Seasonal Skin Concerns: Up Your Winter Skin Care Game

Baby, it’s cold outside. And dry. Well, at least it is if you live in an area of the northern hemisphere that experiences all four seasons. As temps drop, skin concerns shift. Below are a list of tweaks to your skincare routine that can help you cope with dry, itchy winter skin. Continue reading


Q & A: Product “Pilling”

As previously mentioned, friends and acquaintances occasionally ask me about their skincare and makeup routines. I’ve decided to integrate some of these questions into a weekly Q & A post. Here goes round two:

Q: My makeup primer always “pills” (rolls up into little balls of product) when applied immediately after moisturizer. What gives?

A: Film-forming agents (check the ingredients list for polyvinylpyrrolidone, acrylates, acrylamides, and copolymers) are used in primers to create a smooth, even skin texture. They rest as a film on top of the skin, allowing makeup to glide easily over them. These film-forming agents are also strongly hydrophillic. Since oil and water don’t mix, by applying a hydrophillic primer over a hydrophobic moisturizer, you’ve bought yourself a first-class ticket on the express train to pill-town. Oil-based moisturizers (e.g. products containing petrolatum, dimethicone, and mineral or plant oils) will resist and repel primer, causing it to ball up rather than glide over skin evenly.

Other pilling culprits are gelling agents in primers (e.g. xanthan gum, dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer) which are added to impart a pleasantly thick texture to the product. They are similarly hydrophilic and won’t stick to oil-moisturized skin.

There are two feasible solutions to this pesky pilling problem: either change your moisturizer, or give your existing moisturizer more time to absorb. I would recommend allowing your moisturizer a chance to sink in before applying primer and beginning your daily makeup routine. An extra five, ten, or fifteen minutes can make a world of difference. That said, I would not advise switching to an oil-free moisturizer. There are a wide variety of oils suitable for facial use on the market such that, for every skin type and concern, there is a product that will provide an optimal level of moisturization and other benefits. Additionally, between researching ingredients and patch testing, there is a lot of time and energy that goes into integrating a new moisturizer into your routine. If you already have a moisturizer that works for you, don’t go through the unnecessary trouble of replacing it when simply allowing it more time to absorb will solve the problem. 

Not Your Grandma’s Beauty Routine…Except It Is Your Grandma’s Beauty Routine

This post is inspired by the book Health and Beauty Hints, published by Cupples & Leon in New York in 1910. The how-to hair and skincare guide for Gibson Girls can be viewed in full here.

My takeaway is this: the days before modern, science-based skincare were dark, indeed. Apparently, our forebears thought a double chin could be massaged out of existence, as “[rubbing] vigorously [will] wear away the fat by friction.” Additionally, children’s hair should not be allowed to grow too long because it could “draw nourishment away” from the body.

Moreover, ingredients  have come a long way since 1910. I’d prefer a vitamin C serum over a face full of spermaceti any day.

That said, they got some things right. The book advises moisturizing with a cream partially composed of sweet almond oil, which contains linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid and general skin-nurturing superstar). It also reminds women that hair, skin and hands are subject to drying conditions in winter and thus deserve a little moisturizing TLC during colder months.

The bottom line: Health and Beauty Hints deserves at least a quick parsing, if only for the fantastic photography and wacky pseudo-science.

Instead of [BLANK], Try [BLANK]

Instead of St. Ives Apricot Scrub, why not try St. Ives Exfoliating Pads? The second listed ingredient in the scrub is crushed walnut shell, which acts as a mechanical exfoliant by scrubbing away any dead skin cells or other debris resting on the face. The walnut shell particles have jagged edges which can cause microlacerations (tiny tears) in the surface of the skin, resulting in beaucoup irritation. Chemical exfoliants like lactic acid (the second listed ingredient in the pads) cause less wear and tear (and, therefore, needless irritation) on the skin while retaining the efficacy of related mechanical exfoliation products.

The scrub is popular; I know many people who own it. If you can’t bear to part, try it as a body, foot, or hand scrub. Using the apricot scrub prior to a manicure or pedicure feels wonderfully indulgent and removes dry flakes of dead skin.

I’m introducing “Instead of [BLANK], Try [BLANK]” as a regular category for posts. Stay tuned for more helpful substitutions to your beauty routine!

Natural Beauty Products: The Not-Scary Version

While DIY skincare is generally messy, the formulations are inelegant, and analogs to at-home concoctions can easily (and often inexpensively) be found at your local drug or department store, I am not immune to the siren song of good old-fashioned kitchen chemistry. After my most recent post, I feel inclined to prove that not all DIY skincare ingredients are out to wreak havoc on your face. In that spirit, I’m going to share one kickass anti-inflammatory tip and one slap-yo-mama-it’s-so-good spot treatment you can make in your kitchen.  Continue reading

Q & A: Natural Beauty Products

I frequently field queries from friends and acquaintances regarding cosmetics, and particularly about skincare. I don’t mind being asked questions; people know I have an interest in cosmetics and I love talking about my interests. Futhermore, I’m glad I can dispell some ridiculous and downright harmful skincare myths that have gained traction in the more gullible factions of the internet (yeah, I’m looking at you, Pinterest).

A question I have received on multiple occasions goes something like this: “I’ve read some pieces online about DIY skincare and how I can make cheap facial scrubs and masks using kitchen ingredients like baking soda and lemon juice. What are the benefits of using DIY skincare? Are they as effective as store-bought manufactured products?” Continue reading

Judge a Book By Its Cover: Pretty Packaging on Barr Co. Products

I am a sucker for old-school apothecary design. Glass bottles with retro paper labels give me a serious case of ineedtohaveitrightnowitis. If there’s one company that plays to my weakness, it’s Barr Co. Their soaps, salts, candles, lotions and perfumes look like they belong in an old-timey pharmacy. Or a chic French woman’s bathroom. Or a chic French pharmacy. Continue reading