• I Sent My Mom for Ultherapy Instead of a Facelift

    For the past five or so years my mom would come to my house, play with the grandkids, and make small comments here and there admonishing the way she looked. Sometimes she didn’t like the texture of her skin, sometimes she didn’t like the hyperpigmentation popping up on her once porcelain face, and sometimes the grooves and wrinkles just got her annoyed. It was frustrating to see and hear. No one wants to see their own mother, only 66 years old, feeling less than but also I knew she was inching closer and closer to the point of getting a facelift. I have no judgment for facelifts, in fact, I know several people who look and feel better for them— I just didn’t love the idea of my mom being under a knife she didn’t need. But my mom is and was beautiful, and I knew she just wanted a little pick me up. I also knew there were better options.

    After countless chats with dermatologists and plastic surgeons, it seemed that only a procedure called Ultherapy could effectively re-tone and tighten both the skin and muscular tissue responsible for keeping my mom’s face youthful and vibrant— without knives or sedation. As any good daughter would, I lied to my mom and told her I was sending her for a really special facial, and told her to come over and plan to take the night off. I knew it would be much more than a typical facial, but I worried that my mom being hypercritical over their lines and skin texture would do much more research on Ultherapy and maybe back out at the last minute. I wanted her to have this and keep the possibility of a facelift far out of her reality. I took her to one of the top face-reviving practices in NYC, The Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Group, specifically because they focus on combining the practices of conventional dermatology with plastic surgery to give the appearance of turning back time— exactly what my mom wanted.

    “Ultherapy uses the power of ultrasound to stimulate our bodies own natural pathways to generate collagen. Generating collagen deeper under the skin over muscle, lifts and tightens saggy areas of our face and neck. In addition, Ultherapy also generates superficial collagen that tones the skin and softens fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Arash Akhavan, Director of Dermatology, The Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Group.

    My plan went smoothly at first— my mom took some before photos, her face was cleaned and prepped, and little white lines were drawn around the areas of “concern” on her face.

    “I guess I just hate the way my skin looks and feels here… and here… and there,” my beautiful mom said as she pointed to her crowsfeet, the area under her chin, and jowels.

    And then Dr. Akhavan offered her the option of either an over the counter painkiller like Advil or a stronger dose, like Percocet. My mom knew then that this would not be an ordinary facial. She was also handed a little stress ball to squeeze if things felt too intense, and within a few minutes of that a series of mapped, methodical pulses began on my mom’s face.

    “It’s hurting a little, but not too bad. I’m somewhere between a sunburn and a slap. I’m not in serious pain, but it’s not my idea of a relaxing facial” she told Dr. Ulysses H. Scarpidis. MD, Director of Plastic Surgery , The Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Group, after the first of three rounds of pulses. She glared at me, and I reminded her that I would be her favorite daughter again by the time she started to see results.

    As she took a one minute break between treatments, she asked the doctor how exactly the therapy works.

    “At its deepest, Ultherapy targets the muscles of the face creating tiny pinpoint wounds. As these tiny wounds heal and contract, the muscles tighten resulting in a lift that improves jowls and the jawline contour. This has revolutionized our ability to apply the same muscle lift we incorporate in a surgical facelift, without any scars, albeit to a lesser degree. When set at an intermediate depth, Ulthera can target and melt fat under the chin and jowls which further improves the cosmetic result. At the most superficial depth, Ulthera stimulates cells in the skin to produce more collagen thus improving fine wrinkles and tightening the skin further.

    Immediately after the procedure, patients can see early signs of fat destruction and mild tightening of the skin produced by the direct effects of the ultrasound energy. However it takes time for the muscles to tighten and the collagen to be generated under the skin. The majority of the tightening and collagen remodeling begins around the three month mark with maximal results achieved around six months. Most patients couple Ulthera with other procedures such as fillers that provide instantaneous results until the full results from Ulthera can be better appreciated.”

    It took about ninety minutes to treat her entire face and upper neck areas, and by the time we left the doctors’ office, my mom was tired, red, and annoyed with me. “I better look really good, because I just missed my regular dinner salad, I didn’t get a relaxing facial, and now I’m looking like a tomato,” she told me as we headed home, but I could already see that the texture of her skin was changing.

    By the next day the more delicate areas of her face like her jowls had bruised mildly. She moved from annoyed with me to “I’m not babysitting your kids this week, Bryce.” But I knew it was just the process and it would pay off. The doctors told us both clearly that it would take 6 months for the ultimate results, and then those results would essentially be permanent, so a week of mild bruising was a small price to pay for such big results. By the end of the second week the bruises were totally gone, and there was a noticeable difference in the texture of my mom’s skin around her jawline and cheekbones. The skin looked less textured, if anything. The very tiny lines that existed there were somehow almost invisible. The more major areas hadn’t yet changed dramatically, but you could start to see little pieces of a youth jigsaw puzzle being filled in.

    It is now about one month later, and the full results have yet to come. My mom’s muscle tone regeneration is obviously not complete, but the upper and outer layers of her skin have certainly been impacted for the better. The deep lines below her jawline have lessened significantly and the area around her jowls and radiating down from her crowsfeet have softened in texture and seem mildly lifted. We are only a few weeks out from the treatment, but feel really enthused about the results yet to come.

    Dr. Akhavan mentioned that many women in their 30s even try the treatment a few months before their weddings, as a way of having their absolute best looking faces for their big day. After seeing how the treatment works and how the results build up gradually, I can understand why. My mom has been happy with her results so far, telling me recently: “It’s definitely not the same as a facelift, but if you put it on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a facelift and 1 being doing nothing, this is like a 6. It’s enough to see and feel a difference but you don’t really change the way your face looks to most people. I don’t think anyone but me knows I did something significant, and I’m glad.”

    Originally featured on Yahoo! Beauty

  • What You Need To Know About This New Beauty Trend Dermaplaning

    If you follow the latest in skin-care trends, you’re probably aware of the popular professional procedure that promises to leave the skin smooth and glowing by removing dead skin cells AND unwanted facial hair (so long, peach fuzz). Offered at skin-care clinics, medical spas, and doctors’ offices, this technique is called dermaplaning. Read on to learn more.

    How does dermaplaning work?
    Dermaplaning is performed on the face, under the chin, and on the sides of the neck. It is quick and painless. After properly cleansing and prepping the skin, a trained aesthetician or skin-care professional holds the skin taut and uses a 10-gauge scalpel held at a 45-degree angle to gently exfoliate the skin by scraping off the top layer of dead cells. This procedure also removes vellus hair (commonly referred to as peach fuzz).

    An aesthetician will also often combine dermaplaning with a salicylic, lactic, or glycolic acid peel (depending on your skin type) to enhance the treatment’s exfoliation. Dermaplaning itself is a physical exfoliation; combining it with a chemical peel helps reduce acne scars, brown spots from sun damage, and clogged pores. On its own, the cost ranges from $100 to $160. When it’s combined with a peel, it’ll run you about $150 to $200.

    Typically, a cooling and hydrating mask will be applied following the treatment, which is intended to calm and soothe the skin.

    What skin types benefit from dermaplaning?
    Nearly all skin types can benefit from dermaplaning, as long as there are no severe pustular or cystic breakouts going on. People with thin, easily irritated skin should avoid dermaplaning with a peel, which is probably just too much exfoliation.

    Dermaplaning will help reduce the appearance of acne scars, remove peach fuzz and leave the skin smooth and glowing. Plus, there is no recovery time. You have the procedure and are ready to return to your day. Who wouldn’t want that?

    Will dermaplaning cause the hair on my face to grow back thicker?
    Many people are under the impression that shaving hair causes it to grow back thicker and darker, but that is actually not the case. Dermaplaning will not cause the vellus hair on your face to grow back thicker or darker. Re-growth after shaving may feel slightly different because the hair has been cut straight across. However, if shaving (or dermaplaning) actually made hair growth back thicker and darker, I believe we would have just discovered a cure for male baldness.

    How often should I get dermaplaning done?
    Dermaplaning is recommended every three to four weeks. An aesthetician will help you figure out a schedule. Each time you get dermaplaned, you’re removing about two to three weeks’ worth of dead skin cells.

    Is there a safe way to try dermaplaning at home?
    Although DIY skin-care methods are popular right now, because dermaplaning uses a professional blade, it is best to have it done by a licensed aesthetician who has been professionally trained. The benefit of getting the treatment done with an aesthetician is that they know exactly how many passes to do over the skin, so there’s no danger of getting too much (or too little) exfoliation. A trained esthetician can customize the treatment depending on the number of passes or adding a peel to make sure treatment is effective and gives the desired results.

    Plus, in a professional setting, you’re probably also looking at some post-dermaplaning comforting treatments. A cold ultrasound and cold mask, which hydrate the new cells with potent antioxidants to soothe inflammation and reduce post-procedure redness, are common techniques.

    Dermaplaning is extremely popular. Once you experience it, you’ll be amazed at how baby soft and glowing your skin will look and feel.

    Originally featured on Refinery29

  • Just a “Sprinkle of Botox”

    Aging isn’t easy, especially in Hollywood. But “House of Cards” star Robin Wright is taking a healthy, positive approach to the inevitable.

    In a new interview with Town & Country, Wright bristles at the idea that her aversion to plastic surgery could have prevented her from accepting roles. Case in point: the actress had her doubts at the time David Fincher, executive producer of “House of Cards,” tapped her for the role of Claire Underwood three years ago.

    “I was sitting there going, ‘You’re 45, and you’re not gonna get a face-lift,'” she told Town & Country for the June/July cover story. “I was really considering that stuff, because in Hollywood the pressure’s there. You better lift that face and pump those lips and hike those boobs! And I was like, ‘I don’t want to do that. I’m going to get older. I’m going to have wrinkles!’ ”

    Yes, one day she’s going to have wrinkles, but, refusing to go under the knife, Wright hasn’t written off the wonders of Botox. “It’s just the tiniest sprinkle of Botox twice a year. I think most women do 10 units, but that freezes the face and you can’t move it. This is just one unit, and it’s just sprinkled here and there to take the edge off,” she told The Telegraph in February.

    Orginially featured on HuffingtonPost.com

  • How Damaging is Sleeping With Your Makeup On?

    Do you always take off your make-up before bed? Every night? Even after a glass of wine too many? Or when you’ve fallen asleep on the sofa? Or you simply couldn’t muster the energy? You’re not alone. In a recent survey, a third of women questioned confessed to sleeping with their slap on at least twice a week. Yet those very same women did so despite believing that skipping their skincare routine before bedtime would give them spots, dry their skin and make their eyelashes brittle. They even said they thought it would age their faces by more than two days for every night that they didn’t bother. So if we think that such slovenliness is that bad for our skin, why aren’t we more assiduous about cleansing? In my case it comes down to priorities. On any given evening, my ‘to do’ list (which can be tackled only once the children, aged four and seven, are asleep at 8.30pm) includes loading and unloading the dishwasher (several times), tidying toys away and answering emails. Then there’s the washing, filling in homework diaries, sorting school uniform and coaxing our contrary cat out from behind the garage. All this means that make-up removal frequently falls off the bottom of the list. But how much harm can a bit of war paint really do? Isn’t this just another example of beauty companies scaremongering in a bid to flog us yet more skincare products we could possibly do without?

    To find out, I took up the challenge of leaving my make-up on not just for a night, but for a whole month. I would give my face a cursory wash in the shower each morning but I would be allowed to use none of my usual cleansing creams, and would have to reapply new make-up over the remnants of the old each day. About face: Sleeping with her make-up on for a month left Anna’s smooth skin looking cracked and red. In order to measure any changes in my skin statistically rather than subjectively, I went to see Nick Miedzianowski-Sinclair at the 3D Cosmetic Imaging Studio, based at the Queen Anne Medical Centre just off Harley Street. Nick analysed my face using a special 3D camera which shows – in mortifying detail – my pigmentation, broken veins, enlarged pores and wrinkles. My flaws were then compared against the average woman of my age (40, since you ask) to give me a percentage score. Suspecting that make-up worn overnight for a protracted spell might prove very drying, Nick also took moisture readings across my cheeks and lower and upper forehead.

    And then the experiment began. Although there was a temptation to be circumspect, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to take my make-up off, I followed my usual routine. On went the Max Factor Facefinity foundation, the Diorshow mascara and the L’Oreal eyeliner, finished off with a slick of Guerlain lipgloss. Night one, and after a hot, sticky day that included commuting back and forth across London on the Underground (always a surefire way to make skin feel filthy), I was desperate to cleanse and moisturise. But I hid my trusty Una Brennan creamy cleanser in a high cupboard and went to bed in full make-up. The following morning my pillowcase seemed to have suffered more than my skin. Other than having rather itchy eyes and some stubborn clumps of mascara hanging on to my lashes like limpets, I appeared relatively unscathed. After my morning wash, I slathered on some moisturiser, and added another layer of make-up.

    By night three, however, it was a different picture. I had developed a series of tiny white cysts around my eyelashes and my skin was so dry and taut, it felt like a mask. By the weekend, a few friends had commented that I was looking tired. Close inspection of my skin in a magnifying mirror revealed the surface had become flaky and lumpy, a bit like a badly plastered wall. Moreover, the foundation that I had once loved looked dry and crepey on my skin. ‘How much harm can a bit of war paint really do?’ In a bid to rehydrate my parched face, once or twice I tried putting moisturiser over the surface of the make-up at night. But this served only to smear it in a wider arch across the pillowcase. My eyelashes, meanwhile, seemed to have stuck together into two giant mono-lashes, meaning applying further mascara was getting difficult. On several occasions I caught myself pulling eyelashes out in clumps and became genuinely concerned that they might all come out. One particularly scary morning, around ten days in, I woke up to find my left eye so swollen, I could barely open it. An optician friend assured me I’d simply caught a mascara-laden lash in it overnight and it would soon settle down. Mercifully he was right, but I did skip eye make-up for 48 hours after. I’m all for experimentation, but not if it actually blinds me.

    As weeks progressed, my lips became dry and my skin cracked painfully at the corners of my mouth. With the end of the month approaching, I felt truly grubby and fed up. I had developed an intense aversion to mascara application and feared I may have done permanent damage to my skin. I had visibly blocked and enlarged pores all over my nose, dry skin across my lips and cheeks and red eyelids. The white cysts had given way to some nasty-looking eyelash dandruff. For an objective assessment, I went back to Nick Miedzianowski-Sinclair’s 3D camera and asked dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams, medical director of the European Dermatology London clinic, to explain the results.


    The camera showed that the surface texture of my skin was around ten per cent worse (i.e. more uneven) on my forehead and on the right hand side. On the left hand side, it was around 20 per cent worse, which Nick explained was probably down to the fact that I sleep on my left side. This meant that even less oxygen would get to the skin here, which would magnify any problems that the lingering make-up might have caused. According to Dr Williams, the decline in texture was almost certainly down to me skipping my twice-daily moisturising routine. This resulted in seriously parched skin, a fact proven by Nick’s other tests, which showed a five per cent drop in moisture levels. ‘Not only is the top layer of skin dry,’ said Dr Williams, ‘but a layer of make-up will also prevent normal skin shedding, slowing down the usual renewal process, resulting in uneven and dull textured skin.’


    Although the wrinkles on my forehead hadn’t worsened significantly, they had become deeper on both the right and left hand sides of my face. Dr Williams said that it’s no coincidence these were also the driest parts of my face. ‘When skin is dry, it’s less elastic so wrinkles are more prominent,’ she told me. She also believes that this dryness would have been compounded by environmental pollutants sticking to the make-up, causing what is known as oxidative stress, where skin is attacked by harmful free radicals. ‘These molecule-sized compounds cause damage to various cellular structures in the skin and can actually decrease production of collagen – the substance that gives skin its plumpness – compounding the wrinkle issue,’ she explained.


    My skin is sensitive and prone to redness anyway. This meant that even before the experiment, I scored in the bottom six per cent of women my age. A month in, and it had become two percentage points worse. Any more of a downward slide and I would be an off-the-scale mass of angry, dilated facial capillaries. Dr Williams told me this redness was a sign of irritation in the skin. ‘Sleeping in make-up,’ she warned, ‘has an occlusive effect (it forms a barrier over the surface of the skin). ‘This means any irritants are locked in, exacerbating any allergic reactions, and moisturisers are locked out.’


    Deep cleanse: Long-term avoidance of washing while continuing to wear make-up is detrimental to skin in the long run. The pictures showed that my pores were about five per cent larger than they had been at the start. Dr Williams said this was partly due to physical clogging. ‘Dirt in pores not only makes them more noticeable and thus appear larger but, over time, we think it can actually stretch them.’ However, she also believed that it was a sign that my skin had aged over the month. ‘Older people naturally have larger pores because, with age, elasticity decreases so the structures that support the skin, and keep pores tight, become slacker.’


    The experts estimated that my skin was biologically approximately a decade older than before I began my no-cleansing experiment. This proved what my mirror reflected: my face genuinely has aged by as much as ten years in a month, and all because I didn’t take my make-up off. I’m terrified that the damage might be permanent. Have I ruined my skin – and my looks – for ever? Fortunately, Harley Street cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting reassured me. ‘You won’t have done any meaningful damage in four weeks,’ she said. ‘But long-term avoidance of cleansing while continuing to wear make-up could be detrimental to your skin in the long-run. ‘The biggest issue is the accumulation of environmental pollutants, which drive the generation of free radicals. ‘These contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, the structures that underpin youthful skin. While these structures deteriorate with age, you don’t want to do anything to speed up that process,’ she adds I don’t need telling twice. From now on, however busy I am before bed, cleansing will be number one on my to-do list.

    Originally featured on DailyMail.com/uk

  • You Could Actually Be Causing Your Hyperpigmentation

    When it comes to our skin, we all want to be “flawless.” So, when we were told that by simply living our lives we could be causing hyperpigmentation (better known as dark spots or melasma), we kind of freaked out. Stress causes a bevvy of issues, but it can also cause uneven skin tone? Ugh. We consulted dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, of his namesake dermatology practice, to get real about how we’re secretly letting hyperpigmentation into our (skin’s) lives.

    In case you needed a better explanation for hyperpigmenation, Dr. Gross added a new moniker for it: “Warning flags—created by your body to inform you that it is injured or under attack.” It all starts with Melanin (the protein that gives your skin color) and how its production goes into overdrive as your body’s way to protect itself via darkened spots on your skin. No one is born with hyperpigmentation—which include freckles—mind you, they appear because of a genetic pre-disposition of your skin behaving that way in response to environmental aggressors.

    So please keep in mind that those environmental aggressors might actually include your own behavior…

    … Like Not Wearing Sunscreen. Your tan is actually a broad form of hyperpigmentation, technically. “When the skin is assaulted by repeated exposure to UV rays, it can cause brown spots and hyperpigmentation from overproduction of melanin,” Dr. Gross explains. “Since brown spots are created by the sun – think of it as your skin talking to you, and telling you that it has had too much exposure.” Time to seek shade or reapply that SPF.

    … Using Skincare Treatments That Are Too Aggressive. If a skincare product has ever made your skin turn red, that’s grounds for possible discoloration in its aftermath, no matter what your skin type or tone. The visible aftermath of that irritation is known as Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH). Think of the redness caused by a product as another warning flag for a possible hyperpigmentation cause. Also as unfair as it may seem—certain products made to treat hyperpigmentation can actually cause it if it’s too strong for you, or if you apply it more excessively than instructed.

    … Picking At Scabs And Improper Wound Care. All those who suffer from acne scars, listen up—if you wouldn’t pick at a healing wound, don’t pick your acne. Believe it or not, one of the ways your body responds to injury involves overproducing melanin. “Your body responds to injury via inflammation which triggers melanin production and can result in a brown patch,” Dr. Gross explains. Acne scars are a prime example of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. They result when there’s too much collagen in a targeted area like a healing wound, leading to a bump or raised area on top of the dark spot it leaves behind. Great.

    … Smoking Cigarettes. In case you were looking for another reason to quit cigarettes (other than the fact that they could kill you with regular use after time), they’re ruining your skin. All of the toxic chemicals in cigarettes deplete the antioxidants in your body as well as produce more free radicals. Those free radicals damage your skin cells, which then replicate more damaged skin cells, so your likelihood of forming dark spots increases exponentially the more you smoke.

    … Stress. Yup, yet another way stress messes with your body and skin. When you’re stressed out, your body can send your hormones out of whack, triggering responses that lead to breakouts and rashes, while leaving you vulnerable to other ailments as your free radical numbers increase. It’s definitely in your best interest—inwards and outwards—to take time to zen out once in a while.

    Other than always wearing sunscreen, ditching cigarettes and offending skin care products, and refraining from picking at your skin, it’s possible that you may still be plagued with hyperpigmentation beyond your own devices. In this case, Dr. Gross recommends gentle chemical peels, like his Alpha Beta Professional Peel, as a non-invasive method, or laser treatments specifically made to destroy darker pigments effectively for much more stubborn cases of hyperpigmentation.

    If either of those options don’t appeal to you, vitamin C serums/treatments and gentle chemical exfoliators are other tried and true methods.

    Originally featured on StyleCaster.com