This morning on Good Morning America, I showed how one of the hottest new facials – the HydraFacial – works. One reason this treatment is so incredibly popular is because, unlike many types of facials, it is so gentle. I have been getting a lot of questions on this treatment, so I wanted to answer some of them here for you!

Is it safe for all skin types?

This is a very gentle, non-irritating treatment and I am comfortable recommending it to my patients with sensitive skin, eczema, rosacea, and even melasma.

How does the HydraFacial compare to other facials?

This treatment infuses your skin with hydrating serums while a gentle vacuum simultaneously pulls out the debris clogging your pores. Although you are getting a very deep clean, the process is more forgiving than most manual extractions and many forms of microdermabrasion, especially for people with very sensitive skin.  When it comes to aggressive manual extraction techniques used during certain types of facials or deep cleaning procedures, I have seen patients come in with post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and red, blotchy skin afterwards. This is just not the case with the HydraFacial.

How long does it take and is there downtime afterwards?

This treatment takes about thirty minutes and no, there is virtually no downtime afterwards. Actually, you will see and feel an immediate improvement in your skin’s appearance.  My most sensitive patients might experience a bit of redness that lasts about 20 minutes after the procedure, mostly because it’s stimulating blood flow. That diffuse redness and plumped up appearance to the skin is very different from the blotchy, bloody irritation you can get with some types of aggressive facials.  My patients all go back to work or back to their lives immediately after the treatment.

Can I get Botox on the same day as a HydraFacial?

In my office, I recommend waiting at least 20 minutes after a HydraFacial before you receive any Botox injections. As I mention above, your skin can have a slight flush after the HydraFacial and I like to be sure it is completely resolved prior to administering any injections. If you get fillers or Botox injections immediately after a HydraFacial, I believe it can increase your risk of bruising. Your blood vessels are dilated from the procedure, and that’s what gives you that blush and the plump, healthy appearance to the skin. But dilated blood vessels are a recipe for bruising if you try to inject before they’ve had a chance to constrict back to normal.  So, in my opinion, I would either schedule your injections for a different day, or wait about 20 minutes between your HydraFacial and your injections.  Again, this is my personal experience, so of course I recommend consulting with your doctor regarding your own needs.

How often do you recommend getting a HydraFacial?

I recommend this treatment about once per month because it’s such an effective tool from a preventative and maintenance perspective. It is highly complementary to other procedures that I offer in my office, which is also very beneficial when patients would like to come in for multiple procedures which work synergistically. For example, some lasers and even microneedling can have a drying effect on the skin while the skin heals.  Coming in a week or two after those treatments for a HydraFacial is a recipe for success if time and budget allow!

I look forward to sharing more innovations in skin health and skin care with you guys very soon!

Dr. Whitney

Using our own blood to heal our bodies is not only a hot trend, but it actually is something I use in my office in many different ways (and have for years). The key here is – of course, a seasoned practitioner to ensure safety — but also, to be sure that the “blood” you are using has a chance of working and actually being effective.

We are not talking about taking your blood and applying it directly onto your face or putting it directly into a cream. Instead, as I explained this morning on Good Morning America, I work with “Platelet Rich Plasma therapy or “PRP.”

How this works:

I take a small sample of your own blood from your arm and then I place the blood sample in a special tube that has a plug, then pop that tube in my centrifuge. The centrifuge spins down the blood, separating it into the PRP on one side of the plug, and the white and red blood cells on the other.  I use a patented system called Selphyl to completely separate the platelet rich plasma or “PRP” from the remaining blood, so I know the PRP I’m using is pure.  I then stabilize the growth factors in the PRP using calcium chloride, so the PRP I use during my in office procedures contain growth factors that will continue to work on the skin and the hair follicles for 7 days even after the procedure.  That pure, stable PRP is then used in a number of different procedures, which I will explain in more detail below.

But first, color counts when it comes to plasma. Your plasma should be yellow or straw colored. That means it is not contaminated with your red or white blood cells. If it is yellow, you can use it. If it is red or pink, you should not allow anyone to use it for a procedure.  If even a drop of red blood cells make their way into your PRP, it could stain your skin! And white blood cells contaminated your PRP can CAUSE inflammation and negate all the benefits of the growth factors!

Products and Procedures using your plasma:

(1) Blood Creams: I cover this topic right here: link to segment

(2) Vampire Facials: I cover this subject in this morning’s Good Morning America FB Live and also in this in-office FB live.

(3) PRP for hair growth: Many of my patients are experiencing hair loss and thinning. This treatment works equally effectively for men and women and for all ethnicities. If you are sensitive to pain, we often use a form of laughing gas in my office during the injections to help ease the pain and anxiety.  Read more about this procedure right here.

Key Questions you Should Ask your Dermatologist:

If you are planning to get one of these PRP procedures involving your blood, you want to ask the following questions:

  1. What system do you use to purify my plasma?
  2. Can I see my plasma before we use it? (Check for color!)
  3. Ask who will be performing your procedure and their level of experience (We are talking about blood, here, and safety is always critical).

I can’t wait to share more information with you on achieving your healthiest, most radiant skin. More to come!

Dr. Whitney

Many of my patients ski and snowboard through early March, and they’re always asking me how to take care of their skin when they hit the slopes.

Here are my top 3 tips for your next ski outing:

TIP #1: Make sure your goggles have UV protection. Polarized lenses cut down on glare, but have nothing to do with filtering harmful UV rays before they reach the delicate tissue around your eyes. Make sure your goggles are both polarized and that they filter UV rays. If they are not, then make sure to apply sunscreen underneath the goggles on both the upper and lower lids.

TIP #2: Apply sunscreen to your lower face. When you’re on the slopes the sun is not just hitting you from above, but also reflecting off the snow. All that scatter can actually magnify the effects of the sun’s rays on the little bit of skin that remains exposed, which is usually your lower face and lips.  If you pull up your neck gator and cover your lower face, great. But sometimes those gators fall down, so to be safe, make sure to apply both an SPF of 50 + to your lower face AND a lip balm with an SPF.

TIP #3: Stay hydrated. The high altitudes plus the dry air and whipping winds can really challenge your skin’s ability to trap moisture. Make sure to hydrate more than usual. Although water should be your primary source of hydration, I like to make sure I’m also getting electrolytes and antioxidant properties at least once during each ski day. My go to is HALO Sport because it’s formulated with antioxidant vitamins A, C and E as well as Amla Berry which is a superfood known for its potent antioxidant properties. I also am not an advocate of artificial sweetener (or drinks loaded with regular sugar) for our skin health and overall health, so I love that I now have a sport drink option that includes only 2g of naturally sourced sugar, and the entire bottle is only 10 calories.

So, enjoy your winter sports and take great care of your skin so that when spring and summer roll around, you are loving the way your skin looks too!

Dr. Whitney

 

What started out as a buzz in beauty and wellness circles has become an all-out craze over Cannabis. Why is CBD so hot right now? What does it do? Does it get you high? Is it legal and of course, is it safe? I’ve been testing some really good products in this space lately and I’m looking forward to sharing what I’m learning about it with you.

The Skinny on CBD

To start, there are 80 different compounds that have been extracted from the Cannabis plant. These compounds are called cannabinoids. Interestingly, our bodies have an endocannabinoid system and we even make our own cannabis-type chemical called anandamide!

Two of the most well known cannabinoids are THC, which can get you high, and CBD (which is short for cannabidiol), which does not. In other words, CBD doesn’t lead to feelings of euphoria. Some people say that CBD doesn’t have psychoactive effects, but I beg to differ.  Psychoactive drugs, by definition, can alter your mood.  When I’ve ingested CBD, I definitely notice a change in my mood. I feel more relaxed and at ease.  My patients who struggle with anxiety feel less anxious and more calm.  So, while I don’t think CBD can get you high, I do think it is technically a psychoactive compound.  Caffeine is considered to be psychoactive, so don’t let that term scare you!

When you ingest or absorb CBD, it naturally elevates your own internal cannabinoids/anandamide. And CBD and anandamide receptors are found in numerous parts of our bodies. CBD has gotten a ton of attention lately based on some recent studies are showing that it might have health benefits.

In terms of legality, CBD comes from the cannabis sativa plant. If the plant has less than 0.3% THC content, it’s considered hemp. If it’s got more THC, it’s considered cannabis, not hemp. This makes a difference in terms of whether its legal and in which state.

CBD and Your Skin

If you ingest CBD in a supplement or under your tongue, it enters the bloodstream and can interact with receptors throughout the body.  But if you rub it on the skin, it acts more locally and is less likely to have systemic effects

In particular, CBD appears to have anti-inflammatory properties, and many skin conditions are linked to inflammation, so it’s not a surprise this ingredient is popping up in tinctures, oils and serums. As we know from The Beauty of Dirty Skin, inflammation is the common thread that underlies seemingly unrelated skin issues including acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and even premature aging.

The other potential upside of topical CBD is its potential to act as an analgesic to reduce pain in the skin.  Preliminary studies also suggest cannabis might help with itchy skin, wound healing and even skin cancer.

There are no large clinical trials in humans showing that these compounds are either safe or effective in humans. But, there are a few promising animal and laboratory studies that show potential for topical use that might benefit certain skin conditions.

There are some studies suggesting that topical cannabinoids might help dial down inflammation seen in eczema, skin allergies and psoriasis. Topical application to the skin of mice demonstrated that these molecules were able to not only calm inflammation, but also slow down production of molecules that we know make the skin feel itchy, like histamine. Some studies also show that they can help repair the skin barrier, helping the skin trap moisture while keeping foreign or harmful substances from penetrating into the skin.

Looking Forward:

I believe CBD holds promise for:

  • Acne: studies show that it can dial down redness, inflammation AND helps with sebum production/oil control
  • Itchy and inflamed skin: studies show that it can help to prevent the release of molecules linked with itch (like histamine), could be useful for eczema, bug bites or wounds starting to heal which often itch.
  • Skin cancer: studies show might be able to slow that rapid, uncontrolled, dysregulated cellular division that leads to skin tumors and skin cancers
  • Painful skin (shingles or a sunburn): preliminary studies suggest might even dial down the sensation of pain in the skin.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety is such a skin health saboteur (https://drwhitneybowe.com/stressing-24-7-is-b-b-bad-to-the-biome/) so I have my eye on the available information on CBD and stress!

My Current Thoughts:

For now, here are some of the recommendations I feel comfortable making to my patients. I would feel comfortable using CBD oil as a massage oil on INTACT, HEALTHY skin. I would totally rub it onto your soles before a night in heels! However, I am NOT ready to rub this onto skin that is inflamed. Even though it holds promise for conditions like eczema, rosacea, sunburns and wound healing, we know that ingredients are much more likely to penetrate into inflamed skin. These conditions are all characterized by inflamed skin, and an unhealthy barrier. I like to call this “leaky skin” and leaky skin is vulnerable skin. So, until I see some compelling clinical trials, I would NOT rub it on anything but healthy skin (for example, if your skin is red, itching, burning, stinging or painful- hold off for now).

Brands I am Loving:

Lord Jones 

Plant Juice Oils (founders are personal friends of mine!)

Dr. Whitney

 

 

I love bonding with my 7 year old daughter, Maclane, and planning special activities together. We might take a mommy and me yoga class, go out to lunch, or get a manicure together as a treat for a special occasion like a birthday or wedding!

I have been getting a lot of questions this week about the safety of child facials or “baby facials” after a photo of Harper Beckham receiving this type of facial was shared on social media.

First, Is a “Baby Facial” Safe?

Children naturally have lots of collagen and hyaluronic acid in their skin, so their skin is naturally more smooth and plump than adult skin. However, they are more prone to absorbing ingredients rubbed onto their skin than adults due to a number of factors including their high surface area-to-volume ratio and immature drug metabolism systems. This can present safety concerns depending upon the type of products and ingredients used during the facial.

Additionally, some facials can use products that make the skin more sensitive to the sun. Given that children spend more time playing outdoors and are not as diligent with sunscreen, this is something to consider when providing consent for a facial treatment. Furthermore, sun damage during childhood can have especially serious consequences when it comes to skin cancer risk down the road.

And – some facials involve extractions. If those extractions are too aggressive, it could bruise, break a blood vessel, or leave a permanent “ice pick” scar in the skin.

Finally, children are generally not as careful around steam and boiling water so depending on the facial, there could be a risk of being burned.

My Opinion on “Baby Facials”

From my clinical experience (and life experience), children can be very susceptible to comments made about their skin and appearance. A well-meaning practitioner might begin a treatment by pointing out an “area of concern” or identifying “problem areas” in the skin. I would hesitate to expose my daughter unnecessarily to these types of comments given the impact they could potentially have upon her emotional well-being and self-esteem.

In my opinion, if Mac really wanted to experience a “baby facial” specifically geared toward children which involves pampering and positivity and some natural, clean skincare products, I don’t think it can hurt. On the flip side, if she feels like we are treating an “issue”, addressing a “problem”, or if she thinks she “needs” this to be beautiful/healthy, then I would most likely believe that the risk outweighs the benefit.

 

There is so much buzz surrounding mineral oil. My patients ask me about it all the time. There is a lot of misinformation out there – and a lot of it is scary (for example, many of my patients are wondering whether mineral oil can cause cancer). I wanted to give more background and information on this subject to help to separate fact from fiction. This is especially timely because products containing mineral oil (Aquaphor, Petroleum Jelly) are many people’s go-to products when their skin is dry, red, and chapped during winter.

What is Mineral Oil?

Mineral oil is a clear, odorless oil which is derived from petroleum. It comes in different grades, ranging from the technical grade – which is used to lubricate car engines and equipment – to a highly purified cosmetic grade which is often found in many of the skin care products you might have in your house.

Mineral oil and petroleum jelly are both byproducts of petroleum refinement and both are considered petrochemicals.  Recently, you may see more and more products marketed as “free of petrochemicals” or “petrochemical-free” and that means they don’t contain mineral oil or petroleum jelly.  Some popular products containing mineral oil that you probably have in your home include Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and Aquaphor.

Is it Dangerous?

There is so much ongoing confusion and even fear surrounding mineral oil and petroleum jelly. People are worried about “impurities” and “contaminants” found in mineral oil – and there is some concern that it could even be carcinogenic.

The cosmetic grade mineral oil is completely different from the type of mineral oil used to lubricate engines. It’s gone through purification processes to remove these contaminants and impurities. Mineral oil is an occlusive emollient, meaning that it helps to keep your skin hydrated by locking in moisture by forming a barrier on your skin’s surface. Based on my research, it’s actually considered very safe and rarely causes irritation or an allergic reaction.

Would I be afraid to use Vaseline or Aquaphor on myself or my family, say, after a burn or after washing out a cut or scrape?  Not at all. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology advocates using Petroleum Jelly as standard protocol in wound care.

Do I use products with mineral oil on my skin or my daughter’s skin every day?  

I don’t, but it’s not because mineral oil scares me. Here are two main reasons I don’t rely on mineral oil containing products on a daily basis. First, I expect more from my skincare ingredients. Mineral oil isn’t irritating, and yes it is hydrating, but for me, that’s not enough justification to use it on a daily basis. I’d prefer to find ingredients that not only moisturize but also provide other benefits such as anti-inflammatory or antioxidant properties. The second reason I don’t use mineral oil containing products on a daily basis is because, even though mineral oil is unlikely to clog pores on its own, it can trap other pore-clogging ingredients in the skin. So if you use a product that combines mineral oil with another ingredient, the mineral oil can potentially trap that other ingredient in the skin.

What can I use instead of mineral oil?

Many of my patients are starting to consider other options to mineral oil and have noticed that clean beauty certifications often specifically exclude products containing mineral oil. For example, “Clean at Sephora” specifically means that the products included are free of sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde, phthalates and mineral oils.  Two of my favorite alternatives to mineral oil and petroleum jelly are shea butter and sunflower seed oil. Stay tuned for some of my favorite DIY home skincare recipes using these ingredients!

Dr. Whitney

The holiday season is one of the busiest times in my office because of all of the holiday parties and events! My patients ask so many questions about prepping their skin for these special events. So, I wanted to share these pearls with you guys as well. Here’s my countdown to radiant skin right in time for the holidays:

5 Days To Go: This is the perfect time to opt for a superficial chemical peel to really amp up your skin’s healthy glow. Long gone are the days of the Sex and the City/Samantha chemical peel. My patients love in-office chemical peels. For dull, dry skin, I opt for a glycolic acid peel. For oily/acne prone skin, I focus on a salicylic acid peel. Both options will help boost your healthy glow (and if you are planning to wear makeup for an event, your makeup application will be so much more smooth and beautiful). For an at home option, check out this “babyfacial” from Drunk Elephant.

It’s also a great time to start incorporating a reputable collagen powder supplement to your coffee or smoothie on a daily basis. For another option, try bone broth!

3 Days to Go:  You probably already know that I love a cool mist humidifier to add moisture to the air in your bedroom at night.

It’s also a good time to start cutting down on salt and alcohol and load up on water. You want to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate in order to rebalance your salt/water ratio. This will help to avoid puffy eyes and overall puffiness. To find out more about some of my favorite low sugar, hydrating beverages, check out this post.

 Holiday Party Eve: This is definitely not the time to start introducing new products into your skincare routine. You don’t want to have an adverse reaction just in time for your special event. It is, however, the perfect time to start thinking about using a sugar scrub like this one to exfoliate and soften your elbows, knees, legs and feet. You can lock in your skin’s healthy moisture by following the scrub with raw, organic cocoa butter, which you can melt down a bit and then smooth onto your skin for a delicious smelling, intensely hydrating experience!

Enjoy your beautiful, radiant, smooth skin and happy holidays!!

Xoxo,

Dr. Whitney

Personalized skincare has so much appeal. The skincare industry is overcrowded and incredibly noisy in terms of constantly emerging trends, companies, products, and aggressive marketing. How can you navigate through the seemingly endless options available to pinpoint the products that are best suited for your skin?

As a dermatologist and media expert, I pour over science and studies behind new skincare innovations. I serve on advisory boards, attend the most cutting edge industry conferences, and personally test products. My patients ask me all the time to make specific, personalized skincare recommendations and I love to share that information because it makes a real difference when your products actually work to meet your needs.

I am always interested in learning about innovations in this area that can help people to better educate themselves as to which types of products will be most beneficial for their individual needs. That’s why I was so intrigued when I learned about HelloAva.

I met the company’s co-founder, Siqi Mou at a beauty event in NYC. Siqi – who happens to be strikingly beautiful, warm, and incredibly forward thinking – explained to me that the concept for this innovative company was born in her business school class at Stanford and it has gained momentum and grown exponentially in the past few years.

The concept is akin to a Stitch Fix for your face and uses the tagline, “the Brains Behind Your Beauty.” I was excited to learn more about this platform, which merges artificial intelligence with live skincare consultants, to personalize your skincare selections. Siqi and her team have gone to great lengths to make this process streamlined, accurate and productive and to set themselves apart from predecessor “online skincare consultant” brands that lacked “wow” factor. So, I asked Siqi to share her insight, journey as a young entrepreneur in such a competitive space, and more about HelloAva with you guys!

DWB: I remember you explaining to me that HelloAva was initially created as part of a business school project. Can you share more on how this project evolved from its initial stages to the incredible new company you now run?

SM: Yes, indeed. It started as a class project in this class called “Lean Launchpad” at Stanford graduate school of business, which taught you how to test out an idea lean before going in 100%. Originally we wanted to make customized skincare products but after interviewing over 300 women during this class, we realized the bigger pain point is “not being able to identify what works for me” and over 90% of the women we talked to expressed that they had to go through trials and errors to identify what works. We want to eliminate that process and help people get to their “perfect match” faster. So we decided to change the idea and instead build a platform to use big data to help people identify what works for what kind of people, and then lead customers to the right set of solutions more efficiently. 

DWB: I’ve heard you describe HelloAva as the “Stitch Fix” for your face. Can you share more on that analogy?

SM: Stitch fix matches you with a personal stylist and uses both AI and human expertise to personalize clothing choices for you. We are trying to do that for a different vertical. The challenge is that for beauty products, customers cannot just try them and return what they don’t like, so we show them what they are getting before we ship the products out. This way users can read more about the products and make more informed decisions before they receive the products. What’s very unique about our service is that we always highlight why certain product is good for the user based on personalized information, and everyone’s content is different and 100% customized. Say if someone has dryness and dullness as key concerns, we will highlight what ingredients in the matched products will solve for those needs. 

DWB: HelloAva is such an innovation because it merges human intelligence (read: real live skin care consultants) with data science to pinpoint the best products for your skin. How does this work?

SM: Yes, exactly. We realized the best user experience should neither be 100% robotic nor 100% human. The former makes it a very mechanic and sub-par experience, and the latter makes the process less efficient and objective. We want to blend the best of both worlds. So the machine does the initial selection based on our proprietary algorithm and data science. Then the human experts (all licensed estheticians) jump in to talk to our users a bit more to learn more about her/his lifestyle, preference and what she/he wants to optimize for, and can make modifications accordingly. This process is also a supervised learning system so that as human modifies product choices, the machine learns from expert input and gets smarter and smarter overtime. It also applies the same logic to similar users in the future. 

DWB: I know streamlining communication is very important to your brand. For example, simple, clear text messages are the key way that Ava communicates with your customers. Can you tell us more about this ease of communication that you’ve created?

SM: We’ve realized that skincare is an ongoing life-long journey and one’s skin changes over time, so she/he constantly needs help. If we can always be there for her/him to help find the right set of the products, adjust different routines based on seasons, and prepare her/him for different events and occasions, that personalized attention is what the user really needs. And what’s the easiest way to achieve that? Become her/his skincare best pal and communicate with them via text messages whenever she/he needs.

It’s so easy, smooth and stress-free.

DWB: I know we’ve also spoken about the fact that your platform works around the products that your customer already uses and loves. Can you explain how that works?

SM: Yes, if a customer tells us she/he loves certain products and wants to incorporate those into her/his new routine, we can do that and add that into her/his regimen. It’s a very simple process, we will just identify what’s the gap in her/his routine and complement it with new products to make it better. However, if a user is not so sure about her/his products and wants to try new things and revamp the routine completely, we can do that too. We are always customer centric so we do whatever the customer wants. 

DWB: What has this experience been like for you, co-founding this emerging company which has gotten so much media attention?

SM: You are too sweet. It’s just the beginning! We have big dreams to disrupt the beauty industry and bring in much more effective and efficient ways for customers to choose products and make this process personalized and easy. And the best way to do that is through technology! We live in a world with so much great technology but if you think about the way beauty e-commerce functions, the user experience is still pretty broken and antiquated. People are still complaining about all the trials and errors they had to go through in order to find out what works. Using technology to improve on this experience is not only desired but rather, demanded by the new generation. It will truly become a game changer in elevating the way people discover, experience and shop for beauty products.

DWB: What is one word of motivation/advice you would give to young entrepreneurs?

SM: We need to take a chance on ourselves. One of the best advice I got from business school was what my professor from a startup class old us “If not now, then when? If not us, then who?”  There’s NEVER going to be a perfect time if you keep dwelling on it. You just have to do it!

I am going to be completing my very own trial with HelloAva, so stay tuned on my personal experience and, to learn more about HelloAva, click here: https://helloava.co/

Dr. Whitney

 

 

Many of my patients find facial oils confusing. Are they a replacement for day cream, night cream, serum? Should you apply them before your face cream or after? I’m here to answer all of these questions, and more.

How Do Facial Oils Hydrate Your Skin?

Oils are emollients, so they do not hydrate your skin’s deeper layers. Rather, they stay closer to the top layer of your skin and hydrate the surface of your skin while providing protection for your skin’s barrier. They act as a sealant which locks moisture in the skin and that can be very beneficial for your skin’s overall health, provided that the oils are not too heavy. So, I do not recommend swapping out your hydrating moisturizer for a face oil altogether, but they can be very effective if used several times per week at night to seal in your skin’s moisture after cleansing. Many of my patients swear by facial oils, so I think the key is trying different brands and different amounts to find the formula and quantity that works best with your skin.

How the Microbiome and Facial Oils Work Together

We are also learning so much right now about the skin microbiome – the millions of invisible bacteria that live on the surface of the skin and help the skin to function. Just like we have bacteria in our gut, we are covered with bacteria on our skin! And we need those bacteria to maintain the health of our skin. Some of those healthy bacterial strains feed off of our skin’s natural oils, called sebum. This can be a good thing—in the case of promoting the growth of bacterial strains that boost our natural collagen or ceramide production! But this can be a bad thing if we are feeding bacteria that cause breakouts. We are just learning about this area right now, but it’s possible that certain oils you might be adding to your skincare regimen might also act as food for the healthy strains of bacteria, a “prebiotic” if you will. I cover the microbiome and how it affects our skin in my book, The Beauty of Dirty Skin.

How to Use Facial Oils On Your Skin

I recommend mixing a few drops of oils with your regular moisturizer. If you apply oils first, then you will block the anti-aging ingredients in your moisturizer from penetrating into the skin.

How to Use Facial Oils If You Have Acne-Prone Skin

Take it slow and use only 1-2 drops of oil mixed into your moisturizer at first. If you notice that you break out more when you use the oil, then save the oil only for days when your skin feels tight or dry, or the weather is harsh and cold (like whipping winds).

“Stop picking your face” we say to ourselves, but as the day progresses, we find ourselves scratching, popping and aggravating pimples, bumps and anything that rises above the surface of the skin. Here, my patient and I share a real life journey of skin picking and solutions that have worked.

“I can go an entire weekend without touching my face, but as soon as I’m back at my computer trying to concentrate, I find my hands instinctively going to my face without even realizing it,” says Emily*, a patient who came to see me for her skin picking habit over a year ago.

Skin Picking at Desk

This is so much more common that people realize. I see many patients in my office who have strong urges to pick their skin, even though they know it creates scarring and infection. That’s why I’m sharing this blog with you. Here are some ways that I help patients in my office to combat this very real (and common) urge.

You Are NOT Alone: It’s Okay to Be Honest About Your Habit with Your Doctor

Fact: It’s estimated that 75 percent of people with a picking disorder are women.

When a patient comes into my office with this issue, she often doesn’t want to admit it initially. So, my goal is to make her feel comfortable and realize she’s not being judged. I’ll say something like, “It looks like you’ve been on the attack!” and then I’ll ask what’s been going on, and if there have been any recent stressors she wants to discuss.

The first objective is to let the patient know she’s part of a team and will have a partner to tackle the habit. It’s not about “curing” the patient or chastising her if she falls off the wagon and has a bad night.  It’s about coming up with a personalized strategy that helps that patient feel more in control.

“My skin has gone through ups and downs over the years,” Emily says. “My stress levels cause my picking to flare, but when I follow Dr. Bowe’s advice, my skin always improves.”

Retrain Your Brain to Be Mindful While Keeping Your Hands Busy

Often, this is an unconscious issue so we have to bring mindfulness to the behavior and help the patient realize when he or she is most likely to pick. Many of my patients pick most when they are sitting in front of a computer screen, trying to meet a deadline.  Others pick when they finally find time to unwind in the evening, relaxing in front of a TV screen.  I often suggest keeping a “Hands off!” sticky note on the computer screen or on the TV remote to call attention to the picking and remind the patient not to engage.

Sometimes just redirecting the patient’s attention to another “neutral” activity can retrain the brain to do something other than pick.

fidget spinner skin picking

“What makes it difficult for me to stop picking is the fact that I do it without thinking about it,” Emily says. “Dr. Bowe suggested I keep my hands busy with a fidget toy when I’m concentrating.” That habit has been successful in keeping Emily from picking at her skin. Some pickers may use a stress ball or spinner to keep their hands busy.

Use Tried and True Approaches to Skin Care that Minimize Breakouts

 I take a “field” approach with my patients. Rather than treat specific spots and chase the breakouts, I focus on keeping the skin healthy and clear. I encourage superficial in-office peels and a topical retinol alternating with an antioxidant.

Spot treating can’t hurt, but it won’t prevent pimples because you treat one pimple in one place, and another erupts in a completely different spot the next day. I’m all about staying one step ahead so no one has to resist the temptation to squeeze!

“Dr. Bowe mentioned that the best way to stop picking is to not have anything to pick,” Emily says. “Now I get monthly peels and use a topical retinol which has helped treat the breakouts.”

Meditate + Upgrade Your Diet

 Figuring out what triggers and aggravates the behavior is crucial. Stress is almost always a factor, so I encourage my patients to take out time to engage in calming, tension-relieving activities. Blocking out time to practice yoga, take a spin class or just spending time outdoors and experiencing nature can be incredibly therapeutic during high-stress periods. Patients who pick tend to be very successful, and many are perfectionists.  They often feel guilty taking time for themselves, but that’s one of the most critical steps on the road to recovery!

Yoga and skin health

Simply focusing on breathing can also help. Studies show that deep breathing triggers a relaxation response that relieves emotional stress. Just taking a few minutes to take deep breaths can lower cortisol levels and reduce stress all day long. I recommend trying a meditation app like Breethe / or guided meditation on Insight Timer or even the Oprah and Deepak Chopra 21-Day Meditation Challenge.

Ingesting certain plants called adaptogens can also help the body resist stress and lift energy levels. Many of my patients find that stimulants, like caffeine, can exacerbate their picking. I often recommend trying adaptogens like this one to support productivity and focus without relying on extra doses of caffeine (which lead to anxiety, which leads to picking).

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

When people are battling compulsive picking, getting medical help is essential. I advise my patients to schedule regular appointments for peels or in office light based treatments or to come in as soon as a cyst emerges for a cortisone injection. Often just knowing they’re coming in to see me makes a patient feel in control and accountable.

But there are some extreme instances when a mental health professional may be necessary. According to the International OCD Foundation, picking is a concern when it’s repeated, causes damage, interferes with daily activities and causes distress. In these instances, SSRI medications and cognitive behavioral therapy can work in tandem with a skin care regimen to reduce the urge to pick.

I’m honest with my patients and let them know it’s a journey, but one they will not have to endure alone.

“I’ve been seeing Dr. Bowe every three to four months for several years and my skin has dramatically improved,” Emily says. “My overall skin texture has improved and my acne is much less of a problem. But the biggest change is in my confidence level. I’m not distracted by my breakouts and I can talk to people without having anxiety about my skin.”

Dr. Whitney

*Name changed to protect patient’s privacy.

@DrWhitneyBowe

RT @DrWhitneyBowe: Brand new Picks Page post about a supplement that can help reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. In view of the FD…

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