Obviously if you’re reading this post, you want to look younger, or at least more rejuvenated. But often the things you do every day, sometimes without even thinking about it, can have the worst effect on your skin.
You likely have an arsenal of skincare products sitting on your bathroom vanity, and you very well could be using all of them wrong. Too many practitioners don’t take the time to educate their clients on the proper techniques for applying products or treating conditions at home. I’d like to educate you. Let’s get to my seven major skin sins.
1. Most people are using retinols all wrong, and this is a major problem, perhaps the most major of the seven skin sins.
All retinols are comprised of vitamin A, but they each have different concentrations. One prescribed by your doctor, such as Retin A, is stronger than what you buy at a drugstore or cosmetic counter. No matter what their strength, all retinols serve they serve the same, multiple purposes. They can reduce wrinkles, fade sun spots, build collagen, and fight acne.
Most of my clients think that using a retinol means the skin has to peel and be red, flaky or raw, but fortunately, this is no longer the case. We have learned a lot since we gave out prescriptions for Retin-A like candy on Halloween. Yes, retinols are wonderful to peel the skin, but we can also combine them with other products that hydrate and calm the skin, while using the benefits of retinols to turn skin over at a more rapid rate.
As we age, the rate at which our skin turns over begins to slow, and our epidermis begins to look dull and dry. So, how do you use a retinol? In my opinion, retinoic acids should not be used as a spot treatment but should be applied all over the face. Retinoids should always be used on clean, dry skin, and no more than a pea-sized amount should be used to reap all of its anti-aging benefits.
2. Not using sunscreen everyday and skipping sunscreen on key areas of your body.
Sunscreen is not just for the beach. UV is everywhere, and both types – UVA and UVB – cause distinct damage. UVA creates free radicals in the skin, which we know accelerate the aging process, causing wrinkles, age spots and a leathery skin texture. UVB rays, also known as tanning rays, cause sunburn and brown pigmentation. Both UV rays can cause skin cancer.
UV rays are long and capable of penetrating through the epidermis, all the way to the dermis. The dermis contains all the good stuff in our skin, including collagen, elastin, and blood vessels that are responsible for showing or hiding your age. Therefore, sunscreen to limit both UVA and UVB rays must be worn on a daily basis. The type of sunscreen you choose will depend on the level of activity and the amount of sun exposure that you experience daily.
Doctors are finding an increase in sun damage and skin cancer along the hairline and ears, so you need to make sure the you apply your sunscreen liberally to all exposed areas. Makeup with sunscreen is not the answer, by the way, and should not be used in lieu of sunscreen. In fact, soon the FDA may prohibit makeup from even showing the SPF level. It’s a good idea to use a makeup that contains SPF, but a separate SPF sunscreen should be applied to the skin every day, rain or shine.
You need to apply a teaspoon of the proper sunscreen to the face and up to the hairline every day. Whether it appears sunny or not, sunscreen must be used summer, fall, winter and spring, when spending time inside or out of doors. Another teaspoon of sunscreen should be used on the chest and hands, and coverage on the hands should be repeated after each hand washing, if possible.
3. Typecasting your skin.
No one has one skin type for life. As we age, the skin gets dryer and more sensitive. Fluctuating hormones can also cause textural changes, so it’s better to think of your skin in terms of issues, rather than dry or oily. Unfortunately it’s just not that simple.
Choose products for your acne, wrinkles, or redness, not just for oily or dry skin. If you are having problems with acne and you are seeing the signs of aging, you need to address both issues. In this case, I would prescribe a skin care regimen that includes both anti-acne medication, as well as anti-aging medication. Don’t assume that you have oily skin just because you’re breaking out with acne as an adult.
4. Trying to manually treat acne breakouts.
Let’s face it, most of us can’t keep our hands off our face, especially when we get a pimple. I am guilty of this and might be one of the major offenders; however, I am a licensed aesthetician, and I know how to properly extract a pimple without scarring and discoloring my skin. Remember that the two biggest culprits in a breakout are your hands and a mirror.
Do me a favor. If you have one of those magnifying mirrors that shows every wrinkle, pimple, blackhead, whitehead and hair on your face, go throw it in the garbage. It has to go. If you’re nearly blind, okay, you may need it to pluck your eyebrows. For anyone else, you are only causing damage. In my opinion, a magnifying mirror shows nothing but evil, especially at 11 o’clock at night, when you can’t sleep, you’re bored, and you feel it’s a good time to start extracting everything in your face that no one can see, except in that insane mirror that has a 10x magnification.
We over-wash, over-treat and over-touch our face. For example, using too much acne medication can actually dry out the skin and stop the medication from working, making the skin irritated, so that the acne sticks around even longer. The fact is, teenage acne and adult acne are not the same, and most people try to treat it the same way. Although they are both, in part, due to hormonal changes, they are different. Teenage acne is usually due to puberty and excess oil, while adult acne can be due to a host of issues, such as stress, pregnancy, and menopause, which make the face more fragile.
I always suggest that adult acne patients use a retinoid to loosen the plugs that block the pores; however, moisturizers must also be used because older, dryer skin needs hydration. So, please make sure that, if you have acne, regardless of your age, keep your hands off your face. Treat your acne appropriately, but more is not better. Acne medication should only be used once or twice a day, depending on the medication that is prescribed, and please make sure that you use a sunscreen over your acne medication, as you will become more sensitive to sunburns and UV damage. In the evening, moisturize over your acne medication, and keep in mind that washing the face more than twice a day can over-dry your skin and create more problems.
5. Using all the right products at the wrong times.
Skincare products have their proper place in time. Antioxidants should be used in the morning. Why? Because the skin will benefit from the antioxidants most in the morning. Research also shows us that antioxidants can prolong and enhance the use of sunscreen.
By contrast, products such as glycolic acid, retinoids, and peptides will be most effective at night, when your skin naturally sheds dead skin cells. The products that exfoliate the skin work best when this natural process occurs, and these products work best on naked sleeping skin. So, make sure that you are using vitamin C in the morning on your skin, just as you would have your glass of orange juice in the morning, while using in your vitamin A at night before bed.
When it comes to fighting aging, prevention is key. Prevention is the best anti-aging product available. Stimulating collagen in your 30s is a much better way to keep your skin younger longer than trying to do in your 60s. I tell all of my clients: You will never look younger than you do today, so you might as well start today using the proper skin care and anti-aging treatments. Although it’s never too late to start, it is better to slow the process of aging sooner and keep the wrinkle at bay. The time to treat your skin and keep it young looking is right now. I can’t stress this enough.
7. Being tempted by the next big thing, whatever it may be.
We are inundated with commercials and glossy magazine ads, with beautiful movie stars who are airbrushed to death and pushing a cream that promises to reverse the signs of aging. I beg people not to be fooled by these ads. The truth is that, most of the time, you’re paying for the advertising and not for the ingredients that are in the product.
I am a huge proponent of medical-grade skin care products, and I urge my patients to look for high concentrations of active ingredients. I must strongly recommend against buying skincare or anti-aging regimens that are advertised on television or in infomercials, especially when a celebrity is involved. In fact, I don’t believe that any of the celebrities in these ads actually use the products.
Celebrities have access to an arsenal of anti-aging and skin care products and around-the-clock aestheticians, nurses and doctors. As a mere mortal, I believe that your skincare products should always be medical grade. If you are over the age of 25, you should buy your skin care from the physician’s office, not from TV and not from a department store. The cost of buying skin care from the physician’s office should be about the same as what it would cost at a major department store, but the beauty of using physician-controlled skin care is that you won’t need to use a lot of the product. Additionally, medical-grade skin care will actually yield the anti-aging and useful results that they promise to deliver. So, I urge everyone to invest in an anti-aging or anti-acne regime and to make sure that there is a doctor present when making such a purchase.