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Summer Skin Rehab

Damage from just one accidental sunburn can stick around for months. Undo the effects of a sun-drenched season -- redness, spots, and fine lines -- with these smart tips and product switch-ups.

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beauty products to treat redness
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
Michael Kraus
Laura Doss
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Get the Red Out

Heat from the sun's rays can swell and damage capillaries, leaving skin ruddy for weeks. "It can even trigger the onset of rosacea, resulting in chronic sensitivity and a permanent flush," says Ronald Moy, MD, a UCLA clinical dermatology professor based in Beverly Hills.

Trade In: Exfoliating cleanser made of beads, seeds, salt, or sugar can exacerbate redness and contribute to unwanted stinging or itching, says Melissa Lazarus, MD, a dermatologist in Miami. "Rough textures can damage the skin's natural defense layer, allowing irritants such as dust and pollutants to sneak in," she adds.
Trade Up: Lather up with a gentle, nonsloughing cleanser that's creamy or low-foam. (Check the ingredients list. It shouldn't contain super-sudsers such as ethanolamide or lauryl glucoside, which can be drying.) Anti-inflammatories such as feverfew (found in Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizing Cream Cleanser, $6.99, drugstores) can cut down on redness. For max benefits, leave it on for two minutes, like a mask.

Trade In: Anti-aging and anti-acne moisturizers, souped up with salicylic, alpha hydroxy, or glycolic acid, cause sensitive skin to burn and itch. The addition of fragrance (check ingredients labels) can have the same effect.
Trade Up: Fragrance-free lotion with sunscreen is a must to protect against further damage. Look for those with dimethicone, ceramides, or glycerin, which help rebuild the skin's protective barrier. A great all-in-one: Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defense SPF 50 ($13.99, drugstores).

Trade In: Antioxidants in creams fight skin-damaging free radicals created by UV rays. But some of the good-for-you ingredients are too powerful for delicate skin. One to watch out for: idebenone. "It's very effective but can cause irritation," says Naila Malik, MD, a dermatologist in Southlake, Texas.
Trade Up: Thiotaine, commonly found in mushrooms, plus green tea and bamboo, are effective antioxidants that also soothe irritation. (Try a moisturizer like Grassroots Research Labs Bamboo Leaf Ultra Soothing Anti-Redness Cream, $32.50, Before applying, cleanse with a soft washcloth to gently remove dead skin cells, which can block absorption, Dr. Malik suggests.

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See Spots Run

When left unblocked, the sun's UV rays can stimulate melanocytes, the pigment-making cells located in the epidermis, which can make your moles darker and cause freckles and large dark patches. "These marks are your skin's attempt at shading and protecting itself," Dr. Moy says.

Trade In: A basic wash whisks away dirt and oil, but it can't lighten pigment. "Without active ingredients, dark spots can take months to fade away," says David Colbert, MD, a New York City dermatologist and a FITNESS advisory board member.
Trade Up: Once a day, reach for a cleanser with both microbeads and chemical buffers like citric and salicylic acids. "These ingredients help loosen the 'glue' that holds the damaged, mottled skin cells together," Dr. Colbert says. (One that packs a double punch: Olay Dual Action Cleanser + Pore Scrub, $6.99, drugstores.)

Trade In: A day cream without SPF is like an open window, allowing UVA and UVB rays to enter and spur the production of skin spots. And anything below SPF 15 is like a screen with random holes, sometimes blocking the sun's rays, other times not, Dr. Colbert explains.
Trade Up: "SPF 15 or higher prevents further darkening from the sun," Dr. Colbert says. Make sure your moisturizer offers broad-spectrum protection against both types of rays: UVA (the aging, spot-creating ones) and UVB (the burning types). A good one: Murad Essential-C Day Moisture SPF 30 ($60,, which is also made with freckle-fading vitamin C.

Trade In: Applying self-tanner at night will get you glowing by morning. But dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the darkening ingredient in self-tanner, can also intensify sun spots. "They sit high in the epidermis and contain clumps of dead cells, attracting DHA," Dr. Colbert says. (A few exfoliating sessions, however, bring skin tone back to normal.)
Trade Up: Instead of going darker with a tanner, brighten trouble zones with a lotion made with 2 percent hydroquinone, a melanin blocker, Dr. Colbert says. You'll see results in eight to 12 weeks. If skin is sensitive, opt for natural lighteners like vitamin C (look for airtight packaging, which keeps it stable) and yeast extracts. Find both in Origins Brighter by Nature Skin Tone Correcting Serum ($39.50,

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Smooth Out Wrinkles

Collagen keeps skin supple, but it breaks down with sun exposure. Moisture minimizes the effect. "Skin is like a paper towel. If you fold and unfold a dry one, the crease stays, but if you do the same to a wet one, the fold isn't as evident," Dr. Moy says.

Trade In: Bar soaps can be packed with hydration-stripping detergents, and gel cleansers often contain alcohol, which can be drying. "Both can remove the natural oils from your skin, making fine lines even more noticeable," Dr. Lazarus says.
Trade Up: Clean up your complexion with a face wash infused with glycerin (find it in Burt's Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser, $8, The ingredient, often found in creams, pulls in extra moisture from the air, Dr. Colbert says. Finish your face-washing session by rinsing with lukewarm, not hot, water.

Trade In: Lightweight gels or lotions made with sodium hyaluronate or aloe leave skin feeling fresh and cool. Unfortunately, they aren't moisturizing enough to truly hydrate skin and plump up creases, says Casey Gallagher, MD, a dermatologist in Boulder, Colorado.
Trade Up: An SPF-enriched moisturizer loaded with fatty acids such as shea butter, linoleic acid, or sunflower seed oil (found in Clarins Multi-Active Day Early Wrinkle Correcting Lotion SPF 15, $54, will minimize fine lines. Concerned about breakouts? Choose something noncomedogenic, which won't clog pores, and limit yourself to a pea-size amount, Dr. Gallagher says.

Trade In: Oil-absorbing products such as astringents, clay masks, and mattifying creams are great for controlling shine in the summer. But because they are formulated to pull moisture off the skin's surface, they can lead to excessive dryness and skin tightening -- and ultimately an increase in wrinkling, Dr. Gallagher says.
Trade Up: Hydrating masks or lotions made with peptides have dual benefits. The megadose of moisture plumps skin, while peptides from amino acids or yeast extract (like those in StriVectin Instant Facial Sculpting Cream, $79, smooth wrinkles in about a month. "Apply to damp skin. The water helps you absorb the cream more," says Jeanine Downie, MD, a dermatologist in Montclair, New Jersey.

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Fast-Acting Skincare Finds

Happy skin starts with these kits, which transform your complexion in 15 days or less.

Your Goal: A Healthy Glow
Try: RoC Multi Correxion Skin Perfecting System ($49.99, drugstores)
The claim: Soy, hyaluronic acid, and retinol -- packed in a cleanser and a day and a night cream -- lighten spots.
The confirmation: "My skin tone brightened dramatically in a week. By the second, there was less freckling." -- Leah Wyar, beauty director

Your Goal: An Even Surface
Try: Neutrogena 14-Day Skin Rescue ($25.99, drugstores)
The claim: An alpha hydroxy acid system of face wash, lotion, and night cream nixes rough patches.
The confirmation: "It smoothed my skin, helping my makeup go on better." -- Tayva Martinez, Winslow, Arizona

Your Goal: Clearer Skin
Try: Dr. Denese 15 Day SkinScience Booster ($74.76,
The claim: The single-use serums, packed with retinol and peptides, improve skin's overall appearance.
The confirmation: "By day three, I saw fewer pimples." -- Aisha Gayle, New York City

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2009.

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FITNESS Magazine, September 2009
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