Laura DossIf you gathered a group of female dermatologists in one room in the dead of winter, youd notice something immediately: they all have great skin, despite the fact that the rest of us are dealing with dull, flaky, irritated complexions right about now.
To find out how they do it, we grilled doctors about their own skin-care routines. Turns out, most of them rely on the same six tricks. Read on, and steal their secrets.
They swear by good old-fashioned petroleum jelly
Of all the products doctors try, the one they keep coming back to has been around for more than a century: Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($3.49). “Remember the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where the dad used Windex to cure everything? Vaseline is like that!” says Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist in Danbury, Connecticut, and an assistant clinical professor at the Yale University Department of Dermatology.
“Its great for dry winter cuticles and cold sores,” she explains. Jessie Cheung, MD, associate director of cosmetic dermatology at the New York University School of Medicine, uses the slippery stuff as an overnight treatment to heal chapped lips. And Heidi Waldorf, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, relies on it to keep her feet soft in winter.
“I grease my feet with Vaseline before I put on socks when I exercise,” she says. “I dont get those calluses that need to be scraped off during a pedicure.”
They stay young with vitamin C
If we had a dollar for every dermatologist who mentioned that she used a skin-care product with vitamin C, we could buy an orange grove! The antioxidant boosts skins ability to protect itself and is a key ingredient needed to manufacture the collagen that keeps complexions plump and smooth.
Lisa A. Zdinak, MD, chief surgeon at Precision Aesthetics in New York City, says applying an over-the-counter serum with vitamin C every morning before you moisturize can make a huge difference.
“I can tell when my patients are using it, because their skin looks 10 years younger after only a week,” she says of her favorite serum, Ultraceuticals C-10 Serum ($93). Another good one to try: Obagi Medical Products Professional-C Serum 10% ($65).
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They protect their skin from the suneven in the winter
The skies may be gray and the days short, but dermatologists are still vigilant about sun protection in January and February. “Snow can actually reflect up to 80 percent of the suns rays, while sand reflects only 15 percent and water reflects 10,” notes Jennifer Linder, MD, a dermatologist in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Because UV light can exacerbate conditions like rosacea and cause age spots and wrinkles, its important to stay protected year-round. All the pros we spoke to apply a lotion with SPF every morning.
Try Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Anti-Sun-Damage Daily Moisture Lotion SPF 28 ($12.99). And many docs increase their protection (while adding color) with SPF-enhanced makeup. Hema Sundaram, MD, a dermatologist in Washington, D.C., uses Colorescience Pro Sunforgettable SPF 30 ($50).
They have a recipe for beating blemishes
Yes, dermatologists get pimples just like the rest of useven in winter, when the buildup of dry skin cells can clog pores and cause blemishes. But none of the experts we talked to rely on zit cream alone to deal with the unwanted visitors. Instead, most advocate a multistep approach.
“I start with a warm compress,” Dr. Zdinak says. Just hold a washcloth under hot water and apply it to the skin for 10 minutes, up to three times a day. Next, our pros apply treatment products. “I pile on a topical cream with salicylic acid, then a cortisone creamlike icing on a cupcake. Then I let it sit for an hour before rinsing,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
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They add extra moisture
This is how most of us deal with winter dryness: When our skin gets dehydrated and flaky, we apply face moisturizer and body lotion in the morning and hope for the best. But the experts we talked to arent quite as passive. Because night creams are typically more hydrating than day lotions or serums, Dr. Waldorf actually uses one in the morning before applying sunblock. And Dr. Linder keeps a travel-size bottle of moisturizer with her so she can reapply after working out at the gym and later in the day.
As for hydrating skin below the chin, experts dont rely on body lotion alone; they start in the shower with rich cleansers, like Dove Body Wash with NutriumMoisture Sensitive Skin ($5.84). “You dont want to use soaps or anything that leaves you squeaky clean,” Dr. Linder says.
“That tight feeling is an indication of dryness.” Dr. Cheung takes it one step further with Olay Quench In-Shower Body Lotion ($4.99), which you apply in the shower, and then rinse off. “Its great for people who forget to moisturize after their shower,” she says.
They care for skin from the inside out
Some cosmetics companies have recently started making oral skin-care supplements, like beauty drinks and vitamins. But dermatologists have been taking oral supplements to boost their skins health for years. In fact, many doctors take a daily vitamin for its beautifying powers as much for the overall health benefits. Dr. Fusco is a fan of essential fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce signs of aging. And Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD, a dermatologist in Miami, says biotin, a B-complex vitamin, helps to strengthen skin, hair, and nails. Many of the doctors also take vitamin C to help fight the signs of aging.
“It gives skin the building blocks it needs to form collagen,” Dr. Zdinak explains. And almost all of the experts we talked to add in a vitamin D supplement because their sun-blocking skin regimens can make it difficult to get enough (our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun).
Sound like a lot to swallow? No worries: A multivitamin like GNC WellBeing Be-Whole Multivitamin & Mineral ($24.99) provides vitamins C and D and biotin, and a fish-oil supplement like GNC WellBeing Be-Protected Triple Strength Fish Oil ($19.99) provides the essential fatty acids.
How do I know if I need to see a dermatologist?
Only a few skin issues warrant immediate attention: blistering or painful rashes; rapidly changing or bleeding moles; and painful or spreading red swollen areas that feel warm. If any of these are accompanied by a fever and you cant get a derm appointment immediately, see your primary care doc, says Deirdre Hooper, MD, a dermatologist in New Orleans.
If you need a mole checked or you have a rash that lasts more than five days, get the next available appointment. As for all those other hair, skin, and nail issuesfrom a flaky scalp to toenail funguscall the derm when you get a chance.