Summertime is skin time. And whether you plan to bare a little or a lot this season, it simply won't do to hit the beach and barbecues with parched, ashy, reddened or rough skin.
And those aren't the only problems caused by winter's chill. Dr. Robert Weiss, a board-certified dermatologist and director of the Maryland Laser, Skin and Vein Institute in Hunt Valley, explains that post-winter skin can have less baseline pigment, making it more sensitive to summer's rays.
"We've had so little sun exposure," he said. "I'm concerned people will rush out there without adequate protection. You have to be careful of burning."
So now is the time to take preventive action, and to repair, rejuvenate and refresh your skin. We've tapped dermatologists, aestheticians, spas and other experts for insight and tips on summer treatments, trends, procedures, and products.
Because no matter what else you wear (or don't wear) this season, healthy skin is your best accessory.
HydraFacial: If you want to give good face this summer, look no further than the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore. The team at the 10,200-square-foot spa, which has 11 treatment rooms, is abuzz about its new HydraFacial treatment. It's popular on the West Coast and is an apparent hit with Hollywood's celebrity set.
Billed as an advanced medical-grade skin care treatment, the facial reportedly gives skin a healthy, vibrant glow without the use of harsh chemicals or lasers.
"Beautiful skin is always in, but in the summertime especially, women want to have the perfect glow without wearing a lot of makeup, which can melt in high temperatures," says Natalie Sams, the spa's lead aesthetician. "After a long, harsh winter like we experienced this year, skin is dull, dry and dehydrated. The HydraFacial is the perfect remedy."
Describing it as the "ultimate" resurfacing and rejuvenating treatment, Sams says the facial (available in 25-, 50-, and 80-minute sessions) exfoliates and resurfaces the skin, then plumps it up with antioxidants, amino acids and a so-called DermaBuilder, infused with peptides and hyaluronic acid.
A series of treatments is recommended for best results. "It's a true beauty game-changer," says Sams.
Green tea & Lemongrass: A glass of iced tea is a favorite summer sip. So why not quench your skin in similar fashion? Green Tea & Lemongrass treatments (body scrub, facial and pedicure) are the latest at Relache Spa, located at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor.
"We've had a long and brutal winter, and people are looking to shed their dry skin for the summer," says Nicole De Rosa, spa director of 20,000-square-foot Relache, which means "to let go" in French.
"Lemon has antiseptic properties and acts as a great exfoliant to help make the skin glow," she explains. "Green tea is rich in antioxidants and acts as a detoxifier. The combination is a perfect, refreshing mix to give you a smooth, hydrated look for summer."
Relache also offers spa-goers treatments that run the gamut from a Resurfacing Peel to improve sun damaged skin, enlarged pores and coarse texture, and a Gentlemen's Hot Towel Facial designed to cleanse and condition skin possibly stressed by shaving and pollution.
Guests can also take a bit of the spa home: the Lemongrass & Green Tea Shea Body Lotion and Lemongrass & Green Tea Jojoba Sugar Scrub (used in spa services) is available for purchase.
Laser resurfacing: "We're coming out of a harsh, brutal winter," said Dr. Lisa R. Ginn, a board-certified dermatologist. "An unusually high number of patients [came] to my office this winter with complaints and signs of dry and irritated skin."
At her Skin@LRG office in Chevy Chase, Ginn is busily prepping patients who aim to get their skin in shape for summer.
"One of the most exciting rejuvenating procedures right now is fractional laser resurfacing," says Ginn, a specialist in targeted skin care solutions for people of color. "It can help you achieve that healthy, summer glow."
Ginn explains that fractional means only a small percentage of the skin's surface is affected with each pass of the laser. She uses several types of lasers in her practice, among them a device known as the Clear + Brilliant laser, said to deliver a less invasive treatment.
This laser procedure opens up "microscopic treatment channels in the skin we can't see with the naked eye," she says, but which hold the key to new collagen production. Collagen is a major structural protein in the body's connective tissue; the natural aging process, combined with exposure to sun and pollution, destroys it.
"Collagen is king," says Ginn, who notes that increased collagen can reduce the presence of wrinkles and scarring. "It keeps skin tight and firm."
Patients who undergo fractional laser therapies should notice an overall improvement in their skin texture, she says, with a softening of fine lines, dark sun spots and wrinkles.
Michelle Hailey of Bethesda is a fan.
"I have pretty good genes, but after I hit 40, I decided to be more proactive about my skin," says the marketing professional. "Dr. Ginn is very knowledgeable and she has a great touch." Best of all, "people tell me I'm glowing and radiant," says Hailey.
Photo-facials and ultrasound: Maryland Laser, Skin and Vein Institute in Hunt Valley offers myriad procedures, including treatments ranging from laser resurfacing to microdermabrasion. The facility boasts some 30 lasers and light-based devices.
Weiss, director of the "cosmetically oriented" dermatology institute, shared insight about some of the newer procedures that can benefit skin in the summer and beyond.
•IPL Photo-facial (IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light). It's used to attack sun spots and more. "It delivers high intensity pulses of broad spectrum light," says Weiss, who likens the flash of light from the hand-held device to a flicker from a cell phone. The energy goes to the dermis (deeper layer of skin) vs. the epidermis (superficial layer) and is absorbed by the blood vessels and pigment. "It can help fade brown spots, blotchy pigment, redness," says Weiss.
•EndyMed. A hand-held device that uses a proprietary radio frequency technology, designed to tighten and firm the skin by stimulating the body's collagen renewal process. "It has a low level of heating that penetrates into the skin," says Weiss. EndyMed can improve skin texture and help with "saggy skin, tightening jowls," he says, along with sun damage and wrinkle reduction.
•Thulium Laser Treatment. One of the newest "fractional" laser devices, it produces thousands of deep, tiny columns in the skin called microscopic treatment zones. "Imagine little microdots," Weiss says, "that peel away to softer skin." It requires two to three treatments, and can also be used to lighten or bleach skin.
•Ulthera, also called Ultherapy, is a focused ultrasound device used for non-invasive skin tightening of the face, neck, chest and sometimes arms. The ultrasound creates an image of the skin, which lasers can't do. The physician reads the ultrasound and has control over where the pulse is sent. "We did some of the initial [FDA] studies on Ulthera and have been using it for skin tightening for about five years now," says Weiss, who is also a clinical associate professor in dermatology at the University of Maryland. The institute is also about to launch Ultrashape, which uses focused ultrasound to eliminate fat cells.
Pritte, naturally: For the past decade or so, Tracy and Babi Das have been on a mission to design a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their family.
"We began to pay attention to nutrition and eat organic and locally sourced foods," says Babi Das, an engineer and business executive. "And my wife, Tracy, ultimately became a certified holistic health coach."
As Tracy Das, a former CPA, became more educated about skin care products, the mother of three was worried by the many chemical, synthetic and potentially toxic ingredients identified on labels.
"I realized that yes, 'We are what we eat,' but we're also what we massage into our face and bodies every day."
So Tracy set out to develop the type of skin care products she desired to see on the market. After two years of research and development, the couple launched Pritte Organic Skin Therapy in October 2012.
The Baltimore-based company bills its line of skin care products as 100 percent chemical-free.
"Our chief formulator has discovered bio-extraction processes that benefit skin cells," says company president Tracy Das of the products, which are manufactured in Nashville, Tenn. "We have a proprietary process to unlock the nutrients within organic and wild-crafted whole fruits, vegetables, herbs, grasses and minerals."
Among the company's "secret" ingredients is saffronol harvested from saffron plants — and designed to address age spots, and restore the skin's elasticity.
Cosmeceuticals: In addition to lasers and other techniques, Weiss advises trying topical products, i.e. cosmeceuticals, to protect skin and potentially avert damage.
"They're a lot more effective than people know," he says, noting that many effective skin care products don't necessarily require a prescription and can be purchased over the counter.
One line that he recommends is SkinCeuticals, developed by Dr. Sheldon R. Pinnel at the Duke University School of Medicine and now part of L'Oreal. It's carried by dermatologists, plastic surgeons and high-end spas, and can be purchased at the Hunt Valley location.
5 summer skin tips from the experts
Dr. Lisa R. Ginn and Dr. Robert Weiss, both board-certified dermatologists, offer some advice for skin care:
Sun protection. Using both sunscreen and protective clothing such as hats is key. "Sunscreens don't have to be expensive," says Ginn, but the sun protection factor, or SPF, is important. According to data from the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended; Ginn adds that some patients can go as high as a SPF of 50 in the summer. "The higher the number, the longer one can stay out there [in the sun] without as many applications," says Weiss. But since many of the sunscreens aren't really sweat-proof (although they're often advertised as such, he notes) the main thing is to "apply sunscreen frequently."
Try some Vitamin C. Ginn says vitamin C applied topically can be helpful in terms of sun protection. "We're learning more about the antioxidant benefits of vitamin C to the skin." She advises incorporating a vitamin C serum into your daily facial skincare regimen year-round. "If there is one place to splurge on your skincare products, it's with a good vitamin C serum, as they tend to be three to four times more potent than vitamin C creams," she says. Weiss agrees, adding that "a good time to apply is in the morning. It can work while you are getting sun exposure, and adds an extra element of protection. Smooth "on the face; for women also on the decolletage."
Remember the Rs: retinoids and resveratrol. Retinoids, derivatives of vitamin A (i.e. retinol), are associated with boosting collagen production."They can help reverse sun damage, soften the skin and decrease wrinkles," says Weiss, who adds that retinoids may also "increase the pathways, to make new collagen." Resveratrol is a member of a group of plant compounds called polyphenols; they are believed to have antioxidant properties. "Resveratrol is one of the properties you'll find in red wine. You would have to drink 100 bottles to get some of the benefits," Weiss says, chuckling. "It can help improve the texture of the skin."
Exfoliate. "A tan is dead skin," says Ginn. Procedures such as microdermabrasion help remove dead skin and increase the rate of "healthy skin turn- over."
Be proactive. "Taking care of skin while you're in your 20s is important," says Ginn. "The results of sun damage begin quite early in life. By the time we see age spots, a lot of the damage is already done. Preventive skin care is not only crucial to minimizing the development of skin cancer, she adds, it is "golden in delaying skin aging and maintaining a healthy, natural and youthful appearance in your 40s and beyond."