November 14, 2018

Beauty Q&A Part I: Retinol & Botox

Beauty Q&A, Retinol and Botox, Skincare, Helena of Brooklyn BlondeI realize the above picture has nothing to do with botox or retinol, but since it’s a picture of me in my bathroom (where everything takes place), I figured it could work! 

Yesterday on Instagram stories, I asked you all to submit your questions relating to beauty and I received so many great ones! Questions ranging from my holy grail products, sunscreen, botox, retinol, my favorite fragrances, hair care, extensions, etc. I decided it would make the most sense to split it into several posts. At first, I had it all in one, but it got to be  way too long and overwhelming. Today, I’m covering the two topics I got the most questions on: botox and retinol.

Beauty Q&A Part I: Retinol & Botox

If there’s a question I missed or if something is still a bit confusing, feel free to leave the question in the comment section below. I’ll do my best to edit and add it in! Hope you find this post helpful!


I got many questions pertaining to botox, which doesn’t really surprise me. Lately, I am finding that many more people, whether it’s bloggers, beauty editors or just  industry people, are way more honest about what they get done. Conversations, both in person and online, are becoming more candid – something I love and really appreciate! If I have “secrets” or fabulous tips that I’ve learned along the way, I’m want to share. I’m not trying to act like looking and feeling my best does not require work, because it does! A lot of work.

So back to botox: Nowadays, you’ll find many people getting what they call “baby botox.” No, this does not involve actual babies, but rather, a very small amount of botox, injected to where you may need it. I also like to call it “New York box” versus “LA botox.” I don’t say that to be offensive, but in the beauty industry and in specific cities, there are certain beauty trends. New Yorkers tend to go for a more subtle approach, whereas in LA, many may prefer a heavier hand. Obviously this does not apply to every single person, but you get the point.

Also, if botox is something you’re curious about but nervous, it’s not something that has to be scary. I promise! The key is doing your research and finding a reputable doctor.

Q: Do You Use Botox?

I’ve been getting botox in my forehead for several years. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had an extremely expressive forehead. Whenever I would talk, my forehead with “talk” with me. By the time I was 18, I had pretty prominent forehead lines, something I was always aware of (even before I was aware of botox). I remember being in 9th grade and a friend of mine asking me: “why do you have lines on your forehead?”

And as the saying goes, we never remember compliments, but an insult (even if she didn’t mean it that way), is something that sticks forever. By the time I was 31, I scheduled my first appointment and haven’t looked back since. I get a very minimal amount done. I want to look soft, not frozen. The doctor uses a little in my forehead and my “11’s” and that’s pretty much it. I have no shame in talking about it and when I do, I realize just how common it is.

Q: If you get Botox, how often do you go?

It really depends on each person and how they metabolize things. For me, I only go 2x a year, but I have some friends who have to go 3x a year. Once you get it done, it takes about 3-7 days to really settle in.

Q: When should one start getting botox?

This is such an individual question! I really don’t think there’s a specific age to start! If you don’t have any lines or wrinkles, there’s no rush. If you have a few lines and wrinkles and they don’t bother you, there’s also no rush. I have some friends who are in their late 30’s and early 40’s who don’t have a single line, so there’s really no need. On the flip side, I have friends in their late 20’s who’ve been extremely insecure about lines, so they’ve started to get a very minimal amount. I will say, I think preventative botox helps, but not if you don’t have anything. For example: if you have deep lines on your forehead, starting earlier will stop them from getting worse. However, if you don’t have any lines at all, I wouldn’t worry too much about starting, just to prevent.

Again, it really depends on the person and there’s no right or wrong answer.  Is it something that bothers you? If not, it’s probably not something you should worry about. However, if it’s something that impacts your self esteem, have a conversation with a reputable doctor.

Q: Could you recommend a place in New York City?

Of course! The three places I feel confident recommending: Dr. Russak at Russak Dermatology,  Nurse Lynn at Center Aesthetic. and Theresa Pinson at Virtual Skin Spa. Her place is on Long Island, but she comes into the city twice a week. When she does, she is not in a traditional office setting, but don’t let that discourage you. She has a wonderful hand! All of the women that I recommended do. Let them know that I sent you!

I hope that answered your botox questions. Now I’m going to move the conversation to the beauty industries hero product: retinol!


Q: Why Should I Be Using Retinol?

Yesterday, somebody asked me what the best anti-aging cream out there is and the short answer is, it’s retinol – plain and simple. Basically, retinol is a topical derivative of vitamin A that promotes cell turnover and enhances collagen production. Most skincare experts will agree, if there’s one product you should be using (along with sunscreen), it’s retinol. Why? Because it is clinically proven to treat both acne and wrinkles because of its ability to stimulate epidermal turnover and reveal fresh, healthy skin. It boosts collagen production, helps with pigmentation and smooths the overall texture of your skin. Just remember, it takes six to eight weeks for your skin to turnover! Results do no happen overnight. Studies show that overtime, retinol is the best thing for your skin.

Q: What is the difference between Retinoid and Retinol?

The term “retinoid” describes a family of ingredients that includes both Retin-A and retinol. It important to remember that “retinoid” is an umbrella term for over-the-counter retinol and prescription retinoids.

Retinols contain a lower concentration of the active retinoic acid ingredient. Whereas, prescription retinoids have a much higher concentration of the active ingredient. Basically, you’re able to buy retinol at a drugstore, Sephora, online, etc, whereas retinoids can only be prescribed by a doctor. With the exception of Differin, the first OTC retinoid. If purchasing Differin, just remember that it is a stronger one. Ease into it and only use a small amount to start. Less is more! I found Differin a bit too harsh, but I know many who love it. It’s not expensive, so definitely worth giving it a shot if you’re not overly sensitive.

Q: Should I be using a Retinoid or a Retinol?

If you’re a person with severe sun damage or acne, you will most definitely get better results with a prescription retinoid. But, if you’re someone with very sensitive skin, personally, I think using a OTC retinol might be the way to go, at least to start out. Currently, I am using the retinol from Estée Lauder, Perfectionist Pro. I also love the retinol from PCA Skin and SkinMedica. If you have super sensitive skin, I also love the one from Jordan Samuel Skin. It’s a low percentage (0.2%), very gentle and the perfect way to ease into the product (read Caroline Hirons review here). For under $30, there’s Differin, which I mentioned above and RoC Retinol Corrextion Cream, a cream and retinol in one!

Some other notable mentions: celebrity favorite Resurface by Shani Darden and  Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Oil. 

Q: I’ve used retinol and I end up with dry, flaky skin. Is this normal?

If you’re new to retinol, this is 100% normal. Even if you’re not, it can still be normal. Again, it’s important to ease your way into using retinol. Start out using it every 3-4 days and gradually, build your tolerance up. If your skin seems to be okay, gradually work your way up to every 2 days and eventually, every other or every day.

Also, when using straight retinol, I love to mix with hyaluronic acid. I learned this from several doctors and estheticians and it’s been a great tip and way less drying! My favorites Hyaluronic Acids are SkinCeuticals HA Intensifier and Jordan Samuel Hydrate. The Skinceuticals HA Intensifier is my favorite to use during the day, under my SPF, particularly if my skin is parched. Whereas Jordan Samuel Hydrate is my favorite to mix with retinol, or for less dry days. It’s a bit more watery, while the Skinceuticals HA Intensifier is a bit thicker. They both serve their purpose in my routine.

Q: How do you incorporate retinol into your routine?

To start, only use at night! Never use retinol in the morning and when using it, make sure you’re wearing SPF daily. Even on cloudy days! Retinol does not do well when exposed to sunlight.

Because I’ve been using it for so many years, my skin can handle a lot. There are days where I’ll cleanse, use Biologique P50 and apply my retinol after. This would be way too aggressive for some, but my skin loves it. Other days, I’ll skip the acid toner and apply retinol on freshly cleansed skin. As I mentioned above, if I’m using straight up retinol, I “cocktail” a pea size amount with a bit of hyaluronic acid. I apply to my face and wait a few minutes for my skin to absorb this mixture.

I know I keep saying this, but it’s important to ease into products and how you use them. This way you can learn what your skin can handle. An aggressive approach is not the answer for everyone.

After a few minutes, I’ll apply my oil and cream.

Q: Where do you apply retinol?

On my face (avoiding eye area), chest and hands! In the morning, remember to apply SPF to those areas as well.

Hope this answers all of your retinol and botox questions. Will cover round II next week.



  • Rena

    Wow, you are so wonderful honest!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

  • Anika May

    This was so interesting to read! Every question was answered so well I feel so much more informed on botox in particular now!

    Anika |

  • Ann

    Your honesty (and generosity in sharing your insights) is so refreshing, Helena. Thank you thank you!

  • Peppermint Dolly

    This was incredibly informative – been looking into Retinol recently and feeling a bit overwhelmed about where to start, this has been super helpful in that regard!

    Rebecca |

  • Ewa Macherowska

    Great post dear 😉

  • Elnaz

    Would you also give some tips on how you look for a good doctor? How do you search? What criterias you look for, etc? I live in case you know a good place around the area. Thanks!

    • Helena

      Hi Elnaz!
      Ah, I know this is so tricky. For me, it’s always been word of mouth. Or it will casually come up in a convo and if a woman looks amazing, I’ll ask if she can recommend someone. Of course you can also research the top cosmetic dermatologists in your area and see if they have an Instagram page. Look at their before and afters and go from there. Social media has been so helpful in that regard. Good luck!

    • Maureen

      Check out Alda Aesthetics. I have been going there and love it- they are very knowledgeable and I am so happy with my results

  • Nadia

    Thank you so much for this post! There’s so much info overload out there and you explained everything perfectly! My fav blogger ever! <3

  • NatHaniel

    Such a good read! You’re so knowledgeable and it’s so helpful to have this broken down like this. Love you!

  • Lauren

    How long before/after you were pregnant did you get Botox?

    • Helena

      Hi Lauren,

      I had it done about 3 months before we got pregnant and then after I stopped breastfeeding!

  • Pavneet

    Thanks for informative post Helena and I completely agree that a glowing skin actually requires a lot of work. I have been dealing with acne and large open pores post pregnancy and have been using salysalic acid based exfoliator after cleansing on my face. Would you recommend combining salysalic acid and retinol?

    • Helena

      Hi Pavneet,
      If your skin can tolerate it, I don’t see any issues with using both together. I would ease into combining both together as it might be too harsh.

  • Maureen

    Great info! Skinmedica HA5 is also an amazing Hyaluronic acid

  • Anilsa

    Helena thank you so much for
    Sharing! I’ve changed my routine based on your recommendations and I have to say my skin has drastically changed. Thank you!!

  • Nicole Sioui

    Hi Helena, Have you ever tried Kate Somerville RetAsphere Retinol? I’ve been using if for a year now but sort of wondering if I should be doing an upgrade??.

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  • Carina

    Thanks for sharing this! really good post!

  • Mahlori Isaacs

    Thank you for sharing! But wait, I also clicked on post because I thought OoOo – Bb will also tell us where her robe is from!! Could you please share that as well?

  • Jenn

    Hi Helena!

    Great post! Thank you for all this info. Did you ever notice breakouts from using Luna?

  • Safety Equipment

    I just want to say that all the information you have given here on is awesome. I read the entire blog and I am really impressed. Thanks for sharing this great post.

  • brick delivery perth

    I love that people are being more candid these days too. It’s refreshing to have that honesty

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