This year I turned 40. The physical, emotional and cultural implications of turning 40 are exciting . . . and challenging. As women, we are bombarded with images of how we should look: tight, cellulite-free thighs, and dewy skin. But, I have been horrible to my skin. I recently joked to a friend that I needed a pick to chisel off all the makeup I’ve slept in; I’ve substituted coffee for the water I’m supposed to drink; and I’ve used nothing but (gasp) soap and water to cleanse. And sunscreen . . .
Living in a desert environment adds to the challenges of caring for my skin. I spend the winters in Palm Springs, summers in Sun Valley. Both climates shamelessly encourage my sun-drenched, wind-blown, al fresco lifestyle. Needless to say, every drop of moisture is sucked out of my face. “No worries,” I usually say, and slap on some drugstore moisturizer. However, now I’m 40. Now it’s time to grow up and take care of the skin that’s been so good to me.
“It’s never too late to start taking good care of your skin,” says Jeannie Bell of Luminescence in Ketchum. “What’s more, it’s vital in the Wood River Valley’s high-desert environment.”
“I see women on the ski mountain,” Bell continues. “They are amazing athletes—they take care of their bodies—but they love the sun. Their generation was told the sun was healthy and good for you. But this environment destroys the skin.”
Jennifer Edmonds of Jennifer’s of Australia agrees: “People don’t realize how dehydrated their skin gets up here.”
Many local skin care specialists concur on the possible complications the high-desert climate poses: “It increases the potential for hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and the initial stages of skin cancer,” says Ali Sherbine, of Sister Salon in Bellevue.
Furthermore, in an outdoorsy area where looking as natural as possible seems to go with the turf, many women and men don’t take the time to engage in a skin care regimen that can combat the effects of this environment. I have, however, discovered that proper skin care has to be neither expensive nor a hassle.
“The secret to good skin,” says Nancy Kelly of 24-7 Skin Spa in Ketchum, “is staying consistent—you will see improvement in your skin in as little as seven days with a regular skin care routine.”
While Kelly maintains that eating well, reducing stress, and exercise all contribute to excellent skin health, most of the Valley’s estheticians recommend a four-step daily course of action: exfoliation, appropriate cleansing, hydration, and a liberal application of sunblock.
To combat extreme dryness, Hailey makeup artist Noelle Hodge-Willett recommends a mild daily exfoliate to buff off dead skin and regenerate new cell growth. Next, all agree that using the right cleanser is crucial in a dry environment.
“Soap strips the skin of its appropriate ph levels,” says Juanita Young of Bel Esprit in Ketchum.
Edmonds explains further: “Many soaps are made with fats and waxes. They don’t dissolve impurities, and they make your face like concrete, which makes living in a dry climate even more of a challenge for your skin.”
Bell agrees that the right cleanser is really important: “If you use a cleanser that dries [over-the-counter soaps or products that contain alcohol], you’ve done the first fundamental thing wrong.
Never use alcohol. It strips the skin.” >>>
Lotions & Potions
The next step in your daily skin care regimen is possibly the most important:
“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” urges Edmonds. “I reach for products that hydrate and rehydrate the skin. In this climate, I believe in layering.”
Indeed, many of the Valley’s skin care specialists have formulated—with the help of dermatologists and chemists—serums that can be layered under moisturizers and that are specifically formulated to assist the skin in the Sun Valley environment. For instance, Edmonds has developed what she calls “Cocktail 24/7”—a combination of serums which include “peptide and hyaluronic serums which encourage epidural growth. Each serum in the ‘cocktail’ has a specific charge working at a cell level to increase collagen.”
Mindy Pereira, a paramedical esthetician at Skin Sensations in Ketchum, is also a firm believer in serums which should be used to combat dehydration and the aging effects of sun: “Serums that contain vitamin C and peptides are essential in turning back the clock,” she says. “Vitamin C is especially important. It’s an antioxidant. It stops skin cancer cells from forming when used consistently and it helps with fine lines and wrinkles as well as hyperpigmentation.”
Pereira continues, “Skin Sensations carries a skin care line which was specifically developed by Irina Sher for this location and elevation. It contains moisturizing oils, vitamin C, peptides and alpha hydroxy acids for exfoliation.”
Travis Smith, a skin specialist and makeup artist in Boise, recommends that his clients—especially those living in areas of high elevation—need to pay close attention to the deeper layers of their skin when moisturizing. “Our climate changes constantly,” he says, “so heavier overnight creams, as well as lighter water-based day creams, are especially important.”
Smith recommends the nighttime application of oil-based creams—which contain ingredients such as jojoba, shea butter, or vitamin E—to penetrate and plump the skin from underneath. For daytime use, Smith urges his clients to go for water-based products that contain vitamin C to help with skin brightening and sun damage, and vitamin K which combats rosacea and broken capillaries.
As for the final step in hydration, both Kelly and Sherbine recommend applying a barrier serum. “When my clients are on the mountain,” says Kelly, “they should apply a sealant (she suggests 24/7 skin spa’s “Sun Valley Silk”) which creates a barrier, sealing in moisturizer and sunscreen and protecting the skin from the wind and sun.” Sherbine agrees, “Sun Valley is an outdoorsy place.
People are hiking, riding horses and exposing their skin to wind and dirt. ‘Barrier’ products (Sherbine recommends Dermologica’s sealant) are weightless and protect the skin against the elements.”
Stacey Allred of La Reverie Spa in Hailey says the biggest myth she finds in this Valley is that “I don’t need to apply sunscreen because I work indoors all day.”
Allred explains why that it incorrect.
“Because we live in a high-altitude environment, it is necessary to use sunscreen as a part of your morning skin care routine regardless of whether you are indoors or not. You are exposed to UV rays while driving to and from work every day by the rays penetrating through the windshield.”
Still seem like a benign threat? Allred adds that in addition to rising skin cancer rates, “80 to 85 percent of our aging skin is caused by the rays of the sun. As we age, the collagen and elastin fibers in our skin naturally weaken. This weakening effect is accelerated when unprotected skin is frequently exposed to ultraviolet rays.”
Edmonds insists that “the high altitude guarantees that the sun is more potent and the skin more likely to burn.” And Hodge-Willet urges, “Wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat in the summer is essential. When I see ladies wearing hats and glasses, I know they care about their skin.” She continues, “In the winter, hats and glasses are just as important.” >>>
Picking the right sunscreen, however, is crucial. A recent study by the Environmental Working Group finds that “four out of five sunscreens contain chemicals that may pose health hazards or don’t adequately protect skin from the sun’s damaging rays.” The study further warns that some of the worst offenders are the leading brands that we find on the shelves of supermarkets and drugstores.
Bell concurs with the study’s assertions: “The chemicals in most sunscreens are bad for the skin,” she says. “Also, many women like to have the sun on their face, so a lot of women avoid it.” Bell recommends that mineral-based sunscreens offer the most natural protection: “Mineral powder is really good for the skin.” Bell carries Glo mineral products which offer an SPF of 20.
“The best solution is to find a lightweight moisturizer with an SPF of at least 15, but 30 is better, that also is non-pore-clogging and works well with your skin type,” says Allred. “Make it a part of your morning ritual.”
If possible, take it with you and reapply periodically throughout the day.
Actually, a certain amount of sun exposure can mitigate severe health problems. The Guardian newspaper ran a recent article stating that, “experts are saying the Draconian anti-sun message needs to be altered. The shift comes after new evidence that suggests too little sunshine leaves us deficient in a vital nutrient, vitamin D.”
The article maintains that, “The move follows a change of policy in Australia and New Zealand, where scientists have decided that, without some sun on the skin, the population will be seriously deficient in vitamin D and may be at risk of developing other cancers later in life, as well as osteoporosis, arthritis and even schizophrenia. They are now recommending that people allow themselves between 10 and 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight on most days. People should allow their hands, face and arms to be exposed, but still cover up between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.”
It appears that in all things sun-related, as in life, moderation is the key.
“Generally, many women in this area don’t like to wear a lot of makeup,” says Hodge-Willet. “They want to enhance their best features and protect their skin as naturally as possible. The beauty of mineral makeup is that it looks and feels so light; yet offers excellent coverage.”
Hodge-Willet developed a mineral line which is great for women with a busy lifestyle.
“I did it for my girls who didn’t know what to do with makeup—I made it fun for all. Also, I made it affordable. I don’t want to invest my annual salary on my face. I’m willing to work with people on a budget, so I try to sell functional products.”
Consequently, Hodge-Willet developed E Mineral makeup (everyday minerals): “This isn’t your mother’s makeup,” she tells me. “It’s all natural, it’s crushed rock. Mica. It’s not liquid and it gives you a luminescent glow with its loose powder finish.”
She notes, however, “There is that myth that mineral powders are going to make the skin look dry. But, if you have well-hydrated skin—a must in Sun Valley—mineral makeup will sit on your skin evenly.” Indeed, she warns, “If your skin is dehydrated, NO makeup is going to look good. Minerals feed, nourish and protect.
It’s so good for your skin. It even soothes and calms problem skin: rosacea, teenage and hormonal skin.”
And, in terms of sun-worn skin, Hodge-Willet continues, “Mineral makeup contains natural anti-inflammatories, as well as SPF, to calm and protect the face. It is a must-have.”
Hodge-Willet insists that, in Sun Valley, one needs double the protection from the sun: “Wear your SPF moisturizer, and swipe your mineral makeup in a downward motion over your whole face, ears and neck. Your skin will thank you. You will leave your house feeling and looking luminous.”
Mineral makeup products are also available in the Sun Valley area from PURE and Luminescence just off Sun Valley Road in Ketchum.
“It’s important to visit and purchase products from a licensed esthetician,” says Sherbine. “Over-the-counter products contain a lot of ‘filler.’ They don’t spend as much money on the good ingredients.”
Young concurs, “Much of what you pay for in over-the-counter products is advertising and packaging. The products we sell are formulated differently in strength and potency.”
Pereira agrees, “Professional estheticians are trained. We know the chemistry of the products we sell. So our products reflect the clinical training that helps transform your skin.”
“Also,” Sherbine continues, “going to a licensed facialist helps the re-growth and regeneration of skin cells. That’s important in this Valley’s environment.”
I asked the experts what professional procedures they recommend to combat the challenges the skin faces in the Sun Valley environment.
“Exfoliate,” says Debi Lane, owner/esthetician for Tru Day Spa in Ketchum, thrice for emphasis. She explains, “As we age, our cell renewal slows significantly, which can lead to an uneven, dry and rough skin appearance. Exfoliation removes the outer layer to reveal the newer skin beneath. This removal of the outer layer unclogs pores, keeps skin clean, and helps reduce acne breakouts. It is especially important for anti-aging in our arid climate.”
There are two types of exfoliation, Lane continues, mechanical and chemical. “The mechanical process involves manually scrubbing the skin with abrasives. Chemical exfoliants include products such as salacylic and glycolic acids, fruit enzymes, and AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids). These must be performed by a licenced esthetician or dermatologist.”
The first procedure many suggest is micro-dermabrasion. “Micro-dermabrasion,” says Edmonds, “is a bit like velvet sandblasting.
My machine bombards tiny crystals onto the surface of the epidermis which smoothes away the dead cell debris. Your skin is resurfaced and then, most important in this climate, all the wonderful hydrating products you use are more efficient and penetrate to a deeper level.” >>>
Young also recommends a similar procedure called dermafile.
However, the procedure is facilitated by a hand-held diamond file.
Young tells me that “this file polishes the skin by hand so that the esthetician has total control over the speed and depth of the process.”
In addition to micro-dermabrasion, both Young and Edmonds recommend facial toning to rejuvenate Sun Valley skin—particularly biotherapeutics. “Facial toning,” says Young, “works with the muscles in the face. It lifts them with a mild electric current.”
“It’s like taking your face to the gym,” laughs Edmonds. “We forget how many muscles are in our face. Why shouldn’t they get a workout, too? Facial toning is like pushups for the face.”
Peels are also recommended by skin care specialists. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ web page informs that a “chemical peel uses a chemical solution to improve and smooth the texture of the facial skin by removing its damaged outer layers.
It is helpful for those individuals with facial blemishes, wrinkles and uneven skin pigmentation.”
Pereira offers an advanced chemical peel as her signature technique and Bell advises, “Any woman of 40ish, who lives in this area, should get a peel four times a year. Peels really remove dead surface skin cells, refine pores, stimulate and resurface the skin.”
Edmonds, however, advises clients not to get peels in the height of the summer, especially when the sun is strongest. “There is no sense in doing a peel when you are engaged in an active, sunny lifestyle,” she warns. “It’s too much trauma for the skin. A peel changes the integrity of the skin so going out in the sun after a peel would just damage it further.”
Finally, as far as Sun Valley skin is concerned, Young is getting ready to introduce an exciting new procedure into her repertoire.
“I’m interested in non-invasive techniques that allow women with an active Sun Valley lifestyle to look younger. I’m looking into Intraceuticals.”
Currently the rage in Hollywood—Madonna is a huge fan, as is Eva Longoria Parker—the Intraceutrical method combines specially-formulated serums used “in conjunction with oxygen, [which] immediately plumps and hydrates the surface of the skin to smooth fine lines and wrinkles.”
Young explains further: “This procedure would really moisturize the skin. Perfect for the Sun Valley climate.”
Freddie Harris, who has spent years abusing her face, is hopelessly grateful to the skin care specialists in the Wood River Valley. She advises fellow abusers to seek their advice . . . you won’t be sorry.