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I spent 45 minutes at Sephora staring at DERMAdoctor’s KP Duty. Yes, I endured 45 minutes of Sephora at the Garden State Plaza Mall, with their gum snapping sales force sashaying past me over and over again, because I was on the fence about buying a product.

My daughter has keratosis pilaris on the skin on the backs of her upper arms. KP is not a horrible skin condition. It resembles goose bumps, or “chicken skin,” and is barely noticeable to the eye. KP is an overproduction of the protein keratin, which causes little plugs in the hair follicles, and is usually genetic. I was happy to leave the KP alone, but as the weather got colder, she began complaining that her arms were itchy (dry air exacerbates the condition).

I wasn’t sure I wanted to use KP Duty on her skin, mainly because it contains glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is a wonderful exfoliant, and I use it professionally in a number of peels. But it is very strong acid–the GA molecule is so small that it is uber penetrable. And while this makes it one of the most effective Alpha Hydroxy Acids, it also makes it very irritating. And my kid has pretty sensitive skin.  While I was certain that the percentage of GA in the product was low (less than 10% in mass market products), I still had concerns about her skin reacting. But it was all I could find that I thought may remotely help the KP, so I decided to hold my breath and try.

Turns out, my 45 minute stress out at Sephora was completely unnecessary. Not only was KP Duty not at all irritating to her skin, it wasn’t remotely effective on her KP. After two weeks of usage, I saw zero results.

I am now trying it out as a moisturizer for my rough, nasty heels. To date, they are still rough and nasty.

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calendula cream bath 150My daughter inherited my sensitive skin–it nicely welts right up when she comes in contact with something too irritating. And, of course, being an esthetician and skin care freak, I have tried every baby and kid product imaginable since she was an infant. My only criteria was that the product be haz-mat free.

When organic-minded new moms gave a thumbs up to California Baby, I gave that a whirl, but I found the products kind of drying (particularly their hair care). So when I stumbled on Weleda at an organic esthetician’s skin studio while we were on a long beach weekend, I picked up a bottle of their Calendula Cream Bath for my kid.

As a sensitive skinner myself, I have always been partial to Calendula. It’s anti inflammatory and incredibly gentle and healing. The base of Weleda’s Calendula Bath Cream is sweet almond oil, which is easily absorbed and very moisturizing. It protects the skin barrier and keeps the skin super smooth.

Weleda is an organic brand that has almost invincible staying-power. Eighty years ago, they pioneered the concept of Biodynamic farming, which is only now being used as trendy organic buzz words in the beauty biz today. The company was founded on the principle that the products support and enhance the body’s own natural healing tendencies.

Since my kid’s the one using it, I asked her to provide her review of the product during bath time tonight:

I like it. It makes me smell pretty and I love how it feels really soft. My skin feels nice and soft after. If I don’t use it the night before, the next day my skin feels all wrinkley. But when I do use it… Not wrinkley!

And isn’t that what we all want from our skin care products?

allure-cover-lp_e_b531446b815d841fa57ff7ac29559923Oh Allure! Why do you break my heart? I always rip open the new issue when it arrives, anxious to read the “beauty bible” and am always so disappointed. The March issue came this morning, and the cover tag of “Stressed Out Skin?” pulled me in, only to hurt me within the very first paragraph.

In analyzing the skin of our over stressed masses, writer Sarah Van Boven says “Not only does stress cause our sebaceous glands to pump out more of the oil that bacteria thrive on…” Or, Oil = bad. 

Oil on our skin, for the most part, is a good thing. We need it to help kill the bacteria on our skin (oil=acid; bacteria cannot thrive in an acidic environment). However, there is one more piece to the acne puzzle. Oxygen. The problem is when the pore gets clogged by dead skin and dirt and oxygen cannot reach the bacteria to help kill it. Oil alone is not the sole culprit.

Strip away that oil and you will have to read the Sensitivity part of this article: “The epidermal barrier that locks moisture to the skin is the same thing that keeps irritants like pollution, allergens and chemicals out.” Guess what that epidermal barrier is? The one you just stripped away because of your acne.

I suppose I should learn by now not to get so excited when the damn magazine shows up.  But it’s kind of like porn. Excited by the promise yet ultimately deflated by the actual experience.

Over the weekend, the husband was replacing some old
insulation under the house.  It was
hot and he was sweaty, so he kept using his shirt to mop up the sweat that was
trickling down his face.  Of course,
he forgot he was dealing with fiberglass insulation, which was all over his
shirt—the shirt he was using to wipe his face with.

 

The next day, he noticed that his skin was peeling.  So he applied tape and proceeded to rip
the skin right off.  I was mortified,
but of course he had enviously soft skin. 
This prompted him to suggest I add a fiberglass facial to my treatment
menu.  Lovely!

 

I am no fan of mechanical exfoliators. I find that the
granules in the product are too harsh for my skin, leading to some serious
irritation. One of the all-time worst products I have used on my face is the
St. Ives Apricot Scrub. I know so many people swear by it—it always wins
readers choice awards in the glossy magazines—but my skin is as raw as
tenderized meat after I use it. 
The apricot bits are so rough and sharp that it leads to microscopic
cuts on the skin—sort of like my husband’s fiberglass exfoliation.

 

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A while ago, a friend who works for Origins gave me a sample
of their Modern Friction, which they call “nature’s gentle dermabrasion.” Given
my mistrust of buffing products, it sat in my sample box for months. This
weekend, I misplaced my usual chemical exfoliation product.  It was late, I was tired, and I did not
feel like tearing up the house the find it.  So, I decided to give it a shot.

 

Using rice starch rather than any sharp edged granules, Modern
Friction gently sloughs off dead skin while lemon oil serves as a
brightener.  It also contains aloe
to keep irritation at bay.  My skin
glowed without redness, and a small cluster of blackheads on my chin completely
disappeared.

I adopt a lot of animals. My
latest adoptee is Mercy, a beautiful 2-year-old Rottweiler that I found at the
local shelter. She is just about the perfect dog—loving, loyal, friendly.  But, she has a thing about poop.

We could not figure out why
Mercy did not follow her adopted brother Elvis out the doggie door and into the
yard.  If we opened the door for
her, she ran in the opposite direction. 
When we finally pushed her out, she would sit right outside the door,
imploring with sad brown eyes to let her back in. She refused go about her
business outside and waited until we weren’t looking to relieve herself in the
basement.

I now have to do scheduled
“potty walks” with Mercy to keep the house pee and poop free. That’s when I
started noticing some peculiar things. She won’t pee or crap in front of the
house EVER.  No matter how bad she
has to go, she waits until we get to the corner. And when she does finally
poop, she runs away like a bat out of hell when she is finished.  One time, the poop bag dangled a little
close to her nose and she jumped back as fast as a rabbit, which is saying
something because she is quite languid.31MTYKW2SEL._SL500_AA200_

My big old Rottweiler, a
breed that inspires (unfounded) fear in so many by sheer size, strength and The Omen, is a girly-girl. 
How incongruous it is to her Rottie image to be so…  Well, feminine! 

Which brings me to this
amazing shaving cream,
Proraso. 
Created for men, any woman with delicate legs and armpits who longs for
a closer, more comfortable shave should keep a supply in the shower.  The cream, a staple of fine barbers in
Italy for over fifty years, is non-irritating, non-drying and leaves behind a
light, lingering scent of eucalyptus. 
So while the no-frills packaging screams masculine, the product itself
is highly girly-worthy.

 

Ever since I was a teen, I have had horrendous dark circles under my eyes, which are more of a product of genetics than lack of sleep. I am so used to having them now that when I attempt to cover over with concealer, I actually hate my de-circled look.  But when the fine lines started cropping up, along with morning puffiness, I got pissed.  No need to call any more attention to my darkened sockets.Prod_eye

I have never been a fan of eye creams—they felt overly greasy. Plus, I would inevitably get it in my eye, which would follow with a good 30 minutes or so of tearing, leading to redness, puffiness, etc, etc. Basically, all the stuff I was trying to combat would be exacerbated.

A school chum of mine, who works at Ohm Spa, recommended the Plantogen Corrective Eye Gel.Plantogen was one of the lines we worked with at school and, full disclosure, I am not a fan (too fragrant and irritating for my sensitive skin). I decided to try it on her recommendation. Plantogen does not agree with her skin either, so I figured if the gel didn’t kick her skin into inflammation gear, I might be ok.

Happily, it is the one Plantogen product I can get behind.  The eye gel is soothing and cooling and, since it’s a gel, completely grease-less. It contains witch hazel, an anti-inflammatory that shrinks swollen tissues, so it reduces puffiness. It also has green tea as an anti-oxidant and uses aloe as the moisturizing base.

To avoid a 30-minute tear session, here is an application trick.  Use your pinky finger to dot a line of the product from the outside corner of your eye working towards the inner. Since the largest glob of the product is in the initial application, you want to keep that away from the tricky inner corner, where most eye product mishaps happen.  To spread, use your ring finger (which is the finger with the lightest touch) to gently pat it into the skin. Avoid rubbing (and stretching the skin) on such a delicate area.

I went on a fab long beach weekend with my family two weeks
ago and, of course, forgot to pack my usual face SPF.  So when we hit a Stop & Shop for weekend beach
provisions, I went straight for the health and beauty aids to try to find a
chemical free blocker.  The top
shelves were lined with the usual (chemically laden suspects), and I was
beginning to panic.  Kneeling on
the floor, I crawled way down to the bottom of the display where to my absolute
delight, I found Blue Lizard’s SPF 30 sunblock for sensitive skin. SCORE!

413TQ2ZX7CL._SL500_AA280_PIbundle-2,TopRight,0,0_AA280_SH20_
Blue Lizard is a sunblock from Australia that has a
cult-like following. It can be impossible to find—this was the first time I had
ever actually found the product in a drug or grocery store.  Blue Lizard uses from 6 – 10 percent of
zinc oxide, which they micronize for easier blending, in their sunblocks.
Dermatologists recommend using a sunblock with at least 5% zinc oxide for it to
be effective, and not many sunscreens on the market actually meet that
requirement.

Since we were at the beach, I decided to forgo my usual
daytime moisturizer and just use the sunblock. Since I would be sweaty and
waterlogged anyway, there really did not seem a point to added moisture on my
face.  The Blue Lizard was
sensational—my skin felt lightly moisturized and not at all greasy, which is
the usual downside of daily facial SPFing.  It took a bit more manipulating to get that telltale
lifeguard white to disappear into the skin, but the extra 30 seconds it took to
massage it in was well worth the effort.

When we returned from the weekend skin looked terrific. A
few pimples that were beginning to pop up were completely healed, which I
credit to the 10% zinc oxide used in the formulation. In addition to its SPF
powers, zinc is a sensational healing agent for the skin.  By putting it right on the skin, and
not over a layer of moisturizer, I really allowed the zinc to do its thing.

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Since I started school, my skin has betrayed me. I am sure the added stress of working and going to school—both full time—may be the root of the problem. But the constant facials are also compounding it. Because as much as I love having a facial, doing them constantly just overworks the skin.

Now that I have been analyzing and working on different faces for several weeks now, I have noticed that sensitive skin is a quite common. Environmental damage plays a part, as well as stress and allergy triggers like food or animals. Sometimes all it takes is a change of season for our skin to sort out its issues (cold weather can over dry the skin, leaving it prone to inflammation). Other times, we just have to learn how to manage it.

If you do have sensitive skin, here are a few tricks to try to keep it chill:

Ease into extreme temperatures
Unfortunately for hot bath and shower lovers, you are just making your skin angry. Tepid water is the way to go. If you are going from the summer heat to an air conditioned office, try waiting in an entry way to let your skin get acclimated to the temperature switch. If it’s winter, wrap up your face with a scarf before heading out. Shielding your skin from temperature shock will help neutralize redness and irritation.

Lay off the product
Today’s skin care products throw in everything but the kitchen sink. While many of their active ingredients can be great for normal skin, if your skin is hyper-reactive try to keep it as simple as possible. When “sensitive skin” face wash started burning my skin, I began washing my face with olive oil (yes it is possible!) since there seemed to be nothing on the market that I could tolerate. You may need to experiment with different products (hit up the department store makeup counters for samples).

Check your sunscreen
Take a look at the active ingredients on your sunscreen label—you may be using a sunscreen with synthetic chemical blockers (generally anything starting with “oxy”). These can inflame sensitive skin like a sunburn. Find a sunscreen that uses the natural blockers titanium dioxide or zinc oxide instead. I had to dump my combination moisturizer with SPF in favor of Neutrogena’s Sensitive Skin Sun Block. It’s an SPF 30, oil free and it absorbs pretty quickly, without leaving a surfer-like white residue on the face.