Musings on effortless beauty, from an apprentice of the science of skin.

Don’t Take Back Handed Compliments.

The oft forgotten region, the back of your hands, are the first to go. Most exposed and vulnerable to the destructive power of UV-A rays, it is not thought about until its much too late. And you don’t want to spend your golden years wearing motorcycle gloves covering them up (see Madonna). Nope, not a good look for any occasion. 

The brown spots often spotted on the hands of many a granny, also called age spots or solar lentigines in derm-speak, are avoidable.  They are the result of excessive sun exposure over a life time, and are accompanied by wrinkling, thinning, and roughening of the skin.  The skin produces these unsightly little islands of melanin as a protective measure against excessive UV exposure.  The wrinkling comes from UV-A rays and excessive enzyme activity destroying precious, plumping collagen.  The end result is spotted, wrinkled, leathery hands that betray your age, despite efforts to preserve your youth above the neck. 

Are you as horrified as I am? I hope so because the point is to scare you into remembering to slather that broad spectrum, UV-A, UV-B protective sunscreen you bought after last week’s lesson on sun protection onto the back of your hands. This especially applies to my ladies in sunny California, where y’all are getting a whole lotta inadvertent UV exposure through your car window as you’re cruising.  Once the damage is done, it is darn near impossible to undo.  There are ways that can help, involving a lot of pain, money, and lasers, but prevention is the sure path to success.  I want you divas looking beautiful head to toe for decades to come.  

(photo credit: French Vogue)

Protecting your investment.


I can’t say that I haven’t been in this position before (see above). Growing up in California, they tell you the sun is your friend.  But that was a bold faced lie.  The sun is NOT a friend to your beautiful skin and I am here to tell you why and what you can do about it. 

You may crave the golden brown baked look for the summer, but the harmful UV-B and UV-A rays emanating from that giant ball of fire that heats our planet is destroying the collagen scaffolding that makes your skin look luscious and plump. Other evil things these rays can do are encourage cell death, mutate DNA to make you more at risk for skin cancer, thin your skin, and cause unsightly damage at too early of an age.  And keep in mind, these rays are still around as the weather turns nippy.

Seeing a glowing, youthful Stevie Nicks share her ultimate beauty secret (avoiding the sun) on Oprah was the kick in the pants I needed to take sun protection seriously (yes, I confess Oprah has that power over me. Don’t lie, you do too). I started to live by these rules:

Rule #1: Stay out of the sun. Or if you’re in the sun, use hats, umbrellas, trees, cabanas to shield your skin. 


And to follow rule #2, I had to learn how SPF worked and what kind of sunscreen I should look for. 

First, SPF (sun protection factor) only measures how well it protects your skin against UV-B rays, which cause sunburn. It is a measure of, when applied correctly, how long your skin will go without burning in direct sunlight compared to when you’re not wearing sunscreen  And what does that mean to apply correctly? LAY IT ON THICK AND OFTEN.  And dermatologists universally recommend that you choose something with SPF 30 or above, but higher than 50 makes very little difference in the amount of rays you are blocking. 

But what about UV-A, you say? UV-A, causing invisible, yet irreversible, damage deep in your skin, leading to wrinkles and skin cancer, is best protected against with sunscreens containing zinc or titanium oxide, avobenzone, or ecamsule. 

Phew! After that crash course, how do you pick the one? Well, first off, choose something that is light and sheer enough for you to use everyday. For example, La Roche-Posay Anthelios is an amazing, elegant sunscreen that works well for those with fairer complexions.. but makes girls of color (like me) look like geishas.  A better option for us is Skinceuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense that mixes effortlessly with any tinted moisturizer or foundation.  Protecting your beautiful complexion for posterity is an investment worth making, ensuring you will be werq-ing it for a long, long time. 


Treat yo self… to BIG by Lush, $24.95. This all-natural shampoo is the definitive cure for limp, flat hair, making it instantaneously big, luscious, and sexy, just like our favorite country diva. It worked so well, it gave me an extra bounce in my step, as well as in my hair.  Mmmmhmmm, werq it. 

tn223qy18 asked: Hi, Read about your blog on Birchbox. Have you ever heard of and/or used Acure Organics on your face? I dont know if these all natural ingredients really help fight aging. Is putting argon oil on my face really going to plump up my smile lines and crows feet? Or is there something to be said for the more "clinical" stuff a la Peter Thomas Roth or Perricone MD? Please help!!! PS I'm 28 with combination skin if that makes a difference

Hi! None of these ingredients are scientifically proven and their claims are definitely inflated to make the cash money. They may moisturize and reduce the appearance of fine lines, but the best way to fight them is to reduce UV damage by staying out of the sun and using sunscreen. Besides that, retinols are the only scientifically proven compound to reverse signs of aging.  Even the “medical” brands are extremely overpriced and the over the counter products also have inflated claims. The best bet is to go to a dermatologist for presciption retinoids, which are more potent and effective. 

At your age though, staying out of the sun and using a prescription retinoid should be enough to stave off signs of aging. Stevie Nicks stopped going into the sun after 30 and her skin is still stunningly youthful and smooth!

Good luck and thanks for reading!



nmartin55 asked: Hey hey! I love your blog! I just stumbled upon it while reading through the Birchbox blog last night and haven't stopped reading. I'm intrigued by your posts on squalene and would like to try it out, but the links to amazon aren't working. Could you tell me which brand you're using? Thanks. It really is so great to find a blog that offers real, unbiased, sophisticated information on beauty products. Thank you for all that you do! P.s. I love the "treat yo self"- did you get that from Parks&Rec?

Hello there! Thank you so much for the positive feedback! Spread the word :) The brand is Mayumi Squalene oil.. I got the smaller bottle because a little goes a long way. Enjoy!



PS Yes! Treat yo self.. Mimosas. Treat yo self.. Fine leather goods. Although I try to make it a treat yo self day everyday..

If You Got It, Flaunt It.


(As featured on Birchbox’s fabulous blog. !!!.  For the rest of the series, go here.)

Now that we’ve gone great lengths to perfect your natural, God-given skin, what now?  Put it down. Just put down the MAC compact foundation or Covergirl foundation bottle and back away slowly. Don’t hide your gorgeous, stunning flawless skin, flaunt it! 

I can count on one hand how many times I’ve worn foundation in my life, including glamour head shots as a 6 year old (yes, that really happened) and prom night. I hated it each and every time, although I do see the utility in being extra flawless for those special events.  However, for everyday, I reach for a one-step, lightweight option just to even out my complexion and moisturize: tinted moisturizer!

Let me just tell you, it was an odyssey trying to find the one that gave me that perfect dewy look: light moisture with just enough tint. Not too little, not too much. I tried the renowned Laura Mercier tint, as well as many others, finding that most were TOO lightweight, without enough coverage and disappearing from the surface of my skin in a matter of hours. But Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Tinted Moisturizer fit the bill perfectly. The pigment is just heavy enough that it evens out my complexion without looking done up. Despite being lightweight, it keeps me perfectly moisturized throughout the day. Then, mixing with a sunscreen fluid completely protects me against the elements as I conquer my day.

But what about BB cream? This Asian beauty fad is O.O.C., but just because everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, doesn’t mean you have to.  This combination concealer, moisturizer, sunscreen, primer is toted to be the cure for any and all skin coverage problems. In my limited BB experience, the fewer skin tone options and thicker, opaque finish have kept us from being BFF.  However, the plus side is that most contain zinc and titanium oxide, the very ingredients that provide the all important UV-A coverage, in addition to SPF.  If you’re going to take the BB plunge, choose one with SPF 30 or above and in one swift slather, you are done, girl.  Whichever you choose to use, make sure it doesn’t hide your hard-earned glow.   

Thanks for listening! Divas, you. betta. WERQ.  Now, sashay away with your incredibly beautiful and healthy skin.  

The Secret to Getting Glowing Skin: Guest Blogger


Dermatologist-in-training and all around cool girl blogger Aegean Chan is the savvy mind behind super-skincare blog Aegmora. Chan educates her readers with particularly informative posts that tie together her science background and her extensive experience with beauty products. We love that she demystifies everything from familiar active ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide to the newest trends like coconut oil. This week, Chan teaches us how to fight acne better, keep our skin hydrated, and protect it from the sun.

Retinoid sounds like a robot that could eventually take over the human race. But in reality, it’s actually a little known and much misunderstood cornerstone of your skin care regimen. This agent, a derivative of the vitamin A molecule, is the only tried and true, clinically proven way to improve signs of skin aging, treat acne, shrink pores and generally give you a kickass glow. This veritable skin superhero has been around for over 80 years, but its use is still shrouded in myth and fear because of its tendency to cause unsightly dryness and redness if used incorrectly.

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Making the moist of it.


 (As featured today on Birchbox’s fabulous blog. !!!.)

Moist. When it stands alone, that word makes many a man, woman, and child squirm.  However, it is what makes this cake melt in your mouth and your baby soft skin divine to the touch.  So what exactly makes your skin so silky soft and what does it need to stay that way? 

Fundamentally, the little molecule that could, H2O, is the key ingredient to anything becoming moist, soft, and pliable.  Our skin needs water to function, proliferate, and regenerate properly.  But we all know how transient and fickle water can be, with that pesky phenomenon, evaporation.  In drier environments i.e. Vegas in July, our skin dries out and flakes off in response to the reduced water content in the air around us.  The genius engineer of our bodies, however, anticipated this and embedded layers of lipid molecules (cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids) between our surface skin cells to help trap that water in, retaining that precious moisture.  Voila!  Water + lipids = soft, plump, beautiful skin. 

A simple way to achieve this optimum moisture state is to pat dry after the shower, still keeping your skin slightly wet, and then applying a thin layer of Vaseline to literally trap those water molecules in the skin. But this is a little crude for your delicate face.  After personally wading through the swampy mires of the thousands upon thousands of facial creams and moisturizers, I’ve found a few gems. 

A clean, drugstore moisturizer that does the trick beautifully is CeraVe, which contains ceramides, thus replenishing the natural lipids of your skin.  This allows your skin to better trap in that much needed water.  If you want to get a little fancier, which I know you divas are prone to do, please explore and love and embrace Kiehl’s, as I did.  Their Ultrafacial line saved my dry, flaky face and restored it to glory, after many a trial and error with many high end creams. It was the only one out of many that kept my face moist and soft and flake-free for the entire day.  Take this knowledge and may your face be always soft as a the bottom of a new born babe!

(Photo credit: Bakerella)

A Fine Balance.


(As featured today on Birchbox’s fabulous blog. !!!.)

Many do not realize that cleansing is a delicate balancing act, yet also the foundation of great skin.  Your skin, although tough enough to withstand blistering heat, pelting sleet, and withering looks from haters, is actually a microcosm of cells and structural elements that require a very specific environment to thrive.  Just think of it as layers upon layers of the very finest cashmere that together form a protective barrier.  It wouldn’t make sense to try to restore the beauty and softness of that cashmere with a rinse of pure acid and a few passes with a sand blaster, would it?  

Although using the same reasoning to get your kitchen counter clean and your face clean is easy to do, they are both completely different endeavors.  Using harsh cleansers (a la 409 or ProActiv) and exfoliants dries your skin out and disrupts the delicate, slightly acidic pH balance that allows your skin cells to function so well as a barrier. Large grainy exfoliants can actually cause tiny abrasions and cause more harm that good. Less is more!  

A good cleanser contains a mild cleansing agent, called syndet, that effectively remove dirt and oil from your face without disturbing the zen and lower pH of your skin.  Dove was the first product to contain this, making it great for sensitive skin, and is present in many gentle cleansers, including my personal favorite, Boscia Purifying Cleanser. I swear, using it will momentarily teleport you to washing your face in a refreshing Swiss mountain stream.

Non-foaming cleansers, like Cetaphil, are great for the even more sensitive, poetic, skin types, especially those with eczema or psoriasis.  They do not foam very much, but can remove that grime without too much irritation.

Remember, this is all a balancing act. I know I need a little fire power to squash those occasional blemishes. A regimen using a face wash containing benzoyl peroxide, an anti-bacterial agent,  in the evenings, and then in the AM, giving my face the gentle treatment puts my skin in a very happy place.  Everyone is different though, so play around, and you will find that sweet spot, achieving that glow and incredible lightness of being fabulous. 

Our New Favorite DIT (Dermatologist-in-Training): Aegean Chan


Aegean Chan: soon-to-be dermatologist, blogger, and all-around cool girl. Photo: Refinery29 and Aegmora.

Aegean Chan is a powerhouse—not only is she a dermatologist-in-training (with a history of humanitarian work), she’s behind one of our must-read blogs and was selected by Refinery 29 as one of the 30 under 30 - Rising Stars in NY this June. Others on the list include totally famous people Lauren Bush Lauren, Solange Knowles and Lily Kwong. Her blog, is full of her cheeky and well-informed take on beauty topics like the recent post “Why So Hyphy About Eye Cream” and her ‘Treat yo self’ columns. Lucky for us she’ll be guest blogging right here September 10th-14th. Read on for her summer beauty routine and best summer beauty find.

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Thanks for the love, Birchbox! Get hyphy for my guest blogging series in September!