Mark Denis P. Davis, M.D.
Dermatology, Mayo Clinic Health Letter Editorial Board member
One of the most common concerns people have when they visit a dermatologist is how to look after their skin. How can I keep from getting wrinkles? How can I stop my skin from aging? How can I make my skin look more youthful?
The cosmetic and cosmeceutical industry has recognized this, and this is a multibillion dollar industry created around finding organic and natural skin care products that will help.
What is scientifically proved to keep skin youthful?
- Sun avoidance. There is huge evidence that sun damages skin. The more that skin is exposed to sun, the more it gets wrinkled and leathery in appearance. Dark spots and white spots are associated with long-term exposure to the sun. If you compare the skin of a relatively unexposed area with the exposed skin of your face, you will see what the sun does to your skin.
Therefore, sun avoidance is the best intervention. If you are going to be exposed to the sun, wearing sunscreen is really important.
- Moisturizers. If your skin is drying out, you need to moisturize your skin. This is particularly true in cold, winter climates. The air outside is dry, as is heated indoor air. Skin is further robbed of natural oils when people take long, warm showers. In the hot, dry climates of places like Arizona, dried-out skin is also an issue.
There is a lot of hype attached to skin-care products, and many false claims based on very little science. Although we tend to think that a more expensive skin-care product must be better, this is rarely so. Expensive products are not necessarily better. They might be better packaged, but often the cheaper moisturizer is just as good as the more expensive one. I generally tell my patients to use whatever they like to use and will use, whether it be the cheaper product or the more expensive one.
- Sunscreens. Hundreds of sunscreens are on the market. It is important that the sunscreen protect against both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. There are multiple products on the market. Regular application of sunscreens is key if you're going to be out in the sun.
These are the fundamentals of skin care. Sun avoidance is perhaps the No. 1 strategy for avoiding wrinkling and aging of the skin. It is inevitable that you will develop a few spots as you get older. Almost everyone will eventually develop waxy growths that appear stuck on (seborrheic keratoses) and small, red spots called cherry angiomas.
So to summarize, if your skin is going to stay youthful, you should:
A. Avoid direct sun exposure either by complete avoidance of the sun (preferably)
B. Wearing sunscreen when you are exposed to the sun.
C. Keep your skin well moisturized, especially in dry climates.