What is it?
All retinoids are derived from Vitamin A. Vitamin A is the bonafide heavy weight champion of skin care products. It is only one of two FDA approved products to combat anti-aging which is why Retinol, Retin-A and retinadehydes are so widely used.
What does it do?
Vitamin A promotes cellular turnover, encourages a quicker regeneration of new skin and strengthens the collagen that is already in your skin. The effect of this is that your body is quickly removing damaged, dull, scarred and wrinkled skin and helps to build new skin before it gets all of the signals about what it’s “supposed” to look like (the wrinkles and scars) creating an anti aging result from both the outer and inner layers of your skin. Combine that with strengthening your collagen (which creates elasticity) and it’s clear why products containing Vitamin A are so effective and popular.
For acne prone skin this powerful combination unclogs pores and the quick regeneration of skin cells helps to prevent further clogging. It is worth noting that the only retinoid that is antibacterial (meaning it actively kills the acne bacteria) is retinaydehydes. These can be found in the Osmosis Vitamin A serums such as Calm, Correct and Blemish Serum.
Does it Damage my skin?
While retinoids don’t damage skin, your particular skin might be too sensitive for certain strengths. The result is dry, flaky skin that can feel irritated. So take caution and introduce retinols into your skin care routine gradually. Retinols do make everyones skin more sensitive to sunlight which is why it’s advisable to use it at night and limit your sun exposure. (Which is another great way to keep your skin looking youthful!)
When I tell people outside of a professional setting that I am a massage therapist I inevitably get asked a few questions about getting a massage that most people are too embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask their actual massage therapist. So today I thought I’d address some of the most popular questions I get asked.
Do massage therapist think (fat/skinny/hairy/freckled/old/young/etc) people are gross to work on?
No. Truly from the bottom of my heart, no. It’s important to keep in mind that massage therapist chose this profession. So before we even learned the first thing about muscular antagonist or effleurage strokes we had to ask our selves if we would be comfortable touching all body types. Its safe to assume we decided yes.
More importantly, however, is that pretty quickly a body just becomes a body. When someone is lying face down on the table we’re thinking about attachment points and fascia, not about hair or freckles.
Should I keep my underwear on or take it off?
Unless your massage therapist specifically instructs you one way or another, this is a matter of preference. Your massage therapist should follow standard draping practices that allow the appropriate parts of your body exposed and always keeping your more intimate areas covered.
I will add one caveat to this - any clothing that you do keep on is a signal to us to not touch that skin. If you wear boxers and want your hamstrings properly attended to, either hike them way up or wear something else.
Am I supposed to talk to my massage therapist during my massage?
If you want, but don’t feel obligated. This is your time that you are paying for and you are in control of this aspect. I have some clients that have been seeing me for years and have never spoken a word while on the table and other clients with whom talking for the entirety of the service is part of their stress relief. In this regard there is no right or wrong way to do it, but that also means your massage therapist doesn’t have a standard for what is most relaxing for you. It is completely appropriate to let your therapist know what you’re looking for - it’s not rude to start the service by saying “I’d like to be quiet today” or even if you have been chatting to decide at a certain point in the service that you want to zone out.
Does it bother you when a woman doesn’t shave her legs?
No. It bothers me when she apologizes for not doing it. No man has ever apologized to me for not shaving his legs. (Nor should he)
Should I get a fresh pedicure before I come in?
Got more questions? Comment below!
On Friday I got my eyebrows microbladed by cosmetic tattoo artist Emily Columbia.
I am positively thrilled with the results
The process lasted slightly under two hours but it flew by.
We started by discussing what I wanted to achieve with my eyebrow enhancement. I fill my brows in with make up everyday and was mostly satisfied with how I could make my brows look - which is essentially to create an arch that they don't have and fill in some gaps. One thing that I have never been able to fix with makeup was correcting the starting point of my right brow - for whatever reason it doesn't grow close enough to the center.
I knew Emily was really listening to my wants but she also used her own expertise. After our initial consultation she pulled out some measuring tools and her own brow pencil and went to work tracing the right shape for my face. Combining my wants, my bone structure and her professional guidance we landed on a lovely shape that felt natural but enhanced my face where my current brows were lacking. She also mixed a few different color options and showed them to me on my skin and talked about how each of them would change as they healed and made her recommendations. I felt completely in control and satisfied with the direction we were headed in.
My skin was numbed with some hard core topical lidocaine - I didn't feel any sensation initially. The very worst pain was still quite tolerable and felt like scratching already irritated skin. Emily was very aware of when I was start fidgeting and stop what she was doing and apply more numbing cream.
Afterwards my skin wasn't red but I don't think thats typical. I also don't get red when I wax my eyebrows so I'm a bit of an anomaly. My skin did feel quite tender for the rest of the evening so I curled up on my couch with some ibuprofen and a glass of wine. By the morning I felt completely fine!
Over the next few days the color will lighten a bit and in 4 - 6 I will go back for a follow up appointment where we will touch up any spots that need additional hair strokes and, if I want, darken the color. Emily explained to me that she prefers to be conservative with the color since the follow up appointment is included in the service so we can go darker once I'm adjusted to the shape of the brow.
It wouldn’t surprise most of us to learn that we are being exposed to environmental pollution all of the time. Cars, trains, buses, factories, sky rise output, chemicals - you name it it’s adding to the pollution. But have you considered what this is doing to your skin?
Whats causing the damage?
Pollutants are dangerous because of their size. At roughly 20 times smaller than the pores on your skin, damaging particles easily penetrate your skins natural barriers where they can start an oxidation process.
In an attempt to rid itself of these harmful environmental toxins our skin reacts by producing free radicals. However, this response has long term negative effects on our skin. In the article “Aging in a Polluted World” by Dr. Zoe Draelos, she explains this free radical reaction ultimately damages our collagen layer. Our skins natural production of Vitamin E is also diminished. This leads to a higher risk of wrinkles, hyper pigmentation and even skin cancer.
How to help?
Like most things, preventative measures are far more important than treating the damage later. Luckily, its not too difficult to remove these particles and reverse your skins free radical production.
My two favorite osmosis products are both high in antioxidant fighting ingredients.
Rescue Serum This epidermal repair serum is perfect for combating the stresses acquired through environmental pollution.
Calm A vitamin A based serum, this product calms (duh) reduces inflammation and helps to build your skins natural protection against free radical damage.
The most important things to look for in sunscreens are spf 30 or higher and a broad spectrum designation. My absolute favorite brand of sunscreen is Image, they even have an anti pollution sunscreen! Search for local spas that sell the line to pick some up.
Neutrogena Oil Free Broad Spectrum spf 35 is my favorite drug store brand
* I use Osmosis products in my practice. I will usually recommend Osmosis products because I believe they are some of the best skin care products around and I am well educated in the line. However, I will always try to include drug store alternatives and I will never recommend a product I don't explicitly believe in.
We have all experienced the brutal effects of cold, dry air on our skins. Last January I wrote a post with some easy tips to help minimize some of the damage. You can read that post here.
But today I want to talk about one product that will help to ease the pain of winter skin - AmLactin. This lotion is my jam and I honestly don't think my dry skin would be able to handle DC winters without it. (Side note - I'm originally from Florida and DC is the farthest north I've ever lived. I know for some of you these winters are a cake walk but for me, 23 degrees and snowy is about as cold as I'm interested in)
Ok, back to AmLactin. There are a few different formulations but as the name would suggest, they all contain lactic acid as their main active ingredient. Lactic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid which means it does two important things: the acid gently disolves your dull, dry, dead skin and it creates a moisture bond to your skin - essentially binding moisturizers to your skin so that it is harder to escape.
What are some cold weather products that you can't live without? Leave them in the comment section!
Buying Christmas and holiday presents for your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, hair stylist, mailman...ugh...it can be a daunting task. I've compiled a list of awesome spa themed gifts that wont break your wallet, so you can check off everyone on your list that needs to unwind!
For starters - lets make your recipients home smell and feel more comfortable this winter. I can't live without a humidifier and aromatherapy defusers are a very popular item right now. I absolutely love the idea of combining the two into this gorgeous wood grain Humidifier and Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser:
If you want to launch this gift into legendary status, I reccomend including an assortment of essential oils so that the diffuser can be fully customizable. I really like these ArtNaturals essential oils. The binding oils are high quality and the aromas smell fantastic and are long lasting.
Do you have someone on your list that struggles to relax? One of my favorite presents to give is a bath tub gift basket. A luxury bath pillow, an assortment of relaxing bath bombs, a bath tub wine glass caddy and bottle of wine is all you need to give someone permission to take time for themselves!
Now for the person who is always in pain. Maybe they have a stressful job, an old injury, or just exercise a lot. Regardless, they're never really comfortable. I love this Back Buddy Trigger Point Tool to help with self massage. This funky contraption is cleverly designed for the person in pain to be able to reach all of their aches and pains on their own.
Pair the trigger point tool with a weighted neck wrap and you'll be everyones favorite gift giver this holiday season!
What's the best spa-like gift you've ever recieved? Leave a comment - I'm always looking for new ideas!
Edit: Since making this post last summer, at home LED treatments have exploded! At the end of the article I've included some recomendations of products you can use on your own.
LED technology is something you’re probably very used to seeing - but did you know it can be used as a light activated facial rejuvenation treatment? The lights are energy producing and stimulate collagen synthesis in the skin. Different colors produce different types of cellular results. The most common treatments for skin care are sun damaged skin, mild to moderate acne and plumping of loose skin. LED therapy is also a proven treatment for pain reduction, wound healing and even shown to help aid in tumor reductions!
At Volta I employ three different colored lights:
Red LED increases collagen production which helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and smooth the overall texture of the skin. It stimulates lymph activity which, when functioning properly, delivers more nutrients to the skin.
Blue LED kills the specific bacteria that causes most breakouts. Because LED is non irritating this is a great treatment for overly irritated acne skin.
Green LED disperses melanin which helps reduce the appearance of age spots and sun spots - this is the light I find myself using the most as this is generally the hardest skin problem to treat.
Edit January 2017
Here are three different LED devises you can use at home. The technology works the same as above, but I've included three different price points and ways of application.
Choosing the right skin care line for my spa was an exciting - and overwhelming - endeavor. My years of working at high end spas had put me in contact with a wide variety of products from super intense prescription strength peels to floral scented lotions that helped to remind you of your grandmother, but not much else.
One of the driving factors of starting my own business was the frustrations of having to use and promote products that I didn’t believe in so I was ready to take on this task with a slow speed and a discriminating eye.
I started my process by simply reaching out to a myriad of skin care companies. After filling out the appropriate paperwork I started receiving skin care samples daily. Initially it felt like winning a sweepstakes but putting terrible products on my skin repeatedly became an unwelcome chore.
Osmosis, however, called me before sending out any products. The representative wanted to talk about my goals for my new business and what I was looking for in a line. She then wanted to know about my specific skin care concerns and then sent me products specifically formulated for my skin type.
Once I received the products I was blown away. The science sounded great - non traumatic yet highly effective prescription strength products. In fact it sounded too good to be true. How could a product deliver a high potency of retinaldehyde into the dermal layer of my skin without causing sensitivity, irritation, hyper pigmentation or dryness to my epidermis? I began using the gentle enzyme cleanser Purify followed by Correct Vitamin A Serum and then finished by the plumping and hydrating Quench + Moisturizer. It is a very straight forward program but I saw results in my skin immediately. My skin looked brighter, felt hydrated and balanced and my wrinkles around my mouth started to dissipate. I knew I was onto something good when someone asked me if I had gotten botox! (I hadn’t!)
The Osmosis representative was the most knowledgeable skin care rep I had ever worked with - she knew the ingredients inside and out and even helped develop a lot of the protocols that went along with the products. For my final confirmation I booked an appointment with an esthetician who was already carrying Osmosis products. She confirmed what I already knew in my gut - Osmosis was a “game changer”.
By owning my own spa I have the ability and the obligation to only use products that I completely believe in. Osmosis shows real results in all skin concerns without causing outside damage or trauma. I am truly grateful to have the ability to work with such an incredible line.
Sun protection is incredibly important but with so many options to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?
There are two types of sun screens - chemical and physical.
Physical blockers come in two forms - Zinc Oxide and Titanium. These work by creating a barrier on the surface of your skin and reflecting the harmful rays before they have a chance of penetrating. Physical blockers are the most effective but tend to sit heavier on the skin.
All other sun protections are considered chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens sink into your skin and work by absorbing UVB rays and sending that energy safely out of your skin. These sunscreens typically feel more comfortable on our skin then physical sunscreens but most of them only protect against UVB rays. UVB rays are harmful and cause sunburns, but UVA rays cause wrinkles and sun damage. Most importantly, all three are responsible for causing skin cancer.
Recently an exciting chemical sunscreen has been approved after a rigorous FDA trial that absorbs and deflects both UVB and UVA rays. This ingredient is called mexoryl and is available over the counter!
Now that you know the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens I leave you with two important bits of knowledge. When searching for sunscreens you will be best suited by a broad spectrum lotion (meaning it protects against UVA and UVB). Also, sunscreen is typically only active for about 80 minutes so make sure you are reapplying regularly when outside!
Winter wreaks havoc on skin - drying it out, chapping it, turning it red and flakey and leaving you not just looking dull but sometimes actually hurting! Today in DC we’re getting hit with a lot of snow and the temperatures are dropping fast so now seems like the perfect time to share some professional tips on how to stay on top of your winter skin care routine.
Don’t Shock Your Skin: While winter temperatures are brutal, we do a lot of the damage on our own in the shower. Nothing feels better than a super hot shower when it’s cold outside but going from the wet hot shower to the cold dry air of your house shocks the skin and causes the follicles to break. Have no fear, however. I am not suggesting that you stop taking those amazing hot showers, just rinse off with luke-warm water at the very end. It won’t be the most pleasant 10 seconds of your day but it will act as a temperature bridge and your skin won’t panic when it hit’s the cold. This will save you a lot of pain, discomfort and ashy skin for the next few months.
Know the difference between healing and protecting ingredients: This one applies to a lot of products but especially with lip treatments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client tell me “I put vaseline on my lips every day but they never feel hydrated!” That’s because vaseline, or any petroleum based ointment, can’t actually penetrate your skin to heal it, it only sits on top to protect it. This is great news if you’re going to be outside all day and don’t want to give those harsh winds access to your skin but if your skin is already chapped and angry it can’t do anything to help. For healing purposes you want to look for ingredients such as Vitamin E, shea butter and avocado oil.
Know your acids: Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHA’s can be a great way to repair dry, damaged skin. My two favorites are hyaluronic and lactic acid. Both of these work to dissolve dead, dry skin cells while encouraging your skin to hold onto moisture - but be careful because these can be a little aggressive depending on the strength of the acid. For a gentler approach look for moisturizers with fruit enzymes which will help to exfoliate that itchy dry skin in a similar manner.
Now get out there and face the cold!