripper is their power mask, also charcoal based, which made me want to slather it on. Unfortunately, I did so in a stupid way. Stripper did not work for me at all, but that has more to do with me not paying attention to directions. To be fair, the directions are a little misleading. It’s called body mud for one thing. So that means it’s a body mask, right? But then on the back it says to test on the inner arm “before applying to the face.” What are you, Stripper? Are you a body mask or a face mask? In any case, although it does very clearly say that it’s an intense and aggressive mask, I was all, “Whatevs” and smeared it on my face without testing it first. It’s a mud mask, right? How intense could it be?

I was warned!

I was warned!

Then it started tingling…stinging…BURNING! I grabbed a washcloth and scrubbed it off of me as fast as I could. So that was my bad, but all the same if you look at the ingredients, it has menthol in it. That’s what’s irritating, not the charcoal. Posh, why are you so obsessed with peppermint and menthol? It’s okay for the body, but completely unnecessary for the face! It’s super irritating, and even if someone else could handle it, it isn’t going to do anything positive. A lot of people with oily/acneic skin think that a product doesn’t work unless it stings, and that’s just not true. Also, many skincare lines that label themselves as “natural” use essential oils with a very heavy hand. Yes, it’s more “natural” than artificial fragrance, but that doesn’t mean it’s more gentle.  All the same, this would probably be a kick ass mask for the body, and I’d try it again on the backs of my legs/arms.

Apricots Overnight Moisturizing Face Mask: It’s possible you haven’t heard of overnight masks yet, but this is one of the newest trends…a facial mask you wear while you sleep to hydrate, firm and rejuvenate your skin. It sounds like a gimmick, but they absorb well so that it doesn’t wipe off on your pillow, and is a good alternative to a night cream if creams are too rich for you. I wasn’t sure if I should mess with Apricots since I was still pretty red from BFF and Stripper, but I’m glad I did. With aloe and sunflower seed oil, it healed my poor skin so that the next day it felt smooth and supple. This was also a winner for me.

Skin Vixen: This last product is a dry oil for the body. The scent is light and citrussy, and I think it will be my go to body lotion this summer. Skin Vixen takes the “dry” part of dry oil very seriously, and it isn’t greasy at all. Perfect for hot days when you want something nourishing on your skin, but don’t want to sweat it all off. Since Lisa lives in Texas, I imagine she could use this all year round.

Big Fat Yummy Hand Cream: I drenched my hands in these before going to sleep, and they were just as good as any sleeping mask. The scent was delish and my overworked paws were extra soft when I woke up. Lil Snarky was my fave, since I’m a fan of sandlewood.

Despite not being crazy about Posh’s obsession with peppermint, I was happy with my samples. Perfectly Posh smells great, has cute packaging that is 100% recyclable, uses high quality ingredients without a lot of fillers, and I can’t even complain about the burn because they totally warned me. If someone invites you to a party, I say go for it and indulge in some yummy smelling, uber-moisturizing products. Just remember to do the test patch if they suggest that you should.

Have you tried Perfectly Posh? What did you think? Have you ever bought anything from a party seller before? Dish in the comments! I’ve missed hearing from you!

Sandpaper Skin

After a short writer’s block-related hiatus, I’m back in action. If you like this blog, and don’t want to see me slipping back into my blocked ways, ask me questions! Leave me a comment here, on my Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Today’s question comes from Shauna, who asks: “My face is driving me nuts. I oil cleanse, which I love. Problem is my skin almost always feels like sandpaper. I exfoliate, and it feels fine for a day. I thought I was over – exfoliating, and took it back from 3-4 times a week to 1-2…no change. Sandpaper. All I’m using to exfoliate with is the oil when it’s still on my face and a soft damp washcloth. Thoughts?


Is your skin feeling like this no matter what you do?

Although I’m a fan of the oil cleansing method, sometimes it isn’t enough to exfoliate. Different skin types have different needs, and even if all the magazines are telling you that you have to back off on exfoliating, what if you do and it still doesn’t normalize your skin? We lose billions of skin cells every day, and when skin is oily, they can stick to our faces, clogging up pores and causing bumps and that scratchy, sandpaper feeling. Personally, I’ve found that over-exfoliated skin is slick, almost glassy, but dehydrated and prone to break outs.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that although I’m an esthetician, I’m not a dermatologist. If you suspect you’re having specific issues with your skin, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor to rule out conditions like rosaceaeczema or keratosis pilaris. All of these are easily treatable with the right guidance from a doctor, but are a source of frustration when you’re just trying to guess what the problem would be.

Checked with a doctor? No diagnosis for a skin condition? Okay, cool. I’ll continue.

If your skin constantly feels scaly, the trick is not to exfoliate more or less, but to exfoliate more efficiently. Physical exfoliation, such as a product with beads or crushed almonds, can only take you so far. Since Shauna uses and likes the oil cleansing method, I wouldn’t want to add an exfoliator from the drugstore into her natural skincare regimen. I would suggest a weekly mask, though. Maybe even a double mask to get the skin extra-squeaky clean. Providing Shauna visited her dermatologist and heard the good news that she doesn’t have rosacea (seriously, please don’t try any of this if you think you might have rosacea), I’d suggest using an enzyme mask, something with pumpkin or papaya in it, to gobble up the dead skin cells on top of the skin. Then follow it up with a clay mask to clean out the pores, now that the skin is fresh. Ten minutes for each mask. Depending on skin type, Shauna could choose whether or not to moisturize afterwards. If her skin feels soft and balanced, she could skip it. If her skin feels dehydrated, a little bit of rose hip oil would be lovely. (Psst, the links are just to provide examples, not suggestions. Go to your local drugstore/health food store/Sephora to find what fits your skin type and budget!) Then it’s back to her usual oil cleansing method for the rest of the week, although if her skin started to feel a little rough mid-week, she could use some more of the enzyme mask. Masks can be a pain because you have to find time to use them, not to mention deal with everyone’s comments while you walk around with stuff on your face, but in the end it’s worth it. They’re extremely effective.

Have you ever battled with the dreaded sandpaper skin? How are you able to tell when your skin is under or over-exfoliated? Discuss your exfoliation techniques in the comments!

Gimmick Ingredients

I recently took a quick trip out of town, so I snapped a pic of my travel skincare/makeup for a blog post about travel essentials. Boring. Yet another “how to pack stuff” post all about sample sizes that everyone can already figure out themselves. Then someone asked me about a line called OroGold. She had been walking through the mall with her daughter when a salesman waved her over, started smearing lotions on her face and told her how this line used real gold, and that gold is the only thing that really penetrates into the skin. She declined, had a laugh with her daughter, saw the product has mixed reviews online, and asked what I thought of it.

gold bars

“Gold Bars” by Stuart Miles

I looked up the line and their ingredients, and it seems like a solid enough skincare line. It has ingredients like vitamin C and DMAE, which are great antioxidants, but the hefty price tag was probably because of the gold flakes, which they claim “is hypoallergenic, stimulates blood circulation, reduces sunspots and acts as an antioxidant.” Wow, that sounds like magic! A quick Google search of “Orogold” and “science” brought up a New York Times article debunking it. “Dr. Judith Hellman, a dermatologist in New York City, did research into gold face creams after enough magazine beauty editors pestered her about them. ‘At best, they do nothing, and at worst, they can give you irritation of the skin,’ she said. ‘I would tell people to put that money into gold that they can wear around their neck or on their fingers.'”

Gimmick ingredients have been around since the dawn of cosmetics, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between what ingredients are legit and what are just snake oil. Another example is kale.


“Green Kale Field” by worradmu


Kale is the hottest veggie of the moment, loaded with antioxidants and a major player in the fight against cancer. Everyone is trying kale at the moment, even if they don’t like it that much (pro tip: roast it for twenty minutes with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. You’ll thank me!). But can it be used for your face? The organic line Eminence thinks so. They’ve just come out with a new product line called Power C that features citrus and kale as the main ingredients. Eminence is a very good line, and their products have great ingredients in it to fight free radical damage…vitamin C and E, ferulic, Co-Enzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid. These are all great ingredients that will benefit the skin. So why add kale? They say that it has “high antioxidant content to help improve the appearance of skin elasticity and hydration for younger-looking skin” but I think the truth is closer to “lots of people will buy our product because it has the word kale in it and it’s green.”

One more example? Plant stem cells are a huge beauty buzz word right now. I even pinned Peter Thomas Roth’s new rose stem cell mask on my Pinterest.

rose close up

Rose Close Up, Sura Nualpradid

It’s pink and made of roses and smells good and “stem cells” means science and that means not aging ever! Yep, I fell for it. The promise is that it can regenerate the skin faster than the usual antioxidants. The reality? Not so much. According to Dr. Marko Lens, “We are not talking about real cells but about extracts from the cells which are obtained after extraction of the plant cells using high pressure homogenisation and thus these ‘plant stem cells’ are dead cells.

From a scientific point of view, the use of plant stem cells is no superior to the use of simple plant extracts. “It is in fact misleading for consumers,” Lens points out.”

There are a lot of great ingredients on the market right now for keeping your skin healthy and fresh. Vitamin C, retinol and peptides have all been proven to have anti-aging benefits, and they’re available in almost every skincare line, not just the pricey ones. Just because you see a product that contains lotus blossom or chia seeds or ground up broccoli doesn’t mean that this is the dream product you’ve been searching for.

Have you been taken in by skin care gimmicks before? Let me know in the comments!

Sunscreen: How Do I Use This and Will It Kill Me?

Here in post-Polar Vortex Chicago, we’re still waiting for summer to happen. The killer winter we had froze Lake Michigan to a pure sheet of ice, so it’s taking a long time to thaw out. Until it does, we’re stuck with gloomy weather that in no way feels like mid-June. I have faith that soon it will warm up, I will be able to retire my spring jacket for good, and will be able to leave the house wearing skirts, tank tops and a thick layer of sunscreen.


You’ll never get me, Sun!

So let’s talk about sunscreens. Like eating healthy, it’s one of those things you think is straightforward (go to the store, pick up SPF 30, slather it on, and go about your business) until you do some internet research and get confused about all the do’s and don’t’s and ingredient analysis. There is more than one type of sunscreen and it could make a difference in your skin.

Why Do I Have To Use Sunscreen? Because UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays are no joke. The “healthy” tan so many people want is a sign of your skin trying to protect itself from damage. The sun can dry out your skin, cause hyperpigmentation and wrinkles, and make you look like a walking leather bag in your old age. If you want some color on your skin, fake tan lotions and spray tans have come a long way, and no longer make you look orange and streaky. Or just embrace your pallor and nurture it. There’s a reason why the goth crowd from your high school are the best looking ones at the reunion. Oh yeah, and the sun causes cancer! You’re making sure all your food is organic and you only clean with vinegar and baking soda, then you go and roast yourself in the sun? Not smart.

Physical Sunscreens: A sunscreen described as “physical” means that the ingredients sit on top of your skin to block out the sun. This is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Just these two ingredients alone do a great job at keeping you from getting a sunburn, although you have to keep re-applying it every couple of hours. The downside is that physical sunscreens are usually white and go on like a paste, taking forever to absorb and leaving a white cast on the skin, plus the titanium dioxide can make you break out. Gross. Luckily cosmetics companies have gotten better at blending the ingredients so that this isn’t as much of a problem. My favorite is Dermalogica’s Super Sensitive Shield, which feels like applying a luxurious moisturizer. The chances of breaking out from a physical sunscreen like this is much lower…it’s a different world from applying baby sunscreen straight on your face.

Chemical Sunscreens: There are many ingredients in chemical sunscreens, but the most common are avobenzone and oxybenzone, and they work by absorbing the sun’s rays and keeping them from doing any damage to the skin, almost like a filter, as opposed to physical sunscreens, which block it out completely. There’s a lot of controversy about chemical sunscreens right now, but they do have their good points. They’re lighter and absorb quicker, so you don’t get that thick paste feeling on your skin, which makes them popular to add to cosmetics for the SPF in your BB Cream. They last longer, unlike physical sunscreens which you have to keep re-applying throughout the day. And although both types will block out UVA and UVB rays, chemical sunscreens have more power to fight against UVA rays. Good thing! The downsides? They can be very irritating. You might break out from titanium dioxide, but you could have an allergic reaction to avobenzone.

So What’s The Controversy?: People are worried about the potential for chemical sunscreens to cause cancer, specifically oxybenzone. This is something that’s getting a lot of press, and people are worried that the product they’re using to protect against one type of cancer will end up causing a different kind of cancer. Sensationalists like Dr. Oz and his collection of quacks have managed to convince the public that they’re being “poisoned.” This panic stems from a study in 2001, which never managed to get published in a peer-reviewed journal, that showed oxybenzone caused hormone disruption in rats. “But what holds true in rat studies often does not end up applying to humans. Indeed, no evidence has shown that oxybenzone has any adverse health effect in humans.” The consensus among the medical community…which is the only community whose opinion matters in cases like this…is that there is no proof that sunscreen can kill you.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what type of sunscreen you’re using as long as you’re wearing it and it isn’t causing a reaction in your skin. If you’ve never felt irritated by chemical sunscreen and you’re not very good at re-applying all day, go for it. If your new BB cream is breaking you out, switch to physical, but remember that if you’re outside all day you have to keep adding more. Apply all sunscreen by slopping a palmful of it onto your skin. More is more. Remember that UVB rays are at their highest from 12pm-2pm, but UVA rays last from sunrise to sunset and can penetrate through clouds and glass, so keep wearing your sunscreen even if it’s cloudy and you’re sitting in your office next to a window all day. If all types of sunscreen cause you to break out, invest in big sunglasses and a cute wide-brimmed hat, but keep applying a physical sunscreen to the rest of your body unless you want to wear long sleeves and pants all summer. Sunscreen is the best anti-aging product out there, so slather it on.

Do you have any other questions about sunscreen that I didn’t cover? Ask me in the comments!

May Birchbox

I kind of like this thing where I review Birchbox a month late so that I can give a better review of it. This way I can tell what I like instead of what I think I might like. Because this month?


Was less than impressive at first glance. An after sun cream (I don’t tan), a lip balm (I don’t wear coral), some tea (sure, why not?) some Nexxus hair shampoo for color (gave it away to a friend with red hair), and another anti-aging serum making promises it can’t possibly live up to. “Really, Birchbox?” I said out loud, rolling my eyes at the box contents. I’ve been a subscriber for a year, and started to think that it might be time to give it up. Nothing was making me excited to try it.

Turns out I was wrong.

The Coola after sun lotion still doesn’t do anything for me, since I’m a grown up goth who never goes outside without a layer of SPF 50. I should give this to someone who is more outdoorsy than me.

However, the Marcelle New Age 8-in-1 Power Serum impressed me! This is stunning because in the last year, I’ve tried tons of anti-aging samples, and I haven’t bought a single one. Some were fine, but nothing that made me want to switch from what I already use. Finally, I’ve found something I want to buy! Woot! I used the Marcelle serum by itself as a night cream, and woke up with baby soft skin. I hadn’t even looked at the ingredients yet, so was happy to see that it’s loaded with peptides. My trusty Mario Badescu Peptide Renewal Cream is too heavy for summer, so this is a great way to switch it up. Notice how the cap is off in the picture above? It’s because I used it all up to the last drop and lost the cap. This alone makes May’s box a success for me.

But then I ended up liking the lip balm too! Birchbox, I owe you an apology! The balm is Pixi Shea Butter Lip Balm, and the color I got was Coral Crush. Not something I usually go for since I favor deep reds, purples and burgundies. But sometimes a girl needs to go the drugstore and wants something a little lighter on her lips than MAC Russian Red. The coral shade works with my pale skin tone, and orange lips are on trend, so look at me being all trendy! Okay, you might argue that you have never in your life felt the need to wear lipstick to the drugstore. What can I say, I have an addiction to lip color. If you’re like me, the Pixi lip balm gives a nice little hit of color when you’re just going about your day.

So although I gave away the Nexxus shampoo, might give away the Coola lotion, and haven’t tried the tea yet (but I will! I’m a tea drinker), I think two products I’ve used almost daily in the last month is pretty good. Keep it up, Birchbox!

Did you get anything you loved this month? Let me know in the comments!

Body Acceptance also means Skin Acceptance

On this blog, I write a lot about products and what you can do to make your skin look glowing and flawless. But are words like “glowing” and “flawless” even realistic? I firmly believe in accepting the way that you look in the present moment as beautiful. Maybe you don’t look the way you did when you were 24, but the chances are high that you didn’t like how you looked at 24 anyway. What will your future self fifteen years down the road think of how you look right now? Chances are, he/she thinks you look smoking, so enjoy it in the present instead of being wistful over the body type/skin you used to have.

When I used to do facials, I heard the same litany of skin woes all the time. There were plenty that were justified…I’m definitely not telling anyone they should embrace and love their acne. I’m just starting to see signs of losing elasticity in my neck, and you know what? That’s a great big pile of “nope!” for me. But there are some things that everyone has and maybe if we realized that we are not the only ones with these tiny flaws while the rest of the world frolics around with perfect, airbrushed skin, we’d feel better.

Blackheads: We all have them. Do you want to know who doesn’t have them? Kids. That’s it. The minute you hit puberty, your pores fill up, and then the rest of your life is spent fighting them. Teenagers have them. All ethnicities have them. Old people have them. Yes, you will still have blackheads even after your skin dries up and starts to wrinkle. Life isn’t fair, Princess. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Slap on a clay mask when they get out of hand, but I assure you that your blackheads are not worse than anyone else’s.

Smile Lines/Crows Feet:  I can remember reading in The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (or was it Slowness? Kundera fans, feel free to fact check me!) where one of the characters meets a woman who looks very young for her age, until she smiles, and then wrinkles etch over her skin. He wondered if she thought she looked young all the time because she would only see herself in the mirror and wouldn’t be smiling. Guess what, Kundera? Women are aware of what they look like when they smile. I remember clients complaining about their lines and I would tell them, “Those are from smiling! People who don’t have wrinkles are people who never smile.” This generally made the client feel better, because dammit, their lines were evidenced of a life well lived. Then I started getting them. Fuck. But unless you choose Botox (which, quite frankly, I think makes people look stiff and weird), you’re going to get those lines around your eyes and your mouth. You just are. The crepeiness (I think I just invented that word) that occurs from loss of collagen and elastin can be fought against, or at least pushed off until a future date, but smile lines are from muscle movement, and there’s not much you can do. This is something I have to keep in mind as I see those deep lines forming around my eyes when I smile. Life well lived, dammit!

Large Pores: Again, like blackheads, pores are a thing on your face that you can’t really control. There are plenty of products out there that can tighten them up or make them appear smaller, but it isn’t going to erase them. Human skin has pores. Just because you can’t see pores on a model in a magazine doesn’t mean she doesn’t have them. In fact, that model probably has bigger pores and more blackheads than you…her job is wearing heavy makeup every day. You think that isn’t going to take a toll? Pity the poor model, who can’t do anything to control her pore size except to slap on more makeup. You think you have large pores? That’s nothing compared to the “flawless” looking girl on the cover of Elle.

We’ll stick with that for right now. It’s hard to walk the line between aging gracefully and not wanting to go down without a fight. On the flipside, even though I don’t like the way plastic surgery looks, if a little filler or Botox is going to make someone feel better about herself, I say go for it. We are adults and we can do what we want. Just don’t fret too much over the little things. Fretting causes wrinkles.