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CliniqueDeepComfortMy nails are perpetually ignored. The last time I went in for a mani, the nail tech was completely confused by my instructions. Nails short, don’t cut cuticles, and NO POLISH. Poor woman couldn’t handle it. She was especially apoplectic about the lack of polish. (I can’t polish my nails because it traps bacteria, so it’s unsanitary. If you have an esthetician who has polish on the nails, run the other way.)

So, rather than a repeat of this scenario over and over again, I opt for DIY manis. But those who read me regularly know I have a real problem scheduling my own treatments. Manicures particularly annoy because they feel so time-consuming. It’s the soak part that gets me every time. I never soak long enough because I can’t stand to sit still.

This weekend, I had an epiphany. I got all my manicure implements out and then tackled the piled up dishes. By the time I was done, my nails were sufficiently soaked and softened. I used Clinique’s Deep Comfort Hand and Cuticle Cream on my cuticles and pushed them back, then trimmed and filed. I followed up with some Vitamin E rubbed into the cuticles and slathered of another layer of Deep Comfort all over my hands and nails.

Nails look great and dishes are done! Multitasking manis rock.

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Here in the Northeast, it is officially Fall. The trees are just starting to turn and the air is getting a whole lot nippier, not to mention a whole lot drier. I recommend switching it up with the change of seasons. Skin’s needs change with the weather patterns, so now is the time to reinvigorate your skincare routine.

Try a cream cleanser

DakarSoyaDry, cold air literally sucks the moisture from your skin. For any skin type (except oily) I recommend a gentle cream cleanser that will remove the day, not the moisture. As regular readers know, I have a tough time with cleaners and have created my own formulation. But for backup (i.e. days when I run out and don’t have time to make a new batch), I have Sonya Dakar’s Soya  Wash on hand. It’s a light creamy consistency that cleans without leaving the skin greasy. While lots of ballyhoo has been made about the inclusion of soy, I actually love that the second ingredient is rose water, one of my favorite hydrators.

But only at night

You really don’t need to wash their face morning and evening. Is sleep really so strenuous that it merits another go in the morning? A splash with tepid water should be enough to wake you up, but leave the cleanser in the cabinet. Don’t strip your natural barrier against the cold,  dry air just because the label says to use twice a day!

SPF still matters

Yes, the sunlight is not as intense, but your skin is still absorbing the damaging rays. Keep using that sunblock! The only time you don’t need an SPF is when it’s pitch black.I prefer people use actual SPF and not those in makeup or skincare formulas. I don’t think those are strong enough blockers.

Think of your daytime moisturizer as a barrier

JurliqueBalDayCreamOn particularly cold and blustery days, I love Jurlique’s Balancing Day Care Cream, which I layer under my SPF. It forms a great protective barrier on the skin. It can feel filmy for the first few hours of wear, but I actually love that. It makes my skin feel protected!

Now is a great time to add an AHA serum

JuiceBeautyWaning sunlight means that it’s time to go back to the alpha hydroxy acids (but only if you promise to keep wearing that sunblock)! Most AHA’s are great moisturizers, and the serum is an extra concentrated way to get the AHAs. It’s my preferred method to get my AHA boost! I love Juice Beauty’s Antioxident Serum, which is packed with vitamins A, C and E as well as a dose of CoQ10, resveratrol (a potent antioxident from grape seeds) and peptides to help fill out wrinkles.

Make that evening moisturizer a little richer

balancing-bio-peptide-cremeReaders will know I love my aloe for summer moisturizing. But colder weather means I want something more potent. Image Skincare’s Ormedic Bio-Peptide Cream has an aloe and olive oil base plus green tea, cucumber and more of those magic peptides. (Full disclosure: Image is one of the lines I use in my skincare practice and I do retail the products).

spaweekIt was Spa Week a few weeks ago. While in theory it’s a good idea, friends who have gone to some pretty well regarded spas walk away from the experience totally thinking that spa is crap. And I know why.

Generally bookings are back-to-back without time to even PEE, and the clients are not terribly interested in listening to advice to improve their skin. This past Spa Week promo was spent with some serious skin know-it-alls, who clearly got their info from Allure Magazine, and we all know how I feel about THEM.  These clients just want a cheap treatment and lots of extractions no matter WHAT the damage. Extractions at any cost is asking for disaster.

Rant over.

I promised to share some tips and ideas for those willing to brave Spa Week, so here are eight for the brave souls willing to negotiate Spa Week:

1. If you have serious skin issues, pass over the promo, spend the extra 50 bucks and get a good facial where you and the esthetician can make a smart decision about what your skin needs, instead of this steam-and-cream business that goes on during Spa Week.

Now the rest of the tips are for those who simply cannot pass up a bargain:

2. Book your appt for early in the day. If that’s not possible, try to find out when the shifts change and book early in the change-over. Given the sheer volume of people that come in during Spa Week (particularly on the weekends), you are better off with an esthetician who is fresh and ready than one who has not eaten all day and probably has to pee. If a spa is open 9AM – 9PM, the shifts are generally 9-3 and 3-9.  If the hours seem odd, or they extend hours for Spa Week, try to find out when (and IF) there is a change over and book accordingly.

3. Try to go during a weekday. Weekends are crazy busy booked up and you will get a better treatment before or after work or during your lunch break. If that’s not possible, see above.

4. Be prepared to leave your credit card number to hold the booking. It’s standard. And you will get charged if you pull a no-show. The esthetician could have easily filled that appointment during Spa Week.  Most estheticians work on a commission only basis, so if the appointment is blown off, she doesn’t get paid. And that sucks. We are trying to make a living. Respect that.

5. If you think you had a great facial and are super happy with the treatment, tip on the regular price of the facial, not the discount price. The esthetician will remember the good clients for the next Spa Week, so you may get an add on for no additional charge. I’ll throw something in discounted or free if a client is a good one.

6. If you are not at all interested in purchasing product, politely tell the esthetician at the end of the treatment when the product sale happens. All spas work differently, so if you are in a spa were the esthetician walks you to the front desk to go over  product options, she will appreciate not having to spend the extra five or ten minutes. It could give her time to pee or gulp down a power bar!

7. Show up 15 minutes prior to your appointment to fill out paper work and get changed. This will maximize your treatment time. Because bookings are on top of each other, we simply cannot fall behind since there is no room for correction. If you arrive even “just on time” the clock has started and you will receive a shortened treatment since 10 minutes of that time was spent filling out forms.  This is actually a good rule to follow in general, but particularly crucial during promo weeks.

8. If there are spas you really want to try out, go to their website and get on their email list. Spas offer promos year-round, and you can snag a good deal without facing the Spa Week madness.

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.

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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.