How to prevent and correct damage to your skin


Can you undo the damage you've done to your skin? Without plastic surgery? Yes, according to renowned dermatologist and author Dr. Nicholas Perricone.

How to prevent and correct damage to your skin

One of the chief causes of aging skin is microscopic, or cellular, inflammation caused by normal metabolism, sunlight, air pollution, physical stress, and mental stress. Dr. Perricone recommends following a few guidelines to minimize the damage you already have and prevent future skin damage: 

  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet. More fish and vegetables, less processed food. 
  • Reduce your time in the sun. It creates inflammation that breaks down collagen and elastin, and causes pigment cells to work overtime. Prolonged exposure to the sun can decrease immune response which increases risk of cancer. 
  • Wear sunscreen with UVA and UVB filters. While UVB filters protect the skin from burning, it is the UVA rays that go deeper and can cause permanent skin damage. Just because you're not red does not mean there is no damage.
  • Use supplements and topical creams that have anti-inflammatory activity. One powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory is alpha lipoic acid. Taken as a supplement, it helps stabilize blood sugar. Topically, Alpha Lipoic acid diminishes fine lines and wrinkles, evens out skin discoloration, and protects skin from sun damage.
  • For a collagen boost, don't rely on topical products that contain collagen. The molecules are too large to penetrate skin. Instead, use products that have proven results for increasing collagen production: copper, vitamin C ester, and Alpha Hydroxy acids.
  • Remember to have a full skin exam at the dermatologist's office every 1-2 years to be aware of any skin changes that could be detrimental to your health. You can't always see every spot on your body. 
Transcript SLISA: I’m Lisa Birnbach for If you spent your youth with a sun reflector at the beach, you may have the skin to show for it now. But they’re some things you can do to correct skin damage and sign of aging. World famous doctor Nicholas Perricone, whose latest book is called Ageless Face, Ageless Mind, is here to help us through this wrinkle in time. Thank you so much for being with us today.

DR. PERRICONE: Thank you.

LISA: Most people have some fine lines and wrinkles by the time they’re what—teenagers? How do you, how do you erase the effects of time on people who have lived?

DR. PERRICONE: Certainly we would all like to look more youthful, and, uh, we certainly are going to get some lines and wrinkles as we age, but we can actually minimize that, uh, by understanding what the causes are. The chief cause of wrinkling and aging is actually something called sub-microscopic, or microscopic, inflammation. And you say what’s that all about? Well, when I say inflammation I don’t want you to get confused because most people think of a bright, red sunburn or a swollen finger.  I’m talking about a microscopic level on a cellular level so there’s no signs of it.

LISA: Mm-hmm.

DR. PERRICONE: Why does this happen? Well inflammation is created in our body by normal metabolism or food. It’s created by a bad diet. It’s created by sunlight, air pollution, physical stress, psychic stress, all this goes together. And all this is almost unavoidable as a human being. We have now have strategies, therapeutic interventions to decrease that inflammation.  And once we know that we actually have a plan. We eat what I call the anti-inflammatory diet. We can take supplements that have anti-inflammatory activity. We can apply topical creams and lotions that are powerful anti-inflammatories that will truly have a clinical effect that you can see.

LISA: What’s interesting is that in your, in your book the culprit isn’t necessarily the sun, it’s really your diet, and yet, the sun is what we’re aware when we think of discoloration. What about discolorations? Can you reduce those or ameliorate them?

DR. PERRICONE: Certainly you can do an awful lot with topicals, but, uh, once again sun exposure causes a lot of damage. It creates inflammation that breaks down collagen and elastin, causes the pigment cells to work overtime, and also increases our risks of skin cancers. Those are things that are very, very important. So you want to minimize your sun exposure. You don’t want to cut it out all together because you need some sun.

LISA: I only learned this year that every single adult should have an annual dermatological kind of baseline, uh, appointment, right? A check up every year just to make sure there’s nothing that you can’t see, nothing’s miscolored, discolored or misshapen?

DR. PERRICONE: Yeah you need a full skin exam. I mean you can’t see your back and other areas of your body. You need to have a full skin exam and probably a person who has a full skin exam, they can probably get by with every two-year visit to their derm. But, let’s just say we see a mole and I biopsy it, look under the microscope and we call it displastic. So it’s not cancer, but it’s disorganized. That I’d bring the patient in more often to have them checked. Uh, very common cancers like basal cell carcinoma, or squamous cell carcinoma, common areas of sun exposure, you want to have that checked, or a rough scaly spot. So these are important things and that’s what you see your doctor for.

LISA: Now if you’re going to buy and sunscreen, and you have to because you’re an adult, you live in the Northern Hemisphere, what ingredients should be in that sunscreen?

DR. PERRICONE: Okay. You want to get a sunscreen that contains both a UVB filter and a UVA filter. Okay? Many of the older sunscreens just basically work on UVB. UVB are the rays we call the burning rays; they cause redness. UVA is more of the rays that go deeper. We know we really need both because they’re both very detrimental to our skin, and we also need to understand that if you’re using sunscreen and you’re not getting red, it doesn’t mean you’re not doing harm to your skin. The redness used to keep us out of the sun.

LISA: Right.

DR. PERRICONE: Now we have a group of mostly younger people that put on their sunscreen and they stay out there for four or five hours. No redness because they’re using a nice number thirty sunscreen, but if you check the immune response to their skin, the immune response has actually dropped down at the end of the day. Decreased immune response, increased risk of cancer. Also we’re not completely blocking the rays of the sun, so accelerating what we call photo-aging. So sunscreen’s good, but it’s not, you know, it’s not a complete solution to the problem and it sometimes give you a false sense of security.

LISA: Okay. Now, um, what is alpha lipoic—did I say it right?

DR. PERRICONE: That’s great. Yeah you did well.

LISA: Alpha lipoic acid and how do we use it best?

DR. PERRICONE: Okay. Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that does so many great things. Take it internally it helps stabilize our blood sugar, helps something called glycation, which my book is all about. Attachment of sugar to collagen, and that’s irreversible. Alpha lipoic acid, in addition to that, cuts down inflammation on the cellular level. When alpha lipoic acid is taken and you put it into a cream topically, it diminishes fine lines and wrinkles, decreases inflammation in the skin. So it evens out skin color. And also can protect us from sun damage.

LISA: And it really works on any kind of skin?

DR. PERRICONE: Alpha lipoic acid is extremely effective on any type of skin.

LISA: A product with collagen in it, or it says to boost collagen, or has copper to boost collagen—should we be aware of those?

DR. PERRICONE: Copper has been proven to boost some collagen production. Vitamin C ester has. Um, there are other things. Alpha Hydroxy acids can produce collagen production. Putting collagen on the skin does not increase collagen in the skin because it can’t penetrate the skin. The molecules are too large, so beware of something’s with collagen. I don’t see any benefit of that at all.

LISA: Thank you Dr. Perricone.

DR. PERRICONE: Thank you.

LISA: For I’m Lisa Birnbach.
meet theexpert
  • Dr. Nicholas V. Perricone

    Dr. Nicholas V. Perricone Dermatologist and Author Dr. Nicholas Perricone is a board certified clinical and research dermatologist, and CEO of NV Perricone MD, Ltd. He's the author of multiple books and has appeared on major network shows such as The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live. more about this expert »

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