A Dermatologist Answers Your Questions (Part 1)

A few weeks ago I asked all of you to write in and share your most pressing questions for a dermatologist. Your comments were great! The most frequently asked questions were sent to Omaha-based dermatologist Dr. Joel Schlessinger, an expert in his field. His practice employs more than 40 people, and includes an extensive research clinic as well as a day spa. 






Since I want to get in as many answers as possible, the responses have been split up into two parts. This first section focuses on sunscreens and moisturizers. Enjoy!


Real Simple: Lots of our readers were wondering, what can they do to reduce the appearance of darker spots on middle-aged skin?


Dr. Schlessinger: Sunscreen and Retin-A (or its equivalent) can do a great job, along with a form of hydroquinone. I like Obagi Clear for this, but the Obagi system works even better if used together. 


Obagi clear[1]


To buy: $76, lovelyskin.com


RS: One of our readers heard that olive oil is good for dry skin, as well as for eyelashes. She has been using some on her face and lashes at night and it seems to be working. What is your professional opinion on this?


Dr. Schlessinger: I wouldn't recommend it, as there are possible issues with getting it in the eyes and irritation. There are many different products out there for moisturizing the eyes, such as Nia24 Eye Repair Complex. In which case, it doesn't make sense to use another product. As for eyelashes, there are numerous new products, both over-the-counter and prescription. For example, Jan Marini's Marini Lash is a great over-the-counter product that works very well.


Nia 24 Eye Repair Complex

To buy: $65, Dermstore.com


Marini Lash Up
To buy: $120, dermstore.com


RS: What is the best moisturizing solution or product for dry skin, especially during the harsh winter months?  

Dr. Schlessinger: I recommend something that is both inexpensive and plentiful—meaning they should have a tube or jar that is big enough to supply them for a month or so and not go broke purchasing it. I recommend the Vanicream line or the CeraVe line, both of which are fabulous moisturizers at a great price point and available in most drugstores.


It is important to use these products more often than what you may usually think is necessary. If you have serious skin issues, try something that is thicker, rather than lighter in consistency. The mistake that most of my patients make is to reach for a product that is very light when they have serious skin issues and cracking skin. That is the worst thing they can do, as the lighter products often contain alcohol, which burns when it comes in contact with open cracks in the skin. Thicker products contain petrolatum/petroleum jelly in various forms, which doesn't sting.


RS: We have all heard how important it is to moisturize. But what about people who have oily skin, for whom moisturizing just seems to add to the oiliness—or, worse, cause breakouts. What do you suggest?


Dr. Schlessinger: Moisturizing isn't as necessary if you have oily skin. If you can’t find one that keeps your skin clear, don’t sweat it. Using an oily product on top of already adequately moisturized skin will probably lead to breakouts, so don't use [moisturizer] unless you truly need to or you will be overdoing it.


RS: Can you recommend a moisturizer with SPF that won't aggravate sensitive skin or cause breakouts?


Dr. Schlessinger: Vanicream has a fantastic SPF 30 sunscreen with little or no irritation, but it is first and foremost a sunscreen and then a moisturizer. I tell my patients that they can either get a great sunscreen or a great (fill in the blank), but they can't generally have both. Sunscreens are very difficult to create and if you want the best, it has to be designed for that task. While I love sunscreens that do double duty—such as makeups or insect repellents, etc.—they usually suffer when it comes to sun protection. 


Vanicream Moisturizer

To buy: $7, lovelyskin.com


As for breakouts, the best sunscreen on the market, in my opinion, for the acne sufferer is La Roche-Posay Anthelios 45 Ultra-Light Fluid for Face. While some people are definitely sensitive to it, as it is a chemical-based sunscreen, it is hands-down my go-to sunscreen when I have an acne-prone patient who needs protection. It is very portable and can easily fit in a pocket.



To buy: $30, laroche-posay.us


RS: With multiple layers of skin-care products being recommended, some of our readers wondered what happens once they put on a layer of cream, serum, and ointment? How do subsequent layers affect the skin? Does the first layer provide a barrier?


Dr. Schlessinger: Great point! I tell my patients that skin-care products should be applied from “thin to thick.” By this, I mean patients should put on the thinnest products first and then progress to the thicker products. This way, the barrier is on top.


I hope this advice is helpful. Part 2 will be up within the week, so look out for your questions!