Skincare 101 and 5 Myths Exposed
Feel like you’re doing everything "right" for your skin but are still unsatisfied with its appearance?
Dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Baxt sets the record straight (and that’s about all she’s setting straight) for those of you who think you are doomed to bad skin due to genes. She also identifies actions that may actually be sabotaging your complexion.
Trying to Scrub Away Acne
Acne is not a hygiene problem; it’s a hormonal issue. Excessively cleaning of 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. If you feel compelled to use scrub, use it no more than once a week, choosing a product that has even-sized, round beads, not rough particles.
The big mistake people make is trusting the sunscreen label that reads "all day protection." 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.
Consider alternating drinks with water. Drinking alcohol causes dehydration and dilated blood vessels -- both of which make skin look tired and unhealthy. Try to drink one glass of water per alcoholic drink consumed. This will help skin stay hydrated.
Stress causes your body to go into survival mode by pumping adrenaline to heighten the senses. While this is healthy if you are in danger, prolonged periods of stress can take a toll on your skin. When the body is in survival mode, the most vital organs like the heart, lungs and brain work overtime. The skin, a less vital organ, becomes deprived of nutrients, which eventually affects its appearance. Combat stress by incorporating relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing into your routine.
Drinking eight glasses of water a day and applying a moisturizing cream to your face regularly can save you the headache of dealing with a cracked and sensitive skin. No matter how tired you feel, remember to clean your face before going to bed. Using harsh cleansers to clean your skin will strip away the natural oils that protect it from dirt, pollution and other factors that can easily damage your skin. Do your skin a favor and use mild cleaners.
Applying your usual facial moisturizer to your "under-eye" area is really harsh. This area is the most delicate area in your face and it’s where fine lines will appear first, so having a specialized eye cream is a must after the age 25.
Next page for 5 Skin Myth Busters
5 Skin Myth Busters
Myth #1: Your skin will age just like your parent’s.
The reality: Sure, genetics play a role in how your skin looks, from the size of your pores to its texture and color. But banking on aging like your relatives is a big mistake. Habits make more of a difference than genetics. The biggest culprit in aging is sun exposure. Your drinking, smoking, stress and sleep habits play a role, too. Skipping sunscreen, imbibing too often, coping ineffectively with stress and sleeping on your side or stomach can all exacerbate and create wrinkles, adult acne, and texture changes.
Myth #2: The SPF number tells you how much protection you’re getting from the sun.
The reality: There are two types of damaging sunrays: UVA, which are responsible for aging the skin; and UVB, which are responsible for burning it. The SPF number on a bottle of sunscreen only gives a guide for how much UVB protection the product offers. It doesn’t tell you whether or not the product protects from UVA rays (which are also responsible for melanoma). All sunscreens protect from UVB rays. To fully protect yourself, however, look for a product that contains UVA-blocking ingredients, too, such as zinc or avobenzone (Parsol 1789). Reapply often.
Myth #3: You need a separate sunscreen and moisturizer.
The reality: Sunscreens already add moisture to your skin because of their ingredients. So if you have oily skin, you may want to skip the separate moisturizer. For those who prefer to wear both products, apply the moisturizer first; allow to dry, then apply sunscreen. Either way, be sure to wear sunscreen daily: Every day is a sun day, even if it’s cloudy or overcast.
Myth #4: Most of the sun damage you incur happens before age 18.
The reality: Recent studies have shown that by age 18, you’ve only accumulated 18 to 23 percent of the sun damage you’ll incur over a lifetime. That means that there’s still time to protect your skin from the sun and delay sun-induced aging. Do this by using sunscreen and products with sun-damage reversing ingredients such as vitamin C and retinol.
Myth #5: Cosmetic creams can turn back time for your skin.
The reality: There’s no such thing as a miracle in a bottle. As you age, your facial bones shrink, you lose fat under the skin, and your skin becomes loose. Rubbing on a cream isn’t going to address these things. Cosmetic skincare products cannot, by FDA law, include medications, which are the only things that truly change the structure of the skin. What cosmetic creams can do: Temporarily plump up and hydrate your skin. For the best chance at turning back time, see your dermatologist for medications or procedures.
About Rebecca Baxt, M.D.
Rebecca Baxt, M.D., MBA, FAAD is a Board Certified Dermatologist specializing in both cosmetic and general dermatology for adults and children. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, a member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, New Jersey State Medical Society, Bergen County Medical Society, and the Dermatological Society of Greater New York, as well as the American Medical Association.