This installment of “Ask The Expert” has us chatting with Dr. Janiene Luke, a board certified Dermatologist based in southern California. Dr. Luke specializes in both medical and cosmetic dermatology for people of color. She shared with us her take on the most basic principles of good skincare. She is also answering our community question about brightening the skin.  You can learn more from Dr. Luke by following her on Instagram @jlukemd. If you’re in the SoCal area and need a dermatologist be sure to look her up. 

Elements of Aliel (EOA): What  are the essential products for a good skincare routine? 

Dr. Luke: The essential steps to a great routine are: cleanse, treat/prevent, moisturize, and protect. The products may vary depending on your skin type and any particular skin issues you may have.

I typically recommend finding a good cleanser that you can use consistently; twice a day. Use an antioxidant (such as Vitamin C) to prevent damage caused by the sun/environment, to treat with either prescriptions from your dermatologist or targeted products based on your skin concerns / issues. 

Moisturize your skin. All skin types (even oily skin) need moisture so find a formulation (serum, lotion, cream etc) that works best for your skin. Protect your skin with a sunscreen. The sun causes damage in all skin types and sunscreen use has been shown  to prevent skin cancer. 

Using sunscreen also prevents fine lines/wrinkles and dark spots that are caused by sun damage as well.

EOA: What 3 things must you never do to your skin?

Dr. Luke:3 things to avoid: going out without sunscreen/getting sunburned, smoking and picking your skin!

EOA: What is the one thing you wish people knew about skincare that most don’t?

Dr. Luke:Finding a good regimen does not have to be complicated! Get a few products that work well for your skin and be consistent- you WILL see results!

EOA: What are your top 3 tips for taking care of your skin through the fall and winter?

Dr. Luke:In the fall and winter avoid hot water, use a heavier/thicker moisturizer, and moisturize more often to keep skin soft and smooth.

Community Question: How can you brighten the skin without skin bleachers?

Dr. Luke:There are several ways to approach  brightening the skin or decreasing hyperpigmentation/dark spots. Hydroquinone is the main type of lightening agent or “skin bleach” and it works by blocking an enzyme (tyrosinase) that is responsible for the production of melanin/ pigment. 

Other ingredients that are available with or without a prescription and are included in many brightening products are: kojic acid, azelaic acid, arbutin, or tranexamic acid. Another way to “brighten” the skin is to speed up the natural process of the skin’s cell turnover so the older, hyperpigmented skin is gradually sloughed off. Retinoids/ retinols are products that work in this manner and don’t act as a “bleach”. 

The sun can also activate and stimulate our color cells (melanocytes) so protecting the skin from the sun with a good sunscreen can help prevent dark spots from forming  or worsening. I typically recommend sunscreens that are: broad-spectrum (protect against both UVA and UVB), have an SPF of 30 or higher, and are water-resistant if patients are going to be in water (and don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours!). 

Lastly, a chemical peel can also help lighten dark spots and is a procedure that can be done in a doctor’s office or weaker formulations are available commonly in spas, or in over the counter products/pads and at-home peel systems. Peels are typically acids that are applied to the surface of the skin and cause the skin cells to break apart from one another. As the skin “peels” the pigment that is trapped in the top layer of skin is removed and the new skin is revealed from underneath.