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Just Face It

A Healthy Skincare Routine is Simpler than You Think

The Internet and advertising are inundated with skincare advice. That advice can be contradictory or confusing at times. With so many products (and influencers) out there for skin, where should you start?

Recently, we sat down with board-certified dermatologist Faris Hawit, MD, FAAD and board-certified dermatology nurse practitioner Heather Montgomery, CRNP of Calvert Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center to get their advice for maintaining healthy skin.

Back to the Basics

Dr. Hawit says the key to good skin is as simple as cleansing, moisturizing and protecting it from the sun.

“The best skincare products are the ones that protect your skin from sun damage and don’t harm your skin by overly exfoliating it and drying it out and exposing it to fragrances and things like that,” said Dr. Hawit.

This means choosing fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products, avoiding mechanical exfoliants and using mineral sun protectors such as zinc. He said mechanical exfoliants such as washcloths, buff puffs and apricot scrubs should be avoided because they strip the oil from the skin.

Although they may give the temporary satisfaction of smoothfeeling skin, Dr. Hawit explained they ultimately increase oil gland production. Harsh products strip the skin of oil so it compensates by producing more oil in a vicious cycle.

A basic skincare routine Dr. Hawit suggests is cleansing with a gentle cleanser day and night – not a soap as they dry out the skin. Then, use a daily moisturizer with an SPF during the day (rain or shine) and retinol at night.

If someone opts for makeup that day, it should be worn over top of the moisturizer and SPF. Montgomery said an SPF of 30 or greater is recommended. SPF is essential for skin cancer prevention, as well as preventing leathery skin, dark spots and wrinkles.

“If you want your skin to look young when you’re 60, you need to protect it from ultraviolet damage that comes from the sun,” Dr. Hawit said. The products in a good daily skincare routine don’t have to be fancy, organic or expensive. Montgomery said there’s plenty of good over-thecounter options.

“Organic is fine but we have to remember there’s a lot of marketing out there. It doesn’t mean their products are bad but it doesn’t mean they are the answer to everything. Organic doesn’t mean harmless,” Montgomery said.

Adding in Extras

While the focus should be primarily on protecting and moisturizing the skin, Montgomery also recommends adding in a retinol anti-aging product. This should be applied underneath nighttime moisturizer. However, the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved product for fine lines and wrinkles is Retin-A, which is prescription only.

Montgomery said people with acne concerns can try over-the-counter acne medications and washes but if improvement isn’t seen within two to three months, she suggests they see a dermatologist.

Some may want to self-treat other skincare concerns with other over-the-counter products. It’s important not to add in too many products too quickly or use them too frequently as over time. This may be too irritating for the skin.

“A better approach is to simplify the regimen and if you want to try a new product, try one at a time for a period of three months or so,” said Montgomery. “If you like that and the way it feels or looks, then continue it. Adding multiple wrinkle creams and multiple things, it becomes too irritating for the skin and it can become counterproductive.”
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