TODAY   |  April 17, 2014

Dermatologist spills skin secrets

Jan. 16: From using all-natural products to choosing the right moisturizer, questions about skin care often go unanswered. Dr. Debra Wattenberg talks to TODAY's Natalie Morales about skin questions you might forget to ask your dermatologist.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

NATALIE MORALES, anchor: This morning on TODAY'S BEAUTY , things your dermatologist never told you. We all have our own skin routines, but how important is your moisturizer, really, and does natural necessarily mean better? Well, to get to the bottom of this, we turn to dermatologist Debra Wattenberg . Good morning, Debra .

Dr. DEBRA WATTENBERG (Dermatologist): Good morning. How are you?

MORALES: Good. Good. So these aren't things that necessarily dermatologists are keeping secret from us, it's more that maybe we just don't ask, right?

Dr. WATTENBERG: Exactly. I think that some of the things that we're going to talk about today are just things that people forget to mention during a visit or they just never really focus on, because they're not the most important things...

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WATTENBERG: ...but they're things that make some of your treatments more effective.

MORALES: All right. Let's talk first about that one question, about natural products . You hear a lot of these things that are natural or even sometimes organic products . Are these necessarily better for your face?

Dr. WATTENBERG: Absolutely not. The word "natural" is a great selling point, and people are consumed with the idea of buying products that say natural or organic. The problem is is that that word is not actually clearly defined and the FDA doesn't regulate it. So anybody -- and these cosmetic -- cosmeceutical companies can actually put any product they want into their product that they're selling and call it natural...

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WATTENBERG: ...despite the fact that their ingredient may come from many different sources. So the fact that the ingredient is made in a chemical lab or it's found in natural sources doesn't really matter. What's important is that the ingredient is actually efficacious.

MORALES: OK. Well, let's move on to adult acne . Adults actually can get acne, right?

Dr. WATTENBERG: Yes. You know, people always forget that, and it's really important to remember that adult acne is as prevalent or more prevalent than teenage acne and that there are great treatments for it. It presents a little bit different than the traditional teenage acne.

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WATTENBERG: It will move down on the face. You can get it around the neck and on the jaw line as opposed to in the center of the face. But if you're suffering from adult acne , there are great therapies out there, and you shouldn't ignore it. There are lots of great treatments that can be used for adults that we don't use as often in children.

MORALES: Treatments with benzoyl peroxides and some salicylic acids, that kind of thing?

Dr. WATTENBERG: Exactly. The benzoyl peroxides are great treatments and they're found over-the-counter, but there are some issues with using benzoyl peroxides . And I usually recommend that people who are treating with benzoyl peroxides to be really careful with their towels, linens, and some of their clothing, because benzoyl peroxides are peroxides and therefore they bleach.

MORALES: They bleach. Mm-hmm.

Dr. WATTENBERG: Exactly. And so what happens is people will go, they'll buy these products or they'll get them as prescriptions from their dermatologists and nobody warns them that if they wash their face with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser, they will end up with white spots all over their towels if they're dark colors , their favorite T-shirt...

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WATTENBERG: ...their black turtleneck. So you have to be really careful. Benzoyl peroxides bleach your clothing. Switch to white, use white towels, white linens when you're using these treatments and you won't be sorry.

MORALES: I know firsthand. I've lost many good towels like that. OK. Now winter skin. You say it's actually possible to prevent the drying that we all feel this time of year, right?

Dr. WATTENBERG: Exactly. So you know, this time of year, people's skin feels dry, cracked, itchy, and the best thing to do is to prevent it. So you want to rehumidify your environment. Consider putting a humidifier into your bedroom, into your living room to give some moisture back in.

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WATTENBERG: Shorten your showers so that they're not scalding hot and apply a moisturizer directly onto your skin immediately after you get out of the shower to seal in the moisture so that your skin can absorb some of the water. And just review some of the products that you're using. If you're using toners or astringents that contain salicylic acid , glycolic acid or alcohol, you might want to get those out of your routine and replace them with products that are more hydrating, non-alcohol toners, moisturizers that contain a little bit of oil so that your skin can feel better.

MORALES: You can bring all of that product back during the spring and summertime when your skin is maybe a little more oily.

Dr. WATTENBERG: Exactly. And you have to be very fluid about it, you have to change your routine a bit so that you're not very strict about what you use all seasons. You really have to go with what's happening in the environment.

MORALES: OK. Now moisturizers you mentioned, important to do. Does it matter how you apply it or what direction? Sometimes you hear these things about, you know, the directions you apply your moisturizer.

Dr. WATTENBERG: Yeah. People love to obsess, especially the cosmetic industries, about the direction. Should you apply your moisturizer towards your nose, away from your eyes, this way?

MORALES: And you always hear dot, dot, dot around the eyes.

Dr. WATTENBERG: Exactly. So the basic premise is that gravity pulls everything down, including your skin.

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WATTENBERG: And if you apply your moisturizer this way or this way, it's not going to really affect its efficacy. What's really important is to apply your moisturizer with clean hands , make sure that you're applying it in appropriate quantities and you're using products that have good ingredients. The way you apply is not really as important as how much you apply and what you use.

MORALES: Mm-hmm. OK, vitamin D crucial for our bones. You can get vitamin D not only through the sun, and you know, your skin, your own melanin production, but also through what you eat, right?

Dr. WATTENBERG: Exactly. So vitamin D is important for bone health, and without it vitamin D deficiency can cause soft bones, breakage, and it can also be associated with a whole slew of other diseases. But getting your vitamin D from unexposed sun exposure is not OK, you really do need to get it from other sources. It's important to get it from fortified milk and juice, you can get it from salmon, from mackerel, and you can also get it from vitamin D supplements. So go outdoors without wearing sunscreen and say `I'm getting my vitamin D' is a really bad idea.

MORALES: All right. Just really quickly, finally, speaking of vitamin D and some production, sunscreen. Does it matter the SPF necessarily?

Dr. WATTENBERG: It does. And the thing that I want to take, you know, the message I want to give here is that doubling your SPF does not double the protection that you're getting from your sunscreen. So if you apply an SPF of 15, you're getting around a 94 percent coverage.

MORALES: Mm-hmm.

Dr. WATTENBERG: If you go to an SPF 30, you're only getting a 96 percent. That's 2 percent more. What you need to do is apply large quantities of sunscreen so that you're getting an appropriate SPF on your skin.

MORALES: Great pointers for all of us. Debra Wattenberg , thanks so much. Appreciate it.