• What You Need to Know About Hydroquinone (and The Alternatives)

    If you have ever considered skin lightening to reduce the appearance of acne marks, sun spots, melasma, or other dark spots, you have probably come across the ingredient hydroquinone. What is hydroquinone, and does it pose any risks to your skin? Here, we explain the potential risks of using hydroquinone cream and alternative options for skin lightening.

    The Basics: What It Is

    Hydroquinone is a skin-bleaching agent that is often used to lighten freckles, age spots, and other skin discolorations. It works by inhibiting enzyme activity that in turn reduces skin’s production of melanin. Because of its effectiveness at fading hyperpigmentation and a range of other skin discoloration issues, it is an active ingredient in many popular skin care lines.


    Hydroquinone is the fastest way to lighten stubborn pigment, but if you are not comfortable with it, there are many alternatives to try.


    At Leah Nickie ADVANCED AESTHETICS, we offer several hydroquinone-free treatments that are just as effective at lightening skin. Phytowhite Dark Spot Serum is GM Collin’s hydroquinone-free botanical lightener. In tests, it performed just as well as 4% hydroquinone without any of the risks, irritation, or need to discontinue after three months.  It contains curcumin and niacinamide, both of which are potent anti-inflammatories; licorice extract to reduce melanin production; and l-ergothianine, a powerful antioxidant. The serum also includes vitamin C and glycolic and azelaic acids, which lighten and stimulate collagen. The AHA acids in the serum can make skin more sensitive to the sun, so it’s best to apply this product at night. As always, be sure to apply a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher during the day.

    Phytowhite Cream, a companion product to the Phytowhite Dark Spot Serum, is a light moisturizer that can be used each morning and evening. It does not contain SPF, however, so be sure to apply sunscreen over it every day. It is both corrective and preventative, and contains an abundance of botanical lighteners, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants including resveratrol and vitamin C.

    If you’re battling with melasma or otherwise looking to treat skin discoloration, our team of experts is ready to help you choose the most effective treatment option. At Leah Nickie ADVANCED AESTHETICS, we are pleased to offer you a complimentary initial consultation so that we may get to know you and your individual skin concerns. Contact us to schedule your appointment!

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  • What to Expect When Beginning Latisse

    Latisse is an extremely popular treatment for achieving long, full eyelashes, and we often recommend it to our patients with eyelash hypotrichosis. Hypotrichosis refers to a condition characterized by a lack of hair growth, and eyelash hypotrichosis is another name for having inadequate or not enough eyelashes. Latisse is the first and only FDA-approved, science-based treatment proven to enhance lash thickness, darkness, and length. It is a once-daily prescription applied to the base of the upper eyelashes with a sterile, disposable applicator. However, you don’t simply apply Latisse once and develop lush, model-worthy lashes. It’s helpful to set your expectations ahead of time; here’s what you need to know before you begin your Latisse regimen.

    Have Patience

    Like most good things in life, beautiful eyelashes don’t just happen overnight. Latisse works gradually, affecting the lashes differently at various stages. After the first few applications, you may start to notice changes in length. After eight weeks, most patients find that their lashes appear fuller and darker. Though you may see some (or all) of these effects taking place in as little as eight weeks, it takes 16 weeks of treatment to see the full effect. Be patient. Continue applying the topical solution every day for the full 16-week period. Following that, you can talk to your doctor about ongoing use.

    Incorporate it Into Your Nightly Routine

    To achieve the best result, use Latisse once a day, every day, at night. If you stop using Latisse at any time before the 16-week period, your eyelashes will gradually return to their previous appearance. We recommend keeping it beside your face wash and moisturizers, and making it part of your nightly routine. Apply Latisse to a clean face that is free of makeup, and remove contact lenses prior to application.

    Be Aware of Possible Side Effects

    As with most prescription medicines, side effects are possible with Latisse. The most common are an itching sensation in the eyes and/or eye redness (reported in about 4% of patients). Other less common side effects include:

    • eyelid skin darkening,
    • eye irritation,
    • dryness of the eyes,
    • redness of the eyelids

    These typically occur on the skin close to where Latisse is applied, or in the eyes. Be sure to follow the directions and only apply Latisse on the skin of the upper eyelid margins, at the base of the eyelashes, NOT on the lower lid.

    Are you interested in learning more about Latisse? As an office with a medical director on-site (Dr. Cynthia Ruggero, a Board Certified MD and a member of the International Association of Physicians for Aesthetic Medicine), we are able to perform many treatments that aestheticians without medical directors cannot, including Latisse. At Leah Nickie ADVANCED AESTHETICS, your initial consultation is always complimentary. We would love to get to know you and talk through our treatment options to find the one that is right for you. Schedule your appointment today!

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  • The Skin Benefits of Astaxanthin

    The secret to great skin could be found in . . . algae? Yes. Astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that is found in certain marine plants and animals, including microalgae, yeast, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp, crayfish, and crustaceans, is proving to be extremely beneficial to the skin

    How does it work? Astaxanthin’s unique molecular structure makes it an extremely potent antioxidant that naturally reduces free radicals in the body. Similar in structure to beta-carotene (a red-orange pigment widely recognized for its presence in carrots), astaxanthin has approximately 10 times more antioxidant strength than other carotenoids tested (zeaxanthin, lutein, tunaxanthin, canthaxanthin, beta-carotene), and 100 times more than that of vitamin E.

    Astaxanthin protects skin cells from harmful oxidation that damages cells and leads to aging skin. In fact, it significantly reduces the oxidative load in the body by scavenging the body for lipids and free radicals, effectively breaking peroxide chain reactions, and protecting the cells against oxidation. It is also very effective at reducing singlet oxygen, which is linked to LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and negative cardiovascular effects. 

    In addition to being a proven skin enhancer, astaxanthin has also been found to benefit a number of bodily functions, including eye, heart, and cellular heath, as well as boosting the body's immune system. Below we explain some of the myriad skin benefits of this potent antioxidant.

    Younger-Looking Skin

    Astaxanthin has been shown in clinical studies to dramatically slow the aging process; increase skin moisture, moisture retention, and elasticity, as well as promote skin smoothness by decreasing fine lines and wrinkles. As we age, skin loses its elasticity and becomes less supple. To top it off, the skin’s production of oil decreases, which often results in extra-dry, dull skin for some. All of these factors sap skin’s glow and vibrancy. Astaxanthin delays this decline in skin vibrancy, and improves its condition.

    Protects from UV-Induced Damage

    Astaxanthin has incredible UV-blocking properties, and works as an internal sunscreen to protect from sun-related skin damage and burns. Though it cannot replace your daily SPF, it can radically reduce your risk of developing sun spots, severe sunburn, and related skin damage when applied daily.

    Increases Blood Flow

    Astaxanthin increases blood flow, which will help improve skin’s circulation. There are many benefits of increased circulation, including accelerated cell turnover, greater elasticity, and enhanced water retention.

    Clinical studies from around the world have pointed to astaxanthin as the most powerful anti-aging antioxidant in the world; its list of benefits for the skin and body could fill a book. Astaxanthin can be taken in supplement form or found in certain foods. However you consume it, don’t wait to try out this potentially game-changing antioxidant.

    Curious to learn more about astaxanthin, or have questions about your skin care regimen? Our team of skin care experts would love to help. Contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation.

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  • Should You Put Coconut Oil On Your Face?

    Everywhere you look, it seems another magazine article or celebrity is lauding the benefits of coconut oil, and for good reason—its unique combination of essential fatty acids (primarily lauric, myristic and palmitic acid), polyphenols, vitamins K and E, and iron penetrate skin while serving as a natural anti-inflammatory agent to help fight free radicals. It works wonders to deeply moisturize not only the skin on your body, but your hair and nails, as well. Some ways that we’ve seen coconut oil successfully used are as a makeup remover (just use a small dab, and be sure to cleanse well to remove any oily residue), a hair smoother, shaving cream, balm/cuticle oil, massage oil, and bubble bath.

    But despite its many strengths, coconut oil isn’t for everyone, particularly if you are considering using it on facial skin. Coconut oil is largely considered to be comedogenic, meaning it will clog your pores. Those with oily or acne-prone skin should be cautious, as it could lead to breakouts. If this has happened to you and you’re wondering why, we’ll explain below, as well as provide some alternative ways to moisturize skin without clogging pores.

    Is Coconut Oil Right For You?

    Oily skin types naturally produce more sebum (skin oil) than other types, which leads to a shiny complexion, enlarged pores, runny makeup, and frequent breakouts. Though it seems counterintuitive, oily skin types still require moisture. In fact, one of the mistakes we often see is avoiding any kind of moisturizer on oily skin out of fear that it will lead to breakouts. This often backfires, as moisturized skin loosens sebum stuck inside pores. When skin becomes dry and irritated, it responds by producing even more oil—worsening the problem.

    While coconut oil does have a stellar résumé of healing and moisturizing properties, it can lead to clogged pores and breakouts in some skin types.

    It’s important to first understand the two types of coconut oil: extra virgin and fractionated. Extra virgin coconut oil undergoes less processing and is therefore higher in nutrients and antioxidants than oil that has been refined and bleached. While its abundance in fatty acids makes it a wonderful body and hair moisturizer, its heaviness can irritate sensitive skin, clog pores, and cause breakouts for oily skin types.

    If extra virgin coconut oil has caused you to break out in the past, another option to try is fractionated coconut oil. Its long-chain fatty acids have been removed via hydrolysis and steam distillation, transforming it into a lighter oil that is less likely to clog pores.

    If you’ve tried fractionated oil to no avail, there are plenty of other skin oils that help balance and moisturize without clogging pores, including argan, rosehip seed, grapeseed, and sunflower seed oil.

    Coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer for some skin types, but for others, it can be too heavy and lead to clogged pores and breakouts. Everyone’s skin responds differently to products and ingredients, so don’t be afraid to try something else. At Leah Nickie ADVANCED AESTHETICS, we are happy to speak with you about your options. We are pleased to offer you an initial consultation at no cost. Schedule yours today.

    Meta Description: What you need to know about putting coconut oil on your face if you have oily, acne-prone, or sensitive skin.

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  • What You Need to Know About Elta MD Sunscreens

    The best way to protect your skin from sunburn and early skin aging is by applying sunscreen every day—rain or shine. Damaging UVA rays are present even on cloudy or overcast days. Winter is no reason to skimp on the protection, either; snow can reflect up to 80 percent of UV rays. Here in Colorado, we also know that the higher the altitude, the greater the UV exposure. Sitting near windows and driving in the car count as sun exposure, too.

    One of my favorite sunscreen lines that we carry at Leah Nickie ADVANCED AESTHETICS is EltaMD. Its highly effective, zinc-based products help prevent sunburn and decrease the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun (especially when used with other sun protection measures). It is widely recognized as the number one brand of physician-dispensed sunscreen in the U.S., and has a 25-year history of developing and manufacturing wound care and skin care products used in burn centers and hospitals.

    All of EltaMD’s products are recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation as effective broad-spectrum sunscreens. They are formulated with zinc oxide, a natural alternative to skin care products laden with chemicals, and one of the healthiest ingredients available to protect our skin. EltaMD products made with this natural mineral are very gentle and safe for post-procedure skin, as well as for children six months or older.

    Because zinc maintains its protective ability in the sun, it is more photostable than some chemical ingredients that may degrade. Moreover, zinc reflects and reduces the broadest range of UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) ultraviolet rays.

    One extremely effective EltaMD product is the UV Physical Broad Spectrum Sunscreen. Its only active ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—two of the best sun protectants. It is lightly tinted, providing moderate coverage for those with medium to light skin tones, and is ideal for everyday use. With no parabens or fragrance, it is perfect for sensitive and normal to dry complexions. It even contains additional antioxidants to help absorb free radicals generated by sun exposure. This sunscreen is water resistant for 40 minutes, so be sure to reapply throughout the day if you’ll be outdoors, sweating, or swimming.

    All EltaMD sunscreens are formulated with transparent zinc oxide, are noncomedogenic (i.e., won’t clog pores), safe for sensitive skin, fragrance-free and paraben-free.

    The earlier you begin incorporating sunscreen into your daily skin care routine, the happier you will be with the results. I am confident we have a sunscreen that will work with your skin type and lifestyle. Contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation.

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  • Do You Need a Serum?

    Is a serum part of your skin care routine? It should be! Facial serums are lightweight treatments that deliver active ingredients deep into your skin. In fact, we carry more serums than any other product because they are the ultimate powerhouse of any skin care item. There is a serum available for every skin type and condition, including clearing acne, smoothing wrinkles, calming redness, and hydrating skin. These are often pricier than other products, but don’t let the cost intimidate you. Read on to learn more about these powerful and beneficial facial products.

    Serums vs. Moisturizers

    Serums and moisturizers both deliver hydration to skin, but what’s the difference between them? Unlike creams or lotions, most serums are water-based (with the exception of oil-based serums, which are appropriate only for dry skin). Serums are also formulated without petrolatum or mineral oilmoisturizing ingredients that prevent water from evaporating. Furthermore, they contain fewer lubricating and thickening agents, which can clog pores.

    Serums are much lighter in consistency and texture than moisturizers. Because they have a higher concentration of active and corrective ingredients, they tend to be more expensive than moisturizers—but they are well worth it!

    If you have mature or extremely dry skin, however, you probably can’t get away with using a serum alone. For you, we will usually recommend using a serum layered under your regular day or night cream.


    Active ingredients in serums include peptides, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, retinoids, and plant and marine extracts—some of the most potent anti-aging ingredients available in nonprescription products. Since serums tend to be more lightweight than creams, they’re able to penetrate more deeply into skin, delivering these active ingredients to do their job ASAP!


    Serums containing Salicylic Acid, like our Essential Oils Complex, can be used to spot treat blemishes and reduce oils in the T-zone. This product contains a unique blend of essential oils and .5% Salicylic Acid that also do an excellent job in preventing ingrown hairs.

    How to Apply Serums

    1. After cleansing your face as part of your daily regimen, apply a pea-sized amount of serum to your finger and pat it evenly all over your skin.
    2. If you have oily skin, a serum may provide all the hydration you need. For those with dry skin, follow your serum with a hydrating moisturizer.

    Serums pack a powerful punch. From anti-aging properties to clearing acne to leaving skin hydrated and glowing, these potent products definitely deserves a spot in your routine. We would be happy to further explain the benefits of adding a serum to your skin care routine—contact us to set up a complimentary consultation today.

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