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Wendy Lewis
Chemical peel vs. microdermabrasion: Which skin resurfacing technique is best for you?
Fashion & Beauty
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The term resurfacing is used to describe a wide range of skin treatments from superficial chemical peels and microdermabrasion, to ablative laser resurfacing. These procedures can resurface damaged outer layers of the skin to reduce wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots, age spots, freckles, blotchiness, mild scarring, some forms of acne lesions, precancerous lesions, and red veins.


Peels vary according to their active ingredients, strength, length of time on the skin, and the pH. They are all similar in that they involve applying a chemical solution to remove damaged outer layers of skin so that newer layers can replace them. A peel treatment consists of the application of a chemical exfoliating solution to the skin.

Depending on the severity of the skin damage, the solutions are applied in varying concentrations to alter the superficial, medium, or deep layers of the skin. Superficial peels, often referred to as lunchtime peels, are the most commonly used because they require minimal downtime. The deeper a peel penetrates, the more visible results you can achieve, but the longer the recovery may be. Most peels can be performed on the face, neck, chest, hands, arms, and legs. Your doctor may use a combination of chemicals for your procedure to tailor the treatment specifically to your skin type and condition.

Common chemical peels

•    Glycolic Acid
•    Beta Hydroxy Acid
•    Jessner’s Peel
•    Trichloracetic Acid (TCA)

Chemical peel techniques

You must be free of active skin infections, including acne and any type of cold sore, including herpes simplex. You must also not have taken Accutane® for a period of 12 months before a treatment, depending on your doctor’s specifications. You will be asked to limit your sun exposure before the peel. A peel treatment begins with cleansing the skin and removing all traces of grease with rubbing alcohol or acetone. The face is then rinsed with water and dried with a small fan. The doctor or nurse applies the peeling agent so that all areas of the skin to be treated are covered evenly. The peeling solution is left in place for a few minutes and then thoroughly neutralized or removed with water.

  • Superficial Peels
    These peels use mild chemical solutions like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid to lightly peel the skin with almost no recovery involved. They are typically done in a series to maintain results over time. Your face may seem slightly pink followed by temporary flaking, dryness, and scaling until your skin adjusts to the treatments. Superficial peels are usually combined with an at-home skin care regimen for best results. The solution will typically be adjusted for each treatment session based on your skin’s response.
  • Medium Peels
    Jessner’s Solution, Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA), or other solutions are used to correct pigment problems, superficial blemishes, moderate sun damage, fine lines, and acne scars. TCA peels are performed in a doctor’s office or medspa. You may feel a warm or burning sensation, which is followed by some mild stinging. Flaking, redness, and healing will take a few days to a week to resolve.
  • Deep Peels
    Phenol and croton oil peels are usually one-time procedures. They can produce more dramatic, long-term results on wrinkles, brown age spots, mild scarring, and pre-cancerous growths. Because phenol peels can cause permanently lighten skin, they are not recommended for darker skin tones and require that sunscreen be used at all times afterward. Phenol peels are performed in a doctor’s office or surgical center. A full-face, deep chemical peel requires twilight anesthesia.


Microdermabrasion is considered a peel alternative. It entails blasting the face with sterile micro-particles to rub off the very top skin layer, then vacuuming out the particles and the dead skin. Through a wand-like hand piece, tiny aluminum oxide or salt crystals are delivered at high velocity onto the skin’s surface and immediately vacuumed away with the same instrument, taking the top-most layer of dead skin cells with it. The technique exfoliates and gently resurfaces the skin, promoting the formation of new, smoother skin. It is usually performed on the face and neck but can be performed on any part of the body, including the hands, chest, arms, and legs.

Microdermabrasion can improve rough skin texture, some types of mild scarring, uneven pigmentation, and superficial brown spots. It is also good for acne lesions, blackheads, some stretch marks, and fine wrinkles. Microdermabrasion can be safely used for all skin types. The results are similar to a light chemical peel with no need for anesthesia and no downtime. Tiny crystals are sprayed on the skin and suctioned back up into the machine. The pressure can be varied to control the amount of penetration or pass over an area several times to remove the most damaged skin. Each treatment can take about 30-45 minutes. A typical regimen consists of a series of four to eight treatments done at intervals of two to four weeks. Your skin will have a pink glow and feel as smooth as glass after the treatment. Microdermabrasion can be combined with other resurfacing procedures, such as peeling solutions and infusion of cosmeceuticals.

Microdermabrasion basics

Costs: Treatments vary in cost according to the area treated, the individual physician, and the geographic location. Generally, superficial peels or midcrodermabrasion can range from $150 to $350, whereas TCA peels can cost from $500 to $2,000. Typically peels performed in a medical setting are more potent than treatments done in a salon or spa, where only superficial peels are usually offered.

Recovery: Light peels and microdermabrasion treatments require little or no downtime. After the procedure, the skin may be coated with a mild ointment or cooling gel. With all peels it is important to avoid sun exposure for several months to protect the newly formed layers of skin.

Risks and side effects: Possible complications from deeper peel treatments may include infection, scarring, temporary or permanent color change in the skin, and uneven pigment changes. Darker skin types are at a higher risk for hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration.
When you’re ready to discuss skin resurfacing treatments with your dermatologist, bring this list of questions with you.

Questions to ask your dermatologist about skin resurfacing treatment

• Is this the most effective treatment for my skin type and condition?

• Is my skin type appropriate for this type of treatment?

• What are the possible side effects?

• How long lasting are the results?

• How many treatments will I need?

• How often should I have a treatment?

• What will happen if I stop having treatments?

• What is the recovery process?

• When can I wear makeup?

• When can I start using my normal skin care regimen again?

• Is there anything I should be using on my skin before the treatment?

• Are intravenous sedation or local anesthesia necessary?

• Is this treatment best done during the winter or when I will not be outdoors?

• Who will be administering my treatment and what are his/her qualifications?

Have you had chemical peels or microdermabrasion? What was your experience? Please share your tips in the comments section below!

My Veins are Shot
Other Topics
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Giving blood is a great thing to do. Donating your healthy blood to blood banks is terrific. When I was in college I started donating blood. I learned then that my veins are not very cooperative. They look good but they roll away from the needle.

Fast forward a few decades and my veins were tested to their limit with chemotherapy. I chose not to have a port inserted because that part of the whole cancer treatment regime was what freaked me out. Subsequently my chemo had to be administered into my veins in my arm. Because of my breast cancer surgeries only one arm could be used. The chemo drugs are very toxic. The nurses who administer wear heavy gloves, and yet this poison went into my veins. My veins did not like it. They rolled, collapsed, burst and generally made life difficult.

As a result of my treatments, the only place that I can get blood out of my body for a blood test is from my hand. It hurts a bit and the top of my hand is all scarred from my many blood tests as a cancer survivor. My doctor went so far as to recommend I wear a medical alert bracelet!  I just can’t bring myself to wear a bracelet that says, “Veins Suck, Use Right Hand” or “Veins Shot, Administer in Right Hand Only”.

Last week I went for my yearly visit to my oncologist.  Before the visit blood is taken. A good friend of mine had breast cancer a year after my diagnosis. We go to the same oncologist and now we schedule our appointments following each other and then go out to celebrate another year of cancer free living. She has her appointment first because her veins are not shot and her time in the lab is brief.


I don’t think there is note on my chart about my veins but let’s just say I never get the new oncology tech for the blood draw. I still tell them what size needle to use, which hand, which I make certain is warm, and I already drank about a gallon of water before the visit, all to have a timely and successful blood draw.


Anyone else with uncooperative veins?



Charmaine Coimbra
Family & Relationships
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Until sometime in November I don’t think I’ll have much time to craft a fresh blog. Life is presently in the way. (AKA buried in a community fundraiser set for Nov. 2.)  Yesterday I tried cleaning up my e-mail mess on a newer computer (with little success, mind you.) I found this post I wrote on a different blog in 2007. While my thoughts about Hillary Clinton in a possible 2016 presidential run are unformed, the foundation of this piece still rings true.

C. Coimbra photo
C. Coimbra photo

The Bitch

I’ve been thinking about this Hillary Clinton thing. You know, how she is in a horse race with other Democratic candidates, and how “she’s polarizing,” and how freely men and women call her a bitch.

For clarification, Mrs. Clinton is not my candidate of choice. Not because she’s polarizing or because I don’t believe she’s qualified. She hasn’t sold me on her platform. But I’m proud of her because she has tossed herself into the lion’s den of presidential politics. You go, girl.

But back to this bitch business. I wonder how many times I’ve been called a bitch? Was I a bitch because I have strapped “them” on and wrestled the proverbial bulls? Did I wear the title because I stood for my beliefs? Is it bitchy because I’m the boss and confident with decision making? I don’t know. However, I suspect that because I have refused (or been unable) to act subservient or lesser-than, that the bitch word has likely been attached to certain conversations about me.

Have I ever called another woman a bitch? Guilty as charged. I’ve regretted it every time. What makes me think I have the right to assume that another woman’s crankiness isn’t completely justified? And, yes, there are women who I’ve seen misconstrue power and behave badly—just like our buddies of the opposite sex. But only one in these circumstances is nailed with bitch.

Recently, a wealthy man said that what makes a person whole and successful is compassion. I guess he was simply saying that compassion towards others is good karma. I haven’t the foggiest as to whether it was his compassion that made him wealthy, but at least he brought the single most repetitive precept of Jesus Christ to the forefront, compassion.

I don’t know why these simple rules go unnoticed except that a sage woman once told me, “Charmaine, when you look at others you see them through your own soul first. So if there is darkness in your soul, your vision is unclear.” Don’t believe for a moment that I’ve mastered the art of a clear soul. I’ve an Irish temper that is wise to avoid fueling, and barely an ounce of patience flows through my veins. However, when I hear random shouts of “Bitch!” it makes me mindful of how I can better myself and the world in which I dwell.


spider and varicose veins
Healthy Living

what is the best procedure to minimize spider and varicose veins?

VN Editors
Dyspareunia: Is the pain in your head, or your uterus?
Love & Sex
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Dyspareunia, painful sex, is a symptom that can be caused by a wide variety of different conditions. Do you know which one is causing your problem? Is the pain of dyspareunia in your head, or your uterus?

Painful Sex

Sex can become painful for all sorts of reasons, but female dryness may be the most common. Lack of lubrication may be part of a physical problem, like menopause or pregnancy. A change in hormones will quite often affect your personal moisture. Stress and even diet can have an impact on dryness as well. If you’re thinking about pain or stressing about a problem, your body is going to have a hard time creating the moisture it needs to make sex a pleasurable act. Without it, you experience the pain of dyspareunia instead.

Is the pain all in your head because you’re tired, or stressed, or thinking about the Christmas shopping you haven’t done yet? Once you experience female dryness, it’s on your mind. You may be thinking about that problem the next time a chance for intimacy arises, and then the circle repeats.

It’s very common and very natural. But is your dyspareunia really so simple? Sometimes, dyspareunia isn’t caused by what’s going on in your head. Sometimes, the pain is a signal that something may be going on with your uterus.

Physical Ailments

Dyspareunia is almost always a symptom of something else, or a side effect of another condition. Sex isn’t meant to be painful, so you know that something is wrong when it is. Maybe it’s PCS.

Pelvic Congestion Syndrome is difficult to find through traditional testing. This condition relates to large veins in the pelvic region which cause pelvic pain, during sex and at other times. You may also experience urinary tract infections, low back pain and very painful sex if you have this condition. Pay attention to other symptoms you may be having, in addition to dyspareunia, because they may indicate that you have a larger condition that needs to be treated.

Fibroids, non-cancerous tumors in the uterus, can also cause dyspareunia. Many women have fibroids and don’t realize it until they begin experience pain or symptoms (like unusual bleeding). If you’re having pain and can’t pinpoint the cause, an ultrasound can tell you definitely if you have fibroids getting in the way of good sex.

Preventing the Pain

Painful sex isn’t always in the pelvis or even in the mind. Some women suffer from chronic pain due to arthritis, back problems and other conditions. There are many ways to work around pain and still find ways to enjoy sex. If female dryness is causing your dyspareunia, try lubricants or vaginal estrogen cream. If chronic pain is causing the problem, try new positions and different forms of sexual enjoyment.

Don’t decide to live with the pain, or stop enjoying sex because of it. Dyspareunia is a condition that can be defeated. Find out what’s causing it and move on from there.