Katie Campbell talks to Dr. Nick Lowe with a look ahead at year-round skincare...
A true skin care authority, Dr Nick Lowe is a leading dermatologist with clinics both in the UK and in the US. A respected author, he has written numerous books and scientific papers on skin care, ageing and sun exposure, and also has his own skin care ranges for all skin types. Join us as we quiz him on everything from wrinkles to sun protection.
How much does our diet impact upon our skin's appearance?
If you eat a diet rich in antioxidants these may help maintain skin health but they're not going to have an effect on severe skin diseases. Can you eat your way to better skin? No, it's an exaggeration. Some types of hair loss and healthy hair and nails can definitely be influenced by diet, however.
In terms of severe weight gain and weight loss, these can result in obvious changes in appearance that impact upon the skin. The major cause of sagging and wrinkles around the cheeks and eyes is because of a loss of subcutaneous fat (the main cause of fine wrinkles, surface damage and pigmentation is the sun); if you're fat, you're less likely to have wrinkles - babies don't have wrinkles because they have nice plump faces.
Is it really possible to slow the process of skin ageing?
I'm convinced it is. I see lots of evidence both from research papers and from seeing patients every day. It's definitely possible. It's been clearly shown in studies that daily sun protection can reduce some of the features of skin ageing, but it has to have UVA protection. Laser skin rejuvenation has a much more controlled way of improving skin ageing. Appropriate chemical peels can help to reduce and slow the process and can indeed reverse changes in some processes. But the person having the treatment needs to develop a better lifestyle long-term: daily sunscreens with SPF15 and UVA protection [Dr Lowe's day creams adhere to EU UVA standards] and smokers should stop smoking.
What products do you use on your own skin?
I tend to use my own range - most days, I'll use the Super-Charged SPF15 Day Cream, if my skin isn't dry. In the winter, because of the drying effects of wind and central heating I'll switch to The Secret Is Out Lifting Cream, which is more moisturising. I will also use the Double Duty Hand Cream. At night, it depends, I'll probably use the Night Recovery Cream to moisturise and to help to soothe the effects of the wind and rain. I also take a vitamin supplement daily, and because I use SPF protection everyday I take a vitamin D supplement- if you protect your skin daily with a sunscreen you should make sure you body has enough vitamin D. There's good evidence that vitamin D3 is important for bone health.
What should we look for in a day cream?
The ideal cocktail for a day cream would be: antioxidants, sun protection - including UVA protection - very effective moisturisers and humectants that hold water in the skin, like you'll find in my Super-Charged Day Cream SPF15 or The Secret Is Out Lifting Cream.
What's your opinion on expensive skin care products?
It has always been my philosophy that you can get a 'dream cream' product on a budget. We've tested our products against really expensive creams and they perform just as well if not better - I'm sure Boots do it too. You do not need to spend a lot of money. There are some ingredients that are interesting that cost more and cost a lot to formulate properly, but these would double the cost to say, £40, but not pushing it up beyond that. I don't see any rationale for anything more expensive than that, apart from marketing it to those who want a status symbol for their bathroom shelf. There are some legitimate costs- marketing, advertising, PR, and packaging are what costs a lot, but certainly not to the degree that we've seen. It is possible to have great skin on budget, but don't forget the concept of daily protection.
What's the single most important thing we can do for our skin?
Protect it, I really believe it. Use broad spectrum SPF15 protection on daily basis - one with good UVA protection. If you're a smoker, quit. Smoking has been shown to damage collagen by increasing the production of enzymes that break down collagen and elastin. I can tell who is a smoker and who isn't just from their skin; it reduces the blood supply to the skin. Once a patient has quit, I can see improvement in their skin sometimes as early as four weeks later. Non-smokers' skin looks brighter and healthier.
Would you say it's never too late to start looking after your skin?
Yes - it is never too late. But it depends on your levels of sun damage, the level of environmental damage, smoking and diet and whether you are willing to change your lifestyle - you've got to weigh up whether you want it. If I saw a patient in their eighties who really was otherwise fit and healthy and wanted some improvement I'd be perfectly ok with it. If they went on sunbeds, smoked and weren't fit, I'd advise against anything treatment-wise as it's just not worth it - although I'd try and encourage them to stop smoking.
What are the most common skincare mistakes women make?
The most common mistake is changing products too frequently; constantly changing to new products in search of the ultimate answer. Even if they have something they like, it seems women like to change. It's not necessary, however, and could expose them to more ingredients that might be problematic and cause allergies and so forth. Don't get me wrong you may have to try and play around with different combinations until you find the right one, but I would say use a product for at least three months, unless you have problem with it.
You have a clinic in LA - how does our approach to skincare in the UK differ to that of USA?
New treatments and trends happen sooner in California as many of the latest lasers were developed by Californian companies. It's such an innovative state and there's a lot of people coming up with innovative new treatments. There's also a lot more less desirable trends; California attracts the best and worst - more scientists but more cranks and crazies. The other problem with California is real risk of sun damage. I regularly see people in their twenties with skin cancers. The sun can be so intense that you only need to miss applying your sunscreen for a few days or get a severe burn - if you're a dedicated surfer, for example, it's more difficult to keep protected. There's a much higher incidence of skin ageing and of skin cancer compared to here. The other problem is that sunscreen ingredients are not nearly as good there as they are regulated differently.
Which sun protection products do you recommend?
For daily sun protection you need a minimum of SPF 15 with UVA protection. In the summer, on outdoor days, or when skiing in the winter, use a sunscreen with an SPF 25-30.