Give Yourself a Lift

I am a paradox when it comes to new things with extravagant claims: skeptical to the max while being hopeful in the extreme!
This is basically how I approached friend Wendy who represents Nu Skin when she wanted me to experience a demonstration of their Galvanic Spa. The Spa is a small, hand held appliance that uses self adjusting galvanic currents and positive and negative charges that work synergistically with specially formulated products. I had already experienced a professional galvanic treatment earlier this year through Biologique Recherche’s Magic Remodeling Face Machine. The stimulating treatment was costly but it gave me a lifted, refreshed appearance that lasted about 72 hours. (Sort of like Lost Horizons; when the weekend ended I rapidly aged back to my 66 year old self.) In tony Greenwich CT, it has become the go-to pick me up prior to special occasions as well as a regular treatment for those for whom the $300 price tag is no obstacle.
So I was curious to try the DIY version that cost only slightly more and could be used at will. I made a proposal to Wendy: give me the Spa and the associated gels for one month. I would use it as religiously as prescribed and report my findings HONESTLY in my blog. She was happy to do this gratis, but I shelled out $35 for the special Tru Face Line corrector peptide refining gel so I could use the special head for small areas like mouth, eyes and forehead and zero in on my much despised lips lines. Of all the faults I fret over, this single area is the one that makes me feel really over the hill.

Lip lines before

Lip lines before

Twice weekly, as directed, I dutifully used the deep cleansing gel with the spa for two minutes and then the anti aging treatment, which delivers its ingredients deep into the dermis, for three. The Spa emits beeps every 10 seconds to keep you on track so you can cover all areas of your face in the time allotted. A video disc that came with it showed me exactly how to do it. The process was painless but I knew something was happening from the little twinges I felt and a slight metallic taste as I worked around my mouth. The effect was stimulating and energizing and gave me a glow.

Lip lines after 4 weeks

Lip lines after 4 weeks

I used the smaller head and special line gel twice daily for five minutes each time. And after a few weeks, something amazing happened. My husband, who is tolerant but highly suspicious of my facial experiments, commented at dinner one night, “I think that thing is actually working. The lines around your mouth are less noticeable.” Coming from him, it’s practically a ringing endorsement.
So at the end of my experimental one month’s use of the Galvanic Spa, here is what I see:
• My face appears more lifted.
• My jaw is more defined.
• The lines around my mouth have softened.
Now, just as with Botox, fillers, Latisse and lasers, I don’t believe for a second that I have effected lasting change. If you stop using all the above, you will look as you did before. Nothing makes a permanent change except for surgery. But not being ready to go under the knife, nor wishing to spend $10,000+, I am thinking this little gizmo is worth the cost ($375 + continued purchase of gels, $60/mo.). Hell, a few injections at a derm’s office can easily exceed that. So am I willing to commit myself to twice weekly sessions with the Spa and daily dalliance focused on eradicating those nasty lip lines? You betcha!
According to NuSKin, use of the Spa enhances the delivery of any further products you use as well as making any surgery and injectibles last longer.
NuSkin is only available through a network rep. So if you want to enter the world of DIY facial enhancement, contact Wendy Guerrera at:
If you live in my area (Southern Fairfield Co.) Wendy will give you a ½ face demonstration.

For a special Oct. 15, 1 day offer click below.


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The Beauty of Friends After 50

I just returned from my yearly trek to Santa Fe to visit old friends. After living there 13 years, I was lucky to amass a lot of them and what a varied bunch they are! There is something about Santa Fe that attracts people a little off the grid. It is not your average American town, not by a long shot. I landed in Santa Fe at age 50, and the women who befriended me there had a powerful impact on my changing life.

Santa Fe chix

Santa Fe chix

“Standing at the end of the road, boys, waiting for my new friends to come…cause you got to have friends.”  Bette Midler

And come they did.  After my divorce, some went and were replaced by new friends.

My girlfriends have always been a priority. But since I passed that magic age number and entered Menopause Land, my female friendships became deeper and more intimate. We talk frankly about things we never thought of in our more frivolous, younger years: loss of libido, hot flashes, the great hormone debate. We talk about affairs, divorce, depression. Facelifts, jowls, wrinkles. Arthritis, constipation, hip replacements. The disappointments and joys of our grown children, becoming grandparents. The challenges and loss of aging parents, dementia, Alzheimers, heart attacks. Financial reversals, financial windfalls, loss of jobs, new career choices. Terminal illness and widowhood. Living alone, traveling alone, dating again after decades. Sex with a new partner(EEK!) So many things we hadn’t foreseen, or wanted to, as younger women.

Natasha Darling

Natasha Darling

The beauty of friends after 50 is the leveling commonality of facing aging together with empathy and humor. It is a time of great supportiveness, compassion and understanding, of shared sisterhood, deeper and more significant than earlier fleeting, sometimes competitive friendships.

Making new friends in older age can be difficult. When I moved away from Santa Fe to Connecticut, I felt adrift and alone without my friends. Phone calls and emails were my lifeline. I was once again “waiting for my new friends to come”. And I had to make an effort to find them, women who I could once again open my heart and my life to, friends to love and support. You never know where they will come from: walking my new dog, Barnaby, was a pathway to new friends. Sitting on the plane home last week, 3 hours of animated conversation scored me a new friend. And a circuitous route through LinkedIn brought me back a friend I lost touch with 40 years ago!

Johanna and Me - 40 years later!

The Mademoiselle Girls – 40 years later!

 New connections keep coming and I am so grateful for them. I know this is not my last stop on my long and winding road. When my husband retires, we will locate somewhere a little less frenetic and, the deal breaker, nowhere near I-95! And we will not be waiting for our new friends to come. We will be immersing ourselves in a new life and we will find them; those connections so important, so enriching to us both.

There's always laughter with Cathy

There’s always laughter with Cathy

“But you got to have friends, the feeling’s oh so strong.”……… Bette Midler

The friends I make will continue to grow in number and importance. As I grow older, I don’t want to waste time on casual acquaintances; I want women I can talk to!! Those from high school and college, from my early child rearing years, from my time in Philadelphia, Chicago, Santa Fe and Stamford; my dear cousins, nieces, sister in law and step-daughter; the two young women who have captured my son’s hearts, friends who are older and those as young as my children; they all bring something to my table.

Formerly the "Man Haters"

The Philly connection

To all of you, the friends of a lifetime,

“Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend!” Carole King


*Apologies to those not pictured! I couldn’t get you all in.

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Cheap Thrills

The au-courant trend in fashion is all about High/Low. Say, pairing an H&M top with jeans and Louboutins. Or think Duchess Kate in an ethereal gown by Alexander McQueen on her wedding day and a Zara frock the very next. Well, the same is true in cosmetics. You have to mix it up, a little luxury here, a little bargain there. Such is the state of my extensive skincare and cosmetics inventory. While I appreciate the quality and creaminess of a Chanel or Yves St. Laurent lipstick, and the delicate texture of Armani Maestro foundation, I have room for Burt’s Bees and Rimmel in my repertoire too. The other day I canvassed the collection and pulled out a few of my bargains to share with thrills#1

Dr. Jessica Wu Vivid Intense 15% Vitamin C Serum is the first thing I put on my face after washing and toning. It comes in four little tubes, one for each week of the month, so it is always fresh. I love the portable size which I can throw into my travel bag instead of a glass bottle. It packs the same wallop as the big boys and is a bargain, available at Costco for $30. It comes and goes in the store so order it online.

After the serum, I slap on my daily dose of Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair. A moisturizer with SPF 30, Accelerated Retinol SA and Vitamin C for brightening and reducing discoloration, it is a mega- multi tasker. $22.99 at CVS

It takes two mascaras to cover all my bases. I like Maybelline Mega Plush Volum Express in brown, a subtle look for day that leaves my lashes soft and natural, but defined, $6.99. If I want to kick up the drama for evening, I reach for L’oreal Voluminous Original, $7.79 in Black Brown. I have tried many and haven’t found anything that delivers as brilliantly at this or even twice the price. It’s waterproof too, good for us emotional chix. Both available at drugstores or thrills #2

Of course, at the end of the day it must all come off and I have used Maybelline Expert Eyes Oil Free eye makeup remover for as long as I can remember. A bargain at $4.99.

There are so many great options for lips under $10. Revlon Colorburst Lip Butter feels like a balm but has the color punch of a lipstick. I have it in Tutti Frutti and Fig Jam but there are 19 colors in all for $8.99. I always throw a tiny tube of Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer in my gym bag and keep another in the car for hydration on the go. My favorites of the 14 color options are Peony and Caramel, $4.99. Rimmel’s Moisture Renew lipstick is a new discovery, so creamy and lasting. I’ve been wearing Summer Angel.

I’m never without Burt’s Res-Q ointment. Slather on dry lips, stings, scrapes or burns and the combination of oils and Vitamin E give instant relief, $5.39 at or $4.31 if you are a GNC member. As a balm with a kiss of color, you can’t beat Maybelline Baby Lips, $3.99.

Walgreens recently bought a 45% stake in the UK behemoth Boots. So you will now see your local store stocked with a full complement of products from the super popular British brand. I like No7 Protect & Perfect intense serum, the least expensive serum on the market containing Matrixyl, a powerful skin firming, collagen building peptide. Target prices it at $18.99.

Since I am never without eyeliner, even to walk the dog, I have a lot of them. Great pencil liners are made by Prestige, whose colored liners are always at hand, glide on and have good staying power. Available in 10 shades for $3.16. I also favor Rimmel Soft Kohl Kajal eye liner, good for a sharp line or smudging and only $3.69. I recently gave NYX a try as I read excellent reviews on their products. Love, love, love their Gel Liner and Smudger which does both jobs if you do the smudging before it sets. I like the consistency as well as Bobbi Brown’s much costlier version. Dark Brown is my choice at $8.00.

I also gave their NYX Cream Blush a test drive in Natural, at $7.79. It goes on blendable and sheer so you can build color if you want more flush. I am finding cream blushes so much more flattering and forgiving for my “mature” skin, as will you. Powder tends to cake, settle in lines and wear off. This summer I gave Maybelline Master Glaze blush stick a whirl and found it very comparable to Nars Multiples for a modest $5.99. To highlight the cheekbones and brow bones, try L’oreal Magic Lumi light infusing primer, $12.95, all drug stores. You can also mix it with your foundation for a pearly glow all over. My last recommendation is a facial spray by Mario Badescu. This aloe, herb and rosewater mist is refreshing and hydrating. Give yourself a quick boost after exercise, exposure to cold, dry air or to set your makeup. The gardenia scent is heavenly and all this wonderfulness costs only $7.

As with all cosmetic innovations, what the luxury brands start trickles down to the less expensive brands within a few months and at a price anyone can afford. Just keep your eyes peeled for the knock offs.

*I am off to Santa Fe for a week of R&R and connecting with dear friends. You will hear from me again in two weeks.


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A Certain Smile

Everybody wants to flash it: that confident smile that flaunts gleaming, brilliantly white, practically glow- in the- dark teeth. The demand for whiter teeth is the single most requested dental service today and an estimated $1.4-$1.7 billion business, having increased a staggering 33% in recent years.Teeth whitening
Unfortunately, like every other body part, as we get older our teeth show our age. And the effects of what we’ve been doing over all those years: smoking, sipping coffee and tea, swilling cola, and ingesting teeth staining things like blueberries and cherries. Too much tartar and plaque, too much fluoride, tetracycline use for acne and trauma to the teeth all contribute to turn our original pearly whites to yellow, gray or even brown. A sparkling white smile spells youth, and we want it, we need it, we demand it!
And the dental profession and tooth paste companies are only too happy to provide.
All whitening is based on the use of peroxide based compounds which whiten the teeth through oxidation. Drug store systems use hydrogen peroxide while in-office procedures generally use both carbamide and hydrogen peroxide.
• In the dental office you can opt for power whitening where a much higher concentration of peroxide than available over the counter is applied to the teeth. The sexy sell here is the use of light to accelerate whitening but there is disagreement as to whether this really enhances the result or is even necessary for success. The patient is then sent home with custom trays and gel to be used once a day for continued results. The upside: dramatic results in 90 minutes. The downside: it will set you back between $400 and $500 and may cause temporary sensitivity to teeth and/or gums.
• At home you can utilize custom trays and peroxide gel from your dentist. It will take longer and require more commitment. The trays need to be worn 20-60 minutes per day for several days. The greater the time the compound has contact with your teeth, the better the result. The upside: a significant and long lasting improvement with lesser cost, between $200 and $300. The downside: possible sensitivity to the gums and/or teeth from contact with the gel. A new wrinkle is non- custom, pre-loaded disposable trays, an even less expensive option.
• DIY choices are crowding the shelves at your local CVS. Shakira is hawking Crest 3D White Strips from the pages of every magazine and who wouldn’t want that smile? Can I get the hair too?

shakiraCrest dominates this market with six, count ‘em, versions of white strips: Professional, Advanced Vivid, Vivid (for coffee, wine and ciggy stains);Gentle, for sensitive teeth; One Hour Express, if you have a hot date; and Supreme Flex Fit which they claim gives you the same results as that $500 professional treatment. Choose a system ranging from$35 to $60 depending, I guess, on your time constraints and urgency to brighten with a commitment from one hour to four weeks required, depending on system.
The only other player is Rembrandt which offers two options. Intense Stain Dissolving Strips do their job in a quick 5 to 10 minutes a day for two weeks. But here’s the rub, they dissolve on your teeth! That means the chemicals that whiten your teeth are also being ingested. This concept really concerns me. Less horrifying is their Deeply White 2 Hour Kit for the truly impatient. It comes with “comfy” trays as opposed to strips for $23.

Tooth whitening toothpaste is a misnomer. While it will help remove surface stains with mild abrasives or enzymes, it will not whiten since true discoloration of the enamel occurs below the surface. The upside: May improve the appearance of surface stains. The downside: Overuse can wear down the enamel. And it cannot be used by those with veneers and caps made of composite or porcelain as it will wear away the finish.

Power swabs are heavily advertised but reviews by most users give them a very low rating.
Not only are the swabs themselves of poor quality and easily broken, there was little improvement reported and several claims of “scam” and credit card charge issues.
And although they claim to be appropriate for use on dental restorations, you may wind up with teeth of uneven color. No upside that I can discern for the $60 investment. I would stay away.

Disclaimer: Finally, I must reveal that my husband is a general dentist whose practice encompasses restorative and preventive dentistry as well as cosmetic procedures, when indicated. (“Cosmetic Dentistry” is not a recognized specialty so be careful of those who identify themselves as bonafide cosmetic specialists.)
To those who come to him wanting whitening, he recommends the custom fitted trays ($200-$450) to be used at home with gel ($10 a tube). If someone wants immediate improvement, he applies a highly concentrated solution directly to the teeth without light which takes about 90 minutes. He emphasizes that if you do in-office whitening that it be done by a dentist only and with great care, as the strong solution can cause (temporary) damage to soft tissue if not carefully placed. Success with any method is dependent on the specific color and condition of your teeth at the outset and is not predictable.

Coincidentally, he has a great smile and gorgeous white teeth!

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Ready for Prime Time

Unless you have a smooth, lineless and poreless complexion (raise your hands, please!) before you reach for your foundation, you need primer. So says makeup artist Napolean Perdis, famously quoted as saying “Not to prime is a crime!”

After cleansing, toning and moisturizing, if you are anywhere north of 40, your next step should be primer. Here’s why:

  • Like base coat and ridge filler for nails, primer smooths the surface of the skin, by filling in fine lines and pores.
  • It helps keep oil at bay (mattify-ing primer), evens skin tone (color correcting primer), and increases the lasting power of your makeup, especially in warm weather.
  • Primer gives your foundation better adherence and more flawless coverage.

    Time to start priming

    Time to start priming

A recent article in Bazaar magazine names primer a makeup essential and celebrity beauty secret. Every interview I’ve read with a makeup artist has stressed primer as the first stop on the way to a beautifully made up face. Beauty industry veteran Andrea Robinson, author of Toss the Gloss, names it one of her insider secrets and swears she couldn’t live without it.

And neither should you. Good foundation can be expensive (ala Armani,Chanel and Yves St. Laurent, to name a few) so you want to get the most bang for your considerable foundation buck.

Now, if I’ve convinced you, it’s time to give it a try. There are primers for oily, dry and normal skin, so investigate the claims before you open your wallet. Personally, I use two: one which calms shine and one that promotes radiance. I use the first on the T-zone, forehead, nose and chin. The second is reserved for cheeks for a glow-y visage in the evening. is a good resource for cosmetic products. They rate various categories based on real user comments and give you a point rating and price for each. Arbonne topped their list of  recommended primers at $40 and that happens to be my favorite. It kills the shine and feels invisible and silky as it glides over my many imperfections. I think it makes my skin look and feel smoother and more polished, even without makeup.( My radiant primer of choice is Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance, $19.50, not on the list. )

Most of those that got TotalBeauty’s recommendation sell for between $22.50 and $52. Targeted especially to aging skin, Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch costs $35, but Rimmel London Fix and Perfect Pro received a high rating and costs only $7.99!

L’oreal’s Revitalift Miracle Blur, $24.99, is widely hyped and has SPF 30 to boot, but I found it too heavy and occlusive feeling. I don’t want to actually be aware of my primer, I just want it to work its magic. Laura Mercier also makes a protective primer with SPF 30 but in a light, creamy texture, not unlike moisturizer.

Some tried and some true

Some tried and some true

If you have rosacea or other redness issues, you might consider trying a green primer which cancels out the flush. (Remember the complementary color wheel??) Mauve or pale lavender does the same for a sallow complexion (think post stomach flu). Smashbox makes 4 different colored primers for color correction and is a pioneer in the primer category.

Pick your favorite brand: Makeup Forever, Smashbox , MAC, Philosophy, Benefit, Too Faced, Chanel. They all make primers and you can try before you buy by sampling at the makeup counter. Or go the drug store route. No samples, but if the investment doesn’t pay off, you haven’t broken the bank either. You pays your money, you takes your chances!



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Life Support

Last December, I met my irreplaceable friend J. in New York for a few days of drink, debauchery, gluttony, shopping, an over dose of museums and constant conversation to celebrate a BIG birthday. On the last morning, we repaired to Sarah Beth’s Kitchen for a decadent breakfast repast. Simultaneously and without prior discussion, we both dumped a handful of supplements on the table and burst into laughter at the sight. “This” I said, “is breakfast with two 60+ year olds!” When, I wondered, did breakfast start to include more things in capsules and horse size pills than what was on the plate?

Breakfast with the 60+ crowd

Breakfast with the 60+ crowd

In a perfect world, we should have a diet so nutrient rich that supplements are superfluous. But we have now been unconsciously persuaded to think that we must be lacking in some area. And if our diet contains a lot of processed, sugar laden and sodium stoked food rather than fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and lean protein, this may be true. Enter the supplement.

I questioned my doc, Dr. Sandra Lithgow, a lovely and brainy practitioner, as to what supplements are appropriate and beneficial to a post menopausal woman. I did this without first revealing to her what I was gobbling down daily. Here’s what she told me:

  1. A “colorful” diet of whole foods, exercise (including weight training) and plenty of sleep are the REAL prescription for health and longevity.
  2. Vitamin taking can reach extreme proportions and lead to toxicity and unwanted side effects, so use moderation.
  3. Vitamin D3 is essential. Have your levels checked and take 1000 units/day
  4. Calcium supplements are not necessary if your diet includes dairy, unless you have bone density issues. She cautions that it can cause constipation, GI upset and even kidney stones.
  5. CoQ10 is recommended if you are taking statins.
  6. Fish oil (Omega 3) is beneficial for the heart and brain. Take 1-2 caps daily.
  7. Vitamin B complex is helpful neurologically.
  8. Vitamin C is excellent for the immune system but avoid Vitamins K and A which can be toxic.

    My daily dose

    My daily dose

I was elated to hear that this coincided with much of what I am taking, with a few exceptions. I take a daily baby aspirin to reduce plaque in the arteries. Both Viviscal and Biotin are included in my regimen for hair health and growth. She recognizes Biotin for its benefits to hair, skin and nails but had no opinion on the Viviscal( more often recommended by Super Models and hair dressers than doctors). Glucosamine and chondroitin are also on my daily list and she acknowledges that they may help some who have joint inflammation issues. I also pop a Lactaid tablet with my morning yogurt and any other dairy as I am lactose intolerant.

Then I threw her a curveball: What does she think of SeroVital? I explained that it is an HGH (human growth hormone) in capsule form, advertised provocatively as the Youth Hormone, purported to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass, boost mood and sex drive, give you energy and positively impact wrinkles and saggy skin. “HGH injections have shown to do all those things,” she said. But she didn’t know if taken in capsule form, I could expect the same results. However, a friend who has been taking it for over year reported,

“ One of the first things that I noticed was that I no longer had arthritic pain in my hand and the swelling that came with it had miraculously disappeared. I believe there is a ‘huge’ difference in the elasticity of my skin. My energy level seems to have increased immensely.”

I am on month two of my own SeroVital trial and will report back in six months. If it’s truly the fountain of youth, you’ll be the first to know!

If you follow the overly enthusiastic Dr. Oz, you might be wondering if the supplements he pushes for weight loss, specifically, really work. Green Coffee? Luralean? Garcinia cambogia? Raspberry ketones? Tried them all with no noticeable decrease in weight. Please, like Congress, take his recommendations with a grain, or three, of salt.

Drinks your greens!

Drinks your greens!

However, the other celebrity weight loss/anti-aging guru, Suzanne Somers, suggests that more prosaic supplements complement a comprehensive weight loss program (including the same healthy eating, exercise and sleep touted by my own MD):

  • Omega 3 for heart and brain health, and weight loss
  • CoQ10 which helps burn fats and carbs more efficiently
  • Green tea  an antioxidant loaded with polyphenols which boost metabolic rate and reduce hunger
  • Carnitine which helps break down fat to create energy
  • Lipoic acid which stabilizes blood sugar

Two more  non pill fat melters for the road:

1. A Danish study found that a diet that included 20% of its calories from MUFAs , a fat found in olive oil nuts, seeds, avocados, peanut butter and chocolate, improved 24 hour calorie burning and fat burning. Other studies found that MUFAs target belly fat!

2. CLA or conjugated linoleic acid is a potent fat burner, especially in muscles, and found in dairy products.

If assembling this array of pills and capsules seems overwhelming, there are companies including Nu Skin, sold by my friend Wendy, which package supplements in little user friendly packets, especially efficient for women on the go or when traveling. Research online to find pre- packaged supplements with the perfect combination of compounds for you.

Just be sure to wash them down with green tea!

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The Big Cleanse

Although we now associate “cleansing” with detoxing, deprivation and green juice, this is about the OTHER kind of cleanse, the one you should be doing twice daily on your face.

Healthy, smooth and vibrant skin is the basis for beauty at any age, the canvas upon which we build the face we present to the world. And it all starts with thorough but thoughtful cleansing.

By this I mean, there is more to cleansing than picking up any old bar of soap. There is technique to consider including cleansing devices and a plethora of products to choose from.

Rinse and repeat

Rinse and repeat

Some things to consider before you lather up:

  1. Pick the right product for your skin, age and time of year. Changing conditions call for different products.
  2. Wash twice daily. More can dry and irritate your skin.
  3. Hot water can lead to over production of sebum AND over drying, as well as redness.Use lukewarm water and rinse with cold water for a bracing, pore closing finish.
  4. Do exfoliate but no more than 2-3 times a week using your hands and plenty of water. Be careful with scrubs that can scratch and irritate sensitive skin.
  5. Rinse well, not to the Erno Laszlo extreme (15 times!) but enough to remove all product. Years ago I heard a model with glowing skin say she swore by using a clean white wash cloth each day. I went out and bought a dozen and have lived by this maxim ever since. Some even favor baby wash cloths. The cloth itself helps exfoliate and changing daily avoids bacteria.
  6. Avoid irritating ingredients like colorants, parabens, sodium laurel sulfate and fragrance, if you are sensitive to it.
  7. After cleansing, pat, don’t rub the skin dry. Apply your moisturizer or serum immediately for maximum absorption. But let skin dry thoroughly before applying retinols or AHA’s.
  8. Don’t overspend on cleanser. It is only on your face for a minute. Save your money for serums and moisturizers which stay on the skin.
  9. Unless you are overly oily, try the latest trend, cleansing oils, which dissolve skin oils, dirt and makeup. Massage into skin and wipe away with a warm, wet washcloth. They may be the perfect antidote to winter dry or sun baked skin.*washcloths

I am a fervent fan of cleansing brushes after jumping on the Clarisonic bandwagon years ago. Having had problem skin for much of my life, I thought it worth the investment and have never regretted it. My first Clarisonic lasted 6+ years until it failed to charge and has now been replaced with a spiffy new Mia. The benefits of a cleansing brush are many. It simply does what hands alone can’t, oscillating 300x/second, all while stimulating the skin and dislodging 6 times the debris and makeup of the manual method. A little timer beeps to tell you when to move from forehead (20 seconds) to nose and chin (20 seconds) to cheeks (10 seconds each). Clarisonic has developed a number of interchangeable heads for normal, sensitive, acne, deep pore and now radiance cleansing. $100-125

Clarisonic Mia and mini me

Clarisonic Mia and mini me


DDF Revolver 500x micro is a polishing system that combines micro- dermabrasion and cleansing features. It has 3 speeds, multiple brush heads and comes with polishing crystals and an exfoliating pad. The Revolver is battery operated in contrast to the Clarisonic which comes with a charger. $119

The newest entry in the cleansing brush market is the Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush. The instructions recommend removing makeup first, which disqualifies it as a true cleansing tool in my book and adds an extra step. It has one brush head; the white portion for gentle massage and the green bristles for deeper pore cleansing. $89.50

The least expensive and most portable way to get your feet, er, face wet in the cleansing brush game is the Olay Pro X Advance Cleansing System. It is a small, battery operated device that comes packaged with Exfoliating Renewal Cleanser. The Pro X offers one very soft brush head and two speeds. I picked up the system one day at Costco and have tucked the little guy into my travel bag over since. $31.50

All the brushes offer cleansing products that work with them but you can use the (no-gritty) cleanser of your choice.

But which to choose? Cleansers fall into several categories: gel, cream, scrubs, deep pore cleansing and bar soap.

Cleansing options

Cleansing options


Gels – I like the consistency of gels and the squeaky clean feel they give. Look for ones with glycolic acid for exfoliating and stimulating and hyaluronic acid which is an effective humectant and healer. My current fave: Green Tea Citrus Antioxidant Cleanser by SkinScript, available through aestheticians. I like to alternate a gel cleanser with….

Creamy cleansers – Creams are gentle and soothing and perfect for sensitive or dry skin. Look for nutrient rich formulas with hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C to stimulate collagen as well as anti oxidant packed Vitamin E. I like Prescriptives All Clean which has a fresh, tangerine scent.

Scrubs – Because my skin tends to get congested and needs exfoliation, I keep a scrub in my arsenal. I love Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Scrub (don’t be put off by the acne nomenclature). It is pumped up with salicylic acid and micro beads which exfoliate and grapefruit extract which smells fresh and energizing. Another drug store favorite is St Ives Apricot Scrub with 2% salicylic acid and all natural exfoliants. The gentlest scrub ever is PUR Attitude’s Purifying Rice Face Wash. Soap free, the rice beads will leave even sensitive skin immaculately clean and gently exfoliated.

Bars- My first facial cleanser, and now a classic, is Neutrogena’s clear amber Facial Cleansing Bar bar. Glycerin rich, it has no detergent and rinses super clean. Dove is another oldy- but- goody with ¼ moisturizing cream so never leaves you feeling tight or stripped. And let’s not forget the doctor’s favorite, Cetaphil, so gentle and non- irritating that my derm ordered it for after procedure use. Its non soap formula is antibacterial, detergent free and moisturizing.

Deep Pore Cleansing- Sometimes I feel like such a sweaty grease ball that I need to call in the cleansing cavalry. That’s when I reach for Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser. It cleanses, purifies and detoxifies with minerals and Amazonian White Clay. Trust me, it’s like a facial in a tube.

Cleansing Oil – After my last close encounter with a laser, pal Stacey gave me her Origins Clean Energy cleansing oil. This high tech formula combines olive, sunflower, sesame and safflower oils with Kukui nut, Macadamia and Vitamin E. It was the only thing that really soothed my ravaged face. When you need ultra gentle, reach for an oil.




*Adapted from Women’s Health




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After 5o Health Food

When you think of “health food”, what comes to mind? The ubiquitous head of kale? Quinoa, perhaps? Anti-oxidant loaded blueberries? Personally, my idea of the perfect after 50 health foods are red wine and dark chocolate!

Deep and fruity, redolent of berries, aromatic red wine and velvety, decadently rich dark chocolate. Are they just the food of the Gods or heart-healthy?

My idea of health food

My idea of health food

The belief in benefits to red wine consumption dates back to the ancient Egyptians but really caught on in popular culture after an historic event in November, 1991: the 60 Minutes story on “The French Paradox.” The concept was based on the work of Bordeaux scientist Serge Renaud (perhaps part of the wine lobby?) which showed that although the French diet was high in fat and dairy (washed down with red wine), the French had a low occurrence of cardiovascular disease compared to those consuming a Western diet. Not only that, the French seemed to be maintaining their weight better than the Yanks, despite their diet. Before you could say Cabernet, please, sales of red wine shot up over 44% from previous years.

This idea has continued to proliferate based primarily on the believed benefits of resveratrol in three areas:

  1. Protection from heart attack by reducing inflammation and oxidation of LDL and sticky platelets
  2. Protecting nerve cells from damage and plaque buildup leading to Alzheimers
  3. Preventing insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes

Since finding that dark chocolate, too, contains resveratrol, the two have been inextricably linked as health foods. Be still my heart! Two of my favorite things in life, practically major food groups, are good for me!

A recent clue that this was not just the stuff of fantasies came out of Cleveland Clinic in 2012. Their study found that ”red wine and dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or more contain resveratrol which had been found to lower blood sugar. Further, red wine is a source of catechins which aids “good” cholesterol.”

By May 2014, later research was saying “not so fast.” New studies at Johns Hopkins found that the benefits of resveratrol,   that lovely anti-oxidant in your zinfandel or truffle, were somewhat exaggerated. This feels like déjà vu to me, yet another instance of medical science screwing with our heads as when they drove women to distraction with the “HRT is good for you”/”Oh, maybe it will kill you” findings.   Clearly there are many chocoholics and winos out there in the medical profession because studies keep looking for justification to satisfy our urges for the dark, delicious stuff and a little vin rouge without guilt.

Anti-oxidants aside, dark chocolate also contain flavanols (which positively influence lower blood pressure, improved blood flow to the brain and heart and better clotting), caffeine, a stimulant and serotonin which boosts mood and increases sexual desire and responsiveness making it a veritable Love Drug. Not bad for a little square of Godiva.

Not long ago, an acquaintance from the gym invited me to Xocai presentation. This company sells a dark, high anti-oxidant chocolate marketed as Healthy Chocolate. They have extrapolated the virtues of chocolate to a skin care line too. I listened to this presentation and tasted the chocolate but the emphasis was clearly on making money through referral marketing as opposed to giving heavy research into the product itself. Major red flag for me, not to mention the $100 price tag on a month supply of chocolate. I’ll stick with my Trade Joe’s Pound Plus 72% for $4.99

They are not the only company to suggest a link between reserveratrol and anti –aging. The French skin care line Caudalie produces the Vinexpert Firming Serum that “deeply restructures the skin so it regains its firmness and elasticity…..wrinkles reduced, skin is re-densified.” And the hook: “Instant firming effect.” Yours for $89.

There are also capsules available with concentrated doses of reseveratrol and cocoa flavanols. So you can take these compounds in capsule form orally or apply them topically; but why would you when you can just drink and devour your way to health and youth?

I know which option I’m picking!




While supplements and vegetables can provide the meritsof reseveratrol , flavanols and even serotonin, they can never match the pure pleasure of sipping a glass of red and savoring a dark chocolate.

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When Aging is (Literally) Painful

So I was la-de-da-ing my way through my early 50’s when one day the index finger on my right hand started to redden, hurt and swell. I didn’t need a brilliant diagnostician to tell me: I had osteoarthritis. Eventually the pain subsided but I was left with a bony, swollen nodule that was not at all pretty. Awhile later, it attacked the first joint of my middle finger which, to my horror, became not only enlarged but crooked. In time, more fingers were affected, though not all. I am praying for a reprieve for my ring finger so my wedding and engagement rings won’t be permanently incarcerated.

Arthritic joints

Arthritic joints

Unfortunately, arthritis affects 27 million adults in the US and is more common in women over 45 than men, 4x more common. Why more women? Loss of estrogen causes bone breakdown to outpace building of new bone. (As I noted to a friend, we seem to lose bone, estrogen, collagen, hair, everything after 50 except our bloody bellies!!) Petite women and overweight women are more at risk. Although the cause of arthritis is unknown, and there is no cure, we do know why it occurs: the cartilage which cushions and protects our joints thins and breaks down with age. (Yet another perk of turning 50!) It is characterized by tenderness and stiffness in a joint, loss of flexibility and range of motion and sometimes is accompanied by a grating sensation or sound. Ouch!
The risk of getting osteoarthritis increases with age, runs in families and can also occur from repetitive use of or injury to a joint. Ha, I can now blame unlocking all those doors as a realtor for the arthritis in my thumb. But more about that later.
The first course of treatment is prescription NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). I tried truckloads of ‘em but some were only affective for a few months and then stopped working. Some upset my stomach. I have had the best success with plain old Aleve, which is readily available and officially known as Naproxen Sodium.
Paradoxically, remaining active is more beneficial that couch surfing. Low impact exercise is best, depending on which joints are affected. Movement helps boost energy, strengthen bones and muscles and helps keep joints flexible.
My initial foray into the world of arthritis was my hands, specifically the first joint of my fingers, the bumps dubbed Heberden’s nodes. If you are affected in the middle joint they are called Bouchard’s nodes. Who knew?? Unfortunately, as things progressed I was affected in my thumb joints and turning a key, opening a can of Diet coke, or a jar of mustard became painful and then impossible.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I submitted to surgery on both thumb joints, one at a time. The surgeon, Dr. Kirk Watson of Glastonbury, CT invented the surgical procedure that gave me back use of my thumbs. As bizarre as it sounds, he harvested a tendon from my forearm (which grew back) and rolled it up and inserted it into the base of the thumb as my new cartilage. Amazing, yes? It was a very painful recovery and a major challenge to use only one hand for 6 weeks at a time. I became very adept at eye makeup with my left hand but blowing my hair dry was impossible. So I got weekly blowouts til I was able to use both hands. My husband is a fabulous dentist but a lousy hair dresser.
Next to go was my back and I have been diagnosed with arthritis in my facet joints in the spinal column. I have thrown everything at it from acupuncture to chiropractic, physical therapy, guided injections and most recently an epidural and injections into the facet joints themselves. I am a work in progress, bent but not broken. And, quite frankly, have learned to live and be active with a degree of pain every day. I’m from the “I’ll try anything” school of medicine.


Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

If you suffer from arthritis, you should be proactive with your food choices as some have been found to aggravate inflammation while others work to lessen it. Case in point is Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid which is heavy on fruits and veggies at the bottom, whole grains, nuts, fish, soy, Asian mushrooms, other lean protein sources, herbs and spices, white and green tea, supplements and finally at the top, my favorite health foods, red wine and dark chocolate! Pull up this pyramid online for details on each of these steps up the ladder of anti-inflammation.
Conversely, the food categories to avoid are:
1. Sugar
2. Saturated fats –red meat, full fat dairy
3.Trans fats – donuts, cookies, fried food, processed food
4. Omega 6 fatty acids– most oils other than olive oil, mayonnaise, salad dressings
5. Refined carbohydrates – bread, crackers, white rice, white potatoes
6. MSG (mono-sodium glutamate)- Asian food, soy sauce, prepared soups, deli meats
7. Gluten and casein– dairy, wheat, whey protein
8. Aspartame– sugar substitute in the blue packets and many diet drinks
9. Alcohol-use in moderation
Mostly importantly, read labels so you know what you are putting into your body!

I would add to this that I actively support the Arthritis Foundation in hopes that they will discover better treatment options or even a way to reverse osteoarthritis. And for those of you who have it, I feel your pain!!

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Summer Life Savers

While I’m still savoring my week on the Cape, I find I’m paring life down to a few necessities.

Here are the 4 things I find I can’t live without:

1. Buggle

I don’t know what it is about my body chemistry, but bugs find me irresistible. Over July 4th holiday, I was devoured from ankles to knees; literally 10+ bites per leg and all of them insanely itchy. I swore I’d never leave home again without protection. Enter my dear friend Clare, who seems to have all the answers to life’s niggling questions. She brought me a bottle of Buggle to take on my journey. Unlike conventional insect repellants that smell vile, this one is a mixture of essential oils instead of deadly chemicals and smells, well, lovely. A pleasant smelling repellant is NOT an oxymoron! The soothing contents are a mixture of aloe vera gel, jojoba oil, lemongrass oil, catnip oil, lavender oil, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, eucalyptus oil, baby soap and geranium oil. You shake up this lovely concoction and mist it all over. A week out and I haven’t had a bite yet. This can be ordered from the website for $12.50 per bottle, and worth every penny. A non- scratchy vacation? Priceless!


2. Blotting papers

I hate the feel of a sweaty, oily face. Ditto melted eyeliner and tinted moisturizer
dripping off my visage. So I find a packet of blotting papers to be an absolute summer essential. I prefer the light paper-y type as opposed to the vinyl-like ones. You simply blot all over your face (as opposed to  rubbing) and your makeup will be undisturbed. Currently in my bag are blotting linens by Boschia, infused with bamboo and willow bark extract, a natural salicylic acid, to control excess oil and perspiration. 100 refreshing green sheets per packet will set you back $10. There are less expensive versions but make sure they are paper, not plastic. And don’t use tissue as a substitute. It will leave you coated in lint.

3. A large brimmed hat

I recently submitted to the rather humiliating  annual full body check for suspicious skin growths. I got major raised eyebrows from my Dr. and had to swear that my tan came out of a bottle, not from actual sun exposure. His final salvo to fair skinned me was “sunscreen every day, regardless of season or weather and a hat, the larger the better.” My go-to this and many previous summers is my topper by Eric Javits. I love it because it is light and airy and can be folded and rolled to stick in your bag. I have a large brimmed visor by Javits too. They are not cheap but they last forever.

4. Heavy duty, light weight sunblock

The year Neutrogena debuted their Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, I became a loyal user. It comes in several SPF levels (I prefer 45 to 50) so offers superior broad spectrum protection while being light enough for your face and body. It absorbs quickly and is water resistant for 80 minutes. The last thing we need after 50 is more wrinkles, sunspots or skin cancers, right? Keep a tube in your medicine cabinet, car and handbag as you need to reapply every 2 hours to remain protected.

**Sorry for the lack ofSent from my iPad

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