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Monthly Archives: May 2018

Tips to Find The Right Moisturizer

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.

Could Your Lipstick Give You Lead Poisoning?

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that advocates for healthier makeup and hygiene products, hundreds of popular lipsticks currently on the market have tested positive for lead, which can be toxic even in small amounts.

The Campaign reports that the FDA analyzed 400 different lipsticks and found low levels of lead in almost all of them. Maybelline’s “Color Sensational” Pink Petal was the worst offender, with 7.19 ppm (parts per million) — 275 times the amount found in the least-contaminated product, Wet & Wild’s Mega Mixers Lip Balm — but L’Oreal, CoverGirl, and Nars had products in the top five, too. The average lead content across all 400 brands (which include other drugstore lines, as well as high-end companies such as Dior, M.A.C., Chanel, and Lancome) was 1.11 ppm.

To put these numbers in context, the Environmental Protection Agency’s allowable maximum contaminant level (MCL) is 15 ppm in drinking water; 100 ppm in children’s toys. (There is currently no such regulation for makeup by either the EPA or the FDA.)

Consumer advocacy organizations like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have stricter standards, however. They’d like to see all MCLs set at zero, or as close to it as possible.

“There is no safe level of lead exposure,” Campaign co-founder Stacy Malkan told ABCNews.com, citing a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the dangers of lead, which include blood and brain disorders in children. “It builds up in the body over time. A little bit every day is adding up and staying with you.”

Indeed, rumor has it that women swallow somewhere between three and nine pounds of lipstick over the course of their lifetime. Given that the average tube amounts to a mere three grams, however, you would have to ingest more than 150 entire sticks to swallow just one pound. So even if you slather on fresh color every morning — which as many as 81 percent of women do, according to a poll from the market research group Mintel — are you really in danger of consuming enough lipstick (and therefore lead) to put you at risk for poisoning?

The FDA says no — for now, at least. “[The study] did not find high levels of lead in lipstick,” the organization said in a statement to Reuters. “We developed and tested a method for measuring…and did not find levels that would raise health concerns.”

“The FDA’s independent study, which will be published in the May/June 2012 issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Science, confirms that lipsticks pose no safety concerns for the millions of women who use them daily,” L’Oreal representatives added. “The lead levels detected by the FDA in the study are also within the limits recommended by global public health authorities for cosmetics, including lipstick.”

Malkan, for her part, claims those “limits” are part of the problem. “When these companies are asked about these chemicals, they argue, ‘it’s legal, so it’s okay,’” she said. “That’s why we’re calling for the FDA to set a standard and give guidance to these companies for the best manufacturing practices.”

5 Daily Skin Habits to Start Now

You may spoil your skin silly with facials, fancy products, and a skin care regimen that would make your dermatologist proud. But there are a few important (and surprisingly simple) steps that can make a huge difference in having healthy, glowing skin.Incorporate these five best skin care habits into your routine and you’ll have smoother, clearer skin in no time.

1. Wear sunblock 365 days of the year

In rain or shine, winter or summer, whether you have ivory white skin or a dark complexion, your skin is always susceptible to sun damage. “You’re consistently exposed to the sun’s rays during daylight hours, even when you don’t realize it,” warns Jeanine Downie, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and director of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. “You should be wearing an SPF 30 every day, not only to protect against skin cancer but to prevent fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, and uneven skin tone.” In addition, it’s essential that you reapply your sunscreen every couple of hours, especially if you’re out and about — one morning slathering of SPF 100 won’t last you until sundown!

2. Refrigerate your eye cream

You can get more bang from your eye cream simply by storing it in the icebox. “The cold constricts the blood vessels, immediately reducing puffiness,” explains Manhattan-based dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D. “It’s best to apply cold eye cream in the morning; at night, the product can migrate into your eyes and create swelling and irritation.” Look for creams containing caffeine, which will further decrease any swelling. To combat fine lines and wrinkles, products that contain peptidesor retinol will do the trick.

3. Add antioxidants to your skin care and your diet

Here’s a two-point plan to rid your skin of environmental pollutants: Attack the problem from the inside and out. Use topical products containing vitamin A (in the form of retinol), vitamin E, vitamin C, and coffeeberry directly on your skin, and eat brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and other good-for-you foods like blueberries, pomegranates, and olive oil. “Both will help to combat free radical damage, reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and inflammation,” says Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles–based dermatologist and the author of Feed Your Face. She also recommends eating a balanced breakfast that combines protein, fiber, and healthy fats to regulate blood sugar throughout the day. Studies have shown that when blood sugar rises too quickly, it can cause acne, wrinkles, and rashes.

4. Lightly exfoliate regularly

While you might think anti-aging creams and high-end moisturizers are the key to youthful skin,experts agree that exfoliation is one of the best ways to achieve and maintain a gorgeous complexion. “A good exfoliating agent will slough off the dull top layers, minimizing wrinkles, acne, and dry spots to reveal new, healthy,glowing skin,” explains Fusco. Of course, if you have a sensitive or acne-prone complexion, you don’t want to use a harsh scrub too often. Instead, try a cleanser that contains smooth microbeads just two or three times a week. An even gentler solution for every day: Use a textured cleansing pad, which will very lightly scrub the skin without irritation.

5. Exercise often

Sure, you know you should be hitting the gym, not only for a toned physique but because it’s better for your overall health. Well, here’s another reason to work up a sweat: Exercise tightens the skin on your entire body. “Strength training and cardio boost circulation and improve muscle tone, which results in younger-looking, toned skin,” Downie says. “Not only that, but it also reduces wrinkle-causing,skin-damaging stress.” Just make sure to wash your face post-workout. What good is a hot body if you’ve got clogged pores all over your T-zone?

The Aging Effects of UV Rays

Damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause your skin to age prematurely — think wrinkles. The good news is that premature aging due to UV rays is largely preventable. By taking steps to avoid excessive sun exposure and protecting your skin when you’re in the sun, you can help keep your skin healthier and postpone wrinklesfor years to come.

The Sun’s Spectrum of Ultraviolet Rays

Radiation energy emitted from the sun reaches the earth in the form of UV rays. Ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere provides some protection, but the breakdown of the ozone layer that has occurred over the past few decades is making us even more vulnerable to UV rays damage. Even on overcast days you’re still being exposed to UV rays — “cloud cover” offers no protective value.

Two types of UV rays reach the earth, UVA and UVB (the sun also emits UVC rays, but these are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere). UVA rays are the rays that cause tanning as well as wrinkles and other signs of premature aging, and UVB rays cause sunburns and skin cancer. But both ultimately damage your skin. UV rays are more powerful during the summer months. They are also stronger in high altitude areas and the closer you get to the equator — geographic factors that increase your risk of premature aging.

Damage Done by UV Rays

When UV rays reach your skin, they interact with a natural chemical in the skin called melanin. Melanin is your first line of protection and absorbs UV rays in order to shield your skin against sun damage; this chemical reaction is what gives skin a tan. When the amount of UV rays you’re exposed to exceeds the protection provided by melanin, however, you get a sunburn.

Repeated overexposure to UV rays can lead to various forms of skin damage including:

  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Age spots, freckles, and other discolorations
  • Scaly red patches, called actinic keratoses, thought to be the beginnings of skin cancer
  • Tough, leathery skin that feels and looks dry and rough

As if these signs of aging weren’t enough, the sun causes numerous types of skin cancer, including life-threatening melanoma; eye damage such as cataracts, which impair vision; and a weakened immune system, leaving you less able to fight off infections.

Break the UV Ray Cycle

You can help protect your skin from wrinkles and other sun damage with the following steps:

  • Use sunscreen. Every day, generously apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, choosing products that provide what’s called “broad spectrum” protection against both UVA and UVB rays. When you’re in the sun for prolonged periods of time, reapply sunscreen every two hours.
  • Wear protective clothing. Whenever possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to further shield your skin from the sun. Consider clothes made from fabrics with built-in SPF.
  • Avoid peak sun hours. Stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their most intense.
  • Follow the UV Index. The UV Index is a daily indicator of how much UV radiation is expected to reach the earth — think of it as a pollen count reading for your skin. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service, it’s usually broadcast along with your local weather report. A rating of 1 to 2 is considered low, and anything over 11 is very high. The higher the number, the more you risk overexposure to UV rays.
  • Never use tanning beds. Tanning beds emit the same UV rays that come from the sun, so skip them. Contrary to popular belief, they are not a “safer” way to tan.
  • Bronze yourself with sunless tanning products. If you like the look of sunkissed skin, consider do-it-yourself tanning products or splurge on a salon spray-on tan. But remember to still use sunscreen and take all other precautions against UV rays when you’re going to be outside.

While the sun may feel warm and inviting, exposure to UV rays comes at a cost. Take steps to protect yourself from the havoc that sun damage can wreak on your skin.

Tips to Care a Dry Skin

Understanding Dry Skin

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 Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation. Your skin may look dull, flaky, or ashy (if you have dark skin), which can progress to skin being scaly or cracked. In the worst-case scenario, skin becomes thick and leathery, Dr. Fusco says.

Conditions Causing Dry Skin

Dry skin can affect anyone whose 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, Fusco says. However, some people are more prone to dry skin than others because of certain medical conditions:

  • Keratosis pilaris. As many as 40 percent of people in the United States have an inherited dry skin condition called keratosis pilaris. More common in children and adolescents, 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 people around the world have atopic dermatitis, 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, Fusco says. Women may notice a change in their skin’s oil production when they begin (or stop) using hormonal contraceptives. And hormonal changes after menopause can also lead to dry skin, she says.
  • Thyroid disease. One of the early symptoms of hypothyroidism (when 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, Fusco says. It’s a result of the skin not getting the proper amount of blood flow.

From Dry Skin to Healthy Skin

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Apply a skin moisturizer to your body and face at least once a day, when the skin is still damp from the shower, Fusco says. In the summer, a thinner lotion will do the job, but in the winter when skin becomes drier, use a thicker cream or ointment.

If over-the-counter moisturizers aren’t doing enough for your skin, your doctor can suggest a prescription-strength moisturizer. Products that contain lactic acid soften the top, hard layer of the skin, Fusco says. She recommends applying it at night so it can work while you sleep, and then buffing it off in the shower in the morning. The only downside: It can cause an allergic reaction in some people, leading to red, bumpy, itchy skin.

Another prescription option is a barrier cream. Barrier creams penetrate a little deeper than standard moisturizers and contain humectants, which hold onto moisture better and longer.

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.

People who have eczema may find relief with a skin moisturizer and can also use cold compresses on itchy skin. Over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroid creams may also be needed, 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.

Other dry skin treatments include:

  • Taking short, warm (instead of hot) showers
  • Using a moisturizing body wash
  • Placing a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air

Fusco also advocates adding healthy oils into your diet through foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados.