Skincare the Easy Way

09.28.10 Facial Mask

Optimizing the appearance of your skin may not require pricey chemical peels or department store serums. Stock up on a few essential products, tweak your daily skin care routine and watch your skin transform from flawed to flawless.

Ever feel overwhelmed by the array of skin cleansers touting their “deep cleaning” and “exfoliating” power? For your body, opt for a gentle soap or body wash by Dove, Oil of Olay, Cetaphil or Aveeno over harsh scrubs and scented soaps, which can be irritating to people with sensitive skin and allergies.

Consider your skin type when choosing a facial cleanser. Gentle cleansers are great for normal skin. If your face is oily or acne-prone, look for a cleansing wash that contains alpha hydroxy acids or benzoyl peroxide. A gentle exfoliant or at-home microdermabrasion kit used one to two per week may be also provide relief without causing excessive irritation.

Starting your day with a long, steamy shower may soothe your nerves, but the hot water is also stripping your of skin of natural oils. Reduce the water temperature and shorten your shower time to keep your skin hydrated. Moisturizing your skin with a lotion or cream immediately after bathing is also crucial. Warm, moist skin absorbs better than drier skin. For normal skin type, consider using a lotion. Thicker creams work best for dry skin. If you suffer from extremely dry, flaky or thickened skin, look for a lotion or cream that contains ammonium lactate or urea to help with exfoliation.

What if your face is showing its age? Products that contain alpha hydroxy acids can also help smooth the appearance of fine lines and improve pigment abnormalities by exfoliating the superficial layers of the skin. Products with vitamin A as an active ingredient, such as Retinol, also treat the signs of aging by increasing cell turn over on the surface of the skin and boosting collagen production in the deeper layers. For a stronger effect, ask your dermatologist if prescription retinoids are right for you.

Take note that much of what we perceive as the effect of aging on our skin has more to do with sun damage than the passage of time. Application of a moisturizer that contains SPF 30 or greater sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection to the face, neck, upper chest and hands helps prevent damage to the skin from sun exposure. A moisturizer-sunscreen combination should be used daily, regardless of the weather.

Vitamins E and C, as well as green tea extracts contain antioxidants, which can also be helpful in reversing damage that occurs to the skin as a result of sun exposure. The most effective treatment, however, is prevention. Avoiding of excessive sun exposure in the form of outdoor and indoor tanning is of the utmost importance.

A healthy diet and adequate hydration are also essential to healthy-looking skin. Recent studies show that diets high in refined sugars and fats may worsen acne. Hormone-laden dairy products have also been associated with acne, especially in women. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains can promote blemish-free skin. Hydrating with at least 64 ounces of water a day is recommended.

Taking these steps to improve your skin could lead to better overall health.

Written by: Corrie Alford, M.D., lead dermatologist of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia

Cotton Candy Magazine®