Skin Care

Spa Treatments with CBD for Pain Relief and more.

So I recently wrote about using CBD oil to manage my MS symptoms. Since I started adding CBD to my daily regimen, I experience less brain fog during the day, less anxiety, and almost no debilitating fatigue. However, there hasn’t been any improvement in my chronic pain or spasticity. I initially wanted to try a topical CBD product to alleviate these symptoms. However, Brandi Bovell of Affordable Spa Services had a better idea: try spa treatments with CBD products!

I like spa treatments! And I like CBD products! This makes sense! I will make time for this self-care!

Let’s Recap: What is CBD?

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive component of industrial hemp. (Translation: CBD does not get you high.) It affects the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, including but not limited to pain-sensation, mood, and memory. CBD products have been shown to soothe anxiety, stress, pain, and insomnia. The ingredient has soared in popularity over the past few years, and it can now be found in a number of products, pain creams, moisturizers, gummies, teas, beer, ice cream, massage oils, and dog treats, just to name a few.

My initial experience with CBD products was good – so much so, that I continue to take CBD oil to this day. I have more focus and energy, and less anxiety. I consider it a tool to help me deal with my very, very stressful life. However, it has not helped me with my chronic pain – which is mainly due to my MS, but I can’t help but think that being a 42-year-old woman who is stressed and busy and spends a lot of time in front of a computer is contributing at least  partially to my pain issues. In other words, it’s very easy to blame everything on a chronic condition, but it may not be completely fair.

When Brandi offered me the opportunity to have a CBD-infused spa day, I was all in. We’ll call this my CBD Spapertunity! 

Spa Treatments with CBD: Mineral Bath

This is the bathroom at Affordable Spa Services (Richmond, VA) where I relaxed in my CBD-infused mineral bath.

I arrived at my appointment and was taken to a room with a super-cute clawfoot tub filled with water and soaking salts. Affordable Spa Services uses the Empower® brand of soaking salts, described as, “a luxurious brand of Epsom, Dead Sea, and Pink Himalayan salts, carefully infused with a proprietary essential oil formula and third-party, lab-tested, domestically-cultivated, 2014 Farm Bill Compliant hemp-derived Cannabidiol (CBD).”

That ticks all the important boxes. As you know, quality is extremely important to me.

So, I stepped into the super-cute clawfoot tub. I will spare you the bathtub pics.

Let me just say:

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

I felt relief! After a few minutes, my pain had subsided – from where I typically am on the 1-10 scale (a 5-6) to a 2-3.

I soaked and soaked. It was wonderful. My only wish was that I could soak the side of my face more , since my MS causes trigeminal neuralgia, and the water level didn’t quite reach as far as my face. They call it there “hydroponic” treatment. TEE-HEE!

My time in the tub was up. On to the next part of my CBD Spapertunity!

Spa Treatments with CBD: The Massage

Now I have had massages before. Every massage therapist has his or her own technique. And as a general rule, I don’t like massages. I find that they are not effective, or cause me pain and discomfort. I usually walk out of the massage therapist’s office feeling as if I have wasted my money. And there is always the caveat that you have to keep going back to see a real difference. Well, why would I go back if I didn’t receive any benefit or enjoy it the first time?

This was not the case with my CBD-infused massage.

Massage room at Affordable Spa Services

My massage therapist was an imposing figure who towers over me (as many people do) and has enough muscles in her arms and hands that she could potentially break me in half. But attached to those arms and hands are fingers of MAGIC. Over the course of the massage, her magic fingers worked knots out of several areas, including my back, shoulder, and neck.

So What Makes it a CBD-Infused Massage?

The experience was enhanced with the use of CBD-infused massage oil by a company called apothecanna, based out of Denver. CO. Their mission is simple: to spread the wisdom of traditional plant medicine. (OK, I’m on board with that). According to their website, they, “thoughtfully source organic and wildcrafted essential oils from their native regions of the world… do not use artificial ingredients, fillers, parabens or GMO ingredients.”  The company does not test their products on animals, and strive to create products with uncompromised purity, quality, and functionality.

The massage lotion contained a combination of arnica, peppermint, juniper, and cannabis (CBD). Each ingredient is designed to provide a specific therapeutic element:

  • Arnica: heals bruising and relieves sprains
  • Peppermint: relieves pain and soothes skin
  • Juniper: reduces swelling and soothes nerves
  • Cannabis (CBD): anti-inflammatory and relieves stress

It may have been the relaxing mineral bath that I took before the massage. It may have been Ms. Magic Fingers who was working away my knots. Or it may have been the pain-relieving CBD cream. Maybe it was a combination of all three. But I can say that this one of the best (read: therapeutic and effective) massages I have ever received.

Spa Treatments with CBD: Skin Care

Oh, but we can’t forget about this face, can we?

Dr. Jess Norris sitting in the lobby of Affordable Spa Services, Richmond VA

I know what you are thinking: Why mess with perfect?

Truth be told, some of the medicines that I have taken over the past few years have really done a number on my skin. Cystic acne, dehydration, and hyperpigmentation have all been my nemesis since my MS diagnosis and subsequent change to my prescription medicine regimen. Alas, any skin care treatment that I have received in a spa has made things worse.  And there is always the caveat that you have to keep going back to see a real difference. Again. if I come out of the facial looking worse than when I went in, why would I come back?

And so I prepare for my skin treatment with Amanda Roberto, an aesthetician with Affordable Spa Services. Amanda knows her stuff. Also she has met Sylvester Stallone. Neat. She explained each step in the process, including the cleanse, exfoliation, serum application, and hydration. This process included applications of two CBD-infused products, including the same extra-strength lotion used during my massage (which was wonderful for my trigeminal neuralgia), and a CBD-infused facial serum.

Seriously, my skin glowed after this facial. And with the added benefit of the CBD-infused products, my face actually felt some temporary pain relief.

Spa Treatments with CBD: the Bottom Line

CBD-infused spa treatments are rapidly becoming more popular, and for good reason. Throughout my spa treatments, I experienced relaxation and pain relief. There is no doubt that I will continue to add CBD-infused products to my self-care regimen – at home and at the spa!

It’s important to remember that, when it comes to CBD products, quality counts. And unfortunately, CBD is being produced without any regulation, resulting in products that vary widely in quality. Brandi and her team of professionals have carefully vetted the CBD-infused products used at Affordable Spa Services. It is clear to me that customer safety and product quality are among their top priorities – and this is KEY when choosing any aesthetician or  massage therapist. When it comes to self-care, be sure to set your standards high.

Let me know.

8 Common Skin Care Mistakes & 8 Easy Peasy Solutions!

Affordable Spa Product Line

Have you tried all the things? Purchased all the expensive products? And still can’t find a happy place with the skin on your face?!?! The answer may be simpler then you think!

Below I’ll talk about some common at home mistakes consumers make and simple ways to break the cycle and love the skin you are in.

  1. Over or underuse of products.

Yes, using too much or too little can seriously do harm. Too much can clog your pores, leave behind a residue, or even decrease efficacy because a barrier gets created preventing absorption of the good stuff as intended. Using too little may not allow your skin to get even benefit across your whole face.  Follow this diagram below (and the instructions on your product label) to ensure you are using the correct amount.

Cleanser– use a pea sized amount, lather well

Toner- about a dime sized amount if a liquid toner on a cotton ball or a pea sized amount rubbed between clean hands if a gel toner

Serum– about the size of 2 sunflower seeds

Exfoliator– a dime sized amount

Mask- a dime sized amount

Moisturizer– About the size of 2 sunflower seeds, 4 if your skin is extremely dry

Sunscreen– 2 sunflower seeds

2. Not allowing products to dry or absorb before applying the next product.

We are all rushing from place to place, meeting to meeting. Life is busy! Don’t let it be at your skins expense. Set aside 10 minutes per day after your shower for your face. Wash your face in the shower. Apply your toner, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it to completely dry, then apply your serum, wait again for it to dry. Once your skin feels as though the serum has dried, it means your skin has slurped up the quench of vitamins, hydration, and all the juicy stuff! Next apply your moisturizer (I like a good oil moisturizer myself, but whatever your jam, do you), then once you no longer feel the tackiness, rub a little sunscreen between your 2 hands and pat gently on top. Or bonus if you use a moisturizer with sunscreen already inside, in which case you can skip the last step.

3. Washing your face with water that’s too hot!

We all know that hot water feels amazing on our bodies, but it’s not the best option for your face. Many gel cleansers now say on the bottle “rinse with cold water” or “remove with cool water” because many cleansers contain fruit acids or enzymes that should not over penetrate the epidermis. Hot water and steam dilates your pores, and that combined with over penetration of acids or enzymes can cause hyperpigmentation. Follow the instructions on your bottle.

4. Applying products in the wrong order.

Because products change the PH of your skin, and some are meant to absorb and some are meant to sit on top of the skin and protect, applying in an incorrect order can be very detrimental, and expensive. Most products clearly state on the label which order they should be used in, however if you are using products from more than one product line this can get confusing because some product lines may include 3 steps and some may include 6, for this reason if you are not a skin expert or acting on the advice of a specialist it may be best for you to stick one product line. Typically below is the correct order for most product lines:

  1. Pre-cleanse (make up remover or an oil cleanser)
  2. Cleanser (usually a gel or foaming cleanser)
  3. Exfoliator (if needed, usually once a week or once a month is enough)
  4. Mask (typically only needed once or twice per month)
  5. Toner (be careful some can over strip your skin, if you feel too dry, try
  6. Serum
  7. Moisturizer

5. Washing your face too much or too little.

Washing your face too much can cause a breakout just as fast as poor hygiene. Going crazy washing your face 4 times a day and have acne? Your skin is probably over processed. Try cutting back to twice a day, or even once a day, and try a cream cleanser during the day, and only use a foaming or gel cleanser at night before bed. If you are ready to cut back to once a day, do it at night before bedtime. Washing your face in the morning is not usually really necessary unless you sweat a lot while you sleep, or if you are a mouth breather and drool on your face while you sleep. If you aren’t washing your face daily and you have acne, try washing once a day in the evening, or twice a day using a gel or foaming cleanser in the evening and a cream cleanser in the morning.

6. Not following manufacturer’s instructions.

The specialists that designed and manufactured the skin care products we use typically have an extensive amount of knowledge and education in regards to the ingredients, use, and efficacy of them. So read the labels on the skin care products you use and follow them, usually there is also a customer service number on the bottles in case you have questions. Which is great source for free help with a products use.

7. Not drinking enough water.

The human body LOVES water. Your body is supposed to be 70% water. If your skin is dry, irritated, or you have acne, your skin may just be thirsty. Try to drink at least (8) 8oz. glasses per day, a few more if its summer or you work out a lot. Drink up!

8. Know when to see a professional.

If what you have tried is not working consistently, schedule an appointment with a Licensed Aesthetician or a Dermatologist. We all love a good DIY approach, but sometimes we need a professional. I certainly wouldn’t try to change the oil in my car myself. We all have our strengths.

Innovative treatment for acne, wrinkles, pain relief and more.

LED light therapy treatment

How I personally got rid of my acne.

I was that teen that always got picked on, “pizza face”, “zit face”, or “you can fry a French fry with all the grease on your face” became part of my daily life. Kids at school picked on me, coworkers berated me (I started working bagging groceries when I was 14), even my own mother tormented me daily (I think she thought if she insulted me enough I could somehow control my own hormones). I tried all the cleansers, scrubs, masks available, heck I worked in a grocery store, I hit the personal care aisle weekly trying product after product. Spent the little money I earned bagging groceries to visit skin therapy clinics and see professionals, nothing worked. I finally made it to my 20’s my skin started to look better, not 100% but not “make me cry with embarrassment and shame” face covering acne. Late 20’s my skin looked normal and even radiant, I thought I was in the clear. Then came my 30’s and a whole new round of crazy female hormones made their way into my life, and I was a teenager all over again, except adults are too politically correct or kind to call names, they would just stare, or say “have you tried this or that, it worked for me”, which of course I thought I had tried it all, Hello I own a day spa! I have access to the best products, the best specialists, and equipment, however suddenly what had been working no longer worked, ah ha moment! Your skin changes with the seasons, age, the environment, and stress and what has worked for the past 10 years, or the past 2 weeks may stop working today. I adjusted my products, and tried to adjust my stress level. I finally visited a dermatologist, which of course he listened to my concerns, told me my issues were hormonal and he could prescribe me a medication (spironolactone) to lower my testosterone, and thus clear the acne. I am a person who avoids medications unless I’m dying, I won’t even take a Tylenol if I get a headache, and instead I massage essential oils on my temples. I very gently explained my views to the doc, hopefully without sounding like a wack-a-doo. He smiled a beautiful ear to ear grin, and said “Well, we have this light mask that a product rep dropped off a while back to give away to an acne patient to try, and no one before wanted it because usually everyone just wants a prescription medication, you can have it to try if you would like”. A light mask? Well sure it doesn’t require me to ingest chemicals, I’ll give it a go! I accepted it, and started using it per the instruction manual for 10 minutes a day, every day and within 2 weeks my skin was transformed. I had my confidence back, along with gorgeous skin. I feel my skin looks better now, in my late 30’s then it ever has.  Because of my personal experience I decided to go back to school to earn my Master Aesthetics License so I could perform LED treatments on my clients and share this wonderful treatment with others.

So what is LED?

LED stands for light emitting diode and is essentially fast flashing lights that cause positive changes in the appearance of the skin. Another term for the use of light therapy to treat conditions of the skin is photo modulation. 

The benefits of LED technology were originally discovered by NASA while they experimented with ways to increase plant tissue growth in space, they also learned that LED’s have a similar physiological effect on human cells and tissues. Body tissues have the ability to absorb light and convert it into energy. LED’s can be used to deliver beneficial light energy to the skin. In further research NASA proved that particular wavelengths (different colors penetrate to varying depths) of LED light have positive effects on the body’s ability to regenerate and repair human tissue, as well as inducing different benefits for the skin and fascia.  This happens because LED therapy stimulates the release of ATP- (adenosine tri phosphate); an organic chemical that provides energy for many metabolic processes in living cells. Think of it as fuel for the cells: by increasing cell activity, cell repair is increased. The process is very similar to photosynthesis in plants, a reaction occurs which triggers the conversion of light energy into cell energy. More basically it harmonizes cellular activity.

“Different wavelengths of light (colors) have varying depth penetration, to stimulate different results in the skin” says Bedeha Hamze, Master Aesthetics Instructor at American Spirit Institute. By penetrating to varying depths the different colors are able to either make your skin do things that they no longer do well on their own, or can create an effect on the surface of the skin. They also increase the efficacy of serums by causing greater product penetration when used over a serum or treatment.  LED should not be mistaken for UV lights (like those in a tanning bed), or for lasers (like those used in hair removal, or for IPL- intense pulsed light (used in photo rejuvenation), as LED does not produce intense heat. Because it does not produce heat it does not cause damage to the dermis, nor does it hurt to use. Bedeha also stated “LED is an absolutely painless procedure that can be done alone or added to another facial treatment”. LED has been used to treat sun damage, redness, rosacea, visible telangiectasia, uneven skin tone, fine lines, wrinkles, acne, wounds, pains, and bruises to name a few. LED also stimulates fibroblasts (cells responsible for making extracellular matrix and collagen; which are critical for proper wound healing) to increase collagen, resulting in smoother texture, tone, and reduced appearance of fine lines.

Red light is typically used for increasing circulation, increasing moisture retention, stimulating cell turnover, reducing appearance of large pore size, fading photo damaged skin, reducing inflammation, speeding up the healing process, decreasing fine lines and wrinkles, and stimulating collagen production. Red light LED’s are also beneficial for temporarily relieving minor muscle and joint pain, reducing the severity of bruising, temporarily reducing arthritic pain and stiffness, and temporarily increasing local blood circulation.

Blue light is antibacterial making it best for the treatment of acne because it penetrates below the surface of the skin to kill bacteria deep within the epidermis before it reaches “a white head” or closed comedome. Basically it kills it before it happens, however it will also rid the skin of existing acne by sanitizing surface bacteria as well. It is one of the few acne treatments that works without causing irritation in the process. 

White light is often used to tighten, and reduce inflammation.

Yellow or Amber light can also be used to reduce swelling, redness, pigmentation, and to stimulate collagen and elastin.

Green light is most often utilized to decrease dark circles (I sure need that under my eyes), reduce hyperpigmentation, lessen the appearance of broken capillaries, break up discoloration such as sunspots, and calming angry skin.

Keep in mind, LED and other photo modulation techniques should not be used on folks with seizure disorders, unless permission is given by a medical doctor.

LED can be added to your facial treatment during your mask, or during serum application, or you can use a daily at home device. Because LED will take more than one session (usually a minimum of 6) to achieve desired results, an at home device that can be used daily may be a better fit for someone on a limited budget. For clients who are on a restricted budget, and want to treat more than 1 issue at the same time (IE: acne, wrinkles, and sunspots) a multi color LED at home device would be the most effective way to get the most bang for your buck. At Affordable Spa we accept HSA and FSA cards for our services and products to help you make your skins wellness a priority.

Is LED right for you? It is certainly worth discussing with your Licensed Aesthetician.

Aloe isn’t just for burns anymore!

Aloe Vera is my absolute favorite of all skin care ingredients. It’s an oldie but goody. Often overlooked as a reason to purchase a product and seen as antiquated, but it shouldn’t be, there is certainly justification for the ancient Egyptians regarding it as the “plant of eternity”. Aloe is beneficial for your whole self, inside and out, and can be drank, added to smoothies, rubbed on your skin, and even massaged into the hair and scalp. Best of all it is very reasonably priced, or even free as you may be staring at an aloe plant in the corner of the room you are in collecting dust right this minute.

Let’s start with the internal benefits, because being healthy on the inside is imperative for beautiful healthy skin on the outside. Aloe Vera Juice can be purchased at most grocery stores, or health food stores. Drinking aloe vera juice is an amazing post workout recovery beverage, because it is 99% water it is super hydrating (and without all the added sugars, artificial coloring, and other unnecessarily added ingredients found in many post workout drinks).  Your body should be 70% water at any given time, so you can imagine how important staying hydrated is. It addition to its high-water content aloe vera juice also contains probiotics (good bacteria your body needs), enzymes, and vitamins A, C, E, folic acid, choline, B1, B2, B6, and B12 (which is super rare in plants, usually B12 is found in animal proteins). If all the above listed reasons don’t already have you making the trek to go get you some, aloe also contains minerals needed by the human body, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, sodium, iron, potassium, copper and manganese. Since B12 is so rarely found in plant sources, daily intake of aloe vera juice is an essential part of a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet. Manganese is an essential trace mineral that when deficient in the human body can cause disorders such as tinnitus, so if your ears have been ringing, you may want to give this old remedy a try and see if it helps you.  Aloe Vera is also high in amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, making it amazing for increasing muscle. In addition to building muscle by adding proteins it also helps eliminate the stuff we don’t want in our guts because it’s a gelatinous plant it absorbs and eliminates toxins and waste as it travels via the peristalsis movement in our intestines, making it a great choice for those looking to lose weight. It has also been shown to be beneficial for people diagnosed with celiac, crones, diverticulitis, or other GI disorders to help heal leaky gut, and rid the body of toxins while they adjust to dietary changes associated with these disorders. Aloe Vera is also naturally antibacterial, antiviral, antibiotic, antiseptic, antifungal, antimicrobial, and germicidal making it a wonderful addition to your immune boosting shelf (or entire cabinet in my case). Additionally, Aloe Vera is naturally alkaline, so when drank it makes the body less acidic, increasing natural immunity because disease cannot survive in an alkaline environment.

You may be asking at this point, what does any of this have to do with my skin? Well firstly healthy inside, healthy outside. Unhealthy diet shows up in your skin, and your sweat, we discussed above about how aloe helps to eliminate so I just want to reiterate here how important eliminating the junk from our intestines is to maintaining clean, clear, beautiful skin. Basically, if you aren’t eliminating it the right way, it starts coming out of your pores, like sometimes if you have been eating a poor diet and have noticed a difference in the way your sweat smelled during your workout. Secondly, because of the antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties we discussed earlier it’s great for killing bacteria on the skin and drying up acne. The antioxidants naturally occurring in aloe vera gel fight free radicals, decreasing the signs of aging. In addition, because aloe is so hydrating it makes a great skin moisturizer, without being overly greasy. It also reduces inflammation and creates a protective barrier when applied to the skin, which is why it is well known to heal and soothe burns.  It has also been shown to help eczema and psoriasis, when applied topically. The enzymes contained in aloe make it a great natural exfoliator when used topically (recipe for an amazing anti-aging, anti-acne DIY mask to follow). More and more people, myself included have started using an oil moisturizer at home on our faces. I personally like how much more breathable it feels on my skin then a creamy moisturizer (which feels highly occlusive to me, just my opinion). However, those of us using an oil moisturizer, or a cream and still not feeling hydrated must remember oil doesn’t moisturize, water does, so a water or aloe-based toner or serum is imperative under our moisturizer to truly achieve that youthful appearance and maintain healthy skin, since your moisturizer shouldn’t penetrate the epidermis, but a serum or water/ aloe based toner should. I also would suggest a soothing aloe & azulene mask every 4 to 6 weeks for someone still feeling dry or inflamed as this will hydrate and increase barrier function preventing external damage from the environment. I personally like to give myself an Acne LED treatment over my aloe (or any gel mask) so im getting a double whammy of benefits at one time, which i think is great for any busy mom with a limited amount of time for home care.

I also mentioned hair care in the first paragraph! We all want beautiful, shiny, soft, healthy hair, right? Well aloe is you one stop shop! The natural enzymes found in aloe act as an exfoliator by digesting dead skin cells, so massaging it into the scalp, helps prevent dandruff by increasing cell turnover, and by removing the dead cells on top of the epidermis, it helps hair grow thicker and healthier by creating a clear path for the hair follicles. You can also make your own aloe vera hair mask by massaging into wet hair during your shower, cover with a shower cap leave on for 10 to 15 minutes then rinse out revealing shiny, resilient hair.   

A few tips for utilizing aloe vera at home:

  1. If drinking daily as a supplement, swish around your mouth for 30 seconds or so prior to swallowing because the good bacteria we talked about earlier in conjunction with its antibacterial, antiviral, and germicidal properties are great for preventing gum disease by killing bacteria, and germs and creating an alkaline environment. Bonus: this also helps prevent bad breath! Yay Aloe!
  2. If you are getting your aloe directly from the plant (like me), make “aloe cubes”! Once you have scraped the aloe gel from the inside of the leaves and ran through the food processor, place portioned into an ice cube tray, then once frozen, place 1 cube each into small freezer bags and keep frozen until ready to use. Keep in mind freshly sourced aloe wll go bad in less than 24 hours at room temperature because we haven’t added preservatives, like the gel you buy in stores. A frozen aloe cube feels like heaven on a burn, an inflamed acne pustule, or calming the skin after an exfoliating cleanse, I could go on but I think you get my point and probably already have an idea of how to use your aloe cube in your mind right now.
  3. When using on hair apply a thin layer as a leave in treatment or use it as a hair mask as I mentioned earlier.

DIY Aloe Enzyme Mask:

1 ½ inch cube of fresh pineapple

1 ½ inch cube of fresh papaya

2 Tbsp. aloe vera gel, or freshly scraped from inside a leaf

2 drops of apple cider vinegar

Run all ingredients through your food processor, apply to cleansed face, if it instantly burns or hurts remove it, otherwise leave on for 1 to 3 minutes (no longer than 3 minutes, this recipe is powerful), a slight tingle and itch is normal, but pain or burning is not. Remove with cool, damp towels, apply your normal serum, moisturizer and sunscreen.  

I hope you enjoyed hearing about an amazing plant!