Experts Answer Your Top 15 Skin Care Questions
Whether your top concern is dryness or oiliness, acne or wrinkles, under-eye circles or brown spots, we’ve got the best skin care strategies and products for you.
You asked us your most burning skin care questions on Facebook, and we found the answers. Time to get up close and personal.
Q I want to get rid of my dark under-eye circles. Help! —Connie Sue Kemple
It’s all about the ingredients—kojic acid, arbutin and soy enzymes are big brightening boosters found in eye creams. Light-reflecting formulas also help minimize darkness. Olay Eyes Illuminating Eye Cream, $25, and La Roche-Posay PigmentClar Eyes, $43, both visibly brighten the area.
Q Is it possible to shrink large pores? —Theresa Magnani
Retinoids are the only proven topical ingredients that stimulate collagen and elastin production, which can make pores appear smaller. Dendy Engelman, MD, dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, suggests Differin Gel, $14, which is now sold over the counter at drugstores. Although more expensive, in-office laser treatments, such as Fraxel and PicoSure, are another option.
Q How do I manage an oily complexion? —Kim Clem Kress
Use an oil-based product—yes, really! The skin care oil binds to the oil on your face to remove it, says Engelman. Try a cleansing oil, like Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Replenishing Cleansing Oil, $36. And make sure to follow with an anti-aging moisturizer or face oil to lock in hydration and regulate skin.
Q How can I diminish deep wrinkles around my eyebrows, lips, chin and nose? —Terese Cutler Workman
If you want to treat them yourself, a retinol serum is your best bet, says Michelle Henry, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Two suggestions: RoC Skincare Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum, $23, and Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, $22. If you want a stronger, faster in-office fix, try Botox. It works best on dynamic lines—the ones you see when your face moves.
Q How do you remove—and prevent—blackheads? —Loci Nelson
Use a pore cleansing strip on your nose, chin or any area—we love Bioré’s classic version. If blackheads are more widespread, try a charcoal mask, like L’Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Detox & Brighten Mask, $13, to draw out dirt without overdrying skin. Apply a moisturizer with salicylic acid daily to break up debris and prevent future clogging. Do not attempt at-home extractions. Squeezing pores with your fingers actually enlarges them.
Q My face is severely dry. How do I get rid of flakes? —Helen Cloud
Exfoliate two or three times a week with a manual exfoliator, such as a Clarisonic brush, or a product that contains papaya extract. (Try AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel, $60.) This cleans out pores, allowing moisture to really penetrate skin, says Henry. Follow immediately with a nourishing serum and/or lotion that has hyaluronic acid—it helps skin maintain water. Add a weekly moisture mask to your routine: SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Masque, $54, and Dr. Jart+ Water Replenishment Cotton Sheet Mask, $7.50, are two favorites.
Q I get ingrown hairs on my chin that cause recurring breakouts. How do I prevent them? —Kim Randa Gundlach
Chin hair tends to be coarser and curlier than other hair, making ingrowns more likely, explains Henry. Laser hair removal can eliminate them, but there’s a simpler, less expensive solution. Swipe the area with glycolic acid pads—such as First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads, $30—to unclog pores and minimize ingrown hair growth and inflammation.
Q I sweat a lot and tend to break out on my chest. What can I use to prevent pimples? —Ashley Bradford
Most acne facial treatments containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide work on the body too. Engelman recommends PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash Maximum Strength, $9. To prevent pimples, keep cleansing wipes handy for whenever you’re sweaty. Dickinson’s Refreshingly Clean Cleansing Cloths, $7, help kill bacteria. Wear clothing made of cotton or other absorbent materials, and change out of damp gym clothes as soon as possible.
Q How can I reduce acne scars on my temples and cheeks? —Eulogia B Valles
Fraxel laser treatment is the gold standard for scar removal, says Henry. But the in-office procedure is pricey—$1,000 to $1,500 per session—and generally takes two to four sessions, depending on the severity of the marks. For an at-home fix, use a dermaroller—the Ora Microneedle Face Roller, $20, is a good choice—in perpendicular patterns over scarred areas. Apply a hyaluronic acid–based cream, like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, $19, immediately after.
Q Every product I use makes my rosacea flare up. What should I try? —Carol Tedord
Look for products specifically formulated for redness-prone skin that state they’re non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free on the packaging, says Engelman. Cetaphil’s Redness Relieving line calms and balances ruddy complexions. Use a mineral-based sunscreen with UVA and UVB coverage—it won’t irritate sensitive skin and can help reduce breakouts caused by sun exposure.
Q How do I get rid of the little white bumps on my face? —Darcie Olsen
Those tiny cysts, called milia, are caused by dead skin cells trapped underneath the skin, says Engleman. The only way to get rid of them is by seeing a dermatologist. To prevent others from forming, wash with a salicylic or glycolic acid cleanser, like Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser, $33, two to three times a week.
Q I have acne but also sensitive skin—it’s worse now than when I was a teenager! What should I be using? —Tamara Lynn
Acne-prone skin tends to be less oily in adults than in teens, says Henry. Glycolic acid is gentler and less drying than salicylic acid—look for cleansers and treatments with a 2% to 5% concentration. Retinoids are another powerful option for both acne and anti-aging. Start with a pea-sized amount every other night and mix with your moisturizer or apply right after to prevent irritation.
Q I avoid sandals because my feet are super scaly and dry. How can I get smooth skin? —Helen Cloud
Use an exfoliating mask once or twice a week to remove dead skin cells—Lush Volcano Foot Mask, $14, is a good one to try. Apply a rich foot cream with urea, like Eucerin Advanced Repair Foot Creme, $5, nightly before bed. Bonus points if skin is damp—it will sink right in. For a moisturizing boost, sleep in soft cotton socks, says Henry.
Q What’s the best way to reduce brown spots? —Lin Cheney
Too much sun exposure causes an overproduction of melanin (pigmentation), which can lead to permanent dark spots. Brightening ingredients, such as vitamin C and licorice extract, can decrease discoloration, says Engelman. For a stronger fix, Engelman suggests prescription-strength Tri-Luma, which contains 4% hydroquinone, a potent bleaching ingredient. To prevent further damage, make it a habit to wear sunscreen daily, regardless of the weather.
Q What’s the best way to treat eczema on my chest, hands, arms and feet? —Joyce Dellinger
Choose a moisturizer with ceramides, aloe, glycerin or hyaluronic acid—all humectants that pull water from the environment into the skin, says Henry. Try Curél Hydra Therapy Wet Skin Moisturizer, $11. Avoid harsh detergents, fragrances and any ingredients that are known to dry out skin, such as benzoyl peroxide. Also, invest in a humidifier to add moisture to the air at home.
Photos: (from top) Hilxia Szabo/Gallery Stock, Sabine Villiard/TRUNK Archive (2).