Don’t Be So Sensitive!

Office Space, sensitive skin tip
If you haven’t seen “Office Space,” go watch it now.

Skin sensitivity is a bitch. It can make your skin feel dry, itchy and like someone has lit a fire on your face. Some combination of redness, dry patches, rashes, hives and breakouts usually crops up when skin is truly sensitive. It’s typically caused by allergic reactions or irritation to a product ingredient or ingredients, but can also be brought about by environmental allergens (plants, pollen, trees, etc.) and food or medicine allergies.

If you suspect your skin sensitivity is related to product ingredients, the best thing to do is the skincare version of the elimination diet. Forgo your face makeup for a week and use nothing but a gentle cleanser like Dermalogica Gentle Cleanser and a fragrance-free moisturizer like Cetaphil Fragrance Free Daily Moisturizer. After a week, add in one of the products (i.e. a primer, foundation, face mask) you normally use. Wait a day and see if you experience redness, itching, hives, rashes, dryness, breakouts or any other type of flare up. Continue to do this until you have incorporated all of your regular products back into your routine. If the offender makes itself known, you have your answer (kind of). It could be any of the ingredients in that product, so I suggest finding out what they are, noting them, and comparing that list to the ingredients list on any products that irritate your skin in the future. You’ll eventually be able to pin down the ingredient(s)you are allergic to. You can also go to a dermatologist who specializes in testing for skin allergens.

Sometimes people think they have sensitive skin when they really have rosacea, eczema, or even certain types of skin cancer that show up as dry, scaly patches. There is also something called dermatographism, which is when the skin is extremely sensitive to physical touch. In those people, their skin cells release histamine at the slightest touch, causing redness to appear. If you have sensitive skin and are unsure of what’s causing your sensitivity, definitely see a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you have truly sensitive skin, there are some things you can do to avoid further aggravating your skin. Like:

  1. Don’t rub, scrub or otherwise manhandle your skin. Doing so will aggravate it and cause redness, splotches or dryness. Avoid using at home mechanical cleansing brushes, laser devices or acne treatments.
  2. Use fragrance-free products. Fragrances are a very common irritant for sensitive skin. Luckily, the beauty industry is aware of this and many lines carry fragrance-free products. Beauty Without Cruelty, Dr. Hauschka, Burt’s Bees, Almay, Clinique and CoverGirl all carry some fragrance-free products.
  3. Patch test everything. Before committing to any skincare or makeup product, first apply a small amount to your neck and wait 48 hours to see if you have a reaction. If you do, return that product and try again.
  4. Avoid physical exfoliants. Any kind of exfoliant with granules or beads will only further irritate your skin. Chemical exfoliants like Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant are best, but always patch test first and only use once a week. Some skin may be too sensitive to tolerate any exfoliants, so you may need to skip this step altogether.
  5. Don’t assume natural is best. If you have environmental allergies and your skin is sensitive, you may have better luck with products that contain only synthetic ingredients. Most people assume that products with natural ingredients will be more gentle, but that’s not always the case. Think about it: If you went out into a field of flowers and couldn’t stop coughing and sneezing, why would the pollen from those flowers not affect you if it was an ingredient in your moisturizer?
  6. Use gentle cleansers. Anything too strong will strip your skin and likely cause irritation (so skip the foaming cleansers). As mentioned, Dermalogica Gentle Cleanser is good, as is Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser. These cleansers will not thoroughly remove makeup though. If you wear makeup, you’ll need to remove it with an oil makeup remover, like Dermalogica PreCleanse, or micellar water, like Bioderma Sensibio H20, before cleansing. If your skin can tolerate some light rubbing, an oil cleanser like NUDE Skincare Perfect Cleanse Cleansing Oil will both remove makeup and cleanse your skin.
  7. Read my post on the acid mantle.

If you take care of your sensitive skin, you can minimize or erase any physical signs of irritation. So do right by your dermis, okay?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Slough It Off

Exfoliators

Regular dental cleanings. Oil changes every 3,000 miles. Monitoring my bank accounts and credit card statements for fraud. These are a few of the things I do consistently to keep my body, my car and my financial life in good shape. Are they fun or exciting? Nope. But they are part of what I do to keep my life running as smoothly as possible. I figure that if I can stay on top of the routine stuff, I’ll be much better equipped to handle the inevitable unexpected challenges that will be thrown my way. I’m a big proponent of having your shit together so you can better weather life’s storms.

If you want your skin to have its shit together, you have to consistently take care of it, as I discussed in The Basics https://allisonbarberamakeup.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/shes-so-basic/. I said then that I would elaborate on exfoliation, since it’s a key player in good skincare. And I never make a promise I can’t keep.

Exfoliation is the removal of the oldest dead skin cells from the outermost layer of the skin. When those dead skin cells are left on the skin, they can make skin feel rough, cause makeup to cake and prevent skincare products from absorbing properly. If buy good quality moisturizers or serums but don’t exfoliate, you are wasting money. That’s real talk. I don’t sugarcoat things on this blog, my friend.  Products can’t penetrate the layers of the skin like they need to if they are being blocked by dead skin cells. Also, unexfoliated skin often looks dull and makes it harder to blend makeup. Makeup looks considerably better on regularly exfoliated skin–that’s a fact. Unless exfoliation is contraindicated for you–which I will get to–you should be doing it 2-3 times a week.

There are two types of exfoliation–physical (or mechanical) or chemical (or enzyme). Depending on your skin type and preferences, one type may be better for you.

Physical exfoliation involves using an abrasive product or tool to manually remove the dead skin cells off that top layer of skin. You apply product, rub it in, then rinse off (or use the tool as directed) to shed the dead skin cells. Physical exfoliants include microfiber cloths, scrubs made with sugar, salt crystals or other granules, microdermabrasion and tools like the Clarisonic. Microbead exfoliants were popular for several years but have been banned because the beads pass through sewage treatments without being filtered out. There are some scrubs that contain crushed apricot kernels or almond shells, but I recommend avoiding using those on the face, next, chest and hands as they can cause microtears on the delicate skin of those areas. (I’m looking at you, St. Ives Apricot Scrub). Repeated microtears make the skin’s texture rougher and uneven looking. It’s fine to use a more abrasive scrub like that on the rest of the body where the skin is thicker, so don’t go throwing all of your products away. Physical exfoliation may sound harsh, but it’s not when done correctly. However, any type of rubbing the skin–even in a gentle way–can be irritating to truly sensitive skin. If that’s what you have, chemical exfoliation might be a better choice.

Chemical exfoliants break down the “glue” that binds dead skin cells to the outermost layer of the skin. Once that glue is dissolved, the dead skin cells fall off. I consider chemical exfoliants to be the passive exfoliant because typically you apply them to the skin, wait for a specified amount of time, then rinse off. Chemical exfoliants usually contain some type of acid or combination of acids (like alpha hydoxy, beta, lactic, glycolic and malic acids) or fruit enzymes (papaya and pineapple are two of the most effective). As mentioned above, chemical exfoliants are generally a better choice for sensitive skin (just do a patch test first). They are also better for acneic skin because rubbing or massaging the skin can spread oils from acne, causing more breakouts.

Oh, you want me to shut up and give you my pro recommendations? I see how it is. I’ll do it, not because I am a pushover but because I want to help you get your skin in better shape.

For physical exfoliants, I recommend Dermalogica Skin Prep Scrub http://www.dermalogica.com/skin-prep-scrub/10,default,pd.html?cgid=exfoliants&start=5&cgid=exfoliants

For chemical exfoliants, I like Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant http://www.dermalogica.com/gentle-cream-exfoliant/9,default,pd.html?cgid=exfoliants&start=3&cgid=exfoliants. It’s technically a mask but it is an exfoliating mask, so it still counts.

For the indecisive types, I recommend Kate Somerville ExfoliKate. It is a scrub that contains fruit enzymes so you can use it as a physical or chemical exfoliant. http://www.sephora.com/exfolikate-gentle-exfoliating-treatment-P232925?skuId=1201763&icid2=search_search_p232925_image

There are some contraindications to exfoliation, so take note.

  1. Waxing. On its journey to eliminate hair, waxing also removes the dead skin cells from that outermost layer of skin. If you exfoliate prior to waxing, you are exposing the equivalent of a fresh layer of skin, which is more sensitive. Using hot wax on that area can cause burns. If you exfoliate right after a wax, you will likely cause irritation to that sensitive layer. I recommend doing any exfoliation 48-72 hours before waxing or 48 hours after to avoid burns, irritation and redness.
  2. Retinoids. Products containing retinoids naturally exfoliate the skin. As a regular prescription Retinol user, I do not exfoliate my face. Doing so can cause irritation and redness.
  3. Accutane*. This anti-acne prescription makes the skin thinner so exfoliation can be especially irritating.
  4. Double Exfoliation. I don’t know if this is technically a contraindication, but I’m including it here. Don’t use a physical exfoliant followed by a chemical exfoliant or vice versa to get extra exfoliated. It’s not going to make your skin glow or feel softer any quicker and is likely to have the opposite effect. There is no “get rich quick” equivalent in skincare. Exfoliation works best when it’s done consistently but with enough time in between exfoliation treatments to prevent irritation.

I hope that I’ve convinced you that exfoliation should be an integral part of your skincare routine. It really makes a huge difference in the look and feel of skin, and it is not especially time consuming or expensive. Any dermatologist, esthetician or makeup artist would agree with me on this. So listen to us, okay?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

*Accutane now only exists in generic versions, but this is the name most familiar to people.

 

Don’t Fall Behind

Apple picking. Football. Sweaters. Boots. Pumpkin-friggin’-everything. Does that excite you? Not me. I can’t eat apples, I don’t understand football, sweaters are itchy, closed-toed shoes feel constricting and I don’t get the hype about pumpkins. To me, fall means the days get colder, there is less daylight and winter is up next. My glass is half full in the spring, half empty in the fall.

Even though I am an autumn pessimist, I know that the change in seasons dictates a change in my skincare routine. I, like many women in the 20-40 age range, have combination skin. I shine (bright like a diamond) in the warmer months and flake (every time plans are made, like a shitty friend) in the cooler months. I notice the change from healthy–and we’ll call it “glowy” skin–as soon as the temperature starts dropping. If you don’t relate to this, you either a) Have very oily skin b) Never look in the mirror or touch your face or c) Live in an area that has perpetual summer. If it’s the last one, I applaud your intelligent choice of residence. I hope to follow in your footsteps soon.

So let’s say you’re like me. You’re out enjoying a morning at the apple orchard before the big game one Sunday. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the rearview mirror while you are driving the scenic route home to get in some leaf peeping. You notice some peeling on your chin and see that your makeup has caked up. You take a sip of your pumpkin spice latte and think about this. You recall that your skin has been looking dull lately. When you put on your new jewel-toned sweater this morning (so soft!) and tried an oxblood colored lipstick to play off it, you discovered your lips were dry and peeling. Well, at least I get to go on a haunted hayride this week! you say to yourself, jumping up and clicking the heels of your camel colored boots together.

The humidity goes away in the fall (“What does that mean?,” asks every Floridian) when the air is cooler and more dry. This causes the water in your skin to evaporate up to 25% quicker than in the warmer, kinder months.  If the heat is on in your home or workplace, it dries out the mucous membranes (gross gross gross) which can cause chapped lips. A lot of people take hotter showers in the fall and winter to warm up a little, but the hot water temps strip your skin of the oils that keep it naturally moisturized.

So, what do you do? Read on, my little caramel apple loving friend.

  1. Erase, Replace, Embrace New Face…Moisturizer. If your skin is feeling dry and you have been using an oil-free moisturizer, it’s time to switch over to something more hydrating. I recommend Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre, CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion and Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream.
  2. Be Your Own Esthetician. I like to really massage my moisturizer in during the fall and winter because that helps rev up circulation. If you have ever had a facial, you know that facial massage is a big part of it. I do a light version every day when I apply my moisturizer, and also a longer facial massage with a face oil like Nude Pro Genius Omega Treatment Oil every week or two.
  3. Exfoliate Your Face Off. Well, not literally. But if you are experiencing dry, flaky or dull skin, exfoliation–which removes the dead skin cells that are sometimes visible and can cause makeup to cake up–makes a huge difference. Do it 2-3 times a week (but not if you are on prescription retinol or anything else that would contraindicate it). My favorites are Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant and Kate Somerville ExfoliKate.
  4. Lip Balm It Up. If you find yourself reaching for matte lipsticks often, like any good fall trends makeup follower does, you’ll find that they exacerbate chapped lip issues. I swear by Aquaphor Lip Repair. Some lip exfoliation, even just with a damp washcloth, can help too.
  5. Mask Your Feelings. Or maybe don’t. But definitely mask your face. There are a million hydrating and moisturizing face masks on the market and you can make some at home too.  If you like your masks already made, try La Roche Posay Hydraphase Intense Masque or Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque. Some moisturizing ingredients to consider if you are making a mask at home are banana, coconut, honey and full fat yogurt. Or just make yourself a snack out of those things while your pre-made mask is on. I don’t care what you do with your time 😉
  6. Get Out of the Shower, Girl. Long, hot showers strip oil from your skin, as I mentioned. If you want be environmentally friendly, conscious of your water bill and considerate of your skin, stop that shit already.

With a little effort, the battle against cold weather face can be won. I can’t help you if your hands and feet are in perma-cold mode until May like mine are, but I can hopefully help you not resemble a dried out, dull-skinned, chapped-lipped zombie. That’s a look that only really works on October 31.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

A Skincare Essential: A Dermalogica Precleanse Review

Believe it or not, sometimes I wear a lot of makeup (insert sarcasm font). Primer, foundation, concealer, bronzer, blush, highlighter, powder. And let’s not even start on the eyes. A regular cleanser alone does not do the job for me. I need something that will cut through the MAC Face and Body foundation, dissolve layers of Benefit Hoola and say to NARS Copacabana “Okay, you’ve had your turn. Get off this face.”

I need Dermalogica Precleanse.

I first met Precleanse when I was in Esthetics school. We were trained on the Dermalogica line, and our tuition included a good amount of products. When I heard that there was something to remove makeup before cleansing, my first thought was “Another friggin’ step?!?!” I’ll gladly go through fifteen steps for a makeup look, but I like my skincare routine to be more streamlined.

Then I started using Precleanse. Gone were the days when I’d cleanse and tone, only to look at the toner cotton pad, see makeup residue and have to cleanse again. Using Precleanse is like rinsing the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. They’re guaranteed to come out clean, even if you’re thinking “This a pain in the ass” while you’re doing it.

Here’s how you do it–dispense a little into your hand, and apply to dry skin. Massage the product in, then wet your fingertips and massage more. Rinse off with lukewarm water, then cleanse as you normally would. I tend to avoid putting too much on the eye area because it can sting a bit. *Note: If you have contacts, take them out first. This is an oily product, so it will cloud up your lenses.*

If you wear anything other than moisturizer on your skin, using Precleanse at night is a good idea. Otherwise you’re probably letting traces of makeup sit on your skin while you’re sleeping, allowing it to happily partner  up with oils and dirt and cause breakouts.

You can buy Precleanse at www.Dermalogica.com or use the Store Locator on the site to find a salon or spa near you that sells it. It’s $38.00, but you only need a small amount. I bought a bottle last fall, and I still have plenty left.

Used it before? Love it? Hate it? Let me know!

Have a beautiful day 🙂