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pregnant skincare

I had a request to blog about the skincare do's and don'ts for pregnancy, which seems appropriate because the baby dust is flying around right now like pollen. For the most part, taking care of your skin when you're pregnant seems to be one large "don't". When I worked at the spa, I couldn't do microdermabrasion on a pregnant woman because the machine exfoliates off dead skin cells, then basically blows them all around in the air, which is toxic to breathe in even if you aren't pregnant. I couldn't do the "Signature" facial because it involved aromatherapy (essential oils are much too powerful) and reflexology (certain trigger points can help you "detox"...which would be bad in the first trimester...or bring on early labor if you're farther along). Glycolics, salicylics and all the other acids are also out because they can be toxic to the fetus.

Some of these things are just a precaution...like if an expectant mom gets a microderm, she isn't necessarily going to miscarry on the spot. Hell, if you go to skin deep you'll find enough scary preservatives in your every day products to scare you off anything stronger than olive oil ever again. Which is too bad because the rule of pregnancy seems to be: If you normally have perfect skin, you will break out like crazy, and if you usually tend to break out you will have the best skin of your life.

When you're pregnant, you need to keep everything gentle gentle gentle. Just use a good foaming cleanser that is pH balanced, followed by some witch hazel toner and a soothing moisturizer (oil free if you're breaking out), and a grainy almond-based exfoliant used three times a week. You can use a little aromatherapy, but it should be calming fragrances like lavender, not eucalyptus or tea tree. If your skin is breaking out, go treat yourself to a facial so the esthetician can do some extractions to clean out the pores...just let her know that you can't do anything too intense right now.

Feel free to ask any other questions in the comments.

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give your skin a break

I have quite a few ideas of what I want to blog about on here. Life has been a bit crazy with work and vacations and social obligations. So for right now I'm going to write about exfoliation.

I was talking with a friend recently who was complaining about breaking out. She said she was breaking out really bad all around her jawline. Usually that indicates stress, but then she started talking about the skincare she was using, and it was heavy on the exfoliation. A grainy exfoliator that she used a few times a week, a cellular renewal moisturizer at night, and a serum that she just realized has a high percentage of glycolic. I said, "Lady, you have to stop exfoliating!" and told her to just use a gentle cleanser and moisturizer, and maybe the grainy exfoliator a few times a week. She nodded and said, "So I'll use the grainy exfoliator and the cellular renewal moisturizer." I said, "Nope, that's still too much," and told her to ditch the cellular renewal moisturizer. She was surprised. Another esthetician friend of ours advised against even the grainy exfoliator and to just use a washcloth. I said, "You need to grow back your skin cells before you exfoliate again."

We're constantly hearing about how good exfoliation is, and anyone who has had acne at some point probably remembers being "saved" by a product with salicylic, glycolic acid or retinol. I've come across plenty of clients with skin in need of a good exfoliation...a build up of dead skin cells can cause bad breakouts, nasty blackheads and a dull look to the skin. But it's important to know when too much is too much. Studies are even beginning to come out saying that we're thinning our skin out from all the exfoliation that we're doing, which causes wrinkles later on.

Exfoliation is your friend, but one of those friends you talk to a few times a week instead of every day. A physical exfoliant is a product where you can feel the beads or grains. It's usually best to stick with either ground almonds or jojoba beads...anything else is too scratchy and can break capillaries. A chemical exfoliant has one of the acids....salicyclic (derived from wintergreen), glycolic (derived from sugar cane) or lactic (derived from milk). It could also have a small percentage of retinol, which is vitamin A. If you are using a chemical exfoliant, you don't need a physical exfoliant, and vice versa. Use it three times a week. I don't recommend buying those at home microdermabrasion kits at all, but if you have one that you like, only use it once a week. If you have bad acne (and by "bad acne", I mean that your entire face is broken out, not just a few zits around your chin), see a doctor about Retin-A, use it as he/she tells you to, and throw out anything else you might be using that is an exfoliator.

Why does over-exfoliating cause break outs? Because when you dry out your skin, the oil glands will step up the oil production to make up for what they're losing. This results in dehydration on top with an oily base. When I was doing facials, I remember not being able to extract anything because the skin was so depleted. When this happens, it's time for a break. Gentle cleanser, gentle moisturizer, that's it. Grow your skin back. It will love you for it.

ha!



Okay, wasn't quite sure where the Batman punchline came in, but then...acne on one side of face? Flipping a coin? Two Face? Get it?

Well, it's still funny to a skincare nerd like me.

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man waxing


Yes, I do wax men quite a bit, and yes I did laugh a lot at that scene from "The 40 Year Old Virgin", but no, we don't wax over nipples or anything like that. Someone asked me recently if estheticians hate back waxes, and I told him that we actually kind of like it because it's easy. The back is a nice, flat surface, easier even than a leg. But damn, are they ever babies about it!

One guy asked me, "Is the back the most sensitive part of a person you could possibly wax, more so than a woman's bikini?" I answered, "Well, I think a woman's vagina has you beat." He accepted that, but all the same, women come to get hair ripped out of their nether parts on a monthly basis, while half the time men don't even show up for their appointment because they're so terrified. There's a reason why we have the babies. I've done chest waxes before too. One guy was Italian and I ended up waxing him from neck to pubic line. He didn't curse me out as I waxed, but he did yell out stuff like, "Dude! That's my neck!" The girlfriend didn't really know what to say so she kept asking, "Does that hurt? It looks like it hurts."

I used to do a lot of male eyebrow waxing at the spa. Not so much the case with my current job, probably because the spa was more private and at Benefit we wax out in the open and the decor is very Barbie's Dream Store. I had a pretty decent clientele of men at my last job, but all the same, some of them can be pickier than women. This one time I waxed the brows of a Frenchman named Pierre. I'm not making this up. He wanted zem to be shaped. Most guys, no matter how metrosexual, just want me to clean up the unibrow and make them not so thick and bushy (I call this Businessman Brows), so I did that. He was not happy. "Zis ees not a shape!" He protested. So I went ahead and gave him big girly arches, and he was happy. That's the problem with man waxing. It's hard to tell what's going to make them happy. Sometimes they over explain what they want so I end up just really confused. Like one guy told me that he wanted the ends "pointy." Huh? Half the time people ask me for things that they would get anyway if they'd just let me do my job, but the language they use make me think they want something completely new and different. But he was happy, so I guess I made them pointy enough.

Immediately after Pierre of the Girly Brows, I had a businessman come in for his brows. I was able to do the more blunt, clean up job that most men want. Then he asked me if I would wax his nose hairs. Sure! This is when you know you're an esthetician...when someone asks you to wax their nostrils or their ears and you're like, "Hell yeah!"

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learning the lesson, over and over

Wow, it's been awhile since I've posted. Since my last update, I've gotten a new job, at a Benefit cosmetics boutique. This means it's all waxing all the time (with some tinting and spray tanning thrown in as well), and I haven't done a facial in almost a year. I miss facials sometimes, but strangely enough I don't miss working at a spa. At least not the one I was at.

One thing I really do miss is talking about skincare, so I figured I would start this journal up again to give an outlet to my inner skincare geek. I'm not using anything fancy right now. It's the middle of winter, when the rosacea on my cheeks really acts up. I've finally stopped everything...no exfoliating, no fancy antioxidant products, just a pH balanced cleanser and a gentle moisturizer for sensitive skin. My skin looks great. I haven't even needed to exfoliate...that grainy feeling you get when the dead skin cells build up just isn't there. 

It's a conclusion I come to over and over again, yet I still forget the lesson because I always want to try the fancier products with vit A, C and E, or oat milk or horse chestnut or whatever other ingredients are supposed to keep you from aging. Less is more. Especially when you have sensitive skin. In the summer I can put anything on my skin and I'm fine, so it's definitely environmental for me. When the weather gets colder, my skin freaks out. And every year I try to calm it down with expensive moisturizers that are supposedly "calming", and have ingredients like licorice, rose oil, bisabolol, etc. All of those ingredients are very good for sensitive skin, but what I find is that skincare companies think that if one of those ingredients will work, then all of them in the same product will work even better. The whole point of being sensitive is freaking out when you get overstimulated...it's true for skincare and it's true for personalities. A product that has just licorice or just horse chestnut will probably work, but the longer the ingredient list, the more irritating it's going to be. Even if all the ingredients are natural.

I bought a thick vit E cream recently that had very good reviews for sensitive skin. My cheeks broke out in rashy bumps after using it for two days. I'm using it as a body cream now, and it works just fine for that. As for my face...less is always more.

echo

I went to Spa Echo yesterday for my facial. It was lovely! The esthetician chatted with me about my skin and I nodded and played dumb because I didn't want to be all, "I'm an esthetician too!" For the afternoon, I just wanted to be a client. A client taking careful notes of everything she was doing, but a client nonetheless. I told her that I have sensitive skin and that when I use the wrong products I break out in a bunch of red irritation bumps on my cheeks. She said she'd use the Aveda sensitive skin products on me and we talked sensitive skin a bit, and then she went into the facial.

This was my big surprise. She didn't upgrade me! You know what I say when I hear someone has sensitive skin? I say, "Oh, let's do a Sensitive Skin facial. It has vit K blah blah and a seaweed mask blah blah, $40 more than what you're paying right now." I had been expecting some sort of upgrade and I was prepared to go along with it. Even if she had suggested an eye treatment to lighten up dark circles I would have said sure. I have to admit, that was pretty nice, not having to worry about the price. Oh the things I put my clients through.

What I loved:
- So much quieter than our spa.
- The facial gown was a thick material that snapped in the front. Ours are cheap terry cloth with velcro.
- Recycled cotton sheets felt so good. And the blanket was silky and lovely.
- She didn't leave the room at all. I keep thinking I need to start doing that (protocol is that we leave during the mask so the client can relax and we can write skincare recommendation sheets). It's difficult though, esp on a Saturday because that's the only chance I get to eat.
- She had a hot cabi in her room and used hot towels. Covet!
- At the start of the facial she actually applied soap with a fan brush and then rubbed it in with her hands. Need to try that!
- Skin felt amazing and soft afterwards.
- She wasn't overly chatty. I feel like my lack of chattiness kind of hinders me...the chatty ones have all the clients. But I'd rather relax during a facial.

What I think I do better:
- She got all the blackheads out of my nose but didn't do any on my chin. I thought that was a bit odd. Maybe she didn't notice any, but I do have some. When I do extractions, I go all over the face.
- The massage was great, but her movements were fastfastfast. My massage movements are slow to be more relaxing. I also do massage around the eyes, really get in there on the neck, incorporate some acupressure, then finish off with an ear massage and sometimes a scalp massage. I was feeling headachy from lack of food so a scalp massage right then would have felt good.

Not too many complaints. My skin still feels great, and I didn't pay too hefty a price. Another thing I found odd was that she didn't recommend any products. I was going to buy at least a mask if she had mentioned one. It's nice not being sold to, but on the other hand I felt it was slightly unprofessional not to at least say, "Here are a few products I think would be good for you." And there's always something.

All in all, a really nice experience. Part of me wonders what it'd be like to work there, but I don't think I'm job-hunting quite yet.

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the spa visit

Mecia and I went into the green spa yesterday, which was mighty impressive. It's so much prettier than the spa we work at! One girl gave us a tour and Mecia peppered her with questions. She told us how the floor under the salon is "bouncy" because it's insulated with recycled tires. The sheets (which were so pretty!) were organic cotton, the copper in the pedicure sinks were recycled as well. What really blew us away was that there was a rainforest shower in EVERY ROOM. So you can shower right away from your massage or body wrap. Mecia asked if the water was recycled and the girl said, "Um, I don't know." Which of course means it isn't. Still, after working in a spa where there are two rainforest showers (upgraded from one recently) that 1. clients have to sometimes wait in line for, 2. don't get cleaned after every shower, 3. are noisy as hell for the rooms right next to it, and 4. sometimes clients sneak in together to have sex, we were mightily impressed!

One thing we weren't too keen on is that the product they use is Aveda (though they aren't an Aveda concept spa, which is good). I like Aveda hair products, but I don't care for their skincare. And if you have this gorgeous place, why put in something boring like Aveda? Why not something people don't see in every single salon, like Eminence or Jurlique? Maybe that will come in time.

So far this is the only green spa in Chicago. Mecia really wants to open her own little green spa/studio in a few years, so she's happy to see that there's a niche that she can probably fill a little better.

I booked a facial for two weeks from now. I'm looking forward to it.

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facial massage

I have been nudged! So okay, okay, I'll post again ;)

If you've never had a facial before and you think it's all steam in your face and painful extractions, then you should know that the part you're missing out on is the facial massage. Any kind of massage is awesome, but how often does someone massage your face? And it feels just as fantastic.

Besides drinking water and using an SPF, part of keeping the skin (or any other part of your body) healthy is stimulating lymph and blood circulation. If you pause for a moment to "draw" some small circles on your cheeks or do some gentle tapping with your fingertips, you should feel almost a slight buzzing in the skin as all the liquid on the inside starts moving. When I do massage on my clients, I also do a lot of shoulder and neck work as well, sometimes a scalp massage if the client has some good energy flowing. I even massage the ears since the ears have a lot of acupressure points. If the client is too oily, I just do acupressure on the face and do a lot of shoulder and neck work to make up for it.

Learning how to do a facial massage has changed how I wash my own face. I usually keep my cleanser in the shower and wash my face in there. Here's a few tips to incorporate massage into your daily routine:

1. Apply the cleanser in circles all around the face.
2. Do small circles around the chin and nose to work in the lather.
3. Do small circles around the entire face, concentrating on the cheeks and forehead.
4. Circle around your eye bone, starting from the inside of the brow and circling around toward the nose. Another trick that feels good is to slightly pinch the brow and do quick, pulsing acupressure movements under the eye.
5. Do a light series of pinches on your jawline and just under your cheekbones.
6. Gently tap your fingers over your face (called "tapotement").
7. Massage your earlobes, working all the way up to the top of the ear, then work back down.

Sounds like a lot of work, but it only takes a minute and it feels good. Something that feels even better is to have someone else do it for you.

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The Pantry Awards

I've worked with a lot of high end products over the years, but right now I'm going to write about how to have great skin on the cheap, preferably out of your own pantry.

Consider these the Pantry Awards...

BEST CLEANSER/MAKEUP REMOVER/MOISTURIZER: Olive oil. That's right EVOO (kinda hate myself a little for the Rachel Ray reference). Swipe it on with a cotton pad, splash with water, or just pat down to absorb any greasiness. You can even drench your hair in it and sleep with a shower cap covering it. It makes your skin (and hair) feel so soft.

BEST EXFOLIATOR: Ground almonds. That's the basis for most exfoliators you get at the store, so why not make it yourself at home? Mix it with olive oil or some plain yogurt. Also, in a pinch baking soda works too. The only thing is that it's alkaline so make sure you use a toner afterwards. (Sorry, people, I don't know how to make a toner from scratch.)

BEST TREATMENT FOR SENSITIVE SKIN: If you're feeling a little itchy from winter dry skin, take a handful of oats and put it in a washcloth. Then run it under the water for 5 minutes, then squeeze a few times. This creates an oat "milk" that you can use over your face and body. Obviously this works as a bath too, but since we like our baths hot, and hot water further dehydrates skin, the compress might actually be better.

BEST MASK FOR DRY SKIN: Mmm...avocado. Mash it up and put it on straight, or mix with honey. Honey is antibacterial.

BEST MASK FOR OILY SKIN: Eggs. I remember when I was a lowly counter girl a woman told me a story about how she had horrible acne for much of her life, and nothing worked for her. Then in a conversation she had in a bathroom, someone told her to use egg yolks as a mask. Egg yolks are basically pure vitamin A. It turned her skin around. If you don't have acne, but you're just oily, I'd recommend using the whites instead. 2ND RUNNER UP: Cranberries mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice and a 1/2 pack of gelatin. It's exfoliating and gets rid of blackheads.

And hopefully it goes without saying, but if you use one of these items and it starts to burn, for the love of Aphrodite, take it off!

next time: essential oils

dehydration

Dehydration is tricky with skin, because you don't know what to look for, it feels like your skin is dry, but if you're breaking out it might mean your skin is oily. During facials I can tell if someone is dehydrated by pushing up a little on the skin and seeing little criss-crossed lines. (Keep in mind, this is Chicago, so I always see these, unless I'm working on a 16 year old.) I can also tell if the client has a bunch of breakouts/blackheads and I can't get anything to come out during extractions because the top layer of skin is too dry.

If your skin is truly dry (like yours truly), you know it. Your skin will feel tight and itchy if you don't moisturize immediately. Your pores are small and maybe you have some blackheads, but you rarely break out. You need to moisturize even on the hottest, most humid day of the summer.

If your skin is dehydrated, you'll have that tight, itchy feeling, but your pores will still be large and you'll still have blackheads and breakouts. Possibly more breakouts because your skin will feel like it can't breathe. This type of skin is more prone to be flaky than true dry skin because of the lovely mix of dead skin cells and oil. If you try to treat the breakouts with salicylic acid based soaps and lots of exfoliation, your skin will feel dryer. If you try to treat the dryness with heavy creams, you'll feel oilier and will break out more. Fun!

So what can you do about this since it seems like a double edged sword? Here's a few ideas:
Drink a damn glass of water! Put down the can of pop and step slowly away from it. Okay, I'm being snarky right now...I think most of my f-list drinks more water than pop. But coffee and caffeinated tea can dehydrate as well. About a year ago a study came out saying that a control group of people who drank caffeinated beverages were just as hydrated as the group that drank water. I say bullshit! If that's true then why am I dying of thirst after drinking too much coffee? Water, herbal teas, veggies and fruits are your friends.

Water is the start, but not the finish. You still need a moisturizer. If you're oily/dehydrated, an oil-free moisturizer will be enough. Try to use a pH balanced gentle cleanser, and only exfoliate two or three times a week. You can even make your own exfoliator by grinding up almonds in a food processor and mixing it with your cleanser. If you want to use a mask, you can split the difference by using a clay mask on your tzone to absorb the oil, and a hydrating mask on your cheeks to soothe the dryness.

Or you can get a facial. I'm just saying. If you make friends with an esthetician, you can get a good one for pretty cheap. Ahem.

Next week: A Few Of My Favorite Things.

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