The power of AHA’s.

Topically applied, AHA’s ( Alpha Hydroxy Acids) can be naturally derived from fruits, plants and nuts but today are mostly synthetically produced. The most popular are Glycolic and Lactic which are especially suited for home application because they are less irritating. However spa protocols often include a combination of other AHA’s such as Mandelic, Citric, Tartaric and Malic.

Used to treat wrinkles, sun damage, age spots, pigmentation and acne, AHA’s gently exfoliate unnecessary dead skin cells on the surface of the skin that build up over time. This increases blood flow and allows for better product penetration.When used continuously Glycolic Acid in particular can brighten the skin and lighten pigmentation. It can also balance pH. Long term use has helped to reduce the appearance of scar tissue and can soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

For home use most AHA formulas contain 10% or less of the active ingredient. In the spa this percentage is often increased depending on the blend of AHA’s being used and also on the results that are required. Of course skin sensitivity is also taken into account.

It is really essential to use a daily SPF of at least 30 when using any products that contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids because they all make the skin much more susceptible to the sun and increase the likelihood of burning.

By applying toners, serums and/or creams to skin containing these ingredients you can improve the health and appearance of your skin significantly and ensure that healthy, youthful glow that we all yearn for.

IMG_0499I have been part of the skin care industry for a long time. When I first trained as a facialist, the products and protocols we learned were a lot less sophisticated than they are today. Even though we had botanicals and essential oils to work with and some of the electrotherapy that is still being used currently, the ingredients were not as advanced and the machines not as various or highly calibrated.

I have a lot more tools in my tool box these days which makes my work even more rewarding than ever. My favorite anti-aging stars include peptides, ATP, oxygen, stem cell extract, hyaluronic acid  and the old favorites, Retin-A, collagen and elastin. Ultrasound and microcurrent have also reaped great benefits for many of my clients along with galvanic and high frequency that work with even the most sensitive of skins. It is all about getting the skin, by stimulating its natural physiology and chemistry, to produce new cells, amino acids and proteins in larger quantities over longer periods of time than is normal with intrinsic aging. In other words, younger looking skin that defies our chronological age!

Good news indeed. What this requires however, is a balanced and judicious approach to just how much stimulation you subject the skin to and who is advising you about the different methods. Constant abrasion with lasers, aggressive topicals and peeling agents creates too much trauma, can damage the skin and increase sensitivity and pigmentation. Protocols have to be mixed and alternated in order to achieve optimum results and we have a  lot of ‘smart’ skin care formulas today that can send messages to cell receptors in the skin which makes aggressive topical treatments unnecessary. WE need to respect the skin as a fully functional and self regulating organ. For example, using microcurrent and galvanic electrotherapy with oxygen, peptides and hyaluronic acid during the summer months, coupled with anti-oxidant serums/cremes and sunscreen at home can prepare the skin for winter peeling protocols that would repair sun damage AND boost cell production.

One final and very important tip: avoid any products that combine any form of Retin A with sunscreen. ALL Retin-A products (this includes, Tazarac and Differin) must only be applied at night.

Take a look at what you have in your bathroom and on your next spa visit, review your home care routine with your facialist. Effective skin care requires discipline, planning and commitment – it is a habit that has to be repeated every day at home and every month at the spa to reap the rewards. Luckily, the rewards show up much more quickly today because of the technology and expanded knowledge we now have about the anatomy and physiology of the skin. And other people will notice the improvement in your skin too – I promise!

Dry brushing the skin is a great way to detox the body. It increases the circulation, stimulates the lymphatic system, improves the overall smoothness and appearance of the skin and of course, gets rid of dead cells by the bucket loads!

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It controls the body’s thermostat – keeping us cool and warm when necessary; it absorbs useful ingredients; secretes toxins; protects the internal organs and contains nerve endings that allow us to feel the world around us.

One of the most important functions of the skin, however, is sweating. The skin is responsible for excreting one pound of waste product every day. If the sweat glands can’t do their job because they are blocked with dead skin, toxins can get trapped inside the body which creates cellulite, lymph buildup and general imbalance.

Sisal brushes are best used for dry brushing. Before jumping in the shower take a brush and systematically work over the body in firm circular movements. Stay in each area for a few minutes or until the skin is rosy pink. No cremes or lotions should be applied beforehand – thus the term ‘dry’ brushing.

Brushes can be maintained by tapping off any dry skin and storing in a dry place. Wiping occasionally with alcohol on a dry gauze is also a good idea as long as the bristles don’t get wet. As you have probably realized by now – water is not part of this overall process!!

The skin sheds about one million cells a day – most of your house debris probably consists of dead skin.

Shedding slows as we age, so extra sloughing on a regular basis helps to keep skin healthy, youthful and vibrant. And there are lots of options available to get rid of those cells more quickly. Here are the three main categories: mechanical, digestive/chemical and proliferating.

Mechanical methods include nut scrubs, polyethylene balls, micro-fine pumice and more aggressive protocols like microdermabrasion, dermaplaning and skin resurfacing.

Chemical methods include digestive fruit acids like AHA and BHA’s, enzymes from papaya, pineapple and pumpkin and deeper peeling protocols like TCA (trichloroacetic acid) and enhanced Jessner’s solutions.

Proliferators speed up the cell renewal process as well as encouraging the production of collagen and elastin. This includes the retinoid family derived from Vitamin A – and used regularly, these products can really improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

TIP: The products in these categories degrade quickly in sun and when exposed to oxygen so use at night only and if irritation occurs stop using until the skin is calm again.

All these methods work really well and make a difference to the appearance of the skin. Ask your facialist what would be best for your skin condition.

Many of my clients pick their skin. This is an addictive habit exacerbated by extreme or chronically stressful situations and the worst of it is that there is more to pick when we are stressed! Psoriasis, eczema, acne and dry flaky skin can all be partially attributed to the excess cortisol that is produced as a stress response. Hormones, neuropeptides and other signaling molecules also released during these times can be as aging as sunlight because they break down proteins and DNA. All this disruption drives many clients into the bathroom in a quest to somehow fix or ’cleanse’ the situation.

I recently had a client tell me that she ‘prepares’ her bathroom for a picking session. She brings in a magnifying mirror, comfortable chair and box of Kleenex and then works at her skin for an hour or more. She told me it gives her a sense of control, relief, and emotional release. It is also the opinion of Ted Grosshart, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, that the compulsion to pick can be intensified by drugs taken for ADD and ADHD. Of course, after picking and the ensuing irritation and scabbing, most clients feel shame and less social because of their appearance. This form of isolation severely affects their self-esteem. It is a deeply psychological problem and needs to be handled with patience and compassion.

So how can we begin to break the cycle? Keeping the skin surface smooth with exfoliants and regular facials that include the use of AHA’s, BHA’s and other light peeling agents will get rid of little bumps and surface unevenness that might tempt fingers to go to work. Become aware of when you pick – at your desk, in the car, at home when you are watching television, when you have to deal with new environments? Iona Ginsburg, associate professor of psychiatry in dermatology at Colombia University has a useful tip. She suggests her patients put a Band-Aid around the fingers that do most of the picking. We encourage our clients to wash their skins’ by candle-light and time themselves in the bathroom. No more than five minutes to cleanse, tone and hydrate.

We also offer complimentary zaps in between spa visits to keep the skin and the client under control. Once the skin begins to clear and the client is no longer ashamed of how she/he looks, their demeanor and confidence grows. Confucius once claimed: ”True quality of life comes from a lasting harmony between body and mind.” Clear skin is that, plus a great facialist to guide the healing and an easy to follow home care regime that keeps the skin clear and healthy. Then there is no need for picking.