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Navigating the Shelves: a Dermatologist’s Guide to Choosing the Best Skin Care Products

A trip to the skin care aisle can be a daunting task to even the savviest consumer. The array of choices can leave you feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. Fear no more—here are some quick and easy guidelines to help whittle down your shopping list.

Forego Fragrance

Fragrances are added to many products to make them more appealing to consumers. But are they really necessary? No! And more important, they are not good for your skin. Fragrance is a common cause of contact dermatitis – a rash caused by either irritation or an allergic reaction. Beware of products that claim to be “unscented” as they may contain masking fragrance. Instead, look for ones labeled “fragrance free”.

Smart Sunscreens

Reading the ingredient list on a bottle of sunscreen may remind you of your high school chemistry class. A simple rule to help you choose the best one is to keep it simple. The active ingredients that block both UVB and UVA are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These microscopic minerals reflect sun from the skin for the best “broad spectrum” protection, and also are the least likely to cause a rash. Look for an SPF 30 or higher. I say, the higher the better. I like Neutrogena, CeraVe and EltaMD.

Axe Acne

There are two common over-the-counter acne medications: salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. For clogged pores (whiteheads and blackheads), choose a product with salicylic acid. For tender red bumps and pimples, you’re better off with one containing benzoyl peroxide. Be sure to use a moisturizer afterward, as both of these ingredients can dry out the skin. Make sure the one you choose is labeled as “non-comedogenic”, meaning it won’t clog your pores. I recommend Neutrogena Clear Pore cleanser, PanOxyl Creamy Wash and Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion.

Reverse Wrinkles

Companies spend millions trying to sell their anti-aging products to you. Which ones really deserve your cash? For maximum benefit, look for one that contains the active ingredient “retinol”. Retinol is a form of vitamin A that has been shown to boost collagen production and smooth fine lines. Retinol can irritate the skin, so make sure to use sparingly and have a good moisturizer on hand. Try RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream.

Erase Eczema

For sensitive or eczema-prone skin, simple is best. Look for products with the fewest ingredients to minimize irritation and allergies. Bar soaps are gentler than their liquid counterparts. Apply soap sparingly and avoid anything labeled “anti-bacterial” as these can be too harsh. I recommend Vanicream bar or Dove for Sensitive Skin. Immediately after bathing, apply a cream (not lotion), to better seal in moisture. I like Aveeno Eczema Therapy cream.

Finally, Choose Cheap

Don’t be fooled by department store and boutique brands. By following the guidelines above, you can get high quality items for a fraction of the cost. In fact, the product I recommend more than any other is 100 percent pure petroleum jelly. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that. Happy shopping!

Not ready to take the plunge for a full-sized product? Stop by KMC Dermatology at 11301 Nall Avenue in Leawood on the second floor of the BMO Harris Bank Building where we have samples of many of the products mentioned above.

Anne Neeley, MD

About Anne Neeley, MD

Dr. Neeley is certified by the American Board of Dermatology. She practices at KMC Dermatology in Leawood and is currently accepting new patients. KMC Dermatology Leawood 913-451-5934

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All information provided herein is for educational purposes only. If you have a medical condition, please consult a physician to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

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