Skin care 101

Confused about how to care for your skin properly? Stick with these top 3 expert-recommended skin-care habits

Skin care 101

Source: Best Health Magazine, January/February 2009

Having practised together for more than 25 years, Drs. Madeleine and Suzanne Gagnon, dermatologist sisters in Laval, Que., know about every anti-aging skin-care treatment, from lasers and chemical peels to filler injections and Botox (they’ve been using the latter on each other for years and consider it one of the safest procedures).

The sisters also subscribe to some simple home beauty remedies, such as using silk pillowcases to prevent facial creases that sometimes develop during sleep. But when it comes to daily skin care, Madeleine, 55, and Suzanne, 59, believe in three daily habits (and they don’t involve derm-office procedures): practising year-round broad-spectrum sun protection; using quality products that can be bought at the drugstore; and following a consistent cleansing and moisturizing regimen. These three skin-care habits will go a long way to keeping your skin looking young and healthy.

1. Wear sunscreen with UVA and UVB (broad-spectrum) protection under your makeup year-round

Makeup with built-in SPF typically has UVB protection but very little or no protection against UVA, which are the aging rays that not only contribute to skin cancer risk but destroy collagen (the spongy underpad of skin that keeps it plump) and create wrinkles, brown spots and facial veins. Even if you spend your working day indoors, a two-hour commute to and from your job can add up to visible damage over the years, since UVA rays can still penetrate and age skin through windows. So choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 to 30. For outdoor activity, however, use one with SPF 30 to 60 in a moisturizing base that fits your skin type (creamy for dry skin; fluid for oilier types).

2. Make an investment in good-quality skin-care products

It seems you get what you pay for. Says Suzanne Gagnon: “For $10 to $20, you’re buying a good, basic moisturizer, but not something that will alter your skin’s appearance and structure, addressing wrinkles and brown spots.” She contends that you probably need to spend somewhere in the $30 to $50 range to get a product that delivers a cosmeceutical, skin-altering effect with ingredients such as glycolic acid, peptides and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). “But if you’re going to spend a lot more than that on a product, it should be something that your dermatologist has recommended, and that you know will have some benefit for your particular skin problem.”

3. Practise a consistent skin-care regimen—including décolleté

Find a cleanser that you enjoy using day and night. At night, wash face; apply a night cream, preferably with peptides (for example, products with Matrixyl or pro-collagen). Or ask your dermatologist about tretinoin, a vitamin A derivative available by prescription under various brand names, which promotes collagen growth and skin elasticity. However, it’s not well tolerated by everyone.

Apply an eye cream—if you feel you really need it. You don’t necessarily need a cream specifically made for the eye area, says Suzanne Gagnon; you can just apply your face cream lightly to the eye area. However, if you get puffy eyes in the morning, she recommends using an eye serum.

In the morning, wash your face with a cleanser to remove any traces of products you used at night; apply a moisturizer with antioxidants, such as vitamin C (in a concentration of 5% or more) or green tea. If you use an anti-aging product, layer it on next (the Gagnons prefer one with glycolic acid, to exfoliate, to smooth skin and fade brown spots). Then apply sunscreen with at least SPF 15. Both sisters like Reversa UV Anti-Spot Lightening Cream, which contains broad-spectrum SPF 15 and 4% glycolic acid (which most people’s skin can tolerate). For the rest of her body, Suzanne Gagnon uses Reversa Skin Smoothing Body Lotion, with 10% glycolic acid.

“When applying skin-care products,” she says, “the things I insist on every day are face, neck, décolleté and back of hands. Treat all of these areas—don’t stop at your chin.”

This article was originally titled "Skin Care 101," in the January/February 2009 issue of Best Health Magazine. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!