20 Things Your Dermatologist Wants You to Know from 20 Things Your Dermatologist Wants You to Know

20 Things Your Dermatologist Wants You to Know

Keeping your skin healthy is just like keeping the rest of you healthy. "That means eating well balanced meals, drinking plenty of water, getting regular exercise, and protecting your skin from harmful exposures like the sun,"Adam Mamelak, MD, FRCPC, FACMS from Sanova Dermatology, says. These are general rules; several more specific ones may surprise you. 

So many skin products

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Over-the-counter (OTC) creams and lotions are not regulated the same way as those for which you need prescription. “The guidelines are not as stingy and the products may have different ingredients,” says Todd Schlesinger, MD, FAAD, Board Certified Dermatologist and Medical Director of the Dermatology & Laser Center of Charleston. “They are generally safe but companies can mix the ingredients any way they like.” Buy from a reputable company, he adds.

Some healthy ingredients may not be working

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“Just because they are present doesn’t mean they are effective,” Dr. Schlesinger says. In general you want to look for vitamins as some of the ingredients in skin products. However, vitamin C, for example, is very unstable, he adds. “OTC products may have low concentration of it which means it’s not doing much.” There is usually a decent quantity of retinol, a vitamin A derivative, that is good for the skin, Dr. Schlesinger says.

Sun exposure and Vitamin D

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You actually need very little sun exposure for vitamin D, Dr. Schlesinger says. Five to 10 minutes a day will suffice, he adds. “The skin is extremely efficient in making vitamin D.” Some people may need higher amount of the ingredient but increased exposure to sun is not recommended, he adds. Patients can eat foods that are rich in vitamin D or take a supplement.

Sunscreen is not just for when the sun is out

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“I recommend to my patients wear sunscreen all the time,” Adam Mamelak, MD, FRCPC, FACMS from Sanova Dermatology, says. “All of us get incidental exposures of sun that in some cases can cause sunburn and significant skin damage. Wearing sunscreen on a regular basis can help prevent this,” he adds.

Don’t buy just any product

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Skin care products should match the person, Dr. Mamelak says. There are number things to keep in mind: Your skin type, your skin care goals, and any allergies or sensitivities that he or she may have, he adds. “Obviously, you do not want to use something too hydrating if you have oily skin. Alcohol-based toners and astringents can be very irritating to people with sensitive skin.”

Drink a lot of water

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Dehydration makes you sick in many ways. “The single most important factor in protecting your skin is hydration,” Dr. Elizabeth Hale from the Skin Cancer Foundation, and Board Certified Dermatologist, says. When your body is dehydrated it slows the blood flow and your skin doesn’t get enough oxygen or nutrients.

Stay away from the sun

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Sun avoidance is the one thing you should remember about protecting your skin, Dr. Schlesinger says. “This is the most damaging.” It is the No. 1 reason for premature aging of the skin, he adds. The older you get, the higher your chances are of developing skin cancer is due to accumulated exposure to UV radiation

Exercise

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Exercise is a great way to increase blood circulation, Dr. Schlesinger says. Better flow carries oxygen and healthy ingredients to the skin which it needs to stay healthy. Poor circulation is most common in the legs and arms. The other effective way of increasing blood circulation in the skin is quitting smoking, Dr. Mamelak says.

You can use ginseng

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Scientists have not found any evidence that adaptogens (a substance that is supposed to help the body better cope with stress), which is what ginseng is often called, exist, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. “There is nothing wrong with ginseng,” Dr. Schlesinger says. But folic acid and zinc oxide are much better for the skin, he adds.

Remove makeup before bedtime

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Make up left on overnight can clog pores leading to blemishes and breakouts, Dr. Mamelak says. Makeup is made to last longer and longer; some women have it on for 12 hours. You absolutely want to take it all off at the end of the day in order for your skin to breathe. All the dirt you’ve been exposed to during the day traps inside the pores and changes the pH levels under the skin, which, in turn, can become very oily or dry.

Don’t exfoliate too often

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“Over exfoliation can often lead to breakage,” Dr. Mamelak says. The frequency that you should exfoliate often depends on your skin and skin type. “If you are just starting to, I often recommend going slow,” he adds. “Once or twice a week at the beginning and increasing as tolerated.”

You can “over wash”

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“Over washing and drying your skin can dehydrate the skin causing the body to respond by increasing its oil productions,” Dr. Mamelak says. “This is a common mistake made by acne sufferers.” Furthermore, scrubbing the skin can actually traumatize it, leading to inflammation and unwanted coloration, he adds. It’s OK to wash the face twice a day, but don’t use soap, Dr. Schlesinger says. Soaps, especially the alkaline ones, can really dry your skin by removing all of its natural oils. This makes the skin itchy, very irritating and prone to breakouts. “The rest of the body doesn’t need as much washing because it doesn’t produce as much oil.”

Get a full-body exam

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A full skin exam by a dermatologist or medical professional is one of the best approaches for detecting skin cancer, Dr. Mamelak says. “Detecting skin cancer in its early stages can save your life. Once a cancer has progressed and spread, it is more difficult to treat with much poorer and outcomes.” A person with normal skin, with no specific issues and no family history of melanoma or other skin cancers should undergo such exam once a year, Dr. Schlesinger says.

Don’t apply too much cream

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“One ounce of cream should cover your entire body,” Dr. Mamelak says. This is especially important for sunscreen, he adds. “If you think about it, most sunscreen bottles are 6 or 8 ounces. That means six or eight applications should finish the bottle. Most people do not apply enough sunscreen.” With serums, 4-5 drops is enough, Dr. Schlesinger adds. “You should apply the liquid-based or cleansing product first and then the cream.”

Reduce skin inflammation

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Long-term skin inflammation is a risk factor for developing skin cancer, regardless of age. Sunscreen is the best way to reduce inflammation induced by ultraviolet light and airborne pollution, Dr. Schlesinger says. You can also try products containing vitamin C and A, as well as retinol, which is better for nighttime treatment, he adds.

Healthy diet means healthy skin

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“Avoid foods with high glycemic index, processed foods and refined sugars,” Dr. Schlesinger says. Sugary foods have been associated with inflammation. The glucose and fructose lead to the production of enzymes that break down the collagen and elastin in the skin eventually causing wrinkles and sagging, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Findings from research suggest that a diet containing lots of sugar or other refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging.

Sleep positions to avoid wrinkles

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“Trying not to sleep on one side of your face or the other,” Dr. Mamelak says. The best way to sleep is on your back because the skin on your face is not under any pressure. People can’t really control what positions they assume while in REM sleep but you can control the quality of your pillowcase. Go for a satin one for less impact.

Don’t forget about the neck

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The skin on the neck is very delicate, just as much as the skin on the face, but it’s often overlooked. You are constantly moving your neck, stretching it in different directions and creating wrinkles without even knowing it. Applying your daily moisturizer, sunscreen and anti-aging products to your face should also extend to the neck.

Don’t squeeze pimples

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The skin is the dirtiest part of the body. If you pop your pimples, you now have an open wound on your face, and you deposit all of the oil and bacteria from your fingers onto your face. This eventually leads to scarring and you later have a texture problem for life.

Forget about suntan booths

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“Tell everybody to avoid indoor tanning,” Dr. Mamelak says. “It is much stronger the natural sun exposure and overtime can be detrimental to your skin and health.” “Even before you’re 35, you increase your chance of developing skin cancer by 75 percent; each session increases it by additional 20 percent,” she adds. Also, people tend to expose parts of the body that don’t normally see a lot of sun, Dr. Hale says.