The constant flow of information about skin health is often helpful, but it can also be confusing. What we wouldn’t give to be inside of a dermatologist’s head when standing in front of a mirror agonizing over another pimple or in the store deciding between one pricey lotion and the next. In a world where there are a dizzying number of options when it comes to treating our skin, two leading dermatologists recommend memorizing these three key tips to help make more informed choices and lead you on a path to beautiful skin.
1. Don’t rely on products to reverse sun damage. If you are still sunbathing, even on occasion, and relying on products to hide the evidence, Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse at Rapaport Dermatology of Beverly Hills, says you are putting too much faith in a cream to do the impossible. “Biggest mistake? Get out of the sun!” Shainhouse says. “While there are so many new creams that promise to lighten brown spots, diminish the appearance of fine lines, as well as devices that hope to re-juvenate skin and undo damage by peeling the skin, encouraging collagen growth and zapping broken vessels and pigment, none of them can work magic. And none of them can permanently bring back your clear, plump, undamaged childhood skin. Aging is unavoidable, but you can prevent some of the effects by wearing sunscreen every single day and wearing protective clothing, including hats, sunglasses and higher-collared, long-sleeved shirts.”
2. Understand what procedures are truly effective. If you are planning on spending money on an in-office procedure, it’s important you know the difference between those that have proven effective and those that may leave you frustrated from a lack of results. Shainhouse outlines five procedures that she says actually work:
– Intense pulse light, aka photofacial: “This in-office procedure uses light to target superficial pigment in the skin and ‘erase it,'” Shainhouse says. “A hand piece is placed on the skin and used to zap the entire body site or individual spots. The brown spots will actually appear darker for 1-3 weeks, then peel off. The spots will be completely gone or be significantly lighter. One treatment is usually sufficient. It works best on light skin with darker spots. It should be used very cautiously on tanned or darker skin types. It works well on the face, chest and hands, but is not great for legs.”
– Laser hair removal: “This in-office procedure promises 50-70% permanent hair reduction when used as prescribed,” Shainhouse says. “It works best on light skin with dark hair, since the laser targets brown/black pigment. It often requires up to 10 treatments, the first 3-5 of which are performed every 4-6 weeks, and then spaced out, depending on the speed and amount of re-growth. There are lasers that are available and safer for darker skin types: they use lower energy and a longer wavelength to bypass the darker skin and target the deep hair follicles, to reduce the risk of burning the skin.”
– Oxygen facials: “This is touted as the pre-red carpet facial because it is not at all irritating and will make the skin look temporarily plumped and dewy,” Shainhouse says. “It can minimize the appearance of fine lines and reduce redness, laying a great canvas for makeup application or wearing no makeup at all. A hyaluronic acid-based serum is pressed onto to the skin, and then a fine, continuous spray of oxygen is applied to the face for 15 minutes or so. It is a temporary effect, but a fun, feel-good splurge. It is also safe for sensitive and acne-prone skin.”
– Neurotoxins: “Botox ©, Dysport © and Xeomin © do work temporarily to reduce movement of muscles on the upper face, thus preventing the overlying skin to crease,” Shainhouse says. “It will absolutely soften the appearance of lines due to repetitive muscle expression. It is FDA-approved for use on the crows feet around the eyes and the glabella, the angry lines on the forehead between the eyes and the forehead. Discuss other treatment sites with your dermatologist. The effects can last anywhere from 2-6 months for most people.”
– Fillers: “Most fillers are hyaluronic acid formulations that are injected either into or underneath the skin to plump up creases, add volume to the face, and stimulate collagen growth,” Shainhouse says. “Hyaluronic acid fillers are temporary and last about 6 months, but can last longer, depending on site, diet and activity level. They should be injected to create a natural, age-appropriate look. Recognize that a single syringe of filler contains only 1/5 of a teaspoon of product, so while less is more, sometimes you do need a little more.”
As for procedures that do not work miracles, Shainhouse cautions against these two:
– Radiofrequency, Heat, EMF: “Some of the new devices on the market promise to tighten skin, fade stretch marks and even melt fat,” Shainhouse says. “Yes, in the ideal candidate, who has loose, but not excess, hanging skin folds and no more than an inch or so of fat to pinch, it can help skin appear more taut and lessen any bulges. However, these tightening procedures require multiple treatments. Expect to need a treatment once every 4-8 weeks for 3-4 treatments, then reduce the frequency to 1-2 times a year for maintenance. There are no studies on the long-term effects, so it’s hard to know how long the effects will truly last.”
– Topical fading creams: “Hydroquinone is the best dark-spot fading ingredient that we have,” Shainhouse says. “It can work to fade tan spots due to sun and aging. It can also help reduce the pigment many women develop due to hormones, including pregnancy and birth control pills. However, it doesn’t work in everyone–often it lightens spots, but doesn’t completely erase them. What’s more is that if you still have hormone (or sun!) exposure, they will darken or return. It works best in combination with topical retinoids, and of course, staying out of the sun. Expect to use the topical products nightly for at least 2-3 months before seeing an effect.”
3. Don’t mistake retinol for Retin-A. They both start with “R,” but that’s where the similarities end. In order to get the most youthful skin possible, Dr. Jill Waibel, owner of Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute, stresses the importance of using a prescription Retin-A (retinol is OTC and less effective). “The most important products a patient should have as their basis for their skin regimen is sunscreen (preferred physical block) and Retin-A,” Waibel says. “Sunscreen will prevent brown spots, red lesions and wrinkles that can be caused by sun damage and it will provide additional protection to help prevent skin cancer. Retin-A is a cream that needs to be applied nightly along with a gentle moisturizer. This cream will help with anti-aging factors, help stop future acne formation (because it slows down oil production), promote a glowing and even skin tone, and also help with the prevention of skin cancer.”
For more beauty tips and advice, check out 7 skincare mistakes that are aging you and 10 st-home remedies to try when zits pop up out of nowhere.