Copper-penniesNormally, I don’t get mad at myself for buying a beauty item in the name of research, even if it sucks. But I feel like a jackass about this one since I knew it was going to turn out to be a bust.

I was at Bed Bath and Beyond buying a simple bathmat, when they nailed me with a huge bedding sale right next to the check out. First I discovered a full-on sheet set that was infused with Dead Sea Minerals, but I wasn’t ready to drop close to $300 on sheets that weren’t 600 threat count Egyptian cotton.

And then I spotted the pillow. For 20 bucks, I could have the “Power of Copper!”

The Spa Therapy Beauty Pillow is made by Cupron Technologies. The claim is that there are copper filaments woven into the pillowcase. Copper is an incredible skin regenerating metal, and apparently  the idea to hatch the “Spa Therapy Beauty Pillow” came from Cupron’s work in the health care sector, weaving this copper into the gauze used on burn victims.

When I pulled the pillow out of the bag and began examining it, I was worried that the label said “100 percent polyester” with no mention of this special copper. Online, the claim is that the pillow has 15% polyester woven with this copper. My pillowcase label says nothing about this Cupron copper. Hmm.

The pillow itself is a bust. It’s really uncomfortable and has no give to it whatsoever. Of course, I could swap out the case on one of my comfy pillows and get what I assume would be the same results. The pillowcase is the one infused not the pillow itself.

But damn that case is scratchy! Perhaps the secret to this pillowcase’s “proven results” is exfoliation. Because after three nights of sleeping on the itchy case, the sucker is destined for the trash heap. So much for beauty sleep.

Better bet for using the power of copper? Apply a copper peptide-infused product to your face before bed, and sleep on a silk pillowcase to keep the sleep creases at bay.

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barbie-doll-1959Today in misogynistic prickery, via Jezebel, we have two titans of women’s fashion who really should be boycotted (if they were at all affordable in the first place).

According to Australia’s News.com.au, pompous gasbag Karl Lagerfeld told an Aussie magazine, “No one wants to see curvy women… You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.”

Coming back state-side, Women’s Wear Daily reports that shoe Czar Christian Louboutin trimmed down the ankles of the three Barbie dolls he is designing after finding them “too fat” to make his shoes aesthetically pleasing. This must be repeated: According to Louboutin, Barbie has fat ankles.

These asshats basically own women’s fashion.

Since we all know I have fat feet myself (oh Barbie, you are not alone!) Louboutin is in no danger of my hoofers making his shoes look bad. And while I can in no way afford Chanel clothes, I have happily purchased their makeup in the past. And now I won’t. Which is too bad, because I was curious about their new nail polish color Jade. The swatches looked beautiful, but according to Blogdorf Goodman, I am not missing much.

So, thank you, Gentlemen. Enjoy the remainders of the recession with the skinny ladies. The rest of the world is over here, buying Mark Fast.

I am extremely suspicious of Botox. I suffer from migraines. While I always say that I may be able to get insurance to cover injections for migraine control while smoothing out my worry lines, I probably will never do it. We all age, and I want to age gracefully. My peels and potions will help me do that. I don’t feel the need to inject toxins into my face.

Apparently, a Chicago plastic surgeon is treating acne with Botox injections. This report has been out for a bit, but I just caught on via this post from the really great blog over at Beauty Schools Directory (seriously, the blog is fab and not only for students looking for a cosmo school). He did a study, published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, that showed patients experienced a decrease in sebum production and a reduction in pore size. I do want to point out that this study was conducted on 20 patients, 17 of which said they saw improvement. I don’t know too much about the study, or how controlled it was, because I am too cheap to buy the article on line and can only read the abstract.

needleAnyway… Personal biases about Botox aside, my initial reaction is why try to inhibit sebum production? I really do think oil really draws the short straw when it comes to the acne conversation.

Acne is not caused by oil alone. In fact, the oil on properly functioning skin actually helps keep skin protected from environmental pollutants and also serves as a natural moisturizer. Further, the bacteria that cause acne is found not only on inflamed areas of the face, but also areas of unaffected skin. So what gives?

When the bacteria and oil get trapped under the surface of the skin (i.e. clogged pore), the bacteria is now deprived of oxygen. Without oxygen, the bacteria thrives, inflaming the surrounding tissue and essentially causing that zit (ok, there’s more too it than this, like rupturing under the dermis, etc, but let’s leave it here for the time being). So, while the bacteria is thriving in this particularly oily, anaerobic environment, it is NOT functioning in another area that is oily and exposed to air. Which is why we always talk about exfoliation.

I am seeing a teen acne client now, who has tried every acne product on the market. She came to me with the tightest, driest skin, riddled with inflamed red bumps. Extractions were so difficult to perform without out potentially damaging her skin, that I kept them to a minimum.  I put her on a new cleansing routine that eliminated all acne topical treatments for the time being.

When she came to see me after several weeks, she still had the acne, but her skin was not dry and tight and the acne had migrated towards the surface. She was not pimple free (nor did I expect her to be) but this time I was actually able to extract more of the existing acne and as well as some blackhead formations.

I know it’s killing her that it didn’t completely disappear, and I believe she will need to add in a BP or SA spot treatment eventually, but what I need to do first is get her skin back into balance before I add back in more aggressive acne treatments. The complete removal of the natural oil from the surface of her skin was causing the dead skin to trap the oil coming up through the pore, which was exacerbating the acne.

Essentially, healthy skin is balanced skin and when you start inhibiting your oil production you are throwing this balance completely out of whack, and quite likely exacerbating the problem.

As for the Botox… Without knowing the subjects involved in the study, I can’t really say. Perhaps they do have super oily skin that’s throwing their balance off, and the removal of the oil is necessary. But at 500 bucks a pop, there are certainly cheaper ways to treat acne. So I am not sold on this method.

Curious, would you Botox your acne away?

Wondering about all those skin care “nutraceuticals” hitting the market? Me too! And be prepared for even more pills popping up in the cosmetics aisle. Market research company Kline Group reports that beauty supplement category growth is poised to grow to $2.5 billion by 2012.

So I was intrigued when I read a release issued by Dr. Joshua Fox, medical director of Advanced Dermatology and The Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery in New York, and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, cautioning consumers to be wary of supplements.

My people (snort) phoned up his people and asked if we could have a chat (we did!), and now I have a big old Esthy crush on Dr. Fox.vitamins

My regular readers know that this is a very big deal, since I love to point out Dubious Docs almost as much as I love covering the beauty events at my local CVS. But any MD cautious enough not to jump on a billion-dollar-band-wagon has my undivided attention.

The FDA does not regulate cosmetics and nutritional supplements. As long as the manufacturer does not advertise or market the product like a drug, they are free from any FDA restrictions. These companies are within their legal right to use terms like “helps” or “promotes.” And this, Dr. Fox feels, is a huge source of concern, particularly when vitamins are mixed with additional substances like herbs, enzymes and botanicals. So the supplement market is a bit like the Wild West, and Dr. Fox urges caution.

“Supplements are being promoted with minimal data to back up the claims,” warns Dr. Fox. “They need better clinical studies.”

Dr. Fox shares an example of a research team that went to China and found what appeared to be a miracle herb that helped with atopic dermatitis, a particularly difficult to treat skin disorder. But several months down the road, further studies showed that the herb caused liver abnormalities.

“Herbs do not necessarily equal good,” cautions Dr. Fox. “ They may be more detrimental in the long run, even if they appear to ‘cure’ in the short term.”

Or they could have additional side effects not readily known, even if the herb or vitamin is a household name.  Dr. Fox points out that the herb Echinacea and Vitamin E both promote bleeding, so taking these supplements prior to surgery, for example, could be problematic.

Dr. Fox is a proponent of taking care of the skin (and body) through healthy eating and, when necessary, supplementation, but he urges consumers to pay attention to what they are ingesting. He is skeptical of any claims that have not been thoroughly and rigorously put through the research machine.

But most consumers aren’t as science-minded—even me! We were discussing a recent study about the effects of oral antioxidants. Initially the skin showed improvement in the first 6 -12 months. But by 24 months, the improvement stopped. So, what if we took antioxidant supplements for six months, stopped for a while and picked it up again, I asked. That’s where science trumped me!

Dr. Fox pointed out that I was basing my views on assumptions that if something was proven false then the opposite must be true. But in science, even the opposite cannot be proven true based on something simply being false. Scientists need more studies to say definitively. PHEW.

“The consumer’s first line of defense is to be a skeptic,” explains Dr. Fox. “Supplements do a have a role in skin care, but science still has a lot of catching up to do. I rely on seeing the results of controlled studies, published in reputable medical journals, before I make any recommendation.”

Topical applications of antioxidants do have a lot of data and research behind it, Dr. Fox points out.

So what’s the bottom line? Here’s your takeaway:

Just like doing your regular grocery shopping, take a closer look at the fine-print details. Check if the supplement has any added substances and do do your homework before adding it into your regimen.

If you have started supplements, watch for signs of skin irritation, including itching, rashes, acne flare-ups, skin discoloration, burning and hives.

Consult your doctor before starting a supplement regime to make certain the supplement will not interact with any medication you may be on or cause any potential problems given your medical history.

Visit Dr. Fox’s nifty New Age Skin Research Foundation, which provides free information to the public on skin health and conditions. The Foundation also provides funding for innovative research in dermatology.

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).

So it looks like this has been up on YouTube for a few years, but I am just now paying attention. And you should too!

This is part of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, and shows everything that goes into making a model perfect, right down to Photoshop.

Manly man husband is an expert retoucher, and he does it for a living. Years ago he did piles of celeb and model retouches. When I was younger and gave a shit, I used to ask him to doctor pictures of me as well. He did a fantastic job. I looked not quite myself, but the not quite myself always looked a lot better than my real self did.

I am not a fan of Dove products (too drying) but I am pretty impressed with what they are doing with their campaign. I don’t want to be skeptical of their motives, as I usually am with corporate entities who decide to jump into one cause or another, as large corporation motives are usual driven solely by monetary gain. But since Dove started this campaign, I do have a warm fuzzy feeling associated with the brand. That doesn’t mean that I will buy their crap products, but I will support their push to educate the public about how these images are crafted.

These look perfect for sloshing through dirty ice-water City sidewalks!

These look perfect for sloshing through dirty ice-water City sidewalks!

I come from a Big Foot family–even the diminutive kin have some pretty huge hoofers. So my size 8 soles were always a small source of pride. When I was little, my mother would hold my foot in her hands and marvel at their smallness.

Then I got pregnant. After spending my 20s in high heels (sneakers and flats were not part of my fashion forward  footwear), my feet suddenly began to swell and one day I just could not squeeze my feet into my shoes anymore.

I assumed it was only temporary. Afterall, preggos usually experience swelled feet. Once the kid popped out, I assumed everything would re-adjust and fall back into place. So, a little while after she was born, I made my first zappos purchase of a beautiful pair of sandals. I put them on, they felt OK but by the end of the day my feet were aching. Assuming I was just not used to wearing heels after many many months low to the ground, I waited for a few days and tried them again. And once again within a few hours I had throbbing pain. And on and and on this went.

When I started my pilates training, at my initial consultation, I was told by the trainer that I was flatfooted. Ah ah! I thought I had found the reason behind all this foot pain. Perhaps my shoe problems would be solves with inserts. But the inserts made it worse. My toes were still going numb and my feet still experienced searing pain after an hour in shoes.

I eventually moved my way up the size chain to a 9 1/2. I had heard that sometimes feet just get larger from pregnancy and never go back to normal. But not even the larger size eased the burden. I was resigned to spending the rest of my life in Converse and flip-flops, the only shoes my feet were willing to tolerate. Perhaps all those years in heels had finally caught up to me.

Spending what is now close to 6 years in intolerable foot pain put a crimp in my shoe style. Pre-pregnancy, I was as shoe obsessed as any woman. I would look far and wide for the perfect pair, marveling over colors, styles and heel heights, looking for the most whimsical and to the most stylishly utilitarian footwear. An afternoon of shoe shopping was intense pleasure. I loved meandering down the old 8th Street in the West Village and hitting the endless rows of shoe stores.

The idea of shoe shopping turned into intense pain. It was a necessary evil, to cover up the feet for fear of infection or frostbite. I spent as much time as possible barefoot, even kicking the shoes off under the desk to give myself a break. Workouts were barefoot or in socks. A workout in cross-trainers left me limping.

Last week, I hit situation critical with my shoes. It had been a year since my last true shoe purchase (the pre-summer disposable flip flops  don’t count), and the turning weather made it harder to leave the house with my feet exposed. Since I refuse to drop a lot of cash on an item that leaves me in agony, I search for the cheapest, most utilitarian shoes  I can find.

Since Manly Man Husband wanted to go to Sears to look at something testosterone-fueled, it was easy to head over to the shoes and pick something out. After trying on some heels in the hopes that maybe my feet suddenly cured themselves, I was discouraged and grabbed a pair of Sketchers sneakers that were at least a fun color. I was at checkout bemoaning my shoe issue when the lady behind me pipped up and suggested I got to a shoe store that carried every imaginable size on the planet.

A few hours later, I was wearing my new sneaker purchase and experiencing the unbearable pain again. I looked at Manly Man Hubs and begged him to go to this shoe store with me.

Globe Shoes is in a strip mall in Paramus, NJ, the shopping capital of the US. It has very few bells and whistles; the sign looks like it has been on top of the building for 50 years. But they really DO have every size imaginable for men and women. Since it caters to the demographic of problem feet (ok, the elderly), it was me and the old ladies scanning the displays of shoes.

But this throw-back store had another old-fashioned novelty. Knowledgeable shoe salesmen. And mine took a look at my tired dogs and we began to evaluate why my feet were killing me..

Turns out, I am a size 9 (one foot is a true 8 1/2, the other falls between 8 1/2 and 9) but my feet are wide. Very wide. My pregnancy did not make my feet longer, they made them wider. I assumed that if shoes did not fit, I needed a larger size, when in reality I needed a larger width. And most shoe stores only carry regular widths, which is why a wide was never an option when shopping at the usual places. I needed a specialty store.

So began a somewhat painstaking process of finding a shoe style that I liked. At this point, however, I was so thrilled about finding a plain, low heeled black bootie that did not cause my feet searing pain that I was in tears. It is not the trendiest shoe I have ever owned, but damn it, it’s not Cons or flops. I actually have a fall bootie! And it was the first time in 6 years that a shoe did not cripple me.

Since most stores do not stock double wides,  I can’t buy on a whim or wait until the last minute. But Zappos.com, one of my favorite online stores, carries an endless amount stylish double wides (499 choices as of my last search). And while I will probably never again stumble upon a killer shoe sale, I am happy to pay full retail price for a shoe that won’t leave me in agony.

I have been so busy these days, what with working the day job, trying to lay down my spa concept (someday I will share, but not yet) and toxic kindergarten, I have not kept up on the comings and goings of my muse Hadley Freeman. And she’s been in NY for fashion week! And I missed her!

Here’s a rundown:

Hadley reports that Madonna and Gwenie’s beloved personal trainer (and alleged deadbeat) Tracy Anderson has absconded with the head of Madonna’s Malawi charity. The man has abandoned his post at the charity to come to NY to be with Tracy, who must be wherever Madonna’s biceps are located. According to Hadley, Madonna is disappointed but apparently needs Tracy to keep her a size 0 more than this dude to take of her charitable escapades.

She thinks that Fashion Week doesn’t make sense anymore. Her point is that since everything happens at the speed of the internet these days, showing clothes six months prior to their arrival in stores doesn’t do much but cost money. The designers a drop a huge chunk of change to do the show, the publishers of glossy mags to drop a wad to send their editors to cover the different fashion weeks around the globe, and the knock-off industry has six months to do what they do best. She found the clothes this year uninspired, but she likes Tory Burch’s collection (scroll to the bottom).

I can’t tell if she loves or hates Mark Jacobs.

She definitely hates Glenn Beck.

She answers a reader query about what she calls “the decade that taste forgot.” Best takeaway: “how totally awesome that dressing like one’s batty aunt was apparently no impediment to being the hottie of one’s high school.”

Finally, she once again proves why she rocks, writing about fashion’s dirty secret: the sexual abuse of models (many of whom are just children).

Hadley, I love you and promise to come back more often.

JojobaMaybe it’s the change of seasons, but I have been seeing a bunch of “deep cleanse” your skin stories floating around the blogosphere and in the lady mags. What the hell does “deep cleanse” mean?

One of my facial pet peeves is the “deep pore cleansing facial” offered on just about any spa menu I have read.  These are the facials that promise to banish blackheads with scrubbing, loads of steaming and (most likely) really painful extractions. Most “deep pore cleansing” facials on a spa menu are the basic facial–clients like the sound of “deep pore cleansing” mainly because they bombarded with stories about those evil blackheads. It sounds good, right? A deep pore cleanse is exactly what I need…

The DIY deep cleansing I’ve been reading about include an exfoliating scrub as well as tips to add in a salacylic or glycolic toner to help pull out the blackheads. For some skin, this is too much exfoliation. With skin already rubbed and scrubbed, the addition of acids may create irritation. In skin care, there can be too much of a good thing.

Blackheads are inevitable. Anything we put on the skin has a potential to clog the pores–regardless of the product claims. Add into the dirt and pollution our skin encounters minute to minute… You get the point. You’re gonna get blackheads.

But this idea of deep pore cleansing is a bit of a myth. You can do things to soften the skin to help release the blackheads, but a facial should not be like car detailing. In my opinion, gentle is always better.

For DIY blackhead attack, I prefer a gentle exfoliation in a steamy bathroom followed by a clay-based mask on affected areas to help pull the dirt out of the pores. I usually do not recommend a full face of clay. This is all skin type dependent, but generally I hit the nose, chin and forehead (sometimes not a full forehead either) with the clay and use a moisturizing mask in the other areas.

Look for exfoliating products that use jojoba beads or oatmeal as an exfoliant. Stay away from crushed nuts, like almonds, as well as apricot pits (yes,that means that god awful St. Ives that is inexplicably adored by so many). The edges of scrubs with crushed hard bits are razor sharp causing tiny cuts in the skin.

If you are splurging for a pro-facial, please remember that blackhead removal should not be unbearably painful. You should not have lancets poked directly into your pores (oh the stories I have heard about one celebrity facilist). If the blackheads don’t slide out easily, they are best left for another day.

photoThere was another beauty event today at CVS, and this time I was THERE when it was actually going on! And apparently I was the only one. The cosmetics aisle was deserted.

A person who I think was one of their famous beauty advisers walked past me while I was poking around, pleasantly said hello, answered the phone and then promptly disappeared. Perhaps she was a beauty mirage?

Once again, CVS, a big old marketing fail.