Answering Your Skincare Questions

In about three months, I’m turning 30, so I’m having a total skincare meltdown. But luckily, I have an expert for all of my skincare questions. Ashli is amazing– and full of awesome skincare knowledge! -Emily

IMG_0258 (1)I’m about to introduce you to a skincare theory that is going to change your life and has changed many of my patient’s lives. It’s called G.R.A.S.S. theory. It’s an acronym for Growth Factors, Retinoids, Antioxidants, Sunscreen and Specialty Products.

Let’s talk about what this means for your skin.

If you use a regimen that contains all of the elements of this theory you are going to end up with brighter, hydrated, beautiful and more youthful looking skin.  I’m going to break down each element and give you examples of products containing each so that we can get you on track for preserving your skin and creating a radiance that can come only from giving your skin what it needs!

Growth Factors

Growth Factors trick your skin into acting younger. Peptides, Human Growth Factors, PSP (Processed Skin Cell Proteins) all deliver incredible results in causing the skin to behave and repair as if it were a baby’s. Neocutis’ entire Bio-Restorative Line is the Gold Standard for Growth Factors. Developed by the University Hospital of Lausanne, Switzerland, the product was developed to heal wounds in pediatric burn victims. You can only imagine what restorative properties this has for healthy skin!

My favorite is the BioSerum, to be used in the evening on top of retinoids and serums.


A retinoid is Vitamin A. Used topically, Vitamin A is an exfoliant that increases cell turnover rate. For an acne sufferer this is a Godsend because it allows the dead skin and bacteria to rapidly slough off preventing breakouts. It’s the secret answer for anti-aging because increased cell turnover rate=youthful skin! Some prescription examples of this would be Retin-A. There are many medical grade retinol products out there that utilize a different delivery system and buffer the Vitamin A so that it doesn’t cause redness or peeling of the skin during the initial phase of application (about 6 weeks) like Retin-A does.  My favorites are Biopelle Retriderm Serums that come in varying strengths based on your skin type.

The higher the percentage the more the skin can tolerate it- if you have acneaic skin you would likely do well on the highest percentage which is the Serum Max (1% concentrated retinol). I also love Define by Cosmedix which also contains L-lactic acid, a very powerful exfoliant derived from the enzymes in milk, and SkinMedica Retinol.


Vitamin C is the heavy hitter here, which neutralizes free radicals that attack cells (including skin cells!) CE Ferulic by the Antioxidant Authorities at Skin Ceuticals is the most potent preparation I have yet to come across. This is applied in the morning only as a serum under your moisturizer and sunscreen. It has been proven to have lasting, protective effects against sun damage and free radical damage 2 weeks after applied!


Did you know that 90% of aging comes from photoaging?! This is amazing because this means you can PREVENT most premature aging and in many cases even signs of chronological age by staying out of the sun, wearing a hat, and wearing a GOOD mineral sunscreen. The jury is still out medically as to whether or not chemical sunscreens are safe (think active ingredient Oxybenzone, Avobenzone and Octinoxate) because in studies these active ingredients were carcinogenic in lab mice.

It is best to stick with a sunscreen in the form of a physical block utilizing natural minerals such as Titanium Dioxide as your sunscreen. This sunscreen should be separate from your moisturizer and contain an SPF of at least 30. If you are out in the sun it will need to be reapplied liberally every 2 hours, and I suggest wearing a hat and sitting under an umbrella or tent while at the beach.  Vitamin D is synthesized in the body through exposure to sunlight enough through glass (car windows!) and so it is not necessary for one to lay in the sun to absorb the proper amount.

The American Board of Dermatology recommends 15 minutes per day of unprotected sun exposure by having either your head and arms exposed or the head and legs exposed. That’s it! Stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen- I can’t stress this enough! It’s not just about wrinkles- UVB rays are the rays that cause a burn (or in some cases a tan) but it’s the UVA rays that have effects that are not immediately visible and they are also the harmful rays that mutate your DNA. If prone to skin cancers due to skin type and family history this is yet another reason to keep out of the sun.

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion SPF 50 is my favorite. It retails for $35 and you only use it once per day which means it goes a long way!

Specialty Products

Do you exfoliate and mask your skin twice per week? It’s great if you get facials, but ideally you are seeing your Aesthetician once per month at best and treating your own skin twice per day- that’s 59 times to the 1 time your este treats your face! Just say no to Apricot Scrub. Using an exfoliant that contains microbeads, crushed walnuts and other abrasive materials can signifigantly compromise your skin by causing micro tears that can allow bacteria, dirt and debris to enter the dermis.

The same goes for devices such as the Clairisonic- use this twice per week max. You do not need to scrub your face off to get a great exfoliation.

I recommend a plant based Enzyme Exfoliant such as Pure Enzymes by Cosmedix. Apply it as a mask for 7 minutes and rinse off. Finish with a mask such as the Biocellulose Mask by Skin Ceuticals for hydration and repair.

A few tips in addition to utilizing G.R.A.S.S. Theory:

Only cleanse the skin in the evening- a milky cleanser for highly sensitive skin and a gel cleanser for everyone else. In the morning, use only a toner to cleanse and leave some of the skin’s natural oils on to protect it during the day. A gentle rose water is all you need (you can even find this at Whole Foods!)


Skincare Essentials

Where to Splurge and Where to Save

It really depends on what kind of results you are looking for. As a skincare professional, my face is my business card and therefore I follow this regimen to a T as well as receive professional treatments monthly such as The HydraFacial or Dermaplaning (which is a method of exfoliation using a surgical scalpel). If you are on a budget there are many money friendly options. Splurge on your BioSerum, save on your mineral sunscreen. Neocutis also has a “Swiss Rewards” App for iPhone and Android that gives you points towards free product with each purchase! Splurge on your Antioxidants but maybe save on your moisturizer provided that it is appropriate for your skin type.  With many of these more pricey products a little bit goes a very long way. And don’t splurge on your cleanser- it just washes down the drain anyway.

One final note- medical grade products can only be sold by licensed professionals in a establishment that is managed by a physician such as a Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon. I strongly discourage buying products on, as they can often be expired product and possibly different product entirely poured into the bottles to look like the real deal. Purchase online or in store from a trusted doctor’s office or medical spa.

Do you have any skincare questions? Ask them below!

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