A leading skin science expert, Dr. Graf is a board certified, clinical and research Dermatologist. Known for her extensive and comprehensive approach to dermatology, Dr. Graf combines minimally invasive office procedures and effective skin care products with fundamental nutrition and lifestyle counseling to elicit both an inner and outer beauty from each of her patients. Dr. Graf is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and is the author of Stop Aging, Start Living (Crown, Fall 2007), which discusses her four-point body alkalinizing plan as a means to approach beauty, vitality and health from the inside, out. beautypress sat down with this skin expert and asked her for her insights on diet and nutrition, our skin's changing needs as we grow older, Vitamin D levels and more.
As a dermatologist, what do you consistently recommend as the barebones necessities when it comes to age-fighting?
Sunscreen to prevent photo aging. Antioxidants to neutralize damaging effects of free radicals. Retinoids because they are proven and recognized as #1 in anti-aging. Peptides to help stimulate collagen production for firmer skin.
Do diet and nutrition really play a role in how our skin looks and feels?
Definitely, because many of the foods we eat are rich in nutrients that benefit our skin. Since our diet also plays an important role in balancing the acidity and alkalinity levels of the body, making the right choices is important. Certain foods are acid-forming, which can be harmful to the entire body—including our skin cells. Alkalinizing foods, on the other hand, neutralize acidity to benefit everything from healthy cell function to optimal energy levels and a glowing complexion.
Should the skin care products we use change as we go through our teens, 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s plus?
No matter what your age is, everyone should use a cleanser, exfoliant, moisturizer and a sunscreen. However, as we get older, we need to adapt our skin care regimen to our skin’s changing needs. For every decade we add to our chronological age, we need to beef up our skin care choices accordingly. For instance, in your twenties I recommend switching from the daily sun protection you used in your teens to a sunscreen that includes antioxidants to fight free-radical damage. In your thirties, I advise layering a mineral make-up with SPF over your daily sunscreen for enhanced protection. Also, though age-fighting should begin with a retinol product in your twenties and continue throughout your life, something as basic as your cleanser should change according to your skin’s needs. For instance, when you are young, I recommend you use a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser. By the time you are in your forties, you should trade up to one that includes AHA, lactic acid or PHA. When you enter your fifties, skin can often lack firmness and have fewer emollients. Therefore, choose a cream-based cleanser that gently cleanses while helping to replenish moisture loss. Serums, masks and night creams should include retinol, peptides, lipids and humectants to boost firmness, elasticity and hydration levels.
If my Vitamin D levels are low, should I stop wearing a sunscreen?
My recommendation is NO! Suncreens are the first line of defense in preventing skin cancer. I would never suggest going out in the sun without a sunscreen, but I do recommend taking a Vitamin D3 supplement regularly to help meet your daily needs for the “sunshine” vitamin. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels to determine if you are deficient. If you are, your doctor can recommend the proper dosage for you along with a sun exposure plan that is right for your skin type and coloring.
When should you seek the advice of a dermatologist?
My recommendation is as follows:
Annual skin cancer check beginning as early as teen years since teens like to tan—it’s a way of teaching them sun protection.
When you notice something suspicious that doesn’t go away.
If you have acne or any skin condition that is not responding to over- the-counter products.
When you feel your age-fighting regimen should include peels, fillers and/or other injectables such as Botox or any in-office procedure that should be performed by a board-certified dermatologist.