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The guide to good skin

Need a little boost in the skin-care department but don’t have the budget for professional treatments? We have fixes for every dilemma. Get ready to put your best face forward

Redness

The problem: The most common cause of redness is rosacea, which results from fragile capillaries that dilate beneath the skin’s surface. “Skin can evolve from redness to full-blown rosacea over time, so the quicker action is taken, the better,” says Kateline Turgeon, national training manager at La Roche-Posay.
At-home solution: Use products that are specially formulated for sensitive skin and avoid abrasive exfoliants. “No cream can close a blood vessel. But soothing ingredients or anti-inflammatory botanical extracts can be very effective in bringing relief to the skin,” says Jean-François Tremblay, a dermatologist affiliated with the Université de Montréal hospital and medical director of the MédIME clinic.

Visible pores

The problem: Pores are a fact of life — everyone has them. But big, unsightly ones (especially common on oily areas of your face) are a whole other story. “The skin’s pores dilate when it is producing excess sebum,” explains Tremblay.
At-home solution: Tremblay recommends using a good cleanser paired with an astringent, and frequent masks that will “help lift oil and rid pores of excess sebum.” You can also use exfoliating products that contain salicylic or glycolic acid, which help remove dead skin cells that get stuck in dilated pores, eventually causing blackheads and blemishes.

Hyper-pigmentation

The problem: “Brown marks, falsely called ‘age spots,’ are actually triggered by sun exposure,” says Turgeon. They appear when the skin produces excess melanin (skin’s pigment), which can also be caused by skin irritation.
At-home solution: First, talk to your doc to make sure they’re nothing serious. Then, to treat spots, opt for brightening creams with hydroquinone, plant extracts or kojic acid, which inhibit the activity of tyrosinase (responsible for creating melanin) and correct pigment irregularities. These ingredients are often coupled with exfoliating AHA or fruit acids, which slough off dead skin cells, allowing the active agents to penetrate deeper. Results vary depending on the type of spot and its colour, though, and effectiveness is gradual. “It can take three months or more to treat brown spots but only 15 minutes in the sun to make them worse,” says Turgeon. The real key is to always use a sunscreen and wear a hat.

Breakouts

The problem: “At its root, you are genetically predisposed to acne, but that’s not to say that hormones don’t also play a role,” says Tremblay. This explains why acne can pop up during pregnancy or times of intense stress, or at some stages of your menstrual cycle. Why do breakouts happen? If a pore becomes blocked, sebum continues to build up and the resulting bacteria create an inflammation that causes pimples.
At-home solution: Diligent hygiene can help control the problem, and cleansers formulated for oily or acne-prone skin that contain antibacterial ingredients can work wonders. “To reduce the occurrence of blackheads, opt for chemical exfoliants rather than mechanical ones, which involve abrasion,” says Turgeon. For occasional blemishes caused by your menstrual cycle or stress, try a topical gel or localized treatment that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

Wrinkles

The problem: Wrinkles appear when collagen and elastin wear down as we age and skin loses its elasticity. “It’s a question of genes, but also of external aggressors like UV rays,” says Lucy Papa, executive vice-president of Canderm Pharma.
At-home solution: “Retinol or tretinoin creams can repair some damage associated with ageing and smooth wrinkles, but it is a relatively gentle effect that happens with a long-term commitment,” says Tremblay. Chemical skin exfoliation with glycolic acid helps break down dead skin and stimulate cellular renewal, on top of smoothing fine lines. Or try vitamin C — an antioxidant that stimulates the production of new collagen fibres and fights against free radicals that age the skin. And given that about 80 percent of the signs of ageing are caused by UV rays, the best solution is prevention.

Dull complexion

The problem: Skin can look lacklustre — think dull, with grey or yellowish undertones, blotchiness or roughness — for a variety of different reasons. As we age, the skin’s collagen degenerates, the epidermis thins, natural exfoliation is less uniform and blood circulation is less effective. The result? Skin doesn’t reflect light as well as it once did.
At-home solution: Glycolic-acid peels and at-home micro-dermabrasion are good additions to a beauty ritual to create a uniform skin texture. Retinol or tretinoin creams can help with collagen regeneration. “Skin can also be livened up with vitamin C,” adds Papa.

Dehydration

The problem: You can have dry skin for several reasons, but first and foremost, dryness is the result of the skin’s inability to retain water. The weather doesn’t help: “In Canada, extreme climate conditions and the changing seasons don’t play in our favour,” says Tremblay. “Our hydration needs vary a lot; it is therefore impossible for the same cream to work year-round.”
At-home solution: Choose an appropriate cleanser, like a cream or gel formula that is soap-free or lipid-rich, along with an alcohol-free toner. As for moisturizer, it should be enriched with humectants (such as glycerin, urea and hyaluronic acid) and emollients (such as shea butter) to form a protective layer on the skin’s surface and enhance its moisture-barrier function. Above everything, apply moisturizer immediately after showering, while skin is still damp, to aid absorption.

Dark circles

The problem: Several culprits are to blame for dark circles. The most common? “Firstly, they can be caused by the loss of volume of fat under the eyes (which creates a shadow when light comes from above), a condition that is often hereditary. Don’t forget that the skin under the eye thins with age, making blood vessels more visible,” explains Tremblay.
At-home solution: Focus on lifestyle — there’s nothing better than eight hours of sleep a night. And home remedies can be effective. “Cold compresses or frozen cucumber rounds applied to the eyes prevent water retention,” says Tremblay. For blue-tinged circles, look for products with active ingredients like caffeine to help shrink blood vessels, making them less apparent on the surface. “Vitamin K [often used before surgery to avoid bruising] can help reinforce blood vessels under the eye and retinol can help build collagen to thicken the skin,” says Papa. If the dark circles are solely a pigment issue (typically brownish circles), try a brightening cream.