Breeze by any beauty counter and you’ll see remedies for almost every skin health malady imaginable. From dark spots and hyperpigmentation to chronic dry skin, all a girl has to do is find a problem area and there’s a product just for her — maybe even in her favorite scent.
Truly, much credit should be given to the advances made in the skincare industry, as products are more effective and consumer-conscious than ever before. But is it okay to solve our beauty blemishes over the counter? Is it possible that our issues are beyond skin deep?
Why We Shouldn’t “Mask” Skincare Matters
It’s one thing to treat the occasional zit or putting on a calming mask after that abrasive face scrub you shouldn’t have used. It’s another to play doctor in your bathroom vanity to address a concern that keeps reappearing. If your issue is chronic — meaning lasting more than a few weeks — it’s best to turn off YouTube and turn to the pros.
Yes, it’s wonderful that there are many social media channels dedicated to healthy skin. But even more helpful is having an in-person physical evaluation. (Because it’s hard to assess someone’s skin type through a screen.) And sometimes, your friendly social influencer with the perfect glass skin could be absolutely wrong. There’s just as much good advice on the internet as there are bad and even dangerous recommendations. (Baking soda and lemon juice masks, anyone?)
So spare your pretty face and look closely at some of the most common skincare concerns that serums and toners just can’t correct.
Dark Spots and Patches Could Be Hormonal, or Something More...
Hyperpigmentation — the fancy word for dark marks on the skin — is one of the hardest skin issues to tackle. (I’m convinced that if I just look at my skin incorrectly I’ll get a dark mark.) One common reason for darkened patches on the cheeks and forehead that just won’t go away is a chronic condition called melasma.
Those familiar with melasma may attribute it to pregnancy and they’re correct, as it affects anywhere from 15-50% of pregnant women. This is due to the increase in the hormone estrogen during pregnancy, but the birth control pill and hormone therapies can increase the risk of melasma in non-pregnant women, too. Fortunately, this condition is harmless. The bad news: it’ll stick around for a very long time and can worsen with exposure to UV rays and even certain skincare products. If you think you have melasma, talk to your primary care provider about it to learn which skincare therapies can help you improve your appearance.
Melasma will stick around for a very long time and can worsen with exposure to UV rays.
Another common health condition that could show up as dark spots is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. After an area of the skin has been injured (you know, from picking at a pimple too much), our body responds by sending melanin cells to the affected area. Congratulations, you now have a dark mark. While it’s second nature to slather on the vitamin C serum, it’s important to get to the source of the inflammation itself (or it will just reappear).
Excessive sunlight exposure is one very common cause of dark spots that you can usually correct with a high SPF sunscreen (and time). But more seriously, autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis and even lupus could be the culprit for hyperpigmentation, and these issues definitely call for medical intervention as they can cause damage to joints and vital organs.
Scaly Skin Could Need More Than Fancy Creams
Before you grab grandma’s can of Crisco as a last resort, know that it’s okay to talk to a dermatologist about your scaly, itchy patches. Once upon a time, we did what we could with oatmeal baths and other kitchen remedies to scratch that itch and fight flakes. For the most part, these feel good but sadly aren’t effective enough to do good. Drugstore products have come a long way in helping manage chronic dry skin, but if your itch is insatiable, no cream will cover it up.
In fact, you could be one of the 31 million people living with eczema — a common skin condition that’s to blame for stubborn itching and redness. It’s chronic — meaning long-lasting — and can be triggered by something as basic as wearing a scratchy sweater to something as inconspicuous as your stress levels and even exercise. Plus, it can show up literally anywhere on the body.
Eczema can be triggered by your clothing or even your stress levels or exercise.
Eczema is nothing to gloss over. If left unchecked, this condition can make you susceptible to infection. This diagnosis is likely to change your entire beauty regimen because your daily cleanser, shampoos, and trendy treatments can contribute to chronic inflammation. Even natural products can be suspect. This is where an allergist or dermatologist comes into play to recommend a regimen to calm the skin and treat irritation while helping you reach your beauty goals.
Chronic Redness and Bumpiness Should Raise Some Red Flags
Random rosiness in all the wrong places? Pimples that aren’t really pimples? These are some of the common signs of rosacea, which is common in women with fair complexions. (Though rosacea can also affect darker skin tones). This condition can make foundation makeup hard to match and have you reaching for acne spot treatments when that’s not even the issue. As with eczema, exercise, temperature changes, and even your beauty products can cause rosacea flare-ups.
Did you know Princess Diana had rosacea? The famous royal family member attributed a healthy diet and not sleeping with makeup on among her best beauty secrets to managing the skin condition. She also always wore sunscreen, something everyone should be doing regardless. Still, a date with the dermatologist can offer a more specific routine for when that natural “blush” just won't go away.
Why You Should Just Set the Appointment Already
If you’ve never seen a dermatologist before, it can be nerve-wracking to set your first appointment. You probably imagine feeling overexposed with a doctor examining your skin. But trust that a visit with a licensed professional could be the best investment in your beauty that you’ll ever make.
A visit with a licensed professional could be the best investment in your beauty that you’ll ever make.
But who should you visit? Know the important differences between each of these professionals and the issues they’re trained to address:
If you’re breaking out or flaring up after something you ate or that new beauty product you tried, you’ll want to talk to an allergist. This medical professional can diagnose and treat eczema, dermatitis, hives, and other related conditions with medications and topical therapies.
Then there are estheticians, the licensed professional every gorgeous IG model shamelessly plugs for her enviable glass skin regimen. While these specialists can give you a pretty awesome facial, they can’t diagnose your skin problems. For this, you’ll want to go deeper with the help of a dermatologist.
A dermatologist can perform the therapies and treatments above but can also help manage scars and acne, treat wounds, and diagnose unusual growths and moles. They can prescribe medication.
The wrong thing to do is to treat your struggling skin with only over-the-counter remedies or natural concoctions from your kitchen and avoid what could be a very important doctor's visit. Dermatologists are not only skilled at giving you the gorgeous glow you’ve been looking for, but also detecting and treating early signs of serious conditions such as skin cancer. In this case, your quest for beauty could become a path to a healthier you.
With all of the skincare options available, it can feel empowering to take your beauty into your own hands. But for the things you can’t fix on your own, there’s a professional just waiting to help you shine your brightest.
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