Conquer Complexion Imperfections
Expert tips and targeted treatments to help clear up age spots, redness, and other skin saboteurs.
As you age, cell turnover lags and the top layer of skin thickens. "More cells cling to the circumference of your pores, exaggerating and drawing the eye to the openings," Dr. Kunin says. In oily skin, excess sebum can also fill and stretch pores.
Prep with primer. Foundation can pool in pores, making them look more pronounced and compromising your coverage. But if you apply a makeup primer first, ingredients like dimethicone form an invisible, silky barrier between skin and makeup. Primer also holds foundation like Velcro, Arlt says. Try Sally Hansen Luminizing Face Primer ($10, drugstores). If skin tends to get greasy, look for one that contains oil absorbers, too, like Cover FX Clearprep FX Matte Foundation Primer & Anti-Acne Treatment ($39, sephora.com).
Exfoliate. Although OTC products won't actually shrink pores, they may help them appear less noticeable. Try a serum or peel with salicylic acid — which chemically clears out dirt, oil, and cell buildup — and glycolic or lactic acid to slough and soften the surface, Dr. Kunin says. It could take several weeks to see results, so if you're in a hurry, opt for a dermatologist-strength peel ($100 to $300). One no-downtime glycolic-acid treatment yields more even-toned skin, though you typically need several sessions with your doctor to see dramatic results.
"Over time, UV radiation thins skin and dilates superficial blood vessels," Dr. Herschthal says, which is why skin often looks redder as you age. Sun exposure and aging can also exacerbate the symptoms of rosacea, a hereditary inflammatory skin condition characterized by persistent flushing and pimple-like bumps.
Boost your coverage. "Women often prefer sheer foundation, but it doesn't cover redness very well," says Kimara Ahnert, a makeup artist in New York City. Instead, pick a more opaque, oil-free foundation. Use a flat-bristle brush — try Essence of Beauty Concealer Brush ($4.49, CVS) — to spread the base; it will deliver more pigment, especially to redness hot spots like the sides of the nose. Then blend with a damp makeup sponge to get a more lightweight look and feel.
Double up on foundation. If redness affects only a few areas, invest in a foundation stick. "It's easier to blend than heavier concealers," Arlt says. Apply a sheer foundation first, then warm the stick on the back of your hand. Dab on with a brush where you see discoloration. Try E.L.F. All Over Cover Stick ($1 — yes, you read that right; eyeslipsface.com).
Extinguish inflammation. Calming ingredients such as white and green tea extracts, both found in Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream ($40, department stores), provide immediate improvement for aging-and rosacea-related redness. For a long-term treatment, try new Pyratine-6 or more potent Pyratine-XR ($138, 888-467-9728 for physicians). Both contain cytokinins, plant-based growth factors that may help regulate skin's inflammatory response, Dr. Kunin says. In two separate studies from the University of California, Irvine, users of Pyratine-6 saw a 60 percent improvement in redness after four weeks, whereas the XR formula cleared rosacea patients' pimple-like bumps, redness, and visible capillaries by 90, 45, and 28 percent, respectively, in 48 weeks.
Look to lasers. Pulsed dye and other vascular lasers essentially obliterate blood vessels with one zap, stopping redness at the source, Dr. Ostad says. One five-minute treatment can eradicate a few evident capillaries. Depending on your skin's condition and the type of laser, you may develop a small bruise lasting a week. You can avoid this — and treat more diffuse redness and rosacea — by choosing three milder treatments, each a month apart. Cost: $350 per treatment for a few red capillaries; about $750 for more pronounced redness.