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Isotretinoin AKA Accutane: A dermatologist and master esthetician explain

Fear vs Science

If you have been battling with acne, then chances are you’ve heard about Accutane. You no doubt have a lot of questions about the potential outcomes, risks and side effects, and with good reason: Accutane (also known as isotretinoin) is one of the most effective yet controversial treatments for clearing up chronic or severe acne. But just what is it? How does it work? Why is there so much fear surrounding it? And perhaps most importantly, should you use it? To answer all these questions and more, we asked two experts in their respective fields on skin health: dermatologist Dr. Carly Roman, MD, FAAD and master esthetician and President of Sapien Aesthetics, Stephanie Powers.

What is it and how does it work?

Stephanie Powers, LME: As a common treatment for severe acne, isotretinoin has long been hailed as a miracle drug for those with persistent skin issues. At its core, isotretinoin is a type of retinoid, a group of compounds derived from Vitamin A. Think tretinoin, but stronger and in a pill. 

Its mechanism of action isn’t totally understood, but scientists think it work by targeting several different factors involved in the development of acne.

One of the key factors is that isotretinoin reduces the production of sebum, the oily substance that is produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands. Sebum is known to contribute to the development of acne by clogging pores and providing a favorable environment for the growth of acne-causing bacteria.

Isotretinoin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce the redness, swelling, and pain associated with acne. It is thought to do this by inhibiting the production of certain inflammatory molecules, such as leukotrienes and prostaglandins.

Another way that isotretinoin may work is by affecting the differentiation and proliferation of the cells that make up the lining of hair follicles. This can help to prevent the formation of new comedones, the plugged hair follicles that are characteristic of acne. Although scientists are still learning how it works, we all know that it works.

When do you prescribe isotretinoin to your patients?

Dr. Carly Roman: Isotretinoin has been traditionally reserved for severe nodulocystic acne but can also work well in any patient failing more conservative therapy. These therapies can include prescription topical medications, oral antibiotics, birth control pills, or spironolactone. 

How effective is isotretinoin?

Stephanie Powers, LME: The remission rate after isotretinoin treatment varies depending on several factors, including the severity of the acne, the dose and duration of treatment, and individual patient factors. In general, studies have shown that isotretinoin is highly effective at achieving long-term remission of acne. One study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 85% of patients achieved complete or near-complete clearance of acne after a single course of isotretinoin treatment, with a mean duration of remission of 10.9 months.

Another study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that 95% of patients had sustained clearance of acne six months after completing a course of isotretinoin treatment, with a median duration of remission of 18 months.

It is important to note that acne can recur after isotretinoin treatment, and some patients may require additional courses of treatment to achieve and maintain remission. 

When combined with lifestyle changes, proper skincare, and regular facials, patients experience the best outcomes.

Is isotretinoin dangerous?

Dr. Carly Roman: Isotretinoin is an oral medication that can be safely used to treat acne. There are a few situations in which this medication should be used cautiously. 

A woman of childbearing age should not get pregnant during the isotretinoin course (average of a 6-month course) and one month after to not harm the developing fetus. The risks to a fetus exposed to isotretinoin are significant. Fifty percent of those exposed will have some defect including cardiac and bony abnormalities.

The other consideration is in those with a diagnosis of depression. It is not an absolute contraindication, and it can still be used if the depression is well managed and there is trust and open dialogue among the patient, dermatologist and treating psychiatrist.

Stephanie Powers, LME: Although isotretinoin, like all drugs, have risks and side effects, there are a lot of myths about its use and safety. One common myth is that isotretinoin causes inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In reality, there is very weak scientific evidence linking the drug to IBD, but acne itself is linked with the condition. Similarly, many people believe that isotretinoin causes permanent liver damage, but studies have shown that any damage done to the liver is generally mild and reversible. Finally, while there have been reports of depression and suicide linked to isotretinoin, studies have not found any direct causation between the drug and these outcomes, and there is only a weak correlation. We have to consider the fact that acne itself is strongly linked to increased rates of depression, and isotretinoin helps improve acne dramatically for most patients. The benefits outweigh the risks for many people. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have, but don’t believe the hype on the internet. The evidence is clear: isotretinoin is safe and effective for everyone but fetuses.

What is the history of isotretinoin?

Stephanie Powers, LME: Isotretinoin, a powerful acne medication, has an interesting backstory that spans several decades. NIH’s Senior Investigator Gary Peck discovered, in the 1970s, that a powerful drug called isotretinoin (or 13-cis retinoic acid) was effective against treatment-resistant severe acne. Isotretinoin eventually gained FDA approval in 1982 and became commercially available under the brand name Accutane. While the drug has faced controversy and legal battles over the years, it remains an important tool in the fight against acne and its painful symptoms.

Approved by the FDA in 1982 under the brand name Accutane, and quickly became very popular due to its effectiveness. However, it also came with fear about potential side effects such as depression, IBS, liver damage and birth defects. In 2009, the brand name Accutane was discontinued in the US market due to generic alternatives becoming available. Today, isotretinoin is still prescribed for severe acne under various brand names and is highly regulated due to its history. 

What are your thoughts about the perceived risk vs the evidence and data?

Dr. Carly Roman: The two major concerns regarding isotretinoin are the risk to a developing fetus and mental health concerns.

In patients with childbearing potential, it is important to either adhere to strict abstinence or use two separate forms of birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy. One may safely get pregnant one month after completing their isotretinoin course with no consequences to the fetus.

There is a proposed but highly debated potential association with isotretinoin and depression and suicide. Systemic reviews and meta-analyses have concluded that the data is inadequate to establish a causal relationship. Some literature suggests that mood symptoms improve while on the medication as their acne improves as does self-image. 

Would you take isotretinoin yourself?

Dr. Carly Roman: Yes! I have a thorough understanding of the risks and benefits and believe in the right person it can be a game changer. It is the closest option we have to a ‘cure’ for acne. Even if there is acne recurrence in the future, the severity is dramatically reduced. I’ve had patients refer periods of their life as ‘pre-accutane’ and ‘post-accutane’ because it was such a defining and life improving treatment. 

Stephanie Powers, LME: Not only would I, but I have under the care of Dr. Carly Roman! Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is hard to manage, and isotretinoin is as close to a cure as I can get.

What is iPledge?

Stephanie Powers, LME: The iPLEDGE program, which was implemented in 2006 to prevent pregnancy and birth defects caused by the drug Accutane, has been met with controversy due to its gender based discrimination. Under the program, women of childbearing age must undergo monthly pregnancy testing as well as a questionnaire, and adhere to strict contraceptive measures while taking the medication regardless of whether they are sexually active or not. With the government monitoring the sex lives of women without any proof of the efficacy of this program, iPledge has been widely criticized. It is evident that the iPLEDGE program, while well-intentioned, is in dire need of reform in order to address these issues of sexism and inefficacy.

What can I do to manage the side effects?

Stephanie Powers, LME: Some of the most common side effects of isotretinoin include dry skin, chapped lips, dry eyes, and nosebleeds. Patients can use a variety of moisturizers and lip balms to combat dry skin and chapped lips, and your Dermatologist or esthetician can help you find the right one for you. Eye drops can relieve dry eyes, and nasal saline sprays can relieve nosebleeds, as well as sleeping with a humidifier (game changer!). Awareness of potential side effects can help patients make an informed decision about whether or not Accutane is the right treatment for their acne.

What would you like to say to people considering isotretinoin for their acne?

Dr. Carly Roman: Talk to your dermatologist about it. Be upfront with any of your concerns regarding side effects. Most of my patients do great with the medication and experience only the cutaneous side effects (skin and lip dryness) and mild achiness after exercise. Be open with family members or roommates about being on the medication so that if they note any concerns, they can bring it to your attention, and you can notify your care team. 

To book a consultation or appointment, click on the provider below.



Dr. Roman is a board certified dermatologist originally from the Midwest. She grew up in Michigan and Ohio, which is where she completed her undergraduate and medical school education. She started her westward journey by moving to Chicago and completed her internship and dermatology residency at the University of Chicago. During her training, her interests in acne and women’s health led to authoring several papers and a book chapter on the topic. Within dermatology, her interests include acne, rosacea, hair loss, psoriasis, women’s skin health, Botox and cosmetics. She recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest to join the Modern Dermatology family. In her free time, she can with her young family and pup! 



Stephanie is a certified Mast Esthetician in the state of Washington, and the President of Sapien Aesthetics and Sapien Skin and Beauty, a med spa in Seattle. She moved to Seattle for esthetics school, and after 13 years she has built a following with her results-driven treatments, straightforward approach, meticulous practices and a deep commitment to serving her clients. She specializes in medical aesthetics providing treatments and customized plan to her clients. She loves art, science, psychology and is a curious creature to her core. She stepped into the role as a business owner when she opened Sapien Aesthetics in 2017, and has been determined to solve the problems ever since, both for her clients and employees. Stephanie is a lifelong nerd and continually seeks the best science, information, mentors, skills and tools in order to serve to the clients she adores.

 When she’s not at work you can find her wandering around the city, hitting up local parks and museums along the way

Huang YC, Cheng YC. Isotretinoin treatment for acne and risk of depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Jun;76(6):1068-1076.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2016.12.028. Epub 2017 Mar 11. Erratum in: J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Nov 14;: PMID: 28291553.

Lee, Stephanie Y.a; Jamal, Mohammad M.c; Nguyen, Emily T.b; Bechtold, Matthew L.d; Nguyen, Douglas L.a,c. Does exposure to isotretinoin increase the risk for the development of inflammatory bowel disease? A meta-analysis. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 28(2):p 210-216, February 2016. | DOI: 10.1097/MEG.0000000000000496

Ben-Shoshan D, Gomolin A, Litvinov IV, Netchiporouk E. Time to Change Guidelines for Laboratory Monitoring During Isotretinoin Treatment. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2020;24(1):92-93. doi:10.1177/1203475419879882

Kovitwanichkanont T, Driscoll T. A comparative review of the isotretinoin pregnancy risk management programs across four continents. Int J Dermatol. 2018 Sep;57(9):1035-1046. doi: 10.1111/ijd.13950. Epub 2018 Mar 6. PMID: 29508918.

Fine Lines vs Wrinkles

Fine lines and wrinkles are among the most frequent concerns discussed when it comes to addressing aging or preventative care. The two terms are often grouped together, however they aren’t necessarily interchangeable. Fine lines and wrinkles are both visible indications of aging, but they differ in appearance, causes, and treatments for improvement.

What are fine lines?

Fine lines are thin, shallow lines that occur in areas of the face where the skin is more prone to movement, such as around the eyes and mouth. The severity of fine lines can increase or decrease based on a number of factors including hydration, UV exposure, exfoliation, etc. You may notice that during dry winter months, or if you’ve skimped on sunscreen applications, fine lines can appear to surface. Fine lines are not as severe as wrinkles and often are very responsive to home-care and treatments such as retinoids, SPF, collagen induction therapy, lasers, and consistent facials.

What are wrinkles?

In contrast to fine lines, wrinkles are deeper, more pronounced, and more set in the structure of the skin. Wrinkles are the result of cumulative UV damage, breakdown of dermal proteins and structural support of the skin, volume loss, and repeated muscle movement. They can occur in areas of the face that are regularly exposed to the sun along with our most commonly used facial muscles, such as the forehead, eyes, nasolabial fold, neck, and chest.

What are the treatment options?

  • Microneedling and RF Microneedling
  • Laser Treatments
  • Chemical Peels
  • Injectibles such as Botox/Filler
  • Topicals – Retinoids, antioxidants, sunscreen, moisturizers

It is essential to note that while both fine lines and wrinkles are normal signs of biological aging, factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and sun exposure aka damage can also exacerbate their appearance. Therefore, adopting healthy skin habits and protecting the skin from harmful environmental and inflammatory lifestyle factors can help prevent fine lines and wrinkles from forming prematurely.

The best plan for treatment is a holistic plan, accounting for both treatments, home care, and tailored to your skin’s specific needs based on where you’re at. Beginning by booking a consultation is always the best place to start. See you in the treatment room!

XOXO, Kristen

Preventive Skincare: Be Younger Longer

If you want to minimize or avoid wrinkles, dark spots, sagging, and volume loss (and also avoid spending thousands of dollars on painful corrective treatments and procedures) then start a skincare routine sooner rather than later.

Although investing in a quality skincare routine is spendy upfront, by making a few smart choices, your health, complexion and your bank account will be set up for success in the long run.

As we learn more about aging and skin health, most of the damage we acquire on a daily basis can be prevented through effective topicals and lifestyle changes. 

Why Is Skin Important?

From a practical stand point, skin is our largest organ, acts as a waterproof, insulating shield that protects us against external aggressors and damaging UV radiation, and senses our surroundings.

The importance of skin from an emotional and social understanding must also be considered. If you have ever suffered from acne, a physical injury, scars, wrinkles, or aging, you can easily understand how distressing it is to feel uncomfortable in your own skin. This can lead to emotional distress, psychological issues and even social isolation.

How Should I Care for My Skin?

Aging is synonymous with damage. UV exposure, pollution, smoke, dryness, stress, sugar, alcohol, inflammation are all examples of how we accumulate damage daily. These factors create a breakdown in our DNA, leading to weakened facial tissues which contributes to fine lines, wrinkles, volume loss, pigmentation, skin cancer, and other skin abnormalities.

Luckily, there are key preventive skin care steps you can commit to at home that will slow down the aging process. Some key essentials to slow aging include:

  • Cleansing twice daily 
  • Maintaining proper external hydration using quality moisturizers
  • Applying enough sunscreen 365 days of the year (reapplying is a must)
  • Using Vitamin A (retinol) and its derivatives daily to increase collagen, decrease fine lines, and increase cell turnover
  • Use vitamin c to neutralize free radicals and increase collagen production
  • Exfoliate weekly
  • Avoiding inflammatory foods and alcohol
  • Avoiding light exposure by wearing hats, upf clothing, and seeking shade

How Can I Prevent Aging Using Facial Treatments?

Most of us have not been lucky enough to stave off aging entirely, (not yet at least!) and have already acquired damage. Thankfully there is a wide array of treatment options that can help turn back the clock:

    •Microneedling and PRP


    • IPL & Laser resurfacing

    • Chemical Exfoliation and Peels

    • Radio Frequency and Radio Frequency Microneedling

Remember, always work with a professional and stick to the plan if you want to minimze and reverse aging. It’s never too early or too late to start, and it takes a lifelong commitment of choosing yourself again and again.

Love, Jess

Cool Peel Co2

Are you looking for a way to reduce wrinkles, skin pigmentation and sun damage without having to deal with drastic downtime? The Cool Peel CO2 laser treatment could be the perfect fit. This minimally-invasive procedure offers a gentler approach than traditional CO2 treatments, while rejuvenating your skin and treating stubborn signs of aging. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the many benefits and discuss why we are so excited to now offer this amazing treatment to our clients!

What is cool peel?

A CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser is an ablative laser that delivers intense infrared light to the outer layers of the skin. It is used to remove the visible signs of sun damage, aging, scars, wrinkles, and benign skin growths like moles and skin tags. Fractional ablative CO2 laser treatment is a popular skin resurfacing procedure because it involves minimal discomfort, quick recovery, and significant improvement in skin quality without the risks of surgery.

Cool Peel CO2 laser technology is a revolutionary way to achieve beautiful skin without the downtime and discomfort of traditional resurfacing lasers. It works by using a patented fractional scanning technique that delivers tiny laser spots, known as “dots”, into the layers of your skin to create controlled damage in order to target wrinkles, acne scars and other signs of aging. The dots cause micro-injuries which stimulates your body’s natural healing response. This increases collagen production leading to smoother and younger looking skin with improved texture and tone. Additionally, CoolPeel helps reduce pore size and even out pigmentation for an overall brighter complexion.

How is it different?

Ablative resurfacing using CO2 lasers is currently regarded as the most effective technique for skin rejuvenation. However, it involves lengthy recovery periods and persistent redness. For patients seeking quicker recovery times and structural improvements in the epidermis, fractional ablative resurfacing is a more suitable option. This fractional technique is ideal for patients with mild sun damage, and those who require partial restructuring of the epidermis and the formation of new collagen. The use of a scanning system that generates thermal effects in a small fraction of the skin’s surface enhances skin healing and minimizes recovery time, with only a 3-7 day period of persistent erythema. Additionally, the second-day re-epithelization restores the skin’s protective barrier, allowing patients to resume their daily activities sooner. Fractional ablative resurfacing provides an effective and safe means of achieving healthy, glowing, and youthful-looking skin at a faster pace, with reduced side effects compared to traditional resurfacing techniques.

Why are we obsessed?

This treatment is a revolutionary procedure that uses the latest technology to improve skin without the extensive downtime associated with traditional Co2 lasers. Cool peel works differently, by using a quick burst of light to administer high levels of energy to your skin while controlling the overall thermal injury, it delivers the results of an aggressive laser peel without the downtime and side effects. Because of this ‘cool’ factor, this treatment is suitable for all skin tones. The pulses of laser energy are delivered deep into the skin, stimulating a natural wound healing process and promoting the formation of new, healthy tissue and collagen leaving you with fresh, younger looking skin.

Benefits of Cool Peel

By targeting just the superficial layer of skin tissue, damaged skin is removed revealing younger and healthier looking skin. CO2 lasers are the gold standard in treating wrinkles, age spots, acne scars, and other blemishes as well as tighten skin and balance tone. Damaged skin tissue is removed, or ablated, stimulating new collagen production.

Cool Peel Improves:

  • The overall appearance of skin 
  • Delivers a youthful, radiant complexion
  • Sun damage
  • Pore size
  • Skin Texture
  • Fine lines & wrinkles
  • Scars and acne scarring

Loving the idea of Cool Peel as much as we do? Book a consultation by clicking here to get started.

Tempsure Skin Tightening

What is Tempsure and how does it work?

Tempsure is an advanced treatment for skin tightening that uses regulated radio frequency energy to build collagen and firm skin leaving you with firmer, healthier, tighter tissue and glowing skin. The technology works by using RF energy which is precisely delivered to penetrate into the dermal layer and heat the tissue which stimulates your skin’s natural healing response and encourages the production of collagen. This process helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, sagging skin, and cellulite by providing a tighter and smoother texture and structural support for the skin. Many people choose Tempsure skin tightening because it offers results without pain or downtime, unlike more invasive treatments like surgery and lasers.

Benefits of Tempsure

  • Tempsure is is a painless, no downtime, radio frequency platform that hosts a variety of applications for face and body.
  • No pain
  • No downtime
  • No anesthesia
  • Suitable for all skin tones
  • FDA cleared

Tempsure for the face helps to improve;

  • Wrinkles
  • Fine Lines
  • Skin laxity
  • Jowels
  • Crows feet
  • Thin skin

Tempsure body treatments:

  • Arms
  • Elbows
  • Abdomen
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs (Front , Back, Inner thighs)
  • Above knees
  • Full Legs
  • Cellulite
  • Creepy skin/lax skin

Results with no downtime

Tempsure is unique to collagen induction because there are no needles or pain involved. It uses radio waves to make the skin look tighter and healthier without any pain or downtime. This means you don’t have to worry about social downtime or being uncomfortable afterwards. Easy peasy! If you’re seeking a comfortable, painless experience with no downtime and an accumulative tightening effect for your skin tone all year round, then this treatment may be the perfect option.

Hydrocolloid Patches: Your Acne Hero

For the last few years, hydrocolloid acne patches have continued to become hugely popular in the skincare world. These little life savers are extremely effective in aiding the wound healing process of inflamed breakouts by providing a moist, protective environment using hydrocolloid, which also draws out edema aka swelling. However, not all acne patches are exactly the same. The options range including standard hydrocolloid patches, treatment patches using ingredients like salicylic acid, and post-breakout patches that help to prevent PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation). How do you know which is the right pick for you? Read on, babes.

What is hydrocolloid and how does it work?

Hydrocolloid is a type of material that is highly absorbent, which makes it ideal for acne treatment. It consists of a combination of natural ingredients which swell with exudate to form a hydrated gel over acne lesions, creating a moist environment that promotes healing and protects the tissue. These patches work by drawing out edema aka swelling from inflamed breakouts and can help with “whiteheads” as well. The outer layer serves as a seal to protect the skin from bacteria, foreign debris, and often help to alleviate the urge to touch breakouts as well.

Types of acne patches

Hydrocolloid Patch

These are the original and invisible patches, used for any and all stages of acne. Especially helpful for whiteheads, or any inflamed lesions. It works by using medical grade hydrocolloid to absorb pus or edema from a pimple which has already come to a head or become inflamed.

Treatment Patch

These are patches that are formulated with acne fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, sodium hyaluronate, beta-glucan, etc. These are best for the beginning stages of acne, for under-the-skin or cystic acne.

Treatment patches can also target PIH aka post inflammatory hyperpigmentation using ingredients like niacinamide and tranexamic acid. These are awesome for post-breakout to prevent and lighten dark spots left over.

Microneedle Patch

Microneedle or micro dart patches use tiny dissolving hyaluronic acid micropoints to deliver treatment ingredients into the skin. These are often combined with treatment ingredients as mentioned above. These are best used when you feel a breakout first coming on but it hasn’t fully formed, or after the inflammation has thoroughly passed in the case of the treatment patch for dark spots.

Regardless of what stage of healing your blemish may be in, there is a patch to help support along the way. Click below to shop my favorite acne patches.



Vices: A case for eliminating sugar, dairy and alcohol for good

Sugar isn’t so sweet

Sugar is considered one of the worst ingredients in our modern diets and has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It’s also highly addictive and strongly associated with processed foods, has low nutrient density, accelerates aging, and triggers acne.

Sugar is a major culprit in the development of acne, and for good reason: it creates hyperglycemia, inflammation and hormone disruption. It also triggers hormonal imbalances in the body, which can lead to an increased production in sebum (skin oil) production. This excess oil can then mix with dead skin cells that form blockages on the surface of the skin, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. Additionally, sugar triggers inflammation in the body, which can contribute to redness and irritation associated with acne. Bam! Breakout central.

The primary way that sugar triggers acne is by increasing blood glucose levels. This causes a hormonal reaction that results in increased insulin production from our pancreas. Insulin helps shuttle glucose into our cells for energy, but when too much is produced, it also stimulates other hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT has been found to increase sebum production, resulting in oily skin and blocked pores – both of which are contributors to acne breakouts.

Another factor that contributes to acne caused by sugar is something called glycation. High sugar consumption has been linked to advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which are molecules that attach themselves to proteins in the body, leading to inflammation of cells and damageing them over time. Glycation occurs when glucose binds with proteins or lipids in the body, forming advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs can damage collagen proteins in the skin leading to premature wrinkles and sagging – as well as increased inflammation that further contributes to breakouts.

Finally, sugary foods often displace healthier options in your diet like fruits and vegetables that contain essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed for healthy skin cell growth and repair. Eating too much sugar may therefore deprive your skin of these vital nutrients it needs for optimal health and resilience against blemishes and premature aging. Sugar can create an imbalance between good bacteria such as lactobacilli and bad microorganisms such as candida albicansin in the gut – this can lead to inflammation elsewhere in your body including your skin resulting in unwanted breakouts or rashes.

TBH, i’ts dairy depressing

Consuming too much dairy can have an impact on the skin, leading to premature aging and a number of unwanted skin issues. Dairy contains high amounts of saturated fat, which is known to contribute to inflammation in the body. Dairy is believed to be a major contributor to the aging process and skin issues. Dairy products contain hormones that can disrupt the natural balance of hormones in our bodies, leading to increased inflammation, which can damage the skin’s collagen and elastin. This makes the skin less able to fight off wrinkles, sagging and discoloration.

Even low consumption of dairy can trigger acne and eczema and contributes to premature aging. Dairy products contain hormones such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) which is believed to disrupt the body’s natural hormonal balance and cause inflammation in the skin. This inflammation causes damage to the skin’s collagen and elastin and accelerates the aging process.

Scientific research has provided a link between dairy and acne, with studies suggesting that consuming dairy could increase the risk of developing acne. The primary reason for this is due to the hormones present in dairy products, including insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Furthermore, cows are often injected with additional hormones to stimulate milk production, which can further affect the hormonal balance in our bodies.

To protect your skin, health, and reduce premature aging, it is important to limit dairy consumption or eliminate it completely from your diet. There are many nutritious alternatives to dairy products, such as plant-based milks made from almond, coconut or cashew nuts. These alternative products are often healthier and contain lower levels of saturated fat, making them a much better choice for your skin. Another option is to try incorporating healthy plant-based fats into your diet, such as avocado or olive oil. These foods can help to reduce inflammation in the body and improve the health of your skin.

Dairy is one of the most allergenic foods, and many people are intolerant or sensitive to it. In addition, many dairy products contain high levels of saturated fats, which have been linked to cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke. Overall, it is clear that dairy consumption can have a negative impact on the health and appearance of your skin. Limiting or avoiding dairy is an important step in protecting your skin and maintaining its youthful appearance for longer. With proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices, you can keep your skin looking vibrant and young!

Alcohol is a carcinogen, but then again so is the sun

Alcohol is often loaded with sugar, and excessive consumption has been linked to a number of health problems like liver damage, increased risk of cancer, and impaired cognitive function.

Alcohol consumption can result in accelerated aging of the skin and body. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it forces the body to expel water and other nutrients, leading to dehydration and dryness that can affect appearance and create wrinkles. Additionally, alcohol is high in sugar content, which has been linked to age-accelerating glycation. Glycation is a process whereby sugar molecules attach to proteins or fats, resulting in damaged collagen and elastin that contribute to wrinkles, as well as dullness of the skin. Not only does this process cause physical aging of the skin but also internal damage; excessive drinking has been associated with cognitive impairment due to disrupted neural connections caused by alcohol-induced oxidation.

Studies have indicated that those who consume alcohol tend to have higher levels of cortisol – a hormone linked both to stress response and accelerated aging – than those who do not drink. Furthermore, drinking alcohol damages mitochondrial DNA responsible for energy production within cells, leading to reduced energy production over time and further contributing to overall aging. Alcohol depletes nutrients from the body, including B vitamins which help maintain healthy skin tone, elasticity and hydration levels necessary for youthful looking skin.

Excessive drinking also dehydrates your complexion making it look duller over time due to lack of moisture retention on a cellular level as well as reducing oxygen supply needed by healthy cells in order to function properly..

In addition to its effects on hormones, skin appearance, and energy production, alcohol also leads directly to inflammation of organs like the liver or brain which have long-term consequences for health and longevity. Alcoholism has been linked with an increased risk for various conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver– one of the major causes of premature death in developed countries – as well as stroke and cancer. Overall, while excessive alcohol consumption can harm your health in many ways, there are plenty of ways that you can stay healthy and happy without it.

Whether you choose to cut back gradually or replace alcohol, sugar, and dairy remember that small changes over time can make a big difference. So give yourself permission to choose your health, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation or apology for it.

We are here to support you at Sapien and believe that knowledge is power. We are never going to judge you with whatever you decide, and truly just want to help you reach your goals and to see you thrive. We love you!

Stephanie Powers, LME

President of Sapien Skin

The Anti-aging Power of Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a top contender in the world of skincare hype, but is it worth the hefty price tag? Put simply, YES, but only if it is the right one. That’s right, not all products touting vitamin C deserve a spot on your shelf, but let’s circle back to that.

Other than being a crucial component in protecting our precious collagen, Vitamin C is a nutrient your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, absorb and store iron, and also has a vital role in the body’s healing process.

Vitamin C for Health

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells against the effects of free radicals aka unstable DNA ravaging molecules that are produced intrinsically when your body breaks down oxidative foods and alcohol, or extrinsically when we are exposed to smoke, radiation from light or X-rays, and pollutants. Free radicals contribute largely to the aging process and play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Because your body doesn’t produce vitamin C, you need to get it from both your diet and topically from your skincare. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, berries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli and spinach. Most people can get enough vitamin C from a healthy, well rounded diet. Vitamin C deficiency is more likely in people who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoking, have certain gastrointestinal conditions or certain types of cancer, or have a limited diet that doesn’t regularly include fruits and vegetables.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin C is 90 milligrams for adult men and 75 milligrams for adult women.

Topical Vitamin C for Skin Health

It’s important to distinguish the separate need for both oral and topical vitamins. The Vitamin C we ingest is not going to translate the way we want it to our skin. Even when you have a diet rich in Vitamin C, your skin still needs high quality, potent topical Vitamin C because there is no direct blood supply to the skin to deliver nutrients.

Vitamin C helps the skin to:

  1. Combat existing sun damage
  2. Strengthens and protects collagen
  3. Smooths wrinkles
  4. Minimize inflammation
  5. Brighten and even skin tone
  6. Neutralizes free radicals
  7. Boost efficacy of your other skin care products like you SPF and retinol

So, you’re on board and decide to add absorbic acid to your routine, but here’s the catch: buying Vitamin C can be tricky because a large portion of vitamin C products on the market have already eroded or oxidized before you even bring them home. Additionally, many of these products have not been tested for efficacy and have no mechanism of action, or a way of interacting with your skin in a helpful way.

Ineffective products being sold to unknowing consumers sadly is common practice with any type skincare products. Thankfully as long as you stick to medical/ proffesioanl grade skincare, you’ll be on the right track. It does generally have a higher price to get a product formulated with high quality ingredients combined with advanced formulations and clinical studies, but it is always worth it to get a product that does the job it is supposed to.

Stay dewy my friends.

Xoxo, Jess

Shop my favorites here

5 Ways to Battle Winter Skin Blues

When the cold weather starts to set in, many of us find our skin feeling a little bit drier than usual. In fact, winter is notorious for wreaking havoc on our skin. The low humidity, harsh wind, and dry heat from turning up the heaters can really take a toll, leaving our skin feeling dry, itchy, and potentially even cracked. If you’re looking for ways to battle the winter skin blues, read on! In this blog post, we will discuss five tips that will help to improve your skin’s condition this winter.

1. Reduce exposure to dehydrating and inflammatory factors such as sleeplessness, poor diet, sugar, alcohol, diary, gluten, etc.

The low humidity and harsh wind can also have an inflammatory effect on the skin, leading to more redness and sensitivity and this compounds with other intrinsic and extrinsic factors. To help combat this, be sure to drink plenty of water, rest, stick with an anti-inflammatory diet and schedule time to take care of yourself. This will help keep your skin happy from the inside out.

2. Use a humidifier.

If your home is particularly dry, or if you’re cranking up the heater during the winter months, using a humidifier can be a big help. This will add moisture to the air and help keep your skin hydrated. Click the link HERE to shop some Sapien approved humidifiers on our Amazon storefront.

3. Avoid hot baths and showers.

Hot baths and showers can further dehydrate your skin by speeding up TEWL aka trans-epidermal water loss, so it’s best to avoid them if you can. Instead, try taking lukewarm or tepid baths and showers, which will help to retain your skin’s moisture.

4. Don’t let up on the SPF

While the winter weather can be harsh on our skin, the UVA rays from both indoor and outdoor light can be just as damaging. UV radiation can cause a lot of stress and inflammation and that damage leads to wrinkles, age spots, and even skin cancer. That’s why it’s important to protect your skin from the sun year-round by using sunscreen and other sun protection products and methods.

5. Apply moisturizer regularly.

Last but not least, be sure to apply moisturizer regularly and reapply throughout the day. This will help keep your skin hydrated and protected from the elements. Here are a few of our favorites; Click the link HERE to learn more and shop.

Bonus tip: It’s important to make sure you’re drinking enough fluids during the winter months, especially if your skin is feeling dry. Staying hydrated will help keep your skin hydrated as well by supporting your entire body.

The cold weather can be tough on our skin, but following these five tips should help improve your skin’s condition. Be sure to drink plenty of water, rest, stick with an anti-inflammatory diet, avoid hot baths and showers, reapply your SPF daily and apply moisturizer regularly. If you’re still experiencing problems with your skin, it may be a good idea to consult with your favorite esthetician at Sapien Skin. To book a consultation or service, click the link HERE.



Dark Circles & Puffy Eyes 101

How can dark circles be improved? As you may know, with all questions regarding skin concerns, the answer inevitably lands on it depends. There are multiple factors which can contribute to infraorbital dark circles, puffiness, or undereye “bags”. In order to determine how to improve the concern, we have to identify which factors are contributing and create a customized strategy to manage it.

What do they look like? 


  • Appearance of puffiness surrounding the eye area
  • Padded “bags” below the eye accentuated by a mild or deep line underneath often causing shadowing

Dark Circles:

  • Purple / blueish darkness in the inner corners of the eyes and within the tear trough region

What causes this?

Dark circles can be the result of a variety of factors including deep facial anatomy, excessive pigmentation, soft tissue changes, thin eyelid skin, and shadowing due to skin laxity. As we age, we experience a breakdown of fatty tissue and collagen around the eye area. Weakening muscular structure around the eyelids can also release its hold on the fatty tissues surrounding the eyes. This can be hereditary, from sun exposure, or a result of normal aging.

Puffiness / bags: 

  • UV damage
  • Intrinsic aging
  • Medications

Dark Circles:

  • Thinning skin (collagen loss)
  • Fatty tissue loss
  • Allergies
  • Medications
  • Lack of sleep/fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Smoking
  • Hyperpigmentation (most commonly seen in higher Fitzpatrick types)
  • Genetics
  • Dehydration
  • Sinus congestion
  • Inflammation   

What are the treatment options?

The first treatment option should be to strengthen and improve the integrity of the tissue surrounding the eyes, while preventing further degradation from occurring. You know what that means. SPF, baby. Other lifestyle and home care factors will also be reviewed between you and your esthetician in order to have a customized strategy.

Internal Factors

  • Omega 3
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron supplements (anemia)
  • Allergy medication / antihistamines 
  • Improve sleep patterns
  • Eliminate allergens / smoking
  • Collagen supplements — primarily to support hydration retention
  • Reduce alcohol, sugar, and caffeine consumption
  • Stress reduction
  • Avoid excess salt
  • Sleep with head elevated (extra pillow)
  • Cold compresses 

Before making any adjustments to your vitamins or supplements Always consult with your physician.

Professional Treatment Options


  • Facial massage to increase circulation in the area (monthly)
  • Superficial peels
  • Lymphatic drainage
  • LED therapy
  • Collagen Induction Therapy


  • Fillers
  • Surgery (blepharoplasty)

Homecare strategies

  • Always use SPF and reapply, including the eye area
  • Apply ingredients gently with a tapping motion at the ocular orbit
  • Use Vitamin A / Retinoids at night
  • Use Vitamin C / Antioxidants during the day
  • Wear sunglasses and hats to protect the skin from UV rays
  • Practice at home orbital massage

Eye Treatment Products

ZO Skin Health Growth Factor Eye Serum

Powered by clinically proven ZO® Growth Factor technology, Growth Factor Eye Serum is designed to improve the appearance of expression lines, creasing + hollowness while plumping + encouraging healthy skin for a visibly revived look. The cooling applicator soothes the skin + re-invigorates the look of tired eyes.

ZO Skin Health Eye Brightening Créme

Specially designed for the delicate eye area. Helps minimize the multiple signs of aging, support skin’s elasticity, reduce puffiness, dark circles and fine lines.

Colorescience 3 in 1 Total Eye SPF Treatment

 Total Eye® 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35 visibly improves the appearance of dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, and wrinkles while protecting the delicate eye area against photoaging with 100% SPF 35 mineral sunscreen.

Skin Ceuticals AOX Eye Gel

AOX+ Eye Gel is a groundbreaking serum-in-a-gel that contains a synergistic combination of 5% pure vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid), 1% phloretin, and 0.5% ferulic acid along with powerful botanicals to protect the delicate eye area from atmospheric skin aging – environmental damage and premature signs of aging caused by free radicals from UVA/UVB, infrared radiation (IRA), and ozone pollution (O3). This refreshing eye serum targets visible signs of aging such as crow’s feet and fine lines, and improves the appearance of puffiness, fatigue, and under eye circles.

IS Clinical Youth Eye Complex

Youth Eye Complex is a breakthrough formula that utilizes advanced technologies to combat the visual signs of aging. This formula is clinically proven to target visual areas of concern and, as a result, skin looks firmer and more resilient. Powerful peptides, key growth factors, and potent antioxidants help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and visibly brighten the under-eye area to keep skin smooth, hydrated and protected all day long.

Because dark circles, under eye bags and puffiness are brought on by various factors, it’s essential to identify which factors are contributing before the right treatment plan and products can be implemented. Want to know how to start? Book a consultation or service by clicking here.




MI RYUNG ROH, & KEE YANG CHUNG. (n.d.). Infraorbital dark circles: Definition, causes … – wiley online library. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved 2022, from 

Education for the Modern Skin Care Professional. (n.d.). Retrieved 2022, from 

Park KY, Kwon HJ, Youn CS, Seo SJ, Kim MN. Treatments of Infra-Orbital Dark Circles by Various Etiologies. Ann Dermatol. 2018 Oct;30(5):522-528. doi: 10.5021/ad.2018.30.5.522. Epub 2018 Aug 28. PMID: 33911473; PMCID: PMC7992473.

Vrcek I, Ozgur O, Nakra T. Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2016 Apr-Jun;9(2):65-72. doi: 10.4103/0974-2077.184046. PMID: 27398005; PMCID: PMC4924417.