I have been a long time almond milk lover, as I regularly share with you guys.  It’s one of my favorite non-dairy milk alternatives to recommend because of the link between skim milk and acne/inflammation.

But, recent articles suggest that the almond industry is negatively impacting bee health. Specifically, multiple recent news reports are telling us that almond pollination requires bees to wake up one to two months early from their dormancy, thereby depriving them of needed rest and sleep. In this sleep deprived state, which we know can compromise immunity (sleep keeps your immune system healthy), they are kept in very tight quarters, which increases the spread of disease.  Not only are infections rampant among these hard working, immunocompromised bees, but to compound the issue, they are exposed to abnormally high levels of pesticides which are commonly used on the almonds– all resulting in the death of billions of honeybees in a matter of months.

I love to recommend foods that optimize our skin’s health from the inside out.  However, sometimes, the foods that benefit our skin are not benefitting our environment – as seems to be the case here. In view of this information, I am now going to switch over to coconut milk while I research and try other types of non-dairy milk alternatives including oat, pea, rice and hemp milk.

I’m also researching whether there are almond milk brands that are very mindful and responsible in connection with bee populations and resource sustainability.

I promise to update you guys ASAP on what I learn!

Dr. Whitney

You might have seen reports that the popular brand, Yes To, has recalled its unicorn face mask after many complaints of painful burns in users as young as 11 years old.

One of the tips I give my patients in trying new skincare products is to patch test, whenever possible. You really don’t know how your skin will react to a new product and a patch test is the most reliable way to ensure that your skin can tolerate the ingredients in a particular product.

Another option is to listen to your skin – and to your gut – when it comes to trying new skincare.  If you apply a product to your skin and develop any redness, burning, or stinging, IMMEDIATELY rinse it off! If you are trying a new face mask and you feel stinging discomfort – take it OFF! Do not assume this is the product “working.”

So, what happened with this popular brand’s mask and why were people reporting chemical burn-type injuries after just minutes of use? In my opinion, the most likely diagnosis is irritant contact dermatitis, meaning an irritation from an ingredient in the product that is being used at too high a concentration. In this case, the likely culprit is either Vitamin C or “fragrance.”

Even vitamin C, an amazing ingredient with tons of data supporting its use in skincare, can cause problems if the concentration is too high, or if it’s not being used in the right formulation.  The other ingredients in a formula, and the concentrations in which they are present, are all factors that can impact whether vit C can be safe and effective, or cause a major skin reaction.  Vit C needs to penetrate into the skin.  If too much of it sits on the surface, it can cause problems.  The other ingredients in the formulation, and the type of vitamin C used, can all factor into whether a product is safe.

As I’ve shared before, the term “fragrance” can mask hundreds of other ingredients, many of which are known irritants or allergens.  I recommend avoiding products that use the term “fragrance” or “parfum” on their ingredient list instead of disclosing the actual ingredients.  Transparency is KEY when it comes to safety, as we can see from reports like these!!

Dr. Whitney

It’s holiday party season! Whether you’re rocking a cherry red lip, a frosty silver shadow or an overall festive glow, you have to resist the urge to spread the love by sharing makeup with your besties — doctor’s orders!


The quick answer: you want to spread joy, warmth and love this holiday season, not bacterial or viral infections!

We all harbor bacteria on our skin. You guys know that because we’ve spoken so much about our microbiome. The microbiome refers to the “good” bugs you carry, but your friends might be carrying some harmful germs as well, and we call those pathogens.  I tell my patients that sharing makeup is essentially swapping germs, and they should never share anything that comes into direct contact with another person’s skin or mucus membranes.

So, lip and eye products should never be shared under any circumstances, as the mucus membranes in these two areas of your face are the most susceptible to infection. The mucous membrane doesn’t contain the same layers of protection as the skin (rather, they are made of delicate, thin, moist tissue), so transmitting infectious bacteria is much easier and more common in these areas.

Sharing Eye Makeup:

When you think about it, we evolved to have eyelashes in order to protect our delicate mucous membranes from particles, pollutants, allergens, germs, etc. But we violate those lashes every time we use a liner or mascara – we forget their main purpose is to protect us! So sharing eye liner or mascara is a big NO.

Sharing Lip Products:

Sharing lip products (i.e. lip gloss, lipstick, etc.) is also a hard pass.  People don’t realize that bacteria and even certain viruses, including the one that causes cold sores, can survive on inanimate objects. Therefore, a cold sore virus can be spread between someone who gets cold sores and lends out their lipstick to the person borrowing the lipstick. Unfortunately, the contagious herpes simplex virus (which causes cold sores), once contracted, is something that can stay with you for your entire life. In fact, the infected person may not even have a visible sore present, but you can still contract the condition.

With lip products, bacteria can transfer through the mucus membranes of your mouth into your blood stream. Our lips are very thin and vascular, meaning there’s an extensive network of blood vessels just under the surface of the lips ready to absorb anything you apply around the mouth, including germs. That’s one of the reasons are lips are pink in hue – you can see those vessels peeking through.

While most cosmetics are made with preservatives, which are designed to kill harmful germs in your makeup, better safe than sorry! Natural and organic products tend to contain even weaker preservatives, so those are especially prone to getting contaminated even faster!

So, enjoy your beautiful and glossy products this holiday season – but once you use them, keep them all to yourself!!

Dr. Whitney

I’ve received such wonderful feedback from you guys surrounding my contribution to the new Netflix documentary series, Broken, and I’m so grateful!  I’m getting excellent questions, so I wanted to share more information on the subject of counterfeit cosmetics with you. The risks are very real and I am so motivated to continue this important conversation – so please share with anyone you feel will benefit!

One question many of you are asking is:

What kind of skin reactions will I see if I use a counterfeit cosmetic product?

First of all – and this is frightening in itself – some very dangerous ingredients contained in counterfeit cosmetics might cause no reaction on the skin at all! You read that correctly; they can be silent in terms of a topical reaction, but can still be absorbed through your skin into your bloodstream! Skincare or makeup applied around your eyes or on your lips are even more likely to be absorbed because of how thin the skin is in those areas.

In many instances, though, people do develop a skin reaction, which can take a number of different forms.

(1) First, infections are much more likely to occur following use of a counterfeit product. I vividly recall one case of honey colored crusted sores on the cheek of a woman who had bought her foundation online. She said it didn’t look right/consistency/texture was off, color was slightly off- then a few days after starting it, she developed classic impetigo. Impetigo is a highly contagious, rapidly spreading infection usually caused by Staph aureus or Strep pyogenes. If not treated appropriately, this infection can cause scarring and can even enter the bloodstream. This was all due to a counterfeit foundation!! It is certainly not worth the risk.

(2) Acne or an acne-like rash is another common skin reaction that is more likely to occur with counterfeits. Many cheap ingredients used in counterfeit products are very occlusive on the skin and clog the pores, resulting in breakouts.

(3) Irritant contact dermatitis is another very common reaction I’ve seen, which is more likely to occur with counterfeit products. This is when your skin reacts to ingredients that trigger inflammation or irritation because the ingredient itself is harmful or it’s used at in improper concentration. Certain chemicals are caustic to the skin, such as those with either a very high or a very low pH.  Unlike authentic products, counterfeit products have not undergone extensive testing to ensure they don’t cause irritation or worse, a burn, on the skin.

This is just the beginning of a series of posts that I will be sharing on this subject! I hope that you are never in a position to deal with any of these things, but just in case it does come up, the more informed you are, the better positioned you are to protect your health and safety!

Dr. Whitney

Melasma (also called the “pregnancy mask”) can be stubborn and very frustrating for so many women. To address the questions I’ve been getting about melasma, I shared a series of posts covering this topic, including Melasma 101, 102, and 103.

Now, I’m sharing some brand new information. It’s not very often that we see new meaningful developments when it comes to treating melasma, so I am excited to share these new developments with you guys.

New Studies re: Antihistamine Use and Melasma:

If you have melasma, you might want to consider taking a daily antihistamine, like Claritin or Zyrtec. Why?

New studies are showing that there is an increase in mast cells in melasma.  Mast cells are cells that release histamine and other molecules that make you itchy and red – we usually think about mast cells when we think about allergies, but now we are seeing they play a role in melasma as well!

These mast cells can actually break down a type of collagen, collagen 4, which is found in the basement membrane of our skin. In melasma, the extra mast cells found in the skin release substances that chew away the membrane that separates the top layer of our skin from the bottom layer, called the dermis. When that happens, the pigment in our upper layers can drop down into the deeper layers, and that is NOT a good thing.

If you have melasma, your doctor might have told you that your pigment is DEEP, in the deeper layers of your skin, and that could be a reason why it’s so stubborn and not responding to therapy. So what if we could prevent the mast cells from destroying the basement membrane?  And, what if we could keep that pigment in the upper layers, where it’s easier to treat?

Well, there are ongoing studies looking at just that! They are looking at whether taking a daily oral antihistamine (like Allegra, Zyrtec, Claritin) might actually help with melasma. It’s worth considering if you have a very stubborn case. I will share more on this as the science develops!

Tranexamic Acid and Melasma

Another very new development in treating melasma is called tranexamic acid. It works as part of the clotting cascade, so it is FDA approved for conditions like heavy menstrual bleeding, or to help prevent bleeding in people with hemophilia, say when they’re getting a tooth extracted. In melasma, it works by basically dialing down the inflammation that leads to pigment production in the skin. It’s not FDA approved for melasma, so when it’s used for melasma, it’s considered “off label use.” With that said, we are starting to see very promising studies in connection with treating melasma.

Like any other treatment, this is something to raise with your doctor. This is not meant to be a first line treatment. It’s complimentary to all of the other tools used in melasma like brightening creams, sunscreen, Heliocare, and chemical peels. Also, it’s important to note that people who have a history of blood clots, dvt (deep vein thrombosis), are pregnant or nursing, or on birth control should not be taking prescription strength tranexamic acid by mouth. The topical, OTC form of tranexamic acid is newer (so we have less data at this point) and an option for people who are more comfortable using a topical cream vs an oral prescription drug, or for those who are not candidates for the oral form. Again, something to consider and to discuss with your doctor if you have very stubborn melasma.

Dr. Whitney


What are Sulfates? 

Sulfates are a type of surfactant, which is basically a detergent.  In other words, they help cleanse the skin of dirt and oil, and they are the reason that many liquid body washes and shampoos create a rich, foamy lather.

They’re also found in many moisturizers and sunscreens, because they help ingredients mix well together, instead of clumping or separating in the bottle.

Some sulfates are synthetic, meaning they are man-made.  Some come from petroleum, while others come from natural sources like palm oil or coconut oil.  No matter where they come from, they can all do some major harm to your skin, hair and scalp.

How do Sulfates Impact your Skin?

Sulfates, whether they are synthetic or natural, can be very irritating.  If used in high enough concentrations, they can damage the outer layers of your skin, resulting in itchy, cracked, dry or inflamed skin.  They very rarely create true allergies, but they are major causes of irritation.

In shampoos, sulfates can irritate the scalp and result in frizzy, dull hair.  They can even make your hair dye disappear quickly, making your trips to the salon more frequent.

What about your Microbiome? 

If you continue to cleanse with sulfate-containing products, this is also likely to damage your skin’s microbiome.  The healthy bacteria on your skin need a certain environment, or “terrain” to survive and thrive.  When you wash away and damage their terrain, these delicate bacteria die and unhealthy, hearty ones remain and take over – we do not want this to happen!

I tell my patients to avoid sulfates, and look for sulfate-free on the label.  Even if the sulfate comes from coconuts, PASS.  It’s just as likely to strip your skin of its healthy lipids, leaving you dry, inflamed and red.

Specifically, SLS and SLES are the 2 sulfates I recommend avoiding. There’s another one called ALS (Ammonium Laureth Sulfate) which is considerably more gentle, so your skin might be able to tolerate products using ALS in low concentrations. Patch test first, which is my rule of thumb when trying any new product!

My Bottom Line

I’ve cut sulfates out of my skincare and hair care and honestly, I’ve never looked back. I see such a difference in my skin and my hair – there’s no question in my mind that you don’t need sulfates in your life!

Dr. Whitney


This morning, Ginger Zee and I shared a Facebook live focusing on melasma.

As Ginger and I discussed during our Facebook live, melasma, also called the “pregnancy mask” can be incredibly frustrating and emotional.

We received so many wonderful questions that I wanted to address them with comprehensive resources so you guys have this information at your fingertips!

To begin, I share all the basics about melasma, including what this condition is and what causes it, in my post, Melasma 101.

Next, I share my Melasma Game Plan in Melasma 102.  Specifically, I discuss sun exposure, heat exposure, and diet when it comes to keeping this condition under control! These are many of the points we discussed during the FB live.

And, in Melasma 103, I answer many of the questions I receive in the office and on social media about in-office procedures that can help, at home peels that can help, products I often recommend to my patients, and more! Many of these products are the ones that I discussed during our FB live and I include links.

The additional products I mentioned during the live are:

Naturopathica Vitamin C15 Wrinkle Repair Serum

Supergoop! Unseen Broad Spectrum SPF 40 

Glowbiotics Tinted Mineral Sunscreen with Iron Oxide

For more information like this, be sure to follow me on social media! My handle is @drwhitneybowe.

Have a wonderful day and keep your questions coming!

Dr. Whitney

More and more companies are starting to promote the fact that their products are “paraben-free.” What’s the fuss and is this something you should be concerned about when choosing your favorite skincare options this fall?

What are parabens?

Parabens are a group of preservatives used in cosmetics to help keep those products from becoming contaminated with bad germs like harmful bacteria or yeast.  They extend the shelf life of a product.  If you make a DIY recipe and don’t use it right away, it could easily become contaminated with “bad bugs,” the kind that can cause infections.  That’s because you’re not adding preservatives to those concoctions.  Almost all products you see on the shelf in a store, or order online, contain some preservatives, to keep them free of germs that could hurt you.  Parabens are actually one of the most gentle preservatives found in skin care today.  They were named the “non-allergen” of the year in 2018!  This is because parabens are actually the least likely to cause a skin allergy, as compared to all the preservatives on the market today.  Parabens remain one of the least allergenic preservatives available to date!

So, why are so many products claiming to be “paraben-free?”  And why do I recommend avoiding parabens in skincare? 

Here’s the scoop:

A study done back in 2004 detected parabens in samples of breast tissue from breast cancer patients.  Parabens were actually found within the cancerous tissue samples collected.  Parabens are known to mimic estrogen, so the fear is that they are disrupting hormones and possibly increasing your risk of cancer.  Some scientists have even speculated that parabens might cause sterility in men. Basically, parabens bind to certain estrogen receptors, and turning on estrogen signals can theoretically contribute to a whole host of issues for men, women and children.  Butylparabens and propylparabens are the most likely to bind to estrogen receptors.  In fact, the EU has banned the use of these 2 preservatives in diaper creams, and reduced their allowed concentrations in a myriad of other cosmetic and personal care products.

We know that parabens are indeed absorbed by the body, mostly through our use of cosmetic or personal care products such as makeup, lotions, hair products and perfumes.  However, we still don’t fully know whether they truly pose any long-term health risks.  Concerns exist, but no clear link has been demonstrated.  The FDA believes that, so long as they are used in low concentrations (well under 25%), they are probably not doing any harm.  Even well known and respected skincare brands, like Cerave, continue to formulate using parabens in many of their most popular products.

Where I stand:

In the case of parabens, I don’t believe in innocent until proven guilty.  In my opinion, parabens are guilty until proven safe.  I want to see evidence proving that parabens are not causing any significant hormonal disruption before I feel confident recommending paraben-containing products to my patients!  I have too many patients struggling with fertility issues, and battling breast cancer.  I am not ready to take that risk!

Dr. Whitney

Summer skin is all about that radiant, golden glow and feeling the warmth on your skin. But, let’s be real, being in the sun all summer long – even if you’ve been wearing your sunscreen and toting your broad rimmed hat to the pool – means that your skin could benefit from a fall refresh!

Here are some details on my favorite in-office treatments for fall:

FRAXEL (Fractional Laser Resurfacing Treatments): I shared videos on Instagram stories about my neck FRAXEL treatment this past summer and you guys asked so many questions about it! I love the results of the FRAXEL laser.

This treatment resurfaces and rejuvenates your skin while actually decreasing your risk of skin cancer, resulting in fresh, glowing, smooth skin. It’s also excellent for brightening those sun spots (aka lentigos) that appear after years of sun exposure.

The biggest question I get is – does it hurt. The answer is, it doesn’t have to because we have different techniques in the office to make it much more comfortable. Not only do we use a powerful numbing cream 30 minutes prior, but we now have a form of nitrous oxide gas that patients can breathe during the treatment.  It’s called Pronox, and it’s been a game changer for my patients.  Although an initial Fraxel series is recommended, most of my patients do a touch up, or maintenance, treatment once a year to sustain their results and freeze themselves in time!  This is a high impact treatment to refresh and renew your skin after summer.

Here’s a link with more info.

MICRONEEDLING: Don’t let the word needle fool you here, this is not a painful procedure. It actually involves tiny needles which create tiny, controlled wounds to the skin. Your body reacts by naturally healing your skin and, in the process, building new collagen and elastin in the dermis. More collagen = younger, firmer skin. It’s ideal for smoothing the surface of the skin, minimizing acne scars and pores, photo-aging, crepey texture, dull skin, poor texture, stretch marks and body scars. In fact, I’ve been getting lots of requests to microneedle knee scars lately! It can help with fine lines and wrinkles and helps your serums, topical gels and creams to penetrate your skin more effectively.

Hot tip for Melasma patients: Microneedling also does not involve heat, so there is a much lower likelihood of post inflammation pigmentation, which can result from certain laser treatments.

Here’s a link with more info.

My next post will focus on some of my favorite products that you can use at home to start healing and refreshing your skin for fall!

Dr. Whitney

I love fall. I go apple picking with my daughter (a family tradition since I was a kid), we sip on hot apple cider, pick pumpkins, and bake at home . . . it’s one of my favorite times.

So many of my patients love it too, but I notice an upswing in sensitive skin and eczema discussions during our appointments in fall. WHY?

In a nutshell:

  • The cooler, dry air of fall steals the moisture from our skin. When we add indoor heat, we notice that our skin feels dry, itchy, and more easily irritated.
  • Without healthy hydration, we also notice more pronounced fine lines and if you are prone to eczema, you may notice a flare.
  • As the weather gets cooler, we also crave those hot showers and baths. Very hot water strips our skin barrier of its healthy bacteria (microbiome) and natural oils. This contributes to irritated, sensitive skin and eczema.


So, what can you do to help replenish your skin’s healthy moisture?

  • Use a cool mist humidifier at night!
  • Dial down exfoliation – stop stripping your skin’s healthy oils and protective barrier. Most people with sensitive skin can only exfoliate twice a week, and I prefer using creams or serums with chemical exfoliants such as lactic acid and glycolic acid over using harsh scrubs. Dry skin is more prone to irritation.
  • Reach for rich, hydrating day and night creams to help replenish and lock in the moisture your skin is losing throughout the day due to the cold, dry weather. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which help to lock in moisture.

Dr. Whitney





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