Perfect skin doesn't exist. We've all battled flare-ups, however serious or persistent, and are continually searching for the best problem-solving lotions and potions. To help the eternal skin struggles we put all the questions you wanted to ask an expert to independent dermatologist Ginny Hubbard—and here's what the authority thinks you should know.
1. Nothing really works on KP or "chicken skin."
"Keratosis pilaris (a.k.a. KP) are those red bumps that can appear on the backs of your arms and the only thing that helps it is gentle daily moisturizing—I like the using a product like Eucerin with 10% urea in—and a bit of sunshine, ironically. Don't over-exfoliate; it makes it worse because it irritates it."
2. I always wear SPF 50.
"SunSense, an Australian brand, is fabulous. It's most dermatologists' favorite brand. They've got tinted ones for the face, too. The eye area is a common place to show sun damage and also to develop skin cancers because people don't put their SPF high enough up. The lips are also often neglected—special SPF lip balms are a great idea, but try and get a high factor. Women, especially with darker skin tones, quite often get pigmentation on their lips, a sign of sun damage that is very different to treat so prevention is key."
3. There are two types of freckles.
"There are freckles that people are born with—a freckly type of person tends to be pale with family history of it—and then there are freckles that are sun damage. These people develop them from sun exposure and they tend to gradually appear over the chest, the upper back, shoulders, the face and backs of the hands. They do look different, sun damage freckles are often a bit irregularly shaped."
4. Gentle exfoliation is good (but heavy exfoliation isn't ).
"Gentle is good. Some daily face washes with gentle exfoliation are great, but don't go for full-on daily exfoliation, especially if you have spots or sensitive skin. Cleansed skin is essential because it makes all your other products perform better, but heavy exfoliation can actually remove the protective layers of the skin leaving you more prone to sensitivity."
5. Cleansing brushes are a brilliant investment.
"I love cleansing brushes because they're gentle, but they're effective. As long as you clean them properly which is my only issue with them!"
6. Go for light products and don't over-exfoliate if you get spots.
"Often anti-aging creams are thick and gloopy, which feel lovely but they might actually make people a bit more prone to spots. If you can pour or squeeze a product out of a tube (like a serum), it's going to be much better for your skin than a thick cream in a pot. Don't over-exfoliate spots because if you rub and scrub them it will inflame them more and make them worse."
7. The average age to get spots is about 27, NOT 13.
"Even if you're in your 30s and wonder "why have I got acne now?" the first thing is to get expert treatment, or at least advise, early on. I have a lot of patients in their 30s with acne. The average age for getting spots is about 27."
8. Acne isn't a "cosmetic problem."
"People leave it too long to seek treatment for acne. I've had some people come to me and say their doctor has told them that acne is a cosmetic problem and they can't do anything about it, but of course it's not—it's a skin disease like eczema or rosacea. The problem is that if acne is left untreated, not only can it scar but it can also knock someone's confidence hugely."
9. There are lots of triggers of adult acne.
"Acne is partly genetic, but there's much more to it. We know that stress is definitely a factor. Stress also triggers our cortisol hormone, which in turn can give you spots, and stress dictates poor sleep patterns, which also upsets your hormones... There is also talk of pollution making spots worse. We used to say diet has no effect whatsoever, but now there is evidence that in a few people high GI diet and high dairy diets can exasperate acne. "
10. The pill and pregnancy can make spots worse.
"Hormonal changes tend to make spots worse. For example, when people start on the pill they can get an outbreak of spots but after four months or so they settle, and the same can happen when you become pregnant."
11. One of the biggest problems is trying too many products.
"People switch from one product to another hoping it's going to cure acne or sensitivity, but cosmetic products aren't likely to ever make significant skin problems hugely better. I'd say stick to a product for at least 4-6 weeks to see whether or not it's actually making a difference."
12. An isolated "spot" that won't go away might not be a spot.
"If something's been there for months, you've tried to squeeze it and it won't go, it could just look like a spot but be something completely different. It could either be something harmless like benign fibrous papule, which is just a little round lump that people get on noses, and unless they're cut out they don't go. Or, if it is actually growing very slowly, it could be a minor form of skin cancer. So if you've got one spot that looks very different to the others and sticks around, it's worth getting it looked at by an expert."
13. You can become allergic to products after years.
"It's never the first time you use a product that you get a reaction, you need to be sensitized to it first. It could be weeks, months or years and then a reaction comes. People say "I've used that shampoo for 5 years, it can't be that," or "I've dyed my hair since I was 12" but it's exactly that sort of person who gets a reaction, someone that's been using something for years."
14. Avoid a product that gives you a reaction forever.
"Think about what is in that product that caused the reaction. If it's a true allergic reaction, which are usually a lot more severe (bright redness, soreness, itchiness, swelling of the eyes or whole face) then you need to find out what the ingredient was in that caused it. There are some big culprits like preservative MI (methylisothiazolinone), which has become a common allergen and is in a lot of beauty products. Also look at your hair dye, fragranced products and nail varnish, which is something that's becoming a common allergen when they touch the skin before their nails are completely dry."
15. Be careful after an allergic reaction.
"Avoid the culprit, and then use something completely bland while the skin settles down. It's safe to use 1% hydrocortisone on the face (you can buy it over the counter), twice a day for 5 days, but not on the eyes. If the reaction is very severe, see your doctor as you might need something stronger to be prescribed. Use a bland cleanser and moisturiser, look out for the dermatology brands that are aimed at people with eczema such as Doublebase. Don't be tempted to exfoliate because that skin will shed off anyway, you just need to settle down the inflammation with your anti-inflammatory cream first, then apply lots of simple emollient to restore the skin's barrier and get it back to it's natural state."
16. Be careful of eyelash extensions.
"People can get allergic reactions to the glue or the tint. Also bacteria build-up can contribute to things like styes on the eyelids."
17. Don't worry about veins on your face.
"They're not a sign of anything bad! When you've lost weight, or as your skin thins from ageing, veins can become more obvious, but don't worry about them."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.