comscore Handling stress clears the way to great skin

Handling stress clears the way to great skin

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  • "Complexion Perfection!"
    By Kate Somerville
    (Hay House, 350 pages, $27.95)
    Michelle Huang's acne was treated with LED light therapy. Follow up care involved exfoliating and using an anti-bacteria lotion twice daily.
    Kate Somerville, pictured at The Spa at Trump Waikiki, developed her Skin Care Experts line based on what she thought was missing from the marketplace.

Just when the holiday party season calls for looking your best, the stress of it all can leave skin looking its worst. As the body’s largest organ, skin is a reflection of one’s state of health, and stress can suppress the immune system and cause surges of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The result can be anxiety, sleeplessness, upset stomach and skin prone to allergic reactions and breakouts.

No one knows this better than Kate Somerville. Pressures arising from a broken family left her with stress-exacerbated eczema in childhood. The skin health expert and founder of an eponymous line of skin care products says in her new book, "Complexion Perfection!" that she became intrigued by the intertwining of physical and mental well-being, and after getting her esthetician’s license in California, she started providing follow-up services for plastic surgery clients who needed special care and maintenance.


Here is Kate Somerville’s regimen for maintaining your glow throughout the holiday season, in five easy steps:

1. Detox: Get rid of dull, dead skin cells by exfoliating two to three times a week. Those with dry, sensitive skin or rosacea should choose fruit enzyme exfoliators. Others can generally use fruit enzyme, glycolic (also, AHA or alpha hydroxy acid) or lactic acid (a gentler AHA usually derived from milk) exfoliators.

2. Hydrate: Infuse your skin with penetrating serums containing hyaluronic acid (or sodium hyaluronate), which binds water to the skin’s surface. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine or diuretics.

3. Moisturize: Use a moisturizer containing anti-aging ingredients, such as peptides (collagen-boosting amino acids), to help fight the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

4. Adopt a diet of "complexion cuisine": Foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants include almonds, avocados, black beans, blueberries, flaxseed, green tea, melons, olive oil, pomegranate, wild salmon, spinach, tomatoes, whole grains, yams and sweet potatoes, and low- or nonfat yogurt with no added sugar. Foods and ingredients to avoid are salt, refined white flour, trans fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, saturated fat, dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.

5. Manage your stress level: Endorphins released through exercise can help boost spirits and ward off holiday blues stemming from the pressures of trying to please everyone. Make time to relax, whether through meditation, yoga, an afternoon nap or treating yourself to a massage.

"As a kid I had horrible eczema, so I can really relate to people who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin," she said.

While trying to find the best products for these clients and those with wide-ranging skin problems, Somerville mixed and matched different product lines, eventually branching out to mixing her own creams on her kitchen table based on what she found missing in the marketplace, and Kate Somerville Skin Health Experts was born. She opened her first full-service skin care center on Melrose Place in 2004.

Somerville was in town earlier this year for an appearance at The Spa at Trump Waikiki, which uses her products. She explained that skin is constantly shedding old cells and renewing itself, with every layer representing a chance to start anew. Much of adult skin care involves aiding this exfoliation process as it slows with age, in addition to tending to basics of cleansing, hydrating and protecting.

She wrote her book to help consumers understand their skin and answer questions that arise when they’re shopping for skin care products. The book is thorough in its offering of ingredient lists and descriptions; proper care for skin types ranging from the basic dry, oily and combination; and the specifics of dealing with acne, hyperpigmentation, scarring, rosacea, melasma and eczema.

She makes clear an expensive regimen is not a prerequisite to good skin care, and lists several at-home remedies, such as mashing two whole aspirin in a few teaspoons of water to create an acetylsalicylic acid mixture that combats acne and might lighten skin over time.

With her medical esthetician background, she’s not averse to use of Botox and other injectibles to perfect skin, and her book also provides her opinions on various therapies, how well they work and who would benefit most from each, and which to avoid because they risk more damage than good.

A key section of the book details, through before-and-after photos, several complexion transformations. Each case study details the individual’s skin problems, clinic treatments involving injectibles, laser and light therapies, as well as diet and lifestyle recommendations.

Naturally, there is a list of Kate Somerville products in the back of the book, but they cover only six pages out of the 350-page tome.


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