Refresh for May Day #29: My Favorite Facial Supplement

Supplements are big in today’s market. Countless patients come in on an array of non-FDA approved vitamin supplements purported to have some key, typically not scientifically proven, health benefits. Whether it’s for sleep or joints or weight loss or staying young there’s a supplement for you. But, facial products are less often thought of as supplements. As it turns out though, while I loathe daily pills for any reasons, I am quite beholden to Vitamin C in my facial products.

Topical Vitamin C, or ascirbic acid, has a number of reported benefits related to collagen stimulation and diminishing free radicals. While the facts about Vitamin C’s role in these two biologic pathways are correct, I must admit I haven’t scrutinized the studies linking these to better skin. But I do know that my skin is less dull and the dark patches less pronounced when I use Vitamin C containing products.

The array of vitamin C products one can find in the beauty aisle of the drug store or at places like Spehora and Ulta will make your head spin. Some are fairly pure and others a combined with other reportedly face rejuvenating Vitamins. I haven’t tried most but these are my top three:

1) Origins High Potency Night-a-Mins: “Put dullness to rest. Wake up radiant & refreshed. Now nature’s famed night cream is newly fortified with a system of time-released resurfacers plus Vitamins C, E & H, minerals & moisture-rich replenishers. While relaxing aromas lull you to sleep, skin sloughs away dry, dead layers. Deletes dullness” according to the manufacturer.

NightaMinsI have a serious allergy to sunscreens so for years this was my daily morning moisturizer. I will confess that this was during my surgical training and so I didn’t have a nightly routine. If I made it home it was an event. If I ended up not asleep on the couch in a pool of my own drool it was a miracle. So primping before bedtime was not even on my radar. But I had started residency with no routine at all except for washing my face with Neutrogena anti-acne face wash so coming upon Origins and starting a routine was a big deal for me. I settled on Origins because the staff took the time to learn what I was allergic to and what kind of skin type I had and helped me choose a face wash, a lotion (their name for toner), a moisturizer, and an eye cream. And so for the next decade or so, I used their Checks & Balances, United State, Night-a-Mins, and Eye Doctor. In recent years, I have changed up a little and today I use Origins Brighter by Nature line for my daytime routine (from wash, to eyes, to moisturizer) but I still use the Night-a-Mins at night (still not great at nightly but so much better) because it has an amazing smell, a soothing effect, and does result in a more wide awake look the next day. I don’t think I will ever stop using this stuff.

2) Tarte Maracuja C-Brightener Eye Cream: “Refresh, renew and recharge tired eyes with our eye treatment enriched with C-brighter™ technology. By harnessing the power of maracuja fruit, vitamin C and advanced botanicals, this skintuitive™ eye treatment visibly hydrates, firms and brightens the delicate eye area” according to the manufacturer.

tarteeyecreamI have used various other eye creams from Origins in the past. But a few years back, I was over the lingering disco effect of the GinZing eye cream and started to look for another. I did eventually decide on the Brighter by Nature which, as noted above, I use daily (over RoC’s Retinol Correxion Eye Cream) in the mornings. However, I expanded my search beyond Origins accidentally. When searching for a new concealer for my under eye baggage, I learned that Tarte does not use any chemical sunscreens. Thus, knowing that spending time at the Tarte counter would not leave me incapacitated for days beholden to oral steroids and topical anti-inflammatories (and I have had a few horrific events at beauty counters despite my clear statements of the exact chemicals I am allergic too) I stumbled upon the Maracuja eye cream while I was looking for safe make-up. The packaging is super cute. There is no discernible scent. The texture is luscious and I have found that it is a perfect evening companion to the Night-a-Mins. I am pretty sure my dark circles are here to stay but the intensity of the under eye marks of fatigue are lessened by the product for sure. And, as it turns out, I don’t have the patience to add something like concealer and make-up to my daily routine (I tried it for like 3 days and the extra time and effort just was not worth it for me to look better at work) so having products that diminished the appearance of tiredness without make up is a necessity for my aging face. [But if you want to use make up to look wide awake, check out this post.]

3) Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM: “Maximum results. Minimal irritation. Potent concentration of microencapsulated Retinol at 1.5% helps to encourage the skin’s renewal process. Moisturizing formula, infused with Vitamins C & E, suits all skin types. The appearance of tone and texture is enhanced. The look of fine lines and wrinkles is visibly reduced. Skin looks renewed, refreshed, restored. Oil-free. Fragrance-free” according to the manufacturer.

PTR_retinolPMGranted this product has a lot of other key ingredients but I came upon it after searching for a Vitamin C serum to supplement the two products above which I have been using for more than a decade and over two years, respectively. My eyes were better so I wanted to have the same betterment for my entire face (especially since adding any make-up, BB, or CC product was out of the question for the reasons noted above). I found the Tarte Maracuja oil to be just too oily and the Mario Badescu Vitamin C serum’s Lavender smell was migraine inducing for me. (I shop for these things at Ulta because I have one within 2 miles of my house and its return policy for these products is one of the best in the industry–if the product [non drug store brands only] doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, you give it back no matter how much you have used). So given that the Retinol Fusion PM had the Vitamin C that I was looking for along with the retinol my derm and plastics friends say I should have started in my mid-20s, I went for it and I really like this product. I confess that I don’t use it often enough as many nights I just collapse into a ball without a night time beauty regimen but when I have gone several nights in a row applying this product before applying the two products above, I have definitely noticed that I look younger and more refreshed. The drops come out almost like water. I take a few in the palm and them apply all over my face. It’s a new skill but I think I have got it down now and I have no desire to return this product.

So yes, I love Vitamin C for my face. It is without a doubt my favorite facial supplement.

Refresh for May Day #23: Just face it (in a light up magnifying mirror)

If you intend to care for yourself fully, you must invest in led mirror countera good magnifying mirror that lights up. You cannot expect to create an expert swipe of the eyeliner, or tweeze to perfection, or realize the potential of your pore minimizing lotion without on. Trust me. The next time you find yourself looking face to face with yourself in a brightly lit, well mirrored dressing room or a hotel room with a good a proper magnifying mirror (there’s a reason why actors’ benches and beauty parlors are set up the way they are–overhead lights create weird angles and a lighted magnifying mirror gives led mirror wallyou a close-up and avoids the shadows) you will realize that you aren’t really looking at yourself in your standard bathroom mirror when you groom or put on make up. The mirror I use is from Frontgate. (no longer available).  It’s oval and has an LED light but (similar to round one shown except shape/bluetooth and oval one except wall mount). I use it every single day.

Refresh for May Day #20: The only grooming tools you will ever need

I tweeze. A lot. I wish I didn’t have to but the raging head of hair I have comes with unwanted counterparts between the eyebrows, and on the chin, and, well, in all the inconvenient places. Over the years, I have owned an increasing array of tweezers owing to the age and ethnicity related overgrowth of facial hair, along with those pesky in-growns that occur when I neglect exfoliation.

If you aren’t already beholden to the Tweezerman brand, let me save you splintertweezersome time. No other brand compares. Period. Full stop. Don’t bother trying the competitors. My top vanity drawer houses the slant edge (see I’m not the only one, Allure magazine agrees too), pointy, and splinter/ingrown style Tweezerman tweezers. I have a petite version of the slant and pointy in my travel bag (in their own pleather case) as well so as to ensure that I am never left without my trusty tweezers.


traveltweezersBarring the need for the tiniest of clutches, I will always have my handy mini set with me too, because, you know, you never know when an eyebrow emergency might hit. This kit exemplifies one of the other things that I love about the brand; Tweezerman knowspatternedtweezerswarovskitweezers how to add some bling to something as utilitarian as a set of tweezers. I don’t own any of the bejeweled or printed ones (come to think of it, why not?) but they are super cute and might even double as art work for those who lack a top vanity drawer. My goodness, while writing this post, I mizrahi tweezerseven found that Tweezerman has partnered with some well known designers to deliver tweezers for the true fashionista who must not be seen with any wayward facial hair.

Lest you believe this quality is all about tweezers (afterall, the name of the brand is Tweezerman), it is not. I have found that the quality of all the Tweezerman personal grooming products far exceed those of any other brands I have ever tried (e.g. Revlon, Sally Hansen, Trim, BodyToolz).  I have replaced all the various personal tools (e.g. nail clippers, cuticle nippers, comedon extractors, eyelash curlers, eyebrow scissors, nail files, cuticle pushers) in our home with the Tweezerman brand. They have heft when held unlike many competitors and their comboclippersetstainless steel never tarnishes. The sharpness(if needed on a particular tool) is always the highest quality. That said, though there is a lifetime service to resharpen anything that dulls, if you read the fine print it’s simply not worth the cost and effort of mailing back a tweezer or nipper to get is sharpened. Between the Gilt sales, Amazon, and Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons, you will be better off just replacing what has gone dull. However, in my experience, the cuticlenipperonly tools that have ever dulled, despite repeated use of many, many tools, are the tweezers I have managed to drop business end first onto a hard surface. (Don’t judge the dropping. Yes, I am a surgeon. And, no I did not drop the tweezers while using them. But sometimes things fall off of cluttered counter tops and go boom on tiled floors).

Finally, (and yes, I love this brand enough that I have just written a >500 word blog post on grooming tools) the way Tweezerman puts together its travel kits is really well thought out. So, along with my mini set of tweezers, I never leave home without a handy kit that has a small nail fit, cuticle pusher, nail cutter, and cuticle nipper in a handy kit. And, I got my husband the other one shown and he loves it too for his business travels.


Refresh for May Day #19: My favorite on demand zit zapper

Like many of you, I wish in my adult life I would never have to deal with the problem of an unwanted blemish. However, I sometimes get an angry red pimple and, while there is really no opportune time to get one, I find that I tend to get one (or more) around the time of special events. Sigh.

  So, to get rid of one as quick as possible I turn to Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion. I am not a skin chemist so I can’t say for sure, but I think the sulfur is the key to the zit zapping chemical warfare of this potion. It also contains Isopropyl Alcohol, Water, Calamine, Camphor, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Talc, Glycerin, and Salicylic Acid (found in many acne spot treatments). I apply it at night with a Q-tip and by morning the pimple is usually quiescent (or at the very least much easier to hide under some concealer since the camphor and calamine cool the redness quite a bit–or at least I think those are the ingredients responsible for this effect.)

Refresh for May Day #18: My favorite daily lip product

I have been a devotee of Origins Liquid Lip Color lip glosses for years now. They aren’t tacky and have a nice minty cooling effect. Glosses from Shisheido, Dior, Smashbox, Nars, and Mac over the years have not met the standard set by Origins in this category. 

But as you will notice (by the end of the month if you haven’t already), unlike my alter ego @surgeoninkicks, I don’t have a daily make up routine. So these glosses don’t come into play on a daily basis and so they won’t be specially featured as a Refresh for May product we love. But, in the last year I have replaced my daily application of Vaseline on my lips with Origin’s Drink Up Hydrating Balm in Nude Nectarine. It’s the last thing I put on as I finish up my very minimal morning routine. It goes on smooth, is not tacky, and does indeed hydrate as its name implies. So if you want to ward off dry lips with an easy daily remedy that’s not really make up, try this product. 


Refresh for May Day #17: My Favorite Face Wash

My wish list for a face wash:

1.  Non-drying

2.  Removes make-up effectively

3.  Able to achieve #2 without requiring 10 minutes and some elbow grease

That’s it.  Doesn’t seem too complicated, right?!  Well, think again.  How many times have I used cleansers that claim to remove makeup just to finish rinsing and look up at myself in the mirror with two big raccoon eyes because my non-waterproof mascara just proved to be too much for said cleanser?  Or, if it does remove makeup, I feel like I might as well have used paint thinner, my face gets stripped so dry.  Here enters the Soy Face Cleanser from Fresh.  It is 100% effective at removing all makeup, but keeps the skin soft and nourished as well.  And yes, you can use it with a Clarisonic as well.

Link to product below and image from Sephora.




You can buy here from Sephora.


Disclaimer:  Despite my best efforts, I am not compensated in any way for any review of any product.  It’s sad, I know… 😉

Refresh for May #16: Your skin will thank you 

You will hear a lot this month about our favorite facial care products. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure this out, but none of these products will reach their full potential of your skin is coated in a layer of dead epithelium. You may not see the flakes but microscopically they’re there and they dull the complexion. And, more than any other lotion or potion with ground apricot shells or microbeads, the one thing that will bring out the glow in your face (and allow all the products to actually reach your living, nurtured with blood flow, skin) is a Clarisonic. You will run an ultrasonic vibrating facial sponge in a circular motion on your face with whatever face wash you choose and your skin will look better than ever almost immediately. Over time, your products will be more effective too.

I have the base model (Mia) and I am not really sure what all the bells and whistles on the others are for. But you do have a choice of cute colors in even the entry level version. One speed and duration has been more than adequate for me. I use it once daily. The difference in the appearance of has been marked. My skin is brighter, smoother, and more supple. I can’t imagine giving this up. It’s a key part of my daily routine.  

Refresh for May Day #15: My favorite almond scented soaps

If you haven’t heard, I am a migraineur with scents being my worst trigger. But it is a drag to go unscented all the time and I have found that almond scents are a favorite non-migrainogenic scent as demonstrated by my favorite body butter. When I was looking for a soap to match my love for the almond scent of the Basin body butter, I was of course attracted to Basin’s almond honey soap but the price point is hefty and not being able to grab one at the store when ever I had forgotten to restock was quite a drag. So after a single bar of I decided I needed to move on. I risked migraines by searching in a number of store fronts like Lush, L’Occitane, and Body ShoAlmond Castile Bar Soap - 5 oz.p only to find that the almond scents weren’t nearly as pure as Basin’s. The perfumey after-smell (is that a thing), was just awful to me (and a huge migraine trigger). I then turned to the internet and found a few rave reviews of Dr. Bronner’s almond bar soap. Evidently, this brand is a favorite among those who swear by being totally pure, totally organic. I am not gonna lie, I wanted a soap that would pair well with my pre-shower Basin Almond Body Scrub and post-shower Basin Almond Body Butter. And when I finally tracked this brand down in my local Wegman’s it was a home run. The scent was as pure and un-migrainogAlmond Castile Liquid Soap - 16 oz.enic as that a Basin at a much lower price point that I can re-stock on on a whim. And, I discovered along with it its liquid cousin in the Almond Castile Liquid Soap. It comes out watery but lathers up like a champ and leave the skin clean, smooth, and smelling great. So if you love almond scents as much as I do, I highly recommend Dr. Bronner.

Refresh for May Day #12: My Favorite Callus Remover

A foot file that actually works.  I bought this as during the Nordstrom’s Anniversary sale last year (best sale EVER, by the way), really as an afterthought.  It had great reviews, although I thought a bit exaggerated, i.e. “Don’t be too aggressive with this file, Make sure you do it gently, it is really effective, blah blah blah.”  Well, they were right!  It quickly removes any and all dead skin with little pressure.  It is double sided, with a fine grain on one side and a medium grain on the other.  It is also antibacterial and waterproof – perfect for use in the shower.  This is perfect to use in between pedicures, I highly recommend!

The Gehwol Biosana Swiss Foot File.


Photo from Nordstroms.

Disclaimer: Nope, still no free products or incentives ;(

Refresh for May Day #10: Buh bye chicken skin arms

Chickens with chicken skin: cute and appropriate. Human with chicken skin: ugly and annoying.

It’s called keratosis pilaris. The hair follicles, in particular those on the backs of the arms, get plugged with keratin causing little raised bumps that give the skin the look of chicken skin. And, if you are a popper (which, ahem, you might imagine some surgeons are) you end up picking when ever you go with shorter sleeves and end up with arms with tiny dark scars. For me, this led to years of poor arm self esteem and self-consciousness in sleeveless styles.  It took a long time of exploring products before I found the a way to cure my keratosis pilaris.

The Dermadoctor brand has KP line of products consisting of a scrub and a lotion. The scrub is both a chemical (Glycolic Acid, Hexyl Laurate, Lactic Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract) and physical exfoliant (rough sand like texture). I use it about twice a week before showering. The lotion has more glycolic acid and urea to continue the smoothing. I use it almost every day (some days you just run too late to have a refreshing beauty regimen).

I wish I had thought to take before and after pictures. The difference is truly remarkable. Now when the weather gets warm I say “Bring on the tank tops!”, my arms are ready.