Skincare Secrets: We got the skinny from the experts on daily routines, collagen trends & more

The FDA issued a warning this summer about products that claim to remove lesions on the skin like moles, wart-like growths and skin tags. There were over the counter products being marketed that claim to get rid of them, but the FDA said they could be harmful.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It seems like there are new skincare products constantly being advertised on TV, social media and online ads -- but how do you know which ones to buy? From getting started on a skincare routine to what to try and what to skip, we asked the experts.

How to start a daily skincare routine

When you look at all the different skincare products available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but first things first: Remember, not everyone has the same kind of skin, so what works for one person might not work for another.

“Some people are a little more inherently greasy; some people are inherently a little more dry; some people have more sensitive skin; while others can put anything on their face or skin and really have no issues,” said Cleveland Clinic Dermatologist Dr. Kiyanna Williams. “So, it’s important people take that into consideration when they’re looking for things.”

Step 1: Williams said it’s important to keep it simple, so start by picking a gentle cleanser for your face -- but be sure it doesn’t have microbeads in it as that can cause irritation and inflammation to your skin. However, if you did want to use an exfoliator, look for products that have ingredients like glycolic acid in them.

Step 2: Choose a moisturizer that fits your skin type. Some people, for example, may need one that is more hydrating.

Step 3: The final step is to apply sunscreen daily. Williams said that is probably the most important step in your skincare routine.

“Oftentimes the SPF in makeup and other moisturizers isn’t quite enough. Oftentimes it’s chemical. I recommend SPF 30 or higher every single day of the year, even in the winter. And if you know you’re going to be out in the sun, golfing, at the beach, whatever, SPF 50 or higher,” Williams said.

It seems like there are new skincare products constantly being advertised on TV and online, but how do you know which ones to buy? We asked a Cleveland Clinic dermatologist for advice on how to get started and the ingredients that work.

Collagen trend

Just last year, U.S. consumers spent $222 million on collagen supplements. So, what makes this popular protein so special?

“As we age, we produce less of it, so skin starts to sag and wrinkle. And without enough fresh collagen, our tendons, ligaments, and joints can be less flexible,” explained Consumer Reports Health Editor Lauren Friedman.

CONSUMER REPORTS: What is collagen, and does it help your skin?

Is taking more collagen the answer? It is for fitness enthusiast Tracy Eck. She started using collagen supplements after she developed pain in her knee and her doctor recommended surgery. Instead of going under the knife, she wanted to see if collagen could offer her some pain relief.

Just last year, U.S. consumers spent $222 million on collagen supplements. (Provided by Consumer Reports)

“Six to eight weeks after I started, I didn’t go to my freezer and pull out my ice packs the way I usually do and sit and ice my knees. It felt like a miracle to me,” Eck said.

Even since the surgery, she’s been taking collagen daily in her coffee, even in soups.

Consumer Reports says early research shows promise, but more evidence is needed. And when it comes to supplements of any kind, use them with caution.

“The Food and Drug Administration does not guarantee you’ll get what the package claims. But you can also up your intake by adding more collagen-rich foods into your diet,” said Friedman.

Collagen-rich foods include bone broth or tough cuts of meat, but Friedman says adequate amounts of any protein will provide what your body needs to make collagen — about 25 to 30 grams per meal — or the equivalent of 4 ounces.

It’s pretty much what Eck eats. In addition to taking collagen supplements, she also incorporates things like protein bars, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, and nuts into her diet.

What you don’t want to do is speed up the process of losing collagen, and Consumer Reports warns that certain lifestyle choices can do just that. Things like sun exposure, smoking, excessive alcohol or sugar intake, and lack of sleep can all contribute to collagen loss.

From social media ads to TV commercials to signage on store shelves, you see and hear about Collagen products everywhere. Promising younger looking skin and flexible joints. Consumer Reports says this craze may actually have some benefits.

Warning about OTC products to remove skin tags and moles

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning this summer about products that claim to remove lesions on the skin like moles, wart-like growths and skin tags. There were over-the-counter products being marketed that claimed to get rid of them, but the FDA said they could be harmful.

This warning was a concern for News4JAX anchor Melanie Lawson, who had a skin tag on her face -- just under her eye -- that she wanted to remove.

Melanie said the skin tag on her face developed about four months ago and seemed to be growing. (WJXT)

Melanie said the skin tag on her face developed about four months ago and seemed to be growing. To see what her options were for removal, she went to her primary care physician, Dr. Vincent Galiano with Magnolia Medical Group.

“I would suggest doing what you did -- coming to your doctor and having it removed by someone who’s done it a lot,” Galiano said.

He explained there’s no real shortcut for removing a skin tag. It’s soft, fleshy tissue that sticks out from your skin.

“Skin tags can pop up anywhere for no reason,” he added.

But there have been some products that claim to remove skin tags without help from a professional. The recent warning from the FDA came because the agency says products marketed for the cosmetic removal of lesions often have high concentrations of salicylic acid or other potentially dangerous substances. It warns they either don’t work or can cause scarring or discoloration.

Galiano said you don’t want to create a bigger problem than you originally had.

“Skin tags are benign,” he said. “Usually, they don’t need treatment.”

But, if the skin tag you have is irritating you, like the one under Melanie’s eye was irritating her, a simple in-office procedure can get rid of it.

“What I’m going to do is take a little numbing medicine and inject just under it,” Galiano explained to Melanie.

Dr. Vincent Galiano with Magnolia Medical Group removes a skin tag for Melanie Lawson. (WJXT)

He then used a sterile pair of scissors to cut the skin tag off at the base, finishing up with an application of silver nitrate to quickly stop the bleeding.

“She wanted us to remove it and that was it,” Galiano said.

It’s important to note when it comes to picking the right products, claims like “natural” or “organic” do not mean a product is harmless. Even those that claim to be “all-natural,” herbal, or homeopathic, may contain high concentrations of salicylic acid or other ingredients that can cause injury or infection. Doctors warn, even if salicylic acid isn’t listed as an ingredient, that doesn’t mean the product is safe to use.

You can report an adverse event involving any mole or skin tag remover to the FDA:

Even one trip to the tanning bed is risky

You might be thinking that one trip to the tanning bed won’t hurt, but a Cleveland Clinic dermatologist says you’re wrong.

“I think there is a misperception out there that tan skin is healthy skin. And so they feel like if they go to the tanning bed, then they are healthier, which is just a myth,” warned Dr. Melissa Piliang. “Tanning beds are dangerous and they markedly increase your risk of skin cancer.”

You may be thinking that one trip to the tanning bed won’t hurt, but a Cleveland Clinic dermatologist says you’re wrong. (Courtesy of Cleveland Clinic)

She said a single visit to the tanning bed increases your risk for melanoma -- the most deadly type of skin cancer. And the more you go, the higher the risk.

So for people who want to go to a tanning bed just to get that “base tan” so they won’t burn while on vacation, Piliang said don’t.

Instead, she recommends a self-tanner. There are many options available at the store and salons. She said they won’t damage your DNA or increase your risk for skin cancer. You just need to apply sunscreen when you are out in the sun.

For those of you who have been tanning for a while, but you’re now concerned, it’s important to closely examine your skin for anything abnormal and consult with a dermatologist.

“If you’re a tanning bed user, stop. But even if you haven’t stopped, go talk to your dermatologist. Let them look at your skin, make sure that you don’t have a skin cancer already. Let them talk to you about what to worry about and look for in the future,” Piliang said.

You've heard it before, but tanning beds increase your chances for skin cancer. But what you might not know is that even one time can be risky.

Copyright 2022 by Cleveland Clinic News Service. All rights reserved.

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