Fashion & Beauty: Skin Sense Fashion & Beauty
Rx for a Holiday-Ready Complexion

There's a lot of fun to be had during this season, but there are plenty of challenges: finding the right gifts, juggling busy schedules, getting ready for holiday parties. But you don't need to let the stress show. Even when there are too many other things to think about, remember to take care of your skin.

Luckily, good skin care options have gotten easier to find as high-quality product lines have migrated to local pharmacies. You can easily pamper your skin without spending too much time or money if you choose products with effective active ingredients, rather than products with fancy packaging. So, ditch the make-up counters for now, and try a visit to your local drugstore. Here are three great ways to keep your skin in shape for the holiday season:


Stick to an anti-aging regimen. Some very effective anti-aging ingredients can be found in over-the-counter products. These include retinol and retinaldehyde, both of which are precursors of tretinoin, the active ingredient in Renova and RetinA. These ingredients can help to smooth fine lines on the face and also to even out pigmentation. Some of my favorite retinol-containing products are Roc Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, Neutrogena Visibly Even Night Concentrate and Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Intensive Night Cream. Although retinol is generally milder than its prescription cousins such as RetinA, people with very sensitive skin may do better with products containing retinal, such as Avene Eluage Cream or Gel or Avene Ystheal Emulsion. Don't forget to treat the eyes: Avene Ystheal Contour Des Yeux also contains retinaldehyde.


Exfoliate regularly. This will help keep your skin surface smooth, so that it is softer to the touch in addition to looking better. Applying products containing alpha hydroxyacids and salicylic acid can also help smooth fine lines and even out pigmentation. In addition, by thinning the top layer of dead skin cells, these products allow greater penetration of other active ingredients. Salicylic acid is also an effective treatment for acne and helps to dissolve skin oils and skin cells that clog pores. Vichy Normaderm Anti-Imperfection Hydrating Care contains both glycolic and salicylic acid, while Avene Cleanance K Oil Control Lotion contains a mixture of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids. Aveeno Clear Complexion Daily Moisturizer contains salicylic acid along with soy extract.

For enhanced exfoliation, a visit to your dermatologist for a peel can help smooth the skin even more, but you can accomplish a little bit more at home these days as well. Vichy's Peel MicroAbrasion kit at-home peels offer a mixture of glycolic and lactic acids, while Roc Resurfacing Facial Peel and Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Facial Peel kits contain small particles that gently abrade and smooth the upper layers of the skin.


Get some color. You can safely get a bit of a tan this winter without leaving home for a sunny vacation. Try a daily moisturizer with a small amount of self-tanner, such as Aveeno Continuous Radiance moisturizing lotion, Jergen's Natural Glow or L'Oreal Sublime Glow Daily Moisturizer. These products gradually add color, producing a more natural-looking skin tone than stronger self-tanners.

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More About Doctor Herschenfeld, M.D.

Dr. Rachel Herschenfeld's practice is based in Wellesley, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, she completed residencies in Internal Medicine and Dermatology, then joined two other dermatologists to found Dermatology Partners, Inc. Dr. Herschenfeld is board certified in Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Herschenfeld performs cosmetic procedures including Botox, Restylane, collagen, Sculptra, and laser treatments for many conditions.
Dr. Rachael Herschenfeld is a practicing dermatologist. Her answers here should not replace medical advice. To submit a question, e-mail We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

Doctor Q&A

In the winter, my husband's knuckles and fingers get bright red, dry and start to crack. He seems to need to put lotion on constantly, which helps a little with the dryness, but does nothing for the redness. Is there anything else he can try?
- M.D.
It sounds like this man has hand dermatitis, which often is worse in the winter. When the air gets colder and dryer, the skin also dries out and dermatitis usually gets worse. Moisturizing is an essential part of treating this condition, but I would recommend a good moisturizing cream, rather than a lotion. Some good creams for dry hands include Cerave moisturizing cream and Aquaphor Healing Ointment. In addition to moisturizing, it is important to avoid harsh chemicals that can make hand dermatitis worse. This includes detergents and dishwashing liquids, so it is helpful to wear gloves while doing household chores such as washing dishes. Also, many people with hand dermatitis benefit from using topical steroids or other topical anti-inflammatory medications, so a visit to your dermatologist would make sense.
Theoretically, isn't it possible to "reverse" hair loss by replacing the hormones and/or vitamins, minerals, amino acids which have been diminished through aging? Also, is there any supplement that can help prevent hair follicles from "releasing" the hairs in over-abundance?
- C.W.
I am losing hair and have been diagnosed with telogen effluvium. I have also been diagnosed with alopecia due to a bald patch. After the dermatologist diagnosed me, a homeopathic doctor suggested I take three doses a day of Vitamin C (500 mg each time) and a 25 mg dose of Zinc once per day. Do you think these supplements may help? Could they harm me if I begin them?
- S.J.
Hair loss is a complicated problem and can be caused by many different processes, some of which I discussed in my last column. Hair loss associated with aging is not simply due to loss of hormones, vitamins, minerals or amino acids, and it cannot be easily reversed with vitamin supplements. Telogen effluvium, in which many hairs are shed simultaneously, often after a severe illness or stressful event, likewise cannot be prevented by any known supplement. There is no good evidence that taking vitamin C and Zinc supplements will reverse telogen effluvium or other types of hair loss, although taking these supplements is unlikely to cause harm. Telogen effluvium usually improves on its own after six months or a year, and age-associated hair loss can often improve with use of topical minoxidil and oral finasteride (Propecia), which is available by prescription.


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