Over the last several months, we’ve discussed some of the skin products you should consider using, specifically sunscreens and retinoids. I thought that today it would be nice to take a step back
and look at the big picture.
I’ve asked Dr. Kimberly Finder to tell us what products she recommends. She threw me a slight curve ball because rather than recommend specific products (which are always changing); she’s
giving us her recommendation as to the kinds of products to use. Dr. Kimberly Finder discusses four types of products that everyone should use and a fifth group for your problem areas.
Her recommendation is that you then discuss, with someone you trust, which specific products within each type would be best for you. You should now have a better understanding of how each product fits in a proper skin regimen.
I would like to end this introduction by leaving you with a picture of Dr. Kimberly Finder closely examining the skin of a great barracuda. We are not sure if even Dr. Finder’s fabulous five products would help this skin.
Steven Finder, MD
Great Barracuda Photo Courtesy Steven Finder
What Skin Products Should You be Using
The five types of products that make up the best regimen
By Kimberly Finder, MD
There are thousands of skin products on the market and every day I see someone advertising the latest breakthrough in skin care. Much of what I see is just expensive moisturizers with a lot of marketing hype. But there are products that have proven to have a dramatic effect on your skin and should be the foundation of a quality skin care plan.
The following are the types of products that I think every woman (and every man) should be using if they want to really improve the way they look, and have the healthiest skin. These are products that have proven to be effective through well designed studies and accumulated evidence over many years.
I am not going to suggest any specific product within each group because there are many different choices and what may be best for you may not be best for someone else. Once you are ready to improve your skin care, talk to someone whose opinion you trust about which specific products would be best for your individual skin.
There are five fundamental types of products that each of you should be using.
Yes, sunscreens. This is the single most important skin care product you can use. Period! If you use nothing else, you need to use a good sunscreen. If you are not using a sunscreen, then no matter what else you do, you are not helping your skin.
The purpose of sunscreens is simple. They are designed to protect your skin from the damage caused by the sun, specifically ultraviolet radiation. The majority of skin damage (wrinkles, brown spots, blotchy skin color, visible blood vessels, etc) is from sun damage. Every other product we use tries to repair this damage. Sunscreens prevent the damage from happening.
There are hundreds of different sunscreen products so it can seem overwhelming, but it is relatively easy to decide which sunscreen to use. You need a sunscreen that will effectively reduce ultraviolet A, the rays that are most responsible for skin damage. All sunscreens reduce ultraviolet B, the rays that cause skin burns, relatively well.
To be effective in preventing skin damage, the sunscreen needs to use zinc oxide (all other products are not as effective) and it needs to have it in a high enough concentration. I recommend at least 7-9% zinc oxide. If you are going to use a good quality sunscreen why use less?
Zinc oxide is a mineral or physical sunscreen. It may be used in conjunction with another mineral ingredient, titanium dioxide. Whether zinc is alone or combined, mineral-based sun protection is superior to chemical-based protection.
It also needs to be a sunscreen that feels good on your skin and is compatible with any skin conditions unique to you, such as acne, dryness or oiliness. This is where an experienced skin care specialist can point you to the right sunscreen.
Finally, you need to wear this sunscreen every day of the year on all exposed body areas, especially your face, hands, and neck.
Throughout our skin cells are receptors to retinoic acid. These receptors pull retinoic acid into the cells and this helps to normalize our skin health and behavior. Using a retinoid improves acne when we’re a teenager, but it also improves texture, lines, wrinkles, and discolorations as we age.
Retinoic acid helps improve the appearance of skin in both old and the young, so it is truly a product that should be used for a lifetime. I tell my patients, “Start a retinoid as a teenager for acne and never stop using it for the rest of your life.”
The first retinoid was the prescription product Retin A which is excellent for acne but is frequently too irritating for more mature skin. What has been shown is that less irritating retinoids can provide the same anti-aging benefits as the stronger strength prescription versions. For this reason, more gentle products like retinol have become popular. They convert to retinoic acid in the skin and yet are much less irritating.
Which of the different retinols you should use and how you should use them is something to be discussed with your skin care provider. They can provide you with a well thought out plan. Regardless, if you are not using a retinoid of some sort, you need to start immediately; they are that important.
Sunlight, specifically the ultraviolet radiation from the sun, causes the greatest stress to your skin. When ultraviolet radiation hits your skin a chemical reaction called oxidative stress, or free radical formation occurs. These free radicals cause damage to the cells and to the components of your skin. When the damage is to DNA molecules or to important structures like collagen, it can lead to skin cancer and to the appearance of aging.
It is not just sunlight that can cause oxidative stress to your skin. A whole host of environmental stressors such as smoke and chemicals can do the same, but sunlight is by far the worst.
Imagine if you could use a product that would stop the oxidizing process when your skin is stressed. These compounds are called antioxidants and there are many that are available. They have been shown to very good at reducing the damage from sunlight and other stressors. The most common one is vitamin C,but in recent years many other excellent and even more potent antioxidants have been discovered and developed into skin care products.
Because antioxidants can prevent the damage that can occur when you encounter sunlight or other environmental stressors, they are an important component of a well rounded skin care program.
There are many different types of antioxidants on the market, some very good while others are less helpful. Which one works best for you and how to use them is something that you should discuss with your skin care provider.
#4 Growth Factors and DNA Repair Enzymes
I have been intensely interested in the idea of using stem cells and growth factors to improve our skin. This makes so much sense. Our skin uses stem cells and growth factors to rebuild itself when it is damaged. If there is a way to harness this effect to rebuild aging skin, this could change dramatically how we treat skin.
The technology and science has been evolving in recent years. There are some exciting products now that have good studies showing excellent results and which are formulated into cosmetically elegant products. I’m very excited that we now have good options.
Major damage that can occur in your skin can happen at the DNA level. The worst outcome is that the damaged DNA leads to cancer. But the DNA damage can also lead to much of the age spots, wrinkles, and sun spots that we associate with older skin.
Imagine a product that would help you get back the healthy DNA you had when you were younger. Imagine how this would make your skin healthier?
There are products that do just that. These products help your skin repair its own DNA and they have been shown to have a significant effect on making your skin look younger.
We talk about how an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yes, this is why you need to use sunscreens. But after the damage is done, it’s nice to have a little bit of that cure. This is what DNA repair does.
#5 Speciality Items
The fifth category of items that form the foundation of a complete skin care regimen are specialty items that meet specific individual needs.
Some people need to deal with pigment issues and there are products that help with pigment. Other people have issues with redness or rosacea. There are some who want to improve the appearance of the area around their eyes, an area where the skin can be very sensitive.
Whatever you need, there are products that can help with these specific problems. You skin care specialist can help guide you toward the products that are best for you.
The table provides a quick guide to the types of products you should be using. Hopefully you have a better understanding of the parts of a quality skin care regimen. The most important point I can offer is to reinforce that you need to work with someone who understands skin care and the importance of these various categories. Don’t let someone sell you an expensive lotion without explaining how it fits in this approach.
Finally, I often get asked about price. Yes, some products can be pricy. But there are good quality products that are reasonably priced in each of these groups. The most expensive products are not necessarily the better products. If price is an issue, it is better to spend your money first on a quality sunscreen and then discuss which products to introduce next based on your individual situation.