Preventive versus Reparative Skin Care

In This Article:

We're serious about saving face—at least where preventing the signs of aging is concerned! Simply put, preventing damage is a much better strategy than repairing damage after the fact. The old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The key to preventing fine (and not so fine) lines, brown spots, and breakouts is thinking ahead with smart, exceptional skin care.

On the other hand, if you're already battling dull skin, adult acne, wrinkles, and brown spots, don't dismay, all is not lost—you can absolutely repair the damage, at least to some extent, especially if you follow all our reparative skin-care tips. They are guaranteed to take years (and years) off your face.
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How to Prevent Wrinkles and Other Signs of Damage

It takes surprisingly little time and only a handful of products to keep your skin from premature wrinkling, unsightly brown spots, adult acne, and loss of firmness. Following are the top habits you can start now to keep your skin looking younger and clearer, longer.

Be UV-neurotic. It's OK to be obsessive about some things, like eating healthy and driving safely. Sunscreen application should be on that list. Your dedication to sunscreen application means you will have the last laugh when it comes to laugh lines and other concerns of aging. Without a doubt, sunscreen is the #1 anti-wrinkle, anti-sagging, and anti–brown spot cream, because unprotected UV exposure is the #1 cause of virtually every sign of aging!

  • How much to apply: The FDA (and most dermatologists) recommend (as the bare minimum) ¼ teaspoon on the face and another ¼ teaspoon on the neck and ears. And don't forget your chest and arms (or any other exposed skin)!
  • How often: Aside from everyday use (no exceptions), a single application each morning will keep you protected for a normal workday (indoors), a walk to lunch, and the drive home. If you spend more than three or four hours in direct sunlight during the day, it's a good idea to reapply your sunscreen—and, yes, that means redoing your makeup, which is why we advise touching up with a pressed powder rated SPF 15 or greater.
  • Consider layering sunscreens: Your moisturizer with sunscreen can be worn under your foundation with sunscreen and your pressed powder with SPF! Together, these provide you with "extra insurance" where sun protection is concerned.

See our list of the Best Daytime Moisturizers with Sunscreen for our top recommendations.

Discover the benefits of an AHA/BHA exfoliant for better skin. Is your skin-care routine stuck in the 1980s? The 80s were fabulous—but we're not ditching our iPod or tablet computer for a Walkman or typewriter anytime soon! The same goes for the products in our skin-care routines. Scrubs are OK for extra cleansing, but in terms of exfoliating layers of sun-damaged or unhealthy skin, scrubs should be thrown back to the era from where they came—along with Ten-O-Six toners and that jar of Noxzema Skin Cleanser! So, if you're still relying on scrubs as your sole exfoliant, it's time for an update.

Move on past your outdated scrub and upgrade to a daily AHA (glycolic acid) or BHA (salicylic acid) leave-on exfoliant. When used daily, a well-formulated AHA or BHA exfoliant truly helps improve skin tone and texture for radiant results—results far out of reach of scrubs. Tip: Don't bother with cleansers that contain AHA or BHA—they don't exfoliate anything but your wallet because any potential benefit is just rinsed down the drain. Find out how to shop for an AHA or BHA exfoliant, and find the one that is right for you with this handy guide on AHA & BHA exfoliants!

Make proven anti-aging ingredients your BFFs. Be skeptical of trendy anti-aging ingredients that don't have any real research showing their benefits. Instead, stick with the anti-aging ingredients that are proven effective based on a large number of independent, peer-reviewed research. Such substances include potent, stable antioxidants (notable ones include vitamin C, green tea, and resveratrol) and cell-communicating ingredients like retinol and niacinamide. Start using products loaded with these types of impressive ingredients before signs of damage occur (it's never too soon) and you'll be on track for a more even complexion and firmer, healthier skin as you age. Your skin never "gets used" to these types of ingredients, just like your body never gets used to eating healthy foods, so make these anti-aging sensations your skin-care BFFs for life! Of course, these ingredients do work even after skin damage starts showing up, but without question, sooner is better than later.

Avoid skin-care junk food. When we say avoid the "junk food" of skin-care products, we mean those that are loaded with things that smell and feel good, but that ultimately are damaging (or just useless) to skin. Fragrance can smell amazing, but, whether natural or synthetic, it is terrible for your skin over the long-term. The same goes for alcohol-based formulas; yes, some people might say that boozy beauty products are fine if "they don't bother you," but the insidious nature of irritation is the silent, cumulative damage it causes. You may not see or feel the inflammation today, but over time the negative impact of fragrance will make itself apparent, in slower healing times, redness, and loss of elasticity. Think about the damage smoking and tanning cause over the long haul, even though in the short run it seems like a cool and beautiful thing to do! Those behaviors are killers, no matter how you or your friends feel about them.

Of course, it also is crucial to avoid products that contain nothing helpful for skin. Lots of products are merely a mix of water, wax, slip agents, and fragrance, and little else. Your skin needs products loaded with skin-protecting and skin-repairing ingredients. And why spend money on products that are average?

Repairing Skin Damage

We readily admit that hindsight is 20/20, even when it comes to skin care. If you spent one too many days sunbathing, using irritant-laden products before you knew better, or scrubbing your face like you were sanding a hardwood floor, it's time to look for products that will help your skin get back the glow it's lost. For the most part, this involves looking for potent versions of the skin-care necessities recommended above; follow these regenerating, complexion-clearing tips to see a remarkable improvement of past damage. It's never too late to start improving your skin!

Zero in on dark spots, red marks, and other discolorations. Brown spots from too many days in the sun (or post-breakout red marks) require treatment combinations that prevent and repair. First, keep your skin protected and keep discolorations from getting worse (and boost your treatment results) with a daily broad-spectrum SPF 15+ sunscreen—and greater is better, especially where layering sunscreens is concerned.

Second, seek products loaded with melanin-inhibiting ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide, acetyl glucosamine, or retinol, and use an AHA or BHA exfoliant daily. These treatments work together to yield impressive results on a range of discolorations. Apply them all over, not just on spots, and be patient—expect results in 6–12 weeks; after all, you didn't get those pesky discolorations overnight, so give your products a little time to work. See the Best Skin-Lightening Products section of Beautypedia for all of our top recommendations.

Step up your anti-wrinkle game with more retinol. Retinol is an impressively effective anti-aging ingredient because it creates healthier cells, increases firmness, improves texture, and enhances the skin's barrier function. Although it is not the only ingredient to look for (your skin needs a wide range of beneficial ingredients), it's an incredible one to add to your routine if you want to keep your skin in tip-top shape now and through the years. Not everyone can tolerate high concentrations of retinol, and you may need to experiment with a variety of options or strengths to see what works best for you. Are you new to retinol? If so, include a retinol treatment in your routine only every other day, and/or mix it with your non-SPF moisturizer to buffer its strength a bit. See how your skin responds; if all is going well after 1–2 weeks, consider bumping up to everyday use.

Turn up the radiance on dull skin with exfoliation + super-powered antioxidants. If a brighter, healthier glow is on your wish list, look to AHA/BHA exfoliation combined with powerhouse antioxidant treatments. A daily AHA or BHA exfoliant will send dulling layers of dead skin packing, while a super-boosted level of vitamin C plus other powerful free-radical fighters will work overtime to improve collagen production, restore radiance, and return your complexion to a healthier, radiant state. Vitamin C, in particular, makes skin more resilient to sun damage and can reduce brown spots, but you still need that daily SPF!

Retire acne for good. Not everyone outgrows acne, and some who've never experienced breakouts can find their skin suddenly rebelling, due to too many skipped PM skin-care routines (facial wipes do not equal efficient daily cleansing) or a change in hormones. No matter the source of your acne, treat it with the combination of a daily 2% BHA (salicylic acid) leave-on exfoliant and, if breakouts and bumps are stubborn, add a powerful BHA spot treatment. BHA provides a potent yet gentle mix of benefits: Exfoliation, reducing redness, stimulating collagen, and providing an antibacterial action to treat breakouts now and prevent them in the future.

When combined with your regular skin-care routine, these preventive and reparative skin-care tips can deliver a brighter, smoother, and younger-looking complexion. No matter your age or the extent of the damage, taking good care of your skin now will bring you beautiful results, not only today, but for years to come!

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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