50 Doctors' Own Tips For Better Skin
A flawless complexion is like a Maserati: you know they exist and would be amazing to have, but being a person with one seems desperately out of reach.
While expensive cleansers, fillers, and anti-aging creams can provide temporary solutions, they're more likely to rid you of your hard-earned cash than your complexion issues; real change has to come from the inside out. Before we can kiss those complexion woes that plague us goodbye, we have to identify and ditch the factors causing them.
Fortunately, there's something the pros know that you don't: a clear complexion is easier to achieve than you might think, no matter how bad your skin seems at the moment. Before you buy another confusing gadget or get drawn in by the promises of a cream that costs more than your rent, discover the 50 Doctors' Tips for Healthy Skin. And when you're ready to start enjoying a more youthful, radiant complexion, follow these 50 Doctors' Own Anti-Aging Tips!
Start Consulting a Dermatologist ASAP
Dermatologists aren't just helpful when you have a breakout or wrinkle that you're eager to get rid of. Making a dermatological visit part of your yearly routine can help ensure that any changes to your skin are addressed promptly before they become bigger issues. "Consult a dermatologist as early as possible so that you have a doctor that has seen all your skin and can help monitor skin changes through the years," says Dr. Renee Matthews, MD. "People do not realize you can die from skin cancer, which is why it is important to know exactly what is going on with your skin." Make your skin a priority today by adding the 25 Healthy Foods That Give You Glowing Skin to your menu!
Use a High SPF
That SPF 15 isn't holding up its end of the bargain. When you want to fight the sun damage that can cause discoloration and a loss of skin elasticity, you're going to need a more potent formula. "A large percentage of perceived aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and sag are from sun damage. I recommend patients wear SPF 50 daily moisturizer, especially if fair-skinned," says Dr. Joshua Zuckerman, MD, FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in New York City.
Polish Those Pearly Whites
While some people swear that toothpaste is the key to ditching those pesky pimples, that's not the only way your oral hygiene can make a difference for your complexion. "Even brushing your teeth can make a huge difference in your skin," says Dr. Christina Bowen, a board-certified integrative family medicine physician. "There's a lot of inflammation that can happen in our mouth, and if we're not brushing regularly, flossing regularly, and getting regular dental appointments, it can show up on our skin." Start fighting back against inflammation with the 30 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods!
Talk to a Professional at the First Sign of a Problem
Don't wait until your skin is in crisis to get in touch with your dermatologist."There is no set rule about when to contact a skin care specialist, but any patient with a concern should reach out," says Dr. David Shafer, a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Manhattan's Shafer Plastic Surgery. "It is better to reach out and set up an appointment sooner rather than later as its always easy to put out a small fire than combat something out of control."
Sure, a good face scrub can make your skin feel smoother than a baby's butt, but that doesn't mean harsh abrasive cleansers have any place in your skincare routine."Cleanliness is very important but over-scrubbing the face can be more traumatic than helpful," says Dr. Shafer. "In many cases, it's important to seek the advice of a skin health professional such as a plastic surgeon, dermatologist or certified aesthetician to ensure that your daily skin care routine is beneficial."
Pack on the Polyphenols
Fighting the inflammation causing your breakouts and wrinkles is the first step toward a healthier, happier complexion. The good news? That change starts on the inside, with plenty of anti-inflammatory omega-3s and polyphenols found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, and seeds. "There is no topical product that can reduce inflammation in the dermis, but diet demonstrated to reduced inflammation especially if supplemented with fish oil and polyphenols can accomplish these goals," says Dr. Barry Sears, founder of The Zone Diet. Find out how your favorite fish stacks up with our list of Every Popular Fish—Ranked for Nutritional Benefits!
Bring on the Beta-Carotene
Getting a tan won't do your skin any favors, but that doesn't mean you have to forgo the glow altogether."Eat beta-carotene-rich foods; they give you a healthy, warm glow and it helps counteract a sallow complexion from being ill, colds and flu, or winter doldrums," says Dr. Cynthia Bailey, a dermatologist and founder of DrBaileySkinCare.com.
Don't Rely on OTC Skincare
While many over-the-counter creams have active ingredients that seem similar to their prescription counterparts, their concentrations are often so low that they won't do much for your skin in the long run."Someone who is just using OTC treatments that they find in the drugstore aisles may be doing themselves as a disservice as they may not be using the appropriate product or might not have a product with high enough percentage of active ingredient," says Dr. Shafer.
Acne Can't Always Be Prevented
Changing up your skincare routine won't always yield the clear complexion you want. For some of us, genetics play a much larger role in how our skin behaves than any of our grooming habits. "While we can surmise some of the triggers or lifestyle patterns that can cause breakouts or acne, the truth is there are some people who are genetically predisposed to it. It is essentially a condition that needs to be managed," says Dr. Dendy Engelman, dermatologic surgeon at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. While the adult acne club may not be one you're eager to be a member of, at least you're not alone. "Everyone gets acne," says Dr. Engelman.
You Need More Vegetables Than You Think
A salad here and a side of broccoli there won't cut it when you're trying to clear up your complexion. "The best thing we can do is a whole food, plant-based diet," says Dr. Bowen. "That's seven to eight servings of vegetables a day." Make your healthy eating plan more satisfying with the 20 Most Filling Fruits and Vegetables!
Pay Attention to Acne
What starts as a blemish today can quickly become a skin condition that you spend huge amounts of money to fix later. If you're dealing with acne, get it addressed by a professional before it becomes a lifelong problem."As a child grows into adolescence they may start to experience acne as their bodies and skin change during development. At the first sign of acne it is important to get it under control to prevent or reduce the chance for acne scarring and other sequelae of repeated skin infections or insults," says Dr. Shafer.
Skip the White Stuff
Those refined carbohydrates are doing more than just widening your waistline—every bite is inflaming your skin and making you more prone to breakouts and other complexion issues. "White foods (flour, white rice, white potatoes, white bread, etcetera) produce an insulin surge, which sets off a cascade of inflammation that can cause a variety of skin issues, ranging from puffiness and bloating, water retention, to breakouts and redness or the flaring up of skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis," says Ariane Hundt, a clinical nutritionist practicing in Brooklyn.
Hot Water Can Wreak Havoc on Your Skin
A hot shower can be a relaxing way to unwind — until you start realizing the deleterious effect it's having on your skin."Hot showers sound great, but not so much for your skin," says Dr. Engelman. "Ceramides, lipids and cholesterol help form the top layer of the epidermis and hot water removes the surface lipids, allowing the moisture to leak out of your skin, causing dryness. So, although initially it can moisturize, when the lipids are gone, water can actually dry skin even more."
Keep It Simple
That multi-step skincare routine might not be as effective as you think. For people with sensitive skin, paring down can actually make their complexions healthier and more radiant. "In general, I'm a minimalist," says Dr. Ayelet Mizrachi-Jonisch, a board-certified dermatologist who practices at CareMount Medical in New York. "I recommend washing your face daily with water and a mild facial wash. Remember, less is more!"
Probiotics Aren't Created Equal
Getting your gut in great shape is the first step toward clearer, healthier skin, but not every probiotic in the store will yield the results you're looking for."With probiotics, it's not just going and buying the first thing on the shelf; different strains help different issues," says Karen Wright, a certified nutrition specialist and functional nutritionist. "Lactobacilicus rhamnosus is the specific strain for the skin."
Ditch the Dairy
Au revoir, asiago. Bye, brie. Catch you later, camembert. If you're eager to get rid of those pesky breakouts, dairy should be one of the first things you cut from your diet. "Cut out dairy to stop acne," says Dr. Bailey. "Acne is caused by diet. We're now considering it an inflammatory condition, not one from pores. There's a very specific biochemical pathway between milk and acne." Ready to kick cheese to the curb? Discover the 22 Expert Tips for Eating Less Dairy!
Stop Smoking Now
Smoking is more than an issue for just your lungs: it could be the reason your skin doesn't want to play nice, too. "If you smoke, stop it!" says Dr. Ross Levy, MD, FAAD, a physician with New York's CareMount Medical. "Smoking causes wrinkles and a sallow complexion, in addition to other, more serious health problems."
Be a Picky Eater
If you're dealing with skin health issues, from dryness to breakouts, it's time to start considering what you're putting in your face, not just what you're putting on it. "Food intolerances show up as inflammation in many areas in our bodies, and one of the most common places is the skin. Since the skin is an extension of the lining of the digestive tract, blemishes on the outside of us are very often indicative of problems on the inside," says Susan Barendregt, a functional nutritionist and vice president of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. "Healing the digestive tract lining through removal of damaging foods, chemicals, and other sources of inflammation will lead to healing of the skin on the outside."
Sleep on Silk
Upgrading your sheets could be the first step toward the soft, healthy skin you've always wanted."If you want your skin to look refreshed and feel soft each morning, a silk pillowcase is a must have. Unfortunately, sometimes the type of pillowcase we have can be an afterthought, but since we can spend anywhere from 6-10 hours with our face laying on it each night, it is a real priority when it comes to the condition of our skin," says Dr. Nina Watson, a board certified diagnostic radiologist practicing in New York.
Crack Open Some Oysters
Oysters do more than get you in the mood: they can also do wonders for the health and appearance of your skin. "These shellfish are filled with selenium and zinc, which both possess skin-clearing properties," says Dr. Christopher Calapai, DO. "Zinc is a trace mineral that is essential for its role in cell growth and cell replication. Selenium is a dietary mineral that increases your antioxidants levels. Antioxidants are critical for preventing blocked pores."
Morning Cleansing Isn't Essential
While washing your face at night is an important component of a healthy skin routine, you might be able to skip that A.M. cleanse — and who couldn't use a few extra minutes of sleep? "For many people with healthy, balanced skin, there is no need to wash with a cleanser again in the morning, and you may be able to get away without adding moisturizer again," says Dr. Jennifer Stagg, a Connecticut-based naturopath.
Learn to Love Legumes
Adding some extra plant-based protein to your diet can help build the good bacteria in your gut, fighting inflammation that can show up on your face."A half a cup of beans a day is important for your gut microbiome, which is essential for your overall health and beauty," says Dr. Bailey. Beans aren't the only way to pump up your protein intake; the 26 Best Vegetarian Sources of Protein will have you hitting your goals in no time.
Don't Assume More is Better
Those high percentages of retinols, acids, or other irritating ingredients in your skincare products could be doing more harm than good."It's important to discuss with our doctor or skin care specialist which product is best for your skin," says Dr. Shafer. "A higher percentage may not be better in all cases as you may end up with skin irritation or dryness."
Exercise-Induced Acne Requires Special Attention
Not all acne is created equal. In fact, exercise-induced acne may require a completely different treatment plan than those normal bumps and breakouts. Fortunately, the solution is as close as the nearest drugstore."Often, exercise-related acne is the result of a little-known yeast called pityrosporum that lives in the pores on our face, back, and chest," says Dr. Bailey. "Simply adding a dandruff shampoo or pyrithione zinc cleanser to your routine will cut down that yeast."
Soothe Your Scars
While we can't always prevent the injuries or breakouts that cause scars, giving those scars a little extra TLC can help diminish their appearance over time, maintaining your youthful look in the process."An important part of keeping your skin healthy to slow aging includes taking proper care of scars," says Dr. Jasmine Marcus, PT DPT. "Three weeks after injury or surgery, people should apply pressure through massage to prevent scars from adhering down to the tissue underneath. When scars adhere, this restricts mobility and can limit range of motion and strength."
Not all Collagen is Created Equal
That collagen you're taking to plump your skin might be doing little more than emptying your wallet. "For skin health, you are looking for type 1 and type 3; there are 16 different types. These are what the skin is made of. For oral supplements, hydrolyzed collagen is easiest to digest, as it is broken down into the smallest forms of peptides and amino acids," says Dr. Engelman. "I like pills and powders because they are easy to incorporate no matter what your lifestyle."
Dirty Brushes Can Mean Serious Issues
Those grimy makeup brushes could be the reason your skin acts so angry all the time. Cleaning your brushes regularly can reduce your risk of acne, wrinkle-promoting inflammation, and even more serious infections. "Washing your makeup brushes is crucial!" says Dr. Daniel Barrett, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. "Your brushes harbor bacteria, dirt, and oil. Applying dirty brushes to your clean face is an easy way to cause breakouts. I recommend cleansing your brushes at least twice a week with a gentle and unscented cleanser to avoid breakouts."
Pore Strips Are Effective — Until They're Not
While it can be fun to check out all the gunk that's being ripped out of your pores, the results of a pore strip are short-lived. "Pore strips only remove the top layer of dead skin cells and debris but within one day or two, it accumulates again, so it only provides a very superficial, short-term appearance change," says Dr. Stagg.
Processed Food Can Ruin Your Skin
Ditch those mystery ingredients and make whole foods a priority in your diet—your skin will thank you. "If it's got more than five ingredients on the box, you probably shouldn't eat it," says Dr. Bowen. The same goes for personal care products. "If you can't pronounce it, it shouldn't go on your body." Find out if your favorite foods are skin saboteurs by discovering the 75 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet!
Get Sweet on Sweet Potatoes
Using vitamin A-based retinol creams isn't the only way this nutrient can benefit your skin."Aside from being delicious, sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A. Vitamin A prevents hair from becoming dull and lifeless and your scalp dry and flakey, which can result in dandruff," says Dr. Calapai.
Scale Back the Stress
Whether it's your job, your relationship, or your ever-dwindling bank account that has you stressed, trying to find some calm whenever possible is essential for maintaining healthy skin and keeping premature aging at bay."Stress can wreak havoc on our skin. We've all seen the 'before and after' pictures of American presidents highlighting the advanced aging process from one of the most stressful jobs in the world," says Dr. Stagg. "Stress accelerates aging and impairs the body's ability to repair and regenerate the skin." Start cutting back on your stress now with the 45 Doctors' Own Mental Health Tips!
Get Cancer Screenings in Your 20s
Don't wait until you're approaching middle age to start getting those freckles and moles checked out. Dr. Janet Prystowsky, a Manhattan-based dermatologic surgeon, suggests that patients start getting cancer checks "at least by 25," and even earlier if they have a large number of moles.
Fill Up on Fish
Add some healthy fats, like those found in fish, to your menu and you'll be enjoying a more even complexion before you know it."A healthy intake of wild fatty fish, such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon provides sufficient anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which ensure that the moisture of the cell lining is maintained, resulting in much more dewy appearance of the skin," says Hundt.
Chocolate Isn't Your Enemy
While an unhealthy diet will be reflected on your skin, you don't have to completely ignore your desire for chocolate to get a less-flawed complexion. "The biggest myth is that chocolate causes acne," says Dr. Stagg. "It is not actually the chocolate, which has the opposite effect. It is the sugar, and for some people, dairy in low-quality chocolate that can worsen breakouts."
Try an Elimination Diet
If your complexion woes aren't being fixed by over-the-counter or prescription treatments, an elimination diet may yield the results you seek. "I've had a lot of success with clients when we're dealing with people with skin issues to find out if they have food intolerances—finding out if they have an intolerance to gluten, dairy, corn, or whatever it may be. When they eliminate those foods, their skin clears up," says Susan Barendregt, a functional nutritionist. Worried your diet isn't working for you? The 12 Warning Signs You Need to Change Your Diet might just confirm those fears.
Keep Your Hands Off Your Skin
Not only can the dirt and oil on your hands increase your likelihood of a breakout, poking and prodding those blemishes can turn minor redness into a major skin issue. Dr. Shafer says that, as difficult as it may be, leaving those blemishes along will save you heartache in the long run. "PICKING is the worst!" he says. "Throw away your 10x magnification mirror. Picking only leads to problems, sores, exacerbations, and regrets."
Don't Rely on Makeup Wipes
"Wipes are good to remove makeup, but there is still going to be a residue left on the skin. Follow it up with a thorough cleansing," says licensed esthetician Stephanie Jones, founder of The Blushery in New York.
You Can Heal Old Skin Damage
When it comes to healing sun damage or hyperpigmentation, getting treated ASAP is always ideal, but that doesn't mean the issue can't be fixed later, as well. "The gold standard of dermatology care is laser treatment. There are also medical grade creams that can reduce age spots and pigmentation cause day sun damage," says Dr. Stagg. Want to take a more gentle approach first? "Natural alternatives include topical coconut oil, lemon juice, and honey," says Dr. Stagg.
Apple Cider Vinegar Can Work Wonders
When treating sun damage, the most effective treatment could be as close as your kitchen cabinet."Wash skin with cool/lukewarm water and diluted apple cider vinegar. This will soothe the skin, instead of harsh products that may contain chemicals, and it will help the skin heal faster. Finish with a cool rinse to wash the vinegar off the skin," suggests Dr. Engelman.
Say No to Refined Sugar
Those sweet snacks are anything but when it comes to the health of your skin."Removing sugar is one of the most effective strategies to reduce aging as a non-inflamed state allows the collagen to stay strong and pliable. Sugar makes the collagen structure of the skin rigid," says Hundt.
Sleeping in Your Makeup Ages You
Whether you've had an exhausting day at work or had a few too many at the bar, it's easy to make excuses as to why we're not washing our faces at the end of the day. However, letting all that grit and grime stay on your skin can do serious damage."Washing your face of the daily dirt and grime removes all the dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells you accumulated throughout the day. Leaving this on the skin all night while your skin is repairing itself weakens the skin barrier and causes rapid aging. In addition, you will be more prone to a breakout," says Dr. Engelman. "If you do go to bed, make sure to double cleanse in the morning and change your sheets for the next night."
Add Some Avocado
Go ahead, get guacamole on that. The combination of vitamins and healthy fat in avocado can make your skin softer, smoother, and less prone to breakouts."An avocado will give your skin a boost of vitamins A, D, and E," says Dr. Faisal Tawwab, MD, a physician practicing in Orlando. "There is a reason it is an ingredient in face masks, skin and hair products!"
Breakouts Can Be Part of the Healing Process
Just because your skin initially looks worse when you begin a new cleansing regimen or eating plan doesn't mean it's not working. "When you begin a program to cleanse and rejuvenate your skin, your skin will break out as you rebuild. To speed up the process, see a skin care specialist and make sure that you are increasing your water and fresh vegetable juices," says Sally Pansing-Kravich, a holistic nutritionist who has worked with Kerry Washington.
Get Peels in the Winter
Sweaty summer days may have you eager to book a skincare treatment, but waiting until winter to get peels can make a major difference. "Get your chemical peels in the winter months," says Dr. Engelman. "Your skin is especially sensitive after a peel, and really shouldn't be exposed to the sun afterwards. You're less likely to be spending time outside during these months, so it makes the recovery easier on your skin. Additionally, peels are often performed to correct the damage accumulated during extended sun exposure – so when a peel is done during colder months, you're not going to experience recurring damage."
Your Personal Care Products Can Affect Your Skin
Your skincare routine shouldn't stop at your face. If you're using other personal care products that don't work with your body, the results might just show up on your skin. "What we put on our skin makes a huge difference," says Dr. Bowen. "What kind of shampoo are you using? Are you using toxic chemicals that are affecting your endocrine system and affecting your skin?"
Make Breakfast a Priority
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that's certainly true when it comes to your skin."Start the day off with a healthy breakfast with fiber, healthy fat and protein. This helps set the tone for hormone balance throughout the day. Hormone balance can help keep your skin healthy and also prevents mindless snacking which is usually the time we eat high amounts of sugar. Along with a daily facial cleansing routine, a daily supplement routine focusing on the nutrients your body needs is just as important to support skin health," says Sarah Greenfield, a registered dietician and Director of Nutrition and Education for HUM Nutrition.
Working Out in Makeup Wrecks Your Skin
It may have taken you hours to perfectly contour your face, but you should still wash off your handiwork before you hit the gym. "Sweating and vasodilation open pores and let all your make up block them," says Dr. Sonam Yadav, a dermatologist and medical director of the Juverne Clinic. "Voila, acne and dermatitis."
A Sedentary Lifestyle is No Better
Sitting all day is bad for more than just our waistlines. Inactivity can mean dull, lifeless skin and breakouts. "Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle are almost as toxic as cigarettes," says Dr. Bowen. "Exercise decreases the overall inflammation in our bodies and is a great way of managing stress. You can see the immediate effects in your rosy cheeks and your overall glow."
Don't Assume Water Will Fix Dry Skin
Drinking an adequate amount of water is essential for your health, but don't assume that cracking open can after can of La Croix is going to do much to soothe your dry skin."Drinking water doesn't hydrate your skin any more than a bath quenches your thirst," says Dr. Bailey. "The part of your skin that's dry is the very external layer. The only time your skin would be dry from your water intake is in the case of severe dehydration." Dr. Barrett echoes these sentiments, noting that moisturizer isn't much help, either. "Dry skin is sick skin. Moisturizing dry skin is actually the worst thing you can do. If you want muscles, you go to the gym, you don't lie in bed all day. Moisturizing your skin is telling your dermis to be lazy and not produce the moisturizing proteins it's supposed to."
Get Lots of Sleep
Sleep is just as important as what you're putting on your skin, if not more. "Sleep is one of the most important factors of our health. It's important not only to get an adequate amount of sleep, but also to get a high quality deep sleep known as the REM cycle," says Dr. Nayak. "Sleep is so important because it is the only time our brain's glymphatic system is active. This is the system that flushes the brain of waste. Without sleep, our bodies have a hard time detoxifying." Start getting the rest you deserve tonight by discovering the 30 Best & Worst Foods For Sleep!