The Dreaded Dry Skin Dilemma

Tis the season for dry, oh-so-dry-and-itchy skin.  The cold weather is here for a while but your dry skin condition doesn’t have to be.

The challenge is that colder weather lacks moisture.  Even here in the great northwest where is rains so much, when it’s cold, we travel in doors to warmer places. Warm air hits our faces and ahhh… relief!  Yes, from the feeling of being cold but aaaack… to the dryness it causes because what precious little moisture we do have in our skin during the winter is quickly evaporated during the warmer temperature switch.  And yet, back and forth we go, during our busy days: out into the cold, back into the warm.  Round and round, getting dryer and dryer.windy

Cold and windy conditions can have the same effect, without even having to step into a warmer location.  Our bodies are trying to keep ourselves warm in the cold; we bundle up; we sweat; moisture is brought to the surface of our skin and the wind whisks it away!  Leaving us with chapped lips and ruddy cheeks.

So the answer is to moisturize, right?  No… not to just moisturize, no.  It is important you understand that moisturizers do not add WATER back to the skin.  So it is strongly recommended to  replace water loss during cold weather through hydration first.  This is done through drinking plenty of water and beverages that do not have alcohol or caffeine in them.  Alcohol and caffeine can act as diuretics to the body, causing you an uphill battle in keeping hydrated.

A basic understanding about moisturizers will be helpful to you when choosing which one to use.  There are two basic ways a moisturizer works: Either by working with your bodies already existing moisture via a humectant, like hyaluronic acid; or by causing a barrier shield on your skin’s natural barrier layer via an occlusive.  So logic would tell you that during times of extreme dehydration, such as cold weather, to lock what moisture you have in, you may want to lean more toward moisturizers that have occlusive ingredients, like shea butter, more predominantly in its formula when you are heading outdoors.

By the way, when heading outdoors, the use of a physical sunscreen (which remains wind sunnyprimarily on the surface of your skin) is so very important during the winter months as well.  The sun’s damaging UV rays are still out there, even if you cannot feel their warmth.  These rays are not only cancer causing but are dehydrating to the skin.  Using a physical sunscreen you gain the occlusive benefits as well as SPF protection (go for SPF 30 or higher).

When you are back inside, cozy warm, and it’s time to bathe or shower, try switching from bar soaps to liquid gels.  They are gentler on the skin.  To bump up the moisture, after your shower while your skin is still damp, use a deep moisturizing body lotion, preferably one with oatmeal in it (oatmeal is known to be very soothing on dry, irritated skin).

humidifierAt night, a great idea for combating moisture loss is by the use of a humidifier.  This handy little machine helps keep the moisture high in the air you breathe at night, lessening the severity of dry, scratchy throats, chapped lips and dry nasal passages.

And speaking of lips, do not forget to pay attention to yours!  When your lips chap that is one of the first signs you are dehydrated.  Using an occlusive lip balm is the key to holding in moisture.

One final tip: Pay special attention to the area around your eyes.  During these cold snaps, this very thin skin can show more fine lines due to dryness, so be sure to use a separate serum or booster around your eye area, applying it by tapping gently with your ring fingertip, not rubbing.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so at the first signs of dryness, follow these recommendations, be diligent in your skin care regimen, and you will be feeling your soft, supple skin sooner than you think.

Until next time, remember to take care of you.

(If you are confused as to which moisturizer is best for your skin’s specific needs, please do not hesitate to contact us at A Cut Above.  We have skilled, knowledgeable skin care professionals available to help you.)

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Art of Apology

‘Tis the season for family gatherings, hustle-bustling about, longer lines, pushy, rude crowds, heavy traffic, patience thinning… Ugh!  During stressful times we may lose our cool and say or do something  that we wouldn’t normally.  So we apologize.  We mean well, and hope that our words will do the trick, but sometimes… it doesn’t. Why?  It could be your basic recipe for an apology is missing a key ingredient or two.

Recently I read a book called, Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch, PH.D.  In it, Dr. Winch explains the ingredients of an effective apology.   An insincere apology lacks one or more of the key components needed to communicate an authentic, sincere apology.  Who knew!?

We have all been taught since childhood when to say “I’m sorry” but were we ever taught how?  Hundreds of studies have been dedicated to the if and when an apology happens, not near as much has been done on the how an apology effects a person.  Until only recently.

How? What do you mean how?  You think, admit your error, say you’re sorry and maybe ask for forgiveness.  Done and done.  Right?  Nope.  There are more ingredients to a sincere apology than just these three things.  Here is how I understood Dr. Winch’s approach to communicating an effective apology:

Effective Apology Ingredient No. 1:  A statement of regret and taking full responsibility for the offense.  The first step in an apology is admitting you offended someone and hold yourself accountable for it.   “I feel horrible for ruining your painting.  I wish that wouldn’t have happened!  I was horsing around in your art studio. I came up behind you while you were painting and I wound up bumping your arm, causing you to smear paint across it.”

Effective Apology Ingredient No. 2: An I’m sorry statement.  Making sure to include those three little words can be hard to say but vitally important. “I am so sorry for ruining your painting.”apology

Effective Apology Ingredient No. 3: Validating feelings.  [This step is so often overlooked.] Allow the person you offended to express fully their version of the offense.  While listening, you must remember their version is their version, not yours.  Now is not the time to correct details or defend your actions. Now is the time to listen and understand. Whether or not they are correct, their perception is their reality of what happened.  Now put yourself in their shoes from their perspective.  This will cause you to practice your empathy skills.  Empathy is a key emotion when relating to other people and their experiences.  The reason Ingredient No. 3 is so important is how it effects the sincerity of the apology.  The offended will find it hard to accept your apology, unless they truly believe you get how you made them feel.  Without empathy, they are left feeling your apology is insincere.  “I understand why you are so angry with me.  You spent so much time on this painting – for weeks now – and have worked so hard on the tiniest detail. You were so proud of how it was turning out!  I would be mad too if someone ruined a project I had put as much effort into as you had with your painting. With my reckless behavior I can see how you thought I didn’t care at all about your artwork.”   When our feelings are validated, the upset over an offense is actually lessened, simply because we feel understood.  We feel heard.

Effective Apology Ingredient No. 4: Acknowledging disappointment of expectations.  It is so important we acknowledge to the offended when we have violated personal or social norms. This serves as a reassurance to the offended that we are aware of the set expectation and by acknowledging it, there is reasonable hope that it won’t be repeated in the future.  “I know I shouldn’t have been playing around in your art studio.  That is no place for horseplay.  I should have taken my rough play outside.”

Effective Apology Ingredient No. 5: A request for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness shows your remorse for what happened and desire to right the relationship. “Please forgive me.”

Effective Apology Ingredient No. 6: Offering atonement. We can say ‘I’m sorry’ and ask for forgiveness all day long, but if we do not offer some way to make a mends – to right our wrong – the apology seems incomplete. Open-ended. Unresolved.  Merely lip-service, so to speak.  Atonement offers closure, showing the offended that you truly are willing to make things right, or at least are willing to try within your physical ability. “I want to make this up to you.  I know I cannot paint like you can, but I want to purchase a new canvas for you, so you can start again.” or “How can I make this up to you?  My horseplay caused quite a mess in your studio. I would like to pick things up and clean your brushes and easel for you.”

Gives you something to think about, doesn’t it.  If you found Dr. Guy Winch’s information interesting, I encourage you to check out his you tube video on his book.

Until next time, remember to take care of you…



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Licensed or Not? How Can You Know?

Okay… by now, anyone who has met me knows that I love to say, “Be an informed consumer!”

I say this so often because I truly believe it!  Why? Because I am done! DONE, I say with being duped, fooled or otherwise misled to believe something I intend to purchase to put in or on my body is something other than what it really says it is.  I want to know exactly what I am getting for my money.   And for that money I put down, I want assurances that I am indeed receiving what I intend to receive.  After all, my money is my vote.  My vote as to whether this item is going to remain in production or will go on the clearance rack.  Just when we think our votes really don’t matter, think again when it comes to this kind of “voting”.  Billion-dollar companies will not continue to produce things that their highly-valued end consumer (that’s you) won’t vote

The same goes for little stores too.  The backbone of American enterprise, the small business owner relies on a stellar reputation in its community to survive.  Your vote for or against them is more critical to their success or failure than anything else.  So, rightfully so, they should be doing everything they can to win your business and perform professionally to ensure you keep voting for their success.  To that end, and for the purposes of my blog today, I want to talk specifically about your favorite salon.  And your favorite stylist, manicurist, barber or esthetician.

So many of you good-faith patrons walk into your favorite salon and figure all must be well.  After all, “Stylist Sally” is standing there, smiling, with her apron on, scissors in hand ready to serve you.  The lights are on and the water is still running.  Business must be on course.  Think again.  Be an informed consumer!  Know who it is that is serving you, especially when it comes to something as personal as your own hair, nails and skin.

How can you know for sure that Stylist Sally really is legit?  It is required by Washington State law that her Operator’s license be posted in the salon where she works, with a current picture attached. However, did you know that if she is not an employee of the salon, but rather an independent contractor, she must ALSO have a posted current Salon/Shop license as well?  Hum… now we are getting somewhere.  If Stylist Sally is not keeping current on her required licenses, what else might she be slacking on?

In September 2014, the Washington State Department of Licensing  reported a total of 10 infractions of operators working without an operator’s license, salon/shop license and/or were found to be working outside of their licensed scope of work.  These operators collectively were fined in excess of $5,500!  So just because the salon lights are on, don’t make the biz legit.

But wait, before you feel unsure or fear being taken advantage of, all is not lost.  You do have the ability as a consumer to find out if your favorite stylist or manicurist is legitimately licensed to work on your appendages in the salon where you visit her.  It’s quick and simple.

Just go online – ah yes, the good ol’ internet is where it’s at – to and begin your quick 7-step mini-investigation for the truth.

1) Under the green column, click on, “Look up a professional or business license”

look up a tech 1


2) Under the column called “Go to…” click on the link “Search business and professional license

look up a tech 2


3)  In these search fields, click on the down arrow from the list of License Type, choose “Cosmetologist, Barber, Manicurist, Esthetics”.  Then under Business Name, type in the legal name of the salon. (If you don’t know what that is for sure, just ask your technician.  Lots of companies work under a dba, or Doing-Business-As name.  You need the legal business name for this search)  Click Search.

look up a tech 3


4) From the Narrow Your Search screen, check the box, “Salon Shop or Salon / Shop” at the lower left corner of the page. Click Continue.

look up a tech 4

5) Wha-lah!  Your search results for whether or not the salon you visit is legitimately licensed will appear on this screen.  If you want to know the details of the license itself (when it was originally filed, when it expires, etc.), just click on the company’s legal name, which is hyperlinked to this information.

look up a tech 5

6) Almost done!  What’s most important, is now you want to make sure the technician who is working on you personally is currently licensed, simply click on the New Search button at the bottom center of the page.  This will take you back to  Step 3  (Search Business & Professional License)  Then, in the search fields under License Type, choose “Cosmetologist, Barber, Manicurist, Esthetics” again.  Then under Last Name and then First Name, type in the name of your technician (easy to get from their business card.  Just ask for one!)  Click Search.

look up a tech 7

7)  This time when you see the Narrow Your Search screen, (as in Step 4, above) check the “Operator” box mid-way down the left-hand column.  Click Continue.

Ba-da-bing! Ba-da-boom!  Your search results will tell you all you need to know about your technician.  (Again, to find out more detail about their licenses, just click on their name, which is hyperlinked to that information.)

look up a tech 8



Warning:  if “No Results Found” comes up, you may want to double-check your search fields (less info entered is more).  If it still pops up with the same answer, well then… Houston, you may have a problem with the legitimacy of your service tech.  A call to the state board may be your next plan to investigate further.

Just like that, in 7 quick steps, you are now a more informed consumer about the person who is handling the most precious parts of you.  Knowledge is power and you hold the power to keep a salon thriving or help it close its doors due to non-compliance.  It’s your vote.

Until next time, remember to take care of you.



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Just Breathe Already

Breathing. It’s a constant in our lives.  We do it all day long.  All night long too for that matter.  Good thing it’s a majorly subconscious activity or we may just forget to do it, since we pay so little attention to it anyway — well, except to live and all.   So what’s to talk about?  That was my first thought.  Yet surprisingly, I was fascinated to find out all the wonderful health benefits of just re-learning how to breathe better.

You think you know how to breathe.  In, out.  In, out.  You got this.  But do you really?  You’ve been doing it since you were born – non-stop in fact – but have you been doing it correctly?  Meaning, for the best benefit to your body?

I’m not talking about the kind of breathing we all do everyday all day long.  You know, that diaphragmgood ol’ lazy, shallow breathing we do unconsciously.  The inhale / exhale habit we all have that barely engages our diaphragm.  Studies have found that this is NOT the way to get the best bang for our breath.

Deep breathing – That’s where it’s at!  Ask any yoga instructor.  Breathing deep is key to so many body and mind benefits.   When done correctly and practiced regularly, there are many, many deep breathing benefits to be had!

Here are just a few:

1) Calms.  Ask anyone who has been under stress. When they let out a big sigh, for example, they stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, or the relaxation response, which brings about the needed relaxation their body and mind needs in that

2) Detoxify.  We excrete about 70 percent of the toxins from our body via breathing.  (Carbon dioxide being a primary one.)   Shallow breaths, however, cause our internal detoxifying systems to work harder to get this job done.

3) Pain Relief.  When we stub our toe our initial reaction is to hold our breath (and hop around, usually).  Stop that!  Breathe through the pain.  Deeply breathing during pain has been proven to ease the painful sensation – ask any woman who has given birth!  Lamaze is about breathing through the pain.

4) Lower blood pressure.  When deep breathing is practiced regularly, heart rates slow and blood pressures drop, which in turn results in less wear and tear on blood vessels.

5) Brain power.  Alpha waves increase during deep breathing. These calming mid-range waves bring about a calm yet alert frame of mind.

Here’s the best part: it’s not a huge commitment to begin deep breathing.  In fact, you don’t even need to etch out special time to practice deep breathing, since you breathe all post it breatheday long anyway.  It is as simple as just remembering to do it whenever you think about it. (The trick is to think about it – but that is what reminder Post-It notes are for)  The great thing is that once you have practiced this enough times, you will begin to do it without complete conscious effort!

So relax.  Breathe.  Deeply Breathe.  You do got this.

Until next time remember to take care of you.

deep breath

I am sharing with you this step-by-step How To I found in a post from the Men’s Journal,  June 2009:

Relearn How To Breathe

Do this exercise five times a day and you’ll start thinking and performing better in no time:

1. Inhale deeply

2. Exhale with a short burst (as if blowing out a candle). This helps activate your diaphragm, which most people don’t use.

3. Exhale with a long, slow finish to empty the lungs. Breathlessness comes from not expelling enough CO2.

4. Inhale, filling your lungs from the bottom to the top, instead of taking short sips. Most use a third of their lung capacity.

5. Hold for a moment to allow oxygen to saturate the cells.

6. Exhale slowly and completely.

7. Repeat steps 4 through 6 for five minutes.


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Applauding the Appendage

Leave it to the ingenious creativity of humans to take what is no more than an appendage of our skin and turn it into a beautifully decorated and celebrated part of our bodies.  Specifically, I am referring to our nails.  Yep, those 20 tips of potential pretty.

fingers and toesOur skin and its appendages are part of what make up our integumentary system.  Sounds so scientific doesn’t it?  It’s simply the name for the part of our bodies that protect our innards from the world and keeps what should stay in, in.  The nail’s function is protection.  We used to (well, maybe even still do if I am to believe some of the episodes of COPS I’ve seen) use our nails to scratch and claw at our predators.  Now, we most likely use them to pick up the dimes we have dropped, scratch a mosquito bite or to scrape off that small dollop of goo from the skillet you’re washing (tisk, tisk).  So when did we decide to take our protective digit tools and turn them into jewels?

What would you guess?  1900’s?  1800’s? 1500’s?  Nope.  Reach back, and I mean WAY back to over 5,000 years ago, when the women of India began using henna to stain their finger nails.  So began a love affair with glamorizing our simple skin appendages.

Hop forward to about 3,000 BC and let’s give credit to China for moving beyond henna and creating a base mixture of egg whites, gelatin, beeswax and gum Arabic mixed with a little rose, orchid and impatiens petals to add color.  petalsYou think waiting for your nails to dry at the salon is rough.  Try soaking your digits in this mixture for several hours to get your nails stained just right!

It was considered a treacherous act to wear colors outside of your station.  Some historians say that if the lower class were caught wearing the fashion colors of the rich,  punishment – including even death would happen.  Talk about dying for fashion!


Nefertiti and Cleopatra were responsible for bringing about the rich, powerful colors of red for the nail.  It is believed Nefertiti enjoyed ruby-red while Cleopatra preferred crimson.  Back then, the shade of your nail color represented your social standing. Only nobility wore red. The deeper the red, the more powerful you were.  cleopatra

Fast-forward to the 1930’s and we can give props to an employee of The Charles Revson Company – a French make-up artist named Michelle Manard – who thought to play with the formulas of automobile paint to create a shiny, bright colored nail lacquer.  Her employers loved the idea. So Charles and Joseph Revson who partnered with a man named Charles Lachman further developed the formula into basically the nail lacquer we enjoy today.  These three men changed the company name from The Charles Revson Company to Revlon,  (Revson + the “l” from Lachman) and the rest is well…. history!

In the 1920’s when Hollywood went from black and white to color in films, (thank you very much Technicolor) the stars played a major part in setting the fashion trends for make-up, fashion and of course, nail color.

And in the 1950’s red was all the rage – and you didn’t have to be royalty to wear it.  lucille ballSorry, Cleopatra. Now we all can adorn our appendages with red!jane russell




Until next time remember to take care of you!

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Gray CAN be Gorgeous!

You’re looking in the mirror.  You see it.  There’s no denying it.  Your hair is going gray. Alas, what to do, what to do.  When is the right time to go all gray or stay on the tinting train?  And once you do go gray, how in the world do you keep your hair healthy?  Stop stressing and relax… I will help you over this hurdle of hairy questions.

Let me just say one thing first: If you are a lover of coloring your hair, then color it!  Enjoy the various shades that are available and stop thinking that just because you’ve reached a certain [arbitrary] age, that you need to stop coloring.  If you love your colored tresses, then love it, unashamed!  The shades you choose as you age can be discussed with your stylist to ensure your look remains contemporary and complimentary to your skin tone.

gray That being said, if you have made the decision to embrace your gray, your natural amount of gray should be about 60% of your total hair color.  Because the objective here is to gray gracefully, you want to make sure as the gray grows out it is evenly proportioned to the rest of your hair and thus more natural looking.

But what about that awkward growing-out root thing?  You can work through this stage by choosing a new stylish and shorter (ideally above the shoulders) hair style with lots of layers.  Layers without a defined part, will help camouflage the gray root grow-out.  gray highlightTo create an even more graceful transition, ask your stylist to give you highlights with some lowlights over the top and crown of your head during this growing out stage to help blur that line between your natural grow-out and the remaining color in your locks.

Now be patient and diligent in getting your hair trimmed (only a scant 1/2″ each time) every 6 to 8 weeks to slowly cut off that color and to keep your ends healthy as the gray reached the ends of your layers.

Fast forward 6 to 9 months: Now that you have made it to your all-natural, all-over gray goal, how are you to care for it?  As it will become apparent, your naturally gray hair cannot hold up to the way you used to care for your pigmented hair.  When you lose melanin (the natural pigment in your hair) the hair strand becomes more brittle and vulnerable to breakage. The result is quite often a look of dull, course and/or wiry hair.  That is because the cuticle layer of the hair shaft becomes thinner and the strand drier.  Now just hang on.  Before you start thinking you’ve created yet another challenge for yourself when all you wanted was less burden, not to worry  – all is not lost!  The key word to save your silver locks: Moisture.

Because your gray hair is now susceptible to moisture loss, you must do all you can to replenish moisture!  Whatever your cleansing habit was before, you should really now move to an every-other-day shampooing routine.  Making sure the shampoo you are using has the word, “moisturizing” or “hydrating” on its labeling.  No question about it, using a moisturizing conditioner each time you shampoo is equally important!  In fact, it’s so important, you should really be including a deep moisturizing treatment once a week to ensure you are giving your gray the maximum amount of hydration it requires on a regular basis  to keep it feeling soft and its look sleek and shiny.

Know the environment is brutal on all hair, but especially harsh on gray and white hair.  Pollutants in the air, the sun’s UV rays and smoke can discolor gray hair.  Leaving it dull with yellowish tones.  To counteract this discoloration, once a month be sure to shampoo with a toned shampoo – often called a “purple shampoo”– to tone down the yellow appearance in your silver.  Experiment with this toned shampoo when you first get it by mixing some of it with your moisturizing shampoo, until you find the right ratio to get the end results you desire.  (If you put too much toned shampoo in your hair,  just shampoo with a clarifying shampoo the next few times to pull out what you don’t want.)  Remember when choosing your hydrating shampoo and conditioner, choose one that has UV protection in its formula.

hairsprayAlcohol in your styling products is an absolute No-No when you go gray.  Read the labels to make sure your volumizer, mousse, thermal protectant and hairspray has NO alcohol.  Otherwise its like you are taking one step forward with moisturizing and two steps back with the drying effect of alcohol!


And finally, remember to keep agray cuts contemporary style when sporting gray.  (Just because you choose to go gray, does not mean you must choose to look older than you feel!)  Get your hair trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks to keep split ends and breakage under control.  Note that smooth styles help light reflect on your silver strands and shiny hair means healthy-looking hair.

So that is the black and white of going gray.  Keep these pointers in mind and you too will enjoy your natural beauty.

Until next time, remember to take care of you.


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A Pimple By Any Other Name….

Pimple. Zit. Blemish. Acne. We have heard them all.  Young and old alike are subject to getting them. Pimples are not discriminating!  But what the heck are they?  Clogged pores. Duh.  Yeah, we know that, right.  But if you are looking at your face daily asking yourself, “What IS that thing!?” Let me break down your break out for you:

Blackheads: These are clogged pores – which are filled with body oils, dead skin cells and bacteria – but the opening to the pore remains open.  Because the top of the pore is exposed to the environment, it becomes darker in color.

pimples 1 10.13.14 Whiteheads: These are very similar to blackheads except the opening to the pore is closed, most likely by a layer of dead skin cells, trapping all that debris – including the bacteria – in.  The closed pore isn’t exposed to the air, so it remains softer than blackheads and remains white in color.

These two types of pimples are the most common and everyone gets them from time to time.  Teens and adults alike.  Being more diligent in your face washing regimen will usually be all that is needed to keep these pesky pimples at bay.  Try not to pick at these.  We always want to do that, but don’t.  Its just not good for your already irritated pores and will cause the bacteria to spread to other pores.

Kicking it up a notch, brings us to papules and pustules.  These types of blemish occur whenpimples 2 10.13.14 the pores holding the debris become too full and the walls of your cells break.  This is irritating to your skin, so that is why the redness can sometimes occur.

Papules are usually harder to the touch and if you have a bunch of them close together it can almost remind you of the texture of sandpaper.

Pustules are softer because that dirty debris within the pore remains more liquid and the bacteria is working overtime thus creating redness around each one with a yellowish tint to the head of each inflamed pore.  Get a bunch of these bad boys together and now we are talking quite a condition that needs addressed.  Seeing a professional esthetician and getting yourself on a professional grade skin care system will usually bring these types of acne under control.

The most serious of break outs are the nodules and cysts.  These types of pimples occur much deeper in the skin layers and appear as very large swollen red bumps.  pimples 3 10.13.14Nodules feel harder to the touch than cysts.  Either one is serious enough where treatment from a professional dermatologist is necessary for relief – no home cure or over-the-counter treatment will effectively treat this level of acne.  You don’t want to mess around with these or pick at them – like, EVER!  No way!  Serious, scarring damage can occur if you try to take matters into your own hands with this level of acne.


Bottom line on blemishes:  Each type has its own level of care required.  If you go after a simple whitehead with a vengeance, you may end up causing the rest of your face to suffer from the excessive abuse.  So it’s important you know what you’re looking at so it can be dealt with appropriately.  If you are not sure, ask a professional.  Estheticians (like myself) are trained in being able to identify the various stages of pimples and will know whether to treat you or refer you to a dermatologist.  Trust the products and the professionals who perscribe them.  Consistency is key no matter what you use.  Any treatment will take up to 8 weeks to be effective.  Your skin’s cell turn over takes at least 28 days for teens and up to 48 days for adults.  Practice patience.  AND MOST OF ALL: DON’T PICK!  You do your skin no favors when you pick.  Professionals may need to assist in extractions.  Trust them to know when it is necessary and when it is best left alone.

Until next time, remember to take care of you!

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