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If your skin is: Oily and Acne Prone
What makes it worse: Your efforts to improve your oily and acne-prone skin might be well-intentioned, but washing with the wrong cleanser, using too many anti-acne products in the same day, and scrubbing your skin with too much zeal will only aggravate blemishes and might increase oil production. Also, impatience with your regimen -- and moving onto another treatment prematurely -- can derail your skin's improvement. Keep in mind that the blemish that you woke up with did not appear from out of nowhere. It has been brewing for weeks. Here's how to stop it now before it annoys you later.
Wash with a cleanser that is not too creamy (and therefore, pore-clogging) but not too drying (will kick those oil glands into overdrive as the skin tries to compensate for its sudden dryness). Cleansers that contain an anti-acne ingredient, such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, are beneficial, but make sure that you're not doubling up on that ingredient with other skincare products in your regimen.
Try: Aveda Outer Peace Foaming Cleanser, $24: Its star ingredient is wintergreen oil (the first naturally derived form of salicylic acid), and it's joined by a bevy of anti-irritants, such as tamanu oil and saw palmetto, that calm inflamed skin.
Post-cleansing, target the breakouts that you have and prevent new ones from forming with a spot treatment product. Apply it to active blemishes or sweep it over your most common trouble areas, such as along your jawline or forehead.
Try: Neutrogena Rapid Clear Pads, $6.99: The salicylic acid in this formula has been created with a technology called MicroClear that helps reduce the size, redness, and swelling of blemishes in just eight hours.
3. Once a week:
Set aside a few minutes for a facial mask with oil-clearing ingredients. Masks are formulated to deliver an intense burst of active ingredients, making them an effective way to control oil and clean deep pores.
Try: Cellex-C Betaplex Clear Complexion Mask, $39.50: Clay (kaolin and betonite), healing herbal ingredients (peppermint, olive leaf, and green tea) and acids (glycolic and salicylic) exfoliate and calm oily skin.
Since skin is the largest organ in your body, it makes sense that it, too, is affected by stress. How? Quite simply, stress prods your body to produce the hormone cortisol, which then encourages your skin to over-produce oil. Naturally, exercise, long walks, and even a good laugh help keep stress at a manageable level -- and your skin more clear.
If your skin is: Dry
What makes it worse: Most people are born with dry skin but quite often, what we do to our skin can bring on more dryness. Granted, some contributors are out of your control, including winter's low humidity levels and indoor heat. But by making sure that you're using products that protect your uppermost layer of skin (the epidermis) from losing moisture, you're bound to see less dryness overall. Better yet, when you effectively moisturize your skin you're less likely to scratch it -- and as we all know, scratching only weakens the epidermis, triggering the dry cycle all over again.
Again, proper cleansing is the path to a dewier complexion. For dry skin, it's crucial to look for a cleanser that will remove any oil and makeup from the night before, but that won't disrupt the skin's natural moisture levels. Also, try layering a hydrating toner or mist between your skin and moisturizer for an even better benefit.
Try: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, $6.99: Ceramides (natural components of the skin), humectants (which pull moisture from the air), and emollients (which trap moisture onto the skin) make up this cleanser. It's formulated to release its protective qualities slowly throughout the day, keeping the skin comfortable and pretty all day long.
Your skin is very receptive to therapeutic treatments in the evening, both because the entire body is replenishing itself and also because it's not being exposed to the outside. So go ahead -- use your precious bedtime hours to treat your skin to a hearty dose of moisture.
Try: Ahava Dermud Intense Soothing Nourishing Cream, $30: Mud from the Dead Sea and a multi-mineral complex are joined by shea butter and aloe vera to help boost skin's moisture levels.
3. Once a week:
Dry skin tends to turn over inconsistently, which compromises its ability to accept moisture from the environment, resulting in even drier skin. This is why sloughing off the dead skin cells that build up on the epidermis by exfoliating is so important. To prevent irritation make sure you use a gentle exfoliator, no more than once a week.
Try: pHisoderm Nurturing Facial Polish, $5.69: This exfoliating cleanser features nonabrasive microbeads and moisturizers, making it a great weekly counterpart to your daily cleanser.
Stock up on healthy fats at the grocery store, such as olive oil, nuts, and salmon, as they've been proven to increase skin's moisture levels. Also, invest in a humidifier and sleep with it on at night.
If your skin is: Aging
What makes it worse: While experts agree that the passage of time does a number on the skin, they also say that most of the blame lands on certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking and sun bathing. Smoking, for instance, constricts your blood vessels and therefore doesn't allow enough oxygen to reach the skin's surface, resulting in dull-looking skin. As for sun bathing, ultraviolet radiation destroys the collagen and elastin reserves in the skin, leading to wrinkling and uneven pigmentation.
If you aren't already, start using sun protection every morning (at least SPF 15), preferably one that also offers antioxidants and other anti-aging helpers.
Try: L'Oreal Dermo Expertise Advanced RevitaLift Complete Lotion with SPF 15, $16.59: Pro Retinol A (a vitamin A derivative that helps boost collagen) and Pro-Elastyl (which helps stop the breakdown of elastin) help improve the look of aging skin, while sunscreen protects it.
Add a concentrated anti-aging treatment to your before-bed routine for a terrific cluster of anti-aging benefits.
Try: Olay Definity Deep Penetrating Foaming Moisturizer, $27.99: The unique texture feels like an airy foam but penetrates as deeply as a heavier cream. It treats not only wrinkles but also mottled or uneven pigmentation.
3. Once a week:
Deeper exfoliation, such as an at-home peel or microdermabrasion, helps remove leathery, clogged outer skin and speeds up cell turnover.
Try: RoC Resurfacing Facial Peel Kit, $26: This two-step peel can be used as often as twice a week. The polishing beads in the peel should be left on for 7 to 10 minutes, followed by the Post-Peel Nourisher to soothe and moisturize.
Get enough sleep! Sounds simple enough, but with many of us clocking just six hours of shut-eye a night, our skin is showing its effects. More slumber equals a fresher complexion, not to mention less undereye puffiness and fewer dark circles.
Guess what? Flawless skin doesn't exist. Here's what's normal:
Freckles: Some people are simply prone to freckling, particularly on the bridge of the nose. Avid sun protection helps, but keeping freckles permanently away is an uphill battle.
Redness around the nostrils: The complex network of blood vessels in the nose is easily aggravated by touch, sneezing, and even diet. Avoiding overly spicy foods and hot beverages is helpful.
Breakouts along the jawline: Dermatologists are unsure why women who are over 30 break out in this specific area, but it's more common that you might realize.
Lines around the eyes and lips: Brought on by day-to-day facial movements, such as laughing and chatting, and it's nearly impossible to naturally rid yourself of them. Frankly, though, why would you?
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, November 2006.