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beauty, simplified

Hi... 

Thank you so much for signing up for my bi-weekly beauty newsletter, Skinlexicon—beauty, simplified. As you know, this passion project started out as a design newsletter, Stylexicon but after many DM's and a recent poll on my Instagram, I realized there is a high demand for beauty content from me, so here goes.

Since there is a lot of beauty content out there already I really had to think long and hard about the purpose of this newsletter and what I could offer that differentiated it from the noise online. For me, it really came down to simplicity. I am personally overwhelmed by the explosion of product launches in the beauty and skincare space, so I can only imagine how confusing it is to those who don't work in the industry—not to mention the greater impact all the additional packaging is having on the environment. Props go out to brands like Versed (founded by the company behind Who What Wear) for making sustainability part of their business plan—they skip excess packaging like inserts and boxes for bigger items and use recyclable packaging wherever possible (they're 92% recyclable and working on 100%).

So, my mission is clear—to make skincare simple, relatable, practical, comprehensive, and affordable. I'm going to draw on my community of experts to answer your burning questions, to decode skincare ingredients and buzzy trends, and to provide logical no b.s. advice so you're educated and empowered to buy the skincare that matches your concerns. Because let's face it, less is always more.

I'll also be featuring interviews with some of my favorite skincare experts from estheticians to dermatologists, and more. We're kicking it off this week with the "king of glow," Matthew Miller. Not only is Matthew a gifted esthetician, but he is also a fountain of knowledge with a truly no-filter approach to skincare and education—he is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram because he's always dropping truth bombs about ingredients or buzzy trends in a super relatable way. In this interview, he shares his top 2 most common skincare misconceptions, the 3 skin product essentials everyone should have, and his honest thoughts on the "clean" beauty movement.

This will also be a platform for product reviews so please let me know about the brands you want me to review, along with any topics or questions you'd like me to cover. You can email me at sachastrebe@gmail.com

Kindest,
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MY TOP 5 BEAUTY STORIES ONLINE
  • I am not afraid of being a guinea pig in the name of new beauty treatments. I have always been intrigued by Fraxel but have no need for it on my face so I went in to see Dr. Nancy at Facile to have fraxel on my sun-damaged chest—I wrote a story about it with before and afters for Byrdie
     
  • I think there is a lot of fear-mongering around injectables. I have always been really open about getting fillers and even wrote a few stories for MyDomaine detailing my experiences. Here is my story about having lip fillers and under-eye fillers—filling up the bone loss in my face with micro-fillers was a game-changer!
     
  • I am a huge fan of laser and Forma is one of my favorites for skin tightening. (I am also a huge fan of Laser Genesis which I get from Kate Somerville). Here is a detailed account of my experience with the celebrity-approved treatment because everyone deserves to know about this one—you see noticeable, incredible results immediately post-treatment.
     
  • If you're still intrigued by PRP, then read my story about how I used my own blood as an anti-aging serum post-Clear & Brilliant laser. Dr. Jennifer Hermann is incredibly experienced and this was a really fun one with great results. I highly recommend the Clear & Brilliant laser on its own too, without the PRP, because it's great for improving skin texture, clarity, and tone. I just had picot laser for a few dark spots—story coming soon.
     
  • Okay, so this one isn't about skin, but it is about beauty. It's actually a non-toxic hair relaxing treatment that I had at Meche Salon. Tania Whittier is leading the charge of the non-toxic movement and this treatment has been such a game-changer for me. It naturally relaxes the hair to reduce frizz and ensure soft, luscious locks for about 4 to 6 months depending on hair type. The treatment will set you back $450 but it's worth it when you consider all the time you save not blow-drying or straightening your hair every day. I just air-dry and go. It's brilliant. 
SKINCARE SPOTLIGHT WITH MATTHEW MILLER

Beauty is a broad term, but what does it mean to you?
Beauty to me is owning who you are and being secure in your skin. I am not here to “fix” anyone, just help keep them beautiful.

Having your own business while being creative is a juggle. What motivates you to keep going?
Passion. I truly love what I do, and never feel like I am working. I've also been working from a very early age to help support myself, so I don’t know what to do if I'm not working.

Why did you become an esthetician? How long did you work for someone else before you started out on your own? 
After attending university and realizing I was accumulating massive debt for something I felt no passion for, I dropped out. After working random jobs here and there, I realized I had to decide on something concrete. I originally thought I wanted to be a makeup artist, so I went to school for aesthetics. I quickly realized I have absolutely no artistic ability but fell in love with the skincare side and the science behind it.

What do you love about taking care of people's skin? 
In everyday life, I am more introverted and not a very social person. My job gives me the opportunity to really connect with people, all while making them feel better about themselves. I also love that every client is completely different. Different treatments, different skin, different approaches... I love it!

What are the biggest skin misconceptions you’d like to debunk once and for all? 
There are so many but here are two of the biggest I come across:

Misconception #1: SPF in your makeup is adequate protection.
This is false, you’d have to use so much makeup in order to get the proper protection from the SPF in makeup. You definitely still need to apply an SPF before makeup application. 

Misconception #2: Oily skin doesn’t need moisturizer.
All skin needs hydration. If you are truly oily, you can get away with a hydration mist or a serum with moisturizing properties. However, most who think they are oily, is just constantly stripping their skin with mattifying or exfoliating products to combat oil or shine. This is not only horrible for the skin but can actually cause your skin to produce more oil because it’s dehydrated. 

What’s the biggest skin mistake people always make? Why? How can we fix it?
Picking. I know how hard it is to not focus on a planet growing from your face, but do not pop or pick! You can treat it with a spot treatment or a pimple patch. Most people aren’t going to take this advice so if you are going to do it, follow these steps: 

1. Make sure the blemish is at a head. Never try to pop hormonal/cystic breakouts. 
2. Make sure the area is clean.
3. Wrap your fingers with tissue to prevent your nails from digging into the skin.
4. Get close to the blemish and give two gentle squeezes max. 
5. If nothing happens after two gentle squeezes. LEAVE IT ALONE. 
6. If it does drain, clean the area so the bacteria doesn’t spread. Following, treat the skin with nourish and hydration (not exfoliation) for a speedier recovery. 

Another is not exfoliating or exfoliating too much. Balance is everything. It depends on the product but most exfoliation should be done two to three times a week. If you are unsure of what to use, enzymes or Lactic Acid are a good go-to for most skin types. 

What are the 3 skin product essentials everyone should have in their routine? Explain each and why. 

SPF—The only product that will truly slow down damage leading to premature aging—85% of the signs of aging in our skin is caused by the sun.

Vitamin C—A powerful antioxidant, vital for collagen production, and brightening. 

Vitamin A (Retinol)—there are many forms of vitamin A, so don’t let the word Retinol scare you. It does not have to be irritating if you are using the correct product. Retinol is often referred to as the holy grail ingredient in skincare. It keeps skin cells constantly resurfacing. This means fewer fine lines, dark spots, and an overall more healthy look to the skin. 

There are so many buzzy new treatments out there, lasers, and new ingredients we have to try, but how can we know what is legit and what’s just a fad? 
Lasers, peels, LED, microcurrent... I can keep going on and on. All of these treatments are great, however, it’s not one size fits all. What might be great for one person, may be damaging or counterproductive for another, it’s all about going to someone reputable and with the proper education to steer you in the right direction. I personally don’t work with lasers, but if I feel a client would benefit from them, I will definitely refer them to someone who does. At the end of the day, the health of the client's skin should come first. 

What treatments/products do you swear by for instant glow?
A truly healthy glow comes from the inside. Sure Retinol, Vitamin C, enzymes, facial oils, and other products can help make the skin amazing, but gut health keeps it constant. Poor diet and exercise definitely reflect in the skin. I am also big on pre- and probiotics, for optimal gut health and skin clarity. 

There are so many skincare brands now too, how can the average person read an ingredients list with confidence and know they are getting bang for their buck as well as an effective product that does what it says? 
Ingredients are listed in ascending order based on the quantity of that ingredient in the formulation. Formulations can be tricky, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure the “active” ingredients are near the top of the ingredient list. I never recommend fragrance in products, especially if the fragrance is higher up in the list, or before an active ingredient. 

What is your skincare philosophy?
Balance. I believe skincare is holistic, a healthy lifestyle will yield the best results. Besides proper diet and exercise, we should concentrate on nourishment and hydration just as much, if not more, as exfoliating. Most of our skin issues stem from inflammation, we want to combat that as much as possible. 

Name your top 3 skincare IG accounts (that are educational) and why?
@the.master.aesthetician really devoted her time and education to her Instagram. It's a constant source of knowledge and advice.

@kindofstephen takes the BS out of skincare and gives you FACTS.

@funskincare gives great ingredient education. 

What are your thoughts on the new “clean” skincare movement? 
There is a lot of fear-mongering happening in beauty right now. Botched studies and inaccurate information can spread like wildfire in the age of Instagram. Yes, you don’t want a product filled with mostly fillers, irritants, and other harmful ingredients. However, words like “clean” and “natural” have no regulations. Not that these products are bad, but it’s all about education. Natural doesn’t equate to good, just as lab-made ingredients don’t equate to bad. Some natural ingredients can actually be more harmful and irritating to the skin. 

What's your one tip for people who haven’t taken care of their skin before and don’t know where to start? 
Keep it simple. 

Gentle, sulfate drew cleanser AM and PM.
Exfoliate 1-3x a week
Moisturize AM and PM 
SPF daily 

Once they get on that routine we can build from there!

MY CURRENT 12- (OR MORE) STEP SKINCARE ROUTINE

Cleanser
Cosmedix Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser
Skinmedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
I love an exfoliating cleanser to slough off dead skin cells to keep blackheads away and keep my skin feeling smooth and fresh. Both of these are also incredibly gentle on the skin and never irritate or dry my skin out. 

Toner
Cosmedix Purity Balance Exfoliating Prep Toner
I'm a big fan of using acids and this one has both of my favorites, salicylic and lactic acids. I have been using this toner for at least 10 years now and it is truly one of my hero products. I love how it removes excess oil or residue (including makeup) to reveal smooth, clear skin. It can also be used as a spot treatment for breakouts and I've even used it in lieu of a cleanser when I forgot to pack it on a work trip once. It's really an amazing product. 

Serums
iS Clinical White Lightening Serum
I was gifted this product about two months ago and have been using it every day since and I do think that my skin overall is brighter and firmer. It's really lightweight (a waterlike essence consistency) too which I like because I use a lot of serums and if they're too heavy it can pill which I loathe. It is also paraben free.

The other brightening cream I LOVE is Skinmedica's Lytera. This product really works to help even skin tone and manage pigmentation. I'm super obsessed with even skin tone so I have several brightening serums in my regimen, including Cosmedix X-Cell which also has niacinamide and microencapsulated Retinol. I love mixing it with their Vitamin C crystals for an added boost.

iS Clinical Super Serum Advance
This one is also lightweight but I love it because it has a really high concentration of L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), a whopping 15% to be exact. I also love the Cosmedix Vitamin C crystals which you can combine with any serum or moisturizer—Versed also has one.

Cosmedix Refine RX Retinol Resurfacing Treatment
I have been using retinol for years so I can handle the highest strength version from Cosmedix but if you're just starting out or have sensitive skin, they have a range of retinol so you can work your way up. Serum 16 is a good place to start.

Skinmedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator
There are a lot of hyaluronic acid serums out there—I mean, a lot—but after trying almost everything out there (well, not all, but a lot!) I consistently come back to this one. It works, plain and simple. I have been testing out the new Versed Hydration Station too which is more of a watery essence than a serum, but it is nice to pat into the skin for a refresh later in the day when it's feeling dry. 

Cosmedix Cell ID
Matthew Miller recommends this serum to almost everyone. It has really high levels of Niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3 that helps to manage acne, rosacea, pigmentation issues, and wrinkles. This is a really nice everyday defense serum. 

Moisturizer
Cosmedix X-Age
I have been using this moisturizer for about a year now and I notice the difference in my skin texture and overall appearance when I stop using it. This is worth the $$. It has encapsulated Vitamin A and a ton of antioxidants to help improve the texture and elasticity of aging skin. I just really love it. I mix it with my face oil every night for added hydration and dewy skin. Humidify is also lovely when I want something hydrating but lightweight. 

Oils
DMK Seba-E Oil
I was first introduced to this face oil through Matthew Miller and I have been hooked (actually I think it's safe to say obsessed) with this face oil ever since. I love to mix it with my moisturizer and even reapply it throughout the day for dewy, glowy skin. It can be mixed with makeup too. Mara Beauty Universal Face Oil is also really beautiful and great mixed with makeup as is the new face 100% organic oil by Kohza Numbers (touted as a daily supplement serum with vitamins A, C, and E).

Eyes
Cosmedix Eye Doctor
This magical eye cream is hands down one of the best ones out there. Honestly, you have to own this product. It is like eye cream and a highlighter in one. Their Opti-Eye Crystal (which is slightly cheaper) is also great and one of their best-selling products. But I personally prefer the Eye Doctor because it has retinol and feels more targeted to my anti-aging needs.  

Sunscreen
iS Clinical Eclipse SPF 50+
This is almost like a mousse in texture, it's light, not too oily and mixes into the skin without leaving a white residue, but also keeps my skin dewy. I love the size of the bottle and I use it for my face and body. It's paraben free and doesn't have any active chemical ingredients. My husband had a terrible reaction to oxybenzone and avobenzone so if you're sensitive please look out for that ingredient and avoid sunscreens that have it.

Face Mist
iS Clinical Copper Firming Mist
I have tried sooo many face mists but this is by far my favorite. It does feel firming and is a great spritz to set makeup. I also really love Cosmedix mystic. It smells so good and is incredibly hydrating. 
Thank you for reading this all the way to the end! If you have any industry news, brand updates, new product launches, or stories you'd like to share or see featured, please email me: sachastrebe@gmail.com

Image 1: Tasya Van Ree
Image 2: Jenna Peffley
Image 3. Matthew Miller
Image 4: Tasya Van Ree
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