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Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Best Care for Your Skin Type

Makeup experts and skin care specialists refer often to various skin types — dry, oily, combination — assuming you know which category you fall under. Your skin care regimen depends on your skin type, but not everyone has a good understanding of their skin. As a result, their skin care plan is more of the hit-or-miss variety.

Know Your Skin Type

Unsure of what skin type you have? See which description fits you best:

  • Dry skin. “Dry skin can be flaky and easily irritated. It’s more sensitive,” says Linda Franks, MD, director of Gramercy Park Dermatology and clinical assistant professor in the department of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York. She says if your skin has these qualities and also tends to react to some (or all) of the skin products you have tried, you have dry skin. The extreme version of dry skin is sensitive skin.
  • Oily skin. The primary test for determining if you have oily skin is when you start to feel some oil on your face. Most people can feel a little oil by late afternoon, but if you feel oil around midday, you have oily skin. Oily skin rarely reacts negatively to skin products like dry, sensitive skin types do. It has slightly better natural sun protection, but is also prone to acne.
  • Combination skin. If the description of dry skin matches your cheeks, but the description of oily skin matches your “T-zone” (nose and brow area primarily), you have combination skin.

Matching skin care to skin type is important. Dr. Franks notes that there are two commonly used skin care products that just about everyone can steer clear of: toner and too-frequent exfoliation, both of which can strip away the protective layers of your skin. If you have a good skin care regimen, you don’t need either one, although you could plan for a semi-annual exfoliation as seasons change.

Caring for Dry Skin

Dry skin needs babying and lots of tender, loving care. Here are the key components of dry skin care:

  • Cleanse. Use a gentle cleanser. You should be able to cleanse at night and not have to cleanse again in the morning. “Mild cleansers are best for all skin types,” says Franks, who recommends Purpose, Dove bar soap, or Cetaphil cleanser. These cleansers should easily remove makeup as well as dirt.
  • Apply retinol. “Stick to a retinol for anti-aging. Retinol can be very good for dry skin,” says Franks. However, not everyone with dry skin can use retinol products due to sensitivity. If irritation appears, the frequency of use can be decreased.
  • Apply products with hyaluronic acid. “The other thing that can go on underneath a moisturizer is a hyaluronic acid product. That molecule is very hydroscopic — it pulls water in around it. That would be a great augmenting moisturizer for someone with dry skin,” says Franks.
  • Moisturize. “The stratum corneum, which is the dead skin cell layer that protects the surface of the skin, tends to get easily interrupted with dry skin. You want to try to repair that,” advises Dr. Franks. Look for moisturizers that contain phospholipids, cholesterol, and essential fatty acids. She recommends CeraVe Moisturize in the morning (with an SPF of 30) and more moisturizer before bed, using a thicker cream, such as Olay’s Regenerist.
  • Proceed with caution. It helps to take your time adding new products to your skin care routine, says Franks. Try them one at a time and wait to see if you get a reaction before adding another new product.

Caring for Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, you’ll have an easier time finding skin care products that won’t irritate, but your challenge is managing the oil:

  • Cleanse. People with oily skin or acne should wash with a gentle cleanser morning and evening. Franks offers this tip for cleansing properly: Use your fingertips and rub it in for 30 seconds before rinsing.
  • Use salicylic acid. Apply an alcohol-free salicylic acid product, such as a Stridex pad, or a salicylic acid medicated cleanser on the oily areas of your skin. Do this two or three times a week.
  • Apply retinol. Retinol products also cut down on oil production and reduce the appearance of large pores. They are a good anti-aging choice for those with oily skin, who are less likely to find them irritating than those with dry skin.
  • Moisturize. Use an oil-free moisturizer with SPF 30. “One of my favorites is Complete Defense in the Olay line,” says Franks.

Caring for Combination Skin

People with combination skin will follow the same basic routine, but have to make it a balancing act, drawing from skin care routines for both oily and dry skin:

  • Cleanse. Stick to gentle cleansers. “Do not use a medicated cleanser at all — keep it mild,” says Franks. Once a day should be fine unless you have significant oil in some parts of your face.
  • Spot-treat with salicylic acid. Apply this to the oilier areas of your face every other day.
  • Moisturize. Go for oil-free products with SPF 30 and spot-treat the drier areas of your face with richer moisturizer.

Take some time to develop the skin care routine that’s right for your skin type. If you are still unsure of how to care for your complexion, talk to a dermatologist about the products you are using and how they affect your skin. With a little work, you can achieve a healthy glow, no matter what your skin type.

5 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin

Your skin plays a vital role in protecting your body, so it’s important to take steps to promote skin health. Caring for your skin doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and can quickly become second nature, like brushing your teeth.

You can keep your skin looking and feeling great by guarding against a slew of skin woes, from chapped skin to premature aging to skin cancer. “We’re talking about things that happen over decades,” says dermatologist Samantha Conrad, MD, in practice at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

That’s why it is important to develop healthy skin habits —and it’s never too late to start. Here are five skin protection tips you can incorporate into your routine right away.

Limit Sun Exposure

You’ve heard the message a zillion times, but there’s good reason — ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun cause many types of skin damage, including:

  • Skin cancer
  • Wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Age spots
  • Discolorations
  • Benign growths

Using skin care products that offer ultraviolet protection is one of the best ways to help keep your skin looking fresh and youthful. Try these tips to help protect your skin from the sun:

  • Use sunscreen every day and reapply regularly whenever you’re outdoors for extended periods. “I encourage people to use sunblock that is more mineral- or physical-based,” says Dr. Conrad. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
  • Cover up. “It’s really about protection — that means wearing hats and protective sun clothing,” says Conrad. Long sleeves and pants or long skirts give you more coverage.
  • Stay indoors when the sun is at its most intense, usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., according to the AAD.
  • Combine sun protection strategies. A study published in January 2017 inJAMA Dermatologyfound that beachgoers using an umbrella alone for sun protection were more likely to get sunburn than those using sunscreen alone — but neither strategy completely prevented sunburn. The researchers concluded that combining multiple strategies offers the most protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Keep in mind that tanning beds are just as harmful as direct sunlight, as they also emit ultraviolet rays, according to the AAD.

Stay Hydrated

“Drinking enough water/fluids is important for your general health,” says Karyn Grossman, MD, a dermatologist in private practice with Grossman Dermatology in Santa Monica, California, and spokesperson for the AAD. She recommends starting the day with a cup of green tea for hydration, caffeine, and antioxidants.

In addition to drinking enough fluids, keeping your skin moist is essential to skin protection.

“Dry skin can have small gaps in the skin barrier that allow entry of bacteria and fungus,” says dermatologist Michael Lin, MD, medical director of the Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute in Beverly Hills, California.

Skin that is properly hydrated retains pliability and is less likely to become chapped, scaly, or flaky. Try these tips to keep your skin hydrated:

  • Use the right moisturizing cream or lotion for your skin. “Look for moisturizers with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or coconut oil,” says Dr. Grossman. “Always apply on damp skin. This keeps the moisture in the skin.”
  • Take warm (not hot) showers or baths and limit them to between five and 10 minutes. It seems counterintuitive, but exposure to water actually dries out your skin, Grossman explains. If dry skin persists, consider cutting back on the number of baths you take.
  • Invest in a humidifier. “If your skin tends to be on the dry side, using a humidifier in your bedroom at night and in your work space during the day can help keep the air hydrated, which can prevent the air from zapping moisture from your skin,” says Grossman.

Take Health Precautions

Cold sores are caused by a viral infection of the skin bordering the lips, while bacteria can contribute to acne and other skin conditions. Paying close attention to what touches your skin can help lower your chances of exposure to germs. Start with these tips:

  • Don’t share any personal items, such as lip balms or toothbrushes, with others.
  • Don’t share drinks with other people.
  • Avoid touching your face with your fingers, and avoid facial contact with objects that have been used by other people, such as telephone receivers.
  • Don’t pick at cysts or splinters. Instead, ask your doctor to help you with these skin conditions, says Grossman.

Being prompt with first aid is also important, she says. If you get a bug bite or a scratch, “get on it right away.” Grossman recommends cleaning the site, applying antibiotic ointment if there is a break in the skin, using a clean bandage, and cleaning the site twice daily as it heals.

Use Gentle Skin Care Products

Washing your face is important to remove dirt, oils, germs, and dead cells from your skin. However, scrubbing your face can cause irritation and lead to chapped skin that can become vulnerable. “I find that people often over-rub, over-scrub, and over-peel,” says Grossman, who recommends avoiding abrasive exfoliation skin care products.

The AAD recommends:

  • Washing your face twice daily with warm water and a mild cleanser.
  • Gently massaging your face with your fingers, using a circular motion.
  • Rinsing thoroughly after washing to remove all soap and debris.
  • Patting — not rubbing — your skin dry, then applying moisturizer.

Know Your Skin

“Check your skin regularly for changing moles and other signs of possible skin cancer,” says Grossman.  Talk to your dermatologist about what kinds of changes should concern you.

Certain skin conditions merit a visit to the dermatologist, including frequent acne, inflamed or irritated dry skin, and skin rashes and irritations that don’t go away, as these could be signs of one of the many types of dermatitis, or skin inflammation.

However, should you ever notice any other skin problems, it’s important to get medical attention to resolve them quickly and avoid putting your skin at risk.

Tips to Treat Winter-Dry Skin

A scratchy wool sweater may make your skin itchy and sensitive during the cold months, but winter weather itself poses a special threat to your skin. There’s little humidity in the air and revving up the heat indoors makes it even worse. The result:Dry skin in need of moisture, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation.

When you have dry, sensitive skin, it itches, appears dull, and may be flaky. Darker skin tones may look ashy, Dr. Fusco says. Dry skin can become cracked and even split. In an extreme case, dry skin can look thickened and leathery, she says.

Before you decide to relocate to a warmer, more humid climate, take these steps to sea in the moisture and repair winter skin.

Your Moisturizer: Go From Thin to Thick

While you might only need a thin lotion on your body during summer months, Fusco suggests switching to a thicker skin moisturizer, such as an ointment or cream, in the winter. Apply it when your skin is still damp from a shower.

An ointment such as petroleum jelly is the thickest skin moisturizer you can buy and will work well for treating dry skin, Fusco says. Although it can be greasy, if you put it on when your skin is damp, the greasiness will go away. “But don’t put it on the bottom of your feet because you could slip and fall,” Fusco cautions.

Creams are also thicker than lotion and are great for winter skin. If your skin is very, very dry, you may want to try one that contains alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA, to exfoliate dead skin, Fusco says.

Winter Complexion Protection

Be sure to use a separate moisturizer specifically designed for your face, Fusco says. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive, so always choose a moisturizer that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” because it won’t clog your pores or lead to pimples. If you have sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to look for a hypoallergenic moisturizer, adds Fusco.

Go with a lighter moisturizer such as a lotion if you have oily skin and a heavier formula if you have dry skin. If you have a combination of oily and dry skin on your face, use a lighter lotion overall and dab the areas of dry skin with the thicker cream, Fusco says.

The sun’s damaging rays can still reach your skin in the winter. Fusco recommends using a face moisturizer with an SPF, or sun protection factor. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a sunscreen all year round, with an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

Switch Up Your Shower Strategy

It may be hard to resist a long soak in a hot bath when it’s cold outside, but it doesn’t do your skin any favors. “Sitting in hot baths has a drying effect on the skin,” Fusco says. A better idea: Take a short, warm shower.

Keep showers under 10 minutes and apply your skin moisturizer within three minutes of stepping out. Also, avoid soaps with deodorants, fragrance, or alcohol because they can strip your skin of its natural oils.

Other Ways to Add Moisture

Using a humidifier in your home will help put moisture back into the air and keep your skin from getting dry, Fusco says. No humidifier? Fill a bowl with water and put it near the source of your heat, suggests Fusco.

Getting good-for-you fats into your diet from unsaturated sources like oils and nuts will also help skin look healthy and stay supple during the winter, Fusco says. Drinking plenty of water helps to moisturize your skin from the inside out.

Winter doesn’t have to mean itchy, flaky dry skin. Choosing the right skin moisturizer and taking some simple steps can help you look your best all season long.

Are Natural Skin Care Products Better?

You can’t hide your skin, so you want to take care of it. You want to put your best face forward — with clear, glowing, smooth, natural skin. You may even be willing to spend more for skin care products that boast better results because contain natural ingredients or are labeled “organic.”

But what do those terms really mean? Is the “natural” or “organic” label worth the extra weight of the price tag — is it really any better for your skin and for the environment?

It all comes down to what you want from your skin products and what your particularskin type needs.

Is Natural Better?

“When choosing between a natural or organic product and one that’s not, it’s helpful to think about what is important to you,” says Kelly C. Nelson, MD, a dermatologist and assistant professor at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina.

Decide what you want to get out of your skin care products. Are you looking for something that won’t irritate your skin, gives you better results and healthier skin, or has less impact on the environment? Do you want a combination of all those elements?

“If you’re in the market for a product that’s fragrance- or preservative-free, or presented with minimal or recycled packaging, it may be easier to meet those criteria with a natural or organic product,” says Dr. Nelson.

But don’t read too much into the labels or make assumptions that may not be true. Natural doesn’t always mean better, and natural ingredients aren’t necessarily safer or more likely to provide better results.

“People with sensitive skin may opt for natural or organic products in an attempt to avoid skin allergic reactions, which may work, but sometimes doesn’t,” Nelson says.

If you’re going to try a natural or organic product, allow some time to see if it really is compatible with your skin and if it’s worth the additional price.

“Give any product at least a month to determine if it meets your needs, or less if your skin complains,” says Nelson.

Specific Skin Products for Specific Skin Types

If you’re curious about whether a particular natural ingredient is better for your skin, Nelson also suggests just figuring out what your skin needs. It’s also important to understand that you don’t have to choose natural (or more expensive) to get a good skin care product that works well with your skin.

“While oatmeal-containing products do help moisturize the skin, there are many products that don’t contain oatmeal that do a wonderful job, too,” says Nelson. Soy has been found in studies to improve elasticity and firmness of skin. “Soy-containing products can help improve pigment irregularities that are associated with an aged appearance, but there are several prescription and over-the-counter products that can do an even better job,” she says.

Many natural ingredients that are marketed as better for skin, including acai berry, green tea, olive oil, chamomile, pomegranate, and many more, need to be better studied and investigated in regard to their benefits to skin. Studies also need to explore any possible negative effects before these products can be said to work as well or better than non-natural products.

Results from a less expensive non-natural product can be just as good as from a natural product, and vice versa. And you could still experience an allergic reactionfrom an ingredient in a natural skin care product, while a non-natural product for sensitive skin may not trigger any reaction.

Natural products can be both very effective in promoting healthy skin and more environmentally friendly. But you don’t have to choose natural, organic, or expensive skin care products to find something that works well. What matters is finding skin care products that keep your skin moisturized, glowing, and blemish-free, whether they’re natural or not.