Kenneth Beer, M.D. is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist in Palm Beach, Fla., and the director of, an online skincare company. He is also the director of The Cosmetic Bootcamp, which trains physicians in best practices for cosmetic medicine. Dr. Beer is an instructor in dermatology at the University of Miami, and he is an A.B. Duke Scholar at Duke University. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and received his dermatology and dermatophathology training at the University of Chicago. Visit Dr. Beer's office at

Five Steps to Great Skin

Monday, 19 March 2012 09:32 AM

Here are common questions I get every day in my practice: Should I use a moisturizer? If so, what kind, and when should I use it? Should I use Retin-A? Or sunscreen? Is staying hydrated really that important? Should I always avoid harsh soaps?

The answer to all of the above questions is, "It depends." Let's cast some light on these questions, and start by saying that many of the commonly held beliefs about what is good daily skin care is myth. There are, however, some very simple things that you can do to ensure that your skin looks and feels as good as possible at any age.

First, there are two things you can do to prevent damage before the age of 21 that are the most important for your long-term skin health. These involve avoidance. (If you avoided these things, pat yourself on the back. If you didn't, don't despair.) Avoid excessive sun, especially sunburns. Avoid smoking. Smoking is horrible for your health in general and for your skin in particular. You can extrapolate this out to any age, and it is obvious that if you engage in smoking and/ or excessive sun exposure, you can do yourself a lot of good by refraining from both.

Second, the best thing you can do at any age to help your skin repair damage and minimize the appearance of fine lines is to use a retinoid. These are vitamin A derivatives that are the cornerstone of many skin care regimens. This may be topical tretinoin (Retin A) or Tazoretene (Tazorac). These are both prescriptions that are helpful not only with wrinkles but also sun damage, collagen repair and dark spots. Nonprescription ways to obtain this benefit utilize compounds called precursors that are converted to active ingredients by the body. In many of my skin care products (, I include retinol in concentrations that have been demonstrated to help the skin.

Third, various other nonprescription ingredients can also help the skin look great. For instance, growth factors can help the skin look younger by stimulating it to produce more collagen and elastic fibers. Another popular and effective treatment for aging skin is vitamin C, an antioxidant which has been around for decades. Other antioxidants that help to quench free radicals include green tea, coffeeberry, and resveratrol. The concentration and quality of these antioxidants is the key to success. In addition, you may want to try products containing soy and licorice extract, which also help brighten the skin.

Fourth, pick a cleanser that suits you best. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, many of my patients have misconceptions regarding cleansing the skin. Some of them wash their skin constantly with products that are so harsh they strip out not only any undesirable debris but also the natural oils that help protect the skin. While using very harsh cleansers will make the skin irritated and red, at the other end of the spectrum, using oily cleansers may not be appropriate for people with oily skin. I recommend that you seek out a product that fits your particular skin type and use it no more than two or three times a day.

Fifth, it is also very helpful to change your skin cleansers as the seasons change. If you are going into a dry season like winter, use a mild, hydrating cleanser (Cetaphil, Neutrogena, and Clinique are among the ones that are great). Using these nondetergent-based products can really make a huge difference in how your skin looks. If you have skin that is very sensitive and allergic to everything that you try, switch to Free and Clear — it is one of the most hypoallergenic products available. Cleansers that incorporate botanical extracts and antioxidants are also helpful and can help to prepare the skin for treatments that follow. If your skin is prone to acne, a cleanser with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide may help.

In the final analysis, there are many things to do to keep your skin healthy and looking good — if you use products and practices that are tailored for you as an individual. I would recommend that you figure out whether you can use as few as two products or as many as six or more and be realistic with your product selections (don’t buy things you won't use or can't afford). Change up your routine as the weather changes, and speak with a dermatologist once a year to figure out what is optimal for you. And always remember that you can also check in with us via this blog.

© HealthDay

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