For most of us, glowing skin that's acne- and wrinkle-free is a goal--but
for dermatologists, it's practically a job requirement. Unlike those
of us who go through countless jars, tubes and bottles of various lotions
and potions to try and achieve great skin, dermatologists have the expertise
to pinpoint exactly what their skin needs. So take a page from
Hong T. Nguyen, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with
Mission Heritage Medical Group, who shares her skin-care regimen and trade secrets:
Start each day with a clean face.
You may think washing your face in the morning isn't a necessity. Your
face can't be that dirty from sleeping--nothing a little splash of
water in the shower can't fix. But Dr. Nguyen recommends kicking off
your daily skin-care plan with a cleanser because you can have dirt and
oil on your skin when you wake up.
"I usually start with a gentle face wash because I have oily and acne-prone
skin," Dr. Nguyen says. "People who don't have sensitive
skin or aren't prone to acne may use a cleanser with glycolic acid,
which takes off dead skin cells that can accumulate overnight. For people
with dry skin, there are face washes with moisturizing properties. It
all depends on a person's skin type."
Protect the skin with a lot of layers.
To get your skin ready to face the world--and the pollutants, free radicals
and damaging sun rays that come with it--you'll want to prep it. "You're
never too young to start using products to help your skin," Dr. Nguyen says.
Her first step is a serum, which is a thin liquid easily absorbed by the
skin. "I use vitamin C serum," she says. "During the day,
the skin is exposed to a lot of sun rays and the vitamin C provides antioxidants
that quench the damaging reaction of the sun and protect skin."
Next, Dr. Nguyen applies a moisturizer. "The key ingredients I look
for are hyaluronic acid, ceramides and niacinamides." Hyaluronic
acid moisturizes the skin and ceramides help skin retain that moisture--these
plant-derived or synthetic compounds mimic the ceramides that are found
naturally in the outer layer of the skin, binding themselves together
to keep skin soft and smooth. Niacinamides, which come from vitamin B3,
help counter the effects of aging on the skin, such as lines, dullness
Of course, no skin-care regimen is complete without
sunscreen. "I use SPF 50 or higher," Dr. Nguyen says. "Look for broad
spectrum sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB sun rays. And the
key ingredients should be zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are physical
sunscreens, which form a barrier on the skin, as opposed to chemical sunscreens."
Read the label on your makeup.
Dr. Nguyen does wear makeup when she's at work. When shopping for makeup,
she counsels you to look for the words "noncomedogenic" and
"oil free." "That way the makeup won't clog your pores
and cause breakouts," she says. Make sure to store makeup properly
and toss it if gets old. (For the average shelf life of different kinds
of makeup, see this handy
Turn back the clock while you're sleeping.
As with her a.m. routine, Dr. Nguyen takes care of her skin at night with
the use of multiple products--after cleansing her face, of course.
"I use retin A in a prescription cream to stimulate collagen growth,
exfoliate skin and keep it looking youthful," says Dr. Nguyen, adding
that prescription-strength retin A is called retinoid, while the over-the-counter
version is retinol. "The prescription is stronger, so whether you
use that or an over-the-counter cream depends on your skin. Some people
can tolerate it better." Dr. Nguyen advises using a retin A cream
every night, if the skin can handle it.
And if the skin can handle more products, there are others that can be
combined with retin A (though Dr. Nguyen advises adding products in steps
to see how your skin reacts). "There are some new ingredients in
terms of anti-aging," she says. "Heparan sulfate is a proprietary
formula that improves the look of aging skin and the products are sold
in dermatology offices. Peptides stimulate collagen growth, which prevents
uneven pigmentation, wrinkles and lax skin. Also stimulating collagen
are growth factors, which can be synthetic or derived from human or snail
cells. Understanding the ingredients and what they do is important; often
people don't know what ingredients are useful. Look at the scientific
data and these are the ingredients that show improvement in the skin."
Good skin-care products are essential for daily maintenance, Dr. Nguyen
says. While some brands offered in dermatology offices or available by
prescription are usually more potent, there are good over-the-counter
options. "You don't have to buy the most expensive products,"
she says. Consulting with a dermatologist can help you come up with a
skin-care treatment plan.
Know when you need more than products.
Skin-care creams on their own are fine if you are in your 20s or 30s, says
Dr. Nguyen, adding that her patients in these age groups can also start
implementing light cosmetic procedures.
"An acid-based peel will take off the top layer of skin, which helps
give you a nicer glow. Younger people can do a light peel once or twice
a year," she says. "Lasers use heat energy to cause microdamage
to the skin--they cause redness, but what they do in return is cause new
collagen to form, making the skin look younger. Patients who are younger
can use baby lasers for preventive upkeep." Older patients with deep
wrinkles could use a stronger corrective laser, as well as a deeper facial
peel. Your skin and age--as well as your budget--will determine what,
if any, treatments to use, so a dermatologist can advise you in what will
work for you.
6. When it comes to skin, you are what you eat (and drink).
What you put inside your body can be as important as what you put on your
skin. Dr. Nguyen says drinking fluids is important to keep the body hydrated,
which prevents dull skin and pronounced wrinkles and lines. ("I drink
water whenever I can," she says.) She also eats a low-glycemic diet,
heavy on fruits and vegetables and low on carbs--not only does it reduce
skin inflammation, she says, but it's healthier overall for your body.