How to Treat Common Skin Problems

Sunspots, wrinkles, discoloration. The sun can cause damage to your skin year-round, even in the throes of winter. Despite wearing sunscreen daily now, your skin may show the effects of those tanning oil-slathered sunbathing afternoons in your teenage years or long runs on hot sunny days without sunscreen. But don't despair: You can treat common skin ailments with some help.

Fine Lines

For active women who love outdoor sports, fighting fine lines and the signs of aging is a lifelong battle. UV rays accelerate skin damage, and with age, the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin makes wrinkles and sagging unavoidable. Because, especially for distance runners, complete sun avoidance is nearly impossible, the best line of defense is layering on antioxidant serums and heavy-duty sunscreen.

"Fine lines can first be treated with medical-grade skincare products, such as Retin A and Obagi Nuderm," says Anthony Youn, M.D., a plastic surgeon based in Rochester Hills, Mich.

Topical Treatments: Look for formulas with collagen-boosters and antioxidants that fight free radicals. Try the vitamin C and green tea skin booster and anti-wrinkle treatment Ole Henriksen Truth Serum ($48, olehenriksen.com). In addition, L'Oreal Advanced RevitaLift Double Lifting Intense Re-Tightening Gel & Anti-Wrinkle Treatment ($16, drugstores) firms and moisturizes skin.

Leave it to the Pros: Injectable dermal filler treatments such as Juvederm are popular methods for treating fine lines and sagging. Juvederm, made of hyaluronic acid, helps hydrate and add volume to the skin.

Melasma

Have you noticed splotchy brown spots on your forehead, cheeks or chin? You may be experiencing melasma, a frustratingly stubborn condition that affects more than six million women annually. "Melasma is thought to be the stimulation of melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) by the female hormones estrogen and progesterone when the skin is exposed to sun," says Carol Clinton, M.D., founder of Timeless Skin Solutions in Dublin, Ohio.

"Women who are pregnant or are on oral contraceptives are more susceptible to this condition, as are women with a light brown skin type who live in regions with intense sun exposure." Other risk factors include genetic predisposition and thyroid disease as well as stress and allergic reactions to medications or cosmetics. "Treating melasma is very difficult," says Clinton. "This is not just sun damage to your skin--your skin is overreacting to the amount of sun exposure that you have." There are a few things you can try, however.

Topical Treatments: If you're experiencing melasma, your dermatologist can prescribe skin-lightening topical creams with a combination of hydroquinone, tretinoin (retin-A) and kojic acid, Clinton says. "Glycolic and lactic acid peels are also helpful and can keep the problem in check," she says, "but these treatments are not curative and need to continue even after your skin's appearance has improved." We like GliSODin Skin Nutrients Advanced Skin Brightening Formula (glisodinskin.com, available at wellness spas, dermatologists, laser treatment centers and salons).

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