Skincare Secrets Only Dermatologists Know

When it comes to skincare, dermatologists are the true experts. Learning from them will no doubt guide us to all better care for the skin we're in!

October 3, 2017
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Do you remember those giant picture books from your childhood? You know the ones—with massive spreads full of facts and figures, little tidbits, and interesting photos of how things work. I specifically recall one we had about the human body. I found it fascinating because it gave an inside view of me and how I worked. Nothing cooler than that!

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One section that always stood out was about the skin—a person’s largest organ. It baffled me, because all other organs are inside, tucked away and protected by muscle and bone, but not the skin!

Not only is it the largest organ, it’s on the outside of us, which means it takes a beating from life day in and day out. The average adult has about 8 pounds and 22 square feet of skin, which means this mighty organ deserves a fair amount of care. But do we give it the care it needs?

I’ll confess that I don’t. Granted, over the years, I’ve tried to pay more attention to my face. At my annual wellness appointments I always have my moles checked. On a daily basis do I love on my skin like I should, though? Nope. But I’m going to resolve to. My skin deserves it—and yours does too.

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Join me for a round of super interesting and useful skincare secrets from dermatologists and skincare experts. I’ve even included a few personal testimonies from skin-loving “normal folk.” Let’s all commit to loving (and better caring for) the skin we’re in!

1. When Age Isn’t on Your Side

I hear so often, “If only I had known this when I was younger…” in regard to skincare. I even say it! Because it’s true—had we known what we know now, wouldn’t we have been more careful with our skin? Of course! But eventually age catches up with us and anti-aging skincare products and techniques become a goldmine.

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When it comes to fighting the effects of aging, California dermatologist Cynthia Bailey says, “Sunscreen is the most important skincare ‘secret’ to stop skin aging, since most thinning and wrinkling are due to UV damage (hint, look at the undersurface of your arm compared to the top or the buttocks compared to the V of the neck). Glycolic acid is a quick fix for crepe-y, crinkled, lusterless age changes.”

She also mentioned that retinol is important when it comes to reversing signs of skin age, so look for that ingredient in your skincare regimen.

Katie F., a mom of four, has seen routine sunscreen application pay off: “My mom is in her late 50s and looks 10+ years younger because she has always been meticulous about protecting her skin from the sun. I religiously use a moisturizer with SPF 30 every morning in hopes of following in her footsteps!”

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Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a dermatologist working out of Beverly Hills, has some very practical tips for reducing UV exposure aside from the typical SPF recommendation. She encourages us all to prevent damage by “minimizing direct UV exposure to skin during peak sun hours (10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.). This means covering up in longer clothing and higher necklines, wearing a hat and sunglasses outdoors.”

2. It’s all about routine.

Skincare routines can get intense and overwhelming, but esthetician Pamalee Perry breaks it down in to three easy to follow steps:

1. “Cleanse: Cleansing should be done morning and night. Never sleep in your makeup!”

2. “Exfoliate: It’s very common for people to overdo this step. Exfoliating your skin is important for manually turning over skin cells, but you only want to exfoliate 2 to 3 times per week.”

3. “Moisturizer: There’s a moisturizer out there for everyone!”

3. If You’ve Got a Bun in the Oven

Pregnancy can revolutionize a woman’s health awareness. All of a sudden, it’s not just about me. It’s about Baby too! It may not be a secret, but use this special time as a mama-to-be to truly assess your skincare routine and “avoid chemicals and go natural,” Bailey advises.

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New York–based dermatologist Neal Schultz agrees that pregnancy is a special time for women to pay closer attention their skincare routine. He says to:

“Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize, especially your breasts, tummy, hips, and thighs—the areas most prone to stretch marks. Half of women with acne get worse, and half get better. If you are in the ‘worse’ half, avoid oral antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide products in the first trimester and NO products with retinol and NO prescription retinoids because they are not safe for the fetus.”

4. What Your Skin Needs at Night

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of a thick, potent night cream. Especially applied after a relaxing bath.

But thanks to Dr. Fayne Frey, a New York–based dermatologist, I learned a big-time secret about the truth behind night creams:

“Ingredients don’t know the time of day. If you work the night shift, do you think you need a day cream? Kind of ridiculous isn’t it. The myth that skin ‘rejuvenates at night’ is also commonly touted in the health and beauty magazines. Although there is some evidence that stem cells may have a circadian rhythm, superficial skin cells replicate 24/7. They don’t stop replicating when the alarm clock goes off at 7:00 a.m.

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“The vast majority of ‘night’ creams are formulated like all other facial moisturizers. Water based, with humectant, occlusives, emulsifiers, a preservative, and on occasion with a ‘marketing tool’ ingredient, like caffeine, where little if any scientific evidence has shown it to be effective at changing the skin around the eyes, or anywhere else for that matter. A ‘night’ cream is a facial moisturizer without sunscreen!”

5. Zits be gone!

If this isn’t the age-old question… What do I do when I get a pimple? How can I make it disappear AND FAST?!?

Most over-the-counter acne products contain either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, but they may only eliminate 33 percent of acne.

Dr. David Lortscher, a dermatologist and founder of Curology says, “I have a trick for healing pimples quickly: hydrocolloid bandages. They can reduce a sore pimple overnight and usually take care of the pimple in a couple of days! The bandage absorbs pus and oil from the inflamed spot. It also creates an acidic environment to prevent bacterial growth.”

I also learned from Lortscher that “most over-the-counter acne products contain either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, but they may only eliminate 33 percent of acne.”

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Uh! Total letdown! Since skin can be so different, especially when dealing with acne, it’s crucial to work with a dermatologist to get acne-related problems under control. Lortscher says, “Given how multi-factorial acne is (your skin is a combination of genetics, hormones, your habits, diet, etc.), there’s really no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cure for acne.”

6. Boys vs. Girls

Beauty products totally cater to the sexes. All over the place you see “this and that is best for men” and “every woman needs this,” but is it true?

Ingredients in skincare products can’t distinguish skin from a man or a women.

Frey says, “Manufacturers market product[s] for men that have a manly fragrance. Otherwise, the basic formulation for body and facial moisturizers are similar. Ingredients in skincare products can’t distinguish skin from a man or a women. By the way, neither can a skin pathologist when looking at skin under the microscope!”

7. When the seasons change, you should make a change.

Just like your makeup color might change with the seasons, so should your skincare routine. Your skin needs different things as the weather changes, and Schultz has some great tips on how to make necessary adjustments.

He says, “In spring/summer, the temperatures and humidity are both higher, and we sweat more and it evaporates less, so all your skincare products should be ‘lighter’ in weight since the air is less drying. Lighter in weight refers to the vehicle that the active ingredients are dissolved in. However the active ingredients usually remain the same including sunscreen, moisturizers (moisturizing ingredients can be the same, including both humectant ingredients which grab and hold onto water and emollient ingredients which seal or hold in that water), glycolics, peptides, antioxidants (vitamin C is the best), peptides to adjust pigment or build collagen, etc.

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“An example is your nightly glycolic exfoliant: Change from a glycolic cream to a serum of the same strength. Cleansers, especially for the T zone, may need to be stronger to remove more oil and dirt/debris, or alternatively, use the same cleanser and bump up your toner to one with a small amount of alcohol. Also in summer, you will need less moisturizer and possibly only on your cheeks and not in your T zone depending on your oil/water balance. In winter it’s all the opposite—heavier vehicles and maintain sunscreen but in a moisturizing vehicle.”

8. Where the Real Hydration Lies

Our bodies are made of roughly 60 percent water. So, it’s safe to assume that without it, we will suffer. Water truly is the key to flourishing skin, so don’t skimp!

Perry says, “Drinking plenty of water is the number one skincare tip I can give you. You can apply all of the expensive serums and creams you want, but if you aren’t keeping your body hydrated from the inside, you won’t see the skincare benefits on the outside.”

9. Let’s talk about pores.

Shainhouse reveals the inside scoop on pores—regarding pore size and how to best manage it. She says, “Pore size is genetic, but you can prevent them from appearing even larger by maintaining skin and collagen health by minimizing UV exposure.

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“UV rays break down collagen, which is needed to provide structural support to the skin. When broken, theoretically, pores can sag open.” Again, protect your skin from those harmful rays.

10. It’s not just about your face.

So much of skincare is focused on facial skincare. But Shainhouse reminds us all that skincare is technically body care. We’ve got skin everywhere!

To better care for our whole bodies, Shainhouse advises us all to “limit shower time to 10 minutes and lower the water temperature to max 112 F. This will help prevent the washing off of natural, protective skin oils that act as a barrier to preventing moisture loss and over-drying. If you are going to moisturize, apply a thin layer within 3 minutes of toweling off in order to trap in the hydration from the shower.”

11. A Little Something for Everyone

Even though dermatologists are the scientific experts when it comes to skincare, regular folk learn a lot through trial and error too. I loved this tip from a nurse from Washington:

“Moisturize! Every older lady I meet with beautiful skin says that’s what they did. And I’d say 100% of those I ask use Oil of Olay…believe it or not,” says Kathy P.

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Along with these skincare tips that you can use at home, be sure to mark your calendar for annual checkups with your regular doctor, who can screen for various skin concerns, and/or a dermatologist who specializes in caring for any issues that arise.

Be prepared to invest in your skin! You’re worth it, and your skin will thank you by glowing a little extra.

Meet our experts:

Dr. Cynthia Bailey specializes in many sun-related skincare issues and has helped more than 13,000 patients over the last 25 years.

Dr. Fayne Frey is also a 25-year veteran of skincare and loves helping individuals home in on what their skin really needs.

Dr. David Lortscher founded Curology, which aims to make dermatology services accessible and affordable through one-on-one consults with dermatologists.

Dr. Neal Schultz has 35 years of dermatology expertise serving clients, and he oversees DermTv.com and BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz, which he founded.

Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse is a board-certified dermatologist and a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California.

Pamalee Perry has more than 10 years of industry knowledge and not only runs a successful waxing business in the Pacific Northwest, but she also constantly expands her skincare awareness with advanced training, most recently completing a master esthetics training and master brow course.

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