My “must have” skin care list

What really works in skin care? Recently I wrote the “mythbuster’s skin care glossary” focusing on the exaggerated claims that over-the-counter skin care products often make; now I want to talk about what really does work. It’s not especially complicated, but it takes some knowledge to know how to simplify your skin care regimen. (Sort of like Mark Twain’s apology for writing a long letter, explaining that he didn’t have time to write a short one.)


The first question to ask is “Who is the expert in skin care?” Putting a white lab coat on a salesperson at the department store does not confer the know-how of a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon. For products that I know are proven by clinical science, a handy acronym is GRASS:


GROWTH FACTORS. If you see signs of aging in the skin, then you should be using TNS from SkinMedica. This contains a very high concentration of natural “messenger molecules” that signal the cells in the skin to produce more collagen and elastin, which diminish with age.


RETINOIDS. These are the vitamin A derivatives that are vital to skin health. Retinoids speed up the regeneration of new cells, enhance collagen production, and help to even out pigmentation. Prescription strength retinoids such as tretinoin (Retin-A) are the gold standard, but retinol is a non-prescription alternative that can be very effective. An example is the JeNu system Active-Youth eye cream.


ANTIOXIDANTS. Environmental factors such as UV exposure are major contributors to skin aging, and antioxidants are the key to reducing the damage. Vitamins C and E are useful but not as potent as other compounds such as resveratrol.[1]  What makes resveratrol unique is that it is a multi-tasker, with anti-inflammatory properties and other benefits. Examples include Veraderma from Calidora and Resveratrol CE from SkinCeuticals, both with a 1% concentration.


SUNSCREEN. It should go without saying that sunscreens are a must. Remember, full-spectrum coverage is what you want; UV-A causes aging, UV-B causes burning, and SPF only measures UV-B protection.


SPECIALTY PRODUCTS. If you have particular conditions such as redness or hyperpigmentation, then specialty products such as Calmplex from SkinMedica, or skin lighteners would be recommended. This is where expert advice is especially important.


If this still sounds like too much, Mark Twain also said “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

[1] Baxter R. Anti-aging properties of resveratrol: review and report of a potent new antioxidant skin care formulation. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 2008;7:2-7.

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