NEW YORK—Spring cleaning feels good. It denotes an attempt to de-clutter and freshen up, whether it be one’s closet or house.
Ideally our bodies would also go through a spring overhaul, and there are good reasons to review our skincare routine.
Skin is the largest organ in our body. It can take a battering from outside factors and can also reveal any internal imbalance. Our complexion, that has been exposed to everything from wind chill to dry indoor heat, now has to contend with prolonged exposure to sunshine as we head outdoors.
New York-based dermatologist Dr. Jessica Krant answered a few questions about caring for our complexions, including some useful tips for daily skincare routines and some things to avoid altogether.
Epoch Times: What problems are associated with warmer weather for the face?
Dr. Jessica Krant: Every weather change brings different issues. When the weather starts warming up, acne that was dormant in the dry cold winter can flare, skin can get more oily, and sun- and heat-related rashes are more likely to spring up (no pun intended!).
Epoch Times: Do we need to change our skin care routine with the seasons?
Dr. Krant: Some people do need to change skin care seasonally, others don’t. There is no hard and fast rule. If you feel your skin products treat you differently in summer when there is more humidity around, it’s a good time to change to lighter and drier formulas that may be less greasy or wet feeling. While oils and humectant ingredients (which draw water out of the environment and bring it to your skin surface) are very helpful in winter, they may end up wet and shiny looking in summer. Oil-free products may be more valuable in the summer, since they may be a bit more mattifying (think: dimethicone).
Epoch Times: What is an effective morning skin care routine for the warmer seasons?
Dr. Krant: First, do not overwash to strip all of the oils out of your shiny skin, thinking it will stay that way all day long. Overwashing and overstripping the skin of its natural oils has a backfiring tendency. When the skin feels dried out and irritated, it may go into oil production overdrive, leaving you both shiny and irritated in the afternoon. Continue to use your gentle cleansers and don’t neglect your daily moisturizer with SPF. The right light formula will not make you feel greasy and will in fact help to tone down afternoon oil production.
Epoch Times: What are some noninvasive recommendations for getting a “fresher” looking complexion?
Dr. Krant: Over-the-counter retinol is one way to achieve most of the effects that can lead to some skin brightening and freshening. When used properly (sparingly, to a well-moisturized face), it can increase the turnover rate of skin cells and help fade irregularities and bring some brightness. But be careful, overuse can lead to harsh drying and red, peely rashes that will increase wrinkles and make you look older instead! Mild chemical peels and gentle facials are always fun and helpful, but it’s important to realize that the effects are always temporary.
Epoch Times: There is a lot if information about glycolic acid peels, ferulic acid, retinol, and peptides. Are they effective for all age groups, if at all?
Dr. Krant: Yes, products that are effective are effective for all age groups, but not necessarily worth the investment. If you are very young, you may not need to start yet and can get away with good sun protection habits and daily SPF, and if you are experiencing the kind of changes that may come with older age, like sagging skin, some of these things are not really improvable with creams alone. Or just choose to age gracefully and naturally, with a smile all the way.
Epoch Times: What products are likely to penetrate the skin’s deeper layers to make a noticeable difference?
Dr. Krant: The only FDA-approved, proven anti-wrinkle cream is the prescription strength tretinoin (Retin-A® and its cousins). Retinol is the milder, over-the-counter version. All other anti-aging creams are “cosmeceuticals” that have done internal company research but have not proven actual biological change in the skin in a public way, because doing so would make them technically “drugs” that need to be regulated by the FDA, an expensive process they are trying to avoid, since the market for direct-to-public sales is a multibillion-dollar market. Many, many anti-aging creams turn out eventually to be no better than a really great moisturizer, when long term effects are studied, so it’s important to take all marketing claims with a grain of salt and do as much formal side-by-side comparison research as you can—even on your own face.
Epoch Times: Is it true that it takes 28 days for the skin to renew itself and some noninvasive treatments will take time to show results?
Dr. Krant: All noninvasive treatments take time to show results. Any cream that seems to work within a week or two is only showing you its moisturizing ability. Well-moisturized skin naturally is plumper, smoother, and more glowing, since the outer skin cells are hydrated and translucent instead of flat, dull, and dried out.
Epoch Times: Regarding sunscreen, what substances do we need to look for and what do we need to avoid. For example some contain nanoparticles (ZnO and TiO2)—are they safe?
Dr. Krant: The controversy about nanoparticle safety is ongoing, with no definitive conclusion as yet, though they may very well turn out to be perfectly safe. The value of nanoparticles in sunscreen is only to make the sunscreens more “cosmetically elegant” (make them seem to absorb in better), so if this is not as important to you, it’s fine to use a traditional sunscreen. Lately, oxybenzone has been getting a bad rap as a potential cancer causer, and since there is no reason to include it in your sunscreen, that’s a good ingredient to avoid.
Epoch Times: What is your opinion on using an antioxidant serum, for example one that combines vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid, under sunscreen?
Dr. Krant: Antioxidants, in theory, work not only as anti-aging and anti-environmental damage ingredients, but also as additional sunscreens under your sunscreen. I have no problem with someone using these serums under sunscreen, if they have enough time and energy to apply them every day, but if you have to choose for reasons of time or money, choose your real sunscreen first.
Epoch Times: How long is safe when it comes to sun exposure? And what time of the day is best for exposure?
Dr. Krant: This is a question that can be answered with an entire textbook. There are extremely strong opinions on both sides of the spectrum. Sun exposure increases the risks of all three types of skin cancer, from basal cell carcinoma, to squamous cell carcinoma, to melanoma, the most deadly. Sun exposure also helps the skin produce Vitamin D, a hormone important for the regulation of many body functions including bone strength. I would say no matter what, avoid any sunburns, period, absolutely. Avoid direct sun on the face, and wear sunscreen on exposed areas of the body for prolonged exposure. But by all means, go outside and be active.
Dr. Jessica Krant, MD, MPH, is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City as founder of Art of Dermatology, LLC, and is assistant clinical professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center