April 29, 2011 -- The Skin Scientists: Macrene Alexiades, M.D.
Assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine and director of her own research clinic and private practice in New York City
With three degrees from Harvard, including a Ph. D. in genetics, Alexiades is a veritable superwoman of anti-aging science. Her two decades of research on stem cells and plant, human, and skin biology have led to breakthroughs in reversing the skin's aging process. She developed the first comprehensive classification and grading scheme of skin aging that is now used for FDA approvals of products and skin-related procedures.
"Mineral oil, shea butter, and petrolatum feel rich on your skin, but they can actually block the absorption of the product's active healing ingredients, such as peptides and small molecular-weight hyaluronic acids. Instead, opt for products that contain dimethicone, a silicone-based humectant that provides moisture but still allows the other ingredients to do their jobs.
"And apply moisturizer within three minutes of cleansing. Lab data shows that's all the time you have to seal the maximum amount of moisture into your skin." Try L'Oreal Paris Youth Code Day/Night Cream, left ($25, at drugstores).
Wash Before You Crash
"Most cosmetics contain sugar-type molecules, which can grow yeast when left on the skin overnight, leading to flakiness and itchiness. That's why you should always wash your face before you go to bed."
Get Your Beauty Sleep
"Your skin does its repairing at night. Help it along by slathering on resveratrol before going to sleep. It's a powerful antioxidant that protects and repairs cell DNA. Found in the skin of red grapes, it activates anti-aging genes and can reverse existing damage, so you'll see improved skin tone and texture and fewer fine lines and wrinkles." Try Serious Skin Care X5 Intense Resveratrol Concentrate ($35, hsn.com).
The Laser Wizard: Neil Sadick, M.D.
Dermatologist at Sadick Dermatology in New York City and clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College
Sadick's extensive research has pioneered one of the most talked-about anti-aging skin-care technologies of the past decade: non-ablative lasers. The tricked-out machines treat discoloration, sun damage, and wrinkles without burning the top layer of skin and subjecting patients to weeks of hiding out.
"Photodynamic therapy with intense pulsed light (IPL) delivers the best results. The red and blue LED light (a broad-spectrum light source) penetrates pores to shrink sebaceous glands, decrease inflammation, and remove bacteria. Breakouts, redness, and irritation are visibly improved after just one treatment, but you should aim for one session every three to six months, depending on the severity of the acne." Each session costs around $400 to $700.
"Lasers are the best way to erase signs of aging. But you can prevent yourself from needing laser treatments by using products that contain three key ingredients: retinoids, antioxidants, and peptides--RAP. While antioxidants fight the free radicals that cause wrinkles, inflammation, and other skin damage, retinoids and peptides are growth factors that stimulate cells to produce the collagen that keeps skin looking young.
"Apply a retinoid two or three nights a week, and choose a slow-release formula to minimize irritation [try Roc Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream, $30, at drugstores]. On alternate days, use a peptide-based product [try the antioxidant-packed Avon Solutions A.M. Ageless Results Day Cream SPF 15, $15, avon.com]."
Smooth Things Out
"You can temporarily improve the appearance of cellulite with light-based treatments such as VelaShape and SmoothShape, which combine suction, massage, infrared light, laser, and radio frequency to melt localized areas of fat and recontour the skin's surface. Most people get four to six weekly treatments [about $300 each] and then one maintenance treatment every three months."
The Skin Shrink: Amy Wechsler, M.D.
Assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and adjunct assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College
As one of only two American doctors who are board certified in both dermatology and psychiatry, Wechsler has an insightful approach that goes beyond skin deep: She unearths the causes of her patients' skin woes by asking about their lifestyles. Then, in addition to treating the surface problems, she prescribes tactics for reducing stress and getting more shut-eye to prevent the issues from recurring. Her revolutionary book, The Mind-Beauty Connection, established the link between premature aging and psychological issues such as stress and depression.
Make Over Your Mood
"People with happy, low-stress lifestyles have thicker, brighter, clearer skin, while those who are stressed or depressed overproduce hormones such as cortisol, which leads to dark circles and premature aging. But you can fake it till you make it with microdermabrasion, which sends a signal to the epidermis to make healthy new skin." Try Patricia Wexler M.D. Resurfacing Microdermabrasion System (bbw.com for info).
"The endorphins and oxytocin released during sex create healing molecules in the body that help repair the skin, increase cell turnover, and even work to reverse the aging process."
Don't OD on Exfoliants
"Salicylic and glycolic acids are great for keeping skin clear and smooth, but you don't need them in your cleanser, toner, and cream--all that acid will overdry and irritate your skin. Here's a hint: If your face stings, you're using too much. To get rid of dead skin and clear your pores, just use a toner with salicylic acid every other day."
The Holistic Healer: Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.
Clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and director of the fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
Low Dog is best known for integrating botanicals into mainstream medicine, and her holistic prescriptions go beyond a quick fix. They often include diet and lifestyle tweaks, natural herbs and botanicals, and even spirituality teaching through tai chi and other methods. No wonder she served on the White House Commission of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Feed Your Skin
"Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are critical for maintaining a healthy stratum corneum [the five outer layers of the skin], reducing inflammation, and adding radiance. An easy way to get these nutrients is through fish-oil supplements that provide 400 to 600 milligrams of EPA and 300 to 400 milligrams of DHA. Make sure the label says the supplements are molecularly distilled to remove mercury and other contaminants."
"Dark circles and puffiness are often caused by allergies and inflammation. The tannins in green tea can quickly reduce the swelling. Just place two tea bags in cold water, then let them sit on your eyes for about 10 minutes. Or treat allergy-induced redness around your eyes by taking supplements of freeze-dried nettles [an herbal plant shown to reduce allergic symptoms] with your daily vitamins."
Attack Acne Spot-On
"My favorite acne treatment is neem [Azadirachta indica], a topical anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ointment that calms, soothes, and treats acne without irritation. Apply neem every night wherever you have pimples." Try NeemAura Naturals Neem Seed Oil ($11, vitaminshoppe.com).
The Ethnic Skin Savant: Fran Cook-Bolden, M.D.
Director of Skin Specialty Dermatology and the Ethnic Skin Specialty Group in New York City
Cook-Bolden has spent years digging into the causes of ethnic skin disorders and masterminding ways to cure them. As a lead clinical investigator, she researched and developed therapies for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and acne scarring. Her book, Beautiful Skin of Color: A Comprehensive Guide to Asian, Olive, and Dark Skin, is considered the ethnic skin-care bible.
Don't Be a Trauma Queen
"Dark spots are a huge issue for ethnic skin, and acne spot treatments are the primary culprit. Overdrying specific areas--especially those that are already inflamed from a breakout--irritates the skin, creating a post-inflammatory response that activates pigment cells. For an effective but gentle allover acne treatment, try adding a dab of benzoyl peroxide to your moisturizer right before blending it onto your skin. And choose a lotion that contains essential fatty acids such as alphalinolenic acid or linoleic acid and niacinamide, which have been shown to improve acne."
Be Strategic About Sunblock
"Although darker skin may not sunburn as easily as fair skin, it's still at risk for sun damage and skin cancer. Broad-spectrum sunblock [which blocks both UVA and UVB rays] is a must. New advanced formulations with Mexoryl or Helioplex are micronized, meaning their tiny particles of zinc don't leave behind a thick white film, which is especially important for those with darker skin. I love Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Sunblock Spray [$11, at drugstores], which goes on sheer. Just remember to reapply frequently."
Load Up on Serums
"Serums are more concentrated than creams, and they are made up of smaller molecules, so the main active ingredients are delivered deeper into the skin. You get fast results, and you use only a tiny dab at a time, which saves you money.
"Look for a serum with antioxidants such as vitamin C and green tea [which prevent and fade pigmentation] and collagen builders like pentapeptides, which create a firm, youthful appearance. One of my favorites is Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum [$25, at drugstores]--it delivers antioxidants, peptides, and sheer moisture."
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