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Category Archives: Beauty

Skin Cell Transplant May Offer New Hope to Vitiligo Patients

Skin cell transplants can restore pigment to the skin of some patients with the disorder known as vitiligo, new research finds.

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which melanocytes, or the cells in skin that produce pigment, are destroyed. The result is the skin loses color, often in patches. Vitiligo affects about one in every 200 people in the United States.

In the study, researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit removed a postage stamp-sized sample of skin from the upper thighs of 23 patients. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 60 and included whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics.

Researchers then isolated melanocytes and keratinocytes, another type of skin cell, into a liquid solution.

Next, researchers used a device called a dermabrader to scrape off the white patches of skin, and sprayed the liquid containing the skin cells onto the skin, allowing it to disperse over the entire white patch. The area was then covered in dressings for about a week.

Gradually, the transplant, including the melanocytes, took hold and began to grow. Over the course of one to six months, color gradually returned to the white patches.

On average, the skin regained about 45 percent of its original color, although some patients saw better results than others.

The technique worked best in people who have what’s known as “focal” or “segmental” vitiligo, in which color is lost only on one portion or side of the face or body, while the other is normally pigmented. On average, they had about 68 percent of their natural color return.

The treatment didn’t work as well in people with “symmetrical” vitiligo, or pigment loss on both sides of the body or face, said senior study author Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi, a senior staff physician in Henry Ford’s department of dermatology.

Researchers believe the immune system is more active in those patients, and continues to destroy color-producing cells, including the transplanted ones.

“This is a step forward but it’s not a solution for everybody,” Hamzavi said.

There were few complications. No patients developed an infection, and only one patient developed mild scarring, he said.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Although this is among the first published studies on using skin cell transplants to treat vitiligo in the United States, a similar technique has been used in India and Saudi Arabia, Hamzavi said.

Vitiligo can occur at any age, but it often strikes when people are in their teens and 20s, Hamzavi said. It can be an especially difficult time for people to deal with the cosmetic issues of the disease, he added.

Among the patients who had the procedure done, one admitted he would wear bandages on his face in public to avoid stares; others avoided socializing, Hamzavi said. After their pigment was restored, the patients no longer practiced these behaviors, he said.

It’s unknown how long the color remains intact. Researchers followed patients until about six months and none had lost color, while initial reports from Saudi Arabia and India have also not described color loss over time, Hamzavi said.

The researchers are continuing to offer the procedure at their hospital, and Hamzavi said they handle several cases per month.

Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the technique would be welcomed by many patients and dermatologists. Currently, there isn’t much in the way of treatments for vitiligo, Green noted.

“It’s amazing, if it’s really as good as they say it is,” Green said. “There are some laser [procedures] that are mildly effective, but short of that there is no treatment for vitiligo. And it’s cosmetically extremely disfiguring for these patients. It’s really big news.”

But, Green cautioned, more research needs to be done. Only 23 patients were treated this way, and not all were helped, she said.

In addition, more needs to be learned about who has the best chances of success with the treatment, including whether it works better on new-onset vitiligo or if it works as well if people have had the disease for many years.

“It’s a great preliminary study and very promising, but more investigation needs to be done,” Green said.

Summer Hair Problems, Solved

If only summer hair were as easy as those magazines would have you believe!

Instead of “beachy waves” we’re left with greasy, frizzy, brittle strands that have seen far healthier days.

Luckily, there are easy and natural ways to tame your tresses. Here are some of the most common hair problems you’re likely to encounter this season, and how to fix them.

Chlorine Damage

It’s not just an old wives’ tale — too much time in the pool really can change the color of your locks, especially if they’re very light, Jessica Wu, M.D., author of “Feed Your Face” tells The Huffington Post.

But it’s not due to the chlorine. Instead, it’s likely because of copper lurking in poolswhere the chemical balance isn’t quite right, according to WebMD. “The chlorine molecules get trapped in the hair and oxidize the metals found in trace amounts in the water,” Jessica J. Krant, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, writes to HuffPost in an email. “It’s the oxidized copper that is actually the cause of the green color.”

Chlorine can still damage hair, though. “The outer layers of the cuticle of the hair — which are like shingles on a roof — start to lift up,” says Wu. “When the outer layers lift up, then [chlorinated] water can get into the center of the hair and make your hair more brittle.” Swimmers may find their hair breaks more easily in the summer, especially if it’s dyed or straightened, she says.

Luckily, there are a few simple ways to prevent the damage. The easiest can be done anywhere — just rinse your hair under tap water before taking the plunge. “Plain water binds to the hair, making it harder for chlorine to get to it,” says Wu. A leave-in conditioner will have a similar effect, and can be a good pre-pool option as well. A weekly hair mask can help repair the damage and seal the cuticle, she says.

Grease

We’ve all had those summer days when a daily shower just doesn’t seem like enough. And yet we’ve also heard about how you don’t need to — and maybe shouldn’t —wash your hair all that often.

But during the summer, all bets are off. “I tell people you should wash more frequently in the summer,” says Wu, and not just because of all the chlorine and salt water. “Those of us with long hair, it touches our back, and the sunscreen on our back and shoulders can come off onto the hair making it dirtier, faster.” If you’re noticing an oilier-than-usual scalp, feel free to lather up.

Sun Damage

The same UV rays that damage your skin without proper protection can hurt your hair, too, says Wu. The sun breaks down the bonds that make the keratin of the hair strong, she explains, leading to weaker strands and fading color. Just like covering up your skin can help prevent sun damage, wearing a hat can help save your hair.

A number of hair products that boast UV protection may also work, as long as you’re thorough in your application, she says. “Work it through like you’re working in a conditioner so as many strands as possible are coated.”

To treat sun-dried hair, a moisturizing leave-in conditioner should do the trick, according to WebMD.

Sunburn

While you’re protecting your hair from the sun, don’t forget about your scalp. During skin exams, Wu notices “very striking” differences between the skin on patients’ hair parts and the skin on the rest of their scalps. If you often wear your hair in the same position, be sure to use sunscreen on the part, she says. And if you pull your hair back in the summer, apply sunscreen all the way up to your hairline — you may miss vulnerable skin that you’re not usually exposing.

“Using shampoos and products with antioxidant ingredients such as soy, green tea or vitamin C can sometimes be helpful” in protecting “that part of you that’s closest to the sun,” writes Krant, who is also the founder of Art of Dermatology in New York City. And if you do happen to do a little damage, cover up as soon as possible to avoid further sun, then use cool water in the shower and normal sunburn soothers like aloe, she says.

Frizz

Anyone with any wave or curl to her hair has spent her fair share of time fighting frizz. In the summer, thanks to the high temps and oppressive humidity, flyaway strands increase in size. “The generally smooth cuticle covering the shaft of healthy hair gets disrupted when the hair shaft absorbs moisture from the air, breaking some of the chemical bonds that keep the hair straight and roughing up the cuticle, taking away shine and smoothness,” writes Krant.

If you’re all too familiar, stay away from heavy products, says Wu, and look instead for an anti-frizz serum or spray. Krant recommends products with the moisturizer dimethicone — silicone-based products can also help smooth down the cuticle, according to Ladies Home Journal.

Virus Could Fend Off Pimples

Forget over-the-counter acne potions and antibiotics. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and University of California, Los Angeles have just identified a type of virus that can infect and kill the bacterium that causes acne.

In a study published in the September 25 issue of mBio, researchers say the findings could help them develop a cream that contains the virus to more effectively ward off those pesky pimples.

There are many prescription antibiotic treatments on the market for acne, but antibiotic-resistant strains of acne-causing bacterium have emerged, highlighting the need for better therapies, the study authors wrote in a press release.

Researchers used over-the-counter pore-cleaning strips to peel off samples of phages — viruses that attack bacteria  from the noses of both pimply and unblemished study participants.

They found the viruses were genetically similar from patient to patient, sharing more than 85 percent of their DNA. The lack of genetic diversity suggests that resistance to phage-based antimicrobial therapy is less likely to develop, study authors said in a press release.

“We believe that these phages display numerous features that would make them ideal candidates for the development of a phage-based therapy for acne,” the authors wrote.

Graham Hatfull, professor of biotechnology and biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the study authors, said that the enzymes from the phages might also be useful as a topical anti-acne treatment.

“This work has given us very useful information about the diversity of that set of enzymes and helps pave the way for thinking about potential [acne treatment] applications,” he said in the release.

How to Beat Dry Skin

Dry, itchy skin is no joke. Because skin is the body’s largest organ (weighing about nine pounds), the frustration and discomfort that go along with dehydration can affect your daily existence, from your wardrobe to your social life. And if you happen to have a skin condition like eczema, you know from experience that flaky skin is no laughing matter.

However, you can fight flakiness and itchiness with a few important tips. Here, skin experts share their best advice for keeping your skin soft and supple.

Find the Right Exfoliator

Exfoliating can be beneficial for those who have dry skin because it helps the dead surface layers of skin cells to be shed, layers that can prevent moisturizers from being absorbed, says Doris Day, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center.

The key is to find the exfoliator that works best for your skin. Scrubs and alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids are best for those who don’t have sensitive skin. Those with sensitive skin can exfoliate with a home remedy that consists of a paste made from baking soda and water. “It’s great for your face or for rough patches like your heels, and nobody breaks out from it,” says Mona Gohara, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University.

Note that if you have any skin conditions, it’s best to check with a dermatologist before trying anything new. And beware of exfoliating too often because it can cause irritation.

Don’t Wash Too Often

Like exfoliating too much, washing too often can lead to dryness. “I usually tell people to use soap only where they need it — underarms, groin, hands and feet,” says Rebecca Baxt, MD, a dermatologist in Paramus, New Jersey.

Take a Lukewarm Shower

“Hot showers can strip the skin of oil and leave skin dry,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Although hot showers are relaxing, fight the urge to parboil yourself and use lukewarm water instead. Also, limit the length of your showers to 10 minutes or less.

Moisturize Every Day

Using a moisturizer daily is crucial to combating dry, flaky skin. “When the skin is dry, it needs to be hydrated from the outside in — drinking eight glasses of water is not enough,” says Dr. Day.

For the most effective moisturizer, look for ingredients, including ceramides, that help support and replenish lipids in the skin. Hyaluronic acid and glycerin, both humectants, help the skin attract water and hold in moisture. Additionally, Dr. Zeichner recommends that, to help seal in moisture, you apply moisturizer to damp skin after showering.

Dry Skin Brushing for a Body Detox

You brush your teeth and hair every day, so why not your skin? Advocates of something called dry skin brushing — literally taking brush bristles to your birthday suit — enthusiastically say you should. “Dry skin brushing is a simple but effective way of not only improving health, but also beauty,” says Tracy Piper, founder and owner of the Piper Center for Internal Wellness, a holistic health care facility in New York City.

Dry skin brushing tones the skin, reduces the appearance of cellulite, opens pores to release toxins, gets rid of dead skin cells, and aids in the circulation of blood, Piper says.

Beyond healthy skin, “dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, which is also known as the broom of the body,” explains Jovanka Ciares, a holistic wellness coach and nutrition consultant practicing in New York City. “One of the lymphatic system’s primary functions is to clean toxins and debris out of your blood and help your body run more efficiently. It also helps your body absorb nutrients better, eliminate residues from the outer skin layers, help redistribute fat deposits, and push toxic matter into the colon” — a claim that has not been substantiated by research.

How to Dry Skin Brush

You’ll need a dry natural bristle brush or loofah for dry skin brushing. Make sure you are dry, too. There’s no single way to do it, but you’ll always want to brush toward the heart, says Piper. She uses this technique:

  1. Before using the brush, use your fingertips to pump 3 times on the terminus, which is the indentation between the collarbone and the neck, to start the flow of lymph. Then use your fingertips to pump in your armpits 3 times, then 3 times where your ribcage meets in the center of your body, and 3 times in your groin area.
  2. Step Two: Brush down the neck into the terminus and from each breast outward toward the armpits (avoid the nipples). Brush the arms upward toward the heart.
  3. Step Three: Brush the abdominal area above the navel diagonally up and out toward the armpits.
  4. Step Four: Brush the abdominal area below the navel down toward the groin.
  5. Step Five: Brush the legs up toward the groin. Your palms and the soles of your feet can be brushed in small circles.

When to Do Dry Skin Brushing

To get all the benefits of dry skin brushing, Piper suggests doing it twice daily — in the morning and again in the evening. If you can only do it once a day, do it at night; this will kick-start the lymph system and help your body detox while you’re sleeping, she advises.

On a personal note, Piper says she finds dry brushing “quite calming, especially when I do it before bed,” and “the softness of my skin is very soothing and motivating to continue doing it.”

Dry skin brushing is also a skin and beauty regimen that might benefit the millions who spend hours in front of a computer screen. Stiffness in the shoulders, lower back, and hip area are very common among people who work in offices, says Ciares, and “dry skin brushing once a day for a few weeks will help you increase oxygenated blood flow in those areas and feel energized.”

Dry Skin Brushing: Evaluating the Claims

“I am a big proponent of exfoliation in all its forms, dry brushing included,” says Alicia Zalka, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Connecticut. “By helping the skin’s built-in mechanism of cell renewal, the act of sloughing spent cells by brushing enhances the process. This is particularly helpful on lower legs, feet, and upper arms and elbows, where dry, dull skin can linger.”

Dennis Gross, MD, a dermatologist and dermatological surgeon practicing in New York City, is less enthusiastic, however. “For exfoliation purposes, one must be careful not to over-exfoliate, and my preference is for chemical exfoliation over mechanical exfoliation, which can be too harsh on the skin.”

So can dry skin brushing detox your body? “The bottom line is that dry skin brushing can improve circulation,” says Dr. Gross. “One could theorize that increased circulation can eliminate toxins, but that is a stretch. Skin does not regularly suffer from a lack of circulation.”

Although Dr. Zalka does not believe that dry skin brushing can eliminate cellulite, she says it could temporarily improve the look of it. If you want to try dry skin brushing, “make sure the brush is cleaned or replaced regularly,” she advises. “Start gently and see how your skin tolerates it. Always apply oil or moisturizing cream to follow, or else the skin could be irritated. Do not do it if you suffer a skin condition such as psoriasis, eczema, or impetigo.”

There are claims on the Internet that dry skin brushing can prevent breast cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, says it has “no opinion” on the technique. “We have no credible evidence or research that concludes this treatment reduces the risk of breast cancer,” says Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the cancer society.

In fact, there are no studies of any kind to support any of the various health claims about dry skin brushing, so it’s important to take the possibility of benefits like detox with a healthy dose of skepticism. If you want to make your outer layer shine, dry skin brushing may be worth a try though. Just make sure you use a gentle touch.

Herbal Meds, Cosmetic Surgery a Bad Mix

About half of patients take herbal and other supplements beforeundergoing cosmetic facial plastic surgery, according to a new study.

Many of these supplements can put patients at risk during surgery and they should stop taking them at least two weeks before their procedure, Dr. Bahman Guyuron and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University advised.

The investigators examined the medication lists of 200 patients scheduled for cosmetic facial plastic surgery — such as a facelift or nose job — and found that 49 percent of the patients were taking at least one type of supplement.

Overall, the patients were taking 53 different types of supplements. The average number of supplements was nearly three per patient, but one patient was taking 28 different supplements, according to the study in the July issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Older patients and women were most likely to be taking supplements, according to a journal news release.

One-quarter of the patients were taking vitamin and mineral supplements only, most commonly multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin B. Twenty-two percent were taking animal- and plant-based supplements — most often fish oil — in addition to vitamins and minerals. Just 2.5 percent of patients were taking animal- and plant-based supplements only.

Thirty-five patients were taking supplements linked with an increased risk of bleeding, such as bilberry, bromelain, fish oil, flaxseed oil, garlic, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), selenium and vitamin E.

In addition to the supplements linked to bleeding risk, other popular supplements with potential harmful effects include echinacea, ephedra (ma huang), ginkgo, ginseng, kava, St. John’s wort, valerian, feverfew and ginger.

The patients in the study were told to stop taking supplements two to three weeks before surgery.

“These high-risk supplements are quite commonly used and the surgeon must elicit a complete history in order to avoid the known adverse consequences of supplement use on surgical outcome,” the researchers wrote.

7 Tips for Beautiful Summer Skin

1. Try a Self-Tanner

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are very damaging, especially UVA rays. They not only burn your skin and cause premature aging, but can also lead to skin cancer.

So, instead of lying for hours in the sun, get that sun kissed glow with a self-tanner. Many salons offer spray-on tan services, or you can purchase an inexpensive self-tanning lotion at your local drugstore. Gradual self-tanning moisturizers keep your skin smooth as they help you control just exactly how bronzed you become, and they are less prone to streaking. Just remember to exfoliate before you apply self-tanner to remove any dry skin that could pick up excess color and lead to an uneven appearance.

2. Slather on Sunscreen

Many dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. The Skin Cancer Foundation points out that tests demonstrated SPF 30 products block out only 4 percent more rays — 97 percent compared to 93 percent for SPF 15. So know that you’re getting more protection with SPF 30, but not double the amount of SPF 15. In the past, broad-spectrum SPF sunscreens made skin look whitish because of the opaque nature of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which physically block UV rays, but with more refined, micronized formulations, you can get their sun protection benefits without the ghostly appearance.

More sunscreen smarts to follow include:

  • Check the sunscreen’s ingredients list; it should contain agents that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply sunscreen regularly, as it will wear off with prolonged swimming or sweating.
  • Even if it’s cloudy, ultraviolet rays can still reach your skin, so wear sunscreen even on sunless days.
  • Many makeup and skin care products contain an SPF agent, but don’t be fooled: Look for the SPF number and use extra sunscreen if it’s below 15.

3. Give ’Em Lip Service

Use a lip sunscreen with SPF agent even if you’re putting lipstick on, too.

4. Remember Hair Care

The beating sun will hit your hair hard, but there are a number of sprays containing SPF that you can put on after you wash your hair. This is a must if your tresses has been chemically treated.

Another tip: Don’t overwash your hair as this can remove the oils that naturally protect it.

5. Exfoliate Head to Toe

Expensive scrubs and salts feel wonderful, but if you’re on a budget, you can do just as good a job using an exfoliation mitt or glove and your regular body wash. Gentle exfoliation is essential if you’ve had any area waxed, particularly in the bikini area, as it can help prevent ingrown hairs.

6. Moisturize and Nourish With Oils

Elbows, feet, and ankles can get very dry, so try avocado oil to keep them healthy and smooth. Avocado oil not only moisturizes, but also has nourishing properties as it contains vitamin E.

7. Be Kind to Your Face

Chemical peels, creams, scrubs, and other products containing glycolic acids and retinoids should not be used if you spend a lot of time in the sun: These treatments can make your skin more sun sensitive and cause more damage to your skin. If you must use them, wear a hat and sunscreen to protect your face. Follow this advice as well if you’re taking certain antibiotics, such as tetracycline, which also make you more prone to sunburn.

10 Ways to Reduce Wrinkles

 Simple and Smart Skin Care Steps to Reduce Wrinkles

    1. Avoid sun exposure. Try to wear white or light colors, and wear a hat when you’re outdoors. Also, don’t use tanning booths, which can be worse than the sun.
    2. Wear sunscreen. For the best anti-aging protection, Dr. Gerrish strongly recommends, “Apply sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 (sun protection factor) thirty minutes before sun exposure to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Look for one with zinc or titanium oxide in the ingredient list.”
    3. Avoid environmental pollutants. Ozone, smoke, and gasoline fumes are just a few of the pollutants that can age skin and cause premature wrinkles.
    4. Start an anti-aging skin care program. June Breiner, MD, an internist in Maryland suggests, “Consult with a non-surgical skin care doctor. There are many products available that thicken your skin and reduce wrinkles.”
    5. Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. Smoking takes away oxygen and nutrients, and it also increases the number of free radicals in your body’s cells, a main cause of skin aging. “The amount of cigarette consumption and the number of years you have smoked are correlated with an increase in premature wrinkles,” states Dr. Breiner.
    6. Wear sunglasses. Other than staying indoors and away from windows, sunglasses are the best way to protect the thin, sensitive skin around your eyes from UV radiation.
    7. Sleep on your back, if possible. Sleeping with your face pressed against the pillow can cause sleep lines, which can turn into wrinkles. Satin pillow cases can also help in the anti-wrinkle fight.
    8. Use moisturizer. A good moisturizer will keep skin hydrated and soften wrinkles.
    9. Exercise regularly. “It gets your cardiovascular system going, which is great for getting needed nutrients and oxygen to your skin,” Breiner explains. “You should get cardiovascular exercise for your heart and skin health, and weight strengthening exercises for muscle underlying your skin.”
    10. Eat a nutritious, anti-aging diet. Drink plenty of water and teas, and get eight to ten servings daily of fruits and vegetables. Eat fresh caught Atlantic salmon three times a week or another fish high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as herring, mackerel, trout, or tuna. Foods have a tremendous ability to fight the aging process as they are chock full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to combat wrinkles, says Breiner.

Tips to Use a Skin Exfoliant

 Our skin is constantly renewing itself, growing new skin cells to replace the surface skin cells that grow old, die, and fall, or slough, off. Every minute of every day, between 30,000 and 40,000 dead skin cells flake away.

Factors like age and dry skin can mean that dead skin cells don’t fall away as easily as they should. When these cells build up, they can make the complexion look rough and pasty and can also contribute to the clogged pores that lead to adult acne. The regular yet careful use of a skin exfoliant can help slough off dead skin cells and uncover fresh, more youthful skin.

There are two main types of skin exfoliants: mechanical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants. Both are commonly available, and both have pros and cons regarding their use and the types of skin conditions for which they are most appropriate.

Mechanical Skin Exfoliants

Mechanical exfoliants work by sanding off dead skin cells using mildly abrasive substances. These skin exfoliants typically are facial scrubs, creamy cleansers with tiny, rough particles. As you gently massage the exfoliant over the surface of your face and skin, the friction works to loosen the old skin cells.

Mechanical skin exfoliants are readily available in drugstores and easy to use. They are particularly good for people with oily skin or acne, as they remove skin cells and debris that clog pores, but only if you don’t scrub too hard as this can cause further irritation.

However, mechanical exfoliants can be harsh. When you use them, you’re literally sanding away the outer layer of your skin. Some contain particles so jagged and rough that they could actually cut the skin. Because of this, dermatologists recommend using a gentle motion when using a skin exfoliant, and skipping them altogether if you have sensitive skin.

Chemical Skin Exfoliants

A chemical skin exfoliant uses gentle acids to dissolve whatever bonds are preventing the outer layer of dead skin cells from falling off your face and body. There are two main types of chemical skin exfoliants, those that include an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and those that include a beta hydroxy acid (BHA):

  • Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from different foods, from fruits, such as apples and grapes, to milk. Some of the most common AHAs to look for on product labels are glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, alpha-hydroxyoctanoic acid, and triple fruit acid. An alpha hydroxy acid is best for people with dry or thickened skin.
  • Beta hydroxy acids are the chemical cousins of alpha hydroxy acids, but are more oil-soluble and therefore better at exfoliating oily skin or acne-prone skin. The best known beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid. On product labels, look for salicylate, sodium salicylate, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, or tropic acid.

Alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid skin care products tend to be less harsh on the skin than mechanical exfoliants. They also help refresh the skin in ways a facial scrub can’t: They lower the skin’s pH level and help smooth small, shallow wrinkles, improving the look of skin that is dry or sun damaged.

Finding the right formulation for your skin involves some trial and error. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, you should choose alpha hydroxy acid-based chemical exfoliants with an alpha hydroxy acid concentration of 10 percent or less and a pH of 3.5 or more. Beta hydroxy acid-based exfoliants containing salicylic acid are effective at levels of 1.5 to 2 percent. Using stronger solutions can cause skin irritation.

Another caveat: These types of exfoliants increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun for as long as a week after each use. Before going out, always apply sunscreen — a skin-saving recommendation for everyone.

How and When to Use Exfoliants

You should not use an exfoliant every day. Your skin needs time to regenerate its topmost layer, which exfoliation strips away. People with dry skin should only exfoliate once or twice a week, while those with oily skin can exfoliate two to four times a week. Stop using an exfoliant if you find your skin becoming irritated or developing a rash. Remember to moisturize your skin after exfoliating, to soothe it and keep it from drying out.

How to Find the Right Skin Moisturizer

 Feel overwhelmed when you want to buy skin moisturizer for your dry skin? That’s no surprise, as there are dozens to choose from at the drugstore and hundreds more at high-end cosmetics and department stores — creams, lotions, ointments, some with sunscreen, others with an exfoliant. Choices range from the basic $1.50 jar of petroleum jelly to a $500 five-ounce tub of designer skin moisturizer. And all the options in between can make your head spin.

While choosing the right skin moisturizer may seem confusing, it’s actually very simple if you follow a few guidelines, says dermatologist Monica Halem, MD, of ColumbiaDoctors Eastside in New York City. Dr. Halem’s first rule of thumb? Don’t spend too much money.

How a Skin Moisturizer Works

Cleansers and moisturizers are the most important skin products, particularly for softening dry skin. A skin moisturizer works by sealing moisture into the outer layer of the skin and by pulling moisture from the inner layers of skin to the outer layer.

Key ingredients that seal in moisture are petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, and dimethicone. Glycerin, propylene glycol, proteins, urea, and vitamins help attract water into the outer layer of the skin.

Some skin moisturizers also contain an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which exfoliates dead skin, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation. AHAs are a good choice if you have very dry skin.

Finding the Skin Moisturizer For You

It may take some trial and error, Halem says, so be patient. Follow these guidelines as you shop and, if you’re not getting the results you want, try a new one the next time:

  • Note the first five ingredients. Look for common active ingredients, such as lanolin, glycerin, or petrolatum, Dr. Fusco says. Glycerin is less likely than lanolin to cause an allergic reaction, she says. She also recommends picking a moisturizer that’s made by a reputable company.
  • Go for added sunscreen. Protecting your skin from harmful sun damage is one of the best things you can do to keep your skin looking young, so buy a moisturizer with a sun protection factor of at least 30. You’ll have to do some searching, but more companies are offering face and body moisturizers with sunscreen, Halem says.
  • Make it skin-type appropriate. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive, so it’s a good idea to use a different moisturizer on your face than you do on your body, Fusco says and recommends buying one that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” because it won’t clog your pores. Of course, choose one that’s right for your skin type. If you know you have sensitive skin, it’s always a good idea to look for a moisturizer labeled hypoallergenic. If you have oily skin, go with a light, oil-free moisturizer. If you have dry skin, get something richer. And if you have combination skin, go with a lighter moisturizer for your whole face and dot drier areas with a heavier cream, Fusco says. Keep in mind that you may need a lighter lotion in the summer, and a cream or ointment in the winter.
  • Consider using a moisturizer with retinol before bed. Retinol is vitamin A for your skin, Halem says. It works by increasing the speed at which your skin cells turn over. You can find it over the counter or by prescription, but use it carefully as it may cause a skin irritation, red skin, or dry skin.

Relief by Prescription

If your skin is very dry, consider a prescription moisturizer. Prescription moisturizers contain the AHA lactic acid, which softens the top layer of your skin and can do a better job if over-the-counter moisturizers aren’t working for you, Fusco says. AHAs such as lactic acid and glycolic acid can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Tell your doctor if you experience burning, irritation, red skin, itching, or a rash.

Another prescription option is a barrier cream, which contains humectants that hold on to moisture longer, Fusco says. Barrier creams penetrate a little deeper than standard moisturizers, she adds.

When to Moisturize

Once you find the right product, moisturize every day and you’ll go a long way toward preventing dry skin and even camouflaging wrinkles. While a skin moisturizer can’t get rid of wrinkles — because wrinkles begin much deeper in the skin due to collagen loss — it can plump up the skin and minimize their appearance, Halem says.

Whichever moisturizer you choose, it will work better if you apply it to damp skin. Think about a sponge that’s dried out, Fusco says. If you put moisturizer on it, it won’t go anywhere. But if you soak the sponge in water and coat it with moisturizer, the sponge will absorb it. Your skin works the same way, happily lapping it up.