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Saturday, February 8, 2014

What I Learned at the Dermatologist

I have fair skin that's delicate as paper, prone to sunburns and turns bright red if I take a five-minute walk in seventy-degree weather. I've always had to take extra care of it (though I haven't always been as diligent as I should).

I've used various products to keep my skin looking youthful, but a recent trip to an actual dermatologist taught me a lot and I want to share it with anyone who's into skin care (and possibly, admittedly a little bit vain).

During pregnancy I developed something called Melasma on my face.

The sun has always given me splotchy freckles, but this was different. It bothered me but of course I didn't want to use any chemical products on my skin until my little one was safely out of my body. I thought about seeing a dermatologist when I went back to work, but it wasn't until one of my students told me she graduated and was working for one as a Medical Assistant that I knew where to start. She gave it a glowing review (and said if I mentioned her name I would get a friends and family discount!).

So I made an appointment at Specialists in Dermatology, a great place if you live in the Tucson area. They didn't try to sell me a bunch of products or services; their approach was more to educate me about skin care. Here were my dermatologist's recommendations for pretty much every concern I had.

1. Obaji Nu-Derm Clear for Sun Spots

For the Melasma I used Obaji Nu-Derm Clear, which not only got rid of the Melasma but also erased almost every splotchy freckle and brown spot I accumulated by tanning without abandon throughout my early twenties.

2. B5 Gel for Glow

She also told me about a magical potion called B5 gel. I don't know how, but it brightens your skin and gives you a glow I can't describe. Whenever I use it people remark that I look pretty. It's just a small thing that boosts my confidence and makes my husband do a double-take.

3. Sunscreen Newsflash

She also told me two things about sunscreen I didn't know. The first is that I need at least SPF 50. Most of us have read or been told that after a certain level, SPF isn't any more effective. But for my white Irish skin, she was adamant. The second thing: reapply every four hours. For years I've put on my sunscreen in the morning and called it good for the rest of the day. No good, says my dermatologist. Even if you're just walking from your office to your car you need to reapply, and window tint does nothing to protect your skin from the sun.

Now, I don't wear a lot of makeup on my skin so I don't mind slathering on a moisturizer with SPF midday. But if you're worried about smudging or greasiness, try this stuff a friend swears by:

4. Microdermabrasion Gets Rid of Dead Skin Cells

Okay, I did get a procedure done. For $100 I got Microdermabrasion, which doesn't hurt and essentially sloughs off the top layer of dead skin cells. Honestly, it's such a mild procedure I didn't notice too much of a difference, so until I'm bold enough to try a peel or anything painful, you'll have to wait for a review on that!

Another perk: at Specialists in Dermatology if you pay for a procedure, they will do 5-10 "extractions" for free. So she used a chemical to seal several pores I had that looked like gaping holes, got rid of a tiny skin tag on my neck, and removed a blackhead under my skin she noticed before it ever surfaced.

All in all it was a great experience. The only reason I haven't been back is a lack of free time! If you're looking for ways to improve your skin but aren't interested in plastic surgery or spending a bunch of money on products that may or may not work, talk to an expert. Dermatologists, at least in my experience, aren't salespeople or scalpel-happy doctors. It was informative and well worth the money (to me - as previously disclosed, I am a little vain). Give it a try!

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