How are those New Year’s Resolutions going? In the spirit of the new year, Allure asked some top dermatologists for their advice on the most important skincare resolutions you should make – and keep – this year.
MOISTURISE AFTER SHOWERING
We all know a warm shower strips skin of oils. Face creams and body lotions are excellent substitutes, as long as you apply them correctly. But how tedious. One easy fix: keep body lotion right in the shower. Seeing it will remind you to apply it when your skin is damp, within ten minutes of turning off the water. "If you wait, skin starts losing water vapour," says Francesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Choose a body lotion with a flip top; pump bottles allow water in, and that can lead to bacteria, says Fusco.
WEAR SUNSCREEN EVERY DAY
Doctors have long advised wearing sunscreen daily (at least SPF30) and reapplying it often. The challenge is finding a cream that offers enough protection and doesn’t feel like a lead blanket. Look for "nongreasy" or "sheer" on the label.
TAKE OFF YOUR MAKE-UP AT NIGHT
You’ve known since high school that make-up can mix with skin oils and dirt to cause zits. Cosmetics can also trap skin-damaging free radicals that float in the air (think: bus exhaust) against your skin, according to Zoe Draelos, a professor of dermatology at Duke University School of Medicine. But you’ve had a long day, and the bathroom sink is so far away….
• Avoid the situation entirely by washing your face as soon as you get home. At the very least, remove your mascara.
• Patricia Wexler, a professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, advises keeping face wipes, on the bedside table. Tear open, swab, slumber.
CLEAN UP AFTER THE GYM
Don’t let your skin take a hit just because you’ve discovered an amazing new workout. "A lot of women are switching from big gyms to studios that focus on Spinning, boot camps, yoga, or Pilates, and often they don’t have showers," says Karyn Grossman, chief of dermatology at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica, California. As a result, she says, more patients aren’t washing right away—and have the acne (and bacne) to show for it. She advises hard chargers to wear moisture-wicking clothes and to pack facial wipes, or even nappy wipes in their gym bag. Swipe the face, back, and chest after class, and change into a clean, dry T-shirt. Back home, hop into the shower as soon as possible.
BOOK A YEARLY MOLE CHECK
Having a dermatologist survey your body once a year is crucial, even if you’re diligent about monthly self-exams. "We look in more nooks and crannies than you ever will," says Wexler. For convenience, group your annual appointments (physical, mammogram, dermatologist) at a time of (relative) quiet – after the holidays, or when the kids go back to school. "Before you leave the doctor’s office, make an appointment for next year, put a reminder in your phone, and ask the receptionist to follow up," says Wexler.
"A baby’s skin replenishes itself completely every 14 days," explains Howard Sobel, a clinical attending physician in dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "But by age 30, an adult takes a full 28 days to replenish." With all that extra time, skin cells have a chance to dry out and lose lustre – unless you jump-start the renewal process by exfoliating. Fusco tells patients to use a gentle face scrub once or twice a week, and a chemical exfoliant on two other days of the week.
HAVE MERCY ON YOUR HANDS
For starters, stop treating your nails like tools. "Tearing open boxes leads to chips and peeling," says Grossman.
• To keep both nails and hands from dehydrating, forgo plain antibacterial gels and instead choose moisturising versions and do the same with soaps.
• More advice: Keep SPF hand cream throughout your house. "Like the face, hands are exposed and need coverage," says Grossman. She keeps some in the glove box. "Even with UV-protective auto glass, damaging rays penetrate, and they will age your hands," she says.
• For night time care, rub hands with a rich alpha hydroxy acid lotion—it’s too thick for day—and if the skin is chapped, use shea butter. For deep rehab, add cotton gloves after application to wear overnight.
CLEAN YOUR MAKE-UP BRUSHES
You probably don’t realize what can happen when good brushes go bad: make-up and skin oils build up, creating a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause irritation. "In an ideal world, you would clean your brushes once a week, but most of us don’t," says Fusco. Instead, wash your tools monthly with a liquid hand soap or baby shampoo and lukewarm water (hot water can cause bristles to fall out), then rinse well, squeeze out the excess water, reshape, and allow the brushes to dry thoroughly by balancing them over the sink.
KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF YOUR FACE
Yes, it’s tempting to squeeze a pimple, but just the act of touching your face with your fingers brings pore-clogging oil and dirt to the skin. How not to pop? Get rid of magnifying mirrors, put "Don’t touch" Post-it notes around the house, and grab a squeeze toy to keep your hands busy, especially if certain times of day (morning drive?) trigger the urge. When you do give in, applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream right away can help calm inflammation and prevent long-lasting marks, says Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, a professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine.
STICK WITH THE PROGRAMME
Waiting for a new skin treatment to show results can be a test of patience. "A good anti-ageing cream can take six weeks, so don’t give up," says David Bank, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. That goes for skin lighteners and acne products, too. "But if nothing has changed by week six, the product will never work for you," says Bank. Time to move on.
Written by Mary Rose Almasi, with additional reporting by Elizabeth Siegel, this article originally appeared in Allure
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