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We've gotten sunscreen-savvy, but no matter how much or how often you apply, it can't protect you 100 percent. For extra defense, layer a serum that contains antioxidants (such as SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum, $128, skinceuticals.com, or Philosophy When Hope Is Not Enough, $35, philosophy.com) under your sunscreen every morning, says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and president-elect of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery. The combination has been shown to produce significant improvement in fine lines, inflammation (think redness), and hyperpigmentation.2. Undo sun damage -- seriously!
UV-ravaged skin can be helped with Aldara, a prescription cream that stimulates your immune system to attack the diseased cells that ultimately give rise to squamous cell carcinomas, explains Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, PhD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine. To turn back the clock on earlier signs of damage, such as fine lines around your eyes and mouth, brown spots, and rough skin texture, use a retinoid cream, says Dr. Hirsch.3. Try the sun-safe diet.
New research suggests that the polyphenols in brown algae may help repair sun damage -- and even prevent skin cancer -- by essentially turning off cancer genes. The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, was done on mice, but lead researcher Gary Stoner, PhD, says he has "every reason to believe that the polyphenols would also be active in humans." To add them to your diet, order a mixed seaweed salad from your favorite Japanese restaurant (its properties remain most stable when eaten raw).4. Brighten your eyes.
Vascular dark circles -- the kind that result from blood vessels underneath thin skin -- can be camouflaged with more than just concealer. "Restylane injections at a cosmetic dermatologist's office can help hide them," says Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas. Not one for needles? Hydrating creams and serums with water-binding ingredients, like collagen and hyaluronic acid, can temporarily plump up the skin to mask blood vessels, she adds. If puffiness is your problem, smoothing an algae mask over the area "can stimulate skin cells to eliminate excess fluid," says Jeannette Graf, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Medical Center. (Try Osea Red Algae Mask, $36, oseamalibu.com or Astara Activated Sea Mineral Mask, $42, astaraskincare.com.)
The newest prescription drug, Ziana, combines an exfoliating Retin-A derivative with the topical antibiotic clindamycin. The two ingredients work synergistically to deliver the most powerful skin-clearing treatment, says David E. Bank, MD, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York. This double-whammy way of thinking has trickled down to drugstore products, too. Acne treatments like L'Oreal's AcneResponse Adult Acne Peel ($25, at drugstores) rely on "salicylic acid for its antibacterial effect and glycolic acid for its exfoliating effect," says Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas. "Peels don't work as well when you use only one type of acid."6. Heal cystic acne.
Although sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid can work wonders on superficial acne, big, red bumps buried deep in the skin are immune to their powers. "A warm compress is the best solution for underground pimples," says Dr. Bank. "This stimulates blood flow, which will either bring the zit to a head, allowing it to open, or speed the body's ability to heal it and reabsorb it."7. Take skin supplements.
"I like to call beta-carotene the everyman's Accutane, since both are high in vitamin A, a super exfoliator and antioxidant that turns skin cells over rapidly," says Dr. Alexiades-Armenakas. She often prescribes 6-milligram supplements of beta-carotene to her patients who either have mild acne or who have opted out of Accutane. (Accutane isn't prescribed for women who are planning to get pregnant, or who are pregnant, because it can cause birth defects.)
When zits finally do clear, red, irritated skin and brown spots can take their place. Apply a cream that contains nonfermented soy (such as Aveeno Positively Radiant Moisturizer with SPF 30, $14, at drugstores or Lancome Absolue Premium Bx Lotion, SPF 15, $108, lancome-usa.com). "The ingredient rapidly reduces redness," says Dr. Graf. If spots are stubborn, the VBeam laser, which targets broken capillaries, is a fast and more effective way to get the red out. At least three treatments (at about $400 each) are needed.9. Fade freckles.
The best way to diminish brown spots, say experts, is with an ultra-gentle combination of botanical-based ingredients. Bearberry, kojic acid, licorice, and soy all have studies supporting their brightening abilities, says Dr. Bank, and they won't irritate your skin. These products work by inhibiting a pigment-producing enzyme called tyrosinase and are gentler than those containing hydroquinone, explains Dr. Graf. Try DDF Intensive Holistic Lightener, $50, sephora.com or Peter Thomas Roth Potent Botanical Skin Brightening Gel Complex, $50, beauty.com.10. Banish little red bumps.
Treat keratosis pilaris, those ugly little red bumps on the backs of arms and thighs, with a moisturizer that contains 15 percent glycolic acid, says Dr. Bank. For the best results, choose a formula such as Glycolix Elite 15% Body Lotion, $19, dermstore.com. If you have seriously dry skin, try an emollient formula like Skin 911 Intense Body Cream, $30, skin911.com.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, August 2007.