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Ask any dermatologist or plastic surgeon when the best time of year is to do a laser (of any kind) and I guarantee you the answer will be a resounding, “WINTER!”
During the winter months, generally, skin is less exposed to the sun, which can easily undo what a laser just fixed. That’s not to say that the sun isn’t out and doing damage unto your skin from December through April, but it’s just that people are less likely to spend time in the sun (unprotected).
No matter what type of laser you opt for this winter, taking care of your skin post-procedure is just as important as taking care of your skin every day.
Skin that has been "lasered" is sensitive, easily irritated and compromised. Washing the skin with cleansers that are harsh and stripping, like those that are acid-based or exfoliating, can actually damage your skin. You’ll want to keep your skin as clean as possible, which may mean limiting makeup (ask your doctor when you can start wearing makeup again and which formulas are best for you) and the use of your regular skin care products, especially those with ingredients like acids and retinoids.
If your skin is red and swollen after you’ve been treated, make sure to apply cold compresses and ice packs to the area, as this will help mitigate some of the inflammation. Sleeping in an elevated position with an extra pillow or two can help, too.
Colleyville, TX facial plastic surgeon Yadro Ducic, MD says what’s most important is moisture preservation. “Simple products like Aquaphor and various other occlusive moisturizers are all adequate,” he adds. A lack of moisture post-treatment can cause the skin to scab and may even delay (and in some cases compromise) the healing process. Torrance, CA plastic surgeon Linda Swanson, MD has patients use EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex ($45) to help replenish moisture in their skin.
“Two weeks after the laser, patients are ready for manual skin exfoliation,” says Dr. Swanson. “I find that dermaplaning works well to help get all the additional transitional skin off and create a non-flaky appearance.”
Sun protection is of the utmost importance because skin is vulnerable in the healing phase. Failure to wear a good SPF can cause the treated skin to actually become more damaged than it was pre-treatment and also for dark spots to form. We like Bare Republic Mineral Face Sunscreen ($15), which protects against both UVA and UVB rays and offers an SPF of 30.
Bad habits are hardly ever unique to just you—and the same goes for the ones you are making with your skin. Celebrity aesthetician Renee Rouleau says she sees these blunders all the time. Here’s how to break them.
Mistake #1: Caring for your blemishes—the wrong way
Call them zits, pimples, acne or blemishes. Bottom line: Most people will get them at certain periods in their life, and some will get them more severe than others. “Where most people go wrong is in how they treat the blemish once it appears,” Rouleau says. “Picking at it—or what I like to refer to as ‘performing minor surgery in the mirror’—applying spot treatments at the wrong phase of thebreakout, and using the wrong breakout treatments on the wrong kinds of blemishes. All of these will result in a blemish lasting longer and leaving a post-breakout red or dark scar than can linger for months.”
Mistake #2: Using too many exfoliating products too often
In reference to skin care products, Rouleau says she has recently noticed the "If it’s not burning or stinging, it’s not working" trend. “In the quest to look younger and have smoother skin, people are doing too many aggressive exfoliating treatments that are actually injuring their skin. Too much exfoliation can cause a damaged moisture barrier, resulting in flaking, dehydration and inflammation, possible destruction of healthy cells, and a stimulation of melanin activity causing increased hyperpigmentation.”
Mistake #3: Not wearing sunscreen daily and not applying it generously enough
For starters, the number-one reason why your skin will get premature aging is from sunlight, daylight and UV rays—period—and Rouleau says 78 percent of those rays come from incidental exposure. “These are all the times when you don’t think you’re getting the damaging rays, like driving in the car, sitting in your home or office near windows or walking outside on a cloudy winter day when people don’t feel like they need sun protection. If you want to prevent wrinkles, wearing sunscreen365 days a year, rain or shine, inside or out, is a must. But in order for the SPF to truly protect your skin and prevent the harmful UV rays from damaging it, the formula has to be applied generously or it will not provide adequate protection. If you have a sunscreen that feels too heavy on your skin, you’ll probably only apply a small amount and you’re not doing your skin any good.” Her advice: Find one you love (she likes her Daily Protection SPF 30) and load it on every single day.
Mistake #4: Either using alcohol-based toners or skipping this step in your routine entirely
“Toners are an important step in a skin care regimen and should be used daily,” Rouleau says, but adds that, using one loaded with alcohol will only dehydrate your skin and cause an increase in dull cell buildup. "If you’re not using one, it’s usually because you notice that it leaves your skin feeling dry, so you’ll skip it completely and miss out on important skin benefits. Alcohol-free toners should be used after every cleansing because they offer the following benefits: They give your skin a drink of moisture when left damp on the skin before applying moisturizer, they remove drying chlorines and minerals found in tap water, and because damp skin is 10 times more permeable than dry skin, when left damp, they can carry the active ingredients of your serum and moisturizer (applied after) deeper within your skin.”
Mistake #5: Not taking care of your neck
Most women know to apply moisturizer daily and nightly to their neck, and many do. But the mistake: Treating your neck as an afterthought. “A woman will typically rub moisturizer onto her face and then whatever is left over on her fingertips will extend down onto her neck,” Rouleau says. Sound like you? “While the intention is good, it’s truly not helping that much in the quest for smooth, moist skin on the neck. This particularly applies with sunscreen, which is considered to be the best anti-aging product in the world. The little amount being applied as an afterthought is hardly enough to do its intended job because sunscreen needs to be applied generously in order to offer full sun protection.”
Mistake # 6: Using skin care products incorrectly
When instructions are given to you by an aesthetician or skin care professional or written on the product itself, Rouleau says it’s very important to follow them. “Many issues created by skin care products that seem to not work or cause non-favorable reactions, can be resolved by simply using the product correctly. For example, some people feel that when they are using products to reduce breakouts, it’s best to use them more often so that they will work better. However, in the case of acid serums, this is not a good practice. Acid serums, like those that contain glycolic, salicylic or lactic acid, are designed to reduce clogged pores and breakouts to promote clearer skin. They should not be overused because too much exfoliation can actually increase breakouts for some people due to irritation and inflammation. I cannot stress the importance of making sure that you thoroughly read the instructions on the back of skin care products before using them on your skin. Cosmetic formulators create products with certain intentions and using them as directed will give you the best results.”
Mistake #7: Not using the right skin routine to care for both wrinkles and breakouts
This one is common for those who are 25–35 who still get clogged pores and breakouts, yet they are noticing fine lines and wrinkles. “Their home routine is either only addressing the breakouts with drying acne products, or they don’t have anything to prevent blemishes and they are using heavier anti-aging products,” Rouleau says. “I realize that this type of skin is probably the most challenging because what your skin really needs is the best of both worlds. Any acne product that leaves your skin feeling tight, dry and irritated is most definitely a no-no, as this creates dry skin cell buildup on the surface that traps oil and bacteria within the pores and can lead to more breakouts. Any anti-aging product that feels remotely greasy on your skin is not good either because acne-prone skin needs less oil because oil breeds bacteria and bacteria leads to breakouts. I would say the best strategy for managing all your skin’s needs is to use a gentle salicylic acid exfoliant under moisturizer three nights a week.”
Mistake #8: Not wearing foundation daily
“Some of my clients hide their wrinkles, blemishes, scarring and brown spots under makeup, and they come to me with the goal of perfecting their skin so they can go makeup-free,” Rouleau says. “Other clients don’t have much they want to cover up, so they think that wearing foundation makeup is not needed and that not wearing it is helping their skin by letting it 'breathe.' For starters, the skin doesn’t have a respiratory system, so thinking that the skin breathes is a total myth. I like to educate my clients to think of makeup as a skin care product because during daylight hours it protects your skin from UV light and environmental damage. Most forms of liquid or powder foundations contain ingredients like titanium dioxide that act as a natural sun protectant. Even if your makeup doesn’t indicate it has SPF, it is definitely still guarding your skin from the sun’s rays.”
Mistake #9: Not exfoliating often with the right type of exfoliant
Most people have a facial scrub in their bathroom, but they only use it “when they remember.” Rouleau says, “Exfoliation is one of the best things you can do for your skin, so you’re missing out on some major skin improvement when you only use it once in a while. I like facial scrubs—using them three times a week is really beneficial—but I encourage my less-disciplined clients to instead use an exfoliating acid serum underneath their moisturizer three nights a week. An acid serum uses ingredients like glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids; when applied to the skin and left on overnight, they work deeply to dissolve the glue that holds dead cells together, revealing a brighter, smoother and clearer appearance in the morning. If you’re going to take the time for an extra step in your routine, you might as well make it one that’s really going to benefit your skin the most, and an acid serum is the BEST way to go.”