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Fix Your Top Skin Complexion Problems

Skin & Anti-Aging

No need to put up with dark spots, red patches, and breakouts. Health’s beauty pros reveal simple new ways to fix the most common skin troubles.

Complexion corrections, by Francesca Castagnoli, from Health magazine

Nobody wants to put up with skin weirdness. You know, those dry flakes, large pores, oil slicks, hormonal breakouts, random splotches, dark circles, and eye bags that become way more prominent after a certain age.

They’re all normal wear and tear, says David Bank, MD, director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, New York. Skin becomes less elastic, and the effects of sun, smiles, nutrition, smoking, and gravity show up.

Don’t blame Mom, either. Heredity isn’t always destiny when it comes to skin. With this troubleshooting guide, you can get your skin right back where you want it to be.

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Time spent in the sun without the right protection has come back to haunt you! Over-the-counter blotch-faders use natural ingredients such as licorice, retinol, and kojic acid. One such skin-brightening powerhouse is vitamin C, according to Dr. Bank. In addition to stimulating collagen production, it helps skin cells turn over faster, thus fading spots. Find it in Shiseido White Lucent Brightening Moisturizing Gel ($60; Dr. Bank uses chemical peels to zap spots in-office. A treatment can take around five or six visits and cost from $100 to $350.

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Skin is driest in winter when humidity levels and temperatures plummet. Bump up your moisturizer. The thicker it feels, the better it locks moisture in to skin. Try Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant Fragrance Free ($17;

If your skin is also itchy, red, and bleeding, your doctor may prescribe a hyaluronic acid, cortisone, or antibiotic cream.

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Bags can be caused by genetics, sun exposure, and loss of volume in your face. Dark circles can come from sun, allergies, heredity, or thinning skin.

Moisturize and plump up skin to help reverse a sunken look. Look for products with caffeine, which constricts blood vessels to make darkness less visible, says Bruce Katz, MD, director of JUVA Skin & Laser Center in New York City. A derm can also inject a hyaluronic acid filler such as Restylane under eyes to add volume and smooth wrinkles, Dr. Bank says. The cost is around $700 or more, and lasts for about six months. For dark circles, Dr. Bank likes the Pulsed Dye Laser, which zaps blood vessels. The cost is about $350.

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Hormones, workouts, and even over-exfoliating can cause acne. Zits happen when oil and skin cells clog pores, and bacteria grows.

Mild acne is often treated with OTC remedies containing exfoliating salicylic acid or bacteria-banishing benzoyl peroxide. “If neither works well enough independently, try using both,” suggests Dennis Gross, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. For sudden blemishes, try Almay Clear Complexion Concealer + Treatment Gel ($10; mass retailers) with both salicylic acid and concealer.

For severe outbreaks, it’s wise to see a derm for more systemic (rather than topical) treatments such as bacteria-killing antibiotics, topical retinoids, or oral contraceptives, says Dr. Bank.

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The mystery marks on your face could be caused by allergies, temperature extremes, windburn, or even a chafed, drippy nose. Apply a “good moisturizer that’s thick and rich, especially at night,” Dr. Day says. We like Philosophy Keep the Peace Super Soothing Moisturizer ($38; with calming bisabolol.

You could have seborrheic dermatitis, says Dr. Day, who treats it with prescription antifungal and cortisone creams. It could also be rosacea.

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You blot, exfoliate, use masks, and your T-zone is still slick. Often your skin just happens to produce too much sebum (especially when hormones are in flux).

Cleansing without stripping skin is key. Overdoing it can actually cause skin to produce more oil. Update your washing routine to include ingredients that gently absorb oil, such as the clay in Vichy Normaderm Triple Action 3-in-1 Cleanser ($19; mass retailers). And use a cleansing brush to help slough skin cells, preventing clogs. We like the single-use puffs that come with the Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System ($22; mass retailers).

If your skin is still oily, says Robyn Gmyrek, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, your doc can prescribe a topical tretinoin gel (Retin-A).

One skincare tip: Just as the moisturizer that’s perfect in your 20s may no longer do the trick in your 40s, your cleanser needs updates, too. You can’t go wrong with these basic and trustworthy picks for each decade.

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