Skin Care

By Andrea Toochin

Outdoor seating, ice coffee and the end of chalky skin are my favorite characteristics of spring, but all three go against good skin care habits. Caffeine and sun exposure are bad enough, but dehydration and overexposure will only exacerbate skin problems. With the change of seasons, not only will your body temperature have to adjust and your closet need reorganizing, but your skin will require different treatments.

The arrival of spring in derma speak isn’t simply about switching from a thick cream to a light, oil-free tinted moisturizer – it’s about anticipating problems. The first few weeks of heat will not only exhaust you, they might cause breakouts. The first rule of thumb is to remember you need more water and sun protection, but even those measures won’t do much to stave off flushed skin and enlarged pores. The stress of these blemishes in anticipation of a big vacation, a benefit in the Hamptons, or even a wedding is enough to make even the best foundations useless.

Thankfully, as the cosmetic industry continues to expand through R&D, a wide variety of specialty products have surfaced, lightening and brightening products being one of them. These items appeal to a wide range of consumers with mild to severe symptoms. Those with mild symptoms may experience dull skin that doesn’t responding to exfoliants. The next level of users experience frequent blotchiness and red patches that are difficult to mask. But the last group has real reason to complain; they may have acne, sunburns, or a skin disease like hormone-induced Melasma, the pregnancy symptom Chloasma, or the long-term, often hereditary Rosacea.

Like the current state of the industry, cosmetic companies are flocking to either end of the spectrum – natural or high tech products. Whether natural or cosmeceuticals, most products combat flare-ups by calming skin, and control hyper-pigmentation by regulating the production of melanin, an innate chemical that produces pigment. However, we must admit that whatever the route, the end result is often achieved through mild bleaching agents.

The Clinique CX line contains the Redness Relief Cream, a light cream said to relieve redness, and prevent flare-ups. Salicylic Acid serves as a chemical exfoliant, stimulating cell turnover, while Glucosaminoglacans mix with caffeine, algae, and Chinese Mushroom Extract to reduce flushing by soothing skin.

Another mild product mixes nature and chemistry; Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant is a bottle of rice-based powder that lathers on contact with wet hands. This gentle foaming scrub feels more like a cleanser; rice mixes with the ever-popular Salicylic Acid and Papain Enzyme to stimulate cell turnover. A skin-brightening complex contains new up-and-coming ingredients, licorice, bearberry, grapefruit, and a newbie, aspergillus, and helps balance pigmentation, while oatmeal and green tea sooth skin. A mask-like treatment from the same line uses Lactic Acid in addition to Salicylic Acid, but also contains sulfur, an excellent ingredient to prevent and treat acne.

Barielle’s Porcelain Skin Whitening treatment is also for mild cases because there are no major chemicals. This opaque cream claims to lighten freckles and age spots with natural extracts including Beezwax, Wheat Germ Oil and Grape Extract. This product spreads like the first zinc-based sunscreens, but once it absorbs, it creates a lighter, more uniform finish, if only because of the thick texture of the crème.

Pevonia’s Aromatherapy Face Oil Harmonie claims to balance skin and restore radiance through essential oils and antioxidants. Plant oil works with sandalwood, mandarin orange and grapefruit oils to tighten pores and cleanse skin, restoring radiance by normalizing skin’s oil production. The product is best used at night on mild skin, as natural extracts have a limited impact on more severe cases.

A midway point between the botanical extracts and the lab-to-store varieties, SK-II’s illuminating and boosting products contain their signature yeast extract coined Pitera, which contains amino acids and vitamins. The Whitening Source serum works the same way the Radiance and Moisture Boosting Mask does – by clearing skin over time through cell turnover and moisture. As the skin evolves, the products claim to restore a natural balance and rhythm. This line is a good choice for those with melasma or stress-induced blotching because they identify the timing of an average skin cycle and the impact environmental stressors have on internal rhythms. An added bonus is a false sense of confidence I have in the products because they are made in Japan. Historically women in many East Asian countries have gone through a variety of measures to maintain pale complexions because white skin is associated with purity.

Another fast absorbing cosmeceutical is Skin Medica’s new TNS Recovery Complex with NouriCel-MD, a scientific compound designed to reduce photodamage, the result of sun, wind, the natural aging process or even bad genes. The company claims that unlike the competition, you won’t pick up a Skin Medica box and see the words “reduce the appearance of…” because they have real test results from a six month double-blind study of 250 women, but don’t expect fast results. Even Skin Medica’s devoted client and spokesperson, Bo Derek, said it takes three months before you see a significant change. Of course, she swore by the serum that took her from an aging surfer girl with broken capillaries to a younger looking, radiant woman.

Like most other products on the market, DDF uses the highest FDA approved amount of Hydroquinone, 2%, in both the swabs and the serums. DDF also makes hyperpigmentation products without Hydroquinone, for sensitive skin.

If you want to get in on the bleaching action, but you’re not ready to commit to another cream, opt for Rodan & Fields Reverse Skin Lightening Toner. It’s a gentle way take advantage of hydroquinone’s said efficacy without adding another expensive, creamy product to your regimen, especially in the summer when you run the risk of clogging pores more easily.

Professional services are also available at spas; Pevonia offers lightening masks that are only administered through spa technicians. In NYC, they offer these facial treatments at The Park Avenue Spa & Fitness Center at the Swissotel New York, The Drake, and at the Spa at The Essex House, A Westin Hotel. Or, you can jump on board with the Chemical Peel devotees, an option one step below laser treatment in severity. But, the recovery period can last up to a week, during which time you’ll experience more redness than relief.

For severe cases, such as Rosacea in the form of acne, oral antibiotics are available. One prescription topical cream, Metronidazole, is available for severe cases of Rosacea. Of course, in an age where getting Botox is as routine as getting a haircut, we shouldn’t be surprised that many doctors are claiming laser is the only true remedy. However, laser is usually recommended for patients 35 and up.

In an informative talk at his UES office, Dr. Neal Schultz, a prominent dermatologist, explained that often our skin doesn’t look like it could because we are using the wrong products or treating the wrong illness. Many women go years wearing the wrong bra size – it seems half of us are probably using the wrong skin care regimens. This is why we advocate the advice of a dermatologist if you are seriously concerned with discoloration in your skin. Before you purchase expense products and services, you might as well pay to get advice from an expert.

Overall, vitamin C, Glycolic Acid, 2% Hydroquinone, Kojic Acid and Azelaic Acid are the most popular ingredients used to sooth skin, encourage cell turnover, block melanin production, and lighten spots. You’ll also see licorice, albatin, and bearberry extract in holistic treatments, but the efficacy of chemical-free products is questionable.

At the very least, take preventative measures by using a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15, avoiding spicy foods and limiting alcohol intake, especially if you’re diagnosed with a skin disease.

Clinique Redness Relief Cream 1.7 oz $75, Neiman Marcus or http://www.Clinique.com

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant 2.6 oz $45, Gentle Cream Exfoliant 2.5 oz $33, http://www.FragranceNet.com

Barielle Porcelain Skin Whitening 2 oz $17.50, http://www.drugstore.com

Pevonia Aromatherapy Face Oil Harmonie, .5 oz $9.50 Park Avenue Spa & Fitness Center 212.371.4190, Spa at Essex House 212.484.4583

SK-II 30ml Whitening Source serum $100, 6-pack Radiance and Moisture Boosting Mask $85, available at Saks Fifth Avenue

Skin Medica TNS Recovery Complex, .5 oz http://www.skinmedica.com/find_a_physician/

DDF Corrector Swabs, 28 swabs $42, Sephora

Rodan & Fields Reverse Skin Lightening Toner 4oz $35, Henri Bendel

Originally published May 2005
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