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Dark Circles and Puffiness
What You Said: These two eye issues are tied for the second-biggest skin concern.
What You Can Do: Although they're of equal importance to you—and both involve the delicate skin surrounding the eyes—they're actually very different problems. Dark circles are caused by thinning skin, which makes blood vessels below the surface more noticeable. Try an eye cream with caffeine, an ingredient that diminishes darkness (we like Garnier Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller, $13). Products with peptides and retinol can help thicken the skin, ultimately making dark circles less visible.
Battling bags? Use an anti-inflammatory cream with ingredients like green tea and polyphenols. Derms suggest storing these eye creams in the refrigerator—they'll feel extra soothing, and the cold adds to the tightening effect. Also, stick to a low-salt diet and try sleeping with your head elevated—it decreases circulation to that area, so fluid is less likely to accumulate below your eyes.
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What You Said: It's true that acne isn't just for tweens and teens—49 percent of you battle it alongside other skin problems.
What You Can Do: Fortunately, an anti-aging regimen won't interfere with an adult acne plan. The original approval of Retin-A was for acne, so using a retinoid will help with both issues. You also want to decrease inflammation, which is usually caused by fluctuating hormones, so look for products that are anti-inflammatory as well as antibacterial. To avoid excessive dryness, try something that contains sulfur as opposed to benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid; Ren Anti-Acne Treatment Mask, $45, works well. Another doc-approved favorite: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Toner, $21—it contains a kinder, gentler form of salicylic acid. Steer clear of dairy foods when you have a breakout—they can aggravate an acne attack.
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What You Said: These are an issue for nearly a third of our readers. (If you think you're in the clear on discoloration, check the back of your hands—spots can pop up there too.)
What You Can Do: Many people find their first brown spot on their upper left cheek—it's from all the sun exposure you take in while driving, says Dr. Fusco. That's why it's so vital to stay vigilant about sunscreen—and not just on your face. Spots also appear on the hands, which usually go unprotected from UV rays. During the day slather on an SPF-enriched moisturizer. Stash sample sunscreen tubes in your purse and the glove compartment of your car, so you can reapply on the go (when most damage occurs). Whenever you see a spot, address it immediately—others are likely close behind. To diminish, try creams that use kojic acid or soy extract (we like Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, $16). Products with antioxidants like vitamins A and C also help. Using an OTC peel once a week on the face and back of hands sheds the outer layer of dead skin cells, making age spots less pronounced.
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What You Said: Seventy-five percent of you moisturize once or twice a day.
What You Can Do: Moisturizing helps maintain your skin's health and allows cells to function at their max, says Dr. Bank. When adequately hydrated, your skin is glowing and radiant, plus it's plumped up, which—bonus—also helps minimize the appearance of lines. When skin is dehydrated, lines are even more pronounced. Another benefit of using lotion: The simple act of moisturizing can fight free radicals (by decreasing stress on skin caused by dehydration). The most important thing you can do is know your skin's needs. If yours feels oily within a half hour of washing, you may not need a moisturizer—just sunscreen and eye cream, says Dr. Wu. But most of us benefit from additional hydration. Oil-prone? Try an oil-free serum—these are light and water-based, so they're less likely to clog pores. Normal or combination skin types can use a lotion or cream depending on how dry you are (consider upgrading to something heavier in the winter when skin is drier than usual). If skin is parched or sensitive, apply a thick, occlusive moisturizer to prevent water from evaporating. Look for something with humectants and ceramides, such as CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, $15.
Your Beauty Routine
What You Said: Seventy percent of you remain loyal to a product you like.
What You Can Do: Keep it up! The amount of time it takes for a product to start working varies—but don't expect to see changes overnight. You may have to use something consistently for six to eight weeks before noticing improvement, says Dr. Bank. Have your husband or a friend take pictures of you in the same light, so you can better judge if a product is helping, suggests Dr. Wu. Remember, it's more effective to stay with one product for a longer period of time than to switch from one to the next.
Originally published in the January 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.