Tag Archives: skin care

  • A Solution for Every Skin Problem

    From breakouts to skin discolorations, Pharmaca has a natural, effective solution for every one of your skin concerns. Here, our estheticians recommend their favorites.

    Astara’s Blue Flame Purifying Treatment
    is a really wonderful product. It’s got salicylic acid, Tottara tree essence, witch hazel and tea tree oil that work together to kill bacteria. It works really well as a spot treatment, and even works for women who have hormonal or stress-related breakouts.
    -Margie Gonzales, Menlo Park

    I recommend the Sanitas Skin Light Gentle, which contains high concentrations of vitamin C and kojic acid to speed cell renewal—the discolored skin will slowly fade and new skin will show through. It also contains a small amount of hydroquinone, which can be prescribed in higher doses by a dermatologist to lighten skin. I also like Jurlique’s new Purely Bright line, which contains a powerful concentration of Kakadu Plum, the world's richest natural fruit source of vitamin C.
    -Lisa Sawabini, Portland

    Our herbalists recommend Quantum’s Scar Reducing Herbal Cream. One of the main ingredients is odorless onion extract, found in a lot of physician-recommended scar treatments, but with vitamin E and 14 other herbs for healing. It’s always best to use immediately after the wound heals, but it may even help later, since it can help heal stretch marks and calluses. We’ve been getting fabulous customer feedback on this for years!
    -Dana Garced, La Jolla

    Dry Skin
    Many skin issues need to be addressed internally, so if someone said they have dry skin, I’d want to make sure they’re taking omega-3s internally and getting lots of fruits and veggies in their diet.

    On the skin, I like Sanitas’ Topical C since it firms the skin, repairs elasticity and can help reduce free radical damage from the sun. I also love anything with hyaluronic acid—it’s a humectant that binds the moisture from the environment to the skin. Even people with oily skin say it helps balance their oil production. Derma E offers a Hyaluronic Acid Crème for day use and a more concentrated formula for the evening.
    -Victoria Haket, Menlo Park

    If you’re looking to treat wrinkles under your eyes, I like the Sanitas PeptiDerm Eye Treatment. Many people see a difference in just a few weeks! Other treatments are meant to prevent wrinkles, but this is actually supposed to reverse the damage that’s already been done. Peptides work on wrinkles in other areas of the skin, too.
    -Catherine Navarro, Brentwood, Calif.  

    Dark circles
    I love the new Cowgirl Extreme Eye Cream—it’s kind of an all-purpose eye treatment for hydration, fine lines, dark circles and puffiness. It’s got collagen-boosting peptides, as well as a shot of vitamins A and C to help keep your eyes looking healthy and bright!
    -Sara A., Seattle - Madison Park

    Get a personalized recommendation for your skin concerns when you speak with a Pharmaca esthetician.

  • Exfoliation for Healthy, Glowing Skin

    Want to give your skin a healthy glow? Learn how exfoliation works to clear pores, tighten skin and boost absorption of treatments and moisturizers—and why it should be a regular part of your beauty routine.

    “Everyone needs some exfoliation,” says Kathryn Fairbanks, esthetician at our Berkeley location. “It’s especially important for aging skin because as we age, the skin slows its cellular renewal. So you want to slough that dead skin to create a healthy glow.”

    To start with, a system like the Clarisonic sonic face cleansing tool can help by doing a deep pore cleansing every day. “The Clarisonic is super gentle and will mildly exfoliate,” says Kathryn. If you have oilier skin and need more exfoliation, she says, you could even pair it with a serious cleanser like Sanitas’ Glycolic Citrus Cleanser or Lactic Cleanser.

    The next level of exfoliation: An enzyme-rich product that offers what Kathryn calls “micro-exfoliation.” “Enzymes digest dead skin, so they’re great for sensitive skin that can’t handle manual exfoliation (such as a physical scrub like Astara’s Daily Refining Scrub),” says Kathryn. Juice Beauty’s Exfoliating Cleanser, for example, includes enzymes from organic pineapple juice, along with nourishing oils like jojoba and avocado. “It’s gentle enough for everyday use, or you could alternate it with another cleanser,” says Kathryn. “It leaves the skin looking glowing and fresh without feeling you’ve scrubbed too hard.” For a twice-a-week treatment, try Sanitas’ Pumpkin Enzyme Mask.

    For more intense exfoliation, peels with glycolic and lactic acids help firm and slough skin. “Similar to an enzyme, glycolic dissolves the dead skin, but more intensely,” says Kathryn. She recommends the Astara Exfoliating Marine Treatment once or twice a week.

    Similarly, the fruit acids in Juice Beauty’s Green Apple Peel will digest the dead skin, but penetrate deeper than enzymes. “Both of these will firm and tighten the skin, help reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines and wrinkles, and create a healthy glow,” says Kathryn.

    No matter what, the more consistently you exfoliate, the better your other skin care products (especially moisturizers or serums) will work. And the same principles go for exfoliation on the rest of your body—try Alba Hawaiian’s Sea Salt Body Scrub on elbows, heels or anywhere else that needs a little softening.

    Talk to a Pharmaca esthetician about your skin type and the exfoliation regimen that will work best for you.

  • Your Skin Health Questions Answered

    We asked Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, member of Pharmaca's Integrative Health Advisory Board, to weigh in on some of our customers skin health questions. Here's what she has to say about creating a clearer, more radiant complexion.

    What can I do to minimize wrinkles?
    The two most important things you can do to prevent wrinkles: Avoid excessive sun exposure and don’t smoke. I always recommend sunscreen on the face, neck, ears and top of head (especially for balding individuals) if spending more than 10 minutes in the sun. Though we need some sun exposure for creation of vitamin D, too much can damage the skin and increase our risk for skin cancer.

    Next, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A pure, clean moisturizer (i.e. without all the nasty chemicals) is your very best friend when it comes to reducing the appearance of wrinkles. At the same time, make sure you don’t overdo face washing, as it can strip away the natural oils in the skin. I always recommend using a soap with moisturizer or a natural skin care cleanser that is designed for sensitive skin, as these are usually less harsh and drying.

    As far as nutrition, make sure you’re getting those omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, either by eating cold-water oily fish or taking 1,000 mg of fish oil (EPA/DHA) every day. And a diet rich in vegetables and fruits (with a low glycemic load) will provide you with all the antioxidants you need for healthy skin.

    Retinoids are one of the most common treatments to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Tretinoin (RetinA) is the only FDA-approved treatment for wrinkles, but can be highly irritating to the skin. In its place, retinol, a natural form of vitamin A that’s available in many over-the-counter products, can also be highly effective and is usually better tolerated on the skin. Tretinoin and retinol increase the skin’s capacity to hold water by stimulating the synthesis of glycosaminoglycan and collagen.

    Other options include alpha hydroxy acids, natural fruit acids that remove the top layer of dead skin cells, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and stimulating the production of collagen. Topical vitamin C may also be helpful.

    What are the most important things I can do to maintain youthful-looking skin?
    In addition to the above recommendations (don’t smoke, protect your skin from excessive sun exposure, etc.), make sure you use a gentle cleanser and moisturizer every day. Look for a moisturizer that meets the needs of your skin (e.g. dry, sensitive). In addition, a gentle exfoliant once a week can remove older skin cells and brighten/freshen the appearance.

    It’s also critical to focus on your diet if you want to look beautiful both inside and out! There is very strong evidence that all the sugar in our diet contributes to the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which bind and damage the collagen and elastin in skin. This is what makes the skin sag, lose tone and take on a lackluster hue. You can see early signs of this process when you look at the skin of a 45-year old who’s smoked for 25 years.

    If you want your skin to remain healthy and youthful in appearance, I recommend a low-glycemic load diet. The New Glucose Revolution by Jennie Brand-Miller is an excellent way to learn how to change your diet to reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers. This dietary pattern will also keep your skin radiant!

    What are the best treatments for acne?
    Acne is caused by hormonal imbalance, which leads to an overproduction of sebum that plugs follicles, creating an environment conducive to the overgrowth of bacteria. Plugged pores (blackheads and whiteheads), pimples and even deep cysts can develop on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and upper arms. Acne is often present in teenagers due to fluctuating hormones, and many women complain of acne during the menopausal transition. Sometimes chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus castus) can be useful for reducing acne at doses of 300-500 mg taken each morning.

    There are several vitamins that are very important for skin health when it comes to acne. Niacin (50 mg) and zinc (30 mg/d) reduce inflammation and have been shown to reduce inflammatory acne. Because zinc can deplete copper, make sure to add a supplement that provides 1 mg of copper per day.

    On a daily basis, wash the skin gently and thoroughly. If you wear makeup, use products that are hypoallergenic and fragrance free to reduce irritation and outbreaks. Topically, tea tree oil has been shown to be equivalent to benzoyl peroxide and better tolerated. Another of my favorite topicals is neem oil/cream. As a potent antibacterial, it often works when other topicals fail. And salicylic acid is often added to topical products as it can also reduce acne breakouts.

    Blue light therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for acne and is quite safe. The blue light destroys the bacteria inside your skin pores. This therapy is painless and is done in eight sessions of 10-15 minutes each at a dermatology clinic over a period of four weeks.

    If these types of therapies don’t work, a physician/dermatologist can prescribe tretinoin and/or antibiotics, depending upon the severity of the acne. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is extremely potent, effective and also dangerous. Women must be extremely careful not to get pregnant while taking the drug as it can cause birth defects.

    What can I do to minimize or erase liver spots?
    What are often called “liver” spots are actually areas of hyperpigmentation on our skin—they have nothing to do with our liver. These dark spots are most commonly a result of a condition known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). When inflammation occurs in the skin, a melanocyte-stimulating hormone is released, which then releases the enzyme tyrosinase, which converts tyrosine to L-DOPA, which then stimulates melanocytes to release melanin. That’s why many of the skin-lightening products for PIH contain ingredients that block tyrosinase, thus preventing the continued release of melanin, the pigment found in skin that causes it to darken upon exposure to ultraviolet light. PIH can occur in anyone, but is more common in individuals with darker skin because of their skin’s enhanced ability to produce melanin.

    Treatments that have been shown to lighten dark spots include topical agents like hydroquinone, mequinol, azelaic acid, kojic acid, licorice extracts, niacinamide, and retinoids. Some natural products also contain soy protease inhibitors, which have been clinically shown to lighten skin (though whole soy and soy isoflavones have not been shown to be effective).

    The best way to prevent hyperpigmentation is to avoid excessive inflammation and irritation. That means protecting the skin from sun damage, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet low in sugars, processed foods and rich in vegetables, nuts and fruits. Also consider taking omega-3 fatty acids (1000 mg EPA/DHA) and other herbal anti-inflammatories like turmeric and holy basil.

    Ultimately, your best strategy for skin health is a low-glycemic diet, good sun protection and not smoking. A daily multivitamin can fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet. If you are struggling with a skin condition that is not responding to over-the-counter treatments, make an appointment to see a dermatologist who can offer more in-depth guidance.

    Dr. Low Dog is an internationally recognized expert in the field of herbal medicine and integrative approaches to women's health. She is currently the Fellowship Director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. Find out more at drlowdog.com.

  • FDA's New Sunscreen Rules About to Go Into Effect

    The FDA’s new sunscreen labeling regulations take effect this summer. Announced last year, FDA is hoping this labeling overhaul will help users make more informed decisions about choosing the right sun protection. (Here’s a link to FDA’s answers to frequently asked questions on the topic.)

    Here’s a round up of the changes we’ll be seeing because of the new regulations:

    • Only sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB rays can be labeled "broad-spectrum"
    • Only broad-spectrum sunscreens with SPF 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer of early skin aging. Products with lower SPFs can only claim to prevent sunburn.
    • Sunscreens cannot be labeled “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” or be called “sunblocks,” since the FDA feels these labels overstate the product’s effectiveness.
    • If sunscreens claim to be water resistant, they must state for how long it will be resistant while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing.
    • All sunscreens must now include a Drug Facts panel on the label, including moisturizers and cosmetics.

    We hope that these new regulations will indeed make it easier for consumers to choose their sunscreen. Ask a Pharmaca practitioner if you have further questions about the new labeling. (And check out our brand new sunscreen lines for every need.)

  • Nature's Best Medicine: Aloe Vera

    Sprout Along...


    If you've stayed out in the sun too long and gotten a sunburn, you've probably treated the burn with healing, soothing aloe vera. It comes from the aloe vera plant, and has been used to treat many skin and medical conditions. The Chinese refer to aloe vera as the "harmonious remedy," Russians have dubbed it the "elixir of  youth" and the Egyptians named it the "herb of immortality." Originating in North America, the aloe vera plant can now be found practically anywhere that has a warm climate. The active, healing ingredients in aloe vera include vitamins A, B, C and E, folic acid, calcium, selenium, zinc, magnesium and chromium.

    Because of all of these great ingredients, aloe vera has been successfully used to treat medical conditions such as the following:
    •    Sunburn
    •    Skin wounds
    •    Jaundice
    •    Acne
    •    Frostbite
    •    Constipation
    •    Fungal infections
    •    Insect bites
    •    Eczema

    This wonder plant has many other health benefits, including reducing the appearance of warts and rosacea, and helping those with the very painful medical condition known as shingles.

    Please consult your doctor or Pharmaca practitioner before using aloe vera, especially in very small children. People with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), appendicitis, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids or ulcers should also avoid aloe vera, as should pregnant woman (as aloe vera may cause premature uterine contractions and subsequent miscarriage).

  • Looking for a Natural Acne Remedy? Try a Green Smoothie

    Carrot, Celery, Spinach and Watercress Juice


    If you or someone you love has struggled with acne, you know how frustrating this skin condition can be. What's more, some of the prescription medications prescribed to treat acne come with dangerous side effects. Remember Accutane? Introduced in the early 1980s and pulled from the market in 2009, Accutane, a then highly-popular medication prescribed for the treatment of acne, was found to cause very serious side effects including birth defects, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and suicidal feelings.

    While there are still prescription medications available to treat acne, the side effects lead many to search for a more natural acne remedy. We found the perfect solution: A green smoothie that can help clear up acne and feed your skin the important nutrients it needs for optimal health.

    Green Smoothies as a Natural Remedy for Acne

    Green smoothies act as a natural acne remedy because they contain green leafy vegetables that are packed with the nutrients your body needs to cleanse and heal itself. Plus, blending these nutrients into a smoothie makes them easier for your body to absorb.

    These are the nutrients in the below green smoothie that act as natural acne remedies:

    • Chlorophyll: Helps eliminate toxins, improves cell metabolism and speeds healing
    • Sulfur: Balances body's pH, fights infection and reduces inflammation
    • Vitamin K: Improves skin tone, reduces acne scarring
    • Vitamin A: Rebuilds tissue

    Natural Acne Remedy Recipe

    1. Place 1 cup of your favorite green leafy vegetables in a blender (spinach, swiss chard and kale are easy to find)
    2. Add two cups of fresh or frozen fruit (berries, bananas, grapes and pineapples)
    3. Add enough water or juice to give the smoothie the thickness you desire, then blend until very smooth
    4. Pour and enjoy!

    Look for more greenfoods at Pharmaca to support your skin health, or speak to a practitioner about other great natural acne remedies.

  • Do you know Jurlique? Indulge now...and take 20% off!

    Jurlique has been perfecting plant-based skin care for more than 25 years. Based in Australia, Jurlique has always placed an emphasis on connecting with the earth and hand-crafting specialized formulas from nature’s most perfect ingredients. From biodynamically farmed herbs and flowers—grown on their own 153-acre farm—to Australian superfruits, nothing but the best ingredients go in each Jurlique product.

    And, in the month of July you can save 20% on Jurlique’s entire line of skin care, both in our stores and online! This rare event is the perfect time to try their Herbal Recovery line, a cult classic that customers love for its potent blend of age-defying antioxidants and precious plant oils.

    Here at the Pharmaca office, we’re addicted to their Rose Hand Cream, an ultra-rich smoothing cream that makes your hands softer than you could ever dream (try all four amazing scents with this Hand Cream sampler—perfect for gift-giving).

    We also love their Calendula Cream, a practitioner-recommended treatment that’s ideal for soothing wind- and sunburnt skin, especially good during the summer. The Calendula Cream also packs in macadamia and avocado oils, aloe vera and herbs specially selected for their healing and toning properties.

    If you haven’t discovered the utter luxury of Jurlique yet, take advantage of our July sale to treat yourself to something wonderful. Read more about the Jurlique story...

  • Product Spotlight: Dr. Hauschka

    If you've never tried this luxurious German line of skin care, you should know that it's one of Pharmaca's top-sellers. Hauschka offers the best in botanical ingredients in everything from shampoos to hand creams to cosmetics.

    The majority of ingredients in Dr. Hauschka's products are grown either biodynamically or organically, and all with a great deal of thought and consideration for the earth's natural growing processes. Their ingredient philosophy is a perfect fit on Pharmaca's beauty shelves.

    Dr. Hauschka skin care has been available in the US since 1972, and its popularity has grown as people have discovered the simple efficacy of their products. People love the Dr. Hauschka Cleansing Cream, especially great when followed by another customer favorite, the Rose Day Cream. Hauschka even offers homeopathic remedies to create a complete wellness regimen for your skin and body.

    Because it's one of our best-sellers, Pharmaca offers a lot of great sales on the whole Dr. Hauschka line. This month? The entire line is 20% off. Check back for different Gift with Purchase offers, too—they're the perfect way to discover Hauschka!

    Already love Hauschka? Write a review of your favorite product and tell us why!

  • Reserve your mini makeovers and facials now for Spa Day!

    It's everyone's favorite time of the year at Pharmaca--our Spa Day events start this week!

    While customers can always get skin care and makeup advice at Pharmaca, Spa Day events focus specifically on new products and trends in the health and beauty category. “Right now, with the summer months coming, is an especially good time to change up your skin care regimen, and a great time to brighten up your makeup colors,” says Shauna LaChapelle, licensed esthetician and store manager at Pharmaca in Oakland, Calif.

    “A lot of people come to Spa Day with a group of friends and make an outing of it,” Shauna says. She adds that customers love getting great information and samples of new products from the host of vendors that show up to Spa Day. People also scramble to reserve the mini-makeovers or mini-facials that are offered on event day. (Please note that makeovers and facials require a $10 reservation fee, but customers also receive a $10 shopping coupon. Call or stop by your store to make your reservation.)

    On the day of the event, if you spend $75 or more on the day of the event, you’ll receive a free Lavender Travel Kit, including 2-oz. bottles of Pharmaca’s Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash and Body Lotion (a $7.99 value). You'll also receive coupons for shopping savings, including $10 off a $50 purchase, or $20 off a $100 purchase, to use on the day of the event. And all participants can enter to win a sampling of some of Pharmaca’s favorite products.


  • Reading your product labels


    We were intrigued by a recent email from the Environmental Working Group about how to read labels on personal care products. Unfortunately they list out all the big offenders to stay away from (parabens, triclosan, fragrance), but don't tell you what to actually look for when you're buying those personal care products.

    At Pharmaca, we've taken the guesswork out of finding personal care products that are good for you and your family. Sprinkled throughout the store you'll find signs like this one, where we talk about ingredients we love--and ingredients to stay away from. In most cases, you'll find it hard to find the ingredients to avoid, since we put such an emphasis on quality and safety within our product selection.

    Look for these signs the next time you're searching for a new personal care product. Then tell us: What ingredients do YOU love?

1-10 of 13

  1. 1
  2. 2