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"I run outside year-round and didn't use sunscreen when I was younger. I do now, but still, I have sunspots."
-- Robin Barton, 44
Why It Happens
When UV light hits skin, it triggers an increase in melanin, the skin's pigment molecules that help shield cells from damage. Eventually, after repeated sun exposure, melanin goes into overdrive, creating discoloration.
Take cover: Apply antioxidants at night to give them time to penetrate. "They act like sponges and neutralize free radicals," says Neal Schultz, MD, a dermatologist in New York City and the founder of BeautyRx skin care. In the morning, use sunscreen, the number one anti-ager, with broad-spectrum coverage, which protects against UVA and UVB rays. Opt for one that has physical blockers such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, because it's less likely to slip off skin as you sweat. Try SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 ($32, skinceuticals.com).
Get buff: Remove dead skin cells daily with an exfoliating treatment morning and night. One with lactic acid and a natural fruit enzyme like pineapple tends to be the gentlest, and it won't interfere with another anti-ager. Try Colbert MD Intensify Facial Discs ($58 for 20, colbertmd.com).
Erase dark spots: When you have distinct blotches, you've got to pull out the big guns: concentrated erasers such as vitamin C, niacinamide, kombucha extract, or SepiWhite, a patented brightening blend. Try Olay Professional Pro-X Even Skin Tone Tone-Correcting Protocol, which includes a cream, a sunscreen, and a spot treatment ($45, drugstores).
Protect from the inside out: Pack your diet with brightly colored water-rich fruits and vegetables like pomegranates, tomatoes, and broccoli. They're full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which help your skin heal.Skin Concern: Acne from Workouts
Why It Happens
The culprit behind all breakouts: clogged pores. "When sweat becomes trapped on skin -- under tight-fitting workout clothes, for instance -- it creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria," explains Howard Murad, MD, a dermatologist in El Segundo, California, and the founder of Murad skin care.
Unplug: Chemical exfoliators are your pores' BFFs. Salicylic, glycolic, and alpha-hydroxy acids dissolve dead skin cells and sweat. Apply a thin layer of a gel laced with them before you reapply your makeup. If you work out at night, put the gel on before bed to make sure skin is bacteria-free while you sleep, Dr. Murad says. Opt for Peter Thomas Roth FirmX Peeling Gel, ($48, peterthomasroth.com).
Bring sexy back: Ever notice how the pimples that pop up on your chest and back are way bigger than those on your cheeks? "These areas have larger oil glands than the face has, plus they're usually covered by clothing, which can push sweat and oil deeper into pores," Dr. Murad notes. Towel off frequently during your workout to keep skin clean. When you shower afterward, saturate a loofah with an exfoliating cleanser (look for the same pore-clearing acids mentioned above) or an antibacterial formula with benzoyl peroxide. Squeeze the suds over your shoulders and let them drip down your back. We like BeautyRx High Potency Active Cleanser ($35, beautyrx.com). If you aren't rinsing ASAP, strip off your sweaty clothes and wipe down with a towelette; use one that has an antibacterial ingredient -- witch hazel, for instance -- such as Murad Clarifying Wipes ($18, murad.com ). Or spritz a cotton pad with an antiseptic spray, such as Control Corrective Skin Care Systems ExfoTonic ($24, controlcorrective.com), and use it to cleanse your chest and back. Buh-bye, breakouts.
"I can't do a lunchtime workout because my face will stay red all afternoon."
-- Meredith Brooks, 30
Why It Happens
When you get hot from Zumba-ing, your body kick-starts its natural cooling system, causing the heat to move up to the skin's surface so your face becomes flushed, Dr. Schultz says. The good news: Turning red from your sweat session is normal, and it will subside as you cool down. If your redness lingers, try the tricks below.
Cool off: Soak a washcloth in cold water and hold it against your skin for a minute. "This helps to dissipate heat fast and to shrink blood vessels, reducing redness," Dr. Schultz says. Drink ice-cold water to cool down from the inside out.
Keep calm and carry on: In the shower, use a creamy cleanser that has antioxidants like goji berry or licorice root extract to minimize inflammation stat. Try Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Cleanser ($9, drugstores). Skip your go-to face cream for a hydrating serum; the light formula tends to contain higher amounts of skin soothers, such as aloe vera and katafray. Try Bliss Firm, Baby, Firm ($75, blissworld.com) or Clarins Double Serum ($85, clarinsusa.com).Skin Concern: Dull Complexion
"Between work and workouts, my schedule is packed. I wake up every day with dull-looking skin."
-- Michele Assini, 34
Why It Happens
You really do need your beauty sleep. "Exhaustion shows up on your face in the form of dehydrated-looking and sallow skin," Dr. Murad says. "At night, your body reverses free-radical damage incurred during the day from pollution, ultraviolet radiation, and stress, and it stimulates skin repair." Aim for seven to eight hours. Not happening? Try these skin brightening strategies.
Drink up: "As soon as you get up, have two large glasses of water," suggests David Colbert, MD, the founder of the New York Dermatology Group and Colbert MD skin care. "By the time you shower, your skin will look more supple." Pile your breakfast plate with fruits, like raspberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, plums, pineapple, and oranges, that are naturally rich in H2O. Greek yogurt, berries (which contain potassium, a mineral and electrolyte that increases the balance of fluids in the body) and almonds (which have tons of skin-strengthening minerals and good fats to help keep your complexion hydrated) make the perfect prettifying morning meal.
Rev radiance: Instead of an exfoliating regimen in the p.m., switch it to the morning. While you sleep, your skin releases natural oils that hold on to dead skin cells, Dr. Colbert says. That means your complexion looks blah when you wake up. Use a glycolic or lactic acid-based serum, such as Kinara Lactic Acid Hydrating Serum ($75, dermstore.com), in the a.m. to clear away buildup. Then apply an oil like Rodin Olio Lusso Luxury Face Oil ($150, oliolusso.com) to moisturize and get a glow before you put on your makeup.Skin Concern: Fine Lines
"I'm a half-marathon runner, and I'm starting to see fine lines and wrinkles."
-- Rachel Rikard, 35
Why It Happens
It could be the result of weight loss from all your cardio. Our faces naturally contain fat, which keeps our complexions plump and smooth. Lose too much and skin can sag. Another possible culprit: the outdoors. Over time, extensive exposure to UV rays can cause premature aging, including collagen loss, and battling the elements, like wind, can result in major dryness and exacerbate lines, says Neil Sadick, MD, a dermatologist in New York City and the founder of Sadick Dermatology.
Boost moisture: Use a face cream that has water listed as the first ingredient and also contains water-binding humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid as well as megahydrators like dimethicone and ceramides, Dr. Schultz says. The result will be long-lasting, deep moisture. Try Garnier Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream for Dry Skin ($6, drugstores) or Estée Lauder Advanced Time Zone Hydrating Gel Oil Free ($65, esteelauder.com).
Fight fine lines: OTC retinol and prescription-strength retinoid are the mothers of all wrinkle reducers because they stimulate the production of new collagen. They can, however, irritate sensitive skin and actually cause more dryness. Just as you have to work up to 13.1 miles, you must pace yourself with retinol and use only a drop for your entire face every other night. Our pick: StriVectin-AR Advanced Retinol Night Treatment ($109, strivectin.com), which counteracts sensitivity with soothing niacin. To help build elastin, which also keeps skin supple, look for formulas with copper and calcium. We like Kiehl's Powerful Wrinkle Reducing Cream ($50,kiehls.com).
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, February 2013.