Between packing lunches, volunteering at school and rushing to work or soccer practice, you always remember to wash your face before bed, moisturize and wear sunscreen, right? Maybe not so much. But we swear you’ll look and feel better if you commit to a little TLC for your skin, your body’s biggest organ. Your healthy skin routine doesn’t have to be time-consuming or involve an arsenal of specialty products, but it does have to be consistent. Here’s how to take better care of your skin with tips that dermatologists themselves swear by:
No excuses! “Wear it every day, rain or shine, January to December, regardless of your ethnicity,” says Jeanine Downie, MD, a dermatologist at Image Dermatology in Montclair and spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation. “People of color can also get skin cancer, and it’s often not diagnosed until it’s more advanced, which makes it deadlier. If you have skin, you can get skin cancer.”
Stick with a minimum of SPF 30. It doesn’t matter whether you use a cream or spray-on formula. “The best sunscreen is the one you like and will use every day,” says Downie. Some makeup and moisturizers have minimal SPF, but you still need to slather on a broad-spectrum SPF 30 every day before applying makeup. Don’t miss your ears, the back of your neck, hands and the tops of your feet. Reapply every two hours if you’re outdoors. And here’s a little-known fact: UVA rays can penetrate window glass, and there’s evidence that indoor light can contribute to photoaging, so wear sunscreen even if you plan to be indoors all day.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Focus on the basics for healthy skin: A gentle cleanser, a moisturizer with SPF 30, a retinoid and an eye cream. “I think people become overwhelmed by using too many products at once,” says Lauren Ploch, MD, a dermatologist with Georgia Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center in Augusta, Georgia. “A complicated skin care routine isn’t necessary.”
Avoid scrubbing your face for healthy skin. “Washes should be gentle without abrasive exfoliants,” says Ploch. “Avoid those with salicylic acid containing cleansers on the face because they can be too harsh, especially if you’re using a retinoid.” Stick with mild washes that contain glycerin or an equivalent, such as glycinate.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT ANTI-AGING PRODUCT
If you pick only one anti-aging product, make it a retinoid. “Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that increase skin cell turnover, chemically exfoliate skin and can even rebuild collagen in skin over time,” says Ploch. If you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding, use a retinoid at least twice a week. If it’s too drying (especially in the winter), cut back to once a week.
“With aging, we lose lipids from our skin naturally,” says Ploch. Most women benefit from moisturizing, and you can save time by using a daily sunscreen that doubles as a moisturizer. Look for products that contain ceramides, hyaluronic acid and dimethicone—these naturally-occurring substances keep skin hydrated.
Acne is easy to treat when it’s caught early (and before it causes scarring), but over-the-counter products may not be your best bet because they’re harsh and can make acne worse over time. “Teenage acne and hormonal acne aren’t treated the same way,” says Ploch. “A quick visit to the dermatologist will allow your doctor to create a personalized regimen suited to your type.”
You already know that if an existing mole changes or a new mole appears, you should book an appointment with your dermatologist to get it checked ASAP. But watch for more subtle warning signs, too, such as: any mole or lesion that bleeds or itches; a bump that looks like a cold sore but doesn’t heal after a couple weeks; flaky, dry skin or red patches that won’t go away after a few weeks, or “pimples” that don’t heal after a month. “If it’s something, we want to catch it sooner rather than later,” says Downie.
STEER CLEAR OF TANNING BEDS
Never, ever, ever go to tanning beds. “There’s no such thing as a ‘base’ tan,” says Downie. “Every time you use a bed, it increases your chances of skin cancer by more than 70 percent.” Just say no to tanning. Period.
—Arrica Elin SanSone is a New York-based health and lifestyle writer.