I would be remiss if I didn't share my most recent mishaps with you. I mean really, why shouldn't everyone else learn from my mistakes? If you take away one thing from this, it should be skin care awareness.

Lesson #1 - Just because a Derm Doc is tenured and credentialed, doesn't mean he is properly educated in his field.

And yes, I reference "he" for a reason. I realize I may be a little overzealous but ... I truly look forward to visiting the dermatologist. I do. It's a chance for me to learn more about my skin and how I can best take care of it. It's also a chance to learn of the latest technology in treatments and skin care products. Unfortunately, I was greatly disappointed by my last visit. Let me preface this by saying I recently moved to a new city and had to seek out a new derm doc. I thought I was doing all of the right things - asking around, researching online, etc. Apparently, that wasn't good enough. I found a nearby dermatologist who has 20+ years of experience in this particular practice. He's quite credentialed, as well. Honestly, he looked perfect on paper. He was far from perfect. On top of being a total dweeb (sorry, I really could not resist), he couldn't answer any of my questions - gave me that deer in the headlights look with responses such as "well, I am not sure what might have caused that...what do you think it could be?" Dude, if I knew do you think I would be asking you? Seriously, I had to answer my own questions. I walked away thinking "I know more than this man." Of course at the check out I asked, "which doctor would you recommend I see next time?" Response: "I can't tell you that." So I continue, "could you please tell me which doctor is most visited at this practice?" Response: "I can't tell you that." Are you feeling my frustration yet?

So I walked away with the scripts I needed and never turned back. That dermatology office won't be seeing me again. Next time, I will depend on my friend's coveted dermatologist. Lesson learned.

Lesson #2 - Don't use expired products. Ever. Seriously. I mean it.
You would think of all people I would realize the importance of an expiration date. I know to throw away mascara after 2-3 months. I know eyeliners aren't safe to use after 6 months. Why did I not realize that a liquid highlighter (my YSL Touche eclat) is no good after a year. Well, it might have been more like two ... for shame, for shame. So, because I hadn't used it, in like forever, I thought it would be a nice time to whip it out and highlight my inner eyes. Mistake. Big mistake. Almost immediately my eyes began to itch. And did I see or feel the signs enough to wash it off my face immediately? Of course not. So I proceeded to wear it all day, not having a clue what could be causing the skin around my eyes to itch. Later that night: the skin underneath my eyes began to swell and turn bright red. Next morning: red bumps, to boot. I looked like I had been double whammied in the eyes! Oh, and just in time for my company's quarterly regional meeting - thank you very much. (And sorry co-workers for not telling the whole truth - I was a wee bit ashamed.)

Of course I threw out the product and vowed to myself to actually practice what I preach. Bacteria can seep into products - and any product used around your eyes is more susceptible. Lesson learned.
I have been waiting for the day to publish this post. Waiting and waiting ... thinking all the while that I will have changed my mind about Botox by the time this gets published. However, I am actually more confused. I know that millions of people have this procedure done every day. I know it's safe, quick and easy. But I still can't bring myself to do it. I guess it's a good thing I don't give into peer pressure easily.

I have many friends who do Botox. And some who do it and choose not to admit it (and that's cool). Did you know that almost 3.3 million procedures were performed in 2005? That's a 16% increase over 2004. I can guarantee the numbers for 2006 will show a dramatic increase. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery ranked Botox as the most popular physician-administered aesthetic procedure in the US for the fourth year in a row (surgical and nonsurgical combined). I am not surprised. Here's why:

For over 30 years, Botox has proven to be remarkably safe. It requires only a quick trip to the doctor's office, with little to no recovery time. I've read countless articles on dermatologists who administer this procedure on themselves ... and some for more than 15 years! So I figure, if millions of people, doctors and derms included, continue to inject poison into their face, it's got to be safe enough for me, right? Botox is also viewed as a preventative (which happens to be the swaying factor for me). Creases that have been worn into our skin by making the same expressions thousands of times are due to the contraction of a muscle under our skin in those areas. If we aren't contracting those muscles, we are actually preventing wrinkles from forming.

A word to the wise: Find someone who knows how to inject Botox properly. Practically everyone who is a doctor can perform this procedure. But not everyone knows how to do it right. If you are going to hop on board the Botox train, have it done by a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist (my vote would be plastic surgeon).

More info on Botox:

Definition
Botulinum is a bacterium (Clostridium botulinum) that produces seven different toxins that can cause botulism and is also medically used to block muscle contractions. Purpose Botulinum toxin injection is used in conditions of excessive and inappropriate muscle contraction, hyperhidiosis (excess sweating) in armpits and palms, spasticity (persistent states of muscle contraction), sphincter contraction, eye-movement disorders, tics and tremors, and cosmetically to treat facial lines and wrinkles. Botox has also been used to treat chronic muscle tension and migraine headaches.

Precautions
Botulinum toxin is produced from the bacterium that causes food poisoning in humans. High doses of the toxin can be fatal. However, doses administered therapeutically are so small that harmful effects are uncommon.

Potential side effects
Excessive muscle weakness at the injection site or adjacent muscles. However, these effects typically resolve themselves quickly. On occasion, patients report flu-like symptoms. A certain percentage of patients may experience resistance to Botox. The primary reason is said to be the presence of circulating anti-bodies to the toxin.
Some days, I just smile more than others. You know why? Because on some occasions, young boys behind the cash register at Harris Teeter card me when I buy wine. Seriously, that makes me so happy. Now, please - don't think I don't know that's just a tactic....let's make this old chick feel good by carding her. Sure, that crossed my mind. And don't think I didn't read the sign "we card age 30 and younger" ... so it's not that I am sneaking by with a ton of years (though, I'll take the seven, thank you). The honest to goodness truth is, the token carding doesn't matter. The way it makes me feel does.

"Age is only a number" - we've heard a million times. For the first time in my life, I am actually starting to believe it (cashier boys have nothing to do with it, either). A recent study by Dr. Frisen revealed that most cells in an adult's body are as young as 7 to 10 years old. Many of the cells in your body renew themselves constantly, meaning that while you may be 40, most of the cells in your body may be less than 10 years old. Fascinating. Have you taken the Real Age test? I have. According to my healthy lifestyle, my real age is 29. Love it - keep it coming! So, is age that big of a deal? Is it more important to feel young than be young? My friend Kay would say so. She truly embraces her age. She often claims she is "almost 40" (come on, you are not almost 40 - you are my age ... never mind that 40 is only three years away!!). Impressive.

Please note: I have never been more comfortable in my skin than at this point in my life. I love being my age and everything that comes with it. And honestly, I feel more sexy now than when I was in my 20s. I certainly didn't know what "sexy" was back then. I know now that "sexy" is not a look, it's a feeling.

My point to all of this is that while the way you feel may override the number that you are, other choices you make in life have an impact. A healthy diet and exercise program for starters. Truth be told, if you are not eating right and staying active, it will show up in your skin (and most noticeably on your face). Too much sun exposure and too little sleep are other contributing factors. How you care for your skin - both body and face - can have positive short-term and long-term effects.

And remember ... confidence, a healthy attitude and good skin will get you carded. ;)
Our eyes may tell a story, but they cannot lie. Our eyes reveal a lot about us - those secrets we try to keep, such as staying up too late, eating poorly, or sun worshiping (or trips to the tanning bed ... come on people!). Our bad habits find themselves deep inside the lines around our eyes, bags under our eyes (the size of your Hartmann luggage) and dark circles underneath our eyes.

The skin around our eyes is thin. It shows signs of aging and poor lifestyle long before other areas on our face. The fact of the matter is, the skin is far thicker and more resilient elsewhere on our face. The skin around our eyes is prone to irritation and tends to be sensitive. It's no wonder women reach for eye treatments (creams, gels, lotions) more than any other anti-aging product. There are products that promise to firm, brighten, sooth, moisturize, prevent fine lines and wrinkles, diminish dark circles, and rid of puffiness.

We are not educated on proper skin care early enough in life. In fact, dermatologists agree that to get the most benefit from eye treatments, the optimum age to start using them is in our mid-twenties (earlier if you are a smoker or have been exposed to too much sun). I know what you are thinking - great, I never knew this and now I am so behind. I get it. I didn't use eye treatment products until my early 30s. And yes, I feel like I am behind. After age 30, the repair process slows and our skin starts to lose elasticity, so the skin loses firmness. It is less able to hold hydration, no matter how much water we drink. However, there is hope and there are a lot of great products out there. You may even be surprised as to my true feelings about eye treatment products.

First, let's explore some of the more touted products out there and their claims. (Please also see: Product Reviews for various eye care products). Elizabeth Arden's Prevage Eye Anti-Aging Moisturizing Treatment is said to use antioxidants to boost collagen levels and is famed for its repairing qualities. Givenchy No Surgetics Plasti Sculpt Lifting Gel and skyn Iceland Relief Eye Cream protect and prevent puffiness. Christian Dior HydraAction Visible Defense and Murad Essential-C-Eye Cream have a light-reflective sheen to enhance the skin's brightness, while delivering antioxidants. Omorovicza Reviving Eye Cream and DDF Protective Eye Cream have added coffee to act as an anti-inflammatory and provide good sources of vitamin K. Then there are all the Vitamin C infused eye treatment products. Can their claims be confirmed? The products above are ones that I have never tried. Not to say that they aren't effective. My personal short list of eye treatment products that I love are Theraderm Peptide Repair Eye Crème, SkinMedica TNS Illuminating Eye Cream, NUDE Advanced Eye Complex and DermaRadiant Ageless Eyes. Are you confused? You should be. There are just too many out there. So where do we turn?

Good question. One that you should be asking your dermatologist. To be completely honest, if a retinoid is the most effective anti-aging product out there, why do we even need an eye cream? I have not banned eye treatment products ... I am just wiser when it comes to my purchases. I listen to my dermatologist. I try not to be sucked into the glamorous marketing campaigns. I always fall back on the inherent truth, retinoids are the most effective anti-aging products.
Well, of course ... to microderm! The question is more around whether it's absolutely necessary to have the treatment done professionally. I must begin by saying that my mother will disagree with the outcome of this post (that is, my opinion). And I will be honest and say that I may change my mind 20 years from now. After all, skin can change and so do our choices. My mother has the most beautiful skin (and face for that matter...she is downright gorgeous) and I am blessed to inherent her genes (unfortunately, I also got the cellulite and spider veins!). But here is my feeling about microdermabrasion....it's the one thing easy enough for me to do on my own. Quite frankly because there are some incredible products out there that do a fantastic job of skin cell turnover.

First, let's get into how your skin works, compliments of HowStuffWorks. Your skin is made up of two main layers, the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the layer closest to the outside world. It's a set of dead skin cells on top of another layer of cells that are in the process of maturing. The topmost layer is called the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum mostly acts as a barrier between the outside world and the lower skin layers. It keeps all but the smallest molecules from getting through.

In general terms, microdermabrasion is the application of tiny, rough grains that buff away the surface layer of skin. This can be accomplished through different products and treatments, including medical procedures, salon treatments, and creams/scrubs that you can apply yourself at home. Microdermabrasion is typically done to the face, neck, chest, arms or hands. It can include jets of zinc oxide, aluminum oxide crystals, or fine organic particles. Particles/materials are vacuumed off through a wand.

Microdermabrasion is relatively a newcomer to the United States. It was developed in Italy in 1985 and adopted in the Unites States in the late 1990s and has been used to remove sun-damaged skin and remove or lessen scars and dark spots on the skin. It's not a painful procedure and requires no anesthetic. Microdermabrasion massages your tissues and drives out dead skin cells, oil, and entrenched contaminants. A healthier and revitalized skin surface is revealed. The benefits are great - it improves the appearance of skin texture, large pores, acne and acne scarring, dry or dull patches, sun spots, age spots, rough skin, blackheads and clogged pores, stretch marks, uneven skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles, and dermal circulation. While microdermabrasion is commonly used...unfortunately, there is little evidence that it stimulates collagen formation.

So with that said, is microdermabrasion only effective at the hands of a professional? (Here's where my mom and I disagree...) I think not. I have done both, professional and at home treatments, and feel you can achieve excellent results at home. There are some wonderful products out there, such as Theraderm's Eternox Exfoliating Gel, Philosophy's MicroDelivery Peel, Kate Somerville's Kate in a Jar Intensive Exfoliating Treatment, and Neutrogena's Advanced Solutions: At Home MicroDermabrasion System. The key to great skin is in the exfoliation - and you must exfoliate at least once a week. If you are using a milder product, you can exfoliate up to two times a week.

Bottom line: whether you are like me or more like my mother, you are investing in your skin - and for that ... kudos to you!