One fix doesn’t fit all. With diverse complexions in mind, here’s your #nofilter guide to near-perfect skin
You don’t need to have dry skin to get dehydrated skin. Confused yet? The former is a permanent con-dition in which skin struggles to hold onto moisture because it can’t make enough sebum and lipids. Dehydration, on the other hand, is a temporary skin state that can strike anyone—even oily types—and change on a dime, from one hour to the next, explains dermatologist Dr. Victor Georgescu, the international medical director for Eau Thermale Avène. Since humans are water-based creatures in a heat-blasted world, moisture is evaporating 24-7. When skin gets flaky and parched, even more water escapes through the cracks, resulting in lacklustre blahness and rough texture. (And don’t assume you’re immune to dehydration if your skin is oily and acne-prone; once water-deprived, your face will overcompensate by manufacturing more grease.)
Some fair complexions, including those of northern and eastern European descent, are more likely to have dry skin, says Dr. Georgescu, making them prone to dehydration, too, which can show up as tightness and flakiness. In contrast, oily skin may be more common among Asians and those with darker complexions, he adds, and their signs of dehydration include wrinkle-like fine lines. Luckily, they’re superficial (like crinkles in bedsheets) rather than permanent lines deeply rooted in the dermis (think droopy mattresses). That’s why moisturizing smooths out these creases in a flash.
To keep skin quenched and plump, use creams containing a combo of these three basic ingredient types: humec-tants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid (these draw water into the skin), emollients like plant oils (these smooth skin by filling in micro-gaps) and occlusives like silicone or zinc oxide (these create a physical barrier to block evaporation). Find a texture that suits your skin type: rich and creamy if you’re dry, and light or gel-like if you’re oily.
While we can all suffer from flare-ups, certain ethnic skin types (including black, Hispanic and Asian) are more likely to face a bonus challenge once a blemish clears: a lingering dark mark, known as post-in-flammatory hyperpigmentation. “It can last a few months or sometimes even a couple of years,” says Dr. Roni Munk, a Montreal-based consulting dermatologist for Vichy. In comparison, fair skin is more likely to experience post-pimple redness that can last a few weeks or months.
Prevent pores from getting clogged in the first place. When high-school scrubs just aren’t enough, vitamin A–derivative creams are the best treatment for whiteheads and blackheads, says Dr. Munk. These formulas, which include over-the-counter retinol and prescription retinoids, work by making cell turnover more regular to avoid buildup. To treat red pimples, benzoyl peroxide is A+ for purging pores, killing P. acnes bacteria and reducing the inflammation that can lead to dark marks. For those who find benzoyl peroxide too drying, salicylic acid is gentler on skin. Finally, to prevent post-zit dark marks, SPF is a must. UV exposure triggers melanin production, so sunscreen is really important if you don’t want your cells to pump out excess pigmentation while you’re trying to treat existing dis-coloration. “If you’re in the sun unprotected, [the marks] will last forever,” says Dr. Munk.
1. EAU THERMALE AVÈNE
Hydrance Optimale Hydrating Skin Tone Perfector, $38, puts glycerin and mineral-rich thermal spring water (used to treat irritated skin at its Hydrotherapy Centre in France) into a souped-up tinted lotion, available in light and rich formulas.
2. THEFACESHOP Hydro Gel Mask Sheet Vita E, $3, deep quenches in 20 minutes.
3. EAU THERMALE AVÈNE Cleanance Hydra Cream, $25, is a safflower seed oil–rich, non-comedogenic fix for skin parched from intensive acne treatments, like Accutane.
If you’re still battling breakouts long past prom, blame three factors: your skin’s hormone-fuelled oil glands producing more grease than you need, lots of P. acnes bacteria eager for that sebum, and dead skin cells that want to stick together and clog pores instead of flaking off. Combine these factors and voila: pimples.
WHAT’S HAPPENING So-called “signs of aging” are, in fact, signs of damage from sun, smoke, smog and stress. UV exposure causes the most skin mayhem, which is why (cue the broken record) you need a daily sunscreen. Then there’s pollution: “[These] particles are about 20 to 40 times smaller than your pores, so they can easily get in there and cause damage,” warns Dr. Dendy Engelman, a consulting dermatologist for Elizabeth Arden. All that sun and environmental dam-age wreaks havoc on your DNA, and free radicals and inflammation lead to fine lines and sun spots, which can show up as early as your late 20s.
COLOUR THEORY Darker skin and Asian complexions are slower to show wrinkles than pale, sunburn-prone faces, but they can develop discoloration and age spots sooner. Caucasian skin tends to be thinner and dryer, so fine lines become visible earlier—particularly around the delicate eye area. Ethnicity may also affect sensitiv-ity to some anti-aging ingredients. Fair-skinned people of northern and eastern European ancestry (Celtic, English, Scottish) are most susceptible to rosacea, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association, which means they have to be extra cautious to avoid irritation.
Retinoids (including over-the-counter retinol) have been praised by doctors for decades for their do-it-all ability to boost collagen, fade discolor-ation and smooth texture. But if you have sensitive or fair skin or you’re a retinol virgin, minimize the potential for flaky irritation by easing into it: apply the product once every two or three nights, until you know your skin can tolerate it, before ramping up the frequency. Or go for formulas that keep intense active ingredients in check by balancing them with sensi-tive-skin soothers. You can also find gentle “boosters,” a.k.a. pre-serums, that strengthen skin in prep for other products.
1. DERMALOGICA Age Smart Overnight Retinol Repair, $111, contains an aloe-enriched buffer to minimize retinol’s irritation.
2. CHANEL Le Weekend Édition Douce, $125, for sensitive skin, gently exfoliates with a slow-release glycolic acid, cushioned by arginine and soothing rosewater.
3. ELIZABETH ARDENSuperstart Skin Renewal Booster, $88, uses a robiotic complex to defend vulnerable skin from environmental assaults.,