Skin Care Basics

Patients of all ages often ask what they can be doing or using to improve their skin. Our American Academy of Dermatology has lots of good information available here (  In general we recommend Cetaphil, Cerave or Dove products. Vanicream is best for patients with ultra-sensitive skin or a history of allergic reactions to products. If you prefer natural, pure, organic moisturizers, sunflower or coconut oil are good choices.  

When it comes to anti-aging products, there are a number of quality skin care products available on the market.  It is important to know what the active ingredients are in your products in order to understand how to use them properly, anticipate any side effects, and fully realize their potential benefit. Here is a summary of commonly utilized active ingredients found in skin care products.

RETINOIDS (RETINOL / RETINOIC ACID / TRETINOIN) – These are all Vitamin A derivatives. Retinol is available over-the-counter. Tretinoin, adapalene and tazarotene are all prescription. These agents fight acne and aging by stimulating cell-turnover (think of it like a chemical exfoliant), lessening wrinkles and improving irregular pigmentation.

  • Use a nickel size amount over the forehead, cheeks, chin. Avoid the eyes, lips, and creases around the nose.
  • Best to use at night (because it breaks down in light). Start every third night and gradually work up to nightly because it can be irritating (causing redness, scaling, ect.).

VITAMIN C & OTHER ANTIOXIDANTS – Vitamin C is the most commonly utilized antioxidant but there are many others found in anti-aging products. All work by reducing oxidative stress to reduce the effects of sun damage and free radicals.

  • If using a serum, use only a few drops. If using a pre-measured capsule, use the entire amount.
  • Should always be applied in the morning. May also be used at night.

BENZOYL PEROXIDE – Considered an essential for fighting acne, this agent has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and mild exfoliant properties.

  • Most products containing this agent are washes, gels, lotions or creams. Use 2 pumps of these products. It is also available in a 10% gel as a spot treatment in which case, use it only on the acne lesion you are concerned about.
  • Can be used morning or night or both.
  • Pairs well with salicylic acid for acne but the combination can be over-drying so be cautious to not overdo it.

SALICYLIC ACID – This agent is considered a beta-hydroxy acid. Like alpha-hydroxy acids, it exfoliates the skin, but it has the unique ability to penetrate the hair follicles and oil glands making it particularly effective for fighting acne. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. It can be found in willow bark, wintergreen leaves and sweet birch.

  • Use a nickel size amount.
  • Best to use at night.
  • Pairs well with benzoyl peroxide for acne but the combination can be over-drying so be cautious to not overdo it.Can be too irritating if combined with a retinoid.

ALPHA-HYDROXY ACIDS (AHA) – This is a large class of agents. The most commonly utilized are lactic acid and glycolic acid. Others include malic acid, citric acid, mandelic acid, and tartaric acid. They are extracted from organic products however when used in cosmetic products, they are most often chemically synthesized for purity. They work by increasing cell turnover, improving irregular dyspigmentation and if used consistently long-term, increasing collagen.

  • Use a pea-sized amount.
  • Begin using at night. If tolerating without any irritation after 2-3 weeks, consider using twice daily.

HYDROQUINONE – This agent is used for treating hyperpigmentation. It inhibits the production of melanin to reduce dark areas.

  • Use a nickel-sized amount.
  • Use at night.
  • With long-term use, it can rarely cause darkening of the skin rather than lightening.



Roseburg Dermatology

2440 Edenbower Blvd

Roseburg, OR 97471