welcome to SKINCARMA!

These are the musings of a skincare junkie + writer + brand guru with 25+ years of product wisdom put into action to demystify skin care. 

You can change your skin’s destiny.™

Protect your skin barrier at all costs. It’s easy!

Protect your skin barrier at all costs. It’s easy!

One of the central pillars of the Skincarma philosophy is this:

You gotta protect your skin barrier!

Doing that requires a few simple tactics and as few as two well-formulated products. One of those tactics, of course, is an effective strategy to prevent sun damage. You have to find a sunscreen you love — use it every day and stick with it. I recently blogged about my top sunscreen picks here.

Finding a well-formulated facial sunscreen product isn’t easy. Do you go with a mineral sunscreen or a chemical formula — or one that combines both sunscreen filters? And, texture is everything. If you wear makeup (I do not), you grapple with whether to apply it over or under your foundation — and hope it doesn’t pill.

Discovering the perfect sunscreen often feels like hitting the lottery. I’ve tried hundreds of sunscreen products over the years — many of them horrible, alcohol laden formulas. (For the record, I’ve never hit the lottery.) But a handful of them were hits. One of my all-time favorite sunscreen brands is MD Solar Sciences. I reviewed the brand here about a month or so ago. In the article entitled Brands I Love : MD Solar Sciences Doctor-Developed Facial Sunscreen Products, I made recommendations for what I consider perfect (or near-perfect!) facial sunscreen products. All of them ideal for protecting your skin barrier.

All of the MD Solar Sciences facial sunscreen products are ideal for protecting your skin barrier.

All of the MD Solar Sciences facial sunscreen products are ideal for protecting your skin barrier.

Sure, using a daily sunscreen — even on cloudy, seemingly sunless days — is the first and most important weapon you’ve got for defending your skin barrier from damaging aggressors. But sunscreen isn’t the only requirement for protecting skin health and fortifying the skin barrier.


Wait. What’s the skin barrier do anyway?

Well, the skin barrier is the body’s first level of defense against all sorts of health threats — ranging from moisture loss to viral attacks. According to the The Indian Journal of Medical Research, in an article entitled, Current Problems in Dermatology, the role of the skin barrier can’t be overstated:

“The skin barrier is important to human life. Physically, it protects from external threats such as infectious agents, chemicals, systemic toxicity and allergens. Internally, the skin helps to maintain homeostasis and protects from enhanced loss of water from the body.”

The skin barrier is a tightly woven mesh of skin cells that don’t let much get past them. That’s the intriguing thing about the skin barrier: its purpose is to act as a wall against just about everything we come in contact with all day long. That is, to defend the body.

The second strategy is to assure your skin texture is as smooth as possible. That’s where exfoliation comes into play. Not only does a rough skin texture cause your complexion to appear dull, lackluster and unhealthy, but an uneven texture impedes the absorption of active ingredients in skincare products. Your skin needs nourishing oils, vitamins, humectants and antioxidants to function at an optimal level. Proper, regular, and gentle exfoliation is essential.


When it comes to exfoliation, sure the body can and does take care of it on its own — for the most part. The natural process by which the skin sheds dead skin cells to make room for healthy new ones — referred to as cell turnover — slows as we age. In babies, it takes about two weeks. That’s why their skin is so “baby soft”!

In teenagers, skin generally renews itself once a month. By 50, it can be anywhere from 45 to 90 days. Think about that. Think about the quality of a fifty-year-old person’s skin compared to a teenager’s. The difference is remarkable. A lot of that has to do with degradation of the skin barrier (and the underlying collagen and elastin that form its foundation.) So, as you age, additional exfoliation is increasingly important to maintaining youthful skin quality — and baby soft skin!

Kylie Skin’s Walnuts Scrub makes me wanna scream!

Kylie Skin’s Walnuts Scrub makes me wanna scream!

One of the products I use regularly to enhance cell turnover and smooth my skin’s texture is a chemical exfoliant. I literally never use a physical scrub. The only physical exfoliation I’m down with is an enzymatic cleansing powder. Harsher scrubs can and will scratch your skin and compromise the skin barrier further — much like a self-inflicted wound.

I can think of no worse exfoliating product than a scrub made of crushed walnuts or almonds. But somehow they’re popular as hell. Like the Walnut Face Scrub from Kylie Skin or the iconic product it knocked off from Hollywood spa brand Ole Henriksen — Transforming Walnut Scrub. Think about it. Imagine smashing almonds on the kitchen counter with a heavy coffee mug. All those crushed pieces have sharp, jagged edges that, when rubbed against the skin, cause micro-tears that the skin then needs to mobilize to heal.

A gentle acid treatment is the best way to smooth skin texture.

A gentle acid treatment is the best way to smooth skin texture.


Don’t use physical scrubs of any kind, if you can avoid them. (Seriously, though, why can’t you avoid them?) Rather, find a well-formulated product that features chemical exfoliants in the form of Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Beta Hydroxy Acids or Polyhydroxy Acids. An AHA-, BHA- or PHA-powered treatment, employed regularly as a part of your daily skincare routine is all you need to maintain skin barrier health. (Aside from the aforementioned sunscreen, of course!)


Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin

One of my absolute fave exfoliating treatments is Dr. Gross’ most famous product — the Alpha Beta Daily Peel. As popular as these daily AHA/BHA wipes are, I hadn’t really paid much attention to them until this year. Why would I avoid such a functional product from one of my go-to dermatologist brands? Because most of them (there are multiple versions and strengths) contain denatured alcohol — which is used to break down the actives and enhance penetration into the stubborn skin barrier that’s built to not let anything get past it. As helpful as it is at enhancing penetration, alcohol also compromises the skin barrier. Given my militant Skin Barrier Defense Policy™, I prefer to avoid alcohol in my skincare whenever I can. Often that means I use alternatives that may not be as effective. It’s just me! You do you.

So, while eschewing this iconic product for years, I suddenly discovered that the version called Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin contains nary a drop of alcohol. The two-step treatment takes just a few minutes each morning to literally reboot and light up my complexion.


How to enter: Go to my @skincarma IG page here and re-post my Dr. Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel product review from Tuesday 09/09/19 to either your personal IG page or your stories. Post to both and enter twice! Be sure to tag @skincarma.

(Small print: Giveaway ends Monday, September 16th 2019!)


The Dr. Gross Alpha Beta peels all contain a combination of AHA’s and BHA’s in varying intensities. As I shared in a recent blog, AHA’s are a group of natural acids commonly found in fruits and foods. They include Glycolic Acid (derived from sugar cane), Lactic Acid (derived from milk and tomato juice), Malic Acid (derived from apples), Tartaric Acid (derived from grapes), Citric Acid (derived from multiple citrus fruits), and Mandelic Acid (derived from almonds).

There’s an excellent article with a thorough breakdown of each of the six AHA molecules on the Paula’s Choice website called, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) for Skin: What They Are, How They Work here.

The two-step peels come in separate packets containing pre-soaked pads infused with exfoliating AHA/BHA acids, anti-aging actives, and soothing botanicals that resurface, calm and nourish the skin.


My version, the Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for sensitive skin (or those of us who prefer to avoid alcohol) contain a complex of three acids — Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid and Willow Bark, a natural form of Salicylic Acid or BHA. The acids are concentrated in step one, the first of the two pads.

Along with the triple acid complex are several effective buffers that help ameliorate the intensity of the acids on the skin without compromising their efficacy. They include Cucumber Fruit Extract, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Coconut Oil and Rosemary Leaf Extract.

Approximately two or three times per week, immediately after showering, I take one of the step one wipes from the packet and sweep it over my entire face and neck. Over the two minutes it takes for the formula to work, I choose the day’s dope statement T-shirt, jeans and, of course, the perfect cap to top it all off — and return to the bathroom sink.

It takes just two minutes to ignite your complexion with an Alpha Beta Daily Peel from Dr. Gross.

It takes just two minutes to ignite your complexion with an Alpha Beta Daily Peel from Dr. Gross.

I like to think of step two as the deactivator. But that’s a bit of an oversimplification. Dr. Gross says this, “Step two controls the alpha hydroxy acid activity and delivers antiaging actives while nourishing and soothing skin to keep it balanced, soft, and luminous.”


Removing the second soaked pad, I sweep it over the same areas where I applied step one — across my forehead, around my eyes (not too close!), over and along the sides of my nose, cheeks and chin. Since turning fifty, I try to never neglect my neck. So the skin on my neck gets all the same TLC and daily treatments that my face gets.

Step two of the Alpha Beta Daily Peel is infused with calming actives, hydrating botanicals and humectant Sodium Hyaluronate that helps skin hold onto its water and moisture content. There is also a treasure trove of antioxidants in the form of vitamins and botanical extracts, including Green Tea Leaf Extract, Resveratrol and Vitamins A, C and E.

But perhaps the most interesting — and certainly the most boring — of the ingredients in the step-two formula is Colloidal Oatmeal. Produced by finely grinding and boiling oats, the form of oatmeal has been used in skin care for decades to soothe sensitivity and ease inflammation. The entire Aveeno brand got its start in 1945 with a product made from Colloidal Oatmeal and it’s found in nearly all their formulas today.

My skin care muse Paula Begoun says this about Colloidal Oatmeal:

“Research shows avenathramides, potent types of antioxidants found in oats (and colloidal oatmeal), can help soothe skin. A high concentration of beta-glucan and starches in colloidal oatmeal also mean it has water-binding properties and is an effective skin protectant. In fact, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant, allowing it to be listed as an active ingredient on skincare products.”


Skin care isn’t always sexy.

I gladly employ step two as the perfect skin soother and think of it as the kick-off to the rest of my morning skincare routine. There’s a reason that the Dr. Gross’ Alpha Beta Daily Peel has become a staple in so many individual regimens — and why there are options for individual skin concerns. I only wish I’d started using them sooner. If you’re looking for an easy, effective exfoliating treatment that gets the job done without irritating the skin, you should check these out. Don’t wait like I did to discover them!

Be sure to enter the Skincarma giveaway going on all week — and enter for a chance to win a box of 30 Alpha Beta (Extra Strength) Daily Peels. Details just below!



How to enter: Go to my @skincarma IG page here and re-post my Dr. Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel product review to either your personal IG page or your stories. Post to both and enter twice! Be sure to tag @skincarma. Giveaway ends Monday, September 16th 2019.



The Ingredient List of the Dr. Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin:

Step One: Water, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Rose Extract, Soy Isoflavones, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Prunus Persica (Peach) Fruit Extract, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Extract, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Extract, Coriandrum Sativum (Coriander) Seed Extract, Cupressus Sempervirens Seed Extract, Fucus Vesiculosus Extract, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract, Copper PCA, Zinc PCA, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Alcohol Denat., Disodium EDTA, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate.

Step Two: Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hyaluronate, Colloidal Oatmeal, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Soy Isoflavones, Phospholipids, Resveratrol, Ubiquinone, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Raphanus Sativus (Radish) Root Extract, Copper PCA, Sodium PCA, Zinc PCA, Lecithin, Octoxynol-9, Simethicone, Tetrasodium EDTA, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Bicarbonate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate.