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Introduce new skincare products to your face one at a time. That way, if you have a reaction to an ingredient in a new cream or cleanser, you'll be able to identify the culprit immediately, rather than guessing which one out of your new, five-product regimen caused the irritation or breakout.
Long, hot steam sessions (either during a facial or in the steam room) dehydrate your skin, according to Linda McDonald-Ferris, former director of the Hazelton Spa in Toronto. (She prefers to use a gentle, warm mist of essential oils during her facials.) Hot water can leave skin dry and irritated, which leads to overproduction of oil or broken capillaries becoming more aggravated. Skip the scorching shower and ask your esthetician to go mild during treatments.
Put a lid on it
We've all heard about the importance of fighting free radicals by boosting our cupboards with antioxidant-rich foods and beauty products. But when it comes to creams, the packaging is crucial. "Dermatology has recognized the importance of antioxidant vitamin C, but what's important to realize is that if it oxidizes, it loses its efficacy," says Piermarco Luzzatto-Giuliani senior vice-president of Active Cosmetics Canada. Look for creams that come in airtight pump or tube dispensers that block out light, such as Jouviance EcoDefense Antioxidant Emulsion and Vichy LiftActiv CxP Eyes.
Protect your assets
Forget all the fancy-pants lotions and potions; sunscreen is still the best anti-ager around. "A broad-spectrum, SPF 30 sunscreen is the best-value anti-aging cream you can buy," says Vancouver-based dermatologist Frances Jang. If your skin errs on the sensitive side, look for the chemical-free ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in products such as Dermalogica Super Sensitive Faceblock or Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock Lotion.
Know a pro
If you're concerned about fighting the signs of aging, see a dermatologist sooner rather than later. (And while you're at it, get that mole checked out.) "Anti-aging information can be hugely confusing," says Jang. "There are proven molecules and procedures you can use that will help slow down and reduce the signs of aging. But it's important to get expert guidance on what's right for you at this stage of life, given your lifestyle and budget."
Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate! "It allows the outermost layer of the skin, which frequently builds up with dead skin cells, to be rejuvenated and look more radiant," says Scott-Vincent Borba, L.A.-based founder of the Borba skincare line. "Exfoliating also allows for better penetration of any treatments or products." Both manual scrubs, such as Soap & Glory Scrub Your Nose In It, and chemical-based ones, such as NeoStrata Smoothing Lotion, work effectively to turn over cells.
Don't get sensitive
Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) is a great chemical exfoliant, but it can really sting — it is an acid, after all. If you can't stand that tingling feeling, you're in luck. New technology is making it possible for AHA to be encapsulated in a time-release base, so you can get the same percentage of active ingredient spread out over time. Try Dermaglow Glycolic Smoothing Moisturizer to get results without irritation.
See the light
Want to step up your skincare regimen? Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) is an effective (and proven) way to start. "It simultaneously addresses blotchy skin, sun damage and age spots, and also firms and re-texturizes skin," says Jang, who has been using IPL for almost a decade. She also recommends the Fraxel Repair laser treatment, which improves collagen formation, reduces redness or brown spots, and tightens and tones skin. One caveat: Fraxel Repair requires downtime of two to seven days, during which the mirror won't be your best friend.
Not ready for an in-office treatment? Stay at home and try Health Canada- approved Tända Regenerate Anti-Aging Light Therapy Treatment, which uses red LED lights to improve skin texture and tone with no downtime.
Get your own, Mom!
Many of the popular acne products on store shelves are aimed at teens and are about one thing only: blasting bacteria. The results can leave older skin gasping for relief from harsh, drying ingredients. "You need to focus on calming and soothing the skin as well as disinfecting it in a non-irritating way," says L.A. -based celebrity skincare guru Ole Henriksen. Try Cor soap, a gentle, moisture-rich bar that contains nano-silver, a natural antibacterial agent, or Ole Henriksen Blemish Attack Purifying Mask with soothing aloe vera and white tea.
Fresh and clean
Put the heavier, muskier scents of winter on the shelf when the seasons change. Warm skin can easily turn a musky perfume into a cloying, overpowering one during hot weather. Go for light and pretty florals or refreshing citrus notes for summer, such as Elizabeth Arden Green Tea Exotic with spearmint and lily or Liiv Botanicals Vitality's mix of cucumber, grapefruit and jasmine.
Face your age
If you're getting fillers or injectables at your dermatologist's office, keep your expectations realistic. "As a woman over 40, the goal is to enhance what you have," says Kellett. "I think it's abnormal when people come into my clinic and want to look like a completely different person. To be a fresher version of yourself is a very reasonable expectation." Hear! Hear!
Get in order
Got all your skincare goodies at the ready? Here's the best order to follow: "Start by cleansing, then apply sunblock and follow with moisturizer on top," explains Lisa Kellett, a Toronto-based dermatologist at DLK on Avenue. "After cleansing, the most important thing is that you put the product that protects your skin on first." Make sure to wait a few minutes before applying another product on top of sunscreen so that you don't dilute the strength of the SPF.
Gorgeous skin glows and looks lit from within — and it's an easy one to cheat. "Use a light-reflecting moisturizer," says McKay. "You can get away with less foundation and concealer." Try M.A.C Strobe Cream, which contains antioxidants and mineral pigments to brighten skin.