Ah, retinol. When it comes to defense against fine lines and maintaining a healthy glow, there’s no ingredient in skincare more lauded. The irony? Even though the revolutionary youth-enhancing active is a mainstay of drugstores, department store counters, and dermatologist offices alike, it still manages to mystify. And thus, is often misused or underutilized.

To bring it back to the basics, retinol—alongside other retinoids, such as retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate—is essentially a derivative of vitamin A, which is one of the body’s key nutrients for boosting cell turnover. “It’s added to topical skincare products to promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone, reduce acne, and boost the collagen production,” explains New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD. “It also functions like an antioxidant to help address free radical damage, which leads to visible signs of aging.”

Here, Bowe and other experts break down how to carefully incorporate the powerhouse ingredient into your regimen to achieve a supernaturally fresh-faced complexion, now and for decades to come.

Begin in Your Mid ’20s or Early ’30s
Thirty has long been the banner year for introducing retinol into one’s routine, but motivated by early signs of aging, such as sun spots or crows feet, or simply eager to get a head start and utilize the latest technologies, many women are starting before then and under the careful watch of their dermatologist. “Your mid-twenties are a great time to start using retinol,” says Ellen Marmur, M.D. “Many patients who have used it for years swear by it.”

If you’ve ever heard someone caution you against using hand sanitizer religiously, you can probably imagine what dermatologists think of harsh soaps and facial cleansers.

Your skin has more than one trillion bacteria on it —an “invisible rainforest of microorganisms” originating from approximately one thousand different species. When you perpetually use harsh antibacterial soaps and cleansers, though, you strip the skin of its healthy bacteria — and you upset your skin’s healthy microbiome, which results in breakouts, rosacea flares, psoriasis, eczema, and more issues that are likely to be met with more soap and cleansers. But, if you work to restore your skin’s natural balance, you allow its “good bugs” to help fight infections, combat environmental damage, boost your immune system, and keep skin looking hydrated and clear. Plus, the results are sustainable — it’s effectively the equivalent of “teach a man to fish” but for your skin’s health.

Your skin and its newly balanced flora will learn how to fend for itself and then make healthy, clear skin more low-maintenance, stable, and less time-consuming than your current eight-step process.

To build back your skin’s natural defenses, you need to support the “good bugs.” And for that, you should be using probiotics. Probiotics support the health of the good bacteria that make up your microbiome, and they help with some major bodily “housekeeping” like fighting bad bacteria, controlling inflammation, and supporting the healthy barrier function in both your skin and your gut. You can take them orally (like you would for your digestive health), or you can start with topical treatments — many of which are readily available on Amazon.

If you’ve ever had a breakout, you’ve likely tried to dry those suckers up with bacteria-killing washes and spot treatments. You know, because conventional wisdom (and lots of research) has shown that zits, particularly the big painful cysts, are often caused by P. acnes bacteria getting into your pores and going to town.

But now bacteria is trying to spin a comeback kid PR campaign, thanks to the rise of probiotics in everything—yogurts, supplements, and now, skincare products.

But for those of us who have acne, naturally you’d wonder: Wouldn’t those probiotics just make my skin worse? Luckily, Whitney Bowe, M.D., NYC celebrity dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin, is here to lay it all out for you (and me. Because I’m confused too):

With humidity and city grime, chances are you suds up your strands more often in summer. But Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist in New York, suggests rethinking the way we wash our hair.

“People love to lather,” Dr. Bowe said. “We’re obsessed with this squeaky-clean feeling and then putting on conditioner with silicones that act as a Band-Aid for your hair. Instead we should be cutting out harsh detergents. We should be preventing damage from happening in the first place.”

One simple diet change = whole new you. We all deserve a treat every now and then, but chances are you have more added sugar in your diet than you realize. Too much added sugar can damage your skin through a process called glycation, in which sugar molecules bond to proteins, fats, and amino acids in the body. “When proteins become glycated, they become stiff and much less functional, so imagine what that does to the proteins in your skin,” says dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin. Collagen and elastin, the fibers that keep skin firm and elastic, are greatly impacted by this process, she says. “Sugars are rapid stimulators of glycation, as they easily attach themselves to proteins in the body—you really must reduce your sugar intake to maintain healthy skin.”

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Taking care of your skin during the summer is crucial for preventing long-term sun damage. We spoke to a dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe, about her recommendations for what products to use and what ingredients to look out for as you build your summer skin care routine. The six essentials include sunscreen, probiotic treatments, UPF clothing, supplements, proper hair care, and diet.

Ashley Graham shared a beauty trick on Instagram Sunday, using a Windex-soaked paper towel to scrub away the streaks left by a recent spray tan.

But while the model’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”–inspired hack appeared to fix her glow, Dr. Whitney Bowe, an NYC dermatologist and author of “The Beauty of Dirty Skin,” says you shouldn’t try it at home.

“It’s a definite ‘no’ in my book,” Bowe told Page Six. “Windex is comprised of several very harsh and irritating ingredients, including fragrances, dyes and ammonia, as well as very powerful detergents and solvents.”

Because of its disinfecting properties, Bowe explained, the cleaning solution will also kill off the skin’s healthy bacteria. “You’re basically damaging the skin barrier,” she said. “Not only can it cause inflammation and irritation, but if it’s your go-to remedy, it can also lead to eczema and other major skin issues down the road. I would absolutely avoid it.”

There are plenty of safe methods for fixing runny self-tanner, like creating your own sugar-based scrub.

“I have my own recipe that’s very simple to make at home,” she said. “It’s half a cup of brown sugar and half a cup of either coconut, olive or almond oil. Mix them together, and use it to exfoliate any streaky areas. You can even mix yogurt — which is loaded with healthy probiotics to restore the good bacteria on your skin — with honey and avocado, spread that on the area and let it sit for 10 minutes before you use the scrub. The lactic acid will act as a gentle exfoliant.”

Planes are undeniably gross, a fact that is never more apparent than when the guy sitting next to you hasn’t stopped coughing for the past three hours, your contacts have shriveled up in your eyes, and a child just sneezed in your ear on the way to the bathroom. If you needed another reminder, there’s also the matter of the recirculated air in the plane’s cabin, which works nicely to help spread your seatmate’s germs and whatever else might be lurking in the in-flight air supply. (We don’t even want to know.)

Vitamins, chugging water, and frequent hand-washing can help you combat some of the health implications, but what about the external damage? Drying cabin air can wreak havoc on the skin, zapping it of moisture and taking a serious toll on its protective barrier, so by the time you get off the plane you’re considerably less hydrated and considerably more broken-out.

To counteract all that ew, you have to act ahead of time. So we went straight to the sources, dermatologists Leslie Baumann and Whitney Bowe, to get to the bottom of how we can really protect our skin pre-flight. Ahead, a step-by-step guide to salvaging your complexion from the horrors of in-flight air — because even if you can’t stop all those babies from screaming, you’ve gotta find a way to get some peace of mind.

Your body really is a wonderland. Here are all the strange, and in some cases kind of gross, things it does—that you are powerless to stop!

Although too much oil can be a bad thing, you need some of the bodily fluid called sebum to keep your skin moisturized and healthy. “We are a nation obsessed with that ‘squeaky clean feeling’ and antibacterial soap,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin. “If your skin feels stripped or squeaky clean after you cleanse, you are harming your skin’s healthy barrier and drying it out.” Our sebaceous glands produce the oily substance called sebum to lubricate and waterproof our skin, deliver important nutrients, and protect our skin against environmental pollutants and free radical damage, she says. “Our skin’s natural barrier is critical to our skin’s health, so use a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser when washing and refrain from scrubbing or using harsh products,” Dr. Bowe says. “If we over-cleanse and strip away too much of our skin’s healthy oils, our skin tends to over-correct and pumps out even more oil, which can contribute to breakouts and other skin issues.”

Why you should want your skin to be covered in (the right kind of) bacteria—and how harsh treatments disrupt this balance to negative effect. Ten years ago, the only people talking about “gut health” were GI doctors and habitués of food co-ops. Fast-forward to 2018, where a daily probiotic is considered sacrosanct. Well, just like your stomach, your skin is colonized by a complex microbiome made up of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms. And the ability of this microbiome to affect your complexion—positively or negatively—is the next big conversation in skin care. We spoke to four skin care insiders who are, with their work and product innovations, furthering the conversation about barrier function and the microbiome to determine how to build a regimen and follow best practices that are ultimately supportive of both.

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RT @pamelapekerman: Juggling being a world- renowned dermatologist and a within-your-world renowned mom, is no easy task. But, @drwhitneybo…

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