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Collagen… What’s all the buzz about!? (part one)

It’s the word that we are hearing almost everywhere… we are all clamoring for it, more of it… because “it” is the thing that is going to make us beautiful…right? It’s almost everywhere… we can drink it, take supplements loaded with it, use creams that boast to deliver it, get treatments to boost it… and even get it injected. What is it?? COLLAGEN! Oh yeah… collagen…bring it on! But…do we even know what it is and why we want it? … Other than, we see the craze and the buzz in the beauty industry… so, man, Oh man… we gotta get some of that collagen! I always laugh when there is a new “it” thing that people go nuts over…and will dole out any amount of money for, and they don’t really even know why. So, let’s discuss what collagen is and why it is important… and of course… how we can hang on to what we are blessed with. In my next post… we will discuss all of the different collagen products and treatments… and what they offer.

Collagen is a protein.

So, collagen is more than just a pretty face! Collagen is a protein that is naturally found in the body. In fact, it is the most abundant protein in our body. It holds the entire body together. That is how important collagen is! Collagen is found in the bones, muscles, tendons and also in our skin, where it connects to form the scaffolding for added structure and strength. There are many different types of collagen in the body. These thin, fibrous connected molecules are flexible and strong, and along with elastin, they are most commonly known for the role that they play in the skin, offering it elasticity. So… there is another buzz word…elasticity… which in total layman terms, is the skins ability to “bounce back” or “be elastic”.

With that… we all hear “beauty”… not “body”. I get it… at 52, I have been in collagen decline for 30 years! Whaaaaaaat?? Yep… it is true. So, let me stress, that collagen is extremely important for the structure of the body and its ability to function and keep us strong and mobile. But, for the sake of aesthetics, we will get back to collagen as it relates to skin. Let’s picture that baby… or actually, that 20 something, with that plump, firm, smooth, rosy colored skin… not to mention healthy, shiny hair, and naturally strong, clear, healthy nails. This age group would be called “collagen making machines”… and they don’t even know it…nor do many of them care! Well youngens… you better love the hell out of your collagen and treat it right… because like all good things… it doesn’t last forever… sorry!

Our body stops producing collagen in our mid to late 20’s.

The fact is that our body stops producing collagen in our mid to late 20’s. Then, around age 30, our collagen production begins a long unyielding decline. Nooooooo!… well, yes. Around that time, the first fine lines appear on our face. After age 30, our collagen level drops 1%-2% every year. By age 40, we have lost 10% to 20% of our collagen. By 50, we are down 20% to 40% … and I think you can do the math from here. This becomes visible, as the skin begins to sag, wrinkle and appear more thin, fragile, crepey and dry. These are just the facts. However… there are things that we can do during this decline to save every bit of collagen as is humanly possible… and by this, I mean things that we can actively do…not things that we have to purchase…

1. Wear sunscreen religiously!

The sun is the number one ager of the skin. It will literally break down that valuable elasticity, like nobody’s business… not to mention overall sun damage and the risk of skin cancer.

2. Limit alcohol…

Sorry, but it will dehydrate the skin, affect the mucous membrane, and pull the fluid out of the skin… not to mention the inflammation that it causes.

3. Don’t smoke…

I repeat… DO NOT SMOKE! If not for your looks… we want you to live without having to tote an oxygen tank around. Cigarette smoking contains carbon monoxide, which displaces the healthy oxygen in your skin… and nicotine, which reduces blood flow. It also depletes the skin’s nutrients, including Vitamin C…which, is your skin’s best defense to external, environmental damage. I hate to be so bold… but if you compare a 50 year old who drank and smoked their way through a few decades to one who didn’t… you would be looking at two different people… and we won’t even mention whether or not that person was a sun goddess.

4. You know how much I stress that you are what you eat…

Well, when it comes to collagen and a healthy body… including your skin… here is the broken record… you are what you eat. If you are eating processed, refined, packaged, sugar-filled, inflammatory foods, you are writing your own prescription for unhappy skin. This is where lifestyle really comes into play. The following foods are not only good for your overall well being… but they are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that are beyond healthy for your skin… and yes, they are collagen boosters or collagen-rich. (bone broth, wild salmon, leafy greens, citrus, eggs, berries, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, avocados, and garlic)

Collagen isn’t just a beauty thing.

It may sound trivial to some… but I can actually remember when I was younger, thinking that I was somewhat invincible, would always look young… and could not even imagine myself with wrinkles or the appearance of aging. I thought that my body would always operate on all cylinders, that my 30 something energy level and my 40 something strength was just a “forever given”. I would hear people older than me talk about aging and the physical changes, inside and out, that had become such a challenge. I thought that would never be me. I say this only because there are so many things that we can do in our younger years that are choices we can make to literally slow down the aging process and hang on to that fountain of youth, for just a little bit longer… and more importantly, maximize our overall health and well being. Don’t forget, collagen isn’t just a beauty thing… it is literally the glue that is holding your body together and allowing it to function. And… some of those choices just might allow us a little more of that glorious, desired collagen. Now that you know what collagen is and just how important it is for your body and your beauty, stay tuned to my next post as I discuss the myriad of supplements and treatments that are available… and my take on exactly what they may offer for you.

Until then,



I thought breakouts were for teenagers!

How can it be? Are we treating wrinkles and zits at the same time? Seriously, I thought Benzoyl Peroxide was for teenagers! Yep, the struggle is real! And, the struggle comes in many shapes and forms… from overly clogged pores to tiny bumps on the forehead, to T-Zone breakouts, to those horrible “chin area” under-grounders… to that random bump that appears out of nowhere and refuses to make an exit. Well, my friends… unless you are one of the lucky ones, this is a skin issue for many of us… ranging in ages from our teens all the way into menopause! Oh yay!! So, this means we will be using anti-aging and anti-acne treatments at the same time? Hey, I feel ya! Along with mild rosacea, I treat breakouts and wrinkles too. I really thought that at 52 I could have ditched the blemish cream… but, not so much. So let’s discuss these annoying blemishes, some of their causes, and what may help to get rid of them.

The Causes-

  1. Diet –

First and foremost, let’s talk about your diet. I am a firm believer that what you put in your body, will be reflected on the exterior. So, are you eating a clean, healthy diet and drinking a lot of water… and by clean, I mean, fresh vegetables, lean sources of protein, healthy fats, such as avocado, and complex carbs, like sweet potatoes… or are you reaching for more processed foods… things that come in a bag or a box… sugar filled, refined foods?  And what about alcohol… The second half of that sermon is the definition of an inflammatory diet, that is not friendly to your system… and will tell you so, by showing up in two places… the scales and your face. Sorry… I hate to deliver the bad news, but it’s true. A clean diet can do everything for a clean face! So, try eliminating the junk, guzzling water… and see what happens. In some cases, staying away from dairy and gluten can be a game changer as well.

2. Hormones…

Dear Lord, those hormones… I have SO many clients that are mad at their hormones. Well, they are a blessing and a curse. Your hormones are going to fluctuate for a long time… so, let’s accept it and work around them the best that we can! From the time you start your cycle until the time that you reach “the change”, they are going to take you for a ride. Hormonal breakouts usually present themselves around the chin area. They will come and go as your hormones stabilize. Your cycle, birth control, pregnancy and the road towards menopause can cause flare-ups… simply because your hormones are in flux… however, they will stabilize. I explain to clients that this is more systemic than topical. As an Aesthetician, I can help to a point, but in extreme situations, I usually refer to a Dermatologist. For example, if the breakouts become extremely cystic, deep and painful. Hang in there… I promise, this too shall pass!

3. Stress –

No one is stressed… right? It’s almost the American way, unfortunately. As if we didn’t know, stress is another cause and a biggy! And guess what?? Stress breakouts go right back to our fun little friends… hormones. Yep, and this is why. When you are stressed, you have an organ called the adrenal gland that makes the stress hormone, cortisol, and it is secreted into the body to help the body deal with stress. A little bit of testosterone is leaked out with it, which drives the oil glands to produce excess oil. And with that… you have stress breakouts! Uuuuugh. If I had the blanket answer to curtailing stress, I would gladly share it… but until then, there are many things that can be done topically that can help… we will get there in a minute.

4. Products –

Those dang info-mercials… What are you putting on your face? This means skincare products and makeup. This is where a good consultation with an expert comes in handy. There are so many overly-marketed products available that are terribly comedogenic.(pore-clogging) That goes for the makeup that you are wearing as well. Enough of this can cause breakouts quickly. On the same subject… you know when your makeup is old… so toss it! … and those makeup brushes… they are like little bacteria gatherers! They need to be cleaned regularly. In contrast, there are a lot of products that we may think are the answer to our acne, but they are doing nothing other than stripping the face of its oils, and in return, the skin naturally wants to overcompensate by producing more oil… hence, breakouts. That can be like a vicious cycle! So, having an Aesthetician or Dermatologist look at your skin and help you find the correct balance for your specific skin type and situation can be the problem solver!

Helpful Treatments-

Before I discuss treatments, I am just assuming that you are washing your face EVERY night before you go to bed! That is “skincare 101”!! If you are not… first of all, don’t tell me, and secondly, there are a myriad of reasons why you should… including blemishes, increased pore size and accelerated skin aging. Maybe that will spur the horse! Ok… that’s that! Now, let’s chat about treatments.

  1. Salicylic acid is one of the most popular treatments. It is a beta-hydroxy acid. It works by exfoliating, unclogging pores and drying some of the oil production. Depending on your situation, it can be used all over the face or just as a spot treatment. Moderation is key because it can be drying.
  2. Benzoyl Peroxide works by actually killing the acne bacteria. It can also be very drying, so I highly recommend spot treating with this one.
  3. Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid, which helps acne and wrinkles with its exfoliating ability to remove dead skin cells on the surface. This treatment is widely popular because it can help with breakouts, clogged pores and improve the texture of the skin. Again, don’t go gangbusters with it… for the sake of creating any sensitivities in the skin. Remember… moderation.
  4. Retin A or a derivative of it, known as Retinol, is Vitamin A in a prescription form. Topical retinoids are extremely effective for acne, due to their resurfacing abilities… and in addition.. they are well known for their anti-aging abilities, because of their collagen building properties, which leads to skin that is plumper and shows less fine lines. Yet again, this is a product that needs to be used with caution, because if used incorrectly, it can be too harsh for sensitive skin. Refer to my post (Retin A The Real Story) for more information on using Retin A safely and most effectively.

Breakouts… they happen to the vast majority of us, and they do not discriminate. No matter your age, race or gender, at some point you may have to deal with them. What I can tell you is that they usually come in phases. There will be certain times in life when they will hang around… and before you know it, you will be in a gloriously “clear faced stage”. Some lucky folks rarely deal with this skin issue and don’t understand what an ordeal it can be for those who have tried everything to escape this dilemma. There are plenty of reasons why they appear and just as many treatments to help. But to answer the resounding question… Nope… breakouts are not just for teenagers. If you are like me, you are applying your eye cream and blemish cream simultaneously. Hey, look at it on the bright side… maybe it’s a sign of youth! Now… go wash your face, and I’ll see ya right back here next week! Xx, Mary  

Winter Skin Tips and Tricks

If I had a dime for every time a client has come in for an appointment with me, frustrated with how dry their skin has become this winter… let’s just say… cha- ching would take on a new meaning. Yes… it is winter and as usual, the vast majority of us notice a change in our skin. I have written about dry skin in general, however… winter, dry skin is a whole different animal! I am referring to skin that is dry, dehydrated, crepey, possibly irritated, and… no matter what we try, our normal skincare and make up routine, just isn’t cutting it! There is a very simple reason why your skin is going through this change. Not only is the air outside cold, but the humidity level, or as I like to meteorologically refer to it, the dew point is low. What does that mean? The moisture in the air is at an all time low… and that environmental moisture, that is one of your skin’s best friends… has vanished. To make matters worse, the heat in you house only adds insult to injury. What little moisture your skin was able to hang on to, gets sucked out… thanks to trying to stay warm inside. It happens every year, but when you have a long, cold dry spell… it can take a toll on your skin. So, what are the solutions? Well, there are several. So in this post, I am going to give you several tips and tricks to get that hydration back in your skin… regardless of the dew point.

1. H2O

First of all, and I cannot stress this enough… what is going on inside of your body, will be evident on the outside of your body for sure. So, we know where I am going with this… hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drinking water is not just for the summer months. It is a year round thing and can be the first step to getting hydration back in your skin. Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ. So, you want to get as much H2O down the hatch as you can. Like you, I get tired of water, so luckily this year I was turned on to the Age Quencher line of products, by my friend, Virginia @yourlifeedit. The Beauty Electrolyte product has been a life saver for me, for not only hydration, but for energy as well. It is a totally natural way of getting that extra hydration into my entire body. One scoop of the powder in a glass of water will equivocate 3 glasses of plain water. There is a reason that this product is on “My Faves” page. I encourage you to try it! Use my code MARY15 to save 15 percent on your order at Also, you need to up your intake of those healthy fats. I like to think of this like a mechanic… the engine has got to be “lubed up” in order to run correctly… well, the same is true for your skin. Avocados, salmon, nuts and eggs… are all high in those omega rich oils… which will aid in the hydration of your skin. And while we are on this subject… that wine and your beloved cup of morning Jo….well they are throwing you in reverse. Yep, alcohol and caffeine dehydrate your system… so for every serving of alcohol or caffeine, have a serving of water as well.

2. Remove Dry Skin

So, you are moisturizing like crazy, but the moisturizer just seems to sit on top of your face. That is simply because you have a barrier of dry skin on your face that is not allowing anything to penetrate. You have dead skin on your face monthly… however, when it is dry, it is even more of an issue. I don’t care what kind of hydrating mask or super charged moisturizer you buy… you will not get the full benefit of it unless the dead skin is removed. In my opinion, the best way to do this is by way of dermaplaning. This is an aesthetic service in which a sterile scalpel is used to gently lift the dead skin off of the face. For full details on dermaplaning, check out my blog post (Dermaplaning… Everything You Need to Know) I don’t recommend most facial scrubs or microdermabrasion, for the most part, because they can be too abrasive on skin that is already somewhat compromised, and can end up doing more harm than good, in the way of causing sensitivities to the skin. For that reason, I do recommend dermaplaning. When done correctly, the dead skin is carefully removed to reveal a fresh pallete, that will absorb hydration readily.

3. Hydrate Topically

About those products… if you are a Retin A user, or you are heavy on the AHAs or glycolics, you may want to pull back on those a bit, until your moisture barrier is restored… or until the weather allows. These products, though beneficial for the skin, can be drying, so backing off a bit, can be helpful. When using your Retin A, always top it with a layer of moisturizer after it has had time to penetrate. This will allow for the benefits of the Retin A without as much of the irritation and drying effects. Topical hydration is key… and the layering of products is important. Serums, such as those containing hyularonic acid, will help the skin to retain moisture from within. So, serums need to be closest to the skin… and will penetrate best on a damp face. You will apply your moisturizer on top of your serum. I am a big fan of mixing facial oils with my moisturizer for that added boost of moisture, that lasts all day long. My favorite are the facial oils from Beauty Counter… simply because there are no irritating ingredients, they do not clog the pores and quite frankly, they work! Refer to my post, (Magic in A Bottle) for more details on facial oils. These facial oils are also on “My Faves” page. You can order directly from me by going to

4. Create Your Own Humidity

Lastly, create your own humidity in your home. This is so simple. I shared this idea on my Insta Stories a few weeks ago, and my inbox lit up with questions. Humidifiers are not just for chest colds. They are great for putting moisture into the air for the sake of your skin. The most important place for one is your bedroom. During the hours of sleep is the time when your skin is in its most restorative state. For this reason, we want to encourage as much hydration during this time as is possible. I have a humidifier right next to my bed that emits a cool mist all night long. It can be a game changer for your skin… not to mention your sinuses and your hair.

We experience this dilemma every year… and it seems that it is inevitable. The seasons and all that comes with them, can wreak havoc on our skin. Trust me… we will have our issues to discuss in the summer months as well. But, for now, dealing with dry skin can be a bit of a battle. So, put these four tips into practice:  hydrate from the inside, gently exfoliate the dead, dry barrier, hydrate topically, and create your own humidity. It’s really quite simple. The key is being diligent with this routine until you get some relief. And… might I add… patience. Yes, patience. Like everything that we really want… getting that happily hydrated skin back in check, can take a little time. I guess it’s fair to say that “patience” should be number five. I am sure that there are some more great tips and tricks that are winners… please feel free to share your ideas with me, here on the blog. Thanks, in advance!



Magic in a bottle

In a blog post a few months ago, I mentioned how a few things changed… literally the day after I turned 51. I remember turning 50, thinking…”what’s the big deal!?… all this moaning about everything falling apart once you hit the big 50!” I sailed through 50 feeling like I was 35, most of the time, without anything earth shattering to report, other than the usual… then 51. Oh… hello physiological joy! In a snap, I woke up, day one of my 51st year, with a pain shooting straight up my left foot… and once I got to the bathroom, I noticed peculiar red splotchiness on my face… that was hot, I might add. I kid you not… planter fasciitis, and rosacea! What a great way to start a new year! The foot… years of running… and age… and the face… years of over exfoliation… and, oh yeah… age.

Now, a year later, I have both under control, but not without a lot of research, doctors appointments, trial and error, and patience… which is not my forte! The foot is for another post, so let’s just focus on the sudden skin change. I had never had redness of the face in my lifetime. I could scrub and exfoliate… use glycolics, Retin A, salicylic toners and a Clarisonic and go on about my business. As an Aesthetician, I had worked with many clients who dealt with rosacea, to varying degrees, but could never fully sympathize, until mine made its appearance.

Rosacea can come in all shapes and sizes… from just a little redness on the cheeks, nose and/or chin… to broken capillaries that only get larger with time. It is exacerbated by heat, cold, dryness, over exfoliation, alcohol or spicy foods. For many it is inherited. For some, it is encouraged by excess of any of those things. Mine, I truly believe, was slowly emerging due to over exfoliating… combined with the long dry fall that we had, that left my skin feeling like the Sahara. My cheeks and nose were hot and red. I knew all the tricks… and nothing was working. My skin regimen, that I was so used to, and that had worked for so many years, was causing my skin to become more angry. Uuuugh!! Let this be the little voice in your head that reminds you… yes, your skin is going to change over the years… so be prepared to have to make changes in your “tried and true” skincare routine. I went to 3 different dermatologists, all who said the same thing… “welcome to rosacea”. Nice. I was given different prescriptions to try, most of which only made it worse. However, I will say that dermatologist number 3 did introduce me to a cleanser that has been helpful… and I still use it today.

I was realizing that I was needing something that would calm and hydrate, that didn’t have irritating ingredients. So, I decided to try a face oil made by Beauty Counter. I figured… why not… nothing else is doing the job. So I ordered the Balancing Face Oil, Number 3. After cleansing, I put a couple of drops in my moisturizer, (Avene Skin Recovery Cream) and instantly, I felt a cool, calming effect to my skin. I used this same simple step A.M. and P.M… and within a few weeks, I noticed my skin becoming less angry, less red and hot… and more balanced overall. I had been afraid of facial oils, for the fear of breaking out, but the opposite happened… no breakouts and no clogged pores… just happier skin. Part of the issue for me was that the dryness was not helping me… and throwing too many ingredients at my face was doing me no favors. Weeks of keeping it simple and calm proved to be the secret for me. In full disclosure, I do believe the cleanser has been a big help… and one of the prescriptions may have been a good choice, once my skin wasn’t so irritated… however, in my opinion, the facial oil, as simple as it is, has been the key for me.

I now use the oil every day, mixed with my moisturizer. A year later, I am back to being able to use my Retin A, sparingly… and Vitamin C… as long as I am balancing my skin with the Beauty Counter Facial oil. I hesitate to stand behind products, until I have tried them myself, and over a period of time, I have seen a change. Because this product has been such a life saver for me, I am glad that I am able to use my platform to hopefully guide someone else, who needs a calming and hydrating product. Even if rosacea is not your issue, and you are looking for an added boost of hydration, I would recommend any of the 3 oils. They are just that good and easy to fit into any skin regimen. I am also glad to be able to sell the products to you via this link  or on “My Faves” page on my website. At this time, I am only endorsing the facial oils, because of my personal experience with them.

So, moral of the story… your skin IS going to change. I have stressed this before. What you are using on your face in your 30s will be different from what you will use in your 40s and will continue to change. Also, be careful with over exfoliating. Your skin has a moisture barrier that it needs to keep your skin balanced… it can only take so much friction. Lastly, don’t throw too many products into the mix… especially when your skin is in reaction mode. Pull back on as much as you can, and go for the products with the safest and simplist ingredients… and patience, patience, patience. It will work itself out, like everything else does… it just takes time. Rosacea is a lifestyle. It is never going to fully go away… and yep, I still get little flair ups at times, but at least I know what works for me to keep it under control. I hope this post helps a few dry and irritated faces out there… facial oils are your friend… at least for me, No. 3 from Beauty Counter is now a “tried and true”.




Dear dry skin, where is my glow?

It can happen overnight and can almost be predicted the same time of year, every year… and it only gets worse with age… DRY SKIN! For some people it is a constant battle, but for most of us, we get some relief in the summertime, when the humidity levels are higher and there is more moisture in the air. But with the change of the seasons comes cool, dry air and out of nowhere… all of the moisture seems to disappear from our once, dewey skin. To make matters worse, cold temps brings the need for heat in the house, which will zap the last ounce of moisture out of the skin, leaving some of us feeling like the Sahara. Throw in a little mid life hormone imbalance… and, well, it’s not pretty! You could dunk your face in a vat of olive oil and find no relief!

So how are we supposed to keep that “fresh from the facial” glow in these conditions? There are several things that can be done to get some relief, from what can actually be an uncomfortable situation, not to mention, one that doesn’t exactly give us that glowing palette that we aspire to have for all of those holiday events. Dry skin needs to be replenished from the inside, as much, if not more than from the outside… and it also needs some preparation. By that I mean, we know the cool snap is right around the bend, so these remedies are all things that should be started in advance, so that the body has time to acclimate.

Let’s start with the inside. So many people make the assumption that water consumption is a warm weather thing, that keeps us from getting dehydrated. Well, it’s an “all year” thing. In the winter, when the air is dry and the heat steals that last drop of moisture from our skin, drinking water can be your best friend. Your dry skin, hair and even nails are revealing what is happening from the inside. They are thirsty! Drink water like crazy! Shoot for a gallon a day.(It is not as much as you think it is) Hydrate from the inside and you will be surprised what it will do for you! Also, jump on those healthy fats… foods that are high in omegas that will replenish the oil in your body. The avocado is the “everything” food in my opinion. Everything about it is good for you… and there is nothing about it that is bad for you… and it is great for hydration of the skin. Increase you intake of fish such as salmon … and eat more nuts. Also, with your physician’s OK, up your intake of both fish oil and flax seed oil, with the highest amounts of DHA and EPA as possible and the lowest amount of filler. Those are the two ingredients that are the pure work horse of the supplement, that deliver the healthiest return. And for every alcoholic drink you have, also have a glass of water… because as you know, alcohol is dehydrating.

Now, for the outside. Your product routine has to change in the winter time to compensate for the lack of hydration that you are getting due to the elements. If you are using a lot of exfoliating products, such as those with salicylic or glycolic ingredients, pull back on your usage of them by about a half. In other words, if you are using a glycolic cleanser to wash your face, only use it once a day instead of twice a day… and use a gentle cleanser in replacement. If you are a Retin A user, cut that in half also. If you use the product four nights a week, drop back to two. Also, moisturize on top of your Retin A. It will make a huge difference! Use a serum with hyaluronic acid in it. This will help your skin retain moisture…. and always apply your serum on a damp face, for better penetration. The serum is always the closest to the skin, then moisturize on top of that. I am also a big fan of pure facial oils. Mixing them with your moisturizer can do double duty! Lastly, once a month, get an exfoliating facial to rid the skin of the dead, dry layer, so that your moisturizing products will work. I highly recommend dermaplaning, because it gently lifts off the dead layer of skin in a much less abrasive way than other forms of exfoliatiation. (For more information on dermaplaning, see my blog post from October 3, 2017)

For those of you who are blessed with a lot of oil in your skin… this is your “happy skin” time of year. Yes, oily skin has its own set of challenges, but for those of us with dry skin issues… we envy your natural moisture this time of year. For the rest of us, we just have to adjust, and prepare for what is to come as the seasons change. I start to change my products before the weather gives that cold punch, to try to stay ahead of the game. Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ, so it stands to reason that it needs some extra attention when it is thrown a curve ball. When your skin is dry, just think of it as thirsty, and treat it accordingly. Eventually, it will balance out… and before you know it, you will retain your, “fresh from the facial” glow!!



PS. Photo of Actual Dermaplaining Client Virginia Richardson (@yourlifeedit)

Retin A … The Real Story

What if I told you that there’s a product that can help you attain smooth, clear, flawless skin? Now… stick with me because I’m sure you have your opinions, but I might be able to offer you some information that can change your mind.

There are a lot of skin treatments on the market, but not many that have been around for 30 plus years… and not many with the misconceptions of Retin A. So let’s talk about what it is, what it is for, what it does and why so many people are quick to assume that it is not for them, before they give it a chance. When doing skin consultations, I am never surprised at some of the responses that I get when asking people if they use Retin A. People are either “tried and true lifers” or they claim that it is too harsh for them and causes constant peeling and redness or they are confused between the retinol/ retinoid market altogether.

So, what is Retin A? Retin A, the prescription (tretinoin) is a topical version of Vitamin A, that goes by brand names such as Refissa, Renova, Retin A- micro, or Tazorac, depending on the strength and formulation, as part of the Retinoid family. It was first used to treat acne over 30 years ago, and when users found, over time, that their skin appeared more smooth, clear and that the appearance was overall more enhanced, one would have thought that the fountain of youth was discovered. With that, researchers began looking into the anti-aging benefits of Retin A. Retin A is not to be confused with the myriad of Retinol products, which are all derivatives of Retin A, available over the counter and not as effective, due to the lower percentages of Vitamin A and varying formulations. Retin A (treinoin) can only be purchased via a prescription through a dermatologist, plastic surgeon or medical spa with a residing medical director.

So, here is the skinny on exactly why some people can do without anything… but not their Retin A. Basically, for one, Retin A increases cell turn over. What is so great about that? You know that dull face feeling… that look of an accumulation of dead skin on your face… with a glow that is nowhere to be found? Nine times out of ten, that is due to a lack of cell turn over. Over time, when used correctly (and we will get to that) Retin A will encourage healthy cell turn over. Also, Retin A thickens the layer of skin below the outer protective layer, it stimulates the cells that produce collagen (the elastic fibrous structure that gives skin it’s firmness) and it increases the blood flow to your skin. So what is the importance of all of that? How does this sound… It means fewer wrinkles, smother, plumper skin, less hyperpigmentation, smaller pores and a reduction in overall sun damage. Now you may understand why it is considered to be worth its weight in gold.

But… and here is the caveat… because most of us are so motivated by instant gratification, Retin A has a tendency to get kicked to the curb before it ever gets a chance. All of those wonderful results are not going to be seen over night, or even in a month. And with that… too many people do not start the Retin A process correctly… hence, the side effects take hold before the magic does. Usually the side effects are due to incorrect usage and can include dryness, redness and breakouts.(which can be an initial result of the skin purging itself) Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so like many things, patience and more patience is required, to get the full effect of what so many dermatologists consider to be the game changer for your skin. I have started many people on Retin A… and there is a method that works. It is a little different for different skin types, as one might have assumed, but more people than not, can tolerate Retin A… when used correctly.

Before I walk you through the steps to using Retin A, let’s go ahead and rule out who this product is not right for… those who are pregnant or breast feeding, anyone with eczema or any other skin condition that that causes the skin to be hyper sensitive, those who will not agree to wear SPF of 40 or greater every day and those whose job entails activities in the sun on a daily basis. This being so, because Retin A can cause the skin to be more sun sensitive. With that said, if you don’t fall into one of those categories, let’s discuss the correct way to use Retin A, in my experience.

Of the three doses, .025 is the lowest dose. No matter what the skin type, my rule is… start low, go slow. So, I start clients on the lowest dose, two nights a week, with moisturizer on top. Start by cleansing the face and allowing it to dry completely. Then put on any eye cream that you may be using. This creates a barrier, so the Retin A will not travel to the delicate eye area. Next, take a pea size… and I mean an English pea size, and dot it on the forehead, cheeks, chin and lastly, the nose. And yes… that one little pea size is for the entire face. Trust me when I tell you that with Retin A, more is NOT better. For those of us who survived the excessive 80s… think just the opposite. After applying the Retin A, allow it a few minutes to penetrate, then apply a liberal amount of moisturizer. This keeps the skin from getting too dry while still maintaining the integrity of the Retin A. I tell people to shoot for Monday night and Thursday… giving the face equal time in between. On the nights that the Retin A is not applied… just moisturize. This allows the skin to stay balanced between hydration and exfoliatiation. Once I see the client back again, typically in a month, we asses the skin to see if there is any dryness in general. If not, we bump up to 3 nights of the .025 strength. At the next appointment we asses again. If the skin has not fully adjusted, we stay on the same schedule, if all is well, and the skin has adequate hydration, we bump up to every other night. At this point, we stay put, unless the client wants to try every night. This usually depends on the climate, travel and the time of year. When the client has gone through the entire tube of product, which usually takes 6-8 months, we decide, according to the skin type if we want to start on the .05 dosage. Being that this is twice the strength, we usually back up to 2 nights a week and follow the same algorithm of a slow titration to the optimal balance level. Futuristically, some people move on to tolerate the .1 dosage strength and some do not. This is where customizing comes in to play.

It is important to remember with Retin A, that it is not about how high the dose or how many nights you can manage… it is about finding the dose that is right for your skin type and being consistent. For example, if the most your skin can tolerate is 2 nights a week, on the lowest dose, but you are consistent on that routine, you will see benefits for a long time. Unlike those who douse themselves in the wrong dose for a month, then don’t use it again for six weeks… The name of the game is consistency, adding hydration and adjusting according to climate or changes in the skin. It is a balancing act that has to be adjusted at times… allowing for safe resurfacing while retaining optimal hydration. It is about titration of the product slowly, only to the level that the individual attains the most benefit without side effects. When done in this fashion, most people are able to be Retin A users and enjoy the benefits that come with it. Remember… start low, go slow… and patience my friends… patience.




My Product line up… for Now

“Cha cha cha changes” are not just the lyrics to a timeless David Bowie song… they are the story of my skin. So, if you remember anything about this post, remember that! Your product line up is going to change over the years, as your skin changes with age… and your products will change with the seasons and the climate. I can’t stress this enough. Also, what might be good for me, is not necessarily going to be good for you. Remember, everyone’s skin is completely different. There are different variables that play into what products each one of us can use, based upon allergies, sensitities, inflammatory issues, PH levels and hereditary issues. So… back to “changes”… if I were writing this blog post in my thirties,  it would be a completely different scenario than what I would write in my forties, which is a drastically different pick of products that I use now in my fifties… and that is no joke!

I can remember in my thirties, slathering myself in the strongest dose of Retin A at night and using a glycolic based moisturizer in the morning, after cleansing and using a salicylic toner… if I did that now in my fifties, I would be dry, inflamed, red, peeling and down right miserable! I am laughing, because at the time, I thought those were my forever products. In my forties, I became much more dry… it happens with age for the vast majority of us, so my balance had to be changed… much less Retin A and glycolic and much more moisturizer. When I turned fifty, I remember thinking… cool… I’m doing pretty good… what’s all this “Yikes, I’m gonna fall apart at fifty stuff about!?” Well, that didn’t happen until 51… and the past year has been a total rearrangement for my body and my skin… this is what I mean by “changes.” I literally woke up one day, about a week after I turned 51, with planter fasciitis and mild Rosacea… you could say the changes hit me from head to toe. So, you readjust a few things, and move on. With all of that said, the products that I use today, vary based on the seasons and my sensitivities… and Lord knows what they will be next month… and as for my feet… well… that’s another story!

So, in the last year I have had to learned to deal with mild Rosacea, that can become irritated by too much exfoliation, amoung other things. With that said, my product line up is much more mild than it used to be. However, I am still able to use some exfoliating products… it’s just all about balance at this time. I cleanse with a prescription cleanser from my dermatologist that is extremely helpful for redness. Two nights a week I use Refissa, which is .05 Retin A (Tretinoin) in an emollient base. Every night, whether I use Retin A or not, I moistuize with Avene Skin Recovery Cream. I put two drops of Beauty Counter Soothing Oil in the moisturizer, before I apply, for added hydration and more redness control. I love this combination for sensitive skin. I am able to get the benefits of resurfacing with the Retin A and balance it with good hydration and soothing ingredients. For my eye area… hands down, my favorite eye cream is Neocutis Lumiere Riche. I have tried them all, trust me, and there is nothing available that offers the anti- aging benefits along with a balmy hydration, that is good for all skin types. It also allows concealer to glide on and not get dry and crepey! This eye cream is an A.M. And P.M. for me. In the morning after I cleanse, I use my Vitamin C serum on a damp face. This allows for better penetration. My choice is Obagi C- Clarifying Serum. It is 10% Vitamin C and 4% hydroquinone, so I get the antioxidant and brightening effect of the Vitamin C, and the lightening effect for any hyperpigmentation, with the hydroquinone. I love a product that kills two birds with one stone! My morning moisturizer is the same as evening… the Avene Skin Recovery Cream. If my skin feels dry, I add the drops of oil… on more humid days, I skip that step. Then, one of my “can’t live without” products…I finish with Intellishade by Revision. It is a lightly tinted moisturizer with healthy peptides and SPF 45. It also gives the skin a nice glow, and allows for minimal foundation. I am not a “foundation girl”… so this product, with a little concealer and bronzer creates a healthy, natural, glowy finish. So, those are my “go to” faves at this point in my “ever changing skin.” However, there is one other thing that is an every day, almost all day, before routine, after routine… you name it… Avene Thermal Spring Water. I can’t say enough about what this cooling, soothing, hydrating spritz does for the skin. This product could be a blog post in itself! Note to those who are frequent flyers… the travel size could be your best friend for that “post flight” skin. Yes… I am that girl on the plane that is spritzing my face… and I make no apologies for it!!

So, when you are working on your skincare line up… I would first recommend that you consult an Aesthetician or your Dermatologist to determine what is best for your skin, based on your skin type, lifestyle, skin issues and the particular season. It doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. Remember, from my last post, don’t let yourself be a victim of the “skincare junkie rabbit hole!” Stick with the basics, that are clinically proven to help your skin, that are safe and effective. And, no matter what stage or age your skin may be… it is all about balance. By this I mean, not too much exfoliation, which can cause irritation and dryness… and not too much hydration, which can cause clogged pores. Balance is key. My skin care line up may not be what is best for you, but should be able to give you some ideas as to where to start. Don’t forget, my friends… what is working for you at this time, may not be what works for you in the years to come… so as the lyrics of one of my favorite REO Speedwagon song says … be ready to “roll with the changes!”



The Skincare product Junkie Rabbit hole

What if I told you that the average woman wears approximately $8 worth of skincare and/or cosmetics per day, which adds up to roughly $250 a month, which becomes nearly $200,000 in a lifetime… and that statistic is a year old… and on the conservative side! I don’t know about you, but I could do a lot  with $200,000!! So my question is… is it working for you? Are you achieving the look that was promised to you in the packaging or sales spiel? Do you keep buying more products, thinking that the next one is going to be better than the last, because you saw an infomercial, or a an advertisement, or your favorite celebrity swore it was her only go to, or a blogger, who wears the cutest clothes, said it was gold, or my personal favorite…”a clinical study showed that eight out of ten women saw an eighty percent improvement in their skin!!!” For the love of your wallet, your precious time and energy, and your sanity… stop the madness!! Nothing at all against anyone who is genuinely trying to sell you something that is truly in your best interest, or writing about a product that they personally happen to love… but let’s separate fact from commission and get you out of a downward spiral that I refer to as the “skincare product junkie rabbit hole.”

Fact… the projection for skincare product sales in the U.S. alone in 2018 is over $11 billion. Now… I’m an Aesthetician and I sell skincare products, so I should be jumping for joy! When in reality, I spent nearly twenty years in sales and marketing, so pardon the expression, but “the gig is up!” I get asked  every day if I have heard of this mask or that device… or that serum from a raccoon…. ok, no raccoon serum, but you get my drift… it is over the top, and the reason being is that most of us will fall for anything, if we think it is going to make us look or feel younger or prettier… or if our favorite celebrity swears by it. There is a reason that packaging is so enticing, endorsements are so sincere and we keep seeing the latest and greatest in our social media feed… sales and marketing… and clearly, it’s working! So, what is my point? As an Aesthetician and a skincare coach, who has also been on the other side… in the world of sales and marketing, driven by sales goals, commission, spiffs and promotions… I want to simplify this whole process for you, help you become a little more savvy, the next time you are about to cave, and most of all, help you save your money for the products that are tried and true and dermatologically proven efficacious and safe.

Ok, if I were to ask you how many skincare products are in your bathroom, what would you say? My guess would be more than you actually need. My guess would also be, probably some that you rarely use, and plenty that aren’t doing a darn thing for your skin. So let’s talk about the products that are the foundation of good skincare and then a few that are also great to have on board. Let’s get your skincare routine down to as few as three to five products, aside from the two that go without mentioning, cleanser and sunscreen, because of course you are going to cleanse every morning and every night… and the importance of daily sunscreen makes it a must every single day, regardless!

The foundation of good skincare can be remembered in the acronym ACE. That is:

  • A, for a vitamin A product, be it Reitin A, or a derivative of it, a retinol, for exfoliation and cell turn over. If you are too sensitive for Retin A, some type of light exfoliating product on a regular basis is needed in order to keep dead skin from accumulating on your face.
  • C, for vitamin C products, typically in a serum form. Vitamin C is the number one antioxidant for your skin that helps to protect your skin from the effects of aging, not only for its role in collagen synthesis, but also as it helps to neutralize free radicals in the skin that cause aging… and let’s not forget the glow that it gives the skin over time. I also like to include, in this antioxidant category, healthy peptides which are usually found in many Vitamin C serums. They go hand in hand with Vitamin C, as they are the the building blocks for healthy youthful skin.
  • Then, E, which is for vitamin E, which is the moisture that is required to keep your skin hydrated and balanced. There are numerous moisturizers on the market, which we will detail in another post… but try to choose one that allows for good hydration without being comedogenic (pore clogging).

In my opinion ACE is the healthy skin foundation triad. Two other products that I highly recommend, would be a good eye cream, as the eye area is the most delicate skin on the face and shows aging first, then also some type of skin lightener, to even the skin tone… because as diligent as we may be over time, hyperpigmentation is just a fact of life for most of us. There are different types of skin lighteners, such as hydroquinone or kojic acid, both of which are commonly found in combination with a vitamin C product. (Please note that all of this information is based on your individual skin type and possible skin allergies.)

So, there you have it! You don’t need a multitude of serums and toners and potions and creams. You actually need very few things, when you really dissect the needs of the skin. The skin needs cleansing, exfoliation, hydration and protection from the sun. That’s it!! As a matter of fact, throwing too many products and ingredients on your skin can easily lead to skin sensitivities over time. Keep it simple… give your skin only what it needs to be healthy and save yourself a lot of time and money. Also, try to separate skincare products from makeup. Look to your dermatologist or aesthetician for your skincare products. Save that trip to the makeup counter for just that… makeup. It will actually feel good to walk past the skincare aisle and know that you are not going to fall into that dreaded “skincare product junkie rabbit hole”… and that, my friends, is a victory! Your wallet will thank you!




Laser Love

So let’s start with that time you looked in the mirror and said, “Where did all these brown splotches come from?” Or, “What is all of this redness in my skin tone?” Studies have shown that discoloration and unevenness of the skin can appear more aging than wrinkles. Let’s face it, the longer we are on the planet, the more that time and the environment take it’s toll on our skin. That is just a natural progression. And let’s not forget lifestyle. Years of sun exposure, inflammatory foods, alcohol consumption and not enough hydration are key factors as to why laser treatments have sky rocketed in the last decade. Not to mention that the treatments are far less invasive than they were in years past.

Jennifer Aniston touts it and so do the multitude of clients that I see on a regular basis… laser treatments. There are more types of devices and services available than I can count, but two treatments that I have found to be extremely effective and widely popular are the laser photo facial and laser skin tightening. I am fortunate enough to work with one of the best lasers in the industry, as it is the newest in technology and is very patient friendly, the Sciton BBL. Years ago people heard the word laser and automatically thought that meant pain and downtime. Well, not so much anymore! For some clients, laser treatments are a part of their skin care routine as a means of maintaining even skin tone, texture and even tightening. I have been performing laser treatments for several years now and have really learned how to hone in on specific skin issues. I must say, my love for laser comes from seeing significant results and extremely happy clients.

So let’s break it down and discuss just the photo facial in this post. The photo facial… in my opinion, is hands down the best way to even the coloration of the skin. This means that the browns, be it good old sun damage, also known as hyperpigmentation, or even that pesky malasma, (dark splotches in the skin due to the combination of estrogen and sun) can be dramatically reduced. In a series of treatments, a month apart, at approximately 30 minutes each, the laser can lift the dark pigmentation to the top of the skin and in about a week it literally flakes away. Yes, it looks worse before it gets better, but the overproduction of melanin in the skin has to lift to the surface before it can flake away. After each treatment, I am able to assess the progress after the flaking, and adjust the laser settings so that with each treatment we see a continual dercrease in the dark pigmentation. And… as for pain and downtime… minimal! Most of my clients are able to go on about their day, after a little icing in the treatment room, and cover the darkening pigmentation with concealer. However, this is always based upon the amount and depth of the hyperpigmentation.

And how about that redness? Broken capillaries and even Rosacea can also be reduced. This part of the photo facial treatment is vascular, meaning it has to do with blood flow. This setting of the laser is aiming to treat those little capillaries on your face that are becoming a little more obvious, whether it is hereditary and/or thanks to things like too much sun exposure, heat, alcohol and even spicy foods. I hate to break it to some of those die hard yogis out there… but 100 degree rooms in a downward dog position, are wreaking havoc on your facial capillaries. Between the heat and the blood flow rushing to your face, those little veins are crying out for help! They can only take so much before they finally burst. I’m not by any means  saying that hot yoga is bad… exercise is a big part of my life… I’m just saying that possibly mixing it up a bit could be in your favor when considering your skin. For those with Rosacea, (a skin condition causing redness in the cheeks, nose and chin) the vascular half of the photo facial can be a real game changer. For those who have it, not knowing when those reds are going to flare up and trying to cover them, can be a real chore. Knowing that there is a treatment more effective than topicals is a relief to many people.

I get asked quite often how long the results of laser treatments will last. Quite frankly, that is up to you. These two skin conditions, hyperpigmentation, and broken capillaries, are a lifestyle. I always tell clients that my guarantee is only as good as the treatment room. By this I mean, the sun is still going to shine, so sunscreen of at least 45 spf is a must, every single day no matter what the season. And as for the blood flow in your body… well, it’s going to keep on pumping through those veins, so be mindful of certain variables. Avoid extreme heat and direct sun, drink a little more water and a little less alcohol and try to turn down the spice factor in your food. I know! I know! This is asking a lot for some people, however, it can make the difference in your skin and your overall health as well. The laser can provide some pretty amazing results… but the ultimate condition of your skin is truly based on the choices you make.

The laser… that big device with the little hand piece, that purrs like a boss when you turn that switch… that can literally change the appearance of some of your most annoying skin conditions… Who knew that over time it could become such a integral part of your skin care routine when considering the most obvious…. the coloration of your skin… that even, clear tone that allows your palette to look more youthful and healthy…. Who wouldn’t want that? As Jennifer Aniston would say…”its all about laser love, my friends!”




Dermaplaning… Everything you need to know

Dermaplaning… it seems that the last few years the popularity of this service has become all the buzz…(because of all that fuzz) Aestheticians are jumping on board to offer the service and women are either die- hards, or extremely hesitant because of all the tales that they are hearing about it. The truth is that dermaplaning has been around for decades, but as of late, has taken on a life of its own. Bloggers are blogging about it, beauty experts are touting it and even “The Doctors” did a segment on their day time show featuring an Aesthetician and a live dermaplaning. This is hands down my most requested service and over the years I have dermaplaned over a thousand faces. So, let’s break it down. I want to explain the benefits, debunk the myths and make sure that you are informed and in safe hands before that blade moves toward your gorgeous face!

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought  that your face just looked dull… or caught that rear view mirror glance just to see hair on you face? Or, have you gotten to a point where it feels like your products and your make up are just sitting on top of your skin? Well, that’s because, the odds are that you have a barrier of dead skin on your face that is keeping your products from penetrating and not allowing your makeup to glide on like it once did. Scientifically, our Cell Renewal Factor (CRF) or cell turnover rate, slows down as we age, which leads to unnecessary build up of dead skin. Hence, the dull look that we don’t want. We need to help the skin get rid of the dead skin cells through exfoliation. There are a myriad of means by which we can exfoliate, but over time, some can cause skin sensitivity or irritation… which is another issue in itself. To make matters worse, every month, there is more dead skin on your face… YIKES! That’s just how the body works. So, along comes that trusty scalpel.

Now, to clarify… there is razorplaning and there is dermaplaning, and the two get confused and even misrepresented at times on spa menus. The difference is quite simple. Razorplaning is the use of a razor, yep… a good old razor, on a damp face to remove peach fuzz. (vellus hair) That is all that it is removing. It may give a little bit of exfoliation… but for the most part, you are just losing the peach fuzz. Dermaplaning is the use of a sterile scalpel, which by a trained professional, removes not only the peach fuzz, but that dead layer of skin as well. Depending on the face, I can usually do three passes before we are down to that baby smooth face. The first pass is usually the removal of a lot of hair, then, the next pass or two starts to gently lift up dead skin. The result is super smooth, extremely soft, fresh skin! At that point, depending on the skin type, any number of facial treatments can be done.

So, I get an overwhelming amount of questions about dermaplaning… due to old wives tales and the abundance of misinformation that is just a click away. Let’s set the record straight.

  • Dermaplaning should only be performed by a licensed Aesthetician, with additional training and certification to provide the service… and should only be done in a Medical setting or under the supervision of a Medical Director. This is for your safety and in Tennessee, it is the law.
  • The hair on your face is called vellus hair, as opposed to terminal hair. It is like peach fuzz…very soft. It will not, I repeat…. will not grow back thicker, darker or longer. The only reasons the hair on your face may change would be due to hormonal shifts or age… yep, some of us get a little harrier with time… and not always where we want!
  • If performed by a trained professional, dermaplaning should not hurt or leave any type of cuts or nicks on your face. It is very rhythmic, and I actually have clients who doze off during the process. Unless the client moves or reaches to the face, there is no reason that there should be anything but a gorgeous glow on your face when you leave.
  • There is no way to predict how long it will be before the hair on your face makes a reappearance, but being that this is a good service to consider as a “maintenance facial”, due to the rate of cell turnover, in a four to six weeks period, trust me, you will be ready to dermaplane again.

And, there  you have it… dermaplaning 101. I call this service “instant gratification” because in less than an hour we can truly go from a dull, fuzzy face to a glowing, smooth, baby’s bum, soft kind of face. Your  skin will look and feel healthier, your products will actually penetrate and provide the benefits intended and your make up will glide on like a dream… that is if you need any make up at all. Check out my Instagram page @marymatts for plenty of examples of dermaplaning in action and that post dermaplaning glow. So here’s to dermaplaning… because scalpels aren’t just for surgery anymore!


Happy dermaplaning!