As a surgeon and skin specialist, my work has taken me around the world researching skin function, complex skin types, skin grafting and burns. However, I see patients every day that are confused about basic level skincare and tired of wasting money on creams that don't work - should I use a cream or a serum, or both? As we approach the depths of Winter I thought I'd share some key points on protecting your skin in the cold months ahead whilst getting it smooth and radiant for the party season.
Protect your lips
The skin layers of the lips are only three to five cellular layers thick; much thinner than the rest of the face that can be up to sixteen layers thick. A lack of hair follicles, oil and sweat glands also means less preservation of warmth to the lips and increased moisture loss, leading to dryness. Regular application of a lip balm containing SPF in the daytime can not only reduce dryness but also protect from ageing UV free radicals. If you are on a budget, inexpensive lip balms with SPF are available from most chemists. For Christmas nights out consider using a lip balm with a colour tint to look younger instead of the dryness of a lipstick.
Invest in a medical strength antioxidant serum
A dysfunctional skin barrier in the top layer of the skin leads to loss of natural moisture content that can be worsened in the cold weather, leading to apparent dry skin. In order to improve this, I recommend a light daytime antioxidant serum that contains specific skin stabilisers. A standard moisturiser doesn't contain essential antioxidant compounds that mop up DNA damaging free radicals. Even the expensive luxury brands don't necessarily contain high enough doses of Vitamins A and C as they are not medical strength but more cosmeceuticals. Vitamin A increases cell turnover, vitamin C is an acid that exfoliates and prevent against free radical damage. My product of choice for my patients is Daily Power Defense by ZO Skin Health that not only stimulates natural moisture retention in the skin but also protects from further cellular damage by smoking, environmental pollution and UV rays (yes they are present in the winter too). If you want to keep costs down this product is great for night time use too which will give a double dose of much needed antioxidants. It is suitable for all skin types and can be layered up in winter months if needed.
Keep skin smooth with an exfoliator
Without an exfoliator, a thick surface layer of poorly functioning skin cells builds up causing congestion, thickness, irritation and false dryness. Exfoliators can be physical such as crystals in a paste or chemical such as glycolic acid used in skin procedures. A physical exfoliator used at home several times per week reduces this build up and creates a natural glow to the skin. I'd recommend a light exfoliator for acne such as Daily Microfoliant by Dermalogica and Exfoliating Polish by ZO for all other skin types.
Repair the damage with a retinol night cream
Whilst the body is resting, overnight is a good time to apply an appropriate product to help recover from the harsh environmental exposure in the winter days. When used after an exfoliator, it is more likely to be readily absorbed and achieve results. Rather than just a basic moisturiser that provides few other benefits, I would recommend a night cream that contains medical strength retinol. Retinol helps to stimulate healthy cell renewal, reduce age spots or pigmentation and encourages collagen regulation, thereby fighting wrinkle formation. Over the counter brands that promote retinol tend to contain very minute doses of retinol versus medical brands that deliver higher doses. If considering a medical retinol consult a skin clinic that is experienced in the use of this product as the initial stages of use can commonly cause some redness and light peeling which can be misconstrued as a reaction if not explained prior.
Treat yourself to a medical facial
A good clinical facialist with specific skin training should be able to diagnose different skin conditions and recommend correct facials according to skin type. An older patient with oily skin masquerading as dry in the winter can easily be ill advised that they need heavy oil based facials which can cause increased congestion and poor results. However, when the right mix of medical topical products are used, excellent results can be achieved. For truly dry skins such as post-menopausal patients, I would recommend stimulating facials fortnightly in the winter to keep their skin cells well hydrated. My preferred facial suitable for all skin types is the Red Carpet Facial by ZO that actually contains a no downtime peel as part of the procedure to keep skin luminous. For best results of a medical facial have the procedure the day before your event.