Health & Fitness

July 21, 2014

When it comes to skin products, less is more

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

Dornechia Carter, a Dallas-area dermatologist, said 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 said. “I’ve been surprised at what people have tried.”

The problem is, just because a skin-care product is labeled natural or organic doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

She said she’s had patients use lime to exfoliate their faces, but the sun can cause a blistering reaction to lime on the skin.

“It’s hard because I tell people, ‘Poison ivy is natural!’ And people don’t use that,” she said.

Kimberly Wilson, who practices naturopathy in Plano, Texas, agreed. “Just because you’re using something natural doesn’t mean it’s 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. Here’s what they said:

• Don’t overdo it. Carter said the main issue with her patients isn’t what’s in their products – it’s that there are too many products.

“A lot of patients will come in and bring the products they use,” she said. “That’s very helpful, but what happens is they have these huge bags of stuff. They’ll pour it out on the counter, and it’ll 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 said. “If I don’t keep it simple, how do I ask patients to do things that are so complicated?”

• Give it time. Carter said another issue is that people aren’t using a product long enough.

“They’re looking for something that fixes their skin next week,” she said. “You really should give it six weeks to see if it’s going to work for you.”

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

“I think we underestimate what we take in does to our skin,” she said.

• 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 noted that some people have had reactions to propylene glycol and parabens, but she said they’re not necessarily bad. If they irritate a patient’s skin, she recommends testing in a dermatologist’s office.

Wilson said 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 said 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. It’s 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 isn’t eating gluten, it shouldn’t be in the patient’s skin-care or makeup products, either.
• What to buy? Carter said consumers shouldn’t be afraid to purchase products at a drugstore or a dermatologist’s office.

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 Olay’s Regenerist line, are not as strong as what a doctor can prescribe, but she said the moisturizing benefits may help.

Carter said coconut oil is a fine moisturizer for the hair and the body, but she doesn’t recommend it or shea butter for the face because the pores are much more sensitive, which can lead to acne.

Wilson said she likes DeVita products, which can be found at Whole Foods and Natural Grocers.

• Ask for help. Carter said 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 said. “If we keep it simple and make sure we’re wearing moisturizer and sunscreen, things will be taken care of.”

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