Q: Do more-expensive skincare products have some kind of "professional strength"?

A: Price alone has nothing to do with the strength and effectiveness of skincare products, says Cheryl Burgess, MD, medical director at the Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery in Washington, D.C. A drugstore mask or moisturizer can have the same concentrations of active ingredients as one from a department store or spa. But there is a correlation between the strength of a product and whether it's prescription or over-the-counter, says Burgess. A prescription product will likely contain a higher concentration of active ingredients than an OTC formula.

Bottom line: The price and strength of a product do not necessarily correlate.

Keep reading: The facts about cosmetic procedures

Q. I'm 26. When should I start using anti-aging products?

A: The day before yesterday (and I wish I'd followed my own advice). Leslie Baumann, MD, director of the Baumann Cosmetic and Research Institute in Miami Beach and author of The Skin Type Solution, says she tells patients as young as 18 to use ingredients that have been shown to slow the effects of aging. When it comes to wrinkles, prevention is key, so it's important to conserve collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin, all of which keep skin looking plump and firm. Retinoids and antioxidants help preserve all three. For nighttime, Baumann suggests using a prescription retinoid product like Retin-A, Tazorac, Differin or Renova—in conjunction with a daily moisturizer containing antioxidants like idebenone, coenzyme Q10, lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid. She points out that the best anti-aging product is sunscreen, used every day, even indoors (where UVA rays can work their bad chemistry through windows).

Bottom line: If you're old enough to ask the question, you're old enough to be using anti-aging products.

Keep reading: Get Val's skincare regimen

Q. Does pore-minimizing makeup shrink your pores? 

A: No, but it makes them appear smaller—which is a fine enough trick, if you ask me. Some formulas incorporate optical diffusers, which are very good at blurring the look of the pore, making it appear less noticeable.

Bottom line: Pore minimizers containing silicone can make your skin look flawless, but their residue is resistant to soap and water, so cleanse with makeup remover.

Keep reading: The easy guide to flawless skin

Q. Which is a better body moisturizer: cream, oil or lotion? 

A: The best way to treat dry skin is to seal in moisture by forming a protective layer over it, says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, co-director of laser surgery at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery. In order of effectiveness: oils, creams and lotions. The difference is the oil-to-water ratio, Tanzi says: Creams have more oil than water, and lotions have less.

Keep reading: When does a skincare product expire?


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