beauty

What You’re Probably Doing Wrong In The Shower

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Showering.  It seems pretty simple.  Turn on the water, soap up, rinse, dry off. Most of us do it every single day, and most of us are probably doing it wrong.  Here are five of the most common missteps we all take when we step into and out of the shower.

1. You’re doing it too hot!  It’s a cruel truth that sometimes too much of our favorite things can be bad for us. Food, wine, chocolate, and of course long hot showers or baths. We always hear “everything in moderation,” and the same is true for the heat of the water we use to cleanse.  Here’s the thing: the temperature of the water affects the outermost layer of your skin, the epidermis.  Your epidermis is your body’s shield against the outside world. It is composed mostly of keratinocytes, skin cells full of keratin, which provide a tough barrier of defense against the outside world and maintain moisture in your skin. To assist with maintaining that moisture, your body produces a thin layer of oil, and it’s this layer of oil and cells, called the stratum corneaum, that the hot water is damaging.   The heat melts the oil, just like when you use hot water to clean off an oily dish, and can leave your skin red, itchy, and prone to dry patches and flaking. So turn the water down just a smidge, and your skin will thank you!

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One does not simply..shower in Mordor.

2. You’re using too much bubbles!  Shower gels, soaps, washes, and general body cleaning products all have a certain level of surfactant. As a rule of thumb, the more a product foams up when you lather, the more oil it strips from your skin—which dries out your skin and can send your facial skin into oil-producing overdrive More bubbles doesn’t mean more clean…it just means drier skin. So, if you’ve turned down the heat and you’re still feeling dry, maybe it’s time to consider a less sudsy soap!

3. You’re not getting it all off.  It can be hard to get all the soap off during a shower.  I know you always try your best, but often when we step out of the shower we leave a little soap behind in the harder to reach areas.  The most common places that product gets left behind are behind the ears, on the nape of the neck, under your breast, and yes…down below in all those places with folds of skin.  Leaving product on your skin can also lead to dryness or irritation, so make sure you get it all off!  Bras are annoying enough, you don’t need underboob soap, too.

4.You’re over-drying while you’re drying.  Ok, so this one isn’t technically IN the shower.  Using a towel to dry off seems simple enough, but believe it or not, you might be doing it wrong.  You step out of the shower, grab the towel, and start rubbing all the excess water off. It’s efficient, but it doesn’t make your skin very happy.  See, your skin actually draws moisture in from your surroundings to lubricate your skin.  Believe it or not, when you apply a moisturizer, the moisturizers mimics this process, as well.  Instead of toweling off after a shower, try patting the skin dry to leave a very light layer of water behind for your skin to use, or to be locked in by using a moisturizer that you apply after showering.

5. Brushing your teeth AFTER you wash your face.  Again, not necessarily in the shower, but still important.  A very common complaint I hear from my clients is that they get breakouts, but just around the mouth. The first question I ask is if they brush their teeth before or after they wash their face.  Almost every time the answer is after.  Toothpaste residue can irritate the very sensitive skin around the mouth and lead to breakouts. So just switching the order of when you brush your teeth and wash your face can help keep unnecessary breakouts away!

Showers should leave your skin feeling refreshed, not stripped out.  Hope this helps your body feel happy and healthy

Also, I have been honored and humbled that the initial reaction from this blog has been so positive.  I already have several hundred weekly readers, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that you all are hopefully learning something valuable!  So, I’d like to open it up—send me your beauty and skincare-related questions at megjacobsblog@gmail.com.  I’ll do my best to answer every question I get, and look forward to tailoring future blog posts to the most common questions!  See you next Sunday!

You can also find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/megjacobsbeauty

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The Not So Dirty Truth Behind Blackheads

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The Not So Dirty Truth Behind Blackheads

Blackheads…by far and away the number one complaint I see in my guests.  Everyone has tried anything promising the elimination of blackheads, from nose strips to sandpaper (I’m not joking), but there they are, your constant companion, staring back at you from the tip of your nose.  So why do you have them, and why won’t they go away?  Why aren’t the products you’re using working? Here are 10 truths about your blackheads to help you find your way to clearer pores.

1. Blackheads are not dirt.  This is a very common misconception, and the first step to understanding the problem. Blackheads are actually pores clogged with the excess oil from sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands are located in hair follicles and release sebum, which consists mostly of fat, keratin, and cellular material.  Your body produces sebum to lubricate the hair and skin, and when it produces too much, this sebum accumulates in your pores.

2. Blackheads are named after worms. The technical term for a blackhead is an “open comedone,” which is the plural form of “comedo,” a latin word formerly given to worms that devour the body, but has since been co-opted by the medical field to describe bodily secretions that resemble the worms.  Neat, right?  Here’s the fun thing– a whitehead is called a “closed comedone,” because the pore is closed off from air, but the stuff inside blackheads and whiteheads are the same material.

3.  So why are blackheads black?  Well, remember, blackheads are open comedones, which means the tips of them are exposed to air.  Oxidation causes the ends of blackheads to become black.  This is why a blackhead appears black, but when you pop them, the inside part is white.

4. Blackheads are not a result of poor hygiene.  Since blackheads are not dirt, the problem isn’t that you’re not washing your face enough. In fact, cleansing the skin too often or with a cleanser with too much surfactant for you, can lead to more clogged pores because it can overstrip the skin of oil.  This causes your body to go into oil production overdrive.

5. You cannot scrub blackheads away. Many people think they can scrub the blackheads away, but since it’s not surface dirt, you can’t scrub it away. So why is it that your skin looks and feels so fresh and clean when you scrub?  Well, when you scrub, you’re scrubbing off the oxidized tip of a blackhead, which removes the visible dark portion and uppermost layer of skin.  However, the pore remains clogged and will darken again.  What’s more, over-scrubbing can actually lead to more blackheads and clogged pores because it stimulates oil production to replace the oil you strip away.

6. It’s probably not an oil problem. Yes, the pore is clogged with oil, but the important question is why the oil is there.  Dehydration is by far the most common cause than innate oil overproduction.  When the skin gets dehydrated, it makes extra oil to make up for the lack of water, and that extra oil leads to blackheads, particularly in the nose.  As I said above, excess cleansing and scrubbing, and using too harsh a cleanser, can also lead to a lack of oil in your skin and stimulate oil production.

7. Nose strips are not your friends.  Yes I know it’s satisfying to pull that sucker off and see the gunk you just eliminated from your nose, but if you look again you’ll also notice along with the oil plugs you also pulled out all the fine hairs.  Each of those hairs left behind an open pore, which can now get filled up with oil.  Usually, use of these products end up leaving the user with more blackheads over time.

8. Back away from the magnification mirror and don’t use extraction tools. These tools are designed to be used by someone who has been trained in their use. No one but your doctor or esthetician needs to see your pores magnified by 1000x.  It just leads you to think your blackheads are 1000 times worse than they are and then you’ll just freak out and want to extract them yourself. However, using an extraction tool on yourself often leads to bleeding, bruising, and broken capillaries because you probably don’t know how to use the tool without applying excess, damaging pressure.

9. Do use a hydrating toner, not an astringent. No matter what your skin type is, it can use more water.  Stripping the skin of its natural moisture and hydration can lead to extra oil production and more blackheads, but adding water can help diminish oil production and lead to fewer blackheads.

10. Do schedule a facial.  A professionally trained esthetician is your best resource to remove blackheads without damaging your skin or making your problems worse.  They have been trained to get those wriggly little comedones out of your skin safely.  However, if you absolutely, positively, 100% MUST remove the blackheads on your own, here is my suggestion: 1. Wash your face with your normal cleanser and make sure your hands are clean; 2.  Wrap your index fingers with some sort of soft, clean paper or cotton product (toilet paper a cotton 4”x4” pad work best); 3. Place your fingers wide around the affected pore and squeeze gently together, in an upwards motion; 4. If it doesn’t come out easily, rotate your fingers around the pore and repeat step 3 from a different angle; 5. Once the blackhead is extracted, wipe the pore down with your toner; 6. Enjoy your date, because if you’re not going on a date that night then you have no excuse not to wait to have the blackhead extracted by a professional!

Blackheads are a normal part of life.  No one will remain blackhead free forever, regardless of what you do.  But, you can manage them.  The best way to keep blackheads at bay between facials is to make sure your skin is as hydrated as possible– don’t over-wash or over-scrub, avoid drying products such as astringents, drink plenty of water, and try to keep your stress levels as managed as possible!

And don’t pour Tussin on it. 😀

Winter Weather Warning!

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I was going to write about blackheads this week, but it’s cold.  REALLY cold. Polar vortex cold.  The University of Minnesota is closing its doors due to extreme cold for goodness sakes. Minne-frickin-sota says it’s too cold! So, since your blackheads are probably shriveling up and hibernating, I’ll post that article next week.

However, the cold temperatures bring about a host of other skin issues (other than hypothermia, if you suspect hypothermia stop reading blogs and get to a hospital!), primarily wind and an extreme lack of humidity. Dryness, redness, irritation and cracked lips are the top complaints that occur in these conditions.

By the way…just because you’re in California and enjoying the perpetual 75-degree year-long weather doesn’t mean you can skip this article.  Much of California has an arid climate and is currently experiencing a drought, so you could probably benefit from reading about how to protect your skin in extremely low humidity.  Stop being smug.  So….minus the scarves and wind burn, this advice still applies to you.  Also, I wouldn’t mind visiting if anyone has an extra bedroom…

So, how is a girl (or guy!) to protect themselves from the wind and low humidity?  Here are a few things you can adjust in your daily skin care to help you weather the extreme weather (see what I did there?):

1. Skip your cleanser in the morning.  All you’ve done is sleep, and you should have washed your face last night before bed.  Feel free to just splash your skin with moderately warm water and continue your morning routine without the cleanser.  Your normal cleanser could overdry your skin in these polar vortex conditions.

2. Avoid hot water.  I know…it’s freezing, you really want that scalding hot shower, but it’s going to deplete your skin of the hydration it desperately needs.  I’m not saying prepare for the Polar Bear Plunge, just keep it moderately warm.  Your skin shouldn’t be red from the heat after you get out of the shower.

3. Use your Hydrating Toner liberally. Normally, I recommend that people use it every morning and night, but since it’s basically drinking water for your facial skin, use it whenever you want throughout the day, even on top of makeup (if it’s a spray bottle). Just spritz, blot, and keep on going with your day!  Your skin will benefit from the hydration.

4.Use SPF moisturizer.  Some of the worst sunburns I see are from skiing trips.  The snow reflects the sun, and it’s like taking a day-long swim in the ocean with no sunscreen. You should be using moisturizer with SPF 15-30 every day, no excuses.  I don’t care if it’s negative 40, blizzarding, and you live in a cave.  Unless that cave is lined with lead, apply your SPF.

5. Get a thicker moisturizer. If you have a night cream, use it in the daytime and apply the SPF daytime moisturizer on top. If you already use fairly heavy creams morning and night, it’s ok to mix in a dab of Vaseline to your regular moisturizer to increase the protection against the elements.

6. Protect your lips.  I’ll be honest.  I hate ChapstickÒ. Sorry. Ok, sorry I’m not sorry.  I personally use Aquaphor from EucerinÒ, because it protects lips without the nasty side-effect of your lips becoming dependent on the product and stopping their own natural lubrication.

7. Drink water.  Drink as much as you possibly can, then drink more.  If you live at a higher altitude, this is even more important because humidity decreases at altitude.  Your body needs it, so give your body what it needs.

8. Stop being so smug, California.  It’s not good for your skin.  🙂

Now that you are properly protected from the cold weather, using hydrating toners, SPF moisturizers, and drinking more water, go out and enjoy the winter wonderland while it lasts!  Just think—in a few short months you’ll be complaining how you’re melting under the hot summer sun!

Combination Skin: The Secret You Need To Know

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So you think you have combination skin? Let me guess: you’ve taken at least a dozen quizzes online or from your favorite magazine and you’ve determined that you are the poster child for that obnoxious combination of oily and dry skin, but now what? Nothing fixes it, right? When you use products to clear your blemishes you get dry skin, yet the oil never goes away— in fact, it gets worse and you break out even more! It can be incredibly frustrating, you’ve probably tried everything, and you may feel ready to just give up and accept your skin fate. But, before you throw your hands up and wave the white flag to the Skin Gods, let me let you in on a big secret:

You don’t have combination skin.

Instead, you’ve got a skin condition that any skin type can experience— dehydration.  Oil isn’t the problem, lack of water is. When skin becomes dehydrated, it still needs to lubricate itself.  Unfortunately, your skin can’t make water to hydrate itself, but it can produce oil. So, when you are dehydrated, your skin will produce more oil to make up for the lack of water— because that’s all it can do to solve the dehydration problem. The dehydration gives the skin a tight dry feeling and the over production of oil leads to an oily t-zone, black heads, and small bumps causing a rough texture, usually on the forehead. This is the skin condition that is often referred to as “combination skin”.

The solution: water.  Seriously.

There are three main reasons skin gets dehydrated:

  1. Not consuming enough water.  Ideally, you want to try to drink 1 oz of water for every 2 pounds of body weight, per day (If you weigh 100 pounds, your target is 50 ozs of water every day).  In addition, if you routinely drink caffeine, carbonated beverages, or alcohol, you’ll need to drink extra water to make up for the dehydration those beverages cause. Doing this will ensure that your body has enough water on hand for all of your organs, including your skin.
  2. Stress. Stress dehydrates skin. Most of us have probably noticed that we have more skin problems when we are under stress.  This happens because the human body developed its stress management systems back when our stressors were things like being eaten by saber toothed tigers or trampled by wooly mammoths.  Unfortunately, your body can’t tell the difference between a deadline at work or whether you’re about to become dinner for Tigger, but it does know you’re stressed so it assumes your life is being threatened.  When this happens, your body helps you out by going into a “vital organ protection mode,” which means it chooses to re-route hydration and nutrients from some less critical organs to the organs that will keep you alive.  The first organ that gets cut off is your skin. It makes sense; it’s your largest organ, takes up a lot of resources, and unfortunately beautiful glowing skin isn’t on the list of things that keep you breathing. I know, I know, you might THINK having good skin is a life or death requirement, particularly when you’re stressing about that date next Friday, but your body doesn’t.  So take a deep breath, and relax.  Namaste.
  3. Self-Sabotage.  Using products that strip the skin of oil, which is common in most acne treatment products, will take away the excess oil your skin is producing to make up for the original lack of water.  Unfortunately, these products double the problem because they don’t just remove oil from your skin, but take water out of your skin, as well.  You can see how your body will quickly go into oil production overload— you’re already dehydrated, so your body is producing excess oil.  Now, you use a product that removes the oil, and also removes more water!  Your body simply has no other choice but to up the oil production as a consequence. Over-exfoliation is another common act of self-sabotage that exacerbates the issue.  When you exfoliate, you strip off dead skin cells, but you also remove some oil and water from your skin.  I always tell my clients that they should exfoliate once or twice a week at most. Any more than that, and you could be adding to your dehydration problem.

In addition to encouraging my new clients to drink more water, I always go over their current product usage to ensure that they are not over-exfoliating or using harmful products that will strip away your skin’s natural hydration.  Alcohol is a common ingredient in many beauty products, particularly astringent toners, but alcohol removes oil from your skin, which exacerbates your problems.

Instead of an astringent toner, I usually recommend a hydrating toner to give your skin a hand.  Hydrating toners are different from astringents— they do not contain alcohol, and instead of taking oil away, they put water in.  When you add water, your skin doesn’t have the need to produce as much oil and your face is happier!  Astringent toners can have their place in a beauty regimen, but theses uses are very specialized.  In general, I see far too many people using astringent toners who don’t realize they are worsening their problems!

My approach when treating any new client is to make note of the symptoms, but to focus on the underlying cause of a skin problem.  When dealing with combination skin problems, it’s critical to recognize that the underlying cause is a lack of water hydration— and treat that.  Treating oil production when you have a combination skin problem will only make your problems worse.  So, make sure you’re getting plenty of water, managing your stress, pick up a hydrating toner, and say hello to happier, healthier skin!

Check back every Sunday for a new topic and feel free to email me your questions or suggest a topic you’d like to see tackled!