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Skin Challenge: Uneven Tone
The Cause: Few are fortunate enough to have a flawless face; the rest of us are left to deal with a variety of skin issues, such as rosacea, which usually shows up as prolonged redness or cheeks that flush easily. Another common problem is hyperpigmentation, brown spots caused by aging and exposure to the sun.
Help It: Start with a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher to protect skin from damaging UV rays. To tame redness, try soothing ingredients like aloe and algae extract, available in TriDerma MD Facial Redness Repair, $16. Avoid heavily fragranced moisturizers and limit your intake of spicy foods and alcohol—they may irritate skin and bring on flare-ups. To fade dark spots, ingredients such as glycolic acid, soy, or retinol work well, says Richard G. Fried, MD, a dermatologist and clinical psychologist in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Try Garnier Ultra-Lift Anti-Wrinkle Firming Moisturizer with SPF 15 and pro-retinol from nature, $15.
Hide It: Downplay sallow or blotchy skin by using a tinted corrective concealer or primer; green undertones cancel out redness, and lavender shades smooth and brighten. We like the convenient brush-on Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free Mineral Correcting Primer SPF 15, $11. When you apply it, the tones play off your coloring to bring out a luminous, clear complexion—genius!
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Skin Challenge: Undereye Circles
The Cause: The skin below eyes is naturally thinner and more delicate than anywhere else on the face. That's why it's prone to dark discoloration (blood vessels just below the skin's surface become more visible) and puffiness (inflammation and fluid retention).
Help It: First off, avoid rubbing eyes—it stimulates melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells below the skin, says Howard Murad, MD, a Los Angeles dermatologist and founder of Murad, Inc. Choose products with caffeine, which helps minimize the appearance of blood vessels, and with anti-inflammatory vitamin C. Try Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Dark-Circle Roller, $13; it has a cooling flexible ball applicator and tinted pigments that downplay discoloration. Grassroots Research Labs Vitamin C Power Brightening Eye Cream, $27.50, lessens dullness under the eyes, making the area appear more radiant.
Hide It: Wake up your face—and reduce puffiness—with a few splashes of cool water as part of your morning routine, suggests Petra Strand, a makeup artist in Santa Barbara, California, and founder of Pixi Beauty. Then pat on a brightening eye cream while your face is still damp—it helps the moisture sink in. Apply concealer from the inner corners of eyes (where darkness is more pronounced), blending outward with the "ring" finger in order to use the right amount of pressure. Dr. Murad's Hybrid Eye Lift Perfector, $35, does it all: It's a full-coverage formula that diminishes swelling and dark circles.
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Skin Challenge: Lip Lines
The Cause: Muscles in the upper lip weaken from pursing lips and other everyday movements, resulting in lines, cracks, and thinning, says Dr. Murad. Smoking—as if you needed another reason not to—dramatically worsens these signs of aging.
Help It: Gently (please!) exfoliating lips and the surrounding area with a dampened toothbrush is a quick way to improve the skin's appearance, suggests Dr. Murad. Then apply Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm SPF 20, $9, to restore smoothness and definition within a week.
Hide It: If you are time-crunched you can fake it with a plumper—when lips seem fuller, lines are automatically less visible. We like Sally Hansen Lip Shimmer Plumping Balm, $10, for its non-tingling formula and tiny golden flecks that make your pout look even more luscious. Or downplay lines by prepping lips with a primer that evens out texture. Try Pixi Lip & Line Primer, $18. In a pinch, dabbing on a little foundation can do the trick too, says Viktorija Bowers, a makeup artist in NYC. Finish with matching liner and lipstick.
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Skin Challenge: Breakout Bummer
The Cause: Whether you're 14 or 44, pimples can be problematic. Inflammation and hormones may be the culprits; stress often exacerbates the situation.
Help It: First, take a deep breath—it won't clear your skin, but less stress can lead to more stable hormone levels, resulting in fewer breakouts and less inflammation, says Dr. Fried. In the meantime, shrink the spot with a topical product containing salicylic acid, like Benefit Boo Boo Zap, $16. To increase its effectiveness, first apply a little over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream—it's anti-inflammatory and constricts blood vessels, so it helps get the red out, says Dr. Fried. Be sure to use sparingly—a pinhead dot will do the trick.
Hide It: Applying concealer over an acne product can be a recipe for a cake-y skin disaster. Instead, lightly dot on some spot treatment and give it a minute or two to dry completely. Mix a drop of cream concealer with foundation to thin out its thick consistency, says Bowers. Then use a wedge sponge and dab over the area, working outward so it blends well. Or try the dual-ended Jane Iredale Zap & Hide, $25; it has anti-inflammatory tea tree oil and oil-absorbing algae extract on one side, concealer on the other.
Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.