Evaluating Your Skincare Product

The skincare market is filled with miracle creams that promise to eliminate wrinkles, fade discoloration, and bring out beautiful youthful skin. With the myriad of choices, how do you know what is effective and which products to buy?

The first step in evaluating a skincare product is to look at the list of ingredients. Is the list so long and filled with so many exotic and miscellaneous ingredients that you feel overwhelmed? All skincare products have a baseline number of ingredients (eg. purified water, glycerin, petrolatum, alcohols, propylene glycol) that makes the product skin appropriate with a standard shelf life. However, skincare products with too many added colors, fragrances, miscellaneous, preservatives, and exotic “extracts” may also serve as a potential source of irritation especially in people with sensitive skin. You may also look for products that are labeled as hypoallergenic.

There are certain active ingredients that are considered helpful and have a scientific basis for its use. Retinol is a vitamin A derivative (retinoid) that is commonly added to over-the–counter skin products (eyecreams, facial moisturizers) for antiaging purposes. Members of the retinoid family have the ability to help even out mild discoloration and induce collagen formation. Prescription versions are also available and commonly used for its cosmetic benefit. Vitamin C is another active ingredient used in many skincare formulations, often as a serum, to help even out skin discoloration and as an antioxidant to protect the skin against environmental skin damage. Niacinamide based products can help reduce redness of the skin. Salicylic and Glycolic acid based products exfoliate the dead surface skin cells. This is just a partial listing of more conventional active ingredients found in skin products.

Lastly, always inspect the expiration date of all of your skincare products. Almost all skincare products have a defined shelf-life because active ingredients do expire. Sunscreen is a classic example of a product in which expiration dates are critical to heed. Most products have an expiration date of one to two years, and this information is usually imprinted on the end of the tube or on the bottom of the jar.

Less (Makeup) Is More

The goal of cosmetic dermatology is to restore skin to a natural, more youthful appearance. In fact, one of the principles of the profession is that once an unusual or unnatural look is created – often in the over-pursuit of bothersome wrinkles

identified by the patient – you’ve done more harm than good. The human eye and brain are extraordinarily adept at picking up on abnormal and asymmetric facial features in others. As an example, think of the last person you saw with huge duck lips or gigantic cheekbones from filler injection. The injector had good intentions, but that patient spent a lot of money to look awful.

In my practice, I love it when ladies comment after laser facial resurfacing that they’re wearing much less makeup and feel wonderful. However, it’s equally frustrating when I’ve seen them have outstanding results yet they return for their follow-up visit wearing gobs of thick, expensive foundation. It’s an addiction. No better than the lady with duck lips, all that makeup isn’t fooling anyone.

TIP: ÜBreak the makeup addiction. Anything more than a light application is unnatural appearing and almost always worse than wearing no makeup at all. If you suffer from sun spots, fine lines, and tired skin, dermatologists and other cosmetic providers have exciting technologies that can significantly enhance your natural beauty and significantly improve whatever you’re trying to cover.

Prevent Aging Around The Eyes

One of the first signs of aging that appear on the face are the wrinkles underneath the eyes. The skin here is one of the most vulnerable areas to aging because of how thin and delicate it is. Fine lines generally begin appearing around the late twenties and increase and deepen over time.

I recommend all of my patients to start using an ultra-moisturizing eyecream in their mid-twenties to hydrate the skin and prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. A liberal amount of eyecream should be applied at nighttime to the delicate skin underneath the eyes. Some eyecreams on the market also contain retinol, a vitamin A derivative with anti-aging properties. In my opinion, a simple and pure eyecream that is thick and moisturizing will be beneficial from an anti-aging standpoint.

In addition to adequate moisturization, there are other ways to help with undereye fine lines and wrinkles, especially for women in their thirties to fifties. Because the fine lines are directly related to the repetitive muscular contractions caused by facial expressions neuromodulator injections can tone down any excessive movements of the muscle underneath the eye. This will in turn, relax and eventually smoothen the skin.

Fractional non-ablative lasers like the Lumenis Photofractional treatment offer another option to improve the appearance of the skin around the eyes. This specific type of laser can stimulate the growth of collagen in the skin and hence give more volume and firmness to the skin. The laser induces microscopic columns of thermal injury so that new collagen can form in those areas and firm up the skin. As an added bonus, discoloration of the skin in the treated areas can also be improved at the same time.

If you feel like you could benefit from some rejuvenation around your eyes, talk to your dermatologist about the variety of options available to help with fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes. There are so many options available to make you feel and look your best.

Moisturize For A Radiant Complexion

The skin is largely comprised of water, and as such, hydration plays a vital role in its health and beauty. Frequent moisturization is necessary to maintain smooth, soft, and radiant skin.

Moisturizers are products that when applied to the skin, protect water content by either forming a barrier to prevent evaporative water loss and/or drawing moisture from the surrounding areas to the area in which the moisturizer is applied. Moisturizers can be in the form of ointments, creams, and lotions.

Frequency of moisturization depends on the environment. During fall and the harsh winter months, relative humidity is often lowest, and frequent moisturization is necessary to vulnerable areas of skin such as the face, arms, and legs. A heavier cream based moisturizer is recommended for these drier seasons. During the spring and summer months, moisturization can be less frequent, and a lotion based moisturizer may often be sufficient for summer months. Your skin type will also influence the amount of moisturization needed. Oiler areas of the body such as the T-zone of the face may not require any additional moisturization.

Moisturizers for the face should be a higher quality product. I often recommend a non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free cream based moisturizer for nighttime use and a lighter counterpart for daytime use. Long term and frequent usage of moisturizers can be helpful in both reducing medical skin problems such as eczema, as well as decreasing fine wrinkles and lines that develop with age. Studies have found that even open skin wounds heal faster when maintained in a moist environment.

The market is filled with “super” moisturizers that also contain other ingredients such as retinols and antioxidants for additional anti-aging benefits. If not too irritating to your skin, this may be a good “all-in-one” solution. However, for people with sensitive skin or those who are already on a topical retinoid, a pure and simple moisturizer is sufficient to maintain a beautiful complexion.

This Is The Season To Be Beautiful

Winter is known for its harsh and drying effects on the skin. Irritated, flaky skin and chapped lips are all part of the routine winter skin phenomena that require more work to keep healthy. However, did you know that winter is also the best time to improve the appearance of your skin with a cosmetic laser procedure?

Ultraviolet radiation easily causes darkening of the skin (known as postinflammatory hyperpigmentation) after any traumatic injury or inflammation of the skin. Individuals who tan easily are particularly susceptible to this type of injury-induced discoloration. In terms of both intensity and duration of sunlight, ultraviolet radiation levels are at the lowest levels during wintertime. Examples of procedures that are ideally performed during the fall to wintertime period include laser procedures to remove hair, brown spots, red spots, as well as skin resurfacing lasers that improve the complexion and firmness of the skin.

Dermatologists will typically recommend that patients start thinking about what they would like to improve about their skin during the summer time and start planning for and undergoing the actual procedure(s) during fall and wintertime. Many laser procedures can take several treatment sessions spread over several months, so careful planning is key. Talk to your local dermatologist about your particular cosmetic concerns and plan out a schedule that maximizes the positive outcomes of that procedure. You’ll be ready to show off a fresh and rejuvenated look just in time for spring.

Hands Off!

Have an unsightly acne pimple on your face? Resist the temptation to squeeze it and/or rub multiple over-the-counter products on it.

The first step in that pimple was a plug in the hair follicle (called a comedone), and it happened days or weeks ago. What you see now is the result of inflammation from your immune system, and it won’t go away overnight no matter what you do. It’s the unfortunate truth.

Popping pimples may be satisfying, but it most likely prolongs the misery: everything you see erupt also gets shoved down into the deeper layers of the skin. Harsh toners, astringents, and blemish removers only serve to make inflammation worse.

TIP: Warm compresses, steam, prescription medications or light treatment from your dermatologist, and ultimately time are your best allies in the war against unsightly zits. Remember, hands off!

Food For Thought (And Skin)

Both late-night infomercials and well-respected thought leaders in aesthetic dermatology frequently focus on topical formulations to promote beautiful skin. Some of these recommendations are based on hype and conjecture (the former) or peer-reviewed, meaningful science (the latter).

Regardless, diet and overall wellbeing often go unmentioned in the conversation. When discussed, heavily promoted fad diets and sensationalized miracle foods only serve to confuse the matter, making it hard to know which way to turn.

Keep it simple and follow this tip – skip the celebrity endorsements and follow the rules of nature. Diets high in high-glycemic carbohydrates and sugars are both pro-inflammatory and harmful for us. Instead of hoping that a hot new super-food will improve your skin, follow a diet that’s natural, organic, and unprocessed.

This does not mean “no carb.” It does mean abandoning foods that are mass-produced in a factory. Instead of a protein bar, try organic chicken. Instead of pasta, substitute delicious fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts.

Premature wrinkling, acne, and pigment problems may be partially linked to your on-the-go diet. Take the time to prepare natural meals and put down that bagel: you’ll feel better, have more energy, and your skin might thank you.

Protect Your Skin With Sunscreen

From both a medical and cosmetic standpoint, daily use of sunscreen is one of the most important steps in your skin care routine. Sunscreen contains physical and/or chemical ingredients that block the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun from damaging your delicate skin cells. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation can lead to both skin cancer as well as premature aging of the skin.

Sunscreens should ideally be broad spectrum, meaning that it blocks both ultraviolet A, which causes premature aging, and ultraviolet B radiation, which causes sunburn. The recommended labeled sun protection factor (SPF) should be at least 30. SPF factor denotes the strength of the sunscreen in its ability to block out the harmful ultraviolet radiation. With an SPF of 30, 97{aea2b696391fa39cb967d30fcd6aba4dbca06caf6246edcd5037966107a3d780} of incoming UV radiation is blocked. Although higher SPF factors block out more UV radiation, the incremental benefit of increasing SPF factors actually plateaus, such that SPF’s higher than 50 provide negligible additional protection.

UV radiation exists during all seasons and weather conditions. Because UV radiation is invisible to the human eye, you cannot judge the amount of UV radiation present based on how sunny the day appears. Hence, it is important to use sunscreen on a daily basis regardless of season or weather condition, especially to exposed body areas such as the face, neck, and forearms. It is important to remember that although sunscreen helps protect the skin from harmful UV radiation, it does not make the skin immune from sun exposure. Sunburns are still possible if there is an extended period of sun exposure.

So which sunscreen should you use? The right sunscreen is a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen that is most compatible with your skin such that you feel comfortable using it every day. Ask your local dermatologist for a recommendation on the best sunscreen product for your particular complexion and cosmetic needs.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall…

I always wonder why fancy hotel rooms have a backlit 10x or even 20x magnifying lens hanging from the bathroom wall. I tell my patients: if you have one of these in your home, throw it away.

Commonly, people who own these devices (young women especially) cannot help but pick, tweeze, and poke at real or perceived blemishes on their face when their reflection is viewed at great magnification. The result is chronic inflammation, non-healing skin, and, ultimately, permanent scars.

These mirrors do much more harm than good. When was the last time someone came up to you, put their nose a few inches away from your face, and looked at you with a magnifying glass? Never, of course. Humans interact at a healthy social distance.

TIP: Standing at your bathroom sink is as close as you should get to a mirror at home; leave the magnifying lenses to your professional aesthetician or dermatologist.

Hope In A Jar?

On what four letters does the 75 billion-dollar cosmeceutical industry bet its fortunes? H-O-P-E.
This gigantic market is not regulated by the FDA: meaningful clinical trials and actual science are a rarity. Cosmeceutical manufacturers are free to make outlandish claims about their unproven products – preying on consumers hoping for a quick fix to improve their appearance. When instant results are not seen, the next hot new anti-aging product is substituted . . . and on it goes, at great expense.

The truth is, there are only a handful of topical formulations that are absorbed into your skin with actual hard science to prove their efficacy. And there are no quick fixes for most cosmetic problems. However, your board-certified dermatologist should be able to create a skincare plan for you that may include meaningful topical products supplemented by proven complimentary procedures like peels, microdermabrasion, and laser treatments.

TIP: Stop throwing your money into the fountain of youth. While over-the-counter creams can plan a meaningful role in your daily regimen, be weary of unrealistic rejuvenation claims made by beauty stores, big-box retailers, and infomercials. Talk to your dermatologist and start your skincare moving in the right direction.