Advice from our Expert, Dr. Karcher.
Should you wear sunscreen during the day even if it's cloudy outside? Exfoliate every day? Use a different moisturizer at night? Dermatologist Dr. Cheryl Karcher offers clear and concise answers to these questions and more-along with the reassurance that smart skin care isn't complicated. Indeed, for healthy, young-looking skin, it all boils down to a few simple elements: Do protect, restore and repair, and don't overdo it.
Daytime Dos and Don'ts
One of the most important "musts" of any good skin regimen is to protect your skin during the day, according to Dr. Karcher. Here are a few daytime guidelines to ensure maximum protection.
DO: Wear sunscreen
Use a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, Dr. Karcher says, because of its value in protecting against UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause burns and skin cancer, while UVA rays are responsible for tanning and aging skin (they are also linked to skin cancer). The higher the SPF of your sunscreen, Dr. Karcher says, the higher the UVA and UVB protection. Sunscreen does not protect against all UVA/UVB rays, so it is always important to avoid the sun when possible. When that is not possible, it's key to wear sunscreen, hats, and other protective clothing.
DON'T: Rely on the sun as a source of vitamin D
Staying out of the sun is one of the best ways to help prevent skin aging, according to Dr. Karcher. And since vitamin D supplements are available at any drugstore and can provide the amount of this crucial vitamin your body needs on a daily basis, the common myth that you need to catch rays for nutritional value is false. "Aging is kind of like gaining weight-the easiest way to lose weight is not to gain it. The easiest approach to anti-aging is to not allow yourself to appear really aged to begin with," Dr. Karcher says, which means using sunscreen and staying out of the sun.
DO: Protect your eyes
Wearing UV-resistant sunglasses can help protect your eyes and face when you can't avoid harmful sun exposure. Wearing sunglasses also helps to prevent excessive squinting, which can cause wrinkles.
DON'T: Dehydrate yourself
If you are drinking large amounts of coffee, tea or alcohol during the day, make sure you rehydrate with water, Dr. Karcher cautions. Caffeine and alcohol are known to be diuretics when imbibed in great quantities-causing your body to dehydrate, which opens the door to free radical damage.
Nighttime Dos and Don'ts
The main goal of your nighttime skin regimen should be to repair and restore, says Dr. Karcher. Here are two simple rules to follow before bedtime to make the most of your beauty rest.
DO: Use antioxidants
Free radicals are harmful substances that can attack skin cells. Antioxidants such as pomegranate, resveratrol, vitamins C and E can help quench or destroy free radicals, says Dr. Karcher. Many topical skincare products contain antioxidants.
DON'T: Wear sunscreen at night
Surprisingly, there are nighttime skin products on the market that contain SPF. There's no reason to use a product containing any degree of sunscreen at night, says Dr. Karcher. Sunscreen can clog the pores, working against the restorative process.
Anytime Dos and Don'ts
Good skin care is a round-the-clock endeavor. Fortunately, it's easy to achieve when you keep the following guidelines in mind.
DO: Be Consistent
It can take a good four to six weeks of using one skin-care product consistently before you can know if you like the results or not, according to Dr. Karcher. Using a cream for just a day or a week and switching products without any consistency may work against helping you find the skin-care regimen that is right for you. "The longer you use something, the more it has time to work," Dr. Karcher says, dispelling the myth that skin becomes resistant or acclimated to certain products after a period of time. "It's always going to do what it's going to do."
DON'T: Let your skin dry out
As with dehydrating yourself, letting your skin become too dry weakens the skin barrier, opening it to free-radical damage and aging. Dr. Karcher suggests using moisturizers regularly to rehydrate and help protect your skin.
DO: Lay off the cigarettes
The American Academy of Dermatology warns that smokers are exposing their skin to toxins that can accelerate aging effects. Nicotine causes narrowing in blood vessels in your outer skin layers, depriving skin of oxygen and nutrients. Tobacco contains thousands of other chemicals as well that pose threats to the collagen and elastin in your skin cells-two essential proteins that keep skin strong. Damage from those chemicals can cause skin to age prematurely.
DON'T: Overdo it
"One of the biggest problems people face is that they overdo it," Dr. Karcher says. Especially the younger crowd, she adds, who may think that cleaning the skin obsessively will ward off acne and that slathering on moisturizer will stave off wrinkles. But the truth is that overdoing it can work against the other protective and restorative measures you take in your daily skin-care regimen. Exfoliating and scrubbing too hard compromises the skin barrier, making it more susceptible to damage. Using too much moisturizer can clog the pores and inhibit the effectiveness of other creams or serums you may be using at the same time.
The bottom line? Protect, restore and repair, and you're on your way to a better future for your skin.