They say beauty is only skin deep. Only?! Skin is our body’s largest organ, and when it’s clear, hydrated, and radiant, it signals wellness on the inside too. The secrets top M.D.’s share with their favorite people will make you look younger and feel healthier.
1 Start Anti-Aging Now
“When someone asks, ‘When do I deal with this line between my eyes?’ I’m tempted to say, ‘It was time to deal with it when you first noticed it!’ I can be blunt like that with family, so when my cousins asked, I told them my philosophy: Clean up your room before it gets too dirty. If you begin with small amounts of Botox or filler in your early 30s when lines start forming, the muscle movement that creates wrinkles is restricted sooner, so you likely won’t develop deeper ones. That said, it’s okay if you’ve put it off. Botox, Fraxel, and fillers work into your 40s and beyond; you’ll just need somewhat higher doses since the damage will be greater. Most people have it backward: They’re worried about overdoing it by coming in too frequently. But if they came earlier and more often, I wouldn’t need to do much, so it would cost less and look more natural.” —Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D., director of 5th Avenue Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine of Mount Sinai in New York City
2 Made a Change? Your Skin Knows
“A friend called me about an itchy rash on her face. When I saw her red, swollen bumps, I realized it was rosacea. So many things can trigger rosacea, even if you’ve never had it before: coffee, milk and cheese, chocolate, red wine, spices. I could have put her on antibiotics, but instead I asked her what had changed in her diet — I knew she was a healthy eater and didn’t drink alcohol but loved coffee. Turns out, she had recently started taking it with cream. She stopped, and the inflammation disappeared within a week. If you’re having a problem, it helps to think about anything that’s new, even if it seems small. Your doctor might make a connection that can get you relief.” —Valerie Goldburt, M.D., cosmetic dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City
3 Don’t Do What You Always Do
“One close friend of mine told me that she sleeps with makeup on — in fact, she’s been doing it for decades without any problems. But now that she’s in her mid- 40s, she’s started to see cystic acne. She tried numerous medications to treat it and nothing worked. When she stopped wearing makeup to bed, it vanished. The moral of the story isn’t to wash your face at night; that’s a given. It’s that what worked for your skin years ago — or even six months ago — can change. Good skin care means being attuned to your skin’s needs. So don’t resist mixing up a routine that’s always worked for you if it no longer does.” —Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D.
4 Magnifying Mirrors Are Like Fun-House Mirrors
“Those 20x magnifying makeup mirrors just kill me. All you can see in them are flaws! Nobody should look at you that closely except dermatologists, since that’s our job. To the untrained eye, seeing your skin magnified that much encourages picking at otherwise imperceptible blemishes. Plus, it contributes to a poor sense of self because it literally magnifies your imperfections. My mother is in love with them; her excuse is ‘I can’t see to put my makeup on.’ She won’t listen to me! I tell everyone I know that if they really can’t apply makeup without glasses, find a mirror with magnification of just 5x to 8x that only corrects for nearsightedness.” —Dendy Engelman, M.D., associate dermatologic surgeon at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City
5 Stop Touching Already!
“The vast majority of my acne patients touch or squeeze their zits. It’s called skin picking, and actually, many dermatologists do it too! So I don’t get on people about it. Sometimes you don’t realize you’re doing it; I have patients who are literally picking in front of me, and when I’m like, ‘Are you picking?’ They say no! You can’t just tell someone — or yourself — to stop, so you need to focus that anxious energy on something else. When one of my girlfriends found herself constantly picking, we discovered that if she wore a rubber band on her wrist and snapped it whenever the impulse arose, it worked to stop her picking. If you want to try something less dramatic first, I tell people to try squeezing a stress ball, or even just go out for a little walk.” —Dendy Engelman, M.D.
6 Spend More Time Between the Sheets
“At lunch recently, a friend was saying that she took care of her skin but still felt like it was missing that youthful glow, so I told her to have more sex. Obviously, it’s good for your relationship — but it also gives your skin radiance. Sex releases anti-inflammatory hormones and endorphins that help combat stress and aging and boost immunity. All that gives you a healthy, postcoital flush. When women are more sexually active, their estrogen levels go up, which improves skin overall by increasing moisture and promoting collagen production. So I encouraged my friend to start having sex more often than whatever she currently was having. We had a giggle about it, and she seemed happy to follow my advice!” —Debbie Palmer, D.O., cofounder and medical director at Dermatology Associates of New York in Harrison, NY, and Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, CT
7 Good Skin Needs a Schedule
“So many friends ask me for product recommendations, and when they do, I remind them that applying formulas at the right time is as important as choosing the right ones. The rule is: Daytime is for protection and nighttime is about repair. Smooth on an antioxidant serum in the morning to neutralize free radicals, which are harmful molecules created when you’re exposed to UV light and pollution. They contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin — that’s what leads to wrinkles and dark spots. At night, there’s no UV to block, so that’s a good time to apply moisturizer or serum that contains peptides or retinol; those are proven to stimulate collagen, which’ll reduce existing wrinkles and spots and prevent new ones from forming.” —Mary Lupo, M.D., director of Tulane University Resident Cosmetic Clinic and clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans
8 Beware the Margarita Sunburn
“A good friend came back from vacation with a strange-looking rash on his forearm that looked like someone had dripped brown paint on it. I asked if he had been drinking margaritas, and he looked at me like I was psychic. The reason is that psoralen, an organic compound found in lemons and limes, makes skin supersensitive to UV light, causing a chemical burn called phytophotodermatitis. It’s so common that it’s jokingly called ‘margarita sunburn.’ He treated it like any other sunburn, with a moisturizer containing aloe vera or soy, and it faded away.” —Rebecca Kazin, M.D., associate director at Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC
9 Skin Needs Strong Bones
“I urge all my friends to go to the dentist twice a year for regular checkups. I cannot emphasize how important bone density and dental health are to your face. Without a strong framework, the skin on top appears more lax and wrinkled than it otherwise would. The bones above and below your teeth (right around your nose as well as your chin and jaw) will start to recess, which means you’re going to lose some of your cheekbones and jawline. Your teeth will recede too, making the nose and chin jut out and appear witchy. If you ever wore braces, it’s a good idea to wear a mouth guard at night to keep your teeth aligned. Overall, make sure you’re getting your vitamin D and calcium, and take care of your teeth.” —Mary Lupo, M.D.
10 You Can’t Scrub Away Chicken Skin
“I live in South Florida, where we wear sleeveless shirts and tanks year round. My best friend constantly had small, reddish bumps on the back of her arms. That’s usually keratosis pilaris (KP), which is an excess of keratin, the main protein that makes up hair, nails, and the skin’s outer layer. When keratin clogs the hair follicles, you get KP, which people commonly mistake for rough skin that they think they can exfoliate away with a scrub mitt or loofah mitt or loofah. That’s what my friend was doing, but friction was only making it worse. I told her to apply an over-the-counter steroid cream until the redness subsided, followed by a moisturizer that contains glycolic acid, which will dissolve the excess keratin that’s plugging up pores. Scrubbing won’t do anything but irritate your skin!” —S. Manjula Jegasothy, M.D., founder and cosmetic dermatologist at Miami Skin Institute and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine