Category Archives: Beauty
“Fish pedicures” in health spas can expose recipients to a host of pathogens and bacterial infections, a team of researchers warns.
The practice of exposing your feet to live freshwater fish that eat away dead ordamaged skin for mainly cosmetic reasons has been banned in many (but not all) American states, but it is apparently a hot trend in Britain.
So much so that the British researchers sent their warning in a letter published in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officially known as “ichthyotherapy,” the procedure typically involves the importation of what are called “doctor fish,” a Eurasian river basin species known as “Garra rufa.” The fish are placed in a spa tub, the foot (or even whole body) joins it, and the nautical feeding on dead or unwanted skin begins.
The problem: such fish may play host to a wide array of organisms and disease, some of which can provoke invasive soft-tissue infection in exposed humans and many of which are antibiotic-resistant, according to the scientists from the Center for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in Weymouth.
In the letter, CEFAS team leader David W. Verner-Jeffreys referenced a 2011 survey that suggested the U.K. is now home to 279-plus “fish spas,” with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 fish coming into the country every week from a host of Asian countries.
Verner-Jeffreys noted that in April 2011, 6,000 fish imported from Indonesia for U.K. fish spas were affected by a disease outbreak that caused hemorrhaging of their gills, mouth and abdomen, resulting in the death of nearly all the specimens.
In turn, U.K. scientists uncovered signs of bacterial infection (caused by a pathogen called “S agalactiae”) in the fishes’ livers, kidneys and spleen.
Following this discovery, Verner-Jeffreys said, his team conducted five raids on imported fish batches coming through Heathrow Airport, which uncovered further signs of infection with a number of additional pathogens. Many of those were found to be resistant to such standard antimicrobial drugs as tetracycline, fluoroquinolone and aminoglycoside.
“To date, there are only a limited number of reports of patients who might have been infected by this exposure route,” Verner-Jeffreys said in his letter. “However, our study raises some concerns over the extent that these fish, or their transport water, might harbor potential zoonotic disease pathogens of clinical relevance.”
At particularly high risk, the scientists said, were people already struggling withdiabetes, liver disease and/or immune disorders.
Verner-Jeffreys suggested that spas offering fish pedicures use disease-free fish raised in controlled environments.
George A. O’Toole, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., added his own concern.
“I would stay away from this experience,” he said. “It’s probably not feasible to sterilize these fish. And as for the water itself, even if you dump it between patients, these organisms will form rings of biofilm communities attached to the surface of the tubs themselves. It’s like a contact lens case that you never disinfect. Simply wiping them down is not good enough. Unless you’re incredibly responsible about sterilizing those tubs you’re not going to kill them, and they will reseed the next batch of water. The whole thing is a bad idea.”
Dr. Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and pathology at New York University Medical Center in New York City, agreed.
“It’s a bad idea in several ways,” he said. “Because these pathogens can give you a serious wound infection. Or blood-borne infection. Or diarrhea. Or even pose a threat to a pregnant woman’s fetus or newborn.”
“Really, you have the potential for multiple types of infection,” Tierno added. “Because theoretically when you’re touching the area that has been nibbled on by these fish, you can still have the organisms there. And then you can inadvertently touch your mouth and introduce them into your system.”
Nearly one in four people developshives at some time or another, and they can be triggered by hot summer weather.
Hives are itchy, red or white bumps, welts or patches on the skin. The condition can be acute or chronic, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Acute hives, which can last less than a day or up to six weeks, are likely a reaction caused by contact with an allergen such as food, animal dander, insect bite, pollen or latex.
Other possible triggers included medications, heat, stress, exercise, chemicals or viral infection.
The academy says you should consult with your doctor to identify the cause of acute hives.
Most people with chronic hives have symptoms that last longer than a year. Allergies cause only a small percentage of chronic hives. In most cases of chronic hives, the exact cause can’t be identified. This means that routine testing such as general blood counts or screens are not cost-effective and don’t help in planning treatments to relieve symptoms, according to an academy news release.
Hives are not contagious, and most cases get better on their own. Doctors may advise patients to avoid hot baths and showers, wear loose-fitting clothing, or take antihistamines to reduce itching and swelling.
Corticosteroids are prescribed for people with severe flare-ups of hives. In rare cases, hives can be a symptom of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Call 911 if you or someone else experiences hives along with any of these symptoms: fainting, shortness of breath, tightness in the throat, tongue/face swelling, or wheezing, the academy said.
Do you want to get rid of those pesky wrinkles but can’t bear the thought of injections? Then we’ve got great news for you: Scientists have been working on a topically applied version of botulinum toxin, the main ingredient in Botox.
The new needle-free gel formulation of botulinum toxin— called RT001 — was reported in the dermatology journal Skin & Allergy News. Up to 89 percent of 553 patients saw improvement in their lateral canthal lines (aka crow’s feet wrinkles), with no significant side effects in phase 2 clinical studies by California-based Revance Therapeutics. The results lasted for an average of 113 days.
“I think Revance is going to turn the neurotoxin market upside down,” Alastair Carruthers, MD, told attendants at a dermatology seminar held in Hawaii last week.
The more familiar needle-based form of botulinum toxin is a billion-dollar business: Nearly 6 million botulinum injections were done in 2011, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Doctors are excited by an alternative application that could widen the drug’s appeal and reach.
Topical Botulinum: How Does It Work?
Like injectable forms, topical botulinum toxin relaxes muscles by blocking the release of a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. It’s applied by doctors directly to the skin and wiped off after 30 minutes. Besides softening crow’s feet around the eyes, the gel is also being studied to treat hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating), and plans to investigate its use for acne and rhinitis are in the works, according to Revance’s Web site.
But some question whether the topical form will work as well as the injectable drug.
“The results are good, but they probably won’t be as dramatic” as the injections, Frederic Brandt, MD, a Miami-based dermatologist, told the Orange County Registerlast May. That’s because using a needle can more precisely target specific areas. Still, saying bye-bye to needles is bound to have appeal to the estimated 10 percent of the population with belonephobia, or needle phobia.
When can you expect the gel to be available at your dermatologist’s office? Not for a while: RT001 still needs to go through phase 3 trials, or final testing, before it receives U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
Dry winter air can wreak havoc on your skin — leaving it dry, itchy, and irritated; but there are many simple ways to combat dry skin causes and help keep your skin feeling moist and supple all winter long. Here are 10 ways to get started.
Top 7 Tips for Healthy Winter Skin
1. Invest in a humidifier. Using a humidifier in your home or office will add moisture to dry winter air and help keep your skin hydrated. Run a humidifier in the rooms you spend the most time in, including your bedroom.
2. Lower the thermostat. When it’s chilly outside, what’s the first thing you want to do? Crank up the heat! But central heat can make the air in your house even drier. Try setting the thermostat at a cool, yet comfortable setting — 68°F to 72°F — to maintain healthy skin.
3. Skip hot showers. Although it may be tempting to warm up with a long, steamy shower, hot water dries out your skin by stripping it of its natural oils. Instead, take a 5- to 10-minute lukewarm shower (or bath). You should also avoid using excessively hot water when washing your hands — if the water causes your skin to turn red, it’s too hot.
4. Choose cleanser wisely. The wrong soap can worsen itchy, dry skin. For instance, steer clear of regular bar soaps, since they tend to contain irritating ingredients and fragrances. Instead, start washing with a fragrance-free, moisturizing cleanser or gel. You can also prevent winter skin problems by using less soap, so limit your lathering to necessary areas, such as your hands, armpits, genitals, and feet.
5. Modify your facial skin care regimen for the season. During the winter months, choose cream-based cleansers, and apply toners and astringents sparingly, if at all. Many astringents contain alcohol, which can further dry your skin. Look for products that contain little or no alcohol — unless your skin is excessively oily. At night, use a richer moisturizer on your face.
6. Moisturize frequently. Maintain healthy skin by moisturizing after washing up. “Blot skin dry and apply a thick moisturizer within a few minutes after bathing to seal the water into the skin,” says Linda Stein Gold, MD, director of dermatology clinical research and division head of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital, West Bloomfield, MI. “It’s best to use a cream or ointment in the winter. Lotions are better in warmer, humid climates. And don’t forget your hands,” says Dr. Stein Gold. “Constant washing will cause the hands to take a beating. Apply hand cream after each washing, and wear waterproof gloves when washing dishes or cleaning around the house.”
7. Apply sunscreen — even in winter. It is still important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays on cold, dreary days in winter. Before going outside, apply a moisturizing, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to all exposed areas of your body.
We all want healthy, hydrated skin, but the reality is that skin can become dry, flaky, and rough. Why? The outer layers of your skin are put together in a type of brick-and-mortar system. Healthy skin cells are stacked with oils and other substances that keep skin moist. When those substances are lost, skin cells can crumble away, which leads to dry skin.
Itching is the No. 1 symptom of dry skin, says Angela Lamb, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Dry skin tends to be flaky, red, and irritated. Your skin may also look dull or ashy (if you have dark skin), which can progress to skin being scaly or cracked. In the worst-case scenario, skin can become thick and leathery.
What Causes Dry Skin?
Dry skin often results when the skin loses water or oil, particularly in climates with low humidity, or during winter months when low humidity and indoor heat affect the natural balance of healthy skin. “Your skin is the primary barrier to the environment and prevents water from evaporating off the surface,” Dr. Lamb says. When humidity is low, more moisture is lost from the skin’s surface and it dries out.
On top of that, certain medical conditions can make you more prone to developing dry skin, including:
- Keratosis pilaris. As many as 40 percent of adults and up to 80 percent of teens have an inherited dry skin condition called keratosis pilaris, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The condition causes tiny red or flesh-colored bumps on the skin, particularly on their upper arms and thighs or on the cheeks in children. The bumps are dead skin cells and make skin feel rough, like sandpaper. Skin may also itch during the winter or in low humidity.
- Atopic dermatitis. Up to 20 percent of children and 3 percent of adults around the world have atopic dermatitis, according to a 2015 study published in Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism. This is a common type of eczema in which itchy patches of skin form. When the skin is scratched, it may become red and swollen and could crack, weep fluid, or scale. This type of eczema often occurs in people who also have asthma or hay fever.
- Hormonal changes. When your body is going through hormonal changes, you may notice dry or flaky skin cropping up. It’s something that happens even in babies. Newborns commonly develop cradle cap — flaky, scaly skin on the scalp — as a result of being exposed to mother’s hormones in the uterus, according to The Nemours Foundation. Hormonal changes after menopause can also lead to dry skin.
- Thyroid disease. One of the early symptoms of hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, is dry skin.
- Diabetes or kidney disease. People with diabetes or kidney disease may notice dry, itchy skin on their legs due to poor circulation. This happens when the skin is not getting the proper amount of blood flow. In fat, very dry skin is a warning sign of diabetes, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
How to Go From Dry Skin to Healthy Skin
The main step you can take to heal dry skin: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Applymoisturizer to your body and face at least once a day, when your skin is still damp from the shower, recommends Alisha Plotner, MD, a dermatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. In the summer, a thinner lotion will do the job, but in the winter when skin becomes drier, a thicker cream or ointment is a better choice, she says.
Good ingredients to look for in a moisturizer are lactic acid, glycerin, petrolatum, and hyaluronic acid, says Nazanin Saedi, MD, a dermatologist, director of Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center, and an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia. Persistently dry areas can also benefit from petroleum jelly, she says.
If over-the-counter moisturizers aren’t enough for your skin, your doctor may prescribe an ointment that contains ceramides, or proteins that help rebuild the skin barrier, Lamb says. Prescription-strength products are especially helpful for eczema and other severe skin conditions. People who have eczema may also get relief from applying cold compresses on itchy skin. Over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroid creams may also be needed to heal the skin barrier and calm inflammation, Dr. Saedi says, but prolonged use can thin your skin, so carefully follow your doctor’s directions about using them. Your doctor may also prescribe oral corticosteroids, but they’re not intended for long-term use.
Another over-the-counter or prescription option is a barrier cream. Barrier creams penetrate a little deeper than standard moisturizers. “Anyone prone to dryness with repeated exposures to detergents, soaps, water, and other irritants would benefit from a barrier cream,” Dr. Plotner says.
For those with keratosis pilaris, moisturizing with creams that have urea or lactic acid helps the itch, but doesn’t necessarily smooth the skin. However, mild chemical peels or topical retinoids may soften the skin.
Other dry skin remedies include:
- Taking short, warm (instead of hot) showers
- Using moisturizing soaps
- Placing a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air
Although it hasn’t been studied, some doctors believe that polyunsaturated fats, found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel and soybean and safflower oil, can help keep the skin healthy, Lamb says.
Skin is generally classified into one of four categories: normal, oily, dry, and combination, says Susan Van Dyke, MD, a dermatologist with Van Dyke Laser and Skin Care in Paradise Valley, Ariz. However, your skin type can change as you age, and other factors like genetics and even illness can play a part. “It’s multi-factorial,” Dr. Van Dyke says.
Normal skin, which has a good balance of moisture, small pores and an even tone, is the goal of most skin care regimens. Most people have normal skin, Van Dyke says, but to maintain its good condition, it’s important to minimize its exposure to the sun. A facial sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is ideal for preventing wrinkles and other sun damage.
“Put it by your toothpaste and use it,” Van Dyke says. “It doesn’t matter if it is snowing or raining — get in that habit so you always have it on. Incidental sun exposure is what gets you.”
Skin Care: Quieting Oily Skin
Oily skin is identified by an excess of oil (the technical term is sebum) on the face. Some people with oily skin begin to feel greasy only a few hours after washing. “A very oily person would feel the need to wash their face between noon and 5 p.m., because oil has built up during the day,” Van Dyke says. Oily skin can be an inherited trait, but it can also be caused by puberty, which causes oil glands to go into overdrive. You may also notice more oil on your “T-zone” because of all the oil glands in the forehead, nose, and chin.
People with oily skin generally don’t need a regular moisturizer, but sunscreen is still necessary to reduce exposure to UV rays. Choose an oil-free sunscreen, suggests Van Dyke says, one that’s specifically formulated for the face and are less likely to create blackheads and clog pores. “There are plenty of oil-free sunscreens available,” Van Dyke says. “Go to the drugstore, read labels, and try samples of different ones. There’s no excuse not to use sunscreen anymore.”
Skin Care: Soothing Dry Skin
Dry skin, on the other hand, suffers from a lack of natural moisture — there’s little oil to act as a surface barrier and lock in moisture. People with dry skin feel a tightness about their face, and their skin is often irritated. Flaking is another symptom, but it’s not always a sure sign of dry skin. “You can have flaky skin and not be dry,” Van Dyke says. Sometimes, severely dry skin can become itchy and painful, leading to a condition called eczema.
Treatment of certain medical conditions can sometimes lead to dry skin. For example,breast cancer treatment may stop hormone production which could in turn affect the quality of your skin. “This will throw people into a menopausal situation at an early age,” Van Dyke says. “Suddenly, there’s no oil production.” Naturally-occurring menopause can have the same effect; most women begin to experience drier skin as they hit their late forties. To care for dry skin, use a gentle, soap-free cleanser, and moisturize adequately. A second application of moisturizer may be needed during the day, Van Dyke adds.
Skin Care: Balancing Combination Skin
Combination skin is a blend of both oily and dry skin. People with combination skin usually find that their oily skin is concentrated in the T-zone, while their cheeks remain dry. Combination skin can be influenced by genetics and, again, by puberty, when oil glands increase their production of sebum. Sometimes a variety of products are needed to treat combination skin. “You may have to treat different parts of the face slightly differently,” Van Dyke says. For example, a mild cleanser and moisturizer may be needed on the cheeks, while an anti-acne product with benzoyl peroxide might be necessary on the T-zone.
If you’re still not sure about your skin type or the best way to nourish it, consult adermatologist who can recommend an over-the-counter skin care regimen or offer you a physician’s line of products. Look for a doctor who is board-certified by the American Academy of Dermatology. “Your dermatologist is absolutely your best skin-care expert,” Van Dyke says.
Our skin is constantly renewing itself, growing new skin cells to replace the surface skin cells that grow old, die, and fall, or slough, off. Every minute of every day, between 30,000 and 40,000 dead skin cells flake away.
Factors like age and dry skin can mean that dead skin cells don’t fall away as easily as they should. When these cells build up, they can make the complexion look rough and pasty and can also contribute to the clogged pores that lead to adult acne. The regular yet careful use of a skin exfoliant can help slough off dead skin cells and uncover fresh, more youthful skin.
There are two main types of skin exfoliants: mechanical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants. Both are commonly available, and both have pros and cons regarding their use and the types of skin conditions for which they are most appropriate.
Mechanical Skin Exfoliants
Mechanical exfoliants work by sanding off dead skin cells using mildly abrasive substances. These skin exfoliants typically are facial scrubs, creamy cleansers with tiny, rough particles. As you gently massage the exfoliant over the surface of your face and skin, the friction works to loosen the old skin cells.
Mechanical skin exfoliants are readily available in drugstores and easy to use. They are particularly good for people with oily skin or acne, as they remove skin cells and debris that clog pores, but only if you don’t scrub too hard as this can cause further irritation.
However, mechanical exfoliants can be harsh. When you use them, you’re literally sanding away the outer layer of your skin. Some contain particles so jagged and rough that they could actually cut the skin. Because of this, dermatologists recommend using a gentle motion when using a skin exfoliant, and skipping them altogether if you have sensitive skin.
Chemical Skin Exfoliants
A chemical skin exfoliant uses gentle acids to dissolve whatever bonds are preventing the outer layer of dead skin cells from falling off your face and body. There are two main types of chemical skin exfoliants, those that include an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and those that include a beta hydroxy acid (BHA):
- Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from different foods, from fruits, such as apples and grapes, to milk. Some of the most common AHAs to look for on product labels are glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, alpha-hydroxyoctanoic acid, and triple fruit acid. An alpha hydroxy acid is best for people with dry or thickened skin.
- Beta hydroxy acids are the chemical cousins of alpha hydroxy acids, but are more oil-soluble and therefore better at exfoliating oily skin or acne-prone skin. The best known beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid. On product labels, look for salicylate, sodium salicylate, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, or tropic acid.
Alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid skin care products tend to be less harsh on the skin than mechanical exfoliants. They also help refresh the skin in ways a facial scrub can’t: They lower the skin’s pH level and help smooth small, shallow wrinkles, improving the look of skin that is dry or sun damaged.
Finding the right formulation for your skin involves some trial and error. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you should choose alpha hydroxy acid-based chemical exfoliants with an alpha hydroxy acid concentration of 10 percent or less and a pH of 3.5 or more. Beta hydroxy acid-based exfoliants containing salicylic acid are effective at levels of 1.5 to 2 percent. Using stronger solutions can cause skin irritation.
Another caveat: These types of exfoliants increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun for as long as a week after each use. Before going out, always apply sunscreen — a skin-saving recommendation for everyone.
How and When to Use Exfoliants
You should not use an exfoliant every day. Your skin needs time to regenerate its topmost layer, which exfoliation strips away. People with dry skin should only exfoliate once or twice a week, while those with oily skin can exfoliate two to four times a week. Stop using an exfoliant if you find your skin becoming irritated or developing a rash. Remember to moisturize your skin after exfoliating, to soothe it and keep it from drying out.
Your skin plays a vital role in protecting your body, so it’s important to take steps to promote skin health. Caring for your skin doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming, and can quickly become second nature, like brushing your teeth.
You can keep your skin looking and feeling great by guarding against a slew of skin woes, from chapped skin to premature aging to skin cancer. “We’re talking about things that happen over decades,” says dermatologist Samantha Conrad, MD, in practice at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
That’s why it is important to develop healthy skin habits —and it’s never too late to start. Here are five skin protection tips you can incorporate into your routine right away.
Limit Sun Exposure
You’ve heard the message a zillion times, but there’s good reason — ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun cause many types of skin damage, including:
- Skin cancer
- Age spots
- Benign growths
Using skin care products that offer ultraviolet protection is one of the best ways to help keep your skin looking fresh and youthful. Try these tips to help protect your skin from the sun:
- Use sunscreen every day and reapply regularly whenever you’re outdoors for extended periods. “I encourage people to use sunblock that is more mineral- or physical-based,” says Dr. Conrad. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
- Cover up. “It’s really about protection — that means wearing hats and protective sun clothing,” says Conrad. Long sleeves and pants or long skirts give you more coverage.
- Stay indoors when the sun is at its most intense, usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., according to the AAD.
- Combine sun protection strategies. A study published in January 2017 inJAMA Dermatology found that beachgoers using an umbrella alone for sun protection were more likely to get sunburn than those using sunscreen alone — but neither strategy completely prevented sunburn. The researchers concluded that combining multiple strategies offers the most protection from the sun’s harmful rays.
Keep in mind that tanning beds are just as harmful as direct sunlight, as they also emit ultraviolet rays, according to the AAD.
“Drinking enough water/fluids is important for your general health,” says Karyn Grossman, MD, a dermatologist in private practice with Grossman Dermatology in Santa Monica, California, and spokesperson for the AAD. She recommends starting the day with a cup of green tea for hydration, caffeine, and antioxidants.
In addition to drinking enough fluids, keeping your skin moist is essential to skin protection.
“Dry skin can have small gaps in the skin barrier that allow entry of bacteria and fungus,” says dermatologist Michael Lin, MD, medical director of the Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute in Beverly Hills, California.
Skin that is properly hydrated retains pliability and is less likely to become chapped, scaly, or flaky. Try these tips to keep your skin hydrated:
- Use the right moisturizing cream or lotion for your skin. “Look for moisturizers with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or coconut oil,” says Dr. Grossman. “Always apply on damp skin. This keeps the moisture in the skin.”
- Take warm (not hot) showers or baths and limit them to between five and 10 minutes. It seems counterintuitive, but exposure to water actually dries out your skin, Grossman explains. If dry skin persists, consider cutting back on the number of baths you take.
- Invest in a humidifier. “If your skin tends to be on the dry side, using a humidifier in your bedroom at night and in your work space during the day can help keep the air hydrated, which can prevent the air from zapping moisture from your skin,” says Grossman.
Take Health Precautions
Cold sores are caused by a viral infection of the skin bordering the lips, while bacteria can contribute to acne and other skin conditions. Paying close attention to what touches your skin can help lower your chances of exposure to germs. Start with these tips:
- Don’t share any personal items, such as lip balms or toothbrushes, with others.
- Don’t share drinks with other people.
- Avoid touching your face with your fingers, and avoid facial contact with objects that have been used by other people, such as telephone receivers.
- Don’t pick at cysts or splinters. Instead, ask your doctor to help you with these skin conditions, says Grossman.
Being prompt with first aid is also important, she says. If you get a bug bite or a scratch, “get on it right away.” Grossman recommends cleaning the site, applying antibiotic ointment if there is a break in the skin, using a clean bandage, and cleaning the site twice daily as it heals.
Use Gentle Skin Care Products
Washing your face is important to remove dirt, oils, germs, and dead cells from your skin. However, scrubbing your face can cause irritation and lead to chapped skin that can become vulnerable. “I find that people often over-rub, over-scrub, and over-peel,” says Grossman, who recommends avoiding abrasive exfoliation skin care products.
The AAD recommends:
- Washing your face twice daily with warm water and a mild cleanser.
- Gently massaging your face with your fingers, using a circular motion.
- Rinsing thoroughly after washing to remove all soap and debris.
- Patting — not rubbing — your skin dry, then applying moisturizer.
Know Your Skin
“Check your skin regularly for changing moles and other signs of possible skin cancer,” says Grossman. Talk to your dermatologist about what kinds of changes should concern you.
Certain skin conditions merit a visit to the dermatologist, including frequent acne, inflamed or irritated dry skin, and skin rashes and irritations that don’t go away, as these could be signs of one of the many types of dermatitis, or skin inflammation.
However, should you ever notice any other skin problems, it’s important to get medical attention to resolve them quickly and avoid putting your skin at risk.
Feel overwhelmed when you want to buy skin moisturizer for your dry skin? That’s no surprise, as there are dozens to choose from at the drugstore and hundreds more at high-end cosmetics and department stores — creams, lotions, ointments, some with sunscreen, others with an exfoliant. Choices range from the basic $1.50 jar of petroleum jelly to a $500 five-ounce tub of designer skin moisturizer. And all the options in between can make your head spin.
While choosing the right skin moisturizer may seem confusing, it’s actually very simple if you follow a few guidelines, says dermatologist Monica Halem, MD, of ColumbiaDoctors Eastside in New York City. Dr. Halem’s first rule of thumb? Don’t spend too much money.
How a Skin Moisturizer Works
Cleansers and moisturizers are the most important skin products, particularly for softening dry skin. A skin moisturizer works by sealing moisture into the outer layer of the skin and by pulling moisture from the inner layers of skin to the outer layer.
Key ingredients that seal in moisture are petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, and dimethicone. Glycerin, propylene glycol, proteins, urea, and vitamins help attract water into the outer layer of the skin.
Some skin moisturizers also contain an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which exfoliates dead skin, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation. AHAs are a good choice if you have very dry skin.
Finding the Skin Moisturizer For You
It may take some trial and error, Halem says, so be patient. Follow these guidelines as you shop and, if you’re not getting the results you want, try a new one the next time:
- Note the first five ingredients. Look for common active ingredients, such as lanolin, glycerin, or petrolatum, Dr. Fusco says. Glycerin is less likely than lanolin to cause an allergic reaction, she says. She also recommends picking a moisturizer that’s made by a reputable company.
- Go for added sunscreen. Protecting your skin from harmful sun damage is one of the best things you can do to keep your skin looking young, so buy a moisturizer with a sun protection factor of at least 30. You’ll have to do some searching, but more companies are offering face and body moisturizers with sunscreen, Halem says.
- Make it skin-type appropriate. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive, so it’s a good idea to use a different moisturizer on your face than you do on your body, Fusco says and recommends buying one that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” because it won’t clog your pores. Of course, choose one that’s right for your skin type. If you know you have sensitive skin, it’s always a good idea to look for a moisturizer labeled hypoallergenic. If you have oily skin, go with a light, oil-free moisturizer. If you have dry skin, get something richer. And if you have combination skin, go with a lighter moisturizer for your whole face and dot drier areas with a heavier cream, Fusco says. Keep in mind that you may need a lighter lotion in the summer, and a cream or ointment in the winter.
- Consider using a moisturizer with retinol before bed. Retinol is vitamin A for your skin, Halem says. It works by increasing the speed at which your skin cells turn over. You can find it over the counter or by prescription, but use it carefully as it may cause a skin irritation, red skin, or dry skin.
Relief by Prescription
If your skin is very dry, consider a prescription moisturizer. Prescription moisturizers contain the AHA lactic acid, which softens the top layer of your skin and can do a better job if over-the-counter moisturizers aren’t working for you, Fusco says. AHAs such as lactic acid and glycolic acid can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Tell your doctor if you experience burning, irritation, red skin, itching, or a rash.
Another prescription option is a barrier cream, which contains humectants that hold on to moisture longer, Fusco says. Barrier creams penetrate a little deeper than standard moisturizers, she adds.
When to Moisturize
Once you find the right product, moisturize every day and you’ll go a long way toward preventing dry skin and even camouflaging wrinkles. While a skin moisturizer can’t get rid of wrinkles — because wrinkles begin much deeper in the skin due to collagen loss — it can plump up the skin and minimize their appearance, Halem says.
Whichever moisturizer you choose, it will work better if you apply it to damp skin. Think about a sponge that’s dried out, Fusco says. If you put moisturizer on it, it won’t go anywhere. But if you soak the sponge in water and coat it with moisturizer, the sponge will absorb it. Your skin works the same way, happily lapping it up.
Winters here and with it come the harsh winds of irritated skin. The routine of cold and dry outside and hot and dry inside is wreaking havoc on our precious skin. So, what’s a girl to do? Thankfully, a lot according to Dr. Doris Day, MD, FAAD, New York dermatologist and author of Forget the Facelift (Avery Books) and Dr. Loretta Ciraldo Miami dermatologist and author of Six Weeks to Sensational Skin (Rodale) who share their winter-protecting secrets.
Be on a hot bath boycott.
In certain parts of the country, it’s chillingly cold. And it is precisely those cold temperatures that may lead many to a huge dry skin culprit:hot, long, baths. “Hot showers strip away your body’s natural oils,” says Dr. Day, leaving your skin dry and tight. Instead Dr. Day recommends taking not-so-hot showers, and then patting dry rubbing totally dry after so your body is a bit damp. “It’s about water retention,” says Dr. Day.
Still using summer products? Aint gonna cut it.
Using a rich cream instead of a lotion will make a huge difference in your skin,” says Dr Day, as lotions are thinner and not as emollient as their thicker cream counterparts. Instead, Dr. Day suggests switching out your light warm weather lotion for a richer, more penetrating cream.
Don’t worry about wrinkles.
“Women often see an exaggeration of wrinkles in the winter,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “because of skins dryness.” So if you look in the mirror and see more fine lines around your eyes and mouth, don’t add more stress to your sensitive skin by freaking out. It is most likely a temporary thing. Instead, defend yourself with a hydrating night cream and a good night’s sleep.
Soak in it.
“It’s important to put moisture back in your body,” says Dr. Ciraldo, and she means literally. Dr. Ciraldo recommends relaxing in a bathtub of tepid water until your fingertips are wrinkled, however long that takes “Your skin has a great capacity for holding water,” says Dr. Ciraldo, “it’s important to get re-hydrated.”
Because our skin loses lipids in the winter (the barrier that keeps water in) it’s important to use products that contain lipids, like the ever-popular Ceramides. Dr. Ciraldo also recommends looking for products with Stearic Acid (an animal fat) and Glyco-Lipids, that can also help in preventing moisture loss.
This is a good time to get on the Flaxseed oil and Fish oil bandwagon. Besides, being high in good-for-you Omega-3’s, these oils help keep the skin supple. Fish oil and flax seed oil supplements can also help improve skin’s appearance and reduce the pain of stiff sore joints, caused by the winter cold and possible the increase of you staying indoors and couch surfing.
“Many soaps are drying, so it’s important to wash with a liquid non-soap cleanser,” says Dr. Ciraldo. In addition, Dr. Ciraldo suggests looking for cleansers or moisturizers that are possess botanicals, plant extracts like chamomile and lavender which are naturally body replenishing. Botanicals are often soothing as well; ideal for wind chapped or exposed skin.