Today I’m proud to present my interview with one of the most in-demand dermatologists in the country, Dr. Whitney Bowe, M.D. As a top dermatologist, Dr. Bowe specializes in skin rejuvenation, laser dermatology, and the link between nutrition and skincare. Her work has earned the attention of top media outlets, netting her invitations to lend her expertise on programs like Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, The Doctors, and Dr. Oz, and publications like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ALLURE, and INSTYLE. Welcome, Dr. Bowe!
I am so excited to share this brand new page with you guys!
Part of my job as a dermatologist and media expert is to know which of the trending products really work and deliver the results they promise! As a research scientist, I look at the science and the studies behind product claims. I want to see proof that the products that I am recommending do what they say they will do for your skin! I want to see proof that the product is safe. I am all for trying a new trend or an exotic ingredient, but only if I am confident it will not harm my skin’s barrier and my overall health.
I am asked for my product recommendations all the time – so here they are! I will update my top picks on a monthly basis so you always have the opportunity to learn about something new and exciting! I will share recommendations for women, men, and children – something for everyone. I look forward to sharing my favorite products and brands with you to help you achieve your skin goals and stay sun safe and radiant!
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.
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 or for oily skin to trick your skin into producing less sebum. 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.
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 new book, The Beauty of Dirty Skin.
How to use oils on your face: 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.
Oils and 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).
QUESTION 1: What helps with acne scarring?
ANSWER: When it comes to acne scarring, there are many options that can smooth out those scars, but they usually work best when used as part of a personalized treatment plan. Topical retinoids are key to use at home, as they help to rebuild the collagen especially in atrophic scars (ones that appear depressed or have a shadow). If scars are raised (so called hypertrophic scars), then cortisone shots can make a huge difference. For ice pick scars, and many types of rolling scars, I usually combine lasers with microneedling and fillers. I use lasers like the Fraxel laser to resurface the skin. Microneedling is amazing for acne scars as well. I can combine microneedling with your own plasma (the so-called Vampire Facial), or I can combine microneedling with radiofrequency energy (the Endymed Intensif). Last, chemical peels can also help to slowly even out the tone and textural changes associated with acne sequelae. (more…)
Question 1: How do I get rid of cystic acne?
ANSWER: Cystic acne is usually a result of hormones, stress and diet. The cysts are deep, and often tender or even painful, and they tend to stick around for what feels like FOREVER! If you try to pop them, nothing comes out because they’re not connected to the surface. You usually end up making things worse. When the cysts resolve, they leave marks that can sometimes last for weeks or even months. Ok, enough doom and gloom. What can we do to treat or prevent cystic acne? Although the typical acne creams with retinoids and benzoyl peroxide can’t hurt, they don’t do much in cases of cystic acne. To treat cystic acne, it’s best to use a multimodal approach. First, diet and stress are key factors in this kind of acne. More on how to make some dietary and lifestyle changes that will help prevent cystic acne below. Second, many of my patients with cystic acne benefit from prescription hormonal medications such as birth control pills or a medication called spironolactone. If you’re going the birth control route, you should make sure your pill contains BOTH estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone only forms of contraception (the “mini pill,” implantable devices and even some IUDs can make cystic acne MUCH worse). Spironolactone has literally been a game changer in my practice. It’s a pill you take every day that blocks the effects of male hormones on the skin, and can dramatically clear up adult female acne. But I like to keep the doses low, and to do that, I need to make sure my patients are following the right diet and reducing their stress levels as much as possible. That’s one of the reasons I wrote The Beauty of Dirty Skin (link below). It’s easy to write a prescription, but diet and stress management is complicated! You can write chapters on those topics… so I did! Last, I like to tackle cystic acne using minimally invasive procedures in my office like cortisone injections, chemical peels and light based therapies.
Question 2: Is there anything other than Retin A, cortisone injections to treat? What preventative steps can be taken in terms of diet and lifestyle?
ANSWER: Cortisone injections can be amazing if you can get in to see a derm, but that’s easier said than done for most people! When it comes to diet, it’s essential to avoid skim milk, as this has been shown in a number of studies to trigger acne. But also beware of milk proteins that might sneak their way into your diet: whey and casein can play a major role in acne for some people, and they are commonly found in protein powders and “healthy” bars that are high in protein. High cortisol levels can also make cystic acne lesions explode all over your chin. It’s essential to start making lifestyle changes that drop those cortisol levels and keep them in a healthy range. One tip for doing that is incorporate regular exercise. Regular exercise reduces stress levels very effectively, and helps you sleep better (which in turn further reduces your stress hormone levels in your blood).
Question 3: Are regular treatments like peels or lasers something that should be considered to minimize future breakouts and/or reduce residual scarring?
ANSWER: Absolutely! My patients who can afford to get regular peels and light based therapies see a huge difference in their skin FAST. Salicylic acid chemical peels combined with Theraclear (also called Acleara) light treatments are incredibly effective and work FAST. In my practice, I use a number of lasers and devices to improve acne scarring and minimize pore size, including Fraxel, Endymed Intensif and Microneedling. However, these treatments can be costly and those costs can add up. Even without these therapies, if you use the right skincare products and make certain lifestyle changes (detailed in my book – The Beauty of Dirty Skin), you can achieve beautiful, radiant skin on any budget!
I have a serious sweet tooth, so I love this dream smoothie so much. It’s so rich and delicious and skin-healthy!
Smoothies, unlike juices, are rich in natural fruit fiber, something that is removed when you juice. If your juice is any color other than green, you’re spiking your blood glucose and insulin levels, and triggering inflammation in your skin. If I’m juicing, I stick primarily to green veggies. But, when I make smoothies, I never hesitate to throw in a variety of rainbow colored fruits. So get yourself a blender and get ready to indulge that sweet tooth in a skin friendly way!
Because I’m a blueberry fanatic and because they’re rich in antioxidants, I start with those. A handful of greens—baby spinach or baby arugula work here—adds a touch of collagen-friendly vitamin C while almond butter adds protein and skin friendly fats. I add frozen bananas for the thick and creamy texture they give. If your banana isn’t quite ripe, it’s a wonderful source of prebiotics, also known as the food for gut-friendly probiotics, however it won’t be as sweet. If you use an unripened banana and still crave a touch more sweetness, add a few dates, figs or even two stevia leaves from the garden! The plant is really easy to find at your local nursery and just as easy to grow.
Cacao, chocolate’s less processed cousin, is the real treasure here. It’s derived from ground cacao nibs which are dried and fermented cacao beans. Sugar-free and loaded with special polyphenols that have been shown to reduce the signs of aging, cacao has a naturally bitter taste that is tempered by the smoothie’s other ingredients. It’s also been shown to put us in a better mood with its dopamine-releasing effects. I call that a win-win!
Before starting this smoothie, make sure you have frozen bananas on hand. They make this so deliciously creamy. Just don’t make the mistake I did the first time, so be sure to peel the bananas before you freeze them! I often freeze a bunch at once, peeling and slicing into pieces before placing in the freezer.
Blueberry Cacao Dream Smoothie
- 1 ¼ cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- 1 small banana, frozen in chunks
- ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 cup loosely packed baby spinach or ½ cup loosely packed baby arugula
- **2 stevia leaves if using less ripe bananas and want more sweetness**
- 2 ice cubes, if using fresh blueberries
- Combine everything in a blender. Blend until smooth, about 30-60 seconds. Enjoy immediately.
All summer long, we eat blueberries. We even go blueberry picking as one of our favorite family traditions! Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants which fight free radicals to help protect your skin from premature aging! Plus, I have a serious sweet tooth, so fresh blueberries and a dash of toasted coconut really satisfy my sweet tooth without spiking my blood sugar.
Oatmeal, almond milk and coconut milk are all low in glycemic index, so they won’t trigger inflammation in your skin. It’s easy to find a blend of almond and coconut milk, just make sure it’s unsweetened! Some of these brands pack in the sugar, so you have a mistaken belief that you are drinking something very healthy. Check your labels, guys.
Chia seeds are rich in skin-healthy omega-3’s,and fiber to keep you full. Although chia seeds have some protein, I like to add a scoop of plant-based protein powder to ensure my skin, hair and nails are getting the building blocks they need.
I make a big batch of these on Sunday night and portion them into jars. That way, my family has grab-and-go breakfasts for the week. My daughter and I can’t get enough of them and I hope you love them too!
Blueberry Coconut Overnight Oats
1 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons maple syrup
¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup coconut milk (you can also use an almond/coconut milk blend instead of separating them)
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries, plus more for serving
1 scoop plant-based protein powder (vanilla or unflavored)
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut, toasted
Mix all ingredients – except toasted coconut – in a small bowl. Portion into smaller mason jars and allow to sit overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, stir everything together to make nice and creamy. Sprinkle each portion with toasted coconut, a pinch of cinnamon, and a handful of fresh blueberries.
One of the most common questions I’m asked in my office, on social media, and by my friends and family is: which sunscreen do I recommend? There are so many options on the market it is information overload! How do you know what is safe? How do you know what is effective? Does price matter and how about SPF number?
Here’s some quick information at your fingertips to make this much clearer:
I always say, the best sunscreen is the one you will actually use!!!! Here are some of my favorites:
Lotions: For years, I have used and recommended La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60 because it is smooth, not greasy, and it just plain works. Other great options I have been using lately are Equate (Walmart) Sport Lotion SPF 50 and Coppertone Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 70. For my daughter, I usually opt for Coppertone WaterBabies Lotion SPF 50 or Pure Sun Defense Disney Frozen Lotion SPF 50.
Sprays: Some of my patients prefer a spray to a lotion because it’s so easy to apply. My favorites include Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50, Banana Boat SunComfort Clear UltraMist Spray SPF 50+ and Equate (Walmart) Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30. Here’s an important safety tip when using spray- never spray directly into your face. It’s not a good idea to inhale spray sunscreens. Instead, spray it into your hands and then rub your hands over your face. Personally, I use spray on my body and opt for lotions or sticks for my face.
Sticks: Two of my top sunscreen sticks are Up & Up (Target) Kids Sunscreen Stick SPF 55 and Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection Stick SPF 50+. For my daughter, I often also opt for Coppertone’s Kids Sunscreen Stick SPF 55. I usually use the stick to apply sunscreen to my face and to my daughter’s face. It’s just so easy not to irritate the eye area using a sunscreen stick. But, make sure to blend in the sunscreen because it’s equally easy not to cover your entire face properly using a stick.
How Can You Tell What to Buy:
When it comes to sunscreen, there are multiple factors which can make a product fail to protect your skin adequately:
- You may not be using enough. I always tell my patients you need a shot glass full of sunscreen to properly cover your face and exposed areas!
- You may not be applying it properly. If you go in the water, reapply. If you are out in the sun for two hours, reapply. If you are going outside, apply 15 minutes before you are in the sun.
- The packaging might not be entirely accurate. While the Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers to test their products, the agency doesn’t do its own independent testing to verify claims. For this reason, I like to rely on studies done by Consumer Reports which are the result of lots of testing to actually verify that the product works as advertised. Some sunscreens which say right on the bottle they are SPF 50 can test as SPF 10
- It could be expired. Check the date on your sunscreen! Also, if you left your sunscreen in a hot car or on the hot beach last year, throw it out. It won’t work effectively any more. Invest in your skin and buy a new bottle. Many of the best rated options are very affordable!
- Most “Natural” options aren’t holding up to testing as well as their chemical counterparts. Natural or mineral sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, but don’t contain any chemicals, haven’t performed as well. Yes, you can burn through these, and so can your children! If you have very, very sensitive skin and only can tolerate all natural, my current pick is California Kids Supersensitive Lotion SPF 30+.
I will be sharing all kinds of information on this hot subject with you guys over the next few weeks. Check back in for updates! This is such a key subject matter and it shouldn’t be confusing or overwhelming. I am here to help keep you informed and covered so that you practice safe sun this summer!
- NO FORMALDEHYDE: Never. Ever. Make sure there is no formaldehyde in the glue which is used to secure the lash extensions. It can be dangerous for your eyes. Ask – and if there is any question, strongly consider running!
- TAKE A BREAK: Your lashes need a break between applications of extensions, so schedule it in. It’s important. Take care of your own lashes! The glue can cause damage and breakage, so make sure you make time for some lash R&R in btw your glam sessions.
- LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: Do your research before you take the plunge! Make sure you go to someone experienced and reputable! We are talking about your eyes. If extensions aren’t attached properly, they can swing down and scratch your cornea. Be informed!
- LET YOUR BODY DO THE TALKING: Does it hurt? Does it burn? If so, don’t ignore it and soldier on in the name of beauty. This is your body telling you that you are having an allergic reaction or some other reaction to one of the ingredients involved in the process. Stop and talk to your technician, who should be trained in handling this!
- KNOW YOUR TOOLS: Use a gentle eye makeup remover with a cleansing wipe instead of cotton balls or Q-tips which can lead to fibers sticking in your extensions! Stay away from oil based makeup removers which could impact the glue! Talk to your technician and check out the best tools to keep your lashes gorgeous and your eyes healthy!
I had so much fun working with my Good Morning America family this morning and sharing some of my go-to, DIY facial masks for glowing, healthy skin. I’ve had a lot of requests for more information on the masks we featured, so here you go!
DEPUFFING AND EXFOLIATING: Coffee and Yogurt Mask
- Coffee: The caffeine in coffee grounds helps to reduce swelling and puffiness.
- Yogurt: Soothing, emollient
- To make: Combine 3 tablespoons of greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee and mix together (using a fork) until you have a paste. Apply to face using gentle, circular motions. Rinse off after 20 minutes with warm water and a soft wash cloth. Pat dry!
COMBAT REDNESS: Green Tea and Honey Mask
- Green Tea: Soothing, removes impurities, reduces inflammation
- Honey: Antibacterial, soothing
- To make: Cut open 2 green tea bags and empty contents into mixing bowl. Add a few drops of water and mix with fork just to dampen. Then, mix in 3 tablespoons of honey (I use a fork to mix, which seems to work better than a spoon). Apply mask to face. Rinse off after 15 -20 minutes with warm water and a soft wash cloth. Pat dry!
The harsh and cold winter air can leave your skin feeling so chapped. These easy masks with ingredients you can find right in your kitchen are a quick fix to rehydrate and nourish your skin!