Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Vanity Post (aka my favorite beauty products)

Since people ROUTINELY say I look at least THREE whole months younger than I actually am, I decided to post my favorite skincare and beauty products here to share my secrets. Now you too can attract the local snake-oil salesman!

Here goes:

Night Time Regimen

1. Anti-Wrinkle Skin Cream

First off, you gotta court your collagen. This is the only skincare cream that actually has research behind it so I'll put it first. Everything else below is just stuff I like, but doesn't necessarily DO anything substantial.
Refissa (and its cousin, Renova)
are by prescription only.

Here's what DOES work against wrinkles: retinoic acid. I like Refissa more than Renova because Renova makes my skin peel more but creams with retinoic acid or tretinoin (vitamin A derivatives) discourage the breakdown of collagen so your skin, which naturally thins with age, thickens which improves fine lines.

Refissa seems better at preventing wrinkles than it does at getting rid of them but I have found some improvement with fine lines already in place. Give it at least a month to notice the effects as it takes 30 days for skin cells to turn over. When I first started using it, my doc said to use it every other day at first since my skin is very sensitive and my skin reddened and peeled but luckily that reaction was only temporary and that doesn't happen anymore.

My dermatologist has said that many people come to him when their skin has deep wrinkles but by then, it's difficult to recommend a treatment that offers great results while also being relatively inexpensive and noninvasive. Lasers (I have heard) require 3-6 visits, are often hundreds a visit ($300?) and leave the face raw, peeling, swollen and red during recovery, but do seem to make a big difference in the photos I saw and from friends' accounts. However, the recovery period looks painful and I'm a giant chicken when it comes to being manhandled in a clinic. So I lean away from anything complicated. Also note that botox may not be safe long-term, plus I think it makes people look strange. It's not normal or natural for a smiling face to be devoid of creases. So that's why I am only recommending a cream here, no experience with anything else.

Refissa or Renova (or whatever your doctor prescribes) should be used sparingly at night after washing your face. Only use on skin that is completely dry.

Do not use Refissa or Renova (or another tretinoin) if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. It is teratogenic (meaning can cause birth defects). If you are on it and want to get pregnant, wait at least 3 months after stopping use before trying to conceive. Consult your doctor for details.

In addition to an anti-wrinkle cream, always wear a sunscreen. UV exposure, the number one cause of wrinkles, is cumulative. UVA rays are the most damaging and what reaches you through your car windows. UVB tans and while neither UVA nor UVB rays are good for you, most people don't realize they're still getting wrinkle-inducing sun exposure in a car even if they do not tan or burn or show other signs of sun exposure. Flourescent lights in most workplaces also give off a small amount of rays so it's prudent to wear a sunscreen year-round.

The number two cause of wrinkles (after sun exposure) is sleeping. People who prefer to sleep on one particular side of their face will often have deeper creases on that side.

Smoking also ages skin and causes wrinkles. Please don't smoke, and not just so it won't damage your skin but so you don't die. Dying is bad.

2. Self Tanner

If you are a pasty-white vampire like me, self-tanner is useful if you want to hide your spider veins and/or hate pantyhose and want to wear skirts without your legs blinding anyone. I only use it in the summer months when I want to wear skirts and no hose. But shoot, it hides my spider veins too. Plus tanned fat looks so much better than chalk-white flesh.

Don't tan for REAL because you don't want to die, k? (Again with the death!) Cancer sucks.

I like L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Self Tanner. I don't like the way it smells though (like baked bread -- gross on your legs!) but it's one of the few that doesn't streak. It will discolor your sheets so when I do use it, I sleep on a towel or dark sheets and wash them immediately because they smell funny. I usually only need to apply it once a week though, the color will last all week long. I have yet to find a self-tanner that smells good. This is my favorite brand out of all of them.

3. Washing face

There are 3 products I alternate between depending on the condition of my skin on any given day.

A. Exfoliating:
If skin needs exfoliating, I like Neutrogena Deep Clean. This is good when my skin is peeling from the Refissa or even sunburn/windburn to get the extra dead skin off. There's a few different variations but I like the gentle exfoliating version below.

B. Dry skin:
When my skin is dry (like in the winter), it is extremely sensitive. The only thing that doesn't make it red or irritated then is Toleriane. This stuff has such a creamy and un-soap-like texture that it feels like you're washing your face with moisturizer. It's expensive but you only need a tiny amount, one bottle lasts me about 6 months. Skin that isn't stripped of its natural oils seems to maintain better defenses against acne and dryness. (More on my thoughts about acne and breaking out below.)

C. Normal skin:
During the summer when my skin is normally oily, Neutrogena Deep Clean seems to make it look nice and clear and keep it from breaking out.

P.S. I'm not representing any companies or products, all opinions my own.

Other skincare tips: drink lots of water (there can be a noticeable difference when well-hydrated) and eat healthy. Acne seems to be associated with proprioni bacteria and it can be spread if you "bust" a zit or simply by touching your face so be cautious. I used to get a ring of pimples along my chin when I rested my head in my hands while studying. You can use benzoyl peroxide or even a prescription mix of an antibiotic with the common over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide (ask your doctor). Zit creams containing sulfur seem to be extremely harsh on my skin so I can't use them.

I am happy to share two of my most mortifying experiences with zits that were so spectacular that they were forever enshrined in memory:

In one, a complete stranger points, confused, to my zit and inquires as to what this red, pulsating thing on my nose might possibly be, and in another, well, I was about to give a talk when things went terribly wrong (and maybe I should still move to Canada).

Daytime Regimen

1. Shampoo

Wen shampoo rocks. My sister got me a sample for my birthday and wow, this stuff really IS as awesome as everyone says it is. I had just about given up, having tried 873 hair care products with no differing results other than my hair smelling like various fruit salads. No hair products really seem to smooth/curl/etc. -- whatever they say they do.

I think the reason Wen works is because it's more like a conditioner than a shampoo. It's too expensive to use the recommended amount so I use much less but that seems fine. There are many fragrances but I have only tried the sweet almond mint (it's very nice, even though I usually hate minty hair products. I can't really detect the mint in Wen). My hair feels very light and soft and not weighed down afterwards.

2. Makeup

When I use it, I like:

A. Mascara: L'Oreal Voluminous. Don't even WASTE your money on any other type of mascara. Seriously. This consensus is from every female in my family.

B. Lipstick: the only stuff that doesn't fall off my lips 3 seconds after applying it is Mac Pro. I like the color "unchanging" because it's the most natural. (note: the color in the Amazon's photo looks red for some reason but it is not, it's a natural mauve lip color. I don't use the gloss part because I don't like thick, caked-on lipstick.

C. Foundation: Covergirl Advanced Radiance has sunscreen built into it but my doc still says to apply extra underneath because it's only SPF 15. I like that it's a pump which means the foundation won't turn into a seething petri dish of bacteria after 3 uses, and the texture feels smooth and light even while offering even coverage.

D. Pressed powder: I like Revlon Colorstay (translucent).

Extra stuff to do to look beautiful

1. Use Hand Cream

Shoot, my hands fall off in the winter. The ONLY thing I will use is Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream. Every female I know has tried a bazillion hand creams. Yes, scented creams can be nice but for performance, only this stuff will do.

I buy it in multiple packs and keep one in my purse, one in my car and one in my bedside drawer. My hands don't crack and bleed anymore in the winter.

This is the only stuff you can put on and accidentally wash off five minutes later when you realize you wanted to eat some messy grapefruit and it STILL softens your hands in that five minutes.

When you first put it on, it will feel like Vaseline -- tacky and nasty. Wait five minutes, that will go away. If your hands are cracked, put it on at night before you go to sleep and your hands will feel amazing in the morning. If they're really cracked and damaged, you'll need a few nighttime applications but I've seen hands transform. A little goes a long way so even though it's about $5 a bottle, will last you a while. Get the unscented kind, it smells better (there's very little scent actually).

2. If hair loss is an issue: Rogaine (minoxodil)
You don't need the brand-name stuff, the off-label works just as well and is sooo much cheaper ($27 for a 6-month supply). You'll have to use it for 4 months before you notice a difference but hey, you can start a whole body-betterment routine while you're at it. Toss 4 months of care at your body and see how awesome you look and feel in a few months.

I started using this stuff when my hair appeared to be thinning and it turns out in my case that hormone fluctuations can thin hair so my dermatologist recommended this (the men's 5% strength even though I'm a woman, but consult with your doc for definitive advice).

Some people say minoxidil is better at preventing further hair loss than new hair growth. It does appear to have helped me although I find it a pain and haven't been good about using it regularly. You have to use it morning and night, like brushing your teeth. It doesn't take much time but requires integrating with your routine. I'm not really a fan of complicated grooming rituals so adopting this has been harder.

If you have anything to recommend, let me know! Looking for reviews? I like Amazon and

If you liked this honest post about skincare stuff, you may also be interested in my shitty Brazilian Keratin hair experience (spoiler alert: not worth it!).

More info:

Video, 2:18, which shows (via clay model) how the skin on the face ages:

How the Skin Ages || Presented by Ultherapy from Ultherapy on Vimeo.


  1. Interesting stuff. Glad you found some stuff that works for you. Will caution you about mixing and matching, btw... you're mixing chemicals with other chemicals, but you may talk to your dermatologist about that. If you ever have questions, happy to offer input since that's what I do. Our nurses are fantastic for any medical questions too! :D

  2. The only things I'm putting together at the same time on my skin are sunscreen and foundation or moisturizer and foundation and I cleared those with my dermatologist (in fact they recommended it). Everything else is alternated. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. I love this blog so much. You should have a YouTube channel and offer entertaining demos. I'd subscribe.

    Pulling out my credit card now, off to order a few items in industrial sizes. Thanks for the awesome tips!