Category: Beauty 911

Does your diet cause acne? Yes, No, Maybe

**Note: New to my series on acne? It’s important that you start here.

Some of the most vocal “experts” on acne have something to say about what you eat- Gluten causes acne! Dairy causes acne! Sugar causes acne! But really- does your diet cause acne? There’s unofficial and conflicting information on the subject, so I can’t give you a firm answer. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to consider. Our skin is like a giant filter- keeps our goodies in, and protects us from God-knows-what around us. It also tends to advertise what’s going on inside that we can’t see, and through our sweat and other excretions kicks out stuff that doesn’t belong there anymore. I personally don’t belong in any of the “stop eating this and your skin will clear up” camps- I think most of it is idealist and bogus and doesn’t tell the whole story. At the same time, if you really are trying to get your skin cleared up there are more than a few things that your probably eating every day that aren’t helping matters much. Do I personally think that diet alone causes acne? NO. Do I think that we are making matters worse by eating a commercial western diet? I’m absolutely certain.

Even though no one seems to know what causes acne, there is strong evidence that points to the idea it could be hormone related. If anything, we do know that women around the time of their menstrual cycle are more likely to break out around their chin area. So, if we know that hormones probably have something to do with acne, even if we can’t pinpoint exactly what it is or how to fix it, it stands to reason that by ingesting foods loaded with foreign hormones or foods that mess with our natural hormones could probably screw with our system and show up in the form of a breakout. The idea is hard to prove, but the totally makes sense. If you live in say, North America where meat and dairy are abundant, you’re very likely ingesting a vast quantity of foreign hormones on a daily basis if you consume mass-chain meat and cheese. Since the late 1940’s when steak for dinner became more than an occasional luxury, the mass-farming CAFO’s have been working tirelessly to meet the growing demand for meat. Suddenly, we got hungrier for pot roast and chicken divan faster than we could raise cattle and chickens to slaughter for it. Modern science ever to the rescue, we have completely systematized what used to be a natural process. While the benefit was everyone got a lavish Sunday dinner, the trade off is that our meat was no longer just meat… it became loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics. Now, when you have your Friday-night steak, you’re also eating syringes full of hormones and antibiotics as well, and if that wasn’t bad enough they aren’t even meant for humans, they are meant for cows. With every bite of your summer pool-side burger, you’re not only eating meat, but your also ingesting hormones designed for a whole different species. Does it stand to reason that adding extra hormones to your body when you’re body is already hormonal out of whack could aggravate your acne?  Think on it.

Dairy isn’t much better, yet it’s oh-so-much-harder to consider as a culprit behind the pizza-face skin (ha! I made a punny!). Our emotional attachment to cheese runs deep- mac n cheese, lasagna, grilled cheese… I’m getting hungry just writing about it. But, while your chowing down on a big bowlful of cheesy goodness, here’s something else to chew on- Humans create milk from their breasts to feed their young. In fact, colostrum milk is literally the creme de la creme of food you can give to your newborn, because it’s loaded will all kinds of good stuff that your new baby could use to become healthy. All this is well and good, but if you’re ingesting milk that was designed for a whole different animal, not to mention an animal drunk on steroids and antibiotics, how much weird stuff do you think you’re putting into your body that it doesn’t really know how to handle?  And while we are at it, let’s talk about your waistline. Quality of life over skinny/fat ALWAYS wins over for me. Having a fit body isn’t about looking like a model (unless that’s your job), it’s about having the energy and stamina do grab this big, beautiful world and do whatever your heart desires in it. Yes, you can have your milk and you’re waistline too, but if you’re struggling with your weight, why in the world would you eat something (cheese, milk) that is meant to raise a 400lb calf?

Sugar and Gluten (wheat)- These two are getting thrown together here because not only do they share similar bad mojo, but also because I’d just be repeating myself in the same rant twice. Hear me now: I eat Oreo’s. I even make Oreo truffles. I also love bread and bagels and cookies and pie crust. God I love pie crust- especially when it’s baked plain with a bit of dairy-free butter and some sugar and cinnamon. Now that that’s outta the way- the bastardized versions of wheat and sugar and the fact that the crap is in nearly EVERYTHING is terrifying. I challenge you, once your done reading this, to go to your pantry and fridge and pull out everything that DOESN’T have sugar in it and is gluten free. I don’t believe that sugar and gluten cause acne- I do believe that the garbage Monsanto calls food that is completely devoid of anything resembling nutritious food is wrecking havoc on our bodies. There isn’t a soul on this planet who needs high fructose corn syrup or some kind of scary lab-created dupe of wheat in their diet. The point here is not that some garlic bread or the occasional cookie is going to cause you to break out. The point is that high-quantities (did you check your fridge yet?) of nasty in your body every day is bound to cause problems. And since it’s in everything, it’s hard to avoid unless you actually make the effort to read some labels. Better yet, buy food that doesn’t require an ingredients label. And let’s not forget the fact that you only eat so much food in a day- so if more than half of your food contains lab-rat approved ingredients, how much room is there left in your belly for food that actually does something good for you? I’m no saint- I freely admit it. But, I also don’t glug down that chemical soup they call diet soda, and a package of Oreo’s is an occasional treat and not the standard. It’s not that it has to be blacklisted- life is meant to be enjoyed, because it’s a beautiful life to live! Let me ask you though- what would make you happier, a nutritionally devoid meal (that’s probably going to make you constipated and then you’ll have to poop at the worst possible moment) or clear skin? Not that avoiding sugar and gluten will clear your skin up, but even if it doesn’t, did you really need that junk in your life anyways?

The bottom line is this: Diet alone might cause acne, we really don’t know. But, even if it doesn’t, there’s probably some daily food habits you need to take a look at and experiment with, and consider. If you give up meat or dairy or sugar or gluten for 6 weeks (anything less would be pointless, you’re not giving your body time to see results from your experiment) and nothing changes, then you were no worse off than before. In fact, you’ll probably feel a whole lot better, because you’ll by default end up replacing those so-called foods with actual, real food. And, you also just might see improvement in your acne once you get rid of foods that might be making it worse. You won’t know until you try. Food that really provides something for your body, your soul, your mind. Eating right is a win-win, and bonus points if it helps clear up your skin.

 

 

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Acne Tips: Do’s and Don’ts for Acne Skin

acne tipsDesperate times call for desperate measures- and having acne makes a person really, really desperate. But before you turn your bathroom into an operating room amateur hour, check out my top acne tips: do’s and don’ts for acne skin.

DON’T: Pick and pick at a spot, or try multiple times to squeeze it. If it’s not at a head already, you picking or squeezing it isn’t going to do any good. It will actually make it worse- now, instead of just having a pimple, you’ve completely destroyed the top layer of your skin. In addition to the pimple now taking time to heal, the top layer will also need to heal. It’s a two-fer- and will take twice as long to heal up.

DO: Visit your dermatologist for a steroid shot. For those God-awful massive buggers that clearly aren’t going away any time soon, getting a shot from your derm is the fastest way to clear skin without you creating life-long scarring in the process. A co-pay and 24 hours later, that bump of fury will be nothing more than a pinprick of a distant nightmare. Seriously.

DON’T: Buy cheap, scented, drugstore face wash. You know what makes your skin all tingly in those brightly-packaged face washes? All KINDS of irritating fragrances and astringents and crap that does absolutely NOTHING for your skin except make it worse. If you really have acne- not just the occasional pimple, but real, true acne- no $11.99 mass marketed face wash with some kind of feel-good scent is going to help you. Stop wasting your money and stop putting perfumey-burning stuff on your face.

DO: Buy a high-quality, zero-fragrance face wash. The two I recommend are Murad’s Clarifying Cleanser and Daniel Kern’s Gentle Cleanser. I like Murad because for it’s simple ingredients and the extra oomph the salicylic acid. (Salycylic acid by itself will NOT clear up acne skin, but it doesn’t hurt it, either.) I like Daniel Kern’s because absolutely anyone can use it and it will not irritate the surface of their skin. The idea behind a good-quality cleanser for acne skin is simply to clean the skin and prepare it for treatment. That is it.

DON’T: Tone your face with Sea Breeze, alcohol, or anything else that strips it’s natural oils. Stop the madness! Drying out your skin is NOT going to stop you from getting acne! This tip is two fold- from a makeup artists standpoint, it is SO MUCH HARDER to create flawless skin with foundation and concealer on dry skin than it is on hydrated skin. When the top layer of your skin is completely dried out and flaky, foundation will grab harder in spots and not be able to lay smoothly. Also, your oil glands will be hard at work trying to replace the damage you’ve done, so a layer of oil will float between your new skin and the dry, flaky top layer… which means your foundation will move, crack, and in general look really scary by lunch time. Just knock it off with the toners already. You’re not doing yourself any favors.

DO: If you absolutely insist on toning, there are are only two kinds of toners you should ever use. One is all-natural witch hazel. It’s gentle, it’s cleansing, it will remove any traces of leftover cleanser residue. Alternatively, if (and this is a BIG IF) your skin is really infected, you can use hydrogen peroxide. When acne skin becomes infected, it looks like many pimples in relatively close proximity to each other. The goop inside is greenish and generally it’s really painful. This is the only time it’s OK for you to tone with hydrogen peroxide, and it’s really to help disinfect the skin and get the infection under control. As soon as your skin starts to heal, stop using it.

DON’T: Skip or skimp on the moisturizer. If you are treating your skin with any kind of effective topical acne treatments, the top layer of your skin will become dry and that creates a whole new set of problems. Weather you moisturize or not, the oil is going to come through because it comes from deep within the layers of your skin. Skipping moisturizer, aside from making it harder to apply your makeup, also can trigger your oil glands to over produce and compensate for the dryness.

DO: Use a high-quality, no frills, fragrance-free moisturizer. Use it lavishly and without fail every morning and night. I like my moisturizer to absorb completely, and for years my favorite choice has been Cera Ve. This is probably the only time you’ll hear me advocate for a drugstore product. I discovered it in my derms office a few years back, and it’s absolutely wonderful. Or, if that’s not your thing, Daniel Kerns Moisturizer is ideal as well.

DON’T: Use the same, dirty, filthy compact sponge to touch up your makeup during the day, and for the love of Chanel absolutely do not use it to put your makeup on fresh in the morning. I know all too well the need to reapply and blot and cover up more as the day wears on. However, when you use that sponge in the middle of the day, day after day, it collects all that old makeup, bacteria, and oil. Then, you go and pile it on your freshly cleansed face the very next morning! Might as well not have washed your face at all, because you are literally putting weeks worth of gross back onto your skin. If you absolutely must, get a compact only for touch ups and a compact only for fresh faced applications. Better yet, get blotting papers that you can toss after a single use.

DO: Wash your brushes regularly with antibacterial soap or professional brush cleaner. While dirty brushes aren’t going to cause long-term severe acne, they can make normally healthy skin break out or aggravate skin that is having a breakout. Once a week is sufficient for any brush that goes all over your face.

It doesn’t matter if you have the run-of-the-mill “I’m getting my period” zit or severe, chronic cycstic acne. These acne tips are the same no matter what condition your skin is in. Though you may feel like your face is waging war on your self esteem, try to reign yourself in and follow these simple best practices. For those with naturally clear skin, these tips will help it stay clear. If you are suffering from chronic acne, at the very least these tips will stop making the aggravation of your sensitive skin worse, and will probably help clear up some of your blemishes.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or professional in a medical capacity. I have never received medical training, except as part of a cosmetologists course curriculum. Before treating your acne, you should consult with your doctor. Any advice you follow, in whole or in part, from any blog posts or otherwise written communication from Amelia C, LLC, is your responsibility alone. Both Amelia C and Amelia C & Co, LLC, is not responsible for any reactions you may or may not have by following any advice, tips, suggestions, or writings written. Essentially: Don’t do or do, it’s all at your own risk and you agree to hold harmless the author of these posts. 

 

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Accutane: My Personal Experience

**Note: New to my series on acne? It’s important that you start here.

You should know from the start that if you’re considering Accutane as a viable option, it comes with a lot of strings attached. When I was on Accutane, as late as mid-2011, my routine tasks to keep my prescription included:

– Signing a waiver stating I understood people have thought about suicide, attempted suicide, and committed suicide while taking Accutane

– Signing a waiver agreeing to have an abortion should I conceive during my Accutane treatment and for a month following the completetion of it

– Monthly bloodwork, starting 30 days prior to treatment and the last test being 30 days after the completion of treatment (gotta make sure the liver is still working!)

– Monthly knowledge tests of the drug. Had to go online and prove I knew about the drug I was taking, and the dangers involved, and I had to pass.

– Prove two forms of approved contraceptives

– Monthly doctors visits and other various tasks and appointments

Make no mistake- Accutane absolutely must be the very last resort. 

Understanding what Accutane is and does: Accutane is a very intense form of Vitamin A that comes in a pill form. (The blister pack of pills had a deformed baby head covering each. and. every. pill. Tell me THAT doesn’t make your lady parts quiver in fear!) The reason it works is because it shrinks the size of the sebaceous glands (oil glands) and causes a very rapid turn over of skin cells. If you’ve read the previous post on what causes acne, you understand that this, quite effectively, takes take of two of the three problems.

I started my first round of Accutane in January of 2009. In re-reading my previous writings, I realize it took a good solid 5 months for me to start noticing results. My dermatologist kept me on the drug for 7 months, but by that fifth month I distinctly remember my skin was more smooth and more clear that I can ever recall. It was pure bliss. It wasn’t till I felt good about myself that I started to change- a change that I didn’t notice then but looking back, realize it was quite drastic. I started taking much better care of myself, and my appearance. My hair and clothes and jewelry and nails and all manner of things got long-neglected attention. It’s like worrying about acne and dealing with my skin took up all the time and energy I had for myself, and once I didn’t have to worry about it anymore, once I felt beautiful, I really started treating myself like I was.

The second round of Accutane started somewhere in fall 2011. I don’t remember exactly when-

The thing about this drug is that it’s supposed to be the ONLY permanent solution. Hundreds of people have done it and gone on to have clear skin for life!! It never occurred to me that I would be back in the dermatologists office yet again, or that another round of Accutane was a viable and sometimes used option for particularly difficult skin like mine. At the time, I had been seeing the same derm for quite some time, and I remember flouncing out of his office and only making it to the next street light before I had to pull over because I was sobbing so intensely. I called a co-worker of mine and just garbled my way through crying, trying to explain what had happened. I couldn’t believe I had to do it again. The first time was bad enough- one morning during the first round I had made myself an egg sandwich for breakfast, and while I was eating it I noticed the bread had turned red. My lips were so dry and cracked I couldn’t even eat without bleeding all over my food! And sitting- sitting was terrible. The pain in my tailbone was severe, and sitting for any length of time was absolutely excruciating. Every side effect I experienced I had been warned about prior to starting it, but just because I knew it could happen doesn’t make it any less miserable. And I was miserable. I never told my derm about the depression, the pain, any of it- I was afraid he’d stop the treatment. The thought of doing a second round broke my spirit into pieces.

But, I sucked it up and did it again. Five months this time, just short of the 6 month recommended period. This time, the effects were almost immediate- I felt good about shorting that extra month. It was all clear skin and happy days. Same routine as before, blood work and waivers and knowledge tests and cracked lips. But my skin was clear again, and I had survived it the first time, so I just dealt with it.

In August 2012, my husband and I took a wonderful 17 day trip up the coast of California, hopping on a cruise ship in San Francisco that would take us up to Alaska and down back along the Canadian coastline. Early into the cruise part of our journey, I noticed the sides of my face were breaking out. No big deal- I had a skin care regimen at that point for the occasional flare ups. My skin never stayed super clear after I completed Accutane twice, but it was more manageable at this point. Only- on that trip- it got worse. I couldn’t get it under control, and before the trip was out both sides of my face were highly infected with all manner of pimples and pustules. Though none of it was cystic, it was really painful and gross and it truly covered both sides of my face. Of course, as soon as we got home I ran to my dermatologists office.

That’s when I got hit with it again- a third round of Accutane. This time I didn’t even have it in me to save my tears for the car- I began bawling right there in his office, complete with loads of snot and plenty of hysterical gasping. I had enough of a relationship with my derm and his cosmetics coordinator at the time that they were fully aware of everything that had had been done, the desperation, all of it. They knew my skin care routine and I remember saying between sobs “I don’t understand. I did everything right. I do everything you tell me to do. I get facials and medical grade peels and use professional product and have spent all the money you’ve asked me to. I’ve done everything right and then some. I’m compliant. I’m SO compliant!! Why does this keep happening?” They had no answers. That’s the reality- doctors really don’t know why we get acne, so they can only treat it as far as science tells them is possible.

To be clear- I don’t blame my derm. He gave me absolutely everything at his disposal to help me. His cosmetics coordinator, who I became very friendly with, was always checking in on me. They really did the best they could.

At the end of the day, I opted out of the third round of Accutane. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it again. Instead, I decided to once again try to find a regimen that worked for me, long term, that didn’t have an end-date. That’s the thing- my acne was always going to be here. If two rounds of Accutane didn’t fix it already, there’s a pretty good chance it’s not going away. The best I could do was not cure it, but manage it, and that would require a daily routine powerful enough to keep my skin clear but mild enough to keep going till I was old and wrinkly and didn’t care anymore.

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What causes acne? What. The. Hell. Why Me

**Note: New to my series on acne? It’s important that you start here.

What causes acne? Hell if I know. The scary part is doctors don’t really know, either. But let me explain-

Everyone who doesn’t have acne seems to know why you have acne. Have you ever noticed that? It’s like all those clear-faced people around you seem to have some advice to pass around. It’s a catch-22 tho- On one hand, if they had acne then you would know whatever it is that they did wasn’t working, but on the other hand, if they had clear skin, who knows if it was because what the did was working or if they wouldn’t have had it in the first place regardless of their skin regimen? As they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions…

So here you are, loathing the smooth skinned person in front of you who is lecturing you on Omega 3s or milk cleansers or light therapy…

(WHY IS IT THAT THEY ALWAYS ASK “HAVE YOU TRIED PROACTIVE?” Of course we have tried Proactive! You think that we have avoided the most heavily advertised acne product? You think we live in a shell in which the Proactive propaganda doesn’t reach? You think that we would willingly avoid a “miracle” product that is actually affordable?)

(…to that end, yes, I know you meant well. It’s not your fault anymore than it is mine. We know your trying to help. And we do appreciate it. Which is why I  smile and say “yes” instead of bellow at you.)

… and you still can’t figure out why you and not them. Well, doc’s haven’t figured that out yet either- they know the ingredients to the acne recipe, but they don’t know where those ingredients come from.

Three things occur to create a zit- All three of these things happen in abundance when you have chronic acne. They are: bacteria, sebum (oil), and un-shed dead skin cells.

Almost all the acne treatments you will find on the market, regardless of their form, treats one of these three things. The product is either designed to be something of an anti-bacterial, to dry up the sebaceous glands, or to shed the buildup of skin cells.

That’s it. That’s what all those products do in one way or another. If it’s clever, like Proactive, it does two of those things- three if you buy their sulfur mask.

For example: The cleanser of Proactive is an exfoliant of sorts (shedding skin cells). Then you follow up with a toner (useless and damaging). You finish off with their Repair Lotion (which is a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, an antibacterial of sorts). If you use their sulfur mask, then your treating the hyper-activity of your sebaceous glands (sulfur reduces oil production).

I’m starting to sound like an infomercial, so let me clarify by saying I am not telling you to go buy Proactive. I’m using this product as an example because it’s widely known and contains treatments for all three parts of a pimple, therefore is an example of what logic should tell us would work. Unfortunately, that isn’t so.

If we know the pieces of the acne puzzle, then why is it so hard to treat? There are, literally, only three parts to a zit and we know what they are. Mystery gone, right? Here’s the kicker: those things have to be caused by something. Therein lies the problem- you can treat the bacteria, oil, and cell shedding, but all your really doing is treating the symptoms. It’s as effective as taking a cough syrup for a cold. The cold will still be there, the cough syrup just makes is bearable. It certainly does not make the cold go away. And if that cough is caused by something more severe, like a respiratory infection, then even the highest quality cough suppressant isn’t going to make the hacking go away.

And that’s when it gets really frustrating. What is the problem that is causing the symptoms? And that’s something no one has been able to figure out.

So let’s recap:

Three main components that create a zit:

  1. a) Bacteria
  2. b) Excess Oil
  3. c) Excess Dead Skin Cells

What do most products do, Rx or OTC? Treat the symptoms, but not the problem.

Why can’t we treat the problem causing the symptoms? Because we don’t know what the problem is.  

Why me? Who knows? But, they haven’t figured out a cure for the common cold yet so it’s not like acne sufferers are the only thing science is missing. Next time I’ll talk about the different products available to treat the symptoms.

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Get Rid of Acne: An Introduction

START HERE

Get rid of acne: An Introduction

It’s important that you read this before diving into the rest of the posts, so that you understand a) what makes me such a know-it-all on the subject of acne and b) so you can understand how the posts are laid out. It also is important for you to understand all the legal mumbo-jumbo that I need to say, so some a-hole doesn’t come after me and try to sue me.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or professional in a medical capacity. I have never received medical training, except as part of a cosmetologists course curriculum. Before treating your acne, you should consult with your doctor. Any advice you follow, in whole or in part, from any blog posts or otherwise written communication from Amelia C, LLC, is your responsibility alone. Both Amelia C and Amelia C & Co, LLC, is not responsible for any reactions you may or may not have by following any advice, tips, suggestions, or writings written. Essentially: Don’t do or do, it’s all at your own risk and you agree to hold harmless the author of these posts. 

How these posts are laid out:

Getting Rid of Acne: Intro (everyone needs to start here)

What causes acne: What. The. Hell. Why me?

Accutane: My personal experience

Does your diet cause acne? Yes, No, Maybe

At home acne treatments: Dumb things I’ve done

Acne Tips: Do’s and Don’ts for Acne Skin

Medical Treatments: The dermatologist is my BFF

Clear skin finally! What I do and why I do it

Resources: Places I’ve gone to research and buy products

Covering acne with makeup: Professional advice on faking clear skin

Things to make you feel better about yourself: Media I turn to when I’m feeling particularly low

How to get rid of scarring: Because your face shouldn’t resemble post-apocalyptic earth

Great! Now that the housekeeping is taken care of, let me give you a bit of background on my own war with acne.

Sometime around 13, maybe 14, I started seeing a dermatologist for my skin. Funny- I don’t remember having really awful acne, but I guess it was enough to be treated. I was on a doxycycline, and some kind of gel, I think it was Differin. At any rate, though my skin was never the smooth, soft version of the cheer leading captain, I don’t ever recall being so abysmally horrified except for a few instances where a pimple was in a really embarrassing location- like the center of my nose.

It wasn’t until around 17 through my mid 20’s or so that what seemed like normal teenage acne made a horrific turn. Run-of-the-mill papules and pustules turned from a few offending spots into a full-on pizza face, complete with super deep and painful cysts. Cystic acne is a beast unto itself- those bastards form ponds of oil and bacteria far below the surface of the skin. Not only do you not get any satisfaction out of extracting them (the correct term and far less gross than saying “popping”) because they can’t be, but they last for f***ing ever and create craters and scars in your face. In short- bastards is a pretty mild term to describe cystic acne.

In 2004 I started cosmetology school, and the first section I read once I got my skincare textbooks was the parts on acne. By this time, I had already started my career as a professional makeup artist and was adding my cosmo license to my resume, so I’d have more freedom in the field of how and where I worked. Once I graduated in 2005, I had known a bit more about acne but I was hardly an expert, I couldn’t even treat myself.

Though my timeline is fuzzy, I believe in 2007 or so I went under the care of a dermatologist again. I hadn’t seen one since my teen years, and since I didn’t have medical insurance again till 2006 it never occurred to me that I could see a specialist without it. (Turns out you can, look into it. It’s not as costly as you think.) We did the rounds- antibiotics, Retin A, spiranolactone, so on and so forth. All very standard procedures for starting treatment of acne- start with the mildest and just work you’re way up the intensity scale till something works. Accutane was discussed as a possibility, but even if I could have wrapped my head around the side effects, I was terrified of the costs.

At the same time, I was also “self-treating”. And oh dear God, did I treat myself. I slathered my face in honey and did a kind of tapping facial that is meant to make the honey pull out the oil and bacteria and clogs. I covered my face in various professional sulfur masks (at this time, I had my license so I was able to buy pro product not usually available to consumers.) I steamed my face, scrubbed it with exfoliants, and even one time took a pumice stone to my face out of frustration. One of my better ideas (insert sarcastic font here) was to drink clay. I sh*t you not, I literally drank clay. I was at a aesthetics conference and there was this booth with products made out of calcium bentonite clay. The lady said her nephew diluted the pure clay with water and drank it, then his skin cleared up. I bought the largest jar they sold and gagged the sludge down till I realized I could beer-bong gravel and have the same results. I also tried making masks out of it, only to end up with the same results but with a super red face. Then there was the guy in line at the grocery store- a nicer old man- who said “I don’t mean to be rude, but you should really take zinc for your skin. Take such-and-such amount and it will clear up.” What a nice guy- I got out of line to go add a bottle to my purchases. If it was going to work, it sure did take it’s sweet ass time about it and I ran out of patience first. Of course, sooner than later I was bound to end up trying the Omega method- you know, where you swallow fistfulls of flaxseed or fish oil capsules. That one was the perfect combo of some research and some family telling me it worked for so-and-so. And since I was already so good at swallowing pills at that point, I tried one of those pre-packaged detoxes at Whole Foods. There was a phase where I was bouncing around from one aesthetician to another hoping that regular facials would do the trick, and a particularly holistic esti suggested a whole body cleanse. Not sure if I even did it right, but I remember not seeing any results and bemoaning the waste of money yet again.

While all this was happening, I was slowly building my makeup career. I’m here to tell you, one of the most shameful and horrifying experiences of my life are the days and days I had to go into a client as a professional makeup artist with severe cystic acne. More than once I bawled my eyes bloodshot trying to get ready for work- my amazing husband would then be required to come in and give me a pep talk just to get me to my clients that day. It was devastating. Even going to the professional beauty supply stores here in Las Vegas was a test of my grit and steel- if I happened to come in on some day where a skin care line had a rep there talking about products, it was like guerrilla warfare for me to get my supplies and bolt before some clammy hand thrust a pamphlet at me. One day some lady actually followed me down the aisle after I accidentally made eye contact with her. I really felt like stopping and shouting “Oh, I have acne? No shit, I never noticed! Thank you for pointing that out to me, from one beauty professional to another!”.  But then I would have drawn even more unwanted attention to myself, so I did the old-fashioned duck-and-cover. I think she got winded and gave up, I didn’t look back to check.

The journey to clear skin is a long, painful, and humiliating one. I won’t kid you, it ain’t pretty. But after about a 15 year battle, I’m quite confident I’ve got it under control. And, for the occasional times that I don’t, I have a quick and effective plan of action. In these 15 or so years, I have tried EVERYTHING. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has gone to such great lengths to resolve her acne issues. Here, I’m going to give you the low down on what I’ve done, what works, and what to consider. This series will be a blend of both current, updated info and writings I did back in 2009 when I first started talking publicly about my acne. Those posts had long since gone- they never seemed to make it through all the website updates- but lucky for you I’m quite fastidious and kept all my writing stored. To start things off, let me take you back to November, in 2009, while undergoing the treatment Accutane:

**Note: At first glance, it’s going to look like I’m fan-girling Accutane. I’m not. Snuggle up kids, you need to hear me out on all of it.

November 3rd, 2009:

In January, I entertained the thought of blogging about the Accutane journey I was about to start. I took photos of my face without makeup- the plan was to take photo’s every month to see how I was progressing and have a documentation of it. I chickened out when I saw the original photos- it was bad. I couldn’t bring myself to post them or talk about it.

But now, I’m nearing the end of the treatment. Accutane is recommended to run a 6 month course, and this past week I got my 5th month Rx. Just in the past few weeks have I started to notice a significant difference in my skin. There was a while there that I was so frustrated because it wasn’t clearing up fast enough, for all the hoops I had to jump thru to get it. (And trust me, there are A LOT of hoops!)

The reason I’m writing now is because I feel as if I’m finally, over a decade later, coming to the end of my acne journey. Like anyone who has acne, the longer it lasts, the more the desperation builds. For me, the sheer fact that I am in the beauty industry seemed to make it so much worse- the more successful I became in my career, the more ashamed I was of my skin. I have even been known to avoid jobs because I was too embarrassed about my face. When I would do clients makeup, my face would always be close to theirs and I felt like I had to explain myself. I could cover up color, sure- but if I had a lot of bumps, it was obvious. Some days, all I wanted to do was scream “It’s not my fault! I can’t help it!” I could go on about the humiliation, but that’s not why I’m blogging…

There is SO MUCH information out there on acne; it can be hard to sort thru. And again, desperate people do desperate things. So I’m going to lay out, very simply, what I have learned. I’ve had the added benefit of having access to professional products as well as retail products. I’ve also devoured any industry literature on acne that I could find… I think it’s only fair that I pass it along.
I’m going to divide this up into sections- I will do my best to do one a week. I’m going to start with the basics of acne. Again, the purpose of this is to simplify the options- sometimes there’s just too much information; I’m going to streamline it for you. I will chronicle what I know, as a professional and as acne patient. If I’m feeling especially brave, I’ll post pictures, but I make no promises…

If you have acne, subscribe to this blog. I may not tell you anything you don’t already know, but if anything, you’ll know that you’re not the only one out there who feels like this. Just knowing you have company may make you feel better.

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Beauty Spring Clean! 5 Tips to turn your spring cleaning into a spa day

If you’ve grown up in Vegas like most of the ‘Co has, you can appreciate the intense heat a whole lot more than visitors do. I’ve had some of our clients tell us that coming here in July is like sticking your head in the oven- it can definitely be unpleasant if you’re not used to it! But, for those of us who have spent many hot summer nights here, Spring is a sign of margaritas and pool time and planting tomatoes and opening the windows to let the stuffiness of winter breeze out.

The idea of spring cleaning may not sound that exciting to you- who wants to scrub the house when it’s so beautiful outside? But, if it’s gotta get done, you might as well make the most of it. If I’m going to be indoors and out of the public eye all day, it’s yoga pants and beauty treatments all the way. And it makes me feel super-decadent. Somewhere around 5 pm, my house smells amazing, my body feels amazing, and I’m sitting outside sipping wine and dreaming of hot summer nights. Here’s 5 spring beauty tips that you can totally do on your spring cleaning day, to lighten up both your body and your home.

1) Even the most intimidating scrub-downs can be a little more pleasant with a frilly, super girly rubber glove. Before you slip them on, coat your hands with an ultra-rich Shea butter or coconut 5 spring beauty tipsbutter. Really rub it in and thick, then pop your rubber gloves on and get to work. By the time you’re done, you’ve got your own home-made hand softening treatment. The heat from your body and the gloves will help the intense moisture really penetrate those dried out cuticles and the scaly patches between your fingers- which you probably have if you washed your hands plenty during cold and flu season.

2) I love all those hair treatment masks, but who has time for that? If you take a shower in the morning, you probably don’t have 30 minutes to sit around waiting for it’s magic to work. There’s a good chance your going to shower off all the grime from a day of cleaning anyways, and hopefully no one is going to stop by for a surprise visit, so now is the perfect time. Whip up a quick home-made hair treatment on dry hair (it’s OK if it’s dirty). Massage it into your scalp and down through your ends, then comb through with a wide-tooth comb. Pop a shower cap on (or a plastic grocery bag and clip will do!) and forget about it. When you shampoo it out, get ready for some seriously silky locks!

3) Boost your beach-body work outs with a watermelon detox. This isn’t the sexiest thing to talk about, but roll with it. We eat, and eat, and eat all winter long. Even if you’ve changed your diet and started your morning runs again, you’re body is still hanging onto all kinds of toxins from all that merry. Watermelon is a super hydrating way to detox your body and flush out your system. When I say flush, I mean flush. If you’re going to be toilet-bound for a whole day, I highly recommend you do it in the comfort of your own home. Detoxing clears up your skin, slims you down, and gives you a major energy boost. It won’t be pretty, but it will be worth it. Check out this recipe and guidance on how to do a watermelon detox. You’re going to be at home cleaning anyways, might as well clean out your body, too.

4) Pamper your feet and get your toes sandal-ready. It’s way too easy to skip those regular pedi’s during winter. No one is going to see your toes under those chic winter boots anyways. Although our feet don’t take winter that hard when they are bundled up, there’s a good chance that they could use a little pick-me-up too. Slather your Shea butter or coconut oil that you used on your hands onto your feet as well, and pay extra attention to the side of your big toe and heel. Slip on thick socks and your sneakers, then go about your housekeeping. At least you won’t be embarrassed when you make your first trip to the nail salon for summer!

5) Triple-treat your beautiful face. You don’t need to be in a spa to get the deluxe treatment action going on. Before you do all of the things listed above, before you start your cleaning, get your skin in order. Start your day with your normal face wash, taking a little more time than usual to really clean your skin. Your next step is to exfoliate- you always want to exfoliate before a mask to help with better penetration. My preferred exfoliant is 5-6 non-coated Aspirin tablets dissolved with a little water and mixed with a little cleaners. Scrub your face in small, circular motions, taking care not to press too hard. Rinse off your scrub and top with a mask that suits your own unique skin needs. If it needs to set for a while, get a jump start on your cleaning. Come back, rinse it off, and either follow up with a double pack (meaning, another mask for another treatment) or, if you’re all set, layer on a thick amount of moisturizer. You won’t be wearing makeup today, so here’s a chance to really hydrate your skin without too much moisturizer getting in the way of your foundation.

 

Happy Spring everyone! Looking forward to grill-outs, warm nights, all things coconut, and maxi dresses!

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Safe Cosmetics Database

Authors Note: This article was written in 2010 and updated Sept 2013, and since then I’ve learned even more about the safety of our cosmetics. Specifically, the Safe Cosmetics Database. Something worth noting is that “hypoallergenic” makeup doesn’t mean much. It just means that the ingredients in the product do not generally cause a reaction in most people. Regarding the safety of mineral makeup because it’s “natural”… well, scorpions are natural, too. You going to rub one all over your face? The point is this: YOU, and only YOU, can determine what’s important to you in cosmetics. For me, I’m Vegan, so I recently switched most of my makeup brushes to synthetic fibers (in LOVE with Cozzette, if your interested). But, I despise mineral makeup. Use the information at hand to make your own choices about what cosmetics work for you.

A while ago, I was forwarded an email inquiring about lead-based lipsticks. You know how you get those chain emails where everyone is worried about a health or public safety concern and it’s the same email that’s been circulating for like, years? That’s what this was. Only, it was true.

Source

The government, at best, loosely regulates the cosmetics and body care industry in Las Vegas. Loosely, at best.

Read that twice, girls and boys who want to be girls.

The stuff you shellac on your face and body every day really hasn’t been approved by a safety commission or regulatory group. Maybe some things kinda sorta get watched, maybe there’s some basic idea’s about what you can’t put in cosmetics, but it’s so loose and so unregulated that it really doesn’t matter. No one really cares if the emollient in your body lotion is a known carcinogen. I suppose you would, if you knew, but as most of us aren’t chemists we are none the wiser.

Cue hero music, enter the Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The EWG is a wonderful organization who has taken the liberty of collecting the very information that we are not privy to and putting in an accessible place so we as consumers can go and get an unpleasant education about our beauty products. By visiting their website Safe Cosmetics Database, you can look up the various goodies in your makeup bag and see how they rank on their comprehensive Hazard Scale. The scale rates cosmetics from 0, being the most benign  to 10, being toxic sludge. It also includes in their crafty little ranking why that particular cosmetic was ranked as such. Case in point: My new favorite mascara, Lash Hugger by Tarte. Let’s see how it looks to EWG:http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/product/234542/tarte_Lash_Hugger_Eco-Friendly_Natural_Mascara%2C_Black/ Not bad. Not bad at all. Get’s a 4, which is pretty low, so that’s a good start. I know that the tube itself is made from recycled aluminum, which is a bonus. Still has hazardous ingredients but on a scale going up to 10, it’s pretty mild.

I try to go through this process every time I make a new purchase. It doesn’t always happen. If I need a product and there are no other options, I won’t look it up in the database because if I’m going to have to buy it regardless, why torture myself. If there are multiple options available, I always compare products through the database. You should do the same. Do that with your cosmetics NOW so that you know what to refill and what to change next time you run out of something. While your there, make a donation. It doesn’t have to be crazy, five or ten bucks is plenty. But these people are going to save our asses if we let them so let’s fund our own education.

Another thing that fascinates me about all this is that there are some cosmetic lines that are actually banned in the UK for toxic ingredients. So, it’s OK for us American girls to slowly slaughter ourselves with our own vanity because ignorance it bliss? I don’t think so. I’m not going down without a fight.

And when you hear me pull out the soap box, just remember: There is no real government investment in regulating the cosmetic industry.

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Big Fat Truth About Stress

Stress and Weight Gain: The Big Fat Truth

The magazine racks are nearly bowing under the weight of all those glossies with screaming taglines about sex, makeup, and weight. And all of them have valid points- weight gain, especially in women, is a source of both inner and outer controversy. There’s this massive sign on the side of this super gym I drive past almost every day promoting free enrollment for women. We get it, society! You can launch all the “real women” campaigns you want but when you market your gyms and shape wear and fit models and motivational boosters, it’s hard to drown out the noise and desperation to be thin. And until recently I saw all this grand marketing as just more propaganda mixed in with everything else shoved in my face daily. But when I suddenly ballooned out last week after weeks of dieting, daily workouts, and general good health I was reduced to tears and became very hyper aware of all the “think thin thoughts” around me.

Diet and exersize has been a part of my life pretty consistenly for the past five years or so. Not because I felt over weight or had body issues, but because I liked looking better in my clothes and I liked the light, springing feeling being fit gave me. No crazy diets or work outs, either. Mostly daily cardio and plenty of clean eating. I wasn’t stick thin, but I felt balanced and never felt totally denied. I wanted to keep that comfort level, so in Janurary when I quit smoking, I immediately went on a diet as well. No reason to bloom out just because I stopped asphyxiating myself. All was well, and I’m super proud to say that as of today I am still smoke free!!! Except…

I started on the patches with lasted several weeks, and then when I finished the cycle used lozenges as needed. A few days of lozenges just to ease myself into being smoke free and just like that, I am taking my first shaky steps on the tight rope that is living life nicotine free. My proud high lasted for a brief, shining moment before plunging down into the utter depths of the depression as my dopamine levels became almost non-existent. Allow me to explain: When one smokes for a significant amount of time, the body stops producing  dopamine on its own and becomes dependant on the nicotine to kickstart dopamine release.  When one quits smoking, it takes a while for the body to start doing it’s job again. It’s that period between that’s the hardest. Doctors try to counteract this by prescribing various anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds, but that’s just trading one substance for another. Eventually, if you truly want to be chemical free, you gotta get through the dopamine dip and let your body start doing it’s thing again.

So here I am, sitting around way stressed out. My anxiety level is through the roof, and suddenly everything seems cataclysmic and urgent. I know I just gotta grit my teeth and get through it, so that’s the plan. In the meantime, I am not as stringent on my diet as I was at the beginning. The intense and unforgiving 4HB diet designed by my fav author, Tim Ferriss  is effective only as a lifestyle. And I just couldn’t hack it and be stressed out with low dopamine at the same time. So I modified the diet slightly so it wasn’t so intense, but still pretty good.

And then… last week… my waistline ballooned out as if I just had my way with a fair-ground full of fried oreos. Because, you know, when you’re stressed out the thing you want the MOST is to suddenly gain weight. I stared in the mirror naked and just cried.

It couldn’t possibly be the change in diet. Granted, I wasn’t eating super clean, but small and rare cheating may be cause for no weight loss or slight weight gain, but certainly not such a rapid weight gain.

My BFF Google had my  back and it didn’t take long to figure out the culprit in the case of Sudden Weight Gain: A sneaky little bastard named Cortisol.

I’m no dietician or scientist, so rather than try to summarize it for you here’s some link hookup:

Three Fat Chicks: How Cortisol Causes Weight Gain

Prevention.com: How to Lower Cortisol Manage Stress

A quick spree under the term “cortisol weight gain” will give you even more info.

So I guess at the end of the day, there’s more to stress management than the superior feeling of being calm in a crisis. If you get stressed out, you’re probably going to put on weight. If you put on weight, you’ll probably get stressed out.

Take two chill pills and call me in the morning.

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Melting Makeup: Survival Guide to Las Vegas Summers

Confession: I LIVE for Vegas Summers. Where out-of-towners liken our heat to sticking ones head in an oven, I live for soaring 100+ temps. And after spending nearly thirty years in the sweltering Vegas heat, I’ve learned a thing or two about keeping your makeup in place well past margarita-hour.

The key to any water-resistant makeup is…wait for it… silicone. That’s right, silicone! And if not silicone, oil. Sounds strange, I get it, but hear me out. I know right now you’re picturing something like bacon fat in a frying pan, grease slowly dissolving under the heat into a runny mess. But let me ask you this- what would happen if you put salt water in that bacon grease? It would just bead up, right? Please don’t go slather your face in Crisco, just trying to give you a visual here. Silicone-based makeup is the sexier, savvier version of the old oil-based products. And it also happens to be the base of choice for most professional artists. We can use it for traditional application and airbrush application; it blends beautifully and leaves a silky but matte finish. Sweat and tears just bead up on its finish and roll right off.  Eureka! Thankfully professional line Makeup Forever has the ultimate collection of silicone-based foundation, and Temptu has some stellar product as well. For home use, I suggest the Makeup Forever HD line.

The other not-going-anywhere product you need to have to survive our summers is eye shadow primer. Unlike other parts of your face, the eyes always have some kind of friction going on. Open, close, open, close. The lid of your eye is constantly rubbing on your crease. If you’ve ever come home and seen that unattractive line of makeup where all your carefully applied shadow has migrated to, you know what I’m talking about. Enter primer to save the day! Primer acts as a kind of adhesive, although it’s not. It locks the shadow in place from underneath, so that all those come-hither looks you’re casting about don’t skew your makeup.

Finally, the thing you need to take with you, your go to, your touch up maven, is blotting paper. (Please don’t over pay. e.l.f. makes a great blotting paper, cheap enough for each bag or clutch.) We can put anti-shine on you, we can use silicone-based makeup, we can use primers, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about your oil and sweat glands. You WILL get shiny. Blotting papers lift the moisture from your face without moving your makeup underneath. In a pinch, those toilet seat covers in public bathrooms work wonders. (Unused, please.) Unless your day exceeds 10+ hours, resist the urge to take powder with you. Oil/sweat plus powder creates an icky, cakey looking finish on the face. Gross. Far better to appear a little dewy and smooth than to look like water and flour had a fight on your face.

xoxo,

Amelia C & Co

 

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6 Totally Shallow Reasons Why I Quit Smoking

I’ve been a smoker since I was 13. It all started in English class- this super cool girl who’s clique I was pining to get into smoked. Teenagers aren’t exactly charismatic, so all I was able to come up with was “Can I bum a smoke?”

Confession: I quit smoking for totally shallow, vain reasons. Now the big 30 is looming in the near future  bringing with it all the emotions of middle age. (Does 30 count as middle age? I’m very stressed out about this!) A solid 60 seconds are spent in the mirror analyzing faint fine lines, I look forward to daily stock updates from my husband, and if I’m not careful I’ll find myself perusing baby name websites and plotting epic birthday parties. Oh, and wine is no longer an option, rather mandatory promptly at five pm as long as I am not wielding a curling iron.

So I had to quit. I didn’t quit smoking because of all the health reasons or obnoxious billboards. I didn’t quit smoking because it’s suddenly socially unacceptable.  I didn’t quit smoking out of fear of lung cancer or emphysema or gum disease. I quit smoking because I am totally, utterly, unapologetically vain. If your like me, and the dramatic anti-smoking campaigns didn’t do it for you, try these very real reasons to quit smoking now on for size.

1- I am starting to see smoker’s lines around my mouth. Ew. I have nice, full lips and LOVE my lipstick. But my lipstick was starting to feather out from my smokers lines.

2- My hair would stink like an ashtray, but if I washed it too often  my color would fade faster. I had some hair refresher spray, but that stuff made my hair feel waxy and look kinda clumpy, so I didn’t use it often. My choices were to either have my hair stink or have faded color.

3- I’ve damn near ruined many purses with spilled lotions and perfumes. Any lady who smokes knows that you practically have to bathe yourself in fragrance after a smoke to douse the stench. It’s only a matter of time before one of your fragrances spills in your bag.

4- Fine lines are starting to appear around my eyes. I knew smoking dehydrated the skin, but for God’s sake I’m 29! I thought this was something I didn’t have to worry about till at least my 40’s! It is more important to me to delay the inevitable eye lift (let’s face it, we ALL know I’m going to get one eventually) than it is to save my health. Pathetic, huh?

5- I have burned holes in some of my very favorite shirts. And I have burned the ends of my hair trying to light a cig. I love my hair, and I love my clothes. You can’t play with fire that much and NOT burn something eventually.

6- My dermatologist says I’m good for business. Seriously, I am on a first name basis with the cosmetics nurse and the receptionist can always find time for a last minute appointment. That’s because I’ve spent thousands of dollars on my skin! If you’ve been reading my blog for any time, you know I had a long, ugly battle with acne. Now that we’ve finally got it cleared, my husband still cringes when he gets the credit card bill because I’m investing in fixing the horrible scarring it left behind. I did NOT invest all this money into my skin just to botch the whole thing with smoking!

 

I get it- I SHOULD have quit smoking because I was worried about my health. I SHOULD have quit smoking because I was worried about the environment  Shoulda, woulda, coulda, whatever. I quit because I’m vain, proud, and want to be a sexy beast well past the age of 35. It just so happens that I feel a ton better and I won’t have to suddenly quit when my husband and I get knocked up!

xoxo-

Amelia C

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