Sunday, May 31, 2009


It’s not sunlight that’s so bad for our skin but the UV rays in daylight. Notice I wrote ‘daylight’ not ‘sunlight’. This principle explains how you can get a sunburn on an overcast day. Therefore, protective products should really be called daylight screen.

There are two types of UV light: UVA and UVB. UVA light changes the pigment cells in our skin. These cells are responsible for the ‘tan’ we all strive for.

While UVA light produces tanning, it also permanently damages our pigment cells. The gorgeous tan of today is the creator of age spots in our middle years. Damaged pigment cells continue to lounge around in the middle skin layers until, when activated by hormonal changes like menopause, they become permanently dark. These changes can also occur during pregnancy.

Basic protection is provided by products that filter both UVA and UVB rays. These products may be labeled as ‘broad spectrum’. Additionally, they should have a SPF rating of at least 30.

The highest level of protection is a reflective sunblock containing either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that reflects all light, either natural or artificial. For this reason, sun blocks will reflect the light of a photoflash and make you appear ghostly.

An important fact about any UV protection is that is has to be applied generously and daily to be effective. Use at least a teaspoon on your face. Also sunscreens have to be reapplied every two hours since UV light degrades the protective ingredients into harmful ones that will actually accelerate UV damage. Nice twist, eh?

Since we receive the bulk of our sun damage before the age of 18 most of us are destined to produce ‘age spots’ during our middle years. While this sounds like it’s useless to use any sun protection at this stage of the game. Let me strongly urge you to resist that idea.

Although sun protection will not reverse the damage we already have, it will prevent further damage. As we age, UV damage compounds at a faster rate…like coasting downhill on a bike. So that any damage comes more apparent at a faster rate.

Next time I’ll discuss damage caused by the other UV light...UVB.



Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dear Friend,

Today I’d like to discuss the use of special brushes for exfoliation either with or without a scrub. These brushes are available in either manual or electric versions. But, as usual, there are warnings you need to know about before using/purchasing a facial brush.

First, the bristle ends on inexpensive brushes have sharp edges that can cause damage when they ‘snag’ the pore opening leaving a slight tear in your skin. Remember that any cut, abrasion, or tear in the skin provides an opening for bacteria to set up housekeeping. Bacterial growth can lead to infection and possible scarring, in the most severe cases. In this case, spending a little more money will protect your skin from damage. However, it's very important to read the product label. Don’t buy any brush, no matter how expensive, unless the product promises that the bristles have no sharp edges.

Secondly, we tend to feel that if a little scrubbing is good, more will be better. Nothing could be further from the truth. These bristles tend to be super efficient ‘scrubbers’ just like the appliances sold for cleaning floors! It is too easy to over exfoliate when using them. Over exfoliation results in raw skin, hastens premature aging, and leave our skin vulnerable to bacteria.

There are several new electric exfoliators available in the $25 range. If you invest in one of these inexpensive versions, please, please, please only use the sponge head attachment with a good scrub and avoid the creams that usually come with the appliance. Read the scrub label closely. These creams usually contain aluminum crystals. Aluminum crystals aren’t suitable for scrub use. Only a skin care professional, trained to assess skin types, can determine if your skin will tolerate such vigorous abuse. If you read the previous post about scrubs, you are aware of the dangers of using scrubs that contain nutshells. Imagine how sharp and damaging aluminum crystals are to your skin.

You may be aware that aluminum crystals are often used during microdermabrasion treatments and you’d be correct. However, they are not used during the first treatment, or at least they shouldn’t be. Softer crystals are used early in a series of treatments to gradually prepare the skin for more aggressive exfoliation as the series progresses. Additionally, and this is very important, crystals are blown against the skin during microdermabrasion not rubbed repeatedly over the surface of the skin in a scrubbing action.

WARNING!!! Remember it is much better to exfoliate a little one to three times a week than a lot once a week. Start by using your exfoliator once a week to see how your skin reacts. If there is no adverse reaction, add a second treatment each week. Never, never, never exceed 3 times per week. Your skin will not be able to replenish its protective layer fast enough between treatments.

My next post will cover an electric exfoliator I highly recommend based on my personal and professional use.


Carolyn Johnson

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Dear Friend…

Do you currently use a toner after cleansing your face? Think toner is a gimmick concocted by cosmetic companies to get more of your hard earned dollars? I felt the same way until I learned the science behind using toner.

Take a step back to high school science class for a minute. Remember the pH scale? It determines if a substance is either alkaline, like lye, or acidic like vinegar. Our skin registers at approximately 5.5 on a scale from 0 to 7 pH so it’s happiest, and healthiest, in a slightly acidic environment.

Good cleaners are more alkaline than our skin for two reasons. When lower than 5.5 pH:

1) Cleansers relax our skin slightly and opens our pores for more thorough cleansing, and

2) Cleansers loosen the accumulated dead skin cell layer on the surface our face so it can be gradually washed away.

Following a second cleanse, your skin’s pH is way below its normal range. This is why your skin feels and looks tight and dry. Using toner immediately after cleansing restores the acid level your skin craves. If left on its own, it will take 10 to 12 hours for your skin to achieve its correct acid level again. During that time, your skin is struggling to perform is normal functions and since the acid in our skin is our first line of defense against the zillions of invisible airborne bacteria that land on it constantly, those bacteria are able to thrive and have a party there!

Unfortunately, commercial products don’t reveal their pH reading on labels. You can be sure that any of the mid- to higher priced products are pH balanced. But I’m not sure about products available at drug or discount stores. The only way to be sure of the acidity of any skin care product is to test them with inexpensive pH strips found at aquarium or pool suppliers.

Since you may run into a problem if you’re found dipping pH strips into products at your local drug store, I’ll include a recipe for a natural and inexpensive toner you can make in a few minutes while spending less than a dollar for the ingredients. This toner provides all the ‘good’ effects of a toner as described above.