Freshening and protecting your skin

Skin lotions and potions are a billion-dollar industry. It is difficult to know if the price tag on a face cream justifies the cost. Patients too often report drawers full of partially used beauty products. What topical creams are proven to help keep your skin young and refreshed?

Beautiful skin begins with prevention. Consistent use of a sunscreen is the simplest (yet most important) part of a beauty regimen. Sun damage causes loss of skin elasticity resulting in wrinkles, sun spots and skin cancers. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Apply sunscreen to your face, neck and hands (any sun exposed area) each morning. If you wear makeup, consider purchasing moisturizers and foundations whose contents contain sunscreens. One can also purchase clothing with SPF. Hats and sunglasses with UV protection are a must.

Retin A (Trentinoin) is one of the few scientifically proven topical creams that roll back time at the molecular level. Retin A acts by decreasing fine lines. It creates a smoother skin texture and helps to diminish brown spots. It may also be prescribed to combat acne. In Texas, Retin A is a prescription product that is dispensed by a pharmacy. Retinoids are the less potent cousin to Retin A and can be sold without a prescription. Retin A can cause skin redness and flaking. The strength or frequency of use should be adjusted if there are issues with tolerating the product.

Sunspots, melasma and uneven distribution of facial pigment are addressed with topical skin lighteners. Hydroquinone, which is a prescription product, is a very effective skin lightener. It acts on the cells (melanocytes) that make and redistribute pigment to give an even skin tone. Hydroquinones are frequently used in the U.S. and are deemed safe by the FDA. However, the safety of hydroquinone has been disputed and use is banned in some countries. There are excellent natural alternatives to hydroquinone, including arbutus (from the bearberry plant), kojic acid and licorice root.

Retin A and most skin lighteners make skin “sun sensitive,” which is even more reason to use a sunscreen. Consider the above-mentioned products to be the trifecta of good skin care.