Explainer: The 10 skin commandments

  • Thou shalt always use sunscreen

    Image: sunscreens
    Evan Vucci  /  AP

    Of all the skin sins, going out unprotected is the worst. UV rays cause 90 percent of wrinkles, sun spots and other signs of aging. And although face lotions with sunscreen ward off burning UVB rays, not all fully shield you from UVA, the deeply penetrating light that ages skin. What to look for: If your skin is sensitive, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are natural minerals with stellar UVA coverage; otherwise, you may want the longer-lasting protection of chemical-based SPF with UVA-blocking avobenzone or octocrylene.

  • Honor the change of seasons

    Image: Aveeno product

    Just as you swap sweaters for sundresses come summer, pull a switcheroo for skin care twice a year. What your complexion craves in warm weather (less oil! ample sunscreen!) is different from the TLC it requires in cooler temps.

    Because summer air is somewhat humid, you'll get some hydration naturally. So you need only a daily moisturizing sunscreen such as Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Ageless Multi-Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 42, $20. Stop excess oil from clogging pores with an exfoliating cleanser or a scrub.

    A few months from now, dry winter air will rob moisture from your skin, says Marsha Gordon, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City for St. Ives. Stick with your daytime SPF-laced lotion, but also apply a rich cream at night to keep skin supple. Trade to a creamy cleanser like Payot Hydrating Cleansing Milk, $30, and exfoliate only three days a week (two if your skin is sensitive). Try Nia 24 Rapid Exfoliating Serum, $75, which has nicotinic acid to help skin hold water.

  • Leave no skin unbuffed

    "Your skin regenerates every 28 days on average, but this process slows down — even as early as your mid-20s," says David Bank, M.D., a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, New York. Exfoliating removes dead cells lying on skin's surface, revealing prettier skin.

    For face: Use a finely ground scrub or a chemical exfoliant (alpha hydroxy, lactic or glycolic acid) up to three times a week after cleansing, Dr. Bank suggests.

    For body: The skin here is thicker than that on your face and neck — which means it can handle more intense scrubbing. Smooth skin every other day with a salt- or sugar-based body polish; they're grainy enough to soften your roughest parts.

  • Love thy skin in the a.m. and p.m.

    Your antiaging plan should be a twice-a-day habit, like brushing your teeth. A consistent routine gives you healthier, younger-looking skin not only now but in 10, 20, even 30 years, says Jeffrey Dover, M.D., co-author of "The Youth Equation" (Wiley).

    In the morning, use peptides, which lessen lines and improve texture (and won't make skin sun-sensitive). We like Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum, $25.

    At night, reach for an over-the-counter retinol or prescription retinoid treatment to stimulate new collagen production and cell turnover and to lighten brown spots. Try Philosophy Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Retinoid Pads and Solution, $70.

  • Give the body it’s daily moisturizer

    The skin on your body has far fewer oil glands than your face (100 per 1/2-inch square versus 900), making it prone to flakes. Never miss a chance to hydrate.

    A fast dry-skin fix: Reach for a lotion with a gentle, low-dose chemical exfoliant such as lactic acid or urea (try AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion, $14) to soften skin and slough flakes simultaneously.

    Your long-term supple-skin plan: Apply lotion to damp skin (to seal in water), wait for it to be absorbed, then top it off with a second layer. Body hydrators contain ingredients like jojoba oil and shea butter as well as sealants that coat skin, "so two back-to-back applications trap even more moisture into skin," Dr. Bank says.

  • Covet thy covers

    Image: Coffee
    Tim Boyle  /  Getty Images

    "When you're sleep-deprived, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol," says Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, M.D., a dermatologist in Miami. And excess cortisol has been linked to acne, as well as sensitive and dry skin. Follow these easy sleep-better tips tonight for more beautiful skin tomorrow — and beyond.

    Ban TV from the bedroom. Your nightly TV lineup may keep you from tucking in the requisite seven to eight hours of shut-eye, resulting in a sleep debt, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia report. Set your DVR and watch late-airing shows early the next evening instead.

    Cut back on caffeine. Research shows that even one cup of joe disturbs nighttime sleep in some people, leaving them more tired and reaching for more caffeine, creating a cycle of sleepiness — and coffee addiction!

  • Never (ever!) pop or touch pimples

    "Your hands can transfer more breakout-inducing bacteria to the area," Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says. "And most people squeeze too hard, causing trauma to skin." Both of which mean your pip-squeak pimple may turn into a huge, inflamed cyst. Zap zits safely.

    Got a lone blemish? Reduce redness with an OTC anti-inflammatory cortisone cream twice a day; banish bacteria with benzoyl peroxide nightly, says Diane Berson, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

    Need to clear a cluster? Degunk pores all over with a daily salicylic acid cleanser such as Noxzema Clean Blemish Control Foaming Wash, $5. Heal big blemishes fast with a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid product, such as GoClear Intensive Acne Treatment, $25.

  • Treat thy body as thou would thy face

    Unless you bundle up in a turtleneck and gloves year-round, the same damaging UV rays that shine on your face will hit your neck, chest and hands. "Yet most women act as if there's a stop sign at their jaw," says Dr. Dover, who advises rubbing skin treatments all the way down to your cleavage, then wiping the excess on your hands, too.

  • Get thee to a gym

    Image: running on a treadmill
    Photodisc Collection  /  Getty Images stock

    Aside from keeping you healthy, energized and slim, working out has specific benefits for your complexion.

    It increases circulation. When skin is supplied with enough blood, oxygen and nutrients, it's able to bring its A-game and look smooth and healthy all the time. Wounds healed about 29 days faster among older adults who exercised than among those who were sedentary, research from The Ohio State University at Columbus finds.

    It calms you (and skin) down. Exercise is a proven mood booster. Working up a sweat helps your body better regulate stress hormones linked to anxiety and depression, as well as acne, sensitivity and dryness. Incorporate a quick bout of cardio into your weekly workout routine to get happy — a 20-minute sweat session can improve mood for up to 12 hours, according to researchers at the University of Vermont in Burlington — and keep skin looking fresh, too.

  • Eat thy fruit, vegetables and fish

    Image: Woman cutting vegetables
    Darryl Leniuk  /  Getty Images stock

    New research suggests a healthy diet may fend off your skin's top enemies. Phytochemicals and antioxidants (in leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, etc.) and fatty acids from fish such as salmon allow your body to fight sun-induced damage. Low-glycemic foods (with fewer sugars) may prevent collagen breakdown by reducing cell inflammation and subsequent destruction of skin's support structure. Thank goodness!


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