Man, why is my skin so red and dry ?

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Skin care is not that confusing

Skin care is not that confusing

Guys and their skincare regime.

Does it exist?

When I met my husband he only used soap and water on his face, as well as shaving foam when wet shaving and couldn’t understand why his skin was always so dry and flaky.

Well, that soon changed. No way was I going to be married to a man who washed his face with hot (gentle) soapy water. Ouch, I just cringe at the thought of it.

Which brings me to the reason for this post.

We met a lovely 42 year old man (who resembled Cadel Evans, but with a British accent) on our recent weekend away and when he enquired as to my occupation was delighted to find out that I was in fact a skin therapist.

Cadel Evans - Australian Cycling Champion.  Tour de France.

Cadel Evans -
Australian Cycling Champion.
Tour de France.

I often get asked questions when one finds out what I do, but what I loved about this guy was his honesty.

He told me that he uses ‘really good quality’ skincare (as does his wife) but couldn’t figure out why his skin was still so red, aggravated and dry. He had tried everything.

I love how guys just think that whacking on an expensive moisturiser in the morning will solve everything.

A compromised skin barrier.  Dry, red, itchy and sometimes peeling.

A compromised skin barrier.
Dry, red, itchy and sometimes peeling.

It’s never about the exclusive brand or the cost of the products that interests me, it’s the ingredients that the products contain.

On further investigation (over breakfast, mind you) I found out he was British born (pale complexion), lives in Switzerland most of the time and travels the world extensively.

Very fit, great balanced diet – noticed he likes his coffee – takes multi-vitamins and only drinks (wine) at weekends.

So using just a morning hydrator should just be enough? Well, no – but why not?

He’s healthy, fit, very well groomed and takes care of himself, but what he needs to consider is that even though he’s looking after himself, his skin has become compromised because of his lifestyle.

Major contributors that trigger these skin conditions in any person regardless of race or skin colour are:

Physical and emotional stress

Changing time zones, missing family and friends during excessive travel, job stress.

Environment

Temperature change is a major factor in skin health.

Our guy lives in Switzerland, so extreme temperatures e.g freezing winters- going from highly heated homes, cars and offices to extreme cold outside.

Never got to ask him if he had hot showers, spas, saunas or splashed his face with cold water. But these are definite “noes”.

I would imagine though, that our ‘Cadel look-a-like’ would suffer much more in the colder climates with his skin.

Airplane travel, also a killer for skin with a compromised barrier. Recycled air blowing down on your delicate skin for hours. Ouch!

You need to drink loads of water, avoid tea, coffee and alcohol (these thing are known diuretics) in flight, and protect your skin with a barrier or occlusive skin product.

Exercise, yes great! But I bet our friend doesn’t run or cycle with any protection (sun protection, that is).

Even on an overcast day (apparently not much sun in Switzerland) a compromised skin needs a physical sunscreen (e.g. titanium dioxide, zinc oxide).

He told me that he only puts on his sunscreen when skiing or if the sun comes out. If he uses a chemical sunscreen, this would be another contributing factor to his sensitivity.

I am assuming that our guy spends quite some time using a computer, iPad, iPhone and even works under fluorescent lighting: again the need for a physical sunscreen – we still get UV exposure from our gadgets and lighting.
Mineral (Physical) vs Chemical Sunscreen.

Mineral (Physical) vs Chemical Sunscreen.

Excessive exfoliation

Any skin in this condition should not be exfoliated, rubbed or scrubbed.

Even wearing glasses can aggravate the condition so be sure to protect any areas that are exposed to constant rubbing.

Our guy does wear glasses at night for reading and sunglasses during the day, funnily this was the area of his face that was his major concern.

Disrupted skin barrier. Very reactive. Very sore.

Disrupted skin barrier.
Very reactive. Very sore.

Chemical pollutants

Air pollution as well as ingredients in hair and skin products.

I always recommend that you check ingredients of any products before you buy.

I would avoid anything that contains sodium lauryl sulphate,
mineral oil, lanolin, S.D alcohol, artificial colours D&C red dyes, artificial fragrances or isopropyl myristate.

What our guy didn’t realise, just like my husband and probably many guys out there, was that his lovely smelling household soap in the shower and his supermarket anti dandruff shampoo as well as the shaving and male grooming products he was using was a major contributor to his dry, scaly, red, sensitive peeling skin. They are often high alkaline which leave the skin on the face, scalp and body dry, tight and irritated.

Alkaline products are extremely harsh and drying on our skin.

Alkaline products are extremely harsh and drying on our skin.

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To wash your face, I would recommend cleansers that contain gentle or anti-inflammatory ingredients (ie. a coconut/sugar complex, vegetable glycerine, herbal amaranth, Australian sandalwood)

No point just using any kind of moisturiser.

When you have a compromised skin, it must be an occlusive kind of barrier protection with a repairing serum used twice daily underneath it for healing and protection.

Some examples of gentle ingredients to look for are oat beta glucan, ginger, chamomile, red hogweed, liquorice, Shea butter, horse chestnut, green tea, sea buckthorn, oil-soluble vitamin C, Canadian willowherb, B group vitamins, blue agave, arnica, tamanu oil, azulene, totarol or vitamin E as these ingredients are extremely healing, soothing and will repair your skin.

The bottom line is really that once you have a compromised and sensitised skin barrier you need to find out what is triggering it, avoid those triggers and then protect your skin with the gentlest products that you can find.

I would recommend seeing a professional Skincare therapist who will go through your lifestyle, skincare regime and offer you a thorough skincare analysis and salon treatment to improve your skin as well as offering you a customised home care routine to repair and strengthen your skin.

A naturopath or an integrative chinese medicine practitioner can offer advice on diet and herbal vitamin supplements that can improve skin health, for example, essential fatty oils, omega 3, fish oils etc.

Waxing- recycling that’s not recommended

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Waxing- recycling that’s not recommended

Imagine this- a huge metal strainer inside a huge urn like pot with a tap.
Fill it up with used hairy wax, dead skin and blood spots and let the urn heat it to a high temperature and then turn on the tap, strain the wax through gauze and an inbuilt strainer to siphon out the hair, throw out the gauze filled with hair and refill the salon wax pots.

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Yes, this really does happen, well I’m not sure if it still happens, but in the 80′s before the Aids / HIV scare, it’s what all salons did.

I worked in an exclusive high end city salon, we charged a huge amount for our waxing and during each wax treatment, the hairy hot wax from our clients legs, arms, backs and chests was thrown into a bucket under the bed. At that time, being only a junior therapist, it was my job to recycle the wax.
(And you thought being a beauty therapist was glamorous!) NOT!

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We had a great boss, so she let us throw bikini, underarm and face wax away into the real rubbish bin, but the bucket of body wax was always recycled.

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The wax was fantastic high quality beeswax, really gentle but far too expensive and unprofitable to throw away after each client.

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We were told that the boiling heat of the urn would kill any harmful germs of infected skin or hair follicles and that the wax was safe and clean to reuse.

The only other option for us and our clients was warm waxing (strip wax) made from glucose,fructose,citric acid,modified colophonium,aqua,Solomon tuberosum,fragrance and maltose.

This was always thought to be a little more painful,but a much faster, cleaner method of waxing.
We used a metal spatula that was double dipped and only cleaned with methylated spirits between clients.

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For Underarms and bikini areas we used a disposable wooden spatula (tongue depresser), but it had still been dipped in the same wax pot as the metal spatula.

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Oh boy, when I think back to those days, I just cringe. We never even wore gloves. In fact we were never even trained to wax with gloves. Gloves are now worn to protect both the operator and the client.

Fast forward 2013, this method of waxing is unacceptable, unhygienic and against health regulations in most cities.

Brazilian waxing is also more popular now, so even stricter standards of hygiene must be followed. Don’t be afraid to ask your operator for a pair of gloves too if they require your assistance during this service.

Heating the wax to these high temperatures and straining the hair through gauze and strainers may not kill blood borne diseases.

Spots of blood are very common during and after waxing, so it is very likely that if the wax is recycled there will be traces of blood in the wax, as well as on the spatula or tweezers used.

This goes for sugaring (an ancient yet very popular way of removing hair using a sugar, water and lemon juice paste or gel) as well. Double dipping of any kind is not acceptable.

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Wax rollers are generally cleaner. It is quicker to apply the wax this way without using a spatula but the roller head needs to be replaced with a new disposable one for each client. Make sure there isn’t any hair stuck in the head before they start!
A sure sign that things are not hygienic.
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Before any wax is performed important questions should be asked by the operator.
A professional salon will always check first for any infectious diseases, to minimize the risk of cross infection in the salon.

You may also get asked if you have varicose veins, moles, sunspots, pimples, warts, rashes, sunburn, irritated skin or infected ingrown hairs as these areas should be avoided when waxing.

You may also be questioned as to whether or not you are on any medication eg.
roaccutane, renova or differin also known as adapalene (Vitamin A- which causes skin thinning, so waxing should be avoided).

The bed should also be covered with disposable paper and the bed should be wiped over with a disinfectant after each client.

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If the wax pots, benches, tweezers and spatulas look sticky or dirty before you get started, this is not a good sign.

Remember, your health is not worth putting at risk.

Why all the Questions?

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Clients often ask me why I need to ask SO many questions before I start their skin treatment. It’s nice to jump on the bed and get straight into the treatment, BUT:

In a salon situation these questions are imperative. It shows that the operator cares about their client and the service they provide. Then you can be sure that a personal treatment which addresses all of your needs and concerns, as well as a unique after care program, will be provided.

A client recently came to me and complained that she had booked in at a salon to have some electrolysis done. She had never been to that salon before. At the time of booking only her name and phone number was taken. When she arrived for her treatment she was not asked any further questions and just politely ushered into the treatment room. The only questions she was asked whilst lying on the bed was whether or not she had had electrolysis before and when she replied ‘yes’ the operator got straight into the treatment. It would have been best for the operator to ask and record some basic but important information before proceeding with the treatment.

I feel that the following questions should be asked before any salon treatment:

  • Are you pregnant? Breastfeeding? (some products/treatments must not be used/performed)
  • Are you Diabetic? (more susceptible to infections)
  • Are you currently on any medication? e.g, Vitamin A, Retinol, Roaccutane (cannot have any waxing), antibiotics, the pill (these can cause photo-sensitivity)
  • Any history of illness or chemotherapy/radiation treatments. (low immunity, poor healing)
  • A history of heart disease, pacemakers, metal implants (especially if machinery is being used in the treatment)
  • Open skin lesions (risk of infection)
  • Active cold sores (treatment should be avoided until it has cleared)
  • Allergies to anything at all e.g sunscreen, alcohol, animals, fragrance, elastoplast, food, pollens, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • What the client is hoping to gain from the treatment e.g extractions, firm massage, relaxation
  • If the client has any major concerns that they would specifically like addressed e.g hair removal, skin breakouts, pigmentation, sensitivity, aging, wrinkles, sun damage etc.
  • Which products they are currently using? (could interfere with treatment performed)
  • When they last exfoliated or had any microdermabrasion, resurfacing treatments
  • Have they had any botox or injectables in the last 2 weeks (if so, facials should not be performed)
  • Contact details, next of kin, emergency contact

It is very important to also discuss with the client what they can expect before, during and after the treatment.

If you attend a professional salon, similar questions will be asked. So please understand that our interest is in your interest.

Basic Consultation form

Basic Consultation form

Example of a waxing consultation.

Example of a waxing consultation.

Make up: to share or not to share

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Make up: to share or not to share

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I occasionally have the opportunity to do a little bit of TV and film acting
The gigs are few and far between, but when I am lucky enough to get a call, it’s not the scripts or lines I need to know off by heart that scares me, but whether or not the hair and makeup artists are going to use clean makeup tools on me. Yes, that’s right! The whole idea of a huge cast sharing brushes and sponges completely freaks me out! All those bugs  festering in those little pots of makeup and brushes.

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Last week I worked on a TV commercial and I loved every minute of it. Not only was the filming fun but the makeup artists were incredibly professional. As per normal, the cast get to have their hair and makeup done in a makeup and wardrobe bus. Chairs, mirrors, running water, clean towels and loads of brushes, pots of makeup, powders, lip pencils and colours and foundations all in abundance.

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What I loved about my experience last week was the fact that each cast member had their own little makeup case. To start with all the brushes were extremely clean. Cleaning brushes is so easy, all that is needed is that they are to be washed in soapy hot water, rinsed well, air dried and wiped over with isopropyl alcohol (99.8%). cleaning-brushesL1_A2                            images-5

The brushes used on me were placed in my case, with my lip colour and all my palettes.

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Nothing was double dipped, spatulas and cotton buds were used to remove colour from the pots, then disposed of immediately. Colours of eyeshadow, blush and bronzing palettes  can be easily and hygienically cleaned with a light spray of isopropyl alcohol which dries immediately and doesn’t harm the products.Foundation was placed on a palette and only my brush was used for my application.

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This is how it should be everywhere you go when having your makeup applied, whether it be a department store counter, a makeup bar, a salon or even if you have a professional makeup artist visit you. There are no exceptions!  Spatulas/disposable applicators should be made available for you to test and try at your leisure, rather than fingers straight into products.

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It is not advisable to ever share makeup, especially eye make up (particularly mascara, eyeliner or eye-shadow) as there is the risk of spreading conjunctivitis.images-8Unknown-1

Sharing lipsticks or lip glosses also risks spreading cold sores, caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex.

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So next time your friend wants to borrow your makeup, or you are offered a free make over, please check very carefully that nothing is double dipped.

What are you really buying when you shop for skin care online?

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Clients often tell me about great online skincare sites. They love that they can shop at their convenience: when they run out of stock they can hop online from the comfort of their bed, iPhone or iPad and just place a quick order and in a few days it arrives at their doorstep.

Yes, this is fantastic, convenient and a no-brainer, but do you know what you are really buying? Have you ever considered that this may be dangerous? Would you buy perishable food or vitamins online? No, I hear you say. Why not? Possibly because by the time they arrive at your doorstep, they may be off: unless, of course, you are home to receive them when they are delivered.

But then there are many questions: When they leave the air-conditioned warehouse, how long have they been sitting in the delivery van? Is the van air-conditioned? How long have they been sitting on your doorstep before you get to them? Well the same goes for ordering skincare online: you need to know how many days it will take to be delivered to you.

Most products have a short shelf life. They ‘go off’ like food and they can harm your skin. The efficacy of the product will be compromised. I see skincare as an investment, why would you put this stuff on your skin? It’s so not worth it.

I had a client recently come to see me, complaining that a product she had recently purchased was not up to scratch. It wasn’t performing as well as the one I had sold her last time and she complained that it has a strange smell. On further investigation, I soon realised that her product had been purchased from an online discount site.

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She could not see that there was any problem with this at all, as when the product arrived, it was identical to the one she had purchased from me. She was convinced it was exactly the same, the box looked the same, the tube looked the same, it seemed to smell the same. What she didn’t realise was that because it was so cheap, it would have had to have been counterfeit, fallen off the back of a dodgy truck, discontinued, expired or stolen stock, which had been sitting in warehouse for months in the freezing cold or steaming heat. The large professional skincare companies would never sell to – or have any official relationship – with these discount websites. When you buy a product that is so cheap, there is a reason. Don’t get sucked in by the free freight or the buyer incentives.

Most of the reputable skincare companies invest millions of dollars buying back their products and test them only to find “some of their original product plus bonus fillers, water, animal urine, broken glass and even sand” at no extra charge.

Any reputable legitimate online store and authorised stockist will usually have a salon service and an address for returns, as well as a 24-hour question line. Do not be afraid to ring the product company directly to find out if they supply the website you are shopping with.

So I implore you to think very carefully before ordering your ‘must haves’ online; your best option is to collect them from a salon. This way you will know what you are getting: you can see where the products have come from and you will always receive exceptional service with a smile.

What you don’t know about salon hygiene

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What you don’t know about salon hygiene

I feel so compelled to start this blog, as yesterday I experienced something so shocking whilst having a pedicure. Having been in the skin and beauty industry for over 25 years, worked, managed and owned salons, I feel more than qualified to start this blog and share my knowledge.

So, this all started when a good friend of mine suggested I join her and her friend for a spa
pedicure. What a great idea? Being in the industry, I certainly don’t treat myself enough.
My friend insisted that this place was really clean and that they were fast — and cheap!
So I gave them a call to see if they could accommodate me as well. How bad could it be?

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Located in the best street in an exclusive Melbourne suburb, surrounded by designer wedding boutiques & antique emporiums and the best coffee shops!

When I called, the staff rambled the salon name and told me yes they could fit me in.
All they asked for was my first name. No phone number or deposit needed.

Very excitedly, I arrive at my allotted time. The salon is packed, absolutely packed.
Rows of pedicure spa chairs. Rows of manicure tables. Rows of polish bottles. Rows of unknowing, innocent clients.

I say hi, introduce myself. I am asked upfront for the $30 for my pedicure. I am then told to choose my polish colour. Fabulous collection of colours. Not asked for any further information or to fill out any health, history forms.

As I tell the staff that I am waiting for my friends, I am told to go to one of the many vinyl massage chairs. So I guess that meant I should make myself comfy and sit down.

The lovely lady in the chair next to me with her feet bubbling suggests I immerse my feet in the foot spa.

I gingerly place my feet into the warm bubbly not so clean looking water.

Uh-oh! I notice that the pedi spa is oily looking; not clean! Not a great feeling when you can see floaters of dead skin in the water and you know it’s not yours!

The salon owner comes along and throws a blue powder into the water and walks off. Oh, so that must be spa salts or maybe, hopefully disinfectant.

I start to relax and my two friends arrive. The massage chair has started doing its work.
The pedicure girls are doing their thing, running around with face masks and rubber gloves. Yes, it does look very hygienic!

I hear in the distance one of the clients ask her operator not to cut her toenails too short, she was worried about ingrown toenails.

My feet are still bubbling away, it’s now been 20 minutes and the lovely lady next to me is finally being attended to. Her feet are gently taken out of the bubbling water and placed on a nice clean towel.
Oh God, Horror – she has a fungal nail infection, obvious for all the salon to see! At this point, I cannot breathe.

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The salon operator, with her rubber gloves and face mask, is protecting herself. But only herself!
She picks up a grubby looking nail file from the plastic container of communal nail files and starts filing this lovely lady’s fungus infested toe nails. I stare in absolute disbelief!
Now, I really cannot breathe, I want to vomit! Will she throw out that nail file after filing those infected toenails? No not a chance, the file goes straight back into the communal plastic container with all the other nail files.

Then the cuticle and nail clippers start working. At this point I cannot take it any more.
Where will they go after she’s finished clipping off the lovely lady’s dead skin and hang nails?
Straight back in the container and given a quick wipe for me, or the next unknowing client. I did not see an autoclave or even a jar of hospital grade disinfectant for soaking instruments.

All my years of experience and expertise told me to ‘run’ and I did!
I politely excused myself from not wanting to pick up tinea, a plantar wart or a fungal nail infection. My friends thought I was crazy. They didn’t quite understand the seriousness of my exit.
And why would they? How could they possibly understand?
All those trusting clients, all at risk of picking up an infection.

Fungus breeds in warm water. The little ‘spray and wipe’ of the pedi spa basin will not kill fungi, viruses or bacteria.

Feet should be checked or examined first by the operator for any fungal diseases or infected toenails or plantar warts, verrucas, whatever you want to call them. It is contraindicated, against health regulations, to treat ANYONE with a contagious foot disease. Disposable files and emery boards for all nails and foot files and pumices for the removal of dead skin should be opened new for each client, or BYO.

And what if the client is diabetic? He or she should never have their toenails cut.

Feet should be placed on disposable paper towels, unless towels are boiled, bleached and disinfected between clients, to properly clean them.

Always take your own bottle of polish, the thought of painting those fungal infested toenails and then the little polish brush put straight back into the bottle for the next trusting client.

The most surprising thing about this salon was that there were certificates on the wall claiming that this salon passed all the councils hygiene codes of practice.

First impression for anyone walking into a salon like that is that all the staff were wearing gloves and masks: you would have to think it was clean and hygienic. Well, it’s not. I really implore you to take note when you next have a manicure or pedicure.

Do not be afraid to ask them how they sterilise or disinfect their tools if you are concerned about the hygiene.

Infection in the salon is very real and very contagious, and it’s disgusting that these types of salons can operate without the general public realizing what a health risk they are.

Paula Abdul and Victoria Azarenka were onto something. They learnt the hard way.