Making a trip to your local drugstore to pick up a new cleanser or moisturizer is a mission in itself, confronting you with myriad choices that can make even a beauty editor's head spin! Before you're seduced by pretty packaging and the scores of options, ask yourself what your primary skin concerns are. Maybe you want to banish brown spots or target fine lines. Entering the beauty aisles with a skin-care plan in mind will ensure you make a smart, savvy purchase. We set out to help solve three common complexion gripes – aging, dryness and uneven pigmentation. For hints on ingredients to look for and tips on changing your skin-care routine, look no further. Your skin – and your bank account – will thank you.
Help for: Wrinkles, fine lines, loss of firmness and collagen
Key ingredients: Alpha-hydroxy acids, idebenone and ubiquinone, retinoids, antioxidants, vitamins C and E, peptides
To help manage lagging cell turnover and a decrease in collagen and elastin production, the ingredients above are your new best friends. Vitamin C helps increase collagen production, improves elasticity and plumps up fine lines while bestowing skin with a gorgeous glow. Other notable antioxidants with similar benefits are green tea, pomegranate and vitamin E.
Exfoliation is a must for mature skin, so experts recommend daily use of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). It kick-starts the shedding of dead cells and makes dull skin glow. Glycolic acid is an AHA chemical exfoliant that's easy to apply with a cotton ball, but sensitive types will want low levels of glycolic acid (5 per cent is on the low end, 10 per cent the high end).
Start by cleansing with a rich, creamy cleanser filled with antioxidants. Twice weekly, ensure you use an exfoliant right after cleansing. Apply an antioxidant-rich serum under your moisturizer, which should contain retinoids or ubiquinone. Always finish with a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
When skin is clean and still damp, slather on a nourishing moisturizer. Night creams have more emollients, and work in tandem with ingredients such as age-fighting retinoids to help repair skin while you sleep.
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Help for: Dry, flaky, itchy and tight skin
Key ingredients: Emollients such as lanolin, shea butter, jojoba oil, dimethicone; humectants such as ammonium lactate, hyaluronic acid, urea, glycerin
Dry skin doesn't discriminate; it affects men and women of every age. It's caused by low levels of sebum, which make it difficult for skin to retain moisture.
Look for products that have high concentrations (listed early in the ingredient list) of humectants and emollients. Humectants attract water from the atmosphere and dermis into the epidermis, increasing the water content. Emollients act as lubricants in the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis), filling in crevices. This gives skin a soft appearance and smooth texture.
Opt for a nourishing, creamy cleanser that says "gentle" somewhere on the label. It won't strip away essential oils, but it will remove makeup, dirt and impurities with ease. Steer clear of soap-based cleansers – they can cause chapping, cracking and tightness. Finish with an ultrarich day cream or balm designed for very dry skin.
Using cool water and a neutral-pH cleanser, cleanse your skin. Then, while it's still damp, smooth on a rich night cream.
Help for: Sun spots, dull and blotchy skin
Key ingredients: Hydroquinone, rumex, lactic acids, licorice root, vitamin C, glucosamine
Enter into skin enlightenment with ingredients that help halt melanin production and reverse damage caused by overactive melanin, often a result of chronic sun exposure. A broad-spectrum sunscreen is the best way to put a stop to additional spots. Some products work slowly, so to see spots run, practise diligent application.
Vitamin C is a great choice for preventing cell damage and brightening the complexion. Another natural bright spot is licorice root: it helps fade discolorations while acting as an anti-inflammatory. Hydroquinone is a more powerful ingredient: It blocks enzymes that signal the production of melanin, but can irritate sensitive skin (and can cause unevenness in darker complexions), so start with small amounts and use sparingly.
Look for a refreshing cleanser to remove impurities and makeup. Slough away dead skin cells with an exfoliant containing lactic acid, licorice root or vitamin C. Banish dull, pigmented cells with an alcohol-free toner containing salicylic acid. Apply a skin-brightening moisturizer containing hydroquinone and sunscreen. If your brightener doesn't contain sunscreen, apply one with at least an SPF 30 on top of your moisturizer (wait until the cream is absorbed).
On cleansed skin, use a brightening spot treatment on all dull areas. Finish with your day moisturizer. The more often you use brightening products, the sooner you'll see results.
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