Over-the-counter skin-care products are effective, but often take several weeks or months to produce results. If time isn't on your side, see a dermatologist. Here, the best ways to smooth your skin, clear up blemishes, and get glowing -- quick.
Thanks to its collagen- and elastin-building capabilities, prescription vitamin A smoothes fine lines and fades sun damage, and it's been used for years to treat teenage acne. It can cause some peeling and dryness, so apply it every other night to build your skin's tolerance. Or, try over-the-counter versions, which contain lower percentages of retinol and are gentler to sensitive skin.
Got a cystic blemish? Dermatologists can "quickly inject it with a diluted steroid so it disappears in a day or two," says Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska. If you can't make it to the derm, try applying an over-the-counter 5- or 10-percent benzoyl peroxide cream directly to the blemish twice a day. Studies show it's just as effective.
Loaded with glycolic or salicylic acid, peels can brighten dull complexions and fade discoloration by removing the top layer of dead skin. The most popular types? Jessner peels which boost glow, TCA peels, which reduce acne scarring, and Theraplex treatments, which help treat breakouts. Your dermatologist will prescribe the percent of the peel, which can vary from a light surface peel to a deeper-level treatment for more severe cases, that's just right for your skin issue.
Unlike a laser that precisely pinpoints unwanted pigment, this broadband light covers larger areas of skin and, depending on the light used, can dull the appearance of brown and red spots, reduce pore size, minimize wrinkles, and kill acne-causing bacteria. The number of sessions needed varies depending on the skin issue, but on average, about three are recommended with four weeks between each treatment.
Skin-resurfacing laser treatments like Fraxel and YAG are used to treat brown patches, broken capillaries, bumpy skin, and red spots, as well as to remove hair and tattoos. On average, three to six treatments spaced about four weeks apart are needed for full results. But like intense pulsed-light treatments, these numbers vary from case to case.
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