Ask An Expert: What's the Skinny on Skincare?by Megan Sayers
Great skin never goes out of style. But between scars, acne, dark under-eye circles, stretch marks and sun damage, we've got our work cut out for us! Not to worry ladies, we've got you (and your skin) covered.
We tapped an expert, Dr. Ellen Gendler, a dermatologist for Venus Razors, to answer all your tough skincare queries.
Renowned for her straightforward, gimmick-free approach to skincare, Dr. Ellen Gendler is highly regarded as a leading authority in cosmetic dermatology. In keeping with her back-to-basics skincare philosophy, she strongly believes that dermatological treatments must be supported by a minimalist skincare regime to maintain luminous skin.
Read on to discover how to keep and maintain healthy, radiant skin!
ModernMom: Is it true that Vitamin E is good for fading scars? Is it more effective to use pure Vitamin E oil or to use scar fading products that use Vitamin E such as Mederma?
Dr. Ellen Gendler: There’s actually no evidence supporting that Vitamin E can help scars fade. Massaging the area with Vitamin E or other oil can help flatten a scar that is raised (the oil minimizes friction when you massage it). I’d also recommend trying a silicone patch on the scar to help flatten it.
MM: Is it possible to get rid of stretch marks or are they permanent? What are the best products out there for fading stretch marks?
EG: Unfortunately, there are no products or treatments out there to completely get rid of stretch marks. Some lasers can help when the marks are in the early stages (red), but using a moisturizer with lactic acid is probably the best product out there, helping skin to stay hydrated which can help reduce the likelihood of stretch marks forming.
MM: What's the best way to exfoliate? How often should we exfoliate?
EG: I’d recommend exfoliating once a week, using a washcloth with cleanser that has evenly shaped particles - stay away from anything with particles like shells that can be too abrasive.
MM: What is the best body skincare regiment to use to help even out skin tone? (Bodywash, lotion, etc.)
EG: The areas that look uneven, or the areas with more pigment is a result of the skin trying to protect itself after sun exposure. Rather than get back out in the sun, I’d recommend using self-tanner in those areas specifically - I like the ones that have color to them, so you can see where you apply it.
MM: There are so many anti-aging creams out there that it is difficult to know which are best. Are drugstore brands like Olay just as good as the more expensive, higher end brands?
EG: Yes, it’s true that drugstore brands can be well made and just as effective as costly ones. The important thing is that you find and then stick with a product that works for you. I always tell my patients - if it ain’t broke - don’t fix it!
MM: What is the best way to get rid of dark circles under your eyes?
EG: No one is quite sure of the cause of these circles and there unfortunately isn’t a way to get rid of them completely. It can be pigment of the skin, but more often it’s the appearance of deep blood vessels under the skin. Sometimes bleaching creams can be of help, but will usually just minimize the appearance. I wouldn’t recommend trying a bleaching cream without doctor supervision though.
MM: When prescriptions of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide don't help rid of acne, what is the next best option for acne treatment without having to take medications that end up causing more problems like Acutane?
EG: Just because salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide don’t clear a case of acne, it doesn’t necessarily mean that oral medications need to be used. Each case is individual. Sometimes there are mechanical causes for the acne, such as overuse of heavy moisturizers, use of incorrect cleansers, not washing the skin frequently enough. Hormonal issues can be at play, and those need to be diagnosed by a physician and addressed properly. Oral medications do not necessarily cause more problems. Accutane is a wonderful medication for the right patient and can often mean the difference between a face full of scars for life and beautiful skin.
MM: What is the best level of SPF to use when outside in the sun? I have heard that there is actually not much of a difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30.
EG: SPF refers only to protection from UVB. We now know that UVA rays penetrate more deeply than UVB and are probably responsible for more of the sun damage we experience. While it is important to use a high number SPF, it is equally important to use a sunscreen that has a good protectant against UVA, I recommend an SPF of 50 and a high PPD factor, which is the European rating system for UVA. There is a big difference between an SPF of 15 and 30, but more of the problem is that people continue to tan with both of them and don’t understand why--it’s because they are not being shielded adequately from UVA, the tanning rays.
MM: What is your best tip or trick for maintaining great skin?
EG: First and foremost - avoid sun damage! Also, keep it clean, keep product use simple, and keep your hands off!
MM: Can you clarify some shaving myths? What is the best way to shave?
EG: It’s a common myth that men’s razors are better for women, but it’s actually not true. The skin, surface area and the hair is very different than that on a man’s face. Venus razors were actually designed with features made for those tricky areas like knees and ankles with a pivoting head and can still give you the close shave you’re looking for.
It’s also a myth that shaving causes hair to grow back quicker or thicker - not true!
The best way to shave is with a wet surface and to use shave gel or a razor with built-in shave gel bars. I’d recommend Venus ProSkin MoistureRich, which has these built-in shave gel bars which protect skin.
Dr. Gendler is a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at New York University School of Medicine where she was a director of the Contact Dermatitis Division for many years; Dr. Gendler is also a fellow of The American Academy of Dermatology and a former trustee of The Dermatology Foundation. Additionally, she has served as the director of the widely attended Cosmetics Symposium at the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting for many years, and is known by colleagues for her creative lecturing style. She is the author of numerous scientific publications and is regularly quoted in all the popular magazines.
An honors graduate of Wesleyan University, Dr. Gendler earned her medical degree at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. After her internship in internal medicine, she completed her residency in dermatology at the New York University Medical Center Skin and Cancer Unit with additional training at St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin in London.