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The Five Basic Rules of Skincare
Written by Dr. Marcia Fleming   

skincareWhen it comes to aging skin, prevention is obviously the key. But if you have neglected your skin and now have sun damaged, older-looking skin, there are still steps you can take to reverse the changes. There are even at-home topical treatments that can dramatically improve the look and feel of your skin. Most important is to no longer neglect your skin, and to learn to avoid the things that damage it most.

1: Quit Smoking

Smoking is very harmful to the skin because it decreases the delivery of nutrients and, therefore, increases collagen breakdown, resulting in premature wrinkling. It is a very difficult addiction to quit, but studies prove the more times you try, the more successful you will be. The average number of attempts is eight. For you, it might take four attempts or ten, but if you don't keep trying, you'll never get there.

2: Avoid UV Light

The easiest way to look better is to minimize exposure to UV light. This means no sun tanning, no using tanning booths, and wearing sunscreen daily – summer and winter. This is the rudimentary basic of skincare, like brushing your teeth for dental care. But even if you have done a lot of sun tanning in the past (and I am not excluded from this), it is amazing how the skin can recover. I shudder to think of some of the things I've done to get that glorious tan. I like zinc in my sunscreen for two simple reasons: it has great UVA and UVB coverage, and I can tell how much I am getting by looking at the percentage listed. Generally, the higher the better, though of course you don't want to look like a clown. Nowadays, most sunscreens with zinc look very good when applied. I like sunscreens with 6 percent zinc or higher.

3: Use Vitamin A

Vitamin A, used topically, has been proven over the years to improve skin tone and texture as well as helping with abnormal pigmentation. It is available with or without a prescription. Be warned that many face cream manufacturers put a drop of retinol in their products so that they can say it contains vitamin A. If retinol is listed near the end of the ingredient list, then it is in very small quantity and probably negligible. Prescription vitamin A can be too strong for some skin and often must be gradually introduced. Sometimes doctors and their patients desire quick results, then apply too much vitamin A, too frequently, and are turned off because their skin becomes red and flaky and looks worse than it did to start with! Do not fret – this can be easily resolved. Vitamin A is the only topical application that is proven to regenerate collagen. Need I say more? It thins the outer layer of skin, making it look brighter – but there's no need to worry about this thinning of the skin since it actually thickens the living layers of the skin, and thins only the dead surface cells. Vitamin A will make your skin more sun sensitive, so again, it is important to use sunscreen. It also improves cell turnover, making skin more even and more reflective to light, like the skin of youth.

4: Have an AHA Moment

Cleopatra knew the benefits of using alpha and beta hydroxyl acids on her skin, and so should you. Rediscovered in the 1980s, we now know that AHAs are excellent exfoliates without the risk of more abrasive treatments. They also improve hydration and allow products to penetrate better. AHAs and BHAs work to slough off dead skin and promote new skin cell growth. They are known for their ability to reverse signs of aging like brown spots and fine lines. However, hydroxyl acids will leave your skin sensitive to sun, so be sure once again to use sunscreen.

5: Embrace Antioxidants

Antioxidants are all the rage in skincare. There are hundreds of them. We know the benefits of having them in our diet: they may protect us from heart disease, cancer, dementia and premature aging. While less is understood about their effects on the skin, the basic idea is that antioxidants may absorb or remove particles called free radicals, which cause disruption to the operation and makeup of our cells.

In the skin layers, free radicals can cause the breakdown of collagen, potential growth of abnormal blood vessels, and disruption of pigment cells, creating precancerous skin conditions that do run the risk of becoming cancer. One of the most frequently used antioxidants is vitamin C. It is water soluble and has to be altered to allow it to penetrate the skin.

Vitamin E is fairly easily absorbed but also may cause allergic reactions on the skin. Green tea is an excellent antioxidant, but unfortunately, the active ingredients get so rapidly destroyed that what starts off in a jar is usually gone by the time it gets on your skin. It is best to drink green tea instead. CoffeeBerry, the previously discarded material surrounding the coffee bean, has been found high in antioxidants and has now been formulated into creams so that it may offer protection and healing for the skin. It may contain more antioxidant potential than any other topical treatment. Often antioxidants are combined to maximize results.

The basics of skincare are good sunscreen and sun avoidance. Discuss vitamin A with your skincare provider; go slow and it will do wonders. Remember hydroxy acids and try some antioxidants.

There are many different kinds of antioxidants, so try them out to see how your skin feels and responds. Choose a reputable skincare line that lists its ingredients and concentrations. Pharmaceutical grade ingredients offer the highest quantity and quality.

Dr. Marcia Fleming -

Dr. Marcia Fleming is one of the most accomplished and respected physicians in the field of cosmetic rejuvenation and has been practicing in the Vancouver area for over nine years. Her goal is to help everyone achieve beautiful skin for life, beginning at any age. She can be reached at Delta Laser & Skin Care Centre, call 604-543-8965.

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