Your biggest skin-care mistakessolved! – Do-it-Right Beauty
From over-exfoliating to over-moisturizing, top dermatologists share women’s leading complexion blunders and offer easy advice on setting any beauty routine right.
Having perfect skin is at the top of just about every Woman’s wish list. But despite all the knowledge we’ve gleaned over the years from magazines, friends, facialists and dermatologists, we still don’t seem entirely sure how to achieve that flawless complexion. In fact, even the skin-savviest among us are prone to making occasional mistakes that can wreak havoc on our complexions–out of laziness, overzealousness or just plain misinformation. To the rescue: Top dermatologists share the worst offenses of their patients and show you how to get your routine back on track.
Trying to scrub away acne
“Acne is not a hygiene problem; it’s a hormonal issue,” explains James Spencer, M.D., director of dermatological surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, who adds that excessively cleaning your face won’t get rid of acne. Instead of attempting to scrub your pimple-prone skin into submission, wash it gently with a foaming face wash that’s designed to lift off dirt without irritating skin. And if you do feel compelled to enlist a scrub, use it no more than once a week, choosing a product that has even-sized, round beads, not rough particles.
“Rough grains can irritate the skin to the point where it starts to overproduce oil,” warns New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist Lisa Airan, M.D. Best acne-prone bets: Eucerin’s new Clear Skin Pore Purifying Foaming Wash ($6.49), Clearasil Total Control Deep Pore Cream Cleanser ($7), Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask ($6.50) with salicylic acid and Clean & Clear Blackhead Clearing Scrub ($5), all at drugstores.
Putting on sunscreen once and assuming you’re protected
“The big mistake women make is trusting the sunscreen label that reads ‘all day protection,'” Spencer says. “The truth is that no sunscreen lasts more than four hours; you’re kidding yourself if you think you can put it on once and forget about it.” Regular sunscreen use is even more important if you are treating your face with Retin-A or alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids, or getting peels or microdermabrasion — all of which can leave skin more sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
The solution is not only using sunscreen more often, but applying more sunscreen. The label may promise SPF 30, but spreading just a thin coat over your skin will give you only a fraction of that protection. Two favorite sunscreens: Ocean Potion Anti-Aging Sun Block SPF 30 with Parsol 1789 ($7; at drugstores) and Clinique Face SPF 30 Sun Block ($16.50; clinique.com).
Falling for the ingredient du jour
Green tea, licorice extract, betahydroxy acids — for every new product, you’ll find someone for whom it’s the miracle that finally fixed their every skin flaw. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will have the same effect on you. “People always want to try the newest thing because they automatically assume it will be better than what they are already using,” Airan says. “But be careful not to experiment too much. If you do try something new, give your skin time to react before deciding if the product works.”
That means observing your skin – paying attention to how it feels, how it looks and how the weather conditions where you live (whether the air is dry or humid) affect it. “Women spend a lot of money on products they don’t need because they get a false sense that one product will be the miracle that will erase all the ravages of time,” says San Francisco dermatologist Seth Matarasso, M.D. In other words, let the buyer beware.
Not reading labels carefully
Reading the fine print on products is essential, particularly if you have oily, blemish-prone skin or suffer from rosacea or topical allergies. “I see many women using a moisturizer that contains oil when they have acne,” says Ruth Tedaldi, M.D., a dermatologist in Wellesley, Mass. “It’s important to look for hidden sources — like tea-tree oil and nut oils — that are considered natural but that may still clog your pores.” Instead, look for moisturizers, sunscreens and foundations that are clearly marked “oil-free” or “noncomedogenic.” Good oil-free bets: Lancome Hydra Controle Mat ($35; lancome.com) and Estee Lauder Clear Difference Oil-Control Hydrator ($29.50; esteelauder.com).
The same rule holds true for those with dry skin; you need oil — so you don’t want to invest in a product meant for acne-prone skin. Try Shiseido The Skincare Day Essential Moisturizer Enriched SPF 10 ($35; www.shiseido.com) or Suave Hydrating Overnight Cream ($4; at drugstores). If you’re unsure about your skin type and/or the products you should be using, visit a dermatologist.
Ignoring skin from the neck down
Alligator-skin arms and legs are undoubtedly unattractive, but there’s more than a purely aesthetic reason for taking care of your body skin. “The skin is a barrier designed to keep out bacteria,” says New York dermatologist Melanie Grossman, M.D. “And when skin gets excessively dry and itchy, scratching can introduce infection.” The best defense is adequate moisture. Fresh out of the shower every day, slather a layer of moisturizer on still-damp skin to seal in water. Try The Healing Garden White Teatheraphy Blissful Comfort Body Lotion ($7; at drugstores) or Thibiant Beverly Hills Tahitian Extreme Moisture ($32.50; aidathibiant.com). “You need to take your body skin as seriously as you do the skin on your face,” Matarasso says. That also means daily sunscreen use, frequent mole checks, gentle cleansing and regular exfoliation. Favorite body products: Clarins Relax Bath and Shower Concentrate ($22; gloss.com) and qiora’s new Body Care Collection ($30-$55; qiora.com), with everything from a gentle body cleans er to a rich nourishing body cream.
It’s the dirty little secret so many of us share: the inability to leave our skin alone. This is the worst skin-care offense of them all, and yet we can’t stop popping, squeezing and picking. “It’s a very difficult habit to break,” Tedaldi admits, “but you need to figure out the times and places where you tend to pick at your skin the most and break that ritual.” Maybe it means tossing out your magnifying mirror or putting a lower-wattage bulb in the bathroom light fixture. Or maybe you just need to remind yourself that by delving mere millimeters into the skin, you can cause a mark that will stay on your face for at least two weeks (or, at worst, result in a scar)– as opposed to leaving a pimple untouched so that it will vanish on its own within about a week.
Assuming that more is better
“More is better” may apply to things like using sunscreen and eating vegetables, but when it comes to caring for your skin, it’s usually true that less is more. “A woman will come into my office with a dark spot, so I’ll give her a bleaching cream to use once a day,” Spencer says. “A week later she’s back with red, peeling, blotchy skin because she’s applied it several times a day.” Chances are that if the product label reads “once a day.” you’re going to cause problems by using it more frequently. In fact, you can worsen your skin’s condition by causing extra irritation.
The same holds true for trying too many products at once. Just because Retin-A and hydroxy acids can be beneficial for the skin doesn’t mean you should start slathering them on several times a day — or even every day. Not only do you need to build up your usage of such ingredients gradually, but you should also never try more than one new product at a time.
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1. You’re drinking lots of water. Drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day will keep skin hydrated and healthy.
2. You stopped using soap to wash your face. Unlike most soaps, cleansers are formulated to not strip the skin of essential oils. Looking for a new cleanser? Try Murad Refreshing Cleanser ($24; murad.com) with cucumber extract.
3. You’re washing morning and night. Cleansing in the morning gives your skin a fresh start, and at night it clears away pore-clogging dirt, oil and makeup. For quick and easy cleansing, try Olay Daily Facials ($7; at drugstores), gentle cleansing cloths that lather up with water.
4. You started using a moisturizer. Every skin type benefits from a moisturizer. A good bet for summer: Estee Lauder Day Wear Plus Multi-Protection Anti-Oxidant Sheer Tint SPF 15 ($37.50; esteelauder.com), which gives skin a glow.
5. You bought your first eye cream. It’s never too early to combat the signs of aging in the thin, sensitive eye area. One favorite newcomer: the antioxidant-rich Neutrogena Radiance Boost Eye Cream ($13; at drugstores).
6. You’re slowing down the aging process. There are things you can do to diminish wrinkles, namely applying sun protection and investing in a good anti-aging cream. One to try: Dr. Brandt lineless cream ($95; drbrandtskincare.com) with botanicals.
7. You’re applying makeup with sunscreen. While SPF-laden cosmetics don’t give total sun protection, foundations, powders and lipsticks with SPF are a great start. Two products we love: Elizabeth Arden Flawless Finish Bare Perfection Makeup SPF 8 ($20; www.elizabetharden.com) and Chanel Double Perfection Compact SPF 10 ($46; qloss.com).
Sally Wadyka is a freelance writer in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and the co-author of Bobbi Brown Beauty Evolution: A Guide to a Lifetime of Beauty (HarperResource, 2002).
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