Skin Science: Demystifying Skincare

By: Dr. Lindsey Tavakolian


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Skin Science: Demystifying Skincare

For my very first blog I thought we should talk about what I believe is the most practical and fundamental knowledge that everyone can benefit from. The principles of aging skin and skincare. Proper skincare is essential for your health, cancer prevention, and to maximize the results of surgical and non-surgical procedures with your plastic surgeon. I want my patients to have the best outcome, and the patient that has the best outcome is the one that has been practicing proper skincare for decades before they go under the knife. 

I am going to give you a crash course in how skin ages and then share the five essential components of a skincare routine. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the industry of skincare but if you first understand how skin ages, product selection gets a lot easier. 


Simplified, there are three main components of skin. Collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. These terms are all over skincare marketing. 

Collagen + Elastin - throughout life collagen and elastin production decreases. I like to equate these components together to the Spanx of your skin. Over time your skin Spanx loses integrity, elasticity, structural features and gets stretched out and descends. The clinical outcome of this is formation of wrinkles and sagging skin.

Contributing factors that decrease collagen + elastin -  the loss of skin Spanx is due to genetics, sun exposure (in fact 80% of skin aging is attributed to solar exposure), smoking/vaping, unhealthy lifestyle, and stress. The beauty of this knowledge is some things you have the power to affect. Wear your SPF, reduce your sun exposure, abstain from smoking/vaping/excessive alcohol, exercise, and practice mindful ways to reduce stress in your life. 

The role of skincare in restoring collagen + elastin - restoring collagen is really the priority of skincare, there are three main categories of products that can do this

Vitamin A derivatives aka retinol/tretinoin products are well studied by the scientific community and we know with certainty that these products stimulate collagen production at the cellular level. 

Quick fact – the difference between drugstore/beauty counter retinol products and medical grade/prescription tretinoin is the amount of active ingredient. The drugstore products are using a science-backed ingredient but in amounts that are not as clinically effective. 

Vitamin C stimulates collagen and acts as an antioxidant to scavenge free radicals. Why is this important? Free radicals cause the production of an enzyme called collagenase that degrades collagen (which is the opposite of what we want). Vitamin C helps prevent photoaging by blocking the production of collagenase. Other common antioxidants you will see in skincare include ferulic acid, coenzyme Q10, and green tea. My advice, prioritize Vitamin C and find a daily serum that you love.  

Growth factors, a broad term for various molecules that are known to affect the collagen/elastin pathway. There are so many of them out there and most medical grade skincare lines have one. Find the one that works for you.

Procedures that target collagen + elastin –microneedling, laser procedures, and chemical peels all work on this pathway of aging. So what do they all have in common? Wound healing. The device or peel creates an injury to your skin which evokes a wound healing response. Your body’s own intrinsic wound healing mechanisms stimulate collagen production. These procedures are incredible, but do not take the place of daily skincare. Studies show it takes a consistent skincare routine to see changes. I like to think of skincare like I do diet and exercise. You get what you put into it, and it is a DAILY commitment.

Sun Spots - how many times have you seen someone who had great skincare and a great plastic surgeon but their hands gave away their age? Sun spots are a form of hyperpigmentation and occur on sun-exposed areas. Melanocytes produce melanin which gives your skin it’s beautiful color and also unwanted spots.

Contributing factors to sun spots – SUN. I cannot stress enough the importance of SPF, reapplying SPF during summer activities, and UPF clothing. Tanning beds should be left in the past with flip phones and velour tracksuits.

The role of skincare in treating sun spots – hydroquinone is the gold standard treatment and works on the cellular level to decrease the production of new melanin. Hydroquinone is available as a prescription or compounded with other skincare agents in medical grade skincare products.  

Procedures that target sun spots – various lasers, light therapies, and chemical peels help with hyperpigmentation. My favorite treatment is BBL (Broad Band Light). I absolutely love this procedure because it is a quick office treatment that can make a dramatic impact with no real downtime. A benefit of BBL is I can use an additional wavelength and target red pigment in the same treatment. This is not a one and done treatment, just like diet and exercise, as long as your skin is exposed to the sun you will acquire new sun spots and need maintenance treatments. Put this on your calendar for the fall after your summer activities are over. 

Now for my favorite part, the practical application. I spent six years in a plastic surgery training program learning from the nation’s leaders in aesthetic surgery. Skincare is critical to fighting the aging process and achieving the best results for our patients and so naturally there was a big emphasis on data driven skincare routines. I love that I can now share my education with you! 


Plus my personal favorites *talk to your doctor before using any medical grade product* 

  1. Cleanser – choose one that works for your skin type and use morning and evening. I have very sensitive/reactive skin and eltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser works for me. 
  2. Antioxidant – a Vitamin C is critical +/- additional antioxidants. Find a serum that you love and apply after your cleanser in the morning. I have oily skin and use SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF. If you have dry skin try SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. 
  3. Sunblock – this is perhaps the single most important component. Pro-tip: buy skincare that doubles as spf and wear daily YEAR ROUND. I wear eltaMD tinted SPF 44 with hyaluronic acid for moisture. I also use Supergoop eyeshadow with SPF daily (I am a fanatic about this).  
  4. Retin-A or Retinol – there are so many options available. Prescription tretinoin is the most potent but less tolerated. My current favorite retinol product is sensitive skin friendly Bio Complete Serum by Sente. *DO NOT TAKE IF PREGNANT OR TRYING TO CONCEIVE* 
  5. Pigmentation-Regulating Agent – hydroquinone containing product or prescription. I use the prescription for my melasma prone skin. 

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.