Q&A: How to Care for the Skin You’re In

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A Dermatologist answers your skincare questions.

Ross Levy, MD

Q: What should my skincare routine consist of?

A: Most important: Clean your face by washing it with your favorite soap, or, if your skin is dry, with a cleanser. Washing exfoliates your skin so no need for an exfoliator. Toner is a marketing gimmick; few people need it. Toner can help with oily skin, but just as good is washing your face one more time daily. Masks are another way of exfoliating. Are they necessary? No. However, your face will feel nice. I call this a “feel good” skin product.  Hydration on your skin lasts only a short time, so use a moisturizer on damp skin to create a barrier against moisture loss. I advise a lotion over a cream as it’s lighter and won’t clog pores. In winter, cream is a bit more effective. Your moisturizer should include sunscreen. For every day, use an SPF of 15; if you’re outdoorsy, use 30. For the beach, at least 50. Serum: it might puff up skin temporarily, minimizing some lines, and your skin may feel smooth afterwards. But most of it isn’t absorbed and it doesn’t prevent aging.

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Q: Should I invest in expensive products?

A:  A low level of glycolic or lactic acid helps exfoliate if washing with soaps or cleansers is too drying. Retin-A, a form of Vitamin A, can smooth skin, reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles, and fade discolorations. Retinol, the OTC version, does not penetrate skin. People with normal skin can use Retin-A at five to ten percent strength. But if you have rosacea or eczema, stay away. It will cause short-term irritation and redness. AHA’s are said to aid exfoliation. At levels of up to 10 percent, they’re safe. Vitamin C, whether in a lotion, cream or a serum, is said to rejuvenate the skin by aiding collagen production and reducing wrinkles. None of these claims holds up to scrutiny. Vitamin C doesn’t get absorbed by skin, so it’s a waste.

Q: If my mom has wrinkles, will I have wrinkles?

A: Wrinkles aren’t hereditary; they’re mostly caused by sun damage. Active causes: facial movements such as smiling, laughing and talking. Smoking destroys the elastin and collagen layers of the skin, making it a major contributor to wrinkling. Passive causes: sun damage. If you’re fair-skinned, wrinkles are more likely because you suffer more sun damage.

Q: Should I be getting professional facials? 

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A: If it makes you feel good, get a facial. Like any massage, it’s a little stimulating. However, if you wash your face well, you’re doing the equivalent of stimulating your face.   

Q: Are natural skincare products better for my skin?

A: The American Academy of Dermatology takes no position on products that are more natural. However, it’s best to choose products without phthalates and parabens. It’s believed that, besides irritating the skin, these ingredients may interfere with hormonal activity.

The care and safety of our community during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is Northern Westchester Hospital’s top priority. We have put maximum safety measures in place to prevent exposure to the coronavirus for anyone who comes to the Hospital for emergent or scheduled care.

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Learn More about Dr. Levy
Ross Levy, MD
Chief of Dermatology
Northern Westchester Hospital

Read Past Topics from Dr. Levy
Your Winter Skin Care Problems Solve

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