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).

When I was at Yale as a pre-med student, my classes were demanding. I studied a lot, of course, but there were times when I just wanted to go out dancing with my friends. It was such an incredible way to de-stress, laugh, and just enjoy each other’s company. The songs that really define those nights out – are all by Salt-N-Pepa. When I hear Push It or Shoop, it really brings me back to that time in my life and to those years when I was just starting out on my path to becoming a doctor.

When I had the opportunity to meet Cheryl “Salt” James at my office, it was just all around wonderful. She’s as beautiful and gracious as she is talented! I also had to mention that my sister literally knows every word to every one of her songs and reminds me of this fact pretty regularly now. 😉 It’s been such an honor to be her doctor and to help care for her skin.

Cheryl tours a lot – and is now doing a residency in Las Vegas. I sat down with her to ask some questions about how she cares for her skin on tour and what she’s found most insightful and helpful from our appointments:

Q: What is your favorite thing about being on tour?

CJ: My favorite thing about being on tour is performing. I love meeting Salt n Pepa’s fan/friends. When we’re at meet-and-greets, we get to hear all the amazing stories from our fans about their experiences with our music and how much we inspired them. But there’s nothing like being on stage. There is an exchange of love, respect and appreciation that happens while performing that reminds me of blessed I am to be able to do what I love. We call it the Salt-N-Pepa experience.

Q: What is your least favorite thing about being on tour?

CJ: My least favorite thing about being on tour is the actual traveling itself, the hours we spend on airplanes and in cars. I equally dislike packing and unpacking — living out of a suitcase is a constant challenge for a woman. It’s difficult to be disciplined when it comes to eating right and exercising, because of our crazy schedule.

Q: What is your nightly skincare routine while on the road?

CJ: When I get back to my room after a long day of press, rehearsals, and performing, I’m so tired. Most nights, all I want to do is sleep. The one thing I always make sure of is to take my make-up off and go to bed with clean skin and apply a light moisturizer or some raw organic coconut oil.

Q: What is your daily skincare routine while you are on the road?

CJ: When I wake up, I wash my face with a natural soap, and apply a moisturizer with sunscreen in order to avoid sun spots.

Q: How would you describe your skin while on tour? Do you notice anything different about the condition of your skin when you’re on the road?

CJ: On tour, my skin tends to become more dry from the traveling. I try to drink as much water as I can so my skin can remain hydrated.

Q: What is your one must-have skincare product?

CJ: Recently, I discovered Aleavia Restore Soothing Mist, recommended by you, of course. I’ve always believed in the restorative powers of coconut oils. Celebrities are always in the hair and make-up chair and it can take a toll on the skin. Before make-up is applied, I like to use the mist to protect my skin.

Q: What is one thing you’ve learned about taking care of your skin from Dr. Bowe?

CJ: I’ve learned about The Beauty of Dirty Skin, and the benefits of probiotics, and the importance of rest, diet, and exercise and how it all plays a part in keeping your skin healthy and glowing.

Check out Cheryl’s most recent posts here: https://www.instagram.com/daonlysalt/

 

Dr. Whitney

I see so many patients who are struggling with Melasma in my office – and so many of you have reached out to me on social media with questions and concerns about this condition. Melasma causes a lot of stress, particularly during summer, because you want to be outdoors in the sun and at the beach or pool, yet you feel the heat on your skin and you know it’s making your Melasma worse. It’s incredibly frustrating and there is so much misinformation out there. Thank you for your questions and I hope that this blog post helps to shed some light on the facts about Melasma.

1. What is melasma?
Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation which is characterized by dark brown or gray-brown patches of skin on your cheeks, forehead, nose or chin. My patients often describe it as having the appearance of “paint spatter” on their skin.

2. What causes Melasma?
It’s caused by a combo of HEAT plus SUN plus HORMONES (women are much more likely to have Melasma than men, and birth control pills and pregnancy can be a big trigger).

3. Am I making my Melasma worse in trying to treat it?
Oftentimes, I see patients who have been trying all sorts of home remedies which are actually making their Melasma worse. For example, many people want to try to scrub or exfoliate their Melasma away by reaching for powerful ingredients and aggressive tools and overusing them. However, anything that creates redness and irritation can actually set you back. If you use lasers or lights to see results fast- oftentimes, this will exacerbate your Melasma. Even if a procedure or device seems to make the skin look lighter initially—it can sometimes prime or sensitize the melanocytes (your pigment producing cells) and then, the next time you’re in the sun even just for a short time, they pump out pigment even faster than before – it’s as if they’ve been sensitized/primed to be supersensitive to even tiny exposures to the sun.

These are the basics about Melasma. Stay tuned because I will be sharing Melasma 102 very soon, which is all about my suggested game plan to address this condition.

We all deserve a treat every now and then, but chances are you have more added sugar in your diet than you realize. Too much added sugar can damage your skin through a process called glycation, in which sugar molecules bond to proteins, fats, and amino acids in the body. “When proteins become glycated, they become stiff and much less functional, so imagine what that does to the proteins in your skin,” says dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin. Collagen and elastin, the fibers that keep skin firm and elastic, are greatly impacted by this process, she says. “Sugars are rapid stimulators of glycation, as they easily attach themselves to proteins in the body—you really must reduce your sugar intake to maintain healthy skin.”

Most people think about probiotics in the context of gut health and digestion, but promising new studies show they might play a role not only in our overall health, but also in the health of our skin. I shared my thoughts and insights on Good Morning America!

I have also gotten so many inquiries about the type of products discussed today, I wanted to include links so that this information was easy to find!

Probiotics:

https://us.genuinehealth.com/shop/advanced-gut-health/

Fermented vegan proteins:

https://us.genuinehealth.com/product/fermented-vegan-proteins/

Adaptogens may be new to the Western World, but they have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic healing and Chinese medicine. They are plants and herbs which, when ingested, help to rebalance your body’s stress responses and “adapt” to these stressors in a healthier way. As I say all the time, taking care of our skin is also an inside job, and these herbs help to heal our skin from the inside out.

Proponents of adaptogens claim that they may impact hormone production and physiological responses to stress to ensure that your body—from your mind to your immune system to your energy levels—are balanced, restored, and returned to calm, optimal functioning. From a scientific perspective, it would be beneficial to see larger studies establishing the benefits of these herbs. Although, as we know from The Beauty of Dirty Skin, it is very well established that what you eat impacts your health and can reduce the inflammation that contributes to so many chronic diseases.

I love this type of approach to healing, so I have been working several adaptogens into my diet over the past few months and these are the two I’m most excited about right now:

  1. Ashwagandha: Ashwangandha is a plant and people typically ingest the roots. This herb has been used for thousands of years to help manage stress. It contains chemical compounds called alkaloids, which help to ease stress and anxiety. This herb is also valued for its nervous system benefits and anti-inflammatory properties. Even though its name is translated as “smell of the horse”, it is sometimes referred to as “strength of the stallion” because when you ingest it, you are said to have immune strength and increased stamina. In terms of skin health, when we are stressed, our cortisol levels spike, which in turn impacts our oil production. This leads to acne and other skin issues. Ashwagadha has been shown to lower cortisol, which assists in dialing down that oil production. Topical application of this antioxidant rich root has been long used in Ayurvedic healing to help reduce inflammation.
  2. Maca Root: Maca is a plant that is indigenous to the Peruvian Andes. It is sometimes called “Peruvian Ginseng.” It looks a lot like a radish or a turnip with a leafy top and roots. It varies in color and can be yellow, purple, and even black. Maca has a nutty, earthy taste. You can find it in powder, liquid, extract or even capsule form. I have been using maca powder and mixing it into my low glycemic index steel cut oats. Rich in antioxidants, maca is touted to enhance your energy and your mood and, is often taken to soften and ameliorate the symptoms of PMS.

I will be sharing more info on these adaptogens in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

If you read my blog and social media posts, you already know that I often describe the skin’s microbiome as a rainforest of diverse organisms (bacteria, fungi and viruses) which live on your skin’s various layers, from the deep-down fat cushion all the way up to your epidermal cells. Incredibly, there are more than one trillion bacteria in the skin, originating from approximately one thousand different species! When your skin’s healthy microbiome is disrupted by harsh cleansers and other abrasive skincare products or by your diet and lifestyle choices, this discontent can manifest as breakouts, rosacea flares, psoriasis, eczema, and even skin sensitivity. Healthy biome, healthy skin.

Stressing 24/7 is a habit you want to kick for healthy skin. Here’s why —

Something triggers stress in your body. Let’s start here. Your brain perceives something as stressful and your fight or flight response is activated. Once that happens, the digestion in your belly slows as your blood is shunted away from your intestines toward your extremities (just in case you need to fight or flee). Given that you most likely don’t need to do either, this is just disruptive to your body’s healthy functioning. There’s more.

Stress hormones also restrict the contractions of your digestive muscles, and diminish your digestive juices—all of which forces food to sit idly in the GI tract, inviting an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast. These unsavory characters cause your intestinal lining to grow weak and leaky, allowing toxins to spill into the bloodstream, and triggering body-wide inflammation and a host of potential diseases. You’ve heard me talk about Leaky Gut and Leaky Skin, so this is what we are talking about.

The best medicine? Decompression. As I note in The Beauty of Dirty Skin, meditation is a shortcut to calm. It sparks what’s known as the relaxation response, during which the body slows down muscles and organs while boosting blood flow to the brain, thereby easing anxiety—and the skin conditions that come along with it. Meditation can even turn on genes that are anti-inflammatory in nature. If traditional Om-style meditation isn’t your thing, try yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, repetitive prayer—whatever you find most grounding. Dedicate a few moments twice a day to your practice. You can try an app like headspace or breathe. Just a few minutes a day is a great start.

You’ve got this. This is a small change which will have a big impact not only on the health of your skin, but on your overall health! So, take a deep breath, and give it a try.

New York dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe believes not all sunscreens are made equal. She shares her favorite sunscreens for adults and children and reveals why you can’t rely on last year’s lotions.

Which sunscreens are ranked at the top of Consumer Reports 2018? Did your sunscreen make the list? I share the new Consumer Reports favorites for summer 2018 on Good Morning America.

@DrWhitneyBowe

We Tried It: Holiday Edition is all about a subtle, shimmery glow for the holidays. Our team of testers tried… https://t.co/5FajdyFo68

@DrWhitneyBowe

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