Please Don’t Exercise Your Face!


If you made a  New Year’s  resolution to start an exercise program, good for you!  Exercise has enormous health benefits, and I applaud your efforts and wish you great success. But a word of caution, please don’t include facial exercises as part of your fitness program. They could do more harm than good.

 There are many great reasons to exercise: stronger muscles, improved cardiovascular health, increased bone density and weight loss are just a few of the benefits of exercise. And, exercise can help  improve the appearance of the skin:

  • Exercise can reduce stress by lowering stress producing hormones and release “feel good” endorphins in the brain. If you have read any of my previous posts about stress you know how damaging it can be to your skin.  Acne, eczema, sensitivity, dryness, dullness, and premature aging, are a few of the skin problems that can be exacerbated by stress. Committing to regular exercise program will help keep stress in check, and you’ll feel and look better.
  • Exercise also promotes healthy circulation which, according to dermatologist, Dr. Ellen Marmur will keep your skin healthy and vibrant. “By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keeps them vital.  Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to working cells throughout the body, including the skin. In addition to providing oxygen, blood flow also helps carry away waste products and free radicals from working cells.”

So whatever form of exercise you choose, running, weight lifting, pilates, yoga or swimming, your skin will reap the rewards as well. But, if you think facial exercises will help prevent aging and make you look younger, you should know that the  idea that it is possible to “develop” the muscles in your face in order to “push out the wrinkles” (as stated on the website is just wrong.

I love the idea of facial exercises as a way to improve your appearance. After all, my focus is on natural ways to take care of your skin, and what could be more natural than exercise.  However, my gut instinct and everything I know about skin tells me no, no, no!   

First, let’s talk about why we need to exercise:

  • Quite simply, we exercise because we no longer engage in the types of daily physical activities our ancestors performed, that kept their muscles strong and in peak condition. Their daily routine included running, lifting, carrying heavy loads, and pushing and pulling heavy objects.  Our lives have become quite sedentary; we spend much of our time in front of the TV or computer. So we go to the gym to lift weights, run on a treadmill, do pilates, yoga and zumba to replicate the movements that were once a regular part of our lives.
  • But never in the history of mankind have we ever used the muscles of the face for anything other than what we use them for today!  Talking, chewing, blinking, smiling, frowning and other facial expressions have not changed over the years, and we use the muscles of our face exactly the same way our primitive ancestors did.  Our bodies may have become more sedentary, but our faces have not!  We don’t need to do “facial exercises” because we have not stopped using our facial muscles.

Still not convinced?  Let’s look at how exercise works:

  • According to my friend Mickey Glick, Personal Trainer and owner of Body and Soul Fitness Studio, to effectively build our muscles requires movement, resistance and challenge.  In other words, we have to engage our muscles (movement) while holding, pushing or pulling something that has weight (resistance), and we need to increase the weight (challenge) as the movement becomes easier. I have no idea how it would be possible to use your face to do resistance exercises.  Maybe attach weights to facial piercings?  The images that invokes are quite disturbing!

Maybe you’re thinking, but wait, I’m doing exercises to “tone” my facial muscles, not build them. If by toning you mean using repeated movement in order to keep them from becoming weak and flabby, just think about how often you use your facial muscles every day.  In fact, the busiest muscles of the body are the ones responsible for blinking, which we do about 100,000  times a day.  Funny, all that “exercising” and we are still plagued with “crows feet” Hmm…

 Here’s the real reason we develop lines, wrinkles and sagging skin: 

  • Slowed collagen and elastin production
  • Decreased cellular regeneration
  • Loss of underlying fat
  • Thinning skin 
  • Lengthening of ligaments 
  • Gravity 
  • Facial expressions and movement


“The effects of aging on the dermal layer [where collagen and elastin are found] are significant. Not only does the dermal layer thin, but also less collagen is produced, and the elastin fibers that provide elasticity wear out.  These changes in the scaffolding of the skin cause the skin to wrinkle and sag.”

From Dr. Marmur:

“Loss of elasticity and volume, decreased collagen, elastin and even bone and gravity all act to alter the symmetry of the face over time. The dissolving extracellular matrix, is similar to a once-fluffy down pillow that eventually flattens and loses its shape.”    

It’s the loss of the cushiony layers of the skin that give the face fullness and shape that are responsible for lines and wrinkle, not the condition of your facial muscles. In fact, the use of those muscles is a key player in the formation of lines and wrinkles. Remember when you’re mother told you to stop making faces because your face could freeze like that?  Well she was right! Our facial muscles are the only muscles in the body that are attached directly to the skin and as a result when they contract, the skin moves. It’s this skin movement combined with other factors such as sun exposure, smoking, poor diet, chronological aging and gravity that are responsible for lines and wrinkles. In fact a common treatment for lines and wrinkles is Botox, which works by weakening the muscles, allowing the skin to relax and the lines to smooth out.

The following is from

“Facial expressions – people who repeatedly smile, frown, or squint will develop fine lines and wrinkles earlier than others who do not do these facial expressions so often. According to the Mayo Clinic, each time we use a facial muscle a groove forms under the surface of the skin. When you are young the skin springs back, but as it gets older and loses its flexibility springing back becomes harder and less frequent, resulting in more permanent grooves.”                                      

And from

“Smiling–along with squinting, frowning and other repetitive facial expressions makes fine lines and wrinkles more prominent over time because skin loses elasticity as we age.  And those facial exercises some of us do to try to improve muscle tone?  They actually have the opposite effect.”

Aging is inevitable, and the last thing you want to do is engage in practices that can speed up the process.  You may not be able to stop smiling, laughing and frowning, but you can make the choice not to do facial exercises. And hey, who doesn’t want a good excuse not to exercise!


“Simple Skin Beauty”- Dr. Ellen Marmur

Mickey Glick-


Are There Really Foods that can Trigger Breakouts?


Let me begin by saying that of course you need to maintain a healthy diet to have healthy skin.  All the organs of the body need  high quality  fuel in order to function properly.  For those who generally follow healthy eating habits but experience occasional breakouts or have acne that you blame on chocolate,  fried foods or some other  personal gastronomic  cryptonite, here is some interesting information:

It’s been a common belief among those suffering from acne and breakouts that certain foods can increase the incidence and severity of pimples.  Whether it’s too much chocolate, greasy fast food or some other  overindulgence, eat too much of a “trigger food” and you get pimples.  For most of my career I’ve believed that the only connection between what a person eats and  pimples  is probably not the food, but the stress that triggered the urge to overeat that food, and it’s commonly accepted that stress is a contributing factor for breakouts. The only food I ever felt might contribute to breakouts is dairy. Cows are given hormones to  increase milk production and we do know that certain hormones can be a contributing factor for breakouts and acne.

Turns out I was right. And wrong.

There has been an enormous amount of research focused on a possible link between diet and acne, and the results may surprise you. There does not seem to be any connection between acne and eating chocolate, or fatty foods. Yes that’s right no connection! There is however, evidence that acne can be affected by the consumption of dairy products as well as high-glycemic-index foods like soda, cakes and white bread. (I’ll provide a link at the bottom of this post for a more comprehensive list of high GI foods.) The following is from

  • There exists convincing data supporting the role of dairy products and high-glycemic-index foods in influencing hormonal and inflammatory factors, which can increase acne prevalence and severity. Studies have been inconclusive regarding the association between acne and other foods.
  • Authors of a randomized controlled trial examined the effect of low-glycemic diets on acne risk and insulin sensitivity. Individuals assigned to the low-glycemic diet experienced improvement in the  number of acne lesions, when compared with the control group. In addition, the low-glycemic diet group’s  weight decreased, and insulin sensitivity and SHBG [sex hormone-binding globulin] levels increased. Increases in SHBG levels correlated with decreased lesion counts. These investigative findings support the role of low-glycemic diets in influencing hormonal levels, as well as improving insulin sensitivity and acne.

One particularly interesting aspect of the studies  is the discovery that skim milk was more likely to contribute to acne than whole milk:

  • Authors of a large case-control study evaluated the association between milk and acne in the adolescent diets of more than 47,000 nurses. Among participants who had been diagnosed with severe acne as teenagers, those with the highest level of total milk intake (3 servings per day) reported having acne more frequently, when compared with individuals with the lowest level of intake (serving per week). This association was strongest (a 44% increase) for skim milk intake, suggesting fat content was not the determining factor for acne risk. Researchers hypothesized that the hormones found in milk played a role in acne risk.
  • A study from 2005 showed that components of milk, other than lipids, have insulin-stimulating abilities. Insulin drives insulin-like growth factor, which in turn increases testosterone [ a hormone  associated with increased acne and breakouts].

The conclusion:

  • Although studies are showing a an increased risk for breakouts for those eating dairy and high-glycemic index foods, no study has established a positive association between acne and chocolate, saturated fat, or salt intake.

Good news, and food for thought!


Protect Your Skin with Tomatoes


Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes that can help protect your skin from sun damage as well as increase levels of collagen, which gives skin it’s structure and elasticity. You still need to use sunscreen, but by including tomatoes in your diet you’ll have added protection. Processed or cooked tomatoes, like those found in tomato paste, soup or juice have the highest concentration of lycopene and adding olive oil makes it even more potent. Daily intake should be the equivalent of 5 tablespoons of tomato paste with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. I make a light soup by adding some water and a few herbs to tomato paste. It’s makes a great snack!


Make Sure Your Waxing Services are Safe and Legal


I know everyone is trying to save money these days but when it comes to waxing, the savings may not be worth the risk.  Nail Salons are now offering cheap waxing services, and it’s so convenient and inexpensive to get your eyebrows waxed when you get your nails done. But before you do, here are a few things you may not be aware of:

  • Did you know that in most states, including Pennsylvania (where I live and work), anyone performing waxing services is required by law to have a state issued license?
  • And, did you know that the only licenses issued in PA that permit  waxing are those held by Hair Stylists and Estheticians?
  • That means the person giving you a manicure or pedicure may be licensed for nail services only. Unless the person doing your nails  has a Cosmetology License  (which includes hair, facial, nail, make-up, and waxing services) or also holds an Esthetician License, he or she is not permitted by law to perform any waxing services.

But, does it really matter? Absolutely! Waxing may look easy, but if you’ve ever tried waxing at home you know it’s not! If the person providing your waxing services doesn’t have the necessary education, your waxing could be quite painful, ineffective and could cause bruising, bleeding burning or tearing of the skin. With professional training and by following the proper protocol, waxing is a safe easy way to remove unwanted hair.

Waxing removes skin cells along with the hair, and the use of certain acne and anti-aging medications, getting a facial peel and even having a mild sunburn could cause problems ranging from very mild to serious. And if you take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder, you could be at risk for excessive bleeding.  In order to insure a safe, successful waxing, your service provider needs to ask some questions before your service. The following is a partial list of waxing contraindications:

  • Using prescription skin medications like Accutane, Differns and Retin A.
  • The use of over the counter skin care products like glycolic acid or salicylic acid.
  • Taking  blood thinners or anyone with a bleeding disorder.
  • Taking drugs for autoimmune diseases like lupus.
  • Sunburned skin.
  • Facial peels , microdermabrasion or laser resurfacing.
  • Using skin bleaching products.

The effects of waxing, as well as many of the things we do that exfoliate our skin, are cumulative and with repeated waxing, the skin can become thinner and more sensitive. This means even if you’ve had no previous problems waxing while using acne meds or other exfoliating products, there’s no guarantee it won’t happen in the future. In fact it most likely will.  And it could result in tearing, burning or scarring of the skin.  You could also be at risk for contracting an infection, particularly  if your service provider is not practicing proper hygiene (no double dipping of the wax applicator. Ever!).

There are also after care directions you need to know about, including, but not limited to:

  • Don’t use any creams or lotions on areas that have been waxed.
  • No tanning for 48 hours after waxing.
  • For body waxing, no hot baths or hot tub.
  • No deodorant after underarm waxing.
  • No facial peels or microdermabrasion after facial waxing.

And just because someone has a license, doesn’t guarantee they are following     safe and proper practices. If your service provider doesn’t have a current Cosmetology or Esthetician License (ask to see it), or isn’t making  you aware of contraindications before every waxing service (we can’t know what changes you’ve made since we last saw you), find someone else to do these services for you.  It may be a little more expensive, but it will be well worth it.

Follow these links for a complete list of contraindications:                                                       


lips 2

Like it or not (I don’t) summer is gone and putting on scarves and gloves will soon become part of our daily routine.  And with the onset of cold, dry  weather, we are also putting on more lip balm to soothe dry, chapped and cracked lips.  But be careful of what you’re using because the lip balm that feels so soothing when you put it on could be making your problems worse!

Here’s a few things you should know about your lips:

  • The outermost layer of the skin of the lips is very thin.  Most facial skin has up to 16 cellular layers but the lips have only  3-5 layers.


  • The lips have no oil or sweat glands, so unlike most of our skin they do not have the usual protection  of sweat and body oils to keep the lip skin moist, inhibit pathogens, and regulate warmth.  Because they are not self lubricating, the lips can quickly become dry and chapped. Lips rely on moisture in the air, the water we drink, saliva and the products you put on them to hydrate and protect from the sun.
  • Lips have no melanin, the pigment that gives skin color and protects the skin from the harmful rays of the sun.  The color of our lips comes from blood vessels that are visible through the skin.

So what’s wrong with your lip balm? Well, there could be a number of issues, let’s start with some ingredients found in popular lip balms:

PETROLEUM JELLY (petrolatum, or mineral oil)

  • If you care about the environment, you probably already know that petroleum products are a byproduct of the oil industry and because they are  a nonrenewable resource are not eco-friendly.   And who wants to eat oil every time they lick their lips? Yuck!
  • It’s occlusive, meaning it traps in anything already on the lips (like bacteria) and keeps anything from penetrating (including moisture).
  • Petroleum products have no moisturizing properties. When you use petroleum based lip balms, your lips only feel hydrated, but the truth is, they are still dry.


  •  Does the skin on your lips constantly peel off.  It could be phenol, an ingredient  also found in some facial skin peels. Phenol works by causing the top layer of skin to slough off.  On your lips, that  top protective layer of skin holds moisture, and by causing the skin to peel off, your lips become dry, chapped and cracked.  So, to make them feel better, you apply lip balm, which causes them to peel and dry and crack, so you apply more lip balm because it makes them feel better.  It’s a viscious cycle.  If you think you’re addicted to lip balm, phenol could be the reason. Hmm…do you think the makers of Carmex know this?


  •   Cosmetic manufacturers add these ingredients to create a “tingling” sensation to make you think they’re “working”.  For many people, camphor and menthol can be extremely irritating and drying.


  •   All are known to be skin irritants and allergens.


  • Beware of products containing lanolin and carmine. Lanolin comes from sheep’s wool and carmine is a coloring made from ground insects.

So what can you do to keep your lips healthy this winter? 


  • Choose an organic or plant based lip balm,  and make sure it has an  SPF of at least 15.
  •  Try applying coconut or olive oil to soothe and hydrate your lips.
  •  Drink plenty of water to add moisture to your lips.
  •  Keep your lips covered with a scarf  in cold weather.
  •  Don’t lick your lips. Although saliva can be a source of lip hydration, it has digestive enzymes that can be irritating for some people, and saliva evaporates quickly which can also cause dryness.
  •  If your lips do peel, don’t pick. It will only make them worse and could lead to infection.
  •   Long lasting lipsticks can be extremely drying so save them for special occasions.
  •  Avoid breathing through your mouth as the air passing over your lips will contribute to dryness.
  •  Check the ingredients in your toothpaste.  Most contain sodium lauryl sulfate which can both irritate and dry your lips.
  •  Use a humidifier in your home to maintain good moisture levels in the air.
  •  Some medications can also contribute to dry lips, especially ones for treating acne.  Check with your doctor.
  • Allergies and illnesses can also contribute to lip problems so again, check with your doctor.

The skin on your lips is fragile, and taking care of them can be challenging.  I hope this information will help you make good choices when it comes to lip care and maybe you’ll get through this winter with happy healthy lips.


Why are Dermatologists still recommending Cetaphil?

So last night on my way home from work I stopped in the drug store where I became involved in a conversation with some young adults  discussing what they were doing to treat their acne.   One young lady was using a prescription medication and was cleansing with Cetaphil at her doctors recommendation.  After 13 years as an Esthetician I have had many  clients tell me the same thing. Doctors have been giving patients this advice for years, and I think they’re wrong.

Here’s the problem: Anyone who has acne knows that a big problem for them is skin redness and irritation, and if they’re using a prescription acne med or strong OTC acne products, it’s most likely dry as well.  The young lady I met yesterday was dealing with both issues and was  very frustrated with how her skin looked and felt.  The breakouts were clearing up, but her face was covered with red spots and was so dry it was uncomfortable.  Because Cetaphil has Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) as the main cleansing agent, simply washing her face with it was causing her skin to become overly dry and irritated.  I have a previous post about the problems of using products that over cleanse the skin* , but if you haven’t read it, you should know that S LS is one of the most irritating substance you will find in a facial product, and is such a strong degreaser that it strips the skin of all oil.  Cleansing should not strip the skin, it should wash away the make-up, and dirt that sit on top of a thin layer of protective oil leaving the skin refreshed not irritated.

So why do dermatologists recommend a product that contains such a harsh, drying ingredient?   I have no idea, but if you’re a dermatologist, I would love to hear your answer.

*Here is a link to my previous post

Make-up Removal Tip

A frequent concern of my clients is that the cleanser they’re using is not removing all their make-up.  Which is no surprise, make-up is designed to stay on the skin, so it makes sense that it would be hard to remove. Try this tip: pre-cleanse your skin with oil. Yes, even if you have oily skin.  Make-up breaks down more easily with oil than it does with cleanser, meaning no make-up residue to clog your pores. Just massage a few drops into moistened skin to dissolve the make-up and then follow with your favorite cleanser to wash away the oil and make-up. Gently remove with a wet, soft wash cloth.
My go to oil is Aveda’s Beautifying Composition with the wonderful aroma of lavender, rosemary and bergamot.  Or try a little bit of olive oil, a common ingredient in skin care products.  Added benefit-softer skin.


Think the FDA is protecting you? Think again!

Did you know that cosmetics do not require FDA approval before being brought to the market? That means the cosmetic industry is testing its products on you, without your consent. According to a recent report, the average woman applies 515 chemicals to her body every day. And many have not been tested, so no one knows what their cumulative affects might be. Choose your products carefully, opting for those containing mostly natural or organic ingredients. For more information follow this link:–515-chemicals-women-bodies-day.html

The Best Kept Secret for Beautiful Skin

woman washing face

My secret skin care weapon :
No it’s not sunscreen, that’s not a secret and hopefully everyone is protecting their skin from the sun every day, year round.
And no, it’s not quit smoking and drinking.  Again I think everyone knows the damage alcohol and tobacco can do to the skin.
My #1 best tip and the one thing I hope all my clients take away from a facial with me, is to use the right facial cleanser. That’s it! Simple, right?  Well, maybe not because unfortunately, the cosmetic industry has convinced us that our skin is sooo dirty that we have to use deep cleansing, oil reducing, scrubbly, bubbly facial cleansers to strip every last bit of dirt and grime off our face.  And they couldn’t be more wrong.  Many of these cleansers are so harsh, they strip the skin of every last bit of life, leaving it dull, dry and irritated.

Facial cleansers often contain harsh synthetic cleansing ingredients that can irritate the skin and strip away it’s natural protective coating. The culprit is mainly Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a cleansing agent found not only in facial cleansers, but in shampoo, toothpaste, dish soap and the soap used at the car wash.  Not something I want on my face.   It works, but in my opinion it works too well, removing the skin’s natural protective coating and setting the skin up for a multitude of problems. Your skin is not the kitchen floor with ground in dirt and grime, and we only need to cleanse away the daily dirt and makeup that accumulates on top of its protective coating. The oil our skin produces is not dirty, it’s there for a reason.

Here’s what can happen when you over cleanse the skin:

  • Dry skin becomes even drier: Healthy, youthful looking skin is moist and glowing.  Using  harsh, oil stripping cleansers, causes the skin to become so dry it can begin to appear dull and lifeless. Fine lines and wrinkles become more noticeable, and the skin begins to look older. Think of the difference between a raisin and a grape.  To appear more youthful, the skin needs to be plump and moist. This is particularly crucial as we age because over time our skin loses it’s ability to retain moisture, and our natural oil production slows.
  •  Oily skin can become oilier: If you have oil rich skin you probably have larger pores that continually deposit lots of oil onto your face. You might think removing that oil will help, but by stripping away too much oil, we trigger our oil glands to increase production to replace what  your cleanser removed.  Anyone with oil rich skin will tell you the last thing they want is overactive oil glands. If you find that your face becomes shinier throughout the day, it could be your oil glands have finally caught up.  Using a more moisturizing cleanser may help normalize your oil production .  And you should know, oil rich skin ages more slowly than dry skin, so don’t fight it!
  • Increased breakouts for oily and dry skin: We all know that one of the main components of a blemish is bacteria, which can contribute to breakouts for anyone with acne prone skin.  And we know that the acne bacteria flourish in an oily environment, so by stimulating the oil glands we  create a bacteria friendly environment, increasing the likelihood of even more blemishes.  But, lack of moisture can also contribute to blemishes, because the natural oils in our skin, in the right amount, actually act as a barrier to protect the skin from bacteria. If you have dry skin, but still get breakouts, dryness could be the reason.  It’s all about achieving the right balance.
  •  Irritation:  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a known irritant, and works so quickly that in laboratory testing, when chemists need a fast acting irritant they use SLS.  There are several reasons to avoid using irritating products on the skin.  For anyone with rosacea, harsh chemicals can further inflame the skin resulting in stinging, blotchiness , and even acne like pustules.  As we age, our capillaries become fragile,  and when overstimulated they can break, leaving spider web marks on the face.  We would all like to have skin with a rosy glow, but when it occurs as a reaction to chemicals, the result can be problematic and not attractive.

What can you do?
My best recommendation is to use products that are plant-based, preferably organic, because organic products should not contain any synthetic ingredients.  And be careful, the term “contains organic ingredients” could mean the product has as few as one or two organic ingredients with the rest being synthetic. I highly recommend Aveda, the plant based line of products, I use for all my facial services. They make a number of excellent facial cleansers for all skin types, and any of them would work well. My favorite for most of my clients (and myself) is the Aveda “All-Sensitive Cleanser”.  This gentle, creamy cleanser will work to dissolve make-up, and impurities, leaving the skin soft and smooth.

So, whether your issue is dryness, oiliness, breakouts or sensitivity, try changing your cleanser. You might be surprised at how good your skin looks and feels.

If you would like further information about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, follow this link:

%d bloggers like this: