Friday, May 17, 2013

Chemical Peels

I spent about three months or so researching chemical peels.  The four most common are Glycolic (AHA), Salicylic (BHA), Lactic, and TCA.

Chemical peels are a form of exfoliation.  Most of them wont actually cause your skin to peel (except TCA peels in higher concentrations).  Much like manual exfoliation (think scrubs) get the crud off the top layers of you skin, chemical peels accomplish the same, with far less damage or irritation to the skin. Scrubs actually damage your skin by causing tears in the skin that the body must heal.  No good.  For that reason, chemical peels are a safer and more effective form of exfoliation for the skin.  If you are used to using scrubs, it will take some psychological adjustment to get comfortable with tossing your favorite scrub in the trash bin.

Here I will discuss the various forms of chemical peels so you can choose the most appropriate for your skin.  The first three, AHA, BHA and Lactic are great for at home use, provided you do not go nuts, you should be fine.  They can sting a bit, but nothing to get nervous about.  I have found that sometimes, they don't sting at all and others I am hopping about my bathroom unable to last a minute with it on my skin.  Regardless, you can neutralize them quickly with regular tap water, so if you are uncomfortable at all, then just rinse it off and wait until next week to proceed.  You do not need to buy special neutralizing solution.  Water works fine.  They will actually self-neutralize after some time anyhow without the use of anything, despite what some uninformed zealots might advise.  A follow-up question here and there has proven to me that most people who sell beauty products have no freaking clue what it is they are selling.

My personal favorite chemical peel is BHA, Salicylic acid.  I use a great product by Neutrogena, which I mention in my post below on blackheads.  This is a 2%, suitable for daily use.  I also have a 20% suitable for weekly use that I love (it is not by Neutrogena, but I did get it from Amazon).  BHAs work by not only exfoliating the top layer of skin, but they also help to dissolve and loosen the oils in pores that get gunked up and gross.  It isn't a miracle worker, but it helps.  Also, it has anti-inflammatory properties, so it may be suitable for sensitive skin.  I find that, rather than irritate my skin, this 'peel' actually works to calm my skin and keep it happy.  If you have never had a chemical peel, you can try it out at a spa first, where you will paid a hundred times the cost of the product they use (the product is so inexpensive it is almost free, if you account for the per-peel cost...maybe one dollar), but will have the psychological comfort of knowing that you are in the hands of someone who has probably done this a time or two. 

I have yet to try Lactic Acid, but I just purchased some for the first time.  It is supposed to soften the skin and have calming properties as well.  BHA remains my gold standard, but I will be giving this a try. 

AHA, glycolics, are a great peel and give a greater depth penetration in the skin, but they lack anti-inflammatory properties.  In my opinion, inflammation is one of the chief things that we are fighting against in skin care (and in general health), so I choose the more mild BHA.  Used on a regular basis, you can get great exfoliation with a BHA and no irritation.

Lets dive on into the last one...TCA.  I ventured to try this at home and it was a mistake.  This is actually a much more...serious, for lack of a better word, peel that takes off the top layers of skin.  It is the only one that actually causes peeling.  I tried 25% and, while the complication rate is very low, I was just one of the folks that didn't heal well.   I got burns on my skin that left me with persistent redness that I am currently seeking laser beam treatment to correct.  It is nothing major and covers up easily with makeup, but would I do the peel again?  Heck no.  My skin hated it.  If I had a do-over, I would have gone to a derms office and had it done.  While they charge you out the wazzo (six hundred dollars is highway robbery...jerks),  I would not have wondered if I did anything wrong.  For what you get from a TCA peels (fresh, bright looking skin that can last several months, possibly lighter freckles) versus the cost (a week downtime and potential complications), I wont be trying it again unless all other options have failed.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sebaceous Filaments versus Blackheads...Mystery solved

I always feel like my nose looks...dirty, like it is covered in a million tiny blackheads.

I've read books and journals
I've scrubbed
I've peeled
I've pore-stripped
I've extracted
I've laser-ed
I've babied by skin
I've attacked my skin

Nothing has worked.

I thought it was just my lot in life.  Until I read a post on (link pasted below), talking about how people tend to confuse sebaceous filaments for blackheads.  As I read the post, I realized that I had mis-diagnosed myself for years, like so many others.  It was like walking out of a fog for me and, for the first time, I realized that I can put down the creams, potions, lotions, the chisel and blowtorch and just accept that what I have is normal skin, but not airbrush perfect skin.

I have pasted an except below, along with the link.  After the post, you will also find links to other articles if you are like me and you like further reading.  For those of you out there who, like me, have spent years fighting a battle you were never going to win, I hope that this information helps.

I would like to take a moment to briefly reflect on all of the products that I have used to hopefully save you some time, money and skin damage.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
1.  The most evil on my list is pore strips.  Dont deliver and damage my skin.  May cause telengectasia (aka dilated/broken capillaries around the nose that never go away).

2. Blackhead Extractor.  Perfect for blackheads, useless for sebaceous filaments, which come right back.  Easy to damage your skin when overzealous.  Be gentle.  Buy a good magnifying mirror.

3. Salicylic Acid.  Here's a winner!  No, it does not make the sebaceous filaments go away, but it has a very calming effect on my skin that is noticeable. I use a fantastic product by Neutrogena called Oil Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment 2oz.  I got it on Amazon after vetting it on  Goes on super light.  Probably the best feeling product I use.  Weekly I use a 20% salicylic peel (stings a bit).  My skin tone is even and lovely the next morning, so I guess my skin just loves this stuff.  Not many derms recommend doing at home peels, but they can go fly a kite as far as I'm concerned.  In my opinion (consult your doctor and make-up your own mind), they are using the same product and charging me an arm and a leg for it.

4. The scrubs.  I dont use scrubs.  Almost all are too harsh for skin.  What they do, on a microscopic level, is tear the skin.  Is that what you want?  The skin swells and begins to repair itself, causing a temporary glow which is just your body fixing the damage you did.  Approach manual/physical exfoliation with caution.  Generally, AHA or BHA are preferable for exfoliation of the skin.  But hey, sometimes we cannot resist and when I just need to scrub, I turn to my microderm crystals...but only once a month or so when I'm in a mood!

5.  The laser.  IPL (and perhaps an inexperienced practitioner) did nothing for me and I will never go back.  I believe that nine times out of ten, there are better ways.


"l most every day I get clients at my acne clinic that think they have blackheads on their nose. I know that what they see in their nose looks just like blackheads, but it is not. Those are what are called sebaceous filaments. They are basically the oil glands on your nose and in the chin area just below the lower lip. They are meant to be there and will never go away. Even if extracted, it still looks the same and it fills right back up again a week later.

Once in a while, someone actually will have blackheads in their nose...Those definitely need to be extracted.

So, my rule of thumb is, if all the so-called blackheads in your nose are all the same size, then they are not blackheads. If, however, you have a blackhead that is bigger than the rest of the other blackheads in the nose, then it really is a blackhead and not just another sebaceous filament.

My clients tend to have a very disappointing reaction to my assessment of their blackheads on their nose. They, most often, desperately want them to go away. I reassure them that everybody, even people who have never had acne, have them. Everyone but the most oil-dry of skin does have them. When you are standing a couple of feet away from someone, which is the normal space between people, you cant even see the pores on the nose. We are all so used to looking at air-brushed pictures of models in fashion magazines that have absolutely perfect skin with no pores showing at all. Unfortunately, this sets up an expectation and fantasy that our skin should look just like this. Sorry it's just not real and I tell my clients that they are just going to have to accept their nose the way it is."


"How Are Sebaceous Filaments Different from Blackheads?
The same process that creates sebaceous filaments also causes blackheads. However, there's a major difference in degree. Sebaceous filaments occur in number and have a uniform appearance; blackheads erupt in isolation. Sebaceous filaments are tiny and look like pinpricks while blackheads look more like the aftereffects of a thumbtack or nail. Blackheads are darker than sebaceous filaments which typically appear only a few shades darker than surrounding skin.
Sebaceous filaments aren't a product of troubled skin, but of the natural process of sebum production. If you have "blackheads" on or near your nose but have otherwise clear skin, you're probably confusing a normal occurrence with a problematic condition."



Friday, November 16, 2012

Favorite Beauty Resources

This is where I will post my favorite places on the web to find skin care and beauty information.  I will update this list as time goes by and new entries will always been at the top.

Eternally at the Top of the List: Paula Begoun's book, The Beauty Bible and her website What really makes this book important is three things:
1) It will save you BIG money on useless snake oils that you would have shelled out big bucks for and;
2) It will save your skin from being irritated and damaged by products that contain harsh ingredients that should never touch skin (but are hidden in great looking products)
3) It will direct you to treatments that actually work!
I use it all the time...Reviews thousands and thousands of skin care products (and makeup too!) telling you if the product contains harsh ingredients and really does what it says it is going to do.  Plus, they have an app.  I often bust out my cell phone at the drug store when I need a new moisturizer and I get a well-formulated, top performing product at a bargain price.  My gal pal recently spent over $16 at Clinique for a zit buster.  I got the same product at CVS for $4.  I will concede that her tube looked prettier than mine.  My boss told me that she uses Perricone because it is made by a top doctor.  I pulled up his product reviews on Beautypedia and she found that one of her products was good, but the other two got frowny faces.  His stuff costs $$$, so my boss might save a bundle choosing products that are better for her skin in the future.  The forums here are priceless.  Any issue you are dealing with, any medication you are curious about, you can find more information here.
Regular people like you and me review all types of cosmetic procedures, from topical to surgery.  See what other people have to say!
LOVE her!  A world famous makeup artist from the UK, she is kind enough to give-up her beauty and makeup secrets on her website with helpful videos.  When my sister told me I was wearing too much makeup, Lisas videos taught me how to achieve a natural look.  I wear one-tenth the amount of makeup now and look so much better.  Where else can you get free makeup advice from a makeup superstar?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Making Smart Beauty Choices Is What I'm All About

I'm Michelle and I'm starting a blog at the recommendation of my twin sister, Jennifer, to share my passion for beauty.  
A little about me...I'm 31 and I grew up in Southern California.  I recently moved to Tennessee for work and I love it out here.  I have always been passionate about beauty, but skin care especially.    

I am always learning about something new...chemical peels, copper peptides, you name it!  I soak that stuff up like a sponge.  My goal with this blog is to translate my current passion (right now, its all about chemical peels for me!) into helpful posts for people who aren't crazy enough to spend all evening reading medical journals, blogs and message boards.  I find that often, when I am researching something, it is really hard to get complete information...yet surprisingly easy to get mis-information.  I'll find some helpful tips here, some information there.  I would like to consolidate it into one place where people can come and get the whole least as much of it as I can dig up!

I truly hope that you enjoy reading my posts.  I hope that they save you money and time while directing you towards real treatments that deliver on their promises!