By Dr. Susan Stuart
A board certified La Jolla, California dermatologist, Dr. Susan Stuart empathizes with her female patients who feel they are doing everything “right” and are still unsatisfied with the appearance of their skin. What’s more, she often sees patients who feel they are doomed to bad skin based on myths that “you get the genes your parents have.” She seeks to set the record straight on what really does sabotage the skin and dispels the most common myths mothers or the media have passed on to their daughters.
Trying to scrub away acne: Acne is not a hygiene problem; it’s a hormonal issue. Excessively cleaning your face won’t get rid of acne. Instead of attempting to scrub your pimple-prone skin into submission, wash it gently with a foaming face wash that’s designed to lift off dirt without irritating skin. And if you do feel compelled to enlist a scrub, use it no more than once a week, choosing a product that has even-sized, round beads, not rough particles
Sunscreen: The big mistake women make is trusting the sunscreen label that reads “all day protection.” The truth is that no sunscreen lasts more than four hours; you’re kidding yourself if you think you can put it on once and forget about it. Regular sunscreen use is even more important if you are treating your face with Retin-A or alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids, or getting peels or microdermabrasion — all of which can leave skin more sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Alcohol: Consider alternating drinks with water. Drinking alcohol causes dehydration and dilated blood vessels both of which make skin look tired and unhealthy. Try to drink one glass of water per alcoholic drink consumed — this will help skin stay hydrated.
Stress: Stress causes your body to go into survival mode by pumping adrenaline to heighten the senses. While this is healthy if you are in danger, prolonged periods of stress can take a toll on your skin. When the body is in survival mode, the most vital organs like the heart, lungs and brain work overtime. The skin, a less vital organ, becomes deprived of nutrients which eventually affects its appearance. Combat stress by incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine like yoga, meditation and deep breathing.
Not hydrating your skin enough: Because you think you don’t need it. Drinking eight glasses of water a day, and applying a moisturizing cream to your face regularly can save you the headache of dealing with a cracked and sensitive skin.
Sleeping with make up on will leave your skin’s pores clogged and prevent it from breathing. No matter how tired you feel clean your face before going to bed.
Using harsh cleansers to clean your skin will strip away the natural oils that protect it from dirt, pollution and other factors that can easily damage your skin. Do your skin a favor and use mild cleaners, they’re much gentler and still effective.
Applying your usual facial moisturizer to your “under-eye” area is really harsh. This area is the most delicate area in your face and it’s where fine lines will appear first, so having a specialized eye cream is a must after the age 25.
Lack of sleep can affect how your skin looks dramatically, leading to dark circles, and dull looking skin. Get at least eight hours of sleep each night and you’ll wake up to a much more fresh looking skin.
Thinking that “More is better.” When it comes to your skin, more is actually worse, too much washing, too much cream, too much scrub can totally damage your skin.
Washing your face at the wrong time: Always wash your face after you rinse out your hair products and conditioner in the shower, never before. Many conditioners contain pore-clogging isopropyl myristate and other hair products often contain coconut oil — both are common acne-causing ingredients that you don’t want to leave on your skin.
Thinking that what you eat will only affect your body weight, not your skin, in fact what you eat shows directly on your face. Eating too much sweets and fatty food will leave your skin looking unhealthy, a healthy diet is very important for a healthy younger looking face.
Not using a retinoid: Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is the only topical ingredient proven not only to prevent lines and wrinkles but to minimize the ones you already have. Past the age of 30. Dr. Barnett recommends seeing a dermatologist for a higher-concentration prescription retinoid (like Retin-A, Differin, or Tazorac, for example), but there are also many great over-the-counter creams that contain lower concentrations of retinol.
Myth #1: Your skin will age just like your mom’s.
The reality: Sure, genetics play a role in how your skin looks, from the size of your pores to its texture and color. But banking on aging like your mom or grandmother is a big mistake. Habits make more of a difference than genetics. The biggest culprit in aging is sun exposure, and your drinking, smoking, stress, and sleep habits play a role, too. Skipping sunscreen, imbibing too often, coping ineffectively with stress, and sleeping on your side or stomach can all exacerbate and create wrinkles, adult acne, and texture changes.
Myth #2: The SPF number tells you how much protection you’re getting from the sun.
The reality: There are two types of damaging sun rays: UVA, which are responsible for aging the skin; and UVB, which are responsible for burning it. The SPF number on a bottle of sunscreen only gives a guide for how much UVB protection the product offers. It doesn’t tell you whether or not the product protects from UVA rays (which are also responsible for melanoma). All sunscreens protect from UVB rays. To fully protect yourself, however, look for a product that contains UVA-blocking ingredients, too, such as zinc or avobenzone (Parsol 1789), and reapply often.
Myth #3: You need a separate sunscreen and moisturizer.
The reality: Sunscreens already add moisture to your skin because of their ingredients. So if you have oily skin, you may want to skip the separate moisturizer. For those who prefer to wear both products, apply the moisturizer first; allow to dry, then apply the sunscreen. Either way, be sure to wear sunscreen daily: Every day is sun day, even if it’s cloudy or overcast.
Myth #4: Most of the sun damage you incur happens before age 18.
The reality: Recent studies have shown that by age 18, you’ve only accumulated 18 to 23 percent of the sun damage you’ll incur over a lifetime. That means that there’s still time to protect your skin from the sun and put off sun-induced aging. Do this by using sunscreen and products with sun-damage reversing ingredients such as vitamin C and retinol.
Myth #5: Cosmetic creams can turn back time for your skin.
The reality: There’s no such thing as a miracle in a bottle. As you age, your facial bones shrink, you lose fat under the skin, and your skin begins to become loose. Rubbing on a cream isn’t going to address these things. What’s more, cosmetic skincare products cannot, by FDA law, include medications, which are the only things that truly change the structure of the skin. What cosmetic creams can do: Temporarily plump up and hydrate your skin. For the best chance at turning back time, see your dermatologist for medications or procedures.
About the Author:
Susan Stuart, M.D. received her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed a highly competitive one year internship at Mercy Hospital Medical Center in San Diego followed by a residency at Emory University, one of the most highly respected dermatology training programs in the U.S. She also completed a one year postgraduate dermatology fellowship in pediatric dermatology at Stanford University Medical Center.
Dr. Stuart is considered one of San Diego’s leading experts in dermatology and lasers and has been selected as one of American’s top physicians in dermatology. She has been featured regularly on news shows including NBC, ABC, and KUSI for her expertise on a variety of dermatology topics and procedures, including San Diego Fraxel® laser skin rejuvenation and BOTOX® Cosmetic.