Over the years, I’ve come to realize just how important it is to take good care of my skin. My mindset has gone from “how can I hide the flaw?” to “how can I prevent it?" Our skin is the canvas for all of our accessorized glitz and glamour. When it's good, everything looks better, and when it's not, we want to curl up with a pillow over our heads. I love a full face of make up, but the dream is to still feel confident when that is all stripped away. The woman of 2016 is busy. She’s a mama on-the-go, a career woman, a community activist, a chef, an athlete, an artist, and everything in between. She can’t be bothered by pimples, wrinkles, and under-eye bags. She needs to know that her skin is going to be a team player in the midst of her chaotic life. Since most multitasking women don’t have the time and luxury of seeking out weekly skin consultations and treatments from an expert, I’ve enlisted the help of my fabulous friend, dermatologist Dr. Karen Hammerman of Schweiger Dermatology, to teach us how to get and maintain the skin of our dreams.
What should a daily skincare routine look like from morning to night?
5 Essential Steps For a Daily Skincare Regimen:
- Cleansing: Cleansing should be done twice daily, using a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser. Always use your hands instead of a washcloth. Washcloths can harbor bacteria and they’re too rough for sensitive skin. Skin shouldn’t be “squeaky clean” but should have some natural oils left behind.
- Toning: A good toner will remove any excess dirt or makeup left behind by your cleanser—the proof is in the cotton pad. It’s also a step too many women skip in their skincare routine. Regular use will refine and minimize pores and make skin feel fresh.
- Moisturizing: Next to staying out of the sun, moisturizing is the best step towards keeping skin looking young. If you don’t have problem skin, use a lightweight moisturizer. In fall or winter, you might want to switch over to something a little more substantial, but for the summer something light is best. Moisturizer should be applied twice a day.
- Exfoliating: Exfoliating is a step that can be done about two to three times a week. Sloughing off dead skin cells will reveal younger, smoother skin beneath the surface. Use a skincare brush like a Clarisonic. You can use it with whatever cleanser is your favorite. The oscillating brush buffs skin to a healthy glow—but a good scrubbing cleanser or pad will also do the trick.
- Antiaging: Every dermatologist recommends never going in the sun if you want to look young. In reality, a strong SPF defense is the best most women can do. Start with a minimum of SPF 30 every day, and reapply hourly if you’re spending an extended period of time outdoors. As for those fine lines that have already crept up, there are plenty of ways to combat them. If you can, get a topical retinoid from your dermatologist. Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives that are the foundation of any anti-aging bare-minimum routine. They’re great for wrinkles and smoothing skin as well as breakouts. There are also over-the-counter Retinol formulations available at weaker strength for those just starting to think about integrating anti-aging products into their skincare routine. The retinoids are nighttime creams because they make the skin sensitive to the sunlight.
What are your hero products?
- For washing and moisturizing, my go to is Dove. I LOVE their products. This time of year, I am all about the Winter including a PINK beauty bar which I always end up using around Valentines day!). These bars have gentle moisturizers and cleansers that will not strip the skin of essential nutrients.
- For eyes: Neocutis Lumiere Eye Cream (with PSP). It targets fine lines and dark circles, the two main signs of aging around the eyes. The hydrating formula softens and plumps skin to fill in crow’s feet and create a smooth texture. Made with PSP, this advanced formula revitalizes the delicate skin around the eyes. This technology repairs damaged cells to help tighten and firm skin
- For concealer: LORAC Tough-up and go Concealer/Foundation Pen. Modern cosmetic staples like concealer and foundation don’t have to act as simple face paints anymore. New formulas are outfitted with the same skincare as your creams, ensuring that every step in your routine will be a bonus for your skin. This oil, paraben, and fragrance-free formula is infused with Vitamins A and E, Acai Berry, and White and Green Tea to help promote a healthy and youthful-looking complexion.
- For lipstick: Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge. This SPF 12 lipstick has Vitamin E to protect lips from sun and environmental damage, and ingredients like Pro-Xylane and ceramide V to help restore and strengthen the moisture barrier.
- For anti-aging serum: Skin Medica TNS Essential Serum. This serum is a gold standard in the anti-aging growth factor category. It features 2 active formulas that combine to smooth wrinkles and regenerate skin cells for a more youthful appearance. The TNS complex is a protein- and amino acid-rich serum to reduce inflammation and the signs of aging. The APS corrective complex is a mixture of anti-aging ingredients, peptides, and antioxidants to strengthen sagging skin.
What tips do you have for unwanted blemishes?
My tips for acne blemishes depend on the type of blemish:
- For pustules (pimples filled with pus): Keep the area clean and apply a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment. Notice nowhere in this description does it say "pop the whitehead," tempting though it may be! For those of you who can’t control yourselves, don’t fret! Try Clean & Clear Advantage Popped Pimple Relief Drying paste or Pether Thomas Roth Acne Clear invisible Dots to act as a barrier to your own picking instincts!
- For blackheads (oxidized sebum in pores that form dark plugs): Get the offending sebum extracted by a licensed skincare professional. Perfect excuse to go get a facial! For those prone to blackheads, a skincare regimen of 2% salicylic acid twice a day will help prevent blackheads from forming or recurring. Try Murad acne treatment concealer to cover up those blackheads and treat them at the same time or ClearClinic Vanished Spot Treatment.
- For papules (red bump-like zits): Again, apply a 5% benzoyl peroxide spot treatment to kill acne-causing bacteria and shrink the pimple quickly. These can also be injected by your dermatologist with a cortisone shot to speed up the shrinking process. Try Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel Lotion or Ole Henriksen Roll-On Acne Clearing Solution.
- For Brown Spots that remain after pimples clear (or melasma from hormones and sun), a prescription bleaching cream called hydroquinone can be used in conjunction with a retinol to lighten these up over time. Chemical peels and lasers can be performed in-office for a quicker and more effective result. For at-home products for dark spots, I recommend Lytera by Skin Medica and EnlightenMe by Clear Clinic.
What are your top 10 tricks to prevent signs of aging?
- Avoid the sun and wear sunscreen. It's the No. 1 cause of wrinkles, with dozens of studies documenting the impact. If you must go out in the sun, the American Academy of Dermatology says to wear sunscreen! It will protect you from skin cancer and help prevent wrinkles at the same time!
- Get adequate sleep. Whenyou don't get enough sleep, the body produces excess cortisol, a hormone that breaks down skin cells. Get enough rest and you'll produce more HGH (human growth hormone), which helps skin remain thick, more "elastic," and less likely to wrinkle.
- Don't squint -- get reading glasses! The AAD says any repetitive facial movement -- like squinting -- overworks facial muscles, forming a groove beneath the skin's surface. This groove eventually becomes a wrinkle. Also important: wear sunglasses! It will protect skin around the eyes from sun damage -- and further keep you from squinting.
- Use moisturizer. "Women, especially, are so concerned with anti-aging products they often overlook the power of a simple moisturizer. Skin that is moist simply looks better, so lines and creases are far less noticeable.
- Don't over-wash your face. Tap water strips skin of its natural barrier oils and moisture that protect against wrinkles. Wash them off too often, and you wash away protection. Moreover, unless your soap contains moisturizers, you should use a cleanser instead.
- Use Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). These natural fruit acids lift away the top layer of dead skin cells, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, particularly around the eyes. Evidence shows that in higher concentrations, AHAs may help stimulate collagen production.
- Use Retinoids (including Retin A). The only FDA-approved topical treatment for wrinkles is tretinoin, known commercially as Retin A. This prescription cream reducesfine lines and large wrinkles, and repairs sun damage. Retinol is a natural form of vitamin A found in many over-the-counter products. Studies show that in a stabilized formula, in high concentrations, it may be as effective as Retin A, without the side effects, such as skin burning and sensitivity
- Use Topical Vitamin C. Studies have found it can increase collagen production, protect against damage from UVA and UVB rays, correct pigmentation problems, and improve inflammatory skin conditions. The key, however, may be the type of vitamin C used. To date, most of the research points to the L-ascorbic acid form as the most potent for wrinkle relief.
- Use Idebenone. This chemical cousin to the nutrient coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a super-powerful antioxidant.
- Use products with growth factors and pentapeptides. Part of the body's natural wound-healing response, these compounds, when applied topically, may reduce sun damage and decrease lines and wrinkles, while rejuvenating collagen production, studies have shown. Pentapeptides can increase collagen production in sun-damaged skin. Studies have shown that when topically applied, pentapeptides stimulated collagen production and diminished lines and wrinkles.
At what point do you recommend seeking out procedures like lasers and injectables?
In my opinion, it is rarely too early. I believe strongly in prevention and in making the aging process more graceful and slow. It is known that frown lines, forehead furrows and crows’ feet are due to repetitive folding of skin from normal expressions. People in their 40s, 50s and 60s attempt to fix these wrinkles and folds once they’ve developed. But by injecting earlier, people can keep them from ever forming. If you slow down the use of these muscles beginning in early adult life, the lines never develop. Rather than going backward and fixing something that’s already there, you can inhibit it from ever starting in the first place. Of course I do not advocate treating children and teens. But, as soon as someone begins to notice and becomes bothered by these things, it is more than reasonable to being treatment with Botox. The main downside that I see to this, is that the cost of starting such procedures in early adulthood can be exorbitant as the procedures are pricey. To treat the forehead, the area between the eyebrows, and the crow’s feet would average between $600 and $1500 per treatment. So that’s an average of $1000 per month every 3-4 months and $3000 a year just for botox which treats only the upper part of the face. It is important not to get too carried away with this by starting way too early. Work with your trusted dermatologist to achieve your goals and address your concerns.
A lot of busy women fear certain skincare procedures like lasers and peels will keep them out of commission for too long (we all remember Samantha’s terrifyingly raw face at Carrie’s book party in Sex and the City). What are some lunch-hour procedures you advocate?
- Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive anti-aging procedure that promises a number of benefits for all skin types. In this procedure, the skin is buffed smooth using a small wand that sandblasts fine crystals directly onto the skin’s surface. This procedure is designed to buff away fine lines and wrinkles, skin irregularities and lighten age spots so that the skin is left glowing. Collagen levels are increased over time as the skin begins to heal itself. This is best done once a month for a number of sessions (at least 6) to get lasting benefits.
- Injectable fillers are a quick fix solution for getting rid of wrinkles temporarily. These are a non-invasive option for all skin types. Today’s collagen and hyaluronic acid dermal fillers can help to fill out fine lines and wrinkles and smooth out the skin tone within minutes. Juvederm, Botox, Hydrelle, Perlane and Restylane are some of the leading types of injectable fillers available and have been approved by the FDA.
- Light Chemical Peels can improve the texture and appearance of rough, wrinkled or spotted skin. They gently exfoliate, smooth, and soften the skin while they remove the outer skin cell layer. Light chemical peels can renew your skin's texture and improve its clarity. They're great for correcting dull, lifeless complexions.
- Photofacials are designed to stimulate the cellular repair process and increase collagen production. These facials make use of laser energy, pulsed light and infrared light to penetrate the skin’s surface and stimulate the dermis. As the skin begins to heal and new cells are produced, the skin appears more youthful and minor lines and wrinkles are eliminated. The procedure is used to treat age spots, broken capillaries, blotchy pigmentation and improve the appearance of wrinkles.
- Skin-tightening procedures such as Titan and Thermage are another set of non-invasive anti aging treatments that promise exceptional results. With these procedures, high intensity energy waves are delivered deep into the skin’s surface to cause a contraction. Over time, this triggers the collagen production process so the skin appears more youthful, plumper and softer. A series of skin tightening procedures is typically needed to achieve noticeable results.
- CoolSculpting, a non-surgical treatment that uses intense cold to destroy fat cells. The body gradually eliminates the treated fat over the course of several months. A treatment requires no recovery time and takes about an hour, and it can result in a 25% fat reduction on the abdomen, lower back, or thighs.
Photography: Dakota Kaiser