Skin Products 101

Purchasing products is often daunting from sunscreen to moisturizers to other cosmetic topical products, the choices are endless. Stores are littered with products from many companies, at many price points, and with many claims.  In this article, we will try to make a simple user’s guide to dissect what some of the issues to consider when buying products are.


If there is one product that is most important for your skin it is without question sunscreen. Most products are trying to reverse the damage that occurs from the sun but sunscreen allows you to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.  Having brakes in a car to prevent accidents is far more effective than having a great body shop to fix a car once an accident occurs. Your skin is the same way, prevention is key and should be the cornerstone of you regimen.

Sunscreen ingredients can be confusing. Many sunscreens are physical blockers (reflect UV rays) and some are chemical blockers (absorb UV rays). Some people prefer physical blockers because they want something chemical free. Chemical sunscreens have been used for many years without issues, however some ingredients can be problematic and more likely to cause photoallergic reactions. These include PABA, benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (cinnamon derivatives), and dibenzoylmethanes (avobenzone). For this reason, in choosing a sunscreen it is best to stick with physical blockers, or chemical blockers that avoid the above listed ingredients.

What SPF? I would recommend SPF 30 or greater. Even though SPF 15 blocks a majority of rays, most people do not apply enough to get this effect and for this reason higher SPF is more effective.


In patients with atopic dermatitis and eczema moisturizing is key. Additionally, moisturizing is an important element to anyones daily routine. There are a large number of moisturizers. It is important to avoid moisturizers with elements that cause skin sensitivity and allergy particularly in those patients with eczema.

Many patients like to buy organic or all natural products but the issue with these is they often have ingredients containing lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, or other floral or fruit extracts. While these are natural and smell nice, they are not ideal for the skin as they can trigger allergy and eczema in sensitive individuals. For this reason, it is best to avoid these types of products. Natural is not always better when it comes to moisturizing your skin. If natural products are a goal, stick to simple products such as coconut oil or similar products.


There are numerous antiaging products on the market, each suggesting they have found the secret of antiaging. So how do we sort through the slew of products? It is best to focus on those ingredients we know can be helpful.

Hyaluronic acid – this is found in antiaging products and is an ingredient to look for. Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in the skin and helps hold moisture as well as other properties. Therefore, hyaluronic acid topically can help restore moisture to the skin. It is also commonly used in injectable fillers.

Vitamin C, E, niacinamide – these antioxidants are often found in products and can be helpful in preventing free radical damage that can occur in the skin as a result of aging and sun exposure. Therefore, in looking at antiaging products these are useful ingredients.

Retinol – this is found in many products and helps with collagen turn over and can be helpful with wrinkles and skin imperfections.

Hopefully this helps you in trying to sort through the numerous products available today. At California Dermatology Specialists, we find patient education to be extremely important and if you have any skin questions we would be happy to see you and answer them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *