When it comes to skin products, less is more

July 14, 2014

Dr.Dornechia Carter, a Dallas-area dermatologist, says she has had patients try several unusual methods in their quest to be all-natural.

"People can be very inventive with what they put on their face," she says. "Iíve been surprised at what people have tried."

The problem is, just because a skin-care product is labeled natural or organic doesnít mean itís right for you.

She says sheís had patients use lime to exfoliate their faces, but the sun can cause a blistering reaction to lime on the skin.

"Itís hard because I tell people, ĎPoison ivy is natural!í And people donít use that," she says.

Kimberly Wilson, who practices naturopathy in Plano,Tex., agrees. "Just because youíre using something natural doesnít mean itís the right thing for you, but there is much less potential of causing future damage."

What does work? We asked for their best advice on skin-care products. Hereís what they said:

Donít overdo it. Carter says the main issue with her patients isnít whatís in their products ó itís that there are too many products.

"A lot of patients will come in and bring the products they use," she says. "Thatís very helpful, but what happens is they have these huge bags of stuff. Theyíll pour it out on the counter, and itíll be 15 different products.

"When patients ask me what I use, I say I use a face wash, a moisturizer and a tretinoin-based acne product," she says. "If I donít keep it simple, how do I ask patients to do things that are so complicated?"

Give it time. Carter says another issue is that people arenít using a product long enough.

"Theyíre looking for something that fixes their skin next week," she says. "You really should give it six weeks to see if itís going to work for you."

Watch what you eat. Wilson says that many skin issues start from within. She urges her patients toeat more vegetables and avoid fried foods. She also says patients should limit the amount of animal products they eat because theyíre harder for the body to eliminate.

"I think we underestimate what we take in does to our skin," she says.

Know your sunscreen. Carter and Wilson both say sunscreen is a critical component of skin care, but if patients are having reactions to it, they recommend products with titanium or zinc oxide.

Carter notes that some people have had reactions to propylene glycol and parabens, but she says theyíre not necessarily bad. If they irritate a patientís skin, she recommends testing in a dermatologistís office.

Wilson says she typically has patients avoid parabens, which she says have the ability to mimic estrogen and have a weak correlation to the onset of early puberty.

Wilson says she sends patients to the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database run by the Environmental Working Group, which rates thousands of products on their potential irritants and what problems they could cause. Itís available at or as a mobile app.

Know yourself. Wilson tells patients to be mindful of their allergies and what ingredients are already affecting their bodies. For example, if a patient has celiac disease and isnít eating gluten, it shouldnít be in the patientís skin-care or makeup products, either.

What to buy? Carter says consumers shouldnít be afraid to purchase products at a drugstore or a dermatologistís office.

Some over-the-counter brands she recommends include Cetaphil, Cerave, Aveeno and Neutrogena.

For acne, she recommends tretinoin-based products, such as prescription Retin A, that also are approved for their anti-aging benefits and to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.

The over-the-counter versions with retinol, such as Oil of Olayís Regenerist line, are not as strong as what a doctor can prescribe, but she says the moisturizing benefits may help.

Carter says coconut oil is a fine moisturizer for the hair and the body, but she doesnít recommend it or shea butter for the face because the pores are much more sensitive, which can lead to acne.

Wilson says she likes DeVita products, which can be found at Whole Foods and Natural Grocers. She uses several DeVita items, including the aloe vera exfoliating cleanser, rose oil toner and a sunscreen moisturizer.

"When patients are first starting out on their journey to get rid of toxins, I will send them to Whole Foods. They do a fair amount of scrutiny with the products they sell," Wilson says. "But itís like I tell my patients who are diabetic, Whole Foods also sells some really yummy cakes, but theyíre not necessarily good for you."

Ask for help. Carter says the most important component to taking care of your skin is getting good advice from a board-certified dermatologist.

"Natural is not necessarily better, more is not necessarily better," she says. "If we keep it simple and make sure weíre wearing moisturizer and sunscreen, things will be taken care of."



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