Great skin is the foundation to looking gorgeous. And while most of us want great skin, few of us know what to do to get it. This week. I've rounded up the top skin-care myths and musts: mistakes you'll want to avoid on the road to complexion perfection, and steps you'll have to take in order to get — and keep — great skin.
Myth: Drinking water hydrates your skin.
Drinking plenty of high-quality water is essential for good health. And being healthy certainly plays a role in looking good. But to hydrate the outermost layer of skin, it's moisturizer, not water, that is a must. This is where a solid four-step skin-care routine comes in.
Must: Cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize and protect.
You don't need a vanity full of lotions and potions to achieve your best complexion, but you do need to incorporate four essential steps in your skin care routine.
Step 1: Cleanse skin, morning and night, with a gentle cleanser that is ideally suited to your skin type. Not sure what your skin type is? There are four common skin types: normal, dry, oily and combination.
To determine what type of skin you have, wash your face and wait one hour. Next, press a separate piece of tissue paper to your chin, cheeks, forehead and nose. If there is oil on each piece of tissue, your skin type is oily; if there is oil on a few pieces, such as the forehead and nose, you have combination skin; flakes, without oil, indicates that your skin type is dry; no oil and no flake (lucky you) means you are blessed with normal skin.
Step 2: Exfoliate the morning or night after cleansing your skin. Skin can be exfoliated mechanically (such as sloughing off dead skin cells with a loofah) or chemically, by using enzymes or acids to loosen and release dead skin cells. As we age, exfoliation becomes even more important, because aging slows down the process of cell turnover, increasing the need for exfoliation to eradicate dullness.
And while many facial exfoliants are ideal for daily use, you should customize your routine to your skin type. Sensitive skin may be best served by twice-weekly exfoliation; if skin appears dry or irritated, you may be exfoliating too often or with a product that is too harsh. I'm a huge fan of celebrity facialist Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment, also available in gentle or acne-specific formulas ($65 at katesomerville.com).
Must: Incorporate a "retinoid" into your skin-care routine.
One type of exfoliant that has been nearly universally endorsed by skin-care experts is retinoids, sold by prescription under brand names Renova and Retin-A. But the benefits of incorporating a retinoid into you skin-care routine go far beyond dependable exfoliation. Retinoids can also help reduce or clear up acne, improve collagen production, lighten hyper pigmentation and improve skin texture.
Step 3: Moisturize with a skin-type specific moisturizer. Even woman with oily skin should not skip this step; rather opt for an oil-free noncomedogenic moisturizer. Apply moisturizer to damp skin, such as when your face is freshly washed and still damp.
Myth: You only need to apply sunscreen when it's warm and sunny outside.
Must: Use sunscreen every day, without fail.
That's the essential fourth step in a comprehensive skin-care routine. Every morning, apply a broad-spectrum, low-SPF sunscreen of at least 15 that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has noted that the penetration of UVA rays through car windows may place drivers and passengers at risk for skin cancer. That means that even something as innocuous as your daily commute can be causing wrinkles and putting you at risk for skin cancer due to sun exposure. Cloudy days are no better; clouds do not block UV radiation, in fact UV rays can be magnified by clouds.
If money is no object, try Daily Age Revolution SPF 15 from Beverly Hills Skin Care ($104.95 at bevhillsskincare.com, above left). It not only protect skin from sun damage, but also enhances skin texture, hydration and elasticity thanks in part to a proprietary milk peptide complex. Budget-minded beauties will like Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defense Facial Moisturizer SPF 50 ($13 at Walmart, left), which calls upon micronized titanium dioxide to protect skin without the tell-tale white film that some physical sun blocks leave behind.
Myth: You can't delay the aging process.
Just ask Demi Moore, recently spotted on the beach with a copy of The Youth Pill: Scientists at the Brink of an Anti-Aging Revolution, a book by David Stipp about exciting new research and breakthroughs in aging on the horizon. I'm not talking about turning back time, of course. But simply putting some basic skin-care musts into action — like using retinoids and sun protection — can help you look younger for longer.
— Carolyn Brundage is the founder of tampabay.prettycity.com, a guide to the best in local beauty. Need beauty advice? Tweet up with Carolyn on Twitter @tampabaypretty.