User's Manual: Skin

4 Skin Problems and How to Fix Them

Smoother, softer, healthier, younger-looking skin: Yes, please! We gathered the pros' top secrets.

Who doesn't obsess, even a little, about her skin? After all, it's our biggest organ, the one most likely to show the effects of the elements (like sun and wind) and the aging process. Of course, you can't control the weather or the hands of time. But there's plenty you can do to keep your skin in peak form. Read on for the latest advances—from high-tech lasers for fine lines to groundbreaking skin-cancer drugs—that'll help prevent and beat beauty bummers and medical problems alike.

Problem No. 1: Redness

The lowdown
Blame that perpetual flush on years of exposure to the sun's UV rays, which can cause capillaries to burst, explains Debra Jaliman, MD, professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and author of Skin Rules. As you get older, your skin also thins, making blood vessels more visible. Another common culprit: rosacea, a chronic condition that involves swelling of the blood vessels under the skin. Its redness comes and goes, usually in response to triggers like sun exposure, stress, hot weather, wind, hot baths, and spicy foods.

What it looks like
Redness on the cheeks, nose, chin, or forehead. Rosacea may cause acne-like bumps.

Hide facial redness with green-tinted concealers such as Dermablend, Dr. Jaliman says. If you've got rosacea, your dermatologist can prescribe antibiotics or topical products that contain sulfur or azelaic acid, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Wearing sunscreen is a must to prevent flare-ups. Look for ones that contain physical blockers zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which tend to be less irritating than chemical ingredients, Dr. Jaliman says. In the meantime, you can get visible blood vessels zapped away in your derm's office with a laser. Most people require two to three treatments at about $300 a pop.

Problem No. 2: Sun damage and lines

The lowdown
"As you get older, your body slows its production of collagen and elastin," says Jessica Krant, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City. That reduces your skin's elasticity. The result? That occasional forehead furrow, frown, or eye squint becomes permanently etched on your face. As for age spots, thank all those days you spent as a teen sunning yourself sans sunscreen: Exposure to UV rays over time causes an increase in the number of pigment-producing cells in your skin, Dr. Krant says.

What it looks like
Fine lines; flat brown or black spots on sun-exposed areas such as your face, chest, and hands.

Age spots: Drugstore bleaching creams—which contain 2 percent hydroquinone or a natural ingredient called kojic acid—can help. But if you have a lot of damage, you'll probably need something stronger. Your dermatologist can prescribe 4 percent hydroquinone, but talk to her about risks—it's banned in Europe for safety concerns. Your derm may also prescribe lightening ingredients like tretinoin and hydrocortisone. If those don't work, consider laser or intense pulse light sessions, which cost $300 to $500 each time.

Fine lines: Products that contain retinol build up collagen, helping to smooth wrinkles. OTC ones are good for fine lines and crows' feet, Dr. Krant says; ask your doc for a Retin-A prescription if you need more power. Botox or Dysport injections prevent forehead wrinkles. Cost: $500 to $750.

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Hallie Levine Sklar
Last Updated: December 01, 2012

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