Maybe it’s a birthday ending in zero, or dressing room lights with a mean streak. Whatever motivates someone to seek help with their aging skin, they often go to the dermatologist (or the cosmetics counter) hoping for the one fix, the one product or treatment that will give them that healthy glow. But the best results often involve a plan, not just a single step or service. “You have to look at the whole picture,” says dermatologist Dr. Helen Kim-James. “People are so focused on If I get this procedure done or if I use this particular cream. You need to take a step back and see what can be done for the overall health of your skin!” A good plan begins by addressing individual concerns, she says. “When you talk about aging and wrinkling, there are so many different aspects, so I always want to find out from patients exactly what they are unhappy about. Maybe they want to work on wrinkles, but also unwanted pigment marks, dullness or enlarged pores. You have to understand what you really want to change.”

In her practice, Kim-James offers familiar treatments like Botox and Juvéderm injections, as well as ‘nutraceutical’ product lines such as Obagi, Neocutis and Revaléskin. “Nutraceuticals are skin-care products that are usually stronger than what you can buy over the counter. Some of them have prescription- strength ingredients and that’s why they are dispensed at a physician’s office.” The choice is a matter of what issue is being addressed, she adds. “With sunscreens, moisturizers or cleansers, you don’t necessarily need to invest in the higher-end products, but when it comes to products for sun damage, I think the money is well spent.”

Kim-James believes that the best skin care regimen begins with prevention and improving the overall health of the body, and therefore the skin. “There are so many factors involved in aging—genetics and environment certainly play a role—but there are lifestyle choices, as well, especially diet.” There is definite scientific data to support the idea that a particular diet can help influence the aging process, she adds. “The benefit of approaching skin care from a nutritional standpoint is, you have the potential to benefit all of your skin, not just where cosmetics are applied, and maybe help the overall health of the body, as well.”

Antioxidants (chemicals that protect cells by neutralizing free radicals that can damage skin) are often a part of skin-care conversations. “That’s been the big buzz,” notes Kim- James. “Things like lycopene and lutein, which are found in certain fruits and vegetables, as well as green tea and dark chocolate. Incorporating these elements into your diet can help with the damage caused by free radicals. And dark chocolate always gets everybody’s attention because who doesn’t love chocolate, right?”

The doctor’s company, Enteral Health & Nutrition (EHN) has developed an antioxidant chocolate square specifically formulated to improve skin health. “The cocoa bean is actually one of the most powerful natural antioxidants in the world,” she explains. “But most chocolate is processed by the Dutch method, which actually strips away most of the flavonoid antioxidants. Our chocolate squares are processed specifically to preserve the high antioxidant capacity of the ingredients.” Initial clinical trials demonstrate that these ingredients, consumed regularly, can help to improve skin’s hydration and microcirculation. “So you can take something people enjoy, and actually hydrate the skin and improve overall health.”