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How to Avoid Skincare Purchases You’ll Regret

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Brandith Irwin, MD - Blogs
By Brandith Irwin, MDBoard-certified dermatologistDecember 28, 2016
From the WebMD Archives

We’re all human. We all have desperate days when we look at our skin in the mirror and cringe (yes, even dermatologists). Your first instinct might be to immediately get online and try to be your own expert – or, worse yet, run out to the department store and let someone at the counter (who often knows very little) sell you $ 200 worth of skincare products. But don’t do it! There are better ways to spend that money, and finding the right skincare products takes time and effort – it can’t be done in a spur-of-the-moment shopping frenzy.

Three reasons you shouldn’t make knee-jerk skincare purchases:

• There really is no quick fix. This is sad, I know; but it’s also reality, unless it’s just dehydration, for which the cure is a ton of water and some moisturizer. Most serums, creams, and oils cannot cure problems in a day or two that have been brewing for weeks, months, or years. Accepting this will save you money and disappointment.

• Samples are a trap! Why? Because they persuade you spend money on skincare that won’t help you. All you can really tell from a sample is that you don’t hate the fragrance, and you’re not immediately and horribly allergic to it. As I said in the first bullet, you won’t get a quick fix from a few uses of a sample. It tells you practically nothing and yet women and men try samples all the time and make a purchase based on that. Don’t get sucked in!

• The skincare your friend swears by (and promises you’ll love, too) probably won’t help you. That is, unless your friend has skin exactly like yours. But how often is that the case? Your friend may have drier skin, oilier skin, acne, more or less sun damage, larger pores, more wrinkles or less sagging, and on and on. The best skincare is customized to you.

Instead, here’s a better approach to choosing and using skincare:

• Take inventory of your existing products (you might already have some something that works). Here’s how to start. Sit on your floor, with a garbage can handy, and dump all of your skincare products out next to you. Go through the products one by one. Throw a product out if the expiration date is over one year. For sunscreen, you can go two years, maybe, if it hasn’t been in a hot car somewhere since last summer. Be ruthless. If it’s over a year, it’s probably degraded or contaminated with bacteria. Get rid of it!

• Identify 2 main problems and choose products that target those issues. Start with baby steps. What bugs you the most? Now, what bugs you second most? Pick only two. Acne? Wrinkles? Blotchy skin? Brown spots? Start reading up on these. The idea is to customize your basic products as much as possible to what you are trying to fix. If you have a dermatologist, ask them for their input. I highly recommend finding a cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and if you’re over 30-35, a repair/anti-aging serum that suits your specific goals. Examples of repair/anti-aging products are vitamin-A cousins (like Renova and Retinol), vitamin-C serums (not creams), a few other antioxidants, and cell growth factors.

Remember that there are some problems you really cannot fix with a cream – like sagging. I get asked so often about how to treat sagging chin and jawline skin that results in the appearance of a double chin, jowls, or “turkey neck” as some call it. These are issues that a topical product cannot fix. But there are many great non-surgical treatments and filler options that can help (you can read more about these here).

• Develop a skincare regimen. Get into a habit and stick with it. Develop a skincare regimen with the product lineup I mentioned above. Start with your cleanser, repair/anti-aging product, moisturizer, and sunscreen in the morning. Same at night minus the sunscreen. For example, if you have acne, for morning: pick an acne cleanser, a bezoyl peroxide gel, a non-comedogenic light moisturizer, and a sunscreen formulated for acne. At night: the cleanser again, the same moisturizer, and then a vitamin A cream like retinol or prescription Retin A (generic is tretinoin). If you have severe acne, cysts, or scars, you need to see a doctor. If your problem is sun damage, your products will be different, but the basic categories are the same.

Once you find products that suit your needs and budget, use them for 3 months to give them time to reveal results. Then, if you want, change 1 product at a time (for 2-3 months) to see if you can improve it even a little more.

So when you have those scary mirror moments (as we all do), don’t panic. Even if you don’t have the money for expensive professional help, don’t live in Hollywood, or don’t have a best friend who’s a good dermatologist, you can get healthy, beautiful skin. It just may take a little trial-and-error – and patience.

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About the Author
Brandith Irwin, MD

Brandith Irwin, MD, is a board certified dermatologist and founder of Madison Skin & Laser Center in Seattle, Washington. She is also Co-Founder of SkinTour.com a website focused on accurate consumer education on nonsurgical, aesthetic procedures and products. Through her books and website, Dr. Irwin is dedicated to educating people about skin care in the context of a global conversation about beauty, self-esteem and inclusiveness.

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