........A Chicago area beauty blogger's foray into day-spas, med-spas, and countless beauty counters........

(Anything in BLUE or GRAY within the text is a LINK to more information)

Broken Capillaries And Vbeam Pulsed Dye Laser

You'll read online all kinds of "natural" ways to cure broken capillaries on the face: drink chamomile tea, apply gel with vitamin K in it (which does sometimes help with bruising). I'm going to tell you straight out from observation and experience, that I have never seen any of this work.

I'm not talking about your face getting red for a little while from irritation or from eating spicy foods or being in the heat, I'm talking about actual little broken capillaries that look like tiny red or pink threads that are usually found around the nose and other places on the face. These aren't going to be fixed by drinking (or applying) chamomile or vitamin K because they are just what they say they are: broken. In other words, the walls of the capillary have tears in them and blood has leaked out leaving little red lines like these.-------------->

How do you get them? Genetics always play a part, extreme temperature changes, sun damage, trauma (squeezing/pressure)....there are a number of causes, and even with treatment, sometimes they come back in a couple of years. Maintenance is a part of life, I guess. They're harmless, just sometimes unsightly.

So how do you get rid of them? You're going to have to see a pro for this one, and nope, insurance won't cover it because although unsightly, unlike varicose veins, broken capillaries aren't considered a health risk. I've seen prices anywhere from $150-$400 per treatment in the Chicago area, and although usually 1 treatment gets the desired results, sometimes a couple more are required 4-6 weeks apart. Some places offer a free consultation and others charge for a consultation (generally $50-$100) but if you have treatment the same day that fee it put toward the price of the treatment. Ask around to find out about consultation fees.

Most medspas and dermatology/plastic surgery offices I've talked to use a pulsed dye laser such as the Vbeam laser to treat broken capillaries in the face.  The Vbeam laser is the mac-daddy (yeah, that's right, I said it!) of lasers for the skin and can be used to treat a number of conditions--hemangiomas, acne, rosacea, port wine stains...and the list goes on. But here we're talking about broken capillaries in the face. Wherever you go, ask what type of laser they're using, and do a little research online.

The difference between the Vbeam laser and lasers that were being used to treat this condition 8-10 years ago is that the Vbeam works to cool the outer layer of skin while it targets the vessels beneath. This means in most cases you won't experience blistering or pitting of the skin like people sometimes did years ago. There may be some redness and minimal swelling for some people, but it usually goes away later that day or less often in a day or two.

The Vbeam is best used on lighter skin types I-IV. Darker skin types V & VI aren't usually treated with this laser or they risk burns and pigmentation problems.

Does it hurt? Imagine a rubber band snapping your skin. That's what you feel when pretty much any laser hits the skin---a flash of light and then a snap coming out of a little handpiece. It's not relaxing or without sensation, but most people don't considerate it painful either. Most doctors tell patients that acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be taken 30-60 minutes before the treatment to lessen the snapping sensation, but make sure to ask.

When going in for a treatment, skin is cleansed of all makeup and lotions, goggles are put on the patient and the person doing the treatment to protect their eyes from the laser light, and then the laser's handpiece is used to administer treatment and target the red areas. It can take just a few minutes for a handful of small vessels or up to 30 minutes for several all over the face. Afterward, makeup can be reapplied if desired, but most doctors recommend that retinols or any other possible skin irritants are not used for 2 days after.

Most people do not have any side effects from treatment with the pulsed dye laser, but personally I wouldn't do any treatment such as laser, peels, injections, etc that I'd never done before right before a big event. If you're getting married next weekend or a reunion in a few days, maybe you want to pass on trying anything new just in case you're one of the few people who do have a mild reaction. Keep your face pretty for those lifelong photos and do these things a month or so before! :)

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Diets Diets Everywhere, But How Much Do They Cost?

I mentioned in my last post that the Venice Nutrition Body Confidence program wasn't for me because it's so restrictive.  Since I found that program so difficult, I decided to ask other people what programs they've tried to lose a few post-winter pounds. 

It turns out that nearly everyone I know has tried the Cabbage Soup or the Master Cleanse diets, and lasted for just a few days before remembering they actually like food. Since these have been around forever, I wasn't surprised that almost everyone I know has tried (and failed) at them!

Still, I wanted to know about healthy plans people have tried. Mostly, I was curious about the price of programs since that information never seems easy to find.

I asked a friend who is currently on Jenny Craig to lose 12 pounds how she likes it--she pays almost $150 per week for Jenny food plus spends another $30+ on fruits/veggies/milk at the grocery store to supplement the plan. That's around $720 a month for food for one person for one month. There is also a small sign up fee, but she had a coupon so that was waived. She said the food tastes good though and she's seeing good results of about 1/2 pound-1 pound per week.

Recently I got a brochure in the mail for something that sounds perfect for me: "The Fresh Diet."  Fresh food. Healthy. Nutritious. NO cooking. They deliver to my door! What's not to like?  

THEN I saw the price: it was on sale for $29.99 per day, regularly $44.99 per day. For those without a calculator handy, that $900 for 1 month on sale, and $1350 regular price for 4 weeks. A thousand dollars for food for 1 person? That's more than the check I write every month for a roof over my head. No thanks.

(I'd like to point out, in that same mailing came a delicious offer from NON-diet organization, Omaha Steaks, for a MERE $39.99 filet mignon/sirloin/steak burger/chicken breast/potato offer. ;)

Another friend tried Nutrisystem. The food isn't refrigerated and comes in some sort of vacuum-sealed package to keep it from spoiling. (I'm picturing the kind of stuff astronauts eat ;) I asked her how it tasted and she described it as (and I quote), "The worst-tasting food I've ever put in my mouth." Ooh, brutal. She tried it for 4 days and sent back the 30 day supply and got her money back. The price was just over $200month to lose under 10 pounds (double to lose more), but since she couldn't eat it, $200 wasn't a savings. Maybe she's just more of a fresh food kind of girl, so I'm sure there are people out there who would like this program and definitely like the price.

Another friend told me she tried $500+/month Seattle Sutton's program. This is a plan where you pick up the fresh/semi-fresh food twice a week and it's made the day you pick it up. She said everything sort of smelled the same--like it was either all stored together or maybe had a preservative on it or something, and that the portions were very tiny, like a 1 inch square of cornbread; we're guessing (no confirmation about this at all) because they're not using anything lowfat, and are rationing out regular high calorie items to make them nutritionally sound and equal 1200 calories. She's petite and was only losing a few pounds for a wedding but said she was hungry all the time so stopped after 3 weeks. I talked to a 2nd friend who tried this plan and she confirmed the same thing. She lasted only 2 weeks. 

The people that I've talked to who have tried Weight Watchers have all done it online, where they sign up for $50 for 3 months and then follow the instructions and mostly prepare their own food. Everyone I talked to said they like the program and see good results, and although it's not all cooking, there is a lot of it, so if you're not someone who likes to cook (*raises hand*) this probably wouldn't be a favorite program. Still $50 seems very reasonable. 

Other than people making up their own programs, counting calories, counting fat grams, etc, these are the only programs people I know have tried. What I'm realizing the more I talk to people about it, is that diet programs are expensive, and let's face it, dieting is hard. Then again, being overweight is also hard, and maintaining weight and fitness is hard too. So really, I guess you just need to choose what kind of hard you want to deal with. 

For me, I'm just going to try to keep this in mind -----------> 


<-----And try to forget things like this exist. ;)

Body Confidence Nutrition Program

I mentioned in a previous post that I stay up late watching Chelsea Lately, keeping me from my beauty sleep. Ok, truth is, I'm not a big sleeper, never have been, never will be, and I'm just fine with that, so we won't blame Ms. Handler. ;) 

A couple months ago I was watching Chelsea's show and her guest was Mark MacDonald from Venice Nutrition promoting his nutrition book, "Body Confidence."

Had I ever heard of Venice Nutrition? No. Are there a million healthy eating and diet books on the market? Yes. Am I out of shape? No. Am I overweight? No. 

...AND YET...

I found myself ordering "Body Confidence" on Amazon after the showHeck, who couldn't use a little extra body confidence, especially as we get closer to bikini season?!

My intentions were really good--I want more energy, I want to eat healthier, I want a slightly slimmer physique. All of these things are promised if you follow the program.

I workout regularly and eat pretty well anyway, so I figured this would be an easy program to follow. 

NOT so much. 
I lasted all of 10 days on Mark's program.

There's nothing revolutionary about the concepts in the book, especially since I spent years long ago as an aerobics instructor and personal trainer: Speed up your metabolism by eating every 3 hours, eat 6 small 250 calorie meals (or 300 for men) every day so your body can metabolize the food and keep your blood sugar regulated, eat 25 grams of protein at every meal, and so on.

The first 10 days were the most restrictive--see above, but on top of that there was no sugar at all, no flour at all, no....well, pretty much nothing but meat, eggs/egg whites, and vegetables and an occasional protein bar or protein drink and a couple other things. Supposedly this was to take me out of my "heavy" weight and bring me down to my "set-point" weight so I could start the "real" nutrition plan that is much like what I already mentioned but with the addition of a little dairy and other items.

Was I hungry? No.
Did I crave sugar? No.
Did I have more energy like the author claims will happen? NO.
Did I lose any weight? NO.
Did my measurements shrink? NO.
Did my bum look any different than it did 10 days earlier? NO.
Was the food so boring that I'd rather not eat than eat it? Yes.

What DID change, however, is the knowledge that I'm not the biggest fan of meat. I'm not a vegetarian at all, but when FORCED to eat chicken or turkey or tuna several times a day, I am just annoyed. Also annoying--eating every 3 hours. I'm not interested in food enough to eat every 3 hours--I even set a little timer on my Blackberry to remind me. By day 3 I wanted to throw my Blackberry out a window anytime it went off to remind me to eat meat, but I ate anyway. 

I don't understand how someone can spend their entire day focused on food and eating hour after hour day after day long term. I think I'd give up the will to live if I were faced with that kind of existence. The book even recommends putting together a kit for your car in case you're stuck in traffic and you need food because you don't want to miss out on eating every 3 hours. Listen, unless I'm snowed in and stuck in my car on Lake Shore Drive, I'm not concerned about a food kit in my car.

On the bright side, I did discover in my taste testing that I like Pure Protein brand protein bars, which have 20 grams of protein, 180-200 calories, and really do keep me full if I eat them for breakfast or a snack, so I'll be incorporating that into my own nutrition plan. I also discovered that there are protein powders out there that are tolerable, but I never found one that I would describe as good.

I'm sure there are people who will enjoy this program.... I'm just not one of them. For me, 10 days felt like an eternity, and it never got any less annoying or any more flavorful. It could never be a lifestyle for me, and that's important.

I do believe Mr. MacDonald has good intentions and a desire to help people get lean and healthy, but this is just not a program for me--I have a life to live and it includes thinking about things other than protein EVERY 3 hours. 

....things like, well, SKINCARE of course. ;)

Skincare 102: NightTime Products: Cleanser, Retinol, Eye Cream, Moisturizer

I thought I'd be able to write the sequel to Skincare 101 over the weekend, but friends from out of town and festivities prevailed. You know what else makes skin look fresh and healthy? Being happy...so I had to go out and play this weekend. I'm sure you understand. :)

You've already learned what you need to be looking for in a cleanser in my last post HERE. You have to cleanse at night just like in the morning to get rid of all the makeup, sweat, bacteria, and general yuck that you encounter every day, that way you'll have a clean surface ready to absorb any products you apply to your face so they'll work better for you. While you sleep, the body repairs damage and cells rejuvenate, so a clean canvas and products to help nature along are vital to healthy, youthful skin. I still can't say enough about the Clarisonic Facial Cleansing System, but that's not part of the "simple" steps you asked for!

After cleansing, you're just 3 simple steps from your pretty face hitting your comfy faux-down pillows: retinol, eye cream, moisturizer:

(after cleansing)

1) RETINOL is a derivative of vitamin A. As I mentioned in my last post, vitamin A is an antioxidant, but unlike most antioxidants that perform better during the day, this one is better for night because it assists in cell turnover which, as mentioned above, happens while you sleep. When applied topically, retinol helps reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, stimulates collagen production so skin has better elasticity, creates softer skin, increases cell stimulation and repair. Yep, vitamin A is GOOD stuff!

Vitamin A derivatives can be purchased over the counter and will be advertised as "retinol," but there is also a stronger prescription variation called tretinoin, or the brand name Retin-A. If you've never used a vitamin A derivative, you probably don't want to start with a prescription strength because it will irritate the skin. You'll most likely want to start with the lowest strength over the counter product, use up a bottle or two, then move up to the next highest percentage, and so on. If the lowest strength product irritates your skin, use it every other night instead of nightly until your skin adjusts.

Like most products, retinols don't work overnight! Cell turnover is a slow process with serums and lotions. You may not see results for 4-6 months, but that's ok, keep using it. Provided they don't irritate your skin, you're going to keep these "basic" products in your skincare regimen. You may use different strengths or brands, but you'll keep using them. They are meant to be your skincare staples! Apply this product all over your face (I suggest neck and chest too), not just in targeted areas.

Over the counter retinols come in strengths of .15% (lowest) up to 1.5% (highest). A lot of brands don't list the strength of the retinol in their products. Why this is, I don't know, but being an informed consumer, I don't buy products that don't list the strength because for all I know they're putting some miniscule amount in and it's not going to do anything to help me. Brands I know, like, trust, and HAVE been able to EASILY find the strength of the retinol include: TX Systems Afirm (.15%- .6%), SkinCeuticals Retinol (.5%- 1%), DERMAdoctor Poetry In Lotion (1.0%), Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM (1.5%), Topix Replenix Retinol Plus Smoothing Serum (.2%- 1%), and Philosophy Help Me (.15%).

In the unlikely event that you find that your skin simply can't tolerate even the lowest strength retinol every other day or two, then look for an over the counter product containing Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) such as glygolic acid or lactic acid instead. AHA products are easy to find and relatively inexpensive, but will not give you the same results as retinol. AHAs exfoliate the skin, whereas retinol helps cells to rejuvenate. AHAs can be used morning and/or night.

A note about retinols and AHAs: because they create continuous exfoliation and/or cell turnover, skin is more likely to burn. This makes daily sunscreen usage even more important.

2) EYE CREAM. Some people like an eye cream that does the same thing that treatment products do---retinols, antioxidants, peptides, etc. But since we're talking "basics" here, and not getting in to anything too complicated, I really just recommend a light moisturizing eye cream like the ones I talked about in my last post. 

3) You need MOISTURIZER even if your skin is oily. Moisture is about water, not oil, so to keep your skin healthy, you need to moisturize morning and night. If your skin is normal or dry, at night, you may want to use a cream rather than a lotion since it's a bit heavier, but if your skin is oily, stick to an oil-free lotion to moisturize both day and night. I could get into all the details about moisturizing ingredients and water-binding agents, hyaluraonic acid, glycerin, cocoa butter, jojoba, humectants, and so on, but really what you need to know is you want a cream that is formulated for the face, not the body. Yes, there are high priced moisturizers, but you don't need to spend a lot unless you want to. You can find great products right on the drugstore shelves, or moderately priced products at the beauty counter.

Some night creams that I like and that get great reviews are Neutrogena Ageless Essentials Continuous Hydration ($13), Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($23), Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief Cream ($34), Estee Lauder Hydrationist Maximum Moisture Cream ($38), Shiseido, Clarins HydraQuench Cream ($49).

Ok, you now have night BASICS and you're ready to curl up in your Egyptian Cotton sheets and catch some ZZZZZs while your products get to work!


Skincare 101: DayTime Products: Cleanser, Antioxidant, Eye Cream, Moisturizer, Sunscreen

Yes, I love skincare products, but I understand that most people don't want to invest in a lot of products or spend the time using a ton of them everyday. So, I often get asked what the "basics" are for daily skincare to keep skin looking young and healthy.

Don't get me wrong, even skipping the lighteners, brightners, peptides, sonic cleansing tools (I still love my Clarisonic Cleansing System!), scrubs,  faux-tox, masks, lip treatments, de-puffers, shine control, and all the other products that can confuse people, you still should have a few products on hand to fight the elements (aka: sun, wind, free radicals, stress, dry air).

Some people are just soap and water kind of chicks, and that's fine, but that's not what this blog is about, so my "101" still has a few steps.
Don't get lazy on me now!  ;)


Yes, you need to wash your face in the morning AND before you go to bed at night. Washing will unclog your pores, help stop breakouts, and create a porous surface so the products you apply can be absorbed. If you apply a lotion or serum over a dirty, sweaty, oily face or over makeup, it won't do much for you.

Use a cleanser that is specifically formulated for the face, not the body. The ones I mention here are for normal skin, but if you have breakouts, look for a cleanser that treats acne. Cleansers don't stay on your skin long, so you don't need to worry so much about the strength of the ingredients the way you do with treatment products. I like MD Skincare All In One Facial Cleanser which can be purchased at Sephora or Ulta for $32 and lasts around 6 months. This is a non-foaming cleanser which tends to be gentler than some of the foaming ones. Other cleansers that can be purchased at beauty stores and that I have found to work well are Philosophy Purity Made Simple One Step Facial Cleanser ($20), and Clinique Liquid Facial Soap ($16).  Aveeno Positively Radiant , Neutrogena, and Olay, and several other drugstore brands make great products that can be purchased right at the local Walgreens, CVS or Target stores for under $7, and these are perfectly fine.


1) An antioxidant product. In layman's terms, antioxidants help to keep skin healthy and to fight wrinkles and sagging (and sometimes acne as well) by fighting off all the bad stuff it's subjected to each day: pollution, second hand smoke, smog, stress, UV light, ozone....you name it! Antioxidants actually help to repair the damage that these free-radicals cause. These little skin warriors include products containing: vitamin A (better for night)vitamin C, vitamin E,  idebenone,  green tea, soy, Coenzyme Q10, coffeeberry, ferulic acid, and grapeseed polyphenols. There are a handful of others, but these are the primary ingredients you'll see popping up on product labels.

I like to switch up the antioxidants I use every few bottles, and most bottles last close to 6 months. Nearly any skincare line will have an antioxidant product, but some that experts say are effective and that I like include: Prevage (idebenone), Cellex C Advanced C Serum (17.5% vitamin C), Skinceuticals C E Ferulic, Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus, and Dr. Dennis Gross MD Skincare Hydra-Pure Firming Serum (multiple antioxidants). Finding inexpensive antioxidant products, especially serums, which tend to have the highest percentage of ingredients, isn't easy. There are some lotions with vitamin E in them, but lotions usually don't have the highest percentage of ingredients, and vitamin E isn't known as the strongest antioxidant. Still, a little active ingredient is better than not using anything at all. Aveeno Positively Ageless makes a treatment cream for under $20 and also an anti-aging system for around $35, and if you look in the skincare aisle of your local drugstore, look for the ingredients I posted above on various products as one of the first 3 ingredients on the label.

A note about products containing vitamin C: this antioxidant is sensitive to light and heat, and while being stored, can be broken down and made less effective by either. It should come in a dark bottle, serum form, and the bottle shouldn't be exposed to extreme heat.

2) Also recommended for daytime skincare is a light, moisturizing eye cream. I like one with hyaluronic acid to plump skin like Kiehl's Double Strength Deep Wrinkle Filler for $39 (Hey Kiehl's--why don't you give your eye cream a little more depressing name???!)If it didn't moisturize so well, I'd boycott it based on the awful name alone. Neutrogena makes a hyaluronic acid eye cream with an equally awful name for around $19. Although eye creams usually go on after antioxidants, my experience when using hyaluronic acid eye creams, is to make sure they are the 1st thing put on the skin after cleansing or they pill or crumble under other products.

Some eye creams that moisturize well but don't contain hyaluronic acid include: Philosophy Hope In A Tube $33 (WHO is giving these products such depressing names???), Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment With Avocado (sounds delicious!), and Malin And Goetz Rice Bran Eye Moisturizer $42. Excellent drugstore brands include Neutrogena Healthy Skin Eye Cream $13, Olay and Aveeno.

3) Light daytime moisturizer. As many as I've tried, I almost always come back to Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer ($23). It absorbs well and lasts all day. Also recommended: Malin & Goetz Vitamin E Face Moisturizer $45. There are a ton of drugstore brands as well and in any line, whether it's Neutrogena, Olay, Aveeno, or any other, for day you want a product that says "lotion" or "moisturizer," or is formulated for DAY, which will be lighter than a "cream" and go on well under makeup.

4) Sunscreen. YES. You DO need to wear sunscreen.  Every day. Summer or winter. Even when it's not sunny out. UVA and UVB rays will break down the collagen in your skin even when the sun isn't shining brightly. I know you want to be tan, but use a bronzer or get a spray tan, because that color that comes from the sun or a tanning bed will wrinkle your skin like nothing else. Sunscreen in a lotion, foundation, or treatment product isn't enough because you don't use enough of the product to get the full strength of the SPF. The standard recommendation is SPF 15 or higher. Dermatologists I've talked to actually recommend for the face and neck, SPF 30 or higher. There's a sunscreen in nearly every skincare line in every price range. You want a product that says it protects against both UVA and UVB rays, not just one or the other. I like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sun Block ($10), or Neutrogena Sheer Liquid Sunblock ($12) because they're both very light and makeup goes on well over them. A department store brand that I really like for the same reasons is Clarins Sunscreen Cream High Protection SPF 30 ($32). It's made for the body, but I've found it absorbs well on the face too. Clarins also makes UV Plus HP Day Screen that is very light. And SkinMedica Environmental Defense SPF ($40) donates $1 toward skin cancer prevention for every SPF product it sells.

For more information on SUNSCREEN, click this link to the American Academy of Dermatology here.

...and remember, these products aren't just for the face---your neck and chest are exposed to the elements every day too. Use these products there every morning too.

That's it for daytime: cleanse, antioxidant, eye cream, moisturizer, sunscreen. I swear it's not as time consuming as it sounds--you were probably going to cleanse and moisturize anyway. :)

Ok. you're ready to be released into the daylight. Go! :)

Evening Products, coming after the weekend....

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