Sun damage, wrinkles, acne. Everyone has some skin issue or other she'd love to clear up. We posed your questions and got answers from top dermatologists.
By Dori Katz
Dr. Fredric Brandt, board-certified dermatologist in NYC and Miami
Dr. Francesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology specializing in cosmetic dermatology in NYC
Dr. Ava Shamban, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA and author of Heal Your Skin
Q. My legs end up splotchy and gross every time I shave. Are there any products I can use to stop the irritation?
"Redness around the hair follicles usually means inflammation," says Dr. Brandt. "Keep skin smooth and clear by using an antibacterial lotion containing benzoyl peroxide immediately after shaving." Proactiv Repairing Treatment, $29, is a good one. Also, change your razor frequently, and try a soothing moisturizer with aloe or calendula once or twice weekly.
Q. I've had little blackheads all over my nose since I was a teenager. How can I get rid of them once and for all?
Banishing those annoying dark dots is a three-step process. "Start with a cleanser that contains 2% salicylic acid," says Dr. Fusco. "It will remove dirt from pores and prevent them from reclogging." Once a week, use a Bioré Deep Cleansing Pore Strip, $8/package, and make sure you apply correctly—wash your face right before and massage the strip onto your nose so that it fully adheres. Finally, dab on a prescription-strength or OTC retinoid nightly, like Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, $21.
Q. What are the white bumps that appear on my cheeks and forehead? They look and feel different from whiteheads.
"They're called milia and form when keratin proteins are overproduced and get stuck under the surface of the skin," says Dr. Shamban. A doctor has to extract these tiny, hard cysts, but the procedure is quick and painless.
Q. My laugh lines seem to be getting deeper and deeper. Is there a way to make them less noticeable?
A retinoid is your best bet. "It helps build up the collagen that has slowly been breaking down due to aging and sun damage," says Dr. Shamban. Garnier Ultra-Lift 2-in-1 Wrinkle Reducer Serum & Moisturizer, $17, keeps the skin hydrated with a natural pro-retinol in a serum-and-moisturizer hybrid.
Q. I rarely applied sunscreen in my 20s and 30s, and now my face and chest are paying the price. Can I do anything to reverse the damage?
While you can't totally turn back the clock, you can reverse it a couple of years. "Brightening ingredients, like kojic acid and vitamin C, interfere with pigment production and eliminate or reduce the appearance of brown spots," says Dr. Fusco. Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution, $50, features a new potent vitamin C derivative, as well as white birch and peony extracts to calm and hydrate.
Repairing the damage takes time and discipline—starting with time spent away from the sun, especially during peak hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This also stops new lines and spots from forming. And of course, slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 daily on any exposed area of skin.
Q. My neck is starting to sag. Short of having surgery, is there a way to make it firmer and less wrinkly?
"Look for a cream containing peptides," says Dr. Brandt. "It increases collagen and elastin production." The skin in this area tends to become thinner as you age, so apply two or three times weekly to prevent drying. Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream, $25, has hyaluronic acid and glycerin to moisturize and plump up skin. For instant tightening (lasting up to 72 hours), try a handheld electric device like NuFace Classic System, $250, suggests Dr. Fusco. It strengthens the muscles and skin with gentle, low-level currents.
Q. Pesky little red bumps have been popping up on the backs of my arms. What gives?
These rash-like spots are called keratosis pilaris, caused by excess keratin accumulating around hair follicles. It occurs more frequently in people with allergies and can appear anywhere on the body, but most often on arms and legs. Minimize the effects of this chronic condition by exfoliating with a gentle granular scrub or rotating cleansing brush. A moisturizer with a mild alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) will help soften and dissolve bumps. AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion, $15, is a good option thanks to its high percentage of lactic acid (one type of AHA).
Q. I exercise all the time and have noticed breakouts on my back, chest and even around my ears.
"First things first: Always shower and change immediately after working out," says Dr. Brandt. "The longer you let the sweat sit on your skin, the more bacteria accumulate, causing acne." Wash the affected areas with a cleanser for acne-prone skin, like Cetaphil DermaControl Foam Wash, $11. Then apply an OTC topical antibiotic with at least 4% benzoyl peroxide twice daily. Switching to looser-fitting workout attire is another good idea.
Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.