Let’s face it: Most of us will not keep up with a complicated skin care regimen. We are busy and have other things to do, but mostly we are woefully inconsistent. That means that anything we’re going to stick to has to be easy and show results.

    Dr. Helen Kim-James of Chesterfield Valley Dermatology spends a lot of time educating her patients so they know why good skin care is important and will be more likely to stick with it. “When patients ask for advice about skin care and photoaging, I always tell them to start with an SPF 30+ sunscreen,” she says. “It’s important to prevent damage that can lead to precancers and skin cancer. In addition, UV exposure causes sunspots and damages collagen and elastin, the substance that allows tissues to resume their shape after stretching. This leads to wrinkling, dull skin, pigment irregularity and skin laxity.”

    Kim-James advises her patients to use a daily moisturizer to keep hydrated. A gentle daily exfoliant helps remove dull, flaking skin so other restorative products can be more effective. Among the products she recommends are a vitamin C preparation, retinoids and growth factors. “Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can be used to prevent the free radical formation that leads to collagen breakdown,” Kim-James says. “Retinoids and growth factors work to rebuild collagen in the skin, and over time retinoids can minimize pore size.

    For patients with sunspots, a bleaching agent such as hydroquinone, especially when combined with a retinoid and a steroid, can lighten them and even-out pigmentation.” Kim-James says the overwhelming number of products available for photoaging can really confuse patients. It’s important to discuss an individualized treatment plan with a dermatologist specializing in skin diseases and photoaging. That way, the patient’s skin type and other medical conditions can be considered.

    Karen Brown, R.N., who does aesthetic treatments for Parkcrest Plastic Surgery, agrees that compliance is a problem. That’s why she tries to match a patient’s goals with his or her personality and lifestyle. Even something minor can show improvements in the first week and month, which encourages patients to continue. “Improvements start from the ground up,” she says. “It’s a wasted effort to have a complicated regimen if you won’t wash your face consistently at night. Skin care programs take more time to show improvement than, say, lasers. We try to make it simple when we can.”

    Tried and true ingredients, she says, include retinols, glycolic acid and hydroquinone. If the client isn’t going to use them long-term or has a lifestyle that works against them (like regular use of a tanning bed), she won’t see great results, Brown notes. Glycolic acid products will tighten the skin and, when packaged in a system with antioxidants to protect against future damage, they have great long-term benefit.

    “Some products have more immediate benefit,” says Brown. “We use TNS Line Refine, which, when used around the eyes and mouth, tightens the skin temporarily. If used every day, it yields some long-term effect on fine lines. When patients start to see the improvement from a consistent skin care regimen, they often return for more advanced treatments.”

    Kim Brooks, a licensed esthetician with Synergi MedSpa, says they focus on multi-purpose products that are easier to use and that save clients money. Even physician-grade cosmeceuticals can stay within the realm of department store prices, she says. And by having extensive knowledge of the ingredients and being able to prescribe in higher doses, they are more able to meet patient needs.

    “All anti-aging regimens should start with a good alphahydroxy acid (AHA) exfoliant to remove dead surface cells so other products can work more effectively,” Brooks says. “AHAs stimulate new moist skin cells and get the old stuff off. They also help push oil up and out, minimizing the appearance of pores. Glycolic acid, in particular, will reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines. Our goal is to get skin thicker and firmer with better cellular turnover. It’s like preparing the canvas for a painting.”

    After dead skin cells are removed, Brooks uses a phyto-moisture complex that includes water-binding hydrators that work with the skin’s natural moisture to increase smoothness, firmness and reduce the depth of wrinkles. “With all the stress our skin is subjected to, we need to help it be as healthy as possible, while reversing prior damage.”